"Damon?" She came up behind him and pieced her hand lightly on his arm.
The simple touch jerked him back to the present. He pulled away from her and fumed, baring his teeth in a resemblance of a smile.
"Day versus night, you ask? It doesn't matter now. We are close to the conclusion of this little sojourn, aren't we?"
Her eyes grew wide, even a little fearful. He almost hated her for that, hated that she could feel fear of him, when all he had ever wanted to do was protect her, take care of her, love her.
Damon took a menacing step in her direction. "Now, what's amiss with you, Countess? You do not look yourself."
Solange shook her head in bewilderment. "I don't understand you. You are angry. Have I done something wrong?"
"Something recently, you mean? I don't know, you tell me." He was stalking her now, steadily matching each step she took to put space between them. One hand was raised as if to push him away; the other was grasping the folds of the tunic together. The fear in her eyes became stronger.
"Stop it! Why are you behaving in this odd manner? Are you feverish?" She halted defiantly, daring him to come closer. Brave, foolish little Solange, and so he caught her up easily. She crashed into his chest, helpless because her arms were pinned and he would not let her put her feet down firmly to the earth. He held her tightly against him until she stopped struggling, until she only stared up at him in almost comical disbelief.
"Yes, my lady," he drawled. "I think I must be feverish. It is the only reason I can think of to do this." He covered her lips with his own.
She didn't fight him. She didn't do anything but hang there in his arms and let him kiss her. It didn't matter. He was beyond caring about any objections she had.
Nine years he had dreamed of these lips, nine years of longing for one more chance, just one more, to savor her again. No man should have had to live like that. He would not spend the rest of his life regretting a passed opportunity.
For a heartbeat all he felt was the closeness of her. Her lips were warm and succulent, and completely still under his. It was too much like that fateful kiss they had last shared on her wedding morning, and his heart cried out with anger and despair.
But then she moved. He instinctively tightened his arms to prevent her from escaping, but she wasn't trying to back away. She was attempting to move higher in his arms, to match herself more equally to his height.
She was kissing him back.
The last remnants of reason retreated into the roaring hunger that gripped him. A part of him knew this was the moment he had been waiting for all this time, her response to him, proof she was not immune to the desire that flamed to life between them.
Sweet Lord, she was not. Her hands inched out from between their bodies to hold on to his shoulders enabling him to pull her closer, his fantasy becoming reality faster than he could take it in. His body knew what to do, however. It answered hers with a surging heat. He bent her almost backward over his arm, bracing her against his legs. She was light, so light he barely noticed her weight. Her hair slid silkily under his palms as they traveled up her back, down to cradle her thighs, then up again.
Their lips meshed and parted, sharing the same breath. The maidenly shyness she had been treating him with had vanished as if it had never been. Before him now was a woman, a siren, arousing him with a bold lushness he wanted to drown in. He kissed her jaw, her neck, straightening to lift her higher to reach the hidden softness beneath her ear. Her head tilted back, helping him.
Slowly he released her, allowing her body to slide over every muscled plane of his own. Her tunic caught on his and rose to her waist. He slipped his hands under it and felt the satin of her skin beneath his palms. They traveled up to cup her full breasts, softly squeezing their roundness. Solange gave a startled gasp and then moaned in pleasure, arching farther into his hands. Her reaction was like a thunderbolt running through him.
Damon was intent on getting her to the ground. He had to find a good place to lay her down, anywhere without the stubble of cut hay. She was panting for him, ready for him, and he was more than ready for her. He would toss her onto the haystack, it didn't matter, he had to be inside her soon or risk losing his thin grasp on the resolution not to make love to her in the dirt.
She stiffened suddenly, trying to pull away from him with a muted cry. He held her immobile against him, confused--she couldn't want to stop now, she wanted him, he knew it--but Solange braced her arms against his shoulders and shoved, looking wide-eyed at something behind him.
The agitation in her tone penetrated the haze of passion fogging his mind. Immediately he released her and fumed, reaching to his waist for the stiletto he always carried there. His fingers groped at the empty sheath--the dagger lay on the ground next to that morning's breakfast of pigeon pie, much too far to reach in time.
Close behind him, right next to the haystack, were a half-circle of four mounted men dressed in rough, dirty clothing. Two of them were leering at the couple, but the others just stared at them blankly.
The man closest to them, a bearded fellow with a long scar down one cheek, followed Damon's glance to the stiletto and back again to his empty hands. And then the thief gave a wicked smile.