“Where is Mr. Thurlow?” The stranger’s voice was deep, resounding off the walls of the room. She tried to picture what the man would look like. Would he be short, rounding at the middle and old like her father, or young, tall, and lean? She certainly hoped for the latter. She couldn’t imagine how she’d feel about a man like her father touching her. Her body shuttered at the thought and her nausea returned with a vengeance.
The servant interrupted her thoughts as he spoke once more. “I am afraid that he is gone, Your Grace, but he left something else as well.”
“Well, what else did he leave, Simpson?”
Bethany let out a gasp as the servant reached outside the door, grasping her arm and pulling her inside the library. She kept her gaze downcast as he led her tense body before a massive oak desk. Her body quaked with fright. What would she say to this man? What would he do to her when he realized she was his payment? Lord, help me I can’t do this. She was sure she’d die from fear and shame.
“This, Your Grace.” The butler stopped a few feet from the desk.
“Who are you, girl?” Clayton Merrick’s voice was deep and soothing, but held a bit of anger and cruelty to it as well. Bethany tried to back away, but Simpson held her in place with his hand wrapped tightly around her upper arm.
“Bethany Thurlow, Your Grace,” she answered softly without looking up. She was surprised her voice worked at all. Her throat was so tight, she wondered how she was even still breathing.
“Why are you at my home, Miss Thurlow, and where the devil has your father gone?”
“I do not know where he has gone, Your Grace. He said to give you the envelopes. They are supposed to explain everything. He also said that I am to be part of his payment to you.” Her voice trembled.
His Grace began to laugh, causing her body to tremble harder. He stopped laughing and she could feel his gaze upon her. Was he studying her? She was too afraid to lift her head to see.
“You may leave us, Simpson.” His voice was calm and quiet.
“Should I prepare some refreshments, sir?”
“No, Simpson, that won’t be necessary just yet.”
Bethany waited as the servant exited the room. She jumped as he shut the door behind him. She was now alone in the room with the man. What did he have planned for her? Maybe he didn’t want the servant to hear what he had to say.
She closed her eyes, but opened them when her body swayed. Her knees were knocking together, she was shaking so badly. Could he hear her heart racing in the quiet of the room?
“Are you cold, Miss Thurlow?”
“No, Your Grace.” Her voice cracked, and her knees went weak. She feared her legs would fail her at any moment.
“So, what am I supposed to do with you, if you’re meant to be my payment? I’ve never won a child in a card game before.” She could hear the merriment in his voice.
How old was he to believe that she was a child? How old did he think she was?
“I do not know, Your Grace. I believe my father penned everything on those letters.”
She waited and listened as he tore the seal from one of the envelopes. She jumped when he shoved his chair backward, knocking it over as he stood. Whatever her father had written had apparently angered the man. She heard him take a deep breath before he spoke again.
“I’ll wager your father will see the error of his way and return for you shortly, Miss Thurlow.”
“No, he won’t.” She shook her lowered head. “He’s not the same man he once was. I do not know my father any longer, Your Grace.” She watched as his shiny black boots appeared at the side of the desk and moved around it to step closer to her, and then he made his way completely around her. Her body began to tremble violently once more. She felt faint, but refused to give into the black depths of unconsciousness for fear of what would happen while she was out.
He stopped before her and pushed the hood of her cloak from her head. He placed his hand beneath her chin, lifting her face. She closed her eyes, afraid of what she would see, tears streaming down her cheeks, unbidden. She swallowed hard and inhaled deeply before forcing her eyes open to look up at him. He looked shocked as he stared down at her.
Her heart skipped a beat when she looked at the man. He didn’t look anything like what she had feared. She had expected an old, fat, angry-looking man with a red face and balding head. This man was none of those things.
He was a tall, well-built man with hair the color of a raven’s wing. His hair hung loose, reaching a little past his shoulders. His skin was a lot darker than hers. His eyes were a bright, brilliant blue that reminded her of the ocean her mother had taken her to see once when she was a small child. It scared her the way her body reacted to the sight of this man. He was beautiful. No man had the right to look the way he did, it had to be a sin. He raked his other hand through his hair as he stared at her.
“How old are you, Miss Thurlow?” He studied her reaction to his question.
“Eighteen, Your Grace,” she answered softly. “I will be nineteen in a few days.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do with you?”
“Oh, Beth, I want to kiss and touch every inch of you. Will you allow me to touch and kiss all of you?”
“Yes, Your Grace,” she quietly breathed out.
He gently rolled them over, placing her beneath him this time, kissing her once more. She whimpered as he moved down the column of her neck, across her shoulders and down her chest. He cupped both her breasts in his hands, massaging and kneading them. She felt so right in his hands and bed. He barely ran his tongue over the pink nipple and then blew on it, causing it to harden instantly as he caressed his thumb over the other one. He leaned down and took the peak between his teeth to gently nibble before sucking it into his mouth.
Bethany moaned and arched into him. He nearly erupted with just the sounds coming from her. He licked across her chest to do the same to her other breast. Her body was so pliant in his hands. He spent a generous amount of time lavishing her breast before he ran his lips and tongue down to her flat stomach, stopping momentarily to pay attention to her cute little belly button. He caressed his hand down to the juncture of her legs.
“Open your legs for me, Bethany, let me touch you,” he said in a breath against her skin.
“But, Your Grace, I—”
“I won’t hurt you, Bethany. I swear to only bring you pleasure.”
He sighed in relief as she opened her legs slowly to him and cried out at his first touch. He was as soft and gentle as he could be. Her clit was already hard and swollen, so he knew it wouldn’t take much for her to careen over the edge. He pushed her legs further apart as he moved down between them. His lips found her and she nearly came off the bed, arching into him as she cried out once more.
He raised his head slightly to speak, but didn’t get a chance to utter a word as she grabbed his hair and pushed him back down to her.
“No, don’t stop!” He had to smile with her daring actions and words.
She didn’t have to worry. He had no intention of stopping. He slid his index finger into her tight, wet sheath and was surprised when she immediately began to spasm around his finger. He began to move it in and out of her as he sucked her clit harder. He wanted to move up her body and push into her with his throbbing cock until he wasn’t sure where he ended and she began, but he wanted to take his time. He wanted her to be ready for his invasion. He couldn’t just treat her like he would any other woman. She was too innocent, and she was his.
“Ah, God, yes, Your Grace.” She held his head immobile as she arched into him even more. He released his hold on her clit and removed his finger as she began to relax moments later. He moved to lie at her side, breathing hard as he grasped his cock in his hand and began to stroke himself again. He could feel her eyes on him, but there was nothing he could do besides release his own ache before he burst.
“May I touch you?” Her voice was soft and unsure.
“You don’t have to touch me, Bethany.” He almost feared to have her hands on him. He was afraid he’d lose what little control he still clung to.
“I…I want to, Your Grace.”
He reached over, taking her small, delicate hand in his, and wrapped it around his cock beneath his own. He thought it would be safe if he controlled the movements of her hand. He began to move their hands together, slowly, up and down his aching cock. He could feel himself pulsing in her hand. He released his hold when she began to move on her own.
It felt strange but wonderful to have her touching him. The look on her face as she studied him was worth the torture he was enduring. He loved her innocence. How would it be when he finally made love to her? He couldn’t wait to see her face when he brought her to orgasm by being buried deep inside her.
He watched her in wonder as she moved to her knees beside him, her hand still moving up and down over him. She squeezed a little tighter, wringing a moan from his lips. He thought he would surely die from the feel of her tenderness on his cock. He took a deep breath and crossed his arms behind his head, closing his eyes. He tried to relax while she explored him.
He sat straight up, his eyes open wide, staring at her as soon as she ran her tongue across the head of his cock. He quickly grabbed her and held her head up to look into her eyes.
“No, Bethany. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“I want to taste you, the way you did me. You can tell me if I do something wrong.”
He searched her face. He could see the curiosity there and the wonder of what she’d done already. There was also a pleading there…a longing. If it was really something she wanted to experience, who was he to deny her? Most of the ladies he knew never wanted to do such a thing. Maybe he should tell her that it wasn’t something a lady actually did, but if he did, what would he be missing out on?