Authors: Jessica Trapp
He leaned forward, his lips brushing her skin. The touch was surprisingly gentle considering how captive he held her body. Her hands, still held above her head, relaxed.
His mouth lingered on hers. There was no bruising demand for domination, just a slow, gentle conquest. She felt her body slacken, allowing him to explore, allowing herself to feel the sensation of lips touching lips, breath touching breath.
Heat pooled between her thighs.
His tongue licked the seam of her lips and tightness formed in her belly. For an instant the world stood still as he tasted her mouth. He did not hurry and she felt herself being sucked under his spell….
MASTER OF DESIRE
MASTER OF PLEASURE
THE PLEASURES OF SIN
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
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Copyright © 2010 by Jessica Trapp
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First Printing: December 2010
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To Bet Pichardo
You are a true friend
Jared St. John thumbed the engraving on his staff as he contemplated the best way to steal a lock of Lady Gwyneth’s hair. Monastery life was notoriously bland and perhaps having a small token of the world he would be missing when he took his vows would appease his longing for a home and land—things a common falconer would never have—especially one with a heart as black as his own.
He drew the knife from his rope belt. Gwyneth’s shiny hair was tempting as treasure to a pirate. It was not blond, nor white, but intermingled strands of gold and silver—as if she were not quite human but something otherworldly—fey or elvin. The luminous mass hung in a glittering cascade past her hips, the ends curling and skimming midway down her thighs.
The majestic black-and-white hawk on his shoulder dug her talons into the leather padding Jared wore beneath his clothing as if to protest his immoral desire.
“Peace, Aeliana,” he cooed to the goshawk. “I onlywant a tiny curl. There is a loose one hanging by her shoulder. She will not even notice.”
Skillfully, he concealed the blade in the folds of the brown monk’s robe that he wore.
The bird ruffled her feathers at the motion.
“We will hunt later, my friend,” he murmured to soothe her as he strained his neck to watch his prey wander through the crowds that had gathered here at Windrose Castle. “One small curl will not be missed.”
Aeliana’s feathers fanned against his cheek as if she understood every word and clearly disapproved.
“Perhaps I could gift her with something as an even exchange,” he mused. Most of his possessions had been given into the church treasury. He only had his hawk, his staff, and, in his pouch, a small book. Yes, the book would be a perfect gift. It was valuable and gilded like Gwyneth’s hair. The original leather cover had become worn with age and he had crafted a wooden cover for it that he had carved himself and covered with gold leaf. Surely something like that would satisfy anyone’s sense of fairness.
Whistles and cheers rose from the crowd as if applauding his decision, although he knew no one paid any attention to him. Silken banners waved, acrobats performed on the lawn, and toward the back of the large bailey, an area had been set aside for a tournament. Merchants pushed carts filled with flowers and apples and trinkets. Children, limbs flailing, kicked a ball this way and that followed by a rowdy pack of small dogs.
Lady Gwyneth turned slightly. Jared’s breath caught in his throat. Many women at the festival were beautiful, but she was glorious.
Her skin was alabaster, her eyes a brilliant blue. She had a slightly pointed chin and delicate ears. A sapphire ring twinkled on her finger.
Never in his life had he seen a woman like her.
His heart pounded and he tightened his grip on the staff. He tried to tear his gaze away, but could not.
Damn. More reason he must get to the monastery—never be near a female again. One woman had nearly ruined his life—torn apart his family and his heart. Monkhood offered salvation for his sins.
Gwyneth’s left cheek dimpled as she smiled at a child. She spoke softly to an elderly hag, then she reached and patted a dog on the head as she passed.
Everything about her bespoke kindness, caring. Qualities he knew that he himself did not possess. Not after what he’d done to his brother.
He closed his eyes.
He would never deserve a woman like her.
He thought of his mother for a moment. With her coiffed hair, shiny jewels, and glittering gowns, she glistened like a cathedral alcove. And like the icons at the church, she always looked at him with blank eyes. He knew little about her except for catching glimpses of her across the bailey when she happened to be out for a walk while he worked with the castle’s falcons. He was an embarrassment, her bastard child—proof of her indiscretions.
He slammed his thoughts against the memory.
The crowd was thick and loud and people bumped into each other at every step. If he was quick, he could reach forward, lop off a single lock of hair without her noticing as she passed by. He would braid it and keep it nearby to remind him that there wasmore to life than kneeling on cold stone floors and endlessly reciting Latin chants: a future he deserved, but one he looked forward to not at all. It was his duty to mend the strife he had caused between him and his brother. His duty to pay penitence for the woman and babe he’d killed.
“I thought you were done with women.” Rafe, his half brother—the noble-born son who had grown up in the keep rather than in the falconer’s mews—sidled up to him. He punched Jared on the arm, nearly dropping the two steaming meat pies and the loaf of bread that he was holding.
Blast him! Quickly Jared hid the sharp knife within the folds of his robe, adjusted his staff to hold it in the crook of his elbow, and took one of the pies.
“Watch your clumsiness,” he snarled.
They stared at each other for a moment. Aeliana fluttered.
Rafe was shorter than Jared, but slightly stockier. In sharp contrast to Jared’s plain robe, he wore fancy green boots with silver buckles and a finely embroidered surcoat. He tucked his thumb into his belt and braced his legs wide apart.
So much bad blood between them.
“You nearly dropped our food,” Jared groused, but did not bring up the past between them. Rafe’s betrothed. A beautiful woman. A passionate affair. The accusation of rape. And then her death. And the unborn babe’s as well. ‘Twas the reason he must enter the monastery—set himself away. He could ne’er trust his own flesh again.
A tinge of lavender wafted into the air. The luscious curves of Lady Gwyneth’s hips swayed side to side as she sashayed past.
Curse Rafe and his timing! The opportunity for stealing her hair was gone! Guilt touched him, but he let it go: ‘twas only hair and not her virginity or her soul or her life that he planned to steal. Unlike Colette. Unlike the baby daughter who had been inside her.
The crowd parted for Lady Gwyneth as though she were a princess. She wore finery—silver and blue silks, sapphire jewels, and ermine trim. Small satin slippers graced her feet. Her ethereal beauty set her apart—made her seem to float rather than walk as other humans did. She had delicate brows and generous lips.
“Close your hole, Jared.” Rafe sipped ale from his drinking horn. “You are acting as though you have ne’er seen a woman afore. And after what you did with—”
Giving his brother a withering glower, Jared took a step forward and allowed himself the guilty pleasure of admiring the way Gwyneth’s neck swiveled as she greeted the horde of young men who had come to this feast to vie for her hand. Her hair glistened like a gold-and-silver cloud.
“She’s glorious,” he whispered.
She was an angel. The most picturesque sight he had ever seen. Light and sparkle compared to the darkness and cold inside his own being. He longed to run his tongue over the skin of her shoulder, tease her to pleasure.
Rafe rolled his eyes. “Bah. We will head to the brothel later. One woman is the same as the next.”
Anger flashed inside Jared.
“I have no use for whores,” he said with a piety he didn’t feel. He latched onto the wooden cross hangingfrom a cord about his neck for good measure. Guilt wound through him that he had just imagined the fey Lady Gwyneth in an unclean manner, that he had considered stealing a piece of her hair. He would take his vows soon—become a man of peace and live only for heavenly treasure. There would be no more tasting of women for him.
He tucked his knife into the rope belt.
Aeliana twitched restlessly, her wing brushing against her face.
Lady Gwyneth stopped. Ignoring the scores of admirers, she swooped up a small girl, placed the youngster on her hip, and tickled her toes.
Jared’s pulse leapt as she laughed in response to the child’s giggle. Her white-gold hair mingled with the girl’s brown locks.
What a wonderful wife she would make.