Turning her away was far more painful for him than it was for her. In time she’d understand he was doing the admirable thing. In time she’d appreciate the sacrifice he was making.

"Not now," he said again, more forcefully this time.

She blinked, stunned. "When?"

"Later," he answered with confidence. "After the baby’s born."

Hannah jerked her head back and went pale as if he’d slapped her hard. She was in such a rush to leave him, she nearly fell onto the carpet in the process of climbing off his lap. Her breath came in staggered gasps as she backed away from him, her hands at her throat. Huge, glistening tears brimmed and then spilled like pearl-shaped drops of dew from her eyes. She had the stricken look of someone in great pain.

"Hannah…" Riley thought he’d feel noble and generous, doing the right thing. Instead, he felt like a louse. "I… want you. It’s just that – "

"Not now, you don’t!" she raged, tears streaming down her face in a flood of emotion. "Not when I’m fat and ugly with your child!" She stumbled as she turned to run from him, nearly colliding with the end of the sofa. She caught herself, then raced toward their bedroom, slamming the door. The sound echoed in the room like a pistol shot.

Hannah’s sobs tore into Riley’s heart like the edge of a dull, rusty knife. He’d never meant to hurt Hannah. He was only trying to do what was right.

Suddenly he felt weary, more tired than he’d ever been in his life. Tired of being virtuous. Sick and tired of living up to the standards of a dead man. He’d leave nobility for men like Jerry Sanders, who’d been born for such things.

Abruptly he stood, and never feeling more at a loss in dealing with his gently reared wife, he headed for the bedroom. His hand was on the knob when he paused. Sure as hell, he’d hate himself in the morning if he made love to her. The regret would eat at him like battery acid, the way it had the night of Seafair. The guilt of breaking the promise he’d made to himself would consume him, come dawn. It would follow him out to sea and haunt him the long months they’d be apart. If there were any complications when the baby was born, Riley knew he would blame himself for these moments of weakness.

Regrets were a funny thing, Riley mused darkly. He’d lived with them most his life in one form or another. One important rule about remorse, something profound he’d garnered over the years: if he was going to suffer regret, then he made damn sure it was worthwhile.

With that thought in mind, he pushed open the door and walked inside their bedroom.

Hannah was sprawled on top of the mattress, sobbing as though her-heart were shattered. Knowing he was the cause of those tears ate at him like the teeth of a piranha. Not knowing exactly what to do to comfort her, he hesitantly walked across the room and sat on the edge of the bed. Poising his hand above her, he hesitated still, then gently began to pat her shoulder.

The instant she felt his touch, Hannah jerked away as though she found him repulsive.

"Leave me alone," she wailed.

"Can we talk?"

"No." She scooted out of his reach, so far away it was a wonder she didn’t topple onto the carpet on the other side of the bed.

"I don’t find you ugly," Riley said, rushing to ease her mind. "You’re so beautiful, I can’t keep my eyes off you."

She raised her head and glared at him, her look hot enough to blister paint. It was more than apparent she didn’t believe him.

"Come here, Hannah."

"No… If you so much as touch me, I swear… I’ll phone the police."

"You’d better start dialing now," he muttered. Standing, he shucked his shirt, balled it up in his hands and tossed it on the floor. His slacks came off next.

"Wh-what are you doing?" she demanded, her voice trembling. She crowded into the corner of the bed, drawing her feet under her, her hands clenched over her breasts.

"What does it look like?" he answered calmly. "I’m getting ready to make love to my wife."

Royalty couldn’t have tilted a chin with more finesse. "Don’t do me any favors, Riley Murdock."

"The only favors we’ll be giving will be to each other," he assured her, pulling back the sheets and climbing inside the bed. She continued to stare at him as though he were a stranger. In many ways he was, even to himself. "I’m going to need some help," he told her, unaccustomed to dealing with the intensity of the feelings she aroused in him. Even though she was on the other side of the bed, her effect upon him was total. His need for her clawed at him. "I don’t want this to be like the first time. I don’t want to hurt you."

"You didn’t," she whispered in a soft, meek voice. "It… was just that I wasn’t expecting… you know."

"Yes, I do know. I’m sorry." He held out his arms to her. "We’ll start by kissing and go slow and easy. Just promise to tell me if I’m hurting you."

She hesitated as if she weren’t sure she could believe him, as though she were frightened even now that he’d reject her.

"Promise me," he repeated, holding his arms out to her.

"I promise." She made the short journey across the bed to his side, slipping her arms around him and pressing her head to his chest. Every place she touched him branded Riley. Closing his eyes, he willed himself to remain coolheaded and in control. They’d go about this slow and easy. With that thought in mind, he directed his mouth to hers.

His intentions were lost, cast into a never-never world where all good intentions eventually landed, the instant their lips touched.

Riley was desperate for Hannah. Desperate and greedy. And she for him. Their kisses were primitive and wild, a raging storm of need, too long repressed.

The desire to woo Hannah, to seduce her gently, to cast aside all fear and pain, was lost; vanished on a tide of need so overwhelming there was no turning back, no time for second thoughts, no time except to feel.

Hannah moaned in welcome, opening her mouth to him. Riley plunged his tongue forward, probing deeply, to mate with hers in a frenzied erotic game. He lowered his head and dragged a gulp of air into his lungs as he blazed fire-hot, love-hot kisses down her throat and neck. Her hands clawed at him, wanting more, demanding more. He tangled his fingers in her hair and rushed his mouth back to hers. Her lips were wet and warm and welcome, so damned welcome.

The sound of her whimper was the purest form of ecstasy he’d ever known. His groan echoed hers as he dragged his hands, almost against his will, down the silky-smooth front of her gown. He was rewarded as the fullness of her breasts filled his palms. Her nipples hardened instantly, and it was all Riley could do not to cry out. Hannah whimpered anew and arched toward him.

Riley’s hands continued their downward progression, resting on the swell of her abdomen that was their growing child, reminding him of the rich fruit their lovemaking had planted.

"I’m so big," she moaned between kisses.

"So damned beautiful."

His hands roved around the thickness of her waist and over the sculpted contours of her hips to the perfect roundness of her buttocks. He dragged her closer to him, savoring the feel of her against the heat of his groin. Inch by sweet inch, Riley’s fingers worked the silk gown upward until his hands met her bare thighs. Fire, the hottest he’d ever known, singed his fingers as he stroked the warm silk on the insides of her smooth legs.

"Hannah…" He felt he had to warn her of the coming invasion. "I’m going to touch you."

"Yes, oh… please." She parted for him, her eyes bright with passion, locking with his in the muted moonlight. She bit into her lower lip as his finger slipped steadily upward. She groaned softly as he deftly parted the folds of her womanhood. Riley stilled, his heart racing, afraid he was doing something to pain her.

"Don’t stop," she pleaded, her long fingers digging into his shoulders. Her hips swayed, urging him to continue. Riley didn’t need any encouragement. He wanted this as much as she did. He was ready to explode, had been from their first kiss and he wasn’t even inside her yet.

His finger continued its silken journey until he’d sunk as far as he dared go. The heat of her, the moist honey of her readiness produced a groan of heady excitement from Riley.

"Are you ready?" Her body was prepared, but he found it equally important that she be mentally primed for the physical realities of their lovemaking.

His hands trembled as he tugged the gown over her head and discarded it. He longed to talk to her, to ease her fears and any discomfort she might experience when he entered her. But he found himself incapable of muttering a single sound. His fears were rampant. He was afraid he’d be too heavy for her. That he was too large for her. He feared his weight might somehow injure the child.

Hannah must have read the uncertainty in his eyes. "It’s all right," she whispered, linking her arms around his neck, bringing him down to her. She kissed him as though that would convince him all was well.

"The baby?"

"Will be fine---I’m not so sure about me, though, if you keep me waiting much longer."

Riley loved her in that moment, more deeply than he thought it was possible to love another. Taking infinite care, he moved over her, lowering himself between her legs, which she’d willingly parted for him. His gaze burned into hers. Going as slowly as his body would allow, he positioned himself and entered her unhurriedly, watching her closely for any sign of pain or discomfort, giving her ample time to adjust to him, to his body invading hers.

Hannah dosed her eyes and dragged in a deep breath.

"I’m hurting you?"

"No… not in the least. I… don’t remember it feeling this good." Her hands tightened around his neck, and she hooked her feet around the backs of his knees and shifted upward, as though taking in every part of him were of the utmost importance.

When he was as deep as he dared sink, he shuddered, surrounded as he was by the most intense pleasure. Surrounded by joy. And love. He stared down on her, his heart full, and she looked up at him, her gaze as warm as liquid honey.

"You’re sure?" He had to ask, had to know.

"Yes… oh, please."

A frenzy of long-denied need overtook him then as his hips pumped against hers. Rhythm was lost to him. So was the proper pacing. He took her swiftly. Then slowly. Then fiercely. Then gently. Their mating was wild and raw and hot. So unbelievably hot that Riley felt consumed by the fire of his need. Of her need. Of them together.

Riley’s completion came in minutes, with a flash of pleasure so keen it bordered on pain. It was over. Far too quickly. Much too soon.

He hadn’t finished making love to Hannah and already he was worrying about how long it would be before he could have her again.

Holding her against him, his hands in her hair, he savored the closeness they shared. Wrapping his legs around hers, Riley rolled onto his side, taking her with him, maintaining the intimate link between them.

Their eyes met and Hannah released a soft, feminine sigh, then smiled. Tears streaked her face, and Riley reached out and, frowning, brushed them aside. He’d hurt her, only she’d never admit it. His stomach tightened.

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