Read The Groom Says Yes Online

Authors: Cathy Maxwell

Tags: #Historical Romance, #Love Story, #Regency Romance, #Romance, #England, #London, #Scotland

The Groom Says Yes (8 page)

BOOK: The Groom Says Yes
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Sabrina shook her head. The pain was ebbing, but her body felt uncomfortably stretched and full of him. “I
must
leave.”

“No,” he said, drawing out the word as if cooing to her. “Please, I can’t let you go. The damage is done. Just give yourself a moment.”

He was right. There was no going back.

The will to struggle against him left her. It was her fault. She’d kissed him.

She’d orchestrated her own destruction.

He frowned as if he was truly seeing her for the first time, a question clear in the brown-gold depths of his eyes, and he said the words that completed her humiliation. “Who are you?”

She bucked her hips with all her might, attempting to throw him off while she shoved his chest away from her, but her actions brought him into her deeper.

The penetration no longer hurt. Nor did it feel awkward. Her body had grown accustomed to him.

“Don’t,” he whispered. “I’d not harm you. Not my angel,” he added, then began speaking to her in Gaelic, gentling her. Irish Gaelic.

From the cadence of his speech, he was reciting a poem to her, and the language of it was beautiful. Some words she recognized. There were words of praise for her beauty, for her generosity, for the lady he called his love.

The tension eased inside her.

His gaze focused on her, his expression somber. He traced the line of her lower lip with the tip of his thumb—and then he kissed her.

Oh, his deadly kisses.

Her heart kicked up its beat. Her blood heated, and she opened herself to him. She could not prevent the response, not with him so intimately joined with her. But even then, she was drawn to him.

And he was right. What was done could not be undone. He began moving, this time with new strength and focused intent. He’d given her a chance to accept him, and now that she had, he was taking full advantage.

Mr. Enright took her hand that was still pressed against his chest and moved it to the pillow above her head. He laced his fingers with hers, and went deeper—and it felt good.

Sabrina’s hips rose to meet him. He kissed her brow. He kissed her nose, her eyes, the curve of her cheek. She didn’t fight. She couldn’t.

This was the great rite of passage for a woman. She could not say that he had cruelly ripped her virtue from her . . . or, strangely, that she regretted giving this to him. At last, she understood the mystery between men and women.

She also knew she would never forget this moment. She would recall texture of the sheets beneath her and the give of the mattress. She would remember that the air was cool but her skin hot. She would inhale the memory of the scent of them, and would have the vision of his hard, lean body with that wicked scar.

And, she decided, she would not be sorry she’d done this.

The pain was gone. In its place was the knowledge of the most incredible intimacy.

Above her, his eyes had lost their sharpness. They’d darkened with desire.

She noted that his teeth were white and even, and in spite of his illness, he was a formidable man. She’d chosen well for a lover.

A lover? Would that be true.

He was taking the utmost care of her. She was no longer afraid, not of him, and when she relaxed, her pleasure escalated until she was drowning once again in this newly learned hunger.

And hungry she was. She strove with him, without fully understanding where they were going. Instead, she trusted him. He knew what she needed.

He kissed her, this kiss so deep it seemed to turn her inside out.

Sabrina shook off his hand holding hers and threw her arms around his neck, needing to be closer to him. She hooked a leg on his hip.

Their joining took on a new intensity. She suddenly couldn’t wait for him. Something drove her, something intangible.

The heat between them grew more forceful, his thrusts took on purpose. She was on fire. She could not think; she could only feel—and what she felt was beyond anything she could have ever imagined. She was reaching for what was just beyond her grasp . . .

And then she discovered
it.

Her body tightened, opened, then seemed to implode with her release. Relentless, intense emotion poured through her.

Nothing could have prepared her for this experience. It defied all description. It was a world unto itself.
It was the universe.
She’d never imagined that such vivid, encompassing feelings could exist.

Mr. Enright buried himself in her, and she felt his release.

This was what it meant to become one.

Now, she understood. She relished the experience.

Her body felt perfectly right. Well used. Happy. Content. Completely, and utterly, satisfied . . . until she realized she knew nothing of this man other than his last name. She’d broken every rule of conduct she’d established for herself. She’d
liked
it. She’d like to do it again, and again.

Did that make her a Widow Bossley?

And what would happen to her if she became with child? Then everyone else would know what she’d done.
Everyone.
She would be the fodder of gossip for decades to come.

Sabrina lay on her bed, the one she’d slept on since childhood, her clothing in wanton disarray, her body growing cold and her mind boiling over with a hundred chaotic questions—and she wanted to scream.

He, on the other, rolled over on his side, threw a possessive arm across her body, and, with a contented sigh, fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Chapter Eight

S
abrina glared at the man snoozing beside her and had two impulses: one was to run and the other to double her fists and pound him.

She decided to run.

His arm was as heavy as a tree branch across her chest. His weight, which she’d easily tolerated moments ago, was now unwieldy. Using both hands, she lifted his arm, then didn’t know how to place it beside his body without its being at an awkward angle. He might wake, and she didn’t want that.

So, as stealthily as a thief, she eased out from under his arm, landing on her bottom on the floor.

A sharp glance assured her he had not noticed anything amiss. He slept on as if he hadn’t turned her world inside out.

Sabrina jumped to her feet, pulling her bodice up over her shoulders and shaking out her skirts to restore her modesty—and found she hated the dress she wore. She’d never wear it again. She couldn’t without recalling this moment in vivid detail.

That he’d so easily and completely bypassed her good sense and judgment to claim her virtue, then had the audacity to sleep as if he didn’t have a care in the world made her irrationally wish to burn the dress. She tiptoed to her wardrobe, pulled out her forest green day gown, the one she liked to save for doing charity work, and rushed from the room.

At the foot of the stairs, she stopped to take stock of her situation.

She was so thankful that Mrs. Patton was not here to witness her humiliation. Then again, if the housekeeper had been here, if her father had not left her alone with this man, well, then, things would not have gone as they had. She would not have dared to shave Mr. Enright, let alone kiss him.

Even now, her senses were full of him. His scent was on her skin, and in the most intimate places.

With an angry sound at her own culpability—because, after all, her vanity had started what had happened—she hurried to the kitchen and stoked the fire. She went outside, her movements determined. She was very conscious of muscles she’d never known had existed in places she couldn’t have imagined. She pumped water into the bucket.

Rolf came bounding up to her. She threw her arms around him. “I’m such a fool, Rolf.”

His wagging tail assured her he adored her no matter how far she’d fallen, but Sabrina could not let her failings rest.

As she marched into the house and put the water over the fire to heat, she flayed herself with the number of times she’d been sharply critical over the behavior of other young women, including her cousin Tara. She’d accused Tara of flaunting herself and quite frankly considered herself superior to her cousin.

Well, now, Sabrina was guilty of the same offense. She’d thrown herself at Mr. Enright. And he didn’t even know her name.

She had to keep it that way. Somehow, she must manage to push him out of the house without his being the wiser to whom she was. She’d have Mrs. Patton tell him to leave or send for her father—no, wait, she couldn’t do that. He’d want to know what the man was doing under his roof and one thing would lead to the other and Sabrina would confess all.

She didn’t even want to think of the worst—that she could bear this man’s child. God could not be that cruel. All she’d wanted was one kiss.

The family bathed in the kitchen where the fire was always burning. Sabrina pulled the tub from its storage place under the shelves of the pantry. She also kept towels and soaps in a small pail there as well. She shut the kitchen door, pushing the heavy table in front of it since there was no lock. This was a precaution against Mr. Enright’s accidentally meandering around the house.

As quickly as she could, she prepared her bath. She threw her clothes to the floor, climbed into the tub, and scrubbed herself senseless. If she could wash away the last hour of her life, she would have.

But she couldn’t. It had happened. She’d seen proof on her clothing.

And she became angry.

No one must ever know of this. No one.

She hugged her legs up close to her body in the tub, fantasizing over the possibility of Mr. Enright’s vanishing or wandering off into the world, never to be seen or heard from again.

But whether he did or not,
she
knew what she’d done. A secret like this was a burden unless confessed. If her cousin Aileen had been in Scotland, she might have turned to her.

No, the only person she had close at hand was her father—and suddenly, she wanted him to come home. Moments ago, she’d not wanted him to know. Now, she needed his presence. She didn’t like being alone with Mr. Enright and that seductive voice of his. She didn’t want to face him without someone she trusted by her side.

Unfortunately, her father was with Mrs. Bossley, and she would not go to the widow’s house to fetch him.

However, her uncle might retrieve him for her.

Leaving the house to search out her uncle might be a good thing. Distance always offered perspective.

With a plan of action, Sabrina dressed quickly, moved the table back where it belonged, and went into the hall for her hat and gloves. She listened a moment. She heard no sound from the upstairs, so she had to check on her patient. She must. Curiosity encouraged her to do so.

His large body overflowed her bed. He slept as if his conscience was clear. Could he not know what had happened between them and demonstrate a modicum of angst? Or pretend to share her regrets?

Disconcerted, Sabrina flew to the stables. She hitched Dumpling to the cart and set off for Annefield.

M
ac woke with a start.

By the angle of the light coming through the window, he sensed the day was well advanced.

For a long moment, he lay still, trying to place his bearings. He didn’t remember this room, and it had been years since he’d slept on such a comfortable mattress or had sheets this fresh.

His memory returned in snippets. He’d escaped from the Tolbooth. He remembered that. He’d been ill. He could recall the fatigue, the dizziness, the nausea. There had been a point when he’d been close to death’s door. He felt weak but good right now. He’d had dreams, wild, nonsensical ones. He had a vague recollection of who was in those dreams. He knew he’d searched for Lorcan . . . he thought. And Moira. Gram had been present.

Then, he remembered the angel.

Intense, vague images came to his mind. Images with taste and texture. The scent of her was all around him. He could have reached for her, expecting her to be beside him, but he was alone.

Mac lifted himself up to rest on one arm and took in the furnishings of the room. The wardrobe door was ajar, and he could see frocks hanging there. The pitcher and basin on the washstand were plain but decidedly feminine in style and form, and there were bits of lace in the curtains.

Oh, yes, this was a woman’s room.

“What have you done with yourself now, Mac?” he asked the world at large and, of course, received no answer. God had never been generous with him.

His stomach rumbled.

A bowl on the bedside table caught his attention. There was also a small pitcher for water and a stack rags that could be used for a number of purposes.

His memory sharpened on
her.
She had creamy skin, dark hair, and a kindness in her eye that had assured him he was safe. For once in his life, he’d allowed himself to trust someone, and she’d kept him alive.

He remembered the shepherd’s hut. If he’d been left there, he probably would have come down with the croup and never survived. How the bloody hell had he arrived here?

And where was she now? Where was
he
now?

He listened for sounds of activity in the house, but all was quiet. There wasn’t even a ticking of a clock.

Mac was also hungry. Ravenous. He needed to eat and drink. He reached for the small pitcher and downed the contents. There was nothing left in the bowl, and he had to find something. His body demanded sustenance.

As he sat up, ready to put his feet over the side of the bed, the blanket wrapped around him fell to the side. His breeches were undone, his shirt up to his chest.

His angel had done
more
than keep him alive . . . and those vague images became more defined. Just the thought of her had him stirring.

Oh, yes, he
did
remember. She’d been a generous lover, an intense one, open to whatever he asked of her, and he wondered where she was now? Theirs had been no ordinary coupling.

Mac rose to his feet, righting his clothing as he did so and combing his tangled hair back with his fingers. He rubbed his jaw with the back of his hand and was surprised to discover he was clean-shaven. She’d done that.

He buttoned his breeches.

His boots were on the other side of the night table, but Mac didn’t pause to put them on. He wanted to know where he was and who
she
was.

He was also interested in knowing how far he was from Kenmore in his quest to find the Reverend Kinnion, his only link to Richard Davidson.

The upstairs floor had three bedrooms. The room he’d been in had definite feminine touches, but the others were neat, clean, and lacking personality. There was a door at the end of the hall that led to attic stairs. He checked the bedrooms and found a wardrobe containing a gentleman’s clothes. The wardrobe in the third bedroom had a man’s jacket and two shirts, items that appeared to have not been worn recently. Perhaps someone had used the room and left these behind. Whatever the case, he now knew there was the woman and at least one man living here. No servants. He didn’t see signs of one.

Mac tried one of the shirts. He’d been wearing what he’d had on for too long. He yearned for clean clothes. Unfortunately, it was too small.

He went down the stairs. His stockinged feet didn’t make a sound on the treads.

The house seemed foreign to him. Nothing was familiar, a sign that he might have been more ill than even he realized when he’d been brought under this roof.

There was a dining room with a table, chairs, a sideboard, and brass candlesticks, not silver. A pianoforte took up one corner of the sitting room across the hall, and there were a few chairs, one upholstered, arranged around the musical instrument and the cold hearth.

Mac walked down the hall and discovered the kitchen. Several loaves of bread were laid out on a table in the middle of the room. Mac fell on one of them, pulling off great hunks of the loaf and stuffing them in his mouth. The bread was delicious. Then again, anything, including cabbage, his least favorite food, would have tasted of ambrosia.

He poked around the pots set around the fire in the hearth. There was what appeared to be a mutton stew there. A bit more nosing around revealed the pantry. It was well stocked. There was bacon, ham, onions, and, to his delight, meat pies. He’d finished the loaf of bread, so he helped himself to a pie, which he washed down with a jug of sweet cider.

Mac was beginning to feel himself again.

There was a bathing tub with cool water beside the hearth. A linen towel was hanging to dry over one of the cooking hooks. A bar of soap was on the hearthstone. Mac picked it up and smelled it. The scent reminded him of roses and lavender, strong, evocative perfumes . . . and the fragrance of his angel.

She’d shaved him, but he was in need of more grooming. Mac believed in regular bathing. He liked the way he felt when he bathed often, and he certainly preferred the way he smelled. As a physician, he’d observed there was a correlation between health and cleanliness, all other beliefs to the contrary.

He glanced at the door. Whoever lived here could return any moment. Or they could be gone for hours. He wasn’t one to waste an opportunity.

Shutting the kitchen door, he pulled a chair from a row of them against the far wall. They probably belonged around the table, but it was easier to knead bread and make pies as delicious as the one he’d gobbled down if the chairs were not in the way.

He propped the chair against the door. It wouldn’t stop someone from coming in but would give him time to shout a warning or defend himself, whichever the case might be.

The temperature of the water was fine with him. He’d bathed in colder. He didn’t even mind the scent of the soap.

Mac unbuttoned his breeches, shucked off his pants—and froze.

He’d assumed he’d had sex when he’d woken with his breeches undone and his little friend spent.

What he hadn’t realized, until this moment, was that the woman he’d so completely enjoyed had been a virgin.

The signs were there.

Mac frowned. He wasn’t one to deflower the innocent. He rebuttoned himself, moved the chair, and went upstairs to reexamine the bed. On the sheets, he discovered more signs of her virginity.

What the devil was he involved in? It was as if she had taken advantage of him but to what purpose?

And he wasn’t certain he minded.

He returned to the kitchen and tore off his clothes, not even bothering with the door. He climbed into the cold water, lathered the flower-scented soap, and washed himself thoroughly and completely from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.

Sensible men did not pluck virgins. There was a price for such foolishness, especially when the man didn’t know who the woman was. He didn’t think she could be the wife of the house and still be intact, but if she was the daughter, well, things could become complicated.

And if there was one thing a man wanted for murder didn’t want, it was more complications.

Just the thought of all that could go wrong made him dunk his head underwater. Still, he wasn’t just anyone any longer. He was an earl although he didn’t feel worthy of being one. And, of course, if there was a child, he would do the honorable thing.

But first, he’d wait to meet the lady.

Mac climbed out of the tub and dressed quickly. He combed his hair with his fingers before helping himself to another cup of cider which he carried as he opened the door and went out into the hall. There was another room, a study with legal papers stacked on the desk. He set his cup down and started going through them, anxious for any clue as to the owner of the house—and then he saw the name on the signature line.

BOOK: The Groom Says Yes
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