She didn't understand anything he was saying but in the bedroom the rapier clattered to the floor at her feet and Jonas's other hand closed convulsively around Verity.

The curving walls of the corridor vanished.

Another deep shudder went through Jonas. Verity wrapped her arms around him and held on as if he might somehow slip away from her. She heard the sound of his deep, heaving breaths and felt his face as he buried it in her hair.

"Verity. Verity. " Jonas was holding on to her as if she were his lifeline. His body was hard and fiercely aroused. "You don't know . .. you can't even guess what it means— what you did. You held on to those things and you held me here." His hands moved over her as if he were trying to assure himself that she was real. He dropped a thousand urgent little kisses into her hair, on her temple, down her throat. Hot, equally urgent words poured over her in a mixture of triumph and relief. "If only you knew what you just did. Dammit to hell, honey, I can't explain.... Not now. Not yet. I need you. God, how I need you."

"Jonas, please, tell me what happened." She raised her head and cradled his hard face between her palms as she tried to steady him long enough to get an explanation out of him. "What was going on just then?"

"Later," he breathed, kissing her forcefully back into silence. "Later. Everything later. I swear. Right now I need you. I have to have you. I'm on fire for you. Put your hands on me. Feel me. Feel how much I want you. I'm going to explode."

He caught hold of one of her wrists and pushed her hand down to where his jeans were stretched taut over a heavy erection. Verity flinched at the heat in him. She tried to free her hand but he held it where he wanted it, groaning thickly as she cradled him.

The fighter's tension that had gripped Jonas when he entered her bedroom earlier had transformed itself into violent sexual desire. Verity could feel the change in him. She realized with a shock that the two emotions seething within him were not unrelated. The knowledge alarmed her, but before she could deal with it Jonas picked her up and tossed her lightly onto the bed. Then he yanked at the fastening of his jeans. A moment later he was naked, fully aroused and ready. His expression in the shadows was taut and intent. Muscles rippled smoothly across his shoulders as he came toward her.

Verity sucked in her breath as he lowered himself quickly to the bed and sprawled heavily on top of her.

His need for her was as irresistible as the tide. She was suddenly pulsing with her own feminine desire.

His legs tangled with hers and his hands pushed up the hem of her nightgown until the material bunched around her waist.

"I want you," Jonas rasped. "I want you so damn much. I have to have you. You belong to me."

She was catching fire under his touch, His urgency was now hers. Verity twisted beneath him, responding recklessly to the relentless emotions that were driving Jonas. She was swamped with a cascade of feelings that ran the gamut from fearful excitement to an aching desire for surrender. She felt wild and free and chained all at once.

"Yes," she cried out softly as his palm closed over her dampening female flesh. She arched against his possessive touch and clutched at his shoulders. "Yes, Jonas."

He muttered a hoarse response, the words unintelligible as he shoved a knee between her legs and cradled himself in the warm space there. He bent his head to kiss the satin skin of her thigh, teeth grazing her with exquisite care.

He yanked at her nightgown, trying to jerk it off completely. Verity raised herself on one elbow to free the thin fabric, but before she could maneuver the gown over her head there was a sharp, rending sound. The delicate material parted under Jonas's urgent grip.

The sound broke through her dazed excitement. Verity gasped. She went still.

"No. Don't think about it. Not yet," Jonas said huskily, pulling the offending gown free and tossing it aside.

"Don't worry about it. Think about us. Hold on to me, Verity. Put your hands on me and hold on to me the way you did in the corridor."

She stared up at him, suddenly frightened. She was frozen beneath him. "Jonas, I don't understand any of this."

He swore in soft despair. Then he closed his eyes and set his teeth, struggling for mastery of himself.

Verity could feel the rigid control he was exerting. Every inch of him was rock hard with muscle tension.

He breathed deeply. For a timeless moment neither of them moved. Then Jonas's eyes flicked open and she saw the smoldering fire he had managed to partially bank.

"You don't have to be afraid," he said in a dark, hoarse voice. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Her fear began to dissolve. Verity's fingertips stroked his shoulder in an unconsciously soothing pattern.

"I know," she whispered. And she did. She did not have any reason to fear Jonas. What she feared was the unknown that seemed to dwell within him.

Deliberately he lifted himself slightly away from her. His eyes locked with hers, telling her silently of his need as his hand slid warmly down the length of her, caressing her br**sts and then the small curve of her stomach. His fingers were trembling with sensual tension when they touched the inside of her thigh.

But he was in control now. He repeated his full-length stroke.

Verity couldn't look away from him. His eyes never left hers. He held her trapped with the knowledge of his need as surely as he held her trapped in his arms. He continued his slow, sensual stroking.

"Touch me again," he begged thickly. "Please, Verity;"

Tentatively she obeyed, trailing her fingers through the curling hair on his chest and down toward the crisp thicket that framed his manhood. She held her breath for an instant as she touched him intimately and Jonas groaned. He bent his head and found her nipple with his tongue. The delicate nub hardened quickly and he sucked it gently between his teeth.

Verity caught her breath, then she sighed and began to relax. Her legs parted willingly this time for Jonas's gentle prodding.

"Harder," he coaxed when she began to tease him with her fingertips. He pushed himself more heavily into her hand, dampening her palm with the evidence of his arousal.

Verity touched him more firmly, wondering at the steel in him.

"That's it," he breathed. Then he began touching her with equal intimacy. His strong, blunt fingers circled the small, pouting opening between her legs until it began to flower. "That's it," he muttered again as he felt her body readying itself for him. "Ah, honey, you're so wet and hot. You feel so good.

So perfect. No need to be afraid. No need, I swear it."

Jayne Ann Krentz Books | Suspense Books | Gift Series Books