Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(12) by Lorraine Heath
She bent her head forward and pulled her hair up and over until it fell like a curtain in front of her face. He rubbed the back of his neck, his attention focused on hers bared. He could almost feel her skin beneath his lips as he skimmed his mouth along her spine, as he pressed a kiss against the soft skin beneath her ear. He would trail his tongue along the shell, nibble on her lobe. Turning her in his arms, he would continue the journey until he had tasted her throat, and then he would settle his mouth over hers for a long, lingering kiss that would have her body softening while his hardened.
She flung her head back and began again the process of smoothing what she’d sent into disarray. The night had grown unseasonably warm. He was of a mind to remove his jacket, but even as he thought it, he realized the air held a chill to it. It wasn’t the night, then, that was causing his body to sweat or his breathing to become labored. It was the nymph in the window. He could almost believe that she knew he was watching, that she was putting on a private performance for him.
He glanced up and down the street. It was late. No one was around. His gaze swept the buildings. If anyone else was awake and watching, he couldn’t see them. A good thing, as he suddenly had a savage possessive urge to pound on doors and threaten anyone who so much as glimpsed her.
What the devil was wrong with him? Nothing more than the pest of an idle lord, she would be in and out of Swindler’s life in the blink of an eye.
How was it that she managed to bring forth these barbaric thoughts of doing whatever necessary to protect her? His nature was to stand for the innocent, but his feelings where she was concerned scraped the bottom of his soul, didn’t allow him to retain his aloof demeanor, which allowed him to act without emotion. He needed to keep a cool head about him so nothing tainted his objectivity.
Swindler turned his attention back to her. Having stopped brushing her hair, she was only partially visible now. He was unable to determine where she looked. What was she thinking about? If he called on her now—
He shook his head at the absurd thought. He certainly couldn’t knock on the front door. But ever since he was a lad, he’d developed a skill for climbing. It was quite possible that he could work his way to her window.
And accomplish what?
For God’s sake, did he think she was going to pull open the window and allow him entry?
Did he think she was going to grant him leave to take the brush from her and glide it through her hair a hundred times?
Reaching up, she pulled the draperies closed. It should have been less torturous with her no longer visible. Instead he imagined her crawling beneath the sheets and settling in to sleep, imagined himself gliding in beside her and folding himself around her. The light in the window disappeared, and the air seemed to rush out of him. Did she sleep on her stomach, her back, curled in a ball on her side? If he were in the bed with her, would she snuggle against him? Strange to suddenly realize that he’d never slept with a woman in his arms. When business was done—
Business? Was that all it had ever been for him? Had he fooled himself into believing that because he’d taken care with the ladies, it was something more than a bit of fun, a way to while away a few hours on a lonely night?
Christ, where were these thoughts coming from? He’d wanted some evidence that she wasn’t out prowling the streets. He had it. She was lost in slumber. It was past time for him to retire as well. But devil take it, he knew it was going to be long hours before his tense body relaxed enough for sleep to claim him.
The words were an endless litany whispering through her mind with the constancy of the sea always rushing onto the shore, only to retreat and return again. Seduce him.
Lying in the bed, she stared at the shadows dancing across the ceiling. Seduce him.
What did she know of seduction? She’d acknowledged the young gentlemen of the village, but never encouraged their suit because she’d always hoped to come to London, to have a Season, to find a suitable husband. She’d always planned to watch the other ladies in the ballroom and mimic them. She’d always thought that when the time came, her womanly instincts would rise to the fore and she would know exactly what to do to capture a man’s attentions. She’d been restless all evening. She’d read for a while, but couldn’t concentrate on the words. She’d spent time on her needlework but hadn’t been pleased with the stitches. Finally she’d unfolded the map that Mr. Swindler had given her and spent an hour tracing her finger over all the various streets. It was a souvenir map. It showed where the Crystal Palace had been built in Hyde Park to display the Great Exhibition. She wondered if he’d walked through it and seen all the marvels. She wondered what he was doing tonight. Was he with friends or alone?
Was he in the company of a lady?
She didn’t like the unease that stirred within her at the thought of him with another woman. It was silly of her to be so possessive of a man she’d only just met. Eventually she’d prepared herself for bed and decided to brush her hair by the window in an attempt to relax. At home, she often sat by the window in her bedchamber, brushing her hair and listening as the roaring sea dashed against the cliffs. But tonight she hadn’t heard crashing surf. All she’d heard was the echo of Mr. Swindler’s promise to meet her tomorrow. If not for her desire for revenge, she wondered if something more could develop between them. He was handsome in a rough sort of way. Gentle, yet strong. At times she’d thought he was keeping himself tethered, that he wanted to touch her in improper ways. She needed to exploit whatever passions she might stir within him. The thought excited and terrified her. She wondered if Elisabeth had felt that way about Rockberry. Elisabeth had written about how he’d stirred her passions, and then he’d used those very passions to betray her in the worst way imaginable.
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