Gil held her in silence for a few minutes. “How brave are you, Hannah? What will you dare to gain your freedom?”
“Everything.” Indeed her life was hard enough, it hardly seemed anything to risk. Tears sprang to her eyes, but she’d become adept at preventing them from falling. She blinked them away. “I can bear it a little longer if I know you’re trying to help me.”
Gil nodded. “It won’t be for much longer. How long do you intend to remain in London?”
“A week. But this is the only social gathering we’re to attend.”
“Bastard.” She gasped at his casual use of the word. A sinful word, one she’d have to do penance for if anyone caught her using such language. Besides, it wasn’t true. Her father wasn’t illegitimate. “Hannah, love, we must stand together.”
Seduced by his casual endearment, she leaned against him. Let someone else support her for a change. Besides, she found his embrace a special one, as if he really wanted to hold her and talk to her. After years of hearing she was of no consequence, the sensation came as a healing balm. “I have a dilemma. But first let’s try to be honest. I’ll refuse to let him do as he wishes. You do the same, and if he threatens to hurt you, send word to me.”
He frowned. “Write to me. Messengers pass through the streets, and there are men who offer to write letters for the illiterate. One of them will deliver the note for sixpence. Or you can just send a few words.”
Her father had always allowed her to write to Gil, because she’d been circumspect. He wanted Gil on his side. “Yes, I think I can do that.”
“Good. I’ll come at once, I promise.”
He bent and delivered one swift, hard kiss. She would have lingered, but he pulled away, staring at her, eyes bright. “My house is close by. I can go there and return in a day, maybe two. How would it be if you visited my mother?”
Hannah blinked. “My father would never allow it.”
“We don’t have to tell him. Until you’re there. Then you’ll be beyond his reach.”
Fear clutched at her throat. He’d kill her if he discovered her. “It’s not possible.”
“Yes it is, Hannah. What isn’t possible is you staying in your present condition.” He glanced at the clock above the mantelpiece. “We need to go. Will you be all right for the time being?”
Forcing brightness, she nodded. “Now I know I have help.”
After a moment’s silent regard, he added, “More, I think.” Then released her.
The rap on the door sounded harsh. Three quick knocks followed by a pause and two more. In the act of snuffing the candles, Gil let out a sigh of relief. “That’s my friend, David. He promised to keep a look-out.”
He opened the door and Hannah caught her breath.
Standing in the doorway was the most handsome man she’d ever seen. Lit by the candles illuminating the hallway behind him, she could see high cheekbones, strong, decisive lines. As if an artist had delineated a face in a few perfectly angled slashes of his pen. This man was dark, from the stubble on his chin to the black hair peeking out from his wig, set perfectly straight on his head. “Lord Helmsby,” Gil said, in swift introduction. “Hannah Southwick.”
Dark eyes gleamed at her then paused to peruse her more thoroughly. “Lord Southwick is asking the servants if they’ve seen his daughter. Come this way.” He reached for her and, as if he had a right, Hannah slipped her hand into his. “I’ll take you up the back stairs and into the ballroom. We’ll join the dance as if we’ve been doing it all along. They’re halfway through a set.”
A set, Hannah recalled from her early years, would take half an hour. Plenty of time for her father to miss her and find her again. It would excuse her absence nicely. But the man facing her had more than the veneer of respectability in his hard gaze. He was suspicious. And, if she wasn’t mistaken, interested. It wasn’t as if she’d seen that expression very often, merely that something inside her recognized the spark of awareness when she saw it. She didn’t recognize the tingle that thrilled down her, as if he’d reached out and dragged his finger down her spine. Except he hadn’t moved.
She took a quick breath and was about to force a smile when she realized she was already smiling. “Yes, all right.” She had no choice, really.
When she touched him, the tingle increased and concentrated in her groin. Did this happen every time she touched a man? She spared a thought to the minister, the last man to touch her. No, it most certainly did not.
“Thank you. I really appreciate your help,” she said to Gil, just as if she hadn’t been kissing the life out of him a moment before.
Lord Helmsby smiled, polished and smooth, but she caught the edge of something under it. Untamed, like a tiger waiting his chance to pounce. Stupid, she told herself. He was merely Gil’s friend, offering to help in her hour of need. In her year of need, for that matter.
If she didn’t escape her father’s jurisdiction, it would be too late for her to find marriage, a family of her own, all the things she dreamed about. Along with a fire in the grate on a winter night. Even here, in the bleak little London house, she didn’t have one.
The way Lord Helmsby escorted her out of the room and up the little backstairs made her feel like a princess. He opened doors for her, and although forced to go first, to assess the lay of the land, as he put it, he still waited for her. He offered his arm as support as if she were too precious to manage to walk on her own.
“I can see why Gil is so taken with you,” he said, his voice a low rumble. “You are the loveliest woman here tonight.”
She thrilled to the compliment, even while she was thinking he probably said that to everyone. A polished, meaningless thing. But when she looked up into his face she saw something else there. Raw passion.
He caught his breath on a gasp, moved toward her as if he would kiss her, then jerked his head away and smiled. “I trust we’ll further our acquaintance” was all he said before he resumed walking.
Gil stared at the scene, and his cock sprang to life. This could be something that happened before David had returned from the army and withdrawn into himself. A naked David and Hannah, never more lovely, a sheet clasped tightly above her naked breasts. “What…” He stopped his inane question. “No, I won’t. I can see what.”
In a flash he saw an answer. His errand curtailed, he’d returned to be told that David was at the House of Passion and the minister was invading the place. He’d rushed here post haste, to be told she was in her room with David.
But oh, he yearned to see both the people he cared for happy, and that emotion meant far more to him now than the problems they had to face. They could do it together if he could persuade David to accept what Hannah was offering. If he hadn’t already.
“You should run me through for this,” David climbed out of bed and snatched up his breeches from the floor.
Gil stepped forward and grabbed the garment from him. “Why? If you both want it, go to it. But only if I stay with you.”
“Damn you, this isn’t some doxy, this is Hannah!”
“Molly,” said the woman in the bed. “In this house I’m Molly.” Her hand shook as she released her convulsive clasp on the sheet and allowed the material to slide to her waist.
Gil’s heart warmed. Her bravery passed his understanding. “Beautiful,” he murmured. “You’re so beautiful.”
“And likely never to have such an opportunity again.” Tears trembled on her lashes and Gil wanted nothing more than to hold her and comfort her. But her fierce determination kept him away. He could taste those luscious nipples, see them in his mind’s eye, plumped by his hands. And one other. David’s. “I want this, Gil. I really do.”
David stared at Gil, and then he dropped his breeches. His attention went from Hannah to his hard, straining cock. “She’s respectable, a virgin—”
So they hadn’t done it yet. Gil could hardly believe that he was about to see a miracle. The savage slash marking David’s body from hip to thigh confirmed what he’d suspected, but that didn’t matter now. They’d have time to discuss that later. “She’s no virgin, but she’s unpracticed. Do it, David. She wants it, I want it. Do it.”
Hannah’s gaze met his. “Yes,” she said, and pushed the sheet the rest of the way off her body. She opened her legs, revealing her wet cunt. “I do want it. Fuck me, David.”
David closed his eyes and let out a tortured groan. “Do you know what you’re doing to me?”
Gil knew. He’d guessed more than David had told him. And he could see his way clear for once. The answer to their problems. “Fuck her, David.”
David seemed to lose the battle with his conscience. He turned back to Hannah, his cock bobbing against his belly and climbed back on to the big, high bed. He settled between her thighs. “Oh, sweetheart,” he murmured, loud enough for Gil to hear. “What you do to me.”
Taking his cock in his hand, he guided it to her.
If they’d asked him to leave, he would have done it, but since they didn’t, Gil stayed where he was, watching with an attention his old tutor would have envied. Latin never held the fascination of this encounter.
Without taking his gaze from the couple in the bed, Gil slipped off his coat and sat on the chair next to the bed. He started to work on the buttons of his waistcoat. From this position, at their knees, he could see everything. And it looked wonderful. David had his cock poised at her entrance and he was delivering a series of shallow jabs, barely breaching her. Easing his way, making her wet. Gil wondered if she would mind if he took a hand.
He put one hand on her calf, low down. She didn’t flinch, didn’t stop kissing David, though she had to know whose hand was touching her. He stroked, tentatively spreading his hand over her silken skin, firming his touch.
She moved into his caress. She accepted them both.
Since they’d played such games before, Gil knew David wouldn’t object to his participation, though he didn’t intend it to be much. He just wanted the contact, needed to feel involved. No mere spectator.
What happened next was entirely up to Hannah, but if he had his way…Gil wet his lips, which had gone suddenly dry.
David increased his movements, his buttocks tightening as he drove ever deeper, but as yet his cock barely breached her.
Without warning, David turned his head and met Gil’s avid gaze. Gil nodded, knowing what his friend was asking. David returned to her, braced his hands each side of her head, lifted his body up and drove deep. He plunged with a thoroughness that assured him of his friend’s recovery.
Gil released a soft groan. His cock was leaking, so he stood and stripped his breeches down his legs, undressing as rapidly as possible. He wanted parity, as much as was possible, and he wanted to get to his cock so he could show her how much this meant to him.
To see her take David in so sweetly, to hear her voice as she gave the cry that signaled her delight. He almost came when she opened her eyes and met his.
“Good,” he managed, although his voice came out as a croak. Her blue eyes warmed and she reached a hand for him. He took it and she squeezed it tightly as David began to pump into her.
“You should have at least one good fucking, so you know what you’re missing,” he said. “David is the second best man to give that to you. After me. If you want me again, you shall have me.”