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The melodious song of the magpies woke her up. She felt the warmth of the sun on her face and struggled to open her eyes: her little attic room only got the late afternoon sun; had she slept the whole day and why had no one come to wake her? Confused, she stared at the unfamiliar ceiling, trying to clear her mind. There were bunches of dried lavender hanging down from the rough beam above where she lay, their scent filling the air. And then memory returned and she smiled, relaxing. A strong arm draped around her waist and pulled her close. She looked down at the head that came to rest between her naked breasts as he mumbled appreciatively and sank back to sleep. Joe. She was with Joe. Happiness filled her, a tingling spreading up from her toes, making her feel like her whole body was smiling.

She lifted her hand, lightly touching the damp curls on his forehead, careful not to wake him. Only the sharp line of his nose was visible to her, his hair covering the parts of his face that weren’t pressed against her chest. His breath tickled her bare skin and she shut out everything else from her mind, concentrating on the warmth of his body against hers. Outside the window the morning wore on but inside the little hut time stood still.

She didn’t realise she had dozed off until she was brought awake by a hand brushing gently over her breast. She made a little noise and Joe lifted his head and smiled at her.

“Mornin’ sleepyhead.”

His mouth moved languorously up her neck and he shifted his body so that she could feel him hard against her stomach. She held her breath when his lips touched hers, softly and briefly, his blue eyes looking deep into hers.

“A man could get used to waking up like this.”

He leaned on an elbow and brushed the fingertips of his other hand across her lips, then down her chin onto her neck and from there onto her breast, his eyes following, and she swallowed.

“Aye, a woman too.”

She copied his gesture, running her fingertips over his mouth, down his neck onto his smooth chest and even further down, boldly closing her hand around his cock, and he let out a sound that was half moan, half chuckle.

“Seems yer the one callin’ the shots now darlin’ – I warn yer though, that thing is loaded so mind how yer go...”

She reached out her free hand, tangled her fingers in his curls and pulled his head to her.

“Did yer not notice last night that I’m very good at handlin’ dangerous outlaws?”

His blue eyes were sparkling at her.

“I did indeed, and I am yer most willing captive – do with me what yer will!”

“Ah now Mr Byrne...”

The rest of the words were lost when she pulled his mouth down onto hers.

She had limited experience with men but somehow she knew that Joe was different from most other men. He always treated her like someone who mattered, and when he spoke to her he also listened like he was genuinely interested in what she said. And the way he touched her... it made her head spin and set her on fire.

Like now. His lips seemed to connect to secret places within her, igniting a spark and bringing out a passion in her she had not known existed. It was as if he knew exactly how her body would react to each touch and there was nothing he enjoyed more than bringing her pleasure. She sighed and surrendered, opening herself to him and he needed no further invitation. Mouth to mouth, skin to skin, soul to soul they were joined, moving together through a moment of eternity that stretched to hold them.

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