“I want to see you.”
“Well, it’s no much to see, Sassenach,” he said, with an uncertain laugh. “But whatever it is, it’s yours—if ye want it.”
He pulled the shirt over his head and tossed it on the floor, then leaned back on the palms of his hands, displaying his body.
I didn’t know quite what I had been expecting. In fact, the sight of his naked body took my breath away. He was still tall, of course, and beautifully made, the long bones of his body sleek with muscle, elegant with strength. He glowed in the candlelight, as though the light came from within him.
He had changed, of course, but the change was subtle; as though he had been put into an oven and baked to a hard finish. He looked as though both muscle and skin had drawn in just a bit, grown closer to the bone, so he was more tightly knit; he had never seemed gawky, but the last hint of boyish looseness had vanished.
His skin had darkened slightly, to a pale gold, burned to bronze on face and throat, paling down the length of his body to a pure white, tinged with blue veins, in the hollow of his thighs. His pubic hair stood out in a ferocious auburn bush, and it was quite obvious that he had not been lying; he did want me, and very badly.
My eyes met his, and his mouth quirked suddenly.
“I did say once I would be honest with ye, Sassenach.”
I laughed, feeling tears sting my eyes at the same time, a rush of confused emotion surging up in me.
“So did I.” I reached toward him, hesitant, and he took my hand. The strength and warmth of it were startling, and I jerked slightly. Then I tightened my grasp, and he rose to his feet, facing me.
We stood still then, awkwardly hesitating. We were intensely aware of each other—how could we not be? It was quite a small room, and the available atmosphere was completely filled with a charge like static electricity, almost strong enough to be visible. I had a feeling of empty-bellied terror, like the sort you get at the top of a roller coaster.
“Are you as scared as I am?” I finally said, sounding hoarse to my own ears.
He looked me over carefully, and raised one eyebrow.
“I dinna think I can be,” he said. “You’re covered wi’ gooseflesh. Are ye scairt, Sassenach, or only cold?”
“Both,” I said, and he laughed.
“Get in, then,” he said. He released my hand and bent to turn back the quilt.
I didn’t stop shaking when he slid under the quilt beside me, though the heat of his body was a physical shock.
“God, you’re not cold!” I blurted. I turned toward him, and the warmth of him shimmered against my skin from head to toes. Instinctively drawn, I pressed close against him, shivering. I could feel my nipples tight and hard against his chest, and the sudden shock of his naked skin against my own.
He laughed a little uncertainly. “No, I’m not. I suppose I must be afraid, aye?” His arms came around me, gently, and I touched his chest, feeling hundreds of tiny goose bumps spring up under my fingertips, among the ruddy curling hairs.
“When we were afraid of each other before,” I whispered, “on our wedding night—you held my hands. You said it would be easier if we touched.”
He made a small sound as my fingertip found his nipple.
“Aye, I did,” he said, sounding breathless. “Lord, touch me like that again.” His hands tightened suddenly, holding me against him.
“Touch me,” he said again softly, “and let me touch you, my Sassenach.” His hand cupped me, stroking, touching, and my breast lay taut and heavy in his palm. I went on trembling, but now he was doing it, too.
“When we wed,” he whispered, his breath warm against my cheek, “and I saw ye there, so bonny in your white dress—I couldna think of anything but when we’d be alone, and I could undo your laces and have ye naked, next to me in the bed.”
“Do you want me now?” I whispered, and kissed the sunburned flesh in the hollow above his collarbone. His skin was faintly salty to the taste, and his hair smelled of woodsmoke and pungent maleness.
He didn’t answer, but moved abruptly, so I felt the hardness of him, stiff against my belly.