Please, God, help me.

Liam rubbed her back. “How can I help you, love?”

“Whisk me away,” she said, thinking of the vacation she’d taken not too long ago. A vacation that should have been a honeymoon. Tears pricked at the back of her eyes. “I’m sure you didn’t come here for me to have a meltdown.”

He continued to rub her back as he dipped his head to hers. “You are not having a meltdown.”

She peered up at him. “What am I having?”

“An allergic reaction to arseholes,” he said solemnly.

Laughter bubbled up, and then complete relief. Just being around him made her feel better. She straightened in her seat.

“That’s a good lass,” Liam murmured.

She didn’t want him to stop touching her. The heat of his hand, even on this warm, spring day, was welcome. The invasion into her personal space even more welcome. Looking around, she realized that they were alone. Only a few couples remained on the dance floor, while the others were making their way to the front of the house.

“We should go tell Zoe and Christian congratulations,” she said, not wanting to leave Liam’s side at all. All she wanted to do was sit here, while breathing in his expensive cologne and male scent.

“I think they’ve enough well-wishers.” His free hand came between them, pushing back a long strand of hair that had fallen. “I also think that if you want to be whisked away, then I’m your man.”

“I can’t…” She searched the backyard, looking for her parents, for Heath, for Daisy… for anyone who knew her. No one was there. She licked her lips.

“I swear to God, I’m not a serial killer, an abuser… I’ll give you references if you need them.” Liam looked away. “I know who you are, Isabella, your background…everything. Sebastian is very thorough in his dealings.” He cleared his throat and looked at her, his black eyes clear. But there was an undercurrent of want. Of need. And when was the last time she was wanted or needed, like a woman? “I understand that this would not be something you’re accustomed to doing.”

His fingers laced through hers, and she kept staring, unable, for once in her life, to say anything. She’d been investigated, and Liam knew everything. Her fingers tightened. Except he referred to her reputation, not what happened years ago. Maybe Sebastian’s investigation wasn’t as thorough as Liam had said.

“I should like it very much if you would allow me to spend the night with you.”

Spend the night? She pulled her hand out of his. “I’m afraid, Mr. Stewart, that I can’t.”

He smiled, nodding his head and starting to rise. “I understand. Completely. I just thought that maybe for once, both of us could throw caution to the wind and quit doing what our family expects of us.”

Bella stared at him as he started to walk away. Her heart began to pound in her ears. She’d been so good all her life, so good and obedient that her one mistake with Heath could be chalked up to youthful indiscretion—a painful one. But that had been years ago, eight in fact. Since then, she’d been perfect and cautious, and had dated only Peter. He’d placed no expectations on her. He’d never pressured her for more than kissing.

He’d also left her. For his stepmother. A woman who was three years younger than Bella, and had always flirted with him, while she turned a blind eye.

See where being good got you?

Jumping to her feet, she called out, “Liam! Wait.”

Chapter Two

Liam pressed Bella against the sofa cushions, his mouth on hers and his hands on curves so luscious that she should be in a harem somewhere, awaiting a sultan’s pleasure.

But she was here, under him, moving restlessly while awaiting his pleasure. Willingly.

He grinned against her mouth when she whimpered. “Please, Liam.”

“What do you want, Isabella?”

“Call me Bella,” she said, nipping at his lip. Her fingers dug into his bare back. Unfortunately, they still had a layer of clothing between them.

He slipped the strap of her bra down her shoulder and kissed the skin reddened from the abrasion, then did the same to the other side, until he unfastened it from the front and let it fall to the side. God, he already loved her breasts—perfect for his hand and tipped with nipples the color of plums.

He bloody loved plums.

“What do you want… Bella?” he whispered into her ear. He caught the lobe between his teeth and tugged. Her neck arched, a perfect column of golden skin. She was golden all over, from her eyes to her skin… but not, he suspected her hair.

At the roots, her hair was as black as his. He would find out in a minute, he supposed. Or not, depending on—

“I want you inside of me,” she said.

Once again, he smiled but this time…. Oh, this time, he let his fingers meet her demand. His hand slipped lower, beneath the waistband of her knickers, and he had to bite back a groan. Instead, he scraped his teeth down her chest and nibbled on a tight nipple.

She let out a moan, and he slipped a finger inside of her. Wet, was his first thought. And then hot. So very hot. Wet and tight and hot.

Perhaps too tight.

“Bella, are you a virgin?” It was possible—she was the daughter of a religious man, and by all account, she was just as religious. Though that hadn’t been why he’d set out to seduce the preacher’s daughter. He hadn’t set out to seduce her at all.

Things had just happened. Isabella Edwards had just happened. Her smile, the way she cared for her best friend… how she laughed and danced.

Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye. The old saying suddenly slipped into his head. What is meant to happen, will happen to you. Which meant, they were meant to be together. This weekend at least.

“No,” she said, wincing as he thrust a second finger inside. “I haven’t had sex since I was… sixteen.”

He froze, mentally doing the math. Jesus. What in the hell had he gotten himself into exactly? A woman did not stop having sex unless it was for a damn good reason. So it begged the question—what was Bella’s damn good reason?

“Liam?” Her eyes opened. They were panicked. Vulnerable. Her face more red than pink. She bit down on her lush bottom lip.

“Are you scared?”

“No.” She glanced away and then back at him. “Maybe a little. I hate making mistakes.”

Not an assault, then. Thank God. “What can I do to make this more enjoyable?” Besides making her slippery wet. That was mechanics, a reaction to him touching her body. She desired him, that much was obvious, but her panic made his chest ache. He didn’t know if he could go through with what he (and she) wanted to happen.