The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance (Page 15)

“I can think of better places for them, if ye trust me.”

He rolled to his side to cup her cheek, gazing down with watchful eyes that still held the sea. She put her hand over his.

After placing a careful kiss in his palm, she whispered, “I trust you.”


Thom ran a thumb over her cheekbone with the gentleness he’d used cradling her dainty teacups. His eyes went hooded, and he leaned over to dust her lips with his. Shivers raced through her at the touch. It may have seemed gentle and soft, but the promise of more lurked in his hazel eyes, gone shadowy with the moonlight. She understood that he was giving her time to bolt, to break away. To turn from him.

She didn’t.

She lifted her head, inviting, and with a slow, curling smile, he obliged. His mouth slanted over hers with firm purpose as his hand slipped to her jaw. Whatever had made her panic last time, that impulse was gone, her body rooted to the earth and yearning toward his. The kiss was long, slow, and tasting, and she opened her eyes to watch him, her fingers trailing over the golden hairs on his forearm where his sleeve had slipped up. His eyelashes were light where they fell over his cheeks, and tiny webs of wrinkles sprang from the corners of his eyes as if he was always laughing. But he wasn’t laughing now, and he ran his thumb along the corner of her mouth as he deepened the kiss, his tongue slipping within. She closed her eyes. Now she was the one struggling not to fall apart.

Charles had kissed her, and those kisses had excited her, but never like this. Charles had made love as he had done everything: quickly, sharply, selfishly, and with a mirror close at hand. She had been too young and anxious to please to consider that there might be something more to how bodies met. Thom seemed entirely focused on her, on her mouth, although he subtly sidled over, his hip pressing against hers with lazy suggestion. His tongue explored her, pressing sweetly and gently and playfully but with a slow tenderness that was half pleasure, half madness. He coaxed her with tender strokes, calling her into his rhythm, luring her to lap at his mouth with the same sly fascination, the same unhurried surety. She reached for his hair, for the tender back of his neck exposed beneath his collar.

When he pulled back, his thumb still pressed to the corner of her lips, he smiled down at her with a new heat. “Ye didn’t bolt.”

She just shivered and shook her head no.

Without the press of his body and the touch of his mouth, Frannie felt exposed, her skin alive and on fire under the thin cotton of her gown. She hadn’t thought it through, bringing him up to the garden, although it didn’t feel wrong. Still, it was strange to see the hills and shadows of her body through the worn chemise and know that even the wan moonlight would show him every place where the thin shift clung to her, the dusky shadows of her nipples and her thatch, farther down. She felt lush and fearless in the night air, laid bare for him as all her secrets now were.

“Ye look like a selkie dusted in starlight.”

His hand traced down her face and neck, making her shiver when he reached her collarbone. Leaning over ever so slowly, he planted a kiss there, and the breath caught in her throat as her back arched toward him.

His palm traced down her arm, and he took up her bare hand and matched his fingers to hers, one to one, a look of wonderment on his face. “Such a wee thing,” he mused.

Frannie’s eyes feasted on him in turn, from the shaggy cut of his hair, just grazing broad shoulders, to the V where his work shirt hung open, showing a patch of gold hair even lighter than the rest. He was stretched out beside her, bigger in every respect, at ease on his side with his kilt draped haphazardly, showing gold-dusted knees and his heavy work boots, carefully polished for their visit to the theater. She ached to touch him, just as she longed to feel his callused hands skim over her every curve.

With a satisfied rumble, he half-settled over her, his body pressed against hers from chest to thigh. The kiss started deeper, faster this time, his hunger showing in the pressure of his lips and the firm movement of one leg, protectively covering one of hers and moving her knees ever so subtly apart. Her tongue sought his, breaking past soft lips in a quick, tender caress, just testing the waters. He met her, moaning into her mouth as his hand slid from her collarbone to her waist, fingers splayed over the whisper-soft gown.

“No corset. Gods, woman,” he murmured, his palm hot as he explored the valley from ribs to hips, the cotton bunching under his fingers. He pulled her to her side, and she slid her leg over his, pressing pearled nipples against the planes of his chest, back arched and still bearing the damp kiss of dew-wet grass soaked up through the blanket.

Thom kissed just behind her ear, moving her hair aside and brushing the tiny curls with a finger between soft presses of his lips. Heat shimmered over her, making her ache inside for more of his body and his mouth. Her hand tightened around the tense knot of his bicep. He skimmed the lacy neck of her gown, leaving a trail of kisses down to the ribbon tie as his hand cupped her breast, his thumb stroking her hard nipple through the cloth. She felt heavy in his arms, soft and opening the way the tree leaves did every morning when the sun rose. Slowly, so slowly, he pulled the ribbon at her throat as his mouth dipped to her breast, suckling through the thin fabric, an echoed heat pooling between her legs and making her gasp.

With one hand cradling her head, he gently rolled her to her back and slung a leg over to straddle her thighs. She watched the play of his kilt and grinned, stretched her hands overhead, and reveled in the strange, leisurely pleasure, languid as a purring cat. His tongue returned, hot and wet through the gown, her nipple still peaked to his touch. With both hands free, he cupped her breasts tenderly and bent his head to lavish the other nipple with warm strokes of his tongue, his breath hot through the cotton. When Frannie ran her hands up the hard planes of his thighs, she was surprised to find that underneath his kilt he wore nothing at all.

“Goodness,” she muttered, and he caught her mouth in another kiss, briefly grinding his pelvis against her to demonstrate with no question that there was actually . . . quite a bit of something else underneath a Scotsman’s kilt. Before she could gasp in surprise, he found her nipple again, teasing with his teeth and making her writhe.

A shadow passed over the moon just then, casting the garden in shadow. Emboldened by the darkness, she ran a hand even farther up his leg and briefly stroked the hot silk of what she found there.

He made a strangled noise, deep in his throat. “Oh, lass. You can’t know what ye do to me.”

But she did know, and she moved her hand gently up and down, grinning slyly when he moaned, cheek hot against the skin of her chest. She moved her hand a little faster, and he growled, going tense all over. His hand tangled in the fabric of her gown before skimming up the inside of her leg, warm and yielding. When he stroked the hot center of her like a question, she answered by quivering and whimpering in turn, her hand locked around him. The sensation of his thumb, rough and wide, rubbing slowly and deeply, woke something in her, and she finally understood that just as Thom’s kisses were something different from the ones Charles had inflicted upon her, so would Thom’s lovemaking be an entirely new experience, one that her body was well roused to enjoy. Every touch, every taste, every look of his shadowed eyes told her that he was determined to take care of her in every way, that he wouldn’t leave her hungry. She closed her eyes, tossing her head back, yielding her body utterly to his care.

“You’re wet, lass. Do ye want this?”

One finger pressed in, ever so gently, and she rose to meet it, holding her breath. “More than I’ve wanted anything in a long time,” she whispered, and he made an affirmative noise and moved the finger a little faster. She felt his lips close around her nipple again, and an exquisite yearning surged through her like a flame connecting where his mouth and fingers met her body.

“Well, then,” he whispered, lips hot against her breast.

He pushed another finger into her, in and out slowly, and she ached for the fullness every time they withdrew. She found herself moving along with him, her body already knowing the dance. After a last, wet pull on her breast, he drew his shirt over his head and murmured, “Let me see you, love.” Watching the play of shadows over his chest, she shifted to help him strip her gown away. In all her years in the garden, she’d never been there naked. She’d never really been anywhere naked, other than the copper tub in the loo, and her lifelong fear of bludrats always urged her to hurry back into a gown, into anything. But now, fully exposed from hair to toes, she stretched in the starlight and sighed at the air’s warm kiss on her skin.

Thom still wore his kilt and boots, but she found that she approved. The brush of wool against her thighs was delicious, and she sucked in a breath as he kissed between her breasts and down the curve of her belly. Finally settling over her, he kissed her gently, sweetly, deeply.

“Ye must promise to tell me if it hurts ye.”

She nodded, biting her lip.

He nudged her thighs apart with a leg, and she opened willingly. Every nerve thrummed, ached, and she knew she was more than ready. The hot press of him where his fingers had recently worked made her shiver with anticipation. As he pushed into her, so slowly, he took her nipple between his teeth and suckled.

Frannie had never wanted anything so badly, never felt such a hunger. When he was fully inside, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close to whisper in his ear, “Don’t stop.”

He moved slowly at first, tentative, as if he was afraid of hurting her. She moved with him, learning, feeling, the tension building. He felt so big, filling her, blotting out the stars. It was hot and sweet and wet, and still she wanted.


“More, lass?”

“Harder. I don’t know. More.”

He moved faster, pounding against her, making her wiggle and press against him. An ache was building in her, like an itch she couldn’t scratch, and he sped up the pace. She wrapped one leg around him and whimpered, trying to find just the right place. When he unlatched her arms and rolled her over onto her hands and knees while still inside her, she was utterly surprised.