That accomplished what nothing else had. It made him groan. He covered her lips with his and, with infinite gentleness, began to move inside her, withdrawing almost all the way and slowly plunging deep, steadily increasing the tempo of his driving strokes, giving and giving and giving until Meredith was wild beneath him. Her fingernails bit into his back and hips, clutching him to her, while the passion raging inside her built into a holocaust, and still it went on and on, until it finally exploded in long soul-destroying bursts of extravagant pleasure. Gathering her into his arms, Matt shoved bis fingers into her hair, kissing her with fiery urgency, and drove into her one more time. The deep raw hunger of his kiss, the sudden surge of liquid from his body into hers, made Meredith clasp him tighter and moan with the exquisite sensation.
Her heart beating frantically, she moved onto her side with him, her face pressed against his chest, his arms tight around her. "Do you have any idea," he whispered in a shaken, hoarse voice, his lips brushing her cheek, "how exciting you are, and how responsive?"
Meredith didn't answer, because the reality of what she'd done was beginning to seep through her, and she didn't want to let it. Not now, not yet. She didn't want anything to spoil this. She closed her eyes and listened to the lovely things he continued to say to her while he laid his hand against her cheek, idly brushing his thumb over her skin.
And then he asked something that did need a response and the magic faded, receding beyond her reach. "Why?" he asked her quietly. "Why did you do this tonight? With me?"
She tensed at the difficult, probing question, sighed with a feeling of loss, and pulled out of his arms, wrapping herself in the afghan lying over the end of the sofa. She'd known about the physical intimacy of sex, but no one had warned her about this strange, uneasy aftermath. She felt stripped bare emotionally; exposed, defenseless, awkward. "I think we'd both better get dressed," she said nervously, "and then I'll tell you whatever you want to know. I'll be right back."
In her room, Meredith put on a navy and white robe, tied the belt around her waist, and went back downstairs, still barefoot. As she passed the clock in the hall, she glanced at it. Her father would be home in an hour.
Matt was on the phone in the study, fully dressed with the exception of his tie which he'd shoved into his pocket. "What's the address here?" he asked. She told him and he relayed it to the cab company he had called. "I told them to be here in a half hour," he said. Walking over to the coffee table in front of the sofa, he picked up his abandoned brandy glass.
"Can I get you anything else?" Meredith asked, because that question seemed like something a good hostess normally asked a guest when the evening neared its end. Or was that what a waitress asked, she wondered a little hysterically.
"I'd like an answer to my question," he said. "What made you decide to do this tonight?"
She thought she heard a tautness in his voice, but his face was completely expressionless. She sighed and looked away, self-consciously tracing an inlaid square on the desk. "For years my father has treated me like a ... a closet nymphomaniac, and I've never done anything to deserve it. Tonight when you insisted he must have some reason for 'guarding me,' something just snapped inside of me. I think I decided that if I was going to be treated like a tramp, I might as well have the experience of sleeping with a man. And at the same time, I had some insane idea of punishing you—and him. I wanted to show you that you were wrong."
After several moments of ominous silence, Matt said curtly, "You could have convinced me I was wrong by simply telling me that your father is a tyrannical, suspicious bastard. I would have believed you."
In her heart, Meredith knew that was true, and she glanced uneasily at him, wondering if anger had been her only reason for instigating what had just happened, or if she'd simply used anger as an excuse to experience intimately that sexual magnetism she'd felt from him all night. Used. That was the operative word. In a strange sort of way she felt guilty for using a man she had liked enormously to retaliate against her father.
In the lengthening silence, he seemed to evaluate what she'd said, and what she hadn't said, and to guess what she was thinking. Whatever conclusions he drew from all that obviously didn't please him very much, because he abruptly put down his glass and glanced at his watch. "I'll walk down to the end of the drive."
"I'll show you out." Polite sentences spoken between two strangers who'd been doing the most intimate possible things together less than one hour ago. That incongruity registered on her as she straightened from the desk. At the same moment his gaze riveted on her bare feet, shot back to her face, and then ricocheted to her hair tumbling loose about her shoulders. Barefoot, hair down, and in a long robe, Meredith did not look quite the way she did in a strapless evening dress with her hair in a sophisticated chignon. She knew before he asked the question, what it was going to be. "How old are you?"
"Not... quite as old as you think."
"How old?" he persisted.
She expected some sort of reaction to that. Instead, he looked at her for a long, hard moment, and then he did something that made no sense to her. Turning, he went over to the desk and wrote something on a slip of paper. "This is my phone number in Edmunton," he said calmly, handing it to her. "You can reach me there for the next six weeks. After that, Sommers will know how to get in touch with me somehow."
When he left, she walked upstairs, frowning at the scrap of paper in her hand. If this was Matt's way of suggesting she give him a call sometime, it was arrogant, rude, and completely obnoxious. And a little humiliating.
For most of the following week, Meredith jumped every time the phone rang, afraid that it was going to be Matt. Just the recollection of the things they'd done made her face burn with embarrassment, and she wanted to forget it and him.
By the following week she didn't want to forget it at all. Once the guilt and fear of discovery had receded, she found herself thinking about him constantly, reliving the same moments she'd wanted to forget. Lying in bed at night, with her face pressed into the pillow, she felt his lips on her cheek and neck, and she recalled each sexy, tender word he'd whispered to her with a tiny thrill. She thought about other things too, like the pleasure of being with him while they talked on the lawn at Glenmoor, and the way he'd laughed at the things she said. She wondered if he was thinking about her, and if he was, why didn't he call...