At the top of the hill he spotted her, pacing with a limp beneath the tree.
“Riley,” he called, waiting for her to turn and face him. In spite of her injured knee, she ran to him, meeting him half way.
Long, ginger curls spilled from the man’s hat she wore, flowing over her shoulders and waving behind her in the chilled morning breeze. Tears of relief welled in her eyes as he caught her in his embrace, lifting her from the ground with a hand beneath her knees and one on her back. He drew her close, tight against his heart where his beat in unison to hers.
“I feared for you,” she whispered against his throat, as she buried her face beneath his chin and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“I am here now,” he reassured her, his member chafing from the nearness of her...for the want of her.
Pulling back to look at him, she searched his face. Tears trickled down her soot-stained cheeks, streaking her flesh. “Never worry me so again.”
His eyes focused on her lips, lush and moist...so near to his own. Did he dare kiss her? Did he have the right?
And then she decided for him. “I would welcome your kiss,” she boldly stated.
He arched a brow and smiled, strangely flattered by her declaration. “Then I will not have to steal one of my own?”
“Nay, never,” she answered breathlessly. “I vowed to myself, while searching for a way to escape that burning chamber, that if I lived through this ordeal I would taste your lips. Whether it was for only a moment...and just once, I would kiss you.” She moved her lips closer to his. “I want to taste your lips, Gabriel...feel their warmth on mine. Life is too fleeting to be left wondering.”
“Hush, woman,” he whispered against her mouth before he captured its fullness. There was no turning back. Their closeness was like a drug, lulling his senses into euphoria. His chest tingled against her full breasts hidden from his view beneath the fabric of her shirt, and the thought of their bared splendor drove him insane with passion.
She heaved a delighted sigh as he deepened the kiss, swelling his loins underneath his breeches, and causing a fervent flutter to rise from the pit of his stomach. When his tongue explored the soft recesses of her mouth, he knew kissing her would always leave him burning with desire, hungry for more of the delicious, heady sensation.
And he realized he would have to come to grips with the fact that kissing Riley Flanders for only a moment, or just once in his lifetime, was definitely not going to be an option.