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Page 28

Ian caught her hand and pulled her the last couple of steps. She landed against his hard body, and his strong arms came around her. “What. .. ?”

He stopped her words with his mouth. His tongue stroked hers, stirring embers that hadn’t quite gone out since their last encounter. This man could kiss.

Beth eased away from him with difficulty. “If we haven’t much time, perhaps you’d better tell me what’s wrong.” “What are you talking about?”

“The note.” She took it from her pocket. “Did you not send it?”

Ian glanced once at it, his amber eyes meeting hers for an instant. “I did.”

“Why?”

“So you would come to me.”

“Are you saying you summoned me up here, saying it was most urgent, just to kiss me?”

“Yes. To continue our liaison.”

“Here. Now?”

“Why not?”

He bent to kiss her again, and she tried to step away. Her heel snagged on the carpet, and he caught her squarely in his arms.

Ian smiled. It was a feral smile, the smile of a predator who’d caught his prey. Her thundering heart told her she didn’t mind much.

“This is someone else’s house,” she tried.

“Yes.” His tone said, What of it?

Beth had imagined them conducting their affair in her bedroom, secretly, after she’d made sure everyone was out of the house. It would be clandestine and hole-in-corner—not that she knew much about having affairs. “Someone could come in,” she said. “And there’s no bed.” Ian laughed softly. She’d never heard him laugh before, and she liked it, all smooth and throaty and dark. Ian crossed the room to turn a little key in the lock, then laced his arms around her from behind. “We don’t need a bed.”

“None of these chain look quite comfortable.”

He nuzzled beneath her hair. “You are not used to this.”

“I confess, this is my first liaison.”

He kissed her neck as he slid his hands up her tightly cinched waist to her br**sts. Beth closed her eyes and leaned into his warm palms.

“You are right,” she whispered. “I am not used to this at all. What do you wish to do?”

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“Touch you,” he said in her ear. “Learn you. Have you touch me.”

Beth’s heart jumped. “You said we didn’t have much time.”

“No.”

“Then what do I do?”

Ian licked her neck, bared by the low-cut gown. “Pull up your skirt.”

Did he expect to do this standing up? Beth wasn’t quite certain it would work, especially not with her corset smoothing down to her hips. Dratted underthings. Ian took hold of her skirts and started shoving them upward.

Beth curled her fingers in the fabric and helped him. It was quite a task, and Beth reflected that if she’d known he’d planned this, she’d have worn fewer petticoats. But she’d wanted the line of her gown to look well, vain creature that she was. At least in this gown made for dancing she’d been able to leave off” the bustle.

While she held her skirts bunched in her hands, Ian scraped a curve-backed chair in front of her and sat down. This put his face on a level with her pantalets. She wore a new pair, ivory silk, quite thin, adorned with lovely little embroidered flowers. Beth had never owned such frivolous, feminine undergarments in her life, but Isabella had insisted Beth purchase them.

Ian untied the tapes of the pantalets. With her hands full of skirts, Beth could scarcely stop him, but she did let out a tiny squeak when he yanked the drawers down. From the softening of his eyes, Beth concluded that he could see everything.

He touched the swirl of hair between her legs. A hot tingle flushed through her body, and she made a soft sound in her throat.

“Beautiful,” he murmured.

Beth could barely breathe. “I am happy not to disappoint you.”

“You could never disappoint me.”

He sounded grave, as though he took her flippant words seriously. He leaned forward and touched his lips to the nub that was swelling with all its might.

“You are wet for me.” lan’s breath brushed her where no man’s breath should in someone else’s sitting room. “So wet.” His tongue flicked out and tasted it.

I am going to drop over dead right here. Mrs. Barrington would meet her at the gates of heaven and laugh herself silly. This is what happens when you give in to base lust, my gel, she’d say.

Then again, if Beth died of giving in to base lust, would heaven’s gate open for her at all?

I’m sorry, Saint Peter, but I hadn’t felt the caress of a man in such a long, long time. You took my Thomas away from me; could I not have some bodily pleasure to compensate?

Ian grasped her right ankle and lifted it free of the pantalets crumpled on the floor. He planted her foot on the chair next to his thigh, which opened her legs to him. He slid his hands around her bu**ocks, leaned forward, and pressed his tongue into her cleft.

She wanted to scream. It had been far too long. She’d been secretly sorry for women who looked upon bedding their husbands as a burden, because she’d known what a joy it could be. But the knowledge had another edge—she’d known what it was she missed during her long years alone. Ian’s talented tongue freed her at last.

The position with her foot on the chair let him spread her as much as he liked. And he seemed to like it. His thumbs massaged her as his tongue probed her depths. He was right:

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