Page 50

Author: Anne Stuart


He caught her, all that lovely, naked flesh, pulling her into his arms and crushing her against him, kissing her, openmouthed and hungry. She was shaking all over, her eyes wide and shocked. “I thought you wouldn’t come,” she whispered. “I was so afraid.”


He wanted to reassure her, but he was too busy kissing her. And she was kissing him back, her hands pushing the cassock away, fumbling with his clothing. He caught her wrists, frowning down at her, but she simply struggled.


“I need you,” she said, her voice thick with tears. “I need you to…they touched me. They put their filthy hands on me, and I can’t stand it. I need you to wipe out the feel of those awful hands. Please, Benedick.”


He was past rational thought. Fury at her words washed through him, as well as lust that he knew he should ignore. But her hands were desperate, and he’d been so frightened, and he pulled her back into the shadows, into the darkness, and pushed her up against the wall.


There was no time, no need for preparation. She was wet, he was hard, and he simply released himself from the breeches, lifting her up and bracing her against the wall before he thrust into her with a grunt of satisfaction, feeling her tight around him.


He wanted to slow down, afraid he might hurt her, but she dug her fingers into his shoulders. “No,” she whispered in his ear. “Don’t stop. I need you. Hard. I need you to take me. Harder.”


He knew what she wanted. Something to blot out the horror of what she’d been through, something to drive her into oblivion and beyond. She had no use for tenderness right then; she needed domination, and he gave it to her, slamming into her, and she absorbed each thrust with an inner clutching, wanting more, needing more.


He felt the climax sweep through her, hard and fast, followed by another, but he wasn’t ready to stop, wasn’t ready for her to finish. He put his hands between them and touched her, covering her mouth with his. He’d wanted to make her scream with pleasure but this was the wrong time and place. He needed to fuck her in silence, swallowing her cries, and he did, sweating, his body shaking, his legs wanting to give way, her own wrapped so tightly around him that he wanted to die from the pleasure of it.


Her final climax was his undoing, and he let his seed spurt inside her, reveling in the feel of it as he had the time before, not worrying about the consequences. Breaking all the rules he held so fiercely and not caring. Needing to fill her, own her in the most primitive manner.


Still clutching her, he collapsed against the wall, leaning his forehead against hers while he tried to get his breathing under control. Her own was coming really fast, and her heart was still slamming against his. He could feel the stray shudders dancing through her body, squeezing him, and he knew if he stayed like that he’d get hard again. And that was one indulgence he didn’t dare claim.


He moved his mouth to her ear, biting the lobe with just a faint nip, and she came again. He wanted to laugh, lighthearted at such a desperate moment, but if he did he’d slip free from her, and he wanted to stay locked together for just a moment longer.


“Are you all right?” he whispered.


He felt her momentary hesitation, but the fear had left her, the shock and disgust. “Splendid,” she said dryly. “At least, slightly splendid.”


He smiled against her face. “I’ll never think of grapes in the same way.”


She shoved at him then, and he withdrew, letting her down carefully. She was glaring at him, and he was relieved as well as distracted. He quickly rearranged his clothes, telling himself to stop thinking of her like that. At least she didn’t have the vulnerable, frightened expression. He much preferred her as a virago.


“Give me your robe,” she whispered.


“I can hardly infiltrate them dressed like this. And they’re expecting you to be naked. Of course, I can’t figure out why they would have trussed you up and just left you. An army of them must have walked by and barely seemed to notice you.”


“They’re drugged,” she said briefly.


“That explains it. No competent male would ignore a woman like you.”


It wasn’t working, and he knew it. “Give me the goddamn robe.”


He’d been about to relinquish it but her tone made him stop. “I need it more than you do. Why don’t you hop back up on the table and lie still? With luck they won’t see you on the way out, either.”


Her hand caught the rope belt, yanking him against her. “If you think I’m in the mood for this, you’re wrong. Give me the robe.”


He relinquished it reluctantly, not so much because he needed it but because the sight of her naked body was something normal and beautiful in this eerie, evil darkness. He was dressed in dark clothes, usual for him, and he blended into the shadows well enough. “You need to go back up. I’ll find Betsey and bring her up, as well.”


“You don’t even know her,” Melisande whispered.


“How many children will they have trussed up and ready to sacrifice?”


“I really don’t know.”


His momentary good humor, thanks to the release of sex and the assurance that Melisande was safe, vanished. He looked down at the woman who somehow mattered to him in ways he wasn’t going to think about, and frowned. “You’re not going to leave and head for safety, are you?”


“Not when someone’s life is at stake.”


“I assure you, the person most likely to die a horrible death tonight will be whoever started this whole mess.”


“Wasn’t that your ancestor?”


“The original organization was a far cry from the cruelties and mad plans of this current group. Whoever’s behind it isn’t going to make it through the night. He’s convinced Brandon he murdered a young woman. He’s done everything to push Brandon over the edge. And I’m going to kill him for it.”


She surveyed him for a long moment, then sighed. “Lovely,” she said in a caustic voice. “Before you avenge your brother could we please rescue Betsey?”


He’d done something wrong again; he knew it with dismal certainty but he couldn’t afford to stop long enough to figure it out. Another female on his coattails, another female he wanted safe at home, in bed, in his bed. Another female he cared too much about, try as he might to drive her away.


“I don’t think so,” he murmured. And before she realized what he was doing he clipped her across the jaw with a perfect fist, dropping her like a stone.


He caught her before she landed on the hard-packed floor. Years of training in the pugilistic arts had finally paid off with the best hit of his life. If she hadn’t caved, he didn’t think he would have been capable of hitting her again, even to save her life. He’d never hit a woman in his life, would never have even considered it. But to save her life he’d do anything.


He held her in his arms for a moment, looking down into her peaceful face. “I’m so sorry, my darling,” he whispered, brushing his mouth against hers. “But I refuse to risk your life. You can kill me later.”


Holding her tight against him, he moved to the farthest alcove, laying her down on a bunch of cushions clearly marked for more licentious activity. He should probably take back the robe, but he couldn’t see leaving her naked and defenseless. He only wished there was enough time to get her back outside again, but he daren’t take the chance.


He took the rope belt and wrapped it around her wrists, loosely, so that she could untie herself if he didn’t come back. There was no guarantee he’d be successful, but sooner or later his sister and the Scorpion would show up with reinforcements. He might despise his brother-in-law, but he had absolutely no doubt that Lucien de Malheur would make hash of these aristocrats and their putative master.


She looked so peaceful, and he wished to God he could just take her and run, leave the rest to Lucien. But he couldn’t. He’d promised her, and even if he hadn’t, he could scarcely leave a child to such monsters.


He drew back. And then, before he could change his mind, he turned and strode out of the room, down the endless warren of tunnels to the quiet buzz of noise that was slowly growing louder.


She waited until his footsteps died away, and then she opened her eyes. She knew she should be angry enough to kill, but at the moment she was past that. She sat up, reaching her bound hands up to her jaw, wiggling it a little. It hurt. He’d hit her hard, and she hadn’t been feigning her collapse. By the time he’d caught her she’d gathered her disordered senses, smart enough to know that fighting him would be a losing battle and only delay him from getting to Betsey. So she kept her eyes closed as he carried her into this place and tied her wrists. Kept her eyes closed as he’d kissed her, so sweetly, with more gentleness than he’d shown her so far.


He’d called her “my darling.” Did he mean it? She didn’t have time to consider that, either. If he loved her, she’d forgive him for trying to knock her out. If he didn’t, she was going to kill him.


She tugged at the rope around her wrists, then used her teeth, pulling it free with surprising ease. So he would avenge his brother and probably ruin his own life, but he didn’t give a damn about her, trussed up like a Christmas goose. She’d been forced to lie there as they pawed her, and she’d been desperate for anything to get the feel of their hands off her. He’d done the job, quite effectively, and even now, beneath the enveloping monk’s robe, she could feel his seed sticky on her legs, and she wondered if she would go through another ritual scrubbing when she finally got home. Or whether she would let it remain, knowing it was the last time he would touch her.


She managed to scramble to her feet, only the slightest bit shaky. She knew she couldn’t indulge that shakiness, and she started after him, her bare feet cold on the hard stone floor. As she passed the table they’d trussed her to she realized she was starving, and at the last minute she plucked a bunch of grapes to take with her. No one, no one could crush her, no matter what they did. She might fall apart momentarily, but she was ready to fight once more, and she wasn’t going to let a perverted group of randy aristocrats terrorize her.

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