A week to be wicked, p.10
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       A Week to Be Wicked, p.10

         Part #2 of Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare
Page 10


  Here, there was no one to laugh.

  Her breath caught as he pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead. Then her cheek. Then her jaw.

  Then her lips.

  He pressed the tip of his tongue to that vulnerable hinge at the corner of her mouth, coaxing her lips to part. She gasped a little, and he took advantage of the moment, sweeping his tongue inside her mouth.

  She froze instantly, pressing her hand flush against his chest. Then she pushed him away. “I don’t understand. ” She made a fist, clutching his wet shirtfront. “I don’t understand why you do that. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do in return. ”

  “Shush. ” He stroked her hair, dragging his fingers through the heavy, damp strands to untangle them. “Kissing’s like any skill. It takes a bit of practice. Think of it . . . think of it like dancing. ” He paused to kiss her neck, her earlobe. “Just surrender to the rhythm of it. Follow my lead. ”

  They tried again. This time, he sucked her upper lip between his and worried it a little. Then he repeated the attentions with her lower lip.

  And then he swept his tongue between the two.

  His tongue rubbed over hers. She cautiously stroked back with her own, earning a little growl of approval. A thrill chased over her skin. Heat built between their bodies, melting away some of her anxiety.

  He tilted his head, exploring her mouth from a new angle.

  She understood now why he’d compared kissing to dancing. He had moves. A great many of them. Not just thrusting his tongue in and out, but swirling and toying and subtle coaxing. And just as she always did on a dance floor, Minerva quickly grew faint, dizzy. She felt overwhelmed and out of her depth. Always a step behind.

  Once again, she broke away.

  “This won’t work,” she said, wilting inside. “I’m hopeless at dancing. It simply won’t work. ”

  “No, don’t say that. ” His labored breaths raced hers. “It was a bad example on my part. Don’t think of it like dancing. Kissing’s nothing like dancing. Think of it as you would . . . ” He flicked a glance to the fossil-studded cave wall. “An excavation. ”

  “An excavation?”

  “Yes. A proper kiss is like an excavation. When you’re digging up your little troglodytes, you don’t just go plunging your shovel into the soil higgledy-piggledy, do you?”

  “No. ” Her wariness stretched the word.

  “Of course not. A proper excavation takes time and care. And very close attention to detail. Slowly sifting through the layers. Unearthing surprises as you go. ”

  That sounded much more promising. After a long moment’s reflection, she asked, “So who is excavating whom?”

  “Ideally, it’s a bit of both. We sort of . . . take turns. ”

  She was silent for a long moment. Something about the air around them changed. Heated.

  She swallowed hard. “May I go first?”

  Colin struggled to suppress his triumphant grin. It would have ruined everything. He made his voice solemn. “But of course. ”

  She rose up to sit on her knees, positioning herself to face him. The dim glow allowed him to see her in silhouette. Just an enticing hourglass of shadow with a halo of curling hair. He wanted to reach for her, pull her close again. Give his pulse some better reason to pound. Ease his soul with the warm, human contact he craved. At times like these, patience came at a premium.

  But its reward was great. Her hand reached out to him, swimming through the dark to caress his face.

  God, she was such a surprise.

  Her curiosity marked her apart from other girls. She didn’t concentrate on the features one would suppose—eyebrows, cheekbones, lips, the line of his nose. All the features that comprised “a face” in a schoolgirl’s sketch. No, her touch was thorough, indiscriminate, searching out every detail. The flat of her palm scraped over his unshaven jaw. She smoothed a narrow furrow between his brows and stroked a light caress under his eyes, where the sleepless nights weighed heavy. He found himself nuzzling into the touch. He exhaled until his lungs were empty.

  She brushed the fringe of his eyelashes with one fingertip, and a delicate cascade of pleasure rippled through him. What a revelation that was. He’d have to add eyelash caresses to his own repertoire.

  When her fingers pushed into his hair, he moaned. Women always loved his wavy hair, and he always loved the attention they paid it. Pleasant sensations raced over his scalp as she sifted through the wet locks, teasing them back from his forehead. Her fingertip found his scar and traced it—the thin, pale ridge that began at his temple and curved back over his ear. His only physical souvenir of the carriage accident, it was undetectable to the casual observer.

  But she found it, easily. Because finding buried things was what she did best, he supposed. A proper excavation left no secret hidden.

  He began to wonder about the wisdom of this exercise.

  “We’re supposed to be kissing,” he said.

  “I’m getting to it. ” Her voice betrayed a hint of nerves. She moved closer, drawing her knees between his splayed thighs. Leaning forward, she brushed her lips over his.

  The blissful shock of it rattled his very bones. But as she receded, he kept his tone glib. “You can do better. ”

  She took the challenge and kissed him again, more firmly this time. Her tongue flicked out, nimble and curious. And all too fleeting. “Better?”

  “Better. ” Almost too good.

  “Hmm. You taste of spirits here. ” Her tongue traced the edge of his lip. “But here”—she dipped her head to nuzzle the underside of his jaw—“you smell of spice. Cloves. ”

  Bloody hell. Colin’s eyes went wide in the dark as she sipped at his skin, over and over, tracing the curve of his throat. When she reached the center, she brushed her lips over his Adam’s apple. His breath was a painful rasp in his throat. He couldn’t take much more of this.

  “You still haven’t properly kissed me,” he said. “Are you afraid?”

  She lifted her head. “No. ”

  “I think you are. ” I think I might be, too, just a little.

  And for good reason. Her mouth found his, and her parted lips pressed against his own. And there they stayed. Soft, sweet. Warming in the heat of their mingled breath. All the while, a snarling, feral need clawed him from the inside out, fighting its leash of gentlemanly restraint. He’d lose the battle if she didn’t move soon.

  This was more than an excavation. She was turning him inside out. Exposing the base, desperate needs studded in the deepest layer of his being. Until he felt not merely naked before her, but stripped bare. Cold and shivering and defenseless in the dark.

  Kiss me, he willed, underscoring the message with a flex of his knee against her thigh. Kiss me now, or suffer the consequences.

  At last. Her fingers twisted in his hair, drawing him close. Her teeth skimmed the ridge of his lower lip. And then she slid her tongue into his mouth. Just a shallow, teasing pass the first time. Then a bit deeper, on the second attempt. Then deeper still, again and again, by slow, tantalizing degrees.

  She sighed into the kiss, just a little. The faint sound blazed through him, kindling his every nerve ending like a fuse.

  Her fingers left his hair, and he worried for a moment that this all might stop.

  Don’t stop. God, don’t stop.

  But then she braced her hands on the cave wall, bracketing his shoulders, and pressed him against the rocky surface. With her breasts. So soft and round against his chest, tipped with the deliciously hard darts of her chilled nipples. She pinned him to the wall, using the leverage to make the kiss deeper, stroking deep with her tongue.

  And just like that, his control was gone.

  He reached for her, gripping her by the thighs. Holding her close and tight as she plundered his mouth with bold, innocent abandon. With her kiss, his whole body came alive. Not just his body. Something st
irred in the region of his heart, as well.

  Jesus. Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Delilah, Jezebel, Salome, Judith, Eve. Trouble, every last one. Add Minerva Highwood to the list.

  A woman like this could ruin him. If he didn’t ruin her first.

  “What do I call you?” Her breath came hot against his ear. “When . . . when we’re doing this, what do I call you?”

  He fisted his hands in the fabric at the small of her back. “You must call me by my Christian name. Colin. ”

  “Colin,” she whispered, tentative at first. Then with feeling, as she pressed an openmouthed kiss to his temple. “Oh, Colin. ”

  Oh God. He could hear her moan his name a hundred times, and it wouldn’t be enough.

  As they kissed, he rubbed his hands up and down her back. Keeping her close. Warming them both. But after several passes traveling the length of her spine, he couldn’t help but venture further. She still owed him his chance to explore.

  He had to get to her. He had to get to the soft, secret part of her, the way she was getting to him.

  He slid a palm down her hip, cupping her backside and giving it a brief squeeze. Then he brushed the same hand up her side, slowly dragging his touch over the curve of her hip, the indentation of her waist, the endless ridges of her ribs . . . he could have sworn he counted thirty-four or so . . . and then, at last, the soft, round swell of her breast.

  “Colin. ” Her gasp told him he’d gone too far.

  “Min, I . . . ” He rested his brow against hers. He didn’t know how to apologize. He wasn’t sorry for any of it. Not in the least.

  She pulled away, blinking at him. “Colin. I can see you. ”

  The way she spoke the words, in such an awestruck tone, made him wonder for a moment if their kiss had actually cured her weak eyes. That would have been quite a miracle, but he’d be inclined to believe it. He felt rather changed by that kiss, himself.

  “It’s light in here,” she said. “I can see you now. ” She moved away, reaching for her spectacles.

  And he instantly understood what she meant. Without her silhouette blocking his view, he too could see that the tide had receded. Enough so the apex of the underwater entrance was revealed. A beam of sunlight shot through, like gold floss threading the eye of a needle—stabbing Colin straight in the eyes.

  “Ah. ” He lifted his hand, shielding his eyes from the piercing dawn.

  Now that he had a proper look at his surroundings, he could judge that the black, “endless” underwater tunnel he’d been so certain he’d die inside was actually . . . no more than three feet long.

  Good God. He rolled his eyes at his own ridiculousness. No wonder she’d doubted his mettle.

  “We’ll be able to leave soon,” she said, already up and bustling about. She pursed her lips and blew out the candle. “It’s better that we waited, anyhow. Now I don’t have to trust the oilcloth to keep my notes and papers dry. ”

  As Colin watched her go about her preparations, he reeled with the strangest emotion. Disappointment. A forceful pang of it.

  That made no sense. Light had made its way into the cave. The space was no longer dark. He was going to leave this cramped, miserable hole in the earth in a just a few minutes’ time. And he was disappointed. Disappointed that he couldn’t stay here and kiss her a few hours longer.

  “I’ll be damned,” he muttered.

  “Most likely. ” She folded the blanket with efficient snaps. “And I may be joining you, after what we just did. ”

  “Don’t be so hard on yourself. We were merely kissing. ” Though he knew there was nothing “mere” about it.

  “Well, it can’t happen again. ”

  Colin pressed a hand to his solar plexus. There it went. That sharp pang of disappointment. This cave was just full of surprises.

  She stared at the footprint and her notes. Then she looked up at him, deftly winding her hair into a knot.

  “We’ll leave tomorrow,” she said, speaking around a mouthful of hairpins. “We must, if we’re to have any hope of reaching Edinburgh in time. ”
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