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Authors: Taboo (St. John-Duras)

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BOOK: Susan Johnson
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“But not from you,” he murmured, his palms warm on her bottom. “It affects me deeply.”

She could feel his erection lengthen, feel the pressure of his hands as they tightened on her bottom. “How deeply?” she whispered.

“I could show you.”

“I was hoping you would,” she softly said, her heart beating against her ribs.

“Are you sure now?”

She nodded, tears welling in her eyes, unsure suddenly of her capacity to handle the inevitable bereavement.

“You can stay with me,” he gently said, as if reading her mind. “You don’t have to go back to him.” A monumental statement, he realized, even as he uttered it.

“I have to,” she quietly replied, “or my tribe will suffer.”

I’ll kill him
, he thought. Just like that. How strange everything was … unprecedented, without yardstick or clue in his previous life.

“But keep me for now,” she said, her gaze intense with longing.

“For as long as you want,” he promised. Direct, accomplished, he wondered how well protected Korsakov would
be. And then his need for her urgent, he gathered her in his arms, rolled over her and entered her welcoming body.

The feel of him deep inside her melted her bones, the sensation so exquisite, so perfect, she hadn’t realized such luxurious rapture existed this side of heaven. She kept murmuring
thank you
against his heated kisses until the leisurely rhythm of his lower body brought her past that languorous, blissful enchantment to a frenzied delirium that ate at her brain, ravished her nerve endings, brought her by excruciatingly slow degrees to a screaming climax.

And when her eyes opened again after a very long time and her overwrought breathing was partially restored, she gazed up into his smiling eyes and faintly said, “It’s been a privilege to meet you.”

His laughter exploded in the small bedchamber. “The privilege has been entirely mine, Countess,” he genially asserted, kissing her with an easy charm, all courtesy and well-bred manners. “Would you like a moment to rest?”

“There’s more?” she flirtatiously inquired, delighting in her newly discovered sexuality, in the opulent passions he evoked.

“If you don’t mind.” Politesse for a man of his repute.

“Can you do that for me again?”

“With pleasure.”

“So this is why all the women pursue you.”

“I’m sure any man could do the same.”

He immediately realized his error. “Forgive me.” The delight had vanished from her eyes, a bleak emptiness in its place. Shifting his weight, he gently stroked her silken cheek. “Tell me about your people,” he said, trying to distract her. “Take me back to your country before we met all the other people in our lives. So long ago there’s—”

“Just you and me.”

He nodded, brushing a kiss over her mouth. “Only us,” he whispered. “It’s summer and the larches are newly leafed, the sky’s immense and always blue.”

Her mouth curved into a tentative smile at the memory of her youthful summers. “Grand-père says the sky belongs to our people alone.”

“Take me walking in the forest under your sky.”

Her small hands came up, framing the ascetic beauty of his face, a militant saint’s face. “I’ll lure you away and keep you for myself.”

“Deep in the forest … on the banks of a silvery pond where fish talk and fairies dwell. Do you swim?” he asked, his voice deep and low, intimate.

“Foreigners can’t tolerate the cold waters.”

“You’ll keep me warm.”

His whisper shivered up her spine.

“I’m on fire for you,” he breathed, “so burning hot I’m not sure this is happening to me after all this time. You have to stay with me.”

“All summer?” The joy was back in her eyes.

“All summer,” he said, although snow was falling outside and his entire army was ready to march at dawn.

The rare circumstances set an unusual tone to his lovemaking; his affections had never been involved before, nor had he ever wished to kill a man over a woman. Although Korsakov might kill
him
, he realized. So when Teo said, “Wait,” as he readjusted himself between her thighs, he almost said, “I don’t have time,” and it took a moment to steady himself. Taking a deep breath, he said, “For how long?”

“Let me come with you.”

“Now?” He wasn’t certain he was capable of further foreplay, the pressure of orgasmic impulses intense.

“Take me with you to the fort,” she clarified.

Incredulous, he tried to absorb the shock.

“I won’t be in the way. I’ve hunted all my life—at home and in Russia.”

“God, no,” Duras growled, rolling away, his libido overwhelmed by a flaring anger. Bartering sex for favors was
odiously reminiscent of his wife’s style. Swiftly rising from the bed, he moved to collect his clothes.

“Andre, please,” Teo cried, scrambling from the bed to follow him.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” he bitterly declared, lifting his trousers from a nearby chair.

“I’m sorry,” she pleaded. “Please …” Grasping his wrist, she tried to stop him. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

He shook off her hand, his eyes dark with resentment. “You meant it
another
way? You want something more?”

“I just can’t bear to see you go,” she said so softly he had to strain to hear the words. “I don’t want you to leave.”

Her black hair fell in a river of silk, tumbling over her shoulders, pouring down her back. Her pale skin was still delicately flushed from their lovemaking, her lush nudity only inches away. And he felt a terrible, uncontrollable desire—animalistic, primal, oblivious to anger, to the most rudimentary morality.

“I
have
to go,” he quietly said.

She heard the small nuance, the regret. “Please, not just yet,” she impetuously said, impassioned, reckless. “I apologize for everything … for anything I might have said.” The troops had been moving out all day; she was without pride. “Stay a short time more … please. Talk to me.” She took a small breath and touched his arm, her gaze on him, watching for his reaction. “Hold me,” she said very low, her fingers trailing fire down his arm.

“You can’t come with me,” he said, not moving, constraint in every stilled muscle of his powerful body. “You have to understand.” His voice was grave. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I’m so frightened for you,” she whispered, anguished at the thought of the coming battle, of losing him. With a stifled sob she jettisoned all dignity and threw her arms around his waist, clinging to him.

The fragrance of her hair invaded his nostrils, the compelling warmth of her body assailed his senses, and blind instinct
triumphed over reason. His arms closed around her, enveloped her, his strength like a bulwark against the world. “You don’t have to worry,” he murmured, his response instinctive after years of soldiering. “I lead a charmed life.”

“Good,” she whispered, gazing up at him, tears glistening in her eyes. “You have to promise to come back to me,” she insisted, not even questioning her right to make that demand of him, “and I promise not to be weepy like this again.” Gulping back her tears, she tried to smile. “And try to be more sophisticated like—”

“Hush,” he interposed, gently brushing his thumb across her quivering mouth. “You don’t have to be sophisticated.”

“Will you give me a baby?”

“On the other hand,” he murmured with a small smile, “I’m not sure I’m prepared for such naïveté.”

“You don’t
have
children,” she said, hushed and low as if that were reason enough to grant her wish.

“You know that, do you?” A teasing note warmed his voice.

“Please, Andre.” Her gaze held his. “Don’t toy with me when I love you so.”

“How can you know it’s love,” he gently chided, “when you’ve never been in love before? You might forget me by next week.”

“Don’t be cruel. I won’t—
ever
.”

She spoke with such unequivocal purpose, it staggered him. His whole life was equivocal, he sorted through a hundred cynical options every day. He gazed at her, his expression unreadable, a dozen—a thousand—reasons for refusing her prominent in his thoughts. “Even if I were to agree,” he heard himself say—a shocking experience as if someone outside himself spoke—“you may not become pregnant tonight.”

“I would, I will, I
know
it,” Teo breathlessly replied, her warm body pressed tightly against his, the shimmering heat of her skin palpable under his hands.

“If it
were
to happen,” he slowly went on, his tone skeptical, his gaze closed, “how could I raise my child? You’d take it from me.”

“No. I’d find a way to stay. I would.”

“What of your tribe, the consequences to them?” He’d spent years gauging the risks of action and reaction, of victory and defeat.

“Is Korsakov across the Rhine?” It was the first time she’d uttered her husband’s name.

“Rumor has it he is.” His spies were certain.

“Will you be opposing him tomorrow?”

“Perhaps.”

“Do you think he might die?”

“Do you want him to?”

“With all my heart,” she whispered.

He should ask why; he should require reasons for such conspicuous hatred. If he didn’t want her so, he might. And if he didn’t know Korsakov so well, he would. “I’ll see what I can do,” he calmly said.

“You won’t love me when I’m so terrible.”

He thought of her life with the man they called the Butcher. “You’re not terrible.”

“I had to stay.”

“I know.” He’d stayed in his marriage for less honorable reasons. Out of apathy and indolence or more ignominiously because of expediency. “When the war’s over, we’ll make the necessary changes in our lives.”

“Are you asking me to marry you?” A new cheer infused her voice.

He didn’t answer at first and then he said with male caution, “I’m not sure.”

“When
will
you know?” she teased, suddenly bursting with happiness, the newfound possibility of a
future
dizzying.

“Keep in mind this is only the second time I’ve seen you,” he carefully said, a problematic undertone to his words. He didn’t make a practice of offering marriage.

“The third,” she cheerfully corrected, and as incautious as he was not, she added with a smile, “You know you love me.”

A small startle reflex flickered across his face.

Laughing, she stood on tiptoe and kissed him lightly. “Tell me later,” she murmured. “Give me a baby now.”

This time
he
laughed—at her single-minded purpose and enchanting gaiety. “So assured, my lady,” he said, his dark eyes amused.

“When do you have to leave?”

“At three-thirty.”

She glanced at the clock on the mantel.

“There should be time enough,” he softly said.

4

Lifting her into his arms, he carried her to the bed, realizing what he was about to do was an act of madness, but one he could no more stop than he could restrain the events that would begin at dawn. And disregarding practicalities, the imminent campaign, and the very real possibility that his life could be over in a few hours, he quietly said, “What do you want—a boy or girl?”

“You decide,” she said, prescient and in love, feeling blessed that she’d not lived her life without knowing this unalloyed rapture.

“Why not both,” he said, heated and low. “Or a dozen,” he added half under his breath, “so you can never leave me.”

The dazzling wish and heartfelt hope, the urgency and prodigal excess flared through her senses, and pulling his face down, she kissed him so violently he stopped midstride
to absorb her bruising ardor. When her mouth finally relinquished his, he said, captivated by her ingenuous passions, “I’m very glad you took the wrong turn at Bregenz.”

“And I’m very glad to be alive,” she jubilantly replied, “and in your arms—”

“And under me,” he huskily intoned, moving the short distance to the bed, placing her on the green velvet comforter, following her down in an easy, graceful descent. “Where I intend to see that you stay,” he whispered, licking a warm path across her mouth, expertly sliding between her thighs, “for a very long time.”

“For a dozen children,” she softly answered, wrapping her arms around his neck, raising slightly to meet him.

“At least a dozen,” he murmured, the vibration of his words fluttering across her mouth. “Because I’m
keeping
you …”

Her orgasm began before he’d finished speaking, before he’d fully entered her, her lust inflamed by the notion of being kept, possessed by such a man, and she came in a wild, frenzied convulsion that tore through her with such violence she was left wide-eyed, breathless. “I must want you too much,” she said moments later, startled, still trembling from the aftermath pulsing through her body.

“It’s never too much,” he gently replied, sliding deeper, stretching her, dipping his head to catch her small moan of pleasure. “There now,” he whispered, his breath warm on her half-parted lips. “How does that feel?”

“Perfect … unbelievable … as if—” Her words mutated into a soft, high wail, her nails penetrated the brown skin, and a millisecond later he was sunk hilt-deep inside her. And she was rippling inside, her womb clamoring for him, wild desire filling her consciousness as though she didn’t have a life beyond sensation, as if she’d been born to lie with him.

She was liquid beneath him and a dual need possessed
him—to delay, hold off as long as possible, to savor; the other to rush to a blinding, red-hot orgasm.

She came again right away and he smiled faintly in the midst of his own passion. The decision made for him, he slowed his rhythm, the muscles swelling in his upper arms as he held himself gently against her womb, plumbing deep into her dazed, simmering afterglow.

Clinging to him, she mewed inarticulate purring sounds, awed by the naked pleasure, by the rich revelation of carnal longing.

She was all sweet and good, he thought, intoxicated by the perfume of her desire, her innocence, and the urge to father a child was suddenly more than a flirtatious nicety to please her. He closed his eyes for a moment and wondered what had overcome him that he found himself actually plotting the fate of a child.

It was lunacy when no future existed beyond the few moments they had tonight—when he might be dead in a few brief hours.
And you always have choices
, he reminded himself.

BOOK: Susan Johnson
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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