©2000, 2001,2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Martha S. Robinson


With the bedroom door closed behind them, Bran carried Merrilee over to the king sized bed and stood next to it, gently letting her feet settle to the floor. He kissed her again, bringing his lips over hers, tracing again the path to her neck and below, pushing aside her dusky curls, breathing deeply of her fragrance as he searched out the zipper to the dress. This time, it would go down, baring the satiny skin he’d seen earlier, and had been dreaming of all evening. None of the fantasies he’d been creating could compare with the one that was taking place in his arms, and as he slid the zipper down, it was as though none of his past experiences had ever existed. With trembling hands, he eased the silk from her shoulders, helping her out of its crimson pool as it fell to the floor.

Merrilee stood before him clad only in the teddy and her nylons, looking shyly at him. Fantasy, she suddenly realized, was a sad substitute for the real thing. All the imagining she’d done, all the daydreaming, everything evaporated in the smoldering caress of Bran’s eyes, and Merrilee knew that making love with him would be the most exciting event in her life. Nobody before him, and surely nobody after him would ever affect her as he did. It could never be the same with another man. Indeed, there could never be another man like Bran.

He looked at her, seeing innocence and yet at the same time, a mature young woman. Bran was frustrated by the knowledge that what had sounded so reasonable a few minutes ago, seemed almost unreasonable now. She was a human being, not simply an available female. Hell, she was Merrilee, his Merrilee, not some empty headed playmate, nor was she the sophisticated Marilyn MacKenzie who knew the score. Bran stopped, not touching her, yet the need to do so was greater than before, greater than any need he’d ever experienced in his life. He was lost, drowning in her great hazel eyes, needing, aching, wanting to take her, but was held back by his own recently discovered scruples.

Sensing hesitation on his part, Merrilee lifted her arms and placed them around his neck, effectively dispelling all his second thoughts. He saw the welcome in her eyes and that was the only invitation he needed. "Merrilee?" he whispered, his fingers undoing the tiny buttons that held the teddy together, in the front, then sliding his hands inside to rest against her bare skin. He caught the fullness of one breast in his hand, vaguely aware of how it just filled his cupped hand, no more and no less, as if the tender flesh had been sculpted to his needs.

Somehow right and natural, thought Merrilee as he stroked her, turning her skins to flames, causing her to arch against him. There’s that word again, natural, as though they belonged this way. Merrilee marveled, feeling her body drawn to his, her breasts swelling with need, her lips swaying to his, and became increasingly aware of a growing heat between her thighs.

In seconds, Bran had removed the teddy and her pantyhose, and she stood before him, naked and shyly pleased with his obvious approval. Her heart was filled with love for him, and she wanted no further barriers between them. His clothes joined hers on the floor, and then he caught her to him, exulting in the soft, feminine flesh that so obviously desired his. Wishing to give pleasure more than to take, he lowered her gently to the bed, pushing away the covers, kissing her lips, her neck, and then teasing her shoulders as he made his way down to her breasts. Pausing, he studied the way the rosy nipples peaked, pouting, waiting for his attention. Taking them into his mouth, first one, then the other, he tugged gently, drawing Merrilee farther and farther into the maelstrom of desire.

Again, she arched against him, offering her breasts more fully to him, feeling them grow heavier as the need for him increased. He laved them gently, then suckled harder, sending waves of desire surging through her body, focusing more and more on that part of her which would accept him totally. Merrilee lay back, stunned at the wondrous sensations that were almost tormenting her with their strength, and wondered why she’d ever thought that this was an experience to avoid. Jake’s touch had never made her burn this way.

That thought, however, was fleeting, as Bran continued tantalizing her with his lips, his fingers, touching, caressing, arousing, and then leaving before she could fully understand what her body was trying to tell her. She was only aware of the growing heat in her body, a feeling that she was burning. Yet, the fire kept building, ever growing, and everywhere Bran touched her became another fire until her entire body felt aflame.

"Bran!" she cried out, frightened a little, for she’d lost control of her own body, as wave after wave of pleasure swept over her. It was new, exhilarating, but so very right!

When Bran heard her call his name, he lifted his eyes to hers, abandoning himself in their smoldering depths. She was his, and before much longer, they would both know just how strongly the link between them was. He moved over her, hands again teasing her to bring more pleasure, to send her again towards the peak, then gave into the needs that had built in his own body, driving his burning desire into her soft, welcoming heat.

For a moment, their eyes locked again, and both knew that in that instant, something had been completed, something missing had been found, and then the fires of passion blazed brightly and they gave themselves fully to the joining of man and woman.

A few minutes later, Merrilee lay in his arms, wondering at the sensations she’d discovered. Could they be the same he’d found in the arms of all the women in his past? She paused for a moment, unable to leave that thought. Why had she used that term, his past? Afraid to fully explore that path, she turned her mind to her own past. Her one night of lovemaking with Jake, though pleasant, had not prepared her for this wildly exciting experience. No young men at the university had inspired even vague interest, and she’d never dreamed that anything could be so fulfilling. She looked over at Bran who lay quietly considering what to do next.

Nothing would have suited him more than to spend the rest of the night with her, making love with her again and again, teaching her things that she ought to know, things he wanted to be the one to teach her. She hadn’t been a virgin, but she hadn’t been overly experienced, either. He scowled as he considered the man who had undoubtedly put a bad taste for lovemaking in Merrilee’s mouth.

"What’s wrong?" she asked in a small voice. Stricken with the fear that she’d again been found inadequate, she drew up the sheets around her shoulders as if to take refuge.

Bran turned to her, seeing the fear in her wide hazel eyes, and cursed inwardly. All he wanted to do was to hold her, to kiss away the worries that plagued her, and that very idea annoyed him on a variety of levels. On the one hand he wanted to kill whoever had come before him, and on the other, he was glad that Merrilee hadn’t been willing to be with many other men. And, before, when he’d been with a woman, both had been relaxed, chatting easily in the satisfied afterglow of passion, or sleeping from exhaustion. Here, he was hardly sated, and relaxed conversation eluded him. Nothing could have prepared him for her questioning eyes, and he needed to hold her all night, only he couldn’t. There was something more here, something more than sex, and he needed to establish that first in his own mind. She was his, in the truest sense of the word, yet he’d never said that to a woman before, and it scared the hell out of him. Still, he couldn’t leave her like that, worried, so in an effort to ease her mind, he leaned over, kissed her gently, and said, "Nothing’s wrong with you. You can tell Melissa that there’s no sexual dysfunction, and there sure as hell isn’t any disinterest." He grinned, determined to keep light the astonishingly deep feelings that were whirling around in his brain. "There’s nothing at all wrong with your reflexes, or anything else, as far as I can tell."

"Good," muttered Merrilee, her relief turning to anger as she realized that she’d both passed and failed. "I never thought that there was."

"Your sister must be nuts."

"The whole family is." Especially me!

For another moment, they lay there, wondering what to say, now that their passions had been somewhat sated. "I was right about one thing," Bran told her, still grinning.

"What’s that?" asked Merrilee, angry with him for what she considered the arrogantly stupid male grin on his face. She’d just given him her love, for she realized that she making love was just that for her. Love. It was more than recreational sex, more than sheer pleasure, and Bran was acting like one of Melissa’s damned sex surrogates! "What were you right about?"

"Your reaction to me." He was positively smug about it, as though he’d proven a point, and Merrilee’s uncertain temper flared. How dare he act like that?? She was overcome with the urge to deflate his ego.

"To you? You’re good, but.." She let it trail off, leaving him to wonder what came after ‘but’.

"But what?" he demanded. He was a trifle less smug, she noted.

"But, nothing," she smiled, knowing that she’d gotten to him. It was petty, and childish, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. He’d hurt her, devalued her gift to him, and she lashed out.

"Are you telling me that you respond like that with just any man?" That Merrilee might do so upset him more than he cared to admit. Was she more experienced than he’d thought? No, he could tell, but even so, the thought of Merrilee loving another man, sharing her body with him set his teeth on edge. "Is that what you’re telling me?"

"Are you telling me that you respond like that to just any woman?" She leaned on one elbow, the sheet falling away from her body, and asked, scornfully, "Like that? Predetermined moves?? Touch this, stroke that? By the book? My God, Bran. I thought you had more imagination!"

"Imagination?" he roared, indignantly. What had happened to the shy young woman he’d gently, carefully seduced? "What did you want me to do? I thought you’d be frightened. Damnitall, woman, I’ve been so..."

"So what? You thought I was frightened?" Merrilee sat upright, completely oblivious to her nudity, denying the fear she’d felt only moments ago. "You thought I was scared? Of what? Good grief, Bran! I’ve been trying all night to get you into bed, falling against you, sighing, staring into your eyes, doing everything short of outright propositioning you, and you thought I was frightened?"

"You were trying to seduce me? Me? Bran Elliot?" He lay back and laughed out loud. "I can’t believe it."

Merrilee sat there, enraged, glaring at him. How dare he laugh at her? Her temper was well and truly gone, and with it went her discretion. "What’s wrong with that? You seduce women all the time, and with less purpose."

"You had a purpose?" he chuckled.

"Damned right I had a purpose! Someone had to make you see that there is more to life than an endless string of busty blondes." Her temper had completely short-circuited her thought processes, and she was blurting out whatever came to mind, barely catching herself before she revealed her love.

Bran looked at her, leaning over him, wonderfully bare and at ease with herself. Her large hazel eyes were asking angry questions, things she wouldn’t put into words, and he chose to answer the questions physically. He pulled her down to him, kissing her breasts, and then returning to kiss her lips. She melted against him, giving him full access to her body, incapable of denying him anything. Bran rained kisses over her entire body, stroking her until the fires again raged out of control, and then sent her back into the world where she was living flame. This time, he joined her, holding nothing back, taking her with a near violence that shook him to his soul. He was gasping as shudders wracked his great frame, and he surrendered himself fully into her warmth.

For a moment, they lay together, still joined, covered with a fine mist of perspiration. Merrilee lay beneath him, spent and exhausted, yet her eyes glowed with love. "Bran?"

"What?" he asked, rolling away to lay on the pillow next to her. His breathing was ragged, and he felt absolutely wonderful, if tired.

"You’re beautiful."

"Men aren’t beautiful."

"Some aren’t. You are. All over." She was babbling now, wanting to share how she felt, how he’d made her feel, but the words were too new to say, to frightening to speak aloud.

"So are you," Bran said, suddenly aware of an uncomfortable vulnerability, of caring too much. Of finding that love had a face and that it belonged to Merrilee. Disturbed, he again tried to laugh the feeling off. "And, you’re right about one thing.

"What’s that?"

"There’s more to be found out there than just busty blondes. There’s a whole world of brunettes, though with any luck, some of them will be busty, too."

Merrilee sat up laughing, for his tone had been light, teasing, and she knew it. She also knew that he was trying to tell her that tonight had meant nothing to him, that he was just doing what came naturally. Like that rattlesnake in Texas, she thought, laughing, for had she not, she’d have cried. Forcing a yawn, she told him, "I’m tired."

"I shouldn’t wonder," he agreed, grateful to escape the unsettling idea that leaving her was the last thing he wanted to do. "I’ll see you in the morning."

With that, he gathered up his clothes and strode, quite naked, out of the room, leaving her to weep silently into her pillow.

For the first time, Merrilee had understood what Jake had meant when he’d told her that it had been wrong for him to have taken her, knowing that she’d thought herself in love with him, when he wasn’t similarly involved. Oh, tonight was so wrong, but the real anguish was knowing that it felt so right. To have given herself in love, yes, that was what she felt for Bran, seemed like the right and natural thing to have done, but she’d been taken in what could have only been lust, or maybe compassion. Still, she reflected when the emotional crisis had passed, maybe that was the only thing he’d ever felt for a woman. Maybe it was the only thing he could feel. And, it had been good! Shatteringly good, and to be honest about it, she’d gotten exactly what she’d set out after, at least on the physical level.

That was a part of the problem, she conceded. She’d deceived herself from the moment that she’d decided to seduce him, telling herself that it was for his own good. What was it that Jake had told her? "The real danger in any situation is in lying to yourself. If you’re honest, really honest, then you cut the danger in half. You know your motivation, and you don’t allow your emotions to get in the way. Hey, kid, emotions are all right, but only if you’re aware of them!" He’d ruffled her short curls and added, "Know what you’re doing, Lee, and why you’re doing it." Again, she understood, but maybe it was too late. She’d given, in those shining moments, her trust and love, and then watched in agony as Bran had laughed them off.

That it had ended on a light note was probably for the best, however, since it had apparently meant nothing to him. He’d desired her, wanting to see how she responded to him, and had, to put it succinctly, had had her. Well, now he knew, so he could damned well go on about his own business. Her pain and humiliation suddenly changed into a heated rage, and she considered going into his room and insulting his sexual prowess. But, that would be dangerous-been there, done that! All he’d have to do was touch her and she’d once again melt into puddle of willing femininity, his for the taking.

Again, Merrilee sat up and fumed. How dare he consider her like that? The nerve of that man to write her off so easily as something sampled and discarded! What did he think she was? Besides, he’d enjoyed himself as much as she had. He hadn’t been at all hard to seduce, once she’d gotten started, and his response to her touch was all she could ask for. Even more, now that she thought about it. Remembering the strained look on his face at the coffee shot yesterday, she now understood the cause of his discomfort and smiled. Thinking about the scene at the pool, she knew that he’d found her attractive, and was willing to wager her new found sensuality that she could have him again, if she wished. She might melt at his touch, but the man was far from immune to hers.

She sat upright. Might he as well harbor similar feelings, too?

With the plan to explore that possibility, she lay back on the pillow and smiled again. She relaxed, and began to think things through. Tears dried, she started considering the options open to her. If Bran wished to regard this night as no more than a pleasant romp in the sack, then she’d allow him to think that. She’d also allow him to think that she felt the same. After all, he’d been misguided about blondes. Now that she’d straightened him out about that, she might extend her lessons beyond brunettes in general, and begin getting specific about one in particular.

Merrilee lay back and wondered how to go about this in the remaining time. She could hardly go and tell him what she felt. She was certain that the man wouldn’t respond at all well to that bit of news. There were some things that a man needed to discover for himself. Besides, she decided reluctantly, if she was wrong, she hardly wanted a declaration of her love for him hanging in the air. No, she had to test his emotional waters, so to speak. That resolved, Merrilee closed her eyes and slept very well.