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Her eyes widened briefly and then she gave a small nod.

That permission to proceed overwhelmed him for a single moment; he wanted to dive in, devour her in one fell swoop. He forced himself to move slowly as he slipped his hands under the bend of her knees and pulled her toward him, her back sliding over the mattress. Her nightgown rode high on her thighs as he set her feet on the edge of the bed; she pressed her knees together, as if in an instinctive attempt to prevent exposure.

A rueful smile curved her lips, and he felt the weight of their self-imposed silence. What message was she trying to convey with that smile? Did she think it funny that modesty should assert itself at such a time? Did uncertainty linger despite her bold acceptance?

His fingers skimmed over her calves and the firm length of her thighs. He watched her, looking for sudden reluctance, a change of mind.

Her eyes darkened; she lifted an elegant brow, her expression one of gentle exasperation. "Even now, you hold yourself back, waiting—and for what?" she whispered. A shift of her weight, a twist of her legs, and she was kneeling before him, the height of the bed bringing her to eye level. "Do I have to say how much I desire you?" She cupped her breasts and then slid a palm down her torso to dip in the linen between her thighs. His gaze followed her hand's journey, envied it. "When my body aches for you, weeps for you—you pause and wonder if my passion is in earnest?"

It was his turn to smile ruefully. A lifetime spent certain of her disinterest had left its mark on him; a mark that he barely recognized in himself, yet she had deciphered perfectly. He had let the past overwrite the evidence of her desire; he had been a convenience then, but he was no longer.

He wanted to laugh, he wanted to shout; he grinned instead, and said, "I thought you promised to be quiet?" — and decided that after ten long years of yearning for her, devouring would be exactly the right thing.

He tasted her mouth first, slanting his lips over hers and delving deep. She met his ardor with a joy that was almost tangible in its fervor. The flavor of her laugh melted on his tongue, but it could not satisfy his hunger.

And then her laughter faded, replaced by a passion that burned. She gripped his shoulders tightly and arched into his kiss. Fisting his hand in her long, sun-tipped hair, he pulled her firm against his torso and felt the soft press of her breasts against his chest, her hardened nipples. He suckled lightly on her tongue, wringing a moan horn her throat. He softly bit her lower lip as a reminder and then licked its sweet fullness when she stifled the sound.

A rock of her hips, and the delicious pressure of her sex against his rigid length made him inhale sharply against a groan of pleasure. She smiled in wicked delight beneath his lips.

In answer, he cupped her bottom and lifted her, her weight nothing to his preternatural strength. As he climbed into the bed, the use with which he held her against him reminded him to be careful, but could not dispel the urgency of his body as he lay her in the v. enter of the mattress, could not stop the need coursing through him nor the pounding of his heart.

And he could hear hers, he realized in awe: the quick beat of blood and muscle and arousal. His eyes closed in sudden, grateful prayer. Then when she shimmied and pulled the nightgown over her head, he could not look away.

He took in her beauty with a single, ravenous glance, to hold and savor later. Her small breasts, peaked with desire, her nipples dusky rose. The soft swell of her belly, the curve of her waist. The golden curls at the apex of her thighs, the hint of clinging moisture, the glimpse of the pink cleft hidden beneath. She lay before him, a banquet of silken skin and moist desire, and he knew he would never have his fill.

Emily. He breathed her name silently against her abdomen and glanced up. She leaned back on her elbows as she watched him, her eyes bright with anticipation and fierce heat.

He slowly dragged his fingertips up the insides of her thighs and felt her tremble. Her words ran through his mind: if a woman takes a man's organ into her mouth, she can make him do anything she wishes.

When he placed his mouth on her, could he make her love him?

Part of him rejected the thought, calling such a wish unfair, selfish. He would be forced to leave once his mission was completed. Her life would continue without him—far better that she thought him a pleasurable interlude in a time of grief and fear than love him.

But the other part of him, the part that had kissed her knee and awakened her, could not regret it.

And the whole of him rejoiced at her blissful sigh as his fingers slid into the heat and wet of her.

He parted her slick folds, ran his thumb softly over her clitoris, and then circled with gentle pressure. Her head fell back as a shudder of ecstasy raced through her. Unable to content himself with touch, he eased back, lifting her leg over his shoulder; pressing forward, he revealed her to his starving gaze.

Moisture glistened, her femininity swollen with her arousal. He licked, sampled; her hips rose in a wordless appeal.

He bent his head and feasted.

Emily clutched at Anthony's shoulders, dimly aware that at some point he had made his clothing vanish—one moment she had been scratching at his shirt, the next his skin had been beneath her fingers, warm and firm—but she wasn't certain of anything else. She had been pleasured this way before and thought she'd known what to expect.

But she hadn't realized she would be consumed by fire, that every point of her body would burn from inside out—only to be reborn with each devastating lick, every exquisite bite.

His tongue flicked roughly against her clit and then he covered her with his lips and soothed with a gentle, suckling lick. His mouth never stopped, his fingers never ceased their thick thrusts; he only slowed when she shuddered, the frantic coil of orgasm unwinding brightly within her. And then, though she pulled at his hair and tried to draw him over her, he began again—easily at first, sipping to relieve painfully sensitive flesh, then with skill and fervor as pleasure mounted, as she sought his mouth and lifted herself to him.

But such intensity could not last, and when she came yet again her hands fell from his shoulders, her body replete, exhausted.

He moved up to lie beside her, and the rigid arch of his sex drew her gaze. It swayed with his movement, thick and heavy, the head shining and wet with his arousal. But when she reached for it he caught her wrist and pulled her over him so she lay against his broad chest, her thighs on either side of his hips. She felt his erection against her mons, probing at her slick heat, and she rubbed lightly against it.

He caught her mouth in a leisurely kiss that warmed her through, circled her waist with his hands, and held her still. Then, with a flex of his buttocks, he began his slow entry.

She broke away from his mouth and buried her face against his neck as he pushed in and in. She was tender, sensitive, and the delicous stretch of her muscles around him bordered on painful, his hard length intrusive. It was possession as she'd never experienced, an unyielding in its gentleness, inflexible as it claimed.

Tears burned in her eyes—not from pain, but from something deeper, more elusive.

And still he pushed endlessly inside her, until she thought she might scream of it. He was no larger than before and yet he filled her as she'd never been and left her gasping and biting his shoulder.

Her fingers clenched on his biceps, and still he held her hips motionless against his penetration until he'd seated himself fully.

He remained locked against her, as if he couldn't bear to withdraw. She raised her head to urge him into motion. His face was stark, his skin taut across his cheekbones, and she saw the sheen in his eyes that he tried to blink away.