She nodded. “You did. I didn’t know what I was doing.” “Are you still frightened of me? It’s all right if you are. I’m a terrifying man.” Violet’s smile came. “Absolutely horrifying.” “Good.” Daniel nuzzled her hair. “Because I’d like to keep on kissing you. This place has finally warmed, and I’m not ready for the city streets yet. Now, admit it, that was pleasure you were feeling, wasn’t it? Deep down, belly-clenching, blood-heating pleasure.” She nodded. “I thought I was drowning.” “You’re supposed to feel like that. As though your mooring has been ripped away, and you’re floundering in the water, not knowing if you’ll ever come up again. And not sure you want to.” Violet nodded again, her hair moving on his shoulder. “Yes. Exactly like that.” “You owe me a shilling.” Another sparkle. “So, you were only after money, were you?” Daniel pressed his hand to his heart, which was pounding. “You love to wound me, don’t you? I’m a master of pleasure. I’d give it for the fun of it, and damn the wager. But you’re not getting out of it that easily. I intend to collect.” “Oh, do you? You’d rob a poor, defenseless Romany woman?” Daniel liked how easily she fell into teasing with him. “You’re a fraud, Violet . . . whatever your name is.” Violet only smiled again, keeping her secrets secret. Daniel pulled her closer, sliding his hands around the black canvas bodice, which he itched to unlace. To hell with secrets, her past and his, pain and heartbreak. He had Violet with him tonight, hidden from the world. Here, Violet belonged to Daniel and he to her. When he kissed her, Violet’s lips readily opened to him. They shared the warm, intimate kisses of lovers. Daniel had softened something inside her, broken a small chink in her wall. He’d break down the whole bloody thing if he had to. Their lips moved together, mouths seeking and giving. Violet’s hand on his knee warmed him through the kilt. When that hand slipped to land on Daniel’s aching, hard-as-a-rock cock, his entire world stopped. Chapter 19 Daniel made himself go completely still. Violet was gazing at him in fear again, her hand frozen in place. He knew any move might scare her away, undoing all the work they’d done here tonight. No matter how intensely Daniel wanted Violet, he had to leave what happened up to her. “You do as you like.” Daniel smoothed a wisp of tangled hair from her face. “Just as you like.” Violet kept her hand in place, neither exploring him nor pulling away. Indecision and terror chased each other through her eyes, but Daniel remained still. He was an expert on patience—horses needed patience, so did machines. Years with each had taught him much. Violet kept her focus on his face, trying to read him as she always did. Her brow puckered as once again, she couldn’t. Daniel wanted to tell her she couldn’t read him because he was open all the way down. Daniel didn’t have secrets—the only time he kept secrets was when truth would hurt someone. Otherwise, the depths of him were the same as his surface. Violet could look all she wanted, but she’d see only Daniel. He had nothing to hide. Violet’s hand tightened around him through the kilt, her eyes stilling as she did so. Daniel swallowed a groan. “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered. “You won’t have to do very much for very long.” Her look told him she wasn’t sure what Daniel meant. The man who’d stolen her innocence had taken still more—Violet’s trust, her curiosity, her ability to simply be with a man. Daniel would make him pay when he found him, and Daniel would find him. Violet moved her hand again. Daniel groaned and gently took her wrist. “Wait, darlin’.” He drew out the pin at his waistband and pulled his kilt the rest of the way off, then settled the plaid over both of them, wrapping them in a blanket of wool. “Now then. Explore as you like.” Violet’s lips parted, but resolution joined the fear in her eyes. Slowly she slid her hand down Daniel’s torso, under the plaid. When her fingertips brushed his cock, she drew a sharp breath and jerked her hand away. But she didn’t give up. Violet reached out again, another quick touch, then another, as a person might do when worried an object would give an electric shock. Each touch lasted a little longer than the last, until finally Violet let her fingers rest fully on him. This had to be the hardest thing Daniel had ever done—keeping himself motionless, letting Violet find the courage to continue on her own. She had to do it, or she’d be forever uncertain. Daniel saw Violet’s panic flare again, but she drew a deep breath and mastered it. Hesitantly, she closed her fingers all the way around him. Daniel let out a faint groan. He stretched his arms across the sofa’s back, fists clenched, and closed his eyes. Violet rested against his shoulder, her fingers moving a little. “When I do this, does it make you feel exactly the way you made me feel?” Daniel swallowed another noise of desperation. “I’ve not made a scientific study of it, but yes, I think it does.” “Oh.” “Oh is a good way of putting it. Vi, you’re killing me.” She stilled. “Shall I stop?” The question sounded innocent, but he heard her strength returning behind it.