“He would never hurt me, Cam.”

“All the same, little sister, I intend to have a few words with him.”


She wore a dressing gown borrowed from Win, a ruffled pale pink garment with a white lace inset at the top. The bodice was very low, exposing her cle**age, and since Win was more slender, the garment was a bit too snug, nearly causing her br**sts to spill over the lace. Knowing that Harry liked her hair down, she had brushed it and left it loose, a feathery, fiery curtain.

There was a sound from outside, a hard strike against the door. Poppy looked up sharply, her heartbeat quickening, her stomach turning over in a lazy somersault. She set the book aside and went to the door, turning the key in the lock, pulling at the knob.

She found herself standing face-to-face with her husband, who was one step below the stoop.

This was a new version of Harry, exhausted and rumpled and brutish, a day beyond a shave. Somehow the masculine dishevelment suited him, giving his handsomeness a raw, unvarnished appeal. He looked as if he were contemplating at least a dozen ways to punish her for having escaped him. His gaze raised gooseflesh all over her.

With a deep, arid breath, she stood back to let Harry in. Carefully, she closed the door.

The silence was pressing, the air charged with emotions she couldn’t even name. A pulse drummed in the backs of her knees, the insides of her elbows, and the pit of her belly as Harry’s gaze raked over her. “If you ever try to leave me again,” he said with quiet menace, “the consequences will be worse than you could imagine.” And he went on to say something to the effect that there were rules she would have to obey, and there were things he would not tolerate, and if she needed to be taught a lesson, he would be damned happy to oblige.

Despite his blistering tone, Poppy felt a wave of tenderness. He looked so hard faced and alone. So in need of comfort.

Before she gave herself a chance to reconsider, she went forward in two strides, removing all distance between them. Taking his stiff jaw in her hands, she stood on her toes and brought herself against him, and silenced him with her mouth.

She felt the shock of that tender contact jolt all through Harry. His breath slammed in his throat, and he seized her upper arms, pushing her back just far enough to stare at her incredulously. She felt how strong he was, able to break her in two if he chose. He was motionless, riveted by whatever he saw in her expression.

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Eager and intent, Poppy strained upward to put her mouth to his again. He allowed it for just a moment, then pushed her back. A swallow rippled visibly down his throat. If the first kiss had startled him into silence, the second had utterly disarmed him.

“Poppy,” he said hoarsely, “I didn’t want to hurt you. I tried to be gentle.”

Poppy laid her hand softly along his cheek. “Is that why you think I left, Harry?”

He seemed stunned by the caress. His lips parted in a wordless question, his features stamped with exquisite frustration. She saw the moment when he stopped trying to make sense of anything.

Bending over her with a groan, he kissed her.

The shared heat of their mouths, the sinuous brush of tongue against tongue, filled her with pleasure. She answered him ardently, withholding nothing, letting him search and stroke inside her as he wished. His arms went around her, one hand clasping beneath her bottom to pull her closer.

Caught up on her toes, Poppy felt her body list forward, chests, stomachs, h*ps pressing together. He was aggressively aroused, his flesh jutting boldly against her, every hint of friction wringing out deep and resonant delight.

His lips dragged along the side of her throat, and he bent her backward until her br**sts strained the front of the dressing gown. He nuzzled into the valley of compressed flesh, stroking between her br**sts with his tongue. His hot breath mingled in the white lace, his mouth dampening her skin. Roughly he sought the tip of her breast, but it was tucked too tightly beneath the soft pink fabric. She arched desperately, wanting his mouth there, everywhere, wanting everything.

She tried to say something, perhaps suggest they go to the bedroom, but it came out as a moan. Her knees were close to buckling. Harry tugged at the front of the bodice, discovering the row of concealed hook-and-eye closures. He opened the bodice with stunning swiftness and stripped the dressing gown away, leaving her naked.

Reaching for her, he turned her away from him and pushed the gleaming fall of her hair aside. His mouth descended to the nape of her neck, kissing, almost biting, his tongue playing, while his hands slid over her smooth front. He cupped a breast, gently pinching the hardening peak while his other hand slid between her thighs.

Poppy jumped a little, gasping in anticipation as he parted her. Instinctively she tried to widen her stance for him, offering herself, and his approving purr vibrated against her neck. He held her in a deep fondling embrace, feeling her, filling her with his fingers until she arched back against him, her bare bottom cradling the shape of his erection. He coaxed sensation from her, pleasuring her vulnerable flesh.

“Harry,” she panted, “I’m going to f-fall—”

They sank to the carpeted floor in a sort of slow, grappling collapse, with Harry still behind her. He muttered against her back, imprinting words of need and praise against her skin. The texture of his mouth, wet velvet surrounded by the bristle of his jaw, caused her to shiver in pleasure. He kissed his way along the curve of her spine, following it to the small of her back.

Poppy turned around to reach for the placket of his shirt. Her fingers were unusually clumsy as she undid the four buttons. Harry held still, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he watched her with volatile green eyes. He stripped off his open waistcoat, pulled his leather braces to the sides, and tugged the shirt over his head. His chest was magnificent, broad reaches of curved muscle and tough-knit hardness covered by a light fleece of hair. She stroked him with a trembling hand and reached down to his trousers, trying to find the concealed placket at the front.