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Salem, Massachusetts, 1692
"Lay thy hands upon me, Lydia."
"I dare not. I-I do not know how to do what ye ask."
"Hast thou no knowledge of thy husband's person?" It was beyond comprehension that she might still be a virgin. But, thinking of the man that was her husband, Connor could understand if that was the case. Reverend Sewell was a cold, hard man. Connor could not fathom the likes as him with a warm, beautiful woman as Lydia.
"I assure thee that I do. I have been a married woman for over a year."
He grinned at the reproach he heard in her voice. If he could get her to relax, he knew she would be a hellcat in his bed. "Then why dost thou blushest and tremblest like a virgin when I touch thee like this?"
Moving slowly, he reached for the collar of her dress, unfastening the hooks one by one. The little hitch in her breath told him of her anxiety, but excitement. One thing he knew was women. But he had never known a woman like Lydia Sewell. She had intrigued him the second he had watched her step from the mercantile in Salem Harbour, so innocent but full of life with her sparkling eyes and open, friendly smile.
She amongst all the others had never tried her womanly wiles on him behind the back of her husband.
"Or, like this?" With both hands he pulled the stiff, scratchy material down over her shoulders to reveal the smooth skin of her chest. Angling his head, he inhaled the warm scent of her skin evaporating into the cool, damp air of the cabin. When he pressed his lips to the hollow of her neck she stiffened.
"Thou art not my husband."
"Nay." With a firm, quick movement, he pushed the dress to her waist, trapping her arms ather sides. "I am not."
He moved behind her. Trailing his fingers upwards over her skin, he cupped her breasts. "I am but a man, who would dare be thy lover," he whispered into her ear at the same instant he tweaked her nipples with his forefingers and thumbs. "Thou knowest what I need from ye this night."
A low moan rose from her throat, as her head fell against his shoulder. "I-I cannot do this thing that thou askest of me, Connor. The Reverend Sewell hath gone to the town meeting regarding the demise of the ones accused of witchcraft. He will be but a few hours."
"Yea, sweet Lydie. Thy husband is a fool to wasteth such glorious womanhood as thine. I wouldst help thee relax. I know thou desirest me."
"Yea, but 'tis evil of me to feel this way for one who is not my husband."
Connor stilled, unable to prevent the jealousy that rose in his heart at the thought of another man touching the woman in his arms. "Doth he toucheth thee as do I?"
Many women came to him from the village, but none affected him the way the preacher's wife had done.
He squeezed her small, firm breasts in the palms of his hands. A perfect fit. She was made for him. And ... he would have her. He pinched her nipples harder, knowing the shaft of pain and pleasure he would place upon her body. "Doth he?"
"Nay." Her head dropped in apparent shame. "He doth not touch me or kiss me as dost thou."
She turned within the circle of his arms, placing her hands upon his chest. The green of her eyes sparkled with fear in the firelight. "We cannot do this. He would have us pressed beneath stones. Thou hast witnessed what they do to the ones accused of witchery. Surely, this wouldst be worse!"
Connor threaded a hand through her chestnut hair, liking the silky weight as it fell around her shoulders. "They be not witches. The magistrate is a fool, listening to the lies of young, spiteful girls."
"How dost thou knowest they not be witches?"
He hesitated, not sure if he should tell her the truth. Lydia was already nervous of him. In the end, she must know and accept what he was. "Because I am one."
Her tiny fists clenched in the material of his shirt. "I am frightened, Connor." She laid her head upon his chest.
Connor closed his eyes against the surge of protectiveness he experienced for this woman. "I will protect thee, Lydie. When I have saved enough coin for us to journey south to warmer, more accepting climes, we will go together. Thou wilt not live in fear any longer."
She gazed up into his face. "I would like that."
His hands tightened around her upper arms. "But this night, let me love thee as a man should love a beautiful woman."
Again she trembled, but Connor persisted. He had been secretly courting the preacher's wife for a month. She was his.
He set her away from him. "Stay."
With an eye on her trembling form, he moved to the mantel. He reached up for the wooden, black box on the end, watching as she pulled her gown up over her nakedness. Her innate shyness pleased him, but he knew she needed something to help her overcome the prudery ingrained into her psyche since childhood. She was a woman--his woman--and he would know her without the barriers of society between them.
He returned to her, holding a glass vial. It sparkled with the colors of the rainbow in the firelight. Inside could be seen a brown liquid.
"What is it?" she asked with narrowed eyes.
"Something to help thee relax."
She bolted, but he caught her to him with one arm around her waist. She struggled, but was not strong enough to break his hold.
"I would not drink the devil's brew."
"Lydie, Lydie, quiet." He shook her once, hard, then turned her to face him. "'Tis but an ointment of herbs, nothing more. It reacteth with your body's natural heat to soothe and calm."
He smiled at her and kissed her forehead. "Trust me."
Huge green eyes blinked, and her breasts heaved from her attempted escape. She glanced at the vial and nodded slowly, glancing back to him.
Quickly, in case she grew nervous again, he opened the vial and placed the rim beneath each of her ears along her neck, her temples, and finally her wrists, allowing the contents to flow out onto her skin.
Recapping the vial, he placed it upon the table without releasing his hold on her. He knew the concoction would absorb faster if he massaged the oil into her skin. His thumbs rubbed circles over the inside of her wrists. Sliding his hands up her bare arms, he buried his fingers into the thickness of her hair, kneading the area beneath her ears and at her temples.
Eyes fluttered and her head slumped forward, as a contented sigh escaped her sweet lips. Slowly, her muscles relaxed, as his fingers kneaded the tension from her body. Her breathing became slower and more rhythmic, as her fast pants of anxiety turned to deeper, more steadied breaths.
"How dost thou feel?" he asked, touching her lips with his in a brief kiss. She tasted slightly of the mint tea he had prepared for her when she had first arrived.
"Hot." She tugged at her dress, breaking several hooks loose.
He laughed. "'Tis the ointment at work."
Pushing her dress from her shoulders once more, he hardened at the thought of what they were about to do. "Let me see thee."
She didn't fight him as before. Her smile was not of the shy, reserved preacher's wife he was accustomed to, but of a coy, seductive woman. She shook her head, allowing her hair to fall over her shoulders away from her chest. Her breasts jiggled, the nipples drawn tight from the cold winter air.
The dress slipped over her hips, landing on the hard, earth-packed floor of the cabin.
Connor held her hands, as she stepped out of the plain, ugly dress. He pulled her to him, kissing her lips, cheeks, and neck with a need so strong, he thought he would suffocate. "Thy perfection taketh my breath. Only silk and satin shouldst touch thy skin, not sackcloth and wool."
A low, throaty laugh emitted from her, like the purr of a satisfied cat. "I love thy mouth on my skin." She sighed, letting her head fall back. Her hair spilled over her bare back. "Methinks I am a wicked woman."
Connor untied her woolen drawers, and they too, fell to the floor. His breath caught at the sight of the goddess before him. "Thou art beautiful."
Her eyelashes fluttered; her smile faltered. "I feel..." She opened her eyes. "...as if I be flying." She flung her arms out, giggling and taking a step away from him.
Connor reached her before she fell. "Ah, Lydie, 'tis the herbs in the oil. Just let them flow through thee."
He eased her onto the blankets he had piled onto the floor by the hearth. Ripping at the clasps to his pants, he could hardly contain himself, as she watched him with that wanton smile on her face, hardened nipples piercing the cold air, and her legs splayed in invitation.
"Connor, I need thee ... here." Her hand moved from her breast to her womanhood. She rubbed herself with knowing fingers.
His eyebrows rose, as did the heat around his collar. "What art thou about?"
"I am but relieving mine ache."
His breath caught in his throat. "Dost ... thou relievest this ache often?"
"Every night in the darkness, since I first saw thee."
Connor struggled to pull the shirt over his head, flinging it across the room where it landed in a heap in the corner. With a harsh sob he fell upon the seductress beneath him. His mouth crushed hers, and still she caressed herself--faster and faster, matching the thrust of his tongue into her mouth.
The muscles in her back tightened, and she arched. Her nipples stabbed into the skin of his chest, cold against his warmth. A tremor ran the length of her body.
He knew she was on the verge of peaking. Jerking her hands above her head, he whispered in a harsh tone, "Not this moment."