As was always the case when Elizabeth came over after dark, William had insisted on meeting her in the parking garage and walking her back to the penthouse. Since the garage was next door to his building, she considered this an excess of chivalry. Earlier in their relationship she had sometimes “forgotten” to call and notify him of her impending arrival, but she had finally decided that it was a small price to pay for his peace of mind. Plus, as she reminded herself, it simplified getting admitted to his building.
Upstairs, he helped her off with her coat and hung it in the closet. Then he picked up her overnight bag. “I’ll take this to the bedroom.” But before he could go, their eyes met in an intimate look that sent a shiver through Elizabeth. William dropped the bag and captured her head in his hands. “I’m glad you’re here,” he whispered, bending his head to hers.
Their kiss ignited a shower of sparks inside her, and with a low moan she wrapped her arms around him. Her few remaining doubts about her intentions for the night were vaporized by the heat of their embrace. Nothing had ever felt so right.
Desire radiated from his eyes. “I missed you last night,” he murmured, stroking her cheek with his thumb. “I could hardly stand it, lying alone in my bed, aching for you.”
“I missed you, too. I couldn’t stop thinking about how warm and safe I felt in your arms.”
William’s frown line creased his forehead. He released her and retrieved her bag from the floor. “Yes, well, I’ll take this down the hall.”
Elizabeth stood staring at an orchid on the hall table, puzzling over what had just happened. He had seemed on the verge of taking her to his bedroom, not her overnight bag, when his mood had suddenly changed. It reminded her of last night when they were saying their goodbyes. She had expected him to ask once more to come home with her, and she doubted she could have refused. She had even subtly encouraged another entreaty by asking if he would be able to get any sleep upstairs. But instead of making the request she expected, he had helped her into her car, hurrying her on her way.
Still pondering the mystery that was William Darcy, she wandered into the den. Almost immediately, he reappeared and joined her on the sofa. “Are you tired?” he asked.
“Yes and no. It’s been a long day, but I’m usually pretty wired after my night class. How about you?”
“I was tired earlier, but I took a nap late this afternoon instead of practicing.”
“So I assume Richard and Char kept you awake last night?”
“It wasn’t as bad as it might have been, but I definitely heard them. Have you talked to Charlotte today?”
“She called to set a time to meet at the spa tomorrow. Apparently they had just as good a time as the noise suggested.” Charlotte had been at an uncharacteristic loss for words, but clearly the night had far exceeded her expectations.
William snorted. “Richard exhausted his supply of baseball metaphors trying to describe it. Did you tell her that we heard them?”
“I didn’t see the point.”
“I told Richard, and he had a good laugh at the two of us tiptoeing around their trail of clothing. I suppose you know they’re at the Four Seasons tonight.”
“Uh huh. With 24-hour room service and everything.”
“Speaking of which, are you hungry?”
“Yes, I am. I had half a sandwich before class, but that’s all I’ve eaten since … let’s see, since lunch yesterday. I had to skip dinner last night too, because of seeing the counselor.”
He stretched his arm around her shoulders. “You need to take better care of yourself, cara.”
“You sound like me, a couple of months ago.”
He grinned. “I suppose it’s my turn to nag now. If you’d like something to eat, there’s a pot of vegetable soup in the kitchen. Mrs. Hill made it in case you were hungry.”
“Oh, that sounds good.”
“Then let’s get you some dinner.”
A few minutes later they were seated at the kitchen table sharing a bottle of wine while Elizabeth enjoyed her soup. “This hits the spot,” she sighed. “Thank you so much.”
“No need to thank me. Mrs. Hill did the work.”
“But it was your idea, wasn’t it? You knew I might be hungry, and you also know how much I love her vegetable soup.”
He shrugged diffidently and turned his gaze out the window. “I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Would you like some more wine?”
“Maybe in a few minutes.” Elizabeth’s eyes warmed in tender amusement. He was sometimes embarrassed to be caught making small, thoughtful gestures. “How was your dinner tonight?”
“Pleasant enough. It was good to have Roger there. Anne and I both tend to be quiet in situations like that.”
“An understatement for the ages. What did he think of Anne?”
“I didn’t have a chance to ask. It was getting late, and he volunteered to walk her to her car so I could get back here to meet you.”
“Roger’s such a sweetheart.” She set down her spoon, an impish gleam in her eyes. “So, was vegetable soup supposed to be the first course of our dinner tomorrow? And has this late-night snack disrupted your plans?”
William shook his head with a long-suffering air, but the smile in his eyes told a different story. “I see that Ms. Inquisitive is on the job again. Very well, ma’am, I’ll answer that question. Vegetable soup is not now, nor has it never been, on the menu for tomorrow.”
“You realize it’s dangerous to have me here tonight, don’t you? It’s a perfect opportunity to snoop for clues. I can check out the groceries in the fridge, for example.”
He shrugged with a superior air. “Go ahead. There’s nothing incriminating in there.”
“Or maybe I’ll check the closets for my birthday present.”
“That would be ‘presents,’ plural. In fact, I thought I might give you one tonight. Would you like that?”
“If you’re expecting me to say, ‘No, thanks, I’d rather wait till tomorrow,’ you’re crazy.”
He drained his wine glass and stood up. “All right, then. I’ll be right back.”
Elizabeth was just finishing her soup when William returned to the kitchen carrying a large box wrapped in silver foil paper. Three smaller packages were piled on top of the box.
“I thought you said one present tonight,” she remarked, “not that I’m complaining.”
“They go together.” He cleared a space on the table and set the packages there. “Open the big one first.”
Elizabeth ripped off the paper, revealing a cardboard box whose markings identified the contents as a DVD player. “This is fantastic! Jane and I have been talking about buying one, but we hadn’t quite gotten around to it yet.”
“The salesperson said it was the best one on the market,” he said.
Elizabeth grinned at the thought of this bonanza coming the salesperson’s way. William was an audiophile, knowledgeable about stereo components and speakers, but his expertise did not extend to video equipment. “Thank you,” she said, jumping from her chair to give him a kiss.
“Open the others.” He sat back in his chair regarding her fondly, obviously pleased with the success of his gift.
She returned to her seat and chose another package, bursting into laughter when she tore it open. “South Pacific on DVD! As if I haven’t been getting enough of it at rehearsals.”
“That’s from Sonya. She said it could serve as a memento of all the time you spent coaching.”
“Have you ever seen it?”
William shook his head.
“How anyone could grow up in New York and be so ignorant about Broadway musicals is beyond me. Why don’t you borrow it? Maybe sometime you’ll feel like watching it. You can see Mitzi Gaynor singing, ‘I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy.’”
“I’d rather have you sing it for me.”
“Don’t hold your breath. It’s going to be a long time before I recover from rehearsal burnout on those songs. Okay, let’s see what else I have here.” She opened the third package and found another DVD: The Philadelphia Story.
“Remember our conversation about this movie?” he asked, an eager light in his eyes. “It was the first time we drove up to Stinson Beach. We said we wanted to watch it together.”
“Of course I remember.”
“That’s why I wanted to give you these presents now. Since we’re not tired, I thought maybe we could watch the movie tonight.”
She was surprised by the suggestion but not opposed to it. “Sure, we could do that.”
“Good. Now open the last present.”
This one had been bundled into a small paper bag. She laughed when she unveiled a package of microwave popcorn. “Perfect.” She stood up, holding out her hand to him. He rose, and she wound her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Thank you so much. I love my presents.”
“You’re welcome. And you’ll get your main gift tomorrow. Shall we fix the popcorn and go into the den?” The Fitzwilliams’ DVD player was installed there.
“I have a better idea. There’s a TV in your bedroom, right?”
“Yes, but I’ve never used it.”
“Well, let’s see if it works, and we can try out my new DVD player in there.”
“You mean watch the movie in bed?” He gave her a wary glance.
“Why not? We can change into our PJs, get comfortable. And we could take the popcorn and the rest of the wine in there, unless you object to eating in bed.”
“As long as we don’t end up lying on popcorn hulls all night.” He shrugged. “All right. If that’s what you want, I’ll work on hooking up the DVD player.”
“And I’ll make the popcorn and grab the wine.”
With a distracted nod, he took the DVD player and the DVDs and departed, leaving her more mystified than ever. She had expected him to enthusiastically endorse the idea of snuggling in bed while watching the movie, yet his reaction had been lukewarm at best. She started the popcorn and leaned on the counter, her chin supported by one fist as she stared absently at the microwave.
Her ardent suitor seemed to have cooled just when she was ready to move forward. She remembered Jane’s opinion that he would need for her to take the initiative, but she had done that earlier during their passionate kiss, and again with her suggestion that they move into his bedroom. In both cases, he had retreated in response to her advances.
The popping sounds slowed to a trickle, and she poured the popcorn into a bowl. She juggled the bowl, the wine bottle, and their glasses, managing to make it to the bedroom without dropping anything. “I don’t think I’ve ever had wine and popcorn together before,” she said as she deposited her cargo on the night table.
William had set the DVD player on top of the television and was hunkered down alongside the TV, connecting the cables. “I think I’ve got it,” he said. He rose to his feet and fumbled with the remote control, succeeding only in obtaining static. He swore under his breath, pointed the remote at the TV, and tried again in vain. “It must be broken.”
“Try putting the TV on Channel 3.”
He did as she suggested, and the DVD player’s setup screen appeared. “I see that superior gleam in your eye,” he grumbled.
“My poor technologically challenged guy,” she said sweetly, stroking his shoulders. To her dismay, he stiffened at her touch. Unsure how to deal with his peculiar mood, she released him. “I’m going to go into the bathroom and change.”
A few minutes later she stood inspecting herself in the bathroom mirror. One of her recent errands had been a shopping trip to find something appropriate to wear to bed. She had bypassed the filmy baby-doll nightgowns and other provocative garments and settled on a satin button-front nightshirt in a deep shade of amethyst. It wasn’t sexy—she couldn’t see herself wearing something like that—but it was infinitely more attractive than the various oversized, ink-stained tee shirts in her drawer at home.
She fluffed her hair around her shoulders, the way she knew he liked it. Then, taking a deep breath, she opened the bathroom door and stepped through.
William stood staring blindly out the window, trying to calm the attack of nerves that had seized him while changing into his nightclothes. He had begun to regret inviting Elizabeth to spend the night. His troubles had begun immediately on their arrival at the penthouse, when the mere thought of her overnight bag residing in his bedroom had spiked his desire nearly to the boiling point. Her passionate response to his kiss had only made matters worse; he had been within seconds of lifting her into his arms and carrying her off to bed.
Since then he had devised a series of distractions, hoping to delay bedtime until he was too exhausted for anything but sleep, but she had short-circuited his plan by proposing that they watch the movie in his bedroom. Even her light touch on his shoulders had been unbearably arousing. Didn’t she have the slightest idea what she was doing to him?
No, of course she didn’t. She trusted him. He would have to remember what she had said earlier: that she felt safe in his arms. That was what she needed, to feel safe. Not to have a man panting after her who’s been practically a walking erection for the past 24 hours. Or let’s be honest, for a lot longer than that.
Then she came out of the bathroom, looking like a dream in her satiny shirt, her hair loose and slightly disheveled, her delectable legs bared from mid-thigh to toe. In his mind he had already unbuttoned the shirt, filling his hands with the lush breasts he had fondled and kissed on Tuesday night. He closed his eyes, swallowing hard as he frantically struggled to wrest control from his overheated body.
“William, what’s wrong?” Her sweet, musical voice only compounded his distress.
“I can’t do this,” he muttered.
“You can’t do what?”
He hadn’t intended to say the words aloud. Perhaps it was just as well. “I’m sorry, Lizzy. I know you’re counting on me, but I don’t think I can share a bed with you tonight.”
She stepped closer to him, and he nearly groaned as the intoxicating scent of jasmine filled his nostrils. He fought warring urges: to open a safe distance between them, or to yank her into his arms and devour her. A safe distance. And that would be … Cleveland?
“Tell me what’s bothering you,” she said softly, her eyes full of tender concern.
Something inside him gave way and the words poured out, eluding his efforts to halt them. “This is torture, Lizzy. I’ve spent the past 24 hours thinking of nothing but having you in my bed, and I’m not talking about sleeping. Maybe it was overhearing Richard and Charlotte, and then hearing him talk about how incredible it was … or maybe it’s just that your slightest touch sets me on fire. I know you need me to be patient and gentle, and I’d rather cut off my arm than do anything to hurt or frighten you. But you’re in my blood, and I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.”
“I’m a man, not a superhero. I was already in a bad way before you came out of the bathroom, but seeing you now, so beautiful, so sexy ….” He sighed, shaking his head. “If we get into that bed, I’m going to be dying to touch you and kiss you, and make love to you. I don’t mean that I’d try to push you into doing anything; I promised you'd be safe with me, and that's a promise I will always keep. But I’m not going to be able to sleep, or even lie there quietly, with you so close to me. I’d be tossing and turning all night and we’d both be miserable.”
He stopped to grab a breath. Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, but he wasn’t finished yet.
“I can think of two solutions. We can go to the den and watch the movie, and maybe by the time we’re ready for bed I’ll be so tired that I’ll just fall asleep no matter what. Or I can kiss you good night and sleep in another bedroom, and I’ll see you for breakfast.”
The seductive expression in her eyes set his heart hammering wildly. She moved closer, until their bodies were almost touching. “Or,” she murmured, “we could go to bed right now. Together.”
“Shhh.” She raised up on tiptoe, locking her arms around his neck. “You can stop protecting me from yourself.”
The heat of her kiss took him by surprise, but he couldn’t have resisted at any price. They stood locked together in mindless rapture as the minutes passed, giving and taking, tasting and exploring. His hands roved down her back, the satin of her nightshirt sliding smoothly beneath his fingers. She moaned against his mouth, her hands tangling in his hair, and pressed herself closer.
Then she released him and stepped out of his arms. Befuddled by desire, he simply stared as she captured his hand, leading him the few steps to the bed. She perched on the edge of the mattress, her smile brimming with tantalizing promise, and drew him down to sit beside her.
“I hope I’m not dreaming,” he whispered, reaching out to touch her cheek.
As their lips met, a lone coherent thought flitted through his mind: At least this time I had a chance to turn down the bed first.
He wasn’t dreaming, nor was she, but Elizabeth had to admit that the night had taken on a dreamlike quality. They sat together on the bed, sharing a spine-tingling kiss that she wished would never end. But it did end eventually, he caressed her cheek. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.
She nodded and reached out to smooth his hair.
“What about … what if you have a flashback?”
“I don’t think I will, not tonight. I asked the counselor to help me. I told her that the man I loved was leaving town very soon, and I didn’t want to wait to make love to him anymore. So she made some suggestions.”
He kissed her softly. “Is there anything I need to know? Besides that I should keep my weight off you, obviously.”
“Is that going to be a problem?”
“Not at all. Anything else?”
“Well, in a way it’s my first time.”
“I understand. We’ll take this slowly.”
“Good, because I’m a little nervous. Or, on second thought, make that ‘a lot nervous.’”
“You’re not the only one.” He combed his fingers through her hair. “It’s a big responsibility, being a woman’s first lover.”
My first lover. Her heart swelled at the words. She touched his chest, feeling his warmth through the tee shirt he wore. “Is there anything I need to know?”
“Like what?” He seemed surprised by the question.
“Your heart. For a while you weren’t allowed to do this, and I’ve heard stories of men having heart attacks in bed with women.”
He grinned. “I’m fine. And my blood pressure will probably plummet once I’m not in a constant state of frustration. Speaking of which ….”
She watched his hand as he slowly unbuttoned her nightshirt. He spread it open and she slipped it off her arms, leaving her naked except for her underpants. Unwilling to be caught in utilitarian cotton briefs again, she had bought a lacy pair of panties in the same shade of amethyst as her shirt. His eyes grew dark, almost black. “You are so lovely,” he breathed.
She trembled as his hand slid from her waist upward to capture a breast in his palm. His touch was so warm, so gentle. “So lovely,” he whispered again. She eagerly claimed his mouth as it came down on hers.
After a rapturous interval of long, deep kisses, he raised his head. His eyes, roving restlessly over her body, made her uncomfortably aware that she was nearly naked and he was still fully clothed. “Could we turn off the lights?” she whispered.
He reached out and switched off the lamp on the night table nearest them. “Is that better?”
She started to reach for the lamp on the opposite side of the bed, but he placed a gentle restraining hand on her shoulder. “Please leave it on, cara. You’re so beautiful; I want to see you.”
It occurred to Elizabeth that if she were shrouded in darkness, the same would be true of him. “I guess you’re right. I want to see you, too. But you’re overdressed, don’t you think?”
He shrugged off his robe and pulled his tee shirt over his head. “Is that better?”
“Mmmm.” She slid her hands slowly over his chest. She had called him “perfect” two nights ago, and her opinion was unchanged. His broad shoulders and chest were exactly to her taste, strong and toned, yet with a lean silhouette. She ran a finger downward, tracing a slender trail of dark hair that vanished inside his pajama bottoms. His torso jerked reflexively as she reached the waistband, and with a soft groan he leaned forward, pulling her against him. His mouth covered hers as he lowered her to the bed, their bodies molded together.
What is it about the feeling of skin against skin? Elizabeth couldn’t get enough of the intoxicating sensation of his warm chest rubbing against her breasts. She strained against him as he kissed a searing path along her throat, his breath hot against her neck.
He pushed her gently onto her back, leaning over her, his hand cupping her breast. She sighed as he teased the sensitive nipple to a taut, pleasure-drenched peak. Then he lowered his head and nuzzled her breast gently. His tongue lapped at her nipple, circling it, sending a shaft of delight shimmering through her. When he sucked the nipple into his mouth she closed her eyes, weaving her hands through his hair. She cradled his head at her breast, and a soft sigh escaped her throat.
He raised his head and stared deep into her eyes. She saw urgent need blazing there, and felt it in the bunched muscles of his back and shoulders. Yet his caresses were slow, almost reverent. Obviously he was restraining his passion for her sake, and with that understanding came a powerful wave of love that brought sudden tears to her eyes. In a frantic attempt to repay his solicitude, she rolled onto her side and deposited a trail of urgent kisses along his neck. She was rewarded by his soft groan.
“Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?” she murmured, nipping his shoulder.
“Men aren’t beautiful,” he rasped.
“You are.” On an impulse, she lowered her head and ran her tongue over his tiny brown nipple. With a sound that was half laugh, half groan, he urged her head back up to his and kissed her hard on the mouth, his restraint seeming to crumble. His hands slipped beneath the waistband of her panties, cupping her bare buttocks and pressing her tightly against him. That he was fully aroused had already been evident, but never more so than now, as he ground his hips forward with a deep groan. He dragged his mouth from hers and buried his face in her neck. At first his heightened passion incited a whisper of fear, but she banished it. Soon the friction generated a delicious tingling sensation that compelled her to circle her hips against his.
Suddenly he released her and rolled onto his back, his breathing labored, his face flushed. “I need a minute,” he gasped. “I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but ….”
“It’s not your heart, is it?” Despite his earlier assurances, she was still worried.
He laughed, a tight, choked sound, and drew her into his arms. “My problem is well south of there.”
“Oh.” She felt like an idiot for missing the obvious implication.
“I’m trying to take this slowly. But I’ve wanted you for so long, and I love you so much, and you’re so sexy, so beautiful ….” He stopped, taking a shaky breath, his hands sliding over her body.
She might have predicted that it would frighten her to hear that he was approaching the limits of his control but, perhaps because he had won her trust so completely, she instead found it deeply exciting. It made her feel womanly and desirable to know that she could reduce him to a state of almost incoherent need. Above all, it made her feel powerful. She felt her confidence surge, and with it came a bold and irresistible impulse.
She stroked her way down his torso, her eyes locked with avid curiosity on the bulge distorting the silk of his pajama bottoms. When her hands reached his waistband, she hesitated. But she forced herself to shed her inhibitions and continued her downward progress.
He gasped and grabbed her hand. “Lizzy, wait.”
“You don’t want me to touch you?” His grip on her hand was half-hearted at best and she easily shook it off, exploring him gently through the barrier of his pajamas.
He took a shaky breath, his eyes burning into hers, but didn’t answer. She slipped her hand tentatively inside his pajamas and brushed his swollen flesh lightly with her fingertips. His hips jerked and he gasped, his eyes locked on her hand.
“Why don’t we take these off.” She slid her hands under the waistband, and he raised his hips to assist her. She pulled the pajamas downward and discarded them, drawing in a rapt breath at the sight of him lying naked on the bed, strong and virile and marvelously male.
She stretched out on her side, leaning over him. Her hand skimmed from his waist along his abdomen and then closed around him. She loved how he felt—warm and smooth and thrumming with life—but she loved his passionate response even more. Her palm slid over the damp, pliable tip and he gasped, lifting his hips off the bed. “Is this okay?” she asked. “I mean, am I ….”
“Okay?” He made a sound between a laugh and a groan. “I should make you stop, but I’ve waited so long to feel your hands on me, and—” He sucked in a breath through clenched teeth as her fingers continued their exploration.
“I don’t want to stop,” she whispered. She had never imagined that giving a man pleasure—by her choice, not his coercion—could stir so much desire in her, but there was no denying the liquid heat that throbbed through her veins. Her caresses grew bolder, his gasps and moans and the erratic movements of his hips guiding her hands. Her lips wandered over his chest, planting gentle kisses on his warm skin. One of his hands tangled in her hair while the other fondled her breasts, sending shivery currents of delight to the center of her being.
His breathing soon became ragged and she saw that he was staring at her, glassy-eyed, his face contorted. He held his breath, his entire body tensed, and with a long, low groan, he erupted. The tension drained from his body until he lay motionless on the bed.
She snuggled close to his side and brushed her lips across his cheek, her arm draped loosely over him. She tried to relax, but her body tingled with desire. What if he falls asleep now? She had heard stories about men who went to sleep immediately after sex, and for a moment she regretted her boldness in pleasuring him. But then his eyes opened and with a contented, rumbling groan, he kissed her.
“I love you,” he murmured hoarsely. “And I’m sorry.”
“Tonight was supposed to be about us, together, not about my needs. It was selfish of me not to stop you before it went that far.”
“I don’t believe you heard any complaints from me.”
“That’s because you’re the most understanding woman in the world.”
“Let’s not get carried away,” she retorted with a pert grin. “We both know that’s not true.”
He smiled, toying idly with her hair. “All right. In this instance, you’re being understanding. I shouldn’t have let that happen.”
“You’re wrong. It was just what I needed to relax. The counselor—I promise, I’m not going to keep mentioning her, but she said that the more I felt like I was in control of what happened between us, the easier it would probably be for me. And she was right. I really liked doing it, and I did feel like I was in charge.”
“You certainly were. I’d say I was putty in your hands, except putty isn’t anywhere near that hard.”
“I should at least clean up the mess I made.” He kissed her. “I’ll be right back.” He got out of bed and crossed to the bathroom, affording her a look at the delicious rear view she hadn’t yet seen.
For modesty’s sake she tried not to blatantly ogle him when he returned a minute or two later and climbed back into bed. Then he drew her against his body. “I believe it’s your turn,” he murmured. “Lie back and relax, love.”
Although she felt awkward, she did as he suggested, and he leaned over her, his kisses warm and deep. She closed her eyes as he teased her with slow, gentle caresses, his hands worshipping her body with a tenderness that melted her heart. Her breasts received special attention as he explored every contour first with his hands, and then with his mouth. She floated on a soft cloud of sensation as William’s lips pulled delicately at her nipple.
Elizabeth opened her eyes halfway and found him observing her intently. As he held her gaze, his hand stroked its way down across her abdomen. His fingers grazed her thighs. “Your skin is so soft, cara, like silk.”
A sigh escaped her as he brushed two fingers over the strip of amethyst satin between her legs. He repeated the gentle caress in a slow rhythm, bending his head to nuzzle her breast. Just when she thought she couldn’t wait any longer, he slipped his fingers under the thin fabric. She whimpered, closing her eyes against the sharp, delicious sensations as he teased her sensitive flesh.
She moaned in protest when he removed his hand, but it was only to draw her panties down her legs, discarding them before resuming his caresses. “My beautiful Lizzy,” he whispered, capturing her lips with his. She kissed him greedily, gripping his shoulders as she spiraled upward, ever upward.
His mouth returned to her breasts as he continued to stroke her, his fingers spreading fire in their wake. She began to circle her hips against his hand as a towering wave of rapture amassed inside her. She strained forward, desperately seeking release, and at last with a soft cry she tumbled over the crest of the wave into ecstatic oblivion.
William gathered her into his arms, stroking her back as she drifted slowly down to earth, still trembling from little pulsing aftershocks. As she gradually emerged from her sensual fog, she rested her head on his chest with a contented sigh.
“Are you okay?” He brushed her hair away from her face.
“I am way better than okay,” she sighed.
His chuckle resonated in his chest. “Good.”
Elizabeth lifted her head, giving him a shy smile. “You know, nobody’s ever done … that … to me before.”
“But certainly you and—” William paused, frowning, and then continued. “I assumed that at some point before that night, he would certainly have ….”
She sighed. “No. Like I told you, he wanted what he wanted.”
William’s expression became grim. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s probably never thought of anyone but himself in his entire life.”
“I guess that, on its own, should have told me that he didn’t care about me. But I didn’t know any better.”
After a moment of silence he said, “I’ve never seen anything as erotic as you were just now, cara, lying on my bed, trembling and crying out from my touch. You can’t imagine how much that excited me.”
She understood, because she’d been aroused by his reactions to her caresses. In addition, ample evidence of his excitement was pressing against her thigh, hard and hot and insistent. Her hand traveled slowly down his body, her fingers caressing him lovingly, and he shuddered.
His mouth opened over hers with urgent, almost desperate hunger. The kiss was followed by another, and another, and despite the sensual peak she had so recently scaled, desire sprang back to life inside her. His hands massaged her buttocks, imparting little sparks of pleasure as he held her tightly against him, pressing his hips forward with a ragged groan. Her own hands sought his chest, and she felt his heart pounding out a fierce rhythm.
“Lizzy?” he murmured in a low, passion-roughened voice that made her tremble. She knew what he was asking, what he wanted, and she wanted it too, despite the wave of fear that rippled through her.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“My darling Lizzy. I’ve wanted this … it seems like forever.”
He released her, turning away to open a drawer in the night table. She snuggled against him while he rolled on a condom. That task complete, he kissed her softly and spoke in gentle tones. “You said earlier that it helps for you to be in control. If you want, I can lie on my back and you can—”
“No.” She felt herself blushing. The counselor had made this same suggestion, and Elizabeth had spent much of last night alternately captivated and intimidated by this stirring vision. But now the idea seemed frightening. “No, that’s okay.”
“Are you sure? Because I wouldn’t mind, not in the least.” He quirked an eyebrow, a lascivious glint in his eyes.
She shook her head. There was too much risk of spoiling this first, momentous joining through her inexperience.
His eyes were nearly black with desire, but they held tenderness as well, tenderness so profound that it helped to calm her. He hovered over her, one hand skimming her body while their mouths melded with passionate intensity. She ran her hands along his torso, reveling in his warmth and strength and the way his muscles leapt at her touch.
He coaxed her thighs apart with gentle strokes. Her eyes drifted shut as he began to rub himself against the tender flesh he had caressed to the point of shuddering surrender just a short time ago. She circled her hips slowly, luxuriating in the delicious sensation.
“Lizzy.” His voice was hoarse. “Cara, look at me.”
She opened her eyes, and he held her gaze. “I love you,” he whispered. Then he grasped her hips and pushed himself slowly inside her, a deep groan escaping his throat.
He felt so large, so potent, and she bit her lip, her body tensing in expectation of the searing pain she remembered all too well from before. No. This is William. He would never hurt me. But when he pressed forward again, more firmly this time, she felt a stab of pain that continued as he began to move, and she bit her lip.
She was relieved to find that it wasn’t that bad, nothing like last time. Still, she considered asking him to hold still until it stopped hurting. But just then he exhaled a shaky breath. “So good,” he muttered thickly. He leaned forward, his arms supporting his weight, his passionate gaze locking with hers. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she lied, mesmerized by the fierce ecstasy in his expression. She resolved to persevere. He had wanted this so much for so long; she could bear some discomfort for his sake.
He murmured her name and began to drop heated kisses along her neck. Grateful for the distraction from her discomfort, she sought additional diversions, running her hands up his arms to his shoulders. He had wonderful shoulders, broad and solid but without the heavier muscles she associated with her unpleasant past. She laced her arms around his neck, stroking the nape, and with a low groan he buried himself deeper.
Then she remembered the counselor’s advice and took a series of slow, deep breaths, her eyes closed. Gradually the tension left her body, and as she relaxed the pain dissipated, leaving behind a sensation of fullness and friction that was not at all unpleasant.
They kissed, alternating between teasing nibbles and deep, thorough exploration of each other’s mouths, and Elizabeth moaned as a sweet ache of pleasure began to build. William adopted a slow, intoxicating rhythm, his groans more frequent as she involuntarily rocked her hips in time with his thrusts. She sensed from the tension in his body that he was struggling to restrain himself for her sake, and she wondered if it was possible for her heart to explode with love. Then he groaned again and began to thrust harder, faster, the sharp rasp of his breathing taking on a desperate urgency.
“I love you, William,” she whispered, tears springing to her eyes as she said the heartfelt words. “I love you so much.”
“Oh, God. Lizzy, I—” His eyes squeezed shut, and then with a fierce groan he pressed deep inside her.
Elizabeth caressed his shoulders as he held himself suspended above her, his eyes still closed. Then he lowered his body to rest on hers, his chest heaving. She cradled him in her arms, massaging his sweat-dampened back with one hand while the other tenderly stroked his hair. My first lover. She tightened her arms around him, relishing the warmth and strength of his body covering hers.
Wait a minute. He’s on top of me, and … I’m okay.
He apparently recognized his position at almost the same moment and rolled to one side. “Lizzy, I’m sorry. I was so … I couldn’t think, and I just … are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” She reached for him. “In fact, why don’t you come back here and let me hold you?”
He turned his back for a moment, fumbling briefly with a tissue, and then drew her into his arms. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.” She nestled against him. “Scratch that. I’m wonderful.”
“Good. Because … cara, I ….” He shook his head with a rueful smile. “I don’t have the words to tell you how I feel, or how much I love you. I’d need to get up and play something for you, but I don’t have enough energy right now.”
She reached for the lamp on the night table and switched it off. In the darkness, she slid back into his arms. “You can play for me later. Right now, just hold me.”
They floated together in a sea of contentment, exchanging soft kisses, tender caresses, and whispered words of love.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured.
“I told you, I’m fine. For some reason your weight on me didn’t scare me this time.”
“I meant, I’m sorry you didn’t ….”
She kissed him. “No reason to apologize. I enjoyed it.” The sweet pleasure she had experienced had left her eager to try again, and soon.
His tone was still repentant. “I’ve wanted to make love to you for so long, and when you said you loved me ….” He sighed. “It overwhelmed me.”
“I’ve been very well taken care of tonight by my wonderful guy.”
His lips slid along her throat. “Someday you’re going to sing that for me.”
“I could pop in the DVD right now if you want to hear the song.”
His sleepy chuckle rumbled in her ear. “I’ll pass.”
They lapsed into silence, and Elizabeth’s eyes drifted shut.
His husky voice pulled her back from the edge of sleep. “Since you didn’t get scared when I was lying on top of you, does this mean you’re done with the flashbacks for good?”
“I doubt it. But maybe they’ll be less frequent, and maybe someday they’ll go away. And, you know, tonight there’s something special in my favor.”
She pressed a warm kiss to his lips. “I have everything I need right here, because you’re with me. If a certain creep from my college days had tried to crash the party, we’d have kicked him to the curb together.”
“I love you, Lizzy,” he mumbled thickly. No more than a minute later he was breathing in the gentle rhythm of sleep.
“I love you, too,” she whispered, closing her eyes.