Love letters, p.10
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       Love Letters, p.10

           Lori Brighton
 
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  Gabriel grinned down at her. “What no one else had the sense to do, claiming you for my own.”

  Epilogue

  Three Weeks Later

  “What do you think, Mrs. Baston,” the velvet voice next to her ear sent a shiver of complete awareness over her skin.

  Cynthia leaned back into the hard body behind her, snuggling into the fold of his embrace. The waves washed ashore, tickling her feet and kissing her toes. The sea was cold, but that hadn’t prevented her from stripping to her shift and frolicking in the waves with Gabriel. His body and his kisses had kept her warm.

  “It’s amazing, Mr. Baston,” she said, curling her bare toes into the gritty sand, reveling in the textures, sounds, sites before her.

  The sea was more magical than she’d remembered. The one time she’d visited the ocean, she’d thought it a magical place where anything could happen. She’d been right.

  The sun was starting to set, sending brilliant orange and pink rays across the sky and promising a night of endless possibilities. She turned and wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist. He wore only trousers, no shirt and his chest was warm against her cheek.

  He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “Is it as beautiful as you remember?”

  He was so eager to see her happy. She grinned up at him. “Better.”

  When he smiled back, her entire being lit within. She couldn’t help herself and stood on tiptoe, pressing her lips to his in a quick kiss. The sound of waves crashing against the shore mixed with the cry of birds, combining in a magical symphony. Just beyond the shore, yellow and blue wildflowers wavered in the grass, and their small cottage gleamed white against a setting sun. A haven.

  “Perfect,” she whispered. “Everything is perfect.”

  “Yes,” he whispered, against her ear, “You are.”

  She started to correct him, but his hands moved down her thighs and any thoughts vanished, floating out to sea with the waves. He pulled her shift higher, higher, sliding his hands under the soft material and cupping her naked bottom.

  Since arriving at their sea-side cottage a week ago, they had yet to visit town. Gabriel had sent the driver for food, before he’d left them. But they’d spent most of their days in bed, or frolicking near the sea. It was perfect, but then she had a feeling she could be anywhere and as long as Gabriel was with her, it would be the perfect place.

  His warm hand slid between her sensitive thighs. She shivered with pure delight. Would she ever get used to his touch? He wrapped an arm around her back and another under her legs, lifting her up against his chest. Gently, he settled her on the blanket they’d used to make love earlier. With the weight of his body, he covered her. Cold waves reached the shore, licking her toes. Cynthia giggled, drawing her legs up.

  “I will never tire of your laughter,” he whispered.

  His hair curled and wavered on the breeze, tempting her fingers to touch the strands. “And I will never tire of you,” she whispered.

  His mouth met hers, his tongue delving between her lips. She wrapped her arms around his neck, slipping her fingers through the damp, silky strands of his hair. Gabriel was hers. All hers. She could still hardly believe it. Never had she known, even dreamt, she could be so happy.

  His knee slipped between her thighs and her legs fell open. His velvety hard arousal pressed to her lower belly, her thin shift the only barrier between them.

  “I can’t get enough of you.” Gabriel reached up to her neckline and pulled the material lower, exposing her breasts to the fading sunlight and to his touch. He found a hard nipple, drawing the bud between his warm lips as his fingers bunched the material of her shift up around her thighs. The cool sea air brushed intimately against her legs.

  “You’re lovely,” he whispered, pressing a kiss to the valley between her breasts.

  Those fingers found her soft curls and slipped between her wet folds. Cynthia moaned, arching her back and drawing his fingers deeper into her tight sheath. She was completely and utterly ready for him.

  “I want you, Gabriel, how badly I want you.”

  She wrapped her legs around his thighs as she slid her hands down his smooth back. The man was perfect. Beautiful. His scent and body consumed her, held her in an erotic embrace. She couldn’t stop touching him, stop kissing him. His hand moved and she felt the thickened tip of his shaft.

  Cynthia lifted her hips, pressing against his rigid erection.

  “Temptress,” he whispered.

  Gabriel entered her, a slow thrust that had her wanting more. He watched her face as he drew back, then thrust into her again, faster, deeper.

  “I love you, Cynthia,” he said.

  “Please, Gabriel, please,” she whispered, begging him for more. Her fingers slid down his back, under his loose trousers and cupping his tight bottom, pulling him closer. He sank into her, his body shuddering with need.

  “What you do to me.” He rocked against her, sending wave after wave of pure pleasure crashing through her body.

  They moved together, they made love, they became one.

  Cynthia felt him tightened, just as she caught fire. Her soul exploded into a million white stars of pleasure. She didn’t know how much time had gone by before she could finally breathe with some normalcy again. Gabriel rolled off her, but pulled her close to his side. She managed to push down her skirts, should anyone come upon the shore. Apparently thinking the same thing, Gabriel managed to fasten his trousers.

  She nuzzled her face against his warm chest, listening to the rapid beat of his heart. “I should make your something to eat.”

  He quirked a brow, glancing down at her. “Can you cook?”

  She brushed her fingers through the crisp, dark hair on his chest. “Perhaps you should have asked me that before you forced me to marry you.”

  “Forced, is it?” He gripped her waist and pulled her atop of him.

  She rested her chin on his chest and grinned. “Yes. You were quite the brute carrying me off as you did.”

  He pressed his lips to the top of her head. “And you loved it.”

  She laughed, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling herself up so their breaths mingled. “True. But tell me now, if my meals are wretched and burnt, will you toss me aside for another?”

  His eyes sparkled with laughter. “Absolutely, it’s what I look for in a wife, you know, one who can bake.” His face grew serious and he gazed thoughtfully toward the sea. “Of course, I could always hire a cook.”

  “No! That will ruin our fun. I like being here with you, alone.”

  He looked at her, his silver eyes sparkling. “You merely like swimming naked amongst the waves.”

  “That too,” she whispered against his mouth.

  His hands moved up her thighs, his erection growing hard against her lower belly. The man was insatiable. But she did love trying to appease his appetite.

  “We don’t need food, we shall live on love then,” Gabriel declared.

  She laughed. “If only we could.” Her thoughts grew serious as she traced the square line of his jaw, the rough texture of his whiskers tickling her skin. “I suppose we do need return to the city soon. You are an important man, after all, and you must have important people to meet with.”

  He smiled. “The only person of importance in my life is you. Tempt me, and I shall keep you here forever, merely the two of us…and perhaps a babe or two.”

  Her heart filled with warmth at the prospect. A family? A true, loving family? “Promise you don’t regret marrying me?”

  He cupped the sides of her face, his gaze growing serious. “The only thing I regret is not realizing you were meant for me the moment I saw you.”

  ********

  The End

  Interested in more historical romance? Read the excerpt below of Lori’s upcoming release, To Seduce an Earl!

  To Seduce an Earl

  By Lori Brighton

  Chapter 1

  He always received the virgins.
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br />   Really, it wasn’t fair.

  Alex sighed in disgust and sank into the wing back chair, the antique legs protesting with a creak. The decorative Baroque style was more for show and offered only the façade of comfort. Much like his life.

  Just once he’d like a woman, a real woman, who knew what she wanted, what she was capable of; a woman who would take charge and please him. But it wasn’t about him. It never had been. It never would be.

  His necktie felt suddenly too tight, the room too warm. With experienced fingers, he tugged the snowy white material loose. At Lady Lavender’s Estate of Seduction evening wear was a requirement. Resisting the urge to fidget with his clothing, he tapped his fingers against the curved walnut arm, impatient to leave, impatient to begin the evening and get the entire ordeal over with. But like a lad at supper, he couldn’t leave until she excused him.

  “Bloody hell.”

  Ophelia glanced up sharply from behind her desk.

  Shite, had he said that aloud?

  Her amethyst eyes flashed eerily under the glow of the gas chandeliers she’d recently had installed throughout the first floor of the estate. When most of England was straining its eyes under candle and lamp light, Lady Lavender read in ease. “Watch your language.”

  It wasn’t an elegant woman’s desk made of delicate scrolls that she resided behind. It was a man’s desk; massive, domineering. It was the only thing about her that wasn’t feminine. She was proving a point with that desk. Although her business revolved around the pleasuring of women, it was still a business and she treated her business as a man would. No feelings. No attachments. No excuses. She was heartless alright. A formidable wall.

  Taking a page from her book, Alex refused to apologize for his use of profanity, but he did manage that charming smirk that had made him famous with his clients. Inside he seethed. He was bloody sick of apologizing.

  His stubbornness gained him nothing but contempt. Her icy gaze continued to drill into him. She didn’t back down. She wouldn’t. Ophelia, or Lady Lavender as the world knew her, held the impression of a lady, but underneath she was as selfish as any male brothel owner. Twelve years ago her cold gaze would have had him shifting with unease. Hell, even four years ago. Now, he barely cared.

  Ending their silent war, she sighed and stood. “Why must you be so difficult lately?”

  He didn’t bother to answer. What he had to say would merely get him into trouble…again. She strolled toward him. Those rounded hips swathed in the finest of imported silks, although it was early spring and most women still wore wool. Her lavender gown, narrow at the waist, flared into a bell of frills and ribbons that ended at satin slippers. Completely inappropriate for the chill English weather. Completely inappropriate for a woman who must be at the very least forty, yet looked more of twenty. Even in the privacy of her office she wore the highest of fashion, an imitation of their Queen Victoria, she said. And Ophelia was a Queen, if only of her own sinful domain.

  Even now, twelve years after the day she’d practically forced him into prostitution, Ophelia was still beautiful. Not a speck of gray in that white-blonde hair. Not a wrinkle around those amethyst eyes. Not a hint of time. When others aged, she didn’t seem to. A pact with the devil, Gideon always muttered. Perhaps he was right.

  She idly drew her hand down the blue, velvet curtains, glancing casually out the windows. Did she truly see the beauty of the setting sun, or was she ignorant to something so pure?

  “Have I not given you shelter?” she asked, forcing him from his thoughts. “Have I not fed you? Clothed you in the finest of suits.”

  She glanced pointedly at his silk vest and black trousers with the thin gray stripes. The highest of fashion.

  “Have I not kept your secrets, Alex?”

  Unwanted memories swept through his mind. Memories he tried to ignore. Annoyed, he didn’t dare show his feelings on his face. How dare she mention his family yet again. A veiled threat that never went unnoticed. Damn, but he hated when she had the audacity. How hard it had been those first years to pretend his family didn’t exist. All for their own good. His hands tightened around the arms of his chair, fingernails biting into hard wood.

  It had taken years for him to forget his parents and within an instant, she could bring back the painful memories. Of course she did it on purpose…a reminder of what she knew, the control she held over him. A verbal slap.

  What was done was done. His parents would have given up their search and toasted Demitri as the new heir. Perhaps he should have tried to escape, in those early days, if he’d had the choice. But he’d been too damn afraid. When one was secluded in the country, a good hour from London, with brutes watching your every move, escape had seemed impossible…at least to a boy of thirteen. Although her thinly veiled threats no longer intimidated him, now Alex stayed for an entirely different reason…he had no money and nowhere to go. He was pathetic. God forbid she realize his true fear.

  “Perhaps I no longer care about my secrets,” he couldn’t help but taunt in a soft voice. The war was over. Society no longer cared if you were from Russia; even he, secluded as he was, knew that must be true.

  She paused behind him, and casually placed her hands upon his shoulders. But he felt the stiffness in her touch. Anger and annoyance practically vibrated tangibly around her. She knew as well as he that she no longer held the power over him she once had. For one brief moment he couldn’t help but gloat, to savor the thrilling shiver of victory.

  “Perhaps,” she leaned down, her lips brushing the shell of his ear. Yet her touch offered no comfort, not even the stirrings of lust as it had when he was young. “But what will you do in the outside world, Alex? Return to the bosom of your family?”

  Victory vanished and he was left cold, bitter. Suppressed ire flooded his neck in an unnatural heat that quickly moved higher to his cheeks. In one sentence she’d hit on the problem. He had no where to go. Worthless. A useless whore.

  Ophelia straightened away from him, but the cloying scent of lavender remained as a reminder of her presence. The scent hovered in the estate and the fields around them. If he never saw a purple bloom, it would be too soon.

  “Do you think they’ll take you back? There is no place in the outside world for people like us. And think about what would happen if your family uncovered the truth…that you’ve been prostituting yourself for twelve years.” She paused in front of him, her eyes wide with feigned innocence, her hand resting on her heart. As if she cared. As if she had a heart. “Or worse, society uncovered the truth. Why, if your family has finally found a place within the ton, they’d be shunned within weeks.” She shook her head and sighed as she moved toward the fireplace. “They’d certainly be forced back to Russia. And with the war over, the people starving, Russia is no place for loved ones.”

  His body had gone cold, numb. A threat that went too far, damn her. But he should have known she would use whatever she could to keep her claws deeply embedded in his soul.

  “Alex, darling,” she said. “You’re charming. You know how to put a woman at ease. This new client needs you.”

  He resisted the urge to snort. Give, give, give, that’s all he did. But he had a feeling that’s how Lady Lavender wanted it. Punishment, but why punish him? What had he done to her? The eternal, unanswerable question that had plagued him for years.

  He raked trembling hands through his hair, the wavy curls clinging to his fingers. Perhaps Gideon’s paranoia was working its magic, but he didn’t trust her anymore than he had as a lad at thirteen when she’d offered him the world and instead, had given him hell.

  She turned toward him in a swirl of skirts that showed off white petticoats, a smile upon her full lips. “Come, give me that charming grin the ladies so love.”

  Alex dampened down his ire and widened his smile, knowing the dimples flashed. At times he felt trapped in his own skin; a bear with a chain wrapped around his neck, as he’d once seen in the old country. And only she held the key to that lock.
>
  Ophelia seemed to relax and floated toward the marble hearth, her footfalls quieted by the thick Persian carpet. The low fire casting leering shadows across the papered walls, crackled and sputtered, hissing at her approach. “Take it easy on her for now. She’s as scared as a doe at the end of a pistol. Her driver even insisted she be taken through the kitchens so as not to be seen.”

  Alex surged to his feet, eager to get away from Ophelia before he did something reckless, like throttle her. “As if anyone would see her. We’re in the middle of a damn field, a good hour from London.”

  “Alex,” she warned, throwing him a threatening glare.

  He kept his smile in place. He was a machine; one of those factories that chugged away in the city, producing black smoke that hid the reality of dreary London. Ophelia told him to smile, and he smiled. She said fuck, and he fucked. Why? Because he didn’t care.

  “Where is she?” he asked.

  But she didn’t answer immediately. Instead, she tilted her head to the side in a thoughtful manner, her eyes narrowing as if to study him. Alex grew uneasy.

  “Your room. No intercourse. She merely wants to learn to kiss, touch.”

  Wonderful.Just bleedin wonderful. He nodded, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “I’ll see what I can do.” But he had to wait for her dismissal and apparently she was in a hesitant mood this eve.

  She floated forward, not pausing until she was a breath away. Slowly, she tilted her head back and gazed directly into his eyes. With a soft smirk, she rested her hand on his chest. For one brief moment she merely stared at him, as if trying to read his thoughts. Alex barely breathed, afraid she would. With their gazes locked, she slid her hand down his silk vest, lower to his waist. With a firm grip she cupped the front of his trousers, taking the bulge of his cock in hand. He didn’t even flinch.

  “Do not fail, Alex.”

 
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