Her taste was the dark wine of the vineyards in the foothills of the Finarian Mountains, but a hundred times richer.
And as sweet as this torment was, he knew that he had to end it.
He freed her hands.
She sighed his name, rose to him, wound her arms around his neck and arched against him as he kissed her.
He was almost at the edge of sanity.
He had to bury himself inside her.
He pushed her robe off her shoulders.
She reached for his belt, sobbing with frustration when she couldn't open it.
His hands joined hers.
Together, they undid the buckle.
Her hand fell away and he drew down his zipper. His erection pushed against his shorts. She reached out. He caught her hand, and a groan tore from his throat.
"Laurel," he said, the single word filled with warning. "If you touch me… If you touch me…"
She cupped her hand over the straining cotton fabric, and he knew he was done for. Quickly, he swept her up in his arms, kissed her and asked the only question that mattered.
There was a sofa on the opposite wall but he didn’t want to take her there. He wanted to take her to bed, as he should have that first time.
Laurel clasped her hands at the nape of his neck.
"Down the hall. At the very end."
The room he brought her to was small and shadowed, lit only by a small lamp near the door.
Later, he would see that her bedroom was almost surprisingly old fashioned. Silk wallpaper. Polished, dark wood floor. White drapes and white furniture.
Now, all that mattered was the four-poster bed that awaited him and the woman in his arms.
Slowly, he set her on her feet, relishing the feel of her hands sliding down his chest, the stroke of her breasts, belly and thighs against his.
"This is what I wanted that first time," he said softly. "Forgive me for not—"
Her lips curved in a soft smile. She took his hand, brought it to her lips and kissed his palm.
"Make love to me," she whispered.
Eyes locked to hers, he put his thumbs in the waistband of his Jockeys, drew them down and stepped free of them.
Her gaze swept the length of his body, paused, then leaped to his face. Her lips were parted; he could see the rapidity of her breathing in the rise and fall of her breasts.
He had not imagined being more aroused than he already was but when he saw her reaction to his erection, he grew even harder. Was that apprehension in her eyes? He was big; he knew that. It was the kind of foolish thing a man took pride in but—
He took her hand, brought it to him. Bit back a groan at the delicate brush of her fingers against his flesh.
Her hand curved around him.
This time, he couldn't stop the sound that rumbled from his throat.
She stepped closer. Closer still. She stood on her toes and, holding him, brought him to the juncture of her thighs.
Her eyes closed.
Her head fell back.
She whispered his name.
That was when he knew he was lost.
"Now," he said, and he tumbled onto the bed with her. She dug her hands into his biceps as he settled between her thighs, and he thrust into her.
Laurel gasped in frenzied joy, lifted her h*ps and met him, thrust for thrust.
He filled her, filled her with his size, his heat, his hunger, but it wasn't enough. How could it be enough when she had dreamed of this all week, ached for his possession even as she'd told herself she never wanted to see him again?
She felt her body stretching, her heart racing, her soul soaring to take all of him inside her, within her, around her even as he drove her higher, up and up and up until she found herself standing on a precipice that looked out over the moon, the stars, the universe.
Khan drew back one last time, then surged forward.
He groaned her name; she sobbed his.
Then he spilled himself inside her and she wrapped her arms around him, drew him tight against her, and wept.
Khan felt them, hot on his neck.
Not a good thing, he thought, his heart dropping, until Laurel sighed, turned her face, and kissed the hollow of his throat.
His lips curved.
"Good tears, then," he said softly.
She nodded. He closed his eyes as her silky curls slid gently over his jaw.
"Sorry. I don't know why I—"
In one easy motion, his arms still around her, he rolled onto his side and smiled at her.
"It's the best compliment you could have given me, sweetheart. Thank you."
"I've never—I mean, crying like that isn't—I mean—"
She was blushing. It was a lovely thing to see.
"An even more welcome compliment," he said solemnly, and when the color in her face didn't ease, he said, "My people have an old saying. When a woman weeps with happiness in her lover's arms, fortune has surely smiled on him."
She looked at him, her eyebrows delicately arched.
"You made that up."
He grinned. "Maybe."
She laughed softly, put her palm against his face and stroked the end-of-day stubble on his jaw. "Mmm," she said. "I like the feel of that."
"In that case, I'll grow a beard."
She laughed again. Her laugh was lovely, open and honest and generous.
"Stubble isn't the same as a beard, Lord Khan."
He caught one of her fingers between his teeth, gave it a playful nip.
"Exactly what a prince needs," he said with a mock scowl. "A woman who knows the proper way to address him, at all times."
Laurel stuck out her tongue. Khan bent quickly, met it with the tip of his own tongue. Her eyes turned an ever deeper shade of blue.
"I love the way you taste," he whispered. "Like fine wine."
"Is that a good thing?" she whispered back, and threaded her hand into his thick, dark hair.
He shifted against her. She gasped, arched her h*ps at the feel of him, hot and hard and instantly swollen.
"It is a very good thing," he said, kissing her mouth, her throat, her breasts. "An excellent thing."
"Khan," she said, his name a long, lovely sigh, and he moved over her, entered her, and took her with him, again, on that long, wonderful journey to the stars.
She fell asleep in his arms.
He lay in a bed too short for him, in a room softly lit by a lamp when he could not sleep in anything but absolute darkness, the muscles in his shoulder cramping.
He raised his arm, just enough so he could see his watch.
It was three in the morning.
He had an early meeting tomorrow, with a realtor. Caleb had made the arrangements at the same time he'd given him Laurel's address.
He added up all the excellent reasons he had to slip from her bed and go home.
And, of course, there was one more reason, the best one of them all.
He never stayed the entire night in a woman's bed.
It led to complications, the simplest of which was The Morning After. He'd done it a few times when he was in university and then in graduate school, and the memory still made him shudder.
The only good thing about The Morning After was early morning sex.
The rest was high on his list of Things to Live Without.
Conversation, for one. The attempt at start-of-day chatter which led, inexorably to questions about spending the day together, or making plans for the evening, and even though he was not the kind of guy who bedded a woman and then walked away without looking back, he didn't like the expectation that the relationship would involve plans for the day or the evening.
Laurel murmured in her sleep.
Khan looked at her.
She was turned toward him.
Her lips were slightly parted. He could feel her breath warm against his skin.
One arm was flung across his chest.
Her leg was angled against his, her knee pressed lightly into his thigh.
Cramped muscles. Lighted room. Mattress so short his feet dangled off the end. Add in that early morning appointment, the prospect of start-of-day chatter, and it was, most assuredly, time to get out of here…
His expression softened.
He pressed a kiss to Laurel's hair.
Then he put his head against the pillow, drew her closer, and drifted off to sleep.
Laurel woke slowly from a dreamless sleep in Khan's arms.
The night had ended; the soft pink light of early morning streamed through the bedroom window.
Her lover was asleep behind her, his hard, beautiful body spooned against hers. One arm lay curved over her; his hand cupped her breast. She could feel his chest rising and falling as he breathed, and the warmth of his exhalations on the nape of her neck.
A tremor went through her.
She was twenty-eight years old, and not a virgin. She'd had other lovers. Not many. Two, if accuracy mattered. They'd both been nice men and she'd enjoyed being with them, enjoyed sex…
But it had never been like this.
Khan was a perfect lover.
Excitingly strong, yet wonderfully tender. Demanding of everything she was, but giving of all he was in return. He never found his own completion before she found hers… and she had found it, over and over.
Just remembering how they'd made love excited her.
The feel of his hands on her breasts. The whisper of his mouth on her thighs. The feel of him inside her, all that amazing fullness, the sensation of stretching, opening, lifting herself to take all of him in…
Laurel closed her eyes.
She was turning herself on—but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, because she could feel Khan coming awake.
There was a subtle change in his breathing. In his heartbeat.
And in the rest of him.
The head of his penis was at the juncture of her thighs. She could feel him coming erect, swelling, seeking her.
Her response was instantaneous, and she bit her lip to stifle a moan of pleasure, but he must have heard her because she felt mouth curve as he pressed it to the nape of her neck.
"Good morning," he said softly.
"Good morning," she whispered.
"I like starting the day like this. Me in your bed, you in my arms."
She liked it, too. That was as amazing as his love-making. She'd never let her lovers stay the night in her bed. Sex was sex. When it was over, it was over.
His fingers toyed gently with her nipple. She moaned again and shifted her backside into the cradle of his thighs.
His breath caught.
"Laurel," he said his voice as rough as gravel.
She reached back, slipped her hand between them, and stroked him. He hissed with pleasure. His hand joined hers, held it for a moment, then pushed it aside. His fingers moved on her. In her.
She cried out.
"Do you want me?" he whispered.
She turned her face against his arm, lightly bit his bicep. He growled something in a language she didn't understand…
And drove into her.
She came as he did, so quick, so hard that, for a heartbeat, she felt herself suspended between life and death.
His name spilled from her lips and he drew back, then thrust into her again. And again. "Khan," she sobbed, "yes, yes, yes…"
He groaned, and as she shattered around him, he spilled himself inside her.
For a long moment, she lay spent within his embrace. He kissed her hair, the sensitive place where her throat and shoulder joined. She sighed, and he turned her gently in his arms so that they were face to face.
Her heart lifted at the sight of him.
Could you call a man beautiful? There really was no other way to describe him, even this early in the morning. His hair was tousled, his jaw was even more darkly stubbled than last night, and his lips wore a smile that went straight to her heart.
"Hello," he said.
Why did she suddenly feel so shy? It had to be because of what she'd been thinking a few minutes ago, that she had never shared her bed with a man before.
She smiled. "Hi."
He stroked his thumb over the arc of her cheekbone.
She blushed. "Yes."
He grinned. "Ah. A five star recommendation."
She laughed, which she knew damned well was what he'd intended. It was ridiculous to feel shy after what had just happened, after what had happened during the long, wonderful night, and she fell straight into the game.
"Six stars, your highness, but don't let it go to your head."
Khan put a finger under her chin, lifted her face to his, and kissed her.
"Did you sleep well?"
"I must have. I mean, I don't even remember falling asleep. One minute, we were talking, and the next—"
His eyebrows rose. "Is that what people call it here in Texas?"
"Is that what they call…?" She laughed again, a belly laugh, this time. Whoever knew that you could make love and then lie in a man's arms and laugh?
"You have a lovely laugh, shalal."
"What does that mean? Shalal? Is it a word in your own language?"
"Yes." He smiled. "It means…" He paused. "It is difficult to explain in English. It is the name of a flower that grows in the foothills of the Finarian mountains, a flower that is as resilient as it is beautiful."
"Oh, that's—that's lovely."
"You are what is lovely," he said, brushing his lips lightly over hers. "I only wish we'd got off to a better start."
Laurel laid her hand against his cheek. He turned his face and pressed a kiss into her palm.
"That night at El Sueño was my fault."
"That's very sweet but it was mine, entirely. And what happened last week, at Travis's…" He shook his head. "When you know me better, you'll know that I am never like that, never so out of control." His eyebrows rose. "I can almost see the wheels turning in that beautiful head of yours. What are you thinking, sweetheart?"