Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(37) by Lorraine Heath
She didn’t avert her gaze, but he saw the silent challenge there. She wanted him to stop. He almost did. But he would take her in the dark. Without gentleness, without care. Without the tenderness she deserved. He would hate himself afterward, but he’d long ago learned how to live with hating himself.
He eased the blankets over the small lumps that were her knees. Just a little farther—
He lifted his eyes up to hers, surprised to find her watching him so intently. Her obstinacy, her anger were gone. Now she appeared curious and fighting to draw in breath.
“Do you desire me?” she rasped.
“Because I’m a woman.”
“Obviously. I don’t generally go about desiring men.”
She rolled her eyes. “I meant it’s simply because I’m a woman. It wouldn’t matter who was here.”
If only that were true. But it did matter. For reasons he couldn’t fathom, it mattered that it was her. “I could have been with any woman tonight. Instead, I’m here.”
“So you must like me a little.”
He could have told her that he didn’t have to like her to desire her. He could have told her to stop asking so many bloody questions. Instead, he told her the truth. “I like you more than is good for either of us.”
And then because he knew another question was on the tip of her tongue and he didn’t want to have to deal with whatever it was, he pulled the blankets down all the way, revealing her tiny perfect feet. Yanking them back, she raised her knees and covered them with her nightdress.
“Want me to remove your nightdress next, do you?”
Her eyes widened. “No! Absolutely not.”
Drawing the cloth taut at her ankles, she bared her feet. Not a callus to be seen. He imagined the rest of her would look as smooth and silky. He desperately wanted to wrap his hand around her foot and skim his fingers over her ankle, her calf, her knee. He wanted to unbraid her hair, press a kiss to the pulse at her throat, begin unfastening those infuriating buttons.
But he knew she would stiffen, and he wanted her pliable. “You do know what happens between a man and a woman.”
She nodded jerkily. “Geoffrey showed me once.”
Fury, immediate and swift, rampaging through him, he took a step toward her. “He touched you?”
She scooted back, nearly curled into a ball, shaking her head riotously. “No, no. He showed me a pair of hounds mating.”
Spinning away from her, he plowed his hand through his hair. He’d been contemplating murdering her bastard of a brother. And all he’d done was show her a couple of dogs rutting, but it irritated the devil out of him that he’d exposed her to that.
“I must say,” she began timidly, “that it didn’t appear that the girl dog enjoyed it overly much.”
Oh dear God. Suddenly an unfamiliar sound echoed through the room. It took him a moment to realize it was his laughter. Abruptly he stopped, peered over his shoulder at her. She was smiling and, with regret, it occurred to him that when he was done with her, she might never smile that sweetly again.
“You’ll enjoy it, Eve, I promise you that.”
He strode from the room before he did something rash. He was torn between taking her at that moment and letting her go. Maybe he should flip a coin, but as he’d told her, fate was seldom a friend, and he wanted her too much to take the chance.
Evelyn heard Rafe prowling about in his bedchamber. Perhaps he was right. Best to just get it over with. She took immense pleasure in his kisses. She could only imagine the pleasure she might find in his bed.
He wasn’t Ekroth of the pudgy fingers, Berm of the rancid breath, or Pennleigh of the wrinkles in the wrong places. She furrowed her brow. Where precisely were the right places?
It didn’t matter. Rafe would not have wrinkles. He was young and firm and powerful. She would want to hold him, caress him, stroke him. Lying there like a fallen tree was going to be difficult. Perhaps she should come up with a few rules of her own.
She slipped out of bed, padded toward the door, raised her hand—
But couldn’t quite bring herself to knock. Once done, she would not be able to retreat. She understood that. Such a bold move would result in an even bolder one from him.
The thing of it was, though, she had become more comfortable with him. She’d seen the terrifying look on his face when he thought Geoffrey had touched her, yet she had not been terrified. His anger hadn’t been directed at her. She’d known that, but that he could care so much, so passionately that she might have suffered at Geoffrey’s hand, had caused the misgivings about this arrangement that she’d been harboring to drift away as though tossed on the outgoing tide.
She had little doubt that had Geoffrey abused her, Rafe would have killed him. Or at the very least made Geoffrey wish he were dead. Probably the latter.
She should be horrified that Rafe was a man who would take such dreadful actions, but instead she felt remarkably safe. He would defend her, he would protect her. Had he not been doing so all along? First from the gentlemen who had come to call, and then from Geoffrey. Of course it came with a price, but it was one she was willing to pay.
It was his laughter that had won her over, that had reached deep down within her, reverberated through her heart. It had sounded rough, like the rusty hinge on a door being opened after such a long period of disuse. He seemed as surprised by it as she was.
She wandered to the window and gazed out on the night. He had revealed only bits and pieces of himself but she was beginning to gain a sense of the whole. Like her, he had been left with no one to see after him. But he had managed to make himself into a successful man. He had not relied on his heritage, but on himself. He was to be admired.
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