Chapter Ten

December 24, 1817

The household had long retired, and the long-case clock somewhere within the bowels of the floor below chimed twice—two o’clock on Christmas Eve morning. Andrew wrapped an Oriental-style banyan around his frame and tied the sash. He came out of the adjoining room and into the bedchamber in time to watch his wife cross to one of the windows. As she passed the fire burning low in the grate, the thin lawn shift she still wore was rendered temporarily transparent, and the outline of her body had awareness shivering along his spine.

“Is it still snowing?” He came up behind her and wrapped his arms about her waist. The warmth and faint floral scent of her clouded his ability to think clearly, for they were finally alone after a hectic evening.

“Yes, a little.” Sarah peered out into the dark night. The snow already on the ground reflected the moon’s light and created an ethereal glow over the landscape. “We were fortunate the weather cooperated. Look how beautiful it is. The snow sparkles.”

“It certainly does.” He nuzzled the soft skin of her neck where it met her shoulder, and when she giggled, desire hardened his shaft.

“I adore the affectionate side of you.” She rested her left palm against the window glass, and the low light in the room glimmered on the emerald of her betrothal ring. Could it be that his touch left her knees weak, and she needed to steady herself? “It was a good day.”

“I agree.” Content to hold her, he thought back over the events of the treasure hunt. Not only had it been fun entertainment, but it had also brought the Stormes together for one cause. “I hope the bonds we’ve begun to form will last, not only for the house party, but also beyond that.”

Sarah turned in his arms. She peered up into his face, met his eyes. Love enriched those brown depths behind her spectacle lenses. “We can do nothing except watch, wait, and pray, but bear in mind, there won’t be instant healing.” With a fingertip, she brushed a lock of hair from his forehead, and he trembled from that brief touch even after all this time of being married. “The Stormes will need to work at those relationships every day. Don’t rely on your ego, Andrew, and don’t boss them.”

“It’s something I struggle with still.” In the past, before meeting Sarah, he would never have admitted to the failing, but as long as she was there, helping him to be a better man, he needn’t worry. “Caroline might prove a problem. I saw the anger in her eyes today. It no doubt burns deep down as fuel.”

“Perhaps she has a right to be, but that knot is not yours to unravel. She must find her own way.”

“I despair of the wild streak in Isobel,” he further lamented. “She is a scandal waiting to happen, and from the looks of her, she’ll bring down any man in her vicinity. I rather fear for Doctor Marsden. He seems oblivious to her machinations.” Surely the young woman wouldn’t attempt to seduce him under this roof.

A giggle escaped his wife. “Remember what you were like at her age. Let her find her bearings in all of this. It might not be scandal she’s after.”

He snorted. “You think they’ll make a match? He’s the studious sort, too involved in his work at the clinic where Finn goes to take notice of a woman.”

“There is still much you need to learn of your family and of women in general.”

“Perhaps.” Having her so close muddled his ability to think clearly, to say nothing of the fact that he still couldn’t believe he’d won her that past summer. “The one I worry most over is William. He struggles the same as I did, with his emotions, his duties, his family responsibilities.”

“Then lead by example. Be his friend. That will help more than anything else.” Sarah rested her palms on his chest. The heat of her seeped through the thin fabric of the dressing gown. “Besides, you’re a smart man. If complications arise with the Stormes, you can solve them. Your brothers seem happy enough, and at this time next year, there will be children’s laughter ringing through Hadleigh Hall.”

The next generation of Stormes. Would that they have a happy childhood and they’d grown up secure in love without feeling themselves broken. I promise to be better than my father. “Ah, I think you give me more credit than I deserve,” he whispered and then brushed his lips over hers in a fleeting kiss. That brief touch ignited fires of need in his blood.

“Would I have married you if I didn’t believe in you?” Teasing glimmered in her eyes, and when a smile curved her mouth, he was nearly lost on a sea of wicked intent.

“Probably not. You were quite stubborn.”

She snorted. “As much as you, I’ll admit.”

“Never change, sweeting. I love you just as you are, and I can’t wait until our little one arrives. I have much hope for that babe.” He held her head between his palms and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Are you fatigued? Perhaps I should tuck you into bed.” Despite her repeated entreaties not to worry over her health, he did. It wasn’t every day a man had cause to look after a wife who was increasing.

“Not really.” One of her hands drifted down his chest to rest at the tie that kept his dressing gown closed. “Is there something you want from me, Hadleigh?” she asked softly with a certain gleam in her eye. “For I could absolutely join you in bed, though not for slumber just yet.”

Desire fell down his spine, for she only used his title when needling him or when feeling naughty. “Oh, I think you know what I need.”

“I do.” She manipulated the knot until his robe gaped open. The cool air wafted over his skin and shaft, but when his wife traced her fingertips along the hardening length, he sucked in a breath. “Obviously, you’re of the same mind.”

“Aren’t I always where you’re concerned?” Tossing caution and his worries to the proverbial wind, Drew had her chemise up and off her body in a thrice. It landed on the floor with nary a whisper. “Dear God, Sarah, even increasing you’re beautiful.”

“You, my love, must be half in your cups from that rum punch Cook sent up after the treasure hunt came to an end.” But pleasure rode her voice. In the dim light, her eyes reflected the same need coursing through his body.

“Only drunk on you.” Because he felt this side of wicked and because she was his and he was truly tip over tail for her, he dropped to his knees. As he did so, the dressing gown fell from his shoulders. “I’ll never tire of playing your body or bringing you to release, Sarah, even when we’re both old and gray with grown grandchildren.” Providing he somehow managed to escape the weak heart of his father and grandfather.

“Show me the depth of your regard.” It was something she always said, for his wife didn’t put much stock in words. She wanted deeds instead. Her fingers brushed the side of his face. “How romantic this is, coupling so very near to Christmas.”

Heat welled in his chest. “We should mark every occasion and holiday thusly.” Drew trailed his fingertips up and down the backs of Sarah’s legs. As she shivered, he grinned. Already, the pink buds of her nipples were erect, whether from his attentions or the winter chill in the air, he couldn’t say. Then he lost himself to the wonders of her ever-changing body.

Tags: Sandra Sookoo The Storme Brothers Historical
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