“Kiss me,” he said, slipping a hand behind her neck, pulling her mouth to his. “And rest your h*ps on mine.”

“Stop giving orders,” she protested breathlessly.

On impulse, Leo decided to provoke her. He let an arrogant smile touch his lips. “Here in bed, I’m the master. I’ll give orders, and you’ll follow them without question.” He paused deliberately, lifting his brows. “Understood?”

Catherine stiffened. Leo had never enjoyed anything so much as the sight of her struggling between outrage and arousal. He felt the heat rise in her, the excited thrum of her pulse. She took an agitated breath, while gooseflesh rose on her arms. And then her body seemed to lose all its tension, her limbs loosening. “Yes,” she finally whispered, not quite able to meet his gaze.

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Leo’s own heartbeat escalated. “Good girl,” he said thickly. “Now spread your thighs so I can feel you against me.”

Gradually the angle of her legs widened.

She looked dazed, a little lost, her gaze turning inward as if to contemplate the puzzle of her own reactions to him. Her eyes glittered, an involuntary welling of pleasure and confusion, and the sight sent a tide of lust through him. He wanted to fulfill her beyond imagining, discover and satisfy every need.

“Put your hand beneath your breast,” he said, “and bring it to my mouth.”

She leaned over him to obey, trembling. And then he was the one who was lost, fiercely absorbed in the sweet softness of her. He lost awareness of everything but instinct, the primitive intent to claim, conquer, possess.

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He made her kneel over him, and he followed the intoxicating salt-scented moisture to the tender entrance of her body. Delving with his tongue, he traced and licked until he felt the long, fine muscles of her thighs tightening rhythmically.

With a hoarse murmur, Leo eased her away and helped her to straddle his hips. He fit himself against the soft slit and clasped her waist to steady her. She quivered as she understood what he wanted.

“Slowly,” he murmured as she eased onto him. “All the way down.” He barely managed to stifle an agonized groan as he felt her clenching around him, her swollen flesh working to pull him inside. Nothing had ever felt so good. “Oh, sweet Jesus … take it all.”

“I can’t.” She writhed and went still, looking disgruntled.

It was inconceivable that Leo should have found any amusement in the moment, when his body was tortured with desire. But she was so adorably awkward astride him. Somehow managing to repress a laugh, Leo put his shaking hands on her, arranging and stroking. “You can,” he said huskily. “Put your hands on my shoulders, and lean your sweet little body forward.”

“It’s too much.”

“It’s not.”

“It is.”

“I’m the experienced one. You’re the novice, remember?”

“That doesn’t change the fact that you’re too … oh.”

Somewhere in the midst of their debate, he had pressed upward the last crucial distance, and their bodies slid together fully.

“Oh,” she said again, her eyes half closing, new color sweeping over her.

Leo felt an explosive cl**ax rolling up to him, requiring only a hint of stimulation to reach irresistible momentum. Catherine’s body tightened around him, a voluptuously contained rhythm that threatened to drive him mad. She moved tentatively, the tender friction causing them both to shudder.

“Cat, wait,” he whispered through dry lips.

“I can’t, I can’t…” She moved again, and he arched as if on a torture rack.

“Be still.”

“I’m trying.” But she had begun to rock against him instinctively, and he groaned and took up the rhythm, watching her lips parting with delighted gasps, and as he felt the spasms overtake her, the sensations rushed too powerfully for him to withstand.

With a herculean effort, Leo withdrew and spilled his pleasure on the sheets, while his breath hissed through his clenched teeth. Every muscle screamed in protest at being deprived of the lush warmth that had enclosed him. Panting, blinking against a shower of sparks, Leo felt Catherine curl up against him.

One of her hands came to the center of his chest, pressing over his pounding heart. She pressed her lips to his shoulder. “I didn’t want you to stop,” she whispered.

“Neither did I.” He wrapped his arms around her, and smiled ruefully against her hair. “But that’s the problem with coitus interruptus. One always has to exit at the station before one’s final destination.”

Chapter Twenty-one

Leo proposed twice more to Catherine on the way to London. She refused both times, determined to proceed in a sensible manner and discuss the situation with her brother first. When Leo pointed out that running harum-scarum from Ramsay House in the middle of the night could hardly be characterized as sensible behavior, she allowed that perhaps she shouldn’t have acted so impetuously.

“As much as I dislike to admit it,” she told Leo as their carriage rolled along the post road, “I haven’t been in my right mind since the ball. It was a shock to see Lord Latimer so unexpectedly. And when he put his hands on me, I felt myself shrink down to a frightened child again, and all I could think of was getting away.” She paused reflectively. “But I found comfort in knowing I had Harry to run to.”

“You also had me,” Leo said quietly.

She stared at him in wonder. “I didn’t know that.”

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