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Authors: Candace Camp

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #General

A Winter Scandal (23 page)

BOOK: A Winter Scandal
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Gabriel’s hands went to the buttons of his breeches, and Thea sucked in a soft breath. Quickly he undid the top set, and the garment sagged down, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of his hipbones and the thin line of hair growing downward. He stopped and sat on the edge of the bed to pull off his boots, but Thea did not mind the wait, as she found it equally fascinating to watch the curve of his back and the play of muscles as he tugged off his boots and stockings. He stood up and unfastened the remainder of the buttons, skinning out of his breeches so that he stood before her as naked as she.

Thea’s eyes widened as she took in the sight of a male’s fully naked body. She had never before seen the sight; indeed, she had never expected to see it. While she had had a vague idea of what a man must look like—after all, looking at a fully clothed male, she knew his chest was wider, his hips narrower, his legs longer and more muscled than a woman’s—she had not been prepared for the reality of it. The power, the size, the overwhelming
maleness
of him. Gazing now at Gabriel’s lean body, she felt her own body tightening in response. Gabriel in the flesh was a little shocking … and more than a little exciting.

He came back to her, reaching out to take her arms in his hands. “Having second thoughts?” He slid his hands up and down her arms in a soothing way.

Thea dragged her eyes back up to his face. “It is a trifle, uh, what I mean is, you seem a bit—that is to say, I am not sure exactly what happens, but are you certain we shall, um, fit?”

He chuckled, a low rumbling sound that Thea found curiously comforting. “Indeed, my dear, we shall definitely fit.” He bent to nuzzle his face into her hair. “And I promise I will do my utmost to make sure you discover what happens in a most enjoyable way. But if you are not sure, we can stop here and now.”

“No!” Thea said quickly. “I don’t want to stop.” She looked up at him and smiled, unaware of the flirtatious glint in her usually serious gray eyes. “I want to know. I want …” She trailed off, not sure how to express the tumultuous feelings of desire, need, and frustration bubbling inside her.

Gabriel slid his hands up over her bare shoulders and onto her neck, bracing his thumbs on her chin. “Believe me, I want, too.” Gabriel lowered his head and brushed his lips across hers. “I want very much.”

His lips touched hers lightly again. He lifted his head, smiling down into her eyes, then bent to take her lips again. He drank her in, and Thea rose up on tiptoe to match his desire. It was wildly exciting to kiss him like this, their naked skins pressed together. She could feel the hard, insistent pulse of his need against her, and the heat between her legs throbbed in response, seeming to flower and open eagerly.

As they kissed, his hands went to her back and he trailed his fingertips lightly down her on either side, touching her skin so lightly and delicately that it was as if a feather had brushed over her. She shivered in response and kissed him back even more feverishly. His fingers moved in the same way over the curve of her bottom and down onto the tops of her thighs, sliding tantalizingly close to the cleft between her legs. The pulse within her deepened, her skin tightening and prickling with need. Moisture flooded between her legs, embarrassing her, and she ached to spread her legs apart. She wanted to feel his fingers on her there. She wanted, she realized with some shock, to feel the throbbing length of his manhood there.

Breaking their kiss, Gabriel picked her up again and deposited her on the bed, then lay down beside her. Propping himself up on his elbow, he began to kiss her again, first her mouth, then her ears and face and neck. His other hand went to her breasts, cupping and caressing them, rolling her nipple gently between his thumb and forefinger. He slid lower, his lips trailing over her chest and down onto the pillowy-soft flesh of her breast. The tip of his tongue drew tantalizing designs over the soft orb as he traveled still lower to take her nipple into his mouth. Thea drew in a sharp breath and her fingers clenched in the coverlet beneath her. His mouth pulled and released, each new suction sending a frisson of pleasure straight down through her to gather and twist in her abdomen. His tongue circled the tight, little bud, lashing then soothing.

As his mouth worked on her breast, his fingers slid down her body, gliding over the plain of her stomach and abdomen, creeping ever lower. Her legs moved restlessly on the bed, opening for him, inviting his touch. But he did not immediately touch her there, sliding instead onto her thighs and back, tracing the crease where her thigh met the trunk of her body, then coming back up onto her abdomen and curving down to the other side. Her hips moved as if of their own volition, seeking him, yet still he did not come to the burning core of her, but teased with a featherlight touch, advancing and retreating. All the while, his mouth feasted on her breasts, moving from one to the other, every velvety stroke of his tongue stoking the need inside her.

Thea could not hold back a moan, and she felt his pleased smile in the movement of his lips on her body. Finally, his hand slipped into the
V
between her legs, and Thea shuddered. But this time he did not bring her to that hard, fast peak as he had before. Now his fingers explored her, parting and stroking, even, startlingly, slipping inside her. But that, too, only added fuel to the flame of her desire.

She would never have dreamed that she could feel so much, want so much, that passion could build in her until it was a white-hot flame and her whole body tingled and yearned for satisfaction. Yet with everything he did, the passion only increased more until she thought that she must burst with the force of the desire inside her.

He moved between her legs, and she felt at last the full length of his maleness between her legs. But she knew that was not all she wanted, either. The gentle, throbbing press of his flesh against her was another teasing promise, not fulfillment. She let out a little sob, clutching at his back. He groaned, too, at her movement.

“We’re almost there, my sweet,” he murmured, kissing her neck. “I want to make you ready.”

“I am ready.” Her words were almost a growl, and it earned a breathy, little chuckle from him.

“All right.”

He reached down to position himself, and she felt the tip of his manhood prodding against her. Thea opened her legs wider, tilting her pelvis, and then he was pushing into her, filling her. Panic seized her for an instant as she feared that he was too big, that something was wrong with her, that it would not work and she would be left with this spiraling need that would never be satisfied. Then with a hard thrust, he plunged deep inside her, and pain flashed through her.

Gabriel paused, panting, his body slick with sweat. She could see the fierce concentration on his face, the powerful stillness in him, and she knew that he held himself back, not wanting to cause her further pain. Thea moved, wrapping her legs around him and giving him deeper access to her body. He dropped his head, kissing her neck as he began to stroke in and out, slowly and gently at first, then with increasing speed and force as passion took control of him. Thea clung to him, her whole body trembling with the need that was building inside her. It coiled and twisted, arching higher with every thrust of his body.

She felt as if she was teetering on the edge of something. Her heart slammed in her chest, and each breath was a ragged sob. She wanted, she ached, to reach the summit she was driving toward. And suddenly, she was there … falling over, sliding off the precipice into an explosion of pleasure. Thea cried out as passion surged through her, filling every inch of her. She shook with the pleasure and release of it, and against her she felt Gabriel shudder, too, as they fell, spinning, locked together, into the abyss.

Thirteen

T
hea awoke in a cocoon
of warmth. She blinked, trying to draw her scattered thoughts together. It took a moment to remember where she was and why a hard male body was curled around hers, but when she did, a slow smile crept across her face. Gabriel lay snuggled up to her back, one arm draped over her waist. Her body was naked under the rough sheets, but she was not cold. Gabriel’s naked body behind her was warm as a furnace … and much more pleasant to be lying against.

She felt a soft prod against her buttocks, and she realized with some astonishment that desire was running through him even in his sleep. Would he wish to do that all over again? Her face grew warm at the idea, then even warmer when she realized that despite the soreness between her legs, her body was already responding with anticipation to the thought of Gabriel’s filling her again. Thea squirmed back against him just to see what would happen, and the length of his manhood leaped. She heard his low, warm chuckle above her ear.

“Minx,” he said lightly, but with no discernible displeasure in his voice, and he further proved that by sliding his hand down onto her abdomen and pressing her back against him more firmly.

His hand roamed possessively over the curve of her hip and down the side of her thigh, then back up and over her front, moving languidly over her stomach and lingering on her breasts. Her skin prickled in response, as though his caresses the night before had made her flesh even more responsive to him. This, she thought, must be the trap of wicked behavior—that once ensnared, one wanted it even more. At the moment, however, she could not find it in herself to worry about it; it was far too enjoyable to have his hand caressing her so intimately.

“Do you want—I mean—are you intending—” She stumbled to a stop, unable to think of any way to express her question that was remotely ladylike.

“Yes, I want,” he murmured, his breath tickling her ear. He took the lobe lightly between his teeth.

Thea let out a shaky little breath, already feeling her nether regions melting.

“I want very much,” he continued, and traced the shell of her ear with his tongue. “In fact”—he nuzzled into her hair as his fingers toyed with her nipple—”there’s nothing I want more right now than to lie here for a few hours and further your education.” He pulled aside the veil of her hair and bent to press his lips against the tender skin of her neck before he lifted his head and went on, “However, I intend to play the gentleman and leave you to sleep.”

With a sigh of regret, he pulled away and slipped out of bed. Thea turned and unabashedly watched him dress, glad that he was turned slightly away from her and did not see her eyes greedily taking in the pull and release of the muscles in his back and legs. She was aware of a shocking desire to sink her teeth into the fleshy mound of his buttock.

“But what are you going to do?” she asked, keeping her voice quiet. Last night, after they had made love, Gabriel had pulled out of his sleepy, relaxed state long enough to bring in the baby and place the basket at the foot of their bed, and she did not want to wake Matthew.

“I plan to check on the animals.” Gabriel spoke in the same whispered tone. “And I have an idea—something I saw last night. If I am right, it might be just the thing you want.”

Since Thea knew that the one thing she wanted at this exact moment was his body back in bed with her, she seriously doubted that he was right. However, she said nothing, just snuggled deeper under the covers.

“What about Matthew?” she asked, unable to hold back a yawn.

“Sound asleep. It’s only been a few hours. ’Tisn’t close to noon yet. And he had a hard night.”

Gabriel leaned over the bed to kiss her softly on the lips. Her arms snaked around his neck when he would have pulled away, and their kiss turned into something deeper and longer. Finally he pulled away. “Vixen. You will make me forget my good intentions.” He gave her a last hard, brief kiss, then straightened and tiptoed away, reaching down to pick up his boots as he left.

Thea smiled to herself as he sneaked out the door. She closed her eyes, thinking that it would not be so bad, after all, to sleep a little longer. It was sweet of Gabriel to think of her comfort—and to think, once she had thought him nothing but a selfish rake. On that thought, she slid back into sleep.

She had no idea how long she dozed, coming to vague consciousness now and then when she heard Gabriel rattling around in the outer room. Finally her eyes opened, and she knew that she would not be able to fall asleep again. She slipped out of bed, wondering what the clanking and other noises were that she had heard earlier.

The air was chilling, but she could not dress, she thought, without washing as best she could, so she picked up the water jug and rag and started to wash, wincing at the cold. By the time she was finished, she was freezing, so she pulled the cover from the bed, wrapping it around herself as she tiptoed over to the basket and peered in at Matthew. He was still sound asleep, his mouth open slightly.

Gabriel was right, she thought; the poor baby must be horribly tired after the hard, frightening events of the night before. It was not surprising that he still slept—why, it probably had not yet been as long as he slept on a normal night. Still, she laid a light hand on his forehead just to make sure he was not feverish. Reassured, she straightened and started to pick up her clothes.

She heard another thump from the outer room, followed by a soft curse, then another sound she could not identify. Curious, she wrapped the cover more tightly around her body and opened the door to peer out. Her eyebrows vaulted upward.

A large, elongated wooden tub sat in front of the fireplace, looking utterly out of place. It was the sort of thing she had seen for feeding or watering horses, but it appeared two-thirds full of water, and Gabriel was bending over it, pouring steaming water from a kettle into it. He glanced up and saw her and smiled.

“Ah, there you are. I thought I would have to come awaken you. It’s just about the right temperature.” He refilled the kettle from a bucket that sat by the table and hung the kettle back on its hook at the fireplace, swinging it in to hang near the fire.

Thea pulled the door shut behind her and came forward, her voice filled with wonder. “A bath? You’ve drawn a bath?”

He grinned, looking quite proud of himself. “I saw it, sitting empty there in the stables last night, and this morning when I woke up, it occurred to me that it would be exactly what you would enjoy this morning.”

And it was, Thea discovered. It would be wonderful to soak in the hot water, letting the soreness melt away, the warmth heating her all through. “Thank you.” Tears clogged her throat, making her words come out hoarse. “You’re very—oh, blast!” She blinked away the tears that pooled in her eyes.

He chuckled. “An eloquent thanks, my dear.” He grabbed her around the waist and gave her a vigorous buss on the mouth, followed by a little slap on her bottom. “Now, out of your blanket, and into the bath.”

She hesitated, heat rising in her cheeks, embarrassed at the thought of dropping the cover and standing completely naked in front of him. He raised his brows in question.

“What? Surely you are not shy. Not after last night?”

“’Tis daylight now,” she protested.

“I’ll warrant you look the same. I tell you what.” He shrugged out of his jacket, then tugged off his boots, balancing on one leg, then the other. “I’ll get in it as well. So you won’t be the only one naked.”

“Take my bath?” Thea retorted indignantly. “I think not!”

“Not take, my dear. Share.” He whipped his shirt off over his head and dropped it to the floor.

Thea looked at the tub. “You must be joking. We shan’t both fit.”

“Of course we will. It just takes putting the pieces together right. Like a puzzle. You like puzzles, don’t you?”

She gave him an exasperated look, but found it difficult to maintain since he was sliding off his breeches, revealing his long, muscled legs and, well, everything else. He reached out and twitched the bedcover from her grasp, dropping it on the floor beside the tub.

“Gabriel!”

He ignored her protest as he stepped into the tub and sat down. He did fit, which she had rather doubted, though he had to sit with his knees jackknifed to do so. He reached his hand up to her, as debonair as if he were helping her over a threshold or into a carriage. She took his hand and stepped into the tub as well, placing her feet carefully between his legs, turning her back to him as his hand nudged her to. She sat down slowly, his hands sliding up her body to her waist to guide her.

They did manage to fit, she found, as she leaned back against his chest and propped her feet up on the end of the tub. In fact, they fit almost perfectly, the warm water rising up over their lower bodies and lapping lazily at her breasts. She reached up, pulling her hair back and twisting it to wrap it in a looped knot at the base of her neck.

“No.” He reached out to still her hands. “I like it down.”

“It is wild and a nuisance.”

“Yes, it is wild, but not a nuisance at all.” He took her long, thick hair in his hands and wrapped it around behind his neck, bringing it up across his face and drawing in the scent. “It’s soft and smells like—like you. I could lose myself in your curls.” He nuzzled the back of her bare neck.

“It will get all wet.”

“Then I shall have to brush it dry in front of the fire.” He kissed his way along her collarbone to her shoulder, and Thea gave up her protests.

His hands moved slowly over her water-slicked body, and Thea let her head loll back against him, her eyes closing, lost in the pleasure his touch brought.

“You are beautiful,” he murmured, his teeth gently worrying the cord of her throat.

“Don’t be absurd.”

“You doubt me?”

Thea snorted. “Of course I do. You needn’t use blandishments to woo me. I have already given you what you seek, and we both know that I am not the sort of woman who is … pleasing to men.”

“I beg your pardon. I am a man, and I find you quite pleasing.” At the little twitch of her mouth, he went on, “I’m perfectly serious; I’m not trying to seduce you.” He paused, then added, with a demonstrative stroke of his hand, “Well, I
am
trying to seduce you, but not with flattery. I find you beautiful.”

Thea swallowed against the emotion that tightened her throat.

“Your wild curls captivate me,” he went on in a low voice, his breath drifting tantalizingly over her hair and face. “From the moment I saw them tumbling all about your face, I wanted to sink my hands into them and kiss you senseless.”

“To shut me up, no doubt,” she shot back tartly.

He chuckled. “That would have been an added benefit, no doubt, but it was not the motivating force, I assure you. Why do you think I kissed you in the church? Not because I was trying to challenge the Almighty. I could not keep from doing it. I have not been able to stop myself from kissing you a number of times, as you may have noticed.”

“I think that is more due to your nature. We have already established that you are … shall we say, an expert with women?”

“I confess, I have enjoyed the charms of more than a few of the fairer sex. But that only serves to prove my point—I am clearly a judge of female beauty. An expert, as you say. ’Twould be foolish to gainsay me.”

“You are an expert at wagging your tongue.”

“That, too.” He tickled her ear with the tip of his tongue, making Thea giggle. “Shall I tell you more? About how you enticed me?”

Thea shrugged, unwilling to admit that his words warmed her even more than the water around them, so that she felt as if her heart were blossoming inside her chest. Some part of her brain told her she was foolish, but she could not keep from soaking up his words.

“I am sure you will be surprised,” he went on gravely, “when I say that it was not your sweet tone or compliant manner that made me dream of you the past few nights and wake stiff and sweating like a hard-run horse, my heart thundering.”

Thea’s breath caught in her throat, the now familiar ache beginning to pulse deep inside her, his words stirring her almost as much as the velvet touch of his lips on her neck.

“It was the thought of your breasts and how they would feel in my hands. I knew they would fit perfectly.” He cupped her breasts in his hands to demonstrate, and his forefinger traced around the nipples, making them prickle. The heat in Thea’s abdomen grew, swelling and throbbing and spreading out.

“And I dreamed of those deliciously long legs. I kept imagining what they looked like beneath your prim gowns. I could not see you walk without wanting to measure them with my hands.” His voice deepened huskily as his hands slid down to her thighs. “Each step you took, I thought of the way your legs would feel wrapped around me.”

His hand slipped into the crevice between her legs, gliding down her inner thigh and back up, teasing along the crease of her leg. She felt swollen and aching, yearning for his touch. His fingers were featherlight upon her, teasingly opening and exploring the intimate folds of her flesh. As his fingers stroked her, arousing her almost past bearing, he kissed her neck, using his teeth and tongue to draw shivers of arousal from her.

Thea’s breath was ragged, and she braced her feet against the edge of the tub, widening her legs, inviting him wordlessly. He found the hard, bright center of her desire, the pulsing, vulnerable ache, and he pressed in, the rhythmic movement of his hand thrusting her pleasure higher and higher. Thea could feel the passion taking her, sweeping over her and cresting like a wave. It broke over her, and she could not hold back a thin, sharp cry. She shuddered as pleasure rippled through her, then relaxed with a deep, satisfied sigh.

She lay against him, replete, numb, her mind adrift. Thea felt the push of his member against her, and she knew that he, of course, was still unsatisfied, but she could not move. Her bones seemed to have all turned to molten wax inside her.

Gabriel kissed her neck and along her collarbone, his breath harsh and rasping. “I have to taste you,” he muttered.

BOOK: A Winter Scandal
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