She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(71) by Lorraine Heath
He didn’t appear happy, but he did seem relieved. Perhaps he thought she’d run off.
He’d removed his cravat, jacket, and waistcoat. A few buttons on his shirt were loosened. He wore the patch. She’d wondered if he would. It made her feel as though he were hiding from her. His large feet were bare, revealing his crooked toes. She’d first seen them when they decided to cross a small babbling brook as children. The sight of them reassured her. Something about him hadn’t changed.
“Why are you smiling?” he asked suspiciously.
“Your toes. They’re as funny looking now as they were when you were a boy. I didn’t think you were going to come.” The words had all run together, and she realized she was nervous. She shouldn’t be. This was Sebastian, after all.
His progress into the room ended at the bed and he leaned against the post. She wondered if her words, pushed out while she still had the courage to say them, had halted his progress.
“Would you rather I hadn’t?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. I’m your wife. You’re my husband. I want to be your wife.” Could she sound any more idiotic?
He glanced down at his bent toes, wiggled them, then his gaze met and held hers. “I assume . . . you’re chaste.”
She nodded, swallowed, her mouth suddenly wretchedly dry.
He plowed a hand through his hair. “I’ve never—”
“Oh dear Lord. You’re a virgin, too? I was hoping you’d have some experience. I haven’t a clue where to begin. All Aunt Sophie advised me to do was drink two glasses of brandy.”
A corner of his mouth twitched. Was it possible that here, at least, she would see his smile? She tilted her head, peered up at him. “Are you trying to smile? I’m not a virgin at smiling. I could teach you to do that.”
She saw a flash of white that quickly disappeared.
“I’m not a virgin at all,” he said. “I was going to explain that I’ve never taken an inexperienced woman to my bed. I understand that the first time can be painful. I wish it weren’t so. I never want to hurt you, Mary.”
She slid out of the chair and padded over to him. Reaching up, she cupped his face between her hands and turned it until she could see all of it. “Then share more than your profile with me.”
She watched his throat muscles work as he swallowed. He placed his hand over hers, the one resting against his scars, turned it over, and pressed a kiss to her palm. She felt the heat from his mouth coating her skin with dew. She wondered how much of her might receive the same treatment.
“Perhaps in time,” he said quietly, “but not tonight.”
She thought about reminding him that she’d seen his scars, more than once, but she knew that he could excuse those moments as weakness when he’d been unable to prevent her from assisting him. Tonight they would share an intimacy that he no doubt thought would be marred if he revealed his true self. Or perhaps it was simply masculine pride. Whatever it was, she would forgive it. They would have many more nights together, and she would eventually gain what she wanted from him.
She touched her fingers to his mouth. “I want to see a real smile.” She laid them against his throat. “And hear you laugh again.”
“You don’t ask for much.”
“No, I don’t. Not really.”
“You’ve always been so feisty,” he said. “I tell myself you’d have not been happy with Fitzwilliam. That perhaps what happened was for the best.”
“Do you know I have not given him a moment’s thought, not since he strode out of my father’s residence? I regret that I may have caused him hurt or embarrassment. But I do not regret that he was not the man waiting for me at the altar. You must believe that, Sebastian. We can’t spend our lives wondering, ‘what if?’ We must simply make the best of what we have.”
“And did you have two glasses of brandy?”
She laughed lightly. “Three. But that was some time ago. I fear the effects have worn off. I’m not feeling quite as warm as I was.”
“You shall be soon enough.” He cupped her jaw and tilted her face up to receive his kiss.
It was nothing at all like the kiss they shared in the garden. It lacked desperation. But it didn’t lack passion. It was a nibbling, a slow exploration. His tongue waltzed with hers. She slid her hands up over his shoulders, into his hair, holding him near. His low feral groan vibrated through his chest, resounded against hers and she pressed herself closer.
She’d spoken honestly. She’d not given Fitzwilliam a thought since he walked out on her, but she thought of him now and realized she would not have been comfortable with him at a moment such as this. She would have feared his judging her actions. With Sebastian she experienced no fear of judgment.
He had always liked who she was. She’d never had to pretend with him. She could touch where she pleased, knowing he would not find fault. She could thrust her tongue into his mouth, and welcome his taking the kiss deeper. For his sake, she schooled her fingers not to seek out the scars, not to trace them, not to do anything to make him self-conscious about them.
Never separating his mouth from hers, he lifted her into his arms, carried her the short distance to the bed and laid her down, only then breaking off the kiss. He pressed one to her forehead, her chin. Then he leaned back, studying her as though he thought to memorize every line and curve, every slope and valley.
“You’re going to douse the light, aren’t you?” she asked.
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