Julia's hand clenched, and she lowered it into the water, submerging the sparkling diamond. “It doesn't mean anything, except that I happen to like it. And if you presume that my favors can be bought—”

“I'm presuming nothing.” A smile crossed his lips. “You seem to expect that I'll pounce on you at any moment. I'm almost inclined to think you'll be disappointed if I don't.”

“Let's not play games,” she said pertly. “You're here because you want to bed me again.”

“Of course I do,” he replied in a level voice. “And you want the same thing. As I recall, it was a mutually enjoyable experience—or will you try to claim you were only acting?”

Reddening in frustration, Julia drew her arm back in open threat. “Leave, or I'll throw enough water on you to ruin those very fine clothes.”

Damon's smile remained. “Then I'd have no reason not to join you.”

Slowly her arm relaxed. “Please leave,” she said through her teeth. “I've been in the bath long enough. My skin is beginning to wrinkle.”

He extended a solicitous hand to her. “I'll help you out.”

“No, thank you.”

“Shy?” he asked with a mocking lift of his brows. “I've seen you na*ed before. Once more will hardly make a difference.”

“I won't get out until you've left!”

A taunting smile curved his lips. “I'm not leaving.”

Irritated beyond bearing, Julia kept her features expressionless and extended a hand to him. “Very well,” she said coolly. “You may help me out of the bath.” Obligingly Damon reached in for her, and she took hold of his wrist with both hands. Before he could brace himself against her forward pull, she used all her weight to tug him into the water. With a muffled curse, he lost his balance and plunged headfirst.

Julia yelped in triumph and retreated to the opposite side of the bath. She couldn't help sputtering with laughter as Damon emerged with his black hair plastered to his head. Through the water-spiked frames of his lashes, his gray eyes promised retribution. “You little devil,” he muttered, and lunged for her.

Laughing with a mixture of enjoyment and alarm, Julia fought to evade him. Damon caught her around the waist and pulled her against his body, the soaked layers of his clothes crushed between them.

“You needed a medicinal dunking,” she informed him, still shaking with giggles. “The water will cure all your ills.”

“There's one problem it won't cure,” he said meaningfully, and cupped his hands over her na*ed buttocks, pressing her hard against him.

Julia's laughter dissolved as she felt the swelling shape of him wedged intimately high between her thighs. Her body drifted in the hot water until she anchored herself to him, holding on to his shoulders, allowing her legs to wrap around his hips. Their breath mingled in irregular bursts as they stared at each other. Although they were both perfectly still, Julia had the sensation of being tumbled over and over in the onslaught of an incoming tide, caught helplessly in the pull of the churning waves.

Gently she pushed the locks of water-soaked hair from his forehead, her fingers passing from his temple to his ear. Her thumb brushed his jaw, and then she touched the soft place just beneath the bone of his chin. She was enthralled by the scratchy-slick feel of his skin, the movement of muscle as he swallowed.

Suddenly Damon hoisted her higher against him, his movements effortless in the buoyant water. His large hands hooked underneath her arms, holding her steady as he bent his head to her breast. Julia squirmed in protest until she felt his mouth slide across the tender curve of her breast and fasten onto a flushed nipple. The flicker of his tongue caused an achingly sweet response, the soft peak contracting in his mouth. He tugged and stroked her with his mouth, making her gasp and arch in his arms. Greedily her hands clawed at the thin linen film of his shirt, craving the feel of his bare skin.

Lowering her back into the water, Damon slid his hand over her hip and across the taut skin of her belly. His touch glided between her thighs, reaching into the velvet patch of hair until he found the most sensitive part of her. Julia shuddered in growing desire, wanting more of the pleasure he offered. But an awareness of where they were, a public place, kept her from abandoning herself completely.

“We can't,” she gasped against his mouth. “Not here.”

“Do you want me?” he whispered, and kissed her deeply, tasting the sweet warmth of her mouth.

Julia trembled against him, her body slick and weightless in his arms. Through the blur of her wet lashes, she saw his face next to hers, his skin gleaming like bronze, his gaze promising erotic fantasies.

At her silence, Damon lowered his mouth to her neck, kissing and nibbling the sensitive path that led up to her ear. “All you have to do is tell me,” he murmured. “Just one word, Julia…yes or no.”

A small moan escaped her. She was drowning in sensation, wanting what she had forbidden herself, knowing how wrong it was…but that didn't matter. It seemed that nothing and no one existed outside this small room. Her hand came to the water-soaked hair at the back of his neck, gripping feverishly. “Yes,” she whispered.

Damon pried at the buttons on his shirt, smiling as Julia tried to help him, their fingers slipping and tangling beneath the surface of the pool. When his chest was bared, Julia drew her hands down the smooth expanse, as hard as wet marble. The tips of her br**sts brushed against his skin, and she breathed faster in excitement. “Hurry,” she urged, spreading kisses over his face and neck.

Damon paused in the difficult act of unfastening his wet trousers, one brow raised sardonically. “I've never disrobed under water before. It's not as easy as you might think.”

“Try harder,” Julia whispered, kissing him. Her tongue entered his mouth, tempting and teasing, until he gave a laughing groan and yanked more roughly at his trousers. The fastenings finally gave way, allowing his rampant erection to spring free. Julia's hand closed around the hard silken length, gently gripping and sliding.

He said her name, his voice ragged in her ear, his fingers digging into her h*ps as he guided her body over his. He held her steady and pushed inside her slowly. She whimpered and clung to Him, shivering in delight. Damon nudged deeper, wanting to thrust rapidly but restrained by the sloshing water to a torturously slow rhythm. Their bodies flexed together in a teasing, sliding friction that promised to last an eternity.

Quivering, Julia wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her face against his wet throat. She felt the powerful force of his breath expanding in his chest. It seemed that they had become one being, sharing the same rhythms of pulse and nerves. The pleasure climbed sharply, shocking her with its intensity. She lost all awareness except the driving movements inside her, the sensations that overflowed until she could bear them no longer.

Damon smothered her cry with his mouth feeling the convulsive shudders of her body as she cl**axed. Her inner muscles rippled tightly around him, sending him to his own forceful release. He closed his eyes, while his senses shattered and his blood was set on fire. “Julia,” he gasped against her tautly arched throat. “I'll never let you go…never…”

Somehow Julia heard him above the chaotic rushing of her own blood. While part of her rebelled against the ownership in his voice, another part of her gloried in it. She owned him too; she took the same deep pleasure in their joining…and despite her inexperience she Knew that she would never find this with anyone else. Weak and fulfilled and despairing, she sagged against him in the water. His hands slipped over her body, traveling softly from the nape of her neck to her hips.

“Let me stay the night with you,” he murmured.

Julia saw no point in objecting. It would be hypocritical after what had just happened. She gave him a small nod and wriggled away, feeling him slip from her body.

Glancing back at Damon, she choked on a sudden giggle as she saw him fishing at the bottom of the pool for his shoes. When he resurfaced und held up the ruined leather articles in triumph, Julia shook her head slowly. “Do you intend to walk to the inn dressed in wet clothes? You'll catch a chill, or worse.”

Damon drew her out of the bath, his gray eyes caressing as he glanced over her flushed, na*ed body. “You can warm me when we reach your room.”

Chapter 9

Filled with vitality and a sense of lightness, Julia stood on the stage of Bath's New Theatre and surveyed the activity around her with satisfaction. The fire in London didn't seem to have daunted the spirits of the cast and crew. Busily they assembled new scenery, rehearsed bits of dialogue and stage blocking, and exchanged jokes about the hardships of touring.

“Bloody boring little city,” Arlyss murmured, resting her hands on her hips. She made a comical face at Julia. “Not a healthy young man in sight. Nothing but desperate old maids and invalids.”

Julia smiled wryly. “I thought we were here to perform My Lady Deception, not to look for men.”

“The day I stop looking…” Arlyss began, and suddenly stopped with an odd expression on her face.

Following her friend's gaze, Julia saw that Mary Woods, one of the company's minor actresses, was flirting openly with Michael Fiske. The scene painter seemed more than a little interested in the pretty young woman and her ebullient smile.

“What is she doing, taking up Fiske's time when she should be rehearsing her part?” Arlyss demanded, a scowl pulling at the bridge of her slim nose.

Julia repressed a smile as she heard the distinct note of jealousy in Arlyss's voice. “Mary has only a few lines. I'm sure she knows them to perfection by now.”

Arlyss's scowl remained. “Mr. Fiske has enough to do without entertaining the likes of her.”

“You could have had Fiske, had you wanted him,” Julia said matter-of-factly. “But as I recall, you were more taken with Lord William Savage.”

“Well, he was no better than any of the others,” Arlyss retorted. “Although William is divine in bed, he apparently has no interest in me outside of it. I'm finished with him. With all men, at the moment.” Crossing her arms over her chest, she pointedly turned her back on the sight of Michael Fiske and Mary Woods. Just then Julia saw Fiske take a surreptitious glance at Arlyss. So he was trying to make her jealous, Julia thought, and her lips twitched with sympathetic amusement.

“Let's talk about your paramour,” Arlyss suggested, turning impish. “Lord Savage came to see me in London—he was trying to find you. All I said to him was that the company was going to begin touring in Bath. Did he come here? Have you seen him?”

Julia hesitated and nodded, while warm color burnished her cheeks.

“Well?” Arlyss prompted. “What happened?”

Shaking her head, Julia gave a self-conscious laugh. Even if she were inclined to tell her, no words could describe last night. After leaving the bath house, they had walked to the inn. The brisk night air had felt refreshing to Julia, but she had been aware of the shivers that ran up and down Damon's frame as his wet, chilly garments clung to his body. When they reached her room, Julia had stirred a fire in the grate, and they had hung his garments to dry.

After climbing into the small but cozy bed, they had pressed their na*ed bodies together until Damon's skin had turned as warm as her own. He had made love to her wordlessly, using the tender brush of his fingertips, the heat of his mouth, and the movements of his body to communicate his feelings. Remembering the ecstasy she had found in the fire-touched darkness, Julia felt her blush deepen. This morning Damon had been slow to awaken, yawning and stretching and grumbling…pulling her against him when she tried to leave the bed. He had taken her once more, plunging into her body with slow thrusts that had driven her senseless.

Somehow Julia pulled her mind away from the lurid thoughts. “It's nothing I would feel comfortable discussing,” she murmured.

Arlyss leaned closer in conspiratorial delight. “I'm so happy for you, Jessica! I've never seen you look this way before. You must be in love. It's been a long time coming for you, hasn't it?”

“Don't tell anyone, please.”

“Oh, I won't…but they'll guess anyway. You know how gossip is. Besides, you can't hide when you're in love—it comes out in a hundred different ways.”

Julia was spared from replying by the arrival of Logan Scott, who had been detained by a bevy of local politicians, clergy, and townspeople, all of them eager to make his acquaintance and welcome him to Bath. His vivid blue eyes took in the activity onstage, and he gave a short nod of approval. As people gathered around him with questions, he held them off with a murmur and strode toward Julia.

“Mrs. Wentworth,” he said briskly, “how are you?”

She held his gaze and smiled slightly. “Perfectly well after a week's rest, Mr. Scott.”

“Good.”

Sensing that her presence was de trop, Arlyss promptly headed toward Michael Fiske, who was still occupied with Mary Woods.

Logan didn't remove his penetrating gaze from Julia's face. “I've heard that Savage is here in Bath,” he remarked. Though the words were toneless, Julia felt as if she had been accused of something.

“Yes,” she said in a way that could have been taken either as confirmation or as question.

“Have you seen him yet?”

Julia couldn't bring herself to answer, but he read her expression easily. “Gorging on sweets again?” he asked.

Julia flushed at his reference to their conversation at his London home. Her shoulders inched upward defensively. “It's not my fault if he chooses to follow me.”

One russet brow curled in derision. “Isn't it?”

“If you're implying that I've offered him encouragement—”

“I don't give a damn what you've offered him. Just make certain your work isn't affected. The first morning you arrive late to rehearsal because you've been lolling in bed with—”

“I wasn't late this morning,” Julia interrupted, her voice touched with frost. “You were, Mr. Scott.”

Giving her a chilling glance, Logan turned and walked away, snapping out commands right and left.

Julia felt disturbed and slightly puzzled. It was the closest they had ever come to an outright argument, and she wasn't certain why. If they had been any other two people, she might have speculated that Logan Scott had been motivated by jealousy. But that was ridiculous. He certainly had no romantic feelings for her—and even if he did, he would rather die than break his strict rule about never having a relationship with any of the actresses in the company.

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com

***