“I beg your pardon, I did not ask to be husked like an ear of corn!” She twisted in an effort to push away his busy hands. A squeak escaped her as he found the tapes of her drawers and pulled them loose.

With a low chuckle, Leo anchored her squirming body with his legs, and kissed the exposed nape of her neck. She felt warm all over, her nerves sparked by the touch of his sensuous mouth.

“Did you kiss her?” she heard herself blurt out, her voice muffled in the bedclothes.

“No, love. I wasn’t tempted by her in the least.” Leo bit lightly into the soft muscle of her neck, stroked the fine skin with his tongue, and she gasped. His hand slipped inside her drawers and circled over her bottom. “No other woman in the world could excite me as you do. But you’re too damn stubborn, and far too good at protecting yourself. There are things I want to say to you … do to you … and the fact that you’re not ready for any of it is going to drive us both mad.”

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He touched further between her thighs, finding wetness, stroking in soft circles. She moaned and writhed beneath him. Her corset was still snugly laced, the compression of her waist seeming to divert sensation down between her thighs. Although part of her rebelled at the feeling of being held down and caressed, her body reacted with helpless pleasure.

“I want to make love to you.” Leo traced the inner structure of her ear with the tip of his tongue. “I want to go as deep as you can take me, and feel you tighten around me, and I want to come inside you.” A finger slid inside her, and another, and she whimpered softly. “You know how good it would feel,” he whispered, stroking her slowly. “Yield to me, and I’ll love you without stopping. I’ll stay in you all night.”

Catherine gasped for breath, while her heart thumped madly. “You would have me in the same position as Miss Darvin,” she said. “Pregnant and pleading for you to marry me.”

“God, yes, I would love that.”

She nearly choked with indignation, while his long fingers teased her inside and out. Her body began to clench in a slow, steady pulse of desire. There were great swaths of fabric caught between their bodies, layers of remaining clothing, and all she could feel was his mouth at the back of her neck, and that devilishly persuasive hand.

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“I have never said this to anyone before.” Leo’s voice was like ragged velvet. “But the idea of you with child is the most insanely arousing thing I’ve ever imagined. Your belly all swollen, your br**sts heavy, the funny little way you would walk … I would worship you. I would take care of your every need. And everyone would know that I’d made you that way, that you belonged to me.”

“You … you are so…” She couldn’t even think of a suitable word.

“I know. Woefully primitive.” Laughter threaded through his voice. “But I must be tolerated, because I’m a man and I really can’t help it.”

He caressed her with gentle, explicit manipulation, his fingers slick and tireless. She felt a new flush of arousal, the liquid heat spreading out to her fingers and toes. Moving behind her, he tugged her drawers to her knees, and fumbled with the fastenings of his trousers. He let his weight settle on her deliciously. A blunt, moist pressure slipped between her thighs, not quite entering. White fire raced through her senses, and her body trembled at the verge of release … so close …

“You have a decision to make, Cat.” Leo kissed the side of her throat hungrily, his mouth strong and wet. “Either tell me to stop right now, or let me take you all the way. Because I can’t withdraw at the last moment any longer. I want you too much. And I probably will make you pregnant, love, because I’m feeling rather potent at the moment. So it’s all or nothing. Tell me yes or no.”

“I can’t. ” Catherine thrashed in frustration as his h*ps lifted from hers. As he rolled her over to face him, she glared up at him. Unable to stop himself, he lowered his head and kissed her voraciously, savoring the sound of need that came from her throat.

“A pity,” he said, breathing heavily. “I was working up to something really lascivious.” Rolling off her, he reached for the fall of his trousers, muttering something about the risk of doing himself permanent injury as he tried to fasten them again.

Catherine watched him incredulously. “You’re not going to finish?”

He let out an unsteady sigh. “As I said, all or nothing.”

She wrapped her arms around herself, trembling with desire until her teeth chattered. “Why are you trying to torture me?”

“It’s becoming clear that a lifetime of patience wouldn’t be enough to break through your guard. So I’ll have to try something else.” Leo kissed her gently and left the bed. After he raked both hands through his disheveled hair and straightened his clothes, he gave her a smoldering glance, followed by a grin that seemed to mock both of them simultaneously. “I’m waging war, love. And the only way to win this kind of war is to make you want to lose.”

Chapter Twenty-eight

Only a woman made of stone could have lasted against the campaign Leo launched over the next week. It was courtship, he claimed, but there should have been another word for it, the way he kept Catherine constantly off balance with his sweetly subversive charm.

One moment he provoked her into some nonsensical and highly entertaining argument, and the next he was soothing and kind. He whispered whimsical compliments and lines of poetry in her ear, and taught her naughty French words, and made her laugh at inappropriate moments. What Leo did not do, however, was try to kiss or seduce her. At first Catherine was amused by this obvious tactic, and then secretly miffed, and then intrigued. She frequently found herself staring at his mouth, so flawless and firm … she couldn’t help remembering their past kisses, daydreaming about them.

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