Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(48) by Lorraine Heath
Olivia couldn’t help it. She giggled. “You make it sound so simple.”
“Isn’t it?” He ran the pad of his thumb up the center of her sole, causing her toes to curl. “What qualities do you want in your next husband?”
She shook her head. She didn’t want to discuss these things. She didn’t want him to know—
“Come on, Olivia,” he said in that soft, raspy voice that did strange things to her insides. “What is it you want from your next husband?”
Closing her eyes, she let more brandy slide down her throat. The heat of it seemed to rise through her head, urging her to confess. It made her feel daring, bold, and not so ashamed of what she wanted. Running her tongue over her lips, she gathered up the last remnants of brandy. She opened her eyes to discover that Jack had moved nearer, near enough that he could tuck behind her ear strands of hair that had escaped her braid.
“Tell me, Olivia.”
“I don’t want him to cast me aside once he has his heir.” She held her snifter with both hands and looked into the glass as though it held images from the past. “Lovingdon did that. He never touched me again once he realized I was with child.”
It took every ounce of courage she possessed to lift her gaze to his. She didn’t expect sympathy from a man like Jack Dodger, and he didn’t disappoint her in that regard. She wasn’t quite sure what his thoughts were, but based on the hardness of his jaw, she suspected it might be a good thing that Lovingdon was dead.
“I thought it was because I was with child and he feared intimacy might cause me to lose it,” she tried to explain. “I thought after Henry was born everything would return to the way it had been. But it didn’t.”
He trailed his finger along her cheek. “The man was a fool.”
“I was the fool. I went to his bedchamber once, thinking to seduce him.” She’d felt so silly then, had never thought to tell anyone, but tonight in the shadows with the brandy coursing through her veins, embarrassment was a distant memory. “He rebuffed me. He tried to be kind. He told me there was a girl in his youth, and when she left him his heart went with her. That he’d betrayed her and could not keep betraying her. I truly didn’t know what he was talking about. I was so mortified, I didn’t really listen.”
He swept his thumb across the sensitive flesh of her throat. “Who was she?”
“I don’t know. It’s often that way among the aristocracy. Political alliances or financial gains hold more sway than matters of the heart.” She shook her head. “I was married to Lovingdon for six years and I hardly knew him at all. It seems as though I should miss him more, that there should be a gaping hole. All I feel is a sense of emptiness, that something’s missing, but I think it was missing long before he died.”
The brandy made her daring. She eased toward him slightly and whispered, “I’m not even certain I’ve actually truly been kissed.”
It was uncanny how still he suddenly became, still and tense, his gaze intensifying as it held hers. “I’ve told you before I’m not a man who settles for only a kiss.”
He’d also warned her never to challenge him because it would only make him do it. She was five and twenty and she’d only ever received a kiss while standing at the altar. Lovingdon had not been cruel, but neither had he been passionate. He’d treated her with kindness, but he’d never stirred her emotions as Jack Dodger did. Jack infuriated her. He mesmerized her. He terrified her. He made her curious.
Licking her lips to steal the remnants of brandy, she saw his eyes darken. His reaction shored up her courage.
“I forbid you to only kiss me.”
“I’ve warned you not to forbid me,” he growled.
Before her next heartbeat, he’d slid his hand around her neck, holding her still, as he slashed his mouth across hers. He was not gentle or polite. He was almost savage with his desire to deliver what she’d requested. She relaxed into him, offered up no objections when his tongue urged her lips to part and slid smoothly into her mouth. Heat spiraled through her, melting her bones as though they were little more than tallow. He touched her with nothing except that one hand and his mouth, yet it seemed as though he caressed her everywhere, inside and out, shallow and deep. How could a kiss be this powerful, elicit such yearnings?
His hand clutched the back of her head as though he would hold her there forever while his mouth ravaged hers. She wondered if he tasted the brandy on her tongue that she tasted on his. It was suddenly a richer flavor, more intense, more enjoyable. She wanted to lap it up, become drunk on it.
She’d always been so good about exhibiting proper behavior, and suddenly she was relishing the forbidden, understanding its appeal. His bristly beard abraded her skin, but it only served to enhance her enjoyment. Intense pleasure swirled through her. Oh, she’d never felt anything like this before. She wanted to curl around him, hold him close. She scraped her fingers along his scalp, the thick tendrils of his hair soft against her skin.
She heard a low moan, barely realizing that it came from her. Her entire body seemed to be awakened, as though all these years she’d been unaware that it had been asleep. If at all possible, he deepened the kiss as though he couldn’t have enough of her. As though he desired her.
The notorious Jack Dodger wanting her? It was a thought almost too heady to bear. Her husband had kissed her at the altar because duty required it. Even though she’d challenged Jack, she felt no sense of duty in his reaction to her. She felt only an overwhelming power, barely leashed. Her own reaction to his greedy demands shocked her. She didn’t want him to stop. She never wanted him to—
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