Authors: Janice Maynard
At last, Ian was alone. He waited until his grandmother was out of sight and then strode rapidly back toward the ballroom. There, he accessed the second floor via a set of stairs hidden behind an ornamental screen.
When he reached the gallery, out of breath and hot underneath his dress shirt, he stopped short, his stomach settling like lead somewhere down around his knees. Daisy was not there. He could see the full length of the narrow space, and it was empty…quiet…bare except for the curious stares of still more Wolffhampton relatives.
. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, feeling all the joy and anticipation drain out of his heart.
“I thought you had forgotten about me.”
At the sound of the quiet, now-familiar drawl, he whirled around. “Daisy!” He snatched her up and kissed her wildly, her feet dangling several inches above the floor. She felt substantial in his arms. Warm. Alive. And he wanted her so badly he was shaking.
Daisy kissed him back. Grown-up, naughty kisses that reminded him of how much he had to lose if he made a misstep. Her arms twined around his neck in a stranglehold, and she lost one of her shoes. He heard it plop as it hit the floor.
He shuddered as her tongue mated with his, soft and delicious. “Come to bed with me,” he groaned. Whether it was an order or a plea, he wasn’t sure.
Slumberous blue eyes shone with the same eagerness he felt. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, Ian.”
He scooped her into his arms, thanking his lucky stars that his suite was on this level. Though the way he was feeling at the moment, he could have carried her up ten flights of stairs and never noticed.
The halls were silent and dimly lit. They encountered no one on the way. With one hand he opened the door to his bedroom and carried her over the threshold.
A warm glow from the fireplace illuminated the darkness. Its meager glow was perfect for him to revel in exposing Daisy’s curvy, white-skinned body as he unzipped the borrowed ball gown and let it fall to the floor. Her bare breasts gleamed like rich cream. The only undergarment she wore was a tiny pair of black satin panties.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Quit staring, Ian, and take off your clothes.”
Daisy stepped out of the pile of froth and shivered, though with logs burning in the massive fireplace the chamber was actually quite warm.
Ian chuckled at her imperious command to take off his clothes but obeyed, ripping at his shirt and scattering studs willy-nilly as he disrobed.
When he kicked off his socks and shoes and shoved his pants and boxers down his legs, she backed up a step. He was big and aroused and hungry. Though he employed dozens of servants to do his every bidding, he looked like a man who enjoyed physical challenges. The muscles and sinews that flexed beneath his skin were impressive.
He turned down the covers on the enormous four-poster bed and crooked a finger. “Let me warm you up.”
She bit her lip. “Is that code for something?”
“I think you’re far too accustomed to bossing people around and having them do exactly what you want.
Yes, Your Grace. No, Your Grace
He picked her up again, his easy strength making her feel delightfully feminine as he held her to his hard, lightly hair-covered chest. Depositing her gently on the bed, he came down beside her, propping himself on an elbow, head on his hand. “And I think you bewitched me the morning we met.”
She grinned, loving the way a lock of his hair fell over his forehead, making him look youthful and more relaxed. “You were awfully cranky that day.”
He nodded, tracing a circle around one of her nipples until it puckered. “I deserved to be,” he muttered. “It felt as if I’d been struck by lightning.”
Eyes closed, she squirmed at his caress, and her hands fisted in the snowy sheets as he mapped her body with a tactile exploration that left them both gasping for breath. If she touched him in return, it would be over too soon. The air shimmered with the intensity of their arousal. The unmistakable scent of need fragranced the sheets.
“Look at me,” he commanded, every inch the duke. “I want to remember this night.”
Her lashes fluttered open as his words and their meaning registered. “I’m not supposed to be in this bed,” she whispered. “We both know that. And I can’t stay here beyond tomorrow. Why are we doing this?”
He moved on top of her, spreading her legs with sure movements and settling between her thighs. “Because you’re my Valentine,” he said. “The only one I’ve ever wanted.”
He guided his fully erect shaft with one hand, entering her with a shallow, gentle thrust that gave her time to adjust to his size. In that moment, her heart broke just a little. Something so perfect, so incredible couldn’t last.
Closing her mind to the unpleasantness to come, she wrapped her legs around his waist. “I won’t break,” she said. “Make love to me, Ian.”
Twenty-first-century Dukes were well-educated, cerebral and trained in reasonable debate.
But with his first thrust inside Daisy’s warm, welcoming body, Ian lost his mind. If he had ever felt such pleasure in his life, he couldn’t remember it. She was tight. And really limber. The head of his shaft nudged her womb. Then he realized with hazy shock part of what was different. He was making love to her without protection.
As if she read his mind at the fractional hesitation, she ran a hand through his hair. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “I’m on the pill. And you have nothing to worry about beyond that.”
His heart wrenched. At last he had found the woman with whom he’d be happy to make babies, but he’d have to hand over his heritage to keep her. How many polo matches had he won in his life with a just-before-the-buzzer shot to save the day? He’d tried such a ploy this morning, unbeknownst to Daisy. But the effort had obviously failed; they hadn’t called him back. And yet, having Daisy like this, warm and willing in his bed, was the only victory that mattered.
Moving faster, harder, deeper—filled with spreading joy and a tumultuous rush to completion—he acknowledged in one last coherent corner of his brain that the choice had been made on that very first day.
As his body went rigid and dropped in free fall, he felt her passage squeeze him with flutters of her own release….
“I’m going to marry you, Daisy Wexler, so you might as well get used to the idea.” They had been naked together for several hours. And Ian had put every moment to good use.
She sighed and snuggled closer to his side, her slender leg resting across his thigh. “Don’t be ridiculous. You have to marry an heiress. I couldn’t live with myself if you had to give up your home.”
“The National Trust won’t make us move out,” Ian said, combing her hair with his fingers. “We’ll simply have to downsize a bit.”
She sat up, the sheet clutched to her breast as if he hadn’t licked every inch of those beautiful—
“Focus, Ian,” she said with exasperation. “Are you actually serious?”
He tucked his hands behind his neck, stretching with a bone-deep contentment that told him he was making the right decision, the only decision. “I am. I can live with less of a house, my love. But I can’t live even one more minute without you.”
Tears leaked from her eyes but he kissed them away. Which led to another highly satisfactory round of convincing his wife-to-be that he was never going to get enough of her. Ever.
When they collapsed at last, exhausted but happy, Ian saw that the message light on the ancient landline phone was blinking. Daisy had dozed off in his left arm, so with his free hand, he lifted the receiver, punched the button and listened.
Laughter bubbled up in his chest, along with exhilaration. He shook her gently as he replaced the phone. “Daisy…wake up.”
She blinked, rubbing her arm. “What’s wrong?” she said sleepily. And with good reason. The night was headed toward dawn and he’d kept her awake for hours, unable to sate his need for her.
“I left a message for Victor and Vincent Wolff yesterday,” he said. “And I told them that with a little corroboration, I was absolutely sure there was a family connection.”
“I could have called them.” Daisy frowned, clearly disappointed that he had stolen her thunder. “But I guess they enjoyed hearing the news from you.”
He gathered her close and kissed the top of her nose. “I took a page from
book, my resourceful American sweetheart, and invited them to invest in the future of their newfound family. They’ve wired five million pounds to my account in London, contingent upon the finalization of your research and with an urgent plea
to sign over even an acre of the Wolffhampton birthright in the meantime.”
Daisy’s eyebrows rose in shock. “So you won’t lose the house after all?”
won’t lose the house, Daisy. And you’ll have the rest of your life to poke around Britain and find your own relatives.”
Her bottom lip trembled in a radiant smile. “I love you, Ian.”
“I love you, Valentine.”
He slid a hand beneath the covers, thinking about chubby blue-eyed babies and all the wonderful years to come…
ISBN: 978 1 472 07499 7
DAISY AND THE DUKE
© 2014 Janice Maynard
Published in Great Britain 2014 by Mills & Boon, an imprint of Harlequin (UK) Limited Eton House, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1SR
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