She straightened up, jolted by the comparison, feeling as though her integrity was being attacked.

He rounded the bed, hands out, expressing an appeal. 'So I'm real are you, Anne?'

Did he suspect some deception? How could he? Barbie struggled to collect her scattered wits. 'I don't know what you mean.'

He was close now, close enough to lift his hand and stroke her cheek, close enough for his eyes to burn into hers, seeking, demanding. 'You come to me in different guises, playing roles.'

'Just dress-ups,' she defended. 'I'm the same person underneath.'

He slid an arm around her waist and scooped her into full body contact with him. Her hands flew up, pressing against his upper chest, giving her some breathing space. She didn't understand what was going on here, only that she seemed to be on trial and Nick was fiercely resolved on not being fooled by her. Had his recent experience with Tanya scarred him?

'You feel right,' he said with a low throbbing vehemence that thrummed into her heart. His fingers slid into her hair, his thumb lightly fanning her temple as though wanting to infiltrate her secret thoughts. 'Do I feel right to you?'

Her body was quivering inside, whether from fear or excitement she didn't know. Her mind was a mess.

The intensity of feeling pouring from him made any thinking difficult. She remembered how it had felt when he kissed conflict then.

'Kiss me,' she whispered, the need to set everything right between them so urgent, she couldn't think further than that.

For a moment his eyes darkened with turbulent emotion. Panic increased Barbie's turmoil. It wasn't the answer he wanted. What was? What did he need from her?

Then his mouth crashed down on hers, hot and wild, and Barbie's panic surged into an equally heated response. It was not a kiss of sweet exploration, nor one of sensual pleasure. It was a passionate plundering, intent on smashing any barrier between them, a tempestuous testing of how far desire went, how real it was.

There was anger in it, frustration, the need to rip into each other, taking instead of giving, as though this was their one chance to get what had been missing from their lives and there was no other source for it. They were greedy for each other, feverish in their need to know, to prove the rightness they craved.

On some sane level Barbie knew she was being insanely reckless but didn't care. There was no turning back. Nick Armstrong was not in the lead now. She was not a little lamb following him. She was holding him to her and revelling in the feel of him. his hard maleness pressed against her, wanting entry to the woman she was, his mouth exploding into hers again and again, needing the essence of her, determined on having it.

His hand burrowed under her hair and scooped it off her back, hooking it over her shoulder, out of the way, as he found the head of her zipper and opened her dress. A leading advantage to him, she thought, and instantly dropped her hands to his shirt, tearing at the buttons. I can do whatever you do, was racing

through her mind. You won't leave me behind. Not this time.

Clothes hit the floor. Shoes were kicked off. Strong hands almost encircled her waist, digging into her naked flesh, lifting her off her feet. She was tossed onto the bed, landing sprawled across the sable fur, sinking into its thick softness, the fibres caressing her bare skin with sinful sensuality.

And Nick stood there like a primitive caveman, his chest heaving, his eyes glittering over the prize he'd brought to his lair. 'You really want to go this far?' he demanded.

Echoes of the past rocketed around Barbie's mind, the doubt that little Baa-Baa Lamb could go the distance.

'I'm already this far,' she fiercely retorted and a woman-devil inside her drove her to stretch out provocatively. 'It's up to you to join me.'

He certainly had the superior strength. His magnificent body rippled with taut male muscles. But she had power, too, the power of being a woman he wanted, and his very evident erection made that undeniable. It was good he had to come to her. It was great to be the one he followed for once, had to follow because he needed to be with her.

She gloried in the sizzling flare in his eyes as he moved, one knee sinking into the fur beside her.

He nudged her legs apart with his other knee, taking a subtle mastery over her position. A flood of vulnerability suddenly attacked her sense of power, but Barbie wouldn't let it win. She was not going to show any fear to Nick. Even when he kneeled over her on all fours, threateningly dominant, her eyes held his in fierce challenge—no surrender in this game of games.

Come and get me, she silently dared.

No more hide-and-seek.

They were down to absolute basics, a man and a woman coming together.

He took her mouth, invading it with such erotic passion, her body instinctively arched for the more intimate invasion. But he withheld it, resisting the pull of her arms, tantalizing her with the simulated promise of what was to come. She clawed his back. He lifted his head. For a moment she saw the gleam of savage satisfaction in his eyes, the triumphant knowledge of her frenzied need.

In the very next instant it meant nothing. He moved, his head dipping down to her breasts, taking their extended peaks in his mouth in turn, and all she knew were the sweet bursts of pleasure he evoked with the wild suction of his mouth, the exquisite lashing of his tongue, pleasure she violently wanted pro-longed, wanting more and more of the intense excitement he aroused. Her fingers raked through his hair grasped his head, intent on seizing control, moving him to match her ravening need.

Again he eluded any submission to her will, tearing himself out of her grasp, trailing his mouth over her stomach, leaving kisses of pulsing heat, moving lower, lower. A hand slid down the soft, moist folds between her legs, fingers stroking, circling, caressing...mesmerizing sensations. Her own hands stopped

scrabbling to hold him. The distraction was so intense she instinctively closed her eyes, her whole being drawn to concentrate on inner feelings.

Unbelievably, the enthralling touch was suddenly accompanied by a kiss so shockingly intimate she almost jerked away from it. An arm across her hips held her still and the shock melted away under the sweet flood of sensation his mouth wrought, delicious waves of it, peaking and spilling through her, gathering a rhythmic momentum that ultimately begged for a truly mutual mating.

'Stop!' The cry ripped from her throat, driven by a need she couldn't hold back, couldn't control, couldn't help herself. 'Come to me now, Nick! Now!' She threshed against his hold, wild for him to do what he should. His arm lifted and burrowed under her. She reached for him, feverishly primed to fight for what she wanted. It wasn't right yet. It had to be right. But she didn't have to fight. He surged up and over her, making the entry she craved, the blissful joining, a deep penetration that filled her with right-ness, a stunningly ecstatic lightness.

'Yes...' she breathed on a burst of relief, all her inner muscles squeezing him, hugging the wonderful pleasure of him. 'Open your eyes.'

A raw need gravelled through his command and Barbie instantly complied.

His eyes blazed into hers. 'Don't close them. I will not be a fantasy. This is very...' He pulled back, leaving her momentarily devastated by the loss of the deep connection, '...very real,' he harshly asserted, and drove forward, emphatically proving the power of his reality.

'Very real,' she agreed, exulting in the proof.

Slowly, tauntingly, he repeated the withdrawal, leaving her quivering in anticipation until he came again, filling the emptiness, taking possession of it, setting off convulsive ripples of intense excitement.

'It feels good?' His eyes glittered, demanding her admission, or was he mocking her need for him?

'Yes, yes...' she cried. 'You must know it does. Why are you asking?'

'Because I want to hear you say it.'

Was this about winning for him? Being on top?

'Don't play with me, Nick.' She lifted a hand to his face, urgently stroking an appeal. 'Just be with me. Don't you want that?'

He closed his eyes, expelled a long deep breath and without another word, moved them both into an all-consuming rhythm, their bodies pulsing to the drumbeat of their union    , a deep pounding of flesh within flesh that was totally exalting, primal, powerful...fulfilling a long-dormant sense of destiny that had lain in Barbie's mind and heart for years and years and years.

Nick and her.

She loved the feel of him, loved the thought of him loving the feel of her. She didn't know how many times she climaxed around him. It was wonderful that he didn't stop, that he wanted to go on and on.

She used her hands to transmit her sense of wonder and pleasure in him, caressing his beautiful body, adoring it, revelling in it, delighting in the excitement she stirred, the faster tempo of his driving into her.

It was only right that he should come to climax, too, the exquisite release of tension it brought, and she urged him towards it, using her whole body in a voluptuous tease, wanting to give him all he had given her.

And when he finally came, it was a magical sensation, the hot explosive injection of himself so deeply inside her, the intimate melding she could feel taking place, Nick relaxing, hugging her tightly to him, letting it be, the two of them joined as one... at peace.

What bliss to lie together like this! Even when he rolled onto his side, he carried her with him in close entanglement, and her head ended up resting over his thundering heart. Contentment seeped through her and she wished this lovely sense of well-being could go on forever.

Or was that a fantasy?

The thought brought back the memory of what Nick had implied earlier. She frowned, not liking what they were sharing linked to anything that wasn't real. Impulsively she spoke, wanting to clear any misconception he had about what she was doing here with him.