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The Viscount Who Loved Me: Chapter 17


The deed is done! Miss Sheffield is now Katharine, Viscountess Bridgerton.

This Author extends the very best of wishes to the happy couple. Sensible and honorable people are surely scarce among the ton, and it’s certainly gratifying to see two of this rare breed joined in marriage.

LADY WHISTLEDOWN’S SOCIETY PAPERS, 16 MAY 1814

Until that moment, Anthony had not even realized just how badly he’d needed for her to say yes, to admit to her need. He clutched her to him, his cheek pressing against the gentle curve of her belly. Even in her wedding gown she smelled of lilies and soap, that maddening scent that had haunted him for weeks.

“I need you,” he growled, not sure if his words were getting lost in the layers of silk that still kept her from him. “I need you now.”

He rose to his feet and lifted her in his arms, taking remarkably few steps to reach the large four-poster bed that dominated his bedroom. He’d never taken a woman there before, always preferring to conduct his liaisons elsewhere, and suddenly he was absurdly glad of that fact.

Kate was different, special, his wife. He wanted no other memories to intrude upon this or any night.

He laid her down on the mattress, his eyes never leaving her charmingly disheveled form as he methodically stripped off his clothing. First his gloves, one by one, then his coat, already rumpled by his ardor.

He caught her eyes, dark and large and filled with wonder, and he smiled, slowly and with satisfaction. “You’ve never seen a naked man before, have you?” he murmured.

She shook her head.

“Good.” He leaned forward and plucked one of her slippers from her foot. “You’ll never see another.”

He moved to the buttons of his shirt, slowly slipping each from its buttonhole, his desire increased tenfold when he saw her tongue dart out to wet her lips.

She wanted him. He knew enough of women to be positive of that. And by the time this night was through, she wouldn’t be able to live without him.

That he might not be able to live without her was something he refused to consider. What smoldered in the bedroom and what whispered in his heart were two different things. He could keep them separate. He would keep them separate.

He might not wish to love his wife, but that did not mean they could not enjoy each other thoroughly in bed.

His hands slid to the top button of his trousers and unfastened it, but stopped there. She was still fully clothed, and still fully an innocent. She wasn’t yet ready to see the proof of his desire.

He climbed onto the bed and, like a feral cat, crawled toward her, inching closer and closer until her elbows, which had been propping her up, slid out from under her and she was flat on her back, staring up at him, her breath coming fast and shallow through her parted lips.

There was nothing, he decided, more breathtaking than Kate’s face when flushed with desire. Her hair, dark and silky and thick, was already pulling free of the pins and fasteners that had held her elaborate wedding day coiffure in place. Her lips, always a bit too full for conventional beauty, had taken on a dusky pink color in the slanted light of the late afternoon. And her skin—never had it seemed so flawless, so luminescent. A pale blush tinted her cheeks, denying her the bloodless complexion that the fashionable ladies always seemed to desire, but Anthony found the color enchanting. She was real, human, and trembling with desire. He couldn’t have wished for more.

With a reverent hand, he stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers, then slid them down her neck to the tender skin that peeked above the edge of her bodice. Her gown was fastened by a maddening row of buttons at the back, but he’d already undone nearly a third of them, and it was now loose enough to slide the silken fabric over her breasts.

If anything, they looked even more beautiful than they had two days earlier. Her nipples were rosy pink, cresting breasts that he knew fit his hands to perfection. “No chemise?” he murmured appreciatively, running his finger along the prominent line of her collarbone.

She shook her head, her voice breathy as she answered, “The cut of the gown didn’t allow it.”

One side of his mouth lifted into a very male smile. “Remind me to send a bonus to your modiste.”

His hand moved ever lower, and he cupped one of her breasts, squeezing it softly, feeling a groan of desire rise up within him as he heard a similar moan escape her lips.

“So lovely,” he murmured, lifting his hand and letting his eyes caress her. It had never occurred to him that there could be such pleasure from the simple act of gazing at a woman. Lovemaking had always been about touch and taste; for the first time sight was equally seductive.

She was so perfect, so utterly beautiful to him, and he felt a rather strange and primitive sense of satisfaction that most men were blind to her beauty. It was as if a certain side of her were visible only to him. He loved that her charms were hidden to the rest of the world.

It made her seem more his.

Suddenly eager to be touched as he was touching, he lifted one of her hands, still wrapped in a long satin glove, and brought it to his chest. He could feel the heat of her skin even through the fabric, but it wasn’t enough. “I want to feel you,” he whispered, then removed the two rings that rested on her fourth finger. He laid them in the hollow between her breasts, a space made shallow by her supine position.

Kate gasped and shivered at the touch of the cold metal against her skin, then watched with breathless fascination as Anthony went to work on her glove, tugging gently at each finger until it was loose, then sliding the length of it down her arm and over her hand. The rush of satin was like an endless kiss, raising goose bumps over her entire body.

Then, with a tenderness that nearly brought tears to her eyes, he replaced the rings on her finger, one by one, stopping only to kiss the sensitive palm of her hand in between.

“Give me your other hand,” he gently ordered.

She did, and he repeated the same exquisite torture, tugging and sliding the satin along her skin. But this time, when he was through, he brought her pinkie finger to his mouth, then drew it between his lips and sucked, swirling his tongue around the tip.

Kate felt an answering tug of desire pulling through her arm, shivering through her chest, snaking through her until it pooled, hot and mysterious, between her legs. He was awakening something within her, something dark and maybe just a little bit dangerous, something that had lain dormant for years, just waiting for a single kiss from this man.

Her entire life had been preparation for this very moment, and she didn’t even know what to expect next.

His tongue slid down the inner length of her finger, then traced the lines on her palm. “Such lovely hands,” he murmured, nibbling on the fleshy part of her thumb as his fingers entwined with hers. “Strong, and yet so graceful and delicate.”

“You’re talking nonsense,” Kate said self-consciously. “My hands—”

But he silenced her with a finger to her lips. “Shhh,” he admonished. “Haven’t you learned that you should never ever contradict your husband when he is admiring your form?”

Kate shivered with delight.

“For example,” he continued, the very devil in his voice, “if I want to spend an hour examining the inside of your wrist”—with lightning-quick movements, his teeth grazed the delicate thin skin on the inside of her wrist—“it is certainly my prerogative, don’t you think?”

Kate had no response, and he chuckled, the sound low and warm in her ears.

“And don’t think I won’t,” he warned, using the pad of his finger to trace the blue veins that pulsed under her skin. “I may decide to spend two hours examining your wrist.”

Kate watched with fascination as his fingers, touching her so softly that she tingled from the contact, made their way to the inside of her elbow, then stopped to twirl circles on her skin.

“I can’t imagine,” he said softly, “that I could spend two hours examining your wrist and not find it lovely.” His hand made the jump to her torso, and he used his palm to lightly graze the tip of her puckered breast. “I should be most aggrieved were you to disagree.”

He leaned down and captured her lips in a brief, yet searing kiss. Lifting his head just an inch, he murmured, “It is a wife’s place to agree with her husband in all things, hmmm?”

His words were so absurd that Kate finally managed to find her voice. “If,” she said with an amused smile, “his opinions are agreeable, my lord.”

One of his brows arched imperiously. “Are you arguing with me, my lady? And on my wedding night, no less.”

“It’s my wedding night, too,” she pointed out.

He made a clucking noise and shook his head. “I may have to punish you,” he said. “But how? By touching?” His hand skimmed over one breast, then the next. “Or not touching?”

He lifted his hands from her skin, but he leaned down, and through pursed lips, blew a soft stream of air over her nipple.

“Touching,” Kate gasped, arching off the bed. “Definitely touching.”

“You think?” He smiled, slowly like a cat. “I never thought I’d say this, but not touching has its appeal.”

Kate stared up at him. He loomed over her on his hands and knees like some primitive hunter coming in for the final kill. He looked feral, triumphant, and powerfully possessive. His thick chestnut hair fell over his forehead, giving him an oddly boyish air, but his eyes burned and gleamed with a very adult desire.

He wanted her. It was thrilling. He might be a man, and thus able to find his satisfaction with any woman, but right now, in this moment, he wanted her. Kate was sure of it.

And it made her feel like the most beautiful woman alive.

Emboldened by the knowledge of his desire, she reached up and cupped one hand around the back of his head, drawing him down until his lips were just a whisper away from hers. “Kiss me,” she ordered, surprised by the imperiousness of her voice. “Kiss me now.”

He smiled in vague disbelief, but his words, in that last second before their lips met, were, “Anything you wish, Lady Bridgerton. Anything you wish.”

And then it all seemed to happen at once. His lips were on hers, teasing and devouring, while his hands were lifting her up into a seated position. His fingers worked nimbly at the buttons of her gown, and she could feel the cool brush of the air on her skin as the fabric slipped down, inch by inch, exposing her rib cage, then her navel, and then…

And then his hands slid beneath her hips, and he was lifting her up, yanking the dress out from underneath her. Kate gasped at the intimacy of it. She was clad only in her unmentionables, stockings, and garters. She’d never felt so exposed in her life, and yet she thrilled in every moment, every sweep of his eyes over her body.

“Lift your leg,” Anthony ordered softly.

She did, and with a slowness that was exquisite and agonizing at the same time, he rolled one of her silk stockings down to her toes. The other soon followed, and then her drawers came next, and before she knew it she was nude, completely bared before him.

His hand skimmed softly over her stomach, then he said, “I think I’m a little overdressed, don’t you?”

Kate’s eyes widened as he left the bed and stripped off the rest of his clothing. His body was perfection, his chest finely muscled, his arms and legs powerful, and his—

“Oh, my God,” she gasped.

He grinned. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Kate swallowed convulsively. No wonder those animals on her neighbor’s farm hadn’t looked as if they were enjoying the act of procreation. At least not the female ones. Surely this wasn’t going to work.

But she didn’t want to seem naive and foolish, so she didn’t say anything, just gulped and tried to smile.

Anthony caught the flash of terror in her eyes and smiled gently. “Trust me,” he murmured, sliding onto the bed beside her. His hands settled on the curve of her hip as he nuzzled her neck. “Just trust me.”

He felt her nod, and he propped himself up on one of his elbows, using his free hand to idly trace circles and swirls on her abdomen, moving lower and lower, until he brushed the edge of the dark thatch of hair nestling between her legs.

Her muscles quivered, and he heard a rush of indrawn breath pass over her lips. “Shhhh,” he said soothingly, leaning down to distract her with a kiss. The last time he’d lain with a virgin he’d been one himself, and he was relying on instinct to guide him with Kate. He wanted this, her first time, to be perfect. Or if not perfect, then at least damn good.

While his lips and tongue explored her mouth, his hand dipped ever lower, until he reached the moist heat of her womanhood. She gasped again, but he was relentless, teasing and tickling, delighting in each of her squirms and moans.

“What are you doing?” she whispered against his lips.

He gave her a lopsided grin, as one of his fingers slid inside. “Making you feel really, really good?”

She moaned, which pleased him. If she’d managed intelligible speech he would have known he wasn’t doing his job correctly.

He moved over her, nudging her legs farther apart with one of his thighs, and letting out a moan of his own as his manhood settled against her hip. Even there, she felt perfect, and he was nearly bursting at the thought of sinking within her.

He was trying to hold his control, trying to make sure that he remained slow and gentle, but his need was getting stronger and stronger, and his own breath was growing fast and ragged.

She was ready for him, or at least as ready as she was going to be. He knew that this first time would bring her pain, but he prayed it wouldn’t last more than a moment.

He fitted himself against her opening, using his arms to brace his body a few inches above hers. He whispered her name, and her dark eyes, hazed by passion, focused on his.

“I’m going to make you mine now,” he said, inching forward as he spoke. Her body tightened spasmodically around him; the feeling was so exquisite he had to grit his teeth against it. It would be so, so easy to lose himself in the moment, to plunge forward and seek only his own pleasure.

“Tell me if it hurts,” he whispered hoarsely, allowing himself to move forward only by tiny increments. She was certainly aroused, but she was very small, and he knew he needed to give her time to adjust to his intimate invasion.

She nodded.

He froze, barely able to comprehend the stab of pain in his chest. “It hurts?”

She shook her head. “No, I only meant I’ll tell you if it does. It doesn’t hurt, but it feels so very…odd.”

Anthony fought a smile and he leaned down to kiss the tip of her nose. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been called odd while making love to a woman before.”

For a moment it looked as if she were afraid that she’d insulted him, then her mouth quivered into a small smile. “Perhaps,” she said softly, “you’ve been making love to the wrong women.”

“Perhaps so,” he replied, moving forward yet another inch.

“May I tell you a secret?” she asked.

He nudged farther. “Of course,” he murmured.

“When I first saw you…tonight, I mean…”

“In all my glory?” he teased, lifting his brows into an arrogant arch.

She shot him a rather enchanting scowl. “I didn’t think this could possibly work.”

He moved forward. He was close, so close to embedding himself fully within her. “May I tell you a secret?” he returned.

“Of course.”

“Your secret”—one more little thrust and he was resting against her maidenhead—“wasn’t very much of a secret.”

Her brows drew together in question.

He grinned. “It was written all over your face.”

She scowled again, and it made him want to explode in laughter. “But now,” he said, keeping a scrupulously straight face, “I have a question for you.”

She gazed at him in response, clearly waiting for him to elucidate further.

He leaned down, brushed his lips against her ear, and whispered, “What do you think now?”

For a moment she didn’t respond in any way, then he felt her start in surprise when she finally figured out what he was asking. “Are we done?” she asked in clear disbelief.

This time he did burst out in laughter. “Far from it, my dear wife,” he gasped, wiping his eyes with one hand as he tried to hold himself up with the other. “Far, far from it.” His eyes growing serious, he added, “This is where it might hurt a little, Kate. But I promise you, the pain will never be repeated.”

She nodded, but he could feel her body tense up, which he knew would only make it worse. “Shhh,” he crooned. “Relax.”

She nodded, her eyes shut. “I am relaxed.”

He was glad she couldn’t see him smile. “You are most definitely not relaxed.”

Her eyes flew open. “Yes, I am.”

“I can’t believe this,” Anthony said, as if there were someone else in the room to hear him. “She’s arguing with me on our wedding night.”

“I’m—”

He cut her off with a finger to her lips. “Are you ticklish?”

“Am I ticklish?”

He nodded. “Ticklish.”

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”

“That sounds like a yes to me,” he said with a grin.

“Not at—Oooohhh!” She let out a squeal as one of his hands found a particularly sensitive spot under arm. “Anthony, stop!” she gasped, squirming desperately beneath him. “I can’t bear it! I—”

He plunged forward.

“Oh,” she breathed. “Oh, my.”

He groaned, barely able to believe just how good it felt to be buried completely within her. “Oh, my, indeed.”

“We’re not done now, are we?”

He shook his head slowly as his body began to move in an ancient rhythm. “Not even close,” he murmured.

His mouth took hers as one of his hands snaked up to caress her breast. She was utter perfection beneath him, her hips rising to meet his, moving tentatively at first, then with a vigor that matched her rising passion.

“Oh, God, Kate,” he moaned, his ability to form flowery sentences completely lost in the primitive heat of the moment. “You’re so good. So good.”

Her breath was coming faster and faster, and each little wispy gasp inflamed his passion even more. He wanted to possess her, to own her, to hold her beneath him and never let her go. And with each thrust it was getting more difficult to put her needs before his. His mind screamed that this was her first time and he had to have a care for her, but his body demanded release.

With a ragged groan, he forced himself to stop thrusting and catch his breath. “Kate?” he said, barely recognizing his own voice. It sounded hoarse, detached, desperate.

Her eyes, which had been closed as her head tossed from side to side, flew open. “Don’t stop,” she gasped, “please don’t stop. I’m so close to something…I don’t know what.”

“Oh, God,” he groaned, plunging back in to the hilt, throwing his head back as his spine arched. “You’re so beautiful, so unbelievably—Kate?”

She’d stiffened beneath him, and not in climax.

He froze. “What’s wrong?” he whispered.

He saw a brief flash of pain—the emotional sort, not the physical—flash across her face before she hid it and whispered, “Nothing.”

“That’s not true,” he said in a low voice. His arms were straining from holding himself above her, but he barely noticed. Every fiber of his being was focused on her face, which was shuttered and pained, despite her obvious attempts to hide it.

“You called me beautiful,” she whispered.

For a good ten seconds he just stared at her. For the life of him, he couldn’t understand how that was a bad thing. But then again, he’d never professed to understand the female mind. He thought he should simply reaffirm the statement, that she was beautiful, and what the hell was the problem, but a little voice inside warned him that this was one of those moments, and no matter what he said, it would be the wrong thing, so he decided to tread very, very carefully, and he just murmured her name, which he had a feeling might be the only word guaranteed not to get him into trouble.

“I’m not beautiful,” she whispered, her eyes meeting his. She looked shattered and broken, but before he could contradict her, she asked, “Who were you picturing?”

He blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Who do you think of when you make love to me?”

Anthony felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. The breath whooshed from his body. “Kate,” he said slowly. “Kate, you’re mad, you’re—”

“I know a man doesn’t have to feel desire for a woman to find pleasure with her,” she cried out.

“You think I don’t desire you?” he choked out. God in heaven, he was ready to explode right now within her and he hadn’t even moved for the last thirty seconds.

Her lower lip trembled between her teeth, and a muscle spasmed in her neck. “Do you—do you think of Edwina?”

Anthony froze. “How could I possibly confuse the two of you?”

Kate felt her face crumple, felt hot tears stinging at her eyes. She didn’t want to cry in front of him, oh, God, especially not now, but it hurt, it hurt so much, and—

His hand grasped her cheeks with stunning speed, forcing her to look up at him.

“Listen to me,” he said, his voice even and intense, “and listen well, because I’m only going to say this once. I desire you. I burn for you. I can’t sleep at night for wanting you. Even when I didn’t like you, I lusted for you. It’s the most maddening, beguiling, damnable thing, but there it is. And if I hear one more word of nonsense from your lips, I’m going to have to tie you to the bloody bed and have my way with you a hundred different ways, until you finally get it through your silly skull that you are the most beautiful and desirable woman in England, and if everyone else doesn’t see that, then they’re all bloody fools.”

Kate wouldn’t have thought it possible for her mouth to fall open while she was lying down, but somehow it did.

One of his brows arched into what had to be the most arrogant expression ever to grace a face. “Is that understood?”

She just stared at him, not quite able to form a response.

He leaned down until his nose was a mere inch from hers. “Is that understood?”

She nodded.

“Good,” he grunted, and then, before she had a moment even to catch her breath, his lips were devouring hers in a kiss so fierce she was clutching the bed just to keep from screaming. His hips ground into hers, frenzied in their power, thrusting, rotating, stroking her until she was certain she must be on fire.

She clutched at him, not certain whether she was trying to bind him to her or tear him away. “I can’t do this,” she moaned, certain she would shatter. Her muscles were stiff, tense, and it was getting hard to breathe.

But if he’d heard her, he didn’t care. His face was a harsh mask of concentration, sweat beading on his brow.

“Anthony,” she gasped, “I can—”

One of his hands slipped between them and touched her intimately, and she screamed. He slammed forward one last time, and her world simply fell apart. She was stiff, then shaking, then she thought she must be falling. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even gasp. Her throat had to be closing, and her head fell back as her hands grabbed at the mattress with a ferocity she’d never have believed she possessed.

He went utterly still above her, his mouth open in a silent scream, and then he collapsed, the weight of him pressing her farther into the mattress.

“Oh, my God,” he gasped, his body now shaking. “Never…it’s never…so good…it’s never been so good.”

Kate, who’d had a few seconds longer to recover, smiled as she smoothed his hair. A wicked thought came to her, a perfectly wonderful wicked thought. “Anthony?” she murmured.

How he lifted his head she would never know, because it looked like it took a Herculean effort just to open his eyes and grunt his response.

She smiled, slowly, and with a womanly seductiveness she’d learned just that evening. Letting one of her fingers trail down the angular edge of his jaw, she whispered, “Are we done yet?”

For a second he made no response, then his lips broke into a smile far more devilish than she could ever have imagined. “For now,” he murmured huskily, rolling onto his side and pulling her along with him. “But only for now.”


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