A Highlander's Heart: A Sexy Regency Romance (Highland Knights Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: A Highlander's Heart: A Sexy Regency Romance (Highland Knights Book 1)
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Her hands clasped her opposite shoulders, and a furrow appeared between her brows. “Should I stop? Is it too fast?”

“God, no. It’s just—you’re so beautiful.” He remembered his first thought on seeing her at Waterloo. “So beautiful ye hurt my eyes. You’re an angel, Claire.”

She gazed up at him, blinking. “No one’s ever called me an angel before. I’ve done too many bad things.”

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her lips. “You’re an angel. My angel,” he murmured, thinking of how she’d appeared to him on the battlefield, of how he’d later woken to see her sleeping beside him. She’d brought a peace with her that he hadn’t seen in a year—that he’d needed more than he’d known.

“No,” she whispered.

“Yes,” he said, moving his lips to her jaw and sucking gently. “Yes,” he murmured, moving up her jawline to her ear.

“Come to bed with me.” He laced her fingers with his, walked her to the bed, and clasped her waist and lifted her so she sat on its edge.

He glided his hands down the curve of her waist and along her outer thighs until he reached her ribbon garters, untying them both simultaneously, then rolling down her stockings, one leg at a time, and slipping off her shoes.

She sat very still, her breaths short, as she watched him work.

“So bonny,” he murmured, sliding his hands from her heels, up her legs and her waist and higher until he grasped her face in his palms, tilting it up. He leaned down and kissed her, tasting her sweetness, licking it up like ambrosia.

It took enormous strength of will to pull his lips from hers. “Lie down, lass.”

She did, and he crawled up onto the bed after her, removing the offending shirt as he went.

Now they were both bare. He gazed into her eyes, seeing the entreaty there. It had been so long. For both of them. There was an urgency that hadn’t been present since their wedding night, but he wasn’t about to steal his pleasure from her without ensuring she took her own. In any case, he knew from experience that it was always better for him when he knew she’d reached her peak before he did.

He lowered his lips to the pale skin over her collarbone, trailing his tongue along it, then dipping lower until he kissed the feminine slope of her breast.

He groaned. She was so sweet. So lovely. She tasted so damn good. And the way she moved her hands over his skin was alighting every nerve ending he possessed.

He made his way to her nipple and closed his lips around it. She arched into his mouth, gasping, as he played with the taut nub, rolling it around his tongue, suckling, tasting.

He cupped her breasts in his hands, pressing his cheeks against the impossibly soft flesh as he moved from one to the other.

She writhed and gasped as he continued to lick, suck, tease.

“I could do this all night,” he whispered against her skin.

“God, no,” she murmured.

“Why not?”

She didn’t answer.

“Have I teased you, love?”

“I… Yes,” she said, then made a soft keening sound as his lips closed over a nipple. He took his time with it, rubbing his lips over it, grazing his teeth over it. When he finally came up for air, she was panting.

“You terrible man,” she groaned.

It wasn’t meant to be an insult, or even an accusation. Rob knew this. But the words brought back that morning when he’d left her to join the regiment in Edinburgh, when she’d torn out his heart and flung it to the birds.

She could do that again. She was capable of doing it again. He hadn’t been able to steel his heart against her.

“Please, Rob,” she whimpered.

He closed his eyes, fighting off the surge of fear. Then he pressed his lips to the underslope of her breast, moving down over her ribs, passing over her stomach, then to the vee of hair at the apex of her legs. He nudged her knees apart, then parted her folds with his fingers, taking one look at her pretty pink flesh before moving his mouth to it.

She nearly jumped off the bed when his mouth grazed over her. She wiggled and squirmed, but he held the tops of her thighs to keep her still. And he feasted on her center like he’d feasted on her breasts. Licking, sucking, tasting, teasing.

He released one hand from her thigh and touched his thumb to that area that always brought her so much pleasure. He pressed gently, moving his thumb in tiny circles over the little nub as he continued to suckle her beneath.

Her fingers threaded in his hair, holding him tightly against her body. Her thighs began to shake. And then she came hard, her body arching and spasming under his hands and mouth.

He saw her through it, and when her spasms had slowed to intermittent tremors, he pulled his hand away and kissed her hot flesh gently. Then he moved back up her body to gaze at her.

She looked mussed and sleepy, a soft smile that he hadn’t seen in so long curling her lips.

“Better?” he murmured.

She slipped her arms around him and burrowed her face into his chest. “Oh yes.”

“Good.” He settled in beside her and pulled her against him. “Go to sleep, love.”

“Mmm…but what about you?”

“Not tonight, Claire.”
Perhaps not ever.
“Tonight was for you.”

She gave a complaining murmur, but a moment later, as he glided his fingers over the smooth skin of her upper arm, she was asleep, her breaths deep and even. He wasn’t surprised. They were both exhausted after two days of nearly no sleep.

But despite his exhaustion, he lay awake for hours.

* * *

Now sensitive to her husband’s habit of rising early, Claire jolted awake at the gentle movement of the mattress. She turned her head, blinking the sleep out of her eyes, to look at Rob, who sat at the edge of the bed, his back facing her.

She gazed at the planes and angles of his muscular back. She’d never seen any other man’s naked back before, but she didn’t think many men’s could compare to her husband’s spectacular form. He was broad and muscular, wide shoulders tapering to trim hips, the early morning light playing over the dips and planes of his muscles.

Why hadn’t he taken things further last night? She’d wanted him inside her, but he’d murmured that the night was for her, that she must sleep.

She didn’t understand it. He’d never done that before. And the reason for his abstinence? She could only think of one possibility: He didn’t want to get her with child again.

As she battled down the surging emotion in her throat, he rose, revealing his buttocks and legs, muscles flexing as he walked across the room to a table where they’d placed their luggage. He opened it carefully, evidently trying to be quiet for the sake of her sleep, which was a sweet enough gesture to warm her heart despite all the insecurities swirling around within it.

When he had finished dressing, she stretched and sat up, pulling up the sheet to cover her breasts. He looked over his shoulder at her and smiled, but there was a guarded look in his light-blue eyes.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she said.

He gazed at her for a moment longer, then returned his attention to their valises. He opened hers and pulled out a fresh chemise, which he brought to the bed.

“Thought I’d go down and hunt us up some breakfast. Are ye hungry?”

She took her chemise from him. “Yes.”

He kissed the top of her head. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

She nodded, and as soon as he left, she slipped the chemise on. A moment later, a knock sounded on the door.


“My name is Bess, milady. I’ve come to see if you’d be needing any assistance with your toilette this morning.”

Claire slipped out of bed and opened the door. A round-faced maid stood on the other side. She curtsied. “Milady.”

“Bess, is it? Well, thank you. I could use some help.”

Bess came in, and Claire kept the door open as her husband appeared at the top of the stairs. “Breakfast will be served soon,” he said. “I’ve spoken with the other men, and we’re to meet in the dining room in fifteen minutes’ time.”

“May I join you?”

He inclined his head. “Of course.”

As Bess helped her dress and did her hair, Claire wondered why her husband and his men had been given this well-appointed and staffed town house. She knew enough about the army to understand that this was unusual. What could it mean?

Fifteen minutes later, dressed in her mud-stained white muslin—she really needed to go to her father’s to fetch some clothes—she went downstairs to find the men in the dining room. They all stood, their chairs scraping over the wood floor, when she entered. “Good morning, gentlemen.”

“Good morning, milady,” they chorused, a few bowing their heads in deference. The men looked dapper in their fresh, crisp uniforms, all of them appearing better rested and generally cleaner and better groomed than she’d seen them to this point.

They all seemed rather bemused this morning as well, perhaps as confused as she was about the opulence surrounding them. She glanced at the two sergeants, guessing it was the first time they’d formally dined with officers, not to mention an earl’s daughter. Both men were calm and contained, polite and alert. It was no wonder her husband had chosen those two.

Rob gestured to the seat across from him, and she sat beside Captain McLeod. The son and heir of an earl, McLeod was the man of the highest aristocratic status here. He was also the Highland version of a rake, and a dangerous one at that. Handsome and confident, with a wicked glint in his dark eyes. He never would dare be forward with her, of course, out of deference to his major, but she’d already seen him turn more than a few women’s heads during the trip from Waterloo.

As a footman scooped eggs onto her plate, she asked McLeod about his injured leg.

“It’s healing enough to itch the dickens out o’ me,” he said with a grin.

“That’s a good sign.”

“It’ll be well enough in due time.”

“I’ll check it later, and we’ll see if it’s ready to take the stitches out.”

“Aye, milady. Thank you.”

Within a few minutes, the footmen had completed doling out the kippers, bacon, fresh fruit, and eggs, along with a basket containing various breads to choose from. The food was outstanding—fresh and well cooked—and the men ate as if they hadn’t eaten such delicacies in years. Which they probably hadn’t, she reflected.

After several minutes of everyone blissfully inhaling their food, Stirling, who sat beside Rob, asked, “So what d’ye think of this, Major?”

“I canna say,” Rob said.

“It’s verra odd,” McLeod said. “But have ye taken a moment to think about it? The major is a baronet. Stirling and Ross are both knights. My father is the Earl of Sutton. Innes’s uncle is the Marquess of Lochleid.”

“Aye, I did notice that coincidence,” Rob said, placing special emphasis on
, as if he was certain it actually wasn’t one.

Stirling frowned. “So…we’re all connected to the gentry in some way.”

“Except us,” Sergeant Mackenzie said, gesturing at Sergeant Fraser. Mackenzie was a powerfully built brown-haired man, with handsome features and bright blue eyes. It wasn’t surprising that Claire’s sister fancied him. “Fraser and I havena any connections to anyone”—he gave a wry smile—“if ye dinna count sheep farming and cattle herding.”

“Aye, but I selected you,” Rob pointed out. “The rest of us were ordered together by Wellington.”

“And we’re the only ones in the 92nd regiment with aristocratic or chivalric connections.” McLeod tapped his chin.

“They must have chosen us to accomplish some task,” Stirling said, moving the eggs around on his plate with his fork. “But what? What task would require a group of men who’ve links to the aristocracy?”

“Aye… What task indeed?” Rob glanced at the clock above the mantel. “I suppose we’ll have the answer in a few hours’ time. Let’s not worry about the unknown. We’ll have what we require soon enough.”

They finished breakfast, then retired to the opulent drawing room with its silk furnishings, gilded walls, potted palms, and frescoed ceiling.

The men pretended to read newspapers but instead kept glancing at the clock, looking rather like a group of nervous bulls in a china shop, which Claire thought was endearing.

Claire checked on the men’s injuries. She wrapped a clean bandage on Lieutenant Innis’s arm and around Lieutenant Ross’s waist, and determined that McLeod’s stitches weren’t ready to come out, despite his protests. She rebandaged his leg and patted it gently, then turned to her husband.

“May I check your head?”

“Verra well,” he sighed.

“I want to see if the swelling’s gone down.”

He turned as if it were a great trial for him to do so, and she gently rubbed her fingers over the goose egg at the back of his head.

It was still the size of an egg, but it had gone down. Now, it felt more like a bird’s egg than a goose egg, and it was certainly no longer the size of her fist.

“It’s healing, thank God,” she said.

Her husband turned around, and his ice-blue eyes locked on hers for a heated second before he shook his paper out in front of him and returned his focus to it.

She smiled at Sergeant Mackenzie. “How is your sling?” With Claire’s guidance, Grace had fashioned it for him yesterday, when the carriage ride had been jarring his injury painfully.

“I dinna think there could be a more comfortable resting position for my arm, milady.”

“My sister is becoming a skilled doctor,” she teased.

“Indeed she is.” His voice brimmed with admiration.

She watched him carefully. His expression appeared genuine and honest. While he could be interested in Grace only for her inheritance and title, instinct told Claire he wasn’t the kind of man interested in ruining a young lady for the sole purpose of elevating his social status. “I wish she were here,” she murmured.

“As do I.”

“Hmmm. I intend to visit her this afternoon. Perhaps, if you’re free, you would like to come?”

“Oh, aye, milady. I’d like that verra much indeed.” His eyes flickered toward Rob. “If I am able. And if the major agrees.”

Rob just grunted.

“Of course he agrees,” she said warmly.

Claire spent the remaining time before they left watching over them all, an odd sort of maternal feeling for the entire group of them washing over her. She hoped that whatever orders they received today at the War Office wouldn’t entail Rob—or any of them—having to leave England again.

BOOK: A Highlander's Heart: A Sexy Regency Romance (Highland Knights Book 1)
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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