Archie shivered as the sweat
cooled on his bare skin. Raising his head, he brushed his lips over the
soft white shoulder that was turned to him, and felt it chill and
smooth as marble. With his free arm, he reached down to carefully draw
the tangle of sheets and covers up over them both.
"Mm. Better," she sighed.
"I thought you were sleeping," he
whispered, burying his nose in the crook of her shoulder. Her hair was
springy and soft against his cheek; the wayward strands curling up to
tickle his nose. His scent was all over her, and he breathed it in
through his mouth in gulps, like a wild animal. He wrapped his arms
around her and held her close, bringing his knees up under hers so that
the entire lengths of their bodies touched, her sleek back molded to
his chest, her small, soft bottom pressed into the curve of his belly.
"I have to go," he sighed, and the
sound was distressed, like a soft moan of despair.
"It's all right. A few minutes
"Tomorrow," he whispered.
"Tomorrow, I have to go."
The past few days had been as
timeless, as unreal as a dream, and he felt he had wandered through
them almost as a man asleep, his responses slowed, his wits dulled. The
conversations of others were muted, his surroundings blurred, as if he
looked at them through a watery glass. Only she was real. She filled
his vision; the sound of her voice rang in his head and vibrated in his
chest. In every waking moment his muscles, his bones, his blood knew
the feel of her body as if laid over with an enveloping cloak of her.
How could everyone not know? How
could they look at him and not see the flush of knowing, the fever
brightness of his eyes? Riding out with the ladies that morning to view
the old castle ruins he was astonished that everyone could behave so
normally. He watched her, riding ahead, side-by-side with Alice,
laughing and chatting as if the world was just the same as it had
She wore a riding costume of deep
red wool, decorated down the front of the bodice and along the long,
tight sleeves with scores of tiny gilt buttons. The close tailoring
emphasized her exquisite slenderness; her waist looked impossibly tiny,
the whole of her completely irresistible---and maddeningly desirable.
As the party passed through the relative darkness of a thick stand of
woods, he fantasized wildly about catching her up and pulling her down
from the back of the pony. As the others rode on, unawares, he would
lay her down on the deep, fragrant, moss of the forest floor. With his
mouth, he would muffle her little protests, and with his hands, he
would push those perfectly tailored skirts up, and up and then, oh
then, she would cry out for him as he buried himself yet again between
her long, snow-white thighs.
Tonight, as she lay, very real,
sated and sweet in his arms, he had boldly confessed his fancy.
"How very exciting," she
whispered, running the tip of her forefinger over the line of his
mouth. "I think I should have liked that very much!"
He laughed. "Why do I think you
seriously would? You'd dare anything, wouldn't you?"
In the near darkness, he could
scarcely see her smile. "Certainly, there was a time when I would
have," she said, after a moment. "But no more. As dearly as I
love a gamble, I have learned that sometimes the risk is simply too
"Mm." He mused. "And bedding the
younger brother of your dearest friend, I don't suppose…?"
She giggled. "My dear love, I am
only human! A woman can only withstand so much in the way of
temptation. You have heard of Eve?"
"What on earth does that mean?"
Archie inquired. "The devil! Don't tell me you find a thrill in
seducing me right under Alice's nose!" More giggling. Impatiently, he
seized her wrists, and holding them above her head on the pillows, gave
her a little shake. "George!"
"I won't deny it does add a
certain spice," she said silkily, running her foot up the inside of his
calf. "But confess, Archie. Is it not the same for you? Tell me you
would not secretly love for your brother to know you've had me."
"I would not---!" he started to
protest, then sighed sheepishly. "It isn't anything like the same
thing," he said quietly. "You love Alice."
"Yes, I do." She tried to lower
her arms, and he released her immediately. With cool fingers, she
pushed the soft, waving strands of loose hair off his face. He could
almost feel, rather than see her smiling at him in the dark. He wanted
her again. He always wanted her. It would never stop, would never go
away. How was he going to leave her?
Justinian was another world, a million miles, a hundred years
away. How would he ever live?
"Already," she said, "I think you
know me almost better than I know myself. How can I explain myself,
Archie? I do love Alice. What can I say? She is so good and I am so…"
she laughed again. "Not!"
"Ah," Archie said. "It's that itch
of yours is it?"
"Exactly," she purred. "You see,
you do know me." Silky arms crept round his shoulders. "Inside and out."
"And I still can't decide which I
love best." He placed his lips over the spot behind her ear where the
blood pulsed and the skin was so fine, he could almost taste its
salt-metal tang. Her hands roamed languidly over his shoulders and
back. He was iron hard again, already. He shifted himself, imagining
ruefully that if he did not, he might just break the thing in half
against her hipbone!
"Sweet Archie," she sighed,
seeming to ignore, for now, the hot weight that lay upon her inner
thigh. "Have no fear. In truth, I would rather die than hurt Alice. Or
you, my angel. Think: if all I wanted to do was cause a stir, I'd
have done better to have seduced Alistair!"
"Gawd!" he burst out laughing, in
spite of his distracting discomfort.
"Caroline would have me drawn and
quartered!" she crowed happily.
"Oh, I think she'd want to do the
honors herself," Archie said. "Some things can't be left to servants!
After all, it is next to impossible to find good help in this day!"
"Quite right!" George responded.
"And she'd want to find a good, dull knife for the disemboweling!"
"Knife? She'd use her bare hands!"
As if to illustrate, he jabbed his fingers into her ribs suddenly and
began running them up and down her heaving sides. She gasped and began
squirming desperately, trying vainly to escape the assault.
"Oh! Oh, Archie don't! I cannot
bear to be tickled!"
"It's the least you deserve!" he
teased, delving mercilessly into the slightly damp, delicate place
under her arms. "You wicked thing! Despoiling my innocence for your own
"But I deny it! Oh, stop! Archie,
I mean it! Oh!" She bucked hard underneath him and managed to throw him
off just enough to allow her to roll onto her stomach and wriggle out
from under him. Laughing, he pounced on her yet again, pinning her to
"Ooph!" Pressed face-down into the
thick feather tick, her voice was muffled. "Er-aw-ing eee!"she squawked.
"Pardon?" he inquired innocently.
"Et ongh un ee!" The feel of her
under him, wriggling and squirming, her little buttocks riding snugly
against his hips, was terribly exciting. He raised his upper body a
bit, so as not to squash her completely, but at the same time he
pressed his throbbing manhood rather urgently against the backs of her
Breathless, she raised her
shoulders as best she could, and turned her face to the side. "Are you
going to let me up, sir?" she demanded.
"Shall I?" he whispered. Inspired,
he raised his hips a little, allowing his heavy, swollen member to drag
slowly along the crease of her buttocks. A tiny mew escaped her lips.
"Oh, does that tickle?" he asked.
He rose up on her, deliberately letting the pulsing tip of the heated
rod skim the velvety backs of her thighs. Back and forth, up and down.
"Devil," she sighed, laying her
head upon her folded arms. From somewhere, a tiny gleam of light caught
the sparkle of her eye.
"You called me your angel." He
bent and softly kissed the back of her neck, her shoulders, the smooth,
fragrant plane between the blades. Her hair fanned dark upon the white
linen. Her form beneath him was but an outline of pale, glowing flesh
and enticing shadows. Gently, he pressed his knee between her thighs,
pushing her legs apart.
"What are you doing?" she asked
"I don't know," he replied softly.
"Learning?" Holding himself above her with one arm, he let his hand
slide between her legs, seeking out the damp, spongy burrow, and when
he found it, allowed his long middle finger to slip inside the folds,
going deep into the warm, slithery passage. Pushing in, and in, he
marveled at the feel of the muscular walls surrounding him with tiny
contractions as he made his tender explorations.
Slowly, he stroked inside her with
long, deep, even thrusts that mimicked the way he would move inside her
when their bodies were joined. Her body trembled. He listened to her
quickening breath. She wanted him; she was excited for him, he knew.
The very idea made him groan and he swelled even more, throbbing
against the downy softness of her legs.
"Mmmmm," she let out a long,
keening sigh as she raised her bottom a little, tilting her sex a
little upward, arching like a cat having it's back stroked. He let the
finger slip out of her and glide forward along the slippery crease to
gently caress the curiously swollen little knot of flesh she had told
him was as sensitive as his own cock.
"Oh, yes, Archie," she whispered
hotly. "Oh, go on, darling!" She pushed herself up a little on her
hands and spread her legs further, offering herself. It seemed to him
that he could easily enter her in this position, and the sight of her
round little white bottom thrusting up at him in such a way was almost
too great a temptation. He ran his hands up over the smooth whiteness,
dipping in to the narrow curve of her waist. Leaning in, he bent
forward. The ends of his hair slithered along the valley of her spine.
"George," he whispered through
gritted teeth as the tip of his painfully swollen manhood grazed her
warm, slick seam.
"Yes, oh yes!" she answered him,
and he did not wait. Drawing back his hips and guiding himself with one
hand, he plunged, filling her in one smooth thrust, gasping as he sank
to the hilt. Georgiana arched and threw back her head, and the image of
Malcolm's snuffbox, the painting of lady with the tiger, flashed in his
mind. Like the tiger, he wanted to roar his triumph.
He felt huge and masterful; the
angle of his penetration allowed him to go deeper, to feel every soft,
sucking, steaming inch of her as he had never done before.
"Ohh…God!" His arms tightened
around her waist to pull her up, tightly into his groin. He was never
going to last; his buttocks contracted reflexively and he bucked
against her wildly, unable to find his control. He held onto her as if
for dear life, breathing raggedly.
Be still, he thought, closing his
eyes. Just for a moment, be still.
He drew a long breath. And began
to move again. More slowly this time, but damned if she didn't make it
difficult for him as he tried to find his measure, rocking back against
him, moving her saucy little rear ever so slightly from side to side in
the most maddeningly provoking way.
Her hand groped for his, moving it
from her waist and pushing it down along her belly, between her legs.
Obligingly he cupped the soft little mound, pressing with the palm of
his hand as he rode her, pumping harder now, and now faster, and faster.
"Yes, yes, yes," she panted in a
quick rhythm, matching his pace. She urged him on. Harder. Faster. He
knew her now. He could feel when she was near. With his fingers he
parted her soft, swollen nether lips to expose her hot little nub.
"Yes?" he whispered, giving it a
tiny flick with one fingertip, and then circling, stroking, in time
with his pounding thrusts.
"Yes!" she cried and laughed as
she exploded all around him. "Oh! You devil!"
With a raw groan he sank deep
inside her. He closed his eyes, and once again the emotion that ripped
through him was all at once the most overwhelming joy and the most
sublime agony. When he cried his own release, he knew he was her
willing captive. Once more, her smell covered him, the power of her
attraction marked him. He had felt the master, but no more. He had her
in his hold, but it was she who held him.
He was lost.
"Tomorrow," she echoed him.
He said nothing. In all of his
life, he had almost never cried, but now he did feel close to tears.
"Archie?" The bedclothes rustled
as she turned in his arms and snuggled close, slipping her arms around
He swallowed. "Mm?"
"You do know that I was teasing
you, don't you? About Alice?" She kissed his chin. "I think you must
know that not everything you have heard about me is true," she said.
"Although some of it is."
"I don't want to know." Truly, he
did not. The thought of her doing the things she did with him, lying,
as she did now in the arms of any other man filled him with the pain of
jealousy and grief. He did not want to think beyond this bed, this
room, this moment, this hour. There was no time but now, no other but
"Your sweet sister saved my life,"
George said. "She kept me from destroying myself. She showed me the
true cost was not to me alone and that I did have good reason not to
throw my life away completely, as desperate and as alone as I felt I
He was not certain he wanted even
to hear this confession. To know of her pain made his own heart ache
and this, along with the sure and dreadful knowledge that very soon he
must leave her, he feared would be more than he could bear. And yet she
desired to give him her confidence. He knew he loved her, and never
again could he turn away.
"You're speaking of your son?" He
"My baby," she sighed.
"Charles. He might hate me yet for reasons I cannot help. He might have
been taken from me, but he is my heir as well as Trim's. The barony of
Keene will go to him after me. Alice convinced me that he needs me
still; he needs to know he has a mother who loves him enough to live
for him, to keep for him what will be his. And I do."
Archie didn't know what to say. He
simply kissed her warm forehead and squeezed her more tightly.
"Would you like to see him?" she
asked. "His likeness, I mean? May I show you?"
"Of course---" Archie replied, but
she was already out of his arms, tossing back the covers and hopping
down lightly from the high bed. He sighed and lay back against the
pillows as her faintly white, naked form disappeared from his view into
the grainy darkness.
When she returned after a few
minutes, she had covered herself with a dark blue silk wrapper and
carried a lighted candle and a rather large, inlaid wooden box. Setting
the candle in the stand beside the bed, she clambered back up beside
"What on earth is all of that?"
Archie asked as she lifted the lid of the box, revealing a curious
assortment of objects arranged in its various velvet-lined compartments.
"Oh, all of my greatest
treasures!" she said. "My lucky charms. I have been collecting them
since I was a little girl. Just now I thought---" she looked up at him,
a bit of a searching look in her deep green eyes. "I thought perhaps
you might like to choose something to take away with you. Not as a
remembrance exactly…because let us be frank, you aren't very likely to
forget, are you?"
She leaned into him, nudging him
with her shoulder, and he could not help a reluctant little laugh. "I
hardly think so." He said.
"Mm. You hardly do a lot of things!" she
She laughed. "Oh, my precious, do
I still shock you? How delightful!"
From the top tier of the box, she
took a little velvet bag, drawn with a silken cord. Turning it upside
down, she let a slim silver case, shaped like a long oval, slide onto
her palm. "Here," she whispered, holding it out to him. "This is
Archie found the tiny clasp on the
side that held the case closed and sprung it, opening it on its
delicate hinges to reveal the interior. He leaned across her lap I
order to hold the miniature a little closer to the light.
The tiny painting was of a little
boy, still a baby, really, dressed in a long, white gown. It was a
beautifully rendered piece of work. The child was chubby, smiling. His
eyes were deep green in a ruddy-cheeked face. Flaming red curls stood
out all over his head.
Archie laughed out loud. "I'd know
"Isn't it marvelous?" George
laughed. "He's Trim's son all right, but no one would know it to look
"Does he take after you in any
"Oh, God, I do hope so!" she
exclaimed, giggling, but then she suddenly grew very quiet. "But I
don't know, Archie. I've never seen him again." She turned her head a
little away from him, tossing back her hair. "I have spies, you know.
They tell me he is happy. They say he is loved. They gave me the name
of the artist who made this picture, and I bribed him to make me a
"George…" he whispered, letting
the case close softly in his hand as he slid his other arm around her.
"Georgiana." She turned her face back to him and gently he kissed her
upturned mouth, tasting the salt of a single tear. For only a moment
she clung to him, then she pulled away, turning her attention to the
wooden box that lay on the bed between them.
"And now," she sniffed. "You must
choose a treasure!"
Pebbles. Seashells. A tiny,
fragile bird's nest. Pieces of colored glass, washed to frosty
translucence by the action of the sand and sea. Hare's feet and
chicken's claws. Coins. Dried flowers and four-leafed clovers wrapped
in crumbling, yellowed bits of paper. Bits of other things wrapped in
still more bits of cloth.
"What's this one?" Archie asked.
At first he thought it was just another beach pebble, but bringing it
out and holding it in his hand he found a large, flattish, pale rose
colored stone that nestled perfectly in his palm. It appeared to have
been formed in the shape of a heart and polished smooth and shiny as
glass. Holding it to the candle he could see that it was run through
with veins, as a piece of marble, but that the veins glittered with the
sheen of bright yellow metal. Gold.
"That," Georgiana explained. "Came
from the very vein of quartz where was discovered a twenty-two ounce
nugget of gold, in Avoca, very near my lands in County Wicklow, in the
year before my son was born. Of course, as is the way of things in
Ireland, there followed a great mad rush to riches, with everyone
leaving their homes and occupations. Had not the harvest already been
gathered in 'twas very likely a famine would have followed! And of
course, also, as is the way of things in Ireland, it happened that the
discovery did not prove commercial."
She laughed. "I lost a little
money on the venture. But I had this little bit of rock made into this
pretty thing. It feels lovely in your hand, doesn't it?"
It did. It was warming in his
palm, and as he slid the pad of his thumb over it's silky smooth
surface, he thought of George, the feel of her skin, the soft, fragile
pink of the tips of her perfect breasts; of his fingers gliding over
the warm, slick softness of her most secret places.
"Take it," she urged him, wrapping
his hand in hers, closing his fingers around the thing. "Not as a
remembrance. Only as something to keep, and to hold. A touchstone."
A curious, somewhat incorrect, but
literal definition. He took her meaning.
"Thank you," he murmured. But it
was only her that he wanted. To keep and to hold and to never let go.
"We will see each other again,
Archie," she said, reading him. She looked into his eyes with an
expression that was almost fierce.
"Don't be afraid," she said. "And
to Part Eight