She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(72) by Lorraine Heath
“I wish you wouldn’t.”
Sadness touched his features. “For tonight. A woman’s first time . . . ugliness should not be a part of it.”
Tears clogged her throat, tears she refused to allow to rise to the surface. She could argue that he was not ugly, that she found everything about him beautiful, but she knew he was not of a mind to listen. It would build a strain between them, would dampen the joy they should find at this moment.
Lifting her hand, she cupped his unmarred side. “I’ll leave tonight to your superior experience, but rest assured I’m a fast learner and some night you will have to leave it to mine.”
“We shall see.”
He moved away and she watched as he prowled through the room dousing the lamps. Almost desperately she memorized what she could see of him: the long limbs, the broad shoulders, the strong back. She wished he walked about without clothing, but that would come in time as well. What a wanton miss she was.
Only one lamp still cast its glow. The one beside the bed. Before going to it, he released the ties holding back the curtains that surrounded the bed as though he had no wish for even a star to peer through the window and gaze on them. One by one the heavy velvety curtains flowed together until only one remained tied back.
He approached the last lamp, the last sash. She wondered which he would see to first. She thought of whispering, “No,” when he leaned over the lamp.
He took one last lingering look at her and blew it out.
Sebastian released the last sash, felt the air stir as the curtain fell into place. Even without the lamps providing light he could see shadows. He knew it was ludicrous to crave complete darkness for their first coming together, but he wanted to give her the illusion of having in her bed a man who was perfect in features if not perfect in heart.
He tossed aside his shirt and shed his trousers. He wanted tonight to be good for her. She tempted him to be better than he was. At least here, between the sheets, he could ensure that she was glad she married him. Finding the part in the curtains was more difficult than he’d expected but eventually he found it and slipped between them onto the bed. It dipped with his weight. He inhaled her scent, trapped within the cocoon he’d created, relishing the fragrance filling his nostrils.
“I thought perhaps you’d run off,” she whispered.
He supposed the darkness required soft voices, murmurings. “Silly goose.”
“I’m not silly.”
“Are you nervous?”
“Should I be?”
“No. Just trust me to handle this.”
Reaching out, he felt silk, but not the silk of her nightdress. Silk of her skin. Her thigh. He slid his hand up—
“Your nightdress.” His voice sounded rough, raw.
“I removed it.”
“I see.” Damned, but he wished she’d removed it before he doused the final flame.
“Are you disappointed?” she asked.
“God, no. I should have known you wouldn’t be shy about this.”
“It’s not this, Sebastian. It’s you. I’ve never been shy with you.”
He felt her hand traveling up his arm, exploring. He closed his eye, imagining her exploring everything. She might be a novice at lovemaking, but he suspected she’d be a quick study.
He followed the curve of her hip, her side, until in his mind, he could see her clearly stretched out beside him. He rolled until he was half-covering her, until her luscious swells met the flat planes of his body. Heated velvet warmed his flesh.
Unerringly he plowed his fingers into her hair, cupped the back of her head, and blanketed her mouth with his. Inwardly he smiled at the flavor of brandy on her tongue. It added a dark richness to the kiss. But beneath it was the taste of Mary, and he sought it out like a man who had been denied drink for most of his life.
For that was how he felt. He’d been in a desert searching for an oasis and she was it. Her eyes were the green of lush vegetation, her hair the red of ripe fruit, her sighs the soft wind cooling his fevered skin.
He couldn’t deny that he wished other circumstances had led to this moment, that she’d had a choice, that it was not scandal that had brought her to his arms. But neither could he deny that he was damned glad that she was here. And not because it had been so long that his body ached for want of a woman. But because the woman was Mary.
Lush Mary, whose hands trailed over him, tentatively exploring. Everywhere that she touched he felt as though a dead part of him was being brought back to life. He couldn’t remember the last time that he had yearned for a woman’s touch to this degree. It was as though he would die if she stopped touching him, if he were forced to stop touching her.
He trailed his mouth along the slope of her throat and closed a hand around a pliant breast. He relished the weight of it against his palm. Easing down, he circled his tongue around her nipple.
Gasping, she dug her fingers into his scalp.
Closing his mouth over her areola, he wondered at the shade, cursed himself for insisting on darkness. What an utter fool he was. But he could no more leave her now to light lamps than he could cease to breathe.
If only there could be a way to shine the light on her without shining it on him.
She whispered his name, spurring him on to greater pleasures. The sole of her foot traveled along his leg.
He slid lower, bracketing his hands on either side of her ribs. How could she be so slender, yet so voluptuous? He moved down, dipping his tongue in her navel. Someday he would pour wine there and sip it. But for now it was enough to experience the saltiness of her skin against his tongue.
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