Wet heat pooled between her legs when he did, a hungry, empty ache throbbing in her core that cried out to be filled. She couldn’t recall ever wishing to be filled so intimately before, but Rafe did things to her—magical things—that made her burn with longing.
As if he knew her thoughts, her desires, he reached down and grasped the hem of her petticoat, inching it upward over her thighs.
Instinctively she tensed, glimmers of old memories returning. But he soothed her, quickly making her forget everything else as he blew a light stream of air across her engorged nipples, a sensation that set her atremble. Kissing her quivering belly, he trailed his hand along the inside of her thigh and began to play.
She could barely think as his touches and kisses continued, her sense of place and time ceasing to function. He dipped his tongue into her belly button and sent a flash of heat through her middle. Growling against her flesh, he murmured soft, sensuous words of praise. Then the stroking hand between her thighs went higher and before she knew what he meant to do, he slid a long, very male finger deep inside her.
A fresh rush of wetness gathered low, her body embarrassing her with its uninhibited response. But Rafe didn’t seem to mind as his hand moved, finger stroking in and out, and in and out, and in and out again. When he added a second finger, she nearly forgot her name, enraptured by the sensation of him working within her and the escalating need she didn’t fully understand even now.
Led by her own powerful yearning, she spread her legs wider and let him do as he wished, her breath sighing between her lips in harsh, gasping pants.
“That’s it,” he murmured, increasing the rhythm of his hand. “Let it go. Let yourself go. Feel it, Julianna. Simply feel it.”
Tossing an arm over her face, she obeyed, giving herself over to the pleasure.
And merciful heaven, what pleasure it is! she thought.
Suddenly, a pressure rose within her. She bit her lip to hold back the moan, but he wouldn’t let her keep in the sound, urging her to cry out, to scream if she needed.
And then, just when she thought she couldn’t bear even one more second, when her body was awash with flame and fire and mind-numbing need, he curved his hand, flicked his thumb and sent her winging over the edge.
Her back arched, her spine rising off the mattress. Blinding delight took her in its grasp and shook her in a merciless grip, leaving her weak and whimpering.
Long moments passed before her mind settled and she could catch enough breath to speak. “Oh, dear God.”
He laughed and shot her a smoldering look. “I don’t know that God had anything to do with it, but you’re very welcome all the same.”
She stared, then smiled, a giddy rush of pleasure still glowing inside her. “And you are very wicked.”
“So I have been informed. Shall I be wicked again?”
Before she could agree or disagree, his fingers started moving inside her once more, stretching her, filling her, making her crave again in ways she was helpless to resist. He held her completely in his thrall, dependent on his every touch, needful as she’d never been needful in her life. She wouldn’t have thought it possible, but in seconds, he reawakened her desire, her senses swamped by a passionate longing she could do naught to control or deny.
Without slowing his rhythm, he slipped an arm behind her back and drew her upright. Then he was feeding again at her breasts, suckling intently as if she were a feast and he could not get enough of her delectable flavor.
Shuddering, she gave herself over, her entire focus narrowing down to Rafe.
His body cradled her close as he drove her toward a pleasure so intense she wasn’t sure she could bear it. Then, as before, he sent her soaring, cries of completion wringing from her throat as she quaked in his arms.
Raising his head, he claimed her lips, suddenly savage in his purpose and demand. No longer afraid, she met him kiss for kiss, touch for touch, drinking from his open mouth with the same ferocity with which he drank from hers. He kissed her in a way that called for her total surrender, and she gave it.
His breath echoed harshly from his parted lips when he broke away, his eyes hot and glassy with passion. “Let’s get you out of the last of your pretty things before I’m tempted to rip them off your body.”
She gasped at his blatant remark but did nothing to deter him. Reaching out, he loosened the petticoat ties at her waist, then peeled her thin skirt and silken shift up over her head and arms.
His gaze intensified as he swept his eyes over her exposed body, naked now except for her sheer stockings and beribboned garters. She crossed her arms over her breasts, her sense of vulnerability returning together with an all-over blush.
But Rafe would have none of it, leaning forward to gently pry her arms loose and lower them to her sides.
“No hiding,” he admonished in a stern yet tender voice. “You have nothing that needs the least concealment, my dear.”
She swallowed and met his gaze. Reading the honest admiration and undisguised passion glittering in his beautiful green eyes, her anxiety slowly eased.
Maybe he truly does like what he sees, she realized, a faint smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
He smiled back, deep grooves appearing in his cheeks that quite literally made her toes curl and a swooping sensation clench inside her belly.
Her nipples tightened.
He captured one between playful fingers as he leaned upward to give her a slow, wet, open-mouthed kiss. She sighed and sank deeper into his embrace. Long moments later, he thrust his fingers into her hair, little silver pins popping in every direction.
“Oh!” she exclaimed as her long tresses tumbled like a dusky waterfall across her shoulders. Wrapping a handful of her hair around one wrist, he buried his face in it and inhaled, his eyelids falling closed with obvious delight.
At length, he raised his head, his voice pitched to a grave whisper. “Help me off with my clothes.”
Her breath caught in her lungs at his request.
Did I hear him correctly? she questioned.
From the intent, smoldering expression on his face, she knew she had. Her heart stuttered in her chest, excitement clashing with trepidation. She quivered, vitally aware that she’d never before performed such a service for a man.
Dare I do so now?
Rafe forced himself to relax, waiting to see if she would do as he asked. In the past hour, he’d brought her a long way. Challenged her assumptions and sensibilities about herself, and about her own capacity for passion.
Her husband had obviously been an arrogant, self-important ass who hadn’t cared for anyone but himself. Clearly, he’d treated Julianna with callous disregard, taking her with no thought for her feelings or her needs. All the man must have cared about was using her for breeding stock. How disappointed he must have been when she couldn’t be brought to foal!
Well, all of that was in her past now, and she would find no such mistreatment here in his bed.
He studied her as she lay naked before him, her clean, shiny hair hanging dark as the veil of night over her shoulders, reaching nearly to her waist. Her gorgeous breasts peeped from beneath that hair, round and ripe and pert—a perfect fit inside his hands. Below them, her waist was hourglass tiny, her hips flaring out in a generous feminine curve, her legs long, soft, and supple.
When she made no move toward him, he decided his request must indeed be too much for her. He should not be surprised given her shyness, he thought in resignation. There would be time enough in the coming weeks to persuade her.
But before he could act, she reached out and laid an elegant hand upon one of his shirtsleeves. His erection jumped as if she’d touched him there instead. Slowly she went to work on his cuff buttons, slipping them free one fastening at a time. Once she was done with that, she reached upward to work loose another trio of buttons at his neck.
His hunger raged. He swallowed against it as her cool fingers brushed along the hot skin of his throat.
One. Two. Three.
It seemed as if an eternity passed while she opened his collar, the edges of his shirt hanging open to mid-chest. Done, her gaze lowered, a tiny line forming between her lovely brows.
He held his breath as her little hands hovered. Will she continue? Does she have the courage?
He sent up a silent prayer of thanks when she gave her answer by grasping his shirt and yanking loose the tails. In a rush of movement, she pulled the linen up over his arms and head, then away. Clutching the shirt, she shook out the garment before leaning sideways to drape it neatly at the foot of the bed. Her breasts jiggled, sweet and lush.
A wild moan leapt into his throat. Rafe tightened his fists at his sides and fought the urge to tumble her back across the bed and be done with this torture. He could have his pantaloons freed in a thrice and be settled between her thighs, kissing her and taking her as his body was urging him to do. But he didn’t wish to alarm her, nor ruin the gradual trust building between them. Biting the edge of his lip, he fought for patience, knowing his satisfaction would be sweet in the end.