Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(42) by Lorraine Heath
Then his face gentled, almost as though against his will. He held her wrists with one meaty paw while he used his other hand to stroke her cheek. “Eleanor,” he rasped, a wealth of emotion wrapped in the single word. She could hardly stand to hear her sister’s name uttered between his lips.
“Emma,” she corrected softly.
“Emma.” He lowered his head until his breath was wafting over her cheek like the first breeze of spring, gentle but determined to herald in the change of seasons. “Emma.”
She didn’t protest when his mouth covered hers, but the kiss was very much like the one he’d delivered at the door, harder, almost desperate, as though he wanted to recapture what they’d had in London but knew as well as she did that it was lost to them. He was correct. Whatever they’d been building was erected on the faulty foundation of lies and deception. It couldn’t withstand the storm of betrayal. It would crumble, and if he possessed even a shred of mercy, he’d allow it to be swept out to sea.
But at that moment she sensed there was no mercy in him. His hand tightened around her wrists until her fingers began to numb. Yet she didn’t tell him to stop, because to do so would mean moving her mouth away from his, and she wasn’t yet ready to give that up. How was she to know which stroke of his tongue would be the last? When would his lips stop molding themselves against hers?
His large hand cradled her side, slid down it, and tucked her up more firmly beneath him. The weight of him felt so very good. He was sturdy like a rock along the shoreline, which the wave—no matter how mighty it might be—could not move. He smelled slightly different than he had in London. Now she inhaled the scent of horse, leather, and salt from the sea air that had blown through his hair as he’d traveled to find her. Yet beneath it all, she detected the essence that was him. Everything about him was wonderful. Everything about him would soon be stripped away from her and reduced to memories that would haunt the remainder of her life.
“Well, what have we here?”
Emma startled at Eleanor’s voice echoing through the barn. James lifted his head, then went very still. She could see the confusion in the green eyes she adored, and she was left to wonder if the blow to the head had disoriented him. Anger and disappointment clouded his gaze just before he rolled off her. With a low groan, he sat back against the side of the stall and put his hand to the back of his head.
“I think his horse must have kicked him,” Emma said, her face growing warm with embarrassment. Scrambling to her feet, she nearly lost her balance. She’d forgotten how weak her legs became whenever he kissed her. They were like jam trying to support her. “He has a nasty gash.”
“Yes, I saw his horse out there,” Eleanor said. “That’s the reason I thought I should investigate.”
“You should come to the house so I can stitch you up,” Emma offered him quietly.
“I’ll finish seeing to your horse,” Eleanor said.
“Don’t even think about running,” James commanded in a stern voice. “There is nowhere on this earth that you can go that I will not find you.”
Eleanor threw back her shoulders and lifted her chin. “In case it’s failed your notice, Mr. Swindler, there’s a storm coming. Only a fool would run in the storm.”
Judging by the harsh, uncompromising look James gave Eleanor, Emma was of a mind that only a fool wouldn’t run when the predator was near.
Swindler sat in a chair near a window in an upstairs bedchamber so Eleanor—no, Emma—
would have better light by which to work, because they’d closed up the windows downstairs. He couldn’t deny that her sister had the right of it. He could see heavy dark clouds rolling forward in the distance, dimming the sunlight. He tried to focus on the weather but seemed unable to concentrate on anything other than Emma’s slender fingers gently parting his hair. He felt the fool for allowing her to entice him into wanting her. The hell of it was that she didn’t even need to try.
“This is likely to hurt,” she said softly.
“As you’re well aware, I’ve suffered worse. Just get on with it.”
As she worked the needle through his flesh, he clenched his jaw, but everything else remained as still as stone. Well, not quite everything. His heart pounded erratically with her nearness. Emma. Strange, but the name suited.
“Tell me about your sister,” he commanded.
“Eleanor can be quite stubborn when—”
“Not Eleanor. Elisabeth. Three of you were born on the same day.”
“Yes. I told you the truth there. Elisabeth was the first, I was the last, and Eleanor came between us. Our mother did die in childbirth. We were too much for her. Her death nearly broke my father’s heart, I think. He hired a lady from the village to watch over us, but he gave us little time. It’s the way of it, I suppose. What do men know of children? Did your father ignore you?”
He didn’t want to think of his father, didn’t want to talk about his past, but still he answered. “No. He and I were very close. We had only each other to get us through. Oh, sometimes he would spend the night in a woman’s bed, and I would sleep nearby, wondering if she was how my mother smelled, hoping he might stay with this one—a night, maybe two, and then he moved on. I take after him in that regard. I never stay long with a woman I’ve bedded. Damnation! ”
“My apologies. The needle slipped.”
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