Daniel didn’t stop his gaze roving down her body, though he remained motionless, his hands again resting on either side of his pillow. “I must be the strongest man in the world. Have to be, to lie here while you’re like that.” His gaze flicked down her again. “You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, do you know that?” Violet didn’t stop to enjoy his praise. Fear stirred inside her again, and she needed to conquer it. Daniel was beautiful. And sensual. When he’d made her feel so heavenly in his little apartment in Marseille, he’d instructed her to think sensual thoughts. Violet had brought up the memory of Daniel sharing the cigarette with her in London, and lying with her in the bed in the country inn. The picture before her now was even more sensual. Daniel Mackenzie stretched upon the bed, quilts kicked to its foot. His hands were raised, out of the way, while his half-closed eyes showed his need. Violet, who thought she’d never desire a man in her life, wanted this one. Not only was Daniel beautiful, but he was caring. He’d proved himself honorable many more times—without trying—than Jacobi ever had. But with Jacobi, Violet had been a child looking for a father, not realizing that adults were fallible and could be cruel and even evil. Violet was a woman now, wanting the man who wanted her. Daniel did nothing as Violet slowly and carefully climbed over him. She rested her hands on his wrists, as though reassuring herself that by pressing him back into the mattress, he couldn’t grab her, force her, do as he pleased. Violet spent a moment looking at him lying under her, then she leaned to him and kissed his lips. Daniel let her keep holding him down, raising his head a little to meet the kiss. They played that way for some time, kissing and tasting. When Violet lifted her head, knowing what would come next, edges of the panic threatened to return. “I still don’t know what to do.” Daniel gave a little shrug. “There’s not much to it. That hard thing you’re feeling against your thigh goes right inside you. That’s it, really.” Violet wet her lips. “I knew that.” “Well, then.” Daniel’s smile returned. “We’re a step forward. How about we see what happens?” But he didn’t move. Daniel was letting Violet make the decision, letting her guide how far they took this. Daniel obviously wanted her—he was hard and ready, the pulse in his wrists beating swiftly under her clenching fingers. Violet drew a long breath. Holding it, she eased herself down toward the blunt hardness that waited for her. Her br**sts touched his chest as she slid back, and new fear touched her heart. “It’s all right,” Daniel said. “I’m here with you.” Tears welled in Violet’s eyes. Still holding Daniel’s wrists, Violet slid her hips back and froze when his tip touched her opening. “Take it slow.” Daniel’s gaze was intense. “I’m not going anywhere.” Slow goodness, he’d said. He’d proved to her that women could feel pleasure, that passion wasn’t entirely on the man’s side. She’d been surprised, but he’d been right. Violet made herself inch back. Daniel made a faint sound in his throat as she slid a little bit onto him. Then she felt him, penetrating her, entering a place where she’d only ever felt pain. Another wave of panic lifted Violet and threatened to cast her into the wall. She’d hurt when she impacted, maybe shatter. But no, when he’d put his mouth to her opening, it hadn’t hurt. It had been beautiful. So beautiful that Violet had dissolved into powerful delight. Daniel’s voice worked through her terror. “I’ll do this with you, Vi. We’ll do it together.” Violet nodded. She could barely see him now. Before Violet could stop herself, she thrust her hips back, moving all the way onto him. A long way. She was tight, but slick, and he went deep. A spark as sharp as lightning streaked through Violet, her skin heating as though she’d plunged into fire. “Daniel.” “I’m here, love.” “Don’t let me fall,” she begged. “Never. I never would.” For some reason Violet knew if she let go of his wrists, she’d fall indeed, down into a black well of nothing. She’d never get free. She needed to hang on to Daniel, to not let him go. Daniel gave her a slow smile, his eyes golden embers in the firelight. Violet kissed him, and then she couldn’t stop kissing him. Exciting, fierce kisses, nothing slow about them. At the same time, Violet waited for the grating pain, the intense hurt that had robbed her of everything she was. It didn’t come. There was only Daniel inside her, his mouth on hers, his body moving as his hips began to work. The sudden friction broke something open inside her. Violet threw back her head, wanting to scream. She bent back down, tears streaming from her eyes, and kissed Daniel. He lifted his hips again, thrusting. A little faster, a little harder. Perspiration gleamed on his skin. Violet’s tears kept falling—she couldn’t make them stop. This was a new beginning, Violet reborn, phoenix-like, in the fires of passion. The feelings inside her were novel and raw, burning her from the inside out. Daniel rose a little on his elbows, continuing his thrusts. Violet couldn’t make herself let go of him, but Daniel didn’t seem to mind. His eyes half closed as he watched her, their gleam of gold like summer sunshine.