Page 24

Author: Anne Stuart

“Don’t be ridiculous.” The next voice was younger, slightly petulant, and that of a stranger. “We didn’t see any sign of horses near the ruins, did we? Who else would be down here? We came in the only entrance and it was locked when we got here.”

“I thought I saw someone moving. Over by one of the training rooms.” The voice and the light came closer, and Rohan pushed her back into the corner of the alcove with his body, pressing her face against his shoulder. He stayed very still, but Melisande could sense the light beyond him, and panic swelled inside her. They’d been discovered.

Apparently not. “It’s black as pitch in there,” the older man said. “Nothing but bedding and rags.”

“You could always walk in and look,” the younger voice taunted him. “I promise not to lock you in.”

The light moved away, and Melisande felt relief flood her body. “Do you seriously think I’d be fool enough to trust you, Pennington? Your sense of humor has always been a bit outré.”


“I could call you out for that.”

“You could. But we have better ways of settling our differences, do we not?” The man called Pennington had a smooth voice, but there was a chill to it.

The other man chuckled, though. “True enough. There are few things more enjoyable than watching two whores trying to cripple each other.”

Melisande jerked, sickened, but Rohan simply pressed harder, keeping her still, his hand over her mouth to silence her. She closed her eyes, forcing her body to relax. Much as she wanted to leap up and start beating at the degenerates in the room beyond, she wouldn’t get very far with a sprained ankle and no stout stick to bash them with. She would have to find other ways to stop them.

She could feel him pressing against her, their bodies almost plastered together. Her breasts felt strange up against his chest. Sensitive, almost abraded, and tingling. His legs were between hers, she realized, holding her down, and his hips were cradled against her.

He was getting hard, she realized. She thought about it, concentrating on the sensation, and realized he was becoming noticeably more aroused, the longer he stayed pressed against her. And yet he couldn’t very well move, not without drawing attention to their hiding place.

So she couldn’t shove him away, or slap him, or do any of the dozen or so things she could think of to halt the direction in which his body and her mind were going. Because her mind was most definitely going there, whether she wanted it to or not.

He was lean and strong, delightfully so. She’d never thought whether there was one particular physical form she preferred—she’d done her best to concentrate on the person rather than their appearance. But in truth she liked being around tall men, and she liked strength, and she liked long, lean, elegant bodies. She liked the way Benedick Rohan looked, and felt, and, yes, tasted, and she could feel a slow heat begin to build between her legs.

It was all wrong. They were in danger, and those two men, members of the foul Heavenly Host, could walk in on them at any moment. She should be concentrating on anger and escape. Not on the feel of him, the hardness between his legs pressed against the softness between hers.

And then, to her shock, he bumped against her. Just a tiny little bounce almost, and her body tightened with surprise.

He did it again, and she realized it was deliberate. She was pressed up tight against him, and he was holding her head against his shoulder, her face hidden, and his other arm was tight around her waist, imprisoning her there. She knew she should try to get her hands up between them, to push him away, but there was simply no room.

He bumped again, and she could feel her nipples harden almost painfully. She wanted him closer still, she realized, moving her legs so he could settle more fully against her. With the next jerk against her she pressed her face harder against his shoulder, to stifle her instinctive cry.

She was burning up. Her breasts, her heart, between her legs, everything was on fire, and she waited for the pulse of him against her welcoming heat once more.

But Rohan didn’t move. The voices had drifted away, though she could still hear them, and the light was faintly visible when she lifted her head from his shoulder. He moved his head, just a bit, and she tried to look up into his face. She could just see his eyes, and they gleamed as they looked down into hers.

She shifted beneath him, restless, longing, half hoping he’d move away from her, half hoping… She couldn’t think clearly. She didn’t know what she wanted.

And yet Rohan asked her the one thing she couldn’t answer. “What do you want, sweet Charity?” It was just a taunting breath of sound, and no one outside of their tiny cave would hear it.

She turned her face away from him, staring at the wall, trying to control her wayward body, envisioning it packed in ice, frozen. But the ice melted against him, and her body was soft and welcoming.

“What do you want?” he persisted, his breath hot against her ear, and his teeth closed lightly over the lobe, and she wanted to moan in pleasure. “What…do…you…want?”

She gave in. She had reached the end of her ability to fight him. “More,” she whispered.

She knew he smiled in triumph. She knew she didn’t care. He pushed up against her, slowly this time, grinding against her, and she lost her breath as sensation danced through her. It was as if they were having sex, she thought dizzily, except that instead of inside her he was outside, rubbing against her with the hard ridge of his erection, a pressure that was making her tremble and dampen in the place where he pressed, and she felt a soft little explosion course through her, leaving her shocked, astonished, as she fell back on the cushioned ground beneath her.

She tried to speak, to say something airy and dismissing, but for the moment she was unable to make a sound. She felt strange, unsettled, anxious, and she knew she should be angry at what he’d done to her, except that she’d asked for more, hadn’t she?

She tried to relax, but her legs were restless, entwined with his. The voices had faded, though there was still just the faintest light emanating from the tunnel outside their pillowed cave. “We…uh…we should go,” she finally managed to say. She could pre tend that unexpected response had never happened. After all, how was he to know?

“Not yet.” His voice was against her ear, tickling her, arousing her. Arousing her? Had she gone mad? “You’re not finished.”

“Not finished? What…?” Just as her voice rose slightly, he clamped his hand over her mouth again. He’d moved, his body lying partly across hers, pinning her there, and she felt his hand on her skirt. Pulling it upward, slowly, his warm, hard hand beneath it, and for a moment she was too shocked to protest.

Then she tried to push at him, but he simply caught her hands in his arms and held them. “Don’t make a sound,” he whispered. “Not if you want to rescue your doves. This won’t take long.”

“What won’t?” she whispered, but then she felt his hand on her thigh, long fingers stroking, caressing, moving upward beneath her loose cotton drawers till he reached the damp, most secret part of her. Vagina, she told herself sternly, remembering Emma’s lessons. Vulva. Clitor…

She slammed her face against his shoulder to muffle her reaction when he touched her, his fingertips sure and practiced. And then his hand cupped her, holding her still by that simple expedient, and he released her wrists. A moment later she felt something thrust in her hands, a soft cloth. “Stuff my handkerchief in your mouth,” he suggested, a note of laughter in his voice. “That will drown out any noise you might make.”

“I don’t want this,” she whispered.

One of his fingers had begun to move, lightly stroking, and that anxious, aching feeling was back, tenfold. “Are you certain?” He was somehow able to speak with only the breath of a sound coming out. His hand slid down farther, and she felt one of his fingers slide inside her, and her hips jerked at the sudden invasion. He moved his mouth to hers, running his tongue along her trembling lower lip. “Do you really want me to stop?”

Of course she did. This was madness; this was pleasure that was oddly painful. She needed him to leave her, she needed…

Her body arched up, almost of its own volition, and without thinking she shoved the cloth into her mouth, smothering her instinctive cry. She felt his laughter against her cheek. “That’s right, my precious. Charity begins at home.” And he slid two fingers inside her, and the slippery dampness would have embarrassed her but she was well past that point.

She could no longer think about how he was causing such sensations to rocket through her body. His fingers thrust inside her, his thumb rubbed against that most sensitive part of her, and she wanted to yank the cloth out of her mouth, to beg him to stop. It was too much, too powerful, she couldn’t stand it, she wanted…

And then all conscious thought vanished in a white haze as her body arched, rigid, as thousands upon thousands of tiny pinpricks shot through her, and she lost herself, the pleasure-pain exploding into a rich darkness she never wanted to leave. It was glorious. It was heaven.

It was disaster.

She came down slowly, brought back to safety with his gentling strokes, and she realized that despite the cloth she’d used she’d managed to bite her lip. She pulled the cloth from her mouth and hid her face from him, pressing it against his shoulder even though it was too dark to see. He was going to say something horrible, she just knew it. He was going to mock her pathetic reaction to his practiced touch, he was going to make her feel…

“Lovely,” he whispered against her ear, smoothing her tangled hair. “Perfectly lovely.”

And she wanted to weep.


She lay in his arms, trembling like a virgin, and he tried to stifle his guilt. In truth, she hadn’t said no. She’d even asked for more, and there was no way he was going to stop with just that small climax. Because he was fairly certain that in some ways Melisande Carstairs was a virgin. It seemed she’d never felt any pleasure at all in bed, much less the most exquisite pleasure of what the French called le petit mort. The little death.


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