Elizabeth wanted to deny it; she sensed that if she did, he'd be so disgusted with her deceit that he'd turn on his' heel and leave her. She lifted her chin, unable to tear her gaze from his, but she was too affected by the things he'd just admitted to her to lie to him. "All right," she said shakily, "you win. I've never forgotten you or that weekend. "How could I?" she added defensively.
He smiled at her angry retort, and his voice gentled to the timbre of rough velvet. "Come here, Elizabeth."
"Why?" she whispered shakily.
"So that we can finish what we began that weekend." Elizabeth stared at him in paralyzed terror mixed with violent excitement and shook her head in a jerky refusal. "I'll not force you," he said quietly, "nor will I force you to do anything you don't want to do once you're in my arms. Think carefully about that," he warned, "because if you, come to me now, you won't be able to tell yourself in the morning that I made you do this against your will-or that I you didn't know what was going to happen. Yesterday neither of us knew what was going to happen. Now we do."
Some small, insidious voice in her mind urged her to obey, reminded her that after the public punishment she'd taken for the last time they were together she was entitled to some stolen passionate kisses, if she wanted them. Another voice warned her not to break the rules again. "I-I can't," she said in a soft cry.
"There are four steps separating us and a year and a half of wanting drawing us together," he said
Elizabeth swallowed. "Couldn't you meet me halfway?" The sweetness of the question was almost Ian's undoing, but he managed to shake his head. "Not this time. I want you, but I'll not have you looking at me like a monster in the morning. If you want me, all you have to do is walk into my arms."
"I don't know what I want," Elizabeth cried, looking a little wildly at the valley below, as if she were thinking of leaping off the path.
"Come here," he invited huskily, "and I'll show you." It was his tone, not his words, that conquered her. As if drawn by a will stronger than her own, Elizabeth walked forward and straight into arms that closed around her with stunning force. "I didn't think you were going to do it," he whispered against her hair.
There was praise for her courage in his voice, and Elizabeth clung to that as she raised her bead and looked up at him. His smoldering gaze dropped to her lips, riveting there, and Elizabeth felt her body ignite at the same instant his mouth swooped down, capturing hers in a kiss of demanding bunger. His hands bit into her back, molding her pliant body to the rigid contours of his, and Elizabeth fed his hunger. With a silent moan of desperation she slipped her hands up his chest, her fingers sliding into the soft hair at his nape, her body arching to his. A shudder shook his powerful frame as she fitted herself to him, and his lips crushed down on hers, parting them, his tongue driving into her mouth with hungry urgency, and their dormant passion exploded. Heedless of what he was doing, Ian forced her to give him back the sensual urgency he was offering her, driving his tongue into her mouth until Elizabeth began to match the pagan kiss. Lost in the heated magic, she touched her tongue to his lips and felt the gasp of his breath against her mouth, then she hesitated, not certain. . . . His mouth moved more urgently against hers. "Yes." he whispered hoarsely, and when she did it again he groaned with pleasure.
Ian kissed her again and again until her nails were digging into his back and her breaths were coming in ragged gasps, mingling with his, and still he couldn't stop. The same uncontrollable compulsion to have her that had seized him two years ago had overtaken him again, and he kissed her until she was moaning and writhing in his arms and desire was pouring through him in hot tidal waves. Tearing his mouth from hers, he slid his lips across her cheek, his tongue seeking the inner crevice of her ear while his hand sought her breast. She jumped in dazed surprise at the intimate caress, and the innocent reaction wrung a choked laugh from him at the same time it sent a fresh surge of pure lust through him that almost sent him to his knees. Out of sheer self-preservation he forced his hands to stop the pleasurable torture of caressing her breasts, but his mouth sought hers again, sliding back and forth against her parted lips, but softer this time, gentling her. Gentling him. . . and then it all began again.
An eternity later he lifted his head, his blood pounding in his ears, his heart thundering, his breathing labored. Elizabeth stayed in his arms, her hot cheek against his chest, her voluptuous body pressed to his, trembling in the aftermath of the most explosive, inexplicable passion Ian had ever experienced.
Until now he had managed to convince himself that his memory of the passion that erupted between them in England was faulty, exaggerated. But tonight had surpassed even his imaginings. It surpassed anything he'd ever felt. He stared into the darkness above her head, trying to ignore the way she felt in his arms.
Against her ear Elizabeth felt his heart slow to normal, his breathing even out, and the sounds of the night began penetrating her drugged senses. Wind rifled through the long grass, whispering in the trees; his hand stroked soothingly up and down her spine; tears of pure confusion stung her eyes, and she rubbed her cheek against his hard chest, brushing them away in what felt to Ian like a poignantly tender caress. Drawing a shattered breath, she tried to ask him why this was happening to her. "Why?" she whispered against his chest.
Ian heard the shattered sound in her voice, and he understood her question; it was the same one he'd been asking himself. Why did this explosion of passion happen every time he touched her; why could this one English girl make him lose his mind? "I don't know," he said, and his voice sounded curt and unnatural to his own ears. "Sometimes it just happens"-to the wrong people at the wrong time, he added silently. In England he'd been so blindly besotted that he'd brought up marriage twice in two days. He remembered her reply word for word. Moments after she'd melted in his arms and kissed him with desperate passion, exactly as she'd done tonight, he'd said,
"Your father may have some objections to our marriage even after he understands that I'll be able to provide for your future."
Elizabeth had leaned back in his arms and smiled with amusement. "And what will you provide sir? Will you promise me a ruby large enough to cover my palm as Viscount Mondevale did? Sables to cover my shoulders as Lord Seabury did?"
"Is that what you want?" he'd asked, unable to believe she was so mercenary that she'd decide whom to marry based on who gave her the most expensive jewels or the most lavish furs.