Tormented by guilt. Haunted by scandal. Freed by love.***
Eight years ago, composer Arie De Voss claimed his late mentor's final symphony as his own and became an icon. But fame has a price: fear of discovery now poisons his attempts to compose a redemptive masterpiece. Until a new muse appears, intoxicating and inspiring him...
Mathilda Heidel renounced her own musical gift to marry, seeking a quiet life to escape the shame surrounding her birth. Sudden widowhood finds her tempted by song once more. An unexpected introduction to her idol, Arie De Voss, renews Mathilda's passion for the violin--and ignites a passion for the man himself.
But when lust and lies reach a crescendo, Arie will be forced to choose: love or truth?
He pushed Mathilda against the night-damp wall of their concealed passageway. Pressed by the unyielding bricks, her soft curves molded and formed to his taut body. With impatient hands he grasped the round fullness of her rear and pulled the cradle of her hips to his. She thrust to meet him, accepting his rough violence and demanding more.
Although Mathilda was trapped between Arie and the bricks at her back, her answering hunger enslaved him. Her kiss sanctioned no breath of air, no reasonable thought. Good sense diminished to a forgettable fiction while his deepest, most elemental instincts demanded that she yield to his rigid length--even there, forced against an alley wall.
A determined echo of sanity would not allow him to perpetrate another such travesty. The greatest regret he suffered from their hastily wrought intimacy in February was just that: his confounded haste. Keen on instant fulfillment, his body demanded a brutal orgasm. Arie, however, wanted to experience more than the rudimentary satisfaction of a quickly roused urge.
Mathilda seemed willing. Beste God, he hoped so. Only the few remaining steps to his studio stood between them and a long, slow night of exploration. He wanted to discover her, not shove and jostle until she felt obliged to ask him to stop.
With that most pleasurable goal at the front of his hazy consciousness, Arie began to slow the tugging rush of hands and lips and tongues. He said her name once, then again. He breathed deeply, her essence like warm mulled wine. The surprising male animal that had briefly taken control receded to a corner of his mind. The animal watched, waiting, but Arie successfully wrested control from the creature. For now.
He buried his face at her neck. The smooth, warm skin evoked a profound sense of tenderness within him. He loved her. He needed her like his next breath--so much that a surge of fear clenched his heart and caused that dependable organ to thump painfully. Even as he restrained the lust driving him near to mindlessness, he labored to hold a wave of dread at bay.
"This is where you belong," he rasped. "Never forget what I tell you."
"Where, against a wall again?"
Her placid teasing leavened his anxieties. Arie smiled and nipped her top lip. "Minx."
With trembling fingers, Arie traced the line of her nose. "Why aren't you shaking?"
"Habit. I lived with wanting you, wanting and not having you. I had no choice." She slid questing hands from his shoulders to his biceps and squeezed. "Take me home."
Her request stung like the winter wind. "Really? To the Venner house?"
"No." In her reticule, she searched for a single worn slip of heavy parchment. She kissed the little card before waving it playfully before his face. "To Getreidegasse 26."
"You kept that?" He took the dog-eared card between two fingers. "Small wonder you have no need for your pendant. Look at this poor, worn thing."
"I kept it as a souvenir. The prospect of that first lesson made me unbearably nervous. I had no idea what to expect."
Arie clutched the flesh of her hips. "I had an idea then, but I was quite mistaken."
"And what idea do you have tonight?"
"A very similar one. I want you, Tilda, and I believe you want me too. Please, tell me I am not wrong."
Smiling, she reclaimed the worn address card and kissed it. "You're not wrong."