Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(60) by Lorraine Heath
He shook his head. “It was a bad idea. We should just let it go.”
“We can’t, because you have the right of it,” Emma said. “Something needs to be done. We were obsessed with Rockberry. We went no further than that and we should have. In memory of our dear sister. To bring her soul peace. We must finish what we’ve begun.”
Wearing her night rail, Emma sat at the vanity in Eleanor’s room and brushed her hair. They’d left matters regarding what needed to be done when they returned to London unfinished, although James had said he’d contemplate the situation and how best to handle it. She loved him for not wanting to put either her or Eleanor in harm’s way, but she’d seen in his eyes that he knew her argument had merit.
“You don’t have to wait until I fall asleep to go to him,” Eleanor said from where she sat on the bed, leaning her back into the mound of pillows. “I just hope you know what you’re doing. If you get with babe, I suppose you can at least plead the belly. They don’t hang women who are with child. Or so I’ve heard.”
Emma rose from the bench, hurried over to Eleanor, sat on the edge of the bed and took her hands. “We won’t hang, Eleanor. He’s promised me that.”
“Who made him king?”
“I think he has some influence. We must trust him.”
Eleanor squeezed her hands. “And you must trust me. I should be the one to play the part of Elisabeth if we go through with this ruse.”
They were at another impasse, just as they’d been in the kitchen, unable to get beyond saying each other’s names. But Emma knew she had James’s ear. She would see to it that Eleanor wasn’t the one who was placed in harm’s way. “Let’s just see what happens when we return to London, shall we?”
Eleanor gave the slightest of nods.
“Very good,” Emma said succinctly. She would find a way to protect Eleanor whether she wanted to be protected or not. Her sister had done the lion’s share when it came to acquiring retribution, now it was Emma’s turn. Releasing her hold on Eleanor, she folded her hands in her lap and studied them, knowing her cheeks were burnishing red. “Will you at least roll over and pretend you’re asleep?”
Thankfully, Eleanor did as she requested. Emma knew it was hypocritical, but she was self-conscious going to James with her sister openly knowing. What she and James shared was intended for two people who were married to each other. That would never come to pass for them. In spite of her brave words to Eleanor, and James’s promises, Emma knew it was very likely that the gallows did await her. With that thought, she was determined to make the most of what little time she might have.
She slipped out of Eleanor’s bedchamber and into her own. She wondered if her heart would always dance around wildly whenever she set eyes on James after a brief separation. Within the shadowy room, he stood at the window. But with the quiet click of the door, he was crossing over to her. She met him near the bed, offering her mouth up to him. But he didn’t take the gift. Instead, he combed his fingers into her hair and held her, studied her as though something weighed heavily on his mind. With all they’d discovered, all they planned, she shouldn’t have been surprised, but she’d hoped that for these few hours they could pretend nothing existed beyond the door, beyond them.
“That night at my lodging, when I wanted everything off you except the pearls,” he said,
“did it remind you of your sister’s encounter? Did it taint your enjoyment of the night?”
Feeling relief that it was something inconsequential furrowing his brow, she released the breath she’d been holding. “No. Absolutely not. They were a treasured gift, not a symbol of subservience. Nothing, nothing about that night, was anything at all like what I’m certain my sister endured.”
She was aware of his hands shifting and something weighty, smooth, and cool settling against her skin. With a small exclamation, she touched the pearls that circled her neck and smiled. “How did you manage…I didn’t see you holding them.”
“I might not have been the most skilled with my hands, but I picked up a trick here and there.”
She couldn’t believe the daring response that entered her head. She almost kept it to herself, but this was James, a man who knew her every secret as well as those of her flesh. “I think you have very skillful hands.”
He gave her a slow, sensuous smile, his eyes heated with desire. “Let’s put your belief to the test, shall we?”
Before she’d released her next breath, her gown was floating to the floor and his trousers were quickly discarded. Then they were flesh against flesh, and mouths eagerly exploring the familiar, still discovering new treasures.
Their lovemaking was bittersweet, as though they both knew that once they left for London in the morning, all of this would remain behind. They would be back in the world of propriety. More important, they’d need to focus their endeavors on the plan more than each other.
He took his time, touching her with a slow reverence, as though he intended to memorize every line and curve for the nights ahead when she’d not be in his arms. She skimmed her fingers over him with a heightened awareness so she’d have the ability to recall the firmness of his muscles, the taut smoothness of his skin, the coarseness of his hair. When pleasure was beyond bearing and passion reigned with aching need, they came together in a conflagration of sensations that carried them to greater heights. Her name was a growl upon his lips, and his was a cry upon hers.
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