Well. That certainly put a funny look on his face. Sara barely stopped the nervous giggle from escaping and she clutched her dress to her chest more closely.
It was a startling revelation to know that there were some moments when she didn’t recognize herself. How did she ever come to say such things?
Her mother would insist on lengthy, penitent prayer. For the first time since her mother’s death, Sara was glad the older woman was not here to dictate to her.
Especially as the look on Nathan’s face was so amusing that it was endearing. And she wanted to see it on him again.
“Release your dress.”
And just like that, his low, hoarse voice had her retreating again. “I—I—”
“I’ve already seen your undergarments, Sara. There is little reason to hide now.”
He was right. And the way he was looking at her, those blue eyes of his burning as hot springs, told her that he had liked what he had seen. Her dress fell to her ankles in a whisper of fabric.
The hot springs flared and roamed over her body, heating her as though she were submerged in the water. They settled on her chest and he spoke to them, rather than look at her face. “Get into bed.”
Her mouth went dry. Stepping out of her fallen dress, she crouched again to pick up the garment.
“But I need—”
“Mrs. Taggert will take care of it in the morning.”
Sara hesitated. It was one of only three dresses she had brought with her. If she left it on the floor overnight, it would be hopelessly wrinkled and would require a good washing and pressing before it could be worn again. Glancing at Nathan, who was watching her so intently, she draped it over the back of her chair rather than leave in a crumpled pile. She then turned and moved toward the four-poster bed, her eyes not quite seeing the gold bedspread and pillows. When she was standing next to it, she bent over and took off her shoes.
A strangled sound came from behind her and she glanced around her legs to see Nathan’s eyes riveted on her bottom, her shift rising to reveal her back legs and giving a hint of more. Embarrassed by the age of her garment, she quickly took off her stockings and folded them neatly over her shoes. Without looking at him, she pulled back the bedspread and climbed in, lying on her back and hiding her outdated shift underneath the covers.
Sara heard him move, his uneven gait now familiar to her, and the room slowly lost its light until the only illumination was the fire shining through the grate. She fought the temptation to watch him as he walked about the room.
He approached the side of the bed, staring at her for several heartbeats. Sara thought he would say something or perhaps even kiss her now, but instead he closed the bed curtains, blocking him from her view until he moved to the end and did the same there.
Soon Sara was completely closed in the bed herself, only small fingers of the firelight managing to infiltrate the crack in the curtains. From behind them on the other side, she heard the familiar sound of clothing being removed. For an absurd moment, she realized she had never considered how gentlemen’s clothing would sound the same as a lady’s. Another nervous giggle bubbled up inside of her. She clamped her mouth shut to keep it in, but it came out of her nose as snort instead.
The rustling on the other side of the curtains paused. “Is something the matter?” Nathan asked. “Are you choking again?”
“No,” she squeaked. “I am fine. It—uh—it was just a sneeze.”
The rustling resumed, and it wasn’t long before the curtains parted and he slipped in, climbing underneath the covers and closing the curtains. She could barely see but felt the mattress dip as he moved toward her, and Sara felt her breathing quicken. He neared her, his weight causing her to roll toward him. Sara gripped the side of the mattress to keep from doing so.
She inhaled sharply as his hot skin melded to her side and her body shuddered as a distinct hardness pressed against her bottom. She felt his fingers brush her cheek as they cupped her head, threading through her hair. It felt as though every part of her was being touched by him.
“What a pair we are, Sara Collins.” Goodness, he was so close!
“What?” Her voice shook in the darkness, her attention riveted on every place of contact between their bodies. Her body hummed with awareness.
Nathan shifted so his body half covered her, pressing her down into the mattress and she felt one of his arms slip underneath her pillow, supporting her head as well as his own weight. Was that his nose brushing along her neck and up to her ear?
“I am more than willing to lead you in this adventure of yours.” His voice caressed her ear before he pulled away slightly. “But you need to tell me what you want so I can take you where you want to go. So tell me, do you want me to kiss you?”
Sara nodded. When he didn’t do or say anything, she realized that he could not see her movement. “Yes,” she whispered, anticipation robbing her of breath.
She felt his fingers slide across her cheek and trace her bottom lip. His voice held more than a touch of arrogance when he spoke. “I am glad to hear it. And you can be assured that I always, always want to kiss you too.”
She couldn’t respond, not when his lips took hers, stealing away any chance of speaking. Heavens, she had been waiting for this all day—longer, it felt like. Sara’s eyes closed as his lips shaped hers, pulling away and pressing back with precise balance, coaxing her to join in.
Which she did enthusiastically; there was something about this man’s kisses that changed who she was. When he kissed her, she no longer was the one people did not notice, no longer was the meek and mild her friends had come to expect of her. His kisses told her that he noticed her, that he desired her, and that knowledge transformed her into a woman who took what she wanted even if it meant breaking from society’s strictures.
And so now, when Nathan kissed her under the cover of darkness in this decadent bed, Sara did not hesitate to kiss him back, nor to wrap her arms around his neck and pull him closer. A thrill shot through her fingers as they encountered hot, bare skin, and she ran her hands down his back, marveling in the muscles she felt and the small groan that vibrated up from his throat and into her mouth.
Nathan deepened the kiss, making it hotter and wetter. Their tongues touched and played, stroking each other. Sara enjoyed the rough scrape of his stubble around her lips, the light scratching combining with the insistent hardness against her hip to heighten her awareness of him as a man. She lifted one hand to tangle in his hair, the short locks twining around her fingers. She had never taken such liberties with any man before and she liked it, liked the way it made her feel and liked the way she could tell Nathan liked it. She liked it so much she thought she could become addicted to it.
No wonder so many people said such a behavior was a sin.
His hand moved away from her face and traveled down her body, skimming over her neck and shoulder and down her side to settle on her hip. He squeezed and followed it with a soothing caress that warmed her skin underneath her shift. Sara twitched, the nerves in her body begging for movement, begging for her to do more than just lie there. A hot wetness began to pool between her legs.
She broke away from the kiss, and Nathan took advantage to move to her neck and began to kiss and suckle where her pulse beat rapidly. “Nathan,” she said on a gasp in his ear, angling her head to give him more access, “I want more.”
His first response was a grunt. His second was to release her hip and she felt a tug where her shift was tied together just below her neck. The rush of cool air, signaling his success in opening it, was obliterated when his hand slipped into the opening and cupped her breast.
Well, that was new.
So new that it put all previous physical experiences in the shade. What she had thought was fire when he touched her was just a warming brick compared to what was throbbing from her breast now. His thumb moved in slow circles around her nipple, tightening it painfully; its twin responded in kind. Sara shifted into his hand, silently urging him on with her body.
He took her lips again in a heated kiss, dividing her attention between that and the hand on her breast. Sara clutched his arms, her nails digging into his biceps as he expertly manipulated her body.
When his hand moved off her breast and his mouth left hers, she let out a moan of protest that died a quick death when his mouth replaced his hand on her nipple.
Oh dear heavens.
She had never imagined such a thing. When he began to suckle, running his tongue in mimicry of his thumb, her body arched into his mouth. He groaned his approval, the vibrations sending additional sparks along her nerves that traveled from her nipple and settled in her womb. The wetness between her legs intensified and her body screamed at her to do something, but she couldn’t figure out what that something was. Her legs moved restlessly underneath the weight of his body.
He switched his attention to her other breast. “So beautiful,” was his gravelly whisper before giving that mound the same adulation as the other.
Her fingers tangled in his hair again, keeping his head where it could do these wonderful things to her. “More,” she begged him. “More.”
Nathan did not hesitate in his response. He pulled away from her breast and captured her mouth again, thrusting his tongue inside and possessing her mouth completely. It did not distract her, however, from feeling his knee push her legs apart. She instinctively parted them, giving him more room, and he pressed his thigh against her apex. Her body simultaneously sighed in relief at the pressure and yearned for more.
He broke the kiss to mutter, “Rub against my thigh.”
She acclimatized to his possessive kiss again before lifting her hips slightly and lowering them, feeling the material of her shift move between the pressure of his thigh and her sensitive flesh. A ribbon of tension spooled inside her, taking her by surprise, and she did it again. The ribbon expanded.
She didn’t like how desperate it made her feel, but she couldn’t stop. As she continued, the tension increased and was amplified when Nathan added his own movement, pulling away and thrusting against her womanhood and hip in rhythm with her own efforts.
He broke the kiss, pressing his forehead against her shoulder. Sweat covered his skin, slick beneath her fingers and the scent filled her nostrils, arousing her further. “Christ, Sara,” he muttered, his hot breath panting against her neck and breast. He lifted himself off of her and settled his hips between her thighs, nestling their pelvises together. His hardness burned her through his smalls and her shift, so much more potent against her womanhood than his thigh as it hit a spot she hadn’t realized existed for such activity.
“Keep moving with me,” he instructed, putting a hand under her hip to angle her pelvis toward him. When he thrust again, pleasure shafted up her womb and through her spine, making her thoughts incoherent. All she knew was that it had to happen again.
Sara dug her heels into the mattress, lifting herself to meet his movements more acutely. Her fingers bit into his back and she pressed her mouth against his shoulder to keep from shouting out. He sped up his movement, the dull thud of their clothing filling the darkness.
“Nathan,” she gasped against his skin. The tension was spiraling out of control and she was becoming frantic.
“Christ,” he grunted. “Almost.”
She flexed her spine again, arching into him and squeezing herself around him. He slowed, thrusting more deliberately against her several times before the tension finally broke, flooding her body with pulsating release. Her head tilted back into the pillow and her breath escaped in small choking gasps.
When her body sagged against the mattress, replete, he resumed his fast pace. She grimaced at the continued contact with that now sore spot, but it wasn’t long until a long shuddering groan escaped him and he stopped. He lowered his body over hers and pressed his cheek to her shoulder, his panting cooling the sweat on her neck. She could feel his racing heartbeat against her breast.
“If I could just lay here for a moment to catch my breath,” he said.
She nodded, enjoying his weight on her. “Of course.” She left her arms around him, trailing her fingers along his vertebrae. His heart slowed and the sweat covering his skin cooled as his body relaxed more into hers.
He let out a deep breath, almost a sigh. “That feels . . .”
His body stilled and he stopped speaking. Abruptly he rolled off her and moved toward the far side of the bed. The curtains clacked as he opened them. “Excuse me for a moment.”
Baffled by his sudden departure, Sara clutched the covers to her chin. Was it something she had done? Or perhaps didn’t do? He had seemed to enjoy their encounter; she certainly had, each moment teaching her something new and changing her opinion of what pleasure was. The thought that he was displeased with what happened cast a pall over her.
She heard the door to his dressing room open and a flare of light came as he lit a candle inside the small space. The sounds of his rummaging did not last long and the light moved toward the door, growing brighter. He reappeared, carrying the candle.
Sara stared up at the canopy, averting her eyes, unwilling to let him see the questions she knew would be visible in them. He blew the candle out and settled back in the bed, once again closing the curtains and settling the covers back over his body.
Their breathing filled the silence, Sara lying there stiff and awkward. Her heart thudded in her ears, the knowledge that a man with whom she had just shared indescribable intimacies with was lying not two feet away from her in the same bed.
His muttered oath broke the silence and the mattress shifted. “Lie on your side facing away from me,” he instructed. Seeing no alternative, she complied. He fit his body along her length, draping his arm over her waist and tucking his legs beside hers, virtually wrapping his body around her. Immediately Sara felt warmed and comforted. Safe.
Relaxing, she took a deep breath. “We didn’t—”
He saved her from voicing it. “No. Not quite.”
“Oh.” She thought for several moments. “Is that why you are displeased?”
She rushed on. “I know men are controlled by their animal lusts and dislike it greatly when they cannot fulfill their mating. You left so quickly—we can do it next time, I promise. We don’t have to wait for me; I don’t wish for you to be displeased or angry with me.”
“Sara.” His deep voice cut her off. “Who told you all that?”
She swallowed. “My mother.”
“Well rest assured I am not an animal. I have manly desires, yes, but I can control myself. Would I have preferred to fully make love with you tonight? I cannot deny it. Yet I am not the only person to consider in this equation; your comfort and pleasure are paramount to the experience as well. You did not displease me in the slightest. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
“Oh.” A thrill raced through her at his confession.
“And I left because I changed into clean smalls. When a man spends his seed, it leaves a mess. I did not want it to get on you.”
“Oh,” she repeated. “Thank you.”
“Now relax and go to sleep. And don’t talk about displeasing me again. If I ever am, you will be able to tell.”
She felt a warm kiss fall on her shoulder and he rested it there for several moments. A smile spread across her face, one so joyous that she was glad he couldn’t see it.
He wasn’t displeased with her. Quite the opposite, he said.
She fell asleep quickly, worn out from all that had happened during the day, the smile still on her face.