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Training Lady Townsend(33)

By:Annabel Joseph

A moment later he was at her door. He cracked it open, peering into the dimly lit room until he located his wife in bed.

“Are you asleep, my dear?”

She sat up straighter within her pillows. “No, I’m not asleep.”

Hunter moved toward her, thinking how very provocative she looked in the ruffled, feminine confection of a bed. Since they’d come to Somerton he’d demanded her attendance in his rooms, and even slept beside her on occasion, but he’d never spent time with her here. It seemed a terrible omission because she looked so alluring in her womanly bower. Her light gray eyes bewitched him. Her shift was slightly askew, exposing a fine feminine collar bone, and her honey blonde curls spread wild about her shoulders and down her back. She wore no nightcap as some wives did.

She looked so young. So innocent. That she could remain so after all he’d done to her...

He looked about for any servants, and was pleased to fine none. “May I join you in bed?”

She gave him a wide-eyed look and nodded. He wondered why he asked her permission. He had made it known from the start he would claim his marital rights when it pleased him, in his bed or her bed or wherever else he liked. Perhaps he asked because this seemed so much like her domain. And why did she look so alarmed? If he found Warren here...

But no, he’d just left Warren downstairs with the others, and the man would never stoop to seduce his wife, anyway. None of them would do such a thing, so why was he obsessing like a feather-brained fool?

He needed Aurelia. He slid under the covers beside her and collected her into a comfortable embrace. “How are you?” He glanced at her bedside table. “Reading a book?”

“Yes, a very dry treatise on household management. I thought you would spend more time with your friends.”

“No, not tonight. They’re to be on their way tomorrow.” He saw surprise in her gaze. Or was it disappointment? “Have you recuperated fully from this afternoon?” he asked.

“Have you... Have you come to do it again?”

He threw back his head and laughed at the anxiety in her tone. “What an insatiable monster you must think me. No, I had not thought to do it again tonight.”

She watched him expectantly. The poor thing, she was waiting for him to do something horrible to her. Spank her, birch her, demand some lusty sex act. She had perhaps come to see him as something of a one-trick pony. He wanted to prove her wrong. Here in this ruffled and virginal bed, he wanted to make love to her in an utterly civilized way. He wanted to be tender and honorable and gentle.

You want to be Warren, you prize ass. At least the Warren she believes is real.

He silenced the outraged voice in his head and pulled her closer, nuzzling her ear. She smelled faintly of vanilla, a delicious feminine scent that fired his blood. “I want you. I want to make love to you. No spankings, no distasteful demands.”

She stared at him in the dim, flickering light. “I don’t mind so much anymore, those things you do to me. I no longer find them quite so...distasteful.”

“I know. Perhaps that’s why I want to be tender to you now.” His hand slid lower, cupping her shapely bottom. “Of course, if you really must have the spanking...”

She giggled as he gave her a soft crack, then they smiled at one another as he smoothed his hands over her skin. His fingers traced over the lingering welts from the switching he’d given her earlier. How beautiful and pliant she was, his courageous wife. He wanted to be gentle, so gentle and soft with her, until she ached from wanting. He wanted to reward her. He stroked fingers down the line of her jaw, then turned her head for his kiss. He delved within her lips, stroking and teasing, holding her face cupped in his hands. Did she seem wistful? He heard her sigh.

“What’s the matter?” he whispered.

Her fingers closed a bit more tightly on his arms. “Nothing. Please...kiss me again.”

He kissed her right out of her delicate shift, tracing his lips across the laces until he’d loosened them enough to ease it up over her head. He removed his own clothes whenever he managed to break from their embrace, and tossed them all onto the floor. His valet would grimace the next morning over the wrinkles, but Hunter didn’t care. The woman in his arms was more important than his clothes.

They slid deeper into the sheets, naked and warm. He explored her with languid caresses, taking his time, enjoying her soft sighs. So many times they only unbuttoned flaps and flipped up skirts, and went at it mostly dressed. He resolved to spend more time with her naked, skin to skin. Much more time. He traced over her curves, nestling his cock against the warm, wet entrance to her quim, but he didn’t thrust inside her, not yet. He wanted these warm, gentle moments to last. He gazed into her wide, sex-hazy eyes as he slid a hand down to explore her folds. “Are you enjoying this?” he asked. “Or would you still prefer that spanking?”

“No,” she breathed. “I think a spanking would be t-totally unnecessary.”

He chuckled and buried his face against her hair, so different in color from his. Would they have dark-haired sons and honey-haired daughters, or the opposite? A little of both? He wondered with half his attention why she was not breeding yet. Or perhaps she was. Did she want his children, or had she hoped for the blond, curly-haired cherubs Warren might have given her?

Damn it. He needed Warren out of this bed. He stared into Aurelia’s eyes, drinking in her aroused sighs as he manipulated her most sensitive spot. “Do I please you?” he asked in a voice that sounded rather embarrassingly vulnerable. “Is there anyone else you would prefer?”

Was it his imagination, or did she flinch? “Of course there’s no one else,” she said too quickly. “I prefer you.”

“Why?” He pushed her back and came over her, parting her legs with his knees. “Why do you prefer me? You loved someone else once.”

She bit her lip, but not before he saw the tremble. “I prefer you,” she said stolidly. She reached for him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She tried to pull him close and after a moment he let her, groaning as he sank between her thighs. He felt her clench around him, and wrap her legs about his hips. Why? Why did she prefer him?

He was not completely sure he believed her, which unsettled him very much.

Aurelia clutched at him, steeling her throat against the sob that ached to escape. She blinked back tears. Why? he had asked her in an uncharacteristically forlorn voice. Why?

She didn’t know why. She wasn’t even sure she preferred him. That was the part of it that made her want to sob. She wanted to desire her husband above all others, but her ungoverned attraction to Lord Warren remained. She could not control it.

And so she had to lie and pretend to feel differently. She urged him on as he coupled with her, stroking his shoulders and pressing her cheek against the carven profile of his jaw. She had come to love him. She truly believed that part of it and she wanted him to know. She thought if she only tried hard enough, and was disciplined enough, that Lord Warren would fade from her thoughts.

Even in her emotionally fraught state, her husband knew how to bring her pleasure. His closeness and warmth settled inside her, arousing her and comforting her at once. “My love,” she whispered as his deep, slow-moving strokes filled her. The blissful splendor brought with it a hollow ache, as Lord Warren’s visage rose in her mind. She knew her husband had been speaking of him when he questioned her. If he questioned her any more she wasn’t certain she could keep up her act of disinterest. There was too much history to her love for Warren, too many roiling longings that she’d never been able to sort out.

A few tears squeezed from her eyes. You’re a bad wife, Aurelia, she scolded herself. A horrible wife. Her husband chose that moment to draw back from her. She tried to hide the tears but he turned her face back and captured them with a thumb.

“It’s all right,” he said in a voice so tender it slayed her. “Don’t cry.”

“I don’t know why I’m feeling tearful,” she blurted, a liar to the end. “Because you’re being so lovely and gentle. It feels like a...surprise.”

“Then I shall have to show you this side of me more often. Would you like that?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “Yes, sometimes.”

He pressed deeply into her, holding her gaze. Through sheer willpower, she returned it, thinking hard about all the things she loved in him, remembering all the pleasure he’d brought her, all the laughter and fun. She remembered the makeshift window seat he’d made for her, and the great, whirring grasshopper in its cage.

He quickened the pace of his thrusts, but still, Aurelia felt each inch of him invading her, making her his. So intently did he possess her that, when she reached a quaking, squeezing sort of climax, she could honestly say she thought of nothing but her own husband, with his dark hair and piercing eyes, and his delicious warmth and scent.

Afterward, there seemed no need for words. He withdrew from her but did not let her go. Instead he pulled her into the curve of his body and rested beside her, so her back was to his front. His arms encircled her, and his chin rested lightly atop her head. She thought he must be asleep, although she felt too guilty and agitated to do the same. But then he spoke in the silence.