“What are you reading?” he asked. It hadn’t escaped his notice that she’d brought a book to a ball. “You sneak off a lot, don’t you?”

She gave him a sheepish smile. “I’m afraid that I do have a tendency of making myself scarce.”

He noticed the dance card on her wrist. It was full, which didn't surprise him.

“And the book?”

She held it up and shrugged. “It’s one of my favorite plays. It helps me relax. I had a feeling that I would need it tonight by the way that my mother and sister were behaving.”

He couldn’t quite make out the words from the worn cover. “Which play?”

Her whole face lit up. She obviously took great joy from her book. “'As You Like It’ by Shakespeare. It’s my absolute favorite,” she said dreamily.

Robert groaned. “I’m going to have to kiss you now.”

Chapter 7

Elizabeth didn’t have a chance to respond before his lips were touching hers. She couldn’t think as he brushed his lips softly against hers, the gentle caress taking her by surprise. Her hands automatically went to his chest. She was prepared to shove him away so that she could leave before someone found them and she was forced into a marriage that she didn’t want when something occurred to her.

What if this was her only chance to know what it was like to be with a man, a man that she actually wanted? She didn’t want to live her life full of regrets. She didn’t want to wonder what she’d missed out on by never marrying if that’s what her future held. Right then she decided that if she was going to live her life as a spinster, then she was going to enjoy this moment with….whatever his name was and give into this overwhelming attraction that she felt for him. After a moment, she allowed herself to relax and to enjoy his kisses and the sensations that were teasing and tormenting her body as she lost herself to his touch.

He brushed his lips over hers once, twice and once again. Her mouth was soft and sweet, but it wasn’t enough. He ran the tip of his tongue over her bottom lip. She gasped in surprise, opening her mouth ever so slightly, but it was enough for him. He tilted his head to the side and deepened the kiss.

Elizabeth didn’t know what to think when his lips moved against hers except that somehow for some reason it felt right, perfect. His kisses weren’t frantic or sloppy. They were sweet. When he teasingly slid his tongue inside her mouth she was too stunned at first to react to the invasion. Then slowly she began to melt in his arms. Her hands slid up his chest, enjoying the feel of hard muscle beneath his coat until they found his shoulders.

He groaned as he pulled her against him, enjoying himself until his damn conscience nagged at him. As wonderful as it felt to kiss her, he knew by the unpracticed strokes of her tongue and lips that she was innocent. He pulled back and looked into her eyes, praying that she wouldn’t end this. This had to be her choice, because he sure as hell wasn’t about to stop this if he had a choice in the matter.

For a moment, neither of them moved. They watched each other, panting slightly as they waited for the other to put a halt to this insanity. Slowly, he moved in, giving her a chance to stop this even as he prayed that she wouldn't. When his mouth touched hers again it was anything but timid. This kiss was hot, wild, and possessive. Words were beyond them. Robert pulled her closer until her br**sts were pressed more firmly against his chest.

Elizabeth ran her fingers through his hair, enjoying the soft feel of it. He moved his mouth away from hers, nibbling on her ear and neck. He slipped his fingers beneath the top of her gown and slowly pulled down the material, taking her shift down as well until her br**sts were bared to him.

Still neither spoke.

He ran his tongue from her neck down to her br**sts, leaving a wet trail behind that had her toes curling. Elizabeth moaned as she ran her hands down his back, encouraging him to continue when she should be pushing him away and running as fast as her legs could carry her back to the safety of the ball. He ran his tongue in a circular motion around one taut nipple before he pulled the hard pebble into his mouth, effectively killing any thoughts she might have had of ending this.

He reached up and cupped her other breast. He weighed it in his hand, squeezed it, and ran his thumb around the firm nipple. He held the breast up for his mouth and, after one last lick of the nipple he’d been worshipping, his mouth greedily accepted the offering. He licked and sucked the large breast until she was moaning louder and digging her fingers into his shoulders, desperate for more.

Elizabeth thought she was going to die from the pleasure he was giving her. It felt incredible. Better than she’d ever imagined, but something was missing. After a moment she realized what that something was. She needed to touch him, too. Deciding that she wasn’t going to wait for an invitation, she worked his shirt off, desperate for the contact.

He was surprised when he felt her hands working the buttons of his coat, but immensely pleased nonetheless. Releasing her br**sts, he pulled his cravat off and shrugged off his outer garments, leaving only his shirt until that too was gone.

Elizabeth reached out with trembling hands and ran her fingers down his chest, enjoying the feel of his warm smooth skin over hard muscle. She ran her fingers tentatively over one flat nipple, making him groan. Her hands moved down to trace the muscles that made up his flat stomach. He groaned again, but didn’t say or do anything to stop her.

She wanted to keep touching him, but her arms were effectively pinned to her sides by her dress, limiting her movements. She worried her bottom lip nervously as she pulled her arms out and pushed the dress and shift down around her waist. She watched as he ran hungry eyes over her. His response gave her the courage to continue. Pushing aside her nervousness, she leaned in and kissed him. Robert grabbed her waist and held her firmly as they kissed almost desperately.

Never breaking the kiss, he helped her to her feet until they were both standing. He reached behind her and undid the buttons of her disheveled dress. He slowly pushed it down and waited patiently until she stepped out of her dress, leaving her na**d except for her stockings and slippers. Only one person had seen her na**d before and that had been her maid. She should be embarrassed, but oddly enough with him she didn’t feel shy or self-conscious. She felt beautiful, wanted and cherished.

She watched as he kneeled down in front of her. He gently rolled her stockings down, taking her slippers off in the process. He pressed hot kisses to her skin as he made his way back to her mouth. She pulled him into her arms and kissed him hungrily, unable to get enough of him.

His hands roamed over her body, touching her arms, br**sts, stomach, back, bottom and legs. Every touch made her stomach tighten and the area between her legs ache. She wanted more, but didn’t know what.

He seemed to know. He moved his mouth to her neck and suckled her skin on the way back to her br**sts. Once he found her nipple, his hand worked its way between her legs. He cupped her and ran his fingers through slick curls. She moaned loudly, unable to help herself.

When he slipped a finger inside her, he found her hot, wet, and ready. He groaned and moved his mouth back to hers while he worked a finger in and out of her. Soon she was moving against his finger, her body desperate for release. He couldn’t wait. He couldn’t even think of anything beyond getting inside her.

His other hand worked frantically at his pants. With a groan, he broke off the kiss and removed his hand from the honeyed heaven he couldn't wait to explore. He reached down, pushed his pants down and pulled his boots off until he was na**d as well.