She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(81) by Lorraine Heath
He patted dry her face, her neck, her shoulders, her breasts. Then he took one in his mouth, suckled. Moaning, she craned back her head, stared at the ceiling with its intricate scrollwork.
“Turn around,” he ordered in a rough voice, and she realized that the task he’d set himself was as much torment for him as it was for her. Lovely torment.
She did as he bade, relished the cotton absorbing what little dampness remained. For a moment she did what she’d promised she’d never do: she thought of Fitzwilliam and realized that she could have never envisioned allowing him to take such liberties. She would have welcomed darkness accompanying their encounters. She couldn’t have been playful, teasing, or sensuous. What seemed so natural with Sebastian would not have seemed so with anyone else.
The towel skimmed along her skin as it cascaded to the floor and pooled at her feet. She felt a tug on her hair, heard the clink of a pin hitting the floor. Another tug, another clink. Three more followed before her hair tumbled around her shoulders.
Gathering it up with one hand he moved it aside and kissed her neck. “All dry,” he whispered.
“Hardly.” She was acutely aware of the dampness between her thighs.
He released a low laugh, slid his hand around her, and cupped her intimately. “Too easy.”
She sighed. “I can’t argue with the truth.”
“I adore how responsive you are,” he whispered, so low that she wondered if the words were more for him than her.
He swept her up into his arms and carried her to the bed. Only then did she realize that the light in the room came from the fireplace and much of it was blocked by the screen. The bed was mostly shadows as he laid her on it. He reached across her for the sash that held back the canopy drapes. She placed a hand on his shoulder. “No.”
He stilled, looked down on her.
“We had the sunlight this morning,” she reminded him.
He cradled her face, bent down, and kissed her forehead. “Tonight I need the dark, Mary.”
It was such a heartfelt plea. How could she deny it? He’d watched her bathe, teased her, and dried her. Anticipation had been building. She knew now was not the time to argue, not the time to try to convince him again that she was not put off by his scars. She pressed on his chest, pushing him back until she could sit up. Studying his face, she leaned in and gave him a quick kiss, before turning away and closing the draperies on her side of the bed.
She stayed as she was, waiting while she felt him leave the bed. The other draperies closed until she was encased in darkness. A sprig of light, the bed dipping, darkness again.
Turning back, she found him with unerring accuracy. She ran her hand up his chest, his throat, his jaw, his cheek until she felt the patch. He snatched her wrist.
“Let me remove it,” she whispered softly. “You have the dark. You don’t need this. If I’m completely bare, so should you be.”
His fingers loosened their grasp. Ever so slowly she moved the eyepatch away. Before he could stop her, she pressed a kiss to the scarred flesh, not even certain he would be able to feel it.
“Mary,” he rasped.
“I’m yours,” she whispered.
Rolling her over, he proceeded to keep his promise. With hands, mouth, tongue he tormented her until she was certain steam rose from her flesh. She was ready for him long before he slid into her with a sureness that caused her to smile.
He was a masterful lover. She greedily felt for what she could not see: his muscles bunching with his efforts, his slick body moving in and out of hers, his tightened jaw, his damp hair. Pleasure spiraled through her as his grunts echoed around her.
When the cataclysm came, it hit them both at the same time. She held him close as his hot seed poured into her. His breathing harsh and heavy, he eased off her and brought her up against his side.
There she fell into a contented sleep.
The days ambled along, each bringing a wealth of discoveries. Mary began to understand her husband’s true devotion to Pembrook. He began each morning with a leisurely ride over his domain. She often joined him. He spoke with the tenants. He assessed the possibilities for future income. He noted areas where improvements were needed.
He was much more comfortable here than in London.
He’d even been relaxed when they’d visited her father. But more important, Sebastian had managed to put the earl at ease. Before they left, her father took her aside to inform her that she’d married a good man.
Of that, she had no doubt.
Mary stood in the garden, taking delight in the new gardener’s efforts. Her father had been more than willing to let the young man go. He had also offered her half a dozen other servants, children to his longtime staff members who he’d simply never found the heart to relieve of their positions. But he had no need of them. She found a good deal of work for them to do here.
From her place near the hedgerow, she could see the stables, could see Sebastian talking with the head stableman and pointing out various horses. The recent arrivals—Tristan’s gift—had come thundering in this morning. Sebastian had removed his jacket earlier and rolled up his sleeves to inspect each animal. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. She’d give him that. She couldn’t recall her father ever taking so much interest in the managing of his estate. He had overseers. They gave him reports. But Sebastian spoke with all the servants, issued orders, listened to their ideas. He wanted Pembrook returned to its former glory.
Not nearly as many tenants still worked the land but they provided the estate with a comfortable income. His other estates fared much better. Unlike Fitzwilliam, he did not need her dowry.
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