She looked up at Denny in disbelief.
“I thought—I know thee is a virgin; I didn’t want thee to be frightened, or unprepared.” He was blushing like a rose, and instead of collapsing in howls of laughter, which she badly wanted to do, she shut the book gently and took his face between her hands.
“Is thee a virgin, too, Denny?” she said softly. His blush grew fierce, but he kept her gaze.
“Yes. But—I do know how. I’m a physician.”
That was too much, and she did laugh, but in small, half-stifled blurts of giggling, which infected him, and in seconds they were in each other’s arms on the bed, shaking silently, with occasional snorts and repetitions of “I’m a physician,” which sent them into fresh paroxysms.
At last she found herself on her back, breathing heavily, Denny lying on top of her, and a slick of perspiration oiling them. She lifted a hand and touched his chest, and gooseflesh rippled over him, the dark hairs of his body curly and bristling. She was trembling, but not with either fear or laughter.
“Is thee ready?” he whispered.
“One flesh,” she whispered back. And they were.
THE CANDLES had burned down nearly to their sockets, and the naked shadows on the wall moved slowly.
“Thee should probably be quiet,” she advised him, briefly removing her mouth in order to talk. “I’ve never done this before. Thee wouldn’t want to distract me, now, would thee?” Before he could summon a single word, she had resumed her alarming actions. He groaned—he couldn’t help it—and laid his hands gently, helplessly, on her head.
“It’s called fellatio, did thee know that?” she inquired, pausing momentarily for breath.
“I did. How . . . I mean . . . Oh. Oh, God.”
“What did you say?” Her face was beautiful, so flushed that the color showed even by candlelight, her lips deep rose and wet . . .
“I said—oh, God.”
A smile lit her shadowed face with happiness, and her already firm grip on him tightened. His shadow jerked.
“Oh, good,” she said, and with a small, triumphant crow of laughter, bent to slay him with her sharp white teeth.
IAN AND RACHEL
IAN LIFTED THE GREEN gown off in a whuff of fabric, and Rachel shook her head hard, shedding hairpins in all directions with little pinging sounds. She smiled at him, her dark hair coming damply down in chunks, and he laughed and plucked out a few more of the little wire hoops.
“I thought I should die,” she said, running her fingers through her loosened hair, which Jenny had put up before the party at the White Camel tavern. “Between the pins sticking into my head and the tightness of my stays. Unlace me, will thee—husband?” She turned her back to him but looked over her shoulder, eyes dancing.
He hadn’t thought it possible to be more moved in his feelings or more excited in body—but that one word did both. He wrapped one arm around her middle, making her squeak, pulled the knot of her laces loose, and gently bit the back of her neck, making her squeak much louder. She struggled, and he laughed, holding her tighter as he loosened the laces. She was slim as a willow sapling and twice as springy; she squirmed against him, and the small struggle heated his blood still further. If he had had no self-control, he would have had her pinned to the bed in seconds, stays and shift and stockings be damned.
But he did and let her go, easing the stay straps off her shoulders and the stays themselves over her head. She shook herself again, smoothing down the damp shift over her body, then stood tall, preening for him. Her ni**les stood out hard against the limp fabric.
“I won thy wager for thee,” she said, passing a hand over the delicate blue satin ribbon threaded through the neck of her shift and fluttering the hem, adorned with embroidered flowers in blue and yellow and rose.
“How did ye hear about that?” He reached for her, pulled her close, and clasped both hands on her arse, bare under the shift. “Christ, ye’ve got a sweet round wee bum.”
“Blasphemy, on our wedding night?” But she was pleased, he could tell.
“It’s not blasphemy, it’s a prayer of thanksgiving. And who told ye about the wager?” Fergus had bet him a bottle of stout that a Quaker bride would have plain linen undergarments. He hadn’t known, himself, but had had hopes that Rachel wouldn’t feel that pleasing her husband was the same thing as making a vain show for the world.
“Germain, of course.” She put her own arms around him and clasped him in similar manner, smiling up. “Thine is neither wee nor round, but no less sweet, I think. Does thee need help with thy fastenings?”
He could tell she wanted to, so he let her kneel and unbutton the flies of his breeches. The sight of the top of her dark, disheveled head, bowed earnestly to the task, made him put his hand gently on it, feeling her warmth, wanting the touch of her skin.
His breeches fell and she stood up to kiss him, her hand caressing his standing c**k as though by afterthought.
“Thy skin is so soft there,” she said against his mouth. “Like velvet!”
Her touch wasn’t tentative but very light, and he reached down and wrapped his fingers round hers, showing her the way of it, how to grasp it firmly and work it a bit.
“I like it when thee moans, Ian,” she whispered, pressing closer and working it more than a bit.
“I’m not moaning.”
“Yes, thee is.”
“I’m only breathin’ a bit. Here . . . I like that . . . but . . . here.” Swallowing, he picked her up—she made a little whoop—and carried her the two steps to the bed. He dropped her onto the mattress—she made a louder whoop—and landed beside her, scooping her into his arms. There was a certain amount of writhing, giggling, and inarticulate noises, and she got him out of his calico shirt, while he had her shift pulled up at the bottom and down at the top but still puddled round her waist.
“I win,” she said, wiggling the wadded shift down over her hips and kicking it off.
“Ye think that, do ye?” He bent his head and took her nipple in his mouth. She made a very gratifying noise and clutched his head. He butted her gently under the chin, then lowered his head and sucked harder, flicking his tongue like an adder’s.
“I like it when ye moan, Rachel,” he said, pausing for breath and grinning down at her. “D’ye want me to make ye scream?”
“Yes,” she said, breathless, one hand on her wet nipple. “Please.”
“In a bit.” He’d paused to breathe, lifting himself above her to let a bit of air in between them—it was a small room, and hot—and she reached up to feel his chest. She rubbed a thumb lightly over his nipple, and the sensation shot straight down to his cock.
“Let me,” she said softly, and lifted herself, a hand round his neck, and suckled him, very gently.
“More,” he said hoarsely, bracing himself against her weight. “Harder. Teeth.”
“Teeth?” she blurted, letting go.
“Teeth,” he said breathlessly, rolling onto his back and pulling her on top. She drew breath and lowered her head, hair spilling across his chest.
“Thee said teeth.” She sat up anxiously. “Oh, Ian, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt thee.”
“I—ye didn’t . . . well, ye did, but . . . I mean—do it again, aye?”
She looked at him, dubious, and it occurred to him that when Uncle Jamie told him to go slow and gentle with his virgin, it might not have been all to do with sparing the virgin.
“Here, mo nighean donn,” he said, drawing her down beside him. His heart was hammering and he was sweating. He brushed the hair back from her temple and nuzzled her ear. “Slow for a bit, aye? Then I’ll show ye what I mean by teeth.”
IAN SMELLED OF wine and whisky and musky male skin—he burned astonishingly under her hands and smelled now something like a distant skunk, but in a much better way. She pressed her face into the curve of his shoulder, breathing him in with pleasure. She had his c**k in her hand, gripping firmly . . . but curiosity made her loose her hold and grope lower, fingers probing through the thickness of his pubic hair. He breathed out very suddenly when she cupped his scrotum, and she smiled against his shoulder.
“Does thee mind, Ian?” she whispered, rolling the lovely egg-like shapes of his balls in her palm. She’d seen male scrota many times, baggy and wrinkled, and while she wasn’t disgusted, had never thought them more than mildly interesting. This was wonderful, drawn up tight, the skin so soft and so hot. Daring, she scooted down a little and felt farther back between his legs.
He had an arm about her shoulders and it tightened, but he didn’t tell her to stop, instead spreading his legs a little, allowing her to explore him. She’d wiped men’s arses hundreds of time, and the fleeting thought occurred to her that not all of them took great care . . . but his hair was curly and very clean, and her hips moved against him involuntarily as her fingertip slid tentatively between his bu**ocks. He twitched, tensing involuntarily, and she stopped, feeling him shiver. Then she realized that he was laughing, shaking silently.
“Am I tickling thee?” she asked, raising up on one elbow. The light of the single candle flickered over his face, hollowing his cheeks and making his eyes shine as he smiled up at her.
“Aye, that’s one word for it.” He ran a hand half roughly up her back and gripped her by the nape. He shook his head slowly, looking at her. His hair had come loose from its binding and spread out dark behind his head. “Here I am, tryin’ to go slow, tryin’ to be gentle . . . and next thing I ken, ye’re squeezin’ my balls and stickin’ your fingers up my arse!”
“Is that wrong?” she asked, feeling a slight qualm. “I didn’t mean to be . . . er, too . . . bold?”
He pulled her down and hugged her close.
“Ye canna be too bold wi’ me, lass,” he whispered in her ear, and ran his own hand down her back—and down farther. She gasped.
“Shh,” he whispered, and went on—slowly. “I thought—ye’d maybe be scairt at first. But ye’re no scairt a bit, are ye?”
“I am. I’m t-terrified.” She felt the laughter bubble up through her chest, but there was some truth in it, too—and he heard that. His hand stopped moving and he drew back enough to look at her, squinting a little.
“Well . . . not terrified, exactly. But—” She swallowed, suddenly embarrassed. “I just—this is so nice. But I know when you—when we—well, it does hurt, the first time. I—I’m somewhat afraid that . . . well, I don’t want to stop what we’re doing, but I . . . I’d like to get that part over with, so I needn’t worry about it.”
“Over with,” he repeated. His mouth twitched a bit, but his hand was gentle on the small of her back. “Well, then.” He eased his other hand down and cupped her, very delicately, between the legs.
She was swollen there, and slippery—had been growing more so ever since he’d lifted her gown off over her head. His fingers moved, one and then two, playing, stroking . . . and . . . and . . .
It took her entirely by surprise, a feeling she knew but bigger, bigger, and then she gave way to it entirely, washed through with ecstasy.
She settled slowly into limpness, throbbing. Everywhere. Ian kissed her lightly.
“Well, that didna take verra long, did it?” he murmured. “Put your hands on my arms, mo chridhe, and hold on.” He moved over her, agile as a big cat, and eased his c**k between her legs, sliding slow but firm. Very firm. She flinched, clenching involuntarily, but the way was slick and her flesh swollen in welcome and no amount of resistance would keep him out.
She realized that her fingers were digging into his arms, but didn’t let go.
“Am I hurting ye?” he said softly. He’d stopped moving, his full length inside her, stretching her in a most unnerving way. Something had torn, she thought; it burned a little.
“Yes,” she said, breathless. “I don’t . . . mind.”
He lowered himself very slowly and kissed her face, her nose, her eyelids, lightly. And all the time the awareness of it—him—inside her. He pulled back a little and moved. She made a small, breathless noise, not quite protest, a little pain, not quite encouragement . . .
But he took it as that and moved more strongly.
“Dinna be worrit, lass,” he said, a little breathless, too. “I won’t take long, either. Not this time.”
ROLLO WAS snoring in the corner, lying on his back for coolness, legs folded like a bug’s.
She tasted faintly sweet, of her own musk and a trace of blandness with an animal tang that he recognized as his own seed.
He buried his face in her, breathing deep, and the slight salt taste of blood made him think of trout, fresh-caught and barely cooked, the flesh hot and tender, pink and slick in his mouth. She jerked in surprise and arched up into him, and he tightened his hold on her, making a low hmmm of reassurance.
It was like fishing, he thought dreamily, hands under her hips. Feeling with your mind for the sleek dark shape just under the surface, letting the fly come down just so . . . She drew her breath in, hard. And then engagement, the sudden sense of startlement, and then a fierce awareness as the line sprang taut, you and the fish so focused on each other that there was nothing else in the world . . .
“Oh, God,” he whispered, and ceased to think, only feeling the small movements of her body, her hands on his head, the smell and taste of her, and her feelings washed through him with her murmured words.
“I love thee, Ian. . . .”
And there was nothing else in the world but her.
JAMIE AND CLAIRE
THE LIGHT OF a low yellow half-moon shone through gaps in the trees, glimmering on the dark rushing waters of the Delaware. So late at night, the air was cool by the river, very welcome to faces and bodies heated by dancing, feasting, drinking, and generally being in close proximity to a hundred or so other hot bodies for the last six or seven hours.