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Page 65

“You’re not making any sense,” Violet stammered.

“That’s because I’m dying for you, and my thoughts are a bit incoherent.”

Daniel didn’t look as though he were dying. His fingers were steady as he unbuttoned her drawers, his gaze holding Violet’s.

Swiftly and competently, Daniel slid the drawers down over her hips. In no time at all, Violet found herself sitting bare bottomed on the sofa, her skirt hiked up over her knees.

She automatically grabbed her skirt and petticoats to pull them down again. Daniel caught her hands, kissed them, then set them to either side of her while he pushed her skirts all the way up to bare her thighs.

Now the panic started to come. Violet clutched his hands. “Daniel.”

The red-bearded man had done this—pushed up her skirts, though he’d ripped open her drawers instead of politely unbuttoning them. Violet had thought the cloth tearing from her had hurt, but she’d been unprepared for the searing pain that followed.

“Violet,” Daniel said, his voice cutting through the fog. “You’re not there. You’re here. With me. On the sofa in my somewhat untidy flat. And I’ve got you, sweetheart.”

Yes. She was here. With Daniel. Far from the trivia of her daily life, the endless need to keep busy, busy, so she could forget.

“Keep me here,” Violet pleaded.

“I will. I promise you.”

Daniel gently extricated himself from her grip, smoothed his hand over the top of her knee, and kissed it. “I want you to do something for me. Imagine something very”—he kissed her other knee—“sensual. The most sensual thing you can think of. One that pleases you, not one you think would please me. Keep it locked inside yourself. You don’t have to tell me what it is if you don’t want to.”

Sensual. Violet strove to calm her breathing as she thought. The most sensual image she could call to mind was . . . Daniel.

Daniel lying on the floor of an empty bedroom, his hands behind his head as he laughed up at her. Daniel sitting up, cross-legged, his eyes narrowing as he closed his lips around a black cigarette.

Daniel’s hand on Violet’s waist, daring her to take the cigarette and put her lips where his had been . . . He’d watched her with eyes the color of dark whiskey, as he watched her now.

Violet snapped back to the present. She realized Daniel had moved his thumbs to her bare opening, drawing them along the slickness there.

Violet went still, breath catching. Daniel stroked lightly, barely touching her, but the contact was there. The watery sensation of it made her dizzy.

“Sensual,” Daniel repeated. “Close your eyes. Hold on to those thoughts. No others.”

Easy to say. No one had ever touched her there except the red-bearded man long ago, and he hadn’t exactly touched her. Pried, forced her apart, hurt her. Nothing like Daniel caressing her as though he cherished her.

Violet couldn’t stop her trembling, but she closed her eyes again. She forced her mind back to Daniel in the bedroom, his smile when she showed him she wasn’t afraid to take the cigarette, his look of satisfaction when he leaned down and tasted the smoke on her lips.

Her thoughts switched to waking up next to Daniel in the inn, the warm scent of him in the bed with her. How he’d slid his hand so carefully inside her nightdress to tenderly cup her breast. He’d moved over her, giving her the deep, intimate kiss before the innkeeper’s wife had come in with breakfast.

Violet’s imagination took it further. In her fantasy, they stayed in the bed together, no innkeeper’s wife interrupting. Violet would close her arms around Daniel, running her hands down his body, bare beneath his nightshirt. She’d find the warmth of his backside, lift the nightshirt to touch him.

Dimly, in the present, Violet felt Daniel’s fingers stroking her, touching her. Then another warmth, his breath on her thighs.

Violet’s eyes sprang open. Daniel held Violet’s skirts out of his way as he kissed her left thigh, his unshaved whiskers brushing her skin. He touched her opening again then lifted his hand away and replaced it with his mouth.

Violet sucked in a sharp breath. What . . . ? She went stiff, tight, uncertain.

Daniel parted her legs, but carefully, kind hands on Violet’s thighs. He kissed her, breath as hot as she was, and then his tongue . . .

A groan escaped her lips. Daniel licked her, kissed her again. He chuckled. “Close your eyes, sweet. Lie back. Think about whatever you were thinking. You were obviously enjoying it.”

Violet stared down at him a moment longer. She’d never dreamed a man would think of doing this, but her education in such matters was lacking. After what had happened to her, she’d shut herself off from all interest in what men did to women.

Daniel was rapidly taking away her blinders.

Violet leaned back on the arm of the sofa, forcing her body to soften. What Daniel did didn’t hurt, didn’t frighten her. It was more . . .

She had no idea. The feeling amazed her. All Violet knew was that when she closed her eyes again, Daniel said, “That’s my good lass,” and leaned to her.

He flicked his tongue over her opening, first rapidly, then slowly. He licked, nipped, tasted, then slid his tongue inside her.

Violet tried to go back to her fantasies, but all she could picture was herself and Daniel in the big bed at the inn, both of them damp with warmth and sleep. In her vision, he slid down her body, pushed up her nightdress, parted her legs, and did exactly what he did to her now.

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