Feeling the blush creep into her cheeks, she smiled and nipped his finger between her teeth.

"Ah, a wee fox, is it?" James pulled his finger from her mouth and traced her lower lip with his thumb. He leaned in to kiss her slowly.

"And this spill of satin, russet like leaves in autumn," he said, raking his fingers through her hair. "I should have paid heed. Not a hen, but a fox, I see." He grabbed her bottom and nipped at her neck, his husky laugh echoing low off the stone walls.

Magda giggled again, and sat up slightly to lean on her elbow, head in hand. Her face grew serious as she thought about what he'd said. A ready smile is the last phrase she'd have used to describe herself, and yet something had happened to her since meeting James.

Through the years, she'd adopted a reserved exterior, taking refuge in formalities and solitude. But James hadn't been fooled. He'd cajoled and teased with a nonchalant charm that masked his own true nature, thoughtful and noble, until he'd shattered her world. She was, she thought with a quiet smile, rendered quite literally naked, and was surprised by the comfort she'd discovered in her own skin. Magda felt loose and expansive, discovering that easy laugh he claimed to cherish.

Magda studied the man lying naked by her side, and the knowledge that he watched her do so sent a flash of heat licking up between her legs. She slowly pushed down the plaid he'd used to cover them and traced her fingers over

James's stomach, the ridges of his belly like hard islands of muscle. She drew her fingers lower still, to the line of hair below his navel.

He shivered as she moved lower, feathering light touches up and down his thighs and all around, grazing everything but his growing hardness. Emboldened by a new spring of confidence, Magda was taking great pleasure in teasing him.

James reached up to take her mouth with his, but she pushed him back down instead, tormenting him as she rubbed closer and closer, until she took him into her hand. He gasped, and she answered with a devilish smile. His skin was like silk under her fingertips, and the mere feel of him, and of his body's aggressive response to her touch, lit in Magda an urgent need to feel James again in her, and over her.

"Take me in your mouth." Her voice was breathy, greedy. Reaching up to kiss her, James heard his own voice groan in response. Never, he believed, had a woman so embraced a man as Magda did now. Never had a woman so inflamed him. He felt at once humbled by such a great gift, and nearly blinded by the lust that pounded through his veins.


James steadied his breathing. He'd need to control himself lest he finish before he even got started. The tartan slipped to the floor as he slowly turned Magda on the bed and held her beneath him.

James marveled at her long pale body under his, and at her broad mouth smudged dark from his kisses, and he was devastated by his want for her. For a moment, it was as if he'd forgotten what to do. James merely stared, overwhelmed by the beauty in his hands.


James heard her plea in the dark, and he was ne arly unmanned.

He kissed her lightly on her neck and down her chest, lingering to taste each breast, small and round in his palms. Then he kissed down her stomach, smooth and warmed amber by the flickering candlelight.

James moved lower, raking his fingers lightly through the thatch of hair between her legs as he kissed down her thigh. Magda moaned, arching up to press against him. He kneaded her, felt her damp with desire in his palm. Magda whimpered her protest as James dragged his hand away and continued to trace tongue and lips down her leg. Reaching her foot, he began to kiss up along her other leg, moving more urgently now, hungrily working back up between her thighs.

With an eager moan in his throat, James took her in his mouth, and Magda cried out, her breath coming in quick, shallow gasps. She threaded her fingers in his hair and pulled him more tightly to her, and James felt ready to explode with want for this woman. She was so open beneath him. So miraculously perfect. Magda stiffened, held her bre ath for a moment, then bucked her hips up. She shouted his name, and James felt his body surge harder in response.

His lips parted, hungry to taste all of her, and James crawled up the bed, covering her body with his own. Kissing her deeply, James took her again.

Her body still pulsed from her climax, and he held motionless inside her until once again her hips began to rock, urging him on. He felt himself close to the breaking point, and eager to prolong it, James effortlessly scooped Magda off the bed.

"Oh !" Her face betrayed a glimpse of surprise, and then renewed appetite, as James strode to sit in the chair at her door, not once pulling from her. Magda rocked into him as he stroked his hands up her back, sucking at her mouth and breasts, his words of love and lust murmured over the creak of the wooden chair.

He felt her body tense again and he pulled her mouth to his for a frantic kiss. He drove into her one last time and then they froze, suspended in time, as the world fell away around them.

Chapter 23

Dawn sidled through her cell's slit of a window, casting a slice of yellow light along James's naked shoulder. Magda dared not move, savoring the opportunity to stare unabashedly at him. She was struck by the difference in his features. Awake, the man was all bold charisma. It was how she pictured him in her mind's eye, and it was what she'd fallen in love with. But to watch him sleep, his face still and at peace, she saw how classically handsome he was. It was as if his broad personality overshadowed his fine features. She took in the sight of those thick brown lashes resting on his cheeks, his strong jaw, and the long, taut body forged by a lifetime of swordplay and horsemanship.

His eyes opened, and Magda gave a start.

"Hi," she whispered.

James held her with his gaze, and cupping her cheek in his hand, silently leaned in to kiss her deeply.

"What did I do to deserve that?" She tucked her blanket under her arm and nestled happily onto her side.

"What did you do?" Cocking his brow, he reached over and pulled her easily on top of him. "What did you not do?" His laugh rumbled low and sexy in the quiet of the room.

"I hope I didn't shock you," she said, suddenly unsure. "Shock me?" James rolled her to his other side, and leaned his face close to hers. "Oh Magda, my love." He kissed her gently on her brow. "The only shock has been discovering how deep is my love for you. It's as if I've discovered raging depths, having only known water's frozen surface."

Fighting not to smile, he added with mock gravity, "As for last night, I invite you henceforth to shock me at your leisure, hen."

Magda didn't appear completely certain, so James pressed on. "I suppose, in my"—he cleared his throat " understanding— , there are some women, aye, who are perhaps more likely to, say, lie politely until the man's deed is done."

A smile split Magda's face, a very unladylike snort escaping her. "Haven't I been polite?"

"Oh aye, most accommodating." He traced his fingers down her arm, and Magda's skin pebbled at his touch. The playfulness in his eyes darkened. He took her hip in his hand and pulled her firmly to him, already hard and insistent between them. Her muscles, though sore, roused at once to life, and she felt fresh dampness between her legs, mingling with last night's musk.

"And I'd have you accommodate me once more before breakfast."

She woke this time to the sight of James standing naked at the window. Magda stretched, staring at his muscular back and legs as he craned his neck to see out.

Hearing her movement, he turned and gave her a languorous appraisal, his gaze slowly raking over her body, eyes narrowing with admiration. "What say you, love? Seems a bonny day for a handfasting."

She gave him a tentative smile, inexplicably nervous in the light of day. "So… a handfasting. Is it like a marriage then?"

"Och, no." He was at the bedside in an instant, on his knees before her. "I vow I shall give you a proper wedding." James swept the hair from her face, tracing his finger around her cheekbones, her lips. "I shall drape you in gold and silk finery, feed you with my own hand the finest of foods. No"—he took her hand, twining his fingers carefully in hers—"this is but a handfasting. Some in Scotland see it as but a promise, a betrothal like, while others see it as a union true. But we"—he gave a squeeze and brought her hand to his chest—"we shall give it our own meaning. I shall pledge myself to you until such time as I can give you my heart in the grandest of ceremonies. Before all of Scotland, if I could."

Certain again, she gave him a wordless nod as she blinked the sudden sting from her eyes. He laughed then, a joyful sound, and she giggled, unable to stop from joining him. He stood, inhaled deeply, and announced, "I'm a man starved."

"Me too." Magda smiled unabashedly at him. "Do you think they still have breakfast?"

"Och." he strode back to the window, "by the sun in the sky, I'd say the brothers broke their fast hours ago."

As if on cue, chanting rose up through the window, a low resonant hum rumbling through the priory grounds. "No, hen, by the sound of it"—he stood silent for a moment—"if we rush, we can make the noontime meal."

"How do you know so much about this place?" Magda rose to dress, tamping down the instinctive and momentary shame at standing naked before him. As if sensing her discomfort, he flashed her a warm smile and set to gathering his clothes from the floor.

"And you haven't told me how you knew I'd be here," she added.

"When I heard you were captured, we went straight for Campbell lands. It wasn't long before we heard of your escape. To say you vexed the Campbell would be understating the matter, aye? He combed the lands around Castle Gloom for days." Magda watched in awe as James deftly wound the yards of tartan around his waist. "I heard tell they lost your trail somewhere around the loch. It was then I remembered this spit of land. I'd hoped…" He stopped short, wincing with the pain that flashed in his eyes. Still holding the loose end of his tartan in one hand, he stepped to Magda and tangled the other in her hair, pulling her close to steal a quick kiss. "I'm just thankful you found this place. That I found you."