When Rafe came into the bedchamber he was wrapped in a fur-trimmed robe, but his feet were bare. I couldn’t help noticing how finely boned those feet were, which gave me a prickling feeling in the pit of my stomach. He looked at me, as I sat up on the pillows with my hair spread over my shoulders and chest.
‘I usually sleep naked’ he said ‘but I’ll find a nightshirt somewhere.’
He started digging about in a chest in the corner. I found my voice.
He spun round.
‘What do you mean?’
I smiled at him. ‘I know you are a patient man, but I’m discovering I’m not a patient woman.’
He was at the bedside in two strides.
‘Rosamunde. Are you sure?’
‘No. But I need to find out.’
I held up my arms and my hair fell away revealing my bare skin underneath. I heard Rafe catch his breath, and for some reason that made me feel a lot braver.
‘Take that robe off, and let us see where we go’ I whispered.
He drew off his robe and climbed in beside me, affording me a glimpse of his hard, lean body before he pulled the covers over us both. Leaning on one elbow he looked down at me.
‘The amazing thing about you, rose of the world, is that you have no idea how beautiful you are. Remind me to show you later.’
He kissed me, gently at first, then the kiss grew deeper and darker, and I found it intoxicating in its intensity. Rafe lifted his head.
‘I’ll try to go slow’ he said ‘but I don’t know if I can manage it. However, I will stop any time you say so – if it kills me.’
We didn’t stop, and I learned that a man can be just as tender as a woman – until he isn’t. But by the time he wasn’t I didn’t need tenderness and my body rose to meet his thrusting hips with an eagerness of its own.
Later, as I lay sprawled across him, with my hair cloaking us both, he stroked my back fondly. The feeling of his calloused fingertips on my skin made me shiver. I wriggled closer.
‘Again?’ he asked with a laugh in his voice.
I found myself laughing too as, greatly daring, I explored every inch of his skin with my hands and my mouth. It gave me so much pleasure to have him groan and tremble under my hands as I had moaned and trembled under his. A voice in my head seemed to sing for joy, and I straddled his body laughing down at him.
‘Rafe Wolflord’ I said ‘I think I love you.’
He gave a great shout of delight before tumbling me on my back and demonstrating his own passion with commendable skill.
It must have been nearly morning, when he crawled out from under the furs and threw a great many logs on the fire. He also lit all the lamps in the room before hurrying out.
‘One minute’ he called over his shoulder.
I thought he must have been heading for the necessary room, but he was back in an instant dragging a tall, wheeled piece of furniture covered in a linen tablecloth behind him. He placed it by the fire then beckoned me to join him. Curious, but obedient, I climbed out of my nest of linen sheets and soft furs. When I reached his side he grasped my left hand in his own right, then used the other hand to sweep the tablecloth off the thing that stood in front of us.
It was a mirror, and in its polished face I saw myself for the first time. Rafe and I were reflected side-by-side and mother naked. For a long moment I was bereft of speech. My beautiful man stood sword straight next to a slender black-haired woman whose head just reached his shoulder. As far as I could see she had curves in approximately the right places, although her body lacked the ripe beauty of Ildara’s. Her hair was long and inky black, curling to her waist, and her face seemed to me to be just a face. I stepped closer to examine it. I put my finger on the mirror.
Eyes, nose, mouth, chin’ I said as I touched the reflection of each. ‘All present. But I really don’t see what the fuss was about. It’s just a face.’
Rafe threw his head back and laughed delightedly.
‘You are not going to become vain, then. But trust me, it’s far more than just a face. For starters it’s your face, which makes it special to me. And for a clincher it is the loveliest face I have ever seen. A man could drown in those eyes you were so dismissive about, and that mouth…’ He bent to take possession of my mouth with his own. ‘Oh, that mouth’ he murmured, before sweeping me off my feet and carrying me back to bed.