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Page 62

Violet looked up at Daniel for a long time, her blue eyes still but thoughts racing behind them. Her loose braid fell across the black canvas bodice, the br**sts it hugged rising with her breath.

Finally she lifted her hands, fingers visibly trembling, and placed them in his.

Daniel closed his fingers over hers, feeling the cold of her skin, her fear. He pulled her to her feet. Violet’s hair was mussed, her eyes large, her dark face powder half brushed off to reveal patches of white skin.

Daniel tugged her against him and closed his arms around her. He felt her trembling turn to all-out shaking as Violet clutched at the back of his shirt.

Ideas for avenging her spun through Daniel’s thoughts, but he wouldn’t frighten Violet with them. There was a time for slaying dragons, and a time for holding on to someone and making the terror go away.

Violet’s fear, it seemed, wouldn’t let her simply hold on. She jerked his shirttails out from the back of his kilt and again pulled at his waistband.

Daniel’s heart was beating as rapidly as hers, and he was hard for her—aching—but he caught her wrists and pulled her away from him. “I think I said this before. Let me savor you.”

“I can’t.” Violet spoke breathily. “I need to burn through the fear. I want it done, before I know it’s happening . . .”

She shook out of his grip and yanked once more at the kilt’s waistband. The pin that held the kilt in place broke open, and the plaid sagged from Daniel’s hips.

As Daniel grabbed for the slipping kilt, Violet was shoving open his shirt, pushing it from his shoulders. She moved like a frightened animal, desperate and trembling.

“No, lass.”

“But you want me.” Violet sounded confused. She stroked down the front of the kilt, finding his hard c**k and sending up a spike of madness. “You want me.”

“Aye, that I do.” Daniel had to drop the kilt to seize her wrists. Violet fought, but Daniel was stronger. “I’m burning for you, lass. Have been for some time. But this isn’t what you need.”

“Yes, it is. It is.”

“No.” Daniel pulled her with him to the long, scrolled French sofa, currently covered with drawings. He shoved these to the floor and seated Violet on the couch. He’d missed one paper, and it crinkled under her skirts.

Daniel knelt in front of her, still keeping his hands around her wrists. She stared at him in frantic bewilderment.

“We’ll not be rushing through this,” he said. “No finishing before you realize what happened. No getting it over with.” Daniel brought her closed fists to his lips and kissed each in turn. “What you need is to learn slow goodness. How to enjoy each and every moment of it, how to embrace it to your heart and taste it. And I’m just the man to teach you.”

He didn’t give her any time to think or react. Daniel kept hold of her hands as he moved up from his knees and sat next to her on the sofa. His loosened kilt spread across her colorful peasant skirts.

Daniel lifted one of her hands, opened it, kissed her palm, and placed her hand on his bared chest. Violet’s eyes widened a little as she contacted his skin, and he saw fear flash.

“Do what you like,” he said. “Touch. Feel. Scratch. Whatever you want. But slowly.”

Violet’s lower lip shook once before she pressed her mouth into a firm line. She let her hand rest, still, on his chest a moment, then she curled her fingers a little bit, points on his skin. The tip of her middle finger just brushed his nipple.

Would he be able to sit still for this? Daniel’s heart beat hard, his skin dampening in the warming room.

Violet swallowed as she drew her finger across his tight areola. Fire trailed from her touch, but Daniel held himself back from reaching for her.

He watched Violet’s fear start to lessen as she focused on his chest. Daniel never seemed to be able to keep his skin covered when he worked on his engines out of doors or helped his father with the horses. Every summer his skin turned a rich red brown and took its time fading over the winter. Now his chest, back, and arms were a light bronze, and the tattoo, which he’d gotten in London from a man from the Japans, was dark against his skin.

Wisps of Violet’s hair tickled him as she leaned closer, but Daniel held himself back. This was already killing him, but she needed to learn not to be afraid of him.

Violet’s breath brushed his areola, which tightened even more. Daniel’s c**k tightened in direct response.

Now she was almost nuzzling him, breathing in, as though getting herself used to his scent. Daniel couldn’t stop the little grunt in his throat.

Violet raised her head, cheeks flushed. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what? Enjoy a beautiful woman examining me?”

“I don’t know.” Her puzzled look was endearing.

“Let me put this another way,” Daniel said. “When we were in that inn, far away from everywhere, ye weren’t afraid of me.” He remembered her response when he’d slid his hand inside her nightgown, when he’d begun to seduce her with slow kisses. “You kissed me back. You weren’t running away then.”

“It was different. Not real, somehow.”

It had been plenty real. Daniel remembered every second of it. “Well then, if it’s easier for you, this doesn’t have to be real either.”

She frowned. “But it is. Too real.”

“But it’s the same, isn’t it? We’re hidden away while the city teems around us. No one here but you and me.”

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