Poppy couldn’t quite fathom Harry’s mood, devilish yet tender as he finished undressing her. He laid her back on the mattress with her legs dangling, and stood between them as he leisurely removed his shirt. As his gaze traveled over her, she blushed and tried to cover herself with her arms.

Flashing a grin, Harry bent over her, pulling her hands away. “Love, if you only knew what pleasure it gives me to look at you . . .” He kissed her lips, teasing them open, his tongue slipping inside the warm interior of her mouth. The hair on his chest brushed over the tips of her br**sts, a sweet and ceaseless stimulation that drew a moan from low in her throat.


His lips wandered along the arch of her throat to her br**sts. Capturing a nipple, he stroked with his tongue, making it taut and stingingly sensitive. At the same time, his hand went to her other breast, his thumb circling and prodding the peak.

She strained upward, her body trembling and flushed. His hands drifted over her in light paths, across her stomach, lower, down to the place where a sweet erotic ache had centered. Finding the humid, delicately layered flesh, he teased her with his thumbs, opened her, making her ready for him.

Her knees drew up, and she reached for him with an incoherent sound, trying to draw him over her. Instead, he sank to his knees and gripped her hips, and she felt his mouth on her.

She quivered beneath the gentle articulation of his tongue, every intricate movement provoking, tormenting, until her eyes fluttered closed and she began to breathe in wrenching sighs. His tongue entered her and lingered for an excruciating moment. “Please,” she whispered. “Please, Harry.”

She felt him stand, heard the rustle of trousers and linens being dropped. There was hot, gentle pressure at the entrance of her body, and she made a shuddering sound of relief. He pushed inside as deeply as she could accept him, a deliciously substantial invasion. She was stretched, utterly filled, and she worked her h*ps against him, trying to take even more. A slow rhythm began, his body pressing hers at just the right angle, driving the pitch of feeling higher with each luscious ingress.

Her eyes flew open as the accumulated sensation rolled up to her, relentless in its strength and velocity, and she saw his sweat-misted face above hers. He was watching her, savoring her pleasure, bending to take her helpless cries into his mouth.

When the last spasms had faded, and she was as limp as a discarded stocking, Poppy found herself cradled in Harry’s arms. They reclined together on the bed, her soft limbs tangled with his harder, longer ones.

She stirred in drowsy surprise as she felt that he was still aroused. He kissed her and sat up, his hand playing in the loose fire of her hair.

Gently he guided her head to his lap. “Make it wet,” he whispered. Her mouth closed carefully over the pulsing head, slid as far down as she could, and lifted. Intrigued, she nuzzled the silken hardness, her tongue flicking out like a cat’s.

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Harry turned her so that she was positioned facedown on the mattress. Hoisting her h*ps upward, he covered her from behind, his fingers sliding between her thighs. She felt a leap of excitement, her body responding instantly to his touch.

“Now,” he whispered into her hot ear, “I’m going to be wicked. And you’ll let me do anything, won’t you?”

“Yes, yes, yes . . .”

Harry held her with firm pressure, cupping her as he pulled her against his solid weight. She felt him move her in an insinuating rocking motion, with his aroused flesh poised at the wet cove of her body. He entered her, but just barely, and each time she rocked backward, he let her have a little more. Murmuring his name, she pushed back more strongly, trying to impale herself fully. But he only laughed softly and kept her where he wanted her, maintaining the voluptuous, metrical pitch.

He was utterly in control, appropriating her flesh with dizzying skill, letting her writhe and gasp for long minutes. Dragging the length of her hair to one side, he kissed the back of her neck, his mouth strong and gnawing. Everything he did drove her pleasure higher, and he knew it, gloried in it. Poppy felt the oncoming rush of fulfillment, her senses preparing for the hot tumble of release, and only then did he take her fully, driving hard and deep into her center.

Harry held her until she stopped trembling, her body limp with satisfaction. And then he pressed her to her back and whispered one word into her ear.


It was a long and searing night, filled with unthinkable intimacy. After the third time, they snuggled in the darkness with Poppy’s head on Harry’s shoulder. It was lovely to lie with someone this way, talking about anything and everything, their bodies relaxed in the aftermath of passion.

“You fascinate me in every way,” Harry whispered, his hand playing gently in her hair. “There are mysteries in your soul that will take a lifetime to uncover . . . and I want to know every one of them.”

No one had ever called her mysterious before. While Poppy didn’t think of herself that way, she rather liked it. “I’m not all that mysterious, am I?”

“Of course you are.” Smiling, he lifted her hand and pressed a kiss into the tender cup of her palm. “You’re a woman.”

Poppy went for a walk with Beatrix the next afternoon, while the rest of the family dispersed on various errands: Win and Amelia went to visit an ailing friend in the village, Leo and Merripen met with a prospective new tenant, and Cam had gone to a horse auction in Southampton.

Harry sat at a desk in the library with a detailed report from Jake Valentine. Relishing the peace and quiet—rare in the Hathaway household—he began to read. However, the sound of a floorboard creaking snagged his attention, and he looked toward the threshold.