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The Royal Conquest(10)

By´╝ÜStacy Reid



Damnable nonsense to be so captivated by a female he knew nothing about. He was fully aware of the blackened and treacherous thoughts a bewitching face can hide. Perhaps it was incidental that she affected him so strongly. After all, it had been several months since he’d bedded a woman.

“What do we do now?” she asked with a nervous chuckle, her eyes flickering to the narrow cot and then back to him.

Christ.

She was aware of the lust simmering between them, but from the dazed confusion in her eyes, Mikhail could tell she had never been exposed to passion. The knowledge should have urged caution, but it only captivated him further. She ought to have a buck tooth and be prone to vapors, he thought in pure disgruntlement, not trusting his fascination. Maybe then he would be able to resist her lures.

“There is a card pack on the mantel and a second blanket on the bed. It is best you remain close by the fire to keep warm and dry your clothing. May I interest you in a game of Gusarik?”

She repeated the word slowly, rolling it around on her tongue with her delightful accent. After a quick look toward the door still shaking under the storm, she graced him with a small smile of acquiescence. “I have never played, but I would learn to pass the time.”

“I will happily educate you in the arts of Gusarik.”

“I am a quick study.”

Her eyes sparkled, and he wondered if she was aware of the heated invitation glowing in them. Against his own inclination, he stepped closer, and her eyes flared wide in alarm and undisguised intrigue. Do not do it, the saner part of him growled. He dipped his head, and she swallowed, but she did not retreat.

For God’s sake, save yourself, Miss Peppiwell.

Their mouths only scant inches apart, she wetted her lips. It was a nervous reaction to his nearness, but everything in him narrowed on her lips. He was starving for a taste of something new, something sweet and innocent, without the sly memory of depravity distorting its purity. He inhaled, then shuddered, so potent was her scent. This is madness.

“Is this where I reach for the poker and bash you?” she asked huskily.

He snapped his gaze to hers, and the wicked amusement dancing in her honey eyes pushed a soft laugh from Mikhail. “No, milaya moya.”

Relief and disappointment flashed across her face. “What does milaya moya mean?”

He hesitated. The endearment had slipped from him without thought. He was losing control too fast…too suddenly.

“It must mean something dreadful if you do not wish to divulge,” she teased.

Cold caution settled in his gut. “My sweet…it means my sweet.”

Beguiling color dusted her skin. “Please refer to me as Miss Peppiwell, Mr. Konstantinovich. We are not intimates and ‘my sweet’…is outrageous and inappropriate,” she said with a glare that lessened the twinkle in her eyes.

She was irresistibly fascinating.

“You will call me Mikhail, and I will refer to you as Payton.” He waved to encompass the small cottage. “I feel our situation is intimate enough for us to dispel with pretentious formalities.”

She pursed her lips, considering him. “You sound like a man used to giving commands…Mikhail.”

“And you sound like an utterly delightful and challenging woman, Payton.” A challenge which I accept…mayhap to my detriment.

Bald interest glowed in her eyes. “So should I release the poker?”

It was then he noted her fingers were curled over the iron in a firm grip.

His lips twitched, but he suppressed the smile. “Do you feel threatened?”

“Most assuredly.”

Yet he saw no anxiety in her. In fact, her gaze dipped to his mouth, and his bloody heart lurched. “Do you fear I will kiss you?”

“No…I fear I would encourage you.” She sucked in an audible breath and lifted shocked eyes to his at her uncensored response.

“I…I…”

“Please do not apologize. I admire your honesty.”

“You mean my unladylike utterances.”

“I welcome any wicked words to spill from your lips.” Never had he spoken so to a lady, but it was as if their unusual situation gave him freedom to act without fear of judgment or entrapment. And it was more than evident to him, her enticing boldness was unnatural.

The space between them heated, and his control wavered. Scowling at his undisciplined reaction, he stepped away from her tempting warmth, and a soft exhalation of relief puffed from her.

Mikhail felt the weight of her gaze on him as he added a log to the fire. He wasted no time seeing to their comforts before the hearth. She settled on the blanket facing him, and he did his best to appear nonchalant. For certainly she would run from the cottage and brave the storm if she understood the ruthless will he was exerting on himself, still trying to determine if, before the dawn crested, he would pleasure her with his fingers, then his tongue and cock, breaking the rigid chain of control he had exercised over his passions for ten long years.

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