“I can imagine.”
Elliot remained rigidly beside the bed. He wanted her with a desire so hard it gripped him, but still he couldn’t move.
Juliana cleared her throat again. “It’s been quite a day, hasn’t it? To think, tonight I was to a have been in a hotel in Edinburgh, with…”
She pressed her hand to her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut. Moonlight glittered on the tears that slid down her cheeks.
“With…” Her voice caught on a sob.
With Grant Barclay, damn him, the blithering fool who’d decided to improve himself with piano lessons. Elliot wanted to strangle the man, first for trying to steal Juliana from him, then for making her cry about him while she lay in Elliot’s bed.
And Elliot knew how to. Exactly how to get a man’s throat under his hands, where to press to cut off the air, to make sure Grant Barclay never breathed again…
Juliana tried to wipe away her tears. Elliot unfroze, lifted the covers, and swarmed into the bed beside her.
Juliana hadn’t meant to cry, but she’d suddenly realized that she could be lying in a hotel bed with Grant tonight, instead of far from home in a run-down fairy-tale castle next to the strong warmth of Elliot McBride. What a lucky, blessed escape.
Elliot’s lips touched her cheeks, kisses taking away the tears.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
His kisses moved to her lips. Strong, sure kisses, brushing the pad of her lower lip, tracing the curve of the upper. It was warm in the close room, warmer under the covers, and Elliot’s body in the bed drew sweat.
He licked the perspiration from beneath her lip, scraping her hair back with a strong hand. Something primal beat through Juliana’s body, erasing all Gemma’s instructions for her first coupling. This was to have been a dutiful night with Mr. Barclay—now she was with Elliot, the man she’d loved from girlhood and never dreamed she’d be with.
His lips caressed hers open, tongue sweeping into her mouth. Elliot closed his eyes as he kissed her, cradling her head with fingers, thumb caressing her temple.
The button at the top of her nightgown loosened, the placket parting. Elliot slid his hand inside, moving across her damp skin to close over her breast. Juliana arched to meet the cup of his hand, all the while kissing him, their lips parting and touching.
Elliot swept his tongue inside her mouth again, more insistent this time. He nudged her into response, making her lick across the warm friction of his tongue.
A lover’s kiss. Elliot McBride, her lover.
He closed his callused hand around her breast, caressing, kneading. Two fingers caught her nipple between them and gave it a little tug. Sensations Juliana had never experienced before spiraled around the areola, the point rising, hardening.
She couldn’t breathe. The bed was too warm, Elliot’s mouth on hers pressing her down into it. He tugged her nipple, building the sensations to fire.
Fire built from there to her heart. The collar of the nightgown grew wet with her perspiration, and she was going to die.
Juliana pushed against him. Elliot’s tongue filled her mouth, and she couldn’t speak. She tried to close her lips, but he wouldn’t let her.
She pushed again, both hands on his chest. Elliot at last broke the kiss, his lips hovering close to hers.
His half-closed eyes were dark in the moonlight, the silver gray glinting through. One droplet of sweat trickled down his throat.
“I can’t breathe,” Juliana whispered.
Elliot said nothing. He took his warm, wonderful hand from inside her nightgown, unbuttoned the rest of her placket, and loosened and opened the nightgown to her waist.
Sliding down her body, Elliot lowered his head and closed his mouth over the breast he’d stroked to life with his hand.
Breath rushed into her lungs. Here was the air she missed, but now she had too much of it. Heat raced down her body, incandescent at the beautiful point of Elliot’s mouth on her breast.
He suckled her, eyes closed in concentration. He gently squeezed her breast with his callused fingers to make the nipple rise higher, then pursed his mouth to suck and tease, nibble and tug.
Juliana squirmed under him, her heart pounding. Between her legs was a point of white-hot fire, a yearning to rub that place against him.
“Elliot, what are you doing to me?”
Elliot didn’t stop to answer. His mouth moved more insistently, making her ache, the opening between her legs widening and heating.
“I need…” Juliana bit back the words. She had no idea what she needed.
Elliot released her breast and played the tip of his tongue over the nipple. Juliana rose to him, seeking his mouth, but he lifted away, and she made a noise of disappointment.
But then Elliot slid his hand down her body to glide two fingers between her legs. Juliana sucked in a breath, her eyes widening as he touched her hottest place.
As Elliot sank his fingers into her moisture, he closed his eyes again and drew a long breath. He could scent her longing for him, honey in the darkness.
In this bed, enclosed in her heat, Elliot was safe. The empty blackness, the cold, the stifling airlessness, were gone. They couldn’t touch him here. Juliana was all that was safety, light, and warmth.
She was also a woman longing for the touch of a man, and not understanding her longing. Elliot would teach her. Whether it took a year or ten years, he’d teach her everything.
He gently thrust a finger into her. Juliana bucked against Elliot’s hand, and he closed his palm over the berry that was tightening with her need.