A week to be wicked, p.20
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       A Week to Be Wicked, p.20
 

         Part #2 of Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare
Page 20

 

  She flung the book to the table, rattling the crystal. “There you have it, Diana. Your sister is a scheming, cunning temptress. She stole Lord Payne from right under your nose, and she’s been plotting it since last summer. From the very first. Imagine. ”

  “He was never mine to steal. ” Diana blushed. “I’m sure it’s not how it sounds. ”

  “Perhaps not,” Kate said, trying to wrap her mind around the idea of Minerva Highwood as a shameless seductress—and failing utterly. “But I think we can safely conclude that wherever Minerva went with Lord Payne, she went of her own accord. She certainly wasn’t abducted. ”

  “Devious thing. ” Mrs. Highwood spooned a large bite of syllabub into her mouth. “When did this happen? She never showed any interest in men. I wouldn’t have dreamed Minerva knew a kiss from a carbuncle. And now . . . ”

  “Oh,” Charlotte breathed, suddenly freezing in place and staring rapt at her spoon. “Now. Just imagine where she must be now. ”

  Kate choked on a laugh.

  Diana squeezed her eyes shut. “Charlotte, please. Let’s not. ”

  Chapter Twelve

  For the second time in as many nights, Minerva woke to tortured groans.

  This time, they weren’t Colin’s.

  When she jolted awake, she found him sleeping peacefully at her side. Through the wall, however, horrid noises reached her ears. Violent thumping and desperate cries.

  “Colin. Colin!” She shook his arm. “Wake up. Someone’s being murdered. ”

  “What? Who?” He sat bolt upright in bed, and his head bashed against the sloping rafter. “Besides me, you mean?”

  She laid a touch to his arm and gave a meaningful tilt of her head. “Listen. ”

  He closed his eyes.

  The sickening sounds of violence continued. She heard a woman’s shriek.

  “Well?” she prodded, growing frantic. “Shouldn’t you dress, and quickly? Ring for the innkeeper, at least? We must do something. ”

  He sighed and rubbed his face. “That is not murder you’re hearing. No one’s dying. Except in the French way. ”

  “What? What can you mean, ‘the French way’?”

  “Copulation,” he said, flopping back on the bed and flinging his wrist over his eyes. “They’re not fighting, whoever they are. They’re having a grand time indeed. ” Under his breath, he added, “Curse them. ”

  “Is it always so loud?” she asked.

  “Only when it’s good. ”

  “Good?” Minerva frowned, listening. Nothing about that sounded good. The poor woman was even crying out to God.

  “How is it you’re so curious and educated, and yet so naïve? You do understand copulation, don’t you?”

  “Of course I do. The science of it, anyhow. ” A shriek pierced through the wall. She clutched his arm. “Colin, are you sure . . . ?”

  “Yes. ” He covered his face with a pillow and groaned into it. “And here I thought bedding down alone would be the keener torture. ”

  The rhythmic banging grew louder, faster. A low, masculine bellow joined the woman’s shrieks.

  And then it stopped.

  “There,” Colin said, propping the pillow back under his head. “They’re finished. Now it’s over, and we can get some sleep. ”

  Several minutes passed.

  “You’re not sleeping,” he said.

  “Neither are you. ”

  “Can’t. Deuce it. My body’s too suggestible. ” He rolled to face her, and his fingertips caught the edge of her sleeve. “Perhaps yours is the same? Are you aroused?”

  She didn’t know what to make of her body’s warm flush. Nor the way his thumb caressed her arm.

  She said, “I mainly feel confused. ”

  He laughed softly. “I won’t believe you’re that innocent. ” His hand swept down the side of her body. “You do understand there’s pleasure in the act?”

  “I’ve gathered as much, yes. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t it sound more pleasant?”

  “Because the act of love is not civilized. It’s nature at its purest, most basic form. Primal and wild. You ought to understand a little, if you’ve ever . . . ” She could all but hear his eyebrows shooting up. “Wait. Don’t tell me you haven’t. You, the woman of science, who can recite the logarithm that defines the precise shape of an ammonite’s shell. Don’t tell me you don’t understand the workings of your own body. ”

  “I’m not telling you anything. ” Her breath grew shaky.

  “Surely it can’t be,” he said, his hand stealing over her thigh, “that this intrepid explorer of underwater caverns hasn’t explored her own little cove?”

  Through the bedsheet, he touched her. There. Between the legs. White sensation arced through the darkness. A tiny gasp escaped her, but she quickly sealed her lips.

  “Did you say something?”

  She shook her head. Her heart drummed in her chest.

  “Hm. I think you do understand pleasure. ” His touch moved in a devious circle. “But only the hushed, secret kind. You’ve always been surrounded, haven’t you? By sisters, servants. Did you stroke yourself this way? Clamping that jaw tight, turning your head to the pillow to be very, very quiet?”

  His fingertips made gentle sweeps, feathering over her intimate places in strokes so light they might have been excused as incidental, unintentional. But she knew better, and her body did, too. Her nipples drew to tight puckers, and dampness gathered between her thighs.

  The forbidden, unexpected nature of his touch was almost more arousing than the physical contact.

  A man was touching her, there.

  Colin was touching her, there.

  This couldn’t be happening. She could not be allowing this to happen.

  But it was happening, and she was allowing it, and—sweet heaven, it was marvelous. Through the layers of her shift and the bed linens, he drew a single fingertip up her inner thigh, and her breath caught.

  “Colin—”

  “No, no. If I’m wrong, don’t tell me. I’m enjoying this idea far too much. The little scientist, conducting quiet surveys beneath her night rail. Or in the bath, perhaps. Curious fingers wandering, exploring. Chasing that pleasure ’round and ’round as it builds . . . and builds. ” His voice was dark, decadent. “Until the crisis shudders through you in perfect, devastating silence. ”

  He gently cupped her mons and groaned a little. “By God, Min. A man’s erotic imagination is powerful indeed. But I think that is the single most arousing image I’ve ever entertained. ”

  “But . . . but you’re wrong. Mostly. ”

  He paused. “Mostly?”

  Good heavens, what had possessed her to add that word? This entire discussion was too mortifying to be believed. Had she conducted her own explorations? Yes. Had those furtive moments ever amounted to a shadow of the exhilaration she felt right now, with him? God, no.

  She’d never felt anything like this. Evidently, she was both a naughty girl and a poor scientist. A failure, all around.

  “I think we need another lesson, Min. ”

  His words sent a thrill racing through her. “You do?”

  “Yes. ” He stroked his hand up to her belly. “Yes, you need to understand this. The wildness of it. How good it can be, when it’s raw and lusty and loud. ” He flipped his hand, tracing the backs of his fingers just under the curve of her breast. “You need to know what you deserve from a man. Or you’ll end up in some passionless marriage. Tethered to an ancient, dusty geologist whose ideas might inspire your admiration, but whose touch will never, ever make you writhe and moan and scream. ”

  His touch slowed, then drew to a halt on her breastbone.

  “Do you trust me?” he asked.

  “With what?”

  “With your body. With your pleasure. ”

  He said it so baldly. She didn’t know how to respond. Sh
e’d already trusted him with her safety and her possessions. She might even trust him with her virtue. But she knew she could never trust this man with her heart. And didn’t that organ come part and parcel with her body?

  But she wanted, needed his touch so badly. Her lips and tongue were clumsy with desire. She couldn’t make herself say no.

  “Close your eyes,” he said. “Close your eyes, and think of him. ”

  She closed her eyes. “Think of whom?”

  “Of him, whoever he is. Sir Alisdair Kent. Or the fairy-tale prince. You must dream of someone. All young ladies do. ”

  She supposed they did. All girls had a dream suitor, and Minerva was no different.

  But most of them never had this chance, to lie next to him in the flesh. This was happening to her. Because—though she tried not to indulge in fanciful dreams—when she did give in and imagine herself feeling safe and adored in the arms of a handsome, charming, unattainable man . . .

  That man looked a great deal like Colin.

  She hated admitting it, even to herself. And the idea that he might suspect . . . that was too miserable to contemplate.

  She felt the bed shifting. And then she felt his weight settle atop her. An entire man’s worth of heat and muscle stretched over her body, with only a linen bedsheet to separate them.

  She tensed. Everywhere.

  “Hush,” he murmured, gently but insistently spreading her legs to accommodate the breadth of his hips. “It’s all right. I won’t hurt you. I won’t lift this sheet. You’re safe beneath it. Just keep your eyes closed and your lips parted. And learn how this should feel. ”

  Learn how this should feel. Shouldn’t this feel tender and romantic?

  Shouldn’t lovemaking feel like love?

  But this wasn’t love. It was a diversion, a lesson. Just another elaborate pretense.

  Her body’s reaction, however, was real. Her limbs were restless beneath his. She was breathing so hard, she grew dizzy and faint.

  He cupped her breast through the linen, circling his touch around its widest circumference before spiraling inward, toward the rapidly hardening peak.

  “A good lover,” he murmured, planting hot kisses just beneath her ear, “will take time for you. He will always put your pleasure before his own. He will make you free to experience, free to touch. Free to ask for whatever it is your body craves. ”

  His touch grazed her nipple. Just lightly, like the pass of a feather. The sensation was startling, exquisite.

  “Did you like that?” he asked. “Do you want more?”

  Yes. Yes, and yes, please.

  “Then you must tell me so. Not in words, if you don’t wish. When you’re caught up in lovemaking, words can—and should—fail you. But a man does perform best with encouragement. So if you wish for more, you must tell me so. With a gasp, or a sigh, or a little moan of pleasure. Let’s try again, shall we?”

  Once again, his fingertip teased over her taut, aching nipple. Gone, almost before she could register the sensation.

  And then nothing.

  She bit her lip. She knew he was waiting on her response. Horrid, teasing man. He would drive her to the brink of trembling, molten pleasure, and then abandon her there. Unless she begged for more.

  Minerva lay still and silent for what seemed an age, doing battle with herself. Struggling between the desire to take just a little more, and the fear of surrendering far too much.

  Raw need and curiosity carried the day.

  Her lips parted, and she released her breath as a slow, almost musical sigh.

  He answered with a deep, resonant groan. “Yes. That’s the way. Sigh for me again. ”

  He pressed his thumb to her nipple and rolled it, teasing around and around the puckered nub. She sighed again, with more feeling this time, and he rewarded her with a light pinch. She arched into his touch, and her head rolled to the side.
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