Grant's breath came in unsteady bursts, while heat climbed over his face. He was jealous, frustrated, painfully aroused, all because of the provoking creature in his arms. He was tired of wanting what he could not have, of repeatedly stumbling over his own conscience. She was a tumbled heap of flesh and silk in his lap, and he longed to lose himself in her warmth.
"I want you to stay with me," he said hoarsely. "I want you to be mine."
Vivien stared at him with heavy-lidded blue eyes, seeming to understand his torment. Gently she touched his face with a cool gloved hand. "Then I will," she murmured, her sweet brandy-scented breath wafting in his face. "Because I want you too."
The words released the ravening devil inside him. Unable to stop himself, Grant reached for the edge of Vivien's glove and stripped it from her arm. He caught her bare hand and pressed it hard to his mouth and jaw, greedily savoring the tender skin. His mouth delved into her palm, and he closed his eyes in lust and pleasure.
Vivien tugged at her hand, and as soon as it was released, she slid her trembling fingers behind his taut neck. He needed no further urging. Lowering his head, he crushed his mouth over hers, demanding that she open to him. Her lips parted, welcoming him into her sweetness, her own tongue yielding to the aggressive sliding and stroking of his. Groaning, he gathered her more tightly into his lap, twisting his mouth harder over hers. The kiss turned frantic as he searched for a deeper taste of her, but instead of becoming sated, he was increasingly desperate for more.
He ripped his mouth away with a growl, his gaze raking over her flushed face. "I can't get enough of you," he said hoarsely. "You're so beautiful, so sweet...Vivien, let me..." His hands fumbled with the back of her gown, pulling and tearing at the uppermost fastenings. The bronze fabric gave way with a jagged sound, hooks popping free of their moorings, and the cups of her bodice fell away from her pale flesh. "Let me," he muttered again, one arm locked around her slender back to prevent her from shrinking away. His hand cupped beneath the firm globe of her breast, his thumb drawing over the soft pink nipple until it contracted and darkened to bright rose. Vivien bit her lips and writhed as his dark head bent over her chest. The wet heat of his mouth surrounded the tip of her breast, and he flicked the peak with his tongue.
Lost in a fog of brandy and sensation, Vivien curled both her arms around his head. He tugged at her nipple, gently, skillfully, his large body shaking with the ferocity of his need. Vivien's eyes closed as she surrendered to pure physical feeling. Only a brief flicker of shame intruded on her thoughts, the despairing awareness that only a shameless woman, a courtesan, would allow a man to do this to her in a carriage. But she didn't care. It didn't matter how, when, or where he touched her. She wanted him as badly as he seemed to want her, and nothing in the world would keep them apart now.
He moved to her other breast, his teeth closing on the tender peak, his tongue circling and darting until she arched upward with a groan. With each caress of his tongue, she felt a prickling sensation of delight deep in her stomach, and lower between her thighs. Agitated, she pressed her legs together and drew her knees upward, instinctively seeking to ease the gathering ache.
Grant tore off his glove and grasped her ankle, the calluses on his hand catching on her silk stocking. Spreading his fingers wide, he trailed them up to her knee and beyond, to the place where a garter held the silk against her thigh. He explored the soft skin above the garter and slid his hand beneath her crumpled linen drawers. Reaching higher and higher, he found the patch of curls between her thighs.
Vivien resisted in a reflex of modesty, quivering in his lap and gasping out a muffled protest. Instantly his mouth took hers in a surging kiss. She moaned and wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, all thought of refusal melting like ice in the sun. His hand searched the front of her drawers, found the ribbon-edged slit of the garment, and reached right up inside. His fingers slid gently amid the curls, a blunt fingertip drawing along the delicate furrow that protected her private place. Her body shook with confusion, fear, excitement, and her head dropped weakly against his shoulder.
The wicked exploration continued, his teasing fingertip repeating its long, light stroke until the feminine lips became swollen and unbearably sensitive. He touched the tiny, aching center of her desire, circling, shocking her with a visceral pleasure that made her want to scream.
Vivien writhed on his lap, against the protruding bulge that pressed upward into her buttocks. A shaken laugh bubbled up from her throat as she realized that he was more than ready to take her here, in the carriage.
His fingers had located a source of perplexing dampness and probed the soft hollow. Without warning, he slid his middle finger inside her. At first she resisted the gentle intrusion, a slight burn making her jerk and arch in an attempt to push him away. But her inner flesh gripped him tightly, and her thighs closed around his hand, and he pressed soothing words and kisses in the little cove beneath her earlobe.
"You're so tight," he said thickly. "Why? Are you afraid?"
"Yes." she whispered, her senses whirling.
"You have nothing to fear."
"I...I don't remember how to do this," she choked out. His finger slid more easily now, a surge of unexpected moisture preparing the way for him. A slow plunge, another, in a seductive rhythm that made her h*ps arch eagerly. The pleasurable ache grew stronger, sharper, until she quivered and clawed the back of his coat.
The world shifted off its axis, spinning out of control. She needed to touch his skin, but layers of clothes and starch and buttons prevented her. Lowering her to the carriage seat, he crouched over her with one foot braced on the floor. He held her head in the crook of his arm as he kissed her. His mouth was rough, hot, agitated, and they both moaned at the heart-thumping pleasure of the kiss.
The carriage became a lurching, swaying coccoon of shadows and leather, the air fragrant from her own vanilla-perfumed skin. Reaching up for him, Vivien locked her arms around his broad shoulders and nuzzled tightly into his throat.
"I love you," he whispered, pushing her flat against the seat, staring down at her face.
"You don't have to say that," she said unsteadily, though the words sent a rush of intense pleasure through her. "I love you," he repeated, his green eyes gleaming like a cat's in the darkness.
Wondering if he was truly aware of what he was saying, if he was possibly the kind of man who did not distinguish between love and desire, she stared at him wordlessly.
The carriage stopped, and she realized they were at King Street. Grant's dark head lowered, and his voice was a low scrape of sound in her ear. "Make love with me tonight, Vivien."
The hour was late and the servants had retired for the evening, except for a lone footman who opened the door. After a blink of surprise, the footman averted his gaze from the small, disheveled form in Grant's arms.
Carrying his precious burden upstairs, his coat wrapped snugly around her, Grant glanced at Vivien's half-hidden face. She was flushed and silent, her expression conveying uncertainty but not unwillingness. Remembering his words of love to her in the carriage, he felt his own color heighten, though he did not, would not, regret having said it. This was the first time in his adult life that he had ever told a woman he loved her. He had discovered a side of himself that he had never known existed until tonight, and he wanted to show Vivien all the tenderness and passion he was capable of.
They reached his room, and he set Vivien beside the bed. Smoothing his hands over her tousled hair, he kissed her mouth, shaping her lips with his own. He pulled the pins from her fiery locks and loosened her braids, letting her hair flow soft and warm over his hands.
"Tell me what to do," she whispered, her hands slipping beneath his coat, exploring the hard lines of his waist and back. "I don't know how to satisfy you. I don't remember how to do any of this."
"You don't have to remember," he said, his voice soft and fierce. He held her against his tremendously aroused body, his breath catching at the delicious feel of her. Pressing his mouth to the top of her throat, he kissed and tasted the fragile skin, working his way downward until he reached the vanilla-scented valley of her cleavage. Vivien shivered and leaned back against the support of his arm, while her heart beat fast beneath the pressure of his exploring mouth.
He undressed her slowly, pulling at the fastenings of her garments and letting them drop away from her. Her newly revealed skin was white and luminous, her body tender and abundantly curved...He closed his eyes briefly, striving to subdue his violent passion. When he opened them again, Vivien had moved away from him and hastily climbed into bed, pulling the linens over her nakedness. Her bashfulness was so genuine, so...well,virginal , that he wondered if this was what she had been like long ago, before embarking on her career as a courtesan.
"Don't cover yourself," he murmured. "Your body is too beautiful to be concealed."
The bedsheet did not lower an inch. "I'm cold," she said breathlessly, her cheeks flushed.
"I'll warm you," he promised with a quick grin, stripping off his coat.
Vivien watched as his clothes were discarded, uncovering an expanse of skin much tougher and darker than her own, covered with springy hair in some places, scarred in others. She was amazed by the power and grace of his body, which had been honed and punished and exercised until no trace of softness remained. "You were right," she said unsteadily. "Youare an impressive sight without your clothes."
He smiled and approached her, bracing his hands on either side of her h*ps as he leaned over her. She felt the gentle brush of his mouth over her hair. "Any second thoughts?" he asked. "Tell me now, before I get into bed with you."
Vivien slid her arms around his neck for answer, and pulled him down to her. The full length of his body pressed against hers, and suddenly she could barely hear above the roaring pulse in her ears. Her thoughts scattered and vanished, and all that remained was sensation...the startling heat of his skin, the coarse hair on his chest, the exquisite glide of his mouth over her throat and shoulder and breast. His hands were everywhere, stroking and exploring, sliding between her limbs with no heed to modesty.
Had there been any doubts remaining in the back of her mind, they dissolved immediately. She had not suspected that a man so well acquainted with the harshness of life could be so tender, his hands unimaginably gentle as they searched the intimate places of her body. He breathed so fast, as if from great exertion, each forceful exhalation burning her like steam. Pressing her back to the mattress, he kissed and nuzzled the rise of her breasts, softly biting the stiffened tips.
Gasping, she wrapped her arms around his dark head, while pleasure and a peculiar tension made her writhe beneath him. Suddenly a stray thought appeared in her mind. How could she have done this with many different men? This act required more trust and intimacy than she could have imagined. It was not possible...Somehow everyone must be wrong about her...But before she could dwell on this thought further, it was whisked away.
She felt his hand close around her wrist, drawing her fingers downward until they brushed against a length of hot, silken skin. With a gravelly murmur of encouragement, Grant pressed her hand against his groin. Curious, excited, she curved her hand around the hard masculine shape, timidly stroking and gripping his arousal. Her touch seemed to impassion him beyond bearing. He kissed her deeply, his tongue stroking inside her as he spread her thighs and lowered his h*ps between them.
There was pressure against the tender opening of her body, causing a slight burn of discomfort. Stiffening in reaction, Vivien felt the weight of his body settle a little harder over hers, and the blunt force increased. Before she could protest or wriggle away, he made a sound low in his throat and pushed forward in a strong thrust. Vivien's breath stopped as she experienced a kind of pain she had never felt before--she was certain of it. No woman could feel it and not remember. Her hands spasmed against his chest, and she tried to push him away, but he pushed again. Suddenly he was inside her, his massive length buried deep and hard.
Through a shimmer of bewildered tears, she caught a glimpse of his stunned face. "Vivien, be still," he said harshly, but she struggled and twisted, pinned helplessly beneath him.
Astonished by the tightness of the flesh that surrounded him, her obvious pain, and the inevitable conclusion his brain was reaching, Grant moved automatically to subdue her, and prevent her further discomfort.
"You're hurting me," she gasped.
Holding her tightly, he murmured soothing words against her ear, that he loved her, he would take care of her, he would take the pain away if she would let him. Gradually she relaxed and clung to him, her nails digging into the tough muscles of his back. Still joined with her, he slid his hand down her body. His thumb eased into the damp patch of red hair, coming to rest lightly on the sensitive peak hidden amid the fiery curls. He circled it slowly, teasing a response from her trembling body.
Moaning, she lifted her h*ps into the caress, and he knew that her discomfort was fading. He continued to tease and stroke her, and at the same time, he moved inside her with a deep, gentle nudge. Vivien cried out, her body instinctively tilting to receive him, her hands working restlessly over his back. He began a slow rhythm, adjusting himself to please her, his entire being focused on the delight of thrusting within her. She cl**axed with startling swiftness, her body clenching tight around him, her limbs quaking with surprise. As he held himself inside her, Grant experienced a release more powerful than anything he had experienced in his life. He groaned and buried his face against the curve of her shoulder, his groin pumping, his pulse hammering, his body flooded with luxury.
In the heavy silence that followed, Grant withdrew from Vivien carefully and found a tell-tale sign that defied all logic. Perplexed, remorseful, furious at himself, Grant faced a fact he would never have believed without physical proof.
She was--or had been until this moment--a virgin.
Staring into Vivien's dazed face, Grant shook his head incredulously. She fumbled for the sheet and pulled it over herself, returning his gaze with a mixture of confusion and suspense. He rested his hand on the shape of her hip, and though she flinched, she did not push him away.
"Why did it hurt like that?" she asked scratchily.
He did not answer immediately, his mind occupied with a slew of questions. "Because you were a virgin," he finally said.
"But...I couldn't have been. I...I'm Vivien Duvall...am I not? You told me..." She stopped speaking, staring up at him with amazement.
"Christ," he muttered to himself, trying to understand how he could have made an error of such magnitude. "You can't be Vivien."