"I like it," he said almost gruffly.

"So do I," she admitted without thinking, smiling at him.


"Good," he said as he took her hand and led her to the bed. He sat down and when she started to sit next to him, he caught her waist and drew her down on his lap with a muffled laugh. "Go on," he invited, and Sheridan resumed the exploration of his chest and arms, mildly puzzled about his comment that it was good that she liked touching him there. A moment later, she understood what he meant. If you like it, I will, he'd said. Obviously, that was supposed to work both ways, because his large hand came to rest on the bodice of her gown, cupping her full breast, and Sheridan felt her pulse leap. She looked down, watching his long fingers sliding over her nipple as she'd touched his, and she wondered if her leaping pulse was the equivalent of the reflexive bunching of his muscles. She drew a shaky breath, and waited, but his hand stopped moving, his fingers at the frog-closing of her bodice.

Stephen waited for her to decide whether she wanted to open it or wanted him to open it or if she wanted it left alone. Half expecting her to decide the latter, he waited, and to his infinite delight, she solved the problem by sliding both her hands around his neck and pressing her breasts to his bare chest. She wanted him to open it, he realized, but she didn't want to ask. He had the complicated closing open in seconds, and he slid his hand into the open bodice, holding her breast, teasing the nipple, feeling it harden into a taut bud while the soft globe seemed to swell to fill his hand… And his erection swelled and hardened with it.

Stephen felt in charge again, in territory where his experience was of value to them both, and he bent his head, touching his tongue to the tight nipple, then drawing it into his mouth, feeling her swift indrawn breath. Sheridan looked down at the dark head at her breast, while sparks of feeling began shooting rhythmically from her breast to her knees and she slid her fingers into his thick beautiful hair. He switched to the other breast, lavishing it with the same attention. Then his lips closed tightly on it and she gasped and clutched his head to her breast, suddenly desperate to make him feel the melting sensations he was giving her.

As if he sensed it, he shifted her down onto the bed, so that her head was on the pillows, and he stretched out beside her. Sheridan turned into his arms, touching her tongue to his nipple, tightening her lips around it, and she felt his fingers sinking slowly into her hair as he gave her free use of his body.

Stephen knew he was going to die before this was over.

He had moved her to the bed because it was more comfortable and gave him freer access to the rest of her. He had not expected her to do what she was doing to him. Desire was exploding through his body and he swallowed, clutching her more tightly as she brushed her fingers up and down his chest and kissed it. Unable to endure any more, he rolled her onto her back, unfastened the rest of her bodice, pushed the lace aside with his fingers, and then closed his eyes and drew a steadying breath. The gown had no fasteners beneath the bodice; the whole thing was open. He didn't know how he'd failed to notice that. He didn't know why he hadn't expected it, except that it had been a gift from Whitney. At Claymore, the room had been virtually dark. Somehow, he hadn't noticed that his wife had long, exquisite legs and graceful hips and a tiny waist and gorgeous breasts. His plan for a leisurely night of lovemaking took another battering as his body surged with alarming urgency.

Sheridan swallowed, watching him leaning up on his elbow, looking at her, then closing his eyes, and her heart sank. Feeling it was better to know about her flaws so that she could either disguise them or hide them, she said in a shaky voice, "What's wrong with me?"

"What's wrong with you?" he repeated in disbelief. He tore his gaze from the bounty before him and leaned over her to kiss her. "What's wrong with you," he whispered achingly, sliding his hand around her waist and pulling her closer, "is that you are exquisite, and I want you so damned much…"

The words were as seductive as the kiss that followed it. He opened her mouth with his, moving his lips back and forth almost roughly, and then his tongue drove between her parted lips in a fiercely erotic kiss, retreating and plunging again and again, until desire was streaking through Sheridan like lightning bolts. Leaning over her, he kissed her until she heard herself moaning softly, and then his lips were at her aching breasts again and his hand was sliding downward over her stomach, reaching lower, covering the soft mound between her legs. His fingers teased and tormented her, until Sheridan was clinging to him, parting her legs and giving him access.

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She was damp and more than ready for him, and the bed shifted as he got out of it, leaving her feeling cold and alone. She opened her eyes and saw him standing beside the bed, his hands at his waistband, and then he came back to her, and the magic began again, only hotter this time, and Sheridan gave herself up to it. She turned to him in trembling need, her fingers flexing against his shoulders, her body arching against his hand.

Stephen was half demented with need. Cupping her bottom in both hands, he pulled her tightly against him. Then he wedged his knee between hers, probing with his body and then finding. He shifted his hips and slid into her, feeling her opening for him and then sheathing him while her nails dug into his shoulders. She was helping him, her knee lifted to give him deeper access, and he tried, one last time, to slow them both down. Keeping one arm around her hips, he cradled her face against his chest and rocked gently inside her, increasing the depth and tempo of each stroke imperceptibly, but when she crushed her soft mouth to his and began to move her hips with his, Stephen was lost.

Sheridan felt the thunder of his heart beneath her ear and the driving force of his powerful strokes deep within her, and she felt her body begin to soar and reach and clasp him tighter. "I love you," she cried on a sob as the universe began to come apart, and he rolled her swiftly onto her back, driving deeper, kissing her with fiery urgency. His hand found hers on the pillow near her head as his hips rammed deeper, and his fingers threaded through hers, holding tightly.

He was holding her hand like that when the universe exploded in a burst of pleasure that tore a sobbing moan from her, and she felt his life pumping into her, his body shuddering again and again with the force of the explosion, his hand tightening.

Stephen fought his way back from oblivion with an effort, leaning up on his forearms to take his weight off her, and he forced his eyes open. Her satin curls were spread all over the pillow in wild disarray, exactly as he'd imagined they would be someday, and his hand was holding hers.