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Authors: Bethany Sefchick

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BOOK: The Earl Who Loved Me
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When one's fondest wishes came
true, she thought, one did not always know how to deal with the results.

"David, I..."
His finger to her lips quieted her

"Do not speak and tell me some
lie or that you do not feel the same as I do.
I see the truth in your eyes and in the way your body responds to
He glanced down at her
"For I can see the
evidence for myself.

It was true.
Her body
responding to his, her
nipples tightening with need and her breath quickening.
The tight points were clearly visible
through the too-small gown and David's eyes were fastened just there, as if he
wished to touch her.
If he did, she
would allow it.
She would allow him
anything he wished at the moment.

For her part, Amelia felt hot and
achy, her skin almost too tight over her muscles, as if it had somehow shrunk
with each of his caresses.
She did not
know what to do with herself, how to feel or what came next.
It frightened her a bit, this powerful
feeling that was bubbling up inside of her under David's hot, devouring gaze.

"Then what do you want of
She had to know for this was
If he was only toying with her
until he found a woman to be his countess, she could not bear it.
And yet, in her heart, she knew she would
still allow him whatever liberty he wanted for this might be her only chance.

"I want to seduce
He moved closer, his hot
breath tickling her ear, the words so soft they were mere whispers in the
"I want to strip you naked
and ravish you as I have dreamed of so many times since that night."
She shivered in his embrace and he pulled
her closer so that she might feel the evidence of his desire - his hard cock
pressing into her thigh.
"But more
than that, Amelia, I want to marry you.
I want you to be my countess."
She gasped but he continued as if she had not made a sound.
"But I also know that for you, this is
too sudden, despite what you feel in this moment, and that years of doubts
still plague you.
So I have a
proposition for you."

He pulled back slightly and
immediately, Amelia felt the loss of his body against hers.
"What is it?"
She didn't need to be seduced or wooed, if
that was what he was asking.
She only
wanted to know that he was sincere and would not change his mind when the pity
he felt for her faded.

"I am asking you to allow me
to court you for one day.
Let me prove to you
that I know both your heart and mine."
He was sincere and in that moment, Amelia wanted to throw caution to the
wind and do whatever he asked without hesitation.
"For I know you, Amelia," he continued smoothly, his
gaze still so hot upon her she felt as if she were burning with a single
glance, "and I would have you to wife tonight if you would consent.
But I also know you would question.
Was it the gown?
Was it the romance of Twelfth night?
it pity, for I can see that very question on your lips

"And is it?"
She had to know.
to know.

His voice left little room for doubt.
"It is none of those things, and by
tomorrow at nightfall, I shall have proved it to you.
If you will allow me.
day, Amelia.
One day is all I ask.
But then I will need an answer, one you must
give freely."

She swallowed hard, all of this
almost too much to take in all at once.
"And if I do allow it?
if I do believe you?"
For she
already half-believed him.

"After that, if you consent,
we shall be wed before the first notes of the grand ball begin, and we shall
start the new year as husband and wife.
And tomorrow night, when the other guests are abed, I will make love to
you and show you just how sweet the pleasures of the flesh can be.
For they are sweet, my lovely, delightful,
delectable Amelia.
And I long to show
them to you.
Each and every one."

Amelia's heart leapt into her chest
and she felt dizzy, as if she might faint.
She remained standing only because of David's strong arms wrapped
around her.
Then, he brought his lips
to hers in a scorching kiss and her knees buckled so quickly that he sank with
her to the carpet and she was no longer standing at all.

His lips were everywhere, kissing
and caressing, the stroke of his tongue against her neck sending shivers down
her spine.
His fingers tunneled through
her hair, heedless of how he disheveled her.
His hands caressed her arms, the soft skin of her shoulders and then, finally
- blessedly - lower to her breasts, cupping each one in turn before using the
pad of his thumb to stroke her already stiff nipple into painful points.

"David," she murmured,
her hands sliding over the hard planes of his chest, feeling hints of muscle
and bone that she had only guessed at before.
And through it all, there was the hard press of his cock against her,
letting her know precisely what he wanted from her.
Telling her without words how much he desired her.

"Shhh, my love."
He kissed the long column of her throat
before going lower, his skillful fingers freeing first one breast and then the
other from her gown so that he might kiss the rosy tips before taking one
nipple into his mouth and suckling at her.
"Trust me," he whispered as he pulled back to lavish attention
on the other breast.
"For tonight
is only the beginning, Amelia.
There is
so very much I long to show you.
for the moment, this will have to suffice."

Then he did something incredible
with his tongue and Amelia ceased to think at all.

Chapter Four


"Did you have an enjoyable
Lady Diana was all
knowing smiles the following morning at breakfast.
Not that Amelia was interested in eating.
She was far too tied up in knots to care
much about food.

"He kissed me.
Last night in the library."
Amelia said the words so softly they were
almost lost in the clank of the cutlery in the breakfast room.

Diana's face lit up like the sun,
which did not go completely unnoticed by Lord Hathaway.
"That is wonderful!
Did I not tell you that the gown would
convey the proper message?
That he
would know you were amenable to whatever he had in mind?"

"You did," Amelia
acknowledged quietly, a blush stealing up her cheeks.
"And you were right.
Thank you."

Diana arched a pretty eyebrow.
"And is there more?
For I have the feeling you are not telling
me everything."

"And he wants to marry me," Amelia blurted without
thinking, wincing a bit when the words were out.
"I believe he is mad."

Diana laughed and the eyes of the
other houseguests, again Lord Hathaway included, turned towards them.
However when they realized nothing untoward
was going on, they turned back to their own plates, including Lady Lydia who
had been shooting daggers at Amelia all morning with her eyes.

It was not lost on the other woman
that this morning, Amelia was clad not in another one of her own boring frocks,
but rather in another gown borrowed from Lady Diana, this one a burgundy
colored confection that brought out the pale reddish highlights in her hair.
It also did not go unnoticed that the gown
bore the trademark bit of Madame LaVallier's gold lace at the bottom, which
infuriated Lady Lydia all the more.

There were few secrets as poorly
kept in the
as the knowledge that the rather exclusive dressmaker would
not take Lydia or her mother on as clients, no matter their family's connection
to both Lady Jersey and Lady Cowper, for reasons that she would not
It was also not a secret that
Madame's refusal had not hurt her business any and that Lady Jersey and Lady
Cowper still frequented the shop.
fact, save for the Duchess of Radcliffe, they were her best customers.

That Amelia was wearing a gown from
that shop that had not been made specifically for her, but still fit her as if
it had been was cause for talk among the women of the house party over
It had also turned Lady
Lydia into even more of a jealous shrew than she had been the night before when
she had spotted Amelia in the claret-colored gown.

"He is not mad," Diana
assured Amelia as she patted her new friend's hand.
"He is merely in love."

Amelia wanted to protest but then
she remembered the heated kisses David had pressed to her throat last night as
he caressed her breasts, making them tingle with desire.
Even now, she could still feel the burn of
his lips as they traced lazy circles on her overly sensitive skin.

"We have agreed to a day's
courtship," Amelia confessed haltingly.
"Then, tonight, if I believe him to be sincere, we will be wed
before the grand ball."
How this would
be accomplished she did not know, for to her knowledge, there was no parson
about nor a way to obtain a special license in the span of a day, especially
this far from London.
Then she clenched
her napkin in her lap.
"Oh, Diana,
this is all so sudden."

Her friend arched an eyebrow at her
"Is it?
Or is this merely the culmination of something that has been a very long
time in coming?
Years perhaps, if not a
decade or more."

Was it?
Amelia honestly did not know.
Her feelings were all muddled and yesterday, what had seemed so clear in
her mind no longer was.
She had been
certain in the knowledge that David could never and would never love her.
Now, she thought she was wrong.
Or had she been?

He did not want her fortune.
She was certain enough of that.
If he had, he could have seduced her long
ago and been done with it, or simply appealed to her father for her hand,
knowing Hollinworth would not have objected to the match.
In fact, Amelia was certain her darling Papa
would have gladly handed his only daughter over to the Earl of Weatherby and
been done with it, no fuss and no muss.
After all, David's vast holdings and fortune were well known.
So it was not the money, something her
father would have known as well.

Was it pity on David's part?
Desire for an heir?
The realization that he needed to be settled
and soon if he had any hope of siring children to carry on the Weatherby line?
It could have been any of those things, but
if that were the case, he hadn't needed to kiss her as he had last night in the
Kissed her senseless and to
the point of sheer madness.

Even now, Amelia could still see
the hunger in David's gaze as he looked at her breasts or the way his lips had
caressed hers, begging her to open for him as he slid his tongue inside of her
mouth, giving her not just her first kiss but her first taste of intimacy as

"Do you believe him to be
sincere or not?"
From the
expectant expression on Diana's face, this was obviously not the first time she
had asked the question.

"I want to believe he is
sincere," Amelia confessed.
"I have loved him in silence and secret for so long, however, that
I am uncertain.
It could be nothing more
than pity."
And above all, she did
not want that.

Tapping her finger against her
chin, Diana seemed to think on the situation for the moment.
"From what you have told me, both of
you fell in love the same night or, at the very least, had your eyes opened to
the love that was between you all along."

After she had left the library in a
daze, Amelia had sought out her new friend, not just for help with undressing
but with a burning need to confess to someone, anyone, what had just
Diana had been the logical

"That is true."
If nothing else, Amelia did believe that.

"Then build on that.
Take this day that he is offering and see
where it leads."
She patted
Amelia's hand.
"There are not many
woman like us who receive such a gift so take it for what it is.
Do not deny yourself this chance to be wooed
and courted as you deserve."
gaze flickered over to Lord Hathaway once more.
"Do not waste what you have been given."

Then out of the corner of her eye,
Amelia could see guests begin to rise and knew that David must have entered the
room, though she had deliberately chosen a seat where she could not immediately
see him.
She did not wish to appear as
if she was waiting for him like some eager young debutante.
Even though she was.

She could also see Lady Lydia rise
and move to cling to David's arm once more, seeming to sense somehow that her
prize was slipping away from her.

Diana pushed Amelia lightly as both women
rose from their chairs.
"I will
take care of Lydia.
You seduce the earl."

Then, Diana was gone in a cloud of
pale yellow silk, her arm looped through Lady Lydia's before the other woman
even knew what had happened.
A moment
later and they were gone, out of the breakfast room and into the halls of
Weatherby, leaving David and Amelia facing each other, Amelia at least in awe
of the other woman's skills.

"My lady," David bowed,
his gaze straying to Amelia's breasts once more, which were no more concealed
in this gown than they had been last evening in the library.
"Might I join you for a bit of breakfast?"

"Of course, my
Amelia curtsied deeply and
the retook her seat that the earl held out for her.
"I trust you are well this morning?"

He grinned at her, a wicked sort of
grin that made her toes tingle.
"Not as well as I could be, my lady, but I believe a brisk ride
after breakfast will cure what ails me."
He gestured to the window where the drapes had been pulled back to allow
in some weak morning sun.
snow from last evening has stopped for the moment and the weather is fine for a
Or at least as fine as it is
likely to be at this time of year.
time out of doors will do me good."

Then he rested his fingertips
lightly on the back of her hand, well aware that others were watching the
"If I could convince you
to accompany me," he said in a low voice, not wanting the other to
overhear them, "I believe
that ails me might be cured."

So it began.
Amelia felt her nerves begin to jangle but
then she remembered Diana's words and all that her friend had done to remove
potential problems - namely Lady Lydia - from her path.
Diana was right.
Amelia would be a fool to turn down this opportunity.
This was the chance she had been dreaming
It would not come again.

"I would adore a ride this
morning, my lord.
She said the words so softly that there was
no risk of them being overheard.

"In the stables in an
hour," he replied just as quietly, his breath quickening, much to her
Could he really mean what he
had said?
Was he truly infatuated with

Then, he was gone and she had no
chance to ask him.
All she could do was
wait until she met him in the stables for their agreed upon ride.
This was going to be a curious day indeed.


"Well that was
The pure joy in
Amelia's voice warmed David all the way through.
In fact, he had never seen her look so happy, her face flushed
with the cold and her nose a charming shade of red, though she might not agree
with that last part.

Her hair was mussed from the wind
that had kicked up while they were out riding the fields of his estate, much as
they had done as children in the cool heat of summer.
They had ridden longer than he had anticipated, the bay mare he
had chosen for her mount full of spirit and ready to run.
Amelia was an excellent horsewoman; he had
long known that of course.
However, when
she had taken the old thicket at a run, rider and horse sailing over the
greenery with ease he had found his admiration for her growing.

She also clearly loved Weatherby
Hall and the estate as much as he, remarking often on something she remembered
from her youth, her eyes taking on a faraway and dreamy look.
As if the memories were fond ones.
He was glad of that.
If he had his way, soon this would be her
home and she the mistress of his estate.
Moreover, she would be the mother of his heirs who would inherit this
land one day. He wanted her to love it as he did.

Together they had ridden to the
small stream that marked the border between Weatherby Hall and Fallstaff
Grange, a light snow beginning to fall around them.
Chatting as the old friends that they were, they had rested the
horses for a bit, flirtation and a great deal of innuendo passing between them.

In her dark blue riding habit,
Amelia looked decidedly lovely, though he had already long since concluded that
she would look better in nothing but her own skin in his bed.
Still, he could appreciate the fine feminine
form that she cut as she walked her horse to the stream for a drink, her eyes
dancing merrily as she laughed at some silly joke of his.

As they had remounted, him helping
her back into her saddle with ease, she had proposed a race.
They would canter easily until the reached
the now frozen lake that led off towards Lord Enwright's property and then, for
the final mile back to Weatherby Hall, they would race.
The loser owed the winner a forfeit.
He was never gladder to have won a contest
in his life than he was at that very moment, relishing the flush of Amelia's
cheeks and knowing precisely what he wanted for his prize.

"It was exhilarating, wasn't
it?" he agreed easily swinging down from his mount, a large black stallion
that looked more fearsome than he truly was.
When he had his feet beneath him, he reached up to help Amelia down as
the grooms rushed out to collect the horses and see to their care.
"I have not done that in ages."

BOOK: The Earl Who Loved Me
9.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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