Authors: Teresa Medeiros
Some Like It Wicked
By Teresa Medeiros
To the memory of our nephew Daniel Lee Medeiros. We were blessed by God to have you in
our lives for twenty years.
For my prayer buddy Teresa Farmer, whose laughter brings delight to my life and always
makes me feel much funnier than I am.
And for my Michael—I would have waited for you forever, darling, but I’m so grateful that I
didn’t have to.
throaty feminine moan disturbed the cozy peace of the stable loft. As Catriona Kincaid jerked up her head, the drowsy bit of fluff draped over the back of her neck let out a shrill mew.
Fortunately, the kitten’s protest was drowned out by another moan from below, this one underscored by a husky, knowing chuckle that sent a warm shiver tingling down Catriona’s spine.
Still gripping the book she’d been reading, she used her elbows to wiggle forward on her stomach through the slanting beams of shadow and sunshine. The kitten began to gnaw at her hair with the ferocity of a lion cub. As an insipid giggle drifted to her ears, along with the intriguing rhythms of labored breathing, she leaned down and pressed her eye to a generous crack between two boards.
Even in the faded light, her cousin’s hair gleamed like a tousled blond halo around her flushed face. Alice was pinned against a stall door opposite the loft, caught in the fervent embrace of an officer of His Majesty’s Royal Navy. As he pressed his open mouth to the pale column of her throat, she tilted her head back, revealing shuttered eyes and moist lips parted with some indefinable hunger.
Catriona’s own mouth fell open. She’d never seen her vain cousin so unconcerned about smearing her powder or rumpling the elegant train of her garden gown. This dashing new beau of hers must weave a powerful spell indeed.
Catriona’s curious gaze shifted to his back. The young officer’s dark blue dress coat had been tossed over a nearby stall door. His dazzling white shirt was stretched taut over his broad shoulders while his waistcoat hugged his lean waist. White breeches clung to his narrow hips, tapering down over muscular calves and thighs to disappear into a pair of shiny black Hessians.
It wasn’t the sculpted beauty of those hips that drew Catriona’s eyes back to them, but the subtle movement that accompanied each of his forays against her cousin’s throat. The provocative motion struck such a delicate balance between coaxing and demand that it was as if his lean, clever body had been created for just such wicked pursuits by God Himself. Or by Lucifer.
When he shifted his avid attentions from Alice’s throat to her parted lips, Catriona gaped, mesmerized. Not even in her most wicked dreams had she imagined such kissing!
It bore no relation to the grudging buss on the cheek her aunt allowed her uncle each night before they retired to their separate chambers. She touched her fingertips to her own tingling lips, wondering how it might feel to have them devoured with such tender ardor. Her parents had been generous with both their hugs and their kisses but since coming to live with her uncle’s family, she hadn’t received so much as a dry peck on the brow.
The shameless scapegrace took advantage of her cousin’s distraction by dipping his long, tapered fingers into the lacy décolletage of her gown. Alice murmured a halfhearted protest. Catriona rolled her eyes. Alice had pitched a more convincing fit at breakfast that morning when Catriona had wolfed down the last kipper. Between one breath and the next, Alice’s objection melted to a mewling gasp of pleasure. She arched her back to better fill the officer’s skilled fingers with her ample breasts.
Catriona wanted to turn away in disgust, but couldn’t. She hadn’t been quite so captivated since Monsieur Garnerin had crashed his hot-air balloon into a flock of bleating belles at Vauxhall Gardens.
With a grace more deserving of a minuet, the man pivoted, gently backing Alice toward the bed of hay directly beneath Catriona’s perch. The sun-dappled shadows flirted with his face, making it impossible to get a clear look at him. Catriona suppressed a groan of frustration as they disappeared from view. If the man could handle a warship with half that finesse, she thought, Britain’s victory over Napoleon’s navy should be assured.
The intriguing rustle of both hay and clothing being rearranged whetted her curiosity beyond bearing. Scrambling to her hands and knees, Catriona crawled forward until she could hang her head over the edge of the loft.
She had forgotten about the kitten perched on her shoulder until he dug ten tiny claws into her tender nape. Sucking back a yelp of pain, she let go of her nose and made a grab for the kitten. A cloud of dust and pollen flew up her nose. A mighty sneeze gathered in her lungs. Even if the good Lord had blessed her with three hands, she wouldn’t have had time to decide which one to use to grab the kitten, muffle the sneeze, and maintain her teetering balance.
As it was, she could only bat wildly at the air as she tumbled headfirst out of the hayloft and crashed into the imposing back of the man preparing to settle himself between her cousin’s pale, shapely thighs.
Simon Wescott could feel the hot breath of hell blowing down his neck.
It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced that particular whiff of brimstone, nor was it likely to be the last. Hazardous experience had taught him that enraged papas, the self-appointed guardians of their daughters’ virtue (either real or illusory), were even more dangerous than irate husbands. Fearful that it was just such a papa who had landed on his back, he waited for a muscled forearm to tighten around his throat.
But the thing on his back just lay there, wheezing down his neck like a consumptive walrus.
His confusion mounted as something began to nibble at his freshly trimmed hair. He frowned. Good Lord, had one of the earl’s ponies fallen on them? Gingerly, he reached around and extracted the tiny culprit from his head, holding it by the scruff of the neck to avoid its windmilling claws. The bit of orange fluff hissed and spit at him like a suckling demon.
The weight on his back shifted. “He takes poorly to being handled that way. I’d let him go if I were you.” The merry voice bore the faintest trace of a lilt. The breath stirring his hair was warm and smelled faintly of cinnamon biscuits.
When he failed to heed the warning quickly enough, the kitten twisted, sinking its teeth deep into the tender pad of his thumb.
He shook off the animal, gritting his teeth against a bellow of pain. The weight on his back scrambled away. The woman beneath him shrieked in outrage and shoved at his chest. He rolled off of her, forced to shuffle and refasten clothing with a haste that challenged even his adept hands.
“You horrid beast!”
For a dazed moment, Simon thought Alice’s hissed denouncement was directed toward him.
Jerking up her bodice, she sprang to her feet, her fashionably pallid cheeks blotchy with rage. “You nasty, wretched little troll! How
you spy on me?”
Brushing hay from his breeches, Simon climbed to his feet to discover the object of Alice’s fury crouched behind him, cooing to the rabid kitten without a single trace of remorse. Strawberry blond curls that looked as if they had been trimmed with a wheat scythe fell over a face of indiscernible age. The curious being’s slender body was wrapped in a faded blanket.
“I wasn’t spying.” Alice’s tormentor pointed at the book dangling by its broken spine from the loft above them. Simon tilted his head. Even in the dim light, he recognized Sir Walter Scott’s
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
. “I was reading.”
As Simon’s gaze traveled higher to the loft, his lips quirked in a knowing grin. He might have indulged in just such a bit of boyish mischief himself had his own curiosity not been satisfied at the age of thirteen by an eager young housemaid with indiscriminate morals and insatiable appetites.
Alice had considerably less appreciation for the foibles of youth. Whistling through her clenched teeth like a teapot about to overboil, she advanced on Catriona, her elegant hands curved into claws.
Catriona warily climbed to her feet, nudging the kitten out of harm’s way with her foot.
She’d grown accustomed to having her ears boxed by her quick-tempered cousin, but somehow the prospect of having them boxed in front of this dashing stranger made her chin come up and her spine stiffen.
As Alice drew back her arm, the officer stepped into her path and caught her heaving shoulders, gifting her with an angelic smile. “Come, now, Ally. ’Twas a mere mischance.
There’s no harm done.”
Catriona stood transfixed by his bold maneuver. No one had ever dared to defend her against Alice’s bullying. Her aunt might
beneath her breath when Alice’s taunts grew particularly shrill and her uncle might occasionally murmur, “Stop pinching your cousin, dear,” before disappearing behind his morning paper, but they all pretended not to see the vivid bruises that so frequently marred the tender skin of her upper arms.
For the first time in his twenty-four years, Simon’s considerable charm failed him. Alice turned on him, baring her fangs with a venom that made the kitten seem tame in comparison. Her transformation from purring dove to shrieking shrew made Simon silently, but fervently, renew his vow never to marry.
“A mischance?” she spat. “The only mischance around here was that creature’s invasion of our household!” Tearing herself from his grip, she flung an accusing finger at the inept spy. “You’ve been nothing but an embarrassment to this family since the day my father took you in.”
As Catriona saw the officer flinch in pity, she almost wished he’d step aside and let Alice slap her insensible instead.
“You skulk around like a wild animal, wrapped in that filthy rag, making a mockery of everything Papa has worked his entire life to achieve. I’m warning you—from this day forward you’d best keep your homely nose buried in one of your ridiculous books where it belongs and out of my business!”
Alice tried to turn back into her young man’s arms, but something of his distaste must have shown in his expression. She shot Catriona a look of pure loathing and burst into tears. “You miserable little monster! You spoil everything!”
Throwing the train of her skirt over her face, she fled the shadowy stable, leaving the sunshine streaming through the open doors in her wake. Catriona blinked rapidly to dispel the sudden glare, finally getting a clear look at the officer’s face.
For the second time that day, she had the breath knocked out of her. It wasn’t difficult to figure out why Alice had succumbed so eagerly to his charms when they were displayed in such dazzling abundance. He looked like a young Icarus who had flown too close to the sun but had been rewarded for his arrogance instead of punished. His tawny hair was neatly trimmed, barely brushing the collar of his shirt. The sun had kissed his high cheekbones with a bronzed glow and the striking brackets around his mouth provided the perfect frame for his rueful smile. His lips were full with just a tantalizing hint of a pout, yet firm and sculpted enough to be utterly masculine.
Fearful she was about to start wheezing again, Catriona jerked her gaze from his mouth to his eyes. Their moss-green depths sparkled with dormant mischief. It was those devil’s eyes set squarely in that angelic face that proved her undoing. Catriona bowed her head, blinded anew by his radiance.
Mistaking his companion’s stance for one of dejection, Simon reached down to ruffle the inclined head. “Don’t take it so hard, lad. I was once an inquisitive young fellow myself.”
The boy jerked up his head, brushing his curly bangs out of his eyes. Eyes as soft and gray as a misty loch on a summer morn. Eyes framed by silky, curling lashes as undeniably feminine as their owner.
Simon would have judged his jaded self incapable of blushing, yet a traitorous heat crawled up his throat. Truth be told, he was more mortified at miscalculating this child’s sex than at being caught seducing her cousin.
Eloquent words of apology had always flowed smoothly from his lips. God knows he’d had ample use for them. But for once his glib tongue failed him. He stole a longing glance at the door. Weren’t hasty exits his forte? Climbing out windows in the dead of night? Shimmying down trellises? Sneaking barefoot through dew-drenched gardens, boots in hand?
“You might as well go after her. Perhaps you can still coax her into letting you make love to her.”
Simon jerked his head back around to find the girl still surveying him. He answered her glare with one of his own. “And what would an impudent little bit of a girl like you know about making love?”