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Authors: Cecilia Grant

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Splendid. She’d be foxed. Another good reason not to succumb to the temptations of purple silk and his too-large dressing gown. He shifted to his left and leaned against the wall. “Indeed you’re one of the most rational and deliberate people I know.”

“I was not so at supper.” She lifted the glass and took another healthy swallow. Probably he ought to be calculating how best to get that bottle away from her.

“You were provoked.” He’d listen, he’d humor her, he’d coax the glass out of her hand, and he’d put her to bed before they could do anything ill-advised.

“He was so unreasonable.” Still she addressed the claret, her body perfectly still and her voice afire with vehemence. “I don’t only mean that he was rude and unkind. He had no consistent argument behind his attacks.”

Of course. Never mind that the man had crudely bullied her; she saved her outrage for his disregard of logic.
“His reasoning did leave something to be desired.” He pushed off the wall and made his leisurely way to the armchair, unbuttoning his coat as he went. “He ought first to have made up his mind whether I debauched you, or spent a frustrated solitary evening on the floor. Insults lose a good deal of their sting when they contradict each other.”

“His remarks to you were despicable.” She set down the claret and fixed her gaze out the window. Near a full minute he’d been in this room, and she hadn’t looked at him once. “His worst conjectures of what we’re doing now are no more than he deserves.”

“Perhaps.” Here was precarious ground; he would cross it with care. He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it over the chair’s arm. “Though I must say I cannot occupy my mind overmuch with the matter of Mr. Roanoke and his deserts.”

“Nor should you.” In the line of her back he could see another deep breath. She turned, then, and rose from the window seat. She hadn’t fastened the dressing gown and it slipped right off as she stood, cascading down to pool about her ankles like water round the feet of some just-emerged ocean goddess.

But where a new-made goddess would wear only innocence, her bare skin in harmony with nature itself, Lydia Slaughter was dressed for sin. She hadn’t even bothered with the diaphanous overdress. Purple-black silk flowed from shoulder to ankle, inviting the eye to roam everywhere and to loiter most especially on the lascivious places: the ripe full breasts with nipples standing up in sharp relief; the curve of her belly down to the Y-shape at the juncture of her thighs.

Devil take him; how could he have been so utterly unprepared for this? He’d seen her before in this dress. He had ample acquaintance with her shape. He’d known,
from the instant he entered the room and glimpsed her, what might be her intent.

And still his throat went dry. His brain stuttered and slowed. The clamor in his blood mounted to importunate heights.

You can’t. Not like this. She’s not in her right mind
. If her eyes would only meet his, his body would recognize her for a lady deserving of respect—for another man’s mistress—for something other than a luscious assemblage of parts—and he would find the words to make them both understand why they ought not to do this.

Maybe she knew that. At all events she kept her eyes from his. The silk rearranged itself in enthralling ways as she bent and twisted to pick up her claret. She drained the glass’s contents and set it decisively down. “Blackshear.” Finally she looked at him. “Don’t make me beg.”

And he’d be hanged if he could remember how to form any words at all. He could only watch, heart pounding like the charge of oncoming cavalry, as she turned and went to the bed.

Confound him a thousand times. He fooled precisely no one with his principles. When it came to the point he was entirely willing to be reduced to a convenient erection.

The claret, though. He wrenched himself from where he stood and went to the window seat. “How much of this have you drunk?” He hefted the bottle. Drink was suddenly sounding like a very good idea. “You scarcely ate any supper.”

“Don’t try to take care of me. That’s not what I need from you now.” They were a pair, she and her protector. Belligerent drunks, the two of them. And once again she’d found his weak spot; she’d gone to the word—
need
—that could make him crawl a mile on his belly over jagged rocks.

She
needed
something he could give. He set one steadying hand on the wall. “It’s not that I don’t want it, Lydia.”

“Then take it.” If he looked at her now he would be lost.

He drew in a ragged breath. “It’s not right this way.” Here was some small return of reason. “You’re in no condition to know what you want. I’d be taking advantage.” He tipped the bottle and splashed claret into the glass.

“I’ve known what I wanted since I left that dinner table.” A brief silence. “And I only had one drink.”

“Liar.” But he’d always admired the ruthless resolve with which she went after a thing she wanted. And when he himself was that thing …

He set down the bottle and picked up the glass. This was six different kinds of wrong. Cuckolding his host. Bedding a woman too drunk to know better. Risking this relationship all over again, this time with delicate confidences at stake. But somewhere between the first sight of her with her hair down and the unsporting use of the word
need
, choice had slipped through his fingers. “Shall I lock the door, or not?” He tossed off the drink in one grim string of swallows.

“As you please.” Oh, wasn’t she wallowing in her triumph now. Her syllables poured over him like honey from a spoon. Would she say his name in that voice when the time came, or would she cry it out, harsh as a hawk sighting prey?

He pivoted to face her and nearly had to sit down. She’d discarded her purple sheath while his back was turned and lay naked atop the covers, elbows propped behind her, knees bent up, feet flat on the counterpane. Her contours swerved here and subsided there, pale and lush and precise as if she’d been sculpted out of butter.
There was not one part of her he didn’t want to sink into, not one inch of her he didn’t want to taste.

Devil take honor, and conscience, and all those tyrannical principles that harassed him sunup to sundown with their incessant promptings. He was a man who’d shredded his own soul, and tonight he was going to act like one. He went to bolt the door.

Chapter Sixteen

S
HE WAS
watching him, expectant and wholly without shame, when he turned to face the room. Her eyes glittered, hard and intent.

Now
. Four steps brought him to the bed. He set one knee on the mattress and her legs edged apart. Greedy impatient thing. Just for that, she could wait a bit. He bent and pressed a luxuriant kiss on her kneecap.

“Stop that.” Her knee twitched away. “Take off your clothes.”

A dictatorial drunk as well as belligerent. But to obey this command was no hardship.

He pulled off his boots and his hose. Waistcoat, cravat, braces, shirt, all over his head and dropped helter-skelter on the floor. He stood.

She shifted, propping herself higher on the pillows, angling unabashedly for a better view.

His blood thundered like a river’s rapids as he obliged her, turning himself so she could see. One button after another slipped free and the front-fall of his breeches dropped away. He undid his drawers. He looked at her.

She swallowed. The tip of her tongue flicked out to wet her lips.

“Is this what you want?” All velvet and shadow, his voice, and pitched just loud enough to reach her. With his fingertips he stroked up his length. She’d been waiting for this. And Lord, so had he.

“I think perhaps …” She bit her lip, still staring. “Um.” Her eyes came to his, soft and uncertain. “Can you go in very slowly?”

It was beautifully done. But he knew her too well. He stepped out of his breeches. “Flattering minx.” He crawled back onto the bed, parting her knees with his hands to find his place between them. “You say that to every man.”

Her concerned expression dissolved into a deliciously wicked grin. “Every man loves to hear it. Even a man who knows it for flattery.”

He couldn’t argue. He couldn’t say anything at all. Was he really here at last? The insides of her thighs touching his hips where her knees bent up? His hands flat to the mattress on either side of her, his chest brushing over the unholy abundance of her bosom, her shoulders elevated from the elbows still propped behind her and her mirthful face mere inches from his? This was so wrong in so many ways. How could it feel so magnificently right?

“Lie back.” He nudged her forehead with his.

“No.” She stayed where she was.

So it would be that way, would it? Well enough. They had all night to negotiate who was in charge. He lowered his hips and the head of his cock met her soft flesh, honey-slick from desire.

He closed his eyes and shuddered. “I want you so much,” he whispered. Damnation. He wasn’t going to last long, this first time. But he’d make it up to her. Repeatedly.

“Don’t
tell
me.” He opened his eyes to meet bold unblinking defiance very like what he’d seen that first night
in the library when she’d caught him watching. “Show me. Now.”

“In truth, Lydia.” He sounded as though he were being stretched on the rack. “Do you need me to start slowly?”

“No, Mr. Blackshear.” Her eyes glinted like agates, a mere handsbreadth away. “I need you to fuck me as hard as you can.”

The breath burned inside him and the edges of his vision went hazy. Bloody hell. This was going to be a battle every step of the way, wasn’t it? He shook his head, and braced himself on one hand as he sent the other to caress her thigh. “I’ve waited a long time for this.” With his voice, too, he could caress her. “I mean to savor it.”

“No.” She swatted at his hand. “No lingering.”

“I’ll only linger over the parts you enjoy.” Hanged if he’d let her turn this into something quick and brutish and utterly devoid of meaning.

“I’ve told you what I enjoy. You may believe I know my own tastes.” Her voice was growing thin with agitation. She twitched like a cornered animal. “Don’t dare fancy you’ll be the man to teach me the pleasures of tenderness.”
Tenderness
was a rat whose neck she wrung with her own hands before hurling it over the hedge to rot with
feelings
.

And of course he’d fancied he’d be exactly that man. Or at the very least, that they’d do this with some acknowledgment of what had been between them. He’d already had intimacy of her in her confidences on their walk outside, in the way she’d trusted him to comfort her last night in this same bed. What on earth did she expect to gain by treating him like a paying customer now?

He drew back a few inches and saw panic flare up in her eyes. She might want only an impersonal fuck, but she wanted it very much. “I won’t try to teach you anything.
I wouldn’t presume.” He bent to kiss one nipple, just to reassure her of his lustful intent. “But surely there’s some ground for compromise between what you want and what I want.”


Compromise
is but an over-nice way of saying neither person gets what they want. Do that again. This time use your tongue.”

Leverage, finally. “I’ll do it as much as you want.” He retreated to knees and straight arms, too far away to do anything but talk. “After we settle how we’re both to come out of this satisfied.”

Her eyes narrowed. They shifted back and forth, reading his face. “You’ll be satisfied. Have no fear on that count.” Half promise and half threat, the way she said it. “And if you find any hungers unappeased, we’ll do it again, to your taste this time.”

It sounded … so much like a transaction. A trade. She would use him, and then he could use her. Any man might have taken his place, provided the cock was to her liking, and apparently she thought any woman would do just as well for him.

He could refuse. He could clamber over her and right off the bed to where his clothes lay discarded.
I’m sorry but this isn’t what I want
, he could say while buttoning his breeches over his rampant erection. She would probably throw something at him.

BOOK: A Gentleman Undone
13.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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