Goddess of the hunt, p.32
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       Goddess of the Hunt, p.32

         Part #1 of The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy series by Tessa Dare
Page 32


  She slid her hands to his hips and pulled. “Never. ”

  And then he was in her, swift and sudden and strong. Filling her, stretching her.

  He stayed there, motionless, atop her. In her. His chest struggling against hers as they each fought for breath.

  “You aren’t hurt?” he asked.

  She shook her head. “Should I be?”

  “I … I don’t know. ”

  This admission sent Lucy into a bit of a panic. “What do you mean, you don’t know?” she asked, pushing on his shoulders until he rose up to meet her eyes. “You said you were a rake! Don’t tell me this is the first time you’ve—”

  “Of course it’s not. ” Jeremy clenched his jaw. “But I’ve never bedded a virgin before. And I had been given to understand it’s painful. ” Lucy regarded him quizzically. “For the woman,” he clarified.

  “Oh. ” Lucy closed her eyes and fell quiet, assessing. Sifting through the myriad overwhelming sensations to judge if any qualified as pain. As if they sensed themselves the subject of enquiry, her intimate muscles tightened around him. He groaned.

  “I’m not hurt,” she said. “I feel …”

  He sucked in a ragged breath. “You feel what?”

  “That’s all. ” She opened her eyes. “Ifeel. ” She uncurled her fingers from around his arms and skimmed them up to his neck. “I feelyou. ”

  He rocked against her gently. Exquisite pleasure washed through her body. Yes, she felthim . And he felt like heaven.

  He withdrew slightly and thrust into her again, deeper this time. Into the very heart of her. She clutched his neck and cried out against his ear.

  His whole body went rigid, and Lucy wondered for a moment if she’d done something wrong. Then Jeremy looked down at her, his gaze searching and anxious, and a sharp stab of emotion caught Lucy in the chest. It hurthim , she realized. It hurt him to think he’d hurt her. “No pain,” she assured him between panting breaths. “Only you. ”

  He held her tightly, tenderly, while her body learned to accommodate his, resting his forehead against her brow and dropping a light kiss on her cheek. And when he gently withdrew and thrust again, Lucy closed her lips over her cry, sealing it into a moan. Again and again he stroked into her. She buried her face against his shoulder and felt the sweet ache building once more.

  He moved faster and harder, and she began to move with him, arching into each stroke with a gasp of delight. Her fingers sank into his shoulders. She heard a loud moan. It was probably hers, but he made no reproach. They were both past caring. She felt it starting again—that wondrous flood of pleasure that welled up from deep inside her, welled up fromhim . His breathing grew rough. His thrusts rougher, too. Until the dam broke and the flood took her and they drowned together in bliss.

  He collapsed onto her, sinking her into the bed with his weight. They floated there together, simply breathing. And Lucy tried to collect the pieces of her body, scattered like branches after a storm. One leg she found twined around his. A few fingers she located tangled in his hair.

  And just when she began to believe that she was all still there, if somewhat rearranged, another flood began. This one didn’t start from her womb, or from him. It began in her heart. A strange and powerful deluge of emotion burst forth and filled every inch of her body, until she trembled with the terrible task of containing it. And it wouldn’t stop. It only kept coming. There was no reprieve. It flowed in great rivers out to her limbs and pounded in waves through her still-quivering core. It swelled her lips and thundered in her ears and welled up in her eyes. And it was too much to hold, impossible to dam.

  It spilled over into her soul.


  “Oh, I hate you!”

  Sophia bent over Lucy’s betrothal ring, wearing an expression of fascinated envy. “You just have to stay one step ahead of me, don’t you?” she asked, flinging away Lucy’s hand.

  Lucy remained seated at the dressing table, watching Sophia’s reflection pace back and forth in the mirror. Above her, Sophia’s lady’s maid muttered violent threats around a mouthful of hairpins. Lucy’s curls, like her thoughts, were particularly unruly this morning. The diminutive French maid was undaunted. She attacked with Gallic determination, yanking and twisting the chestnut locks into an elaborately coiled coiffure for the wedding.

  The wedding. Lucy’s scalp prickled at the thought. Her wedding.

  “First,” Sophia ticked off on her fingers, “you’re miles ahead of me in kisses. Then I get engaged in the garden, in perfectly scandalous fashion. One would think I’d have the advantage of you there for at least a solid hour, but no. Ten minutes later,you get engaged in the garden. You’re about to get married before my father’s even granted his consent. And now you’ve even beaten me to the ring. I shan’t have mine until Toby can retrieve it from Surrey. And even then, it won’t be half so fine. ”

  Lucy smiled at her friend’s pouting tirade. “Must I remind you,” she asked, “that I would not be engagedor getting marriedor wearing a betrothal ring at all, had you not invented that ridiculous letter?”

  “It wasyour idea. ” Sophia paused at the window and leaned against the glass in a petulant pose. “And don’t sound so put out. I did you a grand favor. ” She toyed with the tassel of the amber-colored drapes. “You’re disgustingly happy; don’t try to pretend otherwise. ”

  “Very well,” said Lucy. “I shan’t. ” She picked up one of her mother’s opal earrings from the dressing table and smiled at her reflection as she secured it in place, remembering the delicious sensation of Jeremy’s teeth nipping her ear. Her nipples hardened instantly, straining against the ivory silk of her bodice.

  Had it truly been only a few hours since she’d left his bed? Already it felt like weeks. God, she missed him. Even worse than she had the evening before, after two unending days. Just thinking of him, she felt a dull ache cinch in her breast. And a hollow warmth kindle between her thighs. Fleeting memories teased through her mind, like flickers of firelight in the dark. His hand on her breast. His tongue in her ear.

  “Just look at you,” Sophia said. “You’re so happy, you’re blushing bright pink with it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you taken with fever. ”

  Lucy pulled a face and pressed a hand to her forehead in feigned agony.

  “And,” Sophia continued, sweeping back across the room to stand behind her, “Lord help us all, it must be catching. ” She locked gazes with Lucy in the mirrored reflection. A reluctant smile played across her face. “I’m even happyfor you. ”

  The maid jabbed the last hairpin into Lucy’s upswept locks. Lucy stood up and twirled slowly for Sophia’s appraisal.

  “You do look lovely,” Sophia said, standing back to judge the effect. “The ivory suits your coloring handsomely. And it fits like a dream. One would hardly know the gown is made over. ”

  Lucy went to the full-length mirror and surveyed her reflection. Ivory silk clung to her body like a second skin, the bodice scooping to reveal more than a hint of cleavage. The skirt fell from an empire waist, skimming the curve of her hips before draping in a smooth column to the floor. Opals dangled from her ears, and jewels flashed from her fingers. Her hair was heaped and coiled in a classical Grecian style and wound with silk ribbon. The wisps that hung loose were not wayward stragglers, but carefully styled curls designed to lure the eye down the gentle slope of her neck.

  “Just think,” Sophia said. “In a few hours, you’ll be a countess. ”

  Lucy watched her reflection blanch. A countess. Her? The words “Lucy” and “countess” just didn’t seem to belong in the same breath. They scarcely seemed to belong in the same room. Lucy suddenly realized she’d never even met an actual countess. How in the world could she become one? Her heart began to pound against her stays, and she felt the urge to run for her wardrobe and hide.

  But she couldn’t hide fromhim there.

  She steadied herself and took a deep breath, scrutinizing her reflection anew. The same steady green eyes looked out from a heart-shaped face, framed by sweeping cheekbones below and dark brows above. Her olive skin flushed rosy pink, and when she smiled, her teeth gleamed in a straight row. She was still Lucy after all.

  And even in her mother’s earrings and a borrowed gown, she felt, for the first time in her life, as though the beauty belonged to her. She stopped worrying that she might teeter in the heeled slippers or trip on the heavy, satin-lined skirt. Her center of balance had shifted somehow. Her hoyden’s frame was still sturdy beneath the silk, but stronger than yesterday. Shored up with kisses and bolstered by passion. Strong enough to carry the formidable burden of elegance.

  It still terrified her, this notion of becoming a countess. But Lucy thought she just might be able to manage it, so long as she washis countess.

  “It’s as though that dress were designed for you,” Sophia said.

  “I’m fortunate that Marianne’s proportions are so similar to my own. ”

  “You’re fortunate in general. ” Sophia’s voice grew wistful.

  Lucy regarded her friend, feeling a slight pang of guilt. All of Waltham Manor had spent the past two days readying itself for this impromptu ceremony. Any celebration of Sophia’s engagement had been lost in the bustle of wedding preparations. And she’d been so absorbed in her own thoughts, Lucy had scarcely spoken with her friend. Their last true conversation had taken place over a bottle of very good claret.

  “Aren’t you happy, too?” Lucy asked.

  Sophia’s mouth quirked. “I expect I am. ”

  “You certainly got your moment of passion, didn’t you?” Lucy arched an eyebrow and grabbed Sophia’s wrist playfully. “Bare-chested passion, no less. Even Gervais would be hard-pressed to topthat. ”

  Sophia bit her lip and smiled. “Oh, yes. A passionate moment, indeed. ” She pulled her wrist from Lucy’s grip and hugged her arms across her chest. Her brow creased. “It’s just …”

  Lucy paused a long moment before prompting, “What?”

  “Toby adores me. Worships me, even. He goes on and on about it. ”

  “And that’s bad?”

  “I know, I know. It seems ridiculous to complain about being the object of such ardent devotion. ” She walked to the bed and sat down on the edge. “And I suppose I don’t mind hearing I’m beautiful. But when he starts composing odes to my purity and perfection, I don’t even recognize the woman he’s describing. I’m not at all certain it’s me. If he truly knew what I’m like, inside …” She gave Lucy an ironic smile. “Beauty goes no deeper than a reflection. ”

  Lucy rose from the dressing table and perched carefully next to Sophia on the bed. Ivory silk settled around her like a cloud. “But that’s the wonder of it, don’t you think? That he sees qualities deep inside you—hidden, beautiful things you didn’t know were there. ”

  Like passion, she thought. And tenderness. The grace to carry off silk and jewels. And that perfectly wondrous pleasure he’d shown her last night. The one he’d given her three different times, and for which she’d teased from him three different names—one of them even in French. Now those were the sort of vocabulary lessons a girl could enjoy. Perhaps she might make an accomplished lady yet. She sighed languidly.

  Sophia’s eyes widened as she studied Lucy’s face. “Curse you, Lucy Waltham,” she said with a knowing look. “There you go again. Now you’re hopelessly ahead of me. ”

  Lucy slanted her gaze to the floor. A hot blush suffused her cheeks and chest. Of course Sophia wouldknow just from looking at her. Wouldn’t everyone? Their first joining she might have composed her face to conceal, but the second time? Oh sweet heaven, the second time. Really, it would be a miracle if the whole Manor hadn’theard the second time.
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