A hint of morning light commenced nudging its path through the parted curtains. A snug, warm feeling encompassed her body from head to toe, and she looked down to see Jaylon’s arm draped across her waist.
Biting her lower lip, she glanced over her shoulder at him, and a simmering heat commenced to sweep through her body.
The intensity grew at the remembrance of the things they had done last night.
She looked down again with the awareness that she was indeed naked as the day she was born, which meant he most probably was in the same state of undress. Meaning, there were no clothes centered between them.
The flutter of his breath drifting across her neck sent a wave of desire to the center of her core, causing her to fidget and seek to move away from him as she grappled to breathe.
“Good morning,” he sighed with a ladened sleep voice as his arms encompassed her body. “Did you sleep well?”
His voice against her ear sounded sensual and deep, evoking her to squirm even more when his hand floated across her skin. It impeded any attempt of her rising from the bed. “I-I did,” she stammered, swallowing hard. “Thank you.” Trying to shift her focus to anything else but him, she stared at the beam of light, centering the floor in the middle of the room. “Did you also sleep well?” She immediately rolled her eyes, knowing how absurd and curious her question sounded. “Of course you slept well,” she whispered to herself, trying to rise again.
But Jaylon halted her movements. “Please lay here with me for a while,” he whispered, pulling her back to him.
She would love nothing more but knew it wasn’t wise. “We really shouldn’t; Nettie gets up with the sunrise and could enter into my bed-chamber if I’m not there...”
“I can’t see Nettie disturbing you before the noon hour,” he contended, as he lifted his hand to push the long hair away from the nape of her neck. “Besides, there is something else I wish to discuss with you, and I feel now would be an ideal time.”
“O-okay,” she stammered, laying her head back down on his arm. She wasn’t altogether sure how she was going to be able to concentrate or maintain a conversation while his free hand caressed and fondled her body. Needing to focus, she established her hand on top of his halting any further exploration. “What do you wish to discuss?”
One corner of his mouth lifted. “Tell me about Port Toulon, Aniela,” He whispered as he commenced to press his lips along her neck and jawline. “Or, maybe Le Mourillon, you can start with either one, I don’t care which.”
If this would have been at any other moment in time, she would have argued with him on his knowledge of anything to do with Port Toulon and Le Mourillon.
But after their long night of lovemaking, this undoubtedly wasn’t an average moment, and she couldn’t admonish him without sounding ridiculous.
Chewing on her lip, she contemplated her words before she spoke. “Port Toulon happened to be the initial destination for the ship Belvidera,” she whispered, trying to concentrate as his lips blazed a pathway across her skin. “When it anchored, I got off. The port meant nothing more than a place to establish my feet on dry land.”
He hesitated, picking up his head. “The Belvidera?” he challenged with drawn eyes.
“Yes,” she sighed, nodding her head.
His hand drifted up her torso to cup her breast. “What did you do in Port Toulon?” he whispered, while his thumb toyed with her nipple until it became erect and begging for his touch. “Where did you go or live? What sustained you there for three years, and why wouldn’t you desire to return home?”
Her breathing started growing in laboring sighs, and her toes curled under from what his hands were doing to her body. “I-I met a family, and they accepted me into their... home.” She sucked in her breath as Jaylon’s kisses traveled over her neck and shoulders. “Jaylon... please,” she sighed, imploring him to cease.
Her back remained pressed to his chest, and he lifted his hand to angle her chin towards him. “What family Aniela? Why did they take you in?” His lips overtook hers, kissing and inserting his tongue, crushing her will. “What is their name? Why would you wish to linger there?”
“I-I saved their young daughter,” she whispered against his eager lips. “Her horse was trying to throw her off, and I seized the reins until it calmed... I-I saved Leda Anne.”
“Did you never once think of me and what I was going through? Or did you not indeed care?” He whispered hoarsely.
Closing her eyes, she surrendered a gasp at what he was invoking in her body. “I-I tried not to think of you, Jaylon,” she conceded, breathless. “But then, little by little, I would catch glimpses and fragments of my old existence. Until one day, I woke up and all my memories were there.”
Powerless to hold his desire for her at bay for a second longer, he lifted her leg until her thighs willingly parted and pressed himself into her moist core.
When he entered her from behind, a gasp flowed from Aniela’s lips prompting her to clutch the pillow beside her for stability from his slow penetrating thrust.
His kisses scorched a burning trail on her skin, ending only at her parted lips. “What were their names, Aniela,” he sighed into her. “Tell me why you remained with them and away from me for so long.”
Opening her mouth to him, she moaned as an untamed desire surged through her flushed body. “McCaffrey,” she panted between thrust. “Sir Nathan and... and lady Juliette McCaffrey.”
Upon hearing a name, Jaylon’s thrusting tempo picked up until both their bodies shuddered and convulsed in an amorous climatic release.
With her heart pounding and lungs gasping for air, Aniela turned and studied him over her shoulder. “Is it always this way?” she sighed, drawing another deep breath. “Between a man and a woman, I mean?”
He smiled at her naivety. “No.”
Staring at him for a moment, she studied him for false-truths. “Has it ever been this way for you before? I mean, like with another...”
“No,” he interjected, with a crooked smile. “Only you.”
Peering at him again, she weighed over his confession. She laid her head down onto his arm and wove her fingers through his. “You have been with many women, Jaylon,” she sighed with melancholy. “I find it hard to believe that you have encountered no one to be as satisfying.”
He leaned down and pressed his body into hers, then whispered in her ear. “Believe it because it’s the truth. I have never wanted any other woman the way I desire you.” He pushed her long hair away from her nape and commenced at placing light kisses on her skin. “I will swear it on my life if you so desire.”
When she didn’t respond, he became pensive and deep in reflection. His hand ran a slow lingering course up her arm until it ended at her neck, and he lifted her chin to look at him. “Tell me more about this family who aided you.”
Licking her lips, she contemplated the reason for his curiosity. “Sir Nathan McCaffrey and his wife Lady Juliette, they were good to me when they really had no cause to be,” she whispered, shifting to look into his eyes. “It was just by chance that I was in the right place at the right time. If I hadn’t been there when Miss Leda’s horse went awry, I would have most undoubtedly had to live on the streets.”
“So, you strictly aided in serving their daughter?”
Not liking his tone, she turned her head to peer at him again. “Yes,” she answered with narrowed eyes. “Why are you questioning their motives?”
Jaylon sighed. “How old is this, Sir Nathan McCaffrey?”
Rolling to her other side to face him, she looked at him with rising ire. “What does that have to do with how well they treated me? I can assure you, Nathan loves his wife.”
“How old is he, Aniela?”
She stared at him for a moment, and she actually considered not answering him but knew it would simply enhance his ire more. “Sir Nathan is thirty-one,” she disclosed, then waited for his derogatory comment to follow.
He reached for her hand and drew it to his lips. “Thirty-one,” he reiterated with raised eyebrows. He turned her hand over to place feathery kisses on her inside palm. “Is Sir Nathan, a handsome man?”
Something about the way his lips caressed her skin made her voice catch in her throat. “No-not as handsome as you,” she mused, feeling her pulse begin to race.
Jaylon smiled. “But he is handsome... you think?”
Mulling over her admission, Jaylon separated her fingers and settled one of them in his mouth. “And what of Sir Nathan’s wife? What is her name again?”
“J-juliette,” came her stuttered reply.
“Lady Juliette?” As he recited the name, he drew another finger into his mouth.
“Y-yes,” she whispered, nodding her head.
“Is Lady Juliette as beautiful as you?”
His actions captivated her. “No... I-I mean yes, she is a beautiful woman,” she gasped, shaking her head. “But I am not.”
“You are not what?” he urged, with hooded eyes.
She stared at him, shaking her head, opposing any glorified words before they spewed from his mouth. “I am not beautiful. I may have been previously, but not anymore.”
Eyes drawn, Jaylon cocked his head, surprised by her damning words. “You are wrong, Aniela,” he sighed against her palm. “I have explained to you many times; you are possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever known.”
His words tugged at her heart, causing tears to pool in her eyes, but she vehemently shook her head. “But I’m not.”
He interrupted the seduction on her skin to study her. “You are,” he interjected. “Do you honestly believe I would lie about such a matter?”
She stared at him, reflecting on his words, and tilted her head as one eyebrow raised. “Do you think Sir Nathan and I... is that what this is, Jaylon? An inquiry into whether I had a liaison with him?”
Shaking his head, he closed his eyes, releasing a low torturous laugh. “No,” he sighed. “But I genuinely believe you have no understanding how beautiful you are and the effect you have on a man.” He hesitated and moved to rest his hand on her cheek, allowing his thumb to graze her skin. “I require to know if I need to include Sir Nathan to the list of men I am proposing to kill.”
Her breath seized in her throat, and she suddenly sat up to peer down at him. A sharp jolt of fear swept over her, and she began to visibly shake. “No. Promise me you won’t go after him, Jaylon,” she pleaded as a growing panic settled in.
“If Sir Nathan...”
“Not him,” she exclaimed, cutting him off. She reached for his face making him look her in the eyes. “I’m talking about Sir Gordon. Promise me. Swear you will not go near him.”
Averting his gaze, Jaylon grabbed her hand and again lifted it to his lips. “I can’t make a promise that I have no intentions in keeping, Aniela. So please don’t demand it of me again.”
Her eyes grew wide, and she moved to straddle his hips, peering down at him. “You don’t know him, Jaylon. Gordon is evil and an incredibly dangerous man.”
His hands slowly proceeded up her thighs until they settled on her hips. “I have dealt with men such as Sir Gordon before,” he asserted in a flat tone. “I have no fear of him.”
Groaning half with frustration and desire, she thrust his hands off her hips. “Then you’re a fool, Jaylon,” she bemoaned, working to move away from him. “Because you should be afraid of him. He’s a monster.”
They both glanced towards the door, and Jaylon held his finger to his lips.
"Jaylon, it’s early, and I know you are in there, so open the door,” came Camille’s muffled plea.
Aniela removed her self from his hips and hurriedly lifted a blanket to cover their nakedness. “What could she possibly want this early in the morning?” she whispered.
Jaylon rolled his eyes and released a sigh. “I have no idea.”
“I can hear you whispering, Jaylon,” Camille asserted, with a guarded tone. “So, I am not leaving until you open the door.”
Making sure Aniela remained concealed under his blankets, he pushed up and ripped the sheet from the bed to drape it around his hips, then headed towards the door. Releasing the bolt, he turned the knob and cracked the door open.
Camille was having none of it. Once she felt the door crease open, she shoved with as much force as she could muster and strode into the room.
Jaylon quickly closed the door behind him. “Have you gone completely mad?”
Peering around the room, Camille spun on him. “Oh, come on, Jay,” she laughed. “You know that I would never disturb you during copulation if I didn’t feel it was absolutely imperative.” Her eyes wandered over his exposed chest. “Good thing those marks aren’t any higher, or you would have some explaining to do,” she smirked, then promptly glanced around and regarded the hump under the blankets on the bed. She strolled over, and she sat down, then reached for the lump and cheerfully offered it a pat. “Is that you, Aniela?”
Hearing Jaylon reprimand his sister, Aniela slowly lowered the blanket to gape over the edge. “Good morning, Camille,” she whispered, feeling the warmth rise to her face.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Camille beamed, glancing from one to the other and joyfully clapping her hands. “This is a marvelous turn of events, don’t you think?”
Groaning, Aniela pulled the blanket over her head once more as her embarrassment grew.
Shaking his head, Jaylon walked towards the bed. “What do you want, Camille?” he asked between clenched teeth.
One eyebrow lifted, and a smirk flowed from her upturned lips. “You dear bother should be praising me,” Camille mused with a smile. “Do you two even realize how thin these walls are? I mean, I understand the two of you have been apart due to your marriage situation with Elizabeth, but at least try to demonstrate some self-control and pace yourselves.” She leaned down to whisper advice to Aniela under the blanket. “You must be terribly sore, my dear. I just want you to know I have cream for that, and by the end of the day, you will be feeling...”
“Why are you here, Camille?” Jaylon blurted, halting her words.
Watching Aniela slide deeper under the blanket, she turned towards Jaylon and fussed with the folds of her robe. “Well, since I was so rudely kept awake last night, I happen to rise early and know Nettie is on her way to Aniela’s bed-chamber,” she announced with a tinge of mirth. “I perceived that I would be the good sister and promptly warn you both.” She leaned over to clutch the blanket that covered Aniela, granting it a slight tug until her crimson face materialized. “Was that considered the wrong thing to do? Because I am confident at any minute, Nettie will be alerting the whole household of your absence.”
“Oh my word,” came Aniela’s muffled groan. She flung the blanket off and promptly began searching for her discarded shift.
Leaning down, Camille picked it up off the floor and held it up in the air. “Is this what you are looking for?”
Snatching it, Aniela pulled it over her head and let it drift down her body to cover her nakedness. “I have to get out of here,” she gasped while toiling to harness her unruly locks. “I-I will go out the way I came in.”
Rushing to her side, Jaylon grasped her arm, stopping her. “Please wait...”
“I can’t, Jaylon,” she interjected, trying to extract his hand. “I need to go. If Nettie finds that I am not there.” Her eyes noticed the scattered bite marks across his chest, and again her face flamed. “Please, Jaylon, I will talk to you later.”
Allotting Camille a hasty glance, he turned back to Aniela and dragged her resistant body into his arms. “Our conversation isn’t over,” he whispered as his lips claimed hers.
Feeling herself melt into him, Aniela turned her head and tried taking a step backward. She peered past him at Camille and once more felt heat rise to her face when she noted her wide knowing smile. “We will talk later, Jaylon,” she whispered, leaning into him. “I promise.”
Releasing a groan of frustration, Jaylon dropped his hands in defeat and walked towards the door.
When Aniela saw him move for the doorknob, she halted him. “I can’t leave that way.”
“I will check the hallway for you,” he insisted. “I will not allow you to sneak around in those dark corridors again. It’s this way or nothing.”
Biting her lip, she knew there was no point in arguing with him. So she walked in his direction, but Camille halted her.
“Can I have a brief word with you before you leave?”
Turning to look at her, Aniela felt suddenly annoyed. “We can talk later.” She spun to leave but was interrupted again.
“It will only take a moment,” Camille blurted with a sweet smile. Rising from the bed, she walked over to them. “Harlow and I are planning to travel into town today, and I would be most gratifying if the two of you would likewise attend.”
“No,” Jaylon quickly responded. “I have prior engagements, and I don’t want Aniela going without me.”
She reeled on him with narrowed eyes. “What?” Aniela blurted. “You have no say in this, Jaylon.” She turned to Camille. “Of course, I will go with you. What time are you leaving?”
Seizing her arm, Jaylon pulled her across the room. “I don’t want you going without me,” he announced in a vehement whisper.
“Then you better alter your plans,” she declared, wrenching her arm free. “Because I am going.”
Rolling his eyes and looking towards the ceiling, Jaylon drew a deep breath then turned to glare at his sister. “How long will this take, Camille? Where are you going?”
“Well... I desire to go to Miss Tamara’s and pick up a few gowns.” Wavering, Camille averted her gaze. “Then I conceded to meet Lord Daniel McDermontin Hyde Park. He desires we take a stroll, to talk and muse over our possible union.”
“What?” Jaylon suddenly exclaimed, taking a few strides towards her. “Lord Daniel McDermont? The Earl of Huntington Hall and Elizabeth’s brother wishes to stroll with you in Hyde Park?”
Looking down at her hands, she chewed on her bottom lip. “Yes,” she answered, sounding awkward. “Elizabeth didn’t just show up here to find you, Jaylon; she also aspired to speak to me and communicate her brother’s request.”
“Are you actually contemplating a possible union with him?” Jaylon asked incredulously.
“I don’t know,” she answered, shrugging her shoulders and looking away.
“The Earl of McDermontis not very...”
“Attractive,” Camille interjected with a sigh. “I know that Jaylon, but he’s an Earl, and that negates all of his iniquities. Don’t you agree, Aniela?”
“I-I’m not certain,” she stammered, not truly listening since she yearned to leave the room. “I don’t think I am qualified to answer since I don’t believe I have ever met him. Where did you say McDermont Hall is located again?”
“In York,” Camille answered. “I know that’s some distance away, but not totally undoable.”
Walking around them, Aniela had an abrupt thought at not realizing Lady Elizabeth’s family home was in York. “What time should I be ready to depart?” She inquired, mulling over her thoughts.
“Around the noon hour,” Camille answered. “In case Lord Daniel would prefer to have afternoon tea.”
Jaylon stopped Aniela’s departure again. “You are not going if I can’t resolve my afternoon appointments.”
“Then you better make certain someone changes your schedule,” she asserted with a laugh. “Because I am absolutely going.” Then she spun on her heel, opened the door, made sure no one was lingering in the hallway, and left the room.
Lifting his gaze towards the ceiling, Jaylon ran his hands down his face in utter frustration. “She will be the death of me,” he exhaled.
Releasing a curt laugh, Camille walked towards him and settled her palm on his chest. Her fingers outlined the purple bite marks Aniela had left on his skin from the night before. “Admit it, though,” she beamed. “You will enjoy every minute of it.”
Then she too left the room. Leaving him to stand alone to ponder over his disquietude.