Authors: Claire Firth
THE RELUCTANT BRIDE
Text copyright © 2013 Claire Firth
All Rights Reserved
The right of Claire Firth to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher and author.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover Design by Linda Boulanger
Naughty but nice Romance to turn your cheeks pink is what I’m aiming for. (Or maybe it’s my cheeks that are pink as I’m the one writing it).
It’s always great to lose yourself in a bit of romance or erotica and I hope I’ve managed to combine both pleasures in Ralph and Sophia’s story.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The new Earl of Avalon sat at his table in his London Club, a ferocious frown marring his uncommonly handsome features. His dark hair hung rakishly over his brow and his grey eyes were fixed unseeingly on the amber liquid that half filled his glass.
Opposite him sat his cousin Guy, The Duke of Mountford, three years older than him, and - as he was wont to remind his younger cousin - more experienced in matters of the ways of the world.
‘Why not just do as she wants and get married?’
Guy said carelessly. ‘Why fight her so on this matter? You have been estranged from your family long enough and with your father gone an heir would do much to restore relations between you and your mother. Were you to pick wisely - someone innocent and biddable - it need not be too much of an encroachment on your life. Your wife can reside at Avalon Hall while you continue to divide your time between there and here, and your mother would be silenced. It is the perfect solution.’
Ralph scowled at his cousin across the table. ‘But I have no desire for a wife. Why would I wish to encumber myself with one before I truly need to? And as for the thought of an army of small children running about the place, causing havoc in my life …’
‘Children are not such a bad thing,’ Guy replied mildly. ‘I sometimes think that Charles is the only thing that keeps me sane in my marriage.’
‘Precisely,’ Ralph retorted, knowing full well the difficult state of his cousin’s situation. ‘So would you really condemn me to a similar fate? No doubt you thought you had chosen wisely in Charlotte at the beginning?’
Guy’s face closed over. ‘I was a young fool and let my urges rule my head,’ he said shortly. ‘I would not do so a second time. As I said, the secret is in choosing the
bride. Someone who will be grateful for the position they will be acquiring and who is not too demanding. Someone who will be happy playing the Earl’s wife when you are there and equally happy being mistress of the house when you are absent. Believe me, there are enough women to select from, and which one of them would not wish to be the wife of the infamous and handsome Earl of Avalon?’
This last drew a reluctant grin from Ralph, though he wasn’t sure his cousin was right. His reputation, especially as far as women were concerned, was not of the highest standing and some self-righteous connections would shun any offer just because of that. He had come to realise that such reputations were not easy to dispel. Yet a wife might certainly help redress the balance.
So maybe …?
For the first time he gave the matter serious thought. His estrangement from his parents these last years had affected him deeply though of course he had not let that be known. And now that his father was dead and he had moved back into Avalon Hall, there was no doubt his life was changing. His mother had chosen to move to a smaller residence several miles away which meant of course there was no hostess at Avalon - something she was constantly plaguing him about. And that morning’s conversation had been particularly irritating with her spouting forth as she had about the need for him to produce
heirs rather than have one of his cousins’ children inherit the title on his demise. He sighed. It was a difficult time for her he knew. She was still mourning the death of his father, and although relations between them had improved these last few months she still made it very plain what a disappointment he had been. Perhaps Guy was right. Perhaps a wife
the next logical step for him to take - and one that would help mend some bridges.
He scowled at the thought and tossed back the remainder of his drink in one. ‘I’ll think about it,’ he said, rising from his seat. ‘But for now, I have a rendezvous with a certain young lady.’
‘Not Serena? I thought that liaison had come to an end?’
‘And so it has,’ Ralph said. ‘But she has been my mistress for nearly eighteen months and if she is desirous of one final night, then who am I to refuse her?’
‘What hard choices you are plagued with,’ his cousin remarked, a teasing glint in his eye.
‘I am surprised you too have not taken a mistress in your circumstances. I am sure Serena could find someone very suitable for you.’
Guy’s expression cooled. ‘I think not. My marriage is enough of a shambles without making matters more complicated.’
‘Cousin, you cannot stay celibate for the rest of your life, especially when your wife does not share your scruples. And how is it that you have been quick enough to advocate the benefits of infidelity to me once I am married, yet do not follow the same path yourself?’
Guy shrugged. ‘It is not right for everyone. It is enough for me that one party in our marriage feels the need to look elsewhere for their entertainment. Stupid though it may seem I feel I owe it to my son to behave in the correct manner. Were I
married, however …’ He grinned as he too rose and shook his cousin’s hand. ‘I would be there with you like a shot.’
‘Am I pleasing you, my Lord? Do you like that?’
Serena’s husky voice blended with the sensuous action of her fingers as they grazed lightly over the front of Ralph’s trousers. He was lying on top of her bed and immediately felt his manhood stiffen. He knew he would miss the easy familiarity of their relationship when it ended.
‘You know I do, Witch.’
She laughed her low throaty laugh. ‘And I know you like this also.’ Slowly, she unbuttoned his trousers to release him, taking him expertly into her hand and beginning to squeeze rhythmically. He went from firm to throbbing hard in the space of a second.
‘Aah, Serena …’
He closed his eyes with a sigh, losing himself in the pleasure as her skilful fingers went to work on him. This was what he needed, a natural release for the tension that had been building up in his body since his heated conversation with his mother - a tension that hadn’t eased any after his subsequent meeting with his cousin. He didn’t want to have to think about his responsibilities, or what he was going to do with his life. What he wanted now was mindless release.
He jerked uncontrollably in her hand as the sensations started to build. In an instant he had flipped her over so that her partly clad body was trapped beneath his. There was no time for niceties. He was about to spend and needed to be inside her.
Pulling her chemise down, he gazed hotly at the luscious pink nipple he had exposed, bending quickly to cover it with his mouth as his fingers found their way knowingly between her legs.
she breathed, opening up to him. ‘I will so miss this.’
‘As will I,’ he growled.
He sucked deeply, first on one taut peak then the other, groaning his pleasure as they swelled in his mouth.
Wasting no time, he slipped his hands beneath her soft buttocks, raising her so that he could slip swiftly into her. She felt so warm and welcoming - so moist that he almost spilled his seed instantly. But he held back savouring the moment.
She contracted her muscles, drawing him further in.
she whispered fiercely, rocking on his hard length. ‘
Take me now
Her words excited him; he thrust deeply into her, his throbbing shaft seeking her warm, velvety softness. And once he’d started he could not stop; plunging deeper, faster - spurred on by her soft moans as she clung to him so tightly.
‘Oh, yes Ralph,’ she gasped.
‘That is the way. Show me.’
She met him eagerly, thrust for thrust, her voluptuous body twisting beneath his as she clamped her legs around his waist and locked him in.
It felt so
. He buried his head in her neck and pumped faster. He could feel the tension spiralling in his cock, hear her soft gasps getting louder. Then suddenly he was plummeting over the edge, carrying her with him as wave after wave of shuddering climax engulfed them both.
Afterwards, as they lay on the bed recovering he looked at her ruefully. ‘I am sorry Serena. That was not the fond, memorable farewell I had planned.’
She smiled at him, the smile of a sated lady. ‘No matter, my Lord, we have the whole night ahead of us yet to take our time.’
He leaned over her and gently brushed a strand of auburn hair from her brow. ‘What will you do Serena with the money I have settled on you? Will you be content?’
She caught his hand in hers and kissed the palm. ‘More than content, my Lord. You have been generous to me as I knew you would.’
She hesitated and for the first time in the eighteen months he’d known her, she looked embarrassed.
‘I have bought an Inn,’ she said awkwardly, ‘in Hertfordshire. You probably think me mad. I probably am.’ She laughed. ‘But it is what I have always wanted to do.’
Ralph looked shocked. ‘An Inn? I own I cannot see you in a wench’s outfit, pouring beer tankards!’
‘Oh Ralph, how little you know me - even after all these months. It has served me well being your mistress but I get no younger. And I am bored with it.’
‘Are you bored with me?’ He looked put out at the thought and she laughed.
‘I could never be bored with you. But I
realistic. With the death of your father your life is moving on as it should and though you are fond of me, your interest is waning. I have known enough men to recognise the signs. That is why it is good that you too recognised it and drew things to an end. There will always be room for you in my bed should you wish to visit me, but …’ she grinned at him cheekily, ‘you are going to have to travel to Letchworth to do it. And I somehow do not think you will make the effort.’ Her brow creased as if that thought saddened her, then she said lightly.
‘But enough of that . I can see you are wound up my Lord. Did your meeting with your mother not go well?’
Ralph shrugged. ‘Well enough but she is still set on me acquiring a wife now that I am the Earl. It is not a thought I relish.’
Serena hesitated. ‘You will have to marry some time.’
She tapped his chest playfully. ‘And you get no younger, my Lord.’
‘I am but twenty seven years old, Serena. Are you insinuating that I am past my prime?’
The way he said it, with that challenging glint in his eye, made her own gaze hold his boldly. ‘I would not dare, My Lord.’
‘Good, because if you were, I would undoubtedly feel the need to prove otherwise to you.’
Serena’s hands drifted sensuously down his body. ‘I think maybe you should do that anyway,’ she murmured, ‘seeing as this is our last night together. I feel it is my duty to relax you to the best of my ability before we part.’
She shot him a look from beneath dark lashes. ‘Shall we start by removing your breeches?’
He lay back and watched as she eased his breeches from his legs. It was a scene they’d enacted numerous times over the last year and a half but she was right, although it was an easy relationship, it was beginning to pall. He didn’t understand why. As a mistress he couldn’t have asked for better yet somehow his life felt meaningless, as if some greater purpose was missing from it - a void that needed to be filled. Yet with what he had no idea. And that plagued and irritated him. He didn’t want to have to think too deeply about his life.