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MADE FOR SIN
By CELIA MAY HART
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2007 Celia May Hart
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAlex Radbourne, the Earl of Radbourne, woke in a mild state of panic. Where the devil am I? Why does my bed rock in such an alarming manner? He forced open his gummy eyelids.
He blinked, a bright shaft of light piercing the gloom. In my carriage? What the devil am I doing in my carriage?
His memories came rushing back. He bit back a groan, not wanting to upset the girl. He'd been an idiot, but he'd decided to do the right thing by her.
He blinked again, his eyes adjusting to the light. The girl. Where was she?
He roared, pounding on the carriage roof, bellowing for the coachman.
At once, the carriage drew to a halt, and his coachman opened the door. "Yes, my lord?"
"Where the devil is the girl?" he demanded.
The coachman started, staring beyond his master into the carriage's interior. "She-she is not in there?"
"I know that," Alex snapped. "What I want to know is where she is now."
His coachman took an inadvertent step backward. "We just went through the town of Durham, my lord. Had to slow the carriage. Perhaps she chose that moment to leave?"
Alex cursed. "She could have killed herself. What made her act that way? She-" He broke off, remembering their wild, abandoned lovemaking in the carriage. It would not do to speak of that before the help, although surely the man had heard them copulate.
"Women!" he cursed. "I'll never understand them."
"What do you wish to do, my lord?" the coachman prompted after a short, angry silence.
"We'll have to go back to Durham, of course, and see what has gotten into that girl. Can't have her wandering about the countryside on her own. It's not safe and she's under my protection, whether she likes it or not."
Lucy slammed through the undergrowth. Thin, flexible branches whipped her outstretched palms and tore at her high-waisted skirt.
She sobbed aloud between gasping breaths. She had to get away. She had to.
She ducked under a spreading tree branch, twilight making it difficult to discern shapes. Leaves batted at her face, sticking to her wet cheeks. Some of them fell away again, but Lucy had no time to care about her appearance.
She had to get away.
Lucy stumbled into a clearing and at once put on an extra burst of speed, ignoring the stabbing pains in her booted feet.
Her eyes clouded with tears, she slammed headlong into someone. Someone whose arms caught her involuntarily. Her impetus knocked them both to the ground.
It knocked the breath out of her. Eyes closed, she fought him, panicked cries escaping her lips.
He'd found her.
"Hush, shhh," the man murmured, expertly fielding her flailing fists. "I won't hurt you."
The soothing tones of his voice penetrated her panic, her fear. It was not him. She stilled, gathering her breath and her wits.
He patted her back awkwardly. "Are you all right, miss?" His common north country burr, combined with the odor of sweat, leather, and-Lucy struggled to identify the other smell-gunpowder brought Lucy fully back to her senses.
She must be squashing the man.
Lucy pushed off him and sat in the dirt beside him.
Night had almost eclipsed the last of the twilight. She made out the pale oval of his face-not as pale as her own lily-white hands, which she held up in the air for comparison. A giant white X glowed across his chest.
She'd run into a soldier.
"Help me," she whispered, her voice hoarse from all her tears. "Someone is after me."
At once, he scrambled to his feet, a long dark shadow of a rifle gripped expertly in his hands. She gazed up at him, struck by his commanding, alert air. He reminded her of a predator, sniffing out prey in the night.
A brief frission of fear washed through her. Would she become his prey?
Lucy tried to calm her breathing while the soldier stood over her, his posture stiff and still. She whimpered, half out of fear and half from the incredible raw maleness of the man. She gripped the leg of his trouserlike overalls.
"Hush," he growled under his breath. "I'm listenin'."
She covered her mouth.
"There's no sound of pursuit," he said at last, holding out a hand to her.
She gripped it and he hauled her to her feet. Unbalanced, she fell against his chest. Her fingers hugged the edge of the thick white leather crossbelt crossing his torso. Clay crumbled against her hand. He hugged her, keeping them both balanced.
Embarrassed, she ducked her head, rubbing her cheek against his woolen coat. In an odd way, it comforted her. She'd never been comforted by a stranger before, but this man took it all in stride, rubbing her back in a soothing circular motion, making her feel like a helpless child.
The scent of him-male sweat from heavy exertion and something undefinably herbal-took her from her comfort zone into the self-awareness that she clung to a man and she was a grown woman, not a child.
She didn't let him go, breathing him in.
"I have a camp nearby," he said, keeping his voice soft and even. "I can take you there and we'll get you where you need to be in the morn."
Where would that be? Lucy's choices of refuge had shrunk dramatically over the last few days. A hiccuped sob escaped.
"D'you understand, miss?"
She nodded, abrading her cheek against his coat, catching the chill of a button on her skin. "Yes. It is just ..." Tears overwhelmed her once more. She'd made a catastrophic decision that changed her life forever. This stranger didn't know the half of what had happened to her. Couldn't know.
More kindness existed in his simple courtesies than in a hundred of the, well, Upper Hundred or beau monde.
"Hanky," she snuffled.
"Sorry, miss. Sergeants don't carry handkerchiefs."
Unable to make out the sergeant's stripes in the dark as proof of his words, she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, sniffed hard, and gestured to him to lead the way.
He must have caught her movement, for he turned, leaving her only the glowing X-mark of his uniform as a guide. Lucy hastened after him, lifting her shredded skirt hem from the ground.
At length, firelight flickered ahead, gradually forming shape as a cheery fire with the dark outlines of people seated around it. She identified another uniform and hung back as her rescuer strode into the group.
He must have realized she didn't follow him, for he turned and gestured to her to approach. "Come, we won't bite ya."
Lucy took a frightened breath. She gazed down at herself, aware of the disorder of her clothing, the tears in her skirts and sleeves. How could she appear before others like this?
He beckoned her again, a little more sharply. "Come on, miss." He faced toward the fire. "Joe, you have a spare blanket, right?"
A soldier on the far side of the fire shifted and rummaged in something at his side. He rose and circled the fire to join the sergeant.
By now, all the denizens seated around the fire stared at her with frank curiosity. Somewhere in the dark, a donkey brayed.
Lifting her chin, Lucy stepped toward the warmth of the fire, even if the others around the fire did not seem inclined to show a friendly face. She drew closer, accepting the settling of the blanket about her shoulders from the sergeant, and meekly followed him to a place about the fire.
The sergeant made a sharp motion to another of the men, who disappeared into the darkness. In the firelight, Lucy got a better look at her rescuer. He wore a soldier's uniform, his dark, mussed hair remained unpowdered, tied into a simple queue at the nape of his neck. A dried leaf clung unnoticed to his hair.
The flickering ruddy light made his features look harsh, in stark contrast to the gentleness he had shown her. Would daylight smooth the dark ridges that lined his cheeks and the corners of his eyes and mouth?
It was a handsome face, she decided. One that matched his wiry strength, for he was no taller than she and not of stocky build.
More than that, he seemed more masculine than anyone she had met in London, more masculine than starched fronts and refined airs. This sergeant was all man, raw and real.
Lucy settled onto the cold ground, draping the blanket about her. She gathered the folds close under her chin and stared at him. He mesmerized her and she couldn't say why. His every move drew the eye, totally at ease with the latent power he emanated. "Maggie, got any of that stew left?" the sergeant asked.
One of the women rose, her red hair straggling unwashed about her face, and spooned a bowl from the black pot warming by the fire. She thrust the bowl under Lucy's nose.
"Where did you find 'er, sarge?" Maggie asked, shooting wary glances Lucy's way.
Lucy ignored her, shoveling the stew into her mouth, burning her tongue. When did I last have a proper meal?
"Where d'ya think?" the sergeant returned, not unkindly.
"Bit of a mystery, ain't she?" Maggie observed. "Fancy getup all torn. Could be a whore but she don't seem to have any brass."
Lucy swallowed and smiled sweetly up at the woman. "Please do not speak of me as if I am deaf."
Maggie shrieked an amused cry that ended in a chuckle. "Talks fancy, she does," Maggie said to the crowd before returning her attention to Lucy. "Wot's yer name?"
The sergeant stepped in front of Lucy. "Leave her be, Mags. The girl's had a shock. Time enough for her tale tomorrow."
Maggie harrumphed and resumed her place by the fire.
"Thank you," Lucy murmured under her breath.
The sergeant sat next to her, shrugging. "M'name's Michael."
"Lucy." She didn't know these people. Would she be safe in giving her whole name?
"Try 'n' rest. We'll 'ave to get an early start to get you home."
Lucy nodded, too tired to argue with him. Tears welled again. Home, she thought. Can I ever return there? Will I ever see it again? She pushed the bowl toward Maggie and lay down, still wrapped in her blanket. What was she going to do?
For a long time, Sergeant Michael Hall stared up at the night sky. Tiny stars sparkled overhead, unconcerned by his disturbed thoughts.
Where had this girl-this woman, for he'd been made all too aware of her shapely curves during both collisions-come from? He and his troop traveled off the main byways, the presence of soldiers not always welcomed on the roads south to Dover.
He'd learned that lesson on his first trip south. The memory almost made him nostalgic for those carefree days when he didn't know the darkness of his future.
His thoughts turned back to this woman, to Lucy. Maggie had already pointed out the quality of her gown and he knew that from touching it when he'd held her. Even though she'd been upset and hungry, every word and gesture indicated her cultured upbringing.
Part of him hoped he hadn't picked up trouble for their little group. The other part stirred into an aching awareness and reminded him of the fun that could be had with an adventuress.
Lucy stirred beside him and rolled over to face him, still wrapped in her blanket. He watched her, her face shadowed by the dying firelight.
After a moment, she shivered, part of the blanket trapped beneath her, baring a single lower limb. She edged closer, sighing when her knee came into contact with his leg.
Michael stiffened. The lass had to be used to roaring fires and heavy down comforters. She must be freezing in the night air, he thought. He bent over and tugged the blanket free and covered her with it.
It didn't seem enough. She wriggled closer until her head nestled on his shoulder, and her legs lay along his. Her hand rested on the ground between them for a moment before creeping across his coat.
He didn't move. He didn't breathe. What the devil was the girl about?
He'd made a mistake. Having not been rebuffed, the girl snuggled in against him and almost against his will, his arm drew her closer.
She sighed, gripping one of the buttons on his coat.
Michael made himself relax. Her blond hair, white in the moonlight, smelled faintly of roses. For one poetical moment, it spoke to him of lush innocence and wealth beyond his dreams.
Lucy let out a soft snore. Michael's lips twitched in response. She was too exhausted to complain about her place of sleeping but surely he'd get an earful in the morning.
He started to drift off to sleep, the warm bundle nestled next to him more of a comfort than he'd suspected. He had never made the habit of sharing his blanket. Ever. His eyelids fluttered shut.
The girl squirmed again, but he was used to it now and paid it no heed, sleep claiming him. Her arm drifted lower, resting across his stomach. His abdominal muscles tightened and sleep escaped him again. Would that dratted girl wriggle all night?
Her hand slid lower and beneath the flat band of his overalls. Michael squeezed his eyes shut. Heavens above! Her fingers curled around his limp cock, cradling him like a baby chick.
He didn't know which was worse: that a woman had touched him while his cock remained asleep, or that she'd done this in her sleep. The girl would be mortified to discover them in such a position when she woke. Or would she? A gentlewoman didn't behave in this manner.
He had to do something about it. His cock had already started to respond. End it, or allow it to continue? Mischief tweaked his lips upward.
But no ... Gingerly, he clasped her forearm and inched it toward the safer ground of his chest.
Her hand gripped his cock harder.
Michael let out a string of almost-silent curses and let her arm go. His cock stiffened, trapping them both within his overalls.
Lucy murmured something.
He tensed, expecting her to wake and cry out an alarm.
But no. Her head turned and she pressed soft kisses against his coat. So soft that at first he hadn't realized what she did. Was she awake?
"Lucy," he whispered. She hooked her leg over his, but gave no other indication that she'd heard him.
And then her hand moved forward and back.
Good God. The woman stroked his cock!
At once, Michael knew Lucy's true identity. A high-class whore, possibly one of those courtesans who only plied their favors with the filthy rich. Not the filthy. Not him. But tonight, tonight she wanted him.
Tonight, he didn't need to be responsible. Especially as he appeared to be getting it for free. More than happy to oblige her desires, he unbuttoned his overalls, his cock springing free, Lucy still gripping it. She gently squeezed him, not moving her hand at all. The head of his cock swelled.
He gnawed his lower lip in frustration. Her rhythmic squeezing of his cock accompanied her crotch pulsing lazily against his hip.
Lucy snored again. Michael bit back a groan, his cock pulsing in the sleeping girl's grip. She still slept? Or was this a game she played at? Michael couldn't pretend to know the mind of a courtesan.
"Hot," Lucy muttered. She shrugged the blanket off, exposing a creamy white shoulder.
Michael slipped a hand into her bodice, which had somehow come loose while she slept. Her breast nestled cool in his palm, her flat nipple soon budding into tautness at his touch.
His eyes widened in the dark. No stays? A gentlewoman wouldn't be caught dead without them.
"More," she whispered, in such a sexy sigh that Michael's hips gave an involuntary jerk.
He rolled onto his side and captured Lucy's sleeping mouth with his. She moaned against his lips and he eased off, gazing down into her upturned face.
Her eyelashes fluttered, but her eyes remained closed. Her lips puckered. He accepted the unspoken invitation and kissed her again. He longed to lay claim to her mouth, really kiss her, hard and deep, until they fought for breath, but that would dispel the charade Lucy insisted on playing.
He explored her soft contours, the swell of her breasts, skimming over the material of her gown. Sliding his hand down the slight incline of her belly and out to her hips.
She made a small noise, a wanting noise, urging him on. He kissed her again: her mouth, her pert nose, her chin. He pressed his mouth against the upper swell of her bosom, inching up her skirts.
His palm skated across her thigh and she opened immediately to him, giving him easy access. He held his breath, brushing her cunt with a fingertip. She shivered, her groin jerking up.
Finding moisture, he delved a little deeper, parting her cunt's lips. She sighed against his ear, more a breathy moan. He probed deeper, finding her wetness rising to meet him.
A whore was always ready.
Swirling his finger against her tight hole, he pushed one finger in, then two. She rewarded him with more wetness. His cock throbbed with the urge to be the part of him to plunge inside her.
Excerpted from MADE FOR SIN by CELIA MAY HART Copyright © 2007 by Celia May Hart. Excerpted by permission.
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