Authors: Harper Alibeck
Papa. Mama. Rules. The
. She pulled back as if someone had tossed a bucket of snow on her.
“Oh, Evan! I cannot.”
He pulled her to him, the heat of his chest warming her. Heating her. Lighting her on fire. “We can, Claire. Oh, my, we can.”
She tilted her head back and drank greedily from his lips as he kissed the hollow of her neck, pressing his fingers into her jaw line, sliding her wet, blonde waves aside. Her breathing was harder to control, his hand so good, so right, splayed across her skin. Did he know how much power he had over her? How he invaded her thoughts, her dreams, her fantasies, that it was his face, his lips, his body she imagined when she dreamed? When she touched her –
Ah, she gave in, just for a few more moments, knowing this was all she could take. All she could give. And then –
“No, no, Evan. I cannot let you give me a baby.”
That halted him. “What, my dear?”
“A baby. It would be my ruin. Papa has found me a match.” One more minute of this and she would give him her maidenhood, let go all restraint, love him with complete abandon and have him enter her, the two joined by lovemaking that would be both the culmination of all that was right with the world, and a simple act that could ruin her forever.
While men could take all the risks in the world, she could not.
He pulled back and sat on the ground, knees up, hands raking his hair, clearly shaken. He seemed so vulnerable, so boyish, so adorable that she questioned her sanity, wondered if she should just let temptation run its course and worry about silly rules later. “Ah. I see.” He inhaled sharply, then used his breath to put his passion in place. “Who?”
“A prince in Bavaria.” Putting it into words made it more real. A physical pain took over her abdomen, as if the words themselves had stabbed her.
“That tiny country? It is as old as one of my horses!” he laughed. So did she. It felt good.
“I know. ’Tis true. Papa, though, is determined.”
“Yes. He is.” Evan skipped a few stones on the water, his skill yielding three, four shallow skips. Ripples of chest muscle danced across his skin as he stretched his arm for the throw. She wanted to lick him, kiss him all over, throw her body on his and –
Claire’s ears perked. Was that a sound? Alarmed, she stared at Evan, who leaned in as if to kiss her again. The bushes rustled; he stopped, having heard it too. They split in two, each rushing to their respective clothes piles. Each was dressed in seconds, separated by yards of vegetation.
She looked around wildly and then – there. A deer. A doe and her baby. Both stared intently at the humans, then the doe nuzzled her babe, shooing it away from the alcove. Claire sighed, then looked at Evan, who just shrugged.
Tears filled her eyes. He frowned, a look of compassion and empathy, of heartbreak and loneliness. “Oh, Claire,” he sighed, taking her into his arms, an embrace not of passion but of sadness. Melting, she let the tears spill over, felt them dampen parts of his dry shirt, felt herself empty a tiny part of her that needed so much more.
A rooster crowed in the distance. Time. Oh, how she needed more time. But what she needed she rarely received, and this would be no different. “I must go.” A quick kiss on the cheek was all she could muster before she broke free and ran, madly seeking speed to replace despair.
Ah, God, he was absolutely blind with arousal. So blind he didn’t see the tree root in his path, the thick trunk tripping him, sending him elbows-first into a thorny thatch of branches. Extricating him took more mental power than he retained, and soon he found himself helpless, like a ten year old ensnared in a loose clothesline, a hot temper ready to blow from sheer stupidity and overwhelm.
Breathe, Evan, breathe.
The dark cyclone of fury slowed to a gray wind, a shadow of a storm within, and in short time he pulled away the prickers and stood, tiny threads torn here and there on his coat but none the worse for wear. Scratches dotted his unclothed skin and that suited him just fine; the niggling pain took his mind off the emotional torment of Claire.
Of course he wouldn’t give her a baby! Was she mad? He knew they could not consummate until they were wed. Oh, how he knew it, restraint fraying at the edges of his world, like a loose thread so fragile that one small tug unraveled all.
Her skin. Her face. Her body in his, thick, round cheeks of her back side in his hands, palms filled with her curves, his lips on the pulse of her neck, his body touching hers as the rush of climax overtook her, wanting so much to be the source of that, wishing to be in her, to thrust and –
Damn it, he was hard once more.
The walk home became all the more uncomfortable. Stings from scratches were preferable to this. He shifted himself, setting his trouser buttons in a more aligned manner and walked fast, then jogged, hoping the exertion would pump his blood elsewhere, anywhere but
Hopeless. Not only was the situation without a shred of a chance, he himself was pitiful. Holding a woman under the waterfall as she...though it had been an amazing experience, it had provided him with no closure.
Thunder rumbled overhead and he picked up his pace. Just what he needed – a storm to chill his bones. Illness was preferable to this. As he walked briskly another clap of thunder struck and then, as if it hit the perfect frequency to make a pitch strike a chord within him, he –
He knew how to make this work.
Running home, he wrote the letter in his head, knowing exactly what to say to put his plan in place. The risk was all hers, though. Would she take such a high-stakes chance?
He could never live with himself if he did not try.
And, he suspected, neither could she.
Meet me you-know-where tomorrow.
Bridie had delivered the sealed note just now, a puzzling conspirator’s smile on her face, only hours after Claire’s encounter with Evan, her skin still barely dry from the morning’s dip, her nerves still half-disheveled and her mind now a low hum, down from a loud roar.
A lump in her throat made an audible click as she slumped to the floor, clutching the note. What was she doing? Who was she? This was not the Claire she had been her whole life, the perfect lady in training for her debut, for her seasons, for marriage and, some day, children. Instead she found herself an insatiable woman, sneaking off to do unnatural things and nearly fornicating in the gardens with Evan.
If she were more pious, she would think a demon inhabited her.
Perhaps it had. Letting the question settle a bit, she stared out the window. No rush; the next morning was fitfully far away.
. The word floated through her thoughts and she felt her shoulders relax, her cheeks lower, her forehead unwrinkle, her tense body melt a bit. Mama often said that Claire tried too hard to make things go her way, and the world doesn’t work like that. She saw the wisdom in Mama’s words; surrendering was her last vestige of control, wasn’t it? Ironically, by giving in to that over which she was powerless she could have some control.
And that was the answer, wasn’t it? Papa would choose. Claire would obey. Being queen was not her goal, but it was Papa’s now. Her job was to prevent herself from jeopardizing that goal.
Content now, though not truly happy, she cleaned herself and dressed, going downstairs for a mid-day meal. Papa crossed her path on the way to dine.
“Ah, Claire!” he said, smiling. “You look lovely today.” He surveyed her, studying her face. “So relaxed.”
She smiled back. He turned to walk into his office, ready to answer correspondence and manage whatever it is a wealthy earl managed these days. She wondered why he seemed so occupied with business since the silver fortune, but she did not pry.
A few bites of duck and some lovely bread filled her, everything tasting just right but her mouth unable to enjoy it, as if the food were just flavored tree bark. She left the rest of her meal and soon Claire found herself outside, wandering the gardens, her feet taking her to the waterfall. Privacy would not be guaranteed, she knew; she sought out the alcove not for any sensual purpose, but rather as a refuge.
To her chagrin and elation (ah, how could she feel both at once?), there sat Evan, skipping stones so gracefully, as if the flat pieces of slate were an extension of his body, willed to skim the water’s surface like aqua bugs, his touch so light and perfect the rocks had no choice but to comply.
Like her pulse beneath his caress.
She cleared her throat and he jumped up, turned toward her, and closed the distance between them with a welcoming smile and open arms.
“We are not supposed to meet until tomorrow!” he exclaimed, clearly pleased to see her again. Like coming home, she ran to him, her body eager for his touch, her lips soon pressed against his, their mutual warmth coursing through one another, passion soon burning all traces of doubt.
“Evan,” she said simply, having no other words as he leaned in, bowing down and bending his knees a bit to reach her, slipping one hand about her waist, the other on her cheek and his lips, oh, his lips settled on hers, so impossibly soft, so tender, so searching. She gave in to the kiss, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and waist, the tender press of his mouth yielding a more passionate insistence until she broke away with a groan.
His hands knew what they wanted; her heart knew what she wanted to give. He exhaled, warm breath tickling her ear, his mouth kissing her neck, and they folded into each other, desperate to be on the ground, his body on hers, legs and hips and chests meeting and moving together, finding a rhythm for an act they had not yet agreed to commence.
His hand flirted with the buttons on the back of her dress and with a precision she dared not ask about, he unclasped the first six in less than a minute, all while slaking his thirst for her, mouth exploring hers, tongue like a cartographer’s, making a map line by line, stroke by stroke, memorizing the topography of her lips, her tongue, her teeth.
Enough of her dress was undone such that he pulled the sleeves off and down, exposing rosy nipples that made him groan, the shock of his tongue there enough to add Claire’s moan to the mix. The waterfall provided a thunderous backdrop for all they explored, the rumble a soothing legato that allowed her to focus on the melody of temptation and tantalizing flesh.
He kissed her breasts and moved below, mouth on the soft underbelly of each mound of flesh, kissing and nipping in such a manner that soon she found herself drenched between her legs, the feeling of potential so round and rich she nearly begged him for release. Then his mouth traveled lower as he rolled her skirts up, lips kissing her thighs, and she pulled back.
“What are you doing?” she gasped, unaware of his intentions. His mouth was headed for places she knew were not decent, knew no mouth need touch.
He grinned, eyes full of mischief and lust. “In Paris I learned some...ways that are all too pleasing to women,” he said. “Let my mouth be your waterfall, Claire.” And with that he resumed his kisses, traveling to the rosebud she felt blooming in her womanhood, and as his tongue flitted there – no, there – and
– she shot into an instant frenzy that subsided only minutes later as she found herself hissing his name, fingers clenching fists of his hair, body writhing in sweet agony and climax.