Following the long lines of muscle, she went lower until her palms smoothed circles over the tight curves of his backside. His response was electric, his thrusts turning more forceful, a quiet grunt escaping his throat. He liked that, she thought with a smile, or would have smiled if her mouth hadn’t been so thoroughly occupied with his. She wanted to discover more about him, all the ways to please him, but the accumulating pleasure reached a tipping point and began to spill powerfully, inundating her, drowning all thought.

Her body clenched him in strong spasms, extorting release, pulling it from him. He let out a harsh cry and sank into her with a last thrust, shuddering violently. It was indescribably satisfying to feel him cl**ax inside her, his body powerful and yet vulnerable in that ultimate moment. And better still to have him lower into her arms, his head dropping on her soft shoulder. Here was the closeness she had always craved.


She cradled his head, his hair a silky tickle against her inner wrist, his breath flowing over her in hot rushes. His unshaven bristle was scratchy against the tender skin of her breast, but she wouldn’t have moved him for all the world.

Their breathing slowed, and Harry’s weight became crushingly heavy. Poppy realized he was falling asleep. She pushed at him. “Harry.”

He lurched upward, blinking, his gaze disoriented.

“Come to bed,” Poppy murmured, rising. “The bedroom is just over there.” She murmured a few encouragements, urging him to follow. “Did you bring a traveling bag?” she asked. “Or a gentleman’s case?”

Harry glanced at her as if she’d spoken in a foreign language. “Case?”

“Yes, with your clothes, toiletries, that sort of . . .” Perceiving how utterly exhausted he was, she smiled and shook her head. “Never mind. We’ll sort it out in the morning.” She towed him to the bedroom. “Come . . . we’ll sleep . . . we’ll talk later. A few more steps . . .”

The wooden bed was utilitarian, but easily large enough for two, and it was made up with quilts and fresh white linens. Harry went to it without hesitation, climbing beneath the covers—collapsing, really—and he fell asleep with startling immediacy.

Poppy paused to look down at the large, unshaven man in her bed. Even in his unkempt state, his dark-angel handsomeness was breathtaking. His lids trembled infinitesimally as he succumbed to encroaching dreams. Complex, remarkable, driven man. Not incapable of love . . . not at all. He merely needed to be shown how.

And just as she had a few days earlier, Poppy thought, this is the man I’m married to.

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Except that now, she felt a stirring of gladness.

Chapter Twenty-two

Harry had never known such sleep, so deep and restorative that it seemed he had never experienced real sleep before, only an imitation. He felt drugged when he awoke, drunk on sleep, steeped in it.

Squinting his eyes open, he discovered that it was morning, the curtained windows limned with sunlight. He felt no overwhelming need to leap out of bed as he usually did. Rolling to his side, he stretched lazily. His hand encountered empty space.

Had Poppy shared the bed with him? A frown gathered on his forehead. Had he slept all night with someone for the first time and missed it? Turning to his stomach, he levered himself to the other side of the bed, hunting for her scent. Yes . . . there was a flowery hint of her on the pillow, and the sheets carried a whiff of her skin, a lavender-tinged sweetness that aroused him with every breath.

He wanted to hold Poppy, to reassure himself that the previous night hadn’t been a dream.

In fact, it had been so preposterously good that he felt a twinge of worry. Had it been a dream? Frowning, he sat up and scrubbed his fingers through his hair.

“Poppy,” he said, not really calling out for her, just saying her name aloud. Quiet as the sound was, she appeared in the doorway as if she’d been waiting for him.

“Good morning.” She was already dressed for the day in a simple blue gown, her hair in a loose braid tied with a white ribbon. How apt it was that she’d been named for the showiest of wildflowers, rich and vivid, a gleaming finish to the bloom. Her blue eyes surveyed him with such attentive warmth that he felt a catch in his chest, a dart of pleasure-pain.

“The shadows are gone,” Poppy said softly. Seeing that he didn’t follow, she added, “Beneath your eyes.”

Self-consciously, Harry looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “What time is it?” he asked gruffly.

Poppy went to a chair, where his clothes had been set in a folded pile, and rummaged for his pocket watch. Flipping open the gold case, she went to the windows and parted the curtains. Vigorous sunlight pushed into the room. “Half past eleven,” she said, closing the watch with a decisive snap.

Harry stared at her blankly. Holy hell. Half the day was over. “I’ve never slept so late in my life.”

His disgruntled surprise seemed to amuse Poppy. “No stack of managers’ reports. No one rapping at the door. No questions or emergencies. Your hotel is a demanding mistress, Harry. But today, you belong to me.”

Harry absorbed that, a tug of inner resistance quickly vanishing into the pull of his enormous attraction to her.

“Will you dispute it?” she asked, looking vastly pleased with herself. “That you’re mine today?”

Harry found himself smiling back at her, unable to help himself. “Yours to command,” he said. His smile turned rueful as he became uncomfortably aware of his unwashed state, his unshaven face. “Is there a bathing room?”

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