“I make you two promises, Alicia. The first is that I shall not take your maidenhead. Only one man may do so, and that is your husband. The second is that tonight you will experience more pleasure than you’ve ever imagined, thanks to me. If the Earl were here tonight, you’d receive no gentle caresses, no stroking such as I intend to give you. Your nipples would be left untouched, save for a rough tweak or two. Whereas I intend to savor their sweetness and watch them stand to attention like pink sentinels of your desire.”
Pinned as if I were a helpless butterfly, I lost myself in the soothing cadence of his speech. I became aware of the heat and strength of his body, and an unfamiliar tingling in my belly.
“You may think you prefer the Earl, but you’d regret it deeply. Your deflowering would be painful rather than pleasurable. Harsh rather than sweet. Such an event in a young girl’s life should bring tears of joy along with the tears of pain. That is what I offer, and the Earl, cognizant of your best interests as well as his own, has allowed me to provide this service. Do you understand?”
I nodded, and when he didn’t respond, whispered, “Yes.”
“Then come. Rise now.”
The weight lifted off me, and he helped me to my feet. When I stood facing him, I saw a look such as I’d never seen on his cynical face before. He looked almost tender. Slowly, gently, he traced the skin along the edge of my loosened petticoat. I felt a prickling in the tips of my breasts. When I looked down at myself, the nipples were just as he said, pink and standing up through the layers of undergarments. He hooked his finger in the lacy border between my breasts. My breath caught.
“I won’t proceed further unless I have your full consent. Despite my reputation, I am not in the habit of forcing my attentions on unwilling girls. I must know that you accept what I’m offering you, fully and completely.”
His black gaze seared into me, as if he could see all the hidden corners of my soul. And perhaps he could, because God help me, I wanted the things he’d promised, and more. I wanted to lie down on the bed and roll myself in the bedclothes, or strip off my chemise and run outside under the stars. I didn’t fully understand what was happening to me. My body felt heavy and yet light at the same time.
“I do,” I whispered. “I accept.”
His eyes glittered in the candlelight. I felt dizzy. For a moment, I was back in the barn at home, caught with a goatherd’s hand hovering over my breast. I’d looked up in alarm at the sound of soft laughter. The sight of the Marquis’s delighted, mocking smile had turned me to stone.
There had been another feeling as well, a charge in the air that made my skin prickle.
I felt it again as his eyes deliberately consumed my body, top to toe. Under my eyelashes, I performed an inspection of my own. The Marquis was not a bad-looking man, slender of build, perhaps a head taller than myself. As always, he was dressed in the height of fashion, with plum-colored breeches and a splendid coat of superfine that fit him to perfection. He always appeared to be mocking the world around him, but over the years I had on occasion seen him perform small kindnesses that surprised me.
“There has always been a special feeling between us, has there not?” As he spoke, he deftly removed my petticoat and stays until I stood in nothing more than a chemise. I shivered at his nearness. Not for the first time, I thought what a powerful man he was, not in physique but in presence…a powerful man inclined to darkness.
He picked up a candle and slowly walked around me, shining its light on my body. The warmth from the candle paled in comparison to the penetrating weight of his gaze. I fixed my eyes on the pretty vanity on the far side of the room. I counted five silver brushes and considered attempting to count the individual bristles to distract myself from the strange feelings stealing over me.
A gentle touch on my posterior made me start. His hand cupped my bottom and warmth flooded my being. How could such a simple touch create such an uproar within me? With a firm hand and wandering fingers, he stroked my flesh. I felt the back of my chemise inch up my legs. The feel of his fingertips roaming across the backs of my thighs was so exquisite, I closed my eyes so the pleasure would continue.
“Ah no, my dear, you are not allowed to close your eyes. I want you to fully comprehend that it is I, the dreaded Marquis de Beaumont, who is bringing you this enjoyment. Whose hands are now stroking your tender buttocks?”
Tendrils of fire seemed to spread across my bottom as he quickened his touch. “Yours,” I gasped.
“And who intends to remove this interfering chemise from your body?”
My throat became suddenly parched. If he removed my chemise, I would be naked before the most notorious rake in England. “You,” I whispered. “But, please…”
“Yes?” His fingers danced up the curve of my spine and my belly seemed to quiver in response. Cool air caressed my back as he drew up the chemise. “Ah, so lovely. I’ve waited a very long time for this moment.”
I clutched the front of it to my chest. My head was such a confusing swarm of thoughts, I didn’t know what I wanted to say. Please continue. Stop this instant. The two opposite impulses battled in my mind. “Why me?” I managed.
“Why you?” My question did not make him pause in his intrusions on my body. Every inch of exposed skin drew a caress or a pat from his relentless, curious, knowing hands. Every touch sent a cascade of shivers across my flesh. “I’m sure you don’t remember, but you first caught my eye as a girl dashing after your brothers. You ran directly into me, like a Spanish bull into a cape. I have been accustomed to find myself a figure of fright for young girls. But you seemed to have no fear of me. I plucked you off the ground and held you high. You looked back at me with those frank eyes of yours, whose color I find no words for, somewhere in the mysterious realm between gray and blue, and you said, quite simply, “You were directly in my path. You will please to put me down now.” And so I did, and watched, bemused, as you raced away to join your brothers. At that moment I knew you were an unusual girl.”
By this time he was in front of me, loosing my hands from their grip on my chemise. I looked up at him and found myself surprised by a hint of softness in his usually sharp eyes.
“This chemise,” he told me softly, “can hide nothing from me. I know your soul, my dear, perhaps better than you do yourself. You desire things you cannot name. You sense it in the springtime air, the moonlight over a stream, the scent of lilacs in the sunshine. The world promises you something just beyond your senses, something you cannot grasp, simply because you don’t yet know how. I will show you how, my dear."
Thanks for reading! Did I mention it's unedited? My Three Lords is coming soon from Ellora's Cave Exotika line. As soon as I know the release date, I'll share it here.
Peace and love, Juniper