Home > Ruthless (The House of Rohan #1)(13)

Ruthless (The House of Rohan #1)(13)
Anne Stuart

“Such promises, had I made them, would have been hollow, but in fact I did no such thing. Mrs. Clarke has known me for decades, Miss Harriman. She has no illusions about my true nature—she simply never gives up hope.” His eyes narrowed. “Are you really so inured to temptation? I’ve managed to seduce nuns and Sapphists, and I’m unused to having my attempts ignored.”

Curiosity got the better of her. “Sapphists?”

“Women who prefer the love of other women, child.”

Her brow wrinkled. “How?”

“Allow me to explain.” He moved to her side of the carriage before she realized what he was doing. She tried to leap to the other side, but he managed to catch hold of her, one arm tight around her waist, keeping her beside him.

She glared up at him. “You seem to have spent a great deal of time mishandling me, my lord, and I don’t like it. Take your hands off me.”

“Then don’t fight me. I’m just trying to improve your education.” He took one of her hands in his gloved one. It was pathetic—small and rough beneath the patched fingerless glove. He stripped it off and sent it sailing to the other side of the coach. “I’m surprised that Mrs. Clarke didn’t come racing after us with a pair of gloves for you.”

“It wasn’t my idea.”

“Of course it wasn’t, my pet,” he said soothingly. “Mrs. Clarke is a hard woman to argue with. No, just settle back and I will proceed with your education.”

“I don’t…”

“Hush,” he said softly, putting one gloved fingertip up against her mouth. “This isn’t going to hurt.”

The soft leather that shielded his flesh from hers should have made his touch less intimate. Unfortunately everything he did and said was intimate. He held her hand in his, his thumb rubbing against the center of her palm. It had a curiously calming effect.

“Now, I assume you understand the mechanics of male and female coupling. Most properly brought-up young virgins would be totally ignorant, but your up-bringing leaves much to be desired. You know what men and women do, and how their parts fit together with such splendid neatness?”

She wouldn’t have called it that, she thought, biting her lip. “Of course,” she said in a cold voice. She didn’t bother trying to pull her hand away—it would have been a waste of energy. He was so much stronger than she was, and she couldn’t believe he intended to hurt her.

“Women, of course, are unequipped with the necessary equipment to complete the act of love. So they employ alternatives. Some use equipment they can strap on that makes them appear masculine.”

Elinor squirmed on the seat.

“Others use their mouths, as men and women do with each other. I imagine you’ve seen something of that, living as you have.”

“Yes,” she said in a strangled voice.

“But the simplest thing, particularly in a semipublic occasion, is to use their hands upon each other.” He was still stroking her palm, and then his fingers moved up, carefully curling all but her two middle fingers down. “You know about this, don’t you, my pet? How to pleasure yourself?”

She didn’t…couldn’t say a word. The thought of willingly engaging in anything that resembled coupling, even on one’s own, seemed the height of madness.

“No?” he whispered, moving her hand down. “This is how it’s done.” And he put her hand between her legs.

She fought him then, shocked, but her efforts made her legs part, and he moved her hand closer to the center of her, holding her fingers steady. “You touch,” he whispered, “just lightly as first. Delicately, like a butterfly. Pleasure can’t be forced, it must be coaxed.” He pushed her hand a little farther into her skirts, so that her fingertips touched that center core of herself, and she felt an odd shiver of reaction, one that frightened her.

“Please, don’t…” she protested, but he simply ignored her.

“Now, my love, you mustn’t be shy,” he whispered in admonishment. “If you knew how to do this by yourself I’d leave you alone. Trust me, you’ll thank me once you master the trick of it. It makes many a long night more engaging, and it will help if you decide to turn to women for comfort.”

He pushed her hand again, so that it rubbed between her legs, and this time the jolt was stronger, and oddly enough she could feel her br**sts tingle. Again, he pushed, and it seemed to have nothing to do with her. It was simply his hand, moving hers, as strange feelings began to build inside her, and she squirmed, moving her legs farther apart, and he laughed softly, increasing the pressure.

“After a while you can be more forceful,” he whispered against the side of her neck. “What first you wooed must now be mastered, or it might escape completely, leaving you restless and distraught.” He pushed harder, much harder, and she made a small, whimpering noise, not of pain. “Just as you feel it will never happen, the first blush of pleasure sweeps over you…”

She had stopped thinking, as a small, exquisite jolt stirred her body.

“And then you push it farther…” His mouth was hot against her skin. “And deeper…” She could feel something dark and terrible approaching, and she tried to pull back in sudden fear. “And you don’t let anything stop you.”

With his other hand he pressed her face against his greatcoat, and he moved her hand with sudden force and speed, and the dark place opened and pulled her in, and he muffled her cry against his shoulder as wave after wave of exquisite pleasure washed over her.

Finally he drew her shaking hand back from between her legs. He brought it to his mouth and kissed it, then put it on her lap. He still held her face against his shoulder, his arm around her, and as the wicked jerks of pleasure faded, shame flooded in around it.

When she yanked herself away he let her go, and she stumbled as she landed on the opposite seat, her face red, her breath coming far too quickly. “You animal!” she said in low fury. “How dare you!”

“How dare I what, my precious?” he said in an entirely equable tone of voice. “I did nothing. It was your hand.”

She wanted to scream at him. To cry bitter tears and rage at him. But the time for that was many years past. She cleared her throat. “Clearly you have some great need to debauch everyone who comes within your circle, my lord. You may consider yourself the victor.”

“I didn’t take your virginity, little one,” he murmured. “And self-pleasure is hardly debauchery. It’s in the Bible.”

She couldn’t bring herself to look at him. The flame of color still rode high in her cheeks, and she couldn’t think how he’d managed to do that, to take her distrustful self and make her…

It was appalling, and she didn’t want to think about it. He was a degenerate, a notorious one, and the sooner she escaped from his presence the better she would be.

“That’s all I’m going to get, isn’t it, ma petite?” he said lazily. “I expect you want more, but you’d never admit to it. I shall now endeavor to catch some much-needed sleep and spare your maidenly blushes, unless you’d consider having a second lesson. No? I thought not. I have two more days of carousing left and at my advanced age I need my strength.” He smiled at her with angelic innocence. “Cat got your tongue, my pet?”

With supreme effort she pulled herself together, looking at him with acute dislike. “If you sleep you’ll stop talking, which would be a blessing,” she said. “And at your advanced age I can see that you would most definitely benefit from it.”

There was a sudden, charged silence in the carriage. “My dear Miss Harriman, if you continue to amuse me it will be extremely difficult for me to keep my hands off you. There are very few people who don’t bore me, and I tend to be possessive about those I find entertaining.”

“I shall proceed to snore,” she said, snapping her eye closed.

She heard him laugh. It was a wicked sound, soft and low and for many women, irresistible. But she wasn’t many women. Her body still trembled from the aftermath of what he…what they had done. She folded her bare hands beneath the fur pelisse and stared out the window, ignoring him.

It was the noise that awoke her. The carriage clattered over the rough cobbles of the city streets, and her eyes flew open to meet his.

“Once again, Miss Harriman, you have slept with me,” he said. “Once might be forgiven by a disapproving society. Twice puts you quite beyond the pale. I think you should give up any pretensions to modesty and return to my château with me. Or my town house is quite large—you could wander around there for days and never see anyone. We could spend hours in bed…”

“Don’t be tiresome, Monsieur le Comte,” she said sharply, the last traces of sleep ripped away. How could she have fallen asleep in his presence? Particularly after what he’d done to her? How could she have been so foolish? She straightened her shoulders. “In fact, we’re not far from my house, and I believe this carriage is too wide for the narrow streets. Why don’t you let me down here and I’ll walk the rest of the way. I’m certain Mrs. Clarke will forgive you.”

“Dear child,” he said. “I have no intention of abandoning you in your hour of need. Besides, I have to find out what exactly you’re so desperate to keep hidden. A strapping live-in lover? Perhaps you live in a brothel and your sainted mother is one of your most lucrative whores? No, that does seem unlikely. But there’s most assuredly something at your home that you don’t want me to see and I’m surmising it’s your exquisitely beautiful and most definitely not dead younger sister. You must know my curiosity, like all my appetites, is insatiable.”

“I don’t…” She slapped a hand over her mouth, bending over. “Stop the carriage!” she said in a strangled voice.

Her companion didn’t move. “Are you unwell? You turned quite a shade just then.”

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