Whitney drew a long, unsteady breath and, reaching her arms around his neck, she pressed herself to the full length of his hard, unyielding contours and began to kiss him. Trembling in his embrace, she kissed his forehead and his eyes and his mouth. She slid her tongue over his lips, feeling the warm smoothness of them, and Clayton groaned, his mouth opening passionately over hers. And when he shifted her onto her back and leaned over her, kissing her and caressing her with his gentle, skillful hands, Whitney didn't know if what she was feeling was pride, but whatever it was, it was drugging and delirious and wonderful.

"I want you," he whispered against her parted lips. "I want you so badly that I ache for you." He took his-mouth from hers and his hand trembled as he lifted it to cup her face. "I'll never hurt you, little one," he promised, his voice hoarse with tenderness and love.

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Whitney's answer made his throat ache. "I know you won't," she whispered. "But it wouldn't matter if you hurt me every night-as long as you always say those things- about wanting to be a part of me."

Clayton couldn't help himself; he covered her mouth with his and devoured her with tender violence. He fondled her breasts and teased her nipples with his fingers, and she moaned softly when his mouth began retracing the path his hands had taken.

Every slight movement of her awakening body twisting beneath his gentle assault-every sound she made raced through his bloodstream like an aphrodisiac. He could not believe the passion she contained, nor the violence of his body's craving for her; he was ravenous for her.

Her hands were tangling in his hair-, running over his shoulders and back, her nails digging into his flesh. But when he moved his hand down to the soft triangle between her legs, Whitney gave a leap of fear at his intimate touch and clamped her thighs together.

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"Don't, darling," he murmured body, capturing her mouth in a deep, consuming kiss as he gently, inexorably, parted her thighs, his fingers teasing and toying with her, exploring and delightfully tormenting her until she was soft and damp and more than ready for him.

When he shifted up and over her, however, Whitney was jolted from the sensual whirlpool that had been sweeping her toward sweet oblivion. In fright that would not be banished she felt Clayton part her legs, felt her hips being lifted to receive him, and she swallowed back a cry of sheer panic at the probing hardness of him coming into intimate contact with her. Despite his promise, her body automatically braced itself for pain ... but there was only the proud heat of him sliding slowly into her. Instinctively, she relaxed and opened for him, then gasped with exquisite pleasure as he plunged full length into her welcoming softness.

She wrapped her arms around him, lost in incoherent yearnings to have him stay inside of her like this forever, to draw him somehow deeper. She thought this was how it ended, and she could have wept with longing to have it continue. And then Clayton began to move within her, and Whitney ceased to think at all. Something small unfolded in the pit of her stomach, then spread like a mellow glow, slowly building and gathering force, until it began to race in a trembling fury along her every nerve. Twisting her head fitfully on the pillows she began arching to meet his deep plunging thrusts. "Please," she begged him in a whisper, but she did not know what she was asking for.

Clayton did. And he wanted it so badly for her that his own rampaging desire was secondary. "Soon, darling," he promised and began to steadily quicken the rhythm of his driving strokes.

The volcano that had been threatening to erupt inside of Whitney exploded with a force that tore a low scream from her throat. Instantly Clayton throttled the scream with his mouth. When her tremors had subsided he took her sweet lips in a long kiss, and with one deep thrust, he poured his shuddering warmth at the mouth of her womb.

Afraid that his weight would crush her, Clayton gathered her to him and rolled onto his side, taking her with him. Lying there, with Whitney cradled in his arms, his body still intimately joined to hers, he experienced a joyous contentment, a languorous peace, unlike anything he had ever known.

He half expected Whitney to fall asleep in his arms, but after several minutes, she tilted her head back and raised shining green eyes to his. Clayton brushed a wayward curl off her cheek. "Are you happy, love?"

She smiled at him; the sated, happy smile of a woman who knew. . . and who knows that she is beloved. "Yes," she whispered.

He kissed her forehead and she snuggled closer against him, while he tenderly caressed the lovely contours of her back and hip, waiting for her to fell asleep. Instead, she lapsed into silence, tracing small circles on his chest, but she did not seem any more inclined toward sleep than he. "What are you thinking about?" he asked her finally.

Whitney's gaze flew to his, then she buried her face against his chest. "Nothing," she murmured unconvincingly.

Tilting her chin up, Clayton forced her to look at him. He had no idea what she could be thinking, but after having just removed the last barrier between them, he didn't want any new ones erected, ever. "What?" he persisted with gentle firmness.

She bit her lip in a combination of shyness and laughter. "I was thinking that if it had been like this-that other time-instead of fleeing from here, I would have stayed and demanded that you do the proper thing and marry me at once!"

She looked so beautiful that Clayton was torn between laughing and kissing her. So he did both. It was heaven to hold her in his arms like this, to be able to talk to her in the darkness and have her bare arms around him. Clayton felt more in the mood for celebrating than sleeping. When he looked down at her a while later and found her still awake, gazing into the firelight, he said, "Do you want to sleep?"

"I don't think I could. I'm wide awake."

"Good, so am I." He grinned. "Will you light all three of, those candles on the table beside you?"

"Your smallest wish is my command," his "obedient" wife told him as she leaned up on an elbow and kissed him full on the mouth, but before she turned over to light the candles, she carefully drew the sheet up.

Clayton's lips twitched with laughter as she modestly clutched it to the luscious breasts he had just fondled and kissed. He propped their pillows up so that they could sit back against them, then he relaxed back and pleasured himself with the sight of her. When she turned from lighting the candles and saw him gazing at her, she self-consciously ran her fingers through her tumbled tresses and gave the luxuriant mass a hard shake that sent it spilling down her back. "Madam," Clayton reassured her with a roguish grin, "you are beautiful en dishabille-if that sheet you are trying to wear qualifies you for being in that fashionable state of partial dress."

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