Robert’s heart was filled with love for his land and an even greater love for the woman that rode behind him as they came through the last of the trees and out into a quiet meadow. Clenching his strong thighs against Teak, he signaled the steed to run. Anxious to stretch his legs as well, Silvering charged after the galloping horse ahead of him. Robert’s thick chestnut hair blew in the wind as he yelled out the joy he felt in his heart. Leigha’s hair had already fallen loose and flew out in streaming ribbons of bronze as she and Silvering overcame them. Laughing and shouting joyfully to each other, they raced across the meadow towards a small cottage that rested on the edge of the clearing, with the winding river they had followed earlier through the woods, running quietly beside the croft.
“Whose home is this?” Leigha asked as they drew to a stop before the whitewashed, flower-bedecked house.
“Why, mine of course!” Robert answered as he dismounted and came over to reach his arms up to help her down. “Or should I say, ours?” he asked as he gently lifted her from Silvering’s back. “I haven’t been here in quite a while, so I had some of the servants come out and clean up the place a few days ago. It looks as if they’ve done a fine job!”
“It’s so beautiful!” Leigha exclaimed as he opened the door and she saw the inside of the one-room croft, her eyes wide with surprise as she stepped into the neat little room. “Why didn’t you tell me we were coming here?”
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think that you would come if I did,” he answered, chewing on his lower lip as he worried about her reaction to what was to come.
Leigha turned to him to voice her objection, and he placed a finger against her small red lips. His dark eyes gazed into her bright green orbs for a moment as he took her arm and turned to lead her over to one of the chairs that sat in front of the fireplace.
“I said once that I would take you away to a cabin and make you my slave,” he said half seriously, as she removed her cape and sat down in the comfortable chair, enjoying the soft, plush feel of it after having been so long in a hard saddle. Robert looked down at her, watching close for her reaction as he said, “I brought you here so that I could have you all to myself for a while in a way that I could not have at Dagonmoor.”
“But, Robert, you had only to ask,” Leigha laughed up into his steady eyes. “I would have come willingly.”
“Would you have now,” he said as he knelt down before her and took her hands in his, his eyes searching hers. “I wonder if you would have come at all had you known of my true intentions. They are not at all honorable, I’m afraid. But I love you so, and I just can’t wait, unless of course you insist otherwise. If you do, you must say so now, for I will not be able to stop soon, no matter my great love for you.”
Robert’s words and the pressure of his hand on hers were causing a tingle of fear and a thrill of something Leigha could not identify to run through her body as she realized what he meant. Robert’s head came forwards, and he pressed his warm lips to hers as he took her in his arms and held her close. Leigha could not protest what was happening as his tongue deftly moved against her mouth, and he kissed her deeply. Little flames began to course through her, and her senses reeled as his kiss deepened and her body responded with a will of its own, her arms coming up to encircle him and press her body closer against his wide, firm chest. She began to tremble with fear and her mounting passion. Robert’s breath came hotly against her skin as he held her and kissed her face and neck in what seemed a dozen places at once, each kiss burning her sweetly where it touched her.
“Do not be afraid of me, Leigha,” he said in a husky voice as he lifted her in his arms and carried her over to the large bed in the room.
Robert felt her trembling within his arms and knew that he must be very gentle for their whole future depended on how well he treated her now. Laying her carefully upon the soft bed, he paused to look lovingly upon her beauty then eased himself down beside her. Leigha’s breathing was coming rapidly, her eyes wide as a frightened animal’s as he lay next to her and pulled her close against him. He stroked her hair and back and whispered words of love to soothe and comfort her. His voice was low and husky from the passion that he held in check, for he was determined not to hurt her.
When Leigha’s breathing came easier and her heart slowed its tremulous beating within her breast, she raised her head up to look into his smoldering dark eyes and knew that he loved her deeply and would not harm her. She knew nothing of what happened between men and women except for the few things that Robert had done with her in the past days. Often when they had found the chance to be alone, he would fondle her gently and tease her in ways that no man had dared to before. She knew not of what happened beyond that. Her mother had died when she was too young to be told anything, and Leigha had never dared to ask her father such questions. As she gazed into Robert’s eyes, she knew that she could trust him. Reaching behind his head, she drew his mouth to hers, telling him without words that she loved him and wanted him as he did her.