he frost had taken a turn for the worse. The weather outside was frigid and biting. I lay in my bed facing the ceiling while the wind howled on the other side of the window. I thought of Ainsley and my heart squeezed imagining her outside in this weather. I knew that Lord Buckley had enchantments on the stables to help keep the wind out, but that did little to ease my anxiety. Storms used to always terrify our livestock when I was a child. I remember my father would take Mama's wool blanket she had knitted just for him out to the barn during the worst storms and sleep with the sheep to ensure they made it through the worst of it.
I blinked a few times, knowing sleep would not come to me tonight. And instead, I layered my dress and knits and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders before sneaking out the front door, running barefoot to the stables. It was not as if the weather could affect me. But I knew Lord Buckley would have objectionsâand teleporting would have alerted him of my leaving.
The stable doors were heavy as I swung them open. Several sheep looked up and bleated a greeting as I slammed the door shut behind me. Ainsley stood, walking over to offer me a greeting. I scratched her head. “Aw, c'mon, ol' girl. You didn't have to get up for me.” I walked over to a pile of hay, still warm from where she had been resting, and she followed me, lying down at my side.
All the sheep seemed to be quite well considering the storm that threatened outside. All the same, I felt better having seen it for myself. Tossing the blanket over my legs, I stretched out, resting my head on Ainsley's soft wool and nuzzling my cheek into it. Just as my eyes were falling, sleep not far away, the stable door slammed open, hitting the wall behind it.
I jumped up, as did several of the sheep. An outline of Lord Buckley stood shadowed in the doorway. Slanted snow and rain whipped behind him like a wintery backdrop. He stalked into the stables and slammed the door shut behind him with a quick flick of the wrist. His face was brittle, set in a scowl, and he rushed to my side.
“What are you doing here?” he boomed. Ainsley jumped up from beside me and ran to the other side of the stables.
“You're frightening the sheep!” I yelled back, moving to comfort Ainsley and the others.
“Me? You terrified me when I woke and your presence was no longer inside my home!”
I spun to face him, wrapping the blanket tighter around my shoulders. It wasn't as though I needed the warmth; I simply liked the comfort of grasping on to something. “I am permitted to come and go as I please, am I not? Am I a prisoner here?”
“Of course you're not a prisoner,” he scoffed. “But it would certainly be nice if you at least told me when and where you were going. As a courtesy!”
“You, Lord Buckley, are not my father! I demand that you not treat me like a child.”
“Thank heavens for that! Your father was a bitter man who could barely manage to keep his farm well organized, let alone his daughters!”
The words were like a slap across my face and I stepped back as they stung me. “Howâhow do you know about my father?”
Lord Buckley raked a hand through his hair and his head fell, chin to chest. “I apologize. I didn't mean that,” he said, softer.
“Yes, you did.”
He sighed and rubbed a fist over sleepy eyes. “I didn't mean it to be as harsh as it sounded. Your father wasn't a bad man, Monica.”
that, John.” I threw his name in his face as if that itself were an insult. “I also know that I was a difficult daughter to deal with. I don't need you to remind me of such things.”
“I know. I apologize.”
“And you didn't answer me. How do you know of my father?”
He shrugged. “I know everything about you.”
My stomach twisted in knots as I remembered my father and mother. They had warned me that teasing the boys would bring no good, but I hadn't listened. I'd loved the attention the boys afforded me when I would swing my hips around the market. When I would intentionally bend over to sort the wool we sold. I squeezed my eyes shut. Father had tried to warn me. He had tried to tell me that when a man wants something he believes you to be offering, he will simply take it without so much as a squeak of permission. Of course, the boys never got that from me. They took my life instead.
A jagged breath escaped my lips and the warmth of my breath created a fog in front of my face.
“Oh, my angel.” Lord Buckley rushed over cradling me in his arms. “I didn't mean to bring such sorrow onto you. I was afraid that you had left me. And I handled that fear just terribly. Please forgive me.” I nodded into his shoulder. “Let's go inside, shall we?”
I shook my head. “I would prefer to stay out here with the sheep tonight.” I looked down at Ainsley, who returned my gaze with big, brown eyes.
Lord Buckley knelt and scratched her head behind her ears. “Hello, old girl. Afraid of a little thunder, are you?”
She wasn't, but I wasn't about to tell him that. He looked up at me with the softest hint of a smile at his lips. “Then, I shall stay out here with you.”
My stomach clenched. We couldn't possibly sleep next to each other, could we? “Butâbut we couldn't. It wouldn't be . . .”
He pressed a finger to my lips, shushing me. “My angel, you fret far too much.” He pressed his lips to mine, and they were soft and warm despite the frigid temperatures outside.
He pulled away, holding me at arm's length before walking to the other side of the stables. With a few swirls of his hands and some words I did not understand murmured from those plump lips of his, a fire started in the middle of the stables. Its heat radiated, and I rushed over, Ainsley at my side, to warm my hands by it. Ainsley bleated an approval of the warmth.
I held out my blanket and sat, leaning against the hay. Lord Buckley smiled and slid under the blanket with me, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. I shivered at how close he was. His musk was masculine, and desire pooled in my stomach at the scent. “I'm certain this is inappropriate in more ways than we can count.”
Lord Buckley brushed a stray hair behind my ear and smiled down at me. The fire crackled before us, and he hugged me tighter. “Love is not a sin, Monica.” They were the exact same words Julian had spoken to me.
“Love,” I whispered back. “Is that what this is?” I looked up into his eyes and they were wet like mine.
He cupped my jaw with his hand. “Close your eyes, Monica.” I did as he asked and soon felt his lips upon my ear. “I love you, angel,” he whispered.
A tear fell down my cheek and it tickled as it slid down to my chin. I opened my eyes just as he caught the tear with a finger. His grin widened and he wiped the tear on Ainsley's wool.
A man loved me. An overwhelming heat flooded my chest and flashed all the way down between my legs making me gasp. Lord Buckley's lips were on mine once again and he gently laid me down so that my back was flat on the floor. Leaning on his elbows over me, he braced his weight so that it wasn't on my person.
His firm length pressed into the burning area between my thighs; my moan echoed through the stables. The pressure against my aching body was torturously delicious and I desperately wanted more. I wanted it harder. I wanted it inside me. I stopped thinkingâI was tired of thinking. Tired of analyzing every decision. My heart swelled and this felt so right. So very right. I ran a hand down his back. The muscles were roped, strained from above me. He was holding back and his eyes were burning into mine. “Angel,” he whispered. “May I touch you?”
“Touch me,” I repeated. Only he interpreted it as a question.
“May I touch you here?” His knuckle grazed my breast and I groaned, arching into his hand. He chuckled in response. “I take that as a yes.” He palmed my breast, squeezing it. His hand traveled to my thigh, flipping my dress up past my waist. “May I touch you here?” His fingertips brushed the bare flesh on my leg.
I nodded, a throaty whisper barely escaping my lips. “Yes.”
His hand enclosed the flesh, squeezing my thigh and running his palm up to my bottom. “Here?” He kissed my neck while waiting for a response and I nodded, butterflies flapping wildly in my stomach, my heart slamming into my ribs with each beat. His hand squeezed my backside, one finger slipping into my undergarments and brushing along the crease. His touch was gentle and caressed all the way down until he reached my slit and I gasped a strangled noise.
He paused, his finger just barely touching my most intimate area. “May I touch you here?”
“Please,” I moaned.
“Are you sure?” he asked again, taking my chin between two fingers and forcing my eyes to his.
“Yes. Please. Touch me, John,” I cried. His finger pushed inside of me, gathering my wetness on his finger before pulling it out and using the moisture on my most sensitive button at the crest between my legs. I shouted as the heat flared through my body. It was the strangest sensationâincredible, but at the same time uncomfortable. As though the touch was wonderful, but not quite satiating the itch that needed to be scratched.
He entered me again, with two fingers this time, and the pain that flared through me ached at first before delicious pleasure took over. “Relax, my darling,” he whispered into my ear, his fingers moving in and out. My body bucked from beneath him.
His hard rod pressed into my hip and I felt an intense curiosity at what it felt like. I wanted to hold his manhood in my hand. “I want to touch you,” I said. His smile was the only encouragement I needed.
“Oh, I would very much like that.” His boyish smile gleamed in his eyes and he yanked his trousers down. I'd never seen a naked man before.
Concern washed over Lord Buckley's face. “My darling, we can stop.” He grasped his trousers, moving to pull them up again.
I darted a hand out to stop him. “No. Come here.” I slowly wrapped my fingers around his girth. He grunted and fell forward onto his elbows once more, thrusting into my palm.
“Oh, yes, Monica. Just like that.” I stroked him to the tip, where moisture pooled at the top, and swirled a finger around before stroking down to the base once more. Lord Buckley threw his head back and beads of sweat glistened along his hairline in the firelight. I squeezed, gathering the pool of wetness on my fingertip once more, bringing it to my lips. I put my finger inside my mouth, sucking on the salty flavor.
His eyes, half open, watched and he groaned. His fingers moved in circles over my curls before he slid my undergarments off entirely, placing them in a pile beside us. With his knees, he nudged my legs farther apart before positioning himself at my opening. I could smell my arousal and the scent was heady and thick, exciting me even more. My whole body clenched with desire. A tightness that felt as though it could never be relieved. The hay beneath us was soft, the fire warm. It was my vision of a perfect first time and I closed my eyes as he pushed into me. I cried out, his large size stretching me sending a biting pain spiraling through my body. He paused once inside me, stroking my hair with his palm.
“Are you all right, angel?”
I nodded. “Just pleaseâgo slowly.”
“Of course.” He stayed like that inside me until my body adjusted around him. After a few moments, it no longer felt as though I were being split apart. In fact, it actually felt a littleânice. More than nice. It felt amazing. I wiggled beneath him and he moaned, looking down at me, a strained look on his face.
“If you wriggle around like that, I'm not so sure how long I will last,” he said with a chuckle.
He slowly, achingly slowly, pulled out and thrust back into me. This time, the pleasure far outweighed the pain and I panted from below him. He stroked me from the inside, my wetness growing, dripping out around his manhood and down my thighs. I raised my backside to meet his thrusts and he grunted; a guttural sound I'd never heard from a man before. It was exhilarating. That I could do that to him; that I could make him feel so much pleasure. It was . . . powerful. I felt as though I held all the power with a man for the first time and that rush swelled within my chest. I sped up my thrusts, meeting his, pulse for pulse.
A knot tightened low in my belly. Something was mounting, though I didn't know what. It felt as though someone were squeezing everything inside of me. And in a rush, it exploded. My body convulsed and I no longer had any control of my faculties. It was terrifying and amazing all at once.
“Yes!” Lord Buckley cried out, nipping at my shoulder as a rush of moisture pulsed inside of me. Was it his? Mine? He shivered above me, convulsing as we both finished, the electricity fading.
“Good Heavens,” I whispered, a heavy breath catching in my chest.
“I know.” Lord Buckley rolled off of me, lying on his back next to me. “Pretty spectacular, isn't it?” I nodded, staring at the beams below the roof, and closed my eyes waiting for God to smite me. I remembered what Julian had said about needing San Michel's blessing. But no smiting came. Only blissful, wonderful sleep beside a man who loved me in front of a crackling fire.