Page 10

There was no place to hide, nowhere to run.

“This will be the last time,” she vowed.

She was stunned that she had allowed him this close, a man whose beauty and charm had always weakened her. Then he lowered his mouth to hers, kissing her with a ravenous hunger. Gripping her hips possessively, Marcus held her still as he withdrew and then thrust again, shuddering as she did at the exquisiteness of it.

Elizabeth shifted restlessly, awed that her body had stretched to accommodate him, was even now stretching to hold him more comfortably. It was amazing, his hardness inside her, filling her completely, bringing a feeling of connection so deep she couldn’t breathe.

“Elizabeth.” His voice was deeply sexual as he wrapped his arms beneath her, pulling her tightly against him in a full body embrace. He nuzzled against her throat. “Only when I’m sated will you be rid of me.”

With the ominous threat he began to move, a sinuous glide of his body upon and within her own.

“Oh!” she cried, startled as the sensations built higher with every slide. She’d meant to withhold her pleasure from him, meant to lie there and deny him what he wanted. But it was impossible. He could melt her with a heated glance. To fuck him, as he so crudely called it, was an act she was helpless to resist.

She tried to increase the pace, wrapping her legs around his hips, her hands grasping his buttocks and pulling him into her, but he was too strong and too determined to have his own way.

“Fuck me,” she gasped, trying to regain the feeling of control by stealing some of his. “Faster.”

Marcus groaned as she writhed beneath him. His voice came, slurred with pleasure. “I knew it would be this way with you …”

In response, Elizabeth dug her nails into the flesh of his back. She loved feeling his damp skin against hers, his warm scent surrounding her. Slipping a little in his control, he slammed into her, hard and impossibly deep. Her toes curled.

Liquid heat traversed her veins, pooled in her core, and then convulsed in climax. She tightened around his thrusting cock, crying out his name, holding onto his flexing body as the only anchor in a swirl of incredible sensation.

And Marcus held on, drenched in sweat, heat radiating from every pore. He growled her name as he spilled into her and the brand of possession burned deep.

Closing her eyes, she cried.

Elizabeth felt as if her limbs were weighted with lead. It took all the effort she had to turn her head and look at Marcus sleeping next to her. His long, black lashes cast peaceful shadows upon his cheeks, the austere beauty of his features soft in repose.

She managed to roll onto her side, which was no easy task with his heavy arm thrown casually across her torso. Lifting onto one elbow, she studied him silently. Boyishly innocent while sleeping, he was so gorgeous she could hardly breathe.

Slowly, she traced her finger along the generous curve of his mouth, then his eyebrows and the length of his jaw. She squealed in surprise as his arm tightened, drawing her body over his.

“What do you think you are doing, madam?” he drawled lazily.

Sliding off him, Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed, struggling for the nonchalance she was certain she should display. “Is this not when lovers part ways?” She needed to think and she couldn’t do that with him lying naked beside her.

“There is no need for you to go.” Leaning back against a pillow, Marcus patted the space next to him. “Come back to bed.”

“No.” She slid off the mattress and gathered up her clothes. “I am sore and tired.”

As she came around, his arm shot out and grabbed her, hauling her closer. “Elizabeth. We can take a nap and have tea later. Then you can go.”

“That’s not possible,” she murmured without looking at him. “I must go home. I want a hot bath.”

He rubbed her arm and grinned playfully. “You can have a bath here. I’ll attend you myself.”

Standing, Elizabeth hastily pulled on her stockings. She struggled with the tapes of her skirts, having difficulty tightening them. Marcus rose from the bed, heedless of his nakedness and crossed the room to her, brushing her fingers aside.

She turned away quickly, her face flushed. Lord, he was handsome! Every part of him was perfect. His muscles rippled with power just beneath golden skin. Recently sated, she still felt the renewed stirrings of desire.

He made quick work of dressing her, adjusting her garters, and securing her tapes. Jealous at his obvious experience, she stood stiffly until he turned her to face him.

He sighed, pulling her against his bare chest. “You are so determined to keep to yourself, to allow no one to get close to you.”

She rested her head against his chest for a moment, savoring the smell of him now mixed with her own scent. Then she pushed him away.

“I gave you what you wanted,” she replied, irritably.

“I want more.”

Her stomach clenched. “Find it elsewhere.”

Marcus laughed. “Now that I’ve shown you pleasure, you’ll crave it, crave me. At night, you will remember my touch and the feel of my cock in you, and you will ache for me.”

“You conceited—”

“No.” He caught her wrist. “I will be craving you as well. What happened today is singular. You won’t find the same elsewhere, and you will need it.”

She lifted her chin, hating the idea that, deep inside, she suspected he was right. “I am free to look.”

His fingers tightened painfully. “No. You are not.” He tugged her hand down to his rampant erection. “When you need this, you will come to me. Don’t doubt that I would kill any man who touches you.”

“Does such forced fidelity work both ways?” She held her breath.

“Of course.”

Marcus stood for a moment in the tense silence, before turning away to retrieve his discarded breeches.

Expelling the air from her lungs in a silent sigh of relief, Elizabeth took a seat in front of the mirror and attempted to fix her hair. She was amazed at the visage that stared back at her. Cheeks flushed, lips swollen, eyes bright—she looked nothing like the woman she’d been that morning. Looking away, she caught Marcus’s reflection. She watched him dress, weighing his words and damning her foolishness. He was even more determined now than he’d been before bedding her.

When she was ready, she stood quickly, a little too quickly for legs still shaky from the afternoon’s events. She stumbled, but Marcus was there, his arms warm bands of steel around her. He had been observing her as well.

“Are you all right?” he asked gruffly. “Did I hurt you?”

She waved him away with her hand. “No, no, I’m fine.”

He stepped back. “Elizabeth, a discussion is in order.”

“Why?” She fluffed her skirts nervously.

“Bloody hell. You and I. Just made love. In that bed.” He gestured with an impatient thrust of his chin. “And the chair. And the floor in a moment, if you don’t cease irritating me.”

“We made a mistake,” she said softly, icy fear settling in her stomach.

“Damn you.” His sidelong glance was scathing and she flinched. “Play your games and bury your head in the sand if you must. I will have my way regardless.”

“It was not my intent to play games, Marcus.” She swallowed hard and moved toward the door. He made no move to stop her so she was startled when she turned and found him directly behind her.

“Don’t be frightened about what happened in the park today,” he murmured, once again all charm and honeyed drawl. “I will protect you from harm.”

Her eyes slid closed. Suddenly the thought of leaving held less appeal. “I know you will.”

“Where will you be this evening?”

“The Dunsmore musicale.”

“I shall meet you there.”

She sighed and opened her eyes. His determined gaze and dogged persistence warned her that he would not allow the matter between them to rest.

He brushed his mouth softly across hers before stepping back and offering his arm. Wary at what she perceived to be his far too easy capitulation, she took it and allowed him to lead her to the main floor.

The butler stood ready with her hat and gloves. “My lord, a Mr. James has called.”

“The study? Excellent. You need not wait.”

The butler bowed and retreated.

Elizabeth searched Marcus’s face as he settled her hat on her head and deftly tied the ribbons. “I pray I can leave here unseen.”

His mouth moved to her ear, and he spoke in a seductive whisper. “Too late. Even now the servants are watching us. It won’t be long before every household in London knows we’re lovers. Avery will learn of us, whether you are seen or not.”

The color drained from her face. She hadn’t considered that. Servants were the worst gossips. “I would think a man with a secret life such as yours would have discreet servants in his employ.”

“I do. However, this is one bit of news I suggested they spread.”

“Are you mad?” Then her eyes widened. “Is this about the wager?”

Marcus sighed. “You wound me. Losing is odious, love, but I would never use you in such a callous manner.”

“Lose?” she cried, her mouth agape. “You didn’t!”

“I did.” He shrugged with nonchalance. “How foolish to avoid a bet in which the outcome is decided by my own actions.”

She frowned. “Which way did you lean?”

His grin was blinding and made her heart skip a beat. “As if I’d tell you.”

His hand at her elbow, Marcus escorted her through the rear garden and out a side gate that led to the stables beyond. He looked on grimly as she mounted her horse. The two armed outriders waited a discreet distance up the mews.

He sketched a quick bow. “Until this evening.”

The burning between her shoulder blades told her he watched her until she rounded the corner and blended into the street beyond. The ache in her chest made breathing difficult and she knew it would only get worse the more time she spent with him.

And she knew what must be done about it.

Chapter 7

“Why does it smell like a perfumery in here?” William grumbled as he walked the upstairs hallway of the Chesterfield mansion with Margaret.

“The scent comes from Elizabeth’s rooms.”

He glanced at her with a frown and saw her eyes shining in mischievous anticipation.

He paused at the open doorway of his sister’s sitting room and blinked rapidly. “It looks like a damned florist shop!”

“Isn’t it sweet?” Margaret laughed, her fiery hair swaying softly with the movement.

William could not resist touching one of the swinging curls. His sweet, wonderful wife. Those who did not know her well thought her a rare redhead of even temperament. Only he knew how she saved the wild, passionate side of her nature just for him. As desire tightened his loins, he sucked in a breath, and was assaulted with the overpowering smell of flowers.

“Romantic?” he barked. Entering the room he dragged Margaret behind him. Riotous bouquets of expensive, richly scented floral arrangements covered every flat surface in the room. “Westfield,” he growled. “I’ll kill him.”

“Calm yourself, William,” she soothed.

He surveyed the scene grimly. “How long has this been going on?”

“Since the Moreland ball.” Margaret sighed, the soft sound making him scowl. “And Lord Westfield is so handsome.”

“You are a hopeless romantic,” he grumbled, choosing to ignore her last comment.

Stepping closer, she wrapped her arms around his lean waist. “I have a right to be.”

“How so?”

“I have found true love, so I know it exists.” She stood on tiptoe, brushing her lips across his. William immediately increased the pressure, kissing her until she was breathless.

“Westfield is a scoundrel, love,” he warned. “I wish you would believe me.”

“I believe you. He reminds me of you.”

He pulled back with a grunt. “And you would want that for Elizabeth?”

Margaret laughed. “You are not so wicked as all that.”

“Because you have reformed me.” He nuzzled against her.

“Elizabeth is a stronger woman than I. She could easily bring Lord Westfield to heel, if she were of the mind to do so. Allow her to handle him.”

William backed out of the room, pulling her with him. “I have duly noted your opinion.”

She attempted to dig in her heels, but he lifted her easily and turned in the direction of their bedchamber.

“You don’t intend to listen to me, do you?”

He grinned. “No, I don’t. I will handle Westfield and you will cease talking about it.” He kissed her soundly as they reached their room. It was only by a twist of fate that he turned his head at that moment and saw Elizabeth reach the top of the stairs. He frowned, and lowered Margaret to her feet. She gave a soft murmur of protest.

“Give me a moment, sweet.” He started off down the hall.

“You’re meddling,” she called after him.

Something was wrong with Elizabeth. That was obvious even from a distance. Flushed and mussed, she looked feverish. His stomach clenched as he neared her. The color of her cheeks deepened upon seeing him, and she looked for a moment just as their mother had before she died, burning with fever. The brief flash of remembered pain quickened his steps.

“Are you unwell?” he asked, placing a hand to her forehead.

Her eyes widened, and then she shook her head quickly.

“You look ill.”

“I’m fine.” Her voice was low and huskier than usual.

“I will send for the doctor.”

“That’s not necessary,” she protested, her spine straightening.

William opened his mouth to speak.

“A nap, William. It’s all I need. I swear it.” She sighed and placed her hand on his arm, her violet eyes softening. “You worry too much.”