Anna trembled. To have waited so long for his touch and then suddenly to have his wet tongue tracing the tendon of her neck down to her shoulder was both shocking and wonderful. She gripped his upper arms. His lips ran back and forth on her collarbone, his hot breath raising goose bumps on her skin. Her nipples puckered against the rough lace on her gown.

He slowly pulled down one shoulder of the loose nightdress. The lace caught and dragged over her nipple almost painfully as her breast was exposed. His breathing grew deeper. He shifted his hand from her shoulder to slide a callused palm over her nipple. Anna caught her breath and exhaled raggedly. She’d not been touched by a man there in over six years, and then only by her husband. The heat of his palm almost burned against her cool breast. He rubbed his wide hand back and forth, taking his time to measure her with the span of his fingers. Then he caught the nipple in the crook of his forefinger and thumb and squeezed; at the same time, he bit gently down on her shoulder.

A jolt of exquisite pleasure lanced through Anna, traveling all the way to her woman’s mound. Her belly tensed with excitement. She ran her fingers over his arms, pressing and rubbing, wishing desperately that she could feel his skin under the layers of clothes.

His hair was slightly damp from the mist outside, and she could smell him: sweat and brandy and his own unique male musk. She turned her face toward him, but he pulled his head away. She followed. She wanted to kiss him. But he suddenly pushed down the other shoulder of her gown, distracting her. Without her breasts to hold it up, the gown fell to her feet. She was nude before him. There was a moment when she blinked and began to feel vulnerable, but then he put his mouth to her nipple and licked.

She started. A low, hoarse sound came from her throat.

He licked her other nipple like a cat. Slow, languid strokes that rasped over her nerve endings. He made a sound almost like a purr, furthering the illusion that he was a big predator savoring the taste of her skin.

Her legs shook and she felt weak. She was surprised to find she couldn’t stand. What was this feeling taking over her body? This had never happened before. Had it been so long that she could no longer remember what lovemaking was like? Her body—her emotions—felt foreign.

But he was supporting her now, even as her legs collapsed beneath her. His mouth never leaving her breast, he picked her up and laid her on the bed, and her thoughts scattered. He ran his hands down her bare sides, and taking hold of her thighs, he parted them widely. He settled his hips against her as if he had every right. His manhood lay on her feminine flesh, and he ground down in small circular motions so that her inner lips parted. She could feel him, big and thick and there.

The trembling spread throughout her body.

He made a sound somewhere between a growl and a purr. He seemed to relish his position and her helplessness. He continued to rock against her, and he sucked her nipple into his hot mouth. He pulled hard, and she arched up against him frantically, almost dislodging him. He did growl then as he turned to suck her other breast. At the same time, he moved his hips up fractionally to bear down on her. She arched again as a whimper escaped her lips. But this time he was ready and did not let her shift him. He ground more firmly on her sensitive flesh. He pressed her into the mattress and dominated her with his weight and strength.

She was caught, unable to move, as he relentlessly pleasured her. He didn’t let up, cramming against her inexorably with his hard loins as he sucked and sucked and sucked at her wet nipples.

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She shuddered, unable to control herself. Waves of pleasure flowed from her center toward the tips of her toes. Little ripples followed, and she gasped as pieces of herself seemed to fly apart. For an ecstatic moment, joy overwhelmed her anxiety. He rocked against her nonstop, but in soft, slow brushes now, as if he knew her flesh was too sensitive to handle a firmer contact. His hands flowed in long sweeps down her sides, and he feathered openmouthed kisses against her aching breasts.

She didn’t know how long she lingered in a half daze before she felt his fingers harden, and he reached between their bodies to unbutton his breeches. It was a tight squeeze, and every movement of his hand nudged the back of his knuckles into her wet woman’s place. She squirmed wantonly against his hand. She wanted more from him, and she wanted it now. He rumbled a dark chuckle. Then he drew out his hard flesh and guided himself to her entrance. She could feel heat from the head as he nudged his manhood against her softness.

He was big—very big. Of course he was big. He was a big man all around. She just hadn’t realized how big. Anna quivered in feminine anxiety, but he gave her no time to balk. He was pushing, pushing his large male presence into her, and she was giving way. Submitting.

She could feel the round, smooth crown of his erection pressing into the inner ring of muscles that guarded her keep. His chest vibrated with a groan. He braced himself up on stiff arms, flexed his buttocks, and drove his entire length home. She moaned at the wonder of it: to feel his masculine flesh inside her, warm and hard and now. Oh, goodness it was heaven. She lifted her legs and wrapped them high over his hips and was a little startled to feel the fabric of his breeches rubbing against the inner skin of her naked thighs.

Then he pulled his penis almost all the way out and shoved it back into her, and she forgot about his clothes.

He thrust into her again and again. Hard and steady. His chest and head arched up and away from her in the darkness while his hips kept in constant, mindless, pleasurable contact. She reached up to caress his face, but he gently knocked her hands aside and bent his head to nuzzle her ear. She could hear him breathing fast now as his rhythm began to break. She ran her fingers through the hair at the back of his head and tightened her thighs about him, trying to make this moment last. He groaned into her ear, and his buttocks suddenly flexed hard beneath her heels as he convulsed and poured himself into her.

She arched, wanting to receive all that he could give. If only it would never stop.

But it did, and he was done. He collapsed down, his breath and his body spent. She caught him and held him close, and then she shut her eyes to engrave this moment on her memory. She felt the rough brush of his breeches against her legs and each and every ripple of his muscles as he breathed. She listened to his unsteady breath in her ear. It was a wonderfully intimate sound, and tears pricked at her eyes.

For some reason, she felt bizarrely maudlin. The emotion startled her. This had been the most glorious experience of her life, but it had also been totally unexpected. She had thought it would be a simple physical release, but instead it had been a wonderful kind of transcendence. It made no sense to her, but she hadn’t the clarity of mind to puzzle it out.

She pushed the thought aside to examine later. Right now her legs were spread wantonly wide, sprawled where they had fallen when he stopped moving. He was still in her body, pulsing now and then with the aftershocks. She closed her eyes and savored his heavy, hot weight on her. She felt the wet warmth of his seed and could smell his sweat and the pungent scent of sex. Odd how she liked the scent, and she smiled, feeling completely relaxed as she turned her head to brush her lips against his hair.

He shifted his weight and withdrew from her body. He went slowly, and she felt each of his movements as a spreading emptiness. The feeling kept growing as he rose off the bed and buttoned the front placket of his breeches. All too soon, he reached for his coat and walked to the door.

He opened it, but then paused, his head lit from behind by the light in the hall. “Meet me here again tomorrow night.” The door closed quietly behind him.

And Anna realized it was the sole time he had spoken to her that night.

Chapter Ten

In the middle of the night, when all was black, Aurea was awakened by passionate kisses. She was drowsy and could not see, but the touch was gentle. She turned and her arms wrapped around the form of a man. He stroked and petted her so exquisitely that she didn’t even notice when he drew the nightgown from her body. Then he made love to her in a silence broken only by her cries of ecstasy. All night he stayed, worshipping her body with his own, and as dawn neared, she fell asleep again, replete with passion.

But in the morning when Aurea awoke, her lover of the night before was gone. She sat up in her great, lonely bed and searched for any sign of him. All she could see was a single feather from the raven, and she wondered if her lover had merely been a dream….

—from The Raven Prince

Edward threw down his quill and pushed up his spectacles to rub his eyes. Damn. The words just would not come.

Outside his London town house, in a not very fashionable neighborhood, he could hear the sound of delivery carts beginning to roll up and down the street. The front door banged, and a song drifted up to his window from the maid sweeping the steps. The room had lightened since he had risen from his bed, and he leaned over to blow out the candle guttering on his desk.

Sleep had eluded him the night before. He’d finally given up in the wee hours. It was strange. He’d just experienced the best sex in his lifetime and thus should have been completely exhausted. Instead, he’d spent the long night thinking about Anna Wren and the little whore he had taken to bed at Aphrodite’s Grotto.

But was she a whore? That was the problem. The question had gone around and around in his head all the night long.

When he’d arrived at Aphrodite’s Grotto the evening before, the madam had simply said that there was a woman already waiting for him. She hadn’t indicated whether the woman was a working prostitute or a lady of the ton, out for an evening of illicit pleasure. He hadn’t asked either. One didn’t ask at Aphrodite’s Grotto. That was why so many patronized the place: A man was guaranteed anonymity and a clean woman. He hadn’t been curious until after he’d left.

On the one hand, she’d worn a mask like a lady eager to conceal her identity. However, sometimes the whores at Aphrodite’s Grotto wore masks to give themselves an air of mystery. But then again, she’d been so tight when he’d entered her, as if she had been a very long while without a man. Perhaps that was his imagination, remembering only what he’d wanted to feel.

He groaned huskily under his breath. Thinking of her was making him hard as a rock. It was also making him feel guilty. Because that was the other thing that had kept him awake most of the night: guilt. Which was ridiculous. Everything had been fine, wonderful, even, until his mind turned to Mrs. Wren, Anna, again not even a quarter of an hour after he’d left Aphrodite’s Grotto. The feeling the thought of her brought—a kind of melancholy, a sense of wrongness—had stayed with him all the way home. He felt as if he had betrayed her. Never mind that she had no claim on him. That she had never even shown that she reciprocated his longing. The notion that he had been unfaithful was still there, eroding his soul.

The little whore had been shaped like Anna.

Holding her, he imagined a little what it would be like to hold Anna Wren. How it would feel to caress her. And when he’d kissed her throat, he had become instantly aroused. Edward groaned into his hands. This was ridiculous. He must rid himself of these constant thoughts of his little secretary; they were unworthy of an English gentleman. This urge to corrupt an innocent must be overcome, and he would do it through sheer willpower if need be.

He jumped up from his desk, strode over to the bellpull hanging in the corner, and yanked it viciously. Then he began putting away his papers. He took off his reading glasses and stuffed them into a cubbyhole.

Five minutes later, his summons still hadn’t been answered.

Edward exhaled and glared at the door. Another minute ticked by with no sign of a servant. He drummed his fingers on his desk impatiently. Goddamnit, he had a limit.

He marched to the door and bellowed into the hallway, “Davis!”

A shuffling sound, as if from a creature called forth from the stygian depths, came from the corridor. It drew nearer. Very slowly.

“It will be sundown before you get here if you don’t hurry up, Davis!” Edward held his breath, listening.