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Authors: Phoebe Conn

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BOOK: Swept Away
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“I’m sure that he is,” Alex agreed. Seeing Anna coming their way with a tea tray, he sat back to put a more respectable distance between them. “Let’s have tea, then you can pack a few things and we’ll find a priest who has as romantic a nature as we do.”

Eden waited until Anna had returned to the house before she kissed him again. “I love you so much, Alex. You’ll never be sorry you married me. Never.”

“I promise you’ll never be sorry either, Eden. I’ll make our entire marriage a honeymoon.” That he had ever imagined a friendship as warm as theirs could remain a chaste one struck him as absurd now. Still, he could not help but feel a tinge or two of guilt. “I’m being very selfish, but I swear I can’t help myself.”

“Selfish?” Eden shook her head, “You are the warmest, most sympathetic man I’ve ever met. I doubt you are ever selfish.” Not about to allow the man to have second thoughts, Eden rose and, taking his hands, pulled him to his feet. “Come upstairs with me. I’ll need your advice about what to bring.”

“That wouldn’t be at all proper,” Alex protested, but his grin was too wide for Eden to mistake his mood.

“Neither is eloping, m’lord.” With a throaty giggle, Eden led him inside but she took care to walk up the stairs very slowly so as not to tire him.

 

 

It was after dark by the time they arrived at Alex’s townhouse. He had had no difficulty arranging for a special marriage license and, with that in hand, had easily persuaded a young priest to perform a marriage ceremony without the required reading of the banns. It had been the most exciting afternoon he had spent in a long while, but he was too happy to allow the resulting fatigue to spoil his wedding night.

He dismissed his servants for the evening immediately after he and his bride had finished the sumptuous supper his cook had gone to great lengths to prepare. He felt slightly tipsy although he had had only one glass of wine.

“I want to take you home to Briarcliff, my estate in Devon. We can spare a month at least before having to make the return voyage to Jamaica. I think it will do Raven good to be on his own for a while. Maybe without my constant urging, he’ll fall in love too.”

Eden laced her fingers in her new husband’s as they started up the stairs. She had expected Alex to send for Raven so he could attend their wedding, but she had been relieved when he had not wanted to wait for the young man to be found. Somehow she did not think Raven would approve of their marriage, and she was grateful to have avoided what could have easily been the most embarrassing of scenes. That she would not have to face him for a month pleased her. Surely that would provide ample time for him to accept his uncle’s marriage.

“Can we leave first thing in the morning?”

Alex rested his hand on the banister, for he could not climb stairs and talk at the same time. “Do you want to stop by and see your aunt and cousin before we go?”

Eden pursed her lips thoughtfully. She had left her aunt a note, even though it seemed a cowardly thing to do. “I’d rather not. I don’t want anyone to spoil our happiness, least of all Lydia and Stephanie. They’re both very fond of you, but I know they’ll take exception to the haste of our marriage.”

Understanding her concern, Alex continued on up the stairs and waited until they had reached the landing to reply. “I wish there had been time for us to plan an enormous formal wedding, a lavish reception, and the most exotic of honeymoons. You’ve given up a great deal to marry me, and I hope you won’t soon regret it.”

Eden wondered if Alex were recalling his first wedding, and his first wife, but dared not ask when she wanted his thoughts focused solely on her that night. “My family and friends are all so far away and I would have missed them terribly had we had a large wedding. If anyone asks why we chose to elope, let’s blame it on the War. We’d be believed, don’t you think?”

“The War? Why yes, of course. That’s positively brilliant, Eden. We chose to elope because your country’s at war.” Alex was pleased beyond measure to have so logical an excuse for a completely illogical elopement. He led her into his bedroom rather than the adjoining one where she had bathed and dressed before supper, and then made what he hoped was not too gruesome a request.

“It’s customary for the husband to visit the wife’s bedroom, but I don’t want to run the risk of dying in your bed.” He paused an instant, half expecting Eden to protest his mention of death as Raven always had, but instead she nodded in agreement.

“I understand. That I will someday be a widow will bring sorrow enough, I don’t want to be the subject of crude jokes about the manner in which you died.”

“Precisely.” Alex pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. “I’ve felt so terribly alone, and to find that you understand my concerns so readily is a great comfort to me.”

Eden relaxed against him, grateful that they could now display their affection for each other openly, but she was as deeply concerned about her new husband’s health as he was. “Alex, if making love will be too strenuous for you, if you truly do fear dying in my arms, we could simply sleep together and be close in ways other than the merely physical.”

Alex stepped back so he could study her expression, but he had a difficult time containing the amusement her question had prompted. “Life is filled with difficult choices, Eden. Somehow I think you’re already aware of that. If I stayed in bed, alone, and did nothing more strenuous than sip soup and tea, I could probably prolong my life. But what kind of life is that to live? I would rather be a real husband to you for six months, than no more than an affectionate friend for a year. Isn’t your choice the same? Wouldn’t you advise me to live whatever time I have left as fully as I possibly can?”

Eden replied not with words, but with a kiss so filled with love he could not mistake her answer. She was a vibrant beauty, and it was that very quality that had attracted him to her in the first place. She was as eager to live life fully as he was, and while their time together would be heartbreakingly brief, he planned to make certain she did not regret a second of it. He trailed sweet kisses down her throat and across the luscious swell of her bosom, peeling away her white satin gown with the expertise of a man well schooled in the art of seduction. He knew he would have to rely upon finesse rather than stamina, but vowed not to disappoint her.

Eden had never expected to marry that day, but fortunately her mother had long ago provided her with all the information any bride would need. She knew exactly what would happen, but she also knew there was far more to making love than the act that would make her Alex’s wife. It was instantly plain from his adoring kiss and tender caress that he knew it too. He was no ardent boy intent upon sating his own lusts with her body. He was a lover of extraordinary insight and skill and she loved him all the more for it.

When a few minutes later Eden found herself lying nude across his bed, she could not recall precisely how he had managed to remove all her apparel without her assistance, but she thought him extremely clever for doing so. When he reached toward the lamp at the bedside, she objected. It was already turned down low, and she thought the soft light provided precisely the romantic glow a wedding night required. “Leave the lamp as it is,” she requested in a seductive whisper.

Alex considered Eden’s beauty of the most exquisite sort, and had no objection to feasting his eyes upon her all night, but he had thought she would prefer to have the room dark. “You are not embarrassed?”

His bed had already been turned down in preparation for the night, and Eden raised the corner of the sheet to demurely cover her breasts. “I didn’t realize I should be.”

“I didn’t mean of your own body, but of seeing mine.”

Eden took a deep breath before assuring him that was not the case. “You’re a very handsome man, Alex, lean and fit. Why wouldn’t I find you attractive?”

Alex had already slipped off his coat and waistcoat and sat down on the side of the bed as he began to unbutton his shirt. “Men’s bodies are very different from women’s. I know some brides find that discovery frightening.”

“I’ve seen nude men. The sight doesn’t disgust me.”

Alex’s mouth fell agape, for it had never occurred to him she might not be a virgin. Not that it mattered to him when he loved her so dearly, but it was a shock just the same. Unable to think of any way to reply to such a startling confession, he concentrated on unbuttoning his shirt, but fumbled so badly with the buttons he made very slow progress.

“Alex?” When he failed to immediately look up, Eden began to giggle. “I’m not in the habit of cavorting with nude men. Is that the way that sounded? I worked tending the wounded before my parents sent me here to London. That was the primary reason they insisted I leave Richmond. They felt I had seen too much bloodshed for one so young. The boys who were dying were no older, though, so I thought their decision was very unfair. Had I been their son, they would have let me fight, but they didn’t want their daughter touched by the horror of the War.”

Alex was ashamed for doubting her virtue for even a moment but thought better of admitting that aloud. “That’s ironic, isn’t it? That your parents sent you away to escape the horror of death when all they succeeded in doing was—”

Eden stilled his words with her fingertips. “No, not another word about death tonight. Tomorrow in the sunshine, on the way to Briarcliff, we can talk about it as long as you like, but no more tonight.”

Alex took her hand and placed a kiss on her palm. “You are a priceless treasure, Eden, truly you are.” Readily agreeing to her suggestion, he left the bed to search among the bottles of cologne atop his chest of drawers. When he returned, he was holding a lavender bottle made of delicate hand-blown glass. It was fashioned in the oval shape of a newly opened rosebud and its stopper was topped by a hummingbird that had paused in flight to savor the flower’s nectar.

Eden could not recall ever seeing anything quite so exquisitely beautiful. “Is that perfume?” She had brought along her favorite scent, but thought perhaps the lovely bottle contained a fragrance he preferred.

“This has a pleasant scent, but it’s not perfume,” Alex explained, but he could think of no way to describe the exotic liquid’s true value. Setting the stopper by the lamp, he shook the bottle, and capturing a few drops on his fingertips, he spread them on Eden’s lips. “Do you like the taste?”

Eden ran her tongue over her lips, then smiled at their sweetness. “It’s more delicate than honey, or maple syrup, but it’s very good. What is it?”

“Merely an oil to use for massage.” This time Alex pulled away the sheet so he could spread a thin coat of the pale liquid on the tip of Eden’s right breast. When he leaned down to lick it off, she ran her fingers through his hair to press his face close.

“Is that how to give a massage?”

Alex’s answering chuckle was low in his throat. “It’s how I like to do it.” He sat back then, quite pleased with the way the evening was progressing. He could recall his first wedding night vividly. Eleanora had been so shy he had had to ply her with brandy for half the night before she had gotten in a sufficiently loving mood to allow him to consummate their marriage. In time she had become an affectionate wife who always pleased him, but she had never been as delightfully wanton as Eden already appeared to be.

Eden’s lips began to tingle slightly and she licked them again. She watched Alex rub the sweet-tasting oil on his own nipples and understood what he wanted her to do when he placed his hand on her shoulder to draw her near. The coarse curls which covered his chest were still as dark as his hair had once been. They tickled as she pressed her mouth to his flesh. His skin was warm, and she began to feel a delicious heat filling her own body as well.

Alex shed the last of his clothing, then continued to play a teasing game with the scented oil. While its full effect wasn’t noticeable for several minutes, Eden soon learned it left a trail of fire wherever it touched her skin. It was merely a drop or two at first, on her earlobes, at the base of her throat, again on the flushed tips of her breasts, and each time he kissed the slippery substance away, she would repay the favor in kind.

She soon felt so dizzy she was sorry she had not allowed Alex to extinguish the lamp, for the room’s furnishings seemed to be spinning around the bed at a most alarming rate. She had sipped her wine slowly all through supper and knew she had not been inebriated when they had walked up the stairs, but she could not understand what had happened to her now. She had never felt so light-headed, and yet at the same time her senses had grown painfully acute.

She closed her eyes, hoping to shut out the distracting visual images that surrounded her but found that self-imposed darkness only increased her dismay. She now felt as though she were falling, slowly sinking into the most delicious sensation she had ever experienced. Alex’s touch was soft and sure as he parted her thighs, and before she could tell him not to spread the oil’s tormenting heat in so intimate a place, he had already done so. It did not burn her delicate flesh, but the effect of the fiery potion was immediate. It created a craving for release that overwhelmed the last of her reason. She called out to him, but all that escaped her lips was a breathless plea for a fulfillment of the night’s spiraling journey into pleasure’s core.

She tried to open her eyes, even though she feared Alex would be no more than a blur, but she could not manage even so simple a feat. Remarkably, in her mind’s eye she could see them both sprawled across the bed, the neatly ironed bedclothes now tangled beneath their oil-slickened bodies. She had never had the opportunity to observe a couple making love, and while she knew she could not possibly be watching herself and Alex, that was who she saw.

BOOK: Swept Away
8.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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