Love letters, p.3
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       Love Letters, p.3

           Lori Brighton
 
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  A sudden gust of wind battered the panes and jolted Clara from her thoughts. The house trembled, threatening to collapse around them. Clara bolted upright. The windows burst open, banging against the walls. She smelled the snow right before a whirlwind of flakes swirled into the room, stinging her exposed skin. At any other time she would have been delighted by the Christmas weather. Clara gasped, crossing her arms over her chest. Papers rattled from a nearby table, lifted and took flight.

  “Damn.” Brendon jumped from his chair and raced toward the windows.

  Clara stumbled from the settee, her bare feet hitting the cold wooden floorboards. “I’ll gather your drawings.”

  She reached out, arms wide to scoop the pieces of paper to her body. One landed tightly to her breasts and one to her nether regions. Brendon pushed the panes shut with a soft thud. The howl of the wind faded and the soft patter of snowflakes on the glass was the only noise that remained. He turned, those brilliant blue eyes gleaming with speculation. For one long moment they merely stared at each other.

  There was something in his gaze that made her hot, breathless, nervous. Clara swallowed hard, realizing only a couple pieces of paper hid her favors and wondering how the bloody hell she would give them back without feeling like she was undressing all over again. He took a determined step forward and she had to resist the urge to move back. She reminded herself that this was Brendon, the man she’d loved for years.

  Yet, the last time she’d seen Brendon, he’d been a young lad. Now he was a man…a very large, very handsome man. A man with eyes that burned with something she didn’t quite understand, something that frightened and excited her.

  Every step closer sent her pulse racing faster, the urge to move more urgent. Only a breath away, he paused. The crisp smell of snow combined with his musky scent, swirling around her, muddling her senses. Slowly, he reached out and took the first piece of paper from where she had it clutched to her lower belly. Reluctantly, she released her hold. He set the drawing upon the table. With his gaze focused on her, he took hold of the paper she held to her breasts. He gave a gentle jerk, pulling the sheaf loose and leaving her completely naked.

  “Why is there a carriage out front?”

  She frowned and shook her head, confused by the odd question. He stepped closer, the tips of his black boots touching her bare toes. So close, she had to tilt her head back to keep his gaze. Anger hovered around him, heavy and dark. “Did you take a carriage here?”

  Unnerved, she stepped back. “Y…yes, but a hired hack.”

  His gaze narrowed slightly and he took another step forward, his feet on either side of hers. “It’s not yours?”

  There was a sudden hardness in his eyes, a hardness she didn’t recognize, a hardness that gave her pause. She stepped back again, her shoulders pressing into the cold brick wall. Her body was trembling and she had to remind herself over and over that she knew this man. He would not harm her. He would not.

  He leaned forward, bracing his large palms on either side of her face and trapping her between his body and the wall. “Who are you?”

  She found she could no longer look him in the eyes, frantically shuffling through her brain for some sort of response. If she told him the truth, he’d send her home. She didn’t want to leave, she didn’t want to leave him. He stepped closer, his hard form pressed to her naked body, fitting perfectly to each dip and curve.

  Clara sucked in a breath, her gaze focused on that pulse thundering in the side of his neck. She shifted against him, attempting to make room, but there was nowhere to go. He wouldn’t budge.

  His face was close, his lips closer. “Tell me who you are.”

  But she couldn’t tell him. Not now, not while she was naked. Clara’s body quivered, whether from want or fear, she wasn’t sure. His hard thighs pressed to hers, his chest to her breasts. She was losing control of the situation and her freedom was suddenly slipping from her grasp. Oddly, she found it hard to care. Her mind spun with confusing thoughts.

  Then she knew… suddenly she knew what she would do. She should have pushed at his shoulders, she should have slapped his face, she should have done anything to prevent this madness. Instead, an odd calm washed over her. She would tell him what he wished to know, but not in words.

  She tilted her head back, lifted on her tip toes and leaned forward. She closed her eyes as her lips pressed to his. Brendon sucked in a sharp breath, his body stiffening. He didn’t move, merely stood there, frozen in place. Did he not wish to kiss her? Had she misjudged the heated look in his eyes? Desire gave way to embarrassment. Heat shot to her cheeks. Dear Heavens, what was she thinking? She shouldn’t have come here…she shouldn’t have… Clara tore her mouth away and fell flat on her feet.

  “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t—”

  Brendon growled low in his throat. His muscled arms wrapped around her waist and he jerked her up against his chest. His lips pressed hard to hers, demanding, torturing her with heady delight. Any embarrassment fled and all that remained was an intense hunger. Clara’s hands flattened to his chest, her flingers slipping into his open shirt where she could just peek the dark curls. It felt right, dear Lord, it felt right being in his arms. His tongue flicked across her lips. With a sigh, Clara opened for him. Brendon made quick work of sliding his tongue into her mouth, and surprised by his bold kiss, she allowed it.

  Shock gave way to heat, a pulsing heat that made her knees weak. Nothing mattered. Not her family, her responsibilities, nor her supposed fiancé. Nothing mattered but Brendon and his touch. This is what she’d wanted. Had always wanted.

  Growing dizzy, she slid her arms up his shoulders, wrapping her hands around his neck and holding tight, afraid he’d let go, afraid he’d leave her. His male scent swirled in the air— earthy clay, spicy male. A warm scent that sent her mind reeling. The trials of life fell to the wayside and all she could do was feel. Feel the soft, worn texture of his linen shirt against her hard nipples, the eagerness of his lips against hers, the hardness of his desire pressing to her lower belly.

  Need flared through her blood. She didn’t understand her intense attraction, never had, but she didn’t care. She only knew she wanted Brendon to touch her, to stroke her and finally he was.

  Brendon’s hands, slick with clay, slid down her spine, cupping her backside and pulling her up against his hard erection. Clara moaned, her arms tightening around his neck and moving closer, cuddling that arousal between her thighs. This was no soft, gentle kiss of a besotted country gent. Nor the rough biting pressure of her supposed fiancé. This was beautiful, heated, amazing.

  Brendon’s knee nudged between her thighs as his body pushed her up against the brick wall. “Beautiful,” he whispered.

  His lips moved to her neck, that knee between her legs holding her upright. The coarse texture of his trousers rubbed against the sensitive folds of her femininity. Clara moaned, her head lulling back as she slipped her fingers into his hair, entwining in the silky strands. Over and over he sucked, licked, nibbled his way down her neck until heat fought with chills. Frantic for more, her trembling fingers undid the buttons of his shirt. Impatiently, she pushed the material from his broad shoulders, leaving his torso bare.

  He shifted, the lamplight highlighting the harsh muscles along his chest and arms. The strength there amazed and frightened her. Clara’s fingertips hovered over his warm skin, afraid if she touched him she would wake and this would all be a wonderful dream.

  He lowered his head to the hollow of her throat. “Dear God, why are you doing this to me?”

  She wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of his question. If anyone was doing anything, it was him. Clara felt like she was merely a puppet to the motions he stirred within, but oh how she didn’t mind. His lips pressed to the valley between her breasts. Need clenched her belly, flaring through her body and taking over her senses.

  She hadn’t known it would feel like this. She knew what men and women did. She was five and twenty for Heaven’s sake. She
d heard the maids talking, realized the act could be delightful. But she’d had no idea being in Brendon’s arms would be this wonderful.

  His hand slid under her knees and he scooped her up into his arms. He held her, eye to eye, their lips only a breath away. Each sharp intake of air sent her nipples brushing against the crisp hair on his chest.

  “Tell me to stop,” he demanded. “Tell me.”

  But she couldn’t, she wouldn’t. She’d known the moment she’d stepped into the attic what she really wanted. To hell with her supposed fiancé. To hell with the money she needed. She would have Brendon before she left for America.

  Feeling bold, she crushed her mouth to his. She would give him no time to think, no time to regret, no time to stop her bold actions. Brendon groaned and turned. In three quick strides he was at the bed. Clara fell back onto the soft mattress. Brendon followed. She felt deliciously trapped underneath his hard weight. His mouth found hers in a searing kiss and any thoughts scattered to the wind. She was acutely aware of where his warm hands roamed, acutely aware of his tongue rubbing intimately against her own.

  He caressed each of her curves as if she was a work of art to be admired. Slowly, his hands followed the lines of her body lower…lower… to her hips. He shifted, his knee wedging between her thighs. His touch was bold, yet soft and gentle. She squirmed under him, needing more, wanting more…wanting him to touch her everywhere, kiss her everywhere. She knew it wasn’t rational, yet she couldn’t seem to get enough of the man. His mouth moved to her collarbone and her hands found his hair, slipping between the cool strands. Lower still he moved until she felt the warmth of his breath over her chest.

  “Lovely.” His tongue darted out to lick a hard bud, then took her breast into his warm mouth.

  Clara groaned, arching her back. Her insides quivered and an unbearable ache settled deep between her thighs. Restlessly, she shifted. She couldn’t take it, couldn’t take the need, the desire. He pulled away and moved lower, his hands sliding down her body and leaving behind trails of wet, cold clay.

  At her belly, he paused. In that moment, reality invaded. Clara squeezed her eyes shut. Embarrassment fought with desire. His warm breath brushed across the place between her thighs. She knew what he intended. She’d heard the stories. Oh God, he wouldn’t.

  He did. With his hands he jerked her thighs further apart. Before she could summon the strength to push him away, he lowered his head and his lips pressed to the place between her legs. Clara gasped, her back arching.

  His tongue slipped between her folds. The ache in her belly swirled lower, tightening unbearably. Clara dug her fingers into the sheets, biting her lower lip to keep from crying out.

  “Do you like that?” he whispered.

  Like? Like didn’t even began to describe what she was feeling. Before she could respond, he was licking her again, sucking, tasting. The wind battered the windows, shaking the house, or was that her body trembling? Dear Heavens, she wasn’t sure anymore where her body ended and began.

  Brendon pulled away, trailing kisses up her stomach, chest, neck. Those brilliant blue eyes met hers and for one breathless moment nothing existed but him. His hair fell tousled around his face, his eyes intense and piercing. This is the man she’d dreamt about for years, the passionate man she’d fallen in love with.

  “Tell me your name,” he whispered.

  She couldn’t deny his request. “Clara.”

  He slid from the bed and quickly discarded the rest of his clothing. Clara had only a moment to study his beautiful body before he was covering her again. His tongue delved between her lips for a quick, but thorough kiss.

  “Dear God, you taste sweet.”

  He shifted, his knee parting her legs. His arousal, hard and hot, pulsed between her thighs. Clara’s breath caught. She didn’t dare move. Brendon raised his hips so the swollen tip of his erection pressed to her folds. The world suddenly stilled. He rested his forehead to hers, their breaths mingling. His body was trembling and she knew he held back, for her sake.

  “Bloody hell, what you’ve done to me.”

  Need consumed her, an incomprehensible need to have him, all of him deep within. She lifted her hips. The bulb of his cock slipped inside her. Clara gasped, the feeling overwhelming. Her hands found his tight bottom and she pulled him closer as she lifted her hips once more.

  “Damn.” Brendon pulled back slightly.

  Clara groaned and slid her fingers up his back, then boldly she lifted her head and drew her tongue over his lips. He growled low in his throat and she knew in that instant she had him. Without pause, he thrust into her.

  A slight sting momentarily interrupted her pleasure. For a brief shocked moment, Clara didn’t move, afraid more pain would come. Brendon’s harsh breath fanned across her face, a comforting caress. He shifted. Aching need replaced any sting. Clara closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of Brendon so close.

  “Wrap your legs around me,” he demanded and she didn’t dare refuse.

  She slid her legs over his muscled thighs, the act taking him further inside. Exquisite pleasure tightened low in her belly, thrummed under her skin beating in time with her heart…his heart. They were together, as one.

  “Yes, please.” Clara breathed in their scent, intoxicated by the heady mixture of love making. Brendon’s strong arms held her close as they rocked in a rhythm that brought their bodies impossibly close.

  Her insides tightened as pleasure rippled through her body, a flood of release. She arched her back, meeting him thrust for thrust. This is what she wanted, what she’d dreamt of, what she needed. She needed him.

  “Brendon,” she cried out, her nails piercing his back.

  Pure white pleasure burst through her being. Vaguely she was aware of Brendon’s entire body going tight, his muscles flexing under her fingers. Vaguely she was aware of Brendon crying out her name as he thrust into her one last time.

  Chapter 4

  Brendon pulled away from Clara and rolled onto his back, staring up at the dusty beams above. He couldn’t seem to breathe, to think, to feel anything but the vibrant buzz coursing through his body.

  Blast it, what had he done? He hadn’t lost control like that in…ever. He was an arse. A complete arse. If only she’d protested. If only she’d slapped him. If only she hadn’t kissed him back so hungrily…he could have at least stopped himself. But she hadn’t. No, she’d touched him as eagerly as he’d touched her. And with her bold touch he’d lost all sense of who he was.

  He slid Clara a glance. She lay beside him, staring up at those same beams and looking as perplexed as he felt. And even now, he wanted her again, and again and again. Slowly, his gaze scanned her form. Gray slashes contrasted against her pale skin. Dried clay left behind by his hands. On her soft breasts, her flat belly, her rounded thighs…almost as if he’d branded her.

  Clara, she was called. He’d always liked that name. It made him think of past summers, of innocence and purity. An innocence she no longer possessed, thanks to him.

  Clara.

  Was he so desperate for human contact that he’d bed the first clean woman he came into contact with? Whether she be a virgin or not? And she was a virgin, he knew that much.

  She took in a deep, trembling breath as if preparing for some great speech. He could imagine what she’d have to say to him. Bloody hell. He tossed the quilt over her body and bolted from the bed. He didn’t need to hear her words, he already knew he’d burn in hell.

  Naked, he stalked across the room to the small table that held a pitcher of water. He should have been more careful with her. Instead, like the arse he was, he’d rutted her with a need that would frighten most women, even experienced women. He dipped a cloth in the cold water, wrung it, and made his way back to the bed. His hands still shook with the need to touch her, his body still ached with a need to have her. He would not give into temptation again.

  Gently he settled on the edge of the bed. Even more gently, he wrapped his fingers around her righ
t wrist and straightened her arm. He didn’t look at her, he couldn’t, too ashamed of what he’d done. Slowly, he rubbed her arm with the washing cloth, erasing signs of the clay, signs that he’d touched her. Finished, he reached for the edge of the blanket, which she’d tucked neatly under her chin. Finally, he met her gaze, just a flicker up, to see her wide eyes watching him, then down again. He tugged the blanket from her grip, exposing her breasts.

  Instantly her rosy nipples beaded. Brendon swallowed hard and rested the cool cloth against her chest. She sucked in a breath, whether from the cold or his touch, he wasn’t sure. Slowly, he made circles against her skin, rubbing away the clay. All the while, she watched him, those beautiful eyes piercing his very soul.

  He took her other arm. Still, she didn’t move, didn’t take her gaze away from his face. He clenched his jaw, sweat dampening his skin despite the cool temperature. Slowly, he pulled the blanket lower, exposing the soft curls at the junction of her thighs. He rested his hand on her warm belly. Her muscles jumped. He smoothed the cloth down the outside of her legs, over to her inner thigh, swiping away clay and blood. The proof he didn’t need, but there all the same. She was a virgin. He was a bastard.

  The cloth swept across those soft curls. Her lashes fluttered down as she sucked in a breath and arched her back, almost as if…as if his touch felt good. Desire shot straight to his groin, his erection surging forward. He tossed the cloth to a table. He would not take her again. He might be a bastard, but he wasn’t completely evil.

  She shivered and opened her eyes. The room was cold, and she was colder. With a sigh, he settled beside her chilled form, stretching out his body next to hers. He could give her warmth, at least. He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. Almost immediately her stiff body sank into his, as if completely comfortable with him, completely trusting. Without a word, he closed his eyes, reveling for one long moment in the rightness of it all. He missed this…a woman’s sweet scent…her soft body. Clara’s hand crept up his chest, her fingers spreading through the crisp hair.

 
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