Authors: Lauren Royal
Tags: #Historical Romance
Just when she thought she might panic, he turned away. "I'm going to settle the horses, aye?"
The last time he'd said those words they hadn't been man and wife, but now the expression in his whisky-gold eyes left Kendra in no doubt as to his plans for the evening. Before she could react, the door shut behind him.
How could this be happening to her?
Her fashionable high Louis-heeled shoes made a loud, unnerving sound as she walked around the main room, picking things up and putting them down at random. She tried the bottom drawer of the desk again, but it was still stuck tight.
What had she expected? She'd first tried it only yesterday.
This was incredible.
Too soon, Trick blew through the doorway with a smile of anticipation that made her breath catch in her throat. He strolled straight to the cabinet and poured them each a goblet of wine. Yesterday's cups were gone, the broken shards of glass picked up, the stain nonexistent, as though the spill had never happened.
happened, and because of it, she was married to Trick Caldwell.
"Here," he said, handing her a goblet. He tapped his against it, the tinkle of expensive crystal sounding pure and loud in the silence that stretched between them. "
Kendra watched his throat muscles work as he drank deeply. Perhaps he wasn't as cavalier about this as he made himself out to be. Her head spinning even without the wine, she took a cautious sip. "
With a gentle smile, he set down his glass and moved to her, slipping his arms about her waist. "Good health—a toast," he translated quietly. "And don't be too impressed. It's all the Gaelic I can remember."
"I...I'm..." Feeling dizzy, her heart pounding, Kendra placed one hand on his broad chest and leaned into him, knowing she was giving him the wrong idea but unable to help herself. She felt abandoned and confused, and he was her only anchor. "I'm not impressed."
"Oh, aren't you now?" he drawled, taking the goblet from her other hand. He bent to set it beside his on the table, and when he came back up, his mouth descended on hers.
Hot. Hot and soft. That was all Kendra could think. Then hard and urgent. His lips opened, coaxing hers to do the same. Then his tongue was in her mouth, slick and tender.
Though the mere thought of such a thing had been foreign until this evening, she wasn't surprised to find that her instincts had been right. Tentatively she touched her own tongue to that tiny chip on his front tooth, just the way she had imagined.
It was a catalyst. Her body responded with a tingling flush of pleasure, and her arms clenched around him, lest she drop to her knees.
She felt a low, pleased chuckle rumble from his chest into hers—from his mouth into hers, too—vibrating within her. His hands moved to her waist, to keep her from falling. When he broke the kiss, she fought to catch her breath.
"Still not impressed, lassie?"
Her answer was a low moan as she reached to pull his head back down to hers, twining her fingers in his silky hair. She was trembling again, but not with fear; instead with a need she found thrilling. Their tongues fenced, and Kendra tasted wine and Trick, sweet and tart and so exciting, she thought she might die from the pleasure.
Not one to do anything halfway, she reached inside his blue velvet surcoat to pull at his shirt. It seemed impossibly long—to his knees, she'd swear—but it finally came loose, and she slipped her hands up under it, to feel the warm contours of his torso.
He jumped and pulled back, almost as though he hadn't been aware of what she'd been doing. Kendra's chest heaved as his eyes, darkened to bronze, burned into her own.
"Sweet Mary. You're so..." He gave a shaky laugh. "I almost dragged you to the floor."
Kendra blushed to realize she would have gone right down on the floor with him, no doubt about it. Maybe this wedding night would be easier than she'd thought.
He drew a steadying breath and ran a hand back through his hair, and she watched, transfixed, as the front flopped back down into place. "Why don't you cut it?" she asked.
"Hmm?" His darkened gaze still held hers.
"Your hair, where it hangs down in your eyes."
"Maybe I'm just lazy," he suggested.
"You're hiding," she countered.
"Not tonight." He moved close again and ran his warm hands lightly over her back. "Shall we repair to the bedchamber?"
Kendra didn't think her face could get any hotter, but it did as he took her by the hand and led her down the corridor. The bedchamber had been cleaned up, too; no trace remained of the broken washbowl or its spilled contents. A new one stood in its place.
And, of course, there was the bed. Her gaze locked on it, anticipation and apprehension warring somewhere in her stomach.
"Are you all right?" Trick asked.
She nodded, swallowing hard.
"Sit," he said, dropping onto the room's only chair.
There was no other place to sit but the bed. A big bed, very big for a "cottage," and especially big for this small chamber. Somehow yesterday that had failed to register. It was a plush feather bed, too, not straw or wool. The bed-hangings, of palest ice-blue silk, were free of fussy frills and looked very costly and eminently tasteful.
The counterpane had already been folded back. She gingerly pushed aside an embroidered coverlet and lowered herself to sit on smooth, luxurious sheets.
"Second thoughts?" Trick watched her avidly, a pained half-smile on his face. "I offered you a way out of the wedding," he said on a sigh. "I can also offer you a way out of the wedding night."
Sincere though it might be, she couldn't help but notice the "offer" was uttered in a voice laced with frustration.
"I hope to sire an heir," he added, "but it doesn't have to be tonight. I know this has happened quickly."
A tempting offer, indeed. But his eyes seemed to plead with her. And her own body was pleading as well, her heart still racing in response to his enthralling kisses.
She remained caught in that imploring gaze while he came forward and went down on a knee before her. Silently lifting her hand, he started working the clasp on the amber bracelet.
"It's lovely." She sighed, feeling tingles as his fingers brushed her wrist. "Was it really from you, then?"
"Aye." Slowly he drew it off, hefting the weight in one hand. "It belonged to my grandmother, and her mother before her."
"Then why doesn't your mother have it now?"
"My father never considered her worthy."
Worthy. Trick barely knew her, yet he considered
worthy. She tried to wrap her mind around the significance of that, but found herself distracted when he raised her now-bare wrist and placed a warm kiss to the inside, where her blood ran near the surface.
The gesture seemed more intimate than a kiss on the mouth.
She shivered as he moved to set the amber bracelet on the night table. The little metallic
made her jump.
"Relax," he said, returning to the chair.
But watching him remove his cravat and loosen the laces on his shirt, she felt anything but relaxed.
He removed his boots and stockings. "So...do you want out?"
She shook her head infinitesimally.
"I'll play your maid, since she's not here," he said, moving to her with an easy smile. He knelt at her feet and pulled off her shoes. "Jane, right?"
He reached beneath her skirts, feeling for the ribbons that tied her garters. No man had ever touched her legs. "Trick, I—"
She broke off, because she didn't know what to say. She had no cause to protest—he was her husband. And he'd offered her an out.
"Does your maid not do this?"
"Well, yes." She felt a garter come loose, and his fingers traced down her legs, rolling the stocking off in a way that made little darts of pleasure shimmer through her. "But...with Jane it doesn't feel like this," she managed.
"I would hope not." He raised a brow, making short work of the second garter, then held it up, all lace and satin ribbon. "A lovely little French confection, aye?"
"Madame Beaumont imports them. How did you know?"
He shrugged. "Lucky guess."
She wondered how many other French garters he'd removed over the years. He certainly seemed rather good at it.
Her second stocking came off in a whisper of silk, and he stood, bringing her up with him. He pressed his warm lips to her forehead, and she melted a little inside.
He gathered her close, resting his chin on her crown. "Your hair smells like lavender fields,
His low, throaty voice went right through her. She'd wondered what being with a man was all about, and now she had a husband of her own.
Determined to calm her quivering nerves, to project an inner confidence she didn't feel, she slipped her arms beneath his coat and leaned back to look up at him. "I thought that toast was the only Gaelic you knew."
"What does that mean,
"I...I'm not sure." His brow creased. "It just slipped out. My mother used to call me that, I think."
"Maybe it means 'misbehaving young man.'"
His laughter filled the small chamber. "I think not." Still smiling, he moved to detach her stomacher. "Does your maid do this?" He set it on a chest at the foot of the bed. "And this?" His long fingers loosened her laces.
"Yes," she whispered, watching as he worked the gown over her shoulders and down to pool in a shimmer at her feet. The silver underskirt glistened in the firelight.
When...how had it been lit? Kendra wondered vaguely. But Trick's hot mouth was on her neck, doing strange things to the pit of her stomach, and she couldn't seem to think straight.
He lifted his head and gazed down at her. From her vantage point below him, she saw his eyes darken beneath the golden fringe. Then he stepped back, and his gaze traveled the length of her chemise-clad form.
In return, she boldly perused him. Or at least she tried. Unfortunately, the shirt, which did reach his knees, hung from beneath his velvet surcoat, quite effectively concealing him from her view.
She stepped from the folds of her gown to come forward and tug off his coat. The shirt went next, over his head to join the clothes on the floor. At the sight of his bare torso, her knees went weak.
A light sprinkling of blond hair glimmered in the firelight. She reached to touch him, her palms flat against his chest, caressing, learning the indentations, the sleekness of his skin over the tautness underneath, the springiness of the crisp golden curls. Her breath hitched when his muscles twitched beneath her questing fingers.
"Jesus," Trick breathed. "You're no simpering miss now, are you? Are you sure you've never—"
"I'm sure." Kendra's cheeks heated. "It's just...you feel..." She hid her flaming face against his chest, certain he would think her wanton.
But those thoughts didn't stop her hands from continuing their exploration, moving around him to feel the hard, smooth planes of his back. His chest hair tickled her nose, and without thinking, her tongue flicked out to taste his skin, warm and just the tiniest bit salty. She licked again and inhaled his scent, sandalwood and Trick, musky and exciting.
"Goodness, I want to eat you up," she whispered under her breath.
A low chuckle rumbled through his chest. "Be my guest." His voice came rough as his hands moved to pull the pins from her hair. "This marriage seems more suitable by the minute. I never dreamed—what is this?" He jerked back, holding up a long red curl, his face registering utter disbelief.
"It's a false curl. To make my hair plumper."
"Plumper? Who the hell needs plump hair?"
He raked his fingers through her tresses, coming out with two more curls and...
"Wires? Why wires?"
"To make the curls stand out." Kendra shifted on her feet, suddenly feeling like Medusa. She tugged her own hands through her hair, plucking out several more wires and three additional curls. "That's six? I think that's all."
"Where do you get these? Wait—I'd rather not know." He tossed the curls away in disgust and combed the tangles from her hair with his fingers. "Have you any more surprises for me, then? Is your pretty nose your own? Maybe some false hips are hiding beneath that lovely chemise?"
"No." Her hands went to her hips. "These are mine. You don't...they're too wide, you think?"
"Nothing about you is wide." He settled her hair over her shoulders, a curtain down her back. "Except perhaps your smile, and that hair, but we won't be seeing that again now, will we? Or should I have thrown those curls into the fireplace?" He laughed as his hands covered hers, his thumbs tracing her hipbones. "Ah, the better to bear my children, aye?"
"Trick, the things you say..."
"Ah..." He leaned over her. "The things I say are nothing compared to the things I'll do." His hands moved to cup her face, and he bent her back for a long, deep kiss.
Her knees buckled. Trick caught her, laughing low, and swung her into his arms to deposit her on the bed. She felt dwarfed in its middle, the bedposts and ice-blue damask towering around her, but when Trick came down next to her, the bed was the last thing on her mind.
"Does your maid do this?" he asked, working the gossamer chemise up her legs.
"N-no. At least, not like that," she breathed, feeling his fingers skim the sensitive insides of her thighs. "No one has ever done—" She gasped.
"It's glad I am to hear it." Refocusing his attentions, he moved up to tease her breasts, and she watched her nipples pucker beneath the filmy fabric. It was scandalous, but wonderful all the same. He drew the garment off her shoulders, then bent his head and fastened his lips on one rosy peak.
Kendra shuddered. Hot and wet, his mouth elicited a melting sweetness within her. She arched with pleasure, tangling her fingers into his hair. A low hum of satisfaction vibrated from his throat into her body, and she arched again when he licked his way to her other breast and lavished it with little kisses and gentle bites whose mild sting he suckled away.