She frowned. “Why would you care whether or not my eyes are closed?”
A slow, seductive smile curved his lips. “Because I want to see you when we make love, see the look in your eyes while I’m giving you pleasure. What’s more, I want you to see the look in my eyes while you’re giving me pleasure back.”
Her lips parted on a silent exhale.
He skimmed a knuckle over her jaw. “You have truly beautiful skin, do you know that? Creamy. Soft. Translucent.” With his thumb, he traced her cheek and across her bottom lip in a slow, meandering caress. “Pretty cheeks, pretty lips. Kissable lips.”
Her mouth throbbed at his touch.
“I’ve only now realized I have yet to kiss you. You wouldn’t let me before, as I recall.”
A small shiver rippled through her. “No,” she murmured in soft reply.
“Seems I shall have to rectify that, now that we are here together. Alone.”
She waited, forcing her eyes to remain open as he leaned across her, his shoulders seeming wider than ever, his arms long and powerful.
Despite his confident words, she didn’t expect anything grand. She’d never much liked kissing, finding the act little more than a lot of wet, clumsy rubbing.
But when they met hers, Rafe’s lips were warm and smooth, and only the faintest bit moist. Silky, almost feather-light, they played over her own—skilled, certain, and in no way clumsy. He didn’t demand. Didn’t press her lips painfully into her teeth. Didn’t try to force open her mouth, or jam in his tongue.
With palpable relief, tension began to ease from her shoulders and neck, her thoughts drawn to the sensations he was creating. Delicious sensations, sensations she hadn’t imagined she might feel. Her lips parted beneath his, allowing him greater access, greater freedom.
Suddenly she wanted more.
As if sensing her response, he deepened the kiss ever so slightly, letting his warm, sweet breath fill her mouth. She tasted the brandy they’d drunk earlier, sharp but without the sting now.
His tongue emerged. She waited for it to invade her mouth, to gag her like some wriggling snake. Instead, he licked her, reminiscent of the way he’d licked her palms earlier when they’d stood in the downstairs foyer. Using only the tip of his tongue, he painted her lips with a thin damp line that left them moist and aching.
Suddenly, she couldn’t get enough breath, her lungs searching for air. Nerve endings alive, she lay enthralled as he repeated the process, circling her lips from the opposite direction this time.
He groaned, the sound vibrating against her mouth before he angled her head and slanted his lips over hers to take their kiss to the next level. Blood beat at her temples, vision blurring as he kissed her in myriad ways, kissed her as she had never before been kissed. She lost all sense of time, of place, her mind dulling as he drew upon her—his touch that of a master, hungry yet patient, demanding but oh so exquisitely tender.
After a while, he coaxed her mouth wider. And when he stroked his tongue over hers, over her teeth and inner cheeks, what she experienced wasn’t a sense of invasion, but invitation. A need to take him inside, to let him have more of her, as much as he desired.
Without thought, she began to kiss him back, pressing her lips harder against his, imitating his actions. Swirling her tongue around his, she nibbled at his lips, kissing him with a sweet suction that shot a rush of longing straight to her center, where it blossomed into a poignant ache. By the time he broke their kiss, her breath was coming in rapid pants, her chest rising and falling in staccato rhythm.
His gaze lowered to her breasts, to the quivering tops revealed by her chemise. Her nipples tightened at his perusal. Faintly embarrassed, she glanced away, hoping he hadn’t noticed.
He caught her face in one hand and skimmed his lips over her cheek before dappling kisses along the line of her throat.
“You’re very passionate,” he murmured, nuzzling a particularly sensitive spot behind her left ear. “I knew you would be.”
“Basil said I was frigid.” The words were out before they’d scarcely had a chance to form in her mind.
He raised up again on an elbow. “Who is Basil?”
She flushed, ashamed by what she’d revealed. She never talked to anyone about her marriage, not even to her closest friends. Why had she told him?
“He is my late husband. Please forget what I said; I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
He drew the tip of one finger over the exposed curve of her breast. “So how long has it been for you?”
She swallowed, a quiver racing through her at his leisurely touch. “How long for what?”
“Since you last made love?” His fingertip took a turn, trailing slowly up the center of her chest before fanning out to trace the shape of her collarbone where it protruded beneath her skin.
She swallowed convulsively. “My husband died five years ago.”
“Yes. But how long since your last lover?”
She felt her eyes widen. “I’ve never had a lover, only my husband.”
A spark, intense as gleaming emeralds, flared deep in Rafe’s gaze. “Then I suppose I ought to thank him.”
“Hmm,” he whispered, dropping a kiss on the top of each of her breasts. “Your husband was obviously a fool who knew nothing about satisfying a woman. Believe me, sweeting, you are far from frigid. Because of his ineptitude, he’s left the joy of enlightening you to me.”
“But I don’t think—”
“Shh,” he hushed, laying a finger over her lips. “You don’t need to think; all you need to do is feel.” Reaching for the ribbon holding her chemise closed, he slid the slender pink bow free of its knot. “Let’s see how you feel about this.”
He began to fold back one side of her chemise to expose her bare breast. She stopped him with a hand. “Don’t.”
He raised his head and questioningly met her gaze. “Why not?”
Her eyelashes fanned downward. “B-Because it’s daylight and you’ll see. Couldn’t we both slip under the covers and you could just…touch me there?”
“No. I want to see you. Seeing is one of the very best parts.”
He reached again for her chemise.
He paused. “But what?”
A blush crept over her skin like a sunrise as she forced herself to continue. “I’m big,” she whispered. “Too big.”
He arched a brow. “From what I’ve observed, you’re shaped like a goddess. But I see, for your own piece of mind, that I shall have to make a closer study of the subject.”
Her blush heated further. Knowing there was nothing she could do to stop him, she shut her eyes and prepared to endure.
A delicate shiver went through her as he peeled back the soft white silk of her chemise, exposing her naked breasts to his view. She felt him watching her again in that intent, solemn way of his, but refused to open her eyes, even to peek.
A slow humiliation slid through her at his prolonged silence, making her long to curl in upon herself and hide. Before she could act, he covered one of her breasts with his palm and held her, cradling her flesh as if testing its shape and weight.
“You’re so beautiful, Julianna.” Low and throaty, his voice sounded like warm honey dripped over rough bark. “Open your eyes,” he commanded, “and see how exquisitely God has fashioned you. You’ve nothing of which to be ashamed, dear lady, nothing at all.”
Despite her reluctance, she obeyed, startled yet strangely mesmerized at the sight of her breast filling his broad palm, her skin so very pale against the darker bronze of his own.
“See how you fit?” he said, caressing her slightly. “You are perfect. Absolutely perfect.”
A sharp gasp of pleasure fell from her parted lips as he brushed his thumb across her nipple, followed seconds later by a tiny moan. Round and around he went, drawing lazy, utterly wicked circles over her areola.
“Do you like that?” he inquired, continuing to rub her in leisurely, tantalizing, delectable strokes.
Unable to speak, she answered with a nod, her body suddenly restless against the sheets.
“What about this? You must let me know if it’s not to your liking.”
Before she knew what he intended, he bent and took her breast into his mouth. Her head rolled against the pillow as he drew upon her, suckling deeply, his tongue teasing and tormenting her in ways she’d never imagined possible.
Squeezing her hands into fists at her sides, she fought to stem the tide of whimpers that rose into her throat. But that became a complete impossibility when he captured her nipple between his teeth and bit down ever so gently.
A raw cry tore from her lips.
He smiled against her sensitized flesh, then gave her a few more licks before moving on to lavish her other breast with the same kind of devastating attention. Threading her fingers into the thick silk of his hair, she pressed him closer, urging him to seek out exactly the right spots.