A week to be wicked, p.30
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       A Week to Be Wicked, p.30

         Part #2 of Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare
Page 30


  She crossed to him and boldly reached inside his waistcoat. As her fingers brushed against his chest, she heard his breath catch.

  “I need these,” she explained, suddenly timid. She withdrew her spectacles from his inside pocket and fit them on her face. It felt good to put the room in focus.

  She only wished the lenses could help her make Colin out. Just what had he been doing downstairs? Trying to end their journey here? Perhaps he’d had enough of her and Francine and had decided he’d rather sponge off the duke’s generosity at Winterset Grange until his birthday.

  “It’s the Shilling Club,” he said. “We play with shillings, but they stand for a hundred pounds each. ”

  “A hundred pounds? Each?” She felt faint. She pressed a hand to her brow. “But how will we—”

  “We won’t. ” He removed the waistcoat and set it aside. “I always lose, I never pay. They know I’ll be good for it in the end. ”

  “But why lose at all? I could make out your cards on that last hand. They were better than the duke’s. You let him win. ”

  He tugged loose his cravat and slung it over the back of a chair. “Yes, well . . . everyone loves a gracious loser. That’s why I’m always welcome at any card table, any evening, here or in London. I have no shortage of friends. ”

  “Friends. ” She spat the word. “What makes people like that your friends? The fact that they’ll allow you to sit at their table and lose heaps of money? That hardly fits any definition of friendship I know. ”

  He didn’t answer. Merely sat on the edge of the bed to remove his boots.

  “They don’t respect you, Colin. How could they? They don’t know you at all. Not the real you. ”

  “And what makes you an expert on the real me?”

  “I suppose I’m not. I’m not even certain you know who you are. You just become whomever the situation requires. ”

  He kicked his boots aside and passed wordlessly into a connecting room. Presumably a dressing or bathing area. She heard the sounds of water splashing into a basin.

  She raised her voice. “I mean, I am beginning to notice a pattern. All your guises are variations on the same theme. The charming, fun-loving rogue with the not-so-deeply hidden pain. Obviously, it works for you nicely. But doesn’t it grow tiresome?”

  “Tiresome indeed. ” He strolled back into the room with his hair damp and his shirt untucked and cuffed to the elbows. “Min, please. I’m a little drunk and extremely fatigued. Can we hold the rest of this character dissection for the morning?”

  She released a sigh. “I suppose. ”

  “Then get in bed. I’m exhausted. ”

  With a bit of contortion, she managed to undo the hooks at the back of her gown. She drew the tattered, wine-stained silk down over her hips and cast it aside on the chaise longue. The thought that she had nothing else to wear tomorrow was lowering indeed. At least in the morning, she could ring for a proper bath. For now, she did her best with the washbasin and soap.

  After rebuttoning her shift, she lay down on the bed next to him, staring up at the ceiling.

  A few minutes passed.

  “You’re not sleeping,” she said.

  “Neither are you. ”

  She bit her lip. Something lay heavy on her mind, and she didn’t have anyone else to tell. “He doesn’t know me, either. ”

  His reply was groggy. “Who doesn’t?”

  “Sir Alisdair Kent. ” At the mention of his name, she felt the sudden tensing from Colin’s side of the bed. “I mean, he knows of my scientific findings, and he admires my intellect. But he doesn’t know the real me. I’ve conducted all my Society business through written correspondence, and I’ve always signed myself M. R. Highwood. So Sir Alisdair . . . well, he thinks I’m a man. ”

  Several moments passed.

  “He’s in for a great surprise. ”

  She giggled up at the ceiling. “Indeed he is. ” Whether it would be a pleasant or unpleasant surprise, she was afraid to guess.

  “But that’s odd, “ he said. “There was genuine affection in that letter. ”

  “Mere friendly interest, I’m sure. ”

  “I’m not so convinced. Perhaps he’s in love with you. ”

  Her heart gave a queer flutter. Not at the idea, but at the sound of that word from his lips: love.

  “How could that be?” She rolled onto her side, bending her elbow and propping her head with her hand. “Didn’t you hear what I just said? Sir Alisdair thinks I’m a man. ”

  “Oh, I heard you. ” Devilish eyes slid to meet hers. “Perhaps he thinks you’re a man, and he’s in love with you. Poor fellow has some heartbreak ahead of him, if so. ”

  She frowned, unsure of his implications.

  He chuckled low. “Don’t listen to me, pet. My bollocks are aching, and my pride is smarting. I’m foxed, and I’m feeling very wicked tonight. If you know what’s best for you, you’ll ignore me and go to sleep. ”

  “Why are your bollocks aching?” She sat up. “Were you injured somehow? Was it the highwayman?”

  With a groan, he threw his wrist over his eyes. “My dear girl, you might be a brilliant geologist, but your grasp of biology is dim indeed. ”

  She dropped her gaze to the front of his breeches. They were impressively tented.

  “Go to sleep, M. ”

  “No, I don’t think I will. Not yet. ” With sudden determination, she plucked at the buttons of his falls. She had one side completely unfastened before he managed to struggle up on his elbows.

  “What are you doing?”

  “Indulging my curiosity. ” She snaked her hand under the fabric, and he flinched. A heady surge of power rushed through her. The wine she’d drunk downstairs was doing its work, melting away her inhibitions. She wanted to know and see and touch it—this most honest, real part of him.

  This doesn’t lie.

  She said, “I did as you asked and played your mistress downstairs, and I’ve earned this much. I want to see and touch it properly. I never had the chance, before. ”

  “Mother of—”

  “Do be calm. What was it you told me? Think of it as an . . . an excavation. ” Smiling, she curled her fingers around his hard, hot length. “It’s in the name of science. ”

  It’s in the name of science.

  Hah. That was a first-rate line, that was. Ranked right up there with, “You could save my life tonight,” and “Darling, teach me what it means to love. ” Colin made a mental note to remember that one for the future.

  Then her hand closed around his swollen cock, and his mental slate blanked.

  “Good Lord,” he heard himself mutter. This was dangerous. He was half drunk and scarcely in control of himself as it was.

  Rules, he reminded himself. He had rules.

  But curiously, none of them covered virginal caressing in the name of science. Leave it to Minerva Highwood to transform bedsport into a completely new endeavor.

  She held him gently for a moment, rubbing her thumb up and down the underside of his cock. The slight, delicious friction did more to tease than satisfy. Then she released her grip and began tugging down his breeches and smallclothes, wrestling them over his hips.

  “They’re in the way,” she explained, when he sent her a scandalized look.

  He let his head fall back on the pillow, resigned. He had no idea how to arrest this scientific exploration, and truthfully—no desire to do so anyway. He helped her by lifting his hips and kicking out of his breeches, once she had the fabric bunched around his knees.

  “Oh, why stop there,” he muttered, gathering his shirt in both hands and drawing it over his head before flopping back onto the mattress. “There. Now you have your life model. Explore at will. ”

  And she did. She explored his body—every inch of it—at a leisurely pace that made him fair crazed with desire. He began to regret offering himself as a
subject of experimentation. When she dragged a light touch down the center of his chest, a damned snail could have raced her fingertip.

  Too exhausted and intoxicated to do otherwise, Colin simply lay there and endured. Suffered her slow, sweet exploration of his arms, chest, abdomen—God, his nipples. He emitted a sound that he feared was not quite manly when she grazed his nipples. All the while, his ignored cock leaped and strained for her attention, arcing up to his navel in what he assumed must be quite livid shades of plum and dusky red.

  “If you mean to torture me,” he gritted out, “you’re doing an excellent job of it. ”

  “Am I?” She skipped her fingers over his collarbone. She was deliberately teasing him now, the minx.

  With a curse, he grabbed her hand and dragged her touch where they both wanted it. The relief was immediate, intense. And nowhere near enough.

  “Goodness. ” She spoke the word in an awed, highly gratifying tone that made him wonder why he didn’t debauch virgins more often. “It’s so very . . . stiff. ”

  “You make it that way. ” Unable to resist, he curled his hand over hers and silently urged her to grip tighter, showing her how to stroke. She obliged him for a few tantalizing pulls.

  “What do you call it?” she asked. “I know there are different names. ”

  “Names? Like Peter, Belvedere, Sir Charles Grandison?” His breath was shaky. “It’s just my cock, pet. ”

  She stroked down to the root and grasped the base tight. “Your cock. ”

  Oh, holy God. She drove him wild when she talked that way.

  “I quite like your cock. Smooth as talc on the outside. ” She slid her hand up again. “But like granite beneath. ”

  He laughed. A strained, ha, ha, ha, I may die of this laugh. “Well. We both know how you love rocks. ”

  “I do love rocks, as a matter of fact. ” A coquettish smile crept into her voice. “I find them utterly fascinating. I’m forever taking them in hand. Exploring their every ridge and contour. ” She skimmed a petal-soft fingertip over the head of his cock, tracing the flared ridge of the crown and the dewy slit at the tip. Then her touch teased down his length, all the way to the root. “Some of them have very interesting veins. ”

  “I don’t suppose you ever—in the name of science, of course—put these utterly fascinating objects in your mouth?”

  She froze. “What?”

  He slapped a hand over his eyes. This—this—was why he had the rules about virgins. The lewd request had just flowed out of him, in a lascivious drawl.

  “I’m drunk, Min. ” He waved his hand in dismissal. “Forget I said anything. ”

  “How could I forget you said that?” Her hand gripped his cock tight, as if she could wring an answer from its tip. “What a suggestion. Do women really . . . ” She swallowed, audibly. “Really?”

  “Would you like to hear a very bald, very earthy, completely scientific truth?” He struggled up on his elbow, reaching one hand toward her face. He cupped her cheek in his hand, traced her parted lips with his thumb. “You,” he whispered hoarsely, “have the most goddamned erotic mouth I’ve ever seen. These sweet, plump lips drive me wild. It’s impossible to look at you and not . . . not wonder, how it would be. ”

  Her eyes went wide. “You’ve wondered. ”

  He nodded. “Oh yes. ”

  “Y-you’ve actually spent time—”

  “Hours, probably, if you added it up. ”

  “Thinking about—”

  “This. ” He slid his thumb between her startled lips, pressing it deep into her hot, wet mouth. “Yes. ”

  They stared at each other, unmoving. Then, after a prolonged, excruciating hesitation, she closed her lips around his thumb. Her tongue curled beneath it, gently tickling. Stroking. A bolt of sensation shot straight to his cock. He groaned with helpless pleasure.
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