Whispering reassurances against her swollen flesh, St. Vincent slid his finger inside her again, deeper this time. “Innocent darling,” came his soft murmur, and his tongue tickled a place so excruciatingly sensitive that she quivered and moaned. At the same time, his finger stroked her inner softness with a languid rhythm. She tried to keep quiet, gritting her teeth together, but little noises kept climbing in her throat. “What do you think would happen,” she heard him ask lazily, “if I kept doing this without stopping…”
Evie’s vision blurred as their gazes met over the quivering plane of her stomach. She knew that her face was contorted and flushed…she felt heat blazing over every inch of her skin. He seemed to expect a reply, and she could hardly force the words from her constricted throat. “I-I don’t know,” she said faintly.
“Let’s try it, shall we?”
She couldn’t reply, could do nothing but watch in astonishment as he pressed his mouth into the patch of red curls. Her head fell back as she felt his tongue dance skillfully across her pulsing flesh. The pounding of her heart increased to hard thumps. She felt a slight burn as he slipped a second finger inside her, stretching tenderly, and then he suckled the taut bud of her sex, licking slowly at first, increasing the pace as she twisted beneath him. He stayed with her, his long fingers working in controlled thrusts, his mouth compelling and demanding, until pleasure washed over her in faster and faster rushes, and suddenly she couldn’t move at all. Arched tightly against his mouth, she cried out and gasped, and cried out again. His tongue gentled but continued its artful play, nursing her through the lingering peaks of sensation, bathing her sex with warm strokes as she began to shudder violently.
A great weariness flooded her, and with it a physical euphoria that made her feel drunk. Unable to control her limbs, she squirmed tremulously beneath him, and offered no resistance as St. Vincent turned her over to her stomach. His hand slipped between her thighs and his fingers entered her once more. The opening to her body was sore and, to her mortification, saturated with moisture. He seemed excited by the wetness, however, breathing against the sensitive nape of her neck in rapid pants. Keeping his fingers inside her, he kissed and nibbled his way down her back.
Evie felt the brush of his sex against her legs…it was hard and engorged, the skin burning hot. She was not surprised by the change in him…Annabelle had told her enough in the past to give her a fair understanding of what happened to a man’s body during the act of love. But Annabelle had said nothing about the hundred other intimacies that made the experience not merely physical, but one to change the very alchemy of her soul.
Crouching over her, St. Vincent teased and fondled until he felt her h*ps rising tentatively against his hand. “I want to be inside you,” he whispered, kissing the side of her neck. “I want to go deep into your body…I’ll be so gentle, love…let me turn you over, and…God, you’re so lovely…” He pressed her on her back and settled between her widespread thighs, his whisper becoming frayed and unsteady. “Touch me, sweetheart…put your hand there…” He sucked in a quick breath as her fingers curved gently around the hard length of his sex. Evie stroked him hesitantly, understanding from the quickening of his breath that the caress gave him pleasure. His eyes closed, the thick lashes trembling slightly against his cheeks, his lips parting from the force of his sharp respirations.
Awkwardly she gripped the heavy shaft and guided it between her thighs. The head of it slipped against the wetness of her sex, and St. Vincent groaned as if in pain. Trying again, Evie positioned him uncertainly. Once in place, he nudged strongly into the vulnerable cove. It burned far more than when he had put his fingers in her, and Evie tensed against the pain. Cradling her body in his arms, St. Vincent moved in a powerful thrust, and another, and then he was all the way inside. She writhed with the impulse to escape the hurtful invasion, but it seemed that each movement only drew him deeper.
Filled and stretched and opened, Evie forced herself to lie still in his arms. She held on to his shoulders, her fingertips digging into the hard quilting of muscle and sinew, and she let him soothe her with his mouth and hands. His brilliant eyes were heavy-lidded as he bent to kiss her. Welcoming the warm sleekness of his tongue, she drew it into her mouth with eager, awkward suction. He made a low sound of surprise, shuddering, and his shaft jerked violently inside her in a series of rhythmic spasms. A groan vibrated in his chest as he spent himself inside her, his breath hissing between his clenched teeth.
Her hands slipped down to his chest, the firm surface covered with a light fleece of coarse golden hair. With his body still joined to hers, St. Vincent held still beneath her inquisitive fingers. She touched his lean sides, exploring the hard vaulting of his ribs and the satiny plane of his back. His blue eyes widened, and then he dropped his head to the pillow beside hers, growling as his body worked inside hers with a deep thrust, as he was helplessly shaken with new tremors of rapture.
His mouth fastened on hers with a primal greed. She opened her legs wider, pulled at his back to urge more of his weight on her, trying in spite of the pain to tug him deeper, harder. Braced on his elbows to keep from crushing her, he rested his head on her chest, his breath hot and light as it fanned over her nipple. The bristle of his cheek stung her skin a little, the sensation causing the tips of her br**sts to contract. His sex was still buried inside her, though it had softened. He was silent but awake, his eyelashes a silky tickle against her skin.
Evie remained quiet as well, her arms encircling his head, her fingers playing in his beautiful hair. She felt the weight of his head shift, the wet heat of his mouth seeking her nipple. His lips fastened over it, and his tongue slowly traced the outer edge of the gathered aureole, around and around until he felt her stirring restlessly beneath him. Keeping the tender bud inside his mouth, he licked steadily, sweetly, while desire ignited in her br**sts and her stomach and loins, and the soreness dissolved in a fresh wave of need. Intently he moved to the other breast, nibbling, stroking, seeming to feed on her pleasure. He levered upward enough to allow his hand to slide between them, and his cunning fingers slid into the wet nest of hair, finding the tingling feminine crest and teasing skillfully. She felt herself sliding into another cl**ax, her body clamping voluptuously on the hot flesh that was insinuated deep inside her.
Gasping, St. Vincent lifted his head to stare at her as if she were a variety of creature he had never seen before. “Good Lord,” he whispered, his expression not one of gratification, but of something close to alarm.
Sebastian left the bed and went to the washstand on unsteady legs. He felt dazed, uncertain, as if he were the one who had just lost his virginity instead of Evangeline. He had long thought that there was nothing new for him to experience. He had been wrong. For a man whose lovemaking was a practiced blend of technique and choreography, it had been a shock to find himself at the spontaneous mercy of his own passions. He had meant to withdraw at the last moment, but he had been so mindless with desire that he’d been unable to control his body. Damn. That had never happened before.
Fumbling with the clean linen towel at the washstand, he made a project of dampening it with fresh water. By now his breathing had returned to normal, but he wasn’t at all calm. After what had just happened, he should have been satiated for hours. But it hadn’t been enough. He had experienced the longest, hardest, most wrenching cl**ax of his life…and yet the need to have her again, open her, bury himself inside her, had not faded. It was madness. But why? Why with her?
She had the kind of amply feminine form that he’d always adored, voluptuous and firm, with plump thighs to cushion him. And her skin was as smooth as pressed velvet, with golden freckles scattered like festive sparks shed by rockets and Catherine wheels. The hair…as red and curly down below as it was on her head…yes, that was also irresistible. But all the physical riches of Evangeline Jenner could not account for her extraordinary effect on him.
Feeling, impossibly, the stirring of desire once more, Sebastian scrubbed himself roughly with the cold cloth and reached for a fresh one. He brought it to Evangeline, who lay half curled on her side. To his relief, it seemed there would be no virginal tears or complaints. She appeared contemplative rather than upset…she was staring at him intently, as if she were trying to solve a puzzle. Murmuring quietly, he coaxed her onto her back and washed the blood and fluid from between her thighs.
It wasn’t easy for Evangeline to lie still and na*ed before him…Sebastian saw the rosy color that covered her in a swift tide. He had known very few women who blushed at nudity. He had always chosen women of experience, having little taste for innocents. Not for reasons of morality, of course, but because virgins were, as a rule, quite dull in bed.
Setting the cloth aside, Sebastian braced his hands on either side of Evangeline’s shoulders, his palms making deep depressions in the mattress. They studied each other curiously. Evangeline was comfortable with silence, he realized—she didn’t seek to fill it as most women did. A nice quality. He leaned over her, still staring into her eyes…but as his head lowered to hers, a little growling sound interrupted the silence. It was her stomach, protesting its emptiness. Turning a deeper shade of red, if that were possible, Evangeline clapped her hands over her midriff as if to silence the willful rumble.
A grin crossed Sebastian’s face, and he bent swiftly to kiss her stomach. “I’ll send for breakfast, sweet.”
“Evie,” she murmured, reaching down to pull the covers up to her chest. “That’s what my father and my friends call me.”
“Are we finally ready for first names?” A teasing smile lurked in the corners of his lips. “Sebastian,” he said softly.
Evie reached out slowly, as if he were a wild animal that might bolt if startled, and her fingers laced through his front locks with careful lightness. Brushing aside the swath of stray hair, she said in a low voice, “We’re truly married now.”
“Yes. God help you.” He inclined his head, enjoying the stroke of her fingers in his hair. “Shall we depart for London today?”
Evie nodded. “I want to see my father.”
“You’d better choose your words with care when you explain that I’m his son-in-law,” he said. “Otherwise the news will finish him off.”
She drew her hand back. “I want to hurry. If the weather improves, perhaps we can better our time. I want to go straight to my father’s club and—”
“We’ll get there soon,” Sebastian said evenly, “but we won’t be traveling at the full-bore speed we maintained all the way to Scotland. We’ll spend at least one night at a coaching inn.” As she opened her mouth to object, he said in an inexorable manner, “It will do your father no good for you to arrive at his club half dead with exhaustion.”
Now it began—the exercise of husbandly authority, and the obligation of the wife to obey him. It was clear that Evie longed to argue, but instead she stared at him with a frown notched between her eyes. Softening his voice, he murmured, “You’re in for a difficult time of it, Evie. Having me for a husband will be trial enough. But caring for a consumptive during the last stage of his illness…you’ll need all your strength. No use in depleting it before you even get there.”
Evie stared at him with a renewed intensity that made him uncomfortable. What eyes she had, as if someone had collected layers of blue glass and shone the brightest sunlight through it. “Are you concerned about my welfare?” she asked.
He made his voice mocking, his gaze cool. “Of course, pet. It’s in my best interest to keep you alive and healthy until I can collect your dowry.”
Evie soon discovered that St. Vincent—Sebastian—was as comfortable na*ed as fully dressed. She tried to react nonchalantly to the sight of a man moving about the room without a stitch of clothing. But she stole discreet glances whenever possible, until he extracted a suit of clothes from the trunk. He was long-limbed and lean, with sleek expanses of flesh that must have been toned by gentlemanly exercise like riding, pugilism, and fencing. His back and shoulders were well-developed, with muscles flexing beneath the taut skin. More fascinating still was his front view, including a chest that was not bare, as one usually saw with marble or bronze statues, but lightly covered with hair. The hair on his chest—and in other places—had surprised her. It was yet another of the many mysteries of the opposite gender that were now—literally—being revealed to her.
Unable to bring herself to stride across the room in a similarly exposed fashion, Evie tugged one of the bed linens around herself before going to her valise. She unearthed a clean gown made of heavy brown broadcloth and a fresh set of undergarments, and best of all a pair of clean shoes. Her other pair were so soiled and clammy that she shuddered at the thought of putting them on. In the midst of dressing, she felt Sebastian’s gaze on her. Hastily she yanked her chemise down to conceal her pinkening torso.
“You’re beautiful, Evie,” came his soft comment.
Having been raised by relations who had always lamented the garish color of her hair and the proliferation of freckles, Evie gave him a skeptical smile. “Aunt Florence has always given me a bleaching lotion to make my freckles vanish. But there’s no getting rid of them.”
Sebastian smiled lazily as he came to her. Taking her shoulders in his hands, he slid an appraising glance along her half-clad body. “Don’t remove a single freckle, sweet. I found some in the most enchanting places. I already have my favorites…shall I tell you where they are?”
Disarmed and discomfited, Evie shook her head and made a movement to twist away from him. He wouldn’t let her, however. Pulling her closer, he bent his golden head and kissed the side of her neck. “Little spoilsport,” he whispered, smiling. “I’m going to tell you anyway.” His fingers closed around a handful of the chemise and eased the hem slowly upward. Her breath caught as she felt his fingers nuzzling tenderly between her bare legs. “As I discovered earlier,” he said against her sensitive throat, “there’s a trail inside your right thigh that leads to—”
A knock at the door interrupted them, and Sebastian lifted his head with a grumble of annoyance. “Breakfast,” he muttered. “And I wouldn’t care to make you choose between my lovemaking or a hot meal, as the answer would likely be unflattering. Put on your gown, while I go to the door.”
After Evie obeyed with fumbling haste, he opened the door to reveal a pair of chambermaids bearing trays of covered dishes. As soon as they got a glance at the handsome guest with the seraphic face and hair the color of ripe wheat, the two women gasped and giggled uncontrollably. It hardly improved their composure to see that he was only partially dressed, his feet bare beneath his trousers, his white shirt and collar left open at the throat, and a silk cravat hanging loose on either side of his neck. The infatuated maids nearly overturned the trays twice before they had managed to set the breakfast dishes on the table. Noticing the rumpled bed, they found it difficult to contain their squeals of delight as they speculated on what had taken place there during the night. Annoyed, Evie shooed the chambermaids from the room and closed the door firmly behind them.