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Authors: Emma Wildes

Ruined by Moonlight (22 page)

BOOK: Ruined by Moonlight
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“It isn’t I don’t wish it. I’ve already told you that.”

It was a start. He liked the very slight suggestive tone of her voice and the way her gloved fingers tightened on his arm.

“I’m gratified to hear it.”

“Ben,” she said reproachfully.

“Alicia,” he responded with as much composure as possible, “you were the one who extended the ultimatum.”

“It wasn’t—”

“Oh, indeed, it was.”

She said quietly, “We have been over this before. It wasn’t intended as such.”

“Perhaps we should discuss it at home in private.”

She understood the insinuation—or he was fairly sure she did, because she nodded and allowed him to guide her through the crowd. When they reached the doors, she accepted her cloak with a gracious smile, and though he’d only stayed for one dance didn’t comment on the already waiting carriage, which he had to admit was not very subtle.

Once he’d handed her in, she gazed at him as he settled on the opposite seat.

“You came for me and never did have the intention of staying.”

That direct declaration took him off guard. Yet it was true. The thought of her dancing with other men—and, even worse, thinking he’d not bothered to attend when he’d said he would—had driven Ben to change his clothes in record time once he’d delivered Andrews and Lady Elena home. His wife was disconcertingly right. He’d come for her.

“I said I would attend and I did feel a sense of responsibility to attend.” The moment the words were out he felt ridiculous. Even more so like he’d cheated her in some way. As if it had been more about his pride in keeping his word than a desire for her company, so he quickly amended, “But, yes, you are correct. I came for you.”

Whatever his wife wanted it must have been close to what he’d just said, for she smiled at him then, leaning back against the squabs in her vivid golden gown, all glorious female beauty, her ankles lightly crossed under her silken skirts. “I find it difficult to ever know what you are thinking, so it is hardly a given to assume I understand your motives. I came this evening because we’d agreed to the invitation, not because it was a test of some sort. You needn’t look so wary.”

Ben elevated a brow. “You wanted your cousin returned and I obliged.”

Alicia brushed a silky dark curl off her enticingly bared shoulder. Her exhale was audible. “I am grateful you were successful. Infinitely so. My entire family will be, but—”

“Your entire family will not know. I’d just as soon keep it between you, me, Elena, and your uncle.”

His wife just looked at him from across the carriage, one hand going to the strap by her seat as they rocked around the corner. “Why?”

For whatever reason, in his life he’d always found that a difficult question to answer.
What, where, when,
were all a great deal more simple.
involved motivation and other complex human emotions and he was not interested in dissecting his own mind. “It will make me uncomfortable to receive thanks where none is really due. I merely drew a few conclusions.”

“I doubt it was that simple at all.”

It had involved a bit more; that was true. He shrugged. “What is important is that she is unharmed.”

“But not unscathed.”

Alicia was not a fool, and despite her age, not naive either. He acknowledged, “I doubt you are the only one with questions. Andrews will also not escape this easily.”

“So they were together after all?” Alicia’s eyes widened. “I cannot imagine it. He is the last kind of man my cousin would choose to run off with. She is already engaged, after all.”

The viscount’s air of familiarity with the beauteous Elena begged an argument on that point, but they had been imprisoned together and adversity could make for friendships—or more—that might otherwise not come about. Ben chose to not pursue the line of conversation. “I am sure she will be much more forthcoming with you over what happened than she was with me.”

The corner of his wife’s mouth tilted upward in unconcealed amusement. “You didn’t ask, did you?”

“Do I think they eloped or he coerced her? No.”

“Darling, you have a unique way of never answering a question in a direct manner.”

had a unique way of firing his blood—perhaps that was why of all the debutantes and eager misses he’d encountered since he’d come into his majority Alicia was the one who had caught his interest.

“Perhaps,” he said softly, “you aren’t asking me the right questions.”

Chapter 18

e had lain down a challenge.

It would be more of an incentive to best him, but she was too vulnerable to play this unfamiliar game much longer, and, quite truthfully, she was coming to the gratifying conclusion that as experienced and clever as Benjamin might be, he wasn’t proficient at it either.

Neither of them had played for these stakes.


Suddenly her palms were damp. Her breath caught, and as the carriage rocked to a halt Alicia was not at all sure how to respond. He had made an open attempt for the two of them to find a level field on which to joust, and she was unskilled at the sport.

The offensive seemed best. “The right questions? That is a quandary. What would you ask if you were in my position?”

There was a glimmer of approval in his eyes. Or was it just a hint of respect? Maybe a subtle recognition that she was not so easily dismissed.…Whatever it might be, she was fascinated.

He got out of the carriage in his usual effortless fashion. In his dark evening wear he was impressively elegant
as he offered his hand. “What would
ask? Can we discuss it upstairs?”

Yes, indeed they could. And she had a feeling she understood exactly where the discussion would lead, but she was determined to maintain some control if possible.

If possible

“I’m no longer an uncertain bride,” she said for his ears alone as she clasped his fingers, lifting her silk skirts in her other hand.

“I think you have made that quite clear.” He was obviously amused. “However, you might not be as sophisticated as you think.”

Her very fear. Still, it was best to brazen it out since she’d come this far. “If not, it is up to you to educate me, my lord.”

“An intriguing proposition. This has been a somewhat trying evening so far, but unless I am mistaken you have just offered me an opportunity to vastly improve it.”

By making love to her. It was there in the clasp of his hand, in the intense look in his green-gold eyes, in the way his hands lingered at her waist as he lifted her from the conveyance.

For whatever reason she was suddenly more nervous than she had been on their wedding night. This would be different. She knew it as surely as the sun would rise the next morning, and since that had been her goal all along, it would be unfair for her to decline now. It wasn’t accurate to say she’d accomplished all she wished in her marriage in just five days, but they had certainly made progress and that was what she’d asked of him.

“You are not mistaken.”

“I concede that I am most happy to hear that.”

Had the words not been so softly spoken maybe she
would have discounted them as mere rhetoric, but as Ben guided her toward the house, she sensed in him an unusual tension, which was oddly reassuring.
be nervous also,
she decided as they ascended the steps, because if this was the new beginning she wanted, he needed to guide her.

Certainly her mother’s instructions for her wedding night had not helped.
Just lie there and shut your eyes.
A woman could passively allow her husband his conjugal rights—she had, in fact—but surely there was more to it. She’d come to the conclusion that perhaps he didn’t realize how much she
to enjoy it more and that was entirely her fault for never telling him.

Tonight, she vowed silently, she was going to be more honest. It was what she asked of him, after all, so only fair she should make an attempt as well.

Yeats had long since retired but a footman whisked open the door for them and Ben thanked him, his hand warm at the small of Alicia’s back. The hallway was only lit by one lamp and the stairs elongated by the dim illumination, and the steps she’d walked up so many times suddenly were daunting.

“Don’t falter now.” Her husband leaned closer, his mouth brushing her temple in a light caress before he lifted her in his arms in a sweep of amber silk, ignoring her gasp. He carried her up the stairs with seeming ease, his lashes throwing shadows on his cheekbones, his expression difficult to interpret. This time he didn’t seek her room but his, and took her directly to the huge bed in his bedchamber, deposited her without ceremony, and straightened. Long fingers went to his cravat. “You won’t need your maid. I’ll undress you. Completely.”

The emphasis on the last word did not escape her and
Alicia could feel her pulse accelerate, the choice of using his room instead of hers significant, and she watched him shrug out of his coat. His shirt went next and the sleek musculature of his naked torso was a bit imposing, the lamp his valet had left burning throwing shadows across his chest and the flat plane of his stomach. He sat down to remove his boots, jerking them off and tossing them carelessly aside. “I’m not going to douse the light.”

“Whatever you wish, my lord.” Was her voice really that husky? And she was trembling. Not from fear but from something else she couldn’t quite define. Alicia took in a deep breath.



“Why don’t we make this evening about what


“You are the one who seems to have reservations over the romantic aspect of our marriage.”

True enough, but the trouble was she wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted. More intimacy, yes, but…

“Another kiss, perhaps?” Clad only in his breeches, Ben slid on top of her, balancing lightly on his elbows, his body heavy on hers but in a pleasant way. “You seemed to enjoy the last one.”

She touched his hair, the strands thick and surprisingly soft considering the rest of him was hard—especially the rigid length she could feel through the fabric of his breeches. “I did.”

“Let’s see, shall we, if I can make this one even more memorable.”

It was, she discovered, when he lowered his mouth to hers. Not because it was more tender or even more passionate,
but because he very much took his time, tasting and teasing, his tongue doing a leisurely exploration, his arms braced and his hands otherwise not touching her. Still fully clad in a formal gown and even her slippers, Alicia wondered how it would be to have him kiss her this way if they were both naked—a rather scandalous speculation—but this was very nice also.

Extremely nice.

Not perfunctory at all. He lingered over it, nipping at the corners of her mouth, lightly tracing the curve of her lower lip and then capturing her mouth again…and again. At some time he loosened her hair, but, caught up in the moment, she didn’t remember it.
she thought, running her hands across his shoulders,
is much more like what I’d imagined before we married.

And then he did something entirely shocking. He deftly unfastened her gown and before she really knew it had happened, eased it down over her shoulders to bare her breasts, bent his head, and licked her nipple.

Of course he had touched her like that before, but it had always been under her nightdress, and in a room so dark she really could not see it, but it was startling how the vision of him, his mouth on her breast, brought a rush of heat between her thighs and the pleasure of it made a sigh she didn’t intend escape her lips.

And her husband smiled. It was slight, just a curve of his lips, but against her sensitive flesh she felt it. He murmured, “You are entirely overdressed for this, my love.”

The languid enjoyment stopped at the endearment and she went very still.

My love?

Was she his love?

He’d shocked her, but maybe not as much as he’d shocked himself.

My love
. He was not one for endearments and had never employed that one before.

The slip had not been intentional and Ben paused, hovering over his wife’s extremely delectable body, her dark hair spilled over the pale bed linens in a shining mass, her eyes gazing into his with a poignant sincerity that left him at a loss. One pink-tipped breast was still moist from his attentions, and, frankly, he wondered why he hadn’t ever done this before.

Tonight he was going to strip her bare and enjoy every minute of making love to her, and duty to his title be damned. But he did wish he hadn’t made that accidental slip.

It was possible he’d been looking at this the wrong way all along.

Love he was not ready yet to address but it needn’t be discussed now, not with Alicia in delicious dishabille beneath him, receptive and ready. Or almost ready.

It hadn’t been all that long since he’d shared her bed, but, then again, it had never been like this. He had unquestionably married out of obligation to his family because he’d inherited a title he’d never wanted all that much and the war was over. It was necessary to do what was expected and he had—as always, he realized—faced the situation with due resignation and gone forward.

However, there was nothing very logical about how soft Alicia was beneath him or how the tantalizing sweetness of her mouth caused a sheen of sweat over his whole body, or, for that matter, how delicious she looked half-dressed, her rich gown around her waist, the fullness of
her ivory breasts moving slightly with each audible inhale.

Physical desire was a predictable entity. The sexual act itself was pleasurable, so it wasn’t a surprise that he wanted her, but what was a surprise was the intensity of not just his arousal but the possessiveness that accompanied it.

he thought as he smoothed his hand over her shoulder, downward, skimming his fingertips over the curve of her breast and lower to catch the material of her unfastened gown so he could completely remove it. He lifted her and slid off her gown and chemise, leaving her in just her stockings and slippers, the sight so erotic the throbbing in his cock took urgency to a level that he could never recall before. “You are incredibly beautiful.”

BOOK: Ruined by Moonlight
11.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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