He rose and met her halfway. He’d never had the nerve to touch her except to hold her hand or arm, but now he extended his fingers to the curve of her cheek, where tendrils of hair hovered. Lamplight turned the curls auburn.
She looked up at him and ran the tip of her tongue over her upper lip so that it gleamed wetly.
Hungrily, he lowered his head and tasted that lip, and it was as if a hand took hold of his heart and squeezed. A small growling sound erupted from deep in his being.
Dessa gasped and leaned into his open mouth.
They stood that way for a moment, hands reaching for but not touching each other, lips and tongues exploring slowly, exquisitely.
Warmth and light poured through Dessa. The velvet, sweet-tasting softness of his mouth offered her succor of a kind she’d never expected. It was like drinking at the well of life, and she wanted it never to end. She stepped closer, not disturbing the kiss, but making herself comfortable against his thighs, his hard flat stomach, his quivering chest muscles.
He circled her waist with both arms, then snaked one hand up to cup her head.
Flashes of light burst behind her closed lids, and she felt herself losing all control. Her muscles tingled, as if overused and ready to collapse. Her breasts ached, her thighs trembled, and both legs went out from under her.
He caught her, deftly swept her up into his arms, and carried her to the bed, lying her there and kneeling beside her.
“Dessa, oh, God, Dessa. I want you. You’re so beautiful.”
He gave her another long, lingering wet kiss, to which she submitted totally. “But if I did this, Rose would have my hide nailed to a barn door. My dear sweet Dessa, I’ll never hurt you. Never.” He pulled back, took his hands away.
Her eyes were smoky with desire, her lips swollen; red spots flared on her cheeks, and he turned away to keep from throwing himself on her right there, hitching up the dress, and doing what they both wanted so desperately.