Authors: Michelle Kelly
‘Aye, mam, at once,’ the housekeeper said. She surprised Amelia by adding, ‘You’ll be missed. It’s made the place seem a home again, having you around.’
‘Thank you.’ Amelia watched her go about her chores, pressing a hand to her head at a sudden spell of dizziness. Deciding to go for a lie down, she found after an hours’ tossing and turning that she could find no respite. She would go for a walk, she decided, and get some fresh air.
Outside she breathed in the crisp evening air, telling herself that Italy would be just as beautiful as this remote little Scottish coast. In a few months no doubt she would be grateful for such an opportunity and would have long forgotten all about Jasper Glendir. Lost in her thoughts, she barely noticed she was walking in the exact direction of the man she was supposed to be forgetting until she stood on the edge of his land.
Her heart began to pound as she looked over at Glendir, wondering if he were there, remembering as if he were right there in front of her how it had felt to be in his arms. And Amelia knew she had to act now. Marriage and family may have escaped her, but she could at least once in her life feel what it was to be with a man like Jasper. Hardly believing her own daring, Amelia walked up the drive to the large main doors.
She waited nervously, wondering what on earth she could say to his manservant when he answered the door. Words failed her completely when the door opened to reveal not the valet but Jasper himself.
He looked shocked to see her, then immediately concerned. ‘Amelia,’ he said softly, ‘something has upset you. Have you had news from London?’
‘Not London, no. I have had word from a friend, who I intend to stay with. I leave tomorrow.’ Her words came out in a rush, and when he just stood there looking at her, Amelia felt foolish. What on earth had she been thinking? But then Jasper took her arm and gently ushered her inside.
‘This is good news, I suppose?’ he asked, his face a careful mask that revealed nothing of what he thought.
‘Yes, of course, well it was unexpected. Madeleine—my dear friend—has found a place for me as a chaperone. In Italy.’
Jasper’s composure slipped for a moment as his eyes widened in shock. ‘Italy?’
‘Well, it’s far enough away from anyone who might wish to bring you back, I suppose. Beyond the reach even of Horatio Winters, I should imagine.’ The way Jasper said his name made her think once again that he knew more about the man than he was letting on. But Amelia had no wish to talk about Lord Winters.
‘Indeed. So I …came to say goodbye.’ She looked at him boldly, imploring him with her eyes to understand what it was she wanted. When he stepped towards her, she felt herself tremble, but he stopped just inches away from her, looking down at her with an expression almost as if he was warring with himself. When he spoke his voice was thick.
‘I will be sorry to see you go, Amelia. I would have liked the chance to get to know you better.’
Amelia felt a wellspring of emotion rising within her. How could he just stand there, so polite, after what had passed between them? ‘I wanted that too, but you sent me away as soon as you realized I wasn’t a woman of the world.’
Jasper closed his eyes briefly as though her words had pained him. ‘Believe me,’ he said with effort, as if it cost him something to admit, ‘I have never wanted to not send a woman away quite so badly in my life. But you are not for me, Amelia. You are a beautiful, gentle young woman, and you should keep your virginity for one who would cherish it.’
‘Then I’ll keep it forever!’ she burst out, her eyes filling with tears at the thought he would dismiss her again. ‘Do you not understand, no man has ever made me feel this way—so alive. I don’t want to be “gentle,” I want to be free. And now I must resign myself to a lifetime of being a companion to some old lady who has probably never known passion in her life!’ Jasper looked taken aback at her words, then reached for her, wiping the tears from her eyelids with the pad of his thumbs then raising her face to his.
‘Amelia,’ he said roughly, but she gave him no time to finish, afraid he would give her yet another reason why this was not a good idea. Instead she raised her own hands to his face and pulled him down to her, feeling him hesitate only a moment before his mouth closed around hers, claiming her. When they broke away from each other to take a ragged breath he looked at her with a question in his eyes.
‘Jasper, please,’ she whispered, no longer caring if she sounded wanton. ‘You asked me the other night if you could take me to your rooms. Take me now.’
Jasper looked at her hard then nodded once, decisively, before taking her hand and leading her without a word up the long winding staircase and into the main bedroom. Her heart pounded fit to burst through her chest, so loud she thought he would surely hear it, when he stopped at the foot of his bed and turned to her.
Stepping towards him she lifted her head to his, her stomach fizzing with a mixture of nerves and lust as his eyes gazed deep into hers and his full mouth descended once again onto her own. She kissed him back with an urgency that matched his own, pressing her body against his and moaning in encouragement when he slipped her dress from her shoulders and brought that lush mouth to her breasts. The pleasure that coursed through her body as he teased her nipples with his lips and teeth shocked her with its intensity.
Her dress fell to the floor, and Jasper turned her so her back was to him and unlaced her corset, kissing the back of her neck as he did so, sending shivers of delight down her spine. He stripped her naked and then gently turned her around to face him, his eyes burning over her body. Amelia flushed at his keen appraisal of her, looking away in embarrassment, but Jasper tipped up her chin to look at him.
‘You are beautiful,’ he said roughly, his voice deep with desire and his accent more pronounced. Amelia smiled shyly, then gasped when he pushed her back gently onto the bed and eased her thighs apart. For a moment she panicked, worried it would hurt or she wouldn’t please him then realized he was not attempting to take her, not yet. Rather, he knelt between her legs almost reverently and began to kiss and stroke her inner thighs until she wriggled with longing.
‘Jasper,’ she pleaded, not really knowing what it was she was asking for, then sucked in her breath sharply as she felt his mouth in between her thighs, his tongue lapping lightly at the very centre of her in an insistent rhythm that built up the waves of pleasure riding her body to fever pitch, her very womb tightening.
‘That’s it, angel. Enjoy it,’ he murmured against her body. His hands gripped her hips as he tasted her, delighted in her, and when her orgasm broke it took her totally by surprise, wiping out any last traces of shyness or shame so that she abandoned herself completely, arching her back and screaming her delight. It seemed to go on and on, until she fell back onto the bed, spent and shuddering. Jasper leaned over her with a look that was almost primal and kissed her roughly. She could taste herself on his lips.
‘That was wonderful,’ she said, her eyes wide, ‘I never dreamed…’ He leaned down and hushed her with another kiss.
Then he stood back and took off his shirt, his eyes never leaving her. When he unlaced his falls she sat up and reached for him, closing her hand around his shaft, marvelling at the heat and hardness of it in her hand. She smiled when he rewarded her with a groan.
‘Is this right?’ she asked him, moving her hand a little uncertainly. Jasper put his hand over hers and moved it for her, a little faster, a little harder, showing her his preferred rhythm, and she felt deliciously wanton with this new knowledge. When he rose over her she was more than ready, fully in the moment and no longer nervous. Still, he was careful, easing himself inside her and stopping when she winced at the sudden pain. It lasted a few seconds only and she clutched at him, urging him on, but he paused and looked down at her, his expression tender.
‘Are you hurt?’
‘No. Don’t stop, Jasper.’ He smiled wickedly at her plea and buried himself fully inside her body. The unfamiliar sensation of being filled and stretched started a slow burn in her, and instinctively she began to move her hips in time with his, running a hand over his chest as she did so. He was broad and muscular, and the sight of him rearing over her, loving her, urged her on. She whimpered when he paused, then brushed the tip of a thumb over her clitoris in the same insistent rhythm he had used with his tongue. Amelia bucked under him, feeling herself tighten around the thickness of him, and climaxed again, a briefer and sharper, yet sweeter feeling than before.
She was slick now, open, and Jasper took her more roughly, kissing her fiercely as the last pangs of her orgasm made her shudder in his arms. He drove into her, a hand fisted in her hair, and groaned loudly into her mouth as he found his own release.
‘God, Amelia…’ His voice was rough and he kissed her, fiercely at first as the last waves of his climax ran through him, then softly, gently, as though they were tasting each other for the first time. Amelia had never felt so cherished.
For a few moments they lay together, until their heartbeats and breathing returned to something like normal, and then he eased himself off her and gathered her into his arms, laying her head on his chest.
‘Did I hurt you?’ he asked, stroking her hair. Amelia looked up at him. There was a soft ache starting in between her legs, but she wouldn’t call it pain, just an unfamiliar tenderness.
‘Not at all. It was…better than I ever expected.’
Wrapping his arms around her, Jasper was amazed at the torrent of feeling their lovemaking had unleashed, as if a dam inside him had burst open. He had struggled with himself in the hall yet had felt unable to push her away once again, the sudden need for her overwhelming him, a need that went far beyond the physical. Yet he could not tell her, could not put into words the way she had awakened hopes in him he had thought long since buried. He had fully expected never to feel enough for any woman to want to attach himself to them, and yet now his heart constricted painfully in his chest at the thought of letting her go, even though he knew he must. There was danger to her here that she wasn’t even aware of, and he was forbidden from telling her his involvement. To do so would only endanger her even more. He had no doubt now that it would not be long before Horatio Winters turned up at Trevan, and Amelia would be safer as far away as possible.
‘If only you weren’t moving
so far away,’ he murmured, not noticing until the words were out that he had spoken them aloud.
Amelia felt her heart leap in her chest. ‘It is very far,’ she said, trying to keep her voice light even though her mind was whirling with new possibilities. ‘I was thinking, earlier, how nice it would be to stay here for a while. Have my own house and land…as my aunt did.’
‘You would soon grow tired, even if Lord Winters did decide to let you be, which I doubt given what I have heard of the man. Sooner or later he may discover where you are.’ Again something flickered in his eyes at the mention of Horatio Winters, and Amelia wanted to ask him what their connection was, but did not wish to break the new intimacy between them. If only he would ask her to stay… They lay together in a silence that was comfortable, after the intensity of their lovemaking, yet loaded with the things they could not say. Amelia drifted off to sleep first, warm and safe in the circle of Jasper’s arms, while he gazed down at the woman who had awakened such a tumult within him.
Over the past few days he had all but ached for her, but had managed to tell himself it was lust only, and perhaps a desire for companionship, stirred up by the ghosts of his past here at Glendir. Then she had turned up on his doorstep, and he had all but lost. As a man, he could not regret making love to her, and yet his sense of honour would not let him forget that he had taken her precious virginity on the very eve of her leaving. For the first time in his adult life he felt wrong-footed. Felt as if he were questioning everything about his solitary existence.
He finally drifted off into sleep himself with his arms still protectively around her, as if he never had to let her go.
* * *
Stanley Hedburn glared over his desk at the arrogant young lord in front of him. He couldn’t stand the man, with his foppish hair and cold eyes, but he needed him. ‘I cannot force my daughter to marry you, Horatio. You had your chance at seduction—she has clearly rebuffed you.’ How he wished now that he had not tried to force her hand.
The man’s smirking expression didn’t change. ‘Well then perhaps you should tell her the truth, my dear Lord Hedburn. How she is the price for my assisting you through your …troubles. I’m sure a sweet girl such as she wouldn’t hesitate to help out her father.’
Stanley sighed. Horatio was right of course, but he was too proud to let his daughter know he had squandered their entire fortune—and her dowry—on foolish and ill-advised investments. That if he did not satisfy his creditors soon he faced gaol, and Amelia would never make a good marriage. He was dismayed at her disobedience; it appeared the girl was more like her mother than he had known. He had thought Amelia was different, had groomed her to be the perfect Society wife, and now she had astounded him. It occurred to him that for her to do such a thing she must have been truly terrified, and Lord Hedburn felt the unfamiliar feeling of guilt. Yet it would be far worse for her if she should end up keeping him company in debtor’s gaol.
‘Of course,’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘I will write to her. She will see sense, I am sure.’
‘You know where she is?’
Lord Hedburn shook his head. ‘Not for certain, but she has a small house and land of her own on the West Coast of Scotland, not far from the border. Her inheritance from her mother. It’s not worth much.’ Otherwise, he reflected, he would not have needed this marriage. ‘A wild little place. She has never shown much interest in it before, but she hasn’t been seen anywhere else.’
Lord Winters smoothed his short beard thoughtfully. ‘Trevan House, of course.’
Stanley looked surprised. ‘You know of it?’