At odd times throughout the last two days, memories of the time in the grotto would surface, making Annal¨ªa blush uncontrollably. Actually, at most times. It was happening now, as she rocked along in the warm coach trapped with a man so intense she could feel him three feet away.
Worse, whenever she replayed the events of that night, she wanted to repeat them, no matter how sharp her shame was. What they'd done had only served to make her cravings for him a thousand times worse. She wanted to go back to that night and take what he had offered. She wanted to go back and give him what he seemed to need.
But even he must think that her actions were bad. Not so ladylike, he'd said when she answered that she wanted more - and she thought he'd...laughed. A barbaric Scot had teased free the fire in her blood, and then had ridiculed her reaction. Her behavior must have been wildly amiss. Why else would he continue to take the chair or the floor without a word of protest when they stopped for the night? Why else would he not even bother to try to seduce her again? Before, he'd always found excuses to touch her, was always staring at her, and now he'd stopped.
Each night she lay awake waiting, hoping he would take the bed again. Because then she could rebuff him! Yet nothing happened, nothing but mounting exhaustion and disappointment for her.
Last night, she'd realized, miserably, that she'd never planned to rebuff him.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Why should she be surprised? One couldn't escape one's fate. She'd tried so hard, been the opposite of what everyone expected of her. She'd tried, and all because of some rough Highlander's seduction, she'd failed. A seduction that vanished as if never there.
These thoughts made her head hurt, so she leaned against the coach side near the window and tried to sleep. She needed to make up for two nights without, and a breeze was blowing in the window. Sunlight teased her face through the tree leaves. Wonderful....
When Annal¨ªa woke a short time later, she blinked her eyes to focus. Feeling heavy in her body, feverish, she glanced down, saw his huge hand slowly stroking her nipple through her blouse.
"Sleep well?" he said, his voice rumbling against her ear.
She scrambled away. More awake, she realized she'd been lying half on his lap, clutching his shirt. On the opposite seat.
While she marshaled her scattered wits, determining the most effective way to curse him for touching her while she slept, he said, "You talk in your sleep."
"I do not!"
"Aye. Just now and every night I've spent with you."
How humiliating! She smoothed her hair in place, checked her choker, then crossed her arms over her sensitive breasts. "You shouldn't have...petted me while I was unaware!" she cried. "I know you are not a gentleman but this...this...It wasn't fair."
"Doona speak to me about what's no' fair. It's no' fair that I canna stop."
He couldn't stop? Well, he had for the last fifty-nine hours. Or so. Oh, she was sorry off - Wait, he made it sound like it was her fault? How dare he turn it around? "I want you to apologize."
He curled his lips into a shadow of a grin, dismissing the idea so easily. "I'll never be sorry for that. Besides, you pressed against me, rubbing my chest and lower. Saying soft words in Catalan - "
"What did I say?" she asked, her voice shrill. Probably begging him to make love to her. She was so common!
"It's a wee bit dirty. Are you sure you want me to repeat it?"
"No!" she said, glad for a way out. "But I still don't accept that I did these things."
"Aye, you did them, as soon as I carried you onto my lap where you belonged, you started to."
Her jaw slackened. "You have no shame!"
"Annal¨ªa, we canna go on like this. I know why you're mad at me - "
"I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at myself," she lied, because actually she was furious with both of them.
"How's that? There's no way you can blame yourself."
"Of course, I can blame myself. It's just as you said. I wasn't behaving like a lady."
He glanced away and muttered, "If you knew how many times I've kicked myself..." Bringing his gaze to hers again, he said, "Anna, if anyone's to blame, it's me. That night I coaxed you into doing something you would no' normally do. Remember? I'm the ruthless bastard. I pushed you into it."
She shook her head insistently. He had no idea how much she wanted him to touch her. How even now she craved it -
"Have you done what we did with another man?"
"Then it was me. My doing." He sounded so confident.
"You've done this with a lot of women?"
He didn't answer, just continued to watch her face.
Other women. No doubt many other women. Like the women who stared at him on the street. Why did that make her furious? Scaldingly furious?
"Anna, I'm past thirty years of age. I have no' lived my life as a monk."
Bastard! She was just one of many. But she would never think of another man as she did him. In the grotto, before her humiliation, she'd felt wonder and awe. The feelings he'd given her were indescribable.
"I'm twenty-one, and apparently I have!" A thought occurred to her. If she was to be cursed with memories of him, he deserved no less. She wanted him to long for her above all the others - above all the shopkeepers and barmaids and farmers' daughters, the entire hateful legion she'd dreamed up - when they parted ways. She wanted to be better than all the rest.
Instinctively, she thought she could....
When his voice grew husky and he said, "I want my next kiss," she met his gaze.
"Then take it," she heard herself murmur.
He appeared surprised, just before he cupped her neck with one hand and grabbed her waist with the other, pulling her to him. With an "Oh!" she realized he was drawing her directly back onto his lap. When he had her positioned on him, he put his hands on her shoulders to rub his thumbs over the sides of her neck.
"This is getting in the way, lass," he said as he began unfastening her choker.
"Oh, wait, you can't just - "
"I'll keep it safe for now." He carefully rolled it up and placed it in his trouser pocket.
She was about to say more, but he began massaging her up and down her back. Yet even when her lids grew heavy, he didn't kiss her. Again, she got the impression he was relishing that he was about to.
"MacCarrick," she said plaintively, shocking herself. It was all the prodding he needed. He leaned her back over his arm and settled her lips beneath his. His other arm brushed over her sensitive nipples, and she moaned against him. He stilled his body, as if deciding something, then brought his hand up to grasp her breast. Another moan. Soon his hand on her breast felt vital, as if she'd beg for it if he took it away.
As he kissed her deeply, stroking her tongue with his own, he palmed her, running his hands over the material of her blouse. When she writhed against him, she felt his manhood beneath her bottom, huge, jutting from his groin. But he drew back. Her thinking was so muddled, her craving for his lips back on hers intense, and beneath her...all heat and hardness. She remembered how good he'd felt in the grotto growing harder and larger directly in her hand.
She felt air on her chest, followed by his hot breath.
How had he bared her? Her blouse open, he tugged down the gauzy material of her chemise, uncovering her breasts. He stared, eyes intent.
Two nights ago, there'd been the music, wine, and darkness, but this was daylight. She could feel herself blushing from her chest up to her face and began to scramble up. "No, Anna, let me see you." He brushed the back of his hand over one breast, then the other, as if reverently. He grated some foreign word, but the way he said it...
"I-I don't know. MacCarrick - ?" She watched his brows draw together as he bent his head to her. And cried out when he dragged his tongue over her nipple. An urgent groaning sound came from him as he set to her breasts, licking the peaks as he had in the grotto. Who had ever heard of this before?
He closed his mouth on one and drew. Her back arched from the pleasure, her bottom grinding against him. He raised his face and grated, "Still, lass. You canna know what you're doin' tae me."
She stiffened. "Am I hurting you?"
"Aye. Terribly." His face was solemn, deadly serious when he said, "You usually do."
When she didn't relax, he cupped her other breast and suckled.
"But I don't want to hurt you," she said between panting breaths. She meant it - she didn't like the idea of him hurting, and hated that she caused it.
Against her wet nipple, he rasped, "It will no' much longer."
Cool air on her legs. His palm rubbed its way up her thigh, well past her garters and higher.... She stiffened in his arms and pushed at his hand. He lowered it, but still caressed her thigh.
"I need tae touch you."
He put his lips to her earlobe and flicked his tongue against her.
His hand inched higher. "Let me touch you there."
"I can't. You'll be cruel to me."
"Never," he bit out.
"You were before."
"Cruel? I was no' tryin' tae be. But you are now." His brogue was growing thicker.
"I am not!"
"If you knew how much I want my fingers against you...You've got me at your mercy, Anna. I'd give anythin' right now." He pressed his face down against her breasts, nipped at the peaks, making her shoot up in his arms before he soothed her back down. "Name anything."
He wanted this that badly? "Anything?"
"Right now I'd give my land, I'd sell my soul."
"Only touching? Nothing more?"
"I'll only do what you want me tae."
She was about to be embarrassed. He should be vulnerable as well. "Then I-I want to feel you, too - without your trousers - "
In an instant, and amid a fierce groan, he set her beside him. He looked to her and then nodded to his groin. When she stared helplessly at his erection straining against his trousers - how exactly did one begin this? - he twisted loose the waist fastening. He seemed to be preparing for something as he glanced around to snag a seat cushion. He placed it behind her, then eased her back, hooking the hems of her skirts with his thumbs and raising them to her waist. Again a palm against her thighs, massaging her resistance away.
Her chest was bare - his should be as well. She unbuttoned his shirt, and just when she'd finished, he guided her hand past the loosened waist of his trousers, inside them...until she fully touched his erection skin to skin. He closed his eyes and shuddered, and it pulsed in her hand just as all the muscles in his chest and torso contracted.
She was overwhelmed by how hot it was, how hard and big. He groaned deep, then roughly pushed her palm lower until she cupped him. Another foreign word hissed out like a curse.
Just as she flung her head to the side, looking away in embarrassment and amazement, she felt the most peculiar sensation. His fingers skimmed the slit in her pantalettes.
When he'd removed the locked grip on her hand, she placed her palm around his erection and was squeezing him, nervous. Just when she thought he'd finally feel her, he took both sides of her pantalettes and ripped. She sputtered, outraged, until she felt his fingers brushing over her sex. She moaned and her head fell back. The pad of one finger traced her. He would feel how wet she'd grown....
"Anna," he said with a growl. She tried to close her knees, but his hips had found their way between them. "Do you know what this does tae me? Tae feel you so wet? I've dreamed of this." His eyes caught hers, preventing her from looking away even when he said, "Tonight I'll taste you," just as his finger eased into her.
Taste? She moaned low in her throat, adoring the surprising feel of his finger, of the filling sensation, only comprehending she was still squeezing him when he bucked against her palm. With every push of his hips against her hand, his finger delved into her at the same time. When she realized he was doing this on purpose, as if he were imagining his hardness pressing inside her or forcing her to imagine it, she stroked him hectically to make him go faster.
He leaned down and put the tip of his tongue against her breast, flicking the crest, wetting one, then the other. She watched enthralled, never ceasing her hand on him. Then another, new feeling. Somehow he touched her inside and then rubbed and teased another part of her with his thumb. This made her breaths shallow, made her legs fall open.
"Yes, spread your legs wider for me."
She did, because he wanted it but also because the instinct was there. She needed to be open to him. She needed to say things to him, lurid things, thanking him for the wondrous acts he was doing to her, telling him how much he was pleasing her. She'd never felt such gratitude to another....
"Anna, I lose my mind when I'm with you."
"Yes!" she said, completely understanding. She couldn't call up a single reason why he shouldn't be resting between her legs, fondling her sex, with her skirts up to her ears.
"You want me tae," he said, as if he didn't quite believe it.
She nodded eagerly, not knowing what she was agreeing to. Just wanting to agree with anything he was saying since he was giving her so much.
His languid eyes widened, and in seconds he'd freed himself completely, looming above her, never slowing his fingers on her sex. He hung there, heavy and thick and magnificent, the muscles of his chest and stomach sharp as they tapered down, and all she comprehended was that she had to have her hand back on it.
She grasped him, and he threw his head back and yelled out. The strength of his reaction made the building tension inside her suddenly spike. "Oh, D¨¦u!" she cried.
He faced her again and grated, "Come for me. I want tae feel you."
She moaned as her hips rolled against his clever fingers. Reason was lost. The tension exploded. As she arched her back, she heard his heavy breaths, felt them on her tight nipples, felt him drawing out her pleasure. Her body squeezed the finger inside her, needing it. She went wild, her hands on him everywhere.
When his touch became languorous, circling her, seeming to revel in the wetness, she opened her eyes, found herself still slowly stroking him.
"I wanted all of you, but I canna hold on. Will you help finish me for now?"
Whatever that meant. When she nodded, too content to do more, he raised her until she sat up against the side of the coach, then shrugged from his shirt to spread it over her dress at her lap. "Take me again." At once, she did.
He put one hand against the coach wall above her to lean over her, then fit his other hand around hers, his large fingers encircling hers and his manhood in a crushing grip below them. Tightly, shockingly so. It would bruise, possibly even break right there beneath her fingers....
Then he moved his hand, and her hand, along the length just as his hips pumped forward. He swore in a deep, broken voice when his hips met their hands, his gaze never leaving her breasts, her neck, her face.
Annal¨ªa watched, bewildered, as their hands moved forward and then slammed back once more. The pressure increased.
His breaths were ragged. Low, tortured sounds broke from his throat. "Arch your back," he ordered and she did. He leaned down to suckle her, only freeing her to grate, "Anna, I'm about tae come - " His mouth returned, but this time his teeth pinched her nipple, and she cried out with pleasure.
The coach skidded to a stop.
He released her hand and nipple, though he rubbed his face over her breast desperately before he hissed a harsh curse and drew back. When he forced his huge, swollen member into his trousers, he looked in more pain than with any of his injuries before. He inhaled deeply, then exhaled in shudders several times as if he was getting himself under control. "We are no' finished with this," he rasped, his voice hoarse.
She quickly shook her head, but he studied her expression as if he didn't quite trust that she'd resume what they were doing.
Just after he shuddered again, he somehow remembered to smooth down her skirts for her as she pulled her blouse back in place. He opened the carriage door and bellowed, "Why the bloody hell have we stopped?" He sounded on the verge of violence.
The driver called down, "A tree's blocking the road. Probably from the storms earlier in the week."
MacCarrick slammed the door. "God damn it!" He reached for his bag and gave her a warning look. "I want you to stay down."
"Wh-What is it?"
"Rechazados. With bloody, bloody bad timing."
The rage Court felt that someone would seek to hurt her was nearly blinding. No, kill her. And he was the only thing preventing it. If he didn't get cold like he used to be, they'd both be dead.
So busy in her skirts that he wasn't aware of the danger they were in.
He snared his pistol and a bag of coin, retrieved his shirt with a bitter curse, then donned it and his jacket with more bullets in the pockets. "Down, Anna," he ordered again, as he snatched his rifle from the overhanging net, then stormed out of the carriage, shirt still unbuttoned. He didn't bother to duck or cower, but strode to the front. Ducking wouldn't make a damn bit of difference with them, just would be the last thing you were doing when you got killed.
"Turn the carriage around."
The driver nodded, obviously shocked at Court's tone. Court stuffed the pistol into his pocket, then tossed the bag to him. "This is a quarter of what you'll get if you get her to safety until I return."
While he hefted the bag and said, "A quarter?" Court worked the lever on his rifle, laying it over his shoulder in readiness. He stalked up to the now skittish horses to snag a bridle, helping the driver work the coach around.
The first shot rang out, whizzing past his head. The horses shrieked but didn't bolt.
Court took aim at where the shot had originated and fired, then pumped the lever to fire three more times. With a second of time bought, he climbed the block as the driver prepared to flee, then in a low voice gave him new directions.
Court was just climbing down when two shots pitted the coach roof. Anna screamed, "MacCarrick, please come back!"
Now. Now he went cold.
The driver snapped his whip, and Court dropped down to return a shot of his own. He heard Anna scream again before they turned the corner.