Authors: Anna Campbell
She exhibited every sign of desire. Was it all false? Surely not. She knew counterfeit arousal wouldn't fool him.
He bent forward. Fleetingly, he tasted her breath on his lips. Fresh. Essence of Olivia. The air of heaven. She seemed caught in the spell. Erith's heartbeat stalled in a strange suspended moment. Then she blinked and pulled out of reach. His gut contracted with sharp regret.
By God, she'd kiss him one day. Willingly. Endlessly. Passionately.
It was a sin against nature that a woman this vibrant and beautiful had never experienced full sexual pleasure. Any sexual pleasure at all.
“I'm at your disposal, my lord.” Her voice was husky. “How would you like me to act?”
He moved behind her and brushed aside the heavy tumble of silky hair. With practiced fingers he unfastened her dress. “I don't want you to act at all.”
“You know what I mean.”
She lifted her hair out of his way. The scene was almost domestic. His fingers began to work on the laces of her stays then tugged at the tapes holding her petticoat. It fell to the floor, revealing white stockings and pretty pink satin slippers with ribbons that tied around her trim ankles. The firm pale globes of her bottom pressed against her transparent shift. He resisted the impulse to shape that superb rounded flesh.
He placed a kiss on her bare shoulder, revealed under the sagging gown. “Olivia, do what you feel.”
“I feel nothing,” she said in a flat voice unlike her usual musical contralto.
“Then do nothing.”
o nothing? What breed of man was this?
Feeling at a complete loss, Olivia let Lord Erith draw her shift over her head. His hands were cool and sure as they brushed her skin. And pleasantly dry. She hated men with wet hands.
Lord Erith kissed the side of her neck. His hands curled around her body to cup her breasts, kneading gently. Slowly, luxuriously, he pressed her into his body. She felt as much as heard his sigh of pleasure when her naked back made contact with the wool and cambric that covered his broad chest.
He radiated heat. It was like leaning against a sun-warmed brick wall on a summer afternoon. She closed her eyes and drifted away as he played with her breasts.
He tugged gently on her distended nipples and rolled them between finger and thumb. She sensed the voluptuous enjoyment he took in her. Oddly, that gave enjoyment in return. Not the familiar enjoyment of knowing she'd mastered yet another lover. Instead, it was a new, gentler satisfaction.
“Aren't you undressing, my lord?” She was surprised she didn't have to pretend the throatiness of the question.
He gave a grunt of breathless laughter as he kissed her nape. The little glances of his mouth felt nice, like butterflies skimming her skin. “My plan involves working you into a frenzy of lust.”
“And you staying uninvolved?”
“A shred of clear-headedness is my best hope. Clothes help.”
He pressed his hot erection into her bare buttocks. Groaning softly into her ear, he rubbed against her and bit her shoulder. She gave a start although he didn't hurt her. Like the rest of him, his teeth were big and strong. There was something strikingly intimate about him using them on her. It made her think of a stallion mating with a mare. The breathtaking combination of power and sensitivity.
She turned in his arms to see his face. His eyes glittered silver, and hectic color marked his prominent cheekbones. Yet his hands didn't clutch at her and he allowed her to establish a small space between them. A space redolent of heat and the musk of excited male.
She took a deep breath before she spoke, and the spice of his arousal entered her lungs like rich tobacco. He smelled good. She'd noticed that the first time he touched her. Clean, masculine, without the cloying scents so many men used. She breathed in again, just for pure pleasure.
It felt odd to stand here naked while he remained dressed for society. Briefly she wondered at his life away from her. Probably the same as every other buck of the ton's. Drinking and gambling and chasing women. Although the same instinct that told her he wasn't the cad he acted told her he hadn't taken a woman tonight. Or yesterday either.
“This won't work. There's someâ¦some lack in me.” Obscurely it hurt her that he devoted this trouble to her when nothing but bitter failure awaited. She paused and licked her lips. She'd never had to explain her handicap to a lover. “You're a decent man.”
He made a derisive sound in his throat. “That's more than most people think.” He ran his hands down her arms and took her hands.
Because she mistrusted the fragile empathy building between them, she spoke harshly. “Far better to push me on my back and have your way. I know you're in pain.”
“The pain will make the pleasure sweeter.”
He brought her right hand to his groin. Under her fingers he was hard like steel. Alive. No doubting his desire. As she stroked him through his trousers, the huge member thickened. Erith closed his eyes and leaned in so his tumescent flesh pushed into her hand.
“God, Olivia,” he groaned. “You'd try a saint.”
“I suspect you're no saint.” She increased the pressure, testing the shape and weight of him. She imagined taking him in her mouth again. Last night, having this virile male in her power had offered a special pleasure. She wanted to feel that pleasure again. It was the closest she'd ever come to enjoying the sexual act.
Past time she took charge of this encounter, cut the threads of tender intimacy he slowly twined around them. Tender intimacy wasn't for women like her.
“Lie back, my lord,” she murmured in the voice she'd used with so many men.
She heard how he struggled to draw breath. “I'm not a dumb beast.”
She raked her nails across his chest so his nipples tightened under his shirt. “You're putty in my hands.”
His hips surged forward. “Putty isn't the word I'd use.”
“You're big and hard. I've never felt a man bigger.”
“Stop it,” he growled even as he let her navigate him toward the bed.
“It's true.” She laid her palms flat on his chest. One small shove and he fell against the mattress. “You're magnificent. When I took you in my mouth last night, you filled me completely. Do you remember?”
“I remember,” he said hoarsely.
“I can do that again.” She licked her lips and looked down at the man sprawled on the sheets. The front of his trousers tented and his face was stark with overwhelming hunger.
“I know you can.” He frowned; more in regret than anger, she thought. “But what will it prove?”
She shrugged. “Why must it prove anything? Pleasure is its own reward.”
“How would you know?”
She stiffened. He wasn't supposed to fight back. She shifted her focus from his superb body to his eyes. She already knew she wouldn't find what she soughtâthe blank sheen of unthinking desire.
He wanted her, all right. But he hadn't given in by a long shot.
As she'd expected, the gray eyes between the thick black lashes were steady. She hadn't won this particular battle yet. Perhaps she just needed to try harder. “That wasn't fair.”
“You're playing pretty dirty yourself, Olivia.”
“Just watch me.”
“I can't do anything else. You're the most fascinating woman I've ever met.” He didn't sound entirely pleased.
She placed one stocking-covered knee on the mattress beside his thighs and swung her other leg so she straddled him. “Shall I do what I did last night?”
“No?” She raised skeptical eyebrows and looked down into his face. How strong his features were. Her gaze dwelled on the high, straight brow, the arrogant prow of his nose, and the hard angles of his jaw. But his mouth was fuller than usual and his tanned skin was tight and flushed. “Didn't you like it?”
His lips twisted in a bitter line. “That's a fatuous question. Damn you, you flung me to heaven and back and you know it.”
“Don't you want to take the ride again?”
Strangely, his resistance pleased her. She gave a mocking huff of laughter. “You've paid a fortune to refuse my attentions, Lord Erith. Such a waste. Like owning a Rubens and hiding it in the cellar.”
He didn't smile. “You know what I want.”
“And you know what I'll give you.”
“To hell with this!”
His sudden anger startled her. As did his explosion into movement. The room reeled as he jackknifed up and grabbed her, tumbling her over onto her back. Automatically, she clutched his shoulders. He loomed above her, caught between her spread thighs.
“My lord!” she said breathlessly, more excited than angered. She stared up into those fierce silver eyes and silently willed him to surrender. Willed him to prove himself the same as the rest of his vile sex.
His trousers created a sensual friction against her legs. Just to torment him, she bent her knees and rubbed her thighs against his. His breath hitched and his grip on her ribs tightened.
“Siren. Witch. Circe,” he groaned.
He began to move in the familiar rhythm of lovemaking. Except even hot as steel from the forge, he made no attempt to free himself from his clothing. The weight of his body on hers made something twist low in her belly. The odd sensation was like hearing the sound of distant thunder on a sunny day.
She arched up, wordlessly offering herself. “Calling me names won't make me stop.”
He gave a ragged laugh and buried his face briefly in her bare shoulder. Strangely, the moist warmth of his breath and the uncertain movement of his shoulders as he laughed and fought for breath at the same time touched her. She strove to play the cold courtesan but he made it impossible. Her hands relaxed, shifted. Not the practiced touch of a whore inciting a lover to passion he'd paid for.
She caressed him as if she wanted to.
Dear heaven, what was happening to her?
He must have felt her sudden tension because he lifted his head and stared at her. “Am I too heavy?”
“No.” He felt just right pressing her into the mattress. Although he'd feel even better if he removed his clothes.
He propped himself on his elbows. “Something's wrong.”
She looked up into his face. His eyes glittered. His black hair was untidy and a wayward lock fell across his forehead. Nobody would ever mistake him for an untried youth, but he looked younger than usual. Her heart performed a strange flip.
Olivia, be careful.
The warning was sharp as a jab from a knife.
“I will prevail,” she almost growled. The hands that had been almost tender tore at his clothes. She ripped off his neckcloth and threw it aside. His shirt sagged open and she rained feverish kisses across the broad plain of his chest.
“Can I kiss you?”
“No.” Her usually adept fingers fumbled with his trousers.
“Pity. You need to be kissed.”
“I need to be fucked.” A word she rarely used. Some strictures of her upbringing lingered, however low she'd fallen in the world.
“When you get no pleasure from the act?” Curse him, she'd wanted to shock him. But he sounded imperturbable as ever. “I don't think so.”
“What about your pleasure?” At last his trousers fell open and she forced her shaking hand inside.
“I can wait.” The answer tangled in his throat. Betrayed how he fought himself as well as her.
“Why should you?” She traced his length. He groaned and thrust his hips forward. Teasing him, she touched the head of his member, oh, so lightly. He jerked again. She brushed the sensitive tip again, feeling the moist evidence of need.
“You're driving me mad, damn you.”
He lurched up, tore his coat off then tugged his shirt carelessly over his head. His chest was as magnificent as she remembered, with its heavy arcs of muscle and thick pelt of black hair. She had a second to admire him while he shed his trousers. Then he lowered himself on top of her. Every tumescent inch of him pressed into the soft flesh of her stomach.
He resumed the rhythmic rubbing motion. It was strangely disturbing. Not unpleasant. She tried to angle up so he thrust into her. But he held her hard against the mattress.
“Surrender to me,” she gasped.
“Never. Surrender to me.”
“Never.” She gave a breathless laugh. The duel thrilled her mind although her body remained as dead to sensation as ever.
He'd been aroused since he arrived. Surely that iron control must shatter. He was very close. But he'd confounded her before. He was the only man she'd ever met with a will to match her own.
“Do you feel anything?” he asked hoarsely, raising his head to see her face. He shook and his skin was damp with sweat. His chest heaved as he fought for air.
“You know what I mean. Do you want me?”
Roughly, he thrust his hand down between her legs. She was as dry as she'd been last night. Nothing he did could transform her into a real woman. What terrified was that for the first time, she wished she was a real woman.
For him, dear Lord help her.
Each moment she spent with Erith, she sank further into quicksand. And she didn't know how to save herself.
He clasped her chin so she met his eyes. Beneath the glaze of arousal, anger stirred. “You've lied to every other man you've slept with. Don't lie to me.”
“What makes you special?” she said breathlessly.
“Yield and I'll show you.” His lips stretched in a confident smile that sent that strange pang to her belly again.
“I can't be more available than I am right now,” she said with asperity.
“You'd love Spain,” he said in a dreamy voice. The rhythm of his strokes against her changed, became slower, more languid. “The cold fresh air on the ridges of the Pyrenees. The passionate Gypsy dances. The sound of guitars. When you walk beside the Mediterranean, you smell spice on the wind that blows from Africa.”
More than his words, the tone of his deep voice as he crooned the evocative descriptions made her shiver with longing. She'd revealed too much last night. He was clever enough to see what nobody else ever had and ruthless enough to use his newfound knowledge against her. “Stop it.”
“Would you like to come to Spain with me, Olivia? They appreciate a beautiful woman. I can see you in Spain, free and laughing.”
“I see you in the bright sunlight. All the colors in your hair shining. You'd dance to the wild music and drink rioja and eat fish caught from the sea at your doorstep. The sea where you'd swim, naked and beautiful. And you'd be mine.”
His words hurt her. If she didn't stop him, he'd destroy her. “I'm not yours. I'll never be yours.”
Unless she was careful, he'd break the heart she'd never thought in danger. She curved up and placed her mouth on his nipple, sucking hard.
He groaned and she felt him shudder.
He gripped her arms and wrenched away.
He reared back and she spread her legs wider, preparing for invasion. He was such a large man, she wondered how she'd encompass him. She held her breath. He flung his head back and she caught the tormented expression that twisted his face.
She closed her eyes.
Oh, yes. She'd won.
Every muscle in her body tensed as he plunged down.