“Your secret”—one more little thrust and he was resting against her maidenhead—“wasn’t very much of a secret.”

Her brows drew together in question.

He grinned. “It was written all over your face.”

She scowled again, and it made him want to explode in laughter. “But now,” he said, keeping a scrupulously straight face, “I have a question for you.”

She gazed at him in response, clearly waiting for him to elucidate further.

He leaned down, brushed his lips against her ear, and whispered, “What do you think now?”

For a moment she didn’t respond in any way, then he felt her start in surprise when she finally figured out what he was asking. “Are we done?” she asked in clear disbelief.

This time he did burst out in laughter. “Far from it, my dear wife,” he gasped, wiping his eyes with one hand as he tried to hold himself up with the other. “Far, far from it.” His eyes growing serious, he added, “This is where it might hurt a little, Kate. But I promise you, the pain will never be repeated.”

She nodded, but he could feel her body tense up, which he knew would only make it worse. “Shhh,” he crooned. “Relax.”

She nodded, her eyes shut. “I am relaxed.”

He was glad she couldn’t see him smile. “You are most definitely not relaxed.”

Her eyes flew open. “Yes, I am.”

“I can’t believe this,” Anthony said, as if there were someone else in the room to hear him. “She’s arguing with me on our wedding night.”

“I’m—”

He cut her off with a finger to her lips. “Are you ticklish?”

“Am I ticklish?”

He nodded. “Ticklish.”

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”

“That sounds like a yes to me,” he said with a grin.

“Not at—Oooohhh!” She let out a squeal as one of his hands found a particularly sensitive spot under arm. “Anthony, stop!” she gasped, squirming desperately beneath him. “I can’t bear it! I—”

He plunged forward.

“Oh,” she breathed. “Oh, my.”

He groaned, barely able to believe just how good it felt to be buried completely within her. “Oh, my, indeed.”

“We’re not done now, are we?”

He shook his head slowly as his body began to move in an ancient rhythm. “Not even close,” he murmured.

His mouth took hers as one of his hands snaked up to caress her breast. She was utter perfection beneath him, her hips rising to meet his, moving tentatively at first, then with a vigor that matched her rising passion.

“Oh, God, Kate,” he moaned, his ability to form flowery sentences completely lost in the primitive heat of the moment. “You’re so good. So good.”

Her breath was coming faster and faster, and each little wispy gasp inflamed his passion even more. He wanted to possess her, to own her, to hold her beneath him and never let her go. And with each thrust it was getting more difficult to put her needs before his. His mind screamed that this was her first time and he had to have a care for her, but his body demanded release.

With a ragged groan, he forced himself to stop thrusting and catch his breath. “Kate?” he said, barely recognizing his own voice. It sounded hoarse, detached, desperate.

Her eyes, which had been closed as her head tossed from side to side, flew open. “Don’t stop,” she gasped, “please don’t stop. I’m so close to something…I don’t know what.”

“Oh, God,” he groaned, plunging back in to the hilt, throwing his head back as his spine arched. “You’re so beautiful, so unbelievably—Kate?”

She’d stiffened beneath him, and not in climax.

He froze. “What’s wrong?” he whispered.

He saw a brief flash of pain—the emotional sort, not the physical—flash across her face before she hid it and whispered, “Nothing.”

“That’s not true,” he said in a low voice. His arms were straining from holding himself above her, but he barely noticed. Every fiber of his being was focused on her face, which was shuttered and pained, despite her obvious attempts to hide it.

“You called me beautiful,” she whispered.

For a good ten seconds he just stared at her. For the life of him, he couldn’t understand how that was a bad thing. But then again, he’d never professed to understand the female mind. He thought he should simply reaffirm the statement, that she was beautiful, and what the hell was the problem, but a little voice inside warned him that this was one of those moments, and no matter what he said, it would be the wrong thing, so he decided to tread very, very carefully, and he just murmured her name, which he had a feeling might be the only word guaranteed not to get him into trouble.

“I’m not beautiful,” she whispered, her eyes meeting his. She looked shattered and broken, but before he could contradict her, she asked, “Who were you picturing?”

He blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Who do you think of when you make love to me?”

Anthony felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. The breath whooshed from his body. “Kate,” he said slowly. “Kate, you’re mad, you’re—”

“I know a man doesn’t have to feel desire for a woman to find pleasure with her,” she cried out.

“You think I don’t desire you?” he choked out. God in heaven, he was ready to explode right now within her and he hadn’t even moved for the last thirty seconds.

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