He nearly ripped her nightgown from her body.

And then . . . he stopped.

He stopped to breathe, to simply look at her and revel in the glorious perfection of her body. Her breasts rose and fell with each breath, and with a trembling hand, he reached out and cupped one, nearly shuddering with pleasure from just that simple touch.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered. She must have heard those words before, thousands of times, but he wanted her to hear them from him. “You are so . . .” But he didn’t finish, because she was so much more than her beauty. And there was no way he could say it al, no way he could put into words all the reasons his breath quickened every time he saw her.

Her hands rose to cover some of her nakedness, and she blushed, reminding him that this must be new to her. It was new to him, too. He’d made love to women before, probably more than he wanted to admit to, but this was the first time . . . she was the first one . . .

It had never been like this. He couldn’t explain the difference, but it had never been like this.

“Kiss me,” she whispered, “please.”

He did, yanking his shirt over his head right before he settled his body atop hers, skin to glorious skin. He kissed her deeply, then he kissed her neck, and the holow of her colarbone, and then finaly, with a pleasure that tightened every muscle in his body, he kissed her breast. She let out a soft squeal and arched underneath him, which he took as an invitation to move to the other side, kissing and sucking and nipping until he thought he might lose control right then and there.

Dear God, she hadn’t even touched him. He still had his breeches fuly fastened, and he’d almost lost himself. That hadn’t even happened when he was a green boy.

He had to get inside her. He had to get inside her now. It went beyond desire. It went beyond need. It was primal, an urge that rose from deep within him, as if to say that his very life depended on making love to this woman. If that was mad, then he was mad.

say that his very life depended on making love to this woman. If that was mad, then he was mad.

For her. He was mad for her, and he had a feeling it was never going to go away.

“Anne,” he moaned, pausing for a moment to try to gain his breath. His face rested lightly on the tender skin of her bely, and he inhaled the scent of her even as he fought for control of his body. “Anne, I need you.” He looked up. “Now. Do you understand?” He rose to his knees, and his hands went to his breeches, and then she said . . .


His hands stiled. No, she didn’t understand? No, not now? Or no, not—

“I can’t,” she whispered, and she tugged at the sheet in a desperate attempt to cover herself.

Dear God, not that no.

“I’m sorry,” she said with an agonized gasp. “I’m so sorry. Oh, my God, I’m so sorry.” With frenetic motions she lurched from the bed, trying to pull the sheet along with her. But Daniel was still pinning it down, and she stumbled, then found herself jerked backward toward the bed. still, she held on, tugging and puling and over and over again saying, “I’m sorry.”

Daniel just tried to breathe, great big gulps of air that he prayed would ease what was now a painful erection. He was so far gone he couldn’t even think straight, let alone put together a sentence.

“I shouldn’t have,” she said, still trying to cover herself with the damned bedsheet. She couldn’t get away from the side of the bed, not if she wanted to keep herself covered. He could reach out for her; his arms were long enough. He could wrap his hands around her shoulders and pull her back, tempt her back into his arms. He could make her writhe and squirm with pleasure until she couldn’t remember her own name. He knew how to do it.

And yet he didn’t move. He was a bloody stupid statue, up there on the four-poster bed, on his knees with his hands clutching at the fastening of his breeches.

“I’m sorry,” she said again, for what had to be the fiftieth time. “I’m sorry, I just . . . I can’t. It’s the only thing I have. Do you understand? It’s the only thing I have.”

Her virginity.

He hadn’t even given it a thought. What kind of man was he? “I’m sorry,” he said, and then he almost laughed at the absurdity of it. It was a symphony of apologies, uncomfortable and utterly discordant.

“No, no,” she returned, her head still shaking back and forth, “I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have let you, and I shouldn’t have let myself. I know better. I know better.”

So did he.

With a muttered curse he got down from the bed, forgetting that he’d been pinning her in place with the sheet. She went stumbling and twirling, tripping over her own feet until she landed in a nearby wingback chair, wrapped up like a clumsy Roman, toga askew.

It would have been funny if he hadn’t been so bloody close to exploding.

“I’m sorry,” she said again.

“Stop saying that,” he practicaly begged her. His voice was laced with exasperation—no, make that desperation—and she must have heard it, too, for she clamped her mouth shut, swalowing nervously as she watched him pull on his shirt.

“I have to leave for London, anyway,” he said, not that that would have stopped him if she hadn’t done so.

She nodded.

“We will discuss this later,” he said firmly. He had no idea what he’d say, but they would talk about it. Just not right now, with the entire house waking up around him.

The entire house. Good God, he realy had lost his head. In his determination to show Anne honor and respect the night before, he’d ordered the maids to put her in the finest guest bedroom, on the same hall as the rest of the family. Anyone could have walked through the door. His mother could have seen them. Or worse, one of his young cousins. He couldn’t imagine what they would have thought he was doing. At least his mother would have known he wasn’t kiling the governess.

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