Authors: Doreen Owens Malek
“Con, the door,” Linn murmured. “Lock the door.”
“Bother the door,” he answered, pulling her upright and seeking her lips. She put her hand across his mouth to forestall him and he bit gently into the soft roundness of her palm. His tongue flickered across her wrist, leaving a hot trail of wetness which cooled abruptly, making her wish for the caress again. Linn swallowed hard; she couldn’t believe she was so aroused by the mere contact of his mouth with her hand.
“The light, then,” she persisted. “The curtains are open and it’s getting dark.”
His leg jerked backward, and he pulled the plug from the socket with his foot without interrupting the movement of his lips against her bare arm. His kisses traveled upward, pausing in the hollow of her elbow to linger over the tender, unweathered flesh. Linn fancied that his mouth might burn through to touch the delicate tracery of veins just below the surface. This is ridiculous, she thought; all the erotic awareness of her being was centered on the most prosaic and unglamorous part of her body. She sank her fingers into his hair, trying to raise his head.
“What do you want, Aislinn?” he murmured as her tugging became more insistent. “Tell me what you want.”
“Kiss me,” she moaned. “I want you to kiss me.”
“I am kissing you,” he muttered, his lips traveling lightly over her inner arm.
“On the mouth,” she gasped, frustrated, “kiss me on the mouth.”
He straightened immediately and crushed her lips with his, taking her breath away with the quickness and force of his response. Linn ran her hands up his arms, feeling the hard muscles tense beneath the coarse fabric of his jacket. Her fingers worked the coat back from his shoulders and he slipped it off, moving his mouth to her ear, rimming it with his tongue. Linn shivered as he cupped her chin in his hand and turned her face up to receive another searing kiss, forcing her hips against his with his other hand splayed open on her lower back. She shifted her stance to fit more closely between his legs and he groaned, lifting her and setting her on the edge of the bed. He crouched on the floor and slipped off her shoes, then pushed up her skirt to remove her panty hose. Pulling the stockings off her legs, he ran his hands over her bare skin. She leaned back on her elbows as he knelt and clasped his arms around her waist, pressing his face into the folds of cloth in her lap.
Linn arched against him. “Hurry,” she whispered.
He stood and undressed rapidly, flinging his clothes on the rug. Linn watched him with heavy lidded eyes, studying his lean body hungrily, unable to move. When he bent to remove her dress she surged forward as if released from a trance and kissed his naked chest greedily. She smoothed the mat of dark hair with her cheek, clinging to him as he ran her zipper down its track and bunched the sheath in his hands.
“You must let me take this off,” he ground out, but Linn ignored him, reaching for him with frantic fingers and caressing him wildly. He growled an oath under his breath and pushed her down, falling on top of her in a tangle of limbs.
Linn received him eagerly, lifting her hips off the bed as he fumbled with her underclothes. The thin silk of her briefs was very strong; when more delicate measures failed he drew back to rip them off, but Linn stayed his hand.
“I’ll do it,” she said, and he rolled to the side to let her get up. She pulled the dress over her head and let it fall from one hand, shaking out her hair and standing barefoot in her slip.
Con watched her from the bed, prone and fully aroused, his hot blue gaze following every move she made. With deliberate slowness Linn lifted the hem of her slip and worked it up over her hips to her waist, pausing to tilt her head back and stretch. Con inhaled sharply.
Linn raised the silken material further, drawing it sensuously over her breasts, but then she let it slide from her fingers to settle again around her knees. Con groaned aloud. “Come on,” he muttered thickly. “Come on.”
Linn began again, raising the slip over her head slowly and then tossing it aside. Con reared up from the bed and pulled her over him, yanking the scrap of flimsy material that remained from her body in one swift movement. Linn sat on his thighs as he fell back, feeling the delicious friction of his hair roughened legs on her sensitive skin.
He was ready, full and pulsing against her, as he buried his face in the damp valley between her breasts and encircled her waist with his hands.
“Aroon,” he whispered. “Aislinn aroon.”
Linn bent her back like a bow, curving inward to meet his lips as they sought her nipples, pebble hard and flushed dark with passion. “What does it mean?” she asked tenderly, stroking his hair. “You always call me that.”
“Beloved,” he replied, sinking his teeth into one ripe bud. Linn sighed and pulled him closer. “My beloved,” he added, “and so you are.” He moved to slide her under him, but Linn resisted.
“Let me,” she said. “Let me love you.”
His eyes went smoky, becoming clouded sapphires, seducing her with a glance. His hands slipped to her buttocks, guiding her onto him. When she enclosed him an involuntary sound of gratification escaped his lips. He grimaced, baring white teeth, and Linn’s own cry was stifled as she reveled in his pleasure.
“You were made for me,” he rasped. “I was made to join myself to you.” Linn put her hands against his chest and felt the tensile power coiled in his body, building in the exquisite agony of anticipation, preparing for the headlong rush of release. She clung to him with all her strength; he reacted to her every movement, gripping her hips to impel her into a steady rhythm. His eyes were shut tight, as if he were lost in a fevered dream.
Linn leaned back from the circle of his arms and felt him touch her deeply. She gasped aloud, trembling, and fell forward, her hair surrounding Con’s face. Con pulled her down to him and kissed her fiercely, the salt of their mingled perspiration lingering on his lips. When Linn drew back to kiss his brow, his cheek, she saw that his thick dark lashes were wet. She touched the tip of her tongue to his lids and heard his long, shuddering sigh.
He lay back and allowed her to set the pace, confident in his masculinity, encouraging her to explore the delights they could share. But Linn did not have his control. Carried away by the new, heady experience, directed by his forceful hands on her hips, she was soon caught up in the elemental quest for fulfillment. She drove frantically to a conclusion that left them both spent and drained. Exhausted, she slipped slowly downward into the haven of his arms.
There was silence in the room for some time. Then Con said, “Marry me. Quit your job in the States and stay on Ildathach with me.”
Linn didn’t answer.
She felt him stiffen. “Aislinn? Do you not wish to marry me?” he inquired evenly. His even tone was a facade for his true feelings; she could actually feel him holding his breath.
She kissed his damp shoulder. “Of course I want to marry you, more than anything in the world,” she answered. “But I can’t quit my teaching position just like that. It’s not a job, it’s a career. I have students, people are depending on me...”
The tension left him in a wave of relief. “Career, is it? God save me from American women,” he muttered.
“He’s too late to save you from this one. You’ve proposed and I’ve accepted. Now all we have to do is work out the details.”
“Aye, like what continent we’re going to live on.”
“Oh, I see. Now that you’ve turned me into a shameless hussy you’re going to give me trouble about every little thing.”
“I consider turning you into a shameless hussy my finest accomplishment,” he replied, shifting onto his side to pull her closer.
“Con, be serious.” Linn propped herself up on one arm to face him. “Why don’t you come with me to the States? You can write anywhere and you’d be a minor celebrity there now.”
“Heaven forbid,” he said with real feeling.
“Come on, why not? We could keep Ildathach for when I’m not working, and have two homes.”
He shook his head. “This is where I belong. What would I be in America?”
“You’d be an Irish immigrant, of which there are millions, most of them flourishing like green bay trees. One of them even grew up to be President.”
“Aye, and look what happened to him,” Con said darkly.
“You’re being ridiculous. You know you are.”
“Where is your flat, your apartment?” he asked suspiciously.
“In suburban Jersey, about thirty minutes from New York.”
Con groaned. “New York. I knew it. I hate New York; I hate that city.”
Linn eyed him mischievously. “You sound like my godmother’s husband, except he talks that way about the country. He’s lived on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village all his life. Anytime he hears a suggestion about a picnic or a hike or anything rural, he uses a line he heard in a movie once: ‘I don’t like the country, the crickets make me nervous.’”
“The subways make me nervous. I was always lost.”
Linn chuckled wickedly. “I promise I won’t handcuff you and force you to ride the subway.”
“You may well laugh,” he said grimly. “I remember spending half a day riding back and forth endlessly until I finally found myself on the right street, but twenty-five blocks in the wrong direction. I walked twenty-five blocks uptown in the rain rather than get on a train again.”
“Poor Conchubor,” Linn mourned, grinning.
“Poor indeed. That was my second grandest New York adventure. The first was my arrival. There was I, all of twenty, sounding like a potato eater right off the boat, asking directions to the Solarium.”
“The Solarium?” Linn asked, puzzled.
“I got the name wrong; I was looking for the Planetarium. It’s no mystery I never found it.”
They both dissolved in laughter. Linn sobered, still smiling, and indented his lower lip with a forefinger. “Con?”
He bit her finger gently. “What?”
“How did you learn to dance like that, the way you were dancing with me before? That was ballroom dancing. You wouldn’t learn that growing up in Bally.”
“Tracy taught me. I was groomed to have all the skills that would make me a suitable escort.”
Linn absorbed that in silence. Then she said, “She really hurt you, didn’t she?”
He kissed her forehead. “You’ve healed me entirely.”
“Did you ever hear from her again after you left the States?”
He didn’t answer for a moment and then said, “She followed me back here the summer after I finished school. She called me from the airport and I met her there.”
“She wanted to resume our former relationship. I told her that I was one toy that was not for sale.”
“Oh, Con, she must have cared to come so far after you.”
“She didn’t care enough.” He left her abruptly and walked, naked, to the window. Linn followed, pulling the sheet around her as she went.
The view was breathtaking. In the glow of the floodlights Linn could see beyond the battlements to the islands in the center of the lake. The mountains loomed out of the evening mist like sentinels. The only touch of modernity was the splashing fountain; in all other respects it was a scene from a previous age.
“It looks like Camelot,” Linn murmured. She pulled the drapes closed and replugged the lamp, looking around at the suite. “And this is lovely, Con.” It was. The sitting room contained a love seat and two Queen Anne chairs upholstered in the same flowered yellow silk that covered the walls. Their bed was a pine four-poster flanked by matching nightstands. The taupe antique satin drapes blended with the neutral Kirman rug on the floor. The transformation from medieval castle to luxurious hotel was so complete that it was a shock to look from the window and realize where she really was.
Con put his arm around her shoulder. “Only the best for you, my lady.”
The band below them, which had taken a break, started playing again.
“Do you want to get dressed and go back downstairs?” Linn said.
“I want to stay undressed and go back to bed,” Con answered.
“Okay,” Linn agreed, and dove onto the mattress.
Con joined her and was wrestling her playfully into submission when there was a knock at the door.
They froze and looked at one another.
Con shrugged and got up to pull on his pants.
“Open up in there,” a deep Irish voice said in a bad imitation of a flatfoot in American gangster movies. “This is a raid.”
Con turned back to Linn and rolled his eyes. “It’s Chris,” he said. He went to get the door.
Linn couldn’t see anything from the bed, but there was a muffled conversation followed by subdued male laughter. Con returned shortly with a bottle and two long-stemmed glasses, a towel over his bare arm. He saluted Linn with the wine.
“Dom Perignon ‘67,” he announced. “A gift from Mrs. Dugan’s boy Christy.”
Linn’s eyes widened at the name of the expensive champagne. “You don’t suppose he paid for it himself?”
Con wrestled with the cork, holding the bottle between his knees. “I doubt it,” he grunted. “Nicked it, more likely.”
“He stole it! He’ll get into trouble.”
“He will not. The chief steward is his brother-in-law. How do you think a lout like him got such a fancy job?” He popped the cork and poured the foaming, sparkling liquid into the glasses. He handed Linn one of them. She tucked the sheet under her arms and took it.