But she only leaned closer, her breath flowing gently against him. She kissed him, her lips lingering on the moist tip. A shock of response nearly unmanned him. Panting, he pulled away and lowered to the bed on his stomach, feverishly willing the sensation to die down. His chest heaved as he pulled in huge draughts of air.

“Helen,” he muttered, gripping savage handfuls of the bedclothes. “My God, Helen.”

There were movements beside him, her slight weight depressing the mattress. “Did you like that?” she asked cautiously.

His sound of vigorous assent was buried in the sheets.

“Oh good.” She sounded relieved. In a moment, he felt her climbing over him. She had removed her nightgown, and was draping her naked body all along his, catlike. He tensed, smoldering at the enticing weight of her. Silky female skin . . . the curves of her breasts . . . the little fluff of curls teasing his backside . . .

“I talked with Kathleen,” she said, her breath causing the hair at his nape to prickle and lift. “She explained a few things about the marital relationship that she thought I should know.” As he flexed and shivered beneath her, she wriggled to conform more closely to the masculine terrain of his body.

“Helen. Hold still.”

She stopped moving at once. “Is it uncomfortable when I lie on you like this?”

“No, it’s just that I’m trying not to spend.”

“Oh.” Helen pressed her cheek against his nape. “Some men can more than once,” she said helpfully.

In spite of his raging arousal, Rhys found himself burying a grin against the mattress. “You’re so well-informed, cariad.”

“I want to learn everything a mistress would know, so that I can satisfy you.”

Carefully he rolled to his side, letting her slide off his back before he moved over her. His hands clasped her head, her silvery-gold hair spilling between his fingers.

“My own,” he said, “don’t ever worry about that. Everything about you is a delight to me.”

Her gaze turned wary. “I’m sure you’ll discover things you won’t like.”

“I hope so. If you had no flaws, mine would throw us off-balance.”

“I’ll balance yours,” she assured him with a touch of irony he’d never heard from her before.

“If by that you mean your shyness,” Rhys said, “you’ll learn to overcome it.” He nudged his hips against hers. “Just look at the progress you’ve made with me.”

Helen laughed, turning pink up to her hairline. One of her hands drew along his flank and slipped cautiously between their bodies. “What’s the word for this?” she asked, taking hold of him again. “What do you call it?”

“Your sister-in-law didn’t include that in her lecture?”

“She told me some of the English words,” Helen admitted, “but I want to know what it’s called in Welsh.”

“Is this how you mean to begin learning Welsh?” he asked in mock disapproval. “With profanity?”

“Yes.”

Rhys smiled and kissed her. “Mind you, most Welsh love-talk sounds like a farming manual. The word for a man’s part is goesyn. Stalk.”

She repeated the syllables, her fingers gripping and stroking him with maddening gentleness.

“When the man thrusts inside the woman,” he said, breathing with increasing difficulty, “the word is dyrnu. To thresh.” He began to kiss his way down her body, savoring her warm skin with its faint dusting of talcum. After blowing lightly against the protective curls of her sex, he murmured, “This is a ffwrch. A furrow to be plowed.” He leaned close enough for her to feel the tip of his tongue as he drew it along the innocently closed seam. Her thighs trembled on either side of him. “And the word for this”—he paused to search deeper, finding the shy bud still hidden beneath its hood—“is chrib, a bit of honeycomb.” He delved again, tickling the little peak to wakefulness until it was hot and distinct against the tip of his tongue.

Slowly he continued to lick and tease her, while she squirmed beneath him. He was lost in her, aware of nothing outside this room, this bed. How finely made she was, her skin pearly, the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet as soft as a kitten’s paws. She was sensitive everywhere, her toes spreading reflexively as he kissed the arch of her foot, her leg jerking when his tongue slipped behind her knee.

Rising back over her, he braced his weight carefully, settling his shaft against that exquisite channel and letting her feel what he was about to give her. She looked disoriented, flushed, a pulse visible in her neck.

“Do you want me, Helen?”

“Yes. Yes.”

Afraid of hurting her by thrusting too hard, he pinned her writhing hips and whispered that she had to keep still, he needed to enter her slowly. Her flesh was wet but tight, refusing to yield easily. She locked her arms around his neck, gasping, making soft noises as he pushed up inside her, working in short thrusts, sliding deeper each time. He kissed her lips, her throat. His brain flooded with thoughts of the other time they’d been together and how he’d caused her pain, and how much he wanted it to be good for her now.

After he had slid forward the last inch, he paused to stare down at her in wonder. Her skin was misted and gleaming, her eyes shimmering. She was like something wrought of myth and make-believe, some lovely lost angel who had fallen into his arms. He sank deeper into the tender cradle of her hips and thighs, luxuriating in the feel of her trembling body beneath his, the air settling like cool silk against his sweating back. His mouth skimmed over the slope of her breast, his ears thrilling to her low-throated moan. Playing with her breasts, he shaped the firm curves with his hands, lifting them as he teased and nibbled at the peaks.

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