She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(80) by Lorraine Heath
He became aware of her no longer singing, simply humming a soft provocative tune that caused his breath to come in labored pants. Did she go through these rituals every time she bathed?
She dropped back her head, released a deep sigh. “Colleen, I’m ready to leave the bath.”
He swallowed hard. He was ready as well, but not to leave a bath—rather to leave his wife well and truly sated.
“Colleen? The towel? Don’t tarry. My husband will be here any moment and I wish to be prepared.”
If she were any more prepared, he might ignite. He came to his feet, wandered toward her, and snatched up a towel in passing. He came around the screen, and decided that in the flesh, she was exceedingly more delectable. With her eyes closed, she rested her head against the lip of the tub. All of her skin was dampened with dew. Her hair was piled in a haphazard manner on top of her head. Several strands had gained their freedom and they curled in wild abandon. Her limp hands draped over the sides. Her thighs were spread wide. The water lapped around her breasts, creating two lovely islands.
She moaned low, opened her eyes slowly—
Shrieking, she sank beneath the surface of the water until the islands were in danger of drowning. Pity.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“Why the surprise? I told you that I was going to visit and I heard you tell your maid you were expecting me. At any moment.”
She scowled. “How long have you been in here?”
“When I entered you knew the words to the song, then you seemed to forget them.”
Horror crossed her features. “You heard me singing? Oh, dear God.”
“You have a lovely voice.”
“It’s atrocious. I sound like a warbler.”
“And here I likened you to a lark.”
“Why did you not let me know you were here?”
“I was rather enjoying the shadow show.”
She looked at the screen, then jerked her gaze to the fire, and he saw the reality of her situation dawn, as she muttered, “Entertaining silhouettes.”
She gave him an impish smile. “I think you’re rather enjoying yourself now.”
“I rather am, yes.”
“I might have to teach you a lesson about spying on me and withhold my favors.”
“I won’t allow it.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “And how, Your Grace, do you expect to carry out that threat?”
“I will kiss every inch of your skin until you are as close to falling to your knees with aching need as I am now.”
She grinned wickedly, and he thought he might burst. “I can see your aching need even with your trousers on. Hand me the towel that I might dry off and see to that need.”
“I want to dry you and then I intend to make you wet again.”
She gasped. “Such bawdy talk!”
“And here you claimed earlier not to like poetry.” She studied him for a moment through half-lowered eyelids. Sultry wench made him feel as though he were the one unclothed. Her tongue appeared between her parted lips and captured an errant drop of water. Then she rose up out of the water like a brazen goddess, completely comfortable with her body, not a hint of shyness to be seen.
She would no doubt be the death of him.
She gave him a pouty look. “So carry out your promise, Your Grace. Dry me, then make me wet.”
Mary wasn’t certain where she found the courage to be so bold. She only knew that once he’d confessed to being close to dropping to his knees that she’d felt powerful, in control of the situation, regardless of his threat not to allow her to withhold her favors. She knew he’d not force her.
As it was he feared she’d not welcome his touch. Strange. She’d always assumed it was the man who made the woman feel comfortable with what passed between them, but it was her husband who required the reassurance that she was not put off by his scars. She loved it when passion overcame him, and he forgot they existed. She wanted them not to matter. She wanted the scandal that had forced them to marry not to matter.
She wanted love between them, so deep and abiding, that nothing mattered beyond them.
The chill of the air caused her nipples to pearl and pucker. His gaze dropped to her chest, smoldered. She watched his throat work as he swallowed. Indeed, she held the power.
“I’m growing chilled, Your Grace.” She held out an arm and tried to present an innocent expression, a slight pouting of her lips.
She’d expected him to whip her out of the tub and dry her off quickly. Instead, he went down to one knee before her and draped the towel over his raised thigh. She lifted a foot and placed it on the perch he offered. He began at her toes and blotted the water slowly, gently, his attention focused on his task. Even though her hands were wet, she ran one through his hair. “I shall return the favor someday,” she said quietly.
“What favor is that?” he asked distractedly.
“Intrude upon your bath.”
“I did not intrude. I allowed you to enjoy it.”
“You enjoyed it as well.”
He lifted his gaze to her. “Immensely.”
He finished patting her leg, then indicated the other. He dried her with touches as gentle as any she’d ever known, as though he feared the cotton in the weave would scratch her skin if he did not take care. When he finished with her leg, he set her foot on the floor and stood, looming over her. His size had never frightened her. While she was tall for a woman, he was taller than most men.
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