Cam sat in the dark on the back porch watching the sky. The stars were out in force, and he tried to identify the different constellations, listening to the crickets and the frogs in the meantime. He expected Logan to pass by later, and they'd drink a few beers and talk shop. Logan was the only one he'd told the full story about his relationship with Ana, and he knew he wouldn't have been able to stay away from her so long if not for his brother's weekly updates. He glanced at his watch, and noted that it was getting late. He wondered what was keeping Logan so long, but he wasn't worried. Sometimes he'd stay over, and spend some time with their mother.

He thought idly about nothing in particular, watching a shooting star zip across the sky, and remembering to make a wish before it disappeared. That brought his thoughts to Ana, and to the hope he had that his letters to Matthew would be the beginning of a renewal of their love for each other. He touched the gold ring at his neck again, feeling the connection to her like a physical force. He ached to see her again, to hold her small sweet body in his arms, to make wild, passionate love to her. He heard a car pull up on the driveway, and he stood painfully and walked over to the bar to pull a couple of beers out of the freezer where he had placed them earlier to get cold. By the time Logan came through the house to the back door, Cam was back in his seat, beer in hand, watching the stars again.

"Had a date, did you?" he asked, swallowing a mouthful of beer and turning to look at his brother. He almost dropped the bottle he held in his hand. Logan was not alone, and Cam could pick that diminutive body out of a lineup. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out, so he closed it again, feeling like a fool. He put down the bottle and struggled to his feet, trying not to let the woman he loved see the pain he was feeling.

"Ana," he said finally, his voice hoarse with emotion.

"Cam," she replied, sounding no better than he had.

Logan cleared his throat. "I'll be in the study, Cam," he said and turned on his heel, not waiting for his brother to reply.

Cam stared blankly after his brother's retreating back, and then slid his eyes back to Ana's face. She had not moved from her place by the door, and she seemed as unable to cope with this meeting as he did.

"Ana," Cam began again, but she didn't let him finish.

She moved towards him then, the dress she wore swirling around her legs. She stopped a foot away from him, and looked at him. Cam couldn't help himself. He reached for her, pulling her into his body, and lowered his head.

"Cam, I'm sorry," she breathed. "Please forgive me!"

Cam closed her mouth with a sweet kiss, hugging her tightly to him, ignoring the pain that shot through him. When Ana opened her mouth to him, he was lost, reveling in the feel of her silky tongue in his mouth, and her hands spread over his aching back. It was as though they had never been apart.

"Darling," he whispered, pulling away from her to look into her cat-colored eyes, "how...?"

Ana put her trembling fingers to his lips. "I was doing a book signing in town. I didn't call because I didn't know if you'd want to hear from me. Your brother came to the reception tonight and he said if I wanted to know what you felt I had to ask you myself." She stopped and gazed up at him, the unspoken question in her eyes.

"I have longed for you with every breath since the day you left me," he said passionately. "I didn't call because I thought you wouldn't want to hear from me." He chuckled. "We're a couple of dolts, aren't we?" he said, and bent his head to kiss her again.

"Logan said you had been in an accident, but I don't believe him," she said, pulling away from him again. "What really happened?"

Cam's face grew still, and he tried to hug her again, but she resisted. The pain he felt in his back and down his leg almost doubled him over, but he fought against it and sat down slowly. He knew Ana did not miss the way he sat carefully, nor could he hide the grimace of pain that slid across his face.

"Cam," she said, kneeling next to his chair, fear in her voice, "what happened?"

He took a deep breath, and turning his eyes to the dark lake over her head, he answered, "I had a disagreement with an international arms dealer. He tried to make sure I went to meet my Maker."

"How long were you in the hospital this time?" she wanted to know.

"Three months," he said slowly, still staring at the glistening lake waters.

"Why didn't you call me, Cam?" she asked, her voice thick with tears. "You know I would have come if you had." She reached over and turned his face so that he was forced to look at her. The love Cam saw shining in her eyes melted the last vestiges of his doubt and reserve, and he pulled her up toward his mouth again.

"I love you, Ana, more now, I think, than when we first fell in love. I want you with me all the time. How am I ever going to let you go again?" He covered her mouth with his desperately, and she answered his need with a deep kiss.

"I've never not loved you Cam," she said, when she could speak again. "I wish things were different now, and I could stay with you, but I have a final leg of the book signing tour to go on, that will take me into your back yard. I'll be in England for a week, and then I have to go back to Pine Bluff to work. My leave of absence is up in a little over two weeks." She sighed, and kissed his face again, before standing slowly.

Cam didn't let go of her fingers. Instead, he struggled to his feet and pulled her up against his chest. "What if I came with you?" he wondered.

"You're obviously not well yet, Cam," she argued, looking at him with worry in her eyes. "Won't traveling like that aggravate your injuries?"

"Nothing will aggravate me if I can be with you every day," he said, and drew her bottom lip between his teeth. "Don't make me beg," he implored.

He sucked her bottom lip into his mouth, and he licked it on his way to her top lip. She moaned, and he settled his hungry mouth over hers. Between them there wasn't a coherent thought for a few minutes after that. Finally, when Cam could not mask the groan from the persistent pain that tore through him, Ana pulled away and took his hand.

"Come on," she said. "Let's go in. It sounds to me like you need your meds."

Cam let her lead him into the house, and when she paused to close the door behind her, he looked at her. She was so beautiful, she took his breath away, and she was his. He inhaled deeply, feeling grateful that she still loved him, and that he was being given a second chance to make it right with her.

"Where are your meds?" she asked, turning to him.

"Upstairs, in my bedroom," he said huskily, the thought of her in his room shooting adrenaline straight to his groin. "I'll get it," he said, turning to go, but she stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"Let Logan get it," she said in the no-nonsense voice he knew well from the last time she had helped him heal. "Where's the kitchen?"

He pointed. "Through there," he said, looking questioningly at her.

"Water," she explained, and left him standing in the hall.

When she returned to the hall, Cam was nowhere to be found. She followed the light she saw under a door, and found herself in a large office. Cam was sitting at his desk and Logan was just setting down the pill bottle across from him. On an impulse, Ana went to Logan and squeezed his arm, tiptoeing up to kiss his cheek when he turned around.

"Thank you," she said simply, and walked around him to Cam, who sat watching her with hungry eyes.

"You're welcome," Logan replied, smiling at her and Cam. "I'll see you in the morning, you two," he continued, and walked out of the room.

Cam reached for Ana, but she made him drink all the water in the glass with the painkiller. He put the glass down impatiently and reached for her again, and she let him draw her onto his lap.

""I may be a light weight, Cam, but you're in too much pain to have me sit on your lap," she protested.

"I don't want to let you go," he admitted, "and since you won't come to bed with me..." He let his words trail off and stared at her.

"If I came to your room with you, Mr. Blackstock, it would only be to massage your sore back," Ana said primly, though she could not hide the longing in her eyes.

"Then I guess we'll have to stay here," he said, pulling her close, gritting his teeth against the pain.

He knew the instant she made up her mind. He felt her body relax against his before she stood and held out a hand. Sighing heavily, she said, "Okay, come on, I'll give you a massage."

Cam felt his groin tighten and he inhaled deeply before taking the proffered hand and leading her up the stairs to his bedroom. He shut the door quietly behind him and locked it, surprising Ana.

"Why...?" she began, but he cut off her question with a searing kiss that had her squirming with need.

"My mother's down the hall, and I don't want any surprises," he said.

"Cam, I can't..." Ana pulled away from him.

"You're only giving me a massage, sweetheart," he said reasonably, his voice low and husky. "I just don't want anyone to disturb us till it's over." He caressed her face with his hands as he spoke, and she suddenly remembered the many times she had almost given in to him during a massage session. She shook her head and backed away.

"No, Cam, I can't do this. Maybe I should go back to my hotel and come to see you in the morning before I go," she said, trying to get past him to the door.

"Or maybe I can come to your hotel with you tonight," he suggested meaningfully.

Ana was tempted. She thought about the times she might have lost him, and of how grateful she was that he was still alive, and she had another chance to make a life with him, to make memories with him. What if she didn't do as they both so clearly wanted, and he went back into the field and was killed? Could she bear to know she had saved herself for a man who would never savor her body because he had died? She was so torn, and she didn't know what to do. Cam came to her rescue.

"I'm sorry, Ana," he said, watching her face. "I shouldn't push you so hard. I want you more than I can explain, but I don't want you to do anything you'll regret, darling. I can wait. I've waited so long already, I can wait a little longer." He kissed her eyelids gently and turned to unlock the door.

"Cam," she said, and reached for him. He turned and looked at her, then groaned low in his throat and pulled her into his arms. He dropped his mouth on hers, savoring the delight of her full lips, the faint taste of champagne on her tongue, the smell of her in his nostrils. He pushed his hips against her belly and then lifted her off her feet to rest her heat on his throbbing shaft. She moaned, and he pressed her hips against his slowly, grinding himself against her as he did, almost completely oblivious now to the ache in his back.

"Darling, I want you," he whispered hoarsely. He let her slide down his front till her feet touched the floor. He did not let her go, but laughed softly in her ear.

"What?" she asked bemusedly.

"I haven't been with a woman since I fell in love with you," he confessed. "The only woman who tempts me is you," he continued, "and I've decided that you should keep that precious gift till we're married." He kissed her lips lightly, then said, "Of course, you know that means you'll have to marry me yesterday!"

Cam chuckled, but Ana saw the uncertainty in his eyes. She swept her arms around his waist and held him tightly. "Oh, Cam, I wasn't sure you'd ever ask me again," she sighed.

"And now that I have?" he wondered.

"Yes, I'll marry you whenever you like," she said, and tiptoed up for his kiss.

Cam released her immediately and reached behind his neck, pulling the silver chain over his head. Ana watched as he slipped the gold engagement ring off and slid it onto her finger. Her eyes filled with tears.

"You've kept this all this time?" she asked.

"It was all I had of you," he replied simply.

"Oh, God, I love you Cam!" she whispered and kissed his hands holding hers. "And now you have all of me," she continued, staring at him, hoping he would understand her meaning.

Cam stilled beneath her touch, searching her face to see if what he thought were true. "Are you sure, Ana?" he asked hoarsely.

For answer, Ana reached up and touched her tongue to his lips. Cam groaned, knowing he was lost.

"I'd pick you up," he began, but Ana interrupted him.

"I can walk," she said, smiling shyly at him. "I'll wait until our wedding night to be picked up." She blushed as she said it, and Cam felt his heart turn over in his chest.

Ana pulled him over to the bed and sat down with him on the edge. Cam put his hands on her tiny waist and pulled her close to him, claiming her lips in a passionate kiss.

"Darling," he whispered, "I don't want to hurt you. Are you sure about this?"

Ana began to undo the buttons of his shirt, and pulled the tail out of his slacks. He watched her, his eyes hooded, hiding what he was thinking. She planted hot little kisses on his chest, and circled his flat male nipples with her tongue. Cam groaned, but did not move. She pushed the shirt off his shoulders and down his arms. Then she knelt before him and took his shoes and socks off his feet. Cam felt her trembling as she began to work on his belt buckle. He touched her hands, stilling her movements.

"We can make love without going all the way, love," he said. "Would you like that? That way, you can still give me that gift on our wedding night."

Ana looked into his face as he spoke, and saw the love he had for her shining in his eyes.

"How?" she asked simply.

"Come here," he said, and pulled her up. He swung his legs onto the bed and urged her to straddle him when he lay back. He pulled the zipper of her dress slowly down and pushed the dress off her shoulders.

"Kiss me," he invited, and opened his mouth to receive her. When she bent down to comply, he caught her breast, still clothed in its lacy garment, in his mouth. He sucked it into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the tip. He listened to Ana groan as he treated the other breast with the same care. He reached for her, kissing her mouth deeply, before trailing his lips down her neck. His hands, meanwhile, were busy sliding past the flimsy barrier of her lacy panties. He slid a finger between the lips of her sex, and found her wet and ready. He nudged her swollen clitoris, circling it with feather light touches, and then, when he felt her breath catch in her throat, he plunged a finger inside her. She gasped, and he pulled on her nipple with his other hand.

Ana did not know what to do with her hips. She wanted to grind herself against Cam's hand, and she wanted to touch him and groan with the pleasure he was giving her. He flicked her with his thumb even as he pushed his finger deeper inside her. She felt the tide rising inside her and knew she couldn't hold it back. When he pushed a second finger into her and kissed her, she came in a crashing wave of feeling. She collapsed on top of him, and she felt his heart beating in time with hers. When he removed his fingers from her, she moaned.

"Cam," she whispered, "that was..." she couldn't find the words.

"Good?" he asked, smiling into her hair, his erection pressing painfully against the zipper of his slacks. He wanted to bury himself inside her so badly that his hands trembled as he stroked her hair back from her face. He knew she had no idea how badly he needed release, but he decided he would rather die than move. He didn't figure she would notice how hard he was, but she did.

Ana felt the throbbing hard-on that Cam was trying so hard to disguise from her, and she knew he had not found release. She wanted to please him as he had pleased her, and suddenly she knew what she would do. She slid down his belly and unzipped his slacks. She heard his indrawn breath, and she pulled his pants and boxers down his thighs, freeing his erection to her greedy gaze. She wanted to taste him, and touch him and make him come. She bent over him and brushed her mouth against the silken heat. Cam groaned. She traced a finger up and down its length and he squirmed beneath her, taking in shallow breaths.

"Is this good for you, Cam?" she wanted to know as she ran her tongue up and down his length.

"Oh God, yes!" he grated. "Don't stop, darling!" he begged her, writhing beneath the onslaught of her hands and mouth together.

Ana felt her gut clench with the need to feel him inside her, and though she knew what he had promised, and that it had been her heart's desire too, she knew with sudden clarity that she wanted to give him her best gift now. Moving away from him, and earning a protesting sound for her trouble, she stood up on the bed and removed her clothes, seeing Cam's eyes glaze over as he watched her. Settling down over him again, she whispered,

"I've changed my mind, Cam. I want you now!"

Cam rolled her under him, shucking his pants and boxers as he did so and pushed her legs apart with his knees. He was breathing hard, as much from pain as from desire, and he dropped his head to lick her beneath the mat of dark hair at the juncture of her thighs. Ana swallowed the scream of delight that rose in her throat and gripped his shoulders with hard fingers, digging into his skin with her nails. Cam reached up and squeezed a nipple gently between thumb and forefinger before sliding up to kiss her mouth, letting her taste her essence on his lips. Positioning himself over her, Cam laved her breasts with his eager tongue, and just before he entered her with one hard thrust, he pushed his finger deep inside her once, twice, again, circling her nub of desire with his thumb. Ana felt herself ready to climax again, then she felt the sharp pain of her virginity surrendered. Cam stopped, waiting for her to adjust to him, and when she felt the throbbing heat of him inside her, filling her, she cried out. Cam swallowed her pleasure in a deep kiss, and then he rolled again, and began to move, with her on top.

Ana followed his lead, and matched her rhythm to his, feeling herself ready to fall off the edge again, which she did just as Cam grunted and pushed upward hard. She felt him spilling his seed inside her, and only then did it occur to her that neither of them was protected. She bent over to kiss him, and felt his arms hugging her close to his thundering heart.

"Ana, love," he breathed in her ear, "are you all right? Did I hurt you?"

"No, darling, no, you didn't." She kissed his face gently, and sighed, "Thank you, honey!"

"I've never been so turned on in my life as I was just now," Cam said, stroking her back with a shaking hand. "I've never come so hard, either." He sighed and rubbed his face ruefully. "And I've never forgotten to use a condom before." He rolled to his side, taking her with him, his eyes searching her face. "Darling, are you on the pill?"

Ana blushed and shook her head. Cam groaned, and hugged her closer. His hands trembled as he held her.

"I'm really sorry, love," he whispered. "I didn't mean to be so careless, but it's been three years of wanting to make love to you, and then suddenly, I was."

He looked at her again, wondering why she remained silent, fearing she was angry. But the expression on her face was pure contentment, with no anger or fear or even anxiety visible.

"Are you okay with this?' he asked wonderingly.

"I love you, Cam," Ana said dreamily. "If I'm pregnant, it's your baby. If I'm not, we'll have lots of fun trying. Either way, I'm with the man of my dreams. What's not to be okay with?"

Cam gazed into her eyes for a long moment before taking her lips in a deep kiss, feeling himself hardening against her belly, suddenly needing desperately to be inside her again.

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