She tasted of him, and he of her, and God help him, he wasn’t going to be able to go slowly.
He did, though. She was eager, but awkward, trying to lift her h*ps to him, touching him too quickly, too lightly. He took her hands, one at a time, and placed them flat against his chest. Her palms were hot, and his n**ples tightened.
“Feel my heart,” he said. His voice sounded thick to his own ears. “Tell me if it stops.”
He hadn’t actually meant to be funny, and was faintly surprised when she gave a nervous laugh. The laugh disappeared as he touched her. Her hands tightened on his chest; then he felt her relax, opening her legs to him.
“I love you,” he murmured. “Oh, Bree, I do love you.”
She didn’t answer, but a hand floated up from the dark and lay along his cheek, gentle as a tendril of seaweed. She kept it there while he took her, laid open in trust, while her other hand held his beating heart.
He felt more drunk than before. Not groggy or sleepy, though; alive to everything. He could smell his own sweat; he could smell hers, smell the faint tang of fear that tinged her desire.
He closed his eyes and breathed. Tightened his grip on her shoulders. Pressed slowly. Slid in. Felt her tear and bit his own lip, hard enough to draw blood.
Her fingernails dug into his chest.
“Go on!” she whispered.
One sharp hard thrust, and he possessed her.
He stayed that way, eyes closed, breathing. Balanced on an edge of pleasure sharp enough to cause him pain. Dimly he wondered if the pain he felt was hers.
“Are you…really big, do you think?” Her voice was slightly tremulous.
“Ah…” He groped for remnants of coherence. “About the usual.” A flash of concern penetrated the feelings of drunkenness. “Am I hurting you a lot?”
“N-no, not exactly. Just…can you not move for a minute?”
“A minute, an hour. All my life, if you want.” He thought it would kill him not to move, and would have died gladly.
Her hands moved slowly down his back, touching his buttocks. He shivered and ducked his head, eyes closed, painting her face before his mind’s eye with a dozen small and mindless kisses.
“Okay.” She whispered in his ear, and like an automaton he began to move, as slowly as he could, restrained as he went by the pressure of her hand on his back.
She stiffened very slightly and relaxed, stiffened and relaxed, he knew he was hurting her, did it again, he ought to stop, she lifted up against him, taking him, and there was a deep and bestial noise that he must have made, now, it had to be now, he had to…
Shaking and gasping like a landed fish, he jerked free of her body and lay on her, feeling her br**sts crushed against him as he jerked and moaned.
Then he lay still, no longer drunk but wrapped in guilty peace, and felt her arms around him and the warm breath of the whisper in his ear.
“I love you,” she said, her voice husky in the hop-scented air. “Stay with me.”
“All my life,” he said, and wrapped his arms around her.
They lay peacefully together, welded with the sweat of their efforts, listening to each other breathe. Roger stirred at last, lifting his face from her hair, his limbs at once weightless and heavy as lead.
“All right, love?” he whispered. “Have I hurt you?”
“Yes, but I didn’t mind.” Her hand passed lightly down the length of his back, making him shiver despite the heat. “Was it all right? Did I do it right?” She sounded faintly anxious.
“Oh, God!” He bent his head and kissed her, long and lingering. She tensed a little, but then her mouth relaxed under his.
“It was all right, then?”
“You certainly swear a lot, for a minister’s son,” she said, with a faint note of accusation. “Maybe those old ladies in Inverness were right; you have gone to the devil.”
“Not blasphemy,” he said. He put his forehead against her shoulder, breathing in the deep, ripe scent of her, of them. “Prayers of thanksgiving.”
That made her laugh.
“Oh, it was all right, then,” she said, with an unmistakable note of relief.
He lifted his head.
“Christ, yes,” he said, making her laugh again. “How could you possibly think otherwise?”
“Well, you didn’t say anything. You just lay there like somebody’d hit you over the head; I thought maybe you were disappointed.”
Now it was his turn to laugh, his face half buried in the smooth damps of her neck.
“No,” he said finally, coming up for air. “Behaving as though your spinal column’s been removed is a fair indication of male satisfaction. No very gentleman-like, maybe, but honest.”
“Oh, okay.” She seemed satisfied with that. “The book didn’t say anything about that, but then it wouldn’t; it didn’t bother with what happens afterward.”
“What book is this?” He moved cautiously, their skins separating with a noise like two strips of flypaper being parted. “Sorry about the mess.” He groped for his wadded shirt and handed it to her.
“The Sensuous Man.” She took the shirt and dabbed fastidiously. “There was a lot of stuff about ice cubes and whipped cream that I thought was pretty extreme, but it was good about how to do things like fellatio, and—”
“You learned that from a book?” Roger felt as scandalized as one of the ladies of his father’s congregation.
“Well, you don’t think I go around doing that with people I go out with!” She sounded truly shocked in turn.
“They write books telling young women how to—that’s terrible!”
“What’s terrible about it?” she said, rather huffy. “How else would I know what to do?”
Roger rubbed a hand over his face, at a loss for words. If asked an hour before, he would have stoutly claimed to be in favor of sexual equality. Under the veneer of modernity, though, there was apparently enough of the Presbyterian minister’s son left to feel that a nice young woman really ought to be an ignoramus on her wedding night.
Manfully suppressing this Victorian notion, Roger brought a hand up over the smooth white curves of hip and flank, and cupped a soft full breast.
“Not a thing,” he said. “Only,” he said, and dipped his head to touch his lips to hers, “there’s a bit more to it,” and lightly nipped her lower lip, “than ye read in books, aye?”
She moved suddenly, turning to bring all that long white heat against his bare skin, and he shuddered at the shock of it.
“Show me,” she whispered, and bit the lobe of his ear.
A rooster crowed, somewhere nearby. Brianna woke from a light doze, berating herself for sleeping. She felt disoriented, tired enough from emotion and exertion to feel light-headed, as though she were floating a foot or two off the ground. At the same time, she didn’t want to miss a moment.
Roger stirred by her side, feeling her move. He groped, put an arm around her, and rolled her over, curving himself to fit behind her, knees to knees, belly to buttocks. He brushed the tangles of her hair away from his face, making little pfft! noises that made her want to laugh.
He’d made love to her three times. She was very sore, and very happy. She’d imagined it a thousand times, and been wrong every time. There wasn’t any way to imagine the sheer terrifying immediacy of being taken like that—stretched suddenly beyond the limits of flesh, penetrated, rent, entered. Nor was there any way she could have imagined the sense of power in it.
She had expected to be helpless, the object of desire. Instead, she had held him, felt him quiver with need, all his strength leashed for fear of hurting her—hers to unleash as she would. Hers, to touch and rouse, to call to her, to command.
Nor had she ever thought such tenderness existed as when he cried out and shuddered in her arms, pressing his forehead hard against her own, trusting her with that moment when his strength turned so suddenly to helplessness.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly in her ear.
“For what?” She reached back, stroked his thigh. She could do that, now. She could touch him anywhere, delighting in the textures and tastes of his body. She couldn’t wait for the daylight, to see him nak*d.
“For this.” He made a small movement with his hand, encompassing the dark around them, the hard straw under them. “I should have waited. I wanted it to be…good for you.”
“It was very good for me,” she said softly. There was a shallow groove down the side of his thigh, where the muscle was indented.
He laughed, a little ruefully.
“I wanted you to have a proper wedding night. Soft bed, clean sheets…it should have been better, for your first time.”
“I’ve had soft beds and clean sheets,” she said. “But not this.” She turned in his arms, reached down and cupped him, that fascinating mass of changeability between his legs. He stiffened for a second in surprise, then relaxed, letting her handle him as she liked. “It couldn’t have been better,” she said softly, and kissed him.
He kissed her back, slow and lazy, exploring all the depths and hollows of her mouth, letting her have his. He moaned a little, far back in his throat, and reached down to take her hand away.
“Oh, God, you’re going to kill me, Bree.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, anxious. “Did I squeeze too hard? I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
He laughed at that.
“Not that. But give the poor thing a wee rest, hm?” With a firm hand, he turned her over again, nuzzling her shoulder.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy.”
“Aye? Well, that’s good, then.” He sounded drowsy.
“Even if—if we don’t get back, as long as we’re together, I don’t mind.”
“We’ll get back.” His hand cupped her breast, gentle as seaweed coming to rest round a rock. “I told you, there’s another way.”
“I think so.” He told her about the grimoire, the mixture of careful notes and crazed rambling—and about his own passage through the stones of Craigh na Dun.
“The second time, I thought of you,” he said softly, and traced her features with a finger in the dark. “I lived. And I did come to the right time. But the diamond Fiona gave me was no more than a smear of lampblack in my pocket.”
“So it might be possible to—to steer, somehow?” Brianna couldn’t keep a hint of hope from her voice.
“There might be.” He hesitated. “There was a—I suppose it must have been a poem, or maybe meant to be a spell—in the book.” His hand fell away as he recited it.
“I raise my athame to the North
Where is the home of my power,
To the West
Where is the hearth of my soul,
To the South
Where is the seat of friendship and refuge,
To the East
From whence rises the Sun.
“Then lay I my blade on the altar I have made.