He gave her cheek a teasing caress, and Alex felt the pink rising on her face all over again.
“Miss Alexandra Mountbatten, who possessed the most captivating, terrifying eyes I’d ever beheld. Or more to the point, that had ever beheld me. Eyes that were not only beautiful—but bold, clever, fearless. Unafraid to search the darkness, trusting that something, somewhere will glimmer back.” His voice deepened, weighted down with emotion. “I couldn’t forget you, Alex. And I won’t allow anyone else to forget you, either. Not the Royal Observatory, not the world. Not the universe, for that matter.”
Curse him, he was so good at this. He had her toes melting into the evening dew. Her knees felt close to dissolving, too. Soon she’d be reduced to ten thousand drops of Alexandra scattered across the green, desperately clinging to ten thousand blades of grass.
Now she’d completely lost her edge in their argument. It wasn’t fair. How could she compete with his years upon years of transforming women into quivering shimmers of condensation?
By being herself, she supposed. Straightforward, honest, practical.
“I love you,” she said. “Take that.”
No, Chase would not take that.
He couldn’t take that. Not the impossible words, or the expectant look in her eyes. Not the sharp blade of joy she’d thrust into his heart, or the way it twisted with his every breath.
He couldn’t take any of it. In his desperation, his mind seized on what seemed his only recourse.
Take her into his embrace.
Take her lips with his.
And, by God, take her breath away. Leave her dizzy and gasping, and completely unable to speak another devastating word.
That endless grassy slope he’d cursed on their way up to the observatory? He blessed it now. He shook off his coat and spread it on the grass, then laid her down atop it. The world was a darkened, private room with a ceiling of stars.
And somewhere between the kissing and caressing and unbuttoning, a sense of inevitability descended on them both.
They both knew what was going to happen. What must happen.
“Alex . . . You know I don’t do this with everyone. In fact, I’ve not done this particular act with anyone in quite some time. Much as it pains my pride to say it, this might not be a virtuoso performance.”
“I wouldn’t know the difference.”
“A fair point. That is some comfort.” He settled himself between her thighs. “You don’t want me to stop so you can count out sugar lumps or something?”
She laughed a little. “No sugar lumps required.”
“Alexandra.” He set aside teasing and spoke in an earnest tone. “If I take you this way, I mean to keep you always. Do you understand, love?”
“When I ask a question, I need an answer.” He stared into her eyes. “Tell me you want this.”
“I want this.” Her hands slid to his neck. “I want you.”
Chase hoped to hell she meant it, because he’d emptied his reserve of gentlemanly restraint. Nothing remained to him but fierce, mindless wanting. Blood-searing desire. The single-minded need to be in her, and of her. To face down anything that held them apart and shatter it with crude, primal thrusts.
He reached between them, taking his cock in hand and positioning himself at her entrance. The head of his cock slipped into her wet cleft, and that single inch of possession had him shuddering with pleasure.
He braced himself on his arms, gritted his teeth, and pushed into the hot, tight silk of her body. “God.”
Her fingers clutched his shoulders. He heard her sharp intake of breath.
“Are you hurting?” Even as he asked, he dug his hips to steal another inch. Bastard. “Can you bear it?”
She nodded. “I . . . I’m fine.”
He kissed her in gratitude. With each advance, he sensed her wince beneath him and felt like a monster for causing her pain.
All his rakish technique had been forgotten. He wanted to be gentle, patient. But it had been forever since he’d been inside a woman this way, and this wasn’t just any woman.
His Alexandra. His always. His only.
Just a bit more, he promised himself. He wasn’t a selfish lover. He could be patient. He’d take this at a leisurely pace, allow her plenty of time to adjust.
But first, just a bit more.
A bit more. And a bit more. And oh, God, more. Until he’d taken everything she had to give. Sheathed to the hilt, his hips welded to her thighs, her body surrounding his.
He’d never known such bliss.
On her part, Alex had never known such pain.
Good heavens. She knew virgins often found the first time uncomfortable, but she hadn’t known it might be like this. Pleasure wasn’t even a mirage in the distance. She would count herself lucky if she made it through the act without shrieking.
She bit her lip until she tasted blood, determined not to give herself away. She didn’t want to hurt Chase’s feelings.