"Mia. " His voice was thick and sleepy. "Allaina. So soft, so lovely. Stay with me tonight. Wake with me tomorrow. "

Her heart trembled, but when she spoke her voice was brisk and even. "You're speaking Gaelic. "

"Hmm?"

"You're speaking in Gaelic. " Now she did give his shoulder a little nudge. "Which means you're about to fall asleep on top of me. "

"No, I'm not. " He braced himself on his elbows so he could gaze down at her. "You make my head spin. " He droppe

d a kiss on her forehead, then the tip of her nose. "I'm glad you dropped by. "

It was hard to resist the easy affection. "So am I. But I have to go now. "

"Uh-uh. " Idly toying with her hair, he studied her face. "I'm afraid I can't allow that. And if you try, I'm going to have to get rough with you again. You know you liked it. "

"Please. " She pushed at him, tried to slither free.

"You really liked it. " Leaning down, he lightly bit her shoulder.

"Maybe, under this limited set of circumstances, I found it . . . arousing. I needed an outlet for the excess energy that last night's spell worked up in me. "

"Tell me about it. " He caught her chin in his hand. "I mean that. I want you to tell me about it. But right now, I'm starving. Aren't you starving? I've got leftover Chinese takeout. "

"Yummy. But - "

"Mia, we need to talk. "

"Talk isn't the usual activity when we're lying naked in bed and you're still inside me. "

"There is that. " He slid his hands under her hips, lifted them. Slid deeper into her. "Tell me you'll stay. "

Her breath caught. "I'm not - "

"I want to watch you climb again. " He kneaded her hips, his thrusts slow and steady. "Just let me watch you. "

He left her no choice. He exploited her weakness, drained her will with a ruthless tenderness. He watched her surrender, to him, to herself, to the rise of sensation. And when she crested - one long wave - it rippled through him. And he lifted her, wrapped her close.

"Stay. "

With a sigh, she rested her head on his shoulder. "I could eat. "

They made quick work of the Chinese, then scavenged for more. By the time they were digging into a box of dry cereal, the edge was off. Sam took a last handful of puffed rice.

"Strong magic and good sex. Nothing like it to sharpen the appetite. "

"I had two muffins, a sandwich, cake, and a bowl of rotini. And that was before the sex. Give me that. "

She took the box from him and dug in.

"It was a potent spell. "

"Now that we've very efficiently cleaned out my kitchen of all edible products, let's take that walk in the woods. "

"It's getting late, Sam. "

"Yeah, it is. " He took her hand. "And we both know it. " He glanced down at her bare feet. "Since I don't see how you can walk anywhere in those shoes you had on, maybe we should head to the beach instead of the woods. Easier on your feet. "

"I'm used to walking barefoot in the woods. " It was best, she thought, to deal with it. As long as they were talking, or eating, or seducing each other, she wouldn't have to think about loving him. Or what she would do about it.

"You want me to explain the spell, and I'm not sure I can. "

"I don't want the nuts and bolts. " He drew her across the lawn toward the shadows and the path. "But I'd like to know, first, how long you've known you had that kind of power. "

"I'm not sure I did - not exactly. Felt," she continued. "As if there was a switch inside waiting for me to flip it. "

"It's not that simple. "

"No, it's not. " She could smell the trees and the sea. And on such a night, she thought, you could smell the stars. A cool brush along the senses. "I've worked on it, studied, practiced. I've gathered myself. You understand that. "

"I also understand that to pull that out the way you did the other night, without any real preparation, is beyond anything I've experienced. "

"I've been preparing all my life. " And in the last decade, she thought, it's been my one and only love.

"Still I couldn't finish it. It wasn't quite enough. " Determination toughened her voice. "But I will finish it. "

"That's where you and I have a problem. What you did was dangerous, for you. It didn't have to be. "

"The risk was minimal. "

"If you'd told me what you could do, what you'd obviously planned to do, given the opportunity, I could have been prepared. I could have helped. But you don't want my help. "

She said nothing as they passed the little stream where foxglove nodded on the banks. "It's been a long time since I considered having your help. "

"I've been back for over two months, Mia. "

"And were gone over ten years. I learned to do a great deal without you in that length of time. Without anyone," she added, "as Ripley cut herself off from me and what we shared during the same period. I've taken what I was given and honed it, built it. "

"That's right, you have. I wonder if you would have if I'd stayed. "

She rounded on him, her temper quicker than it might have been, as the same thought had come to her.

"Is that a new rationalization? A new reason for what you did?"

"No. " He met her fury with utter calm. "My reasons for leaving were completely selfish. It doesn't seem to change the results. You're stronger than you would have been. "

"Should I thank you for it?" She angled her head. "Maybe I should. Maybe it's time for me to acknowledge that your leaving was the best thing for both of us. I saw you as the beginning and end of my life, and everything in between. But you weren't. I lived without you. And whether you stay or go, I'll continue to live, to work. To be. I can enjoy you now without illusions. It's a nice bonus to share myself with someone who understands power and who expects nothing in return but pleasure for pleasure. "

It rubbed at his temper, as he supposed she'd intended it to. "Don't thank me too soon. You wondered why I'd maneuvered you into dating. I needed to show you, and maybe to prove to myself, that there's more than sex between us. "

"Of course there is. " Calm again, she began to walk. "There's magic, a shared history. And though I didn't initially believe it, a shared love of the island. We have mutual friends. "


Tags: Nora Roberts Three Sisters Island Romance
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