How could Annal¨ªa show MacCarrick how different she'd become if he hardly spoke to her anymore? She'd thought that when Hugh left he would relax some, but if anything, he'd grown more on edge.

If he was denying her because he couldn't father children, then that was simply unacceptable. Whenever she thought about his admission, she wondered if he'd been ill as a child, and her heart hurt to think of him in pain.

If he was doing this because he saw her as spoiled and closed-minded, then she'd have to force him to see that she wanted to learn, that she wanted to be better.

Annal¨ªa knew the most pressing reason why he was distant with her. So clearly they needed to get this lovemaking completed so they could be together. Decided on her course of action, she began planning. Tonight she'd bathed with the scented soaps the seamstress had brought her - the peculiar woman had returned with more clothing and evidently everything else she could lay hands on. After her bath, Annal¨ªa had slipped on a new nightdress she'd chosen from the selection, chosen specifically for particular characteristics.

Now she was ready. She wasn't as nervous as she'd imagined she might be - after all, this would be a bold move - but she knew that this was the course she was meant to take....

"MacCarrick!"

The door burst open a second later. "Anna, what is it - " He lost his voice when he saw her standing at the foot of the bed. "Go back to bed," he ordered in a harsh tone.

It didn't faze her. She stood determined before him and tugged the left string strap of her nightgown loose. The jet black silk slid down one side, just above her nipple.

His eyes widened as if in realization, then narrowed. "Doona do this."

She reached back and unpinned her hair, shaking her head until it spilled down her back. Her fingers rested at the other tie strap of her nightgown, ready to pluck.

His hand was shaking as he ran it over his face. "You canna keep temptin' me."

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She raised her eyebrows and tugged. The tie was on the verge of unraveling. She thought he was on the verge of unraveling. His body seemed to thrum with energy and tension throughout. She could hardly wait to touch it again.

His voice low, he said, "Anna, I am askin' you, please, doona - "

She pulled it loose.

The nightgown dipped, hesitating over her hard nipples before floating down past her waist and legs. "What were you saying?" she asked in a purring voice.

His jaw slackened. Taking down her hair had been merciless. The nightgown? Without the nightgown, the ground he'd managed to gain, or at least maintain, was now unrecoverable.

"If you keep pushing me, I will take you to bed, but it will no' be just to kiss you. It will no' be like last time." He struggled to keep his eyes on her face - away from her high breasts, away from her curving hips that he wanted to clench - yet even the look in her eyes was carnal. "There will be repercussions."

"I understand."

"I mean it, Anna," he said, his voice hoarse. "I will take you this night, I swear it." How could a man not be expected to make love to the woman he coveted above all things? When she presented herself like a newly unwrapped gift? He might as well be expected to voluntarily forgo breathing. Which was impossible. Denying himself the feel of her body?

Impossible.

Like a hit, things became very clear. She wanted him to make love to her, and he wanted her desperately. The reasons he'd come up with not to couldn't withstand this. Right now, he couldn't recall a single one anyway. He would take her so long and hard that she'd regret pushing. He kicked the door closed then strode to her, lifting her against his chest, forcing her to wrap her legs around his waist.

"Courtland," she said with a gasp as he carried her to the bed.

He sat on the edge, keeping her spread over his lap, his hands splayed against her bottom, squeezing. He scarcely believed she was naked on him, and had begun eagerly kissing his neck and face and removing his shirt as if she were hungry for him. He lowered his head to her chest, drawing her nipple into his mouth. When she cried out, he stopped, not quite kissing her, his lips just next to her skin. "Mo cridhe, are you tae be mine?"

She threaded her fingers into his hair. "Yes."

He grasped her face and met her eyes. "In all the ways, Anna?" he asked, his voice a rasp.

"Yes," she answered without looking away. "I will be yours in all ways."

He wanted to revel in what she'd just promised, but when he shrugged out of his shirt, she pressed her breasts against him, moaning softly and shivering from the contact, and he could only clutch her tighter against him.

Her hands petting him, her sex resting on his...He grated, "You'll make me lose control."

"I want you to."

"I canna. I need to - " He hissed in a breath when she ground against his lap. "I need to make sure you're ready." He lifted her up until her breasts were before his lips and dragged his tongue across her nipple.

She moaned, "I am ready."

"Your body must be ready." When she shivered once more, he stood and placed her on the bed, then removed his boots and his trousers. Unclothed, he lay on his side, easing her to her back so he could trace his fingertips around her wet nipples and down her belly until her stomach twitched.

He said against her ear, "I need you wet." When she bent one leg and her hips rose, he captured that leg and put it over his side, locking her there, parting her to him. "I want you tae ache with need."

"I am," she assured him. "I do."

He closed his eyes at the feeling of her sex as he spread the wetness all around. "More than this. That means I'll need tae tease you again and again...."

Slow, gentle strokes. Her flesh felt like heaven, and he groaned thinking he was going to be inside her tonight. When he slipped a finger into her, her back arched. As he continued to push in and out of her tight sex, she reached for his cock, but he drew his hips back.

"I...I want to put my hand on you."

"Canna do that." He could scarcely keep from bucking against her now. He knew she was about to ask why, so he cut off her question by working two fingers inside.

She gasped in surprise. "That's different than before."

He withdrew. "It is. But does it please you?" he asked with a slow push.

"I-I don't know," she said, beginning to sound nervous.

"There's no hurry," he lied. Already he wondered how he would get through this without losing his mind.

Luckily, after several more slow strokes, she grew accustomed and wetter. "It does please me," she whispered. "Very much." Her hands rubbed his chest as he did it again and again, learning her body, coaxing it to accept him.

"You like me touching you inside?" he grated at her neck where he'd been licking, though he knew she couldn't possibly like it better than he did.

"Yes!" She arched her back to come down hard on his fingers. She was so wet, so close even with his unhurried strokes. "I-I can't take much more."

He asked against her ear, "Do you need to come?"

"Yes," she whimpered, her body trembling, just on the verge.

That was his permission. He kissed her mouth hungrily as he released her, then rose over her to kneel between her legs. She was breathing fast, eyes heavy lidded, body supple. So desirable it hurt him. He returned two fingers to stir her. Just when she was on the verge, head thrashing, body tensing, he grasped himself to rub the tip against her wetness.

"Si us plau," she said on a moan. "Please," she'd said, sounding like she was in agony.

With care, he slowly worked just the head inside, though every part of him screamed to sink his hips into her. He didn't, even when she grew used to him. Even when she rolled her hips on the tip, the movement making her breasts quiver. "Ah, God, Anna." No greater torture.

Damn it, he had discipline. He knew what he wanted to happen, and now he just had to make sure it played out as he wanted. He put his hands against the wall and tried to focus on them - on the diametrical patterns of the paper, on anything but the exquisite woman writhing beneath him. On him. Focusing until he was not directly on the verge of ejaculating inside her.

The wall indented under his fingers, and the paper crumbled. Sweat dripped down his forehead. Every muscle in his body began to ache from strain.

He felt her putting her hands on his hips, trying to pull him inside. Somehow he resisted.

Finding no luck with his hips, she grasped the base of his rod. With her soft fingers wrapped around him, the head inside her...he could imagine...

He groaned, his head falling back. Without thought he pumped against her hand. He was losing control. "No, Anna - "

"Yes!" she whispered.

Control? He bucked against her hand again, pulled back to thrust harder.

Her hand was gone.

He surged in, ripping through the barrier, groaning from the tightness even as she cried out in pain. At once she tried to shake him loose from her. She shoved at him and struggled to close her legs.

"No, Anna. No." He took her by the shoulders and held her. He didn't want her to stop now. She would only remember pain. He remained still, praying the hurt would fade. Praying he wouldn't give in to the screaming urge to pin her down into the mattress and pump into her as hard as he needed to. He shuddered at the thought.

She'd quit moving, but her eyes were still squeezed shut.

"You have tae let your body adjust tae me."

"This is what the girls at school talked about, isn't it? The pain."

"You will no' have it like this again."

She said without taking a breath, "It hurts."

He stroked her hair from her forehead and kissed her there. "Mo cridhe, I wish it dinna."

She opened her eyes. They were glittering. She was hurting, and he felt it a thousand times. He cursed himself. Too delicate, her skin too soft beneath his hands. He carefully began to withdraw -

"No, wait," she whispered, and he froze. "It isn't as bad as it was."

Maybe not for her. He hurt as he'd never known. His sack was heavy and ached, his body pained him. The throbbing pressure was unbearable when her body was squeezing him like a fist. He rubbed his face against her neck.

"You should finish."

He groaned, knowing it was over. No control. He took her legs and pinned them against his hips, then sank into her once. He pulled out and drove harder, gnashing his teeth from need.

He put his head down and licked at her damp breast, and on his third stroke he came. Like an explosion, shooting into her heat, unable to stop himself from grinding mindlessly against her as it went on and on. He yelled out from deep within his chest, lashed by a pleasure he'd never imagined.