Ecstasyby Nicole Jordan
Having watched her mother languish away for a lost love, Raven Kendrick vows never to surrender her heart. But when her life erupts in scandal, she is forced to accept a marriage proposal from the wickedly sensuous owner of London's most notorious gaming hell. Though fiercely drawn to her enigmatic rescuer, Raven battles to resist her husband, whose sensuous caresses… See more details below
Having watched her mother languish away for a lost love, Raven Kendrick vows never to surrender her heart. But when her life erupts in scandal, she is forced to accept a marriage proposal from the wickedly sensuous owner of London's most notorious gaming hell. Though fiercely drawn to her enigmatic rescuer, Raven battles to resist her husband, whose sensuous caresses promise ecstasy beyond her wildest fantasies.
To save the reputation of an innocent girl nearly ruined by his brother, Kell Lasseter sacrifices his freedom to wed the dazzling debutante. Long scorned for his Irish blood and dark past, Kell cannot deny that this enchanting spitfire is unlike other society misses . . . anymore than he can quell his smoldering desire for her. Torn between loyalty to his brother and his growing feelings for his rebellious bride, Kell must somehow free Raven's reluctant heart before they can know the ecstasy of true love.
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London, November 1813
He rose naked from the surf, his wet, sleekly muscled body glistening in the Caribbean sun. Framed against the brilliant turquoise sea, he looked like some pagan god. Yet he was no god. He was the pirate who had stolen her virtue and then her heart.
Heat and vitality and danger throbbed from him as he stood spread-legged on the crystalline white beach, commander of all he surveyed. His engorged male flesh clearly proclaimed his arousal and made her breath falter.
As if he heard her soft gasp, his dark gaze riveted on her. She felt ravished each time he looked at her, even though she couldn’t make out his features. She could never see his face, only his dark eyes that were intense and burning.
He came to her then, purpose defined in every lithe stride. The sand was warm at her back as he bore her down, his hungry mouth hot as it claimed hers.
His kiss was ravaging, not in force but in effect; his touch dangerously, wildly sensual as his hands roamed over her at will.
He drank of her mouth, then shifted his caresses lower, gentle and ruthless at once. Pressing her head back, he kissed the arch of her throat, her collarbone, her naked breasts. . . . His lips felt hotter than the sun on her bare skin, the blistering heat searing her flesh. He captured a nipple and suckled hard, shooting arrows of pleasure downward to her moist, feminine center.
She whimpered and parted her legs for him, sighing as he nestled his swollen sex against her softness, the throbbing ache between her thighs soothed and aroused at once.
“Please . . .” she pleaded.
Understanding her urgent need, he slid himselfrelentlessly within her, his huge shaft filling her, making her want to weep with ecstasy.
But then he went still, denying her the release she craved. The hot darkness of his gaze pinned her as surely as his pulsing masculine flesh impaled her.
“How can you wed him?” he demanded roughly. “How can you think to give yourself to him?”
“I must. I have no choice. I swore a solemn promise.”
His intense gaze burned into hers. “Your duke is cold, passionless. He cannot make you feel what I do. He cannot make your blood run hot as I can.”
She turned her head aside, knowing all he said was true. She felt a sense of desperation at the thought of her impending marriage. She wanted to forget . . . and yet her pirate would not allow her.
His hand clenched in her hair, his teeth bared in savage insistence. “You belong to me, only to me. You are mine, do you heed me? And I am yours. You created me.”
His possessiveness thrilled and excited her. “Yes,” she said simply.
He withdrew his slick shaft and sank forcefully into her again, thrusting completely home. “When you go to him, I will be the one you remember. My touch, my taste, my hard flesh driving deep inside you, making you cry out with need.”
“Yes. Yes . . . only you.”
She pulled his mouth down to hers, needing to taste him, feel him. . . .
The fierce intimacy of his body locked into hers and he began to move again, taking her, claiming her. He wasn’t tender, but she wanted no tenderness. Instead she lifted her hips to meet his deep thrusts, answering him with all the vigor in her trembling form.
“More,” he urged hoarsely against her mouth. “Give me more. Surrender . . .”
Climax exploded through her in intense, rigid shudders again and again and again before at last he found his own release. Eventually he collapsed upon her, his gasping breath mingling with hers, their fierce hunger momentarily sated.
She lay back, replete, as silken waves came to lap at her, cooling her overheated skin and the blaze of passion between them. . . .
Slowly Raven Kendrick roused from fantasy to awareness, recognizing her bedchamber. The chill light of early morning filtered through the damask curtains as she lay in bed, her body still throbbing with her powerful climax and the memory of her pirate. He was a wild, sweet fire in her blood . . . and he was merely illusion.
With a sigh of unfulfilled longing, Raven rolled over and drew a pillow to her still-tingling breasts. He was all she would ever have of true passion.
Her lover existed only in her imagination, although sometimes he seemed as real to her as any flesh and blood man. He had no identity, no past other than the one she had attributed to him. He’d come ashore in her dreams one bright Caribbean morning to plunder her body and capture her heart. . . .
Her eyes closed on the memory of their most recent interlude. She was still hot and moist between her legs from his make-believe claiming, but in real life she had never felt the ecstasy of a man’s flesh filling her, burning deep inside her.
She could imagine, though. Indeed, she knew things no virgin should ever know. The rare, erotic book her mother had left behind at her death, A Passion of the Heart, had been given to Elizabeth Kendrick by the man she’d desperately loved and was forced to relinquish–a parting gift to keep his memory alive.
Penned by an anonymous Frenchwoman, the journal was a true, tragic tale of love and filled with exquisite details of carnal desire. It had provided solace to Raven’s mother for years, for although it mirrored her pain, the vividly told story let her relive her own lost passion.
Yet it was a scandalous tome for any young lady of virtue to possess.
Raven frowned defiantly. Perhaps she was wicked to foster such vivid illusions of her pirate, but in her fantasies she could be as unconventional and free as she chose. She could satisfy the deep restlessness inside her, indulge her forbidden hunger without the dire consequences of social ruin. Most vitally, she could give herself completely to a lover without fear of losing her heart and soul, the way her mother once had.
Involuntarily Raven clenched her fists as the familiar dread pulsed through her. She would never give her heart to a real man. She’d seen how love had destroyed her mother, made her a slave to dimming memory. For years her mother had sobbed into her pillow each night, lamenting the love she’d lost. By day she had pored over her precious journal, memorizing each poignant line.
Reaching into the bedside table drawer, Raven withdrew the jewel-encrusted book, her eyes blurring as she remembered. It had grieved her endlessly to see her mother waste her life away, wishing even on her deathbed for a man she could never have.
The loss of her mother had left Raven achingly bereft yet filled with determination. She would never make the same mistake her mother had made, falling victim to a hopeless love. No man would ever own her soul. She alone controlled the shape of her destiny. She might have resolved to marry, but love would form no part of the equation.
A rap on her bedchamber door brought Raven out of her dark reverie. Quickly returning the journal to the drawer, she bid admission, and her personal maid entered, carrying a tray.
“Morning, miss,” Nan said in unmistakably excited tones. “I’ve brought you a fine breakfast since you’ll need proper sustenance. ’Twill be many hours before the wedding feast.”
Inexplicably Raven’s heart sank at the reminder. Her wedding day at last was here.
She sat up slowly in bed and allowed Nan to set the tray on her lap, even though she suddenly had no appetite.
The maid poured her a cup of chocolate, talking all the while. “Just think, Miss Raven! You’ll soon be a duchess. ’Tis just like a fairy tale.” Nan sighed, her expression filled with reverence before she caught herself. “Beg pardon, miss. I shouldn’t let my tongue run away like that. But I’ve never known a real duchess before.”
Raven summoned a smile she didn’t feel. “That’s quite all right, Nan. I am a bit in awe myself.”
Turning to the hearth, the maid built up the dwindling fire to ward off the November chill, then bobbed a curtsy. “Your bathwater is heating, Miss Raven. If you please, I’ll return in half an hour to help you bathe and dress.”
“Yes, thank you, Nan.”
When the servant had left the room, Raven dutifully picked up her fork but set it down again as her stomach recoiled. In a few short hours she would wed the man she had chosen, a prominent nobleman who commanded the respect of the highest echelons of the ton. She had eagerly anticipated this day for months–so why did she now feel as if she were somehow going to her execution?
Bridal nerves. Her anxiety could be attributed merely to that. Every bride had misgivings on her wed- ding day.
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