Keeley held her breath until she was light-headed and near to fainting. When she let it out, it came out in a rush that unsteadied her.
Before her stood a man—a warrior—that had no equal. He was honed by the fires of battle. Muscled. Scarred. Lean. No spare flesh on any part of his body.
He towered over her, his strength a tangible thing in the small space of the chamber. He could so easily hurt her, and yet she trusted him fully. His gentleness soothed her and made her ache with longing.
But looking at his groin with his … appendage … jutting upward like a battle flag, she cast a doubtful look upward. “Are you sure … Are you sure we’ll … it’ll … fit?”
She nearly groaned with her humiliation. How was she supposed to act like a grown woman who’d been on her own for the last years when she swooned at the mere sight of a man’s shaft. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t seen one before. She’d seen his for that matter, but they’d all been at rest. Not flagging upward like a battle-ax.
It amazed her that something soft and unremarkable could grow to such a size and appear so menacing.
Alaric laughed softly, and his eyes gleamed with amusement as he gazed down at her.
“Aye, it’ll fit. ’Tis your duty to accommodate me.”
She arched an eyebrow at his arrogance. “ ’Tis my duty? Who made this rule, warrior?”
He grinned. “You’ll soften and grow damp. ’Tis my duty to make that happen.”
She tried to keep the confusion and question from her voice, but it came out breathy, almost excited.
He moved in close and then leaned over her, his body so close to hers that his heat surrounded her and seeped into her flesh. “Aye, you will. I’ll make certain of that.”
He settled onto her, scorching her as their skin molded and her body melted into his. The hair on his chest lightly abraded her skin and his hair fell over his shoulders and onto hers.
“ ’Tis unseemly for a man to have such beautiful hair,” she murmured.
He levered up and scowled down at her. “ ’Tis unseemly to tell a man he has beautiful hair.”
She smiled. “Oh, but I love to run my fingers through it. Do you remember me washing you when we were still in my cottage? I dried it and put a brush to it and then I rebraided the strands at your temples. ’Twas like silk, the finest I’ve ever felt.”
“I remember an enchantress with her hands sliding through my hair. ’Twas like a dream I never wished to waken from.”
She reached up to capture his hair with her fingers and let the strands twine around the tips.
“And this is a dream I never want to waken from,” she whispered.
He captured her mouth. Fierce and hot. Not as gentle as he’d been before. He stole her breath. Demanded it and her kiss. His body moved urgently against hers, roughly as their legs twined and he branded her flesh with his.
His arousal was bold and hard, butting against the juncture of her legs. Instinctively, she parted her thighs, and then she gasped when the length of him slid along her most intimate flesh.
Indescribable sensations jolted through her body as his thick shaft rubbed along the tiny nub of flesh between her folds. She lifted her thighs, wanting more, but he pushed himself off her and slid down her body.
She would have protested, but his tongue swirled around her navel, and she promptly forgot all but his sinful mouth. But when he dragged his tongue even lower, she raised her head in alarm.
When he looked up at her, his eyes glittered, reminding her of a predator about to charge his prey. She shivered at the sheer intensity in his gaze. And the promise.
Slowly he lowered his head as his fingers gripped her thighs. He spread her, gently, but with enough force that she was helpless in his grasp. He pressed a tender kiss just above the thatch of curls and her entire belly quivered in reaction.
Her mind was afire with naughty, delicious thoughts of him touching her even more intimately with his tongue. She tingled from head to toe, and the room was so hazy around her that it felt as though she were swimming in waters heated by the sun.
“Oh,” she gasped when his fingers gently parted the delicate folds between her legs.
His thumb brushed over the sensitive little nub, and he trailed a single fingertip to her opening where he continued to tease.
When he touched his tongue to where his thumb had rested, the most peculiar, spectacular sensation thrilled through her pelvis and into her limbs. Her belly tightened with unbearable pleasure. It flooded her, tightening every muscle until her body quivered with the strain.
He continued a slow, decadent dance over feminine flesh, lapping and licking like she was a sweet treat. Her legs shook uncontrollably. Her senses spiraled out of control.
She reached down and thrust her fingers into his hair. Her breaths came in ragged, painful bursts, burning a path up her throat before exploding into the quiet.
He continued to nuzzle between her legs, kissing and tonguing her until she begged him to stop, not to stop, for more. And more.
She had no inkling of what was happening or what she should do. So she put herself into his care, gave her trust to him, and she let go of her fears and reservations.
Never had she imagined such a beautiful, physical manifestation of loving between a man and a woman. She knew the mechanics. She knew what had to occur, but somehow she’d thought it would be baser and faster. A quick penetration and maybe a cuddle afterward.
His hands explored her body, every inch, every secret was revealed to him. He kissed and caressed until she was near sobbing, desperate for something just out of her reach.
“Shh, lass,” he murmured as he rose up to position himself between her thighs once more. “I’ve got you. Trust me now. ’Twill hurt a bit at first, but stay with me. ’Tis a fleeting pain, I’m told. And I’ll take care with you.”
There was an odd, aching pulse between her legs. An unfulfilled ache that throbbed endlessly. She twisted restlessly, knowing she needed something more. Her hands flew to his chest in a silent plea for him to ease the ache.
His features drew into a tight, harsh line as he reached down to grasp his erection and guide it to her opening. The brush of his shaft against her entrance sent wave after wave of exquisite anticipation coursing through her.
He paused and their gazes met and held. The muscles in his arms bulged as he lowered himself over her body.
“Hold on to me, lass,” he whispered. “Hold me tight.”
She twined her arms around his neck and pulled him down to meet her lips. As they kissed, he pushed his hips forward the slightest bit. Her eyes flew open at the stretching sensation.
“Does it hurt?”
She shook her head. “Nay. ’Tis a full feeling. ’Tis wondrous. We’re joined.”
He smiled. “Aye, that we are, lass.”
He pushed again and her fingers curled into his back.
“Just a bit more and the worst will be over,” he soothed.
“Worst? But it hasn’t been bad so far,” she murmured.
He grinned as he kissed her. He withdrew and some of the pressure lessened. Then he probed gently once more and the sense of fullness, of stretching so tightly around him was back. She loved that feeling. She wanted more.
“Now, Alaric,” she whispered into his ear. “Make me yours.”
He groaned and moved so his forehead was pressed to hers. Their mouths were a breath apart and their gazes fastened to the other. Just as he thrust forward, he pressed his lips to hers and swallowed her startled gasp of pain.
She felt her body give way, could feel her maidenhead tear as he pushed through. The sudden burn of his complete possession unsettled her.
She became aware of him murmuring to her in a low voice. Sweet, soothing words. Praising her and telling her how beautiful she was.
“ ’Tis over, lass. You’re mine now.” His voice drifted over her ears, warm and husky. “I’ve dreamed of this moment when you take me deep into your body.”
He remained still as her body adjusted to their fit. Then he looked down into her eyes and in between kisses, he asked, “All right now? Is the pain gone?”
“ ’Twas naught but a twinge,” she reassured. “I feel nothing but pleasure.”
With a groan, he withdrew, and she sighed as her body tugged relentlessly at him. Tiny ripples of intense pleasure streaked through her blood, heating her veins until the room seemed overwarm.
Then he eased his way back inside her, watching her all the while as if worried he still caused her pain.
She reached for him and then wrapped her legs around him. “Take me. It doesn’t hurt. Please. I need you.”
It seemed it was all he needed to hear. He dropped down and gathered her tight in his arms and then he plunged forward, his hips meeting hers in a forceful thrust.
She closed her eyes as he rocked over her, their bodies undulating in perfect rhythm. The unbearable tension was back, only this time it didn’t lessen as it had when he’d stopped using his mouth on her.
There was no space between them. Only his hips and buttocks moved as he worked in and out of her body. Deeper and harder. She went slick around him and he moved with greater ease. The friction was so sweet, but it made her desperate for something she wasn’t sure of. Release. She needed release. But how?
“Don’t fight it, lass. Hold on to me and let go. Trust me.”
His words soothed the growing anxiety. She relaxed and did as he asked. She gave him herself. Her trust.
Faster and faster, they raced up a seemingly endless peak. Just when she was sure she could take no more and would beg him to cease, it was like stepping off into empty space.
The world around her blurred. Her body spasmed and wave upon wave of wondrous, mind-numbing pleasure splintered and fell over her.
His hold tightened around her. He drove into her and then held himself deep just before tearing himself away. She reached for him, afraid he was leaving her, but he collapsed back onto her and she felt hot spurts on her bare belly.
He lay atop her, heaving for breath. She dragged air into her lungs, but they burned with the effort. She simply couldn’t process what had just happened. Was this normal? Was this what happened every time a man and woman indulged in loving? Surely it couldn’t be, otherwise no one would ever get out of bed.
Alaric rolled them both to the side so that his weight was off her but she was still clasped tightly to his body. She felt his shaft pulsing against her belly and could feel sticky warmth on her skin.
It finally dawned on her what had occurred, and she was both grateful and sad all at the same time. He’d taken care not to leave her with child. She wouldn’t have to bear the shame of an illegitimate child while he married another and bore legitimate issue.
Yet the idea of having a part of him, his precious child, was bittersweet. She’d never take another man to her bed after Alaric. She’d never bear children.
She sighed and snuggled into his embrace. Perhaps ’Twas too dramatic to be thinking such thoughts, and perhaps once Alaric was long gone, she’d think differently about another man. A lifetime of loneliness was hardly a balm for a broken heart. But those matters were for another time. For now, she couldn’t even think of ever being so intimate with another.
Alaric gathered her close and kissed her forehead. “Did it hurt over much, love?”
She shook her head against his chest. “Nay, warrior. You were true to your word. You were gentle, and I felt hardly a pinch when you pushed inside me.”
“I’m glad. The last thing I ever want to do is cause you pain.”
Her heart ached just a bit at his words, for she knew that eventually, despite his best intentions, his marriage would cause her pain.
Determined not to allow the future to cast a pall over the present, she laid her head on his shoulder and pressed a kiss to his hard muscles.
“Tell me, warrior, how soon can we do this again?”
He tensed against her and then tucked a finger under her chin, forcing her gaze upward. His eyes gleamed with anticipation, and the heat in his gaze made her heart pound faster.
“As soon as you tell me aye.”
“Aye,” she whispered.
Alaric rose on his elbow, blinking away the sleep, and stared across the chamber to the hearth where Keeley had placed another log on the fire. She sat back on the bench, her nude body silhouetted by the orange glow, and for a long moment she stared into the flames just as he stared at her.
She was beautiful. Feminine and yet strong. She was soft and silken, but she had an inner thread of strength that astonished him in light of her past.
Not many lasses could have survived on their own after being cast out of their clan. Many would have adopted the very life she’d been accused of. There weren’t many ways for a woman to survive on her own and yet Keeley had done so.
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and turned her head to look in Alaric’s direction. Her eyes widened in surprise for a moment before she broke into a shy smile.