"I thought you'd be ready by now," Court said as he began forcing himself out of the doorway. The room was darkened but for one flickering lamp, and she was sitting at the headboard of the bed, clad in only her thin shift and a new bandage.

He'd given her plenty of time to bathe and dress, fearing he might see any part of her unclothed, and a glimpse of an ankle at this point would pain him. When he'd been assured she was safe, the memories from the coach began clawing at him. Even as he'd slept, he'd dreamed of a different ending entirely and woke heavy and aching for it. He'd even dreamed she'd said she wanted to be with him, though he'd realized on the ride back to her that she'd never meant to make love to him in the carriage. He'd pushed and had heard and seen what he wanted because he wanted her so badly.

And now to see her in nothing but a sheer piece of material, with her hair loose...

"Wait, MacCarrick. I need to speak with you."

He swallowed hard. "We can once you're dressed."

"Will you please come in?"

Why had he ever wanted her to learn to ask? Probably because he hadn't known it about himself that he couldn't deny her. He shut the door, then sat at the foot of the bed. "What do you need?"

"I've had a lot of time to think," she said softly.

He stared, dumbfounded, as she began crawling toward him.

When her breasts moved with each movement closer, he rubbed a hand over his mouth. "Uh-huh." If he'd known this was what he'd be returning to, he'd have been quicker about his tasks.

"This is a dangerous time for us."

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She'd always had that accent that drove him mad, but when she purred the words...Her voice made him hard as hell.

"Aye, it is." Though the urge to pull her to him and get his hands on that body was overwhelming, he remained still, breaths shallow, curious to see what she'd do next.

"And I don't want to wish I'd experienced something. Not when I can. Now. With you."

"With me," he agreed mindlessly. She was in bed with him. She wanted him, a rough Highlander. This was no longer a dream.

Perhaps it should stay that way....

"Anna, if you're doin' this because you were afraid when I was gone or because you feel beholden tae me...then..." Court, what the bloody hell are you saying? He shook his head hard. "As if I give a damn why. Come tae me."

She did. When she sat up on her knees before him and her lips were close to his, she whispered, "I'm asking you to make love to me."

He'd been shot. Undoubtedly, they'd gotten him.

Yet he wasted no time rolling her shift up her body and working it off her, fearing she'd change her mind. She followed his rapt gaze, then quickly glanced up. At first she was bold, but as he was unable to stop gaping at her wholly naked body, she brushed her hair forward to spill over her breasts and tugged the cover before her.

He simply shook his head at her, slowly, in warning.

"B-But you're staring."

He pulled the material from her, then drew her down flat on the bed, running his fingers through her hair to skim the soft curls to the side. "I'm starin' because you're more beautiful than I could ever imagine and it gives me pleasure tae look at you, all of you. I'm starin' because I never thought I would." His voice was unrecognizable. He sounded like a beast. With her golden skin and plump breasts and tiny waist, she looked like an offering.

"I've never been unclothed this long outside of a bath."

"You canna be shy with me."

"Why not?"

"Because it's me." He swept another greedy glance down the length of her body and hissed a curse. "Woman, I doona even know where to begin."

She bit her bottom lip. "It'd be easier for me to be unclothed if you were as well."

He didn't say a word, just drew off his boots, then snagged his shirt over his head without unbuttoning it. He stood at the foot of the bed and unfastened his trousers, easing them over his erection before they could drop.

"Oh, my..." she murmured, her eyes bright. She sat up, as she might at a picnic, her legs bent and tucked to her bottom. Still the lady.

He put his knee on the bed, preparing to go to her, nervous that he was about to take this woman.

"Wait."

Of course, wait. He closed his eyes in frustration. What was he doing imagining that he was about to make love to her? He should have known she'd come to her senses. Had to have known his luck had never run this high -

"Will you stay there?"

He opened his eyes to see her coming to him.

"You are completely unclothed, and I want to..." When she was on her knees in front of him, her face still close to his because of the high bed, she leaned in to whisper, "May I just learn you first?"

He tried to keep the disbelief from his face and pulled his knee back to stand fully. "You can do whatever you want tae."

Biting her lip, she put her hands to his face, brushing her thumbs over it, gently tracing the scar at his temple. She ran her soft palms down to his neck and shoulders, then along his arms. She tilted her head at his hands as if she didn't quite know what to do with them, then placed them on her shoulders as if she were putting them away. "Let's keep them there for now."

She was very serious about this. With his arms up, she explored his torso, sometimes lightly scratching, making the muscles contract painfully, though he didn't let her know, and she'd never guess it by the way his cock was responding to her touches.

"Anna," he grated when he saw she'd begun panting her breaths, her breasts rising in time, her nipples hardening to tempt his mouth. With great satisfaction, he realized she'd become aroused by touching him.

Then with one hand, fingers pointing down, she rubbed along his belly. "Every inch of you is hard as rock."

As she was slowly following the trail of hair down from his navel, he could only grunt in answer. Every lingering, teasing inch closer was increased agony. Then a shock of pleasure hammered through him when she grasped his shaft with one hand. Astonishment when she cupped him with the other. He clutched her shoulders and hissed a curse.

"Except here." Her nails lightly scratched the base of his sack, and his eyes rolled back in his head.

He dropped his knee back to the bed, drawing her in by her shoulders. When he kissed her, she gasped and said, "I wasn't finished."

"I was just about tae be."

When she frowned, he took her mouth in a fierce, wet kiss, thrusting his tongue into her, delving it against hers, a kiss more aggressive than the one in the coach. His hands found her backside, squeezing her, kneading her, and he could feel that she rolled her hips toward him even as she grasped his face and met his tongue.

He brushed the curls over her sex, reverently, and rasped against her lips, "Spread your knees for me." When she did, he dipped a finger into her wetness, groaning, "Anna, you feel so damn good."

Her head fell back, and she held on to his shoulders for support as he continued to explore her. He'd felt in the coach that she was tight, but knowing this time he meant to be inside her made him realize she was too tight.

He laid her back on the bed, grasping her by the waist and moving her bodily to the headboard. He took her legs to each side of his and spread her, taking time to kiss her pale inner thigh as he'd wanted to do since he'd met her. The contact was grazing - she probably could feel the heat of his breaths more than his lips - and she shivered.

Once more, his finger inside her, stirring her. She moaned, back arching, and he ran his other hand from her chest down between her breasts as he tried to fit a second finger inside. She was slick, incredibly lush, but she was too small. He could feel how untouched she was, could feel that she was a virgin.

His hands were dark and scarred against her sex, against her thigh. They looked...wrong. He felt big and hulking, and he knew he was about to hurt her. Isn't that the way of it? a part of him asked. But he would hurt her and then he would ruin her. It seemed too much, too great a price.

It wasn't good enough for her.

He leaned forward, careful to keep his shaft from touching her below, and placed his forehead against hers. "I canna do this tae you."

She tensed; he felt it strongly. "You don't find me desirable."

He reared back, shocked that a woman like her could ever draw that conclusion. "That's no' it."

She turned her face away. "I'm waiting to make love to you, we both are unclothed in bed together, and you won't? I think it's because you've decided you don't want me."

He snatched her hand and shoved it against his cock. "Can you no' feel how much I want you?"

The minute she wrapped her fingers around him, her body went languid, and she looked up at him dreamily. "Now you're just trying to distract my thoughts. To pacify me, when we've learned how much I like this."

He struggled for words. Pacify her? His brows drew together. It was important that she realize something...What was it?...Ah! "I vow tae you that I want you - "

"No, I think I understand what you're trying to tell me," she murmured, never taking her eyes from her slow strokes. "You're a big man. You need a woman who is a match to you. Like with horses."

"That's no' the issue - " He couldn't bloody speak when she looked at his cock...longingly, with regret.

She sighed. "I must be like a runt compared to strong Scottish women."

He'd meant to be good. He'd meant to be noble to her.

"I will show you how desirable I find you. How perfect you are tae me..."

With flicks of his tongue, he kissed her neck, down to her breasts, stopping to lavish attention on her nipples. He loved how sensitive she was there, how much she craved that. Another night he would suckle her until she came. He'd fantasized about pressing his fingers into her only to savor her already squeezing.

He moved down her body, kissing her flat belly, forcing himself to pull his shaft out of her hand, though her fingers tightened on him to prevent him, and then her hand reached out, patting blindly for it, a reaction that pleased him mightily.

Finally, he rested his chest on the bed between her legs and cupped her bottom.

"MacCarrick?" she asked nervously.

With the first exquisite taste of her, his hands squeezed too hard. He was starving for her, but didn't want to frighten her. He forced himself to break away, to get control.

"What is this?" she cried. "You can't do this!"

She tried to wriggle out of his grip when he lowered his mouth to her once more. A long, leisurely run of his tongue, feeling her soft flesh. His eyes closed in pleasure.

She gasped, outraged. "You must stop at once."

"Anna" - her name came out like a growl - "no force on earth could stop me."

"You," she began with a wavering breath, "you enjoy?..."

"Tasting you?"

She squirmed in embarrassment. "Yes!"

"I could lie between your legs and kiss you all night. But does this please you?" he asked before rubbing his tongue against her once more.

"No!"

He pulled back. "Liar."

"It's wrong."

"But does it please you?"

"It mustn't!"

"Let go. Let me bring you pleasure."

Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut. "I can't."

"Then all I ask is for you tae give me one last kiss and then I'll stop."

In a pained voice, she finally said, "Very well."

He bent down to her once more, licking gently, lulling her, before shocking her with the thrust of his tongue inside her. She arched off of the bed, moaning.

"Shall I stop?"

Her eyes still closed, Anna impatiently waved him on with the flick of her small hand.

He grinned smugly, then kissed her once more, sampling her, glancing up, loving her growing response.

It wasn't long before her taste was making him crazed and he was slowly grinding his hips against the bed. He spread her legs wide before him, forcing her to open to everything he wanted to do, and took her thoroughly, unable to get enough. Her head was thrashing, and she was lost now, needing to come.

He knew how much she wanted to, and it made him bear down on her madly, with little more thought than that of an animal. He removed his hands from her thighs and vaguely realized he was reaching for her breasts. With a groan, he put his arms to each side of her and clenched the sheets, head down, taking her with abandon.

She tried to pry them loose.

He broke away. "No. I'm no'...myself. I'll hurt you."

"Take. Please." She said the last as a moan, and placed his hands over her breasts.

Palming them, he groaned against her, tongue back to her soft, slick flesh, and she began to come under his lips, arching her back, pressing her breasts into his hands and grasping his head. Her cries had him bucking against the bed with need of her.

He moved to take her waist, to hold her steady, and watched, awed, as she skimmed her hands up her torso and brushed twice over her tight nipples before her arms fell over her head. She was completely lost to what he was doing to her, and nothing had ever affected him so. He kissed her with all the hunger he felt, wringing her, making her come longer, to a torturing degree, until her quivering finally eased and she went limp.

Reluctant to remove his lips from her skin, he lavished attention to her thighs and hips, then lay beside her so her breasts were just before him.

"Wait, MacCarrick," she said in sultry voice. "What about you? Did you?..."

"I'm fine," he grated before circling her nipple with his tongue. He would be. Because he was going to wait until she slept and then take care of himself. He would never ask her to finish him now, not after the thwarted time in the coach and then after his taking her this way tonight. He had no idea what would happen when he finally got to spend, having never ached for it so furiously -

"MacCarrick, I feel grateful to you, very grateful because of these things you've shown me - "

"You feel grateful tae me for this?" He'd take much more away - he'd replay this over and over in his mind for the rest of his life, starting as soon as she slept.

"Yes, and I will feel uncomfortable unless I can reciprocate." She placed herself under his arm, and rested her face against his chest. His body thrumming, he laid back and held her close, vowing he wouldn't ask her to make him come, even while feeling her breaths on him and shuddering....

She began walking her fingers down his chest.

His nerves were screaming, his mind begging...

"Ah, God, yes!" His back arched, his whole body rigid, when she handled him.

She stroked him as they'd done in the coach, her grip hard, as he liked it. He couldn't make her stop - he was too far gone. Apologies in advance.

She moved so slowly. Tormenting him up and down. Hard, tight, but slow. Torture. Didn't matter. He'd still come. He'd be insane, but...

His voice low and wretched, he rasped, "Whatever you do - whatever I do - doona take your hand from me...."

"I won't. But I thought," she began in a whisper before flicking her tongue against his chest, "I should lick and kiss you now?"

The thought of her licking his -

He erupted in her grasp, yelling out, heels digging into the bed and back arching, pumping his seed onto his torso. He reached around to seize her breast - clutching it, pawing it - and bent down to take her lips and tongue in a raw kiss. He ground against her hand, relentless, groaning between thrusts of his tongue, then tensing until there was nothing left of him.

It seemed hours before the world righted itself, and he finally stopped shuddering and released her breast and lips. "Did I hurt you? Did I hurt your arm?"

"No, not at all," she answered, her voice unsteady.

He put his fingers under her chin to bring her face up again, needing to know how she reacted to his total loss of control - and to her first sight of a man spending. Would she be disgusted? Upset?

No, her eyes were excited, her breathing rapid, as if she'd just witnessed a miracle. His brows drew together. He wasn't a modest man, but he didn't know how to feel about her expression of utter delight for him spilling in front of her. Should've been a means to an end, something that occurred as it would've in the coach, but she looked as though it was a trick she'd want him to perform every night for her. Worse, she looked at him... differently.

He pulled his shaft from her hand and his arm from under her, then left the bed, swooping the top sheet with him.

And he certainly didn't like that he had to wipe himself off while her gaze followed his every movement, her eyes wide and curious. He threw the sheet in the corner, then returned to bed. Not close to her.

If she noticed, she didn't act like it. She crawled to him, putting her head back on his chest. "That was amazing," she whispered.

"It's no' exactly a feat."

"Why didn't you make love to me? Am I too small?"

"No," he said, in half truth. He'd never thought he would curse his size before he'd been between her spread legs, glaring down at himself.

"Then why didn't you? Were you afraid to get me with child?"

"That's no' the reason." He wished that was the reason.

"Then what?"

"You still have your virtue. Your future husband will demand that."

"Husband? I don't know if you realize this, but being kidnapped by a gang of mercenaries severely curtailed my husband hunt."

"You could go to America. Marry a rich man there."

"I don't want to go to America."

"I read your letters, Anna."

She stiffened. "Why are you telling me this?"

"I read the one from the railroader's daughter writing about her brother." The brother had planned to ask Llorente for Annal¨ªa's hand. "I've heard of their name before. They have more money than the queen. You could go there - "

"Aleix already turned down his suit."

"Did he, then?" he said, his voice deadened. Why should that surprise him? Court had obviously lost his mind during those moments when he'd thought, What if I just keep her? Lost his mind thinking she might come to want him for more. "Still, there are options, but only if you're...intact."

"Would you demand that of me?" She rolled over on her stomach and propped her chin on her hand. "If you were to be my husband?"

I'd take you any way I could get you, he thought again. "I doona consider those kinds of things."

"Why?"

"Because I never plan to marry."

"Did a woman hurt you?"

"No."

"I don't believe you. Why else wouldn't you want a woman to have all your own?"

"No woman's hurt me."

"So the issue is that you don't want one woman. You want your harem."

If she only knew.... After tonight, she'd ruined him. Her hands brushing her nipples as he took her with his mouth. Inward shake. "Why settle for one when you can have many?"

"It isn't as if men stop having other women after marriage."

With you as his wife, this one would.

"But it's been repeatedly explained to me that though a man might require others, he has the need to possess one woman to call his own, the need to protect her and any children they have. It must be so, because both marriages and affairs go on. If you ignore that need, you'll miss out on so much, MacCarrick," she said softly but with conviction. She curled up next to his side again and laid her arm over his chest. His eyes briefly closed with pleasure.

"Enough of this talk." Perhaps before he let her go, he would explain to her that not all men were like that. That she should expect better.

Let her go.

Let passionate, brave, beautiful Anna go. She'd come along as punishment, no doubt. For all his sins. She was his perfect torment.

"So after you reunite me with my brother, you will just leave me behind like all the others."

He didn't hesitate. "Aye."

"Then I thank you for not ruining me further. Because I will have a family and children."

Barely hiding his exasperation, he asked, "Then why had you no' married earlier?"

"I won't tell you - you'll think I'm silly."

"Tell me." When she didn't answer, he squeezed her to him.

She sighed. "I was waiting for someone...for someone I could love. I know you probably think it's a fanciful notion, but I've seen it."

Court had too. His parents had been mad for each other. "Then you could marry where you chose to?"

She nodded against his chest. "In the beginning, yes, but I couldn't find anyone, so the choice was taken from me. After Pascal, I understand how vulnerable I am as long as I'm unwed."

He'd avoided asking her about her future because he'd known he wouldn't like her answer, but now he said, "What will happen to you once your brother retrieves you?"

She yawned, then murmured in a drowsy voice, "He'll take me to Castile and get the family to find a husband for me who'll overlook the scandal. I suppose it won't be so bad." She ran her smooth thigh over his legs, relaxing against him, her body warming for sleep. "MacCarrick," she whispered, drifting, "if I'd known husbands touch like you do, I'd have been much more eager to wed."

Court, the blackheart, the mercenary who'd sell his sister for a pound, just took a direct hit to the chest.