He brought up his hands and used them to frame her stunning violet eyes as he gazed down at her with brooding frustration. ‘I won’t leave you alone—’

‘You must,’ she told him. ‘I don’t believe in casual sex.’

‘And that’s all that I will offer, lubimaya. I don’t have anything else to give.’

‘And what’s your excuse?’

‘Excuse?’ His smooth ebony brows drew together in a frown of incomprehension.

‘I don’t do casual sex because I believe in love and commitment.’

‘I only commit to sex.’ Only inches away from her, Nikolai tilted her back up against him. ‘And I’m very good at it.’

All of a quiver, eyes starry, cheeks pink, she stared up at him, mesmerised by a sexual charisma and presence that left her brain as befuddled as a magic spell. He kissed her again, slowly, savouring every nuance of her helpless response. His forefingers curled into the hem of her dress and trailed back up her slim thighs, lifting the fabric out of his path.

‘No, Nikolai,’ Abbey breathed, shaking from the gliding brush of his skilful fingers against her slender thighs, her mind leaping ahead of his every move to picture an even more exciting development.

‘Da, Nikolai, is what I want and need to hear,’ he murmured thickly, toying with and teasing her mouth with his lips and the edge of his even white teeth. ‘Ti takaya nezhnaya.’

‘What does it mean?’

‘You are so beautiful. I don’t want to tear myself away to go home.’

For an insane moment she considered telling him that he could stay if he promised not to touch her. She didn’t want him to leave. She didn’t want to be alone either. The idea of lying in a man’s arms was hugely appealing. The idea of waking up with company for a change was even more seductive. She was dismayed by her own naïvety, flinching from the raw amusement she would rouse with such a silly proposition. He wanted sex. He wanted to treat her like her many predecessors in his bed—women he had enjoyed for a few weeks without love or strings of any kind before moving on to the next. Could she really want to join that nameless herd? Someone whom he used to satisfy his lust for a night or two before he became bored and sought the fresh stimulation of a new face and body?

CHAPTER FOUR

‘I LOVE your hair,’ Nikolai continued softly, combing long, lean fingers gently through the heavy fall of curls that were the colour of maple leaves in autumn, ‘and the softness of your skin.’ Having exposed the smooth silky flesh where Abbey’s slender neck met her shoulder, he buried his lips there.

The erotic touch of his mouth in that precise spot was like an electric charge to Abbey’s senses. It made her unbearably aware of the tight, pulsing sensitivity of her nipples and the hollow ache between her thighs. Both sensations urged her closer to the masculine promise of his hard physique, her breathing audible, her body on fire with a frustration that she was only just beginning to recognise. It was an ungovernable hunger that was flooding through her like an unleashed dam and threatening to wash away her every inhibition. She would never have believed until that moment how powerful such promptings could be. She would never have credited that the fierce sensual pressure of a man’s mouth and the probing invasion of his tongue could make her shake as if she were an accident victim.

‘Nikolai…’ Abbey whispered, shocked by the force of what she was feeling and frightened by it.

His lean strong face tightened at the recognisable plea in her voice. Though she was eager to deny it, she wanted him as much as he wanted her. Fierce satisfaction gripped him until he noticed the photo of the bridal couple on the wall behind her. It was Abbey in full bridal regalia and her late husband—a handsome, smirking blond guy. Inexplicably Nikolai’s level of satisfaction sank. He reminded himself that he didn’t go for demanding women. As far as possible he kept his sex life straightforward and simple. There was nothing either straightforward or simple about the beautiful out-spoken redhead in front of him. There was nothing either simple or straightforward about what he was thinking either: had she once wanted the blond guy as much as she now wanted him? That struck Nikolai as a deeply freaky thought and he could not imagine why his mind had come up with such a strange reflection, for why should he want to compete with a dead man?

Abbey was way beyond thinking, she could only feel, and when Nikolai drew back from her she felt fiercely deprived and lonely. She wrapped her arms round his shoulders to bring him back to her, her mouth as hungry for his as for an invigorating elixir. Her fingertips flirted with the luxuriant black strands at the back of his well-shaped head. Touching him, she discovered, was an addictive pleasure. Her breasts swelled in connection with the hard muscular wall of his chest and the sting of her nipples eased beneath that welcome pressure. Her body sang at every point of contact with his. A lean hand closed over a full pouting breast and it felt as if her whole body lit up in eager response. A dulled moan escaped her as he moulded her tender flesh, the pads of his thumbs finding the erect points of sensitivity with devastating accuracy. Each kiss filled her with desperate craving for the next. Passion had erupted in her like an oil gusher and it was too new and too seductive to be capped and denied. Every dart of his tongue released another intoxicating surge of sensation.

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