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He held her still, his hands on her shoulders, his gaze on her face. In the moonlight, she could see herself there, trapped in that sea of blue. Trapped in him.
"Not yet." He needed a moment to steady himself. By God, he'd nearly swallowed her whole. "Not just yet." Holding himself back, he touched his lips to hers, lightly, in a long, quiet kiss that wrecked whatever was left of her defenses. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You didn't." She pressed her lips together and tried to bring her voice over a whisper. "You didn't hurt me. You staggered me."
"I thought I was ready for this." He ran his hands down her arms before he released her. "I don't know if anyone could be.'' Because he wasn't sure what would happen if he touched her again, he slipped his hands into his pockets. "Maybe it's the moonlight, maybe it's just you. I have to be straight with you, Anastasia, I don't know quite how to handle this."
"Well." She wrapped her arms tight and cupped her elbows. "That makes two of us."
"If it wasn't for Jessie, you wouldn't go into that house alone tonight. And I don't take intimacy lightly."
Steadier now, she nodded. "If it wasn't for Jessie, I might ask you to stay with me tonight." She took a long breath. She knew it was important to be honest, at least in this. "You would be my first."
"Your—" His hands went limp. Now he felt both a lick of fear and an incredible excitement at the thought of her innocence. "Oh, God."
Her chin came up. "I'm not ashamed of it."
"No, I didn't mean…" Speechless, he dragged a hand through his hair. Innocent. A golden-haired virgin in a thin blue robe with flowers at her feet. And a man was supposed to resist, and walk away alone. "I don't suppose you have any idea what that does to a man."
"Not precisely, since I'm not a man." She bent down for her basket. "But I do know what realizing that you may soon be giving yourself for the first time does to a woman. So it seems to me we should both give this some clear thinking." She smiled, or tried to. "And it's very difficult to think clearly after midnight, when the moon's full and the flowers are ripe. I'll say good night, Boone."
"Ana." He touched her arm, but didn't hold on. "Nothing will happen until you're ready."
She shook her head. "Yes, it will. But nothing will happen unless it's meant."
With her robe billowing around her, she raced toward the house.
Chapter 5
Sleep had been a long time coming. Boone hadn't tossed and turned so much as lain, staring up at the ceiling. He'd watched the moonlight fade into that final deep darkness before dawn.
Now, with the sun streaming in bright ribbons over the bed, he was facedown, spread out, and fast asleep. In the dream floating through his brain, he scooped Ana into his arms and carried her up a long curved staircase of white marble. At the top, suspended above puffy, cotton clouds, was an enormous bed pooled in waterfalls of white satin. Hundreds of long, slender candles burned in a drifting light. He could smell them—the soft tang of vanilla, the mystique of jasmine. And her—that quietly sexy scent that went everywhere with her.
She smiled. Hair like sunlight. Eyes like smoke. When he laid her on the bed, they sank deep, as if into the clouds themselves. There was harpsong, romantic as tears, and a whisper that was nothing more than the clouds themselves breathing.
As her arms lifted, wound around him, they were floating, like ghosts in some fantasy, bound together by needs and knowledge and the unbearable sweetness of that first long, lingering kiss. Her mouth moved under his, yielding as she murmured…
Boone came awake with a crash as his daughter landed with a thump on his back. His unintelligible grunt had her giggling and scooting down to smack a kiss on his stubbled cheek.
"Daddy, wake up! I fixed you breakfast!"
"Breakfast." He grumbled into the pillow, struggling to clear the sleep from his throat and the dream from his system. "What time is it?"
"The little hand's on the ten, and the big hand's on the three. I made cinnamon toast and poured orange juice in the little glasses."
He grunted again, rolling over to peer through gritty eyes at Jessie. She looked bright as a sunbeam in her pink cotton blouse and shorts. She'd done the buttons up wrong, but she'd brushed the tangles from her hair. "How long have you been up?"
"Hours and hours and hours. I let Daisy outside and gave her breakfast. And I got dressed all by myself and brushed my teeth and watched cartoons. Then I got hungry, so I fixed breakfast."
"You've been busy."
"Uh-huh. And I was real quiet, too, so you didn't have to wake up early on your sleep-in day."
"You were real quiet," Boone agreed, and reached up to fix her buttons. "I guess you deserve a prize."
Her eyes lit. "What? What do I get?"
"How about a pink belly?" He rolled with her on the bed, wrestling while she squealed and wriggled. He let her win, pretending exhaustion and defeat when she bounced on his back. "Too tough for me."
"That's 'cause I eat my vegetables. You don't."
"I eat some."
"Uh-uh, hardly any."
"When you get to be thirty-three, you won't have to eat your brussels sprouts, either."
"But I like them."
He grinned into the pillow. "That's only because I'm such a good cook. My mother was lousy."
"She doesn't ever cook now." Jessie printed her name with a fingertip on her father's bare back. "Her and Grandpa Sawyer always go out to eat."
"That's because Grandpa Sawyer's no fool." She was having trouble with the letter S , Boone noted. They'd have to work on it.
"You said we could call Grandma and Grandpa Sawyer and Nana and Pop today. Can we?"
"Sure, in a couple of hours." He turned over again, studying her. "Do you miss them, baby?"
"Yeah." With her tongue between her teeth, she began to print Sawyer on his chest. "It seems funny that they're not here. Will they come to visit us?"
"Sure they will." The guilt that was part and parcel of parenthood worked at him. "Do you wish we'd stayed in Indiana?"