‘You make me feel beautiful,’ she whispered as his lips moved over her skin, from her jaw to her throat. Her hands bunched on his arms, her palms rounding over his taut biceps. ‘You make me feel desired.’

‘You are desired,’ Cristiano said, his voice a husky growl, his lips brushing her heated, over-sensitised skin. ‘I promise you that.’

Laurel let out another shuddering sigh as Cristiano’s mouth moved lower. He slipped his hands under the silky T-shirt she’d slept in, and when his palms cupped her breasts she moaned out loud. How could this feel so impossibly good? So wonderfully right? But it did. It did… And yet the aching restlessness surging through her body and settling between her thighs made her realise even this wasn’t enough.

She wanted it all.

Cristiano slid her T-shirt higher and then his mouth was on her, teasing, tormenting, touching her in a way she’d never been touched before. Laurel arced off the bed, her hands clutching his head, anchoring him to her. Still needing more.

‘Cristiano…’ She gasped out his name and his head moved lower, his tongue teasing her navel, then moving even lower, lips brushing the tender skin of her belly. He was going to touch her—kiss her—there. It seemed like the most intimate, sacred act. The most revealing and vulnerable. Laurel’s whole body tensed as taut as a bow, waiting, straining…

And then Cristiano hesitated, his lips pressed to her stomach, just below her belly button. ‘Are you sure about this…?’ he began, and Laurel let out a ragged laugh.

‘Yes.’

‘You’ve just been through an ordeal…’

Now he mentioned that? Now he showed compassion and understanding? ‘Don’t you dare develop a conscience now,’ she said, her voice coming out in ragged pants. ‘Don’t you dare.’

He laughed softly. ‘Very well. I won’t.’ And then his mouth moved lower, his tongue knowing exactly what to do, how to send lightning streaks of pleasure ripping jaggedly through her, and Laurel let out a sound she’d never made before—half-scream, half-sob. Her body felt as if it were splintering into crystalline fragments, a rainbow of sensation arcing through her. She let out another shattering sob, and then Cristiano was on top of her, a heavy yet comforting and necessary weight that she welcomed utterly, and then, yes—finally, amazingly—he was sliding inside her, the sensation both so unexpected and wonderfully right.

She felt a twinge of pain, a chafing sensation as he moved within her, and Cristiano paused. Cursed. That, Laurel suspected hazily, wasn’t supposed to happen.

‘You can’t be…’ he breathed, his body poised over hers, the muscles in his arms corded, a sheen of sweat on his brow.

She tilted her face up to his, her body pulsing with need, pulsing around him. A strong, sweet craving made her arch her hips as she tried to draw him deeper into herself, searching for an elusive something she couldn’t even articulate but knew she needed. ‘I can’t be what?’

Cristiano’s face was contorted, his teeth gritted with the effort of holding back. ‘Vergine,’ he bit out. ‘Tell me you’re not.’

She didn’t know much Italian, but that word was pretty self-explanatory. For a second Laurel thought about lying. Cristiano hardly seemed like a man with many arrows on his moral compass, but perhaps this was one of them: deflowering virgins. Yet, when it came down to it, she didn’t think she could lie. And in any case she didn’t think such a lie would be believable. Her body told its own truth.

‘Does it matter?’ Laurel asked softly, because to her it didn’t. She’d needed this. Asked for it. Demanded it, even. So why was Cristiano looking so anguished? This had been her choice, not his. ‘Remember what I said about that conscience?’ she gasped out.

‘I remember.’ His expression had turned grim, and Laurel faltered. He was inside her, for heaven’s sake. Was he really going to stop now? It was a little late for regrets.

‘Cristiano…’ She put her arms around his shoulders, smoothing her palms down his back, drawing him closer to her. Gasping as, his jaw still clenched, he slid deeper inside, filling her up. And then, with a groan, he started to move.

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