"What did you say?" he bit out, battling the frantic need to shove his hips at her.

"I always have."

Her words made him wonder if he was dreaming this entire scenario - this was exactly as he would imagine. Now, when he was buried so deeply inside her, the need arose to say the words that would bind her to him - a vow of self, spoken in the old language. Yet he couldn't. He didn't have that right.

Instead, he bent down and kissed her, with everything he felt for her, until she was panting. Her hands went from holding on to his shoulders, as though for dear life, to exploring touches over his body. When she tentatively rolled her hips, he withdrew, then eased back inside her, determined to make this good for her.Concentrate. Slowly in...easing out. Again.

He had to stop wondering why she had chosen to give this gift tohim  - tolove him. He drew back to study her face. "Does it still hurt, Sìne?" he asked, rocking against her.

Her eyes fluttered open with a look of wonder. "N-no, not anymore," she murmured. "That feels so perfect...." She leaned up to press her wet little kisses on his chest, driving him mad. "Does it for you?"

In answer, he shuddered again and couldn't help stirring himself in her, savoring all her wetness around him. When he thrust again, her ni**les were hard points goading his chest. He bent to lick them, and she began meeting every thrust.

As soon as he slipped his thumb down between them and rubbed, she cried, "I'm about to...You're making me...Oh, God,promise you'll do this again to me. Tonight." She took his face in both of her hands. "Promise,Hugh ." His name became a cry as she climaxed.

Though he fought it, had even stopped thrusting, her hungry body demanded, her sex squeezing him, tight as a fist. He couldn't hold his seed. Defeated, he bucked between her thighs with all his strength, yelling to the sky. He came with a violent force, shuddering with each fierce pumping inside her.

As he leaned against her, heart thundering against hers, he said hoarsely, "You love me?"

Back in his bed, she curled against him, her breaths light on his chest, her body warm and soft with sleep. But Hugh was wide awake, turning thoughts over and over in his mind.

Tonight, he had dared to put his rough hands on her delicate body - his hands, which had killed so many times before. He'd dared to take her virginity - had been about to do it in a crazed moment of anger. He'd almost hurt her without measure.

Yet hehadn't .

The only dire thing he'd done was to give in when she'd wanted him four more times. If he was destined to bring her pain, then why had she told him that what they'd done hadawed her?

He wondered where the guilt was. He'd expected to be disgusted with his weakness; instead he felt alive, energized, optimistic. His body was relaxed, his muscles at ease. Throughout the night, she'd made him feel like the lad he'd been when he'd seen her last. He wanted more of that feeling.

Tonight, he'd made her his, and it had felt like it was hisright to do so.

Because she wants me, too.She'dalways wanted him. Before she'd slept, she confided to him about her feelings, and how long she'd struggled with them. The more she revealed, the more astounded he'd become.

She'd told him she compared all men to him - and found them all lacking. Compared tohim . He pulled her closer with the crook of his arm. He could scarcely credit it, but knew she told the truth.

What if I just tell her about the curse?he thought again. She was intelligent. He respected her ideas and admired the way her mind worked. Maybe between the two of them, they could figure out a way.

Tomorrow, then. It would be done.

The next morning, Jane stretched with a grin on her face, feeling sore and well-loved. She was also morein love than she'd ever been. Last night had been everything she'd always dreamed it would be - better than.

Her only regret was that they hadn't been spending the last ten years of their lives like this. But as long as they spent the rest of them this way, she was mollified.

Her eyes slid open, and she found Hugh was dressed in pants, seated on the edge of the bed. She took one look at his face and knew.

"Oh, dear God," she murmured. "I'm a regret."

"It's no' like that, Jane - "

"Then tell me you don't regret making love to me."

He raked his fingers through his tousled hair. "It's more complicated than that."

She gave a bitter laugh. "It's very simple. The man I gave my virginity to, wishes he hadn't taken it."

He flinched.

"You win, Hugh." She stood, wrapping the sheet around her. "I'm going to say three words I've never uttered to anyone in my entire life: I - give - up." She stormed out, striding into her room. After slamming her door, she locked it behind her.

Seconds later, her door was rocked from its hinges. With a gasp, she glanced up from donning her shift.

He was huge, filling the doorway. She was even more aware of his strength and the power in his body because she'd spent the night learning every inch of it, rubbing, cupping, and licking it.

"Stop doing that to my doors!" she cried.

"Then doona ever keep a locked door between us."

"I'm done talking to you!" she snapped, and darted past him, heading for the broken door.

He grabbed her elbow, swinging her around. "Will you no' just listen to me?"

They were toe to toe, both breathing heavily. His brows drew together as if he was confounded, then his hand shot out to clutch her nape, yanking her against his unyielding chest. His voice a broken rasp, he said,"My God, I'll never get enough of you."

His lips crashed into hers, slanting into a scorching, possessive kiss, making her ache anew. But she somehow shoved against him. "No! I'm not doing this! Not again. Not until you tell me what happened between last night and this morning."

After a hesitation, he took a deep, seemingly calming breath, then nodded. "Verra well. Dress yourself. Then we'll discuss some things," he said, looking for all the world like a man sentenced to the gallows.

Chapter Forty-one

Half an hour later, once Jane had washed and dressed, preparing for whatever he had to confess, she sat patiently waiting on the side of his bed.

Hugh hadn't spoken, just paced the room like a caged beast, appearing as if he were...nervous.

"Just say what's on your mind," she said as he passed. "Whatever it is, it can't hurt to tell me."

He slowed. "And how would you know that?"

"Is it a secret that someone would kill me for? That Grey would torture me for?"


"Does it embarrass you?"

"No, but - "

"Hugh, they're just words. Trust me with your secret, and you won't regret it." When he still resisted, she tried to make light. "Do you worry that I won't find you as attractive if you're not the brooding Highlander with his devilish secrets? Tell me."

"Hell, you won't believe me anyway," he muttered.

"This is going to sound mad. I ken it's going to." He ran a hand over the back of his neck. "But my family was...cursed. I believe that I will bring you nothing but misery if I stay wed to you."

Cursed? What the devil is he talking about?Though her thoughts were wild, her tone was inscrutable when she said, "Go on, I'm listening."

"Ten generations ago, a clan seer foretold the futures of the Carrick line and recorded them in a book called theLeabhar nan Sùil-radharc , theBook of Fates ." He pointed to the old book he always had on the table. "My brothers and I are fated to be solitary, living our lives alone, and will bring pain to those we care for if we think to do otherwise. We will be the last of our line and can never have children. For five hundred years, the foretellings have all come true - every single one of them."

"I-I don't understand..." She inhaled and began again, "Do you care for me enough to stay with me otherwise?" she asked.

"Aye, Christ, yes."

"Then you're telling me that nothing stands in the way of us staying married except for a...curse?"

When he didn't deny it, Jane barely stifled the scream welling in her throat.This just isn't happening to me! How could she be rational in the face of this? Reasonable was impossible.

It was as if one of the foundations of her adult life had just suffered a fracture. Now everything built on it had gone askew. The quiet, steady Hugh she'd known for half her life was gone, and in his place was a superstitious madman.

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