Iain shifted to his side and slowly eased his finger up inside her tight sheath. His thumb rubbed the delicate nub hidden between the folds, and Judith's reaction damn near snapped his own control. He'd never had a woman respond to him with such honesty or with such abandon. Her trust in him was so complete, she was free of all inhibitions. She willingly, lovingly, gave him her body, and he would die before letting himself find fulfillment first. She came before his own need… even if it killed him.

Loving him was certainly going to kill her. That was Judith's last coherent thought. She'd blurted it out loud, too, but she was too caught up in trying to hold on to the threads of her control to know what she was saying or doing.

She seemed to come apart inside. She cried out his name, and his own discipline vanished then. He felt her tremors and spread her thighs wider. He knelt between her legs. "Put your arms around me, sweetheart," he whispered in a husky demand. He stretched up, covered her mouth with his, and forced her to stay still by holding the sides of her hips.

He hesitated at the threshold for only a second or two, then slowly eased up inside her until he felt the barrier of her virginity.

He was hurting her, but Judith didn't think this was such a terrible pain. The way he was kissing her made everything else seem unimportant. The pressure building inside her ached,-and she became even more restless in a bid to find a way to ease the sweet torment.

Iain gritted his teeth against the incredible pleasure he was already feeling and the certain pain he was going to force on her, and then drove forward with one powerful thrust.

She cried out in surprise and pain. She thought he had torn her apart. It felt as if he had. The haze of passion vanished. She started crying, and demanded that he leave her alone.

"I don't like this," she whispered.

"Hush, sweetheart," he whispered, trying to soothe her. "It's going to be all right. Don't move yet. The pain will ease. Oh, God, Judith, don't try to move."

He sounded angry and loving, and she wasn't able to understand anything he was saying to her. The pain throbbed, but another feeling, so foreign to anything she had ever experienced before, began to blend with the pain, confusing her even more.

His weight kept her anchored to the bed and to him. He took deep, calming breaths in an effort to hold on to his discipline. She was so damn hot and tight, and all he wanted to think about was slamming into her again and again until he found his own release.

Iain leaned up on his elbows and kissed her again. He desperately wanted to give her enough time to adjust to him, and he felt like the lowest of animals when he saw the tears streaming down her face.

"God, Judith, I'm sorry. I had to hurt you, but I…"

The worry in his gaze soothed her far more than his half-given apology did. She reached up and stroked the side of his face. Her hand shook. "It's going to be all right," she whispered, giving him the very same promise he'd given her minutes earlier. "The pain's gone now." He knew she wasn't telling the truth. He kissed her brow, then the bridge of her nose, and finally captured her mouth for a long, passionate kiss. His hand moved between their joined bodies and he began to stroke the very heat of her.

It didn't take him long to rekindle her desire. He started to move, slowly at first, until he heard her moan of pleasure, and still he was able to hold back that thread of control he always withheld when he had been with other women, but Judith snatched that away from him with one simple declaration. "I love you, Iain."

Passion took control of his mind and his body. He thrust deep inside her, again and again. She lifted her h*ps to take more of him. She wouldn't let him be gentle any longer, nay, her nails dug into his shoulders, demanding more and more of this incredible bliss.

Iain buried his face in the crook of her neck, gritting against the white-hot pleasure consuming him.

The pressure building inside her was becoming unbearable. Just when she was certain she was going to die from the intensity of the feelings flooding her senses, he became even more forceful, more demanding.

Judith kept trying to understand what was happening to her. Iain wasn't letting her. She was suddenly terrified. She felt as though her mind was being separated from her body and her soul. "Iain, I don't—"

"Hush, love," he whispered. "Just hold me. I'll take care of you."

Her mind accepted what her heart had always known. Judith surrendered. It was the most magical experience of her life. Bliss such as she'd never known filled her. She arched her back and clung to her husband and let the ecstasy consume her.

As soon as he felt her release, Iain found his own. With a low groan he poured his seed into her. His entire body shuddered with his own surrender.

He collapsed against her with a grunt of male satisfaction. The scent of their lovemaking filled the air between them, a lingering reminder of the wonder they had just shared. Iain's heart hammered like a drumbeat, and he was so amazed by his absolute surrender to her, he couldn't move. He wanted to stay inside her forever. She was stroking his shoulders and sighing every now and then, and he wanted that to go on forever.

Dear God, he was content.

It took Judith much longer to recover for their lovemaking. She couldn't seem to quit touching him. She had at least a hundred questions to ask him. The first, and surely the most important, was to find out if she had pleased him.

She poked him in his shoulder to get his attention. He thought she was letting him know he was too heavy for her. He immediately rolled to his side. She rolled with him.

His eyes were closed. "Iain, did I please you?"

He grinned.

It wasn't enough. She needed to hear the words.

He opened his eyes, found her staring down at him. She looked worried. "How can you doubt you pleased me?" he asked.

He didn't give her time to come up with a reason. He wrapped his arms around her, lifted her to rest on top of him, and kissed her soundly.

"If you had pleased me any more, you would have killed me. Satisfied now?"

She closed her eyes and tucked her head under his chin.

Aye, she was very satisfied.

Chapter 11

Judith didn't get much sleep that night. Iain kept waking her up. It certainly wasn't deliberate on his part, but each time he turned, she was jarred out of a sound sleep. She kept moving farther away from him. He would immediately swallow up the space until he had taken over all of the bed and she was literally hanging on to the side.

She finally drifted off to sleep a little before dawn. A few minutes later Iain touched her arm. She bolted upright and let out a startled scream. She scared the hell out of him, too. He had his sword in his hand and was getting out of the bed to defend her before he realized there weren't any intruders.

Judith was terrified of something. She was still more asleep than awake, and it finally registered in his mind that she was afraid of him. There was a wild look in her eyes, and when he put the sword down and reached for her, she jerked back.

He wouldn't be denied. He grabbed her by the waist, stretched out on his back and pulled her down on top of him. He trapped her legs by locking them between his own, and then began to soothe her by rubbing her back.

She immediately relaxed against him. He let out a loud yawn and then asked, "Were you having a bad dream?"

His voice was rough from sleep. She was terribly sorry she'd disturbed him. "No," she answered in a bare whisper. "Go back to sleep. You need your rest."

"Tell me what happened. Why did you scream?"

"I forgot," she explained. She rubbed the side of her face against his warm chest and closed her eyes.

"You forgot why you screamed?"

"No," she replied. "I forgot I was married. When you accidentally touched me, I just… reacted. I'm not at all used to sleeping with a man."

He smiled in darkness. "I didn't think you would be," he told her. "You aren't afraid now, are you?"

"No, of course not," she whispered. "Thank you for being so concerned."

Lord, she'd sounded polite. He was her husband and she was treating him like a stranger. Judith felt awkward… and vulnerable. She decided that she was just overly weary. She hadn't had much sleep at all since she'd arrived in the Highlands, and all the commotion hadn't helped.

She didn't have any intention of crying. The tears caught her by surprise. She knew she was behaving like a child, that she was being terribly foolish and emotional, but she didn't know how to stop herself.

"Judith?" His thumb brushed away one of the tears on her cheek. "Tell me why you're crying."

"There weren't any flowers. Iain, there should have been flowers."

Her voice had been so soft, he wasn't certain he understood her. "Flowers?" he asked. "Where weren't there any flowers?"

He waited for her to explain, but she stubbornly remained silent. He squeezed her.

"In the chapel."

"What chapel?"

"The one you don't have," she answered. She knew she was sounding pitiful. She wasn't making any sense to him, either. "I'm exhausted," she added as an excuse for her confusing behavior. "Please don't become upset with me."

"I'm not upset," he replied. He continued to rub her backside while he thought about the odd remarks she'd just made. What did she mean about flowers in a chapel he didn't have? She wasn't making any sense at all, but he decided he would have to wait until tomorrow to find out what was really bothering her.

Her sweet, warm body soon turned his thoughts to other matters. He couldn't touch her again, not tonight. It would be too soon for her, and she needed time for the tenderness to ease:

He couldn't stop himself from thinking about it, though. Within minutes he was hard and aching. It didn't matter. He would die before deliberately hurting her again.

Iain hugged his gentle little bride and closed his eyes. Patrick had told him that he would walk through the fires of purgatory for his Frances Catherine, and Iain remembered he had laughed over that ridiculous notion.

His brother had let all his defenses down. He'd allowed himself to become vulnerable. Iain had thought his brother was a fool. It was quite all right to care about a wife, but to let a woman rule a warrior's every action, to want to please her at every turn the way Patrick sought to please his wife, that simply wasn't acceptable in Iain's mind. No woman was going to run him around in circles. He knew he could never allow himself to become that emotionally involved. Oh, he cared for Judith, more than he'd ever intended, and now that she was his wife, he would allow himself to feel content.

He'd be damned if he'd become vulnerable, though.

He was extremely pleased that she loved him, of course. It would make her adjustment much easier.

Iain didn't go back to sleep for a long while. He continued to think about all the logical reasons he would never allow himself to be turned into a lovesick weakling like Patrick, and when he finally fell asleep, he had convinced himself that he would distance his heart from his mind.

He dreamed about her.

Judith slept most of the morning away. Iain had already left the chamber when she finally stretched herself awake. She felt stiff, tender too, and she let out a loud, unladylike groan before getting out of the bed.

She didn't have any idea what she was supposed to do now that she was the laird's wife. She decided she would have to get dressed and then hunt her husband down and ask him.

She had packed her pale pink gown and fresh undergarments in her small satchel. She took her time getting ready, and when she was finally finished, she made the bed and folded the extra plaid Iain had left on top of the quilt.

The great hall was empty. In the center of the table was a treacher filled with apples. A loaf of thick black bread was propped on one side of the treacher. Judith poured herself a goblet full of water and ate one of the apples. She kept expecting a servant to appear at any moment, but after waiting a long while, she decided they must all be outside, seeing to other duties.

Graham caught her attention when he started down the steps. She was about to call out to him, then stopped herself. The leader of the council didn't know he was being observed. His expression was unguarded. He looked terribly sad, weary too. He glanced behind him once, shook his head, and then turned back to the steps again. Judith's heart went out to the elder. She didn't know the reason for his unhappiness, and she wasn't even certain if she should intrude or not.

He was carrying a small chest in his arms. He stopped again when he was halfway down the stairs to adjust his hold on his possession, and then caught sight of her.

She immediately smiled. "Good day to you, Graham," she called out.

He nodded. She thought his smile was forced. She hurried over to the entrance.

"Would you like me to help you carry that?"

"Nay, lass," he answered. "I've got a good hold on it. Brodick and Alex are getting the rest of my things. Gelfrid's too. We'll be out of your way in no time at all."

"I don't understand," she said. "You aren't in my way. Whatever do you mean?"

"We're moving out of the keep," Graham explained. "Now that Iain's taken a bride, Gelfrid and I will move into one of the cottages down the path."

"Why?"

Graham stopped when he reached the bottom step. "Because Iain's married now," he patiently explained.

Judith walked over to stand directly in front of him. "Are you moving out because Iain married me?"

"I've just said so, haven't I? You'll be wanting your privacy, Judith."

"Graham, before Iain married me, I specifically remember you saying he had your support, that you agreed to this marriage."

Graham nodded. "That's true."

"Then you can't leave."

He raised an eyebrow over that statement. "What does the one have to do with the other?"

"If you leave, it will show me that you don't really accept this marriage. But if you stay—"

"Now, Judith, that isn't what this is about. You're newly married and you deserve your privacy. Two old men would only be getting in the way."

"Then you aren't leaving because you don't want to live under the same roof with an Englishwoman?"

The worry in her gaze was evident. Graham vehemently shook his head. "If that was my feeling, I'd say so."

She believed him. She let out a little sigh of relief, and then asked, "Where do Vincent and Owen and Duncan live?"



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