Authors: A Touch So Wicked
Damian rolled his eyes. “’Tis right, sweeting, more than right.”
He thrust forward, burying himself deeply. She sighed, aware of his heat, his hunger, and the fullness of his sex within her. The pulse of his heart matched her own. She felt his strength, the texture of his skin, the rasp of his flesh against hers. Every detail of the man was hers to savor. Nothing mattered but the pleasure of their merging, and the inexplicable need for something deeper.
With a cry of surrender, she climaxed. Thunder filled the chamber, fire consumed her; a blaze centered where they were joined and she felt herself receding from reality. Moments later she felt his liquid heat seep into her, heard him gasp out her name.
Elissa’s wits returned slowly. She stretched her limbs and realized that Damian’s weight had been lifted from her. She turned her head and regarded him solemnly. He was lying on his back, one arm covering his eyes, his breathing harsh and untamed. She was startled from her contemplation when Damian reared up and said, “You are a sorceress. ’Tis the only explanation.” He surged to his feet. “Nothing good will come of this. What if I gave you a child?”
“A man of your experience should know how to prevent such an occurrence,” Elissa charged.
He pulled on his breeches. “I have no control where you’re concerned. You keep me in a constant turmoil. I’m torn between wanting to strangle you and wanting to make love to you. When I’m inside you, there’s no pulling back.”
Elissa touched her stomach. “We’ve only done this twice. Perhaps I should ask Nan for a potion to expel your seed should it take root in my womb. I donna want to bring a bastard into the world.”
Damian whirled, his face dark with fury. He placed his hands on her shoulders, pinning her to the bed. “Nay! I forbid it! You will kill no child of mine.”
Elissa breathed a sigh of relief. It was a sin to kill an innocent bairn. Sometimes a village woman asked Nan for a potion to rid herself of an unwanted bairn, but Nan always refused, advising them instead to practice abstinence.
“’Tis highly unlikely you have conceived,” Damian said, as if to convince himself. “Rest assured this will never happen again. Meanwhile, you’re to remain under lock and key until I decide your fate. Harsh punishment isn’t the answer, for it will serve only to anger your clansmen. But I vow you’ll never have the chance to betray me again.”
Damian’s words lingered in the charged air long after he left her chamber.
The day passed slowly. Elissa missed her mother and sister. She was surprised when Maggie arrived later with clean clothing and a pitcher of water. Had Damian changed his mind about allowing visitors?
In the time allotted her, Maggie related the latest gossip. Elissa learned that patrols had been doubled, but Damian still intended to send the Black Watch back to London. Elissa thought Maggie had something more on her mind, but unfortunately the guard summoned her kinswoman from the chamber before Elissa could question her. Maggie sent Elissa a sympathetic look over her shoulder as the door closed behind her.
Elissa spent the day in supreme boredom, with nothing to do but gaze out the window. She was more than a little surprised when Damian himself arrived with her evening meal.
She sent him a wary look. “Where is Maggie?”
“Taking the air with Sir Richard.”
“I should have known.”
“Do you have any objection?”
Elissa shrugged. “What good would it do? You Englishmen will have your way.”
Damian placed the tray on the table and stood over her as she pulled up a chair and picked delicately at the slices of venison and green vegetables. Her fork paused halfway to her mouth when she realized Damian had removed his jacket and shirt.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting ready for bed.”
“You’re sleeping here?”
“But I thought you said we wouldn’t…be together anymore.”
“We won’t. I’m testing myself. I’d like to think I’m not so lacking in will that I can’t control myself around you. What happened earlier won’t happen again because from now on I’ll be on guard against your wiles.”
Elissa threw the fork down. “My wiles! How dare you. You’re the one who attacked me.”
Damian scowled. “Eat, lady, the hour grows late and I am weary.”
He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off his boots and breeches. Elissa pointedly ignored him as he stretched out atop the covers. The food tasted like straw but she forced herself to eat and drink in an effort to prove her contempt for the man many called the Demon Knight.
When she’d eaten her fill, she pushed the plate aside and asked, “Where am I to sleep?”
“You may share the bed, if you like.”
“No, thank you. The hearth rug will do. May I have a pillow and blanket?”
“Of course,” Damian said. “You’ll find what you need in the chest at the foot of the bed. Good night.”
Elissa found the bedding and laid it out before the hearth. Then she lay down fully clothed and pulled the blanket up to her neck. She didn’t allow herself to relax until she heard the even cadence of Damian’s breathing. But when she tried to sleep, the memory of making love with Damian intruded.
Never would Elissa have believed she could crave a man’s touch like she did Damian’s. She was cursed. Wanting her enemy was the worst kind of betrayal. The thought of wedding Tavis and being intimate with him, however, was repulsive. Uniting the Gordon and Fraser clans had been her father’s wish, and she had assumed she would go to her bridegroom a virgin.
Elissa’s respect for Tavis had plummeted when he’d suggested that she seduce Damian in order to kill him. But truth to tell, she had made love with Damian because it was what she wanted, not because Tavis had demanded it of her. But she was well aware that she couldn’t have Damian. He was her sworn enemy, and what they had done together made her a traitor to her clan. Besides, Damian was promised a wealthy bride and Elissa had no idea what the future held for her, except that it didn’t include an Englishman.
Throughout the endless days of Elissa’s imprisonment, Damian steadfastly returned each night to his bedchamber, which didn’t make Elissa’s life any easier. By now she knew when to expect him and made sure she was curled before the hearth with her face turned away from him when he arrived. Though he rarely spoke to her while he prepared for bed, she sensed his gaze on her and wondered how long would it be before lust destroyed his good intentions?
Damian felt as if he were balancing on the edge of an abyss. One wrong step would send him to perdition, and the way he felt now, he’d welcome it. Anything was better than this wanting, this perverse, aching need that kept him sleeping in the same chamber with Elissa when he knew he couldn’t have her. What was wrong with him? He didn’t believe in spells or witchcraft, but there was no other explanation for his obsessive longing for the Scottish vixen.
One day Damian was in the courtyard watching his men at swordplay when a messenger bearing the king’s pennant rode through the gate. As Damian waited for the messenger to dismount, he grew tense with apprehension.
“Greetings. I am Sir Lowell. I bear a message to Lord Damian from the king.”
“Welcome, Sir Lowell. I am Lord Damian. You must be exhausted after your long journey. Ale and food await you within.”
“Thank you, Lord Damian, I must admit my mouth is parched.”
Damian led the way into the keep, wondering what the king wanted of him this time. He sat down at the table and invited Sir Lowell to do the same. A maidservant approached with two foaming mugs of ale. Sir Lowell drank deeply, then sat back with a satisfied sigh.
“The message is verbal, my lord,” Sir Lowell began. “I left London two days before your intended bride and her entourage. They should arrive within a few days.”
“My bride?” Damian repeated, choking on the words.
“Lady Kimbra Lancaster, an heiress of outstanding beauty and social standing among the
King George sends his greetings and wishes you to know he hadn’t forgotten you. He hopes you approve of his choice of bride.”
When Damian remained silent, Sir Lowell said, “Would that I were in your shoes, my lord. Lady Kimbra is a favorite of the court. I envy you.”
Damian finally found his voice. “The king does me great honor. Everything will be in readiness for Lady Kimbra’s arrival. If you’ll excuse me, I must confer with my steward. Chambers must be prepared for our guests. Will you abide with us long?”
“Just this night,” Sir Lowell said. “I’m to return forthwith and give a report on conditions at Misterly. The Council instructed me to stress the importance of keeping Misterly in English hands.”
“Everything is as it should be,” Damian maintained.
Damian left Sir Lowell to his ale and went in search of Sir Richard. He found his friend in the courtyard, matching swords with a man-at-arms.
“A word with you, Dickon,” Damian said, interrupting the play.
Dickon lowered his sword. “What is it, Damian? I saw the messenger. Is it bad news?”
“Nay, the news is good,” Damian said with forced joviality. “King George is sending me an heiress. She’s on her way as we speak.”
“Congratulations!” Dickon crowed, slapping Damian on the back. “I hope for your sake she’s a great beauty.”
“I must prepare for her arrival,” Damian said. “You’re the first to know.”
“Damian, wait! What about Lady Elissa?”
Damian frowned. “What about her?”
“Your bride is bound to hear the talk. Keeping Elissa confined to your bedchamber wasn’t the wisest move. Everyone knows of your sleeping arrangements. ’Tis a forgone conclusion that you’ve already had her. What do you suppose your bride will say? You should send her away, Damian. I’m telling you this for your own good.”
Damian stiffened. He was well aware of his shortcomings without Dickon spelling them out. He’d heard the gossip concerning his relationship with Elissa and had ignored it without considering the consequences. Until the messenger had arrived, he’d relegated all thought of his bride to the remote future…long after he’d had his fill of Elissa.
But now his bride had become a reality, and he was no closer to deciding Elissa’s fate than he’d ever been. Suddenly his ache for Elissa turned sharp, cutting, born of frustration and unrequited need. It was that need that turned his steps toward the tower.
Elissa watched the new arrival from the tower window and wondered what it meant. Nothing good for the Frasers, she supposed. She placed her hands behind her back and stretched; the gnawing ache reminded her of the uncomfortable nights she’d spent tossing and turning on the floor before the hearth. How long would Damian keep her confined? What was to become of her?
She was still ruminating on her fate when Maggie entered the chamber. She set a fresh pitcher of water on the table and fussed with its placement, refusing to meet Elissa’s gaze. Elissa immediately became wary.
“Maggie, what is it? Has something happened?”
Maggie finally raised her head, her eyes glistening with compassion. “Aye, Elissa, I fear the news is not good.”
“A messenger arrived. Lord Damian’s intended bride is on her way to Misterly.”
Elissa felt as if a giant hand had squeezed her heart.
“His lordship is preparing for her arrival. The south tower is being made ready for her and her entourage.”
“What of my family, Maggie? What’s to become of them?”
Maggie shrugged. “His lordship hasna said. But…there’s something ye should know.”
Elissa searched Maggie’s face and didn’t like what she saw. “You can tell me, Maggie. Whatever it is, I can take it.”
“Our kinsmen are saying…forgive me, Elissa, that ye are the Demon Knight’s mistress.”
Elissa recoiled as if struck. How could she explain her dalliance with Damian? She couldn’t, so she maintained her silence.
“’Tis true, then,” Maggie whispered. “He
dishonored ye. Yer a brave woman, Elissa. Do ye think Tavis will still want ye?”
Elissa gave a snort of disgust. “Donna mention that man’s name to me. He wouldna care if I became Damian’s mistress as long as he thought it would help his cause.”
“Oh, Elissa, surely not.”
Damian chose that moment to storm into the chamber. He pointed to Maggie and said with little patience, “Out.”
Maggie turned and fled as if the devil was nipping at her heels. Damian slammed the door behind her and leaned against it, arms folded across his broad chest.
“What did she tell you?”
“She said your intended bride is on her way. I hope she pleases you, Damian. I have but one question. What will happen to me and my family?”
She could tell by his expression that he hadn’t the slightest idea how to handle the situation, and for some reason that frightened her.
Damian’s fierce expression spoke eloquently of his indecision. His responsibility toward Lady Marianne, Lora, and Elissa shouldn’t concern Lady Kimbra, but odds were she would object to their presence in her home. Therefore, Damian decided that he and Elissa should no longer share his bedchamber, even if there was nothing going on between them.
“Lady Kimbra’s arrival will change naught,” Damian said.
Elissa sent him a disgruntled look. “Unless your intended bride is dimwitted, I doubt she’ll accept the fact that I am a prisoner in your bedchamber.”
Damian’s frown deepened. “Aye. That will have to change. I’ve decided to end your confinement. But rest assured you’ll be kept under constant surveillance. You’re free to return to your chamber in the solar, but you’re not to leave the keep unless accompanied by one of my men. If you try to contact Gordon again, I’ll find a place of isolation where you’ll not see the light of day. Do I make myself clear?”
“Perfectly,” Elissa snapped. “May I leave now?”
“Soon.” His gaze shifted away from hers. “But first, there’s something you should be aware of.”
Elissa glared at him. “I know everyone is saying I’m your mistress.”
“You’ve heard? I should have known.”
Elissa’s cheeks reddened. “’Tis true I went willingly to your bed, but…”—she squared her shoulders—“that doesna mean I’ve become your mistress.”
She looked so defenseless, so guilt stricken, that Damian felt an unaccustomed pang of compassion. What was happening to him? He was far too dedicated a sinner to change in a matter of weeks, but the feelings were there nonetheless.
He felt himself being drawn to her, his body suddenly reacting to her nearness in a way that made it impossible to turn away from her. He wanted her, aye, but he knew that taking her would lead them further down the path to disaster.
Unfortunately his body refused his mind’s edicts as he reached for her and brought her into his embrace. Initially she stiffened, then she swayed against him. It was all the encouragement Damian needed. His arms tightened around her.
“You’re a threat to my position at Misterly, not to mention my sanity,” he whispered against the silken softness of her hair. It smelled like a field of flowers, making him giddy with desire. A desire he knew could lead to unwelcome repercussions in the future.
She murmured something against his shoulder that sounded like a protest.
“I shouldn’t want you like I do,” Damian muttered.
“Nor I you.” As if realizing what she’d just said, she pushed away from him, her face red with embarrassment. “I dinna mean that.”
“Too late, for both of us, I fear.”
“Nay! Your bride is on her way. She will share your bed and bear your children. I am your enemy.”
“I am not yours.” Framing her face in his large hands, he stared at her lips. Then he lowered his head to taste her mouth for what he thought would most likely be the last time. Her tiny gasp fueled his need to intensify the kiss. His tongue delved deep as his hands molded her, caressed her arms, her ribs, her breasts, memorizing every curve and indentation of her responsive body.
He unbuttoned the yoke of her gown; his lips burned a path between her breasts as his fingers bunched up her skirts and his hand cupped between her thighs. She kissed him back, her legs parting in welcome. Then, as if realizing what was happening, she broke free and pushed herself away.
“Nay, Damian, I willna be your mistress. Submitting to you now would but confirm what my people believe of me. I am a Jacobite and you are an Englishman. Nothing will ever change that.”
Damian’s hands dropped away. His voice turned hard, implacable. “You’re right, of course. Thank you for reminding me of our positions, lady. If we can’t be lovers, then enemies it shall be.”
He turned to leave, then spun back around to confront her. “I suggest you get along with my bride when she arrives if the well-being of your mother and sister mean anything to you.”
Elissa stared at the closed door for several long minutes after Damian left. Get along with his intended bride? That hardly seemed likely, given what had happened between her and Damian. She could take care of herself; it was her mother and Lora she worried about. She knew intuitively that Lady Kimbra wouldn’t welcome them in her home. Why was Damian so adamant about keeping her at Misterly? What reason could he have for wanting her underfoot? Nothing made sense where Damian was concerned.
Elissa left the tower a short time later. There was no guard at the door, but she could feel eyes following her as she crossed the hall and climbed the stairs to the solar. Damian hadn’t lied. She may have been released from the tower but she was still a prisoner.
Happy to be in her own chamber again, Elissa bathed and changed and went to visit her mother. She was pleased to find Lora with Marianne, snuggled next to her on the bed reading a book.
“Lissa!” Lora greeted as Elissa entered the chamber. “I’m so glad Damian let you out of the tower. I told him he was being mean for keeping you there.”
Elissa gave her sister a quick hug. “I agree with you, sweeting.”
Marianne held out a fragile hand and Elissa grasped it. “How are you, Mama?”
Marianne gave her a reassuring smile. “Much better. I’m up and walking a bit now. Thanks to Lord Damian, I’ve come to realize that life goes on. I have much to live for. My husband and sons are gone, but I still have my precious daughters.”
“I hope you’re not becoming too fond of Damian, Mama,” Elissa chided. “He’s our enemy. He’s taken our home and our lands from us. Mayhap he wielded the weapon that killed our men.”
Marianne sighed. “I know, sweeting, but our men chose to go to war. They fought for Prince Charles and his right to rule, and they lost. I deeply regret the carnage, but ’tis over and done with. We still have our pride and our courage, no one can take that from us. I will miss your father and brothers till the day I die, but I have you and Lora. If living in peace means accepting Lord Damian as Lord of Misterly, then so be it.”
“I’m sorry, Mama, but I canna repress my hatred for the English tyrants.”
“Why donna you like Damian?” Lora asked.
“Lora, love,” Marianne interrupted, “run down to the kitchen and ask Winifred for a treat to tide you over till dinner. Dinna you just say you were hungry?”
“I hope she made fresh gingerbread,” Lora said hopefully.
“Why donna you ask her?”
“Verra well. Will you finish the book later, Mama?”
“Aye, love. Off with you, now.”
better, aren’t you, Mama?” Elissa asked after Lora scooted off.
“Verra much so, daughter. I’m even eating more in order to get my strength back.”
“Oh, Mama, I’m so glad. Once you’re strong enough, perhaps I can convince Damian to let us go to cousin Christy at Glenmoor.”
Marianne searched Elissa’s face. “Are you sure you want to leave, Elissa?”
Elissa recalled her recent conversation with Damian in his chamber and touched her lips, recalling his kiss and how she’d been ready to succumb to him again. He threatened her sanity and her loyalty; she had to get away.
leave, Mama. Damian’s intended bride will arrive soon. She willna like us living here. ’Tis her right to insist that Damian sends us away.”
“Do you still wish to wed Tavis Gordon? Do you love him, daughter?”
Elissa hesitated. “I donna love Tavis. He is one of us, but there are things about him I donna respect.”
“I suspect you’re right about Damian’s bride not wanting us at Misterly, but I believe his lordship will have something to say about sending us away.” Her hand tightened on Elissa’s. “I would ask you a question, daughter.”
Elissa knew what was coming and steeled herself.
“Is it true that you’ve become Lord Damian’s mistress?”
“Nay, I am not the Demon Knight’s mistress.”
“Has he dishonored you?”
Elissa looked away. “Donna ask, Mama. ’Tis complicated.”
“Nay, Mama, please. Whatever exists between Damian and me is personal. I canna talk about it.”
Lady Marianne touched her daughter’s face. “I pray that you donna harbor feelings for Lord Damian. He’s going to wed an heiress. Naught can change that.”
“I said I donna wish to speak of it,” Elissa repeated. She rose abruptly. “I have to go. We’ll visit later.”
“Elissa…do you wish me to speak to Lord Damian about it?”
Elissa frowned. “About what?”
“About his lordship taking advantage of your innocence.”
Elissa debated with herself long and hard before answering. “Damian did nothing I dinna want.”
Her words hung in the air like autumn smoke as she made a hasty exit.
During the following days Elissa kept herself busy from dawn till dusk, taking great care to avoid Damian. It irked her no end that she couldn’t leave the keep without an escort, but since she didn’t want to be isolated again, she suffered Damian’s guards.
What hurt worse was the way she’d been regarded since her release from the tower. No one actually came out and asked if she was Damian’s mistress, but she could tell they were thinking it.
Elissa had heard nothing more from Tavis and wondered if he had abandoned his plans to drive Damian from Misterly. The more Elissa thought about Tavis the less she wanted to become his wife. She couldn’t forget how he’d used her. Nor could she wed a man who had urged her into another man’s bed for a cause that had already been lost.
Elissa was giving Winifred a hand in the kitchen one day when an excited Maggie burst through the door.
“She’s here! Lord Damian’s bride! Her entourage just rode into the courtyard.”
Elissa’s heart lurched. Though she’d been expecting the lady’s arrival, she hadn’t been prepared for any kind of emotional response.
“What does she look like?” Winifred asked.
“I dinna see her, but I heard she’s a great beauty.”
Elissa tried to convince herself that Lady Kimbra’s beauty or lack of it was no concern of hers. That didn’t stop her from being curious about Damian’s bride, however. Would the lady be a sweet, demure miss who doted on Damian? she wondered. Lord help the poor woman if she fell in love with the scoundrel. Damian would never give his heart to a woman, for he guarded it too closely.
Elissa heard a commotion in the great hall and the devil inside her made her slip away for a peek at the new arrivals. Hovering near the kitchen door, she peered over bobbing heads at Damian’s heiress.
Elissa’s heart plummeted. Lady Kimbra was indeed a beauty—a typical English rose with golden blond hair, peaches and cream complexion, and dolllike features almost too perfect to be real. Small and petite, her womanly figure was rounded in all the right places. Oh, aye, the lady was indeed lovely, and smiling up at Damian as if she wanted to devour him.
Elissa crept closer. She saw Damian bring Lady Kimbra’s dainty white hand up to his lips and buried her own reddened hands beneath her apron. With sudden insight, Elissa realized that while Damian might not love his bride, he surely would appreciate her beauty.
“Welcome to your new home, my lady,” she heard Damian say. “I hope you learn to love Misterly as much as I do.”
Elissa noted Lady Kimbra’s disdainful look and realized something that Damian did not.
Damian’s bride hated Misterly.
“I suppose it will do for short visits,” she said with bored indifference, “but my lord, surely you don’t intend for us to languish in this savage land during the Season, do you? Why I would simply perish without balls and fêtes and parties to attend.”
Elissa saw the tiny frown gathering between Damian’s eyes and waited anxiously for his reply.
“We’re both here at the king’s command, my lady,” Damian reminded her with more gentleness than Elissa would have credited him. “I’m sure you’ll grow accustomed to the beauty of Misterly and learn to enjoy the peacefulness.”
“You expect me to find peace in a place inhabited by Jacobite traitors?” Lady Kimbra spouted. “I think not, Lord Damian.” She waved her fan languidly before her face. “I am fatigued, my lord. Perhaps one of the servants can show me to my chamber.”
Damian lowered his voice; Elissa sidled closer to hear. “I thought we should discuss our wedding, my lady. Did His Majesty set a date for the nuptials?”
A man dressed in severe black stepped forward. “I am the Reverend Trilby, my lord. It will be my pleasure to perform the nuptials. Our gracious sovereign left it up to you to decide the date for the wedding ceremony.”
“Welcome to Misterly, Reverend,” Damian said. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”
Elissa held her breath as Damian considered his next words. “‘Twould seem proper that Lady Kimbra and I get to know one another before wedding.”
“I agree, my lord,” Reverend Trilby said amicably. “Not many men would be as understanding of a woman’s feelings as you.”
Kimbra lowered her head demurely. “Whatever you say, my lord.” Her throaty purr held a hint of promise. “I am, of course, at your disposal.” She placed a dainty hand on Damian’s chest. “I’m not displeased with the king’s choice of husband, Lord Damian, and I look forward to…” her brows lifted for emphasis, “becoming better acquainted.”
Elissa decided she’d heard enough when Damian’s gaze found hers. She tried to appear inconspicuous and cringed when he motioned for her to approach.
Her steps dragged as she made her way to his side. “Elissa, please show Lady Kimbra and her maid to the south tower. Her trunks have already been delivered to her chamber.”
Elissa nodded but said nothing, suffering Kimbra’s insolent gaze.
“Are all the servants as flamboyant as this one?” Kimbra asked.
Damian’s brows lifted. “Flamboyant? How so, my lady?”
“All that flaming red hair. ’Tis indecent. Who is she, my lord?”
“I am Elissa Fraser,” Elissa said proudly. “Misterly is my home.”
“Elissa,” Damian warned.
“A Jacobite,” Kimbra sneered. “What is she doing here, Lord Damian? ’Twas my understanding that Lord Alpin’s daughter had been exiled.”
“We will discuss this later, my lady,” Damian said. “Chambers have been prepared for you and your maid in the south tower. I’m sure you will enjoy the view. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll make arrangements for the Reverend Trilby and your escort.”