“What do you mean by that first part?” Bringing a large purple grape near her lips, Hugh held it at bay as he waited for an answer.
“Nothing. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Tell me.” A low dominance entered his tone, and Clara stiffened at the command. He’d never been one to become controlling in the bedroom until her. Of course, the beds he usually frequented belonged to jaded women who knew what they wanted and enjoyed taking it. They’d been controlled too much in everyday life to desire it in their bed sport as well. So, Hugh abided by their wishes and kept his own desires chained.
“My parents had me later than couples usually have children, so I’ve always been on the outskirts of their life. That is, until I was old enough to begin caring for them as their health declined. It’s actually a bit ironic to have the reversal of roles where I’m the one being fed instead of the other way around.” Her hands wrung the silk of her gown, damp sweat leaving behind darker pink marks. “But I don’t mean to complain. I love my parents, and it’s not so terrible being a nursemaid.”
“Why don’t they hire one, instead? You shouldn’t be responsible for such care.”
“It’s a matter of money. They’ve decided it’s more economical to use me as a nurse over hiring an outsider.”
“But what about when you marry?” It was untenable that they’d made her a prisoner in her own home. Used her. Took advantage of her love.
“My only option for a husband is our neighbor and my father’s friend, Lord Evanston. That’s part of the reason I agreed to your proposition: to steal a moment of pleasure for myself before resigning to my current path.”
Lord Evanston? The man was old enough to be Hugh’s father! And her parents wanted to auction her off to him? It disgusted Hugh, infuriated him. As a father himself, he’d never consider marrying one of his daughters off to someone so unsuitable.
Gritting his teeth, Hugh asked another question, trying to get a full accounting of her life. “If your parents are such misers with funds and marital prospects, why have you come to Town for the Season?”
“To keep up appearances. To an extent anyway. You might have noticed my dresses aren’t the most fashionable and are a smidgen too tight because they refused to have a new wardrobe made or the current one altered.”
Hugh tried to imagine how a mother and father could be so selfish yet couldn’t. Despite his and Louisa’s flaws, they’d cared for their daughters—wanting them to have the best that life offered. Anger swirled in his stomach at what she endured, the subdued tone of her voice.
Attempting to steer the evening back on course before his ire ruined the night, Hugh cupped her left breast. “I’m sorry your parents are so unfeeling, though I won’t deny the view of you trussed so tightly at events, breasts overflowing your necklines has featured in more than a few of my dreams.”
“Truly?” Her upturned cheek brushed against his chin as she tried to gauge his sincerity, accepting the grape he finally gave her. “You didn’t think I resembled a stuffed sausage?”
“Never.” Then, another thought occurred. “Did someone say that?”
Clara’s eyes snapped away from his, and he knew someone had. “Who?” The growl reverberated in Hugh’s chest as a list of potential suspects filed through his mind. Lord Phillips was known for being cruel; he’d think nothing of insulting a young woman. Lord Neely liked to joke at others’ expense. Would he have mocked Clara for laughs in front of his friends?
Hugh could do nothing about the horrid conditions in her home, but he could teach some young buck a lesson in how to treat a lady.
“I overheard a group laughing about it at the Fetter musical, but I didn’t recognize individual voices. I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Not appropriate for a dinner conversation.” A tiny spark glittered in her eyes as she continued, “Though I suppose neither is asking about the content of your dreams, but I must ask. What exactly were you dreaming about, my lord?”
Appreciating her quick turn of topic, Hugh mused on how to answer, trying to push aside his lingering frustration over past insults and her current living situation.
“Isn’t it obvious? These lovelies featured heavily in the scenarios my mind conjured.” Another squeeze to her lush breast followed, a shy nipple beginning to bud at the attention. “Like trapping you in a secluded corner while everyone glides by us unaware of the debauchery about to take place. Plucking your breasts from their confinement, so high and needy perched on the edges of your stays. The perfect height for my mouth.”
A deep, stuttering breath pushed Clara further into his embrace as he switched to her other breast. “I’d lean down as if we’re having a private discourse except I’d blow a stream of cool air over your exposed skin. Do you like that, little lamb?” He imitated the act by puffing a whisper of air along her neck causing another jerk to her body as a soft moan rose from her lips.
“You feel it, don’t you? My breath, my heat, the wet stroke of my tongue circling your nipple. Painting the blush pink—such an innocent color for my naughty girl.”
“What if someone sees us?” The unmistakable note of excitement amused him—the fear of potentially getting caught clearly a powerful aphrodisiac.
“What if they do? The old matrons will be scandalized and the men will pretend effrontery, all while jealousy seethes through their veins at the privilege you’ve bestowed upon me. Allowing me to taste the lingering rose oil you patted between your breasts. Sharing your favors with only me—a distinguished earl twice your age. But you enjoy enticing me, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she breathed the affirmation into his neck, a restlessness wracking her aroused body.
“Are you wet, Clara? Has our little show made you ache between those pretty thighs?” Eager to test for himself, Hugh dragged the wrinkled silk of her gown higher until smooth skin met his exploring hand. “Open for me, little lamb. Let me feel you.”
A petite foot slowly descended to the floor, legs widening for his touch. Nuzzling her neck, he murmured, “Such a good girl.” Scorching heat met his questing fingers, and a grunt of satisfaction rumbled in his chest. Clara lay cradled in his arms, hot and dripping with cream. All from a spoken fantasy and a few caresses. He couldn’t wait to get her beneath him, to show her what true pleasure could be had between two lovers.
“Is that normal?” Clara’s muscles tightened at the slick sound of her folds parting for him.
“Yes, it’s perfect. Your body’s saying it’s eager for me to claim it, eager for you to be mine.” Gently, he edged a finger inside her tight slit, working to stretch the unused muscles with controlled movements. Clara’s nails dug into his arm.