Joanna Clifford just can’t say yes to a proposal of marriage from one of Seattle’s most desirable bachelors. And she doesn’t really know why. After running off to do some soul-searching, she finds herself traveling with a group of strangers in southwest France. But her companions don’t stay strangers for long, as she gains friends, enemies and a new lover—a French lover—whose passion ignites surprising forces in conservative Joanna.
Blame it on the Black Virgin of Rocamadour. Not only does she represent the darker forces of femininity—subversive, sexual forces—some women believe the Black Virgin grants sexual license. Jo joins the Cult of the Black Virgin, and is freed to indulge her lust for Lucien LaPlante, the charming athletic archaeologist who introduces her to the sensual pleasures of his culture. Taking the most thrilling ride of her life, Jo submits to him, discovering the joy of giving up control.
But lust is only temporary.
Her breathing had become shallow and fast, her heart racing, jelly legs shaking, as he carefully and deliberately stroked both arms from shoulder to fingertips, and back up to her armpits, one more time. She made a soft sound, and his hand moved to her throat, causing the hair on the back of her neck to stand up. He touched her jaw line, her cheek—first one, then the other—and then her chin. Underneath the chin. She never knew her face could be so sensitive. It was shivering with pleasure, burning with exquisite anticipation of a kiss. A thousand kisses.
His face was still less than an inch from her ear, and she leaned heavily against the wall for support. Her outstretched arms began to tingle as they strained to hold her upright.
“Is this what you want from me, Joanna?” His words were so soft she could barely hear them—or perhaps her hearing wasn’t functioning very well.
“Yes. But more.” She couldn’t help herself. The words leaked out of her like little sighs, like tears, like the sweat that was helping hold her to the wall.
Smiling, he lowered his mouth to the side of her neck, and placed an exquisite lingering kiss on her wet skin. His first kiss. She started at the sensation, but then remained very still. Then he placed both hands around her waist, holding her there as his lips moved along her neck. He bit her, lightly. She jumped, a deep quiver beginning in her lower stomach. He raised his mouth back to her ear and kissed her there, softly.
His hot fragrant breath seemed to flow into her brain, into her blood stream, intoxicating her. His lips moved to her cheek, grazing it lightly. Delicately. He licked her once. Then the other side of her face. But he didn’t touch her lips. She whimpered a little in frustration, longing to feel his mouth on hers, more than she thought she could stand, but she dared not move. This was his game.
If she moved she might break the spell.
He kissed her forehead. He kissed each eyebrow, slowly running his tongue along the arch, then softly he kissed each eyelid. He kissed the tip of her nose. She stood perfectly still, barely breathing.
Just when she thought he would touch her lips with his, he said brusquely, “Turn around.” The hands at her waistline pulled at her body.
Shocked at his words, she looked up into his eyes and saw such fire and excitement there that she almost fell forward against him as her numb arms flopped loosely to her sides.
With his help, she turned around.