Virginia henley unmask.., p.17
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       Virginia Henley - Unmasked, p.17

           Virginia Henley
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Filled with confidence, she licked her lips. "Didn't you bring me up here to ask me to become Velvet Montgomery?"

  Will she wed me to secure her position at Court? "Let

  me think......Do I want you for wife or mistress?"

  Her confidence faltered. They had already been lovers; what need did he have to marry her? She thought fleetingly of Bolsover, of the Elizabethan manor at Roehampton, of her position at the Royal Court and lastly about having Greysteel Montgomery for her husband. She wanted all of them and feared she was in danger of having none. Her saucy tongue came to her rescue and saved her from revealing her vulnerability.

  "More to the point," she drawled, "do I want you for husband or lover?"

  "Only you can answer that, Velvet. I am sure you were taught the fine points to look for in a prized stud. Do you wish to inspect me?" He stripped off his coat and began to unbutton his shirt.

  Her pulse began to race, and her blood heated. "There is no need for that. I've already experienced you as a lover."

  "And did I measure up, my lady?" he asked inso­lently, determined not to let her have the upper hand.

  She blushed hotly and lowered her lashes. "Why are you treating me like a strumpet?"

  Relenting, he gathered her into his arms. "Velvet, you could never be a strumpet! You are my sweet­heart." He dipped his head and feathered kisses into the bright curls at her temple.

  She clung to him, desperately relieved that he had only been teasing her. He is mad in love with me. Confi­dence surged through her. I have stolen his heart. "Christian said that you are captain of the King's Guard. Is it true?"

  He smiled ruefully. "When Charles asked me, I felt duty bound to accept, at least until I've recruited an adequate number and whipped them into shape. Then I'll consider turning command over to a successor. I have considerable property and business of my own to look after."

  "I'm sorry about your father, Greysteel."

  His arms tightened possessively. "Now that I'm an earl, I will need a wife. Will you marry me, Velvet?"

  She smiled a secret smile. I knew he brought me here tonight to ask me to marry him. "Yes! I would love to be­come Velvet Montgomery." She stood on tiptoe and of­fered her lips without reserve. He kissed her so thoroughly it made her dizzy.

  "Velvet Montgomery, Countess of Eglinton," he whispered against her lips, "the most beautiful lady at Court."

  "I can't believe I'm marrying an earl." She gazed up into his eyes, mesmerized by their compelling inten­sity. The very air seemed filled with magic and she felt as if she were floating in a sea of happiness. Then sud­denly she remembered that he owned Bolsover Castle and some of the magic dissolved. Charles's words came back to her: To get it back in your family you will have to marry him and hope he deeds it to you as a wedding gift.

  Velvet didn't dare mention it for fear that Greysteel would suspect that was the reason she had agreed to marry him. Bolsover threatened to be a huge bone of contention between them unless she approached it delicately.

  I'll have to have him eating out of my hand before I can persuade him to bestow such a gift upon me.

  Velvet thought of her great-grandmother Bess, who had been able to get anything she wanted from any man breathing. She used her sensuality ferociously, and I must do the same.

  She pressed her soft body against his hardness. Her tempting fingers began to finish the job of unbuttoning his shirt, and then her hands slipped inside to caress the slabs of muscle on his wide chest. "Why don't you show me the bedchamber?"

  "You have bludgeoned me into submission,” he teased. "Your hands are formidable weapons, my love. First they beat me; then they seduce me." He picked her up and carried her into the adjoining room. Then he allowed her body to slide down his until her feet touched the floor beside the wide curtained bed. He encouraged her to remove his shirt and groaned as she kissed his flat bronze nipple, then worried it with her teeth.

  Velvet ached to have him undress her. She wanted him to worship her body with kisses. Desire coiled in­side her, making her belly taut with need. She lifted her mouth to his, inviting his tongue to plunder her. When he plunged inside she moaned and writhed against him.

  Greysteel undid the silver ribbons and unfastened her bodice. He cupped her breasts with his palms, teasing her nipples with his thumbs. Then he dipped his head and sucked the tiny fruit into his mouth as if it were a ripe cherry.

  Velvet arched her breast into his hot mouth, panting with arousal. "Take me to bed," she whispered breath­lessly.

  He raised his head and his compelling grey eyes looked directly into hers. "You shock me, mistress."

  Seductively, she laughed up at him, convinced he was teasing her, and vowed to tease him back unmer­cifully.

  He removed his hands from her lush breasts, closed the bodice of her gown and began to fasten the silver ribbons.

  She swayed toward him. "What are you doing?"

  He steadied her, then picked up his shirt and pro­ceeded to put it on. "I have no intention of taking you to bed until we are married, Velvet."

  Her eyes flashed dangerously. "You bedded me be­fore!"

  "Aye, and after I let you have your way with me, you suddenly changed your mind and spurned me. I have more good sense than to let that happen again."

  She opened her mouth to refute such an outrageous accusation, but before she could speak, his mouth took possession of hers in a demanding kiss. She melted against him, yielding her will to his. He had warned her long ago that he would be in control, and she real­ized she wanted him no other way.

  "Come." He led her into the other chamber, donned his coat and buckled on his sword.

  Her heart and her body cried out in protest. She whispered, "Greysteel, I don't want to go back to Bish­opsgate."

  His grey eyes gleamed with victory. "I'm not taking you back to Bishopsgate, my sweetheart. I'm taking you down to the chapel so we can be married. I have no intention of letting you escape again."

  "Tonight? Are you sure we can be married tonight?"

  "Very sure." He grinned. "I've made the arrange­ments."

  "You devil!" She ran to the mirror, intent on restor­ing order to her disheveled hair and gown.

  He came up behind her and slipped his arms around her.

  "Velvet, you look radiant and lovely, as always."

  "I'm going to be a countess. I have to look perfect!"

  Chapter 16

  Velvet's eyes were drawn to the beautiful statues of angels that stood guard in the Queen's Chapel at Whitehall. Greysteel led her to the altar draped in cloth of gold, and the Anglican priest who officiated at the king's services stepped forward.

  "Holy matrimony is not to be taken unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly," he admonished, "but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.

  "Matrimony was ordained for the hallowing of the union betwixt man and woman; for the procreation of children to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord; and for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, in both prosperity and adversity.

  "Robert Greysteel Montgomery, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sick­ness and in health, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?"

  "I will." His voice rumbled like thunder around the chapel.

  "Elizabeth Cavendish, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's or­dinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?"

  Velvet raised her eyes to the angel whose face re­sembled her mother's. Montgomery is noble and strong. I vow he will protect you and always keep you safe, my dar­ling.

  "I will." Her voice was tremulous. I'm lying I know I won't always obey him.

teel heard her promise. Will you truly love me, Velvet?

  The priest did not ask who gave her to be married. Earlier, Montgomery had produced the legal betrothal signed by Newcastle.

  They held hands and gave each other their troth for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish; till death did they part.

  Then, magically, Greysteel slipped a tiny gold ring on her finger. "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee honor, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

  Velvet did not deceive herself. Montgomery's proper­ties were all in his name. Bolsover Castle was his unless and until he made her a gift of it.

  "Forasmuch as Robert and Elizabeth have consented together in holy wedlock, I pronounce that they be man and wife together."

  Greysteel placed a chaste kiss on her forehead, and the priest led the way to the vestry, where the newly-weds signed the register. A man and a woman stood waiting to sign as witnesses. Velvet recognized the man as Greysteel's servant, Thomas.

  The woman curtsied. "Congratulations, yer lord­ship."

  Greysteel smiled down at Velvet. "This lady is one of Whitehall's incomparable cooks, who befriended me when I first came to London. As always her service is invaluable."

  Velvet thanked her and Thomas. Then Greysteel seized her hand and whisked her away, back up to their own suite of rooms. She became breathless climb­ing the stairs at the pace he set, so he swept her into his arms and carried her up the final flight. He didn't set her feet down until he had carried her across their threshold. Then he firmly locked the door and re­moved his coat and his sword.

  Suddenly, she felt shy, and when her husband took her into his arms, she blushed profusely. "I feel all prim and proper—I don't know what has come over me."

  "That's easily explained. When I married you, I turned a precocious, saucy baggage into a lady... Lady Montgomery."

  Her shyness vanished instantly. She moved against him, tempting his manhood. "I'll let you decide. Do you want me to act like a wife or a mistress tonight, Lord Montgomery?"

  He cupped her bottom and squeezed. "Both...tonight and every night. Variety is the spice of life. Do you want me to make love as your husband or your lover?"

  She licked her lips, pretending it was a difficult choice. "Let's start with the earl.... I've never had an earl before."

  Greysteel didn't give her time to ache to be un­dressed. He began the ritual immediately. "This will always be my favorite gown. I must remove it before I ruin it"

  As he removed each garment, he kissed every inch of satiny skin that the denuding revealed. Finally, she was naked except for her stockings and pretty silver garters. He picked her up and sat her down on the edge of the bed so that she could watch him strip off his clothes, while he told her in sensual detail the inti­mate things he intended.

  She reveled in her husband's wide shoulders and well-muscled chest with its pelt of black hair. His height and darkness resembled the king's, but his face, now hard with desire, had a predatory, dangerous look that inflamed her senses.

  Slowly, he pushed her down on the bed and spread her beautiful red gold hair across the pillow. He paid homage to her naked flesh by making love to her with his eyes. His intense gaze lingered on her mouth, then swept to her luscious breasts. His lips curved as he watched her nipples ruche with arousal. His glance trailed down her belly and came to rest on her mons. "Your saucy curls, set off by the silver ribbons of your garters, look like flames. Are you afire for me, Velvet? Do you burn as I do, my lovely?"

  He came over her, kneeling on the bed, straddling her hips with his hard-muscled legs, and then he cap­tured her mouth and ravished it. Heat leaped between them as he kissed and licked and tasted every inch of her smooth, alabaster skin from her throat to her belly, now taut with arousal. He unfastened her garters, pushed down her stockings and set his hot mouth to the soft flesh on the insides of her thighs.

  Her desire spiraled higher as she remembered how he had once made love to her with his mouth. She arched up from the bed, inviting his hungry mouth to devour her. When it came, the thrust of his rough tongue was far more erotic than she anticipated and she wanted to scream with excitement as he lifted her slim legs onto his shoulders. She threaded her fingers through his long, black locks, holding him captive at her woman's center. Then she began to cry out his name in pure, unadulterated pleasure. "Greysteel! Greysteel!"

  She wanted the exquisite sensation to last forever, but soon she began to throb and moan as her pulsa­tions began and she climaxed with delicious liquid tremors. She thought he would come over her and capture her mouth, but he surprised her by turning her over so that she lay facedown on the bed.

  He lifted her hair and set his lips to the sensitive nape of her neck. Then in a tantalizing descent he trailed kisses down the length of her spine. By the time his lips touched her bottom, he was well aware that he had aroused her again. When he slid his tongue into the cleft of her bum cheeks, she began to writhe and he knew he could wait no longer for his own release. He raised her bottom and slid into her scalding woman's center from behind, sheathing his cock to the hilt.

  The pleasure was so intense, she arched her bum and grabbed fistfuls of the sheet. They both cried out as they spent together and his white-hot seed erupted like a firestorm. They lay together for long silent min­utes as the dark, erotic passion that had taken posses­sion of them subsided. She loved the smell of his man-scented skin and the weight of his body on hers. She felt boneless from the release he'd given her.

  He rolled her so that she lay supine between his thighs, and bent to kiss her lips until they felt bee-stung. She gazed up at him in wonder. "My God, the earl was a revelation!"

  "Nobility has its privileges." He nuzzled her neck and cuddled her against him, loving the feel of her body, now soft with surfeit. He nibbled her ear and whispered, "The earl has made your husband jealous. When will it be his turn?"

  Though she felt boneless, she could not resist teas­ing him. "My husband will have to wait while I pleas­ure a certain impatient captain of the guard."

  Greysteel reached up and closed the curtains about the bed. "I want no witnesses to this military exercise. I must warn you I give no quarter and will accept only unconditional surrender."

  Velvet groped him in the darkness. "My pleasure, Captain."

  An hour later, when his bride fell asleep in his arms, Greysteel Montgomery held her possessively. He had never felt as happy and content in his life before. He gazed down at her for a long time, and then finally closed his eyes. His mouth curved with deep satisfac­tion. She is my angel love.

  When Velvet awoke at dawn, her husband was propped on one elbow, gazing down at her with pos­sessive grey eyes. She smiled and stretched with deli­cious languor. His lovemaking had made her feel worshipped, like a goddess, imbued with power over him. She reached up to trace the dark shadow along his unshaven jaw and thrilled when he took her hand, dropped a kiss into her palm, then closed her fingers over it to keep it captive. She fancied that in this inti­mate moment he could deny her nothing.

  She chose her words to elicit his response. "Greysteel, we were married so quickly, I have no wedding gift for you."

  "Nay, traditionally it is the groom who gives his bride a morning gift. What would you like, sweet­heart?"

  She traced his lips with her fingertips and whis­pered softly, "Would you give me Bolsover Castle, my dearest lord?"

  "No." He threw back the covers and quit the bed. A pain sliced through his heart. You fool! She wed you for Bolsover.

  He had convinced himself that she loved him. Now he knew she had married him for all the wrong rea­sons—to gain Bolsover, to please Charles and to live at Court. He was a besotted fool!

  Velvet was stunned. Her eyes fastened on his naked back as he walked away from her. She thought she couldn't possibly have heard him right. She drew her knees beneath her and sat up,
holding the sheet to her breasts. "Greysteel, what did you say?"

  He took a clean shirt from the drawer and came back to the bed. "I said no. Velvet."

  Her eyes flashed and the sheet fell away. "Why the devil not?" she demanded imperiously.

  "If I gave you the castle, you would turn around and give it back to your family."

  "Of course I would. It belongs to my father!"

  "No, Velvet, it belongs to me." His glance was drawn to her lovely breasts, which rose and fell with her agitation.

  She grabbed the sheet and pulled it up to conceal them from his avid gaze. "You avaricious swine!"

  His mouth quirked. "Very pretty language for a bride to her new husband. You think to beguile me with such sweet talk?"

  "You devil! Your self-interest is appalling."

  "It is your lack of self-interest that appalls me, Vel­vet."

  "What do you mean?" she demanded.

  "Your father will have Nottingham Castle restored to him along with his many other vast property hold­ings. His wife, Margaret, is to be made a duchess. Your brother, Henry, Marquis of Mansfield, will get Welbeck Abbey. The Cavendish family is now reaping its re­wards from the king."

  "The rewards are justified!"

  "Of course they are," he agreed. "You are a member of the Cavendish family, far more deserving than Mar­garet. Where is your reward, Velvet? What will you get?"

  She stared at him, hearing his words, and began to comprehend.

  "If your besotted bridegroom gifted you with the castle and in your blind devotion you handed the deed over to your father, do you think he'd be generous enough to say, 'Bolsover is yours, Velvet'? If he wanted to, do you think Margaret would let him?"

  She lowered her lashes. "I don't know," she mur­mured.

  "You do know." He sat down on the bed and placed his fingers beneath her chin. "Look at me, Velvet." When she raised reluctant lashes, he said, "Bolsover Castle is ours: yours and mine. I intend to deed it to our firstborn child."

  She could not help but be happy that Greysteel had such foresight. She hadn't given much thought to her future children, but it was apparent that he had. She was thankful that he had a good head for business, but she was a little dismayed that his head ruled his heart. I knew from the beginning that he was a man who liked to be in control. In my conceit I believed I could make him lose control whenever I wanted, and wrap him around my fin­gers to do my bidding.

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