Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(63) by Lorraine Heath
“So you feel an obligation to do right by her son?”
A tear spilled over onto her cheek. With his thumb, Sterling captured it. He folded his fingers around her neck. “Frannie…”
“One day she told me about this wonderful play and that she knew a fellow who would let us into the theater through the back door. Feagan had always told me, ‘Frannie, darling, the night isn’t a place for you. Always come back to me before the dark.’ But I wanted to see the play. So I stayed with Nancy until it got dark. And we walked down an alley…and someone jumped out at me and put a sack over my head and I screamed for Nancy to run…”
She released a strangled sob and more tears fell. He took the glass from her, set it on the table along with his own. He wanted to comfort her, but he knew that she had more to say. She looked at him imploringly, as though he could take away the pain, and God knew he wanted to, but until he knew what was causing it—
“All these years, Sterling, I thought I’d deserved what happened.”
“No one deserves what happened to you.”
She shook her head forcibly. “I’d been bad. I was where I wasn’t supposed to be, doing what I wasn’t supposed to be doing. Feagan had warned me not to be out at night, and I’d discarded Feagan’s warning. When I was taken, I thought it was my punishment. And dear God, when Luke killed Geoffrey Langdon and they arrested him, I thought they’d hang him, and it was all my fault. You can’t imagine how guilty I felt.”
“Frannie, you are to blame for none of this.”
She wiped at the tears. “Tonight, Nancy…Nancy told me that she and Sykes arranged everything. They set things up so that I’d be taken like that.”
“Ah, dear God, Frannie.” He drew her onto his lap, holding her close, rocking her while she wept.
“They knew what would happen and they did it on purpose.”
He tamped down the fury simmering through him. Now was not the time for him to start destroying things or venting his own anger. He had to care for her. Had to console his precious Frannie.
“I was taken somewhere. I didn’t know where. My clothes were stripped from me. I was tied to a bed. This horrible, horrible giggling man examined me. I had to be a virgin, you see. Virgins don’t yet carry disease. Some men will only bed virgins.”
He felt her tears soaking his shirt.
“I thought I’d pushed all the horror away, but somehow it’s so much worse knowing someone wished it upon me, made it come to pass.”
“If I ever cross paths with Sykes, I shall kill him.”
She drew back, and looked at him with her beautiful green eyes filled with tears. “They’d hang you and he’s not worth it. Help me to forget, Sterling. Help me to shove all these horrible memories back into the dark crack where they belong. Give me something beautiful to remember.”
She brought her mouth down to his. He wasn’t certain this was a wise idea, but he didn’t have the strength to deny her anything she wished for as he rose from the sofa, cradling her in his arms, and carried her to his bed.
He was as tender a lover as she could ever hope for. When he’d brought her to his bed before, there had been no shadows of her past. Tonight it was as though he were brushing them away in the same manner that one might cobwebs. Gently, and yet diligently when they stuck to the fingers.
He removed her clothes slowly, kissing her wherever skin was laid bare. His gaze held tenderness mixed with desire. He still wanted her. She knew that. After all she’d revealed, he still yearned for her…yet he cast his own needs aside, taking her leisurely, his hands and mouth almost worshipful.
She touched him with equal care. Not because he was fragile, because he most certainly wasn’t, but because the reflections of the night required something different from what they’d shared before.
He seemed to sense when to stroke, when to kiss, when to murmur sweet words near her ear. They were in tune, as she’d never been with any other person.
There was no frenzy tonight, no rush to join.
He rolled her over onto her stomach and trailed his mouth along her spine. He rubbed her back, he kneaded her buttocks, he kissed behind her knees. He massaged her feet, her calves, her thighs…until she was languid and thought she might never be able to stand again.
He pulled her up and over until she was straddling him, her wild hair forming a curtain around them. He threaded his hands up through it and brought her down for a kiss that was unhurried, yet passionate. Her mind was filled with only thoughts of him. The way he touched her, reverently, the way he made her feel as though no one and nothing else mattered.
They were in their own world, just the two of them. No nobility, no street urchin. Just Sterling. Just Frannie. No differences. Simply a common goal: to give and receive pleasure.
Cradling her hips, he lifted her up and brought her down until she was enveloping him and he was filling her. Smiling down on him, she kissed his chest, felt its vibration against her lips as he released a deep purr and she imagined that he was imitating the lion he’d sketched.
Then she was rocking against him, riding him, watching the pleasure travel over his face as his fingers dug into her hips. The pleasure intensified, became almost unbearable. She buried her face against his neck to muffle her screams of abandon. Holding her close, he bucked and jerked beneath her.
Where he found the strength to rub her back afterward, she had no idea. As she drifted off to sleep, his hands were still moving gently over her and she took the sweet words of reassurance he was murmuring into her dreams.
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