The rain lasted several hours, and Jewel somehow managed to doze off and on, despite her sizzling awareness of the man next to her. Her robe had thankfully dried and was spread over their legs. Sometime during the storm, she'd turned her back to Gray, and he'd draped his arm over the dip of her waist. Being cradled in his protective embrace proved as intoxicating as she'd always dreamed, providing the sense of contentment she'd always craved. Not to mention utter carnality.

As his warm breath caressed her neck, she studied his hand. His fingers were long and thick, the ends callused. There was a light dusting of pale hair below each knuckle.

Those hands were capable of lethal violence as well as the greatest tenderness. Gods, she wanted that tenderness with every ounce of her being.

Why hadn't he touched her since they'd left the city? Why hadn't he attempted to make love to her? They'd come so close. So wonderfully close. As she remembered, her lips plumped, her mouth watered, and moisture pooled between her legs. He'd kissed and touched her hungrily. She'd kissed and touched him hungrily. His decadent flavor had teased her mouth, and the strength and warmth of his embrace had surrounded her in a sultry haze of pleasure.

She wanted that again.

She wanted him.

Had he lost interest in her?

"What's wrong, Prudence?" Gray asked, his voice husky and rich with sleep. "You went stiff on me."

Jewel forced her body to relax. She needed to get her mind off Gray and sex and kisses and nakedness and - She'd talk about Dunamis. That always sobered her. "What if I told you Dunamis doesn't actually exist? Not the way you think, at least."

Now he stiffened, his entire body tightening around her. "What do you mean?" His tone wasn't angry, merely hardened with curiosity.

The darkness was so thick, she didn't try to turn and glimpse his expression. "What if it's not a gemstone?"

He remained silent for a long while, and his hand began kneading her hip, sending ripples of pleasure through her blood. "You wouldn't be asking me these questions without reason," he said. "So, let me ask you a question. If Dunamis isn't a gemstone, what is it?"

A cold sweat broke over her body. She'd just had to get her mind off Gray, hadn't she? Now look what she'd done. How could she answer him without admitting the very thing she didn't want him to know? "I wish everyone would leave it alone. Perhaps any hands, even those of your government, are the wrong hands to own it."

"That's a chance I'm willing to take."

How she'd feared, and still feared, that very answer. "You never answered me," she said softly. "Would you still destroy it?"

"I can't answer your question until you answer mine." He kissed the back of her neck, his lips lingering over the sensitized cord of her shoulder.

She almost cried out in relief and need at the first brush of his lips, everything forgotten except him. Except Gray. There was no reason to keep her mind off his loving if he planned to give it to her. "Do that again," she whispered.

"I shouldn't. I've tried not to. But I can smell you, smell your sweetness, and I'm tired of trying to keep myself in check. Tired of thinking all the reasons not to." Lightning brightened their tent for the briefest of seconds, blending light with shadows. "You lied to me earlier, you know," he said, his fingers inching up and cupping her breast.

Her nipples hardened. She arched her back, arched into him. "Mmm, I most assuredly did not." "You most assuredly did lie to me, Prudence."

"I didn't." She groaned as he licked the edge of her ear. "I swear I didn't."

"You didn't bathe naked. Don't worry, though," he said, his voice husky and rich. "I can help you fix that."

"Right now?" she asked breathlessly, trying not to beg. "You're going to touch me? Like before?" "Do you want me to?"

"Yes. Please." Her tongue flicked out in an attempt to lave her parched lips with moisture.

"I've been meaning to ask." He slid his hand lower, lower still, until his fingertips played at the hem of her shirt. "Why are you still a virgin, sweetheart? What were you waiting for? Marriage?"

"You," she admitted on a moan. "I was waiting for you."

Gray's cock jerked in reaction to her words. For hours, he'd been waging a desperate war - touch her/don't touch her.

Guess who won?

He'd been hyperaware of her every move, every sigh. Desire hammered through him. Hell, when had it ever left? He craved her like a drug, and he was helpless to resist. He was becoming addicted to her, wanting her constantly, needing to mark her as his, to watch her when she came. To hear his name on her lips.

Every male instinct he possessed wanted every man who came into contact with her to know that she belonged to him.

Being with this woman right now was a mistake. He'd told himself a thousand times. If it weren't for the storm, they'd be out in the forest right now, headed for the Temple of Cronus. But it was storming, they weren't in the forest, and at last sinking inside her would be the most pleasurable mistake of his life.

He wouldn't bite her. He wouldn't let himself. If the need came upon him, he'd control it, no matter how uncontrollable it seemed. At least, that's what he told himself to ease his conscience.

"If you don't want me to finish this, say so now." He ground himself against the cleft of her ass. "Once I start, I'm not going to stop. Not this time."

"I want you more than I've ever wanted anything else in my life. I won't let you stop."

He flipped her over, sucking in a breath of salt, foliage and aroused woman, and meshed his lips against hers. She opened her mouth and his tongue dove inside, their teeth clashing together with the force of his entry. He cupped her jawline, forcing himself to be gentle when all he wanted to do was brand her. Hard. Fast.

His need for her grew with every second that passed, intensifying dangerously. Her palms caressed his naked chest, flattened against his nipples, then locked around his neck.

"I love your heat and hardness," she gasped out. "Do you think I'll ever get enough?"

"No, never. You taste so good." Sweat dripped from his brow, and his skin pulled tight, urging him to do more. Begging him to increase their pace. He traced his hands over her shoulders, her back, her breasts, pinching her nipples.

She moaned in pleasure-pain and hooked her legs around his waist, cradling his erection as intimately as possible while still dressed. Her tongue continued its battle with his. Her fingers traveled all over him.

"I want to be naked," she panted.

"I want you that way, too." He nipped at her chin, at the corner of her mouth, all the while rubbing against her. "How do you do this to me? How do you make me need you so badly?"

Sheer pleasure sizzled in her veins when he hit the exact place she needed him. "Again," she gasped. "There."

He drew back, pushed forward. This time they both gasped at the headiness.

"Sometimes... when I saw you in my visions with other women... " She lifted her head and sucked one of his nipples, reveling in the male taste of his skin. "I pretended you were - " she licked her way to the other side and sucked " - with me instead."

A raw moan tore from him. Another beam of lightning exploded in the sky, chasing away the darkness for a split second, and in that second, their eyes met. Blue ocean water against warrior steel. Fire and passion blazed from his expression.

He stared down at her, and his brow furrowed. "We've kissed like this before," he said, his voice strained. "Not in the tub, but - "

"In your mind. Yes." She reached for him, wanting to jerk his mouth back to hers, but he gripped her hands and pinned them over her head.

"I thought I'd dreamed it, but you were actually there. We fought a demon and a vampire, and then we kissed. It really happened."

"Yes," she said, never breaking their gaze. What did any of this matter now? She needed him desperately and didn't know if she could stand it if he refused her. In these last few days she'd been aroused one too many times without reaching fulfillment. "Does that upset you?"

"Hell, no. I just - thank you."

A shiver raced through her, vibrating into him. "You're welcome."

"You're the most beautiful thing, sweetheart." She loved him, he realized, shock still hammering through him. He'd known she desired him but had failed to realize she'd given him her heart. Until now. When she'd entered his mind that day he'd been injured, he'd read her thoughts and she'd been unable to hide her love for him.

Love... Far from making him want to leave her, Gray found himself irrevocably drawn to her, needing her so much more.

He wanted to hear her say it. He had to hear her say it.

He bent his head to kiss her neck when the scent of her sweet, sweet blood wafted to his nostrils. He gulped. The need for blood, her blood, had awoken.

He needed to slow things down, bring it to a controllable level while he pleasured her so thoroughly that loving him was the only thing she knew. The only thing he knew.

He delved his hand along the curve of her hip, along the length of her long leg, then up her thigh until he reached the hem of her shirt. Up... up... he lifted the material. Slowly - it nearly killed him to go slow. He tantalized her nerve endings with barely there touches, and when the material was bunched at her waist, he paused. Silence encompassed the tent. Not even the sound of their breathing could be heard. Perhaps they both waited, breath bated, for his next move.

His blood sparked with electricity as his fingers played at her waist again. Her skin was so soft. So perfect. She was silk and roses. "I don't want to scare you," he whispered huskily, already knowing she was far from afraid. "Tell me if I do something you don't like."

"I'm not - "

"I'll explain everything I'm doing to you," he added, neatly cutting off her protest. "Right now, I'm simply going to explore you. Your legs, your stomach, your every curve and hollow, every sensitive place that makes you gasp for more."

"Yes. All right."

"We'll learn what you like together."

"Every time you touch me, I feel flames licking me, burning me. I like that."

He uttered a strained chuckle. More sweat trickled down his temples. "If you didn't feel that way, that would mean I was doing something wrong. It's my job - no, my privilege - to make the fire become an inferno." As he spoke, he traced his name on her thigh.

She was his, that's all there was to it. Only his.

"Oh, yes." Her low, needy moan blended with a sigh of pleasure. The sounds combined, emerging more like a purr.

A man true to his word, Gray introduced himself properly to her body. "I'm going to touch your breasts." "Like before?"

"Like before." He lingered there, kneading and rolling her nipples between his finger and thumb.

Her hips arched, her body bowed. Her head fell back, long lengths of her silky hair tickling his chest. Thunder boomed and the rain increased in pressure, pounding against the shelter. He'd never again see another moonlit, stormy night without thinking of Jewel.

She was passion incarnate.

He'd only had a mere glimpse of her passion, but he was eager for more. When he'd kissed her, she'd erupted. Just like that. Her hands had moved over him, her lower body had arched into him. When he touched her...

"I'm going to make a mental note that we both enjoy this area." His voice was strained, so strained he barely managed to get the words out. Had he ever been this on-edge before? He didn't think so; he couldn't remember a time when a woman had ever invaded his mind so thoroughly.

Jewel's stomach quivered when he stopped to dabble at her belly button. So soft, so sexy. He could have spent the rest of the night there, but continued his exploration. "I'm going to touch your bottom."

"Yes. Please." She gasped out the words, her voice heavy with anticipation. When he reached the rounded curves, she arched her hips. He massaged.

He called himself a million kinds of fool as his gaze fastened on her neck, watching the pulse there.

Growling, he delved his hand between her legs. When he began working his fingers up the inside of her thigh, she cried out.

"Gray, I need - I don't know! I watched you a hundred times but I don't know what I need."

He chuckled, the sound more a choked gasp than anything. She was writhing against him, silently pleading. "You need a more intimate touch, baby. Like this." He tunneled his hand through the tuft of silky hair guarding her wet folds, then sank one finger inside her tight sheath.

Her hips instantly shot toward the sky. "Oh, gods."

"Do you love me?" He pulled his finger out and spread her moisture with circling strokes. The final vestiges of his control were slipping. A sense of urgency was overtaking him.

"Gray. Gray! Do that again!" she commanded, ignoring his question.

His mouth stretched tight with the strain of his own arousal, his need for blood. Sweat no longer trickled; it dripped from his temples. God, he loved hearing his name on her lips.

"Did you touch yourself like this often?" he asked her. So easily he pictured her splayed out on a bed of

silk and satin, blue like her eyes, pleasuring herself, bringing herself to climax while she pictured his face.

The image alone was enough to make him spill, so he blanked his mind.

She hesitated. "Only that once. In the tub. My skin had grown so hot and tight. And I wanted to experience your possession so badly."

Using his thumb on her clitoris, he sank two fingers into her. "Do you love me?"

"Ohh," she moaned, another purr. Ignoring the question again. She threw her head back, her pelvis arching and caressing his groin.

He stilled at the consuming pleasure, the sheer bliss of that one touch. He was as hard as a rock, his breathing ragged. When he worked a third finger inside her, she cried out his name, the sound a broken sob. Her body spasmed and tightened around his fingers. Heat radiated off her, surrounding him with her luscious scent.

Finish it, his mind shouted.

Slowly he removed his fingers. He ripped at his boots and pants and kicked them off, his cock finally freed. He would be her first. Her first man, her first lover. His possessive instincts roared to life, a powerful avalanche tumbling through him.

He couldn't fight her allure, and he'd been foolish to even try, whatever his reasons had been. They were from different lands? So what. She'd read his mind? Who cared. He might make her pregnant? God, yes. He wanted her to have his baby. He wanted to fill her with his seed. He might bite her? Mmm...

"Do you love me?" Gray fit himself at her entrance, and her legs locked around him. His gaze moved to her neck, his mouth watering. "You're mine, you're mine, you're mine. Tell me you're ready for me."

"Now. Please now."

Rocking forward, he worked himself inside her inch by tormenting inch. "Take it all." "Yes - yes - "

"All of it." Finally her hymen gave way, and he shoved the rest of the way in, seating himself to the hilt. He roared at the pleasure, somehow managing to hold himself still. "You're mine, you're mine, you're mine. Are you hurt? Did I hurt you?"

"More, I want more."

Another roar of satisfaction burst from him, and he began moving in and out. Quickening his pace, he increased the exquisite sensations. She was arching and moving with him, against him. She kneaded and squeezed his back. She clawed. She bit the cord of his neck.

She was wild with her need.

He could barely see her in the darkness, but what little he could make out filled his mind. Her lids were at half-mast, her color high, her teeth chewed on her bottom lip. Raven locks of hair spilled around her shoulders. She was the very picture of eroticism.

She was his.

His orgasm rocked him, and he shouted her name, pounding into her as deeply as possible. He hit her in exactly the right spot because she cried out, too, her second climax springing to instant life, her inner walls tightening around him. All the while, he fought the urge to bite her and won. The need was there, but his need to protect her was greater.

He stayed where he was until the last tremor abandoned him, then finally collapsed beside her, more sated than he'd ever been in his life. A long time later, she peeked at him through the thick shield of her lashes. Something in his chest tightened, seeing her like this. So satisfied. So lovely.

He couldn't give her up, he thought then. Ever.

"Well, shit," he said. He worried one hand over his face, and pulled Jewel atop his chest with the other. She hadn't told him she loved him. Did she still? Had he misread her?

"Is something wrong?" she asked shyly.

"Go to sleep, baby. We'll talk in the morning." His body was already on fire for her, ready for round two.

He loved her. He did. She was the one for him, the only one. His soul mate. Here in the darkness of the night, there was no denying it. No dressing it up with "maybe" and "probably," or even the standard "I care about her." He had never felt more replete, more sated, than he did at that moment. Just what he needed, too. Another complication for this easy fucking mission.

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