SCOUNDREL IN MY DREAMS
Laurel stepped away from Jack and threw back her head. "Melody! Melodyyy!”
A piping little voice called from Aidan's quarters. "Papa?"
"Stay put, Melody," he called back. Jack didn't know what Laurel was talking about and he certainly didn't know why she was looking daggers at him, but he did know that her wild demeanor and shouting would frighten Melody, who had already borne enough today. Holding both hands out soothingly, he advanced on Laurel.
"Calm yourself. Simply listen..." Using his size to herd Laurel away from Melody, he maneuvered her back down the hall. Not down the stairs. No, better keep this to himself for the moment. There was no need to get everyone's hopes up again until he understood why Amaryllis had decided to claim Melody after all.
Over her shoulder, he spied the door to the attic. It would provide a quiet place to talk and one where Laurel's excited state would not alarm anyone. Keeping his voice at a soothing murmur, he had Laurel by the elbow and through the door in a moment. Up a narrow flight of dusty stairs, and then they were in the main room of the attic, a vast cavern of roof beams above and discarded furniture all around them.
Her skin was flushed and he could feel the heat of her body through the thin black stuff of her sleeve. The sensation of touching her both alarmed and confused him. Surely that was only because he'd kept to himself for so long.
Once at the top, Laurel shook off his grip and backed away from him, glaring at him in the light entering through a large, dirty window to the rear of the attic.
Laurel clapped a hand to her elbow and rubbed it, but not because he had hurt her. His firm grip had been implacable but not harmful. She massaged her arm to erase the sensation of his large, warm hand upon her flesh. Even the brief seconds of contact had reminded her. One tingling touch and she lived it all again. Flashes through her mind, moments from those hot, sweating hours of large, talented hands roaming every inch of her, driving her higher, making her shudder again and again, lost in pleasure like nothing she'd known before or since.
So he has big hands. What of it?
All the more reason to hate him, for he could do more damage with a single touch than any other man could do with hours to study the problem.
Now he had her here, alone in this attic, gazing at her with those dark eyes, like the wells of his soul, dark and impenetrable.
Unless one knew how to look into them.
Still, they lied. They must, for he could never be the man she'd once thought him and have the capacity to ruin her life the way he had.
Enough of this. She took a step back toward the stairs. He held out one hand to stop her. She backed away from his touch once more, unwilling to test her own fortitude.
"I'm taking her and we're leaving this place and you shall never see us again, you foul blackguard!"
Jack's brow creased. "I gathered that. Why?"
Betrayed fury welled up in Laurel. "Why?" She flung herself at him, fists raised, instantly forgetting her vow to stay away from him. With an animal cry containing echoes of every single moment of pain he'd caused her, she beat at his broad chest. "Bastard! You rotten, black-hearted, soul-less--"
He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly to him. "Laurel--"
She couldn't strike while trapped inside his embrace, which was of course his intention. She could only struggle wildly, while feral noises ripped from her throat. Jack, Mama, Papa, Amy--all the people she'd loved most in the world, all had cut away a piece of her heart until all she had was pain and black, swallowing loneliness!
Well, no more!
So she struggled and thrashed and it was quite possible she did a certain amount of biting as well, but she could not break his unyielding embrace. His arms remained tight about her as she enacted years of soul-shattering loss with her flailing fists and her kicking feet and curses spilling from her lips that she hadn't even known she'd known.
At last, as her fury dulled into exhaustion, her mind quieted enough to realize that through all her violence, not once had he retaliated. Not even with a harsh word. He'd simply stood there, like a granite figure, and held her while she rioted.
With her breath still catching in odd little sobs, she spread her palms across his chest and pushed firmly. "Let me go," she whispered.
He didn't respond. She took a deep breath and spoke more firmly. "Release me."
When his grasp did not ease in the slightest, she risked a glance up. His face was turned to one side and his eyes were closed. If his body was granite, that face was glacial ice. His jaw was clenched so hard that the tendons on his neck were distended. Something was wrong...
Then she felt it, hardening against her belly. She recognized that hardness. For one endless night, she'd had it for her very own. Memories of his largeness, his heat, his silk-sheathed steel in her hands, in her body, in her mouth...
She dampened instantly, her body betraying her yet again. For all her hatred, all her pain, she had never entirely convinced herself that that night had been anything but ecstasy. If anything, that was one of the betrayals--to give her the knowledge that such sweet pleasure could exist, and then take it away forever.
For a long breathless moment, an instant that felt like an hour, they remained pressed together, no longer in struggle, no longer in combat. Her fury spent, her will weakened by exhaustion and memories, Laurel even let her forehead drop to rest upon his hard chest. All by themselves, her fingers spread against that chest, feeling the warmth of him through his weskit and shirt, tracking the thudding of his heart through touch.
Her own heart skittered wildly and the dampness between her legs gave way to a dull throbbing, as if she were empty and ached to be filled. The silence stretched about them, winding around and around like a spider's silk, keeping them pressed together, breathless, waiting...
Jack's mind rioted, though he kept his body still from sheer will. This was Laurel he held pressed to his body, held tight to his growing erection. When last he'd seen her, she'd been a girl, a near-stranger, a someday sister--
How was it then that his body knew her? How was it that he stood here, holding her, wanting her with an intensity that kept his jaw clenched and his gut trembling and his cock turning to iron?
Odd shreds of memory tangled in his mind. Laurel, in braids, laughing as he teased her. Amaryllis sneering as her sister, red-faced and mortified, daubed at a tea-stain on her bodice. Amaryllis, sweet-mouthed and giving, rolling naked beneath him.
Laurel, gazing at him with blue eyes filled with longing he'd been too young and stupid to see at the time.
Amaryllis, crying as he was thrown from the house, even though she'd been the one to spur the ejection.
Something isn't right. Think.
He couldn't think. His mind was helpless in the maelstrom of his sudden, inexplicable lust, a black, gaping void of need--
Need for his former lover's sister?
Appalling. Dishonorable. Utterly impossible, except for the undeniable fact of his painfully erect cock and the responsive softening and melting of her body against him. His hold tightened. Her face lifted as he opened his eyes to gaze down at her tearstained face. Blue eyes locked on brown. Her lips parted and her breath warmed his mouth--
"Papa?" Melody's high little voice piped up the stairs. "Are you there?"
The latch of the door below rattled. Jack watched Laurel's face as the sweet vacancy of lust left her eyes and reason--or what passed for it today--returned. She pushed hard at his chest. "Melody!" she called. "Mel--"
The door below began to open. Battle instincts took over. Shielding Melody was second nature. With a single, decisive movement, Jack thrust Laurel into a side chamber of the attic. She stumbled to a stop, then turned to stare at him.
"No!" Her eyes widened and she rushed forward, trying to stop him. "Jack, no! She's my--"
He slammed the door shut on her words and twisted the key that stood in the lock.
Excerpted from Scoundrel In My Dreams by Celeste Bradley
Copyright 2008 by Celeste Bradley
Published in 2008 by St. Martin's Paperbacks
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.