"Damme, lady, is there any truth in you at all?"
Her voice wouldn't work. She stared in mute appeal.
"Christ's Blood," he murmured with that wicked, Satan-inspired darkness flooding his voice, "I can't decide if God is punishing me or you. Let's find out, shall we?"
He closed the short distance between their mouths. His lips touched hers with deliberate delicacy, clung there. Her eyelids drifted shut.
Warm breath. Velvet mouth, firm and testing. Just a kiss, just the softest brush of his lips and yet her knees weakened and her head spun. He moved closer. She sensed it, felt his breadth surround her, above her… Threatening? Protecting? By the Virgin, she couldn't tell.
Her head fell back against the wall. His fingertips branded one side of her throat with gossamer fire, skated down and across the top of her breasts, found the edge of her décolletage and slipped along it, moving with lingering deftness beneath—
A jolt of molten sensation electrified her. Her eyes flew open, her startled gaze leaping to meet his unreadable one.
"Let me go," she pleaded. "Please. I am not rich and I have no name with which others might seek to align themselves. All I own is my virtue. Please don't take that from me."
Was his breathing staggered? She couldn't say. Her own thoughts were in too great a turmoil to heed another's state, her own breath too ragged.
"Let me go," she repeated. "Please! I don't even know your name."
Tis Ra— Rafe," he said, but his hand dropped to his side and he moved back. "Though I've had far more intimate discourse with women who've had far less knowledge of me that that."
"How dare you speak to me like this?" The words broke from her rising panic. "I'm not a woman of the streets taking money to lift my skirts."
"Oh, rest assured, I did not find all of them on the streets," he said. "And I had no money to offer."
Fire swept over her chest and throat and burned in her cheeks. "So that's what this is about."
She had known this game she and the rest of the McClairens played would extract an ever-stiffening price. She had not foreseen this, though.
"What's that?" he asked, a smile loitering in his dark gaze.
"You've sought me in order to penalize me for my actions in Dieppe. To take your revenge in… in having me against my will," she ended brokenly.