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9

"Ben's in a darn foul mood," Paul greeted as he bounded through the kitchen door much like a half-grown puppy. He went straight to the sink and washed his hands. Colby was death on cleanliness. "I've gotta tell you, I was glad to see him go. Why's he so bent out of shape? What'd you say to him, Colby?"

She spun around, glaring at him. "Say to him?" she echoed very softly. "And why would you think I said something to him? Ben is a man." She made it sound like a dirty word. "That should tell you everything right there."

Paul whistled very low under his breath. "Anyone call for me?" he asked hopefully. No one messed with Colby when she was in a man-bashing state. Someone or something had set her off and he was hoping it hadn't been him.

"No, but I was hoping you'd leave Ben out there to get lost."

Paul's eyebrows shot up at Colby's mood and then he glanced from his sister to Rafael speculatively. "So, I'm guessing you brought the loan papers. Has Colby seen them yet?" It was a good guess on his part after seeing the expression on his sister's face.

Rafael extracted the papers and handed them to Colby. "No, not yet. Perhaps she could look these over while we get better acquainted." He gestured toward the living room, herding Paul and Ginny in front of him to give Colby more privacy.

Colby froze, the sound of her heart loud in her ears. "Wait!" She sounded totally panic-stricken. She felt totally panic-stricken. She actually put out her hand to stop her brother and sister from leaving the room alone with Rafael.

Rafael turned to look at her, his black eyes moving over her face with hard authority as she backed away from him. "What is it, meu amor?" He spoke gently, his voice like a velvet caress, but she shivered all the same. He was smoldering. Smoldering. She could feel the volcano swirling inside him as linked as they were. His eyes were on her, bleak and cold, yet burning with a terrible intensity. Fire and ice. There it was again. The paradox. She didn't understand him. She didn't understand herself. But first and foremost, despite what she might need or want or feel, she had to know that Ginny and Paul were safe from all harm. Rafael was a shadow in her mind and saw her fear.

"Colby?" There was a wealth of concern in Paul's voice. "What is it?"

Be very careful what you say to the boy, pequena; I do not want him to fear me unnecessarily as you seem to fear me. The words purred in her mind, a soothing menace.

Colby's hand went to her throat, a protective gesture, moved around to cover the mark throbbing so frantically on her neck. Are you driving me insane? I feel like I don't know what's real and what isn't anymore. I'm different. I know I'm different. She was crying out the words, needing his comfort even as she was trying to drive him away with her accusations.

We will be alone soon enough, Colby, there is no need for all this fear. You and the children are under my protection. That is no small thing. If you do not believe in me, then believe in Armando. He sent for the family. They are men of honor. If they believed I would harm you, do you think they would allow such a thing?

I don't know. They're very loyal to you. She didn't know. She honestly didn't. How could she be so attracted to someone she didn't even trust? How could she allow him to do the things he'd done to her body and still crave more? It didn't make sense to her. And the Chevez brothers feared him. She sensed the uneasiness in them whenever the conversation turned to Rafael. He was much more than a man with unique talents such as Colby had. He was far more powerful. And there was a darkness inside of him she often caught glimpses of. As much as she was drawn to Rafael, she was also equally repelled, her sense of self-preservation kicking in strongly. He was taking her over, bit by bit, cell by cell. Her heart. Her lungs. It felt as if she couldn't breathe without him. No one else looked at her with that burning hungry gaze. No one touched her with such command, such need. He was dominant in every way and something in her she couldn't control responded to him, needed him, craved him, even when she wasn't certain of who or what he was.

"Go over the papers, Colby." Rafael sounded tender. "We will be in the other room. Ginny is interested in vegetarian soup recipes and I am quite good in that particular area."

Colby stared at Rafael, almost afraid to make a decision. You won't… she couldn't actually form an accusation. What if he had directed their minds to do something harmful? Could he have done that?

His black eyes ignited with anger for a moment. Yes, I could have, but I did not. He turned on his heel and stalked out of the room.

Paul slipped his arm around Ginny's shoulders. "I'm not going to pretend I know what's going on between you two, but he offered us a huge loan for practically nothing, Colby, and if we don't get money soon we're going to lose the ranch."

Colby shrugged. "Well, maybe you're being altogether too trusting, Paul. You ought to know by now you don't get something for nothing. It never works that way."

"Maybe so, Colby, but then again you're the one who trusted Daniels enough to take the loan," Paul snapped at her.

Colby winced as though he'd struck her. To her shock, her eyes actually brimmed with tears. Ginny ran to her, circling her waist with protective arms, glaring openly at her brother.

"Do not let me hear you speak to your sister again like that, Paul." Rafael's large frame filled the doorway. He always seemed to materialize out of nowhere, moving unseen and silently to appear and take over. He looked directly at the teenager. "You are too old to yell out accusations when you do not have all the facts. Colby deserves far more respect from you." There was a lash in the quiet strength of his voice. "Think before you speak, boy. I am quite capable of introducing you to the concept of manners." Rafael stepped back in invitation to allow Paul to precede him, his gaze steely.

Paul looked defiant for a moment, his face slowly turning red. Ginny moved first, hurrying quickly past Rafael into the other room, pausing just long enough to give her brother one indignant look. Colby, for once, didn't help Paul, staring down at the scuffed toes of her boots as if she couldn't bear to look at him. As if he had hurt her so deeply with his accusation that she couldn't face him or anyone else.

"Colby." He said her name softly, already sorry for lashing out at her. He wasn't even sure why he did it, only that he didn't like the way Rafael was looking at Colby, or the way she was looking back at him.

She shook her head without looking up. Paul followed Ginny into the living room. Colby unfolded the papers reluctantly and spread the offending document onto the kitchen table. It was strictly businesslike, legal and very fair. She could find no fault with it. Rafael had left her no way out, no logical reason to refuse him. The sum was for the amount of money she needed to pay off Daniels and enough to rebuild and even add new equipment. Colby didn't have the kind of cash Daniels or De La Cruz had and she never would.

"Are you planning on scowling at it all day or shall we sign it and get it over with?" Rafael broke into her thoughts, leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded across his chest.

She glanced at him, a slight frown on her face. "I'm reading it over, looking for hidden traps."

"It is not going to work, you know," he said, his voice low.

"What isn't going to work?" she retorted.

"Trying to start a fight with me. It will not run me off. You think to make me go back to my homeland. Do you not realize yet that it is too late for that?"

Colby pushed a hand through her hair and regarded him with serious eyes. "I know we need to have a talk, Rafael."

He indicated the papers with a graceful wave of his hand.

"Is it really so hard to decide? Would you have rather I turned my back on you and the children? It is only money. I would have given it to you, but you would not have taken it. Money means nothing to me, it never has." He sighed, his black gaze fastened on her very expressive face. "You hate the fact that I offered the money, but really, querida, you had me either way. If I had not offered it, what kind of a man would I have been?" There was no note of censure in his voice, he simply was stating a fact.

Colby was instantly ashamed. It was true. She totally resented him either way. And she didn't trust his motives. Rafael extracted a gold pen from his pocket and held it out to her, his dark eyes eloquent. Colby shook her head at the folly of what she was doing, but she took the pen. Her fingers brushed his, sent a frisson of awareness down her spine. He could do that, but was it simple chemistry? Colby didn't know why she was so attracted to him. She thought he was cold, yet he sometimes burned with such intensity she melted around him. Which was the real Rafael? She thought him selfish and arrogant, yet he was first on the ranch helping nonstop in a crisis. He had sheltered Ginny in the midst of the crisis in spite of the fact that he had been in extreme discomfort. And he was offering the money at more than reasonable terms so they could keep the ranch. Had she been that wrong about him?

No, pequena, you were not so wrong about me. The words brushed in her mind almost tenderly.

Colby glanced up at him, startled. It was disconcerting to have him reading her every thought. "I guess we do need to talk. You need to explain to me just what is going on between us, because I don't know what it is." She wasn't going to be put off. He had promised to talk with her and she meant to hold him to it.

"Do you really believe I have something to do with the problems on this ranch?" Rafael stirred for the first time, a lazy, casual move very reminiscent of a jungle cat as he straightened and moved toward her, immediately filling the entire kitchen with his presence.

The phone rang shrilly. They could hear Paul and Ginny both racing to answer it. Colby pushed open the screen door. She needed the night air, the wide-open spaces. She didn't turn her head and she didn't hear Rafael walking, but she felt him moving right behind her.

As they walked across the yard, his hand brushed hers. At once her heart went crazy, pounding wildly before she could prevent it. She glanced up at him from under long lashes, surreptitiously putting her hand behind her back. "Why did you come here, Rafael? Why are you here at all? You don't belong here, do you?"

"My brothers and I rarely travel. We prefer to stay near the rain forest." He glanced up at the looming mountain range shadowing the ranch. "We need the wilds. Even together we have always been solitary."

His voice was very quiet, almost hypnotic. Colby found her gaze on the mountains also. Everything seemed so much more intense. Vivid colors in the night, the breeze bringing scents and sounds to her she had never experienced before. She inhaled deeply, drawing it all into her lungs. "Why do I want to be with you when I don't even like you?" She didn't look at him when she asked the question. "You know why, don't you?" She knew things; she had always known things. She knew he wouldn't lie to her about whatever was between them.

Rafael moved beside her in silence, his body fluid and powerful. She could feel his power. They walked past the large garden she had worked so hard to maintain. She noted absently that Paul had forgotten to water it. As soon as the knowledge shimmered in her mind, Rafael waved his hand and the water began to flow into the irrigation hoses. He did it casually, almost as if he didn't notice he did it.

"Why do I need to touch your mind with mine, to see you, when I've never needed a man in my life at all?"

His hand brushed hers again and this time their fingers tangled together. "Do you really want the answers to your questions, Colby? You must be very sure it is what you want. The answers you will get are not what you are expecting."

She stopped walking, her body very close to his. She had to tilt her head to look up at him. Colby took a moment to think it over. She sensed he was going to reveal something monumental, something terrifying. Was she strong enough to take it? Colby needed to know. She took a deep breath and nodded. "I think I have enough mysteries in my life right now without this one. Tell me the truth."

His hand framed her face, his fingertips unbelievably gentle as they brushed her face. "I look at you, Colby, and I see the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. Inside and out you are beautiful. I know you better than anyone else could ever know you, because I can see into your thoughts and read your memories. The very light in you, your tremendous capacity for loving, humbles me."

She looked at him steadily, trying not to drown in the depths of his black, black eyes. Looking at the intensity, the hunger there, it was impossible not to believe what he was saying and his words robbed her of her breath, of her ability to stay focused. She shook her head to ward off his spell. "Tell me about your life." She found she was holding her breath; she didn't want to hear about Rafael and other women. She wanted to know about him. Who he was, what he thought, what mattered to him.

"You matter to me. Ginny and Paul matter to me. Honor matters." His black eyes, dark and brooding, moved over her face. His fingers drifted down her silken curtain of hair before reluctantly releasing her. "Honor is the only thing I had left to me, Colby, before you came into my life." He looked away from her, avoiding her eyes to look up at the high shadowy peaks surrounding them. "I belong in the rain forests, up in the mountains, far from people, where it is much safer for them… and for me."

Colby kept her eyes on his face, determined to know the truth. There was something truly solitary about him, something so alone it touched her heart. She had an overwhelming desire to gather him into her arms and comfort him. "I don't see what is so wrong with needing your own space. Sometimes, there is such a bombardment of information overwhelming me that I can barely hang on. You are much more sensitive than I am, I can tell. If you read minds, the emotions must be overwhelming."

He rubbed the bridge of his nose thoughtfully, shaking his head at her. "Naturally you would give a plausible reason for my behavior. But it is not so, pequena, I do not have the excuse of being bombarded with emotions. In truth, although I can read minds, I felt nothing at all until I met you."

Colby continued to walk. The soft breeze was soothing, a perfect backdrop for serenity when she was struggling to understand what Rafael was telling her. "I don't understand. How could you feel nothing? You mean you never fell in love? What? What does that mean?"

"I mean it in a literal sense, Colby," he continued gently. "Touch my mind, look at my memories." He didn't sound ashamed, he sounded matter-of-fact, as if he casually discussed his sins every day, not as if he was bearing his soul to her, as if he was ripping his heart out and handing it to her.

He knew he could no longer continue without her. He knew he was too selfish to end his life, and in any case he had all but tied her to him. He had no idea of the consequences to her should they be separated. He had not officially bound them with the ritual words but he had exchanged blood with her on two occasions. She was partially in his world. And she needed him. She was lonely in the midst of her beloved family. And they were using her up, her generous, compassionate nature and unique gifts. Without those talents, it would not have been possible for Colby to run the ranch on the defective equipment as she had been doing these last few years.

There was a vampire in the area, probably drawn by her use of her psychic talent. And there was Nicolas, so close to turning it was terrifying. And Rafael truly did not know how much longer he, himself, could endure without claiming her. More than all those reasons, Rafael knew he had never wanted anything for himself in all his long years. He wanted Colby and he wouldn't give her up.

She reached out to him, for the first time really seeing beyond his expressionless mask. His handsome face was different when she really studied him. There were lines etched into his sensual features that hadn't been there before. There was a sorrow in the depths of his eyes as if he was suffering. Instantly her heart melted and Colby tightened her grip on his arm.

"What is it you don't want to tell me, Rafael? Don't you think it's just better to get it out in the open?"

Colby. Direct, to the point. He tucked thick silky strands of red-gold hair behind her small ear. "You have so much here, Colby. You are willing to give so much of yourself to those you love. I want you to love me. I am not deserving of your love. I have not only done nothing to deserve it, but I have made your life more difficult. I need you. I know I will not always be easy to be with. I am a very dominant man, sexually and otherwise. I want you to be mine. All mine." He said the words starkly, without embellishment, totally vulnerable, aware she could crush him easily with one word, one look. "But I want you to love me, I need you to love me."

Everything in Colby responded to the directness of his plea. He looked so alone, tall and straight, his black eyes alive with some terrible inner pain. "Why? Why do you need me to love you, Rafael? You have everything." He wasn't overwhelming her with romantic endearments, or even using the highly charged sexual chemistry between them to persuade her, and that, more than anything else, had her complete attention.

"I have nothing without you. Before I came here, Colby, my life was one endless bleak moment after another. I am alive when I am around you. I can feel emotion, I know I care for the Chevez family, I feel affection for them, I care what happens to them. I feel for my brothers, my people. I do not want to return to a barren world, I cannot." His black eyes moved moodily over her upturned face. "You are a miracle and you are not even aware of it."

"I haven't done anything to be a miracle," Colby reminded him quietly. She waited in the darkness for what would inevitably come. She knew there was something else, something he didn't want to tell her.

"That you exist is a miracle for me, Colby." He gestured with his hand, the long slow sweep taking in a wide circle. "This is my world, Colby, the night. I have lived long alone and I cannot do so anymore." He bowed his head as if infinitely weary. "I thought I might be strong enough to allow you to slip away from me. I have thought long on this, but I cannot." He looked at her directly then, his head coming up, standing tall and powerful, his black eyes burning a brand into her mind. "I cannot, Colby."

"Rafael, stop talking in riddles. What is it?" She could hear her own heart beating wildly. She could feel the desperation in her mind and body as every single cell needed to comfort and assure him. But he was changing her life. She knew it instinctively, she knew he was warning her, not reassuring her. Whatever he was not saying was something terrible. So she simply stood there looking up at him. Waiting.

Rafael stood one moment looking curiously vulnerable and the next his expression was grim, determined. Sheer arrogance. He dragged her into his arms and took possession of her mouth with his. She tasted a desperate need, a terrible hunger, and something far more frightening. She gave herself up to him, clinging to him, returning the hunger in his kiss, reassuring him even as she feared where he was leading her. Her hands crept up to his neck, bunching his hair in her fingers.

"Tell me, Rafael, can't you feel how much I want you?" She wanted to give him the courage to tell her, wanted to give herself the courage to listen. She whispered the words into his mouth, against his lips, holding her body very close to his.

He lifted his head then, his black eyes glittering at her. He looked every inch a tall, dark predator. "You cannot just want me, Colby, you have to love me." There was a finality about his words, something in his voice that warned her she was in danger.

She stood in the silence, listening to the wind whisper to her, feeling it on her face, her body. His face was still and etched with a deep sorrow she couldn't quite comprehend. He looked as lonely as her beloved mountains. Colby lifted a hand to his lips, her fingers gently smoothing the lines. "What is it, Rafael? Say it aloud, say it here in the night where it's just the two of us while we belong together. Right now."

Tiny red flames flickered in the dark depths of his eyes. His fingers shackled her fragile wrist, lightly, loosely, as if chaining her to him when he expected her to run from him. "I am of the night, Colby, of the wind and the earth. I can soar as the eagle or take the shape of a jungle cat. My people are as old as time itself. I am not human."

For a moment her mind was perfectly still, not comprehending, not wanting to take in what he said. She blinked up at him as the words settled into her mind. Her gaze fixed on the flames in his eyes. "If you are not human, Rafael, what are you?" She shouldn't have believed him, but she sensed the danger in him, the predator, she sensed his differences. The way the Chevez brothers acted suddenly made perfect sense. They knew he was different. And they feared him.

She wasn't running from him, she didn't even attempt to pull away, but he heard the slamming of her heart and he saw the gathering apprehension in her eyes.

"I am Carpathian. My original homeland is in the Carpathian Mountains. In the thirteenth century, our prince asked for volunteers to go to distant lands to protect the world from the evil branching out. My brothers and I were already warriors with much experience and we answered the call."

She stood very, very still. The words "thirteenth century" echoed through her mind.

"We are rather like normal human children in the first years of our lives. As we become teenagers our gifts and talents begin to emerge. The elders teach us to shape-shift, to use our gifts. At that time the sun begins to become a problem for us."

She drew in her breath sharply, her eyes never leaving his face. "Like it is becoming for me. It isn't because of the fire, is it?" Shape-shifting. He had used the term casually, in the same way he had mentioned the thirteenth century. He wasn't insane and Colby wished he were. She took an involuntary step backward, her hand going up to cover the mark throbbing on her neck.

He shook his head slowly. "No, Colby, your sensitivity to the sun is not because of the fire. I brought you partially into my world, and I have no choice but to bring you fully into it." He said it very quietly, implacably, irrevocably. His black eyes watched her carefully. She felt him in her mind, that same watchful stillness, judging her reaction.

She held her ground, looking up at him steadily. "You think I'm just going to let you take me over?" Her words were soft, like the night wind, but it was a threat, the first real threat Colby had ever made in her life. "I love my brother and sister; I will never let you take me from them. I hope we understand one another."

He nodded, his eyes very black, very empty. "You have strong gifts, Colby, but you have no concept of my power. I mean it when I say I have no choice. You have no concept of how strong the pull of the darkness is, the insidious whispering of power. The call to feel. Just feel. Such a small thing humans take for granted. I thought there was nothing worse, but it is not so. Emotions bombard me; I cannot seek the solace of the earth because you are aboveground and my soul cries for yours. I have no anchor. I cannot hold out much longer. There is too much at risk."

She lifted her chin. "I don't know exactly what you're talking about, Rafael, I'll admit it, but it doesn't matter, don't you see that? I don't matter, you don't matter, only Paul and Ginny matter."

His white teeth gleamed in the darkness, a predator's warning. "You think I will allow you to trade our lives for theirs?" His voice was very, very low.

Her heart thudded painfully and for a moment she could scarcely breathe. Was he actually threatening her brother and sister? He seemed invincible there in the darkness and she didn't even know what he was, what he was capable of doing. She sensed his power, she felt his power clinging to him, vibrating in the air around him. "What are you saying, Rafael? I don't like riddles."

His hand moved up to shape her face. Colby stepped away from him before his fingers could skim her skin, before his touch could seduce her into acceptance. His hand fell to his side. "I am incapable of harming those children," he said softly, his voice a whiplash. "They are a part of you. I have offered my protection to them. You persist in seeing me as your enemy when you are surrounded by the real enemy."

She stood quietly with the wind ruffling her hair and her heart as heavy as a stone. His pain or hers? Colby wasn't certain if it was one and the same. "I'm sorry, Rafael." She shoved a trembling hand through her silky hair. "The ground seems to be shifting out from under me and I honestly don't know what to think." She waved a hand to encompass the mountains surrounding them. "This is my world. This ranch, the children. My entire world. What's happened between us is frightening. I behave differently around you. It isn't me. You have to understand that. I'm not who you want."

He smiled at her. Gently. Tenderly. "Colby." Her name was a soft ache in the darkness of the night. "I have waited close to two thousand years for you. Only you. Without hope, without color or emotion. I cannot go back to a barren world. You are here in front of me and our time is now. I will not allow it to slip through our fingers. You cannot conceive of the monster I can become without you. You sense it lurking, watching, waiting even, but you do not realize its potential."

"You have the ability to mesmerize with your voice."

"I see no reason to deny it. I did not seduce you with my voice. You are my other half, you feel it, you know it. I live in you and your need is as strong as my need." He moved then, glided, a silent predator, his arms gathering her against his body and his dark head descending until his mouth claimed hers. Hot. Dominant. Hungry. An urgent demand.

The moment his mouth fastened on hers, Colby felt the flames licking at her skin, inside her skin, deep within her body. The heat built, a fiery inferno that turned her blood into a molten liquid that pooled low in her body and consumed her mind with a dark desire she would never escape. It moved through her body, wicked, sinful, a treacherous craving that deepened and spread, until she was consumed with the need to touch him, taste him. To give him everything. Her denials were gone, lost in the fire of his hot mouth and hard body.

It wasn't enough with his mouth welded to hers, she had to feel the heat of his skin beneath the pads of her fingers exploring every muscle, every indentation. She wanted nothing between them, not even a thin layer of material to cushion the thick hard evidence of his need for her. The surge of power vibrated in the air, so that electricity crackled and snapped. His shirt floated to the ground while her hands found the fastening of his trousers. She pushed impatiently at the offending jeans, wanting them out of the way, needing them gone. Once again the air crackled and he was naked in the moonlight, the silvery beams illuminating the hard planes of his body. He looked magnificently male, a masculine sculpture dedicated to pure carnal pleasure. Made for it. Needing it.

Colby gasped in awe, running her hands over him, while deep inside the aching need blossomed into a ferocious hunger that bit at her and clawed until her body raged at her. She was sharing his mind, knew they were both beyond control, but it didn't matter to her. She looked up at him, at his black, merciless eyes, eyes alive with hunger and desire, an insatiable lust bordering on obsession. She understood; she felt the same.

Rafael parted the threads of her cotton top so that the buttons went flying in all directions. His hands moved up to loosen the clip in her hair, tossing it aside so that it lay unwanted beside the small round buttons. His hands skimmed up her rib cage, settling on her breasts as he dipped his head to feast on soft, creamy flesh. Colby's soft cry was muffled as his mouth closed over her nipple, wet and hot and suckling strongly. Answering liquefied heat throbbed and burned deep inside her, a molten pool of beckoning anticipation.

Rafael's hands glided over the curve of her hips, sliding her jeans from her body, leaving her open to his hungry gaze. The surge of power came again as she kicked off her shoes and pushed aside her clothes so her body was skin to skin with his. "Touch me, Colby," he commanded softly, as his teeth teased and scraped along sensitive skin. "I need your hands on me. Touch me."

Her hands were on his hips, tracing his hips bones, the sharp edges, the defined muscles. He groaned as his body grew fuller, heavier, at the brushing of her skin against him. "I want to touch you, Rafael," she answered truthfully. She loved the way he thrust his mind into her mind, the erotic pictures very vivid, very graphic.

His mouth at her breast was numbing her mind, turning her body into liquid heat, a fire so exquisite she wanted to burn out of control, could only burn out of control. Deliberately she danced her fingers along the hard thick length of him, cupping the weight of him in her hand, squeezing gently until the air rushed out of his lungs and he lifted his head with a soft growl of animal pleasure.

It wasn't enough, she wanted to bring him to his knees, this creature of dark power, a master of seduction who had left his brand deep inside her so that no other could ever possibly take his place. She wanted him to feel the way he had made her feel. So close to the fire she burned in it. Colby caught at his hips, dragged him closer to her so that the warmth of her breath had his teeth snapping together. Her tongue tasted him, a slow, seductive swirl, deliberately intimate, following the smooth velvet-soft contours, exploring the thick knob while her teeth nibbled as if she might take a bite. She had no real idea of what to do, but she could follow the instructions in his mind, and the guidance of his hands. Each ragged breath he drew encouraged her.

His hands fisted in her hair, the growl deepening in his throat. She wanted him this way, on the edge of violence, with no restraint, there in the night with the stars scattered overhead and his powerful body trembling because of her. Because of the silken heat of her mouth, tight and moist, taking him the way her body would take his. Deep inside, suckling him the way he did her. His body belonging to her, for her pleasure, to bring him to a fever pitch, to be able to drag the throaty growls from him and feel his body thrust helplessly into her. His fists tightened in her hair, dragging her head closer to him while she deliberately drove him careening toward the edge of control.

He said something, something hot and erotic, dragging her head up to find her mouth with his. He waved his hand and a blanket of thick grass lay beneath her as he shoved her back onto the ground, following her down with his hard body. Grasping her legs, he jerked her to him, so that her legs were spread wide, leaving her open and vulnerable to him. He was kneeling and he simply tugged her legs over his broad shoulders and bent to find her hot, wet core with his probing tongue.

Colby's body imploded, fragmented, rocking and bucking in his hands. She cried out, her fingers clutching at the grass stalks for something, anything to hold on to.

"Not good enough," he said softly, impatiently. "Again, Colby, again and again and next time say my name. Know who I am. Say it." It was an order, a threat. His mouth found her again, buried deep, stroking, caressing, teasing. Very deliberately he slipped his finger over her, inside her. At once her body responded again, sending her spiraling out of control so that she gasped for mercy, clawing at the grass for an anchor.

He left his finger deep inside her, pushed further so that his palm was pressed against the heat of her entrance. He bent to kiss her flat belly, his teeth nipping, his tongue swirling over her peculiar birthmark. Her muscles clenched tightly in answer around his finger. "That is what I need to feel, meu amor, I want you to need me more. Even more." Watching her face he inserted a second finger, stretching her tight sheath, pressing deeper into her as he bent his head to her breast thrusting so temptingly at him. Her body shuddered in answer, bathed his fingers in a hot cream, clenching and tightening, rippling with life.

"Rafael," she gasped his name. Aching. Needing. On fire.

He hit lightly at her breast, sucked at her flesh, thrust his fingers deep, withdrew, thrust again. There was satisfaction in her cry as his movements triggered an even wilder release. She nearly sobbed as her body ground against his hand.

Rafael leaned over her, pressed his throbbing body against her, thick and hard, wanting her to feel him. "Not yet, Colby. Who am I? Say my name, tell me. Tell me what you want from me. Only me. No one else, just me." His voice was a dark sorcerer's tool, velvet soft, a seduction of senses, husky with his own dark hunger. His tongue flicked over her nipple, his teeth scraped over her pulse, swirled a caress even as his fingers stretched her further, sunk deeper into her core.

Tears swam in her eyes. "I can't do this, I can't take any more. It's too much." Her body was alive with a thousand nerve endings, tiny pinpoints of pleasure swamping her to the point of pain.

"Yes, you can." His teeth teased the pulse in her neck, his breath warm in her ear. "Let go, give yourself to me, all the way, Colby, I want all of it, everything that is you. I will not take anything less from you. All of you. You want me. You need me the same way I need you. Your body needs mine."

Her breath caught in her throat and the feel of his mouth against her skin was almost more than she could bear. "Yes, Rafael, now." She choked the words out as her body rippled and quivered and spiraled out of control again.

He brought her legs to his waist, pushed his hips against her, keeping her thighs wide to accommodate his larger body as he pressed into her hot, wet, welcoming sheath. A soft sound escaped her throat as he pushed into her. Even with his fingers preparing her, stretching her, her body was tight and resisting against his thick hard length. "All of me, querida, take all of me," he urged softly, insistently. His beautiful voice was husky with his need, his face an etching of desire and hunger, his eyes burning with intensity.

She cried out, her voice scattering across the sky as he deepened his stroke, joining their bodies together. It was his name, her mind filled with him and her soul claimed by him as he took possession of her body. The release was fast and ferocious, overtaking her like a freight train before she could get her breath.

Rafael had no mercy, surging forward, burying himself deep while the fiery friction built again and again, intense and hot, a firestorm consuming them both. He needed all of her, the essence of her flooding his bloodstream, and deliberately he bent forward, knowing her eyes were on his face, wanting her to see who he was, to know what he was.


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