It was Jonas's turn to freeze as Verity's body clenched in protest around him and her nails dug angrily into his skin. "Verity?" he got out thickly. "Verity, what the hell is going on?"

She had anticipated a feeling of fullness, perhaps a little initial discomfort until her body adjusted to the new experience. But this incredible, painful tightness was too much. Verity pushed at Jonas's broad shoulders.

"That's enough," she gasped. "Stop it, Jonas. Now." She was accustomed to giving him orders and she expected to be obeyed.

But Jonas didn't move. His face was a mask of iron control, but he didn't move. "Honey, I'm sorry. I didn't know. I didn't realize. Dammit, it's too late now. Just relax. Take it easy. You're too tense. You're hurting yourself."

"I am not hurting myself," she said between set teeth as she continued to shove at him. "You're the one who's hurting me. Get off. I told you you were going too fast, but you wouldn't listen. Men. You're all so sure you know what you're doing."

"You didn't tell me why you wanted me to slow down," he defended himself. He was vibrating with tension as he fought to hold himself unmoving within her and at the same time keep her pinned carefully beneath him. The muscles of his back and thighs were as contoured steel. His forehead was damp.

"I didn't know a simple request for gentlemanly restraint required a detailed explanation!"

"Verity, calm down. It's too late. I made a mess of things. I'll apologize later, I swear. But it's too late to stop now. You're okay, sweetheart. Just stop fighting yourself and me, too. Let yourself relax. It's going to be all right. It's going to be so damn good. You'll see. You're going to want me as much as I want you. I know there's passion in you." His lips were warm and soothing on her throat. Then he kissed the curve of her shoulder. "Please, honey. Let yourself relax."

The desperation in his words got through to her. Verity breathed deeply, trying to rally her scattered senses. There was nothing really wrong with her, she decided objectively. It was infuriating to hear him say it, but logically she knew Jonas was right. She would undoubtedly be much more comfortable if she let herself relax.

What was happening wasn't Jonas's fault, she reminded herself grimly as she slowly retracted her nails from his shoulder. She always took responsibility for her own actions and there was no denying she had wanted this lovemaking.

She had been longing to throw herself into bed with Jonas since he had kissed her in the spa; perhaps even before that. Maybe from the first time she'd seen him. She couldn't blame him if she stumbled her first time out of the gate. Deliberately she tried to unclench her strained muscles.

"That's it. You're doing great. You're going to be doing a whole lot better in a few minutes, believe me."

Jonas muttered encouragement as she stopped trying to shove him off of her. His hands were clamped around her arms, his body still taut as he dropped more reassuring kisses across her br**sts and into the hollow of her shoulder.

Verity licked her dry lips. "Maybe... maybe we're not physically compatible. You feel much too large and I don't seem to be feeling whatever it is I'm supposed to be feeling. Maybe we both made a mistake."

He made a small, husky sound that was part laugh and part groan. "No mistake. You're perfect for me.

Trust me. Just hang on and trust me."

He slid his hand down her side to her hip and then he wedged one tapered finger between their bodies.

Verity twisted slightly as he found the tiny nubbin of desire. When he began to tease it gently, she sighed and twisted again, arching upward against his hand. Pleasure began to replace the too-tight, too-stretched, too-invaded feeling.

"Better?" he whispered as she moved beneath him.

"I may survive after all." She flexed her fingers on his shoulders but this time she didn't dig her nails into him. Experimentally she lifted her hips and felt him move an inch or so within her. The sensation was interesting, she decided. She tried it again.

Jonas sucked in his breath. "I'm glad you think you'll survive. I'm not sure I will."

He began to move carefully within her as her body unclenched and began to turn soft around him. Slowly, with exquisite care, he measured the length of her feminine sheath, filling her to the kilt and then withdrawing slightly.

"Oh, Christ, Verity. You're so warm and tight," he grated. "I've never felt anything like this. So perfect."

"Jonas?" She sighed his name in a half-spoken question as a tingling, liquid heat began deep inside her.

"Honey, I'm trying to take this slow and easy but I don't think I can last much longer. I'm going out of my mind." He drew a savage breath and removed his hand from between their bodies. Then he gripped her with sudden fierceness, driving himself into her with increasing urgency.

The tingling feeling increased. Verity tightened herself around Jonas, seeking more of the delightful sensation. Instinctively she wrapped her legs around his hard hips and her lower body strained to hold him within her.

"Verity."

She felt Jonas lose what was left of his self-control. With one last agonized groan, he surged deeply into her and went rigid. His muffled shout of satisfaction filled the room.

Time hung suspended for a few moments before Jonas sagged heavily on top of Verity, his head on her br**sts.

For a long time Verity lay trapped beneath his weight, her hands moving on his back, unconsciously stroking him as she would a cat. She looked up at the ceiling and smiled vaguely to herself. She knew enough to realize that things hadn't gone perfectly. She had missed out on something important, but she felt strangely contented nonetheless. There was a sweet satisfaction and pleasure in knowing that Jonas had been satisfied. And common sense warned her that first times for anything seldom went exactly right.

Practice made perfect, and she was determined to practice.

Jonas was silent for a long moment, apparently enjoying the soothing feel of her hand. Then, with a low, lazy sigh, he eased himself out of her and rolled to one side. He gathered her against him and kissed her ear.

"You should have told me this was going to be new for you," he chided gently.

"The subject never arose. I didn't expect everything to happen so quickly. I thought I'd have weeks, maybe months to get to know you and be sure."

"Really? Do you think I could have waited even a few more days, let alone weeks or months?" He squeezed her rounded buttock. "Don't you know what you've been doing to me ever since I first saw you?"

Verity smiled dreamily against his chest. "What have I been doing to you?"

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