He let loose the ties and used one knuckle to lift her chin. “From this night forward, you’ll have me to keep you warm.”
Blinking those dense lashes shyly, adorably, she met his gaze, and a flash of excitement sent his blood humming, his soul ablaze.
“I’ll like that,” she said.
He kissed her again, deeply and intensely, for he couldn’t get enough of her lips. Then he gathered handfuls of the gown near her thighs and gently eased the material upward. It was as if he was opening the greatest gift of his life, a treasure he’d guard forever.
She lifted her arms, raised them above her head as he slid the gown up and over. Tossing it aside, he caught her hands, kept them raised while turning her in a slow pirouette. Twice. Once hadn’t been enough for him to grasp her absolute perfection. From her shoulders to her ankles, the mysterious elegance of every curve, her graceful poise, was flawless in every way, and divine.
After watching him over a shoulder, she twisted her head around to face him as the second twirl ended. “You’ll make me dizzy,” she said, her hair swirling to catch up.
“Then we’re even,” he said, lowering her arms enough to kiss the backs of both hands. “Your beauty makes me dizzy.”
It was true, her body was the epitome of perfection, and glimmering in the lamplight, her skin looked as fine and delicate as the thin china cup she sipped tea from. An unexpected, unsettling thought snagged his mind. Compared to her, he was as big as an ox, and nothing he’d experienced before had prepared him for taking a wife to bed.
A woman he loved. The woman.
He ran the back of one hand up her arm, from her wrist to her shoulder. Her skin was like velvet, and her hair, cascading over her shoulders, down her back, as well as her front, where it had settled after her twirls, was like silk. Using both hands, he gathered it into two long tails and pulled them over her shoulders. As he smoothed the tresses down her front, the backs of his hands encountered her breasts, and she let out a tiny gasp.
The long, thick mane created an iridescent curtain, hiding her breasts until he was ready to push aside the hair like one would pull open drapes to expose the brightness of the sun. “I want to promise you something,” he said, trailing his hands back up her arms, to settle on her shoulders.
Tilting her head, as if listening intently, she nodded.
He wanted to tell her he knew who she was, but that would only complicate things more, and he truly couldn’t go any longer without loving her. “I’ll never hurt you, not intentionally, and if by some irresponsible act I do, I want you to tell me, so I can make amends and make certain it never happens again.” It was a vow he took seriously, as was the silent one in which he willed himself to find the patience and skill and tenderness this woman deserved.
“All right,” she whispered. Then, hooking her fingers inside his waistband, she tugged him forward. “Will you do me a favor?”
Momentarily stunned, perhaps because her fingers were testing the very control he sought, Seth paused a second or two before nodding.
“Will you kiss me? The pain I’m feeling at wanting you is quite devastating.”
He wanted to throw his head back with laughter. She was an imp. An adorable, charming pixie that was his. All his. Settling for a grin, he framed her face with both hands. “I’d love to.”
The kiss started out slow, but quickly escalated into a forceful act of passion that birthed an all-consuming fever. The delirium grew, sent his hands roaming, to explore the swells and curves and sleekness that seemed to form flawlessly beneath his fingers and palms. When at last he gathered the wits and strength to pull back, end the kiss, he lifted her into his arms and, cradling her as he had before, carried her the few feet to the bed.
With one hand, he threw back the covers, to lay her down on the crisp sheets. Her arms were around his neck and she didn’t let go, pulling him onto the bed beside her.
They kissed again, by mutual consent, but she was the one to finally break it. Taking short, fast breaths, she cupped the sides of his neck. “Don’t you have to take off your britches?”
Already on the brink of desperation to be inside her, Seth groaned. “Eventually I will,” he said when able.
There was such yearning in her voice, as well as a touch of disappointment, that Seth concluded it was time to start his full exploration of her body. Teach her the sweet nuances of strategic maneuvers. “Eventually,” he repeated, while parting the veil of chestnut-shaded tresses to reveal her breasts. Fanning the hair out, he spread it over both pillows before running one fingertip down her neck and then lower, tracing her breastbone.