He bent to kiss her, but Poppy turned her face away.

“I’m the same man who kissed you on the terrace,” she heard him say. “You liked it well enough then.”


Poppy could hardly speak with his hand cupping her breast. “Not anymore.” A kiss meant more to her than a simple physical gesture. It was a gift of love, of affection, or at the very least liking, and she felt none of those things for him. He might have the right to her body, but not to her heart.

His hands left her, and she felt him nudge her gently to the side.

Poppy obeyed, her pulse racing as he joined her on the bed. He reclined on his side, his feet extending much farther than hers along the mattress. She forced her fingers to loosen from the covers as he drew them away from her.

Harry’s gaze slid over her slim, exposed body, the curves of her br**sts, the clamped seam of her thighs. Heat surfaced everywhere, a flush that deepened as he drew her against him. His chest was warm and hard, with a covering of dark hair that tickled her br**sts.

Poppy shivered as his hand moved along her spine, pressing her close. The intimacy of being clasped against a half-naked man, breathing the scent of his skin, was almost more than her dazed mind could comprehend. He pressed her bare legs apart, the fabric of his trousers smooth and cool. And he held her like that, his hand roaming slowly over her back until the teeth-chattering shivers eased.

His mouth traced the taut side of her neck. He spent a long time kissing her there, investigating the hollow behind her ear, the edge of her hairline, the front of her throat. His tongue found the hectic throb of her pulse, lingering until she gasped and tried to push him away. His arms tightened, one hand coming to the bare curve of her bottom, keeping her against him.

“Don’t you like that?” he asked against her throat.

“No,” Poppy said, trying to work her arms between them.

Harry pressed her back to the mattress, his eyes bright with diabolical amusement. “You’re not going to admit to liking any of this, are you?”

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She shook her head.

His hand cradled the side of her face, his thumb brushing her closed lips. “Poppy, if there’s nothing else about me that pleases you, at least give this a chance.”

“I can’t. Not when I remember that I should be doing this with . . . him.” As angry and resentful as she was, Poppy couldn’t quite bring herself to say Michael’s name.

As it was, it provoked even more of a reaction from Harry than she’d expected. He gripped her jaw, his hand closing in a strong, not-quite-painful vise, his eyes flaring with fury. She stared back at him defiantly, almost willing him to do something awful, to prove that he was as contemptible as she thought him.

But Harry’s voice, when he finally spoke, was scrupulously controlled. “Then I’ll see if I can put him out of your thoughts.” The bedclothes were pushed away with ruthless insistence, robbing her of any means of concealment. She started upward, but he pushed her back down. His hand curved beneath her breast, plumping it upward, and he bent until his breath fell against the peak in light, repeated shocks.

He traced the aureole with his tongue, caught it tenderly with his teeth, playing with the sensitive flesh. Delight fed into her veins with every swirl and lick and soft tug. Poppy’s hands clenched into fists as she tried to keep them by her sides. It seemed important not to touch him voluntarily. But he was skilled and persistent, arousing deep and writhing impulses, and her body was apparently inclined to choose pleasure over principle.

She reached up to his head, the dark hair thick and soft between her fingers. Gasping, she guided him to her other breast. He complied with a hoarse murmur, his lips opening over the heat-stung bud. His hands glided over her body, charting the curves of her waist and hips. The tip of his middle finger circled the rim of her navel and wove in a teasing path across the flat of her stomach, along the valley where her legs pressed together . . . from her knees to the top of her thighs . . . back again.

Stroking gently, Harry whispered, “Open for me.”

Poppy was quiet, resisting, panting as if each breath were being torn from her throat. The pressure of tears rose behind her closed eyes. Experiencing any pleasure at all with Harry seemed like a betrayal.

And he knew it. His voice was soft against her ear as he said, “What happens in this bed is only between us. There’s no sin in submitting to your husband, and nothing to gain by denying what enjoyment I might be able to give you. Let it happen, Poppy. You don’t have to be virtuous with me.”

“I’m not trying to be,” she said unsteadily.

“Then let me touch you.”

At her silence, Harry pushed her resistless legs apart. His palm coursed along her inner thigh until his thumb brushed soft, private curls. The ragged rhythms of their breathing rustled through the quiet room. His thumb nestled into the curls, grazing against a place so sensitive that she jerked with a muffled protest.

He gathered her closer into hard muscle and smoothness and crisp hair. Reaching down again, he teased the yielding flesh apart. An irresistible urge came to press upward into his hand. But she forced herself to lay passive, even though the effort to hold still was exhausting.

Finding the entrance to her body, Harry stroked the softness until he had elicited a slick of hot serum. He fondled her, one of his fingers nudging inside. Startled, she stiffened and whimpered.

Harry kissed her throat. “Shhh . . . I’m not hurting you. Easy.” He stroked within her, his finger gently crooking as if to urge her forward. Over and over, so patiently. The pleasure acquired a new tension, her limbs weighted with thickening layers of sensation. His finger withdrew, and he began to play with her idly.