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The duke's daughter was draped in clinging cloth, her eyes downcast as much as any harem offering as she entered his sleeping chambers.
Robert turned, seeing an older woman, dark-haired and dressed in flowing robes, grip his offering in one hand. She urged her forward, her other hand going to efficiently strip away the concealing cloth in one swift movement, leaving her charge nude. "See," the woman cooed, "what my master has sent you as a token of his friendship? Is she not gloriously beautiful?"
She was, that wasn't an argument. Long silken curls tumbled over her bare shoulders, her skin enticingly smooth and flawless, and her voluptuous breasts were firm and tipped with pink nipples. Any hair had been removed from her body, so the apex at her thighs gleamed pale, the open exposure of her sex something new and intriguing. She was slender except for the weight of her full breasts and that extravagant fall of lovely gold hair. He couldn't see the color of her eyes, concealed as they were by lush lashes and half-closed eyelids.
Heaven help him, he thought, he actually wanted no part of this, but his body was already reacting. His cock had begun to stiffen, almost against his will.
"She is lovely," he agreed in a murmur, meaning it.
He saw the girl's head come up slightly at the recognition of his familiar accent. It wasn't surprising that she hadn't known at once he was English. He wore a loose silk black robe and his hair was dark, his skin tanned from his recent African travels.
The woman called Lela also noticed the girl's small reaction and frowned in disapproval. "She will please you," she said firmly. "She has never known a man, yet I ruptured hervirgin's barrier two days ago with an instrument designed for that purpose, my lord, in anticipation of this night. No pain should disrupt your enjoyment of her."
He tried to picture this gently-reared, privileged young woman enduring the procedure that rendered her technically no longer a virgin so she would not disrupt his carnal needs, and felt vaguely guilty just for being male. "I am sure she will be very enjoyable," he said evenly, not certain how to deal with a young and uncertain maiden facing her very first sexual encounter. There was also the fact that if she in any way acted as if she didn't wish to please him, or tried to resist, she would be punished.
And lost, Abdul had said, inside the forbidden confines of a harem.
Hell, Robert thought darkly.
"Go to the bed and lie down," the woman ordered.
For a second, the girl hesitated and her shoulders stiffened as if she might refuse, but she obediently walked a few paces to where the huge bed sat on a dais, the coverings rich and soft, pillows piled high in one corner. Climbing up the marble steps, she laid down in the middle.
His erection swelled at the significance of that supplicant pose, rising against the silk of the robe he wore. With an inward curse, he tried to stem his body's unruly response. The girl lay very still, her bare breasts quivering slightly, the flesh ripe and opulent with those entrancing pink crests.
As she took a small jar from the pocket of her dress, Lela explained in her soft accented English, "She might still be tender, my lord, and her passage is very tight. This cream will ease your entry and it increases your pleasure, as well." She approached the bed and ordered briskly, "Open for me."
Again he caught it--the flash of defiance that came and went before the girl slowly spread her legs apart. As he watched, the woman opened the jar and dipped her fingers into the substance inside, reaching between the girl's legs and parting her labia to insert her finger inside her vaginal passage, her hand moving as she spread it. More of the lotion was applied before the older woman removed her hand and recapped the jar. The only reaction he could see to the impersonal invasion of her body was that two spots of color had appeared on the girl's smooth cheeks.
"I am leaving you now. I will come for her in the morning." With that Lela moved in graceful silence across the room and slipped out the door, closing it behind her.
They will be watching as you bed her ... Abdul's warning rang in his head. If he spared Rushton's young daughter, she was doomed. Neither could he simply sit down and explain the situation either. He'd found the small slits in the wall by the bed, cleverly worked into a mosaic relief, and not only would whoever sat there and covertly watched see them clearly, they could also hear anything that was said, he was sure. It would be an insult to his host if he explained to her he was only doing this because he was forced by her circumstances.
The situation was untenable, but there seemed little choice.
Was it rape, he wondered, if both parties are unwilling to perform the act?
Well, not precisely unwilling, he reminded himself wryly. He was almost fully hard, and as he approached the bed, he felt himself stiffen further. The beautiful nude woman waiting there was not a sight any man could ignore. She watched him, her lashes still lowered, and he could see the slight rapid beat of her pulse in her throat.
He smiled at her as he sat down on the edge of the bed and reached down to touch her cheek. "What's your name?"
"Celia." The answer was hushed almost inaudible.
Yes, that was it, he remembered now. Lady Celia Davenport. "You are lovely, Celia," he told her, his fingers lightly tracing the full curve of her lower lip. Her mouth was pink and perfect and he urged her to a sitting position facing him, her long hair trailing over her slim shoulders. "I won't hurt you," he promised, leaning closer, brushing his mouth across hers.
Her eyes, azure blue at this close range, simply watched him. He kissed her again, a light pressure, tasting her.
"Tell me, where are you from?" he asked for their unwanted audience.
The slight shake of her head told him that she had obviously been instructed to keep silent about her background. "I see," he murmured, not touching her in anyway except for the drift of his mouth across her jaw. "Can you speak with me at all?"
"If you ask me a question, my lord, I will answer it if I am allowed."
Inhaling her delicate fragrance, Robert slipped his arm around her waist and brought her closer, into his embrace. Her breasts pressed against his partially open robe and he could feel the warmth of her smooth, pliant skin. Whispering in her ear, hoping it looked as if he was continuing his gentle wooing and trying to ease her fears, he said, "Do not react in any way to what I am about to say, please, but I know your father. I hope only you can hear me say this."
To her credit, she showed no outward sign of a reaction, but he felt it. Her heartbeat increased and her breathing changed slightly. He moved his mouth to her neck, pressing against that quickened pulse, before sliding upward again. With delicate care, he nibbled on her earlobe, the movement of his lips concealed by her silken hair. "I am trying to free you, but we must do this. If you understand, put your arms around me."
Her arms slid around his waist.
"And you have to submit completely or you'll be here forever."
He hoped only he heard the small sound she made, a sob caught in the back of her throat. Rushton's pretty daughter had courage, he found then, for she said in a throaty voice that would due credit to any harem girl, "You are very handsome, my lord. I hope I please you well. Whatever you ask, it is my pleasure to give it."