"Had a ship," Lyon corrected. "Fire destroyed it, but I plan to build another."

"With your own hands, Lyon?"

Lyon smiled down at her. "No, love. I'll hire others to do the work."

"I liked the ship I was on when I came to England. I didn't like it much below the deck though. It was too confining," she admitted with a shrug.

Her voice trembled. So did her hands when she started to dry his shoulders. There were several glorious marks on him, and the sight of such handsome scars made her heartbeat quicken.

For the first time in his life, Lyon was actually feeling a little awkward. Christina was such a beautiful woman, while he was covered with marks. They were reminders of his black past, Lyon thought, but the ugly scars hadn't bothered him until this moment

"I promise to take you on my new ship," he heard himself say.

"I would like that, Lyon," Christina answered. The towel dropped to the floor when she gently traced the long, curved scar on Lyon's chest. "You are so handsome," she whispered.

"I'm covered with flaws," Lyon whispered back. His voice sounded hoarse to him.

"Oh, no, they are marks of valor. They are beautiful."

She was looking up at him, staring into his eyes, and Lyon thought he'd never get used to her beauty.

"We should go back downstairs." Even as he said the words, he was pulling her into his arms. God help him, he couldn't stop himself. The realization that he was alone with her, that they were in fact in her bedroom, rocked all the gentlemanly thoughts out of his mind.

"Will you kiss me before we go downstairs?" she asked.

Lyon thought she looked as though she'd already been kissed. A faint blush covered her cheeks, and her eyes had turned a deep blue again.

The woman obviously didn't understand her own jeopardy. And if she only knew the wild thoughts rambling through his mind, her face would turn as white as the sheets.

She trusted him. She wouldn't have asked him to kiss her if she didn't trust him. Lyon was going to have to control his baser instincts. Yes, he was going to be a gentleman.

One kiss surely wouldn't hurt. He'd wanted to take her into his arms the moment the fight had ended. The anger had been flowing like lava through his veins. Oh, he'd wanted her then, with a primitive passion that had shaken him.

And then she'd backed away from him. The sudden remembrance gave him a start.

"Christina, are you afraid of me?"

She could tell he was serious. The worry in his gaze said he was. The question was puzzling. "Why would you think I'd be afraid of you?" she asked, trying not to laugh. He did look terribly concerned.

"After the fight, when you backed away from me…"

She did smile then, couldn't help herself. "Lyon, the little skirmish I witnessed couldn't possibly be called a fight… and you actually thought I was afraid?"

He was so surprised by her comment, he immediately defended himself. "Well, I'll admit that I didn't think it was much of a fight either, but when you stared at me with such a frightened look on your face I naturally assumed you were upset. Hell, Christina, most women would have been hysterical."

By the time he'd finished his statement, he'd gone from sounding very matter-of-fact to muttering with irritation.

"Was it my duty to weep, Lyon? I apologize if I've displeased you, but I've still to understand all your laws."

"You could make a duck daft," Lyon announced.

Because he was grinning down at her, Christina decided not to let her exasperation show. "You're the most confusing man," she remarked. "I have to keep reminding myself that you're English."

The temptation was too compelling. Before she could stop her inclination, she reached out to touch his chest. The heat in his skin felt good against her fingertips, the mat of hair crisp yet soft.

"I wasn't afraid of you, Lyon," Christina whispered, avoiding his eyes now. "I've never been afraid of you. How could I be? You're such a gentle, kind man."

He didn't know how to answer her. She sounded almost in awe of him. She was wrong, of course. He'd never been kind or gentle. A man could change, though. Lyon determined to be anything and everything Christina wanted him to be. By God, if she thought him gentle, then gentle he'd be.

"You really are a warrior, aren't you, Lyon?"

"Do you want me to be?" he asked, sounding confused.

"Oh, yes," Christina answered, daring a quick look up.

"Warriors aren't gentle," he reminded her.

She didn't want to press the issue because she knew he wouldn't understand. He was wrong, but it would be rude of her to set him straight. Her hands slipped around his neck, her fingers entwining in his soft, curly hair.

She felt him shudder; his muscles tightened.

Lyon would have spoken to her, but he was certain his voice would betray him. Her touch was driving him to distraction.

Gentle, he cautioned himself, I have to be gentle with her. He placed a kiss on her forehead. Christina closed her eyes and sighed, encouraging him. He kissed her on the bridge of her freckled nose next and finally reached her soft lips.

It was a very gentle kiss. Sweet. Undemanding.

Until her tongue touched his. The hunger inside him seemed to ignite. The feeling was so intoxicating, so overpowering, he forgot all about gentleness. His tongue penetrated her warmth, tasting, probing, taking.

When Christina pulled him closer, his demand increased until all he could think about was filling her… completely.

She wasn't resisting. No, her soft moans told him she didn't want him to stop. Her h*ps cuddled his arousal. He knew her action was instinctive, yet the way she slowly arched against him made him wild. She felt so good, so right.

Lyon dragged his mouth away from hers with a harsh groan. "I want to make love to you, Christina," he whispered against her ear. "If we're going to stop, it has to be now."

Christina's head fell back as Lyon rained wet kisses along the column of her throat. Her hands, still entwined in his hair, clenched, pulled, begged.

He knew he'd soon be past the caring point. Lyon tried to separate himself from the torment. "God, Christina, walk away from me. Now."

Walk away? Dear Lord, she could barely stand up. Every part of her body responded to his touch. She could hear the anger in his voice, could feel the tension in his powerful hold. Her mind tried to make sense out of the confusion of his reaction. "I don't want to stop, Lyon."

She knew he'd heard her. Lyon clasped her shoulders, squeezed until it was painful. Christina looked into his eyes, saw the desire there. The force of his passion overwhelmed her, robbed her of her own strength to think logically.

"Do you know what you're saying to me?"

She answered him the only way she knew how. Christina used her body to give him permission. She deliberately arched against him again, then pulled his head down toward her.

She kissed him with a passion that sent his senses reeling. Lyon was at first too stunned to do more than react to her boldness, but he soon became the aggressor again.

He wanted to pleasure her so completely that any memory of other men would be washed away. She would belong to him, now and forever.

Lyon fumbled with the fastenings at the back of her gown, his mouth fastened on hers. Christina heard the sound of material being ripped away. He suddenly pulled her hands away from him, then tore the gown completely free. The dress fell to the floor.

There were no undergarments to hinder his gaze. When he took a step back, Christina stood before him, her hands at her sides.

Her body belonged to him. He was her lion. Christina accepted the truth, repeated it again and again inside her mind, trying to overcome her shyness, her fear.

She couldn't shield her body from him… or her heart.

Both belonged to Lyon.

Lyon's gaze was ravenous as it swept over her. She was so perfectly formed, so very, very beautiful. Her skin was smooth, creamy-looking in the soft candlelight. Her br**sts were high, full, taut. The ni**les were erect, waiting for his touch. Her waist was so narrow, her stomach flat, her h*ps slender.

She was irresistible.

And she belonged to him.

Lyon's hands shook when he reached for her, drew her back into his arms.

Christina gasped from the initial contact of her bare br**sts against his chest. His hair tickled her, his skin warmed her, and the way he controlled his strength as he held her close to him made her forget all her fears. She was innocent of men, yes, yet she knew with a certainty that made tears come to her eyes that Lyon would be gentle with her.

She kissed his throat where she could see the throbbing of his pulse, then rested her head in the crook of his shoulder, inhaling his wonderful masculine scent, waiting for him to show her what to do.

Lyon slowly untied the ribbon from the bottom of Christina's braid, then unwound the silky curls until a blanket of sunlight covered her back. He lifted her into his arms and carried her over to the bed, pausing only to pull the covers back before placing her in the center.

Christina tried to protest, to tell him it was her duty to undress him, but Lyon had already taken his shoes and socks off. Her voice became locked in her throat when he stripped out of the rest of his clothes, and all she could do was stare at him in wonder.

He was the most magnificent warrior she'd ever seen. The power was there, in his arms and legs. His thighs were muscular, strong, beautiful. His arousal was full, hard, and when he came to lie on top of her Christina instinctively opened herself to him. He settled himself between her thighs. Christina had barely accepted his weight before he captured her mouth for another searing kiss.

Christina wrapped her arms around his waist. His mouth had never felt so wonderful, his tongue never so exciting. His hands were never still, stroking, caressing, giving her shivers of pleasure. Their legs entwined, and when Lyon moved to take her breast into his mouth her toes brushed against his legs. Her moans of pleasure drove him wild. His hands fondled her br**sts while his tongue swirled around one nipple and then the other. When he finally began to suckle, a white-hot knot of need started to burn inside her.

Christina's h*ps moved restlessly, rubbing against his arousal. She wanted to touch him, to worship his body the way he was worshipping hers, but the sensations coursing through her body were too new, too raw. She could only cling to him and beg him with her whimpers.

His hands settled between her thighs to tease her sensitive skin. His fingers soon made her wild with need, caressing the nub protected by her soft curls until she was moist with desire. His fingers penetrated her tight sheath just as his tongue thrust into her mouth.

Lyon could feel the incredible heat of her. He was nearly out of control now, for Christina was so unashamedly responsive to his touch. He couldn't wait much longer, knew he'd soon lose his control. He cautioned himself against hurrying her even as his thigh pushed her legs further apart.

"From this moment on you belong to me, Christina. Now and forever."

He entered her with a swift, determined thrust, lifting her h*ps with his hands to penetrate her completely.

She was a virgin. The realization came late. Lyon was fully embedded inside her now. He took a deep breath and tried not to move. The effort nearly killed him. Christina was so hot, so tight; she fit him perfectly.

His heart was slamming against his chest. His breath was harsh, choppy. "Why didn't you tell me?" he finally asked her. He propped himself up on his elbows to look down into her face. God, she hadn't made a sound. Had he hurt her? "Why didn't you tell me you haven't been with a man before?" he asked again, capturing her face with his hands.

"Please, Lyon, don't be angry," Christina whispered.

She knew she was going to start weeping. The fierce light in his eyes frightened her. Her body was throbbing with pain from his invasion, and every muscle was tense, tingling. "I'm sorry if I disappointed you," she apologized in a ragged voice. "But I didn't want you to stop. Could you be disappointed later, please?"

"I'm not disappointed," Lyon answered. "I'm very pleased." He was trying to keep his voice soft, gentle. It was an excruciating task, because his arousal was begging for release, and all he wanted to do was spill his seed into her.

He was going to make certain she found complete satisfaction first. "I'll try not to hurt you, Christina."

"You already did."

"Oh, God, I'm sorry. I'll stop," he promised, knowing full well he wouldn't.

"No," Christina protested. Her nails dug into his shoulders, keeping him inside her. "It will be better now, won't it?"

Lyon moved, groaning over the pleasure he gained. "Do you like that?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," Christina answered. She arched her h*ps up against him, pulling him higher inside her. "Do you like that?"

He might have nodded. She was too consumed by the waves of heat to notice. His mouth slanted over hers then, claiming her full attention.

Lyon tried to be tender, but she was making it an impossible quest. She kept moving against him restlessly, demandingly, urgently. Lyon's discipline deserted him.

"Easy, love, don't let me hurt you."

"Lyon!"

"Christina, why did you let me think you'd been with other men?"

Lyon was stretched out on his back, his hands behind his head. Christina was cuddled up against his side, one shapely leg draped over his thigh. Her face rested on his chest. "Let you think?" she asked him.

"You know my meaning," Lyon said, ignoring the laughter he'd heard in her voice.

"It seemed unimportant to argue with you. Your mind was set on the matter. Besides, you probably wouldn't have believed the truth anyway."

"I might have believed you," he protested. He knew he was lying. No, he wouldn't have believed her.

"Why did you think I'd—"

"It's the way you kissed me," Lyon explained, grinning.

"What is the matter with the way I kiss you? I was only imitating you."

"Oh, nothing's the matter, love. I like your… enthusiasm."

"Thank you, Lyon," Christina said, after she'd given him a good look to see if he was jesting with her or not. "I like the way you kiss, too."

"What else do you imitate?" Lyon asked. Because he was teasing her, he was unprepared for her answer. "Oh, everything. I'm quite good at it, you know, especially if I like what I'm imitating."

"I'm sorry I hurt you, Christina," Lyon whispered. "If you'd told me you were a virgin before, I could have made it easier for you."



----