The border series, p.49

The Border Series, page 49

 

The Border Series
 



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  “Then look your fill, Alpin, but I warn you, you’ll be disappointed in our loving if you touch me there again.”

  She remembered something he’d said. “Because I’m a virgin, you think you have to move slowly.”

  “I know I have to move slowly, and you’ll have to trust me.”

  “I do.” And she meant it, but she was still curious.

  When he didn’t move and her yearning grew to unbearable heights, she concentrated on the nest of jet black hair that narrowed like an hourglass at his navel, then fanned out to spread across his chest.

  Her hands were drawn there, to the impressive musculature and short, silky curls that clung to her fingers and tickled the sensitive skin in between. He seemed so controlled, so intimidating, so overpoweringly experienced that she grew timid, an odd feeling for one who’d fended for herself since childhood.

  Then she stared at the base of his throat and noticed the hammering pulse and the steel-tight tendons in his neck. Swallowing hard, she looked higher and saw his jaw firmly set and his normally sensual mouth now drawn in a stern line of determination.

  Of their own accord her hands slipped beneath the fabric of his shirt and raked it off his shoulders. He stepped out of the pool of plaid cloth, pitched the silver brooch into a chair, and reached for her.

  “It’s my turn,” he said.

  Her belly constricted. “But you still have on your boots.”

  “Later.”

  His ominous tone wreaked havoc with her newly mastered control, and when he turned her around to free the buttons on her dress, she thought she might slither into a puddle at his feet. A tremor shook her shoulders, but his hands grasped her and he leaned close to whisper, “Just this moment I’m interested in exploring you.”

  Dampness blossomed between her legs, and she became aware of a wholly feminine, highly sensitive spot that swelled and cried out for his touch. With an enlightened maturity, she came to a startling realization.

  “You’re trembling. What’s wrong?” he asked sharply.

  She leaned into him, and since he stood behind her and couldn’t see her face, she spoke freely. “I just learned something. You and I, our bodies, are alike and yet different.”

  Reaching around her, he slid his hand between her legs. “A notion,” he murmured against her neck, “that brings me extraordinary delight.”

  She sighed in pleasant exasperation. “You’re much bigger than I, but nature designed us to fit together.”

  Cupping her, he pulled her back and pushed forward. “I believe that is the gist of the procedure.”

  Inordinately pleased with her own deduction and his spirited demonstration, she grew brave. “But not if you dally at my buttons.”

  In reply he peeled her dress off her shoulders, then reached for the straps on her chemise.

  “You certainly know the ins and outs of undressing a lady.”

  “At present,” he said, “the word ‘in’ holds particular appeal.”

  A revelation struck her. “You mean…” At last she understood the concept of consummation, but words failed her.

  “I mean this.” He stripped off her remaining clothing, then carried her to the bed and laid her down. Bracing himself on stiff arms, he loomed over her, blocking out the light, obstructing rational thought.

  “Spread your legs, Alpin.”

  She did and watched as he slid his knees between hers. The hair on his legs tickled her thighs, and the sight of his manhood poised at the brink of her feminine void heightened her anticipation of what he would do next.

  Instinctively she lifted her hips.

  He drew back. “Not yet.” Watching her closely, he relaxed his arms, lowering himself until his lips found hers and their bodies touched from shoulder to knee. The rasp of his chest hair on her nipples turned her skin to gooseflesh, and the hard planes of his belly flush with hers made her womb contract and her hips undulate. The gentle persuasion of his kisses and the insistent stabbing of his tongue incited a riot of deliciously wicked sensations.

  With eager hands, she stroked his back and the taper of his waist, and when he moaned, she curled her fingers and lightly raked her nails over his ribs. A tremor shook him. His arms quivered, and he wedged his hips deeper into the cradle of her womanhood.

  His chest heaving, his body radiating a blazing heat, he dragged his mouth from hers and trailed damp kisses down her neck, across her collarbones, then to the side of her breast In anticipation of his touch, her nipples contracted and her hands clutched his head to better guide him. The instant his lips found their mark, she gasped and arched against him. The gentle suckling sounds became a faint noise compared to the desire roaring in her ears.

  She squirmed and tried to draw him upward, only to hear him murmur, “Soon, love. Very soon.”

  With mind-torturing slowness, he slid down the length of her body, peeling off her stockings as he went. Then he knelt between her legs and reached for her ankles. The glow of the lamplight illuminated the rippling muscles on his arms and chest and accentuated the intense concentration in the set of his jaw and the pursing of his lips.

  Completely open to him, she heard herself say, “I’m cold.”

  He glanced up, a shock of midnight hair falling over his brow, a mischievous gleam in his eye. “Truly?”

  Crouched as he was, his manhood a thick spike against his belly, he seemed a hungry beast ready to pounce. Eager to become his prey, she said, “Yes.”

  He pulled off her shoes, sent her stockings sailing across the room, then quickly removed his boots. “Would you like a blanket to warm you?”

  “Yes, but only if it’s you.”

  He grinned and repeated the word she was coming to hate: “Soon.” Like an artist posing a subject, he bent her knees and positioned her feet flat on the mattress; then his hands skimmed her inner thighs in a feather-light touch. His tender ministrations kindled a flame of wanton desire, and she stared, enthralled, as he grazed her most intimate place.

  Chills of fire scurried over her skin, but when he slipped a finger inside her, Alpin gasped and clawed the velvet counterpane.

  “Shush.” He soothed her with sibilant sounds and a comforting hand on her belly, all the while fondling her in a way that melted her loins and weakened her knees.

  “Yield to the pleasure, Alpin,” he whispered, adding his thumb to the fray. “See it in your mind and let it take you away.”

  Like an old shawl, her control unraveled. Rational thought fled, and she squirmed, writhing beneath his expert touch, aiding his seductive exploration, and enhancing her own maiden voyage into the erotic. Then the pleasure he’d spoken of coiled like a tightly clenched fist, ready to burst open, and the instant it did, she felt a shattering explosion of relief. She coddled the ecstasy, let it dart from her spinning head to the tingling tips of her fingers and toes. To her absolute delight, in its wake, she experienced countless aftershocks that calmed her racing heart and imprinted on her mind the completeness she felt.

  Once she’d settled, a new dilemma gripped her, a hollow feeling that made a mockery of her recent joy. Sweet heavens, she felt empty.

  Her eyes flew open, and the answer, the fulfillment, in all his masculine glory, loomed above her. She welcomed him, and as his hardness nudged for entry, she gripped his arms and pulled him down until their foreheads touched. He grimaced and his hips pushed forward, slowly, carefully, making good on his promise to treat her gently. But her own need to complete the mating quickly and again live the glory, pushed her on. She lunged upward.

  A searing pain knifed through her. She cried out and tried to move away. He groaned and buried his face in her hair. Their cheeks touched, his skin burning her like a flame, his agony torturing her heart. Then his hands moved to her hips and clutched her.

  “Do you remember,” he said in an exhausted whisper, “the first time you slid down the drainpipe?”

  Baffled that he would bring that up now, she said, “Aye. I took the skin off my hands.”


  Chest heaving, he gulped in air. “Because you held on too tight. Do not,” he said roughly, “hold on too tight to your innocence.”

  “Or I’ll hurt myself?”

  “Nay, sweetheart. I’ll do the hurting.”

  “I think I understand.”

  “Good. Just relax, hold still, and think about how I made you feel a few moments ago.”

  Reliving the rapture was easy, but it had one flaw: she had been alone. She hadn’t thought about him, about whether or not he’d achieved satisfaction. Now she knew he’d been unselfish while she’d experienced euphoria at his hands.

  “You’ll find joy this time, too, won’t you?” she asked.

  Vulnerability and his own waning control made Malcolm shiver. “Aye, Alpin, but only if you trust me.”

  Turning her head to the side, she kissed his cheek and settled beneath him. “I do trust you,” she whispered.

  Gathering the ragged ends of his patience and beating back the desire that cramped in his gut and lower, he pushed inside her. She was tight and warm and bravely yielding. His heart soared, and he clutched her narrow hips as firmly as he dared; then he drove forward, inch by heavenly inch, until at last she captured him fully. A groan of relief passed his lips.

  Perilously close to losing the battle between his weary mind and his randy loins, he shut out the painful throbbing and turned his attention to her. She’d kept her word; she lay still, hardly breathing. She’d also been correct in her observation about nature making their bodies to complement each other, for as he felt her stretch to accept his invasion, he noticed an easing of the tension in her hands and legs.

  “Better?” he asked.

  Again she lightly scored his sides with her fingertips. “Yes. Is it better for you?”

  “Oh, aye,” he breathed and began to move inside her. “You feel like my own private paradise.”

  She stiffened, and assuming he’d hurt her, he slowed again, giving her time to adjust. When she stilled, he resumed the rhythm that was as old as time, but strangely new and different with this woman. He pleasured her slowly, drawing out her passion again, then pausing to let her enjoyment build. Rather than dissuade him from the course he’d set, her groans of frustration and her murmured pleas for release only inspired him to further master his own needs so he could intensify hers.

  When her slender legs gripped him and her delectably feminine muscles contracted around him, he threw off the shackles of control and set his passion free. His release was sweet and pure and somehow worthy, unlike any he’d ever experienced.

  The observation baffled him, as did his attraction to the panting, satisfied woman beneath him. Because of his inability to sire a child, even on proven breeders, he’d always been left with an emptiness, a sense of failure.

  Not so tonight. The outpouring of tender emotions frightened him, for of all the women he should have cared for, Alpin MacKay least deserved his affection. Yet he knew he needed a mate like her, and Saint Ninian help him, he wanted her again. He wanted her forever.

  Withdrawing from her, he rolled onto his back and tucked her into the curve of his arm. Her sigh of contentment stroked his male pride. Still, his conscience nagged at him. She’d fulfilled her part of the bargain and more. He’d tricked her into a handfast marriage that would never bear fruit.

  But whose fault was that? Hers.

  Doubts about a lifetime of carefully organized revenge pressed in on him, but he cast them off and thought about her comfort. Staring at the crown of her head, he asked, “Are you thirsty?”

  “No.”

  “Sleepy?”

  “No.”

  “Hungry?”

  “No.”

  So much for talking and cuddling after bed sport. She was unlike other women in that, too. She didn’t beg for words of affection. Suddenly he took her reticence as a challenge. He did, after all, have many unanswered questions where she was concerned. But more than curiosity, he had a driving need to get to know her better.

  “Tell me,” he said, stroking her arm and admiring the way the lamplight glowed on her sun-browned skin, “how did you entertain yourself all those years in Barbados?”

  Chapter 12

  Alpin stared at the exquisite embroidery on the canopy and couldn’t help comparing it to the plain netting that draped her own simple bed at Paradise Plantation.

  “You speak bitterly about your life so I’ll feel sorry for you,” Malcolm had said. “I am sorry, Alpin, that you had to steal food, but it’s not my fault.”

  Malcolm’s candid words rang in her ears. He had defended his wealth and accused her of judging him unfairly for living in the lap of luxury. He’d been correct, and now she understood her mistake. She couldn’t help having been an orphan. He couldn’t help having been born into the nobility. Still, she didn’t think he’d be interested in the everyday struggles of her life.

  “Are you suddenly shy about your life on the island?” he asked.

  “No. I learned to bat mosquitoes and imagine snow.”

  Against her temple, he said, “Don’t jest, Alpin. Tell me truly. What are the people there like?”

  They were selfish, greedy men who encouraged their slaves to breed, or took it upon themselves to impregnate the women, then ignored the agony on the mother’s face as her children were dragged to the auction block. Money was all the planters cared about. Alpin longed to explain the cruelty of the slave system, but Malcolm would only mock her beliefs, as he had that day in the barracks when she’d convinced him that he should not sell Paradise Plantation.

  Now she was his handfast wife. Soon she would persuade him to give her Paradise. But she would guard her dream of liberating the slaves. “The men on the island aren’t much different from my uncle. He was cruel, negligent, and unloving.”

  “Baron Sinclair was ill equipped to care for so large a family. He thought it his duty to take in every poor relation.” He spat a curse. “I’m sorry, Alpin. I shouldn’t have said that.”

  “You needn’t apologize for telling the truth. I was a poor relation. But if you’re going to defend my uncle, don’t bother. He didn’t care for me, but he taught me something in a crosswise fashion. I learned that a child should be watched over, loved, and respected.”

  Malcolm reached for a lock of her hair and curled it around his finger. “He refused to let you go to a workhouse.”

  His unexpected observation confused her. “What do you mean? What does that have to do with nurturing a young mind?”

  “Well, for all his shortcomings, the baron took you in after your mother died. He didn’t have to. He already had a houseful of responsibilities and no money to provide for them.”

  Alpin hadn’t considered the baron’s situation. At five years old she’d been eager for love and desperate for comfort. She’d received neither at Sinclair Manor. Now, lying naked in Malcolm’s arms, her body still aglow with the aftereffects of their loving, she felt vulnerable. Acquiescence seemed the best road. “I suppose the baron did what he thought was right.”

  “’Tis odd,” he said, glancing down at her, “that your father was from so large a clan as the MacKays and yet you came to live with your mother’s family. Why was that?”

  The question had often plagued Alpin. She thought it cruel that her father’s people hadn’t wanted a little girl, even if she was half English. “I don’t know. My father died at sea before I was born. I have only vague memories of my mother.”

  “Do you favor her?”

  When she thought of her mother, Alpin felt a deep loss, as if she had once held on very tightly to something and then let it go. Had she held the hand of her dying mother? She didn’t know, for the event and her mother’s face were both a blur in her mind. “I cannot recall much about her.”

  “You never thought to try to find your father’s people?”

  A familiar coldness invaded her soul. The MacKays hadn’t bothered about her, she wouldn’t give a rotten mango for the lot of them. Malcolm needn’t know th
at.

  “You’re forgetting. I was sent off at age six. How could I search for the MacKays from Barbados?” She laughed. “Besides, I don’t even know where they live. Do you?”

  “Aye. They still hold the far northwest corner of the mainland. Now that you’ve made your home with me in Scotland, I assume you’ll want to locate your family.”

  His silence demanded a reply from her. She couldn’t tell him she had no intention of staying in Scotland, but if she didn’t go along with his assumption, he might suspect her plans.

  “I would like to know them,” she said. “But what if they don’t want me?”

  “I’m certain they do.”

  “Then why didn’t Baron Sinclair contact them when my mother died? He must have known who they were. He read my mother’s papers before he buried them with her.”

  “That’s not Sinclair’s way. It was natural for him to assume responsibility for you, just as he did your other cousins who had no resources.”

  She really didn’t care but felt obliged to address the subject since it was so important to Malcolm. “The baron could have at least written to the MacKays.”

  “Nay, he couldn’t back then. Remember, he’s English and has no ties with the Highlands clans, and he was at war with my father back then. By the time peace had been established in the Borders you were happily settled in Barbados.”

  True, and she had to get back there. “What do you think I should do about the MacKays? Let them know I’m here?”

  “Aye, I think you should. Their chieftain swears allegiance to my friend, the earl of Sutherland. He could help you find your father’s kin.”

  Being an earl himself, Malcolm probably rubbed shoulders with all of the highest ranking noblemen. She wanted nothing to do with them; one nobleman in her life was enough. To guard her privacy and lighten the conversation, she pinched his ribs. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”

  He chuckled and slapped his hand over hers, then began moving it in slow circles. The hair on his chest tickled her palm. “By all means,” he said offhandedly, “that’s why I—”

 
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