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Those were huge words for him, but she refused to read too much into it. He was hot and hard and horny as hell. That didn’t mean once they were out of bed he would say the same things, or even think them. In fact, she was pretty sure he wouldn’t.

“Ryder, you—” He slid inside of her then, stealing her ability to talk, to think. She could only feel, her body completely in his thrall as he rocked gently against her.

It was the first time he’d ever taken her like this, face to face, and she loved it. Oh, she loved everything he did to her—he was a wildly inventive lover who had made her come more times in three weeks than she had in her entire life, but she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t wanted this.

Being able to look into his eyes, to kiss him and wrap her arms and legs around him, to hold him, while he slipped inside of her was a different pleasure than the others he’d given her. But then, this was a different loving.

Normally he was intense—all wild heat as he took her body places she’d never imagined she could go. Powerful places where the pleasure was so overwhelming it drove her close to insanity.

But this time was different. This was slow and sweet and breathtaking in a whole different way.

She wanted to touch him, to give him half as much pleasure as he was giving her. But every time she tried, every time she smoothed her hands over his back or up his chest, she got distracted—by the look in his eyes and the slow, steady rhythm of his thrusts.

He was touching every part of her inside and out, even those ones he didn’t want to know about and that she worked so hard to keep hidden. Deep inside, she knew it was dangerous, masochistic, to just surrender herself to him like this. But right now, she wanted this loving to go on forever, wanted to wrap her arms around Ryder and keep him inside her until she no longer had the strength to continue. But the tension inside of her kept building, stacking higher and higher and higher until she was right back where she always was when he was inside of her—clinging to sanity with battered fingertips.

And still she tried to hold on. This felt so good, so right, that she wasn’t ready for it to end.

Ryder must have sensed her reluctance, because he held himself back. Kept his strokes slow and gentle even when she knew he had to be dying to come. His breathing was growing more labored, sweat was pouring off of him, and his body was growing more and more taut. And still he didn’t rush her. Still he held on. For her. She knew it was for her.

Tears bloomed in her eyes before she knew they were even going to form, and she turned her head, not wanting him to see. Maybe he wasn’t the only one who liked the safety of making love with her back to his front. In this position, she felt so much more open. So much more vulnerable.

But, to her confusion, Ryder was having none of it. He brought his hand to her chin, tilted her face back so that she was looking straight at him—swimming eyes and all. And then he kissed her and it was sweeter, hotter, and more profound than anything that had come before it.

She was trembling by the time he pulled away—a combination of excess emotion and the strain it was taking to hold her release in check. And that was when Ryder had enough. “Come on, baby,” he whispered in that low, dark voice she loved so much. The one that had sold millions of songs and broken nearly as many hearts. “Come for me, Jamison. I need to feel you.”

His words pushed her right up to the edge of climax. She teetered there for long seconds, until Ryder swept his thumb over her clit at the same moment he dropped his head and bit softly at her nipple. With a muffled scream, she went flying.

He followed her moments later, and like the build-up that led to it, their orgasm went on and on in slow, gentle waves that left her feeling warm and soft and boneless.

Ryder must have felt the same, because when he finally stopped coming, he collapsed on her, burying his face in the vulnerable curve where her neck met her shoulder. Thrilled at the feel of him on top of her, surrounding her, Jamison wrapped her arms and legs around him and held tight. She didn’t want to freak him out, but she couldn’t let him go yet. Not without trying to give to him some of the same warmth and security he gave to her.

Amazingly, he let her.

She didn’t know how long they lay there, wrapped up in and around each other.

Long enough for their hearts to stop racing.

Long enough for her skin to cool and the sweat to evaporate from their bodies.

More than long enough for her to wish things could be different.

It was this realization more than anything else that had her whispering, “We should probably get up.” Time was ticking away and though she wanted to stay, to bask in the easy affection he showed her only when they were making love, she was conscious of overstaying her welcome. Which might sound ridiculous considering this was her room—the few times they’d spent overnight at a hotel in the last few weeks, Ryder had always made sure she had her own room.

He’d never made her feel like she was a bother or that he didn’t want her around. And she needed to keep it that way. Maybe if she could avoid asking too much of him, she could keep him, at least a little longer.

“Tired of me already?” he asked, a frown flitting across his face.

“A little bit, yeah.” She grinned to show him she was teasing. “But seriously, I do have things other than you to do today.”

“Now that’s a shame.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

He dropped a kiss on her nose, then slowly pulled out of her. As he rolled to his feet, she tried not to feel empty. It wasn’t his fault that she wanted more than he had to give her.

“Wanna take a shower with me?” he asked, after he’d walked to the bathroom and disposed of the condom.

“Is that code for water games?”

“It could be.”

“Now that’s a non-answer if I’ve ever heard one.”

He held his hands up in front of him in the universal gesture of innocence. And looked hotter than any man had a right to while doing it. “Hey, I’m just hedging my bets, trying to figure out which answer has the best shot of getting you in the shower with me.”

She gave him a stern look—or tried to. But it was hard to seem intimidating when one of the sexiest men in the universe was smoldering at her. Especially when that smolder was in total jest.

“You should have tried the whole we-need-to-conserve-water routine. We are in Texas, after all.”

He snapped his fingers. “I knew I forgot something. Would it work if I tried that now?”

She walked into the bathroom and tossed a towel at him. “Not a chance, buddy.”

“You sure about that?” He came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her back against his front. Then he started kissing her neck, soft, steamy little nibbles that had her responding to him despite the fact that they’d spent the last three and a half hours in bed together.

She wondered if it would always be that way for her. If she would spend her life wanting him no matter how many times he made love to her. It was a terrifying thought, especially considering she went into this thing with her eyes wide open. Wanting the rules to change in the middle of the game wasn’t fair to Ryder or herself.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered as his lips skimmed across her ear.

“Yeah, right.” Jamison had never been one to undersell herself. She knew she was smart, savvy, a talented writer, and exceptionally organized, just to name a few of her good points. But she also knew what beautiful was and she wasn’t it. She was decently attractive, but in Ryder’s world that didn’t really count for much.

But it was hard to keep her head out of the clouds when Ryder’s strong musician’s hands slid up her stomach to cup her breasts. When his thumbs brushed over her nipples and his hot breath made the little hairs at the nape of her neck stand straight up.

“Look,” he said, nodding his head toward the mirror they were standing in front of. The mirror she had very deliberately avoided looking at.

“I’d rather look at you,” she answered, turning toward him.

But he banded an arm around her hips and another over her breasts, forcing her to stay facing the mirror. Then he used his chin to nudge at her cheek until she reluctantly lifted her head and met his eyes in the mirror.

“Look at you,” he told her in a voice gone husky with desire. “Just look at you.”

She could deny him nothing when he asked like that, so she did. And saw the same Jamison she’d always seen staring back at her. Crazy red hair, too pale skin, a smattering of freckles on her arms and chest. And hips and thighs that needed about eight consecutive weeks on a Stairmaster before they could ever be considered toned.

“What do you see?” he asked.

She didn’t know how to answer him, what to say to make him understand. So in the end, she just told him the truth. “I see you.” She couldn’t keep the reverence out of her tone as her eyes traced his gorgeous muscles and even more gorgeous tattoos.

He sighed in frustration, shoved a hand through all that glorious, silky hair of his. And said, “Baby, I love the way you look.”

He moved a hand to her face, stroked his fingers down her cheeks. “Your eyes slay me. All violet and mysterious—I never quite know what you’re thinking. Even when that frustrates me, I get off on it.”

He moved lower, rubbed his thumb over her lips. “And your mouth. I love the color of your lips. Love this little dip right here.” He paused at the deep bow in the center of her top lip. “You’d be shocked if you knew how much time I’ve spent these last few weeks fantasizing about your mouth wrapped around my cock.”

She shuddered, her head falling back against his chest and her eyes drifting closed as she lost herself in the sensual promise of his words.

“Open your eyes,” he commanded, a dark note in his voice that had her instinctively following his directions.

“I love your skin. How soft and sweet it is. It’s why I kiss you so much, because I love to taste you—all peaches and cream and warm, rich honey.” He leaned forward, trailed his tongue over her shoulder. Played connect the dots with the scattering of freckles there.

It tickled and she giggled a little despite the spell Ryder was weaving all around her. “I also love your laugh,” he told her with a wicked grin. “Almost as much as I love these.”

He moved his right arm back down so that it once again banded her breasts. He cupped her left breast in his hand, stroked her nipple for long, breathless seconds.

“And this.” His left hand slipped down to cup her sex, his middle finger sliding through her folds while his bent index finger circled round her clit.

Heat licked through her, made her knees tremble and her skin ache with sensitivity. Again she started to turn in to him, and again he stopped her with his ragingly possessive hold.

“Look,” he urged, his voice somehow, impossibly, deeper than before.

And she did, for the first time seeing shades of what he was talking about. She didn’t look beautiful standing there, but she did look hot, sexy. Her hair was tousled, her eyes heavy-lidded with desire. Between his spread fingers, she could see her nipple, dark red and hard with need. Her legs were spread, her hips moving sensuously against his hand as he teased her toward yet another orgasm.

“Do you see?” His voice was pure gravel now.

She nodded against his chest. Her voice had deserted her.

“Say it. Tell me you understand.”

“I see.” Each word was a razor blade slicing the inside of her dry, tight throat. “I understand.”

“Thank God.” He turned her around, sank to his knees. “Keep watching,” he urged as he spread her legs and licked his way through her already drenched folds. He nodded to the second mirror, which was directly across from the one she was now leaning against.

“Ryder,” she gasped, her hands clutching at his shoulders in an attempt to keep her already unsteady legs from buckling completely.

He must have heard the desperation in her voice, because he braced his hands on her hips and lifted her onto the vanity. Then he brought her feet up to rest inches from her ass, urging her to let her knees fall open even as he did so. She was wide open to him now, completely vulnerable, and if she hadn’t trusted him so completely she never could have born it.

But she did trust him. How could she not when he had already brought her such incredible pleasure?

He chose that moment to pull her clit into his mouth and suck gently. Her head fell back on a moan, her eyes closing because she didn’t have the strength to keep them open for one more second.

But Ryder was having none of it. “Look,” he told her again, and she did, forcing her eyes open despite the near-blinding pleasure.

It was the most shockingly intimate thing she had ever done, but she didn’t stop him. And she didn’t look away. Instead, she watched him going down on her. Watched him taking her with his hands and lips and tongue. Her own hands clutched at his shoulders and hair, her hips arching into his mouth as her need for release grew more and more desperate.