She had never stopped loving him. A love like theirs had no end. From the first moment she'd seen him, so many years ago, her heart belonged to him. But even now, he could still doubt her.
"All those years ago," Arabella began, nestled in his arms as they lay in the private sanctuary of their large, four-poster bed, "did you ever feel...even once...that I'd stopped loving you?"
Philip stroked the tousled black curls from her shoulders, exposing her neck . Tiny goosebumps rose in reaction to his caress. "No," he admitted, curving his fingertip around her earlobe. He flicked at the pearl and pink crystal earring dangling from her ear. The earrings were the first gift he'd ever bestowed upon her, and she'd kept hem safe, all these years. "I never felt that. Did you? That I'd stopped loving you?"
She ran her hand up his ribs and curved her palm over his shoulder. Though the years had taken their toll on him, he was still as virile and strong as ever. She closed her eyes against the painful memories that lingered. But a few more weeks - a few more days - was all she needed to banish the pain for good and open her heart for a new life with him.
"I used to think it, when you went away...."
His arms tightened around her. She pressed her mouth to his chest, just over his heart. "And now?" he whispered.
Arabella sat up, straddling him, the thin silk sheet the only barrier between them. He sighed deeply and settled her onto him in a more satisfactory manner. She wriggled until he groaned, then leaned forward for a kiss.
"Hmm." She regarded him with a thoughtful look. He tugged at the thin ribbons tying her gauzy chemise around her shoulders. It slipped down to her waist, exposing the most exquisite pair of breasts he'd ever seen. He arched an eyebrow, waiting for her response.
"I would just like to say, Captain Rathbone, that you had better not stop loving me."
His arms stole around her waist, drawing her closer. His body reacted the only way it could, and he yanked the sheet away and rucked up her chemise.
"And if I do? What will my punishment be?"
She rose off his lap and slid down him, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which it was. It had always been thus between them. Her inner muscles clenched him tightly, and her thighs gripped his sides. He longed to close his eyes, but the enraptured expression on her lovely face had captured his gaze. He held her as she rocked slowly on him, bringing them both to the brink.
"A millenia of being my slave," she said, her voice a husky whisper. "I shall never...never let you go." She shuddered in his arms, then cried out in joyful abandon.
His heart was full of love for her. Throughout the long, lonely years, she'd never given up hope. Had always known he would come for her.
"Then I shall never stop," he replied, and didn't.