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The words in her ear sounded like praise and encouragement as she arched into him, her fingers sliding over the sweat-slicked muscles of his back and shoulders. He was sliding over her, her skin was as hot and damp as his with the exertion of maintaining the increasingly frantic rhythm, then everything went crazy mad, and she got whisked away by a series of deep contractions that reached her toes.

Her cry of astonished pleasure was lost in his mouth.

He lay on top of her while they both fought for breath. She missed the weight when he rolled away and lay there, one hand above his head, breathing hard.

Waiting, he rubbed the ring on his finger, knowing there was always a price to pay for the pleasure of sex. The escape from his demons was only ever temporary, guilt always found him.

When nothing happened to disturb a feeling that was as close to peace as he had experienced in a long time, he turned his head. Kate smiled at him with lips swollen from his kisses, her eyes still languid and sparkling with an uncomplicated happiness that under normal circumstances he would have thought fake, but hers wasn’t.

‘You look very pleased with yourself.’ If some major hang-ups had kept her a virgin, she was displaying no signs of them.

‘I’m very pleased with you... That was... Thank you. I really didn’t know it could be like that.’

‘You gave yourself to me... I was your first.’ It was a precious gift that he was not deserving of, but had he been offered it again, knowing what a mind-blowing experience it would be, he doubted he would have refused it.

‘Mm, I suppose that does seem a bit weird. I didn’t set out to stay a virgin, it’s not some life choice,’ she promised him earnestly. ‘It just never happened, and I always thought I wasn’t know, I was a bit of a cold fish.’

If she had met Marco when she was eighteen there would have been no waiting.

‘I have a very low opinion of the men in your life,cara,’ he said, sounding justifiably smug.

‘Not them, me,’ she said, her face serious. ‘I have had a...’ Her nose wrinkled. ‘Atick-boxattitude to life. That probably sounds stupid, but I never realised that you can’t score everything safe or unsafe, right or wrong. Some things are wrong on so many levels but yet they are marvellously, gloriously right!’ Her face melted into a smile. ‘I feel quite liberated.’Also sad.Not that she would let it spoil this moment, but she knew Marco’s modus operandi, so she knew that it wasn’t the start of anything marvellous, more a glimpse into what she could have had.

‘I am wrong on so many levels?’

‘Too many to count but you are so right...that was so right.’

‘You know that this is just sex, Kate?’

She ignored the stab of hurt and rolled her eyes. ‘You mean you’re not going to marry me? Oh, I’m devastated,’ she drawled, her eyes sparking with anger. Why did he have to ruin her perfect moment? ‘But don’t worry, I’ll get my revenge by bad-mouthing you online.’

‘I’ve annoyed you.’ She really did look magnificent angry. Despite the fact the sweat of exertion had not dried on his skin, he felt a kick of lust.

‘Why would that be? It’s only fair, given there’s only one of you, that you share yourmagnificencearound, and I’m not greedy.’

A low rumble of laughter vibrated in the barrel of his chest as he went to grab for her, but she pulled away, sitting up in one energetic bound, her glorious hair falling in a fiery cloak over her shoulders, allowing a tempting peek of one tight nipple.

‘Granted it’s awkward, given my position here. But do you really think I need it spelling out that this was a one-night stand?’

‘We could get around awkward.’

She stared down at him. ‘You want to do this—’ her gesture took in the tumbled bedclothes ‘—again?’

‘You’re blushing.’

‘I’m not,’ she denied crossly. ‘You want to have sex again? I didn’t know you did again.’

His eyes glowed wickedly. ‘Five minutes, maybe two, and I’ll disprove that theory.’

It took a couple of seconds for his meaning to crystallise. ‘Oh! You know what I many times?’

He turned his head and laughed. ‘You intend keeping count with bedpost notches?’

‘I meant—’

‘I know what you meant and I know these things generally have a natural life span...they’re self-limiting.’

‘So, you want to sleep with me untilIlose interest.’

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