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Chapter Eight

What's all this?" Russ asked. Emma looked up from where she was pouring the juices out of the roasting pan into a small bowl. "Don't look at those!" How could she have forgotten to hide her dismal sketches for the train station?

"What are they?" he asked again, a glass of Chianti in one hand, the other hand moving the sketches around her drafting table.

Emma slammed down the pan and scampered around the breakfast bar to the living room. "Don't look! They're terrible!" She grabbed the papers and flipped them over.

"I didn't see anything terrible. What are they drawings of?"

"They're designs for a train station," she admitted. "For the King Street Station, actually. There's a contest."

"That's right, I heard about that. So you're going to enter?"

"Not if I can't think up anything better than this," she said.

"If I can offer a piece of advice?"

She stiffened, wary of criticism. "What?"

"I don't know anything about architecture, but I know a little about committees. Whatever key words or phrases they use in describing the objective of the contest, be sure to repeat those same words and phrases back to them in the description of your entry. They love that."

"Oh," she said, and blinked in surprise. "That's very helpful."

He laughed. "You didn't think I was going to try to give you advice on the design, did you?" He gestured at the photos on the wall. "With an eye like yours, I have no doubt you'll come up with something stunning."

She smiled crookedly. "Thanks for the confidence. I wish I shared it."

"If you keep working at it, I'm sure you'll surprise yourself with what you can create."

Emma headed back to the kitchen, hoping that was true. Everything she drew felt hopelessly pedestrian. No hint of flair, no nod to the uniqueness of Seattle beyond the tired attempt to throw salmon and fir trees into the design.

Over the weekend she'd found herself abandoning her drawings in favor of preparing for tonight; it was more entertaining to plan a complex dinner and sexual escapade than to sit and stare at blank paper and face the fear that she didn't possess the creativity she needed.

Tonight's sexual extravagance was number 64 from 101 Ways to Shock His Rocks, a piece of fine literature she'd purchased at a sex shop. Personally, she thought that number 64 was treading into disturbing territory, but the description promised to draw a night of unforgettable, primitive passion from her man. Who was she to argue? She'd thought that most of the stuff in the sex shop was icky, but it wouldn't be such a profitable business if it didn't deliver what it promised.

At least, that's what she'd told herself as she handed her Visa to the cashier and slunk out of the store with a big plastic bag of obscene treasures.

She plated their meals and carried them and the bowl of pan juices out to the table. Russ joined her.

"Duck stuffed with chicken liver, candied orange, and pears," she announced, setting the plates down. "Green beans braised with tomatoes and basil. And there's a cream cheese crostata with orange marmalade for dessert."

"This is amazing."

She stared at the plates of food, so prettily done, and frowned. "It's not."

"What?"

She sat down as he held her chair for her and clenched her teeth against the threat of tears. "It's just recipes from a magazine. I didn't even come up with menu myself: I used the magazine for that, too."

"Uhso?"

She shook her head angrily. "No creativity! A true cook creates her own recipes and instinctively understands what foods go together to make a meal. I just follow the directions I'm given!"

"I'd have a mess on my hands if I tried that. I probably wouldn't know what half the ingredients were, to begin with."

"But maybe you'd be creative. I'm not-I don't take any risks. I don't substitute, I don't experiment, or vary. I don't fling things together with whatever is in the pantry."

He was quiet, seeming not to know how to respond. Why was she dumping this on him? He wasn't her boyfriend. He wasn't here to listen to her problems; he was here for a pleasant evening of food and sex.

"Let's eat," she said, picking up her fork. "It's getting cold."

They ate in silence for several minutes. Emma stewed in a broth of her own insecurities, basting herself with self-criticism. When Russ spoke, it was as if the words were coming from far away and it took her a moment to hear what he was asking.

"Did your mother cook this way? Duck, chicken livers, etcetera."

"Sometimes. Not usually. It would be a bit much for two picky kids."

"So once you were on your own, you started cooking this way?

She laughed. "It's not exactly in my budget."

"And yet you expect yourself to have mastery of a skill that people spend a lifetime developing?"

She stabbed a bean with her fork and lifted it up as Exhibit A. "Beans and tomatoes are humble ingredients. There should be creativity even with humble ingredients. I've cooked plenty of beans and tomatoes in my life. Why did I never think to put them together?"

"That's an impossible question. You may as well ask why you never paired beans with apricots or peanuts or kumquats."

"I appreciate your attempt at logic." She knew he was trying to help, but sometimes logic didn't tell the whole story. "The answer would be the same, though: I'm not a creative cook."

"You're too hard on yourself. It takes mastery of the basics of any skill before creativity and experimentation can be done with a regular degree of success. I doubt that at your age you have sufficient mastery of any skill to allow you to be a creative genius in its sphere."

"I think you meant to comfort me by saying that," Emma commented wryly.

A little frown of worry appeared between his brows. "Did I succeed?"

She shrugged one shoulder, feeling a bit better despite herself. "Perhaps."

He nodded in satisfaction and turned his attention to the duck, cutting off a neat piece with knife and fork. "Good. A bit of reason is more effective than a hug. Lasts longer, too."

Emma coughed on her sip of wine. "I'm no longer puzzled that you're not married yet."

He looked at her in surprise.

"Oh, come on," she said. "Don't tell me you honestly don't see that a woman you were romantically involved with would want the hug first, reasoning later. If at all."

"But reasoning and thoughts do affect a person's emotional state."

"And so does a hug, at least for a woman. And the hug will get quicker results."

"Give a woman a hug and she's happy for a day. Teach a woman to reason and-"

"You did not just say that."

"No, I didn't. You interrupted me."

She raised one brow. "Excuse me. You were saying?"

"Teach a woman to reason, and she'll find seventeen ways in which you are wrong, with subparts A and B for six of them."

"You have a hostile view toward women, don't you? I thought you were just kidding, that first day when you told Kevin that gold diggers would be after him."

"It's not a hostile view."

"Then what is it?"

He chewed for a minute, then glanced her way. "Wary."

She cocked her head. "Wary? Why?"

"Alien race. Can't predict what they're going to do. How they're going to react."

Had someone hurt him, beyond the ordinary heartbreaks of love? Emma stared at him, trying to discern the truth from the subtle clues hidden in inflections of his voice and the microexpressions of his face.

"Men and women hurt each other," she said. "That's never going to change; it comes with the territory. But it's a glorious territory, all considered, and I wouldn't want to live my life without spending a good deal of time in it."

"Just not now."

"No, not at this moment. Except like this," she said, gesturing between them. She looked at him for a moment, considering. "Can I tell you something?"

"Sure."

"I wasn't certain, initially, that I wanted to do this. I mean, it's kind of sleazy-sounding on the surface, don't you think? After all, being paid for sex isn't exactly what most girls aim for in life."

"Er, no, I suppose not."

"But the truth is," she said, leaning forward confidentially, "I'm kind of having fun."

His brows rose.

"I know! It's crazy, isn't it? And the naughtiness kind of turns me on. I know that submitting to a man's sexual appetites for the sake of money is supposed to be degrading. I'm supposed to be ashamed. But I'm not. Bad me, huh? And bad, wicked you."

"I've thought a hundred times about canceling our arrangement."

That surprised her.

He went on, "You're not the only one who feels they're supposed to hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior."

"Then why didn't you call this off?"

He looked at her incredulously. "You really need to ask?"

A slow grin stretched across her lips. "You like it, don't you?"

"Don't look at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like a witch who has her victim under her spell."

"Is that what I've done? Ensorcelled you?"

Emma felt a surge of arousal. She would never have guessed that a man could want her badly enough that he would go against his own sense of decency to have her. No one had ever wanted her like that.

She stood and came around the small table to him, feeling utterly confident. She slid her hand around his neck and kissed him slowly, brushing him gently at first and then running her tongue lightly over his bottom lip.

He turned toward her, hands going to her waist, his desire answering her demands. Without thinking she straddled him, sitting on his lap with her panty-clad crotch wide open and pressed against the zipper of his trousers. She felt him thickening beneath her, and rubbed herself against him.

The kiss deepened, mouths opening, and she sucked on his tongue, sliding her own along it, reveling in the texture and the memory of what that tongue had done to her before. She felt his hand in her hair, holding her to him as if he would devour her. The strength of his arm around her waist felt better than anything else, the power of his lust and of his male body, so much larger than hers, making her feel deliciously small and desirable. She'd brought him to this state of arousal, and now she wanted him to set her free of control. She wanted to be taken.

Which reminded her. "We still have crostata to eat," she breathed, breaking the kiss.

"Forget the crostata?

She found purchase on the floor for her feet and lifted her weight off his lap. After a moment his arms around her loosened and she climbed off him, going back to her place at the table. She picked up her flatware as if to resume eating.

"Crostata?" he said in disbelief.

She looked at him and smiled with satisfaction. His shirt and hair were rumpled and he looked like someone had just woken him from a dream. "I worked very hard on it. I also worked hard on my preparations for the other things we're going to do tonight."

"Flexibility in the face of changing circumstances is very good for creativity," he said earnestly.

She laughed. "Maybe. But you still have to wait."

Emma cut herself another bite of duck and felt a quiver of doubt. Maybe it wasn't so wise to stop now. Maybe it would be better to go for it while the mood was upon them, instead of trying to make the evening fit her carefully planned script.

But after all that planning and practicing and debating and buying the right music, she couldn't bring herself to alter her plan.

She ate the last of her duck, which had turned out better than any duckly improvisation she could have made. Maybe Russ was right, and she shouldn't expect herself, with her limited experience, to be able to innovate.

But then where did that leave her chances with designing the train station? Maybe she was reaching beyond her grasp.

The small voice of her soul rebelled against the thought, just as it had always rebelled-quietly, often unobserved- when she felt that someone expected less of her than she expected of herself. She never wanted to be mediocre or settle for "good enough." It was the curse of being a perfectionist.

There must have been a hard-driven perfectionist inside of Russ, as well, to have achieved what he had. How else was a young person going to make it in this world?

"These are your instructions."

Russ took the typed sheet that Emma handed him. "Instructions?"

"For our 'entertainment' tonight."

Instructions. Great. He scanned the sheet, his attention catching at the script in the middle. "You want me to say that?" he asked in disbelief.

She nodded, her face serious. "Please."

He scanned the rest of the sheet, growing alarmed. "You're sure about this?"

She nodded.

"I don't want you to get hurt."

"I won't. And look, see there?" She reached over the top of the paper and pointed to one short sentence. "That's our 'safe' word: apple. If I say apple, then we stop."

Hell's bells. He'd never engaged in sexual activities that required a safe word. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her to forget this crazy plan and just have good, plain, old-fashioned sex. But then he met her eyes and saw the uncertain, hopeful expectation there, and he remembered that she'd worked so hard on her plans for this evening. "Okay, let's give this a go."

She smiled and turned him toward her bedroom, giving him a small shove. "You go lounge on the bed while I get ready. And there's something there for you to put on."

Oh Lord. He could hardly wait to see.

The bedroom was again lit softly with candles, and this time the bed had been turned into the divan of a pasha. Jewel-toned fabrics with gold prints covered the mattress, the pillows, and lumps that were probably heaped blankets serving as the arms and back of the exotic love nest. In the center of a swath of royal blue fabric sat a red satin turban, complete with fake diamond in the front, a small gold feather sticking straight up from behind it. It looked like the turban that Johnny Carson wore whenever he played Kar-nak the Magnificent.

Russ sighed and glanced again at his instruction sheet:

You are the sultan of a small country on the Mediterranean, and have bought a young English noblewoman from pirates. Your other concubines have been training her for your service, and tonight is the first night you will have her. When the eunuchs deliver her to your room, follow the script below.

He lifted the turban and went to the mirror, where he settled the turban onto his head. It was heavy, straining his neck with the effort of keeping his head up when there was the least hint of imbalance.

He looked like a clown. She couldn't possibly find this sexy.

With a shake of his head he went to the bed/divan and tried to make himself comfortable, spreading his arms out over the "back" and stretching his legs out in front of him, crossed at the ankles.

The turban pulled his head back, and he let it go until a pillow bumped up against the back, shoving it forward and down lower over his brows, but also helping to support it.

He just knew that self-consciousness was going to prevent him from performing sexually. There was no way he could get aroused while dressed like this, speaking those words on the paper.

He closed his eyes and tried to ignore his surroundings, picturing how Emma had looked when she opened the door to him this evening, her hair done up loosely with tendrils hanging down, her tight light green T-shirt showing the outline of her bra and clinging faithfully to her shape. She was wearing a short pleated skirt that had offered no resistance when she straddled him during dinner.

He felt a faint tingle of life in his loins.

A strain of music drifted to him from the living room, and he almost recognized it. A few bars later he had it: "The Young Prince and Princess" from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

The tingle of life died away, as he was reminded of this harem scene in which he had to play his ridiculous role.

"Unhand me, you filthy cad!" Emma shrieked in a fake English accent that sounded more like Cockney Eliza Doolittle than a gently bred young lady.

He opened his eyes just as she threw herself into the bedroom, landing on all fours in front of the bed. For a moment he thought she had dumped a basket of laundry over herself, but then she raised her head and he saw that she had a scarf covering her face except for her eyes, her dark hair spilling in disarray around her shoulders. The rest of her getup came into focus: a dark pink bra-and-panty set with a dozen silk scarves attached all around, both top and bottom.

She turned and looked back over her shoulder, addressing her imaginary captors. "Ye brutes! When me faither gits ahold o'ye, ye'll be paying with yer hides! Ye'll not fergit that it was Lord Oakley's daughter that ye did this to."

She turned to him and narrowed her eyes, slowly rising from the floor until she stood before him, her chin raised in defiance. "Ye'll not be taming me, sirrah!"

He gaped at her.

She scowled and nodded strangely with her head. "Sirrah! Ye'll not be taming me!"

"Oh! Oh, sorry!" He grabbed the paper and scanned down to the script. "You'll part your thighs for me, wench, and you'll like it," he read stiffly.

"Never! Ye shall never sully the rose o'me virginity, ye scurvy dog!" She lowered her voice to a stage whisper. "Put some emotion into it, Russ!"

He cleared his throat and lowered his voice. "Your rose is mine to pluck, saucy wench."

She put her hand on her hip and tossed her head. "It'll be me thorns yer tastin', not me precious petals."

"You're mine now, and the sooner you submit to me, the happier you'll be."

"Never! I'll die first!"

There was a line of stage direction. He paused to read it, then declared, "First, you'll dance!" He clapped his hands in the air. "Dance for me, wench, as my concubines have trained you!" He clapped again. "Dance!"

"I will not!"

"Dance, or I'll give you a taste of the bastinado. You'll not like to have the soles of your feet beaten, my comely wench. Dance! Or feel my wrath."

"You would beat me?"

"Disobey me once more, and you will feel the cruelty of my anger. Dance!"

She put her hands over her veiled face and pretended to sob.

"And call me 'Master,' " Russ threw in for the hell of it.

She peeped over her fingers, a questioning look in her eyes.

"Why do you stand there, wench?" he ad-libbed, abandoning sanity and going with the absurd drama Emma seemed so determined to play out. "Dance!"

"Yes, Master" she said, and dropped her hands, her gaze fixing on the floor as if in shameful submission.

The Rimsky-Korsakov piece had just started to repeat itself. Emma swayed gently to it, the scarves-veils, he supposed she meant them to be-following her movements and reminding him of the floppy rags that shook themselves over your vehicle while going through a car wash.

She lifted her arms and rose up onto her toes, still swaying, and started to move around the room in some perversion of ballet moves, from the looks of it. His momentary amusement began to fade and a faint embarrassment crept in. She wasn't a particularly graceful dancer, nor an erotic one, and his imagination simply couldn't transform her panty set and scarves into a harem girl's sultry silks.

She pranced in a circle, then stopped in front of him and seesawed her hips up and down. She snaked her arms in the air and moved her torso in an undulation that looked like nothing so much as a boa constrictor swallowing a large animal. Good God, had she made this up herself, or had she paid someone to teach her to do this?

He was gathering courage to tell her that Master wanted something different, when she plucked the first scarf off her costume and let it flutter to the floor. It revealed one cup of the bra-which had slits down the center of the cups, allowing the nipple to poke through.

His gaze attached to that revealed nipple, pinched in the slit of dark pink fabric, and he forgot about asking her to stop.

Another veil fell to the floor, revealing a length of thigh. A curve of back appeared. A buttock. She danced between each revelation, her movements seeming saucy taunts now, teasing him, prolonging the unveiling of her lithe body. Soon she was wearing nothing but her undergarments, the veil over her face, and one scarf tucked into the top of her panties, hanging down over her loins. His gaze flitted back and forth between her nipples and that last piece of filmy fabric, unable to decide which was more enticing.

At last she plucked the final veil from her panties and let it fall to the floor. There was a tiny bow down low on her mound, and he realized that they were split-crotch panties. One tug on the end of the bow and they would open wide. Her hand brushed down over her panties and he held his breath, waiting for her to untie them.

Her hand moved away, leaving the bow still tied.

He was hard and ready, and the bow was now a fixation. He wanted her to untie it. Wanted her to part the lacy fabric and straddle him, lowering herself onto him and riding for all she was worth. He wanted to suck on her nipples, lapping at them through their slits, and have her arch her back and moan.

Instead, her dancing slowly stopped and her hands fell to her sides. She looked at the floor." 'Tis all I know, Master."

She couldn't stop nowl "Untie the bow. Now."

She slowly reached for it, grasping one end. She began to pull, the loop of bow shrinking. When it was almost at the point of release she stopped, her hand falling away. She turned her hips slightly away from him, as if in modesty. "I cannot! I will not shame meself!"

What was he supposed to do now? He snatched up the script and scanned down. Where were they? Ah, here it was. He read through the remainder of her instructions and just as when he'd first read the script, doubt assailed him.

He looked up and met her eyes. She was watching him, waiting. He raised his brows in question. Barely perceptible nodding was her answer, and he thought he saw the shadow of a smile beneath the veil over her face.

It wasn't his type of thing, but for her sake he'd go through the motions. He was going to feel like a fool, and already felt his excitement dying.

He put the paper aside and cleared his throat. "I told you, wench, that you'll not disobey me. Untie that bow!"

"No, sirrah!"

"That's 'Master' to you, wench."

"You'll never be my master!"

Oh, Lord. He really wasn't enjoying this. "Come here."

She inched closer to him, standing a foot away.

"Closer."

She took a small step forward.

He reached out and tugged at the end of the bow. She stood motionless, letting him. It came undone and he pulled the ribbon completely free of the lace. He dropped it and brushed his fingertips lightly over her lace-clad mound. He could feel the damp heat of her exertions. He brushed over her again, feeling for the edges of the lace.

He glanced up at her. "Part your thighs."

She hesitated, then moved her feet apart a few scant inches, just enough so that he could slide two upturned fingers between her legs. She rocked forward against his hand, her breath catching. He found the center of her heat and gently pressed upward, teasing his fingertips back and forth to part the lace. It opened and one fingertip slipped in, stroking against her entrance, the pad of his finger barely parting her.

He could hear her breathing, and her excitement revived his own. He gently massaged his palm over her mound, his fingertip still against her opening, and felt her hips move in response. She made a soft noise deep in her throat and then pushed away from him, scampering several feet away.

He pushed up off the bed, grabbing the turban to keep it from falling off, and went after her, as her written instructions had dictated. She dashed away, his fingertips grazing her bare side as she exited the room.

He caught her in the living room, arms coming around her soft waist from behind. She held still for a moment, her breathing rapid, and let him slide his hand up her rib cage to one breast, where he gently pinched her nipple between his fingertips. His other hand slid downward to cup her sex. She leaned back against him, tilting her hips against his hand. He reached inside the slit of her bra and stroked the tender skin of her breast, then pulled down the strap that held it up, baring her breast entirely.

She pulled away from him again, dashing across the small room, freeing her arm from the trapping strap. She turned around and faced him, one breast bare, then feinted to one side. He went that way, and she switched directions. He let her go by, putting his hand out to brush along her as she passed by and scampered toward the bathroom.

He pursued, grabbing her around the waist before she could reach its sanctuary. She twisted around in his arms and pushed against his chest in a mock struggle to get away. He held her more tightly, one hand going down to cup her buttock and pull her against him. With his other hand he pulled down the remaining strap, then reached behind her and unhooked her bra. It fell free, falling off her arm. She leaned away from him, arching her back, and he saw that the pale skin of her breasts was marked in pink vertical slashes where the lace slits had pressed against her skin. He lowered his mouth to one breast and laved tenderly at its silky surface. She struggled and raised her knee beside his hip as if trying to climb out of his grasp, in the process giving him access to her from below. His fingertips found her dampness, slipping between the strips of lace. This time he plunged an inch of finger inside her.

She went rigid, the hands that had been pushing him now clenching tight in the fabric of his shirt. She raised her veiled face, her dark eyes wide as they sought out his own. He looked into her eyes as he gently thrust his fingertip inside her, in and out, never more than an inch deep. He could feel her heart beating rapidly and watched as her eyes slowly closed. He felt his own arousal building, the exertion of the chase intensifying it.

She released his shirt and, fists clenched hard, shoved him firmly away. They struggled for a moment, but her efforts were harder this time and fear of hurting her made him let her escape.

She darted into the bedroom and started to close the door. He got himself in the path of the door before she could, his turban getting knocked off in the process and thumping to the floor behind him. He reached for her and she dashed away, picking up a scarf from the floor and throwing it at him.

He caught it and advanced on her, both of them breathing heavily now. With her veil, she was almost a creature unknown; a woman he'd never met. With her breasts bare beneath the hem of the veil and that hint of panty her only garb, she was a temptation he had no reason to resist. He'd become absorbed in the game, the primal instinct to hunt and capture fully aroused. Conscious thought was all but erased, the silk scarf in his hand the only reminder of what he must do before he could penetrate her.

Emma felt a flush of adrenaline as Russ stalked her, the silk scarf in his hands. Something near panic rushed in her blood and she felt the instinct to flee-the reflex of the hunted. She knew it would take but a single word to make him stop, but there was something delicious to being chased. She wanted to be frightened, overpowered, and taken, all within the safety of this play they had constructed.

He moved toward her, the intensity of his expression that of a wolf cornering prey. She gasped and darted past him. His arm caught her around the waist and swung her around, lifting her off her feet. She struggled within his grasp, the strength with which he held her sending bolts of alarm through her muscles. He was so much stronger than her, she couldn't break free unless he allowed it.

The security of his grip pushed her panic too close to the edge and she struggled harder, elbowing him. He released her and she darted from the room. She stood in the hall, panting, poised for further flight, waiting for him to chase after her and scared that he would. It took a moment for it to sink in that he had released her.

When he still didn't emerge from the doorway she crept back toward it, moving silently on the balls of her bare feet. She couldn't see him in the room, and couldn't hear him above the music and her own heavy breathing. She crept closer, leaning forward to peer into the room.

Still no sign of him.

She looked over her shoulder, suddenly certain he'd gotten behind her. As she did, her wrist was grabbed and she shrieked in surprise. He tugged her into the bedroom, and before she knew what he was doing he had bound her wrists together with the scarf. She made a token tug of resistance, and he scooped her up into his arms and carried her to the bed. He dropped her onto the pillows and put his hands to work on his belt buckle.

Emma flipped onto her stomach and crawled toward the far corner of the bed, over the mounds of blankets and pillows. She felt his hand on her ankle, pulling her slowly back toward the edge. She reached forward with her bound hands, trying to find something to grab to slow her slide, but the brass bars of the bed were beyond reach.

He pulled until her legs were half off the bed, and with a few quick tugs he stripped her panties off her. Emma lay still, her cheek against the mattress, her arms stretched out in front of her. Her hair obscured her vision, and all she could see were shadows in the candlelight and the pillows near her.

His hands slid up the backs of her thighs, then up over the mounds of her buttocks. His palms explored her lower back, her hips, the place where her buttocks met her thighs. He brushed his hands along the insides of her thighs, rising up to but not quite touching her sex. He pulled her farther over the edge of the bed, until she had to bend her knees to keep from being unbalanced. The edge of the bed hit her at midthigh now.

She felt him gently parting her legs and obeyed the silent command. Cool air touched her most intimate area and then she felt his hands against her pushing to the sides, causing her flower to unfold and her entrance to part its lips. She closed her eyes, embarrassed, and tucked her nose and chin into the side of her arm.

He released her flesh and a moment later his hands were on her hips, urging her upward. He helped her onto her knees with her legs together, her forearms still on the mattress. She felt the blunt head of his rod against her opening, rubbing back and forth, its path becoming slippery with her moisture. He parted her thighs slightly and slid himself along the folds of her damp sex. His hips came up against her buttocks and he reached around to her front, his hand pressing downward on her mound as he slowly thrust between her slick folds.

She moaned deep in her throat as each thrust brought his head into contact with the nub of her pleasure. She rocked against him, joining his rhythm. His other hand cupped her breast, massaging it.

He pulled away, then pushed a big pillow under her and had her lie down on top of it, her hips raised up. Then he was parting her thighs and she felt him slowly enter her, thrusting in gradual, deepening strokes. Taking her without words, as if they were strangers.

When he'd made it halfway in he leaned forward, bracing himself on his rigid arms. She could feel the tension in him as he breathed her name and slowly thrust the rest of the way, embedding himself deep within her.

Emma instinctively wrapped her lower legs behind his back, her feet touching each other as she pulled him more securely to her.

"Emma," he breathed again, and began to thrust, his angle bringing his rod in contact with that one sensitive spot inside her passage. She mewled in her throat and tried to move with him, but it was nearly impossible. She could only grip him with her legs and let him take her as he would.

For the first time in her life, she felt an orgasm approaching from penetration alone. She dug her fingernails into the silks, her body clenching and urging the passion upward. She squeezed her inner muscles, wanting to grasp all of him that she could, and a second later felt him slow.

"Oh God, Emma," he said, and grabbed her hip with one hand, pushing her down against him as he slowly completed his final thrust and held motionless. His stillness was followed almost instantly by a pulse she felt at her entrance, and she knew he was done.

She dropped her legs from his back and he eased down on top of her. She could still feel the pulsing expectation of her own desire, of her body seeking its own fulfillment. Russ's breath was warm and heavy against the side of her face, and within a minute it became heavier still.

Emma scowled. He'd fallen asleep7.

She wiggled slightly. He murmured and lay one arm along her own, gripping her wrist for a moment and then subsiding.

Her unslaked desire roused a flame of annoyance. She'd been so close! This was the second time they'd had sex, and the second time she'd had to go to bed hungry for an orgasm.

She wiggled harder, and then shifted to slide more of his weight off her back.

He came groggily awake. "Oh, sorry." He pulled the pillow out from under her and then turned onto his back. She moved to get up, but he caught her arm. "No, come lie with me."

"I have to get the towel," she said, not wanting to give in to the sleepy comfort of a postcoital snuggle. It wasn't postanything for her.

His lips tightened, and the sleepiness began to clear from his eyes. "I should go clean up."

Her annoyance warred with her liking of him, and liking won out. She pushed against his chest, making him lie back again. "Don't be silly. I'll be just a moment. Stay here."

She cleaned herself up and removed her veil, then warmed a washcloth in hot water and carried it back to him, cleaning him of the vestiges of their lovemaking. She set the cloth aside and climbed up onto the bed with him, letting him settle her against his side. She pulled lengths of silk up over them and then rested her palm and cheek against his chest.

He reached over and stroked his hand down her side. "You need to have your turn."

She closed her eyes and shook her head. "That's not what this is about."

His hand moved over her hip and down to the edge of her sex. "I'll enjoy it more if I know that you enjoy it."

It was what she'd wanted five minutes ago, not now. Her mood was gone and some perverse part of her wanted to wallow in the injustice of the orgasm score. "I do enjoy it. Very much," she said, with a hair less conviction than might have been believable.

"Don't do that."

She tucked her face against him, knowing what he meant but asking anyway. "Don't do what?"

"Say things you plainly don't mean. Be honest with me, Emma. You've nothing to lose by telling me the truth."

She opened her eyes, staring at the hairs on his chest, and gathered the courage for honesty. "I do enjoy it. But I was very close to enjoying it a lot more-if you know what I mean."

He squeezed her arm. "Tell me when it's like that, so I can do something about it. Will you tell me?"

She nodded, but it was so much easier to try to please someone else, rather than ask another to please you.

"Promise?" he asked.

"Promise."

It was a promise she didn't know if she could keep.


Chapter Seven | The Erotic Secrets Of A French Maid | Chapter Nine