Vanquished, p.19

Vanquished, page 19

 

Vanquished
 


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  She bit her lip. "Very well then, I want you . . . inside of me."

  He broadened his smile. She really was adorable and, if not a virgin, certainly a lady to her very core. "Might you be more . . . specific?"

  Jade green eyes glared up at him, a striking contrast to her very red face. Responding to his challenge, she lifted her chin and said, "Your . . . cock, I want it inside of me. There, satisfied?"

  Hadrian angled his face to hers, their mouths but a hair's breadth apart, their shallow breaths joining. "Not yet but before long we both will be."

  Finding the tapes of Callie's all-black gown in the semidarkness was no easy feat but eventually Hadrian got the thing off her. Stepping out of it, she turned away to shed her stays and corset and finally her short shift of soft handkerchief linen. That left only her black stockings and garters.

  Hadrian came up behind her. Laying hands on her shoulders, he leaned close and whispered, "Turn around. I want to look at you. All of you."

  Callie hesitated and then slowly pivoted to face him. There was something innately erotic, and more than a touch dark, about a lovely woman standing before him stripped down to her garters when he hadn't so much as loosened his neckwear. But in this case the beautiful woman was Callie, his Callie, and when he saw her hunch her shoulders and fumble to cover herself, he couldn't help but take her in his arms and hold her close against his chest.

  Palm pressed to the curve of his shoulder as if to hold him at bay, she shook her head. "I'm nervous. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be."

  Her downcast gaze had him lifting her chin on the edge of his hand. "In that case, help me with my buttons," he said against the silk of her hair.

  He'd only offered to distract her from her embarrassment, to return them once more to equal footing. Or, more properly, as equal as they could ever be, for Callie was entirely too fine for the likes of him. But now that he was holding her, he could no more ignore the sexual heat rolling off her than he could the rapid-fire pounding of his own heart.

  She managed the three buttons of his waistcoat with relative ease but when she got to the buttons fronting his pleated shirt, her fingers were cold and clumsy against his flushed flesh.

  Sliding the shirt off his shoulders, she stepped back. "You're the one who is beautiful," she said, fingers skimming his chest, voice intoned with something akin to reverence.

  "I've more buttons, Miss Rivers. You're not quite finished with me yet." Taking hold of her hand, he guided it down to the front of his trousers where the ridge of his erection strained to be free. "Do you feel how hard I am for you, how much I want you?"

  Without waiting for her to answer, he bent his head to her beautiful breasts, blessing the high slopes with feather-light kisses, taking the tips in his mouth. He could have gone on suckling and tasting her there for some time but remembering what she'd told him about her fiance, he moved on rather than risk resurrecting hurtful memories.

  Shucking off the remainder of his clothes, he pushed her down on the edge of the bed and then knelt before her as he had so many times in his fantasies. Only this time she wasn't a figment of his fevered imagination but flesh-and-blood real, gloriously so. Spreading her thighs wide, he took her with his mouth, tongue flicking over her vulva, pink and glistening and fragrant with musk.

  Moaning, she raised her hips to meet him, her hand settling at the back of his head, urging him closer. "Hadrian, I never knew. I never imagined."

  "Lie back and let me make you happy. Let me show you good it can be."

  She obeyed, going back against the mattress. Dark hair splayed on the counterpane and creamy skin glowing, she arched to meet him. Still kissing her intimately, he lifted her stocking-clad legs until her feet were braced on his shoulders. He slipped both hands beneath her, cupping her buttocks and then pulling the firm lobes gently apart. Mouth hot on her sex, he found the ring of puckered flesh with his thumb and circled.

  She moaned and bit down on her bottom lip. "Hadrian, what are you doing to me?"

  "Pleasing you or at least I hope that's what I'm doing." He flicked his finger once more. "Do you like this? Does it feel good?"

  "Yes, but--"

  "No buts, only pleasure." He slid a finger inside her and pressed gently inward even as he circled her clitoris with the tip of his tongue.

  "Oh God!"

  She came then, little pulses that sent her woman's flesh fluttering against his mouth like the beating of butterfly wings. Staring down at the rosy pink of her throbbing sex, Hadrian knew he couldn't wait so much as another moment.

  The tin of French letters was tucked away in his bedside table. Yanking open the drawer, he reached for them now, urgency warring with his heartfelt desire to make it good for her. Better than good. Magical. Knowing she wasn't a virgin somehow doubled his responsibility toward her. A bad sexual experience was a good deal harder to overcome than no sexual experience at all, and that her former fiance had used sex to degrade and humiliate her increased Hadrian's resolve to bring her as much pleasure as she would allow.

  He lifted the lid and took one of the prophylactics out, unfurled the condom and rolled it over his turgid flesh as he had countless times before. Only this time was different, entirely so, than any other before it.

  This time was with Callie.

  When he turned back, she lay in the center of the bed watching him with large, luminous eyes. Eyes he knew would haunt his dreams for the rest of his days.

  He climbed onto the mattress and straddled her, slipping hands down to knead her belly. "You have beautiful skin," he told her for the second time that night, both because it was true and something she desperately needed to hear.

  Fitting himself to her, he glided inside, filling her in one sure stroke. She rose up to meet him, wrapping silk-sheathed legs tight about his waist. It had been a while since he'd been with a woman, and the sudden movement, coupled with the ghost tremors still firing off inside her, nearly pushed him over the edge.

  When he could trust himself, he started to move back and forth very slowly, watching her face.

  Callie eased back against the pillow, eyelids squeezed closed and body taut as a drawn bowstring. If they had time, another night at least, he would teach her to trust him enough to let him lash those lovely wrists of hers to his metal bedposts and show her just how sweet submission, total submission, could be. For now, he resolved not to waste so much as one second of their time together mourning what could never be.

  He increased the pace, the pressure, slipping in and out of her slickness fast and hard as he touched her face, her throat, her breasts. "Open your eyes, Callie. I want to look into your eyes when you come." Reaching down between them, he found the rosy bud of her clitoris with his thumb, flicking over it once, twice . . .

  Callie's eyes flew open. "H-a-d-r-i-a-n."

  The spasms rocketing off inside her sent Hadrian over the edge. A final thrust was all it took to complete his climax. Coming hard and fast, he collapsed against her, head resting facedown on the pillow of one lovely flushed breast.

  Callie was the first to recover. "Thank you." She ran a kneading hand down his sweat-sheathed back, fingers slipping in the slickness.

  "My pleasure." He lifted his head and looked up into her sweet, sated face. "Has anyone ever told you before how delicious you are?"

  He made a show of smacking his lips, which had her laughing and blushing in turns. She shifted her head from side to side on the pillow, a pantomimed "no."

  "Pity, because you are. Absolutely succulent, in fact, speaking of which . . ."

  He moved down the front of her, and found her with his mouth, again, spearing her with his tongue.

  Her eyes shot open. She lifted up on her elbows to look down on him. "Hadrian, I'm spent, really, I don't think . . . I can't possibly. . ."

  He raised his head from the tent of her splayed thighs and grinned up at her. "Is that a dare, Miss Rivers?"

  Sometime later Hadrian lay propped on one elbow and turned on his side. Leani
ng over her, he circled the areola of one breast with a single finger. "Ashes of roses," he said so softly she couldn't be sure if she'd heard him properly.

  "Sorry?" Callie cracked open an eye. She hadn't been asleep, not exactly, but rather catnapping, a delicious sort of slipping in and out of awareness.

  "You are, just there. The same lovely dusky pink the London dressmakers call 'ashes of roses'." He lightly scratched the surface with his fingernail.

  A delicious shiver shot from her breast to her toes. "Pinch me, will you?"

  Looking up, he grinned. "With pleasure; but why?"

  "Because that way I'll know I'm not dreaming, and that this is all real, that you're real."

  "I'm real enough, make no mistake about that."

  Before the situation went any further, she needed him to understand what he was coming to mean to her. Turning on her side to face him, she blurted out, "I think I've been waiting for you all my life."

  His gaze shuttered. "You don't even know me, not really."

  Rather than dispute that, she said, "Then tell me something about yourself, something personal."

  His eyes met hers and despite being halfway to in love with him, the ice she saw there chilled her. "You should be careful, Callie. You might just get a taste of what you're asking for and find you don't like it overmuch."

  "But I want to know everything or at least more than I do now which isn't all that much, not really."

  He sighed. "You're like a dog with a bone, aren't you? You don't mean to give up 'til you've gnawed me down to the marrow." He rolled onto his back, stretched his arms and crossed them behind his head. "Very well, then, if you must know, Hadrian isn't my real name."

  "Sorry?"

  His mouth twisted, more grimace than smile, and for reasons unknown Callie felt a frisson of fear land in her belly and lower, those very areas that a moment before had been languid and pulsing. "Hadrian St. Claire, he's a persona, an invention if you will. For all intents and purposes, he doesn't exist."

  She pushed up on one elbow. Gaze on his face, she pressed, "You're serious aren't you?"

  "Yes."

  She thought back to the day when he'd insisted on walking her about Bow. Both the street woman in the market and Sally Potts, the brothel madam, had called him Harry, at least at first. Was he some infamous criminal in hiding? How bad could it be? He wasn't Jack the Ripper, surely. If so, she'd have been eviscerated long before now. As it was, the only organ she stood in peril of losing was her heart. "Why change your name?"

  "Because . . . well, why the devil not, there's no law against it. Theater people take stage names all the time. Why, look at that music-hall girl who's all the rage in Paris right now. Delilah du Lac she styles herself, but never think that's her real name. But it sounds all right, doesn't it?"

  She'd set him on edge. She ought to leave off now but it was too late, she couldn't stop herself. "That woman in the marketplace and your friend, Mrs. Potts, they both called you Harry. That's you real name, isn't it?"

  He nodded slowly. "Harry Stone."

  "That's what they knew you as when you lived in Bow, before you went to the orphanage, the nice one in the country."

  Looking almost relieved, he nodded again. "Roxbury House. It sounds odd, I know, but being sent there was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. Until then I'd never seen a true patch of blue sky before or tasted fresh milk or picked wild strawberries from an open field or . . . well, you grew up in the country. You know what I mean."

  She leaned over him and brushed blond hair back from his brow. "I rather fancy you as a Henry." She tried to sound light, teasing even, but the magic was lost to them now. Her fault, of course, for throwing open the lid on Pandora's Box.

  A frown marred the brow she'd only just left off touching. "Pity then because the name's Harry. Just plain Harry"

  "I like plain Harry well enough. It suits you. Shall I call you Harry, then?"

  "Don't even think about it." He rolled over and then atop her, trapping her beneath him. "You asked me to tell you something personal, and I have. To my way of thinking, I must have some sort of reward coming my way for baring my blackguard's soul." His hands found her wrists, and he lifted her arms above her head. Her heartbeat quickened, and the heat between her thighs began to build.

  She looked up into his eyes, intent on her face, and said, "But I've already bared my soul to you, haven't I?"

  He glanced down to the sheet she'd pulled over herself. "Indeed, and a beautiful soul it is, I'm sure, but I'd much rather you bared those magnificent breasts instead."

  Now it was his turn to spoil the moment. She turned her head, swallowing against the thickness in her throat.

  He let her loose and then lifted her chin on the edge of his hand so that she was looking up at him. "I suppose you think that, like your oaf of a fiance, your breasts are all any man sees when he looks at you?" When she let silence answer for her, he said, "Yes, your breasts are very beautiful, but then so is all the rest of you."

  She gave a soft snort. "Really Hadrian, I do own a mirror."

  "I can see you want for convincing. Very well, then, sometimes I lie abed at night and think of you lying in yours. What you might be wearing, what you really look like beneath all those layers of clothes. If the rest of you is as creamy and soft as your throat looks to be, how much the delectable fullness of your bottom owes to a bustle, and yes, how lovely your breasts must be--to touch, to kiss, to suckle."

  "Hadrian, I--"

  "Don't want to hear it, any of it, I know. You see, you've just asked me to tell you something personal, something intimate, and now you're doing your level best to shut those pretty ears of yours because you don't fancy what you hear. Well, too bloody bad, Callie, because if I have to pay with my honesty, then so do you."

  She lifted her chin, trying to look braver than she felt. "Very well, what do you want me to say?"

  "That you've thought of me in the same way. That you've lain in your chaste little spinster's bed and spread those lovely long legs of yours and fucked yourself with your fingers and pretended it's me you're feeling--my lips, my tongue, my cock."

  "You're being deliberately vulgar." She tried to sound strident but there was no honesty in it, no point in pretending. What he's said was exactly what she had been thinking, doing all these past weeks.

  "Undoubtedly, but what I'm also being is honest." He slid a hand between her thighs, slipped a finger deep inside her. "Confession time, Callie, can you give as good as you get?"

  Without looking down, she could feel how wet she was, how hot, how ready for whatever it was he might be moved to give. His finger inside her started to slide in and out, back and forth. Her mouth opened on a moan. "W-what is it you want me to say?"

  He stilled his hand, calculated torture. "I want you to tell me all the things you think of doing with me, of me doing to you, of our doing together. I want you to touch yourself as you do when you're alone; only this time you won't be alone, Callie. I'll be here, watching you pleasure yourself, watching your face when you cry out my name and come."

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  "Nothing is so burdensome as a secret."

  --French proverb

  Dawn lights were streaking the winter sky when Callie crept into the house on Half Moon Street, draped her rumpled gown over the back of a chair, and slipped beneath the chilly sheets of her own empty bed. She felt tired as well as deliciously tender in spots she could scarcely name but what she mostly felt was wonderful, wonderful beyond words. For the first time in her life, she'd made love, truly made love, and the potency of that act was beyond her wildest imaginings.

  She had to believe that Hadrian had felt it too, that force of nature connection that had run between them like electrical current, uniting not only their bodies but their minds and souls, too. How else could he have touched her with such tenderness, such care, as though she were made of Dresden china rather than flesh-and-bone? For her part, never before in her life had she felt suc
h a compulsion, an absolute need, to touch another person. Afterward when he'd walked her out to the main street and flagged down the sleepy-eyed hansom driver, it had been very hard to leave him. With her face shielded by the hood of her evening cape, she hadn't been able to resist one last reckless kiss. Weary as she was, already her busy brain was engaged in plotting how soon she might break away and be with him again.

  In the interim, there was the afternoon tea with the Stone-vales to be got through and then the long anticipated meeting with Lord Salisbury the following day. Even on an ordinary morning, her routine was to be washed and dressed and downstairs by seven. She would help herself from the sideboard and then take her place at the table, forking up her buttered eggs and sipping her three cups of strong black coffee while skimming her stack of daily newspapers in quick succession.

  But this morning she had the rare notion of being good to herself. So even though her thoughts were racing far too fast and furious for sleep, she stayed put in bed. Curled up like a cat beneath the patchwork quilt, she lay there reliving the past hours with Hadrian--his tongue teasing her breasts, the stroking fingers that had driven her wet and wild, the delicious pressure when he'd entered her, filling her completely. The knock outside her door startled her from her dreamy thoughts.

  Thinking it must be her aunt--and certainly Lottie was far too canny to have believed her headache excuse for so much as a moment--she pulled herself up on her elbows and called out, "I'm awake. Come in."

  The door opened and Jenny breezed inside carrying a breakfast tray and wearing her customary smile. "Good morning, miss. Your aunt thought you might fancy breakfast in bed. On account of your being out so late last night," she added with a wink.

  "How lovely," Callie said. Fighting a blush, she waited while Jenny set the tray on her lap and then plumped the pillows.

  Breakfast in bed was a delicious decadence usually reserved for special occasions like her birthday, but then knowing how thoroughly modern Lottie was when it came to matters of the heart, she'd likely reckoned that Callie's taking a lover after ten years of abstinence was as worthy of celebration as any holiday.

 
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