Born in ice, p.25
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       Born in Ice, p.25
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         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts

  again."

  But he was wrong. It never stopped being good. She felt him break the barrier of her innocence, fill her with himself, and felt nothing but joy.

  "I love you." She arched up to meet him, to welcome him.

  He heard the words dimly, shook his head to deny them. But she was wrapped around him, drawing him into a well of generosity. And he was helpless to do anything but drown.

  Coming back to time and place was, for Brianna, like sliding weightlessly through a thin, white cloud. She sighed, let the gentle gravity take her until she was once more in the big old bed, candlelight flickering red and gold on her closed lids, and the truly incredible pleasure of Gray's weight pinning her to the mattress.

  She thought hazily that no books she had read, no chatter she had heard from other women, no secret daydreaming could have taught her how simply good it was to have a man's naked body pressed onto hers.

  The body itself was an amazing creation, more beautiful than she'd imagined. The long, muscled arms were strong enough to lift her, gentle enough to hold her as if she were a hollowed-out egg, easily broken.

  The hands, wide of palm, long of finger, knew so cleverly just where to touch and stroke. Then there were the broad shoulders, the long, lovely, lean back, narrow hips leading down to hard thighs, firm calves.

  Hard. She smiled to herself. Wasn't it a miracle that something so hard, so tough and strong should be covered with smooth, soft skin?

  Oh, indeed, she thought, a man's body was a glorious thing.

  Gray knew if she kept touching him he'd go quietly mad. If she stopped, he was certain he'd whimper.

  Those pretty tea-serving hands of hers were gliding over him, whispering touches, exploring, tracing, testing, as if she were memorizing each muscle and curve.

  He was still inside her, couldn't bear to separate himself. He knew he should, should ease away and give her time to recover. However much he'd fought not to hurt her, there was bound to be some discomfort.

  And yet, he was so content-she seemed so content. All those nerves that had sizzled through him at the thought of taking her the first time-her first time-had melted away into lazy bliss.

  When those skimming caresses caused him to stir again, he forced himself to move, propping up on his elbows to look down at her.

  She was smiling. He couldn't have said why he found that so endearing, so perfectly charming. Her lips curved, her eyes warmly green, her skin softly flushed. Now, with that first rush of needs and nerves calmed, he could enjoy the moment, the lights, the shadows, the rippling pleasure of fresh arousal.

  He pressed his lips to her brow, her temples, her cheeks, her mouth.

  "Beautiful Brianna."

  "It was beautiful for me." Her voice was thick, still raspy with passion. "You made it beautiful for me."

  "How do you feel now?"

  He would ask, she thought, both in kindness and in curiosity. "Weak," she said. And with a quick laugh, "Invincible. Why do you suppose such a natural thing as this should make such a difference in a life?"

  His brows drew together, smoothed out again. Responsibility, he thought, it was his responsibility. He had to remind himself she was a grown woman, and the choice had been hers. "Are you comfortable with that difference?"

  She smiled up at him, beautifully, touched a hand to his cheek. "I've waited so long for you, Gray."

  The quick inner defense signal flashed on. Even steeped in her, warm, damn, half aroused, it flashed. Step carefully, cautioned a cool, controlled part of his mind. Warning: Intimacy Ahead.

  She saw the change in his eyes, a subtle but distinct distancing even as he took the hand against his cheek and shifted it so that his lips pressed to her palm.

  "I'm crushing you."

  She wanted to say-no, stay-but he was already moving away.

  "We haven't had any champagne." Easy with his nakedness, he rolled out of bed. "Why don't you go have a bath while I open the bottle?"

  She felt odd suddenly, and awkward, where she'd felt nothing but natural with him atop and inside her. Now she fumbled with the sheets. "The linen," she began, and found herself flushing and tongue-tied. It would be soiled, she knew, with her innocence.

  "I'll take care of it." Seeing her color deepen and understanding, he moved to the bed again and cupped her chin in his hand. "I can change sheets, Brie. And even if I didn't know how before, I'd have picked it up watching you." His mouth brushed hers, his voice thickening. "Do you know how often I've been driven insane watching you smooth and tuck my sheets?"

  "No." There was a quick lick of pleasure and desire. "Really?"

  He only laughed and laid his brow on hers. "What wonderful good deed did I do to deserve this? To earn you?" He drew back, but his eyes had kindled again, making her heart drum slow and hard against her ribs. "Go have your bath. I'm wanting to make love with you again," he said, slipping into a brogue that made her lips quirk. "If you'd like it."

  "I would, yes." She drew a deep breath, bracing herself to climb naked from the bed. "Very much I would. I won't be long."

  When she went into the bath, he took a deep breath himself. To steady his system, he told himself.

  He'd never had anyone like her. It wasn't just that he'd never tasted innocence before-that would have been enormous enough. But she was unique to him. Her responses, that hesitation and eagerness playing at odds with each other. With her absolute trust shining over all.

  "I love you," she'd said.

  It wouldn't do to dwell on that. Women tended to romanticize, emotionalize sex in most cases. Certainly a woman experiencing sex for the first time would be bound to mix lust with love. Women used words, and required them. He knew that. That was why he was very careful when choosing his.

  But something had spurted through him when she'd whispered that overrated and overused phrase. Warmth and need and, for an instant, just a heartbeat, a desperate desire to believe it. And to echo her words.

  He knew better, and though he would do anything and everything in his power to keep her from hurt, anything and everything to make her happy while they were together, there were limits to what he could and would give to her. To anyone.

  Enjoy the moment, he reminded himself. That's all there was. He hoped he could teach her to enjoy it as well.

  She felt odd as she wrapped the towel around her freshly scrubbed body. Different. It was something that could never be explained to a man, she supposed. They lost nothing when they gave themselves the first time. There was no sharp tearing of self to admit another. But it wasn't pain she remembered, even the soreness between her thighs didn't bring the violence of invasion to mind. It was the unity she thought of. The sweet and simple bond of mating.

  She studied herself in the misty mirror. She looked warm, she decided. It was the same face, surely, that she'd glimpsed countless times in countless mirrors. Yet wasn't there a softness here she'd never noticed before? In the eyes, around the mouth? Love had done that. The love she held in her heart, the love she'd tasted for the first time with her body.

  Perhaps it was only the first time that a woman felt so aware of herself, so stripped of everything but flesh and soul. And perhaps, she thought, because she was older than most, the moment was all the more overwhelming and precious.

  He wanted her. Brianna closed her eyes, the better to feel those long, slow ripples of delight. A beautiful man with a beautiful mind and kind heart wanted her.

  All of her life she'd dreamed of finding him. Now she had.

  She stepped into the bedroom, and saw him. He'd put fresh linen on the bed and had laid one of her white flannel gowns at the foot of it. He stood now in jeans unsnapped and relaxed on his hips, with champagne bubbling in glasses and candlelight simmering in his eyes.

  "I'm hoping you'll wear it," he said when she saw her gaze rest on the prim, old-fashioned nightgown. "I've imagined getting you out of it since that first night. I watched you come down the stairs, a candle in one hand, a wolfhound in the other, a
nd my head went spinning."

  She picked up a sleeve. How much she wished it was silk or lace or something that would make a man's blood heat. " 'Tisn't very alluring, I think."

  "You think wrong."

  Because she had nothing else, and it seemed to please him, she slipped the gown over her head, letting the towel fall away as the flannel slid down. His muffled groan had her smiling over uncertainly.

  "Brianna, what a picture you are. Leave the towel," he murmured as she bent to retrieve it. "Come here. Please."

  She stepped forward, that half smile on her face and nerves threatening to swallow her, to take the glass he held out. She sipped, discovered the frothy wine did nothing to ease her dry throat. He was looking at her, she thought, the way she imagined a tiger might look at a lamb just before he pounced.

  "You haven't had dinner," she said.

  "No." Don't frighten her, idiot, he warned himself and struggled back the urge to devour. He took a slow sample of champagne, watching her, wanting her. "I was just thinking I wanted it. Thinking we could eat up here, together. But now..." He reached out to curl a damp tendril of her hair around his finger. "Can you wait?"

  So it was to be simple again, she thought. And again her choice. "I can wait for dinner." She could barely get the words passed the heat in her throat. "But not for you."

  She stepped, quite naturally, into his arms.

  Chapter Thirteen

  An elbow in the ribs brought Brianna groggily out of sleep. Her first view of the morning after a night of love was floor. If Gray took up another inch of the bed, she'd be on it.

  It took her only seconds, and a shiver in the chilly morning air, to realize she hadn't even the stingiest corner of sheet or blanket covering her.

  Gray, on the other hand, was cozily wrapped beside her, like a contented moth in a cocoon.

  Sprawled over the mattress, he slept like the dead. She wished she could have said his snuggled position, and the elbow lodged near her kidney, was loverlike, but it smacked plainly of greed. Her tentative pushes and tugs didn't budge him.

  So that was the way of it, she thought. The man was obviously unaccustomed to sharing.

  She might have stayed to tussle for her share-just on principle-but the sun was shining through the windows. And there were chores to do.

  Her efforts to slip quietly from the bed so as not to disturb him proved unnecessary. The minute her feet were on the floor, he grunted, then shifted to lay claim to her small slice of mattress.

  Still, the dregs of romance remained in the room. The candles had guttered out in their own wax sometime during the night. The champagne bottle was empty in its silver bucket, and flowers scented the air. The open curtain caught sunbeams, rather than moonbeams.

  He'd made it perfect for her, she remembered. Had known how to make it perfect.

  This morning business wasn't quite the way she'd imagined it. In sleep, he didn't look like an innocent boy dreaming, but like a man well satisfied with himself. There hadn't been any gentle caresses or murmured good mornings to acknowledge their first day together as lovers. Just a grunt and a shove to send her on her way.

  The many moods of Grayson Thane, she mused. Perhaps she could write a book on that subject herself.

  Amused, she tugged her discarded nightgown over her head and headed downstairs.

  She could do with some tea, she decided, to get the blood moving again. And since the sky looked promising, she'd do a bit of wash and hang it out to catch the morning air.

  She thought the house could do with an airing as well and tossed open windows as she walked. Through the one in the parlor, she spotted Murphy bent under the hood of her car.

  She watched him a moment, her emotions tangling. Her anger with him warred with loyalty and affection. Anger was already losing as she walked outside and moved along the garden path.

  "1 didn't expect to see you," she began.

  "I said I'd have a look." He glanced back. She was standing in her nightgown, her hair tangled from the night, her feet bare. Unlike Gray, his blood didn't kindle. She was simply Brianna to him, and he took the moment to search out any sign of temper or forgiveness. He saw neither, so went back to his business.

  "Your starter motor's in a bad way," he muttered.

  "So I've been told."

  "Your engine's sick as an old horse. I can get some parts, patch it back together. But it's good money after bad as I see it."

  "If it could last me through the summer, into the autumn..." She trailed off as he cursed under his breath. She simply couldn't keep her heart cool from him. He'd been her friend as long as she remembered. And it was friendship, she knew, that had caused him to do what he'd done.

  "Murphy, I'm sorry."

  He straightened then, and turned to her, with everything he felt naked in his eyes. "So am I. I never meant to cause you hurt, Brie. God's witness."

  "I know that." She took the step, crossing to him and slipping her arms around him. "I shouldn't have been so hard, Murphy. Not on you. Never on you."

  "You scared me, I'll admit it." His arms went tight around her. "I spent the night worrying over it-afraid you wouldn't forgive me, and not bake me scones
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