“You have no illusions, do you, Lady Ashcott?”
Greatly daring, she said, “My friends call me Julia.”
A real smile this time. “Julia. It suits you. Regal and graceful.”
She shook her head. “I have no desire to be queen.”
“What do you want, Julia?” He’d loosened his hold on her, but she liked his hands surrounding hers. She didn’t want to let go.
“To be left alone,” she said bitterly. Then hesitated. “I used to have different dreams, but they are impossible. Some of them I achieved. My husband, John, was a robust man who preferred country pursuits.”
“Not very bright,” Snow murmured.
“As you say.” What was the point of dissimulation? “I helped him with the trickier matters of the estate. He managed the land superbly, nobody better, but as you must know, a peer owns more than land. There isn’t much land entailed with the estate, so we invested in more. We had a few shipping concerns, some investments, and some of the property was invested or rented out. I helped him make the most of those and that made me happy. He was a good man.”
A light entered his dark eyes. “You mean you were responsible for the contract that we signed with your late husband?”
She blinked. “I sent instructions to our London agent, yes. He drew up the legalities. Not the gentleman you saw today, you understand. One of his partners, a much younger man.”
“Simpson. I know him. As you say, very able. I believe he’s moved elsewhere.” His smile broadened and she viewed the pleasure on his features with a kind of wonder. When he smiled, he was open, free, as if he were a different man.
“I knew of your company. I had no idea Tait and Mason were you. I just knew your enterprise has an excellent reputation.”
“We worked hard for that,” he said, “And it’s something we never compromise on. Your terms were fair. But, my dear, you might have saved yourself with that.”
“Simpson was surprised when I asked for the contract to be in the name of the Earl of Ashcott,” she said, “But I honestly had no notion it would help. I–I—”
“What is it my dear?” His softened tones nearly brought her to tears.
She had come this far, she might as well tell him the truth. “I don’t believe I’m expecting. In fact, I’m sure I am not. John visited me regularly”—flushing, the heat rising under her skin, she hurried on—“and I never conceived. John had a wife and a son before me, but they died of the smallpox ten years before he married me. A tragedy. He told me not to worry, that he had an heir in his cousin. The new earl visited us from time to time. I didn’t like him. I still don’t.”
“He’s a slimy piece,” Snow said. “Tries to wriggle out of every bargain and will not give an inch. We don’t do business with him.” He gazed down at her. “He’s a bully. Did you know that?”
She nodded. “Yes, of course I know.” She glanced away, and blinked away the tears that never did any good.
When he tugged on her hands, she went to him, resting her head against his coat. New and sweet-smelling, firm muscle under the fine cloth, she’d never felt anything so wonderful in her life before. But she would not let the tears fall, just take comfort in this powerful, kind man and move away. In just a moment. Nobody held her like this, not even John, whose nocturnal visits were taken in the spirit of duty. John appreciated her, but he was too much the gentleman to impose his presence on her for longer than was necessary, or so he always told her. She’d never wanted to be this close to a man before. When he brought up his hand to undo the ribbons of her hat she let him, and it fell away, to land with a soft thunk on the bare boards they stood on. He cupped the back of her head. “Let me tell you a little about us. You may trust Charles and me with your life. I swear it. You need a friend and we would like to help. Once they discover you are not carrying the next earl, what will they do?”
“My father will find me another husband. With my portion intact, instead of invested, he may do with it as he wishes. I was never allowed to touch it.”
“And did you not make investments for yourself while you were helping your husband?”
His rhythmic stroking of her hair soothed her, helped her to think. She was allowing this man liberties she’d never vouchsafed to anyone else, and yet she found it almost natural. Instinctively she knew he wouldn’t take more than she was prepared to give. She just knew it. A light breeze rustled around them and then was gone. “That would have been wrong,” she said. “It wasn’t my money.”
He sighed. “But it could have given you a financial cushion, something to ensure your future.”
“I thought my portion would do that. I have no idea what made John alter his will in that way.”
He didn’t answer for a moment, and she reveled in their closeness, allowing herself a moment before she pulled gently out of his arms. He didn’t try to drag her back. If he had, she might have gone. “Tell me,” he said eventually. “Was your husband’s death unexpected?”
She crossed her arms, grasping each elbow tightly. “No. He ailed for nearly a year. It started with a cold then worsened. At first we thought it a fever of some kind, but then he began to lose his strength. Six months before his death we both accepted the inevitable and I set myself to make his last months as comfortable as possible.” Tears sprang to her eyes and she released her grip to thumb them away.
Again, he came close, but this time he curved one arm around her shoulders and produced a clean handkerchief, tenderly wiping away the signs of her distress. The soft fabric caressed her cheeks and she took comfort in his strength. “There is no point crying.” She lifted her head to show him she wasn’t crying anymore.
The compassion on his face gave way to something else, more powerful. Hunger. Before she could register what it meant, he touched his fingers to her chin and kissed her.
They stood on the same side of the bed, her men, and gazed their fill. Snow perused her body with a hot, impatient stare. Charles’s study was more considered, taking lazy pleasure in every nook and cranny. “Gold hair,” he murmured, and he wasn’t referring to the hair on her head. “Let us see more.”
Recalling what Snow had asked her before, she opened her legs. On the soft covers, they couldn’t see as much, but as they stripped off their remaining clothing, they gazed at her, and she let them, reveled in their desire.
She had never seen a naked male cock before her encounter with Snow earlier in the week. Now she saw two, fine specimens of their type, if she were any judge. Plenty enough for her. More than she’d ever dreamed of. They were both erect, the heads purplish-red and shiny. Without being consciously aware of doing it, she stretched out, wanting them.
“One day you’ll take both of us,” Snow said. “At the same time.”
She frowned in genuine confusion. “How?”
“We’ll show you. While you’re ours, we’ll show you everything. That’s a promise.” After exchanging smiles, the men climbed up to join her. Charles slid over to the far side of the bed, and grasped his cock, as Snow bore her to the covers, lying on her back. She opened her legs wide and he slid between them, but instead of taking her, as she’d thought he would, he knelt and gazed down at her.
Charles stroked a breast and took her attention for a minute. As he touched her, he gazed at her, smiling, then lifted up on one elbow and kissed her.
A lick, just one, on her sex made her cry out in shock, her body starting.
Snow was kissing her private parts, really kissing. Charles drew away. “What’s he doing? Tell me. Talk to me.”
“Kissing my—kissing my cunny.”
“Good.” He smoothed back her hair, drove his fingers in and pulled her mouth back to his, kissing her fiercely but briefly. Then his gaze went to where Snow was crouched between her upraised thighs, his hands grasping her, his mouth busy slurping the liquid she was making, forcing her to cry his name. Watching him, knowing someone else was watching too, observing the heights of her arousal, drove her to a level she hadn’t known of before, despite Snow’s introduction to this practice on Tuesday. “Can I do this to you?” she managed, her voice breathless.
“Oh yes.” Charles groaned. “I have never seen anything so wonderful. Never. You can certainly do that, but not now, or I’ll come in your mouth. I take it you’ve never done this before?”
Dumbly, aware of what a tyro she was, Julia shook her head. She panted.
“Tell me what he’s doing?”
“Can’t you see?” She could. The way his mouth pursed when he sucked, and he flicked glances at her face.
Charles growled, most unlike his usual mellifluous tones. “Tell me anyway.”
“He’s sucking—sucking my clit.”
“Keep talking,” Charles said. “Say it aloud. What’s happening to you?”
Charles took that moment to push two fingers inside her and open her.
“Oh! Oh sweet God, save me!”
A detonation of sensation exploded within her and she squirmed, but Snow held her steady while he took his fill. Then he moved aside and swiftly, Charles shot down the bed and took his place, lapping eagerly at her juices, drinking her.
Snow turned her face to his and kissed her. Tasting herself on him, she jerked back in shock, but he had her. One palm secured her head, sealed it to his while he licked into her mouth and Charles licked at her cunny.
Were those whimpers coming from her throat? Too feminine for him, but Snow moaned, the vibrations rumbling through her.
Then Charles took up the sound and hummed as he licked her. Her senses went on alert. At first she’d thought she was done, that they could take her and she’d let them, but she was wrong. Charles felt different, less voracious, more savoring, and instead of sucking her clitoris he flicked his tongue over the very tip, then did it again and again until she stilled, astonishingly ready to rise.
Before she did so, Charles pulled away and resumed his previous position, lying by her side. The bed gave as he stretched his length along it and grabbed her breast, using it to draw her away from his friend so he could perform the same office for her. He kissed her, but threaded his long fingers through her hair, stroking her scalp as he persuaded her to accept his lips and the flavor she was becoming accustomed to. His hold on her breast eased to a sweet caress, and he plucked her nipple, bringing it to full attention as he kissed her and kissed her.
Something was happening on her other side. Snow rose, knelt between her legs once more, and as she lifted her knees to allow him to repeat his action and finish that sense of nearly-there that was driving her mad, his cock slid down her soaking crease and plunged deep inside her. He sank without pause, while Charles kissed her, sharing her taste until it was nearly all gone.
Then he broke away, his eyes dark with passion, the pupil expanded until only a ring of blue remained. “Tell me,” he demanded, his voice deeper, rougher.
“He’s in me. Deep and hard. I’ve never felt anything so wonderful in my life before.”
A fierce grin marked Charles’s face. “You will feel better, I swear. We can make you come and come until you can’t remember your own name, nor ours either.”