“Tucking a finger beneath her chin, he brought her gaze back to his. “It’s just what?” he prompted.

Drawing a breath, she summoned the fortitude to confess her insecurities. “It’s been a long time, Ford.”

He seemed to consider that. “For us . . . or with any man?”

Certain she couldn’t become any more embarrassed than she already was, she muttered, “Both.”

He tilted his head, and smiled. “Would it help if I told you that it’s been a long time for me, too?”

It did help, and there was enough honesty in his expression that she believed him.

“Tell you what, why don’t we just start where we left off at the country club? We’ll take this slow and easy, and we can put a halt to this any time you want.” The backs of his knuckles stroked her cheek, and goose flesh rose on her skin. “You only need to tell me to stop and I will, okay?”

She nodded, appreciating that bit of security, and the right to change her mind at any time.

He indicated the bright lamp in the living room. “Can I turn off this light?”

“Yes,” she said, preferring the softer illumination from the kitchen to guide them, instead of the harsh glare of the lamp. She watched him move away, and flip the switch on the wall, throwing the room into an intimate, romantic setting. Then he came back to where she stood and stopped in front of her, and she could feel the heat of his muscular body, could smell the male scent of him.

“Would you mind if I took the clip from your hair? Or maybe you’d like to do it for me?” He made the suggestion lightly, but the husky quality to his voice was very revealing. “More than anything, I’d love to see your hair down.”

He was giving her the choice, and she accepted it. Holding his watchful gaze, she reached up and unsnapped the clip securing the mass of hair on top of her head. Soft, buoyant curls cascaded to just below her shoulders, framing her face.

She thought she heard him suck in a breath, and her own heart skipped a beat. Silently, she willed him to touch her hair, and then he did, reverently threading his long fingers through the thick, warm strands.

A deep groan of pleasure rumbled from his throat. “It’s still so rich, so silky,” he said, awed.

He spent another minute luxuriating in the weight and texture of her hair, burying his hands in the mass and using his fingers to massage her scalp. Grace shivered and all but purred—his fascination with her hair was one of the more sensual experiences of her life.

“Can I kiss you now?”

She smiled up at him, feeling lethargic and complacent. “I’m not used to having someone ask permission to kiss me.”

He grinned, too, stealing her breath with those gorgeous dimples. “I’m trying to be a gentleman, and give you that option to say stop.”

She didn’t want him to be chivalrous, not when she’d begun to ache deep inside for something more. Following her emotions, she said, “In that case, I’d like it very much if you kissed me.”

He obliged, taking time and care with her mouth, and slowly pulling her deeper into his embrace. She went willingly, sliding her hands over the hard contours of his chest, surrendering to the heat of his lips. His own palms caressed her leisurely. He cupped her breast gently through the material of her dress, grazed his thumb over the hardened tip, and she moaned at the exquisite pleasure. Sweet, hot desire, unlike any she’d ever known, electrified her body.

Breaking the escalating kiss, he pressed his lips to her temple, holding her close. “You’re trembling, Grace,” he murmured, his own body taut and restrained, but unmistakably aroused. “Should I take that as a good sign, or bad?”

She closed her eyes, and considered his question—another chance for her to change her mind. Nothing had ever felt as good or right as this moment. What had begun as tension had blossomed into quivering anticipation, and a need that transcended the mere act of making love. There was an emotional connection still between them, and it pulled at her heartstrings.

“Oh, it’s a good sign,” she reassured him, a bit of humor lacing her voice. Glancing up, she met his smoky gaze, and remembering her vow to please herself, she catered to the yearning deep within her. “Would you like to go into my bedroom?””

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