He dropped the thong on the carpet and moved lightly, swiftly toward her. She was sobbing when he reached her. Instantly his hand hit the light switch and the room melted into darkness. Then he began stroking her hair and her damp cheeks, his voice crooning hushed words of comfort.

“Don’t cry. Chérie, you are a magnificent woman. Very brave. You were made for all this…and more.” His awed tone held her in thrall. “You are very beautiful. Perfect. Exquisite. Flawless. And I like very much that you’re shy. Tonight I’m the luckiest man on earth.”

Still terrified by what she’d done and the desires she’d revealed, she remained stiff and unyielding even when he began kissing her tenderly.

“There are many things to cry about, but not wanting to make love to a man who wants you as much as I do is not one of them.” His mouth moved over her throat and breasts. “We can stop any time you want to. I’ll go.”

Amy’s confusion and alarm seemed to dissolve under his gentle words and kisses.

“No! Don’t go!”

“So beautiful,” he murmured, kissing her damp eyelids and cheeks. “All night I fought this. Dancing without really touching you drove me crazy. I wanted you so much.”

“You did?”

“I wanted you even in that damned tea shop.”

Boldly she pushed herself away from the wall and pressed her length against his body. “Then I want you naked, too.”

“Ah. Finally.”

His strong arm encircled her. All too quickly, his kisses and his words made her feel so hot and desirable she forgot who and what he was and all the reasons sex with him was probably a really bad idea. Magically her tears vanished.

Wanting to touch him, she slid her hands inside his shirt. He felt sleek and solid and as warm as a baguette straight from the oven. She was desperate to have all of him. Soon her shaking hands were unbuttoning his shirt, loosening his belt and unfastening his slacks. In a frenzy she ripped his shirt loose and his belt out of the loops.

He was magnificent naked. Much larger, darker and more powerfully built than Fletcher. He had long, muscular legs and large feet, which she quite liked. She stared at his broad, square toes for a while because she was too shy to look at the rest of him. Finally her eyes traveled up his legs. He was huge and erect, and she was pleased with that part of him, too.

It was nice, this being naked together. Things were somehow simpler, more equal. No longer did he seem the comte and she the naive ugly duckling from America.

When he took her hands and made her touch him there, she took a deep, steadying breath. He began to stroke her, too, and she liked the things he did. She liked them so much that her hands began to move over his body with natural wonder and delight. Soon she was quivering from his slightest touch even as she felt his flesh respond beneath her lightest caress.

His low growls of pleasure made her ache for more, and her breathing quickened. He began to breathe fast and hard, too.

“Where’s the bedroom?”

When she pointed, he lifted her into his arms and carried down the hall. Ripping off the bedcovers, he laid her down on Carol’s fine, embroidered, laundry-scented sheets. When he straddled her, she ran her fingers over his wide shoulders, his furred, muscular chest and waist, her fingertips lingering over the warm, sinewy muscles of his arms and abdomen. He was stroking and kissing her, too, with an easy familiarity that made her feel she had always belonged to him and always would.

“I want you so much,” she said, her tone low and urgent.

His hand drifted between her damp, open thighs. “I know.”

“Then why don’t—”

“You Americans are always in a hurry. Some things like food and sex are better if you take the time to savor them.”

He pressed his mouth gently to her lips so she couldn’t talk. Then he began caressing her again until her entire being felt radiantly aglow, until the slightest flick of his fingertip anywhere against her bare skin made her jump. She was now so hot for him that his lightest touch became the most exquisite torture, but, of course, it wasn’t torture at all.

Without giving her any warning, he eased himself down her body and lodged his head between her thighs. Before she could cry out, his hot, open mouth began to caress secret silky places, his tongue dipping, circling, tasting until one flick made something burst inside her like liquid lightning. Exploding, her whole body pulsed. Screaming, writhing, she dug her hands into his powerful shoulders and hugged him closer.

Afterward he moved up and pulled her into his arms so that her head lay on his muscular chest. Then he patted her hair and stroked her cheeks as she shuddered and clung. Finally, when she was calm again, he brushed her hair out of her eyes and said, “Chérie, you are the sexiest woman I’ve ever known.”

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