She didn’t stop to argue that it was too dark to see a thing. She felt lovely and beautiful in his hands. And most of all, powerful. She set her own rhythm, sliding over his unyielding length again and again. Pushing herself closer and closer to release.
But in the next moment, he stripped all power from her. With a muttered curse, he flipped her onto her back and divested her of the green silk gown.
“By God, Violet. When I come back, I’ll make love to you forty different ways. But tonight, I think we’d best keep it simple. ”
He moved between her legs. As she stared up at him, he pulled his shirt over his head and cast it aside. Only the faintest glimmer of light penetrated the small room. With his white shirt discarded, he was a lover formed of shadows and smoke. She reached for him, sliding her hands up his arms, needing to reassure herself that he was real. Loving the feel of his strong, sculpted muscles beneath her palms. She writhed her hips, desperate for more contact.
“Now,” she begged. “Just make love to me now. Any way you wish. ”
“Not yet. ” He bent to nuzzle her breasts. She gasped as his tongue swirled over her nipple, teasing it to a firm peak before drawing it deep into his mouth.
“Please. I need you. ”
“I need you too. I need to feel you come for me. And considering how long it’s been, I don’t trust myself to last. ” After giving her other breast a thorough mouthing, he kissed his way down her belly. “This way first. ”
He parted her sex with his rough, callused fingers. And then he touched her—there—with the wicked, velvet heat of his tongue.
For better or worse, she’d always been a quiet girl. But for the first time in her life, Violet wanted to be loud. She wanted to shout and scream and call on God in twenty different languages.
Instead, she covered her mouth with her forearm and moaned into her own feverish skin. Thrashing as he pleasured her with his skillful tongue and lips. With her free hand, she reached overhead, gripping the bedpost tight.
“Don’t stop,” she whimpered.
He didn’t. He didn’t pause a moment in his sweet, flicking, suckling attention.
When the climax took her, she bit her wrist to keep from crying out. The little burst of pain only heightened the pleasure. Bliss racked her in wave after pulsing wave.
As she lay limp in the aftermath, he kissed his way back up her belly and returned to suckling her breasts. His erection nudged her thigh—a reminder that that while she felt thoroughly sated, his need had not been slaked.
But as she opened her eyes, Violet noted another call for urgency. He pulled away from her taut nipple, and the faintest wash of light from the east-facing window illumined the glistening tip.
It wasn’t here yet. But it was coming.
She clutched his shoulders, tugging at him. “Christian. Christian, it’s starting to get light. We have to—”
He swore. “No. ”
Not this time. They’d been interrupted again and again over the course of this wild, wonderful night. Christian didn’t care if the Prince Regent himself was at the door. This was going to happen, and it was going to happen now.
“I won’t stop,” he whispered, burying his face between her breasts. He nuzzled close to her rapidly pounding heart. “I don’t care if I’ll hang for it. I need to be inside you. Don’t tell me to stop. ”
“I wasn’t going to tell you to stop. ” He could hear the smile in her voice. “Just to hurry. ”
Very well. That he could do.
Christian reached for the closures of his trousers, tugging the falls open and pushing the waistband down to his knees. His eager cock sprang forth, jutting toward her in an expression of pure, carnal need.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. ” She reached for him, sliding her fingertips up his arms. His cock brushed her thigh. A jolt of desire shot through him, melting to a fierce tingle at the base of his spine.
He took himself in hand and positioned his hardness at the center of her soft, wet heat.
It went easier than the first time, but she was still just the palest shade beyond innocence. So very, very tight.
He forced himself to pause, allowing her body a few moments to adjust. It was so dark. He couldn’t scan her eyes for cues to her emotions. Was she frightened? Regretful? In pain?
“Christian,” she sighed.
Her voice held only desire. Trust. Love.
Shifting his weight to the other elbow, he slid an inch deeper. He panted for breath and prayed for restraint.
“This was it, Violet. This was when I truly knew. The moment we joined, it felt so right. I felt as though I’d…” He nudged all the way in, sighing deep. “As though I’d found the other half of myself. ”
Her fingers soothed his back. “I never once regretted making love to you. I felt I should regret it, but I couldn’t. That’s why I kept the secret all this time. Because I feared others would label me weak or wanton…but I wasn’t either of those things. I was just in love. ”
And at that moment, Christian knew he was the most fortunate bastard in England. Scratch that. Most fortunate bastard in the world.
Stretching her neck, she pressed kisses all along his throat. “Love me,” she whispered. “Love me now. ”
At first he set a slow rhythm, taking care to be as quiet as possible. But the way she undulated beneath him, sighing lustily with his every stroke, had him abandoning the slow, steady course. His hips bucked faster, until the slap of their bodies meeting resounded through the small room. The bite of her fingernails on his back urged him faster still. One of her slender legs wrapped over his, adding yet another source of sleek, feminine friction to drive him wild.
“Violet. Oh, God. Violet. ”
He rose up on his knees for better leverage, lifting her hips. She arched against him greedily, rolling her head to one side. Could she possibly…?
He pressed his thumb to her pearl, working it feverishly. “Yes, darling. Again. ”
Her body clenched around him as she found her pleasure a second time.
God in heaven.
Her body stroked his cock in pulsing waves, dragging him perilously close to the edge. He hated the thought of withdrawing, but he knew he must. He’d used up all their contraceptive luck the first time, and he couldn’t risk leaving her pregnant.
But God, he loved the thought of her pregnant. He went a bit wild at the image of her swollen with his child. Nursing his babe with those soft, perfect, bouncing breasts…
With a muttered oath, he pulled free and took himself in hand, spending over her taut belly.
Then he slumped atop her, burying his face in her neck. She folded her arms around his torso. His seed glued them together at the middle. Someday it would fuse the two of them into in one new, unique soul.
Someday soon, God and Wellington willing.
He felt a small tremor quake through her, and pushed up on his elbow, concerned. “Are you well? You’re not weeping, are you?”
“No. Not at all. ”
She convulsed again—but in muffled laughter, not tears. The smile on her face could have lit the whole room. It certainly kindled a blaze in his heart.
“What’s so amusing, love?”
“Only that I shall have to rename you. ” She pushed the hair back from his brow. “Oh, Christian. That was anything but a disappointment. ”
Oddly enough, procuring the boat was the easiest part of all.
So much easier than leaving the bed.
Violet wished they could just fall asleep together and lay tangled there until dawn. Who cared if they were discovered? Let them be found. Christian would marry her, and they would go home together. Their families would be so p
leased. There would only be the small matters of his crushing guilt and the potential charges of treason.
She sighed. She could let him go. Just this once, for God and country. But she could not have parted with him for anything less.
As he stretched and dressed, she rose from bed. She slipped back into the green silk and tied a dark, nondescript woolen cloak over it.
From one of her packed trunks, she withdrew a pair of nubby, hand-knit gloves and a small folding knife. “I’d been saving these as Christmas presents for someone. Now I know they were for you. ”
He accepted the small gifts with a kiss. “I’ll treasure them always. ”
Once they’d dressed, she led him down the back stairs and out to a storage lean-to attached to the back of the building. There was a lock, but Christian made short work of it. Together, they wrenched opened the door, waved away a cloud of dust, and shone the smuggler’s lantern on a small rowboat.
“The ladies use it in the summertime,” she said. “For pleasure jaunts around the cove, or up the canal. No one will notice it’s missing for months. ”
He grimaced. “It’s pink. ”
“Christian, this is hardly the time to complain about color schemes. ”
“No, no. I just would rather it be blue or brown or black. Some darker color. ”
“I’d hate for you to take a fisherman’s craft, just to abandon it. The fishermen need their livelihood. ”
He scouted the small shed. “Found some pitch,” he said. “We’ll blacken the thing. Give me the lamp, and I’ll warm it. ”
They worked together, daubing the boat’s exterior with a hasty layer of dark, sticky pitch. Then they hoisted the inverted craft between them, carrying its weight on their shoulders and rigging the smugglers lantern to hang in the center.
All too soon, they were in the cove, making their farewells. A thin layer of clouds had covered the moon, diffusing its light to a warm, creamy glow. Scattered snowflakes began to fall.
Forcing down the sadness in her chest, Violet went about lighting the lantern. “Remember the signals?” she asked.
“I know this cove in the dark. Just keep your eyes on me. I won’t steer you wrong. ”
With his fingertips, Christian turned her face to his. “I know you won’t. ”
Christian held her there, allowing himself this one last, lingering minute to memorize her every feature. To simply behold his love. His lady.
And what a lady she was. Pride swelled his heart. Violet was his ideal partner. Brave, clever, discreet, swift with a gun, possessed of an extraordinary facility with languages…
And she was so beautiful. Her skin glowed in the first, faintly yearning hint of dawn. Her eyes were big and blue enough to hold the entirety of this magical night. God, how he wished he didn’t have to leave her behind. If only he could—
“Take me with you. ” Her whispered plea wrenched at his heart. She held on to his coat with both hands and pulled up on her toes. “Please, Christian. Take me with you. I can help you. I know I can do it. You know my French is impeccable, and I’ll perfect the Breton. I’ll blend right in as your wi—”
She swallowed hard and lowered herself to the ground. “That is…unless the humble farmhand already has a wife. ”
“No,” he assured her, smiling a little. “No, Violet. The humble farmhand does not have a wife. Nor a sweetheart, nor a lover. ” He pulled the folding knife from his coat and severed a stray lock of her hair, then pocketed it. “The humble farmhand has a braided lock of golden hair. He keeps it stashed behind a loose board, and sometimes he foolishly kisses it in the dark. He is alone. ”
“He needn’t be. ”
A snowflake dipped and swirled and clung to her cheek, instantly melting into a teardrop. He kissed it away, then hugged her close. “I wish I could. I wish I could take you with me as my wife. But it wouldn’t be safe. Not now, not like this. I’d be putting lives other than my own at risk. And imagine, if you disappeared so suddenly…by all appearances, abducted by a raving Frenchman…? Your family would suffer so much worry and pain. Spindle Cove would cease to be a haven for the ladies who need it. No reasonable families would send their daughters or sisters to such a place. ”