“Your boots,” she sputtered.

He went still, then turned his head slowly toward his feet. And then: “Damn it.”

She started laughing even harder.

“It’s not funny,” he muttered. “It’s . . .”

She somehow held her breath.

“. . . funny,” he admitted.

She started laughing so hard the entire bed was shaking. “Can you get them off?” she gasped.

He gave her a supercilious look and pushed himself to a sitting position at the edge of the bed.

After taking a few breaths, she managed to say, “Under no circumstances am I taking a knife to you to remove them.”

His reply was a loud thunk as his right boot hit the floor. And then: “No knife will be necessary.”

She tried for a serious expression. “I am very pleased to hear it.”

He dropped his other boot and turned back to her with a heavy-lidded stare that made her insides melt. “So am I,” he murmured, stretching out alongside her. “So am I.”

His fingers found the small row of buttons at the back of her gown, and the blush-colored silk seemed to melt away, falling from her body like a whisper. Honoria’s hands came instinctively to cover her breasts. He didn’t argue, he didn’t try to pull them away. Instead he just kissed her again, his mouth hot and passionate against hers. And with every deepening moment, she grew more relaxed in his arms until suddenly she realized it wasn’t her hand at her breast, it was his.

And she loved it.

She hadn’t realized that her body – any part of her body – could feel so sensitive, so needy. “Marcus!” she gasped, her back arching in shock as his fingers found the rosy tip.

“You are so beautiful,” he breathed, and she felt beautiful. When he looked at her, when he touched her, she felt like the most beautiful woman ever created.

His mouth replaced his fingers, and she let out a quiet moan of surprise, her legs stretching straight and hard as she dug her fingers into his hair. She had to grab something. She had to. Otherwise she would quite simply fall off the face of the earth. Or float away. Or just disappear, exploding from the heat and energy coursing within her.

Her body felt so foreign, so completely unlike anything she’d ever imagined. And at the same time, it all felt so natural. Her hands seemed to know exactly where to go, and her hips knew how to move, and when his lips moved down her belly, trailing along after the edge of her dress that he was so assiduously peeling from her skin, she knew that it was right, and it was good, and she didn’t just want it, she wanted more. And straightaway, please.

His hands grasped her thighs and gently prodded them open, and she melted into position, moaning, “Yes,” and, “Please,” and, “Marcus!”

And then he kissed her. This she had not expected, and she thought she might die from the pleasure. When he parted her, she had held her breath, preparing herself for his intimate invasion. But instead he worshipped her with his mouth, his tongue, his lips, until she was a writhing, panting, incoherent bundle of need.

“Please, Marcus,” she begged, and she wished she knew exactly what she was begging for. But whatever it was, she knew he could give it to her. He would know how to quench the exquisite ache within her. He could send her to heaven, and he could bring her back down to earth so she could spend a lifetime in his arms.

He pulled away from her for a moment, and she nearly cried from the loss of his touch. He was practically tearing off his breeches, and when he returned, they were matched up lengthwise, his face near hers, his hand in hers, and his hips settling urgently between her legs.

Her lips parted as she tried to breathe evenly. When she looked at him, his eyes were on her face, and all he said was, “Take me.”

The tip of him pressed against her, then opened her, and she understood. It was so difficult, because all she wanted was to clench every muscle in her body, but somehow she made herself relax enough so that with each stroke, he entered her more deeply, until with a gasp of surprise she realized that he was fully sheathed within her.

He shuddered with pleasure, and he began to move in a new rhythm, sliding back and forth within her. She started saying things, she didn’t know what. Maybe she was begging him, or pleading, or trying to make some sort of deal so that he would see this through, and bring her with him, and make it end, and make it never stop, and –

Something happened.

Every speck of her being pulled together into a tight little ball and then shot apart, like one of those firecrackers she’d seen set off over Vauxhall. Marcus, too, cried out and surged forward one last time, spilling himself within her, before collapsing completely.

For several minutes, Honoria could do nothing but lie there, marveling in the warmth of his body next to hers. Marcus had pulled a soft blanket over them, and together they had made their own little heaven. His hand was on hers, their fingers entwined, and she could not imagine a more peaceful, lovely moment.

It would be hers. This. For the rest of her life. He had not mentioned marriage, but this didn’t concern her. This was Marcus. He would never abandon a woman after a moment like this. And he was probably just waiting for the right way to propose. He liked to do things properly, her Marcus.

Her Marcus.

She liked the way that sounded.

Of course, she thought with a gleam in her eye, he had not been the least bit proper this evening. So maybe . . .

“What are you thinking about?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she lied. “Why do you ask?”

He shifted position so that he could lean on his elbow and look down upon her. “You have a terrifying look on your face.”