No one had ever taken the time to teach her this. No one had ever even suggested that she might be capable of doing it by herself. For Loren, this was merely one more reason to love him, that he had chosen to teach her this startling effect of love rather than take his own pleasure and be done, as others had before. Gently encouraged, she tried to let go as he told her, wavering on the edge of that frightening precipice until she thought she might burst ... and falling without warning. Shock and wonder combined fueled her cry, his name on her lips, as she arched beneath him, an instrument played to perfection to produce music never before heard with agonizing sweetness that echoed around their chambers. And afterward ... stillness. Not silence, not shame; just the shattered rasp of her breath, the stuttering staccato of her heart, the tremble of her body from the very core as she clung to him, in awe of that unexpected reward for her loving trust.
To his credit, he made no further demands on her, but only held her close, despite the fact that his own body was aching with almost painful desire, heart pounding in his chest. It was a response that, if not answered, would eventually calm and fade and settle, but he was determined to be master of his own body, if nothing else. This was about giving, not taking. There had been too many men who had taken from her, and he wanted her to know that he was not and never would be one of those men.
Slowly, as her wits came back to her, she became aware of what he had not done, as much as of what he had given her. Soft lips pressed kisses to his cheeks, his chin, his mouth; tentative hands stroked against his skin. "Now you," she whispered to him, unprepared to leave him unsatisfied even while her mind was still reeling. Her hand slipped between them, practiced and gentle, a strangely confident contrast with the wild disbelief that had accompanied his ministrations.
He might have argued with her, even denied her, if she hadn't taken him so confidently and literally in hand. Whatever his intentions, however strong his resolve, his mind went blank when she touched him, his body betraying him. Even if he'd wanted to resist, his body was incapable of it, reacting to her in such a way that chased all rational thought from his head. He groaned aloud at her touch, surrendering and trusting himself to her care.
She purred to him, soothing sounds that accompanied the gentle stroke of her hand as she eased him over onto his back. And this, too, was new to her; this strange thrill of power, of having him surrender to her, trusting her to do the right thing for him. "Tell me what you want," she whispered against his lips, nuzzling tenderly to him as she waited to hear him finally admit what he needed from her.
It was hard to put into words what he wanted and needed at that moment. Sweet release, but more than that. Simply put, he wanted her. Nothing else and no one else would do. She was different than anyone he'd ever met before - eager to please, but as lovely and fragile as a butterfly, with a heart that was easily wounded. He wanted to keep her forever safe and secure in his arms and his love, but he knew that was not what she was asking of him. And still, he could not tell her in so many words what he wanted, could not take her as a man might take a woman. No, let it be her decision.
She was the master here, and he was the one who was worshiping at her feet. "I want you," he told her at last, in a voice that betrayed his own needs and desires. He reached for her, to touch her hair, in wonder of the simple beauty of her. He was at her mercy to do with as she would, though he was hoping she would understand somehow that this, too, wasn't only about his own pleasure, but hers, if she was brave enough to follow her own instincts.
With him, she could be brave. For him, she thought she could do anything. And she understood those simple words, remembering her own response when he had asked her the same question hours before. She knew what she had meant then; she knew what he meant now. And though it was in a way wholly new to her, she did not intend to disappoint him. Cast into glowing shadow by the flickering firelight, she rose over him, daring to align her body to his, to take him into her, unaware of the wanton image she presented with her arched back and gasping lips, dark hair falling in a shimmering curtain down her back. What happened from there was in his hands, but she had taken the first step. She needed him to steer her.
This time he did not groan, but only sighed deeply, as if by that simple joining of their two bodies, she had given him the greatest gift and the greatest pleasure possible. He savored that feeling of exquisite warmth for a long moment before opening his eyes slowly to look up at her, smiling as he realized she was not sure what to do, though he was still determined to let her be her own master for once. His hands reached for her hips, moving her against him, before pulling her down against his chest, heartbeat to heartbeat. "Do whatever you like," he whispered, hoping her body would know what to do, even if her mind did not.
She almost startled as he guided her against him, only too happy to fall to his chest at the slightest encouragement. It had never felt like this. Heart to heart, nose to nose, one hand found his, linking her fingers through his own, drawing his arm up to rest above his head as she tried to replicate that motion once again, pouring her unexpected pleasure against his lips as she shuddered.
It was a lesson in loving, not just for her, but for him, too. He'd certainly had his share of lovers over the years, but even those who'd been skilled at love-making paled in comparison to this, and he realized that what had been missing from all those relationships was the compassion and caring that came from loving someone and from being loved. It was the one equation he'd always been missing - this sharing and trusting and giving of one's self. He would have given her his life in that moment, if she had only asked for it. And in that moment when he finally reached the precipice and was teetering on the brink, he understood at last what it was the poets meant when they wrote about true love.
Without knowing quite how, she drew him over that precipice, unaware that perhaps he wanted to bring her with him, only aware that he needed that release the way she had needed what he had given her. For the first time in her life, there was no pain, no shame, no desire to run and hide. There was only him, and he was glorious.
He sighed against her lips, every muscle of his body relaxing, even as his fingers strayed over her hips in an affectionate caress of her flesh. He sensed that she had not reached the pinnacle with him, and yet, he wasn't sure if it mattered. They had made progress, albeit slow and steady. All he wanted in that moment was to hold her close and feel her heart beat against his, feeling more content than he could ever remember feeling in his entire life.
Gently, she released the hand she had pinned above his head, drawing her fingers against his cheek as she watched the play of emotion over his face. It was wondrous to look upon, to watch him stagger from bliss to contentment and know that she had been a part of making it happen. The straying caress of his fingers at her hip made her giggle softly, biting back the laughter as she kissed him once again.
He quirked an almost sleepy, lazy smirk at the giggle, which was all too girlish and almost innocent to his ears. "What's so funny?" he asked, though he suspected she was only a little bit ticklish. It was perhaps the first time he'd heard her laugh and really sound like she might be happy.
She shook her head, her eyes alight with something she was unexpectedly sure was happiness. "Nothing I can explain," she admitted, nuzzling to him, unafraid to share a little more affection in the wake of what they had already shared.
"Mmm," he murmured as he slid his arms around her, needing to hold her close and feel the warmth and softness of her body against his. It was strange to know that she was not some wayward lover who would disappear in the morning, but a woman he had taken to his heart and made his wife. A bird with a broken wing that was slowly learning how to fly again. He reached for the blanket, tucking it carefully around her as he held her close, content to remain that way as long as she desired. "You should sleep," he told her quietly. And this time, she would not disappear from his bed or his arms because he was right there with her.
Drawn close against him beneath the comforting weight of the blanket, she nestled into his arms, hesitating only once as she raised her head to meet his eyes. "I ... was it good?"
Good. Now there was a word that fell pitifully short of what they'd just shared together. "Wine is good. Food is good, but there are no words to describe love," he told her, unafraid to use that words in association with them and with what had just happened between them.
She slithered to his side, curling close inside the tuck of his arm beneath the blanket. "But ... it was a good kind of not describing-ness?" she asked uncertainly. She knew how it had felt to her, and knew she would not be able to put into words just how wonderful it had been, how wonderful it still felt with the lingering thrum in her blood. But what of him?
"Yes, it was good," he assured her, turning his head to brush a kiss against her temple. It was more than good, but he could think of no words to describe it.
She beamed, unable to hide that glowing response to knowing that she had done something right, finally. Not even her soft yawn could wipe the smile off her face as she laid her brow into the crook of his neck, seeking and accepting the safety and security he offered her. "I will have good dreams," she murmured, brushing her lips against his skin.
He smiled, happy he could at least give her that. Maybe he couldn't take away the hurts of the past, but he could at least give her a fresh start and a reason to go on. There wasn't much more he could ask for than that.