It enthralled him. This woman, her taste, the sight and feel of her.

Her pleasure was his. And when she bit her lip and the hot vibration crashed through her, he felt her slick muscles contract as rapture took her.

She stiffened, ground to him, stretched, then curled toward him, reaching for him. "Oh, my heavens!" she gasped. "Richard!" She trembled powerfully and fell bonelessly to the floor.

He chuckled, and before the haze lifted, before she calmed, he stood and stripped off his clothes. Laura opened her eyes.

He was magnificent, his thighs twisted with muscle, his hips narrow. He stood hard and proud before her, and she rose up on her knees. When he back-stepped, she caught him at the back of his thighs and pressed her mouth to the scar running over his leg to below his knee.

A shiver racked him, and she dragged her tongue higher, her hands moving up and down his thighs.

Then she wrapped his arousal and looked up.

He quaked, and shaking his head, he pried her hand off, sinking to the floor. He pushed her to her back. "Not yet, I need to feel you." He spread her thighs over his, and on his knees, he wedged himself between.

The moist tip of him pushed against her, dipping, retreating, teasing her.

"Come to me now," she said, trying to pull him down onto her.

"I don't want to hurt you."

"You couldn't, Richard. Ever." Suddenly she rose up and climbed onto his lap, enfolding him, guiding him inside her. "I said now."

"Never let it be said I'd deny you," he growled.

She gripped his shoulders, her gaze locked with his as she sank slowly down onto him. Her body shuddered with sensation, her openmouthed gasps spilling against his lips. He was huge and heavy and she pushed down harder.

Brutal tremors racked him, and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly. "Oh, Laura, oh sweet mercy."

"I know," she said, brushing his hair off his face, holding his jaw, raining kisses over his face. "I know."

It was completion.

It was belonging.

Laura knew nothing would ever affect her more than this moment. Nothing would be more intimate in her life. She'd already lost her heart to him.

Now her soul was joined with his.

His mouth rolled over hers, rich and greedy.

Then she moved.

Richard sucked his breath in through clenched teeth. Laura thrilled at the look on his face as she rocked. His big hands gripped her hips, helping her motion, her slick feminine muscles calling him back.

She was so small in his arms, her slender thighs flexing as she rose and slid down on him. He buried himself deeper with each stroke and, brushing her hair back off her cheek, he gazed into her eyes and knew there would never be another woman in his life. Never be another moment so precious. It wasn't the passion they shared that marked him. It wasn't the desire that stole his control, that made them one. It was her. She reached out when no one would. She opened her heart and mind and gave him salvation with just her smiles. She made him want to be a better man, a father to his daughter. And when he thought himself unworthy, she forced him to see he was worthy. She was more woman than he had a right to want. But she didn't make him feel that way. Never had.

He wanted to roar with the power of it.

And his happiness spilled into his kiss, his need to give her pleasure, make her sob with it. He laid her to the carpet, her thighs draped over his, and he gazed down at her as he withdrew and plunged. Her eyes flared, her smile feline seductive, and he quickened inside her, leaning over her.

Firelight bathed her bare body in brazen gold.

The rain hammered the windows and stone walls.

Neither noticed as he scooped his hand under the small of her back and pushed and pushed, the friction heightening with every stroke, clawing through her body and grasping his in a wet, tight grip. Pleasure skipped over her beautiful face.

"Oh, Richard. Oh—" She bore down on him as the pulses of desire battered her body. Her skin tingled. Pressure built low in her stomach with each push of his body into hers. He bent and gazed directly into her eyes, shoving and shoving, telling her how incredible she made him feel. That he felt like a man again the instant she walked into his home. That he loved her defiance and her mind, and he couldn't bear another moment without her knowing he'd trusted her. And that more, much more than desire brought him here tonight.

He withdrew and plunged. Warm and wet and burning for more.

Scarred flesh twisted over bronze muscle, flexing to the beat of desire and the flawless woman cradling him, smooth and supple.

Yet in the dark their bodies never ended, never began.

In the firelight, inside the castle of stone, was their rebirth.

The storm raged beyond the walls. Thunder cracked white against the black sky as Richard loved her body, pushed into her delicate softness and found hope and freedom and the new hunger for more.

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