“I think you’re a little drunk,” I teased as he set me back down, a broad smile across his face.

“I’m happy. I’m the happiest man alive right now. I can guarantee it.”

I returned his smile, unable to argue. I was beyond happy too. He spun me around and walked me up the stairs.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m giving you the grand tour. You like it so far, right?”

I laughed. “I couldn’t dream up a more beautiful home, honestly. There’s only one problem.”

He looked back at me and arched his eyebrows. “What’s that?”

“It’s not ours, and you can now add breaking and entering to your list of illegal activities achieved in this lifetime. If you want to go house hunting when we get back from the honeymoon, you officially have my permission. We should go. I have bigger plans for tonight than jail.”

“Trust me, so do I.” He paused on the landing, pulling me up to him. “I want to show you one more thing. I want you to close your eyes first though.”

He lifted me back into his arms, and I sensed we were moving down a long hallway. Night had filled the house, but behind my eyelids I saw light. Panicked that we weren’t as alone as I thought we were, I opened my eyes. We’d entered a large bedroom, about three times the size of our current one.

Situated in the center of the room was an enormous four-poster bed draped in a silky blue comforter. On the opposite wall, an ornate fireplace was set into the wall and cast off a warm glow from the fire inside. On its mantle and every available surface, candles burned, lighting the large room. What was all of this?

“Blake.” My voice was barely a whisper.

He lowered me to my feet, keeping my body pressed close to his. I looked up into his eyes, sparkling now more than ever. The mischief there had been replaced by something else.

“It’s ours. Yours and mine.”

My breath left me. “This...?”

“The house. All of it. It’s my wedding gift to you.”

“A house?” I laughed, incredulous but somehow not at all surprised that Blake had justified the extravagant purchase for our special day.

“Do you like it?” he asked, his expression tentative.

Tears formed in the corners in my eyes. “Blake, it’s... My God, it’s beautiful. I don’t know what to say.” A thought occurred to me then that we were literally only steps away from his parents. “Your parents, they know?”

His hesitation vanished with a grin. “Are you kidding me? Catherine was the one who told me as soon as the neighbors were going to put the house on the market. We had an agreement before they could even talk to a realtor.”


“I can’t believe you did this.” I was still in disbelief that this enormous, magnificent home would be ours. Ours. “Are you okay being so close?”

He nodded. “It’ll be an adjustment. But I owe it to them in a way. I’ve spent a lot of time on the fringes, until recently. And I thought it would be good for us to finally be closer to family.”

I looked down, toying with the rose that poked out of his jacket pocket. “I love them like they’re my own.”

He lifted my chin, stroking my cheek gently. “They are yours. We’re one family now, you and I. And they love you like a daughter. That will never change.”

“I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”

He ran a thumb over my trembling lips, lowering slowly to capture them with a kiss.  “I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure that never changes. I want to give you everything...”

I lifted to my toes, surrendering to the love in his kiss. His hands roamed. He exhaled unsteadily.

“Are you ready to say goodbye to this dress for the night? Because I can’t wait another minute to make love to you.”

I nodded, breathless and speechless. He caressed down my shoulders.

“So beautiful.”

I turned in his arms. He made quick work of the clasp and zipper at the back of my dress. The weighty fabric fell to the floor, pooling at my feet. Behind me, I heard Blake tossing his own garments to the floor. I turned and caught him staring, slack-jawed, hunger in his eyes. I stood before him, in the white lacy underthings I knew he’d love.

He traced the hem of my panties and thumbed over the scar emerging above it. Out of the dizzying happiness of the day, a small sadness floated over me. He caught my chin, lifting my gaze to meet his.

“No sad eyes tonight. This is the time for the man of the house to make passionate love to his beautiful bride. I may not stop for hours, because I’m starving for you.”

Then his hands were everywhere, unhooking the corset and slipping down the delicate white lace panties just the way I’d imagined he would. Lowering to his knees, he lingered, pressing delicate kisses over my belly and just above the patch of hair between my legs. 

Slowing over the place on my abdomen where the wound had puckered the skin, he brushed his lips over the dark pink scar that had begun to form. I had tried to ignore the imperfection, averting my eyes whenever they were drawn to it as I was dressing or undressing.

“Don’t, Blake…” I covered myself, feeling self-conscious. I tugged at his shoulders, urging him to his feet.

He stood, only to coax me back onto the soft bed and return his attentions to my lower half, kissing, licking. I gasped when he dragged his tongue down the inside of my thigh and back up again. He moved up my body, claiming every expanse of skin with his amazing mouth until I was quivering and on edge.

He captured my face in his hand, all traces of humor having left his expression, our bodies warm with passion and champagne and the candles casting heat and a warm glow across our skin. “Erica…I love you…all of you. Even your scars.”

The deep, determined kiss that followed his words stole my breath. I wasn’t sure if I could have formed a word or taken a full breath anyway, the way he was holding me and touching me. I’d missed him so much.

“I told you I was going to kiss every inch of you one night. I’m almost done.”

He lifted my knees, hooking them over his shoulders. Then his mouth was over me, lavishing firm, deliberate licks over the hot ache between my thighs. His tongue teased my opening, taunting me with shallow dips into the place where I was already soaked for him.

I gripped his hair tightly. I lifted against him, desperate for more contact against that sensitive spot. My thighs trembled, brushing against his shaven face. With strong hands, he parted me again, baring me for him completely.

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