"I would have said to you," he told her quietly and without shame, "With my body, I thee worship."
He spoke the words now, as avow, and when Elizabeth realized it, the poignancy of it made her eyes sting with tears. Turning her face into his hand, she kissed his palm, covering his hand with hers, and a groan tore from his chest, his mouth descending on hers in a kiss that was both rough and tender as he parted her lips for the demanding invasion of his tongue. Her arms went around his broad shoulders, and he pulled her against his full length, clasping her against ; his rigid thighs while his tongue began to plunge into her mouth and then retreat, only to plunge again in an unmistakably suggestive rhythm that made desire streak through Elizabeth as she pressed herself closer.
He rolled her onto her back. his hand sliding caressingly over her breast. possessively cupping its fullness, then teasing her nipple, grazing it lightly, until it stood up proudly against his palm. He lifted his mouth from hers, and Elizabeth felt an aching sense of loss that was replaced' by sweet torment as he slid his mouth down her neck to her breasts, nuzzling them slowly for endless moments before his lips closed tightly over her taut nipple. She moaned as he increased the pressure, her hands tangling in his hair, her back arching in helpless surrender, and all the while his hands were sliding and stroking with skillful reverence over her, heating her skin and making her ache with incomprehensible yearnings. He kissed her flat stomach, trailing his lips ever lower, his tongue plunging into her navel, a low laugh coming from his chest when she gasped and gave a leap of surprise; then his hands slid lower, curving around her hips, his lips nuzzling closer to the curly triangle between her legs, deliberately taking his time. Elizabeth belatedly realized what he was going to do and panicked, her hands tightening. He hesitated, and she sensed his reluctance to stop an instant before he ignored her and kissed her there, too, but swiftly. Then he leaned up and over her again, his mouth at last claiming hers in another endless, drugging kiss as he drew her tongue into his mouth and his arms encircled her. She thought he would take her then, but the kiss continued, filled with exquisite promise and wild hunger. Rolling onto his side, he took her with him, his hand gliding down her spine, holding her hips pressed to his, forcing her into vibrant awareness of his raging desire. And then he gentled the pressure against her mouth until he was lightly brushing his parted lips against hers. By the time he lifted his head, Elizabeth's breathing was shattered, her hands were clutching his shoulders, and her heart was pounding like a maddened thing; again she waited with a mixture of excitement and fear for him to take her. Ian felt her escalating tension, and although he was already desperate for release, be brushed a kiss against her forehead. "Not yet," be whispered.
With a physical effort Elizabeth forced her eyes open and looked at him; what she saw made her heart beat almost painfully harder. In the candle glow his face was hard and dark with passion, and the eyes gazing at her upturned face were blazing with it-and yet there was as much tenderness in them as there was desire. The combination made her ache with sudden yearning to make him feel all the exquisite things be was making her feel, but she didn't know how. Instead, she did the one thing she knew he liked. Spreading her fingers across his smoothly shaven jaw, she gazed unashamedly into his eyes and achingly whispered, "I love you."
His eyes darkened, but instead of speaking be caught her wrist and drew her hand to his chest. Elizabeth knew a moment of disappointment at his silence-and then she realized what he had done. He had pressed her hand against his heart so that she could feel its violent pounding and know that he was as wildly aroused as she. Her eyes filled with wonder, she gazed at him, and then, because she was suddenly filled with an urge to really look at him, she lowered her eyes to his broad, muscled chest with its light furring of dark hair. In the dim light his skin glowed like oiled bronze; his shoulders and arms were hard with bunched muscles. He was, Elizabeth thought, incredibly beautiful. She started to move her fingers, then hesitated, not certain if it was proper to touch him, and raised her questioning eyes to his.
Ian saw her uncertainty. "Yes," he whispered hoarsely. Elizabeth realized that he was dying to be touched, and the knowledge filled her with a mixture of delight and pride as she slid her hands over the rigid muscles of his chest, watching as they flinched reflexively in passionate reaction to her feathery touch. He felt, she thought, like bunched satin, and she brushed a kiss near his arm, and then with more daring she kissed his nipple, touching her tongue to it, feeling his sharp intake of breath, the reflexive clenching of his hands on her back as she continued sliding her hands lower. In fact, she was so engrossed with the pleasure she was deriving from pleasing him as she pressed languid kisses down his chest that it was several seconds before she realized that his hand was no longer sliding up and down over her hip, but that it was forcing insistently between her legs.
Helpless to stop the instinctive reaction, Elizabeth clamped her legs together, her stricken gaze flying to his as nameless panic shot through her. "Don't, darling," he whispered thickly, his hot gaze on her while his fingers toyed amid the springy hair, stroking. "Don't close against me." Hiding her face against his chest, Elizabeth drew a shaky breath and forced herself to obey, then moaned with pleasure, not humiliation or pain, while the stroking continued and became increasingly intimate, and she wrapped her arms tightly around him when at last his finger slid deeply into her wet warmth. "I love you," she whispered fiercely against his neck, and the sweetness of her yielding was almost Ian's undoing.
Shifting her onto her back, he covered her mouth with his and began to increase the deep thrusts of his finger. When her hips started to move instinctively against his hand he eased himself between her legs, his rigid shaft poised at her entrance. Desperate to sheathe himself in her and simultaneously dreading the pain he was going to cause her, he lifted her slim hips to receive him. "I'm going to hurt you, sweetheart, because there's no other way. If I could take the pain for you, I would."
She did not turn her face away from him or try to twist free of his imprisoning grasp, and what she said made Ian's throat ache with emotion. "Do you know," she whispered with a teary smile, "how long I've waited to hear you call me ?sweetheart' again?"
"How long?" he asked hoarsely. Putting her arms around his shoulders, Elizabeth braced herself for whatever pain was coming, knowing as he tensed that it was going to happen, talking as if she could calm herself. "Two years I've waited and w-"