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Authors: Christine Merrill

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BOOK: Pleasurably Undone!
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She blinked up at him, looking as dazed by what was happening as he felt. Her lips were parted, swollen and red, and he longed to kiss them as he thrust again. “Tell me what you are feeling,” he said, and rubbed his knuckles against them.

She touched his hand with her tongue, and he sucked in a breath, not wanting to lose control too quickly. She hesitated, and he thrust again.

She let out a little squeak of surprise that made him smile. So he kissed her cheek, tantalizingly close to those lovely lips, and said again, “Tell me.”

At last, she murmured, “It has never been like this.” And as he moved in her, her breathing became irregular, muddling
her words. “I have never…more than once…and the way you look at me…and your body…it makes me…every time.”

He could feel her losing control again, her body tightening on his. He squeezed her breast and felt her back arch, her hips rock forward into his, her arms wrap around to hold him as she began to tremble. So he enjoyed her perfect body and imagined her perfect lips, and spent himself in her again.

How many times had that been tonight? He smiled to himself, hugging her to him, trying not to lean too obviously upon her. Damn, but he was weak as a kitten. Standing had been a mistake. His leg was aching, and he must get the weight off it, or he would be too stiff to rise in the morning.

From his shoulder came a soft sob.

He lifted his head to find her face wet with tears. He reached to stroke her hair, wondering how he had ever thought her cold. “What is it, love? Tell me.”

“I am a terrible wife,” she whispered back.

He almost laughed. “Right now, you are no wife at all.” Although perhaps she ought to be. At the rate they were going, there would be a babe soon. Surely a wife was easier to keep than a mistress.

And then the weight of her words hit him, and with it, the old guilt. He held her close, not wanting to let a ghost come between them. “He is gone. You are free.”

“But I should not behave in this way. And with a man I barely know. With you, of all people.”

So that was it. She’d given herself to a lesser man. He focused on the ache in his leg, for it was easier to deal with the physical hurt than the pain her words had caused. He straightened, taking back his own weight, pulling her gown up to shield her body, and offering her his arm.

“How you behaved this evening was little fault of your
own. It is I who should be ashamed. I owe you reparation for my base behavior. You honor me by accepting my protection.” He swallowed his nerves, for he knew what he truly owed to a lady, even if his words were met with scorn. “And you would honor me still further, if you would agree to wed me.”

Chapter 4

ictoria gave a small, surprised laugh to cover her confusion, putting a hand to her throat to keep her gown from slipping again. “Marriage?”

“I dishonored you by my actions. As a gentleman, I wish to make it right again,” he said, as though it were the most reasonable thing in the world to marry a woman that he had met in a brothel.

“But between us?” She had convinced herself that she should come home with him to gain time to search his possessions and question his servants. But he had so little. Suppose there was nothing to find?

What if Tom Godfrey was innocent? A part of her dearly wanted that to be true. If he was not, how was she to reconcile her feelings when he touched her with the suspicions she had held for so long? She stalled. “How shall I explain the suddenness of it to my friends?” And how would she explain to Lord Stanton? He thought her mad already. What would he think of this turn of events?

Tom smiled. “It will hardly be seen as a nine day’s wonder if you marry a soldier. I am a cripple and of inferior rank to
your late husband. But we share a common past, we have mutual friends, and I am sympathetic to your plight. Tell anyone who cares that we met in London. Our previous acquaintance led me to offer for you out of concern for your safety and a desire to know that you are well provided for.”

“But marriage?” It did make sense, as he described it. But suppose she had been right, and her second husband was hanged for the murder of her first?

“For my part, my friends will congratulate me on my extreme good fortune in catching you. You are a very attractive woman, Victoria. And…” He seemed about to say something, and then muttered, “We do share a certain physical compatibility.”

He grinned at her. And the grin widened as he saw her blush. Then he grew serious again. “I understand that you do not love me, and that what I suggest will seem as sudden to some as it does to you. But I would do everything in my power to bring you pleasure by night, and to make you happy by day. Please allow me to help you.”

Her intended victim was all but begging that she come close enough to betray him. But if she had been wrong, how could she ever explain to him? Or was there some way that she could avoid the truth? At last she said, “It is all too much for my poor mind to grasp. May I decide tomorrow? I am quite tired.” Perhaps in the morning, she could come up with an answer. She let her voice trail off as if to confirm her words, and glanced toward the bedroom door.

“Of course. It is late. Until then, will you accept my hospitality?”

She gave a slight nod, and he led her into the other room. He turned back the covers on his bed, offering his place to her. Then he went to sit on a small couch in the corner of
the room. “Until you decide, I think it best that I sleep here.” He smiled and added, “To avoid temptation.” He took off his coat and boots, lay down and rolled his face to the wall.

As she prepared for bed, she stared across the room at him. Despite her doubts, she could feel her body longing for his. She could not fool herself into thinking that her enthusiastic response to him had been caused by loneliness, or because she had forgotten how wonderful it felt to be with a man.

It had not been like this with Charles. Not ever. Her father had assured her that it was a good match, and that she had nothing to complain about. And he had been right. Charles Paget had been a good husband to her. And she had loved and respected him, and wished always to make him happy.

But he had never looked at her with the hungry intensity that Tom Godfrey did. She had certainly never been loved to completion multiple times in a night. And Charles, God rest his soul, would have told her to leave off with her nonsense and obey him immediately, had she ever dared to refuse him a kiss. From the moment she had said her vows, she had known that while it was important to love one’s husband, to honor him was more so. And total obedience trumped them both.

But Tom had taken her refusal to kiss as a challenge. Her body burned hot at the memory of it. He had been a generous lover, more concerned with her pleasure than his own.

She could not remember the last time that her pleasure, her wants or her desires had been important to anyone. Not even herself. She had learned to ignore them, to postpone them or to do without. Perhaps that explained her sudden and extreme attraction to Tom Godfrey.

And with that, she felt an unexpected pang of guilt. She had insinuated herself into his life to spy upon him. Perhaps
she was in the right, for she had done it for England and her husband’s memory, instead of for French gold.

But if she had accused an innocent man?

And there was the rub. His behavior toward her was—she struggled to find a word. It was gallant. She felt safe in his company, from the way he wished to rescue her from the brothel, to the foolish gesture of sleeping on a bench, when his own bed was just across the room. Would it not pain the wound in his leg and side to sleep in such a cramped way?

The Tom Godfrey she had imagined was a coward who had sacrificed all around him for personal gain. But from the first moment this stranger had touched her, she’d trusted him. She had given of herself and in ways that were new to her, sure that no matter what they tried, he would not hurt her. That trust had been at the heart of their lovemaking, and her response to it.

On the other side of the room, Tom let out a sigh, and rolled again, to face her. And in the barest whisper he said, “You are awake, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” She sat up in bed and stared across the room.

He sat up as well. “It is quite hopeless. I meant to bring you here, and to care for you, hoping that I could avoid what I must say. But I will not get a moment’s sleep if I do not just admit the truth.”

She bit her lip and gave a little nod, suddenly afraid that she might hear the very thing she had expected.

He took a deep breath. “The day Captain Paget died my horse was losing a shoe. He favored a leg, and I was lagging behind, trying to nurse him along. If I had been ahead on the road, as I should have been, they would have had warning. It would have been I and not he.” His eyes grew vacant for a moment as he remembered it.

There had been no mention of this in any of the accounts
she had heard. But it explained how he had come to retreat, as the rest advanced to their doom. “What became of the horse?”

He looked at her as though it were the maddest question in the world. “Shot in the battle. Poor dumb beast. It was all for naught. In the end, I spared him nothing. I should have ridden forward with the rest and died.”

He touched his wounded leg. “Until I met you, this wound seemed a sufficient punishment for any wrong I committed. But now?” He shook his head. “That day, I took your husband from you with my carelessness. And I took your honor tonight. If you will have me, I will do everything in my power to make this right.”

Something inside her eased, as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. And without thinking of what had brought her to this place and this moment, she let out a sigh of relief. Then she patted the mattress beside her. “I do not think I need ’til dawn to make a decision, after all. Come to bed, Thomas.”

Chapter 5

e reached for her again in the night, touching her skin and smiling in wonder as though her presence beside him was miraculous. She touched him in return, laying her hand against his cheek, tracing the planes of his shoulders and back, learning him in a way that was quite innocent, compared to their earlier coupling.

He paid attention to the details of her body, kissing the hollow of her shoulder, the crease of her elbow, her finger tips, and running his thumb along her spine to find a place on her back that was surprisingly sensitive. It made her gasp, and he smiled, continuing to stroke the spot as he bent his head forward to nip her throat and her breasts. Tom was setting a leisurely pace, as though they had all night to pleasure each other. He gave another flick of his finger, which he combined with a slow pull on her nipple that made her arch against him, clutching his hair to hold him tight to her, clawing with her other hand, down his side to search for him, stroke him and spread her legs for him. Her need grew more urgent the slower he moved. She could feel him laughing in triumph as she shuddered against him, so she pushed him onto his back and
straddled him, impaling herself upon him, pressing his hand against her most sensitive place, forcing him to give her more pleasure as she bucked against him, her body clenching and releasing him, as she squeezed his hips between her thighs. She heard the moment when his laughter stopped and he relinquished control to her. His breathing quickened, his body thrusting in response, until he whispered her name and lost control inside her again. The sensation was rare, and she closed her eyes as she savored it. The risk of children born while on campaign had been too great to allow such completion. Now, she might have it whenever she liked, and the children as well.

But when she looked into her lover’s eyes, she saw pain as well as pleasure. “Your leg?” She pulled away so that he could withdraw.

He nodded, but laid a steadying hand on her arm. “It is all right.” His eyes seemed to glaze for a moment, and then he smiled, and said through clenched teeth, “No. It was marvelous. Well worth a twinge or two.”

But all the same, she disentangled herself carefully to lie beside him, careful not to stress the wound.

He put his arm around her shoulders, and kissed the top of her head. “That you would be willing to lie with me at all is pleasure enough. But that you have accepted my offer is quite amazing as well. There have been others who were not so generous.”

She frowned. “How strange.”

He laughed at her confusion. “My dear, I am not whole. It is quite obvious to you.”

“But for the pain in your leg, you seem well enough.” She had the temerity to blush, and he laughed again.

“In our case, perhaps it is better that you lie with me before you wed me. The woman I expected to take to wife on my return from the war was none too sure about me. Her father told her that the location of the wound might have rendered me unfit as a husband. And while his daughter had no qualms about my entering the military and was quite taken with the sight of the braid on my uniform, there was something less than heroic about my homecoming, when it could not be made on two good legs.”

“But that is horrible. To have served your country is an honorable thing. And to have suffered as you did is a cause for increased respect and not rejection.”

“I knew you would understand. You of all women…” He said it reverently, as though she were precious beyond words to him. Tom reached out and touched her lips with his fingers with such gentleness that it startled her. If her eyes hadn’t been open, she’d have sworn that he’d kissed her.

And then, with a smile, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Victoria wrapped her arms around him and laid her head close against his side, wishing she could take the pain away. She had been so very wrong about Thomas Godfrey. He had suffered at the hands of the French and from the faithless woman who would not take him back.

And he had suffered from her actions as well. She had defamed him to the Earl of Stanton, putting doubts in the man’s head that had no place there. Tomorrow, she would write a letter to Stanton, explaining what she had found, and the strange turn of events that things had taken.

And she would never speak of it again. For much as Tom Godfrey seemed to think he owed her happiness, she owed him a similar debt. She would make up for her lack of faith by being the wife that he longed for her to be.


When she awoke the next morning, Tom was already out of bed, washed and preparing to go out. As though he sensed her return to consciousness, he turned to look at her with an encouraging smile. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes.” Surprisingly, she had. Her decision had given her an easy rest.

“I have no female servant to assist you. If you wish to wait, I can have my valet send for someone. Perhaps there is a girl in a neighboring flat. Or I…” He broke off shyly, holding his open hands in front of him, to show that he was at her service.

“That is all right. I have learned to manage.” Her clothing was simple for just this reason. And compared to some of the places she’d stayed with Charles, this meager room was a luxury.

He nodded. “I must go out. And until more things are settled, it is hardly proper for us to be seen too much together. We will see if there is a way for your things to be sent for, discreetly.”

“No!” She had forgotten that there were details of her life that could not be filed away and forgotten. It would not do for him to see how she lived. At least not just yet. How could she explain her presence, apparently downcast in a house of ill fame, once he saw that she lived better than he, with more space, more comfort and more servants? “I will take care of sending for what I need. I need no help.”

He looked surprised at her sudden denial. But then he shrugged as though he did not want to broach a topic that she might find embarrassing or painful. “Very well. I will trust to your own judgment in such matters. But be mindful of appearances, and take care not to be seen, should you leave.”

“Why is that?”

He raised an eyebrow, and smiled. “I should think it would be obvious. Your reputation is as precious to me as it is to you.
I should hate to have to challenge some young buck to a duel, should he see you creeping from my rooms with the dawn.”

She colored. She had been so long married, and out of London society, that she had almost forgotten that anyone might care.

He grew serious again. “You do still wish to wed, do you not? For if you have had a change of heart?” He ran a hand through his tousled hair. “It quite changes my plans for the day. I had meant to procure a special license.”

Again she felt the unfamiliar ripple of pleasure, to see him so eager to wed that he could not wait for the banns. “No, I have not changed my mind.”

And now, he was smiling broadly at her, as though the reassurance had brought him immeasurable pleasure. He stepped forward, drew her up to sit, and kissed her on top of the head. “I am glad. And I will work to make you comfortable. And happy again, if you will let me.”

Happy. What a curious idea. In her old life, she had been content, certainly. But had she been happy, traipsing about the Continent after Charles? Not really. She would have preferred her townhouse, the company of friends. A regular bed and regular meals. And perhaps a regular husband. “That would be nice. Thank you.” She hoped he had not been expecting some declaration of love, for it seemed too soon to use that word. But to have a man to love, just an ordinary man, and not a soldier? And to have that man be as devoted to her as Tom Godfrey was? The possibility shimmered before her for a moment, like a beautiful dream.

“I had best get to it. If you are sure that you can manage?”

She gave him an encouraging smile in return. “I will be fine.”

“Then I will go and make arrangements. And in no time at all, you will be Mrs. Godfrey.”

BOOK: Pleasurably Undone!
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