He swept his wife into his arms and stalked to the bed, depositing her on the mattress half a second before his body came down to cover hers. She was stunning beneath him, soft and strong, and consumed by the same fire that raged within his own body. She might not understand what had prompted his sudden need, but she felt it and shared it all the same.

Kate had already dressed for bed, and her nightrobe fell open easily under his experienced fingers. He had to touch her, to feel her, to assure himself that she was there beneath him and he was there to make love to her. She was wearing a silky little confection of ice blue that tied at the shoulders and hugged her curves. It was the sort of gown designed to reduce men to liquid fire, and Anthony was no exception.

There was something desperately erotic about the feel of her warm skin through the silk, and his hands roamed over her body relentlessly, touching, squeezing, doing anything he could to bind her to him.

If he could have drawn her within him, he would have done it and kept her there forever.

“Anthony,” Kate gasped, in that brief moment when he removed his mouth from hers, “are you all right?”

“I want you,” he grunted, bunching her gown up around the tops of her legs. “I want you now.”

Her eyes widened with shock and excitement, and he sat up, straddling her, his weight on his knees so as not to crush her. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered. “So unbelievably gorgeous.”

Kate glowed at his words, and her hands went up to his face, smoothing her fingers over his faintly stubbled cheeks. He caught one of her hands and turned his face into it, kissing her palm as her other hand trailed down the muscled cords of his neck.

His fingers found the delicate straps at her shoulders, tied into loose bow-tie loops. It took the barest of tugs to release the knots, but once the silky fabric slid over her breasts, Anthony lost all semblance of patience, and he yanked at the garment until it pooled at her feet, leaving her completely and utterly naked under his gaze.

With a ragged groan he tore at his shirt, buttons flying as he pulled it off, and it took mere seconds to divest himself of his trousers. And then, when there was finally nothing in the bed but glorious skin, he covered her again, one muscular thigh nudging her legs apart.

“I can’t wait,” he said hoarsely. “I can’t make this good for you.”

Kate let out a fevered groan as she grabbed him by the hips, steering him toward her entrance. “It is good for me,” she gasped. “And I don’t want you to wait.”

And at that point, words ceased. Anthony let out a primitive, guttural cry as he plunged into her, burying himself fully with one long and powerful stroke. Kate’s eyes flew wide open, and her mouth formed a little Oh of surprise at the shock of his swift invasion. But she’d been ready for him—more than ready for him. Something about the relentless pace of his lovemaking had stirred a passion deep within her, until she needed him with a desperation that left her breathless.

They weren’t delicate, and they weren’t gentle. They were hot, and sweaty, and needy, and they held on to each other as if they could make time last forever by sheer force of will. When they climaxed, it was fiery and it was simultaneous, both their bodies arching as their cries of release mingled in the night.

But when they were done, curled in each other’s arms as they fought for control over their labored breath, Kate closed her eyes in bliss and surrendered to an overwhelming lassitude.

Anthony did not.

He stared at her as she drifted off, then watched her as she slumbered. He watched the way her eyes sometimes moved under her sleepy eyelids. He measured the pace of her breathing by counting the gentle rise and fall of her chest. He listened for each sigh, each mumble.

There were certain memories a man wanted to sear on his brain, and this was one of them.

But just when he was sure that she was totally and completely asleep, she made a funny, warm sort of noise as she snuggled more deeply into his embrace, and her eyelids fluttered slowly open.

“You’re still awake,” she murmured, her voice scratchy and mellow with sleep.

He nodded, wondering if he was holding her too tightly. He didn’t want to let go. He never wanted to let go.

“You should sleep,” she said.

He nodded again, but he couldn’t seem to make his eyes close.

She yawned. “This is nice.”

He kissed her forehead, making an “Mmmm” sound of agreement.

She arched her neck and kissed him back, full on the lips, then settled into her pillow. “I hope we’ll be like this always,” she murmured, yawning yet again as sleep overtook her. “Always and forever.”

Anthony froze.

Always.

She couldn’t know what that word meant to him. Five years? Six? Maybe seven or eight.

Forever.

That was a word that had no meaning, something he simply couldn’t comprehend.

Suddenly he couldn’t breathe.

The coverlet felt like a brick wall atop him, and the air grew thick.

He had to get out of there. He had to go. He had to—

He vaulted from the bed, and then, stumbling and choking, he reached for his clothes, tossed so recklessly to the floor, and started thrusting his limbs into the appropriate holes.

“Anthony?”

His head jerked up. Kate was pushing herself upright in the bed, yawning. Even in the dim light, he could see that her eyes were confused. And hurt.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

He gave her one curt nod.

“Then why are you trying to put your leg into the armhole of your shirt?”

He looked down and bit off a curse he’d never before even considered uttering in front of a female. With yet another choice expletive, he balled the offending piece of linen into a wrinkled mess and threw it on the floor, pausing for barely a second before yanking his trousers on.

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