Alessandra had been the first woman he’d woken next to and felt a tug of reluctance at having to leave.

 He couldn’t remember ever feeling so greedy for someone as he had that night, when he’d wanted her so badly it had been as if he were consuming her. If he hadn’t been concerned that she might be feeling the physical soreness he assumed women must feel after losing their virginity, he would have made love to her all night long.

 Her eyes didn’t waver although more colour crept over her face. ‘When you say you want it to be seen as legal in every respect, are you implying that we need to have sex?’

 ‘No.’ His voice dropped, heat unfurling within him as a memory of a dusky pink nipple floated into his mind. A small gust of wind fluttered across them, causing a strand of her hair to stray across her face. Unthinking, he reached out to brush it away. ‘But we will be married—what couples choose to do in the privacy of their own home is entirely their own business.’

 Her throat moved, a subtle movement, but one he recognised.

 He leaned in closer. ‘When we stay anywhere that is not under one of our own roofs, we will share a bed. What we choose to do in that bed is nobody’s business but our own.’

 Their marriage would be a merger, yes, but not a business merger. This was going to be a merger of two flesh-and-blood people.

 Something pulsed in her eyes and he knew with certainty that she was remembering how good it had been between them.

 They had been combustible.

 All the supressed memories of that night came back in startling colour.

 She’d been wild. Carnal. Eager to please and be pleased, to touch and be touched.

 Her arousal had been a living thing...

 She cleared her throat. ‘And if I choose to sleep and only sleep...?’

 Then his balls would probably turn blue.

 ‘Then you will be left to sleep.’ He let his voice drop further, inching his face closer to hers. ‘But, if you choose not to sleep, you won’t find me complaining.’

 ‘Is that because you’re not fussy about who you lie in bed with?’ Her words had a breathless quality to them. He could feel the tension emanating from her.

 ‘No.’ He shook his head in emphasis and pressed his lips to her ear. ‘It’s because you’re the sexiest woman I’ve ever known and I get hard every time I think of how you came undone in my arms.’

 He moved back to see her lips part and her doe eyes widen.

 ‘I understand your opinion of my sex life is less than flattering,’ he said, thinking that she turned the most beautiful colour when she blushed. ‘But, I assure you, I think with the head on my shoulders and not the one in my boxer shorts.’

 She swallowed before saying, ‘I think that’s a matter of opinion.’

 ‘Point proved,’ he said. ‘But, to prove my point, I will not make a move on you until we are legally married.’

 Her eyes narrowed but he caught the spark that ignited in them.

 ‘And, of course, you will still reserve your right to say no.’ He dipped his head to whisper into her ear again, inhaling her scent for good measure.

 All his senses heightened. He could feel the heat from her skin; knew the spark that had drawn them together in the first place was still well and truly alive. ‘We’re both going to have to make sacrifices for this to work—the bedroom is the one area where compromise and sacrifice are not needed, where our marriage can be about nothing but mutual pleasure.’

 She raised a shoulder and exhaled a shuddering breath that sounded almost like a moan. It was a long moment before she next spoke, breaking the charged silence that had sprung up between them. ‘I will not have sex with you just because it’s expected.’

 He pulled away, creating a little distance so he could look at her. ‘My only expectation is that, when we’re in public, we both put on a display of being in love.’

 She held his gaze for a fraction longer before blowing out a puff of air and fixing her gaze back on the lake. ‘Bene.’

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