Tender Rebel Page 19

Before her was the man, much more intimidating than a fantasy, yet desire made her bold.

She tugged loose his belt so that his robe fell open, and placing her palms against his skin as he had done against hers, she moved her hands up, touching him as she had longed to do, skin to skin, spreading the robe wide, pushing it back at his shoulders. He let it drop from his arms and reached for her, but she held him at arm's length, wanting to look her fill. Revealed to her was warm skin and muscle, dark, curling hair, a chest that made her fingers tingle. Solid, powerful, he was so much more than she had imagined.

She had a strong, compulsive urge to wrap her limbs around him, to get as close as was humanly possible, and there was so much of him to get close to.

"Och, but you're a bonny mon, Anthony."

He had been spellbound, watching Roslynn's fascinated scrutiny of him, but her husky words were the stimulus that nearly sent him over the edge. He yanked her to him, his mouth coming down hard to slash across hers. At the same time he lifted her in his arms and bore her to the bed.

He let her down gently, then leaned back, his eyes smoldering on her face, down her body once more, all of her lying in his bed. How often he had pictured her here, her skin flushed with desire, her eyes heated, beckoning. She was exquisite, more so than he had envisioned, curves perfectly rounded, womanly, and she was here, his, and she wanted him.

He wanted to shout with joy. Instead he cupped her cheeks with exquisite tenderness, fingers moving

over her face, into her hair, down her neck. He would never get enough of touching her.

"You can't imagine what you do to me."

"I know what you do to me," she said softly, watching him. "Is it the same?"

The sound he made was half groan, half laugh. "God, I hope so."

And he kissed her, his tongue parting her lips to plunge inside, his chest settling over hers. When she lifted her arms to wrap around him, he caught them, spreading them out wide, twining his fingers with hers to hold them there. She couldn't move, but she could feel, and what she felt was his chest moving across her nipples, back and forth, electrifying the hard little nubs with just the barest sensual touch.

Next he lowered himself to take one sensitive breast into his mouth, gently suckling, or slowly circling his tongue around it. But he wouldn't release her hands, and she felt she would go mad with the need to hold him, caress him.

The moan came from deep in her throat. He paused, grinning up at her.

"You're a devil," she told him, seeing his wicked delight.

"I know." And he licked at her other nipple. "Don't you like it?"

"Don't I like it?" she repeated, as if she had never heard such a ridiculous question. "What I'd like is to be touching you as well. Will you let go?"



"Later you can touch me to your heart's content. Right now I don't think I could bear it."

"Oh." She sighed. "Well, as to that, I canna bear much more either.''

He buried his head between her breasts, groaning. "Sweetheart, if you don't hush, you'll have me behaving like an inexperienced boy.''

Roslynn chuckled, and the throaty sound was Anthony's undoing. He whipped off his trousers but fortunately recalled himself before literally pouncing on her. There were still her stockings and shoes to remove, and he saw to them in quick order. Desire was riding him hard now, his previous unhurried pace at an end.

It was the dirk falling out of her shoe that returned a measure of control to him. He grinned inwardly, amazed. She was full of surprises, his little Scot. Marriage to her would be not only extremely pleasurable but interesting as well, and he was suddenly looking forward to it, all previous doubts forgotten.

He hefted the dagger in his hand. "Do you actually know how to use this?"

"Aye, and I did when one of Geordie's hirelings tried to snatch me off the street."

Anthony tossed the dirk aside, his smile meant to reassure her. "That's one worry you won't have after

tonight, sweetheart."

Roslynn had her doubts about that but kept them to herself. Nothing was settled. He still wasn't the type of man she could enter into a marriage with, no matter how much she wished it were otherwise. He was a lover, and as such she could readily accept him. What did she need with her virginity anyway, since recent events assured her that her marriage, when it came about, would now be no more than a business arrangement?

But tomorrow's decisions were a long way off, and Anthony's hands were gliding up her legs, parting them, and making it impossible for her to think of anything else. He bent to kiss the inside of her thigh as he moved up as well, her hip, dipped his tongue into her belly button. Hot flames curled her toes, made her squirm. She clasped his head, pulling on him, but he still stopped to pay homage to her br**sts again, lathing each sensitized peak until she was mindless with wanting. Her back arched, molding her belly to his chest, demanding the contact. It wasn't enough. She didn't know exactly what was needed but understood instinctively there had to be some purpose to the fires ravaging her senses.

She pulled on him frantically now, but he was un-movable, fully in control. Not until he was ready did he slide up a little more, assaulting her neck with lips that were now scorching, moving toward her ear.

When his tongue slipped inside, the jolt was so powerful her body bucked, nearly dislodging him, and then settled into a delicious trembling that made her want to curl into him.

Her loins were aching, an inferno of moist heat, and when she felt something touching there for the first time, her body instinctively closed around it, hungering for the pressure in that burning region. And it managed to fill her, a glorious, welcoming fullness that she pushed against, locking her legs around him so she wouldn't lose it, finally feeling she had gained a measure of control. She wouldn't let go, and the pressure built in her, grew, until it seemed to pop, opening a new channel of feeling deep inside her that brought a certain relief of the tension, but not enough relief to last.

He was kissing her again, deeply, with a fierce hunger that matched her own, his arms locked on both sides of her like iron bars, his fingers threaded in her hair, holding her, controlling her. And his body was moving against her with a kind of urgency that she responded to, felt also, as the tension grew again, pulsed, and then finally exploded into blissful oblivion.

Moments later Anthony collapsed on her, his own cl**ax draining him so completely that for a while he was too weak to even lift his head. Never had he experienced anything like it, and he was about to tell her so when he realized she was out cold. Whether she had fallen into exhausted slumber or had fainted, he didn't know. He smiled, though, smoothing back the hair from her cheeks, inordinately pleased with himself and her.

He had the consuming urge to wake her, to start all over again, but he tamped it down, recalling the barrier he had felt that marked her a virgin. Reggie had said she was. Roslynn's passionate responses disclaimed it. The truth filled him with an inexplicable pleasure. And although she hadn't even seemed to notice the breach of her maidenhead, the loss demanded recovery. There was the morning. There was the rest of his life.

He shook his head, bemused. When had he become so bloody chivalrous?

Carefully he left the bed, drawing the covers up over her. Her languorous stretch and sigh made him smile. God, she was beautiful, and so alluring she made a man ache with wanting to know every inch of her. He promised himself he would. But for the moment, he donned his robe, gathered up her clothes, and quietly left the room. There was her driver to dismiss, arrangements to be made—the lady wasn't

going anywhere.

Chapter Nineteen

Roslynn came awake to the tickling of rose petals against her cheek. She opened her eyes, focused on the pink rose first with confusion knitting her brow, then saw the man behind it, smiling at her.

"Good morning, my dear. And it is, you know. The sun has decided to shine for our wedding."

Roslynn groaned and turned over to bury her head in the pillow, unwilling to face the day and the consequences of her own actions. Hell's teeth, what had she done? Nettie would have gone on to Silverley and would be out of her mind with worry, thinking their ruse had failed, that Geordie had grabbed her again. And her driver! How could she have forgotten leaving the fellow to wait for her?

Granted, she had tipped him well, but not well enough to wait all night. He had probably gone off with her bag of clothes, which also contained most of her jewels and important papers, including her marriage contract. Drat those three brandies!

Amidst the mounting consequences running through her mind, Roslynn felt Anthony's hand roving over her backside to the accompaniment of his chuckle. "If you really want to stay in bed—"

"Go away!" she mumbled into the pillow, furious with herself for feeling a thrill at his touch even in the face of her misery, and furious with him for sounding so cheerful.

"I don't see what the problem is," he said reasonably. "I have taken the tedious chore of decision making out of your hands. You are well and truly compromised, sweetheart."

She swung around. "The devil you say. I felt no pain, only—"

He laughed as the blush spread across her cheeks and her mouth snapped shut. "I admit to a certain finesse, but I didn't realize I wasthatskillful. I felt your maidenhead give way, dear girl." He quirked a brow at her, his grin maddening. "Are you saying you didn't?"

"Oh, be quiet and let me think!"

"What's to think about? While you whiled the night away in sated slumber, I obtained a special license that will allow us to marry immediately without hying off to Gretna Green. I never realized until now how beneficial it is to hold the markers on men with influence."

He seemed so bloody proud of himself she wanted to hit him. "I haven't said I'll marry you."

"No, you haven't. But you will." He walked to the door, opened it, allowing the well-remembered butler to step into the room. "Lady Chadwick would like her clothes and some breakfast, Dobson. You are hungry, aren't you, sweetheart? I always find I'm ravenous after a night of—"

The pillow hit him squarely in the face, and he had to choke back his laughter as he caught sight of his

butler's incredulous expression. "That will be all, Dobson."

"Yes, yes, of course, sir. Very good, sir."

The poor, embarrassed man couldn't leave the chamber fast enough, but the moment the door had closed, Roslynn lit into Anthony with a fury. "You're a bloody beast, a damnable swine! Why did you have to tell him my name?"

He shrugged, not in the least contrite over his deliberate ploy. "Just a little insurance, sweetheart. Dobson wouldn't dream of spreading tales about the future Lady Malory. On the other hand…" He left the thought unfinished, but it wasn't necessary to spell out these new consequences.

"You're forgetting I dinna care if my reputation's ruined here."

"Now that's not exactly true," he replied smoothly, confidently. "You would care. You just don't have your priorities in the right order at the moment."

True, but irrelevant. She tried turning the tables on him. "I'm wondering why a mon like yourself would be wanting to marry so suddenly. Is it my fortune you're interested in?"

"Good God, where did you get that idea?"

He seemed so surprised, she felt rather ashamed for having mentioned it but pointed out, "You're a fourth son."

"So I am. But you're forgetting that I'm already aware of your unusual marriage contract, which, by the by, I'm quite willing to sign. You're also forgetting the fact that we made love last night, Roslynn. You could at this moment be carrying my child."

She glanced away, chewing on her lower lip. They had, and she could be. She had to tamp down the pleasure that thought gave her.

"What do you get out of this marriage, then?" she asked reasonably.

He came back to the bed on the side she was closest to. He pulled a piece of straw out of her hair and examined it, smiling. "You," he said simply.

Her heart seemed to flip over. It was sounding too bloody good, so much so that she couldn't seem to remember what her objections were. This simply wouldn't do.

She let out an exasperated sigh. "I canna think when I just wake up. You didna give me time to think last night either." This in an accusing tone.

"You're the one in the all-fired hurry, sweetheart. I'm only trying to accommodate you."

Musthe point out things like that? "I need time to consider."

"How much time?"

"I was going to Silverley. My abigail's already gone there, so I still have to. If you'll give me until this afternoon, I'll have an answer for you. But I must tell you, Anthony, I can't see myself marrying you."

Abruptly, Roslynn found herself lifted up and kissed with a thoroughness that curled her toes. "Can't you?"

She pushed away from him until he let her fall back on the bed. "You only prove that I canna think at all when I'm around you. I'll be leaving now, if you'll just get me my clothes. And what the devil were you doing by taking them away?"

"Just making sure you would still be here when I got back from obtaining the license."

"Did you… sleep with me?"

He grinned at her hesitation. "My dear, I made love to you. Sleeping with you is rather beside the point after that, wouldn't you say?"

She decided to say nothing more to that, regretting having brought up the subject at all. He could talk circles around her anyway.

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