***This chapter is NSFW***
The night was raucous as Hope and Mr Wade walked back to the hotel. Men spilled out into the street from the saloons, already well into their cups and smelling of perfume, whiskey, and sweat. The sound of cheerful piano followed them, along with shouts and offkey singing, and in the distance, the faint strains of music made by the strange Chinese instruments she’d never had occasion to see before.
Jake’s hand was warm on her elbow. Hope concentrated on the feel of him, his strong fingers pressing into the soft flesh above her elbow. A hum of excitement thrummed in her veins, as it had ever since he’d arrived up at her door earlier this evening and led her straight into adventure. When she had made this insane proposal, she’d had no notion of what she asked for. She had a vague idea they would straight to bed, there’d some caressing and a rush of feeling, and the deed would be done. She had not expected him to woo her.
The excursion to the Chinese harvest festival had been exhilarating, and she’d enjoyed the sweet cakes and the bitter tea, the explosion of colour and light, the unfamiliar and discordant music. It had been fascinating, and nothing had fascinated her more than Jake Wade and his version of wooing.
She had not been wooed before. A few men had attempted a flirtation, but they’d been more interested in her wealth than her person, and her lack of enthusiasm had killed off all but the most determined of suitors. A sharp word or two had dissuaded the rest. Courting and romance had never been a pursuit of hers, consumed as she was with vengeance for her family. Jake, though…. He’d turned her head. She wanted him physically, was fascinated by his face and form, and she’d given herself permission to be distracted for a time. She’d not, however, expected to like him as well as she did. To like the way he looked at her, to like the kick of his half-smile, to love the way he called her ‘darlin’’. The best part of her day was when he reported on his findings, his attention wholly on her, and she found herself glancing anxiously at her pocket watch, counting the time until he would come.
And now he had kissed her.
Her skin heated as she remembered his lips against hers, his taste. God willing, she would taste him again. Soon.
They arrived at the hotel and he guided her up the stairs, stopping when they reached her door. She didn’t know what to say, but she knew she didn’t want the evening to end. “Won’t you come in? I have tea, and there are some biscuits.”
“Hope,” he said. She shivered at the rough sound of her name. “If I come in, it won’t be for tea and biscuits.”
Breath locked in her chest at his words. Overwhelmed, she could only nod.
His eyes darkened, his expression intense. Fumbling, she unlocked the door and led the way into her rooms. Stopping in the centre, she wiped her palms on her skirts. She didn’t know what to do, and— “Are you sure you won’t take refreshment?”
Capturing her hands, he held her still. She couldn’t look from him, her mouth dry and her heart a wild beat in her. Gently, he led her to the settee and tugged her down with him. Every part of her was aware of every part of him, the agonising closeness of their knees, how his hands were big and warm and strong around hers.
His thumb stroked the skin of her hand. “What do you want to happen?”
She watched the progress of his touch, the small circles that made her shiver. “Whatever you think should happen.”
“I want to know what you think. What you like.”
“I don’t know what I like. That is why I have engaged you.”
Gaze still on her hands, the side of his mouth kicked up. “Ah. I didn’t realise that is what was driving you, darlin’. Shall I detail for you, then, my thoughts?”
Darlin’. “Please,” she managed to say.
He wet the corner of his mouth with his tongue and she almost swooned. “I’d start like this, with your hand in mine; your skin, soft under my touch. I’d want everything, all at once, I’d want to consume you, but I’d start slow ’cause I know you ain’t never don’t anything like that before, and beyond all else I don’t want to scare you none, or have you run from me.”
Heart beating faster, she stared at him as he spoke, his words winding around her like a caress.
“Eventually, I’d know you’d let me brush your hair behind your ear, curl my hand about your neck and trace the line of your jaw with my thumb. I’d watch the progress of my touch, and I’d plan to taste your skin, to place my lips beneath your ear, on your cheek, on your brow. Then, if you allowed me, I’d kiss the length of your scar, the reminder of your bravery and your resourcefulness, of your sorrow and your fury. I’d be thankful you survived, and even with all the sorrow and grief weighting you down, you flourished. Then I’d lay you down on this settee, and I’d set about living out my fantasies. I’ve dreamed about your breasts.”
“You have?” she said, dazed and lust-drunk and wanting him.
He nodded, his gaze trailing over her. “Your dresses button up to your chin, and I’ve driven myself crazy imagining what’s underneath all that fabric. So I’d lie you back and then torture myself by unbuttoning you slow, revealing your undergarments by inches. They would be a fine, wouldn’t they? Made of silk and lace, and so sheer I would be able to see the shape of your breasts, the outline of your nipples, maybe even their colour. And the feel of them would be better than anything I’d ever touched, but it wouldn’t be better than your skin, wouldn’t be silkier or softer. So I’d push them aside and finally, I’d see you and I’d know. Your colour. Your shape. And then, I’d know your taste.”
She sat, frozen, though she was also hot and flushed and there was an ache deep inside. Skin pulled tight over his cheekbones, his dark gaze burned hers. “Can I taste you?”
Breathless, she nodded.
Curling his hand around the back of her neck, he drew her to him, his fingers tangling in her hair. She winced at the slight pain, but it only made her ache more, wetting her lips as he drew closer. Gently, he fit his lips to hers and she sighed into him, relief only momentary before she wanted more. God, so much more. She saw him again under the light of lanterns, coloured shadows played over the sharpness of his cheekbones and the line of his jaw, and she’d wanted him then, just as she wanted him now.
“Do you like this?” he murmured against her lips.
“Yes,” she breathed.
“And this?” His tongue touched jaw.
Inhaling sharply, she nodded.
“And this?” A string of kisses along her scar, the cord of her neck.
Arching her neck, she bit back a whimper. His hand tightened on her shoulder, and he groaned as he kissed her again.
Her own hands tightened in her lap. Dear God, she wanted to touch him, to smooth her hands over the muscled roundness of his shoulders, the fascinating bulge of his biceps, to place her palms on the hard muscles of his chest.
His hands slid to her waist and he hauled her into his lap. Startled, she grabbed his shoulders. He groaned.
She let go like he was hot coal. “I am sorry.”
“No. Touch me.”
“Are you certain?”
“Christ, yes.” Covering her hands with his, he dragged her palms to his chest.
Tentatively she spread her fingers. He was firm beneath her touch, and warm. Hot. She traced his collar bone through his shirt, and the hard slab of his chest. He sat still beneath her exploration, his gaze locked upon her as she learned the touch of him. The hands at her waist tightened, digging into her. Raising her head from the fascinating path of her hands, she met his gaze. He smiled, that wicked smile she loved, and she wanted to know the taste of it. So, she kissed him.
He growled as her lips met his, and it took him but a moment to take control. She was swept away by him, unable to think. She’d never felt such in the whole of her life. Her head was usually filled with business and thoughts of the next day, but now…. All she could think of was him, what he made her feel.
Somehow, she was straddling his lap, her skirts bunched up as she squirmed against him. He was hot between her thighs, and hard, and she desperately wished his trousers and her drawers gone. He kissed her again, and again, and she was lightheaded with lust, wanting to be closer to him, wanting to feel his skin against hers, wanting…everything.
Tearing his mouth from hers, he rested his forehead on her chest. She took great gulps of air, staring at nothing, her blood a fire within her and a relentless ache consuming her. His harsh breath filled the room mingling with her lighter pants, his chest heaving as he held her to him.
It could have been minutes or it could have been hours before he pulled from her, his fingers smoothing her hair behind her ear carefully. Closing her eyes, she leaned into his touch, strangely content even as her heart raced and she ached. She ached so much.
Briefly, he laid his hand against her cheek and, with a soft groan, lifted her from him. Confusion held her still as he rose, his desire for her clearly outlined behind the closure of his trousers. “I should go,” he said roughly.
“Why?” She couldn’t think. She still couldn’t think. Why did he want to go?
He groaned. “This went further than I wanted. You want slow, not a mad rush.”
“How do you know?” She struggled to make her brain work, still lost to pleasure and the ache. “Maybe I want everything.”
His eyes flared, but then he shook his head. “No. I had a plan. You gotta trust me, darlin’.” Hands on his hips, he exhaled, slow and steady. “I’ll be going. I need to go.” Striding across the room, he opened the door and he left. He left.
Hope remained on the settee. Her thoughts were thick and slow, like the molasses to which her uncle added his oatmeal. How could he leave?
She shook her head. He had wanted her. That had been obvious, and he knew she desired intercourse between them. Did he not know how much she wanted him? She had made it sound clinical, her desire. Perhaps he didn’t know how much she wanted him in her bed.
She pressed her hand to her stomach. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, she would make him stay and finish what he started. She didn’t want slow. She wanted him.
A knock sounded at her door. Unsteady, Hope rose, and it took her an age to make her way to the door and fumble it open.
Jake stood on the other side, chest heaving, eyes wild.
Lust, barely dormant, flared to life. “What happened to waiting?”
“Fuck waiting.” Pushing into the room, he curled his arm about her and, hauling her to him, his lips crashed down on hers as he shoved the door shut behind them.