Excerpt from INNOCENCE

Was she as really as virginal as she looked, Webb Calderon asked himself?

Maybe it was the freckles or her wobbly claim on the high-heels, but she looked like a kid on her first date. She was in her mid-twenties and well past the age of consent for most women but he doubted she'd been out of the convent more than a year, so it seemed possible she'd never been with a man.

She'd stopped drinking champagne and was staring at the bubbles exploding in her glass. Were there bubbles self-destructing inside her too? Was excitement any part of her response, or was it all nerves and fear.

She turned away, which somehow made her all the more tempting. Where to touch her? Her arm was the obvious place, but not nearly as interesting as her nape. With her head tilted down, the slight strain on her spine raised delicate bones. The slope of her throat was tempting, too, but if he came into contact with that pulse again, it could be dangerous for both of them.

The Hatteras rolled beneath Webb's feet, and he grasped her arm, more to steady her than anything else. "Let me have the glass," he said. But she clutched it to her bosom as if it were her child and he a kidnapper. The champagne foamed over her breasts and sheened them with sparkling lights.

There was little either of them could do but stare at the beautiful mess she'd made of herself. Her breasts shivered and glittered like crystals. They trembled with each heave of her shoulders, but the lights in her eyes made the gems seem pale as she looked up at him.

What was her sin of impurity? he wondered.

"You're going to break that glass," he warned her.

She had crushed the fragile flute in the cleft between her breasts and the stem looked about to snap.

"Let me have it," he said with a quiet force. He had a vision of glass shards stabbing her tender flesh that nearly made him sick.

She defied him with a fierce look as he reached for the glass, and her grip on the stem forced him to delve beneath her fingers and into her cleavage. Her body's response was exquisite. Her heart was maniacal. Her breasts felt as if they were pulsing and swelling against his knuckles, and the moan in her throat told him everything he needed to know.

She was his.