Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(56) by Lorraine Heath
It had been eighteen years since a man had taken possession of her. She’d locked away the disgust of those pudgy hands pinching and pulling. She’d forced into darkened corners the memory of his body ramming into hers, the pain, the blood, the echo of her screams, the reverberation of his hideous laughter…
But they were there, waiting to be replaced by something strong enough to destroy them.
Within his bedchamber, Sterling sat in a chair near the fireplace, staring at the dying embers, watching them diminish until they were nothing, similar to the way that his eyesight was diminishing. Other than the faint light emitted by the hearth, the only glow came from the low light in the lamp near his bed. He wore only trousers and the bandage on his wound. Because he was breathing more easily, he’d removed the narrow strip of binding around his chest.
From the moment he’d kissed Frannie in Claybourne’s library, he’d sought to seduce her, to lure her to his bed. Yet he’d been the one seduced into being a better man than he was. He’d decided to let her go without ever knowing the full taste of her. She humbled him beyond measure with her Dickens, and her orphans, and her ability to ferret out noble intentions even in those with a criminal past. In his world, there was right and wrong, good and evil. Hers contained no absolutes. Hers was a world of grays. Hers was what his was truly becoming. The irony didn’t escape him. At night, nothing was clear. Lines blurred. Shadows removed definitions.
Her dreams led her to the darkest parts of London where he couldn’t follow and keep her safe. His dreams had ceased to exist long ago. He would carry out his duties and he would see to his responsibilities. But none of them would include her—even if he wanted to include her, she didn’t want the life of an aristocrat. He couldn’t turn away from the legacy that had been handed down to him. He’d pay a much higher price to honor his title than his father had ever imagined.
He heard the click of the door opening. Satisfaction swamped him. Even if she was here to only sleep in his arms, he would take contentment with that. He would adopt her tendency to find joy in the smallest of pleasures. Sleeping with her nestled against his side was the sweetest of all.
Setting aside his brandy snifter, he rose and turned. She stood at the foot of his bed, one hand wrapped around the post. On bare, silent feet, he walked across the thick carpet until she was a whisper’s breath away.
She lifted her gaze to his. Within her green eyes, he saw no fear, no apprehension, no doubt.
“I want one night with you,” she whispered softly.
He was unprepared for the force of her words—as though she’d punched him in the heart. Until that moment he’d been deceiving himself into believing that he could live without her because he’d never expected to truly possess her. And now here she was, her mixture of innocence and bravado charming him as no other lady ever had.
“Then one night you shall have.” Because he couldn’t deny her any more than he could deny himself. Sliding his arms around her, he brought her up against him and lowered his mouth to hers.
Frannie welcomed him as she might air to breathe or sun to warm. His brandy taste was an aphrodisiac, igniting the flames of desire until they were spreading through her body, heating her core, licking at her fingertips. She glided her fingers up his bare arms and felt the muscles rippling beneath her palms. His strength was palpable, his determination evident. His kiss was more aggressive than any he’d ever given her, as though with her surrender, whatever beasts of pleasure that had been lying in wait were now unleashed.
Breathing harshly, he trailed his hot mouth along her throat, his tongue swirling over her skin, his teeth nipping. “Stop me if I frighten you, but know that I will not hurt you, but neither can I go gently. I want you too badly, have been patient too long.”
He’d once warned her that he was no longer civilized. It was here she realized where his warning held the most credence as the gown that separated their flesh was ripped asunder, pooling at her feet before she’d even realized what he’d intended. And then, as though the beast had been satisfied, he touched her with the gentlest of hands that skimmed over her curves. Strange that she didn’t feel exposed, that she had no desire to cover herself. Rather she wanted to light additional lamps, gather up lighted candles and reveal all she had to offer him. She who had once been shy about her womanhood was now glorying in it.
“Dear God, but you are beautiful. I knew you would be.” He lifted his gaze to hers and held it. “Tell me what you don’t want.”
“I don’t want you to treat me as though I’m vulnerable or might shatter. I want you to treat me as you would any other woman you’ve known.”
“You are nothing like any other woman I’ve ever known. Never make the mistake of thinking that you are or could ever be.”
His mouth came back to hers, kissing her deeply. Her breasts flattened against the warm plane of his chest. She glided her hands down his thighs, then glided them up between them until she cupped through his trousers what she’d felt pressing against her that morning. He released a gravelly groan, broke off the kiss, and stood perfectly still as though giving her leave to explore, to do as she would.
Licking her lips, her mouth suddenly dry, she lowered her gaze to the hard bulge in his trousers. She had no misconceptions regarding the power presently leashed behind a few straining buttons. It was a wonder they weren’t popping off and spinning on the floor.
“It won’t hurt you,” he rasped as he skimmed his mouth along her temple.
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