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Jennifer found herself lying awake in the darkness that night, completely unable to sleep. Her husband had finally noticed her, had even looked at her with something resembling newfound respect and admiration. Why he should admire her for a quirk in her character over which she had no control she could not fathom, but it had been evident from the expression in his eyes that he did.
And now that he had noticed her, now that she had earned his attention, possibly, just possibly, he might begin to feel some sort of affection for her. The words she had read this afternoon from Ecclesiastes came back to her with perfect clarity. There was a time to mourn, but there was also a time to love. Perhaps the time for Grey to mourn was finally over. Perhaps, at long last, it was once again time for him to love.
With those hopeful thoughts racing in her mind, she could not sleep. The music of the stars was calling to her. Slipping from her bed and pulling on a loose linsey-woolsey gown that did not require stays, she glided silently downstairs, only to pause at the sight of flickering candlelight in Grey's study.
She moved closer to the door, seeing that his head was buried in his hands, his shoulders shaking. She felt a stab of pity for her husband, so lost by himself but so completely unable to ask others for guidance.
Last time she had discovered Grey thus, she had only dared to peer around the edge of the door. This time, moved by an impulse she could not explain, she crossed the chamber swiftly and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Grey!" she whispered urgently. "It's all right. I'm here now."
Slowly he lifted his head, raking her face with her gaze. What she saw in his stormy gray eyes caught at her heart. Defeated, haunted, they were the eyes of a dying man.
"Don't cry," she murmured, brushing the tears from his haggard face as though he were a child. Strange, she thought, how he could be so arrogant and remote by day, yet so terribly vulnerable by night. "Don't."
"I can't help it," Grey muttered in a voice clogged to hoarseness by tears. As if embarrassed by her clear, level gaze, he lowered his face into his hands once more.
Jennifer had no idea how to deal with his emotions, or with anyone's emotions, for that matter. She had cried only once in the last eight years. Until she had come to Greyhaven she had not even felt the need for tears. And now, faced with someone else's grief, she found herself at a complete loss.
She stroked the thick black hair as he bowed his head in abject misery, wishing she could do more to ease his pain. "You mustn't feel this way," she said softly, aware that her words were woefully inadequate in the face of his agony. "Please. . . "
Grey looked up at her through red-rimmed eyes. "Ah, God," he said tiredly. "You're right. I should feel nothing, but I'm too full of emotion. All I can feel is love and sorrow and grief, churned together and swirling inside of me until I choke on it." He clutched her hand to his cheek in a gesture so childlike that a lump came to her throat.
In a moment some of his pain seemed to fade. He looked up in a way that was almost shy and studied her features in the candlelight. She thought there was something strange about the way he looked at her, his expression was intent but oddly blank, as though he were looking through her somehow. "You're very beautiful," he said at last. "Did you know that?"
Startled and shocked by his sudden mercurial change of emotions, Jennifer flushed a brilliant red and started to back away, but he caught her arms in a surprisingly strong grip. "Don't go," he pleaded in a desperate, low voice. The agony had faded from his features, replaced by something even more elemental."I need you. You are so beautiful...."
She sensed that he was dreadfully drunk, but she could not pull away. His long fingers held her arms so tightly and his hopeful silver eyes held her pinned. "Grey," she said in what she hoped was a reproving tone. "Let go of me."
"I can't," Grey whispered. One of his hands released her arm and reached up to stroke the smooth curve of her jaw. Jennifer froze at the peculiar sensation of his strong, calloused fingers caressing her soft skin. "I've tried, but I can't. I can never let go of you. Oh, God, I want you. And you want me too. Please tell me so."
She could not look into those brilliant silver eyes and lie. "I do," she admitted faintly. Heaven help her, it was true. There was something so blatantly masculine about him, clad as he was in a ruffled linen shirt that was open at the neck, exposing part of the solidly muscled expanse of his chest. There was something terribly compelling about his sharply chiseled features, thrown into sharper relief than ever by the faint light of the candle. Grey was more than attractive, more than handsome. He was irresistible.
"Say it," he commanded softly, eyes gleaming with something more than hope. Jennifer saw the powerful emotion in his eyes, recognized it for what it was with feminine instinct, and helplessly responded to it.
"I want you," she whispered, less shyly now.
The expression of raw, elemental passion on his face left little doubt that he returned the sentiment in full. How he could want her so powerfully, so desperately, when he had rarely even acknowledged her presence in the past she could not fathom, but it was evident that he did. She was unable to bring herself to question fate. Slightly dazed at the direction events were taking, she repeated, "I want you."
The crystalline truth of those words shocked her. She had thought herself attracted to his younger self, a man with Grey's arrogance and charm, but with Edward's passion. Somehow that man was before her now. He came slowly to his feet, staring down at her with all the passion that was his nature etched clearly on his handsome face.
And Jennifer felt the first passion of her life welling up in response. She did not struggle when his lips touched hers. The thought of struggle never occurred to her. Instead she responded eagerly, joyfully, wrapping her arms ardently around his broad shoulders, reveling in the strangely delightful sensations his caressing hands and lips aroused. Even when his lips opened and his tongue delicately stroked hers, she did not recoil in shock, only pressed herself closer to him. The taste of apple brandy on his lips was so intoxicating, his arms around her so warm and solid, that she wondered dizzily if she were dreaming. It had to be a dream. Reality had never been this wonderful.
It was no dream. His questing hand on her breast, his mouth moving caressingly down the sensitive flesh of her throat, all were real. The emotions she had kept bottled inside for so long flooded powerfully through her body and her mind, destroying all conscious thought and volition. She could only moan in helpless pleasure and press her soft body closer to his hard one.
Even when he pulled her down onto the Oriental carpet she made no protest. She could not have formulated an objection had she wanted to. This was what she wanted, this was all that mattered. Every dream she had ever had was fulfilled as he kissed her with ever greater ardor. The weight of his body pressed her into the soft carpet, and she reveled in the sensation. She was helping to ease his grief, and she knew joy for the first time in a very long time.