It was hard to concentrate when his hands were working such seductive magic on her shoulders. A strange sensation spilled away from his fingers, sliding down her body until she felt light enough to fly. "Brown," she said without even looking.
She frowned and looked at him in the mirror. "You’re saying my eyes aren’t brown?"
He shook his head, smiling at her reflection. "Your eyes are far from ordinary brown. Now, what color are they?"
"Well, they have a little . . . gold in them."
He kissed her cheekbone, letting his lips loiter against her skin as he spoke. His breath was hot and moist against hers. "They’re the color of fine bourbon or warmed maple syrup," he murmured. "What about your hair?"
"Brown. Well .. . reddish brown."
He eased back from her face. His hands slid across her shoulders and up the long, straight column of her throat. One by one he pulled the pins away. As if from a great distance, she heard them hit the floor with a tinny ping.
When they were all gone, he fanned his fingers through her long, curly hair, shaking it loose.
She blinked in surprise at her reflection. A riotous mass of wavy, mahogany-hued hair swirled around her pale face, softening the hard lines of her cheekbones.
Lamplight caught her hair and gilded it. Her eyes looked golden-brown and liquid against the creamy smoothness of her skin.
"You’re beautiful, Mariah."
A thrill zipped through her. For the first time, the words didn’t echo of the past or hint of mockery. She felt beautiful. A slow, trembling smile shaped her lips.
Smiling, he turned her around.
The passion in his gaze sent waves of heat undulating through her bcdy. Her quivering smile faded.
Slowly, without saying a word, he began to unbutton her dress.
Mariah felt his fingers brush the soft flesh of her throat and she flinched.
Anticipation and anxiety fluttered in her stomach. Her breathing sped up. She fought the urge to bal his hands away.
The buttons fell away, the fabric gaped. Cool night air slid in, caressing her skin in a tingling touch.
She squeezed her eyes shut.
As if by magic, the dress peeled away from her body and swished to the floor in a heap. She stepped out of it, kicked it aside.
"Open your eyes, Mariah."
She shivered. He made her name sound like something out of a love song. Slowly she opened her eyes and stared up it him.
He smiled. "I want you to see me kiss you." He bent toward her.
At first it was just a feather-stroke, a touch that lasted no longer than a heartbeat. A quiet sigh escaped her parted lips. It was different from the first kiss; that one made her feel desired. This one made her feel loved.
She closed her eyes, letting herself pretend—just for now—that they loved each other.
His mouth moved against hers. She felt the firm softness of his lips forming to hers, melding, joining. At the slow, steady contact, she felt the first pulsing strands of desire.
He drew back slightly, so that their lips were a hairs-breadth apart. She frowned and strained toward him, wanting more.
His tongue dragged lazily along her lower lip, tasting, exploring the full curve, then dipped into her mouth. The warm, liquid tip of it flicked against hers, causing a lightning bolt of heat to lodge in her chest.
He pulled her against him, hard. The kiss turned hot and demanding and passionate.
Marian’s heart slammed against her rib cage and pounded a breathless, stacatto beat. A deep, formless longing engulfed her, made her ache and pulse and need, for
The feelings scared and exhilarated her. She felt blissfully alive. She wanted to touch him, to explore his body, but she couldn’t force her arms to move.
His hands slid down her neck again, and she shivered uncontrollably as first one, then another finger slipped beneath the lacy eyelet of her chemise. He moved gently, with excruciating slowness, peeling the fabric back from her tingling flesh.
Half-naked, she shivered.
He grabbed her wrists and pulled them up, forcing her hands around his neck. She clung to him, feeling the soft steel of his neck, burying her fingers in his hair. The kiss deepened, became painful and intense. She pressed herself against him wantonly, achingly aware of his coarse, wiry chest hair on her n**ples.
With a groan, he swept her into his arms and carried her to the bed, letting her settle gently into the mounds of twisted sheets and blankets. The harsh, thick wool felt scratchy beneath her nak*d back, the sheets smooth and cool.
In the grip of her awakening sensuality, she noticed everything. The softness of the sheets, the coolness of the air on her skin, the moonlight spilling through the silvered windowpane.
Mad Dog kicked the door shut and came back to bed. But he made no move to join her; he just stood there, staring. His eyes were narrowed, and as dark as tarnished steel. Everywhere he looked, she felt singed.
She lay there, breathing hard, half-naked. She should have felt shame or fear, or any one of a dozen debilitating emotions. But she didn’t. Desire drugged her, made her feel sleepy and wide-awake at the same time.
He reached for his towel and unwound it, letting it fall to the floor in a heap of white.
Mariah stared at his aroused, nak*d body in awe. A tingling heat crept through her blood and splashed in fiery strokes across her cheeks. The dull throbbing inside her sharpened, took on a painful, needy edge. "Oh, my . .."
A slow, lazy smile spread across his face. "See what you do to me, Marian?"
He leaned toward her and pulled at the sagging drawstring waistband of her pantaloons. The flimsy linen slid away from her ticklish flesh, leaving her bare-skinned and exposed to his burning, intense gray gaze.
A shiver tore through her body.
"Don’t be afraid," he breathed, tossing the undergarment over his shoulder and crawling into bed alongside her. The old mattress sagged beneath his weight, the metal frame creaked.
"I’m not. . . ." She breathed the incredible words aloud.
He pulled her to him. Their nak*d bodies came together in a wall of searing heat.
She tilted her chin up and looked at him. A slow, seductive smile curved his lips as he bent down for a kiss.
Mariah closed her eyes, waiting for the moist, welcoming feel of his mouth.
His lips molded to hers, a soft caress that she answered with boldness, touching her tongue to his. She heard the hiss of his indrawn breath, and the sound filled her with a giddy sense of her own sensuality. She coiled her arms around him, held him tight and pressed her br**sts against the hard wall of his chest.
She kissed him with all the passion she’d hoarded for years. She licked him, laved him, nipped at him with her teeth. Her tongue met his, coaxing, teasing, probing, until they were kissing with blind, desperate passion.
The roughened pad of his fingertip grazed the tender flesh beneath her breast, tracing the pale globe with tormenting slowness. Then, in agonizing inches, he moved his knuckle upward, gliding toward the straining pink peak.
Mariah’s breath caught, held in a quivering gasp. Anticipation tumbled through her in an excruciating wave. She shivered, squeezed her eyes shut. Her body turned liquid, melted, as his thumb and forefinger closed around her pebbly nipple, drawing it out in a few gentle—then not so gentle—plucks. He squeezed the hardened tip and twirled it lightly back and forth before cupping the fullness of her flesh in his hand.
The damp heat of his palm enveloped her breast, sending shooting sparks of fire throughout her body.
Mariah’s breath broke into short, breathy gasps that burned all the way up her throat. The dull throbbing in her stomach radiated outward, lodging hot and hard between her legs. Restlessly, needing something she couldn’t name, she writhed in silent agony.
Fire filled her body, scorched her senses. The rapid, deafening beat of her heart hammered in her ears, matched the dull throbbing of her desire.
He drew back and let out a shaking breath. "Touch me, Mariah.. . ."
She wanted to. God, she wanted to. "I … I don’t know how."
"Try." He said the single word quietly, on an exhalation of breath that wafted across her damp forehead.
She moved her hand slowly upward. Wincing, biting down on her lower lip, she touched his neck.
"Lower," he said in a smiling voice.
Her fingers slid into the hair that furred his chest. She closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of him. Each strand of his chest hair seemed separated from the rest, wiry and soft. Her breath released in a quiet sigh of wonder. It filled her with a heady boldness, this right to touch his body at will.
She moved her hand downward again, through the thicket of his chest hair, over the hard rim of his last rib, to the soft, muscular concave of his stomach.
He shuddered. Goose bumps patterned the skin beneath her fingertips.
"Lower." His voice was ragged, his breathing labored.
She wet her lips again and pushed her hand down, down.
Suddenly the soft, firmly muscled expanse of his stomach was gone. Instead, she felt the mound of hair that grew between his legs.
"Oh, God …"
She took a deep, trembling breath and curled her fingers around him, surprised by the velvety texture of his skin and the steel-hardness of his desire.
She felt how much he wanted her, and it filled her with an unexpected sense of her own power. All of a sudden she felt beautiful and sexy and desirable—all the things she’d never been before. She tightened her hold on him and stroked him.
A quiet, animal-like growl erupted from his throat, and the sound, so primal and passionate, lodged like a spark of fire in Mariah’s heart.
He sank deeper into the covers. His pelvis pushed up into her hand. "Holy Christ . .
She looked up at him uncertainly. "Am I doing something wrong?"
He touched her face with trembling fingers. "Not hardly." Before she could say anything else, he pulled her into his arms.
His lips crashed down on hers in a powerful, passionate kiss that drove the breath out of her lungs and left her trembling with need. Restlessly she pushed against him, pressing against the hard length of his thigh.
His mouth moved away from hers, slid down to her chin, then moved on again, trailing moist, openmouthed kisses along her throat, over her collarbone to the soft swell of her breast.
The wet tip of his tongue flicked against her nipple. She gasped and arched toward him, her arms coiling around his back.
Wave after wave of hot, aching sensation spilled through Marian, becoming a pulsing ball of fire between her legs. She trembled with longing, arched against him, grinding her mound against the hardness of his thigh. She couldn’t keep still, couldn’t keep quiet. She moaned his name as his hand moved down the quivering, sensitive hollow of her stomach.
"Oh, God .. ." She swallowed thickly and threw her head back into the pile of pillows behind her.
His fingers pushed through the curly fleece between her legs and kept moving, searching, probing for a point of pleasure. He found it, slid his long, hard finger against her.
Marian gasped. Her body shuddered and turned liquid, melting in readiness.
He rubbed his finger against her. She groaned and closed her eyes as his hand moved in a frenzied, focused circle against her hot, wet flesh. She clung to him, her arms shaking with need, her palms slick with sweat. Her fingernails dug into his flesh, scoring it.