A week to be wicked, p.44
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       A Week to Be Wicked, p.44

         Part #2 of Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare
Page 44


  “This is what you truly want?” she asked him. “To just pretend none of this happened?”

  “No matter what occurs, you will never lack for anything. Once I gain control of my accounts, I’ll quietly settle some money on you. Enough that you’ll be able to live as you desire. Set up house in any place you wish. Devote your life to your scholarship. You and your sisters will always have my protection. ”

  “Your protection? Am I to be your mistress, then?”

  “God, no. ”

  “Oh. ” She swallowed a sob. “Not even that?”

  With a muttered curse, he crossed the room and sat beside her. “Minerva, I would never degrade you that way. After all the pain I’ve caused you, I wouldn’t blame you if you banished me from your sight. ” He dropped his head to his hands. “Don’t make me list all the ways I’ve failed you. ”

  “Then I’ll list everything you’ve given me. Hot tea and blankets. A day at the fair. An apple, an orange, peaches, cherries. The chance to win twenty pounds in a shooting contest. The courage to sing in a tavern. My first honest compliments. Breathless passion, and enough adventure to last a lifetime. Just think, in this one week alone I’ve been a missionary, an assassin, a long-lost princess . . . and, we can’t forget, a sword swallower. ”

  “Believe me. ” Looking up, he gave her a half smile. “So long as I live, I will never, ever forget that. ”

  Her heart warmed to see that flash of his familiar good nature. This was the Colin she knew and loved.

  She shrugged. “After all that adventure, perhaps being a simple geologist would have come as a disappointment. ”

  “Don’t. Don’t lie to me, Minerva. ” His hand went to her cheek. “I know how much it meant to you. You can’t tell me you’re not disappointed. ”

  No, she couldn’t. And she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. He held her in his arms while she had a good little cry for poor, pulverized Francine and all those smashed scientific ambitions.

  After a few minutes, she wiped her eyes. “I just wanted to leave a footprint. Make my own lasting mark on this earth, the same way Francine left hers. To post a little sign that will survive for generations to come: ‘Minerva Highwood was here, and the world is just a little different for her presence. ’ I just wanted to make an impression. ”

  “Yes, and you should have done. ” He rose from the divan and strode to the hearth, where he tapped the mantel with his fist. “You would have done. Your only mistake was joining up with me. ”

  “That wasn’t a mistake. ”

  “Of course it was. Haven’t you noticed, Min? I leave impressions everywhere. Except in my case, they’re not footprints. They’re more like craters. ”

  With a single finger, he nudged a porcelain shepherdess toward the edge of the mantel and then—

  Smash it went on the hearthstone.

  “Oh look,” he said dryly. “Colin Sandhurst was here. ” He sent another figurine careening to its doom. “And here. ” A third crash. “Here, as well. ”

  As the melody of destruction trailed off into silence, Minerva took a deep breath and forced herself to be calm. “Colin, do you . . . ” She steeled her nerve. “Could you love me?”

  He stared at her. “For God’s sake, don’t ask me that. ”

  “Why not?”

  “Because I can’t answer you. Because no matter what I say, I’ll make a hash of it somehow. I can’t even get your plaster lizard footprint to Scotland. How could I ever be trusted with something so precious as your heart?”

  Drawing a blanket about her shoulders, she pushed to her feet. She crossed the room and moved to stand at the opposite corner of the hearth.

  “Colin, if you could love me . . . nothing else would matter. You’re worth so much more than a science prize of five hundred guineas. ”

  “Oh, do you think?” He cast a pointed glance around the magnificently furnished drawing room. “Yes, I’m worth a great deal more. ”

  “That’s not what I mean, and you know it. ”

  “But this was never about the money. I know how much it meant to you. You were so driven to attend that symposium. You’ve risked everything, Min. Security, reputation. Your very life. And I destroyed those dreams. ”

  She touched his wrist and waited until he met her gaze. “You didn’t destroy my dreams. You broke me out of my shell. There was bound to be a bit of a mess. ”

  He brushed a light caress against her cheek and whispered, “Min. ”

  She smiled and wiped a lingering tear. “Despite everything, this has been the most exciting, magical week of my life. I’m only sad that it’s ending this way. ”

  “I know, I know. It’s just wrong, isn’t it?” He took up the poker and stirred the fire with agitated motions. “I had this idea, you see. More of a foolish hope, I suppose. That all through this mad, tumultuous journey . . . we’d been writing the story of our future. ”

  She laughed a little. “Do you mean we were actually going to become missionaries in Ceylon? Or join up with a circus?”

  “No, no. I don’t mean that we’d been foretelling our future. I meant, I hoped we’d been writing the story of our future. The tale we would tell and retell, over goblets of wine at dinner parties, and on dreary spring days when it’s too muddy for lawn bowls. Do you know what I mean? That it would be our story, Min. One we’d remember and laugh over for years to come, even tell some bits to our . . . ” His voice trailed off as he replaced the poker in the andiron.

  “To our what?” Her heart missed a beat. “To our children?” Had he been dreaming of a life with her?

  “Minerva, you’re the most clever person I know. You can look at a queer-shaped hole in the ground and see a rich, vibrant ancient world. Look at me now. ”

  Looking him in those fiery Bristol-diamond eyes was never a trial.

  “Tell me the truth,” he said. “Do you see a pleasant future with me?”

  She reached for him, teasing her fingers through his hair. “Honestly?”

  “Honestly. ”

  “When I look at you, my thoughts are something like this: God only knows what trials lie down that path. ” Smiling, she slipped her arms around his neck. “But take heart, Colin. Some women like to be surprised. ”

  He was silent for a long, breathless moment.

  “Well, then,” he said darkly. He caught her up in one swift motion. “Surprise. ”

  Chapter Thirty

  Colin flattened her to the wall, greedily clutching her everywhere he could reach. Pressing fervent kisses to her brow, her cheek, her lips.

  He needed this. Needed her.

  Needed it now.

  He yanked the buttons of her shift loose. Unfastening some, simply popping others from their threads. Soon the frail linen garment lay discarded at her feet.

  “Minerva. ” With a resonant sigh, he pressed the full length of his clothed body to her nakedness. Bracing his hands against the wall, he nudged her thighs apart with his knee. Bending his head, he kissed and licked her neck, all the while grinding his desperate erection against her heat.

  A groan welled in his chest. “I need you, Min. Need you so much. ”

  “I’m here,” she breathed. Her arms draped over his shoulders. “I’m yours. ”

  I’m yours. A sweet pang of emotion wrenched his heart. Still, he kept his hands braced on the wallpaper—not trusting himself to touch her yet.

  He backed up a bit, wanting to see. To admire.

  She reached for him. “Colin . . . ”

  “Wait. ” His voice shook with desire. “Let me look at you. ”

  She fell back against the wallpaper, displaying herself for his view. He’d never dreamed a woman could be so beautiful.

  She looked more luminous against this wall than a Dutch master’s painting ever could. Her flawless skin would make a porcelain shepherdess weep bitter, envious tears. And her breasts . . .
r />   He didn’t have a decorative parallel for her breasts. But they made him hard as the parquet floor. Her breasts were every bit as wildly arousing as the first time he’d glimpsed them in that London inn.

  He kissed his way down her elegant throat, pausing to suckle each of those luscious nipples as he sank to his knees. When his knees met the floor, he made himself comfortable there, resting on his haunches. Pressing light kisses to her navel. Nuzzling her thigh. Settling in for a nice long visit.

  “God. ” He nudged her legs apart and sifted through her dark curls. “I’ve been wanting this forever. ”

  She laughed nervously. “We’ve been traveling a week. ”

  “It’s been forever. ” He parted her with his fingers, exploring her folds and circling his thumb over her swollen pearl. “You can’t know, Min. You can’t know how long I’ve been waiting for you. ”

  He pressed a single, chaste kiss to her sex. Just a prelude, so she wouldn’t be too shocked.

  Then he slid one arm under her knee, hooking it over his shoulder. With his hands, he bracketed her hips, reaching toward her sex with both thumbs to spread her wide to his view. To his kiss.

  She made a strangled noise. “Colin—”

  “Shush. ” He blew the word over her delicate flesh. “You had your chance to explore every bit of me. Now it’s my turn. ”

  And explore he did. Most thoroughly. He ran his tongue—just lightly—over every flushed, dewy petal of her sex. Down one side, up the other . . . until he centered on that swollen bud at the crest. Again, teasing lightly. Just lightly. Until her breath went ragged and she arched her hips, digging her heel into his back to pull him close.

  Yes. That’s it. Hold me close and tight. Claim me. Make me a slave to your pleasure.

  But something wicked in him wouldn’t give her what she craved. Not yet. He kept up his light, teasing attentions. Until she rocked against his mouth in an urgent rhythm, and needy whimpers eased from her throat.

  “Oh, Colin. Oh, God. ”

  So blasphemous, but he loved being classed above the divine in her universe. Even if only for a brief, wanton second.

  “Yes, darling?” he murmured, between slow, languid strokes of his tongue.

  “I need . . . I need something. ”

  “This?” He dipped his tongue inside her.

  She gasped and bucked. “More. ”

  Her grip twisted in his hair. Her heady taste lingered on his tongue. He needed more, too. And he couldn’t wait a moment longer.

  Lowering her leg to the ground, Colin pushed to his feet and hastily stepped out of his unfastened trousers. He pulled his shirt over his head and cast it aside. Clutching her backside in both hands, he lifted her against the wall. He pinned her with a fierce gaze, determined to read her every emotion.

  “Do you want me, Min?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Need me?”

  “Yes. ” She writhed against him, wild and slick and hot.

  “Love me?” His voice was so hoarse with yearning, the words got lost in his throat. He slid into her, pushing his hard length into her tight body. “Love me,” he grunted, driving the words home on a thrust. “Love. Me. ”

  “Yes. ” She gasped with pleasure, canting her pelvis to take him deep. “Yes. ”

  He pumped her steadily, driving into her at just the angle he knew she craved. “Love me. Don’t ever stop. You hear me? It won’t be this good with anyone else. Only me, Min. Only me. ”

  “Colin. ” She dug her nails into his shoulders and pulled herself off the wall, confronting him face to face. Her tongue made a quick, hungry swipe at his. “I love you. Stop talking. ”

  Fair enough.

  He pressed her back against the wall. No more discussion. Only joining and clasping and thrusting. And kissing, hot and wet and deep. Only this desperate, visceral need to get closer, in every possible way.
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