“Why won’t you move?” she cried.

“Because I am about to blow, and I refuse to go without you.”

“I am ready!” Her voice was high with her distress, her womb clenching and tightening in a way that was nearly painful.

With effortless strength, he scooped her up and lifted to his knees, impaling her deeper on the rock-hard length of his cock. Amelia clung to his broad shoulders, her mouth suckling across the salty, whisker-roughened expanse of his throat. The room spun as he rearranged their positions, every movement sliding her over him until she bit him in retaliation for her sexual frustration.

Montoya cursed and pushed her away from him.

“Ride,” he said roughly.

He sat on the edge of the bed, her legs astride his, his erection buried deep. So deep. Canting his arms back, he supported his torso and gave her full access to use him as she willed. The display he made was searingly erotic, his abdomen laced tight with muscle, his furred chest damp with sweat.

And the mask. Dear God, the mask added a dark, alluring mystery that urged her to recklessness.


“Now!” he barked, making her jump.

Her shoulders went back and her chin lifted in answer to his challenge. She thought this must be difficult for him for reasons she had not considered before. He made love with the expertise of a man who had his choice of women, which suggested the marring of his face might have been a recent event. Perhaps she was the first woman to welcome him to her bed since the injury was inflicted. The thought added poignancy to an already remarkable event.

Amelia decided in that moment that she would love him well, with all that she had, better than any other woman ever could. She would reach for the turmoil she sensed inside him and soothe it with her passion, showing him with her body that it was his heart that lured her to him.

Setting her hands on his shoulders for balance, she pushed onto her knees and lifted, sliding her sex upward along the length of him. When she lowered, the feel of the broad head of his cock stroking over that quivering spot inside her made her gasp and shake violently.

“That’s it,” he praised in a dark whisper, watching her through thick black lashes. “See how well I fit you? I was made for your pleasure.”

Biting her lower lip, she repeated the movement, venturing slowly as she found the way of it. Her thumb brushed across a scar that marred his shoulder, the wound so old, it had long since turned silver. She caressed it as she undulated, feeling the circular shape surrounded by ragged edges. In the back of her mind the injury bothered her, prodded at her . . .

Then he spoke, and everything else scattered from her mind.

“Sweet Amelia. You are mine.”

Amelia rose and wrapped her arms around his torso, tilting her head to fit her mouth over his, lifting and falling, moaning at the feel of her swollen nipples brushing across the light dusting of coarse hair on his chest.

Claiming him as he claimed her.

Montoya thrust one hand into her tresses, holding her close as he murmured encouragement into her mouth, his hips circling beneath her in breathtaking thrusts, stealing her wits.

Stealing her heart.

As she gained confidence, she moved faster, breathing hard from her exertions, drops of sweat trickling down between her bouncing breasts.

“I want you this way daily.” His words were heavy, slurred with pleasure. “I want you to feel empty when I am not inside you. Hungry. Starved for me.”

Amelia knew it would be that way. She was mindless with lust, grinding, writhing, pumping onto his thick, straining erection as if she had done this before. As if she knew what she was doing.

His teeth nipped her throat and she cried out, everything clenching inside her until he cursed from the feel of it.

He was driving her to this madness—with his big body reclined, his eyes heavy-lidded behind the mask, his lips glistening from her mouth. He looked like a pagan sex god. Exotically beautiful. Endlessly controlled. Content to lie back and be pleasured by a wanton whose sole focus was the pursuit of orgasm.

With her lips against his cheek, she whispered, “Fuck me,” surprising herself with how easily the crude word rolled off her tongue.

A brutal shudder wracked Montoya’s frame in response.

“Make me come,” she coaxed breathlessly, riding him still. “I want it . . . I want you. Wild. Deep. I need you with me—”

Before she could blink, he had twisted, pinning her to the bed. Feet on the floor and fists in the counterpane, he drove powerfully into her, every perfect downstroke wrenching a cry of rapture from her throat.

He loomed over her, watching her through the mask, his chest heaving, his abdomen lacing, his buttocks clenching beneath her calves as she lifted to meet his every plunge. His body was a study in sexual power. Built to fuck a woman into addiction.

The coiling tension in her womb tightened, forming a hard knot that made her head thrash against the brutal pleasure. And then it broke free in a riot of sensation, burning across her skin, seizing her lungs, spasming inside her in endless rapid ripples that worshipped his straining cock.

The guttural roar that ripped from his throat brought tears to her eyes and a name to her lips. He paused in midstroke, rigid, and she mewled a protest, undulating beneath him in delirious pleasure.

He resumed, increasing the strength and speed of his thrusts until he swelled inside her, groaning through gritted teeth. Embedded in her to the deepest point, his body jerked in time to the hot, thick wash of his ejaculations inside her.

It was savage and primitive and beautiful. He curled around her, his weight supported on his forearms beneath her back, his skin sticking to hers with their mingled sweat.

“I love you,” he whispered ardently, his tongue licking the trails of her tears. “I love you.”

Amelia reached for the ribbons that secured the mask.

Chapter 11

It was dark in the room, the banked fire incapable of casting a shadow more than a foot away from the grate. Sight was difficult, and yet Simon’s instincts urged him to heed their warning.

Moving cautiously, he turned his head and found the space in the bed beside him to be empty. He exhaled carefully, maintaining the deep, even rhythm of sleep.

Something had woken him, and since he was sleeping with a woman who would kill him if necessary, he knew ignoring the disturbance would not be wise.

He looked toward the window and saw the gleam of silver moonlight on strands of golden hair. Lysette had the drapes parted a scant inch or two and was presently staring out the window.

“What are you doing?” he whispered, sitting up.

Her head might have turned toward him, but he could not be sure.

“I heard noises outside.”

“What do you see?”

The curtain closed. “Three riders. One went inside briefly, I assume to wake the innkeeper. Then they continued on.”

Shivering, Simon threw off the covers and moved to the grate. “I doubt anyone would go to such trouble for directions at this time of night.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“Could you hear them? Were they French?”

There was a brief flare of light as she lit a match; then the wick of a single taper took over the illumination. “I think they were English.”

He frowned into the flickering fire. “Perhaps I should wake Maria.”

“No need. They rode forward, not backward. Whatever they are looking for, it has yet to be found.”

As heat began to radiate outward from the grate, Simon stood and faced Lysette. She looked tired, and a crease marred the side of her lovely face. She wore her cloak over her chemise and clutched it to her chest with white-knuckled fingers.

He gestured toward the bed. “Fine. Let’s go back to sleep. I am still sore from that blasted carriage and could use a bit more time on my back instead of my arse.”

Lysette nodded wearily and sank into the chair she had been reading in earlier. “Bonne nuit.”

“Bloody hell.” Scowling, he asked, “Did you fall asleep there?”

She blinked up at him. “Oui.”

“On purpose?”


Simon ran a hand through his hair and prayed for patience. “I do not bite or snore or drool. I mean no offense when I say that I have no interest in tumbling you. The bed is perfectly safe.”

“The bed may be,” she said, watching him impassively, “but I have some doubts as to whether you are.”

He opened his mouth to argue, then threw up his hands. “Bah! Rot in the chair, then.”

Freezing, he hurried back to the bed and crawled between now-cooled linens. Curling into a ball, he prayed the warmth of the renewed fire would reach the bed soon.

“Curse you,” he grumbled, glaring down the length of the bed at her. “It would be much warmer if there were two of us in here.”

“You have more reason to want me dead than alive,” she pointed out in a far too reasonable tone.

“At this moment, truer words were never spoken,” he snapped. “The only reason I am not strangling you is because killing you would rob me of your body heat!”

Her pretty lips thinned primly.

“This is ridiculous, Lysette.” He sat up, too frustrated to even attempt sleep. The impracticality of sleeping in the cramped wing chair after a long day of travel was so out of character for her. She was faultlessly practical, as was everyone who lived by their wits. “Why would I kill you now, when I have not before?”

She shrugged, but the way her gaze darted nervously belied the careless gesture.

Heaving out a long-suffering sigh, Simon once again tossed back the covers and stalked toward her. When she wielded a knife from between the edges of her cloak, he was not surprised.

“Put that away.”

“Stay back.”

“I am not attracted to you,” he reiterated slowly. “And even if I was, I have no need to force myself on an unwilling woman.”

Lysette frowned suspiciously. “I am fine in the chair.”

“Liar. You look exhausted, and I cannot afford to drag you along while I attempt to clear Mitchell’s name. You must carry your own weight.”

She bristled at that. “I will not be a burden.”

“Damned if you won’t after a night spent sleepless and frozen. You will become ill and useless.”

Pushing to her feet, she said, “I can take care of myself. Go back to bed and leave me in peace!”

Simon opened his mouth to argue further, then shook his head instead. He once again climbed between the sheets and turned his back toward the other side of the bed. A few moments later, the taper was extinguished. Shortly afterward he heard delicate snoring.

Faced with a deepening puzzle, Simon lay awake for some time.

Amelia studied the masked man in repose beside her and wondered how deeply he slept.

“We will wait until the sunrise to remove it,” Montoya had said earlier.

“Why not now?” she countered, desperate to see beneath the now intrusive barrier. Her heart was smitten and her body no longer innocent. But what they shared could be no more than infatuation—it could not be love—if she did not see all sides of him.

“I want nothing to mar this evening,” he had explained, withdrawing from her body and moving to the washstand behind the screen in the corner. He’d returned with a damp cloth and washed between her thighs, then cleansed himself before joining her in the bed. “In the morning, I will bare myself to you, strengthened by the memories of a blissful, perfect night in your arms.”

In the end, she had reluctantly agreed, unwilling to be at odds with him over the matter of a few hours.

With his back to the headboard and her body curved to his side, he had asked her to share a beloved memory from her past. She had chosen a tale about Colin, relating how she had conquered her fear of heights by climbing a tree during a game of hide-and-seek.

“He passed below me several times,” she said, her cheek resting over Montoya’s heart. “I half hoped he would find me quickly, because it was frightening clinging to that limb, but the desire to surprise him was too great to give myself away.”

His hand caressed up and down the length of her back. “You wanted to win,” he corrected, laughing that low, deep laugh she had adored from the moment she heard it.

“That, too.” She smiled. “When he finally forfeited, I was so pleased with myself. Colin spent his allowance on a new ribbon to mark the conquering of that fear.”

Montoya sighed. “He must have loved you a great deal.”

“I think he did, although he never told me. I would have given anything to hear those words from him.” Her fingers sifted through the hair on his chest.

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“I tell myself that. I still have that ribbon. It is one of my greatest treasures.”

“What do you imagine your life would have been like now, if you two had never been parted?”

Lifting her head, she’d met his questioning gaze. “I have imagined it in hundreds of scenarios. The most likely one, I think, would be that St. John would have taken Colin under his wing.”

“Would you be married?”

“I have always hoped so. But that would depend upon him.”

“He would have asked you,” Montoya said with conviction.

Amelia smiled. “What leads you to be so certain?”

“He loved you deeply. I have no doubt. You were simply too young for him at the time, and he was not in a position to offer for you.” He brushed the backs of his fingers along her cheekbone. “Do you love him still?”

She hesitated, wondering at the wisdom of confessing a lingering affection for one man while warming the bed of another.

“Always tell me the truth,” he urged softly, “and you will never be wrong.”

“Part of me will love him forever. He helped to mold me into the person I am today. He is weaved into the very fabric of my life.”

Montoya had kissed her then, sweetly and with deep reverence. Breathless and enamored, she asked him to share a part of his past with her, expecting that he might speak of his lost love. He did not.