Page 19

Marcus heaved a clearly frustrated breath. “Eat,” he ordered.

She stuck her tongue out at him, then gulped down her wine in an effort to warm the chill within her.

They finished the rest of the meal in silence, both absorbed in their own thoughts. Afterwards, they retired to the front parlor. Elizabeth resumed perusing the journal while Marcus took off his boots and began to polish them.

Using the book to hide behind, she watched him engaged in his task, the light from the fireplace casting a golden halo around him. As the powerful muscles of his shoulders shifted with his exertions, Elizabeth felt a familiar longing spread through her. She couldn’t help but be reminded of his powerful body flexing over and inside hers, dissolving her will in decadent pleasure. After years of equanimity, she was inundated with feelings too strong to control.

With great effort, she returned her attention to the journal, but the endless pages of code were unable to engage her mind.

Shifting in his chair, Marcus was achingly aware of Elizabeth’s heated gaze. He wished he could lift his head and return it, but she would be embarrassed to be caught staring and that would destroy the comfortable silence they were sharing. Rubbing furiously over the worn leather of his boots, he stealthily perused her.

Dressed like a peasant, she lay on the chaise with her legs curled up beside her and covered with a blanket. Her hair was unbound as it had been all day. He loved her hair. He loved to touch it and wrap it around his fist. Soft and unfettered in clothing and demeanor, Elizabeth aroused him just by breathing.

He smiled in spite of himself. As always, he was both soothed and excited by her presence. The world could go to hell around them and he would pay no mind, tucked away with no servants, no family. Just the two of them.

In separate beds.

Christ. He was certifiable.

Elizabeth shut the journal with a soft thump. Lifting his head, he gazed at her expectantly. Desire coursed through his veins when he saw her eyes, dark and melting. Hope welled. She wanted him.

“I believe I’ll retire,” she told him, her voice husky.

He took a deep breath to hide his painful disappointment. “So early?”

“I’m tired.”

“Goodnight, then,” he said, his voice studiously nonchalant as he returned his attention to his boots.

Elizabeth paused in the doorway, and watched Marcus for a moment, hoping he would break his word and ravish her. But he ignored her. His attention was fixed entirely on his task as it had been for the last hour. She might as well not have been there. “Goodnight,” she said finally before drifting down the hallway to her room.

Pressing her back against the door, she closed it with a sharp click. She stripped and dressed in her night rail, then climbed into bed. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to sleep.

But oblivion was elusive. Her mind jumped from one lascivious thought to the next, remembering the coarseness of Marcus’s callused palms as they caressed her skin, the feel of his strength over her, and the sound of his guttural cries as he reached his climax within her. Knowing he was hers for the asking and yet depriving herself was driving her mad.

Groaning into her pillow, she wished desperately for her body to cease its throbbing, but she couldn’t forget Marcus, who sat by the fire, breathtakingly virile. Her skin became too tight, too hot … her breasts heavy and swollen, her nipples puckered tight and aching.

He’d come to her every night, sated her hunger long enough to make it through the brief hours until she could have him again. Now it had been two days and she was starved for his touch and the caress of his mouth. She tossed and turned, her movements making her hot. She threw back the covers, her skin and hair damp with sweat, her thighs squeezed tight in an attempt to dull the emptiness there.

Marriage. The man was mad. When he tired of her he would dally and she would lie at home, as she was doing now, and burn for him.

Damn him to perdition! She could do without him, didn’t need him. She cupped her breasts in her hands and squeezed, a low moan escaping at the sudden flare of heat between her legs. Embarrassed and knowing it was wrong, she still couldn’t prevent rolling her nipples between her fingertips and imagining it was Marcus. Her back arched, her legs spread against her will, her body desperate for the nightly fucking it had grown addicted to.

Near desperation, her hand moved down her torso and slipped between her legs. Her own juices coated her fingers as she found the source of her torment. Her head tilted back and she cried out softly, determined to find her own relief.

The door flew open with such force it slammed against the wall. Startled, she screamed and sat upright.

Marcus stood in the doorway in silent fury, a single taper held aloft in his hand. “Stubborn, contrary, maddening wench! I can hear you,” he growled, striding into the room as if he had every right to. “You would punish us both rather than admit the truth.”

“Get out!” she yelled, mortified to be caught in such a compromising position.

He set the taper on the nightstand and snatched up her hand, lifting it to his nose. His eyes closed and he breathed in the scent of her sex. Then he parted his lips and suckled her fingertips.

Eyes wide, Elizabeth whimpered as the hot velvet of his tongue swirled around and between her fingers, lapping her cream. Relief flooded her, making her limp and pliant. Thank God he’d come for her. She couldn’t have borne another moment without his touch, his scent …

“Here.” He shoved her wet fingers unceremoniously between her legs.

“Wh-what are you doing?” she asked breathlessly, yanking her hand to her waist to clutch at her night rail.

In the light of the candle and backlit by the fire in the grate, Marcus looked like Mephistopheles himself, austere and filled with a palpable dark energy. There was no softness to him, no seduction, just a silent irrefutable command. “Finding the relief you’ve refused me.”

He tore open the placket of his breeches and pulled out the magnificent length of his cock. Elizabeth’s mouth watered at the sight of it. Hard and thick, it pulsed with starkly etched veins. Her legs spread wider in invitation.

Marcus tilted his head arrogantly. “You shall have to ask me, if you want this.” His hand gripped at the root and stroked to the tip.

She groaned her anguish. He was merciless. Why couldn’t he simply take what he wanted?

“You want me to take you,” he said hoarsely, all the while holding his cock out to her like a gift. “You want me to take the decision from you, so there will be no guilt. Well, I won’t, love. You set the rules and I gave my word.”


“Witch,” he threw back at her. “Tempting me, offering me heaven with one hand while taking it away with the other.” He pumped his hand and a drop of cum beaded the tip of his erection.

“Must you always have your way?” she whispered, trying to collect how she could want him and hate him with equal ardor.

“Must you always deny me?” he retorted, his voice low and deep, brushing across her skin like rough silk.

Elizabeth curled into a ball and turned away from him … and a second later was flipped onto her back and dragged to the end of the mattress, kicking and screaming. “You are a brute!”

He bent over her with hands on either side of her head, the silky smooth head of his erection pressing into her thigh. His emerald eyes narrowed and burned. “You will lie here with your legs spread while I take my pleasure.” Thrusting along her thigh, Marcus teased her with what she desired, leaving a trail of wetness behind. “If you move or otherwise attempt to evade me, I will tie you down.”

Furious, Elizabeth lifted her hips and almost caught him. He slipped into her for a moment, just the tip, and she gasped with relief.

He pulled away with a curse. “If my goal were less worthy, I’d fuck you properly. Lord knows you need it.”

“I hate you!” Tears welled and slid down her temples, yet still her body ached for him. If her pride meant any less to her she’d be begging.

“I’m certain you wish you did.”

With far from gentle hands, he arranged her to his liking on a pile of pillows. Elizabeth found her hips on the edge of the bed, her legs hanging down the side and spread as wide as comfort would allow. She was completely exposed from the waist down, her glistening sex displayed in the candlelight. As always, Marcus held all the power and left her with nothing.

Her gaze rose to his face, and then traveled the length of his body, watching the play of muscles across his powerful torso as he moved. Curling his long fingers around his cock, Marcus swirled his hand down the length of his shaft, his strokes fluid and graceful despite his obvious lust. His heavy sac was tight and hard, his gaze locked between her thighs.

She lay motionless, arrested by the sight of him. She’d never witnessed anything so erotic in her life, could never have imagined it. One would think a person would be vulnerable in such a pose, and yet Marcus stood proudly, his stance wide for support as he pleasured himself. In an effort to see him better she tried to sit up, but his hands stilled.

“Stay where you are,” he ordered tersely as he squeezed the engorged head of his cock in his fist. “Put your heels on the mattress.”

Elizabeth licked her lips and the gesture made him groan. She lifted her legs as he’d demanded and watched a flush creep over the crests of his cheekbones. His pupils dilated, the brilliant emerald retreating until it was only a faint rim around the black.

It was then she realized that the power was hers. She so often forgot how he craved her, how he had always craved her, taking his harsh words as the truth when his every action belied what he said. Filled with renewed confidence, she spread her legs wider. His lips parted on a hiss of air. She plucked her nipples and he moaned. All the while she watched his hands, pumping his cock with a strength that looked painful, but gave him obvious pleasure. Her hands wandered down her torso toward her sex and his motions became more urgent.

She felt the moisture leaking between her legs and she dipped her fingers inside. Marcus growled. Elizabeth wondered if he knew she was there or if she was merely an inspiring view.


Her name was a tormented cry from his lips as he spurted, his hot seed splashing in creamy bursts through her fingers and mingling with her own arousal. Startled by the stunning intimacy, she shivered and came, her neck arching back into the pillows with a gasping breath.

Feeling wicked and wonderful and some other warm emotion she couldn’t name because she’d never felt it before, she slipped her fingers into her mouth and sucked the tangy saltiness of his release.

Marcus stood for a moment watching her with eyes so heated her cheeks flushed. Then he moved behind the screen and she heard him pour water from the pitcher and wash his hands. With breeches fastened he returned to her and cleansed his release from her stomach and thighs. She moaned at his touch, arching into his hand. He bent and pressed a firm, quick kiss to her forehead.

“I shall be next door, if you want me.”

And he made his egress without another word or even a backward glance.

She stared at the closed portal with mouth agape and waited. Surely he would return? He couldn’t be finished. The man was insatiable.

But he didn’t return, and she refused to grovel for his attentions.

Sweating under the covers, but too cold without them, Elizabeth gave up trying to sleep a few hours before dawn. She pulled her cloak around her and returned to the parlor.

Marcus had banked the fire in the hearth, but the room was still warm. Tucking the chaise blanket around her feet, she picked up the journal, hoping it would bore her to sleep.

The sun was just beginning to light the sky when Marcus discovered Elizabeth fast asleep with Hawthorne’s journal open on her lap. He shook his head and grimaced.

One sleepless night passed, thirteen left to survive.

Confused by his soul-deep disquiet, he tugged on his boots and left the small residence. He crossed the circular cobblestone drive that swung by both the main manse and the house he shared with Elizabeth, and headed toward the stables beyond. Below the cliff face he heard the rhythmic roaring of the waves upon the shore and felt the misty breeze as it swelled over the ledge and permeated his sweater. Once inside the warmth of the stables he sucked in the scent of sweet hay and horseflesh, such a stark contrast to the salty bite of the air outdoors.

He bridled one of his carriage bays and led the gelding out of the stall. With a singular determination to work himself to exhaustion so he could sleep at night, Marcus set to the task of grooming his horses. As the heat of his exertions made him sweat, he discarded his sweater in favor of comfort. Lost in thoughts of the night before and the remembrance of Elizabeth displayed erotically in the candlelight, he was startled by a gasp behind him.

Turning about swiftly, he faced the winsome lass who delivered their meals. “Milord,” she said, dipping a quick curtsy.

Eyeing the groomsmen’s quarters behind her, he quickly deduced her worry. “Don’t fret,” he assured her. “I’ve been known to be dumb and blind on occasion.”

The servant studied him with obvious curiosity, her appreciative gaze taking in his bare chest. Surprised to find himself a bit flustered by a woman’s sensual perusal, Marcus turned to retrieve his sweater. As his hand closed around the garment, which was slung over the nearest stall, the temperamental beast inside had the temerity to bite him.

Cursing, Marcus snatched back the injured appendage and glared at the duke’s stallion.

“’e’s a bit testy that one,” the girl said with sympathy. She reached his side and held out a rag, which Marcus accepted quickly and wrapped around his hand to staunch the trickle of blood.

The girl was a pretty thing with soft brown curls and passion-flushed cheeks. Her dress was disheveled, betraying her recent activities, but her smile was genuine and filled with good humor. Marcus was about to return that smile when the stable door slammed open, startling his horse who then sidestepped anxiously, knocking Marcus into the servant and tumbling them both to the floor.