Goddess of the hunt, p.3
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       Goddess of the Hunt, p.3
 

         Part #1 of The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy series by Tessa Dare
Page 3

 

  His eyes snapped open. In desperation, he glanced downward, just to see if the third button of her nightgown was still undone.

  And it was. Damn it, it was.

  She laughed softly, drawing his gaze back up to her mouth, now tilted at the perfect angle to receive his kiss. Those lips … and just a hint of a moist, pink tongue … the instruments of his irritation for so many years, now offered up in invitation. Just waiting to be silenced, mastered, tamed. There was one certain way, a dark voice inside him argued, to make Lucy finally see sense.

  Kiss her senseless.

  His mouth crushed down on hers, and he felt her lips contract from that wide smile to a passionate pout. And when she opened her mouth to him readily, eagerly, Jeremy thanked God for lurid novels.

  He slid his tongue into her hot, whiskey-bold mouth, exploring, demanding. She gasped against his lips, and he thrust deeper, took more, determined to drink in her sweetness until he tasted the bitter edge of fear. If she wanted lessons, he meant to give her one. He would teach her that desire was not a game; passion was dangerous sport indeed. He meant to push her until he pushed her away—sent her scurrying back to her room to tremble beneath crisp white sheets and curl back into that high-necked virginal nightgown. And button that damned button.

  Then her tongue stroked his. Cautiously, once. Again, with abandon. She was pulling him in, coaxing him on, stoking the fire in his loins with every darting caress. He answered instinctively, deepening the kiss. And a realization pierced him with all the sweet sting of requited desire.

  This kiss was a dare.

  And in the eight years he’d known her, Lucy Waltham had never once backed down from a dare.

  She wriggled closer, grasping his shoulders and running one hand to the back of his neck. He growled as her fingernails raked lightly across his nape.

  Some force pulled his hand downward. Regret, perhaps. The desperate need to regain control. A charitable impulse, truly—he had to convince her she was playing with fire. Fingers splayed, he laid claim to the small of her back and pressed her to him, drawing her body tight against his swelling groin. The pleasure was immediate. Intense. Not nearly enough.

  Surely now she would squirm away, perhaps even scream.

  But no. She was moving, yes. God, was she moving. Arching against him, moaning into the kiss. Cool velvet teased his fingertips; warm velvet caressed his tongue. Traitorous images flooded his mind. A crimson robe pooling on the floor. Buttons flying everywhere. He was in this kiss far too deep, and oh God, how he longed to sink in deeper still. It had gone all wrong.

  This was … all …wrong .

  Jeremy fought through the haze of lust, clenching his fist in her hair and tearing her away. An inch. He looked down at her face. This time, her eyes were closed.

  “Lucy,” he whispered hoarsely.

  Her eyes fluttered open. They were green flecked with gold; dark, wild passion, glinting with laughter. He untangled his hand from her hair, released her waist, and stepped back, trying to think. His breath was ragged, his pulse thundering, and blood was rushing everywhere in his body except his brain. “Lucy,” he tried again, “that was—”

  “That was practice,” she interrupted. A smile curved her lips. “Very good practice. ” She shifted her weight back on one foot, pushing the curve of her hip into relief and lifting her breasts for attention—an unconscious motion of raw sensuality.

  It was wildly seductive.

  Jeremy swore inwardly. What had he done? He’d opened the door to an awkward virgin, and not a half-hour later, he was sending away a temptress. It was as though he’d been handed an unloaded gun, only to pack it with powder and buckshot and—dear God—damn near pull the trigger. Scant minutes ago, she’d been harmless. Now …

  Now Lucy was a danger to herself.

  And if she stood there a moment longer, taunting him with those glittering eyes and those swollen lips and that flushed, kissable curve of her throat, Jeremy would be a danger to her.

  What had he been thinking? He had mauled her like a brute. Never mind the fact that she had mauled him right back, or that the whole thing had been her idea. He was a gentleman, and she was—by birth if not behavior—a lady. She was his best friend’ssister . He ought to be facing a pistol at dawn, or worse. A vicar across an altar.

  She must have read the guilt in his eyes. “For heaven’s sake, Jemmy. Henry’s never going to know, unless you tell him. ” Smiling, she tied the sash of her dressing gown. “And I strongly suggest you don’t. You’d never live it down. ”

  “You,” he said, grasping her by the elbow and steering her firmly to the door, “are very late for bed. ” He cautiously scanned the corridor before guiding her through the doorway. She started to turn left, toward Toby’s bedchamber. He caught her by the shoulders and swiveled her to face the opposite direction.

  “Go to your room, Lucy,” he whispered sternly. “I shall keep my door open all night—if you try to get to Toby, you’ll have to get through me. ”

  She flashed him a coy look which, in any ballroom, he would have taken for shameless flirtation. She was a quick study, indeed. “Are you suggesting that would be difficult?”

  He gritted his teeth. “So help me, I will march you down to Henry’s room this instant if …”

  “Shhhh. ” She silenced him with a finger to his lips, glancing over her shoulder. “Very well, Jemmy,” she whispered. “I suppose Toby will let Sophia unpack her valises before he drops to one knee. I can wait one more night. ”

  Jeremy listened to her pad softly down the corridor and strained his ears until he heard the sound of a bolt sliding into place. He sagged against the wall.

  It was some comfort to know Lucy slept behind a bolted door. But he would have felt entirely more at peace, were the bolt on the other side.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

  Several hours and countless kisses later, morning dawned, quiet and bright. Lucy rolled onto her elbow and smoothed the hair from her husband’s brow as he stared up at the ceiling.

  “What are you thinking about?” she asked, settling her chin on his chest.

  He folded his arm around her. “I am thinking that I could stay here with you forever. ” She smiled and planted a kiss on his collarbone. “But,” he continued, stroking her hair, “I’m thinking that if we don’t get back to the Abbey soon, someone is going to come find us. ” He rolled over to face her and dropped a gentle kiss on her lips. “Why? What are you thinking about?”

  She wound a lock of hair around her finger. “I’m thinking about Albert. ”

  He grimaced. “Him again?”

  “You should give him work,” she said, trailing her finger across his chest. “Then he wouldn’t be skulking about the woods at night. ”

  “Give him work?” Jeremy snorted. “Like hell I will. ”

  She frowned. “That’s what Albert said, too. I don’t understand why it’s such a preposterous idea. He needs work; surely you have something he can do. It seems perfectly logical to me. ”

  “Lucy, he’s been poaching from the estate. He hurt you. ” He kissed the objection from her lips. “Intentionally or no, he hurt you. It would be hard enough to forgive him that. I can’t reward him for it. ”

  “Don’t you see? It’s not about rewarding Albert’s wrongs. It’s about righting your father’s. ”

  With a sigh, he rolled back to face the ceiling. “I don’t think so, Lucy. ”

  “Are you sure?” She ran her hand over his chest, flicking his nipple with her fingernail. “I can be very persuasive when I wish to be. ” She traced the same path with her tongue, and he groaned. “What do you think now?” she asked saucily.

  “I think—” He rolled to face her again and wrapped one arm around her, crushing her close. “I think you said you like me better when I’m not thinking. ”

  He kissed her deeply, running his hand down her back to squeeze
her bottom. She sighed as he lifted her leg and hooked it over his hips, pulling her tight against his arousal. Even after a night of blissful passion, Lucy’s body responded with surprising urgency. She rocked her hips, sliding over his hard length on a slick sheen of moisture. Exquisite pleasure rushed through her.

  She reached between them, angled her hips, and guided him into her moist, aching heat. Slowly, slowly. Just an inch. Then two. Stretching out the pleasure by infinitesimal degrees. Jeremy’s hand tightened over her hip. With a low moan, he thrust into her, hard.

  “Oh,” she cried, breaking the kiss.

  “God, Lucy. I’m sorry. ” His expression went from desire to distress in an instant. “Did I hurt you?”

  “Don’t be ridiculous. ” She pulled away slightly, then rocked against him again. “I liked it. Where did you get this notion, that you have to be gentle with me? I’m still the same Lucy. I’m still the sturdy little chit who can outride and outshoot you. I won’t break. ”

  He kissed her neck, laughing softly. “You can’t outride me. ”

  “Oh, now that sounded suspiciously like a dare. ” She rolled him onto his back and straddled him, sinking onto him with a sigh. “Who’s outriding you now, hmm?” She straightened her spine and tossed her hair over her back. His gaze fell to her jutting breasts. With a fierce growl, he grabbed her hips and thrust upward.

  She gasped. “That’s it!”

  He thrust into her again. “You like that, do you?”

  “No. I mean, yes. ” He thrust again. “Oh, yes,” she sighed. She put her hands flat on his chest and leaned over him, her hair cascading around them like a tent. “I mean, that’s it. That’s why you married me. Because I won’t break. ”

  He stared up at her in puzzlement.

  She countered his bewildered frown with a defiant smile. “You told Henry, you told yourself—you wanted to keep me safe. And thatwas a lie. Because deep down, you knew I wouldn’t need saving at all. Not from this place, not from these people—and certainly not from you. ” She planted her index finger in the center of his chest. “I can take you. All of you. Everything you have inside, everything you are. You can do your worst, and you can give me your best. And I won’t break. ”

  “You won’t break. ”

  “I won’t. And you knew it the first time we kissed. ”

  He laughed. Laughed so deep in his chest, she felt his joy rumble through her whole body. It felt heavenly.

  “Not the first time,” he said. “Definitely not the first time. ” He slid his hands up her arms, pulling her down for a kiss. “Perhaps the third. ”

  It was a long, muddy walk back up to the Abbey. Lucy’s slippers only made it halfway. After that, Jeremy carried her.

  As the prospect of the Abbey loomed closer, Lucy looked on it with new eyes. The façade of the rambling stone building caught the morning sun and came alive with brilliance. For the first time, she thought it resembled a structure built to praise God.

  For the first time, it looked like home.

  “Jeremy, stop. ”

  His arms tightened around her. “What is it? Are you uncomfortable? Don’t demand to be put down. I’ll not allow you to walk barefoot through the—”

  She silenced him with a smile. “I don’t want you to put me down. ” She looked around her slowly, taking in the sunlit Abbey and craggy bluffs, then craning her neck to survey the frost-tinged woods behind them. “It’s just so beautiful. ”

  She looked up to meet Jeremy’s puzzled gaze. “I’ll go to London with you if that’s what you want. You’re my husband, and if you want to reside in Town—or Scotland or Egypt, for that matter—I’ll follow you. ” She paused, allowing the silence to underscore the import of her words. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, for Lucy, pledging to follow a man’s lead to the ends of the earth. Or to Scotland. “But I hope our home will always be here. I love this place. ”
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