Guiding Poppy backward, Harry stopped when her h*ps bumped against the edge of the mattress. “Lie down,” he said, his voice rougher than he had intended. He helped her to lie back, supporting her with his arms, easing her to the bed. Bending over her flushed body, he savored all that rose-scented skin, wooing her with kisses . . . slow traveling kisses, wet and artful and fiendishly patient kisses. He licked his way to the tip of one breast and captured the taut point, flicking with his tongue. Poppy moaned, her body drawing into a helpless arch as he suckled her for long minutes.

Easing the muslin gown away from her, Harry dropped it to the floor. He stared at her with equal parts hunger and reverence. She was unspeakably beautiful, reclining in sweet abandon before him . . . lost, aroused, uncertain. Her gaze was distant, as if she were trying to encompass too many sensations at once.

Harry tore off the rest of his clothing and lowered himself over her. “Touch me,” he was mortified to hear himself rasp . . . something he had never asked of anyone before.

Slowly her arms lifted, one hand sliding around his neck. Her fingers laced through the shorter locks that curled slightly against his nape. The tentative caress drew a groan of pleasure from him. He lay beside her, easing a hand between her thighs.

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Accustomed as he was to fine, intricate things, to delicate mechanisms, Harry was sensitive to every subtle response of her body. He discovered where and how she most liked to be stroked, what aroused her. What made her wet. Following the moisture, he slipped a finger inside, and she accepted it easily. When he tried to add another, however, she flinched and instinctively reached down to push his hand away. Withdrawing, he caressed her with a gentle palm, coaxing her to relax.

Pressing her back on the bed, Harry loomed over her. He heard her breathing quicken as he settled between her thighs. But he didn’t try to enter her, only let her feel the pressure of him, the length fitting against the soft feminine rise. He knew how to tease, how to make her want him. He moved in the gentlest intimation of a thrust, sliding along dampness and sweetly vulnerable flesh, and then he rotated his h*ps slowly, every movement a syllable that added to a greater meaning.

Her lashes half lowered, and there was a faint, intent pull between her fine brows . . . she wanted what he was giving her, she wanted the tension and torment and relief. Desire had brought a mist of perspiration over her skin, until the scent of roses deepened and acquired a hint of musk, so wildly arousing and heady that he could have let himself go right then. But he rolled to his side, away from the enticing cradle of her hips.

He slid his hand over her mound and slipped his fingers inside her again, his touch coaxing and careful. This time her body relaxed and welcomed him. Kissing her throat, he caught the vibration of every moan against his lips. A faint, rhythmic clenching began around his knuckles as he thrust his fingers in her oh so gently. Every time she took them to the hilt, he let the heel of his hand brush her intimately. She panted and began to lift upward repeatedly.

“Yes,” Harry whispered, letting his hot breath fill the shell of her ear. “Yes. When I’m inside you, this is how you move. Show me what you want, and I’ll give it to you, as much as you need, as long as you want . . .”

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She clamped on his fingers, tightening, convulsing, coming in erotic shivers. He teased out every last luscious ripple, relishing her cl**ax, lost in the feel of her.

Levering his body over hers, he pushed her thighs wide and lowered himself between them. Before her sated flesh had begun to close, he centered himself where she was wet and ready for him. He stopped thinking altogether. He pushed into the resisting ring, finding it even more difficult than he’d expected despite the abundant moisture.

Poppy whimpered in pained surprise, her body stiffening.

“Hold onto me,” Harry said hoarsely. She obeyed, her arms coming around his neck. He reached down and pulled her h*ps upward, trying to make it easier for her as he pressed deeper, harder, her flesh unbelievably tight and hot and sweet, and he gave her more, unable to help himself, until he was fully buried in the soft heat of her.

“Oh, God,” he whispered, shaking with the effort to hold still, to let her adjust around him.

Every nerve clamored for movement, for the sliding, teasing friction that would bring him release. He nudged gently. But Poppy grimaced, her legs straining on either side of his. He waited longer, caressing her with his hands.

“Don’t stop,” she choked. “It’s all right.”

But it wasn’t. He pushed again, and a pained sound escaped her. Again, and she braced and clenched her teeth. Every time he moved, it caused her agony.

Resisting her tight grip on his neck, Harry drew back far enough to look at her face. Poppy was white with distress, her lips bloodless. Holy hell, was it this painful for all virgins?

“I’ll wait,” he said raggedly. “It will be easier in a moment.”

She nodded, her mouth stiff, her eyes tightly shut.

And they both held still and fast, while he tried to soothe her. But nothing changed. Despite Poppy’s compliance, this was sheer misery for her.

Harry buried his face in her hair and cursed. And he withdrew, despite the vicious protest of his loins, when every impulse screamed for him to hammer into her.

She couldn’t stifle a gasp of relief as the painful intrusion was removed. Hearing the sound, Harry nearly exploded with murderous frustration.

He heard her murmur his name, her voice questioning.

Ignoring her, Harry left the bed and staggered toward the bathing room. He braced his hands on the tiled wall and closed his eyes, struggling for self-control. After a few minutes, he drew water and washed himself. He found smears of blood . . . Poppy’s blood. That was only to be expected. But the sight of it made him want to howl.

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