His lips descended to her breast again, while he cupped and kneaded the firm flesh. Arching up to him, she struggled to press closer, to bring his weight more fully over her. He resisted, his hands traveling over her in caresses meant to calm her. She quivered at his gentleness, her hands gripping his back. She couldn't think clearly, couldn't find words. Twisting against him, she felt the desire sharpen to unbearable intensity. "Cam.,.. Cam…" She pressed her face to his shoulder.

Feeling the dampness of her lashes, he eased her head back and touched his tongue to an errant teardrop. "Patience, hummingbird. It's too soon."

She looked up into his shadowed features. "For you?"

There was a moment's pause, as if Cam were struggling to hold back a sudden laugh. "No, for you."

"I'm twenty-six years old," she protested. "How could it possibly be too soon for me?"

Cam couldn't suppress his laughter then, burying the low, rich sounds in her mouth.

The kisses turned harder, longer, and in between, Cam spoke in a mixture of Romany and English, and it was unclear if he even knew what language he used. Grasping her hand in his, he brought it down his body to the urgent thrust of his erection. Shocked and fascinated, Amelia eased her hand along the length of him, her fingers molding hesitantly over the hardness. Cam groaned as if in pain, and she snatched her hand back at once.

"I'm terribly sorry," she said, flushing. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

"You didn't hurt me." There was a flick of tender amusement in his voice. He caught her hand and brought it back down.

Amelia explored him shyly, her curiosity stirred by the heat and suggestion of movement beneath the taut fabric of his breeches. He seemed to revel in her touch, nearly purring as he moved over her to nuzzle and lick at her throat.

Both his legs were between hers now, widening the space between them, the nightgown crumpled around her waist. Exposed, mortified, excited, she felt one of his hands roaming low on her stomach. Soon there would be pain and possession, all mysteries solved. She thought perhaps now would be an opportune time to mention something.

"Cam?"

His head lifted. "Yes?"

"I've heard there are ways—that is, since this can lead to—oh, I don't know how to say it?

"You don't want me to give you a baby." His fingertips played gently through her intimate dark curls.

"Yes. That is… no." Her breath tangled around a moan.

"I won't. Although there's always a chance." He found a place so alive with sensation that she jerked and drew her knees up. His fingers were light and gentle as he parted the soft cleft. "The question, love, is whether you want me enough to take the risk."

Her senses swam in shame and pleasure at the way he touched her. Her entire existence had dwindled to the sly teasing of one fingertip. And Cam knew. He waited for her answer, stroking, shaping the tenderness with his fingertips, paying careful attention to every shiver and twitch of her body.

"Yes," she said unsteadily. "I want you."

The pad of his thumb stroked downward, gliding through a patch of inexplicable wetness. Before she could say a word, he had pressed into the moisture with his thumb, invading her slightly.

His lashes lowered over devil-bright eyes. "Do you want this?" he whispered.

She nodded and tried to say yes, but all that came out was a low whimper.

Deeper, a gently inquiring stroke, until she felt the hard ridge of his thumb ring press against the entrance of her body. He made slow circles inside her, the smooth ring teasing and rubbing until she felt faint and hot. Oh, dear heaven, yes, no, please . .. another swirl, another, each one coiling the pleasure tighter until her heart was thundering and her h*ps nudged rhythmically against the heel of his hand. But then the exquisite invasion was withdrawn, and her body clasped desperately around the emptiness. She reached for him, clawing him in her frantic need, and Cam had the effrontery to laugh softly.

"Easy, sweetheart. We're still at the beginning. There's no need to hurry through it."

"The beginning?" Stunned and throbbing, she could hardly speak. If there was one thing she was certain of, it was that she couldn't bear much more of his refined torture. "I would have thought you'd have already finished by now."

She felt him smile as he kissed the inside of her elbow, working his way down to her wrist. "The point is to make it last as long as possible."

"Why?"

"It's better that way. For both of us." He pried her clenched fingers apart and kissed the palm of her hand. After pulling her nightgown back into place, he buttoned the front with meticulous care.

"What are you doing?"

"Taking you for a ride." As she sputtered with questions, he touched a gentle forefinger to her lips. "Trust me," he whispered.

Amelia complied in a daze as he pulled her from the bed, wrapped the velvet robe around her, and tucked her feet into soft slippers.

Clasping her hand firmly in his, Cam led her from the room. The house was still and soundless, the walls hung with portraits of aristocrats with disapproving faces.

They went out the back of the house to the great stone terrace, its wide curving steps leading down to the gardens. The moonlight was crossed with shredded clouds that glowed against a sky the color of black plums. Puzzled but willing, Amelia went with Cam to the bottom of the steps.

He stopped and gave a short whistle.