‘Sylvie.’ She could hear the emotion in Ran’s voice as he lifted one fingertip to touch them. ‘Don’t cry...please don’t cry. No man is worth your tears...’
‘It just hurts so much,’ Sylvie told him, unable to hold back what she was feeling any longer. Somehow the night and their seclusion had stripped away the barriers she had fought so hard to erect against her love for him.
‘I hate feeling like this,’ she whispered. ‘I hate loving so much and so...so...unwontedly... It’s so demeaning and it hurts so badly.’
She heard Ran groan as though something about her agonised and honest admission touched him very deeply and then he was holding her, rocking her in his arms as he told her huskily, ‘You mustn’t be hurt, Sylvie. Please, don’t be hurt...’
And then, totally unexpectedly, he was kissing her, not with the gentle tenderness he had shown her before, but with a fierce sensual passion that took her breath away and with it all her resistance. Her body went weak, pliable, compliant, yearning towards his as his mouth moved demandingly on hers. She could feel the fierce, heavy thud of his heart, the sudden swift betraying arousal of his body.
He was and always had been a very male man, she reminded herself. He might not love her, she might not be the woman he wanted, but she was here in his arms, loving him, wanting him, and she could sense how little it would take to overturn his self-control.
Swiftly, dangerously, stabbing right at the most intimate female heart of her, came the thought that she might never have his love but she could have tonight...her memories and perhaps even more. A woman alone need not feel ashamed to give birth to a child these days...she need not even name its father... A child...Ran’s child... Already she was responding to him, inviting him, inciting him, her hands reaching out to move under his robe, shaping the hard muscles of his shoulders, his arms.
This time when the peafowl cried neither of them paid any attention to it. Beneath the insistent thrust of Ran’s tongue, Sylvie’s lips parted.
She just wanted comfort, that was all, Ran warned himself as he felt her mouth tremble beneath his. She didn’t want him...love him...
But it was already too late. He wanted her, he loved her, and, God forgive him, he couldn’t stop himself from giving in to his need to show her all that a man’s love for a woman could and should be.
He kissed her face, her throat, her shoulders as he slid the soft whiteness of her nightdress from her body, only partially managing to stifle his groan of longing as he looked at her clad only in moonlight.
Beneath Ran’s heavy-lidded gaze, Sylvie felt her will-power melting. He wanted her; she could see it in his eyes, feel it in the fierce tremble of his fingertips as they traced the outline of her body. Even with her eyes closed, she could feel how much he wanted her.
Shakily Sylvie mirrored his touch on his body, tracing the deep V left by the open neckline of his robe. When she touched the knot which secured the robe she lifted a love-dazed glance to his and commanded huskily, ‘Take it off.’
Silently Ran did so, never removing his gaze from hers as the robe slid to the floor.
Before, the last time, the only time, she had been too caught up in the intensity of what was happening and her own needs and emotions to do anything more than register the fact that he was there, that his body was...his... But now, this time...
Like a gourmet examining a banquet, a sumptuous repast which had been set out before her, she studied every bit of him, feasting her eyes and her senses on him. He was magnificent...he was perfect...he was Ran. Her love, her life, the father of her child, their child... A fierce thrill ran through her.
She said his name urgently, almost harshly. As she stepped towards him he stopped her, circling her wrists with his hands, holding her slightly away from him whilst he looked at her in turn. She could see the fierce hunger in his eyes as he focused on her breasts and an excited kick of pleasure gripped her.
There was something so dangerously erotic about standing there naked in front of him, her hands virtually pinioned, that it fed her own senses, her own need...to the point where she could feel her arousal beating a heavy pulse of longing so strongly within her body that she was forced to surrender to it.
Her eyes, soft with emotion, echoed the need, the feeling that was pulsing through her body, touching her, she felt, to her very soul as she looked deep into Ran’s eyes. The huge wave of emotion that caught her up and rendered her powerless to do anything to withstand it contained far, far more than just physical desire or the immediacy of the moment. She felt a sense of fate, of destiny almost, as though all the previous emotions, all the love she had known for him had brought her here, to this moment. He might not share her love but he was here with her; she could see in his eyes that somehow something within him was aware of her and responsive to her, even if it was only man’s most basic need for a woman that drove him, and against all logic and rational thinking Sylvie knew that what happened between them tonight would be something precious and almost sacred, that the child she now longed so deeply to conceive would be special and loved, so very, very loved.