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His mouth felt cool where she burned, his tongue flicking her and curling around her, toying with the delicate skin, stirring every nerve, making her feel wanton and desperate and yet also empty.

She reached for his belt, tugging it free. He lifted his head, and she nodded. “Please lose the trousers.”

He did, very quickly, and with the trousers removed his heavy shaft sprang free.

“I don’t think that will fit,” she said hoarsely.

“It will. You’ll see,” he answered, lowering himself over her, kissing her, his tongue stroking the seam of her lips and then the inside of her mouth before catching the tip of her tongue, making her squirm.

With his knee he pressed her legs apart, making room to settle his hips between her thighs. She felt his shaft rub against her as he positioned himself near her core, the tip gliding across her wet entrance, making her feel delicious things.

He didn’t try to enter her, instead focusing on kissing and touching her neck, her earlobe, the sensitive skin beneath her breast. She liked the feel of his strong thighs between hers, his legs hard with muscle and slightly rough with hair. Little by little his powerful thighs opened her wider, and the smooth, thick head of his shaft settled at her core, pressing in.

Dal lifted his head. “Look at me,” he said quietly. “It’s just me and you, and it will only sting this once.”

And then he was pressing into her, a slow, steady thrust that made her eyes water and her breath catch, from the fullness and pressure of him filling her. It was a lot of sensation. It felt like too much sensation. The stretching was no longer remotely comfortable.

“Breathe,” he murmured, kissing her lips. “That’s it, breathe.”

As she breathed in, he thrust deeper, breaking through the resistance. It hurt. It did. She blinked rapidly at the burn, and then the strange fullness of him lodged so deep inside her.

It wasn’t what she’d imagined.

It was more than she’d imagined.

More pressure, more warmth, more fullness, more pain.

“Breathe,” he said again.

She struggled to smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to faint.”

“It will feel better when I move. Let me move. It’ll help ease the tightness.”

“If I didn’t like you so much I’d hate you.”

He kissed the corner of her lips, and then her full lower lip, and then pressing up so that his weight was on his arms, he pulled out of her and then gently thrust back in. He did it again, and then again, and he was right; she wasn’t as uncomfortable anymore. In fact, as he moved she began to feel something that rather resembled pleasure.

She closed her eyes to concentrate on the sensation and yes, it was a nice sensation, better then nice, as with each of Dal’s deep, slow thrusts she felt heat grow and sensation coil, and she reached for him, hands sliding up his lean chiseled torso, fingers spreading wide across his warm satin skin. She could feel the hard, taut muscles beneath his skin and the way they tightened with every thrust of his hips.

Every time he buried himself in her, he stroked a sensitive spot inside, and it made her breath catch and want to press up against him to hold him there. “Yes,” he said hoarsely, “just like that,” as she rocked her hips again.

The next time he stroked down into her she rocked up and the pleasure was even more intense. She clenched him with her inner muscles, trying to hold him. He growled with pleasure. Poppy felt a thrill like nothing she’d ever felt better.

It was, she thought, rather amazing how their bodies came together, his hardness buried deep in her wet, slick heat, and this simple joining could make her never want to let him go. She wrapped her arms around him, holding tighter, his tempo quickening, stroking her faster and harder. The feel of him in her was maddening and delicious. Her body burned and glowed and she arched up as he pressed deep, her heels digging into the bed to give herself traction.

“Can you come?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, because there was so much pressure and tension and desire but she couldn’t focus on anything but the hard, silky feel of him filling her.

Suddenly, his hand was there between their bodies, and his fingers found her nub and he stroked the sensitive spot as he thrust deeply. The sensation felt so perfect; everything about this was perfect, and as he filled her and touched her, she felt overwhelming love.

He was everything to her. He was the very center of her world.

His deep thrusts were sending her over the edge. She couldn’t fight the building sensation anymore. With a cry, she shattered, the climax stunning and intense. He thrust into her one more time, burying himself so deeply that she felt his muscles tighten and contract as his orgasm followed hers.

For several moments after, Poppy didn’t know where she was, or who she was. She’d felt thrown to the stars and she’d somehow floated back.

Slowly, reality returned and she turned her head to look at Dal, who was lying on his back next to her.

He was the most beautiful person in the world. There was no one more dear or special to her.

Her eyes filled with tears. She blinked hard, trying to keep them from falling. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you so much it hurts my heart.”

He gazed back at her, his golden gaze shuttered.

She held her breath, waiting to hear what he would say. But he just looked at her for a long moment, then leaned over, kissed her. “I hope today was special.”

“It was,” she answered, trying not to feel empty after feeling so incredibly much. He wasn’t being cold, she told herself. This was just him. Dal wasn’t good at expressing emotion. He’d never say the words she wanted to hear. “It was magical.”

He kissed her again and pulled her close to his side and he was soon asleep. Exhausted, Poppy lay next to him, emotions unhinged, thoughts racing, still too wound up to sleep.

Everything had changed in one day.

She’d done what she’d intended to do. She’d protected Dal, but she’d left herself completely open and vulnerable.

This life with Dal would not be easy on her heart.

* * *

Sunlight pierced the gap between the heavy drapes that had been drawn across the windows. Poppy rolled onto her back, stretching and yawning.

She winced a little as she rolled onto her back, feeling a new soreness between her thighs. She flashed back to the intense lovemaking and blushed, remembering his mouth and lips on her, exploring her, and then the way he’d filled her, burying himself in her, making her feel more connected to him than she’d ever been with anyone.

Poppy reached out to see if Dal was still with her, but he was gone.

She turned to look at the place he should have been, and could still see an indentation from his big frame.

She stroked the sheet in his spot. It was cool. He’d been gone a long time.

Poppy slowly sat up, drawing the covers with her. Last night had been a revelation. She hadn’t expected the closeness, nor had she realized that a man’s body could feel like that...the sinewy pressure of Dal’s thighs, and the warm, hard planes of his chest. She

could still remember how she’d clung to him, arms wrapped tightly, feeling as if she’d never get close enough. Poppy didn’t know if this was how everyone felt when they made love, but the intensity of it had been shattering. She’d anticipated pleasure, and she’d expected new sensations, but she hadn’t expected that the desire would become pure emotion.

When he’d filled her, and held her and thrust so deeply into her, she’d wanted to burst out of her skin and crawl into his.

She wanted him, all of him, his mind, body and soul.

It was why she’d told him she loved him. She wanted to be part of his heart, and safe in his heart and feel secure forever.

But she didn’t feel secure.

If anything, making love had made her feel more alone and isolated than before.

* * *

It was late afternoon before Poppy saw Dal. He found her down by the pool, reading beneath an umbrella. He leaned over her, kissed her and then sat down on the chair, apologizing for being gone all day, explaining that he’d spent much of the day making sure his family returned safely to Gila, and then a problem had come up in the London office and he’d been on conference calls ever since.

It wasn’t until he sat down next to her that she realized he was wearing the traditional white robe of his people.

“Where has Randall Grant gone?” she asked, and she wasn’t just referring to the clean, elegant lines of the robe, but the gradual transformation that had taken place since they flew out of Winchester. In England he’d been so private and contained. He wasn’t just more open here; his personality was warmer, too. He smiled here, and made jokes and teased her. And made love to her. Her cheeks heated remembering last night.

“Do you want him back?”

“Not necessarily. Although he is the you I know best.”

“There is just one of me. But the me here is more relaxed. Happier, too,” he added, leaning forward to kiss her, a hot, erotic kiss that made her tummy tighten and her breasts peak. She was breathless when he pulled away.

“Are you happy here?” he added.

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