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Page 76

“I’ll need help with the buttons again,” Violet said, her look shy.

No trouble. Daniel’s breathing was unsteady as Violet turned and presented her back to him. Daniel slid next to her on the sofa and undid the buttons, one by one.

Her bare back came into view above the corset. Daniel ran his hand across her skin. Soft, smooth. He kissed it.

Violet had stripped off the gloves, and now pushed down the front of the gown as she stood up. With great care, she slid out of the skirt and bodice and laid the gown on the other sofa, along with the gloves.

She sat down again in her corset and petticoats, her shoulders and arms bare, and looked at Daniel. “You might get your shirt dirty as well.”

“Aye.” Daniel unfastened his collar and the shirt, pulling them off, then got out of his undershirt as well. He liked the way Violet’s gaze flicked to his chest then to the tattoo on his arm.

Violet’s look was still shy, but she forked up a strawberry, covered it in chocolate, and offered it to Daniel. Daniel licked the thread of chocolate that spilled down from it, then drew the berry into his mouth. He smiled at Violet as he chewed, tasting sweet, bright strawberry and smooth, rich chocolate.

“My turn.” Daniel prepared another strawberry, but he held it away as Violet reached for it with her mouth. He let the chocolate snake across her collarbone before he tucked the strawberry between her lips.

As she feasted on the strawberry, Daniel leaned down and licked her collarbone clean.

Chocolate and Violet. A wonderful combination. He felt the swallow in her throat, and kissed it.

When he looked up at her, she was smiling, her eyes relaxed. She’d plucked up another strawberry with her fork while he’d savored her, and now she loaded it with chocolate. She held the fork over Daniel and let chocolate swirl deliberately over his bare shoulders.

The chocolate was warm and tickled. “Oh yes?” Daniel asked when Violet sat back and ate the strawberry herself. “And what are you going to do about that?” He pointed at the wavy line of chocolate.

Violet hesitated a moment, not looking at him, then she very slowly leaned to him. She stilled for a long time, her breath brushing his skin, before she completed the move and touched her tongue to the chocolate.

Daniel smothered a groan. He let his hand come up to the back of her neck, his body tightening as Violet licked across his shoulder.

With any other woman, Daniel would end the playing at once, lay her down on the carpet, get rid of the rest of their clothes, and consummate what they’d started.

But no other woman was Violet. The story she’d told him last night had made Daniel furious but also made him understand how fragile she was. He didn’t want to frighten her away, destroying what little trust he’d already gained from her. But proceeding slowly was fine. If it took Daniel the rest of his life to seduce her, so be it.

Violet raised her head, chocolate on her mouth. Daniel kissed it off, slowly imbibing the sweet chocolate from her plump, warm lips.

“My turn,” he said.

Daniel took his time drawing a curlicue design across her chest, giving her a slow smile as he let the chocolate dip between her br**sts. He fed Violet the strawberry before he gently lowered her to the sofa and started savoring her.

Violet’s hand came up to land on his shoulder, fingers tight. Then her fingers relaxed, as though she’d thought to stop him then determined to enjoy what he did. Daniel slowly kissed her breast, sucking a little to rid it of chocolate, leaving a tiny mark behind, his mark.

Beautiful, sweet Violet. He’d never met anyone like her. He was falling in love with her, and he didn’t even know her last name.

Daniel raised his head and kissed her mouth. He tasted the strawberries on her tongue, the dark tang of chocolate. The kiss was unhurried, exploring.

Violet was sensuality itself, in her white linen corset against the blue of the sofa, her br**sts rising over the corset, her hair coming down, her blue eyes dark in the dimly lit room.

“She walks in beauty, like the night,” Daniel said.

“We’re not walking, we’re lying on the sofa.” Violet’s smile spoke of a night of drinking champagne. “And we are being very naughty.”

“Oh, are we?” Daniel traced her lips, which bore a faint ring of chocolate. “I think we could be even naughtier.”

“So do I.”

Violet’s smile was inviting, but Daniel saw the flicker of fear return to her eyes. She’d built a wall to keep her panic at bay, and he saw the worry in her that the wall would crumble at the slightest touch.

“Violet.” Daniel rested his crossed arms on her br**sts. “When you’re not afraid of me—truly not afraid—you tell me. All right?”

Violet drew a sharp breath, but she nodded.

Daniel touched her cheek. “Remember what I told you? You need slow goodness, not to rush. You and me, we have all the time in the world.”

He saw her skeptical little frown and pressed his finger to her lips, stilling her answer. “Even if you don’t believe me, I believe me,” he said. “You and I will tear apart this town. In the meantime . . .” Daniel sat up again and reached for the bowl of chocolate. “I plan to get you very messy.” He took the spoon from the bowl and let a huge dollop of chocolate fall on her chest.

Violet squealed, then laughed. She put her hand into the bowl, scooped up chocolate onto her fingers, and smeared it across his pectorals.

Daniel’s eyes widened. “Och, if that’s the way you want to play it . . .” He grabbed the chocolate bowl, discarded the spoon, and started smearing chocolate on her with his hands.

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