Goddess of the hunt, p.22
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       Goddess of the Hunt, p.22

         Part #1 of The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy series by Tessa Dare
Page 22


  He waited. Waited for her to stiffen or startle. Waited for her to step away or protest. She didn’t. He eased the fabric down an inch. Two. A bit more—just enough to let that golden ribbon of light slide over smooth, bare skin. He traced it with his fingers once again, and she shivered at his touch.

  Jeremy had charmed the frock off many a woman, but this was uncharted territory. Some provided eager assistance; others put on a show of resistance. Lucy did neither. She merely waited in the darkness. He stroked her shoulder again with his thumb, and again she shivered. A shiver of fear? Of delight? He couldn’t tell. Perhaps she didn’t know, either.

  Then her hand went to his chest, slowly exploring up to his neck, wending inside his open shirt. Her fingertips grazed the ridge of his collarbone. The touch whispered warm and soft over his skin, like breath. Her hand stilled on his shoulder. Then her thumb swept over his flesh in a bold caress, and Jeremy shuddered. Sank against the solid ebony panel and trembled like a leaf. Trembled with the softness of her touch, exquisitely tender but not at all timid. Trembled with the knowledge that she was unlike other women, that she didn’t know how to play coy or loose. She wanted him to touch her. She wanted to touch him. That was the simple truth of it—and the truth left him trembling with unbearable need.

  He fanned his fingers over her shoulder and dragged his hand slowly down, dragging the bodice of her dress down with it. Beneath the latticed light, down into shadow, where touch was his only guide. The fabric resisted briefly; then a rougher tug convinced it to give way. He dipped his fingers under the edge of her stays, and the firm swell of her breast sprang into his palm. She drew in her breath.

  He cupped her breast gently, letting the warm weight of it fill his hand. He ran his thumb over her flesh. She was soft. So soft. Unimaginably sweet to touch, like sugar melting under his fingertips. He brushed his thumb over the taut peak of her nipple, and she gasped. He brushed it again, and she sighed. Then he pressed his thumb against it, rolling and teasing the straining flesh until she moaned.

  He wanted to kiss her. Cover her mouth with his, make her moan again and again, and drink in that honeyed sound. But then her finger flickered over the tight bud of his nipple, and he was powerless to move. She repaid all his sweet torture, and he let her. Let her tease him within an inch of his sanity, pinching and pressing until he ached with longing.

  When he could take no more, he lifted her breast in one palm and pushed her hand from his chest with the other. He bent over her breast, nuzzling against that sweet softness in the dark, and then he drew her nipple into his mouth.

  Dear God. Merciful heaven.

  It wasn’t just that she tasted warm and sweet and beautiful and pink. It was more than the way she bent her head over his, so that her curling hair tumbled around him, brushing against his neck and cheek. It wasn’t how she gasped and panted against his ear and his loins throbbed with every hot little cry.

  It was the way she melted into his body and clutched his shoulders with both hands, clinging to him as though he were her anchor to the earth. As though without him she might float away or fall apart or die. And as he worshipped her breast, suckling and tonguing her lush, sweet flesh, a question—sly and sinister—whispered through his mind.

  Who was he to her, here in the dark? Was he himself, or a stranger, or—most terrible to contemplate and altogether probable—someone else known to them both?

  If he called her by name … would she know his?

  “Lucy,” he breathed.

  Even her name was a kiss. An erotic, depraved collection of sounds. He murmured her name again and again, slowly kissing it over her breast. Licking the L over her nipple, pursing his lips around the sensual, rounded vowel, and releasing the name in a hiss of hot breath.

  She was soft, sighing heaven in his arms, but he was wicked and damned and it wasn’t enough. He wanted more,needed more. More of her.

  He kissed his way back up her neck and brought his hands to the neckline of her dress, gathering the fabric of both sleeves. He hesitated, his grip tightening over the muslin until it threatened to tear. Then her tongue flicked a silent plea against his ear, so lightly he might have imagined it, once.

  Twice, he could not mistake.

  With a strangled groan, he wrenched her bodice and chemise down over her shoulders. She pulled her arms free, letting the sleeves dangle at her hips. Then her hands flew to the edge of his shirt, and with one swift tug she yanked it free of his breeches and thrust her hands underneath to splay across his chest.

  Pleasure pierced him in ten sharp darts as her fingers pressed against his flesh. Ten little fires ignited on his skin, burning straight through to his core. And then—oh, God, and then. Those ten tormenting fingers began to move. Roaming over his skin, spreading trails of flame over every inch of his torso. Pressing against his nipples, curling through the hair that covered his chest and tracing its trail down the center of his abdomen.

  Then her hands slid around to his back, and she leaned against his chest. She brushed her lips over the base of his throat. Again. Again. Her kisses fell like raindrops in a desert, sizzling on his scorched flesh. He bent his head, and his mouth found hers. And then the storm broke.

  She was draped over his thigh and writhing in his arms, her fingernails biting into the flesh of his back as he plundered her mouth. Her breasts rubbed against his chest through the single layer of linen. His hands wandered over the smooth skin of her back, pulling her closer, crushing her deliciously soft body against his hard chest and aching groin. He reached down to cup the firm swell of her backside with both hands and pulled her hips against his.

  She gasped, startled. Then she arched against him again, and the gasp became a moan. Jeremy was on fire, and her breathy moan threw brandy on the blaze. He held her to him, kissing her neck and the delectable curve of her bare shoulder. She rocked her hips against him over and over, until her breath came in little pants.

  She sought his lips and covered them with her own, and he tasted the desperate question in her kiss. She was racing toward an unknown destination, and she needed him to show her the way. And God, did he want to show her. He would show her just what it was she craved. He would bring her to that peak of pleasure, where no other man had taken her. She would be his and no other’s, and she would know which man had taken her there.

  She would say his name.

  “Lucy,” he groaned against her mouth. He let one hand slide down her leg.

  Mine, he thought, gripping her thigh as she arched against him again. He fisted his hand in the fabric of her skirt, rucking it up to her knee. His hand snaked under the folds of skirt and chemise, curving around her stockinged leg. Mine , he vowed, sliding his fingers up her thigh, to where the rough stocking ended and smooth, supple paradise began. Her flesh quivered under his fingers. She broke away from their kiss and let her head fall against his chest.

  “Lucy. ” His voice was low and hoarse. “Lucy, look at me. ”

  She lifted her head, but shadow obscured her face. He couldn’t see her. She couldn’t see him. They were two strangers huddled together in the dark.

  He wrapped his hand under her bare thigh and lifted her against him, rolling out from the wardrobe’s dark corner. In one swift move, he reversed their positions, pinning her against the back panel of ebony. Shards of light decorated her face and danced over the tops of her breasts. She stared into his face, her pupils wide, the green of her eyes nearly eclipsed by black. Her lips were swollen and dusky red. Mine , he thought, taking her mouth in a greedy kiss. She welcomed his tongue with her own, but he pulled away. He wanted to see her face, to watch those beautiful lips as they shaped the syllables of his name.

  He slowly lowered her, letting her sink back onto his thigh. She arched against him with a little moan. Then she melted back against the ebony panel, and her eyes fluttered shut. Jeremy moved his hand under her skirt, skimming his fingers over the smoo
th crest of her thigh. She bit her lip as his fingers traveled slowly up, into moist heat and tight curls. Then his fingers brushed over her mound, and her eyes flew open.

  “Yes,” he said, rubbing lightly again. She shuddered, and her breath caught in her throat, but she held his gaze. Yes .

  Dear God, it would be so easy. A few buttons, one quick thrust, and she would be his. All his. But as badly as he wanted her—as much as his loins ached and his heart pounded and his whole body shook with desire—he didn’t want her that way. She had to come to him.

  She had to come for him.

  He worked his fingers against her slowly. “Oh,” she sighed. “Oh, God. ”

  Mine, he willed silently, sliding a finger into her molten core. Her mouth fell open. Her gaze was pleading. Call my name. Not God’s, or the devil’s, or any man’s in between. Mine .

  Through the thick, musky fog of desire, Jeremy was vaguely aware of noises. Muffled noises from without the wardrobe. Footfalls. Voices. But he slid his finger further into her hot, slick sheath, and her little strangled cry was the only noise in the world. She clutched his shoulders tight.

  Call my name, he thought.

  “Toby,” she squeaked.

  He froze. Her fingers dug into his flesh. His finger slid out of hers.

  “He’s coming,” she whispered, wriggling out of his embrace. She flattened herself against the back of the wardrobe and hugged her arms over her naked breasts.

  The footsteps came to a halt directly outside the wardrobe.

  “And Lucy must be here. ” Toby’s voice was muffled by thick panels of ebony, but unmistakable. As was Sophia’s voice asking,

  “How do you know?”

  “She always hides here,” came the reply. “Come out, Lucy,” Toby called.

  Lucy looked to Jeremy, her expression panicked. “Do something!”

  Do something. How Jeremy longed to do something. Many things. The first thing was to send his fist crashing through the ebony door, grab Toby by the throat, and strangle him. The second thing was to gather Lucy into his arms and find the hot, slick place where he’d left off. And then the third thing … oh dear Lord, the third thing.

  The ebony doors began to swing apart, and a thin crease of light shone through. Jeremy grabbed the bolts that held the door handles in place and yanked the doors shut. He held the bolts in white-knuckled grasps while unseen hands tried again, rattling the doors in their frame.

  “That’s odd,” Toby said. “It must be locked. ”

  The doors stilled, and Jeremy’s grip on the bolts relaxed. Then the crease of light rent the darkness again, and he clutched at the bolts once more. This time, he didn’t dare let go. Not until the footfalls resumed and the voices faded. Not for several moments after that.

  When he finally looked back toward Lucy, she had her back to him. She was shrugging back into her chemise and dress, drawing the sleeves up over her shoulders. Jeremy longed to rip them back down. But instead he pulled her laces tight and tied them in silence. He placed his hands on her waist and kissed the back of her neck. “Lucy,” he whispered.

  She pulled away.

  “He remembered,” she said softly. “He remembered after all. ”


  Lucy lay flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling. She lay atop the brocade counterpane, her hair spreading across the pillows like a fan. If she turned her neck slightly, she could see the untouched dinner tray sitting on her writing table. Surely the food had long gone cold.

  She was still wearing the same green dress she’d put on that morning. Her bath had been drawn, her hair unbound—but when Mary had reached to untie her laces, Lucy had practically slapped her hand away. Ridiculous, she now chided herself. Utterly absurd—the idea that without those thin layers of muslin and lawn, her maid would somehowknow .

  Oh, but how could she not? How could anyone notknow just by looking at her? That was why she had fled—hurried straight from the wardrobe up to her bedchamber and never returned to the drawing room. She hadn’t gone down to dinner, sending Mary instead to relay some excuse about her injured ankle. She might never show her face in public again—because everyone wouldknow . Surely it was stamped across her forehead in big, red letters that spelled out …
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