Authors: Angeline Fortin
“Lie down?” Hero said with rounded eyes that twinkled mirthfully. “Do you think it’s that serious?”
“Mmm,” Ian nodded, guiding her toward the bed. “Very serious. Perhaps I should loosen your bodice as well.”
“So I can breath
“Of course,” he answered.
“I feel so faint,” Hero whispered dramatically. “I might not make it to the bed. Oh!”
Ian swung her into his arms with a grin.
“I really do feel that you should be abed, Lady Ayr.”
“Whatever you say, Lord Ayr,” she agreed, curling her fingers in his hair a
nd tousling his locks. “Might we go to my bed, though? In truth, the idea of making love beneath that portrait makes me oddly anxious.”
Looking up at the
gigantic portrait over the fireplace, Ian smiled. “I love that painting but I shall accommodate you only because I’ve been fantasizing about making love to you in in your bed all week,” he said softly as he carried her through the attached dressing rooms and into the marchioness’s chamber. Her bed hadn’t been turned down, and the hangings were drawn back as they should be this time of year. Ian laid her down on the green counterpane. At her quizzical gaze, he continued as he plucked the pins one by one from her hair, “I imagined you here with your hair spread out over the pillows.”
Hero shook her head and worked her fingers through her curls.
Ian toyed with one of the long blond locks before placing it across her chest.
“Aye, just like that, my love. By God, but yer a bonny lass.”
Hero’s heart pounded furiously at the emotion in his words, feeling that they said so much more.
Already they had professed their love, but somehow the words did not say it all. His eyes said so much more. She felt the message to her core. Love, adoration, desire, need.
“Are you going to make love to me now?” Hero asked when I
an didn’t move from her side. Yet with only his dark gaze touching her, Hero was already throbbing with desire. Her breasts tingled and tightened, waiting for his hand, and she wasn’t even unclothed yet!
“Wi’ yer clothes still on?” he asked huskily
as he took her hand and began unfastening the pearl buttons at her above her hand, kissing the inside of her wrist. His brogue was heavy with barely leashed passion. “Nay, there will be moments for that in the days to come.”
Hero blinked at that.
I might come upon ye in the Blue Drawing Room one morning while ye are playing piano,” he began. “I would see ye there wi’ your head bowed over the ivories, the sun as bright as gold on your hair. I would pick ye up and set ye on the keys. I might push yer skirts up to yer waist and take ye right there and see what music we might make together.”
Hero swallowed deeply, her heart beating hard within her chest.
Ian had finished opening her sleeves and pulled her to her feet. Turning her about, he gathered her loose hair and pushed it over her shoulder so he might begin unbuttoning her dress. “Or?” she asked hoarsely through her suddenly tight throat.
“Or,” he whispered, brushing his lips across her nape and sending shivers d
own her spine, “I might take ye against the balustrade outside the Round Drawing Room with the crash of the waves below. I would thrust into ye hard, so hard ye would have to hang on to me tightly so ye dinnae fall over.”
Her dress fell to the floor but Hero hardly noticed anything besides Ian’s lips against the side of her neck.
Her head was swimming dizzily at the images he presented, and a dull ache tightened between her legs. “Or?”
Ian began tugging at the strings of h
er corset. “Or I might take ye out to our spot on the ramparts one night. But when I lift your skirts, the wind would caress ye as only I should. Would I mind, do ye think? Or would I simply bend ye over the wall and take ye with all the fury of the wind and sea? We might have to find out.”
A soft thud hailed the corset’s drop to her feet
, and Hero felt Ian’s arms come around her to untie her pantalets. His hands smoothed them down as he knelt and untied her garters. As if he knew she was nearly speechless, Ian continued, “Or there is still the pagoda to visit. Not at night, though. Our time for a surreptitious rendezvous is past. I would make love to ye on the top floor wi’ the sun’s rays on us and with the birds and wildlife all welcome to watch. When ye came, yer screams would scare them away. Would ye scream, fair Hero?”
Hero could hardly keep a thought in her head.
She was quivering from head to toe, her knees so shaky she was surprised to be upright. Ian’s palms smoothed up the back of her legs, then she felt his lips touch the back of her knee and Hero cried out softly. He stood once more and she could feel him behind her before he even touched her. An arm encircled her waist, drawing her back against his chest, and Ian bent his head to whisper. “There are a hundred days ahead of us, wife, when I will come upon ye and be so caught by lust that I must take ye then and there. When I will do little more than push yer skirts up so that I might ha’ ye. But not tonight. Tonight, I want ye naked with me.”
His hands came up to cup her breasts
and he rolled her nipples gently between his fingers. “I want ye bared to my hands and my lips. I want to feel yer skin against mine.” One hand dipped lower, and Hero gasped when his fingers slid between her legs, parting her. She was agonizingly damp, a testament to how thoroughly his words alone had aroused her. His fingers circled the spot he had found with his mouth the night before, petting her until Hero was panting desperately. Unable to touch him as she liked, Hero clung to Ian’s hips while his hands pleasured her. His teeth grazed the side of her neck and shoulder.
come for me, my love? Will ye scream for me?” he urged hotly.
Hero bit back a cry that became a whimper as her body tensed.
She ached for him, wanted him within her. She shook her head, fighting back the orgasm that was building in her. “No.”
His fingers curled into her, and Hero threw her head back against his chest as the waves of pleasure began to sweep over her.
I want you,” she whispered brokenly. “Come with me.”
“Find yer heaven, my love
, then I will,” he whispered encouragingly.
Shaking her head, Hero
tore away from him and turned back, throwing her arms around his shoulders and pulling his mouth to hers. She kissed him with all the frenzied passion he had just roused in her, parting her lips and brushing her tongue across his. His reaction was instantaneous. Ian crushed her against him, his hands cupping her bottom and drawing her tightly against him, but the rough abrasion of his clothes against her sensitive breasts reminded Hero of the disparity of their attire or lack of it, and she pulled back, tugging at his cravat. “Now you.”
Ian’s eyes were dark as midnight as he looked down at her and helped her by shrugging off his jacket and unbuttoning his waistcoat.
“Is that how it’s going to be then, my love? Are ye thinking to take charge of every situation?”
“No,” Hero murmured.
“I’m just thinking that what we do, we do together.”
She could hear his chuckle as he pulled his shirt over his head.
“I can guarantee it right now, lass, ye’ll find yer release far more often than I during the course of this marriage. I wouldn’t consider myself much of a man or a lover if it went any other way.”
Shivering at the promise in his voice, Hero relented as she worked the buttons of Ian’s trousers.
“Fine, but not tonight. Tonight, I want to share everything with you.”
Tonight it will be as ye like,” Ian said. He finished toeing off his shoes and lifted her high against him until she wrapped her legs around his waist. He carried her to the bed and lowered them both down, but his fingers had already found her once more, circling and circling once more before his fingers plunged deep within her. Helplessly, she arched against his hand with a tortured moan. He retreated then and his fingers rubbed once more, now slick and wet. Hero cried out in ecstasy. Almost, her body strained.
“Now.” Hero moaned and urged him forward until he was pressed against her. She could feel the turgid length of him probing, then sliding within her slowly. He stretched her, filled her with tormenting languor until Hero was sobbing with the intensity of her arousal. She was trembling with need. Throbbing around his length. Almost. “Now, Ian, please.”
He drove forward then until she could feel him throbbing against her womb.
“Yer so hot, my love. Wet. Tight,” he murmured in Hero’s ear as he withdrew and slowly, wickedly, plunged once more, drawing a low groan from her. She kicked her heels against his thighs, urging him on. “Am I going too slow for ye, lass?”
There was humor in his voice
, but Hero was beyond caring. She wanted him. This fire might make her a wanton who begged for release, but it was a fire Ian had built. “Ian …”
“Don’t ye want me to make slow love to ye?” h
e growled. Hero shook her head and locked her legs more tightly around his waist. “Tell me then. Tell me what you want.”
Hero bit her lip but Ian continued with his slow thrusts, keeping her hovering just on the edge of her release.
It was there waiting for her. An abyss that her body cried out for. She needed him to take her there. Needed him with her. “Please, Ian. Faster,” she commanded.
And he obeyed, thrusting deeply
, almost savagely, as if the dam had broken on his control. Hero lifted her hips against him until they met in perfect rhythm. Heat flooded her core and spiraled outward within seconds, and she cried out as her climax came hard. “Now!” she begged desperately and Ian pumped against her violently with a guttural moan.
She felt his seed flow hotly into her
, but Ian thrust again. Again. His body was shaking, his muscles taut. “Never enough,” he groaned. “It will never be enough.”
Hero wrapped her body around his and held him tightly.
And she did.
A thousand times.
She would want him just as desperately still.
A sound woke Ian and he tensed, prepared to fight if need be. Fight against the dream that still lingered in his mind. A dream where Hero had been taken from him by force and Ian was left searching, constantly searching for her with a soul left as empty and barren as the deserts of the east. Reaching out for her, Ian found the bed next to him warm but empty, and the fear roused itself again.
A low grating sound broke the silence
, and he turned to find Hero standing in front of the empty fireplace in her dressing gown with her back to him. She held a single candle in its small dish-like holder aloft, the wispy flame scarcely cleaving the darkness beyond her. “What are you doing?”
Turning with a smile,
she came to his side and sat on the edge of the bed, the candleholder in one hand, her other tightly fisted. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m sorry.”
“What have you there?” Ian nodded to her fisted hand and she opened it sheepishly and held up a ring.
Her wedding ring that he had given her hours before. It had been his mother’s and his grandmother’s as well before that bonny old lady had given it to his father on his wedding day. Ian’s mother had given it to him before she died to give to the woman he loved one day. It was a beautiful ring with a large central sapphire flanked on each side by two long, diamond baguettes. “Don’t you like it?”
“Oh, I do,”
Hero said instantly. “I love it, but it’s a wee bit too big and I almost lost in the bed linens when it worked its way off my finger.”
I dinnae ha’ time to ha’ it sized for ye,” he whispered regretfully.
“I’m not worried about that,” she assured him.
“I just didn’t want to lose it.”
“So ye were throwing it the fireplace?”
Her smile was broad. “Of course not. I was putting it in the safe.”
“I have one in here
, just like you do in your room,” she answered, then frowned as well. “I guess you were never told about it, were you? No one else knows about them. Not even Mandy or Biggs, Robert’s old valet. Come here, I’ll show you.”
Pushing aside the sheets
, Ian rose and followed her back to the fireplace.
“Aren’t you going to put anything on?” she asked,
lowering her candle down and up again and giving him a lingering once over. “I wouldn’t want you to catch a cold.”
Grinning, Ian only said, “I haven’t been cold since the day I met you.”
“Not even that day in the dungeon?”
“Nay, I told you that the sight of you
r …” he began and they finished together, “lovely face is enough to warm me.” With a pleased smile, Hero leaned against his side, and Ian brushed a kiss over her temple, whispering, “Of course, I don’t think I mentioned specifically which parts of me you warmed.”
Hero blushed then and shook her head.
“We can discuss that in just a moment. Hold this, if you would.” She handed him the candle and continued, “Now, watch. You see these two flowers here?” Ian nodded, and Hero rotated them to the right, one after the other. “And then this one?” She pushed it and with a click a larger leaf separated from the mantel and jutted outward. Intrigued, Ian pulled at it and it swung outward to reveal a small compartment hidden in the mantel.
“Very clever,” he said as Hero
dropped the ring into a small velvet bag and put it inside.
Now it will be safe until we next go into Ayr or Glasgow and can have it sized,” Hero said, pushing the little door shut. “I used to keep some of my more valuable jewels in there as well, but they are all in a safe box at the bank now.”
“And I have one of those as well?” Ian asked curiously.
“You do, but I don’t know the combination, so unless you were to get very bored and very lucky one afternoon, I suppose the secret died with Robert,” she told him.
Ian pictured his own mantel, finding himself intrigued enough to wonder if he might figure it out on his own.
He had always liked puzzles and such. “What do you suppose he kept in there? Jennings said all the marquisate’s jewels were accounted for.”
“Probably his best cigars,” Hero shrugged
, then smiled when Ian remained fixated on the fireplace. Rounding the bed, she shrugged out of her dressing gown. “Would you like to go figure it out now or can it wait until morning?”
“Would you be so tolerant on your wedding night?” Ian asked with a chuckle
, but when he turned, the smile faded away at the sight of Hero standing nude in the light of the single candle. “Ahh, lass, even if you didn’t mind, I’d be a fool to walk away from such a sight.”
Hero smiled a siren’s smile and climbed back into the bed.
“I was hoping you’d feel that way.”
candleholder down on a bedside table, Ian blew it out before crawling onto the soft mattress and gathering her into his arms. “Am I ever destined to get a good night’s sleep again?”
“If you do, then I guess I’ll be
doing something wrong,” she whispered in the darkness, but Ian could feel the smile in her voice. “Perhaps when I’m with child you would prefer your own bed and a night’s rest alone.”
The thought seized Ian
, and unconsciously he ran a hand down to Hero’s soft stomach, imagining her rounded with his child. She would be even lovelier, he thought. Radiant. Content. His body thrummed with the primal urge to procreate. “Do you want children?”
She nodded against his chest.
“I always did. A boy, I think, who looks just like you.”
“A lass as bonny as her mother,” he countered, running a hand over her hip
and down between her legs. “Or both, aye?”
“Oh yes,” she whispered, inhaling a trembling breath.
In the next instant, her nose wrinkled. “That wick must still be smoldering. Can you smell it?”
Ian did smell it
, but it wasn’t just the scent of a burning wick and he felt his skin prickle just as it did on the battlefield. A warning. Something was wrong. Climbing out of the bed, Ian found his trousers in the darkness and pulled them on.
What is it?”
“Stay here,” he ordered and crossed the
room silently to the door to her dressing room, which stood ajar. Instantly the smell of smoke became stronger and Ian slid stealthily through Hero’s wardrobe and into his. Through the open door to his chamber, light flickered, and he could see the haze of smoke.
His room was on fire!
Ian raced to the door and drew up short at the sight of a short, burly man holding a candle to the draperies still tightly closed around his bed. How was this possible? Ian was agog with disbelief, but with a shout of rage, charged into the room, catching the startled arsonist around the waist and driving him into the far wall, smiling grimly at man’s pained groan.
Catching him by his lapels, Ian thrust the villain back once again.
“Who sent you?” he growled. When the answer didn’t immediately come, Ian slammed him back once more.
“Ye bastard,” the man spat out, swinging out with a fist, but Ian ducked it neatly and proceeded to give the man the beating of his lifetime.
His fists flew fast, landing hard punches to the man’s midsection and jaw before they could even be defended.
What on earth!”
Ian turned to see Hero at the door, clutching her dressing gown around her.
“Get back, Hero!”
Of course, she rolled her eyes at that and rushed to the fireplace, pulling the cords several times to call the servants.
“We have to put the fire out!”
But their would-be murderer chose that moment to plow his fist into Ian’s ribcage
, and with a grunt of pain, Ian turned back to him. Catching the man’s shirt in his left hand, Ian swung a hard right with all the fury that was burning in his soul, catching the man across his cheek, and added another that found his nose with a satisfying crunch.
At his back he could feel the heat of the growing flames but from the corner of his eye he caught sight of Hero pulling the bed curtains down
, intent on slowing the fire’s progress. Bloody hell, he needed to get her out of here! “Damn it, Hero, leave them! Go!”
“No!” she shouted, pulling the blanket off the bed and throwing it on top of the burning curtains to smother the flames
, and Ian felt an unwelcome rush of pride at her ingenuity.
A rush of footsteps approached, announcing the arrival of the servants, and secure in the knowledge that Hero would be safe, Ian turned back to the man whose shirt he still held tightly in his fist. The man was holding his bloodied nose in both hands. “Who sent you?” Ian demanded once more, determined this time to have the answers he needed.
“Bugger off!” he spat, spraying blood.
“Wrong answer,” Ian ground out and hit him again, driving the man to the floor. “Who?”
The man gasped in pain and finally said,
“What lady?” Ian snarled, lifting
the man up to his feet in preparation for another go round, but the man held out his bloody hands in submission.
“Stop, me lord, I beg ye,” he pleaded.
“Her man came about looking for someone to do a job. I never met her. Only saw her once from a distance. I dinnae ken who she was, I swear.”
“You’re lying!” Ian slammed him against the wall once more
, feeling impotent fury surging through his veins. He needed an answer! Bloody hell, he had thought they were done with this!
Ian turned to find his two hired guards, Burr and McCaffey, behind him. A glance beyond showed a handful of servants helping Hero douse the flames with pitchers of water probably drawn from his bath. The air was thick with smoke. His bed was nearly destroyed, all the linens devoured quickly by the fire. If he and Hero had been asleep in it, the flames would have swallowed them whole.
“Where the bloody hell were you?” he demanded furiously of the guards as he lift
ed the arsonist and threw him bodily toward the men. “How did he get in here?”
“I dinnae ken how this happened, my lord,” McCaffey said
defensively. “We were out in the hall all night. Cannae see how he got by us.”
“One thing I needed you to do was keep her safe,” he all but shouted at the pair, trembling with rage and fear that despite all his precautions someone had gotten that close.
Too close. Bloody fucking hell! Swallowing his rage, Ian looked around the room once more, taking in the servants, Boyle, Dickson, Mandy and a half dozen others in his room, all stopped, staring at him. Hero was as well. “The door was locked.”
“Aye,” Burr nodded.
“Yer man, Boyle, had to let us in.”
Boyle had let them in?
Ian frowned and pointed to the bloodied criminal at their feet. “Lock him up and make sure he doesn’t get away.”
you have us put him, me lord?”
Ian smiled darkly.
“The dungeons, of course.” Turning, he strode across the room and caught Hero by the elbow and pulled her out of the room, ignoring her squeal of protest. Once they were in his wardrobe, he released his grip and shared his residual temper with her. “I told you to get back.”