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Just One Taste Part 41

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She knew what to do now, basked in his encouraging smile as she suckled him to completion. His gaze held hers as he spilled himself against her tongue.

After his last thrust, he gentled her away and raised her up. "You are a quick study."

"Th-thank you, Nicholas," she replied softly. He couldn't know she'd done this so many times before in her fantasies.

"Rest now. I have a-a surprise for you tonight." His voice sounded odd.

"You are l-leaving me?" She didn't want him to go.



"Just for a few hours. I'll send up one of the maids to help you bathe. But not dress," he winked. He gathered up his banyan from the wing chair, gave her a small salute, and shut the door. Catherine heard the click of the key turning in the lock.

Locked in. But she had no intention of going exploring- Nicholas had told her the house was a vast warren of rooms that needed refurbishing, some of them unsafe. She'd only seen the gloomy exterior in an overgrown park at dusk when he brought her here after the ceremony. He'd rushed her upstairs to celebrate their hasty wedding before she'd even had a chance to meet all the servants or inspect the property.

And he'd not let her out of the room since, not that she wanted to go anywhere. Half the time, she was gloriously tied, so leaving was impossible anyway. But at some point she would have to become the mistress that the servants had despaired of ever having.

Nicholas was still a stranger-an intimate one, to be sure, but they had not spent much time talking. And Catherine couldn't be sorry.

But he'd mentioned a surprise. Did it mean he would finally have sexual congress with her the way most husbands did with their wives? He had yet to penetrate her vagina with anything but the crop and a handful of very interesting toys. She was technically no longer a virgin-a bit of blood on the worn sheets had proven that as she had been stretch almost beyond bearing by an enormous marble dildo.

But she'd loved the pleasure-pain of it, and Nicholas knew it. He was aware of everything she needed. The gentle humiliation. The confinement of her limbs. The muffling of her mouth. The blindfold and the punishment. All of it almost keyed her to her crisis without him laying a finger on her.

However, she wanted his cock inside her. Perhaps he was afraid of getting her with child, but surely he knew the way to prevent that. She had no interest in becoming a mother just yet-she was enjoying her introduction to bondage much too much to think of anyone's needs but her own.

Exactly, she chided herself. Nicholas's needs took priority, and if he was unwilling to become an ordinary husband, she had no right to complain.

Chapter 8.

Nicholas opened his study door to find Anthony Sheffield, his booted feet propped up on the battered desk, a cloud of cheroot smoke masking the air.

"Well? How is married life?"

"I've done it. That's all that should matter." Nicholas threw himself in the chair opposite, feeling the oppression steal into his heart.

This wasn't fair to Cat. In the few days she'd been his wife, she had been a revelation. Her awakening to his unnatural needs had been more than he had a right to ask for.

And she was lovely, with peachy skin and all that Titian hair, like something out of an Italian Renaissance painting.

"Is she as biddable as I thought?"

"More so." If only he had time, Nicholas could mold her into the perfect woman. She was close to being that now.

"Better than my Diana?"

Nicholas shut his eyes, pushing the thought of his mad sister from his mind. Cat was better than anyone-her earnest sweetness almost quelled the devil that resided within him.

But he was in a hell of his own making. If he didn't cooperate with Sheffield, his sister would never be free.

No one even knew he had a sister any more. Nicholas's parents had been convinced that she had died. In a way, she had. There was little of Diana left. There would be nothing soon unless Nicholas was successful in getting her out of Sheffield's clutches.

So Nicholas had made his bridegroom's bargain.

He was pained to recognize that he and his sister's seducer shared the same vice, the need to utterly dominate. They had met in a flogging club, after all, Nicholas unaware that the older man he shared a woman with was responsible for Diana's ruination. He had been foolish enough to think Sheffield a friend until the man brought him home two weeks ago to see his long-lost sister tied to the bed, drugged and bruised from head to toe.

Nicholas hadn't gone to the authorities. Sheffield held the mortgages to Harland Hall, had bought up Nicholas's debts. One word from the man, and he'd be in debtors' prison, where he would be of no use to his sister at all.

Nicholas was powerless. What else could he do but agree to all this? Sheffield was out to ruin him too.

Cat would never forgive him after tonight.

Sheffield thrived on tormenting his bed partners, going as far as he could go without permanent damage. Nicholas had not even wanted to cane Cat's lovely white bottom so thoroughly, but Sheffield had insisted there be proof of his depravity, and Cat had actually enjoyed it. Wanted it. Begged for it. She was incandescent when she was tied and whipped, her smile behind the gag so beautiful it broke his heart.

In a bittersweet twist, Sheffield had given Nicholas back his mother's pearls and earbobs, which had been pawned long ago. Told him exactly where they were to be placed.

Nicholas remembered Cat's patience as his shaking hands pierced her breasts yesterday. How she'd glowed under his crude ministrations. Looked up at him with utter trust. If he had an ounce of honor, he'd shoot Sheffield, and then turn the gun upon himself.

"I knew as soon as I saw her we could make something of her. All that stammering and eye-fluttering. She was just dying for someone to take her in hand. Too bad she didn't come with more money, though. But time was of the essence, what?" Sheffield blew a smoke ring over his head. "Yours was quite the whirl-wind courtship. Well done."

Nicholas gritted his teeth. "You were there for all of it. You've brought Diana home?"

"In her old bedroom, my boy, right and tight."

"You didn't restrain her!"

"Why, of course I did. Wouldn't want her getting loose and joining our fun tonight. She's a greedy little hoyden. I must say, I'm looking forward to some fresh cunny. Diana has become quite boring."

Nicholas would not let this bastard touch his new wife. Undeserved blissful days with Cat had shown him the impossibility of going through with this hellish scheme. He had not expected her lush body or her lavish trust in him.

He had not expected to fall in love with her or feel the responsibility of his vows, but for some reason, he had and he did.

Love-an impossible, unobtainable ideal for one such as he. Cat was dependent on him. He could not, would not betray her.

It had been hell not to consummate their marriage in the usual way. But to leave Cat with his child as well as his sister was an intolerable thought.

They should go away today-leave the land that had been in his family's name since the Domesday Book. If he allowed Sheffield to touch his wife here, the place would be tainted forever. As it was, the house was falling down around his head.

And now he was subjugated himself, a pawn in Sheffield's diabolical game.

"I want the markers burned. Now."

Sheffield snorted. "Not so fast, Nick. Let's wait until morning, eh? After I've sampled your wife. Then you can go back to your happy little family life with your mad sister and your debauched bride."

A muscle jumped in Nicholas's cheek. "Why have you done this, Sheffield?"

"Why not? It has amused me to bring down the illustrious house of Harland. Your father was a fool. The man had no head for business, you know. It was child's play to make sure you all didn't have a pot to piss in. I reckon I've almost had my revenge for your mother's breaking my heart, not that I ever had much of one. Diana was useful enough, but fucking your bride will be icing on the cake."

The thought of Sheffield coupling with his mother-beating her-made Nicholas's stomach roil. The man before him might have been his father in another universe.

Nicholas stood up abruptly. "What have you told Rivers?" His butler headed a skeleton crew of servants, most of whom were too old and settled to seek better-paying employment.

"That your poor sister is ill after her ordeal and needs complete rest. Don't worry. I brought Mrs. Jones with me to tend her while we conclude our business. She knows what to do."

The woman was as vile as her employer. For Diana's sake, Nicholas hoped his sister had been liberally dosed with laudanum to enable her to sleep her captivity away. Nicholas longed for the drug himself, to blot out the next few hours.

"I want to see her."

Sheffield shook his head. "Can't be done. Mrs. Jones has her orders. She's armed, you know, with a brace of deadly little pistols, and she won't hesitate to use them. Either on you or your sister. Will you be dining with me tonight?"

As if Nicholas could swallow anything but bile. "I told Catherine we would have dinner in our room. I-I want to prepare her." Nicholas already had a cache of vinegar-soaked sponges. He just couldn't figure out how to get Catherine to agree to wear one.

Nonsense. She'd agree to anything he suggested. For a very short time, Nicholas Harland would be her master in all things.

"Just tie her up good and tight, Nick. I'm not fussy. Think, when the cock crows, it will all be over. Unless, of course, I get a brat on your bride. You won't ever know, will you? You'll always wonder about your first-born."

Just the one night. After that...

Nicholas couldn't think what tomorrow would bring.

Chapter 9.

"It's a miracle, isn't it, Lord Harland?" Rivers looked like he'd shed at least two decades from his step. "Such a pity your poor parents are gone-all their suffering. And Miss Diana's, too, I expect. Your friend Mr. Sheffield was lucky to have found her amongst those filthy gypsies, wasn't he? What a perfect way to celebrate your marriage! Your sister home at last!"

Gypsies. Absurd. Nicholas nodded, distracted. He wanted nothing more than to get back to his bedchamber. "You've seen to Lady Harland's bath?" He took the dinner tray from the old man's hands.

"Aye, my lord. If I may compliment you, she is a lovely young lady. You are a lucky man."

"Not quite lucky enough." Nicholas ignored his butler's look of confusion. "Rivers, I want you to round up all the servants and leave. Go to the village and stand yourself to some drinks at the Unicorn at my expense. Celebrate the occasion. Don't come back until closing time."

"Are you sure, sir? Mr. Sheffield did not bring a valet, just Miss Diana's nurse."

"Mr. Sheffield can undress himself. Tell Cook to leave the dishes in the scullery. I need privacy tonight."

Rivers straightened his spine. "I hope we've been discreet, Lord Harland. We've made every effort not to intrude on your honeymoon."

"Yes, yes, I know, and I thank you for it." In Cat's arms, Nicholas had almost been able to forget why he had married her in the first place.

He had a new plan now, one he didn't want his elderly retainers getting mixed up in. Bad enough he would confess to Cat. His marriage would be over before it had truly begun.

He took the stairs two at a time, forcing himself to get this over with. Balancing the tray on one hand, he struggled with the key. Locking her in was not nearly enough to keep her safe. When he opened the door, Cat was still wrapped in a bath sheet, a few loose tendrils of damp coppery hair curling to her shoulders. She dropped the towel immediately, and his throat dried. She was so lovely-curvy and luscious. The pearls at her nipples matched the silvery white sheen of her skin.

He had never deserved her or desired her more.

"Cover up, Cat. I have something important to say and you tempt me beyond bearing."

Her gilt brows knit. "W-what is it?"

He set the supper tray down, certain it would all go to waste. "There is a man here-Anthony Sheffield."

"Your fr-friend?"

"He's no one's friend, believe me. He-he believes he's going to come upstairs after dinner and fuck you."

She stared at him with guileless brown eyes. "P-pardon?"

"I owe him more money than I can ever repay. And he has my sister. He kidnapped her five years ago and has used her abominably. I wanted to get her back-and he made it clear how that would happen. If-if I married you and then let him-" Nicholas swallowed. "He wants to destroy me, and you are the way. He picked you out at the Calverleigh ball. He was very taken with you. As was I."

"You m-married me so he could-" Her words trailed away.

"Yes," Nicholas said, his voice harsh. "I didn't know you then. I thought I could do anything for my sister. But I cannot. When he comes to the room, I'm going to kill him, Cat. He won't touch you. I should have done something sooner, but I didn't know where Diana was-he'd moved her, you see-but now she's here, in the house. There's some horrible nurse with her, and she'll probably shoot me before I can get Diana free." He ran a hand through his already disordered hair. "But perhaps if I tell her Sheffield is dead, she'll leave. If she doesn't, I'll have to kill her too. I'm so sorry, Cat. This isn't turning out to be much of a honeymoon, is it?" What an understatement. He choked back the wild laughter that was threatening to escape. Cat would really think he was insane then.

She collapsed on the chair next to the empty fireplace, as pale as the white marble mantel. "I d-don't understand."

"He's evil, Cat. Mad. He had some grudge against my parents-oh, it doesn't matter! He's ruined my sister-she will never have a normal life, not after what he's done to her."

"D-does he cane her?" she asked quietly.

"That and more. And I'm just like him. I didn't want to hurt you, Cat, but I-I need to."

"And I l-liked it. I l-like it all."

Nicholas closed his eyes. Trust Sheffield to find him the perfect submissive in a ballroom crush. Innocent, trusting Cat-and Nicholas was tearing her life apart.

The room was quiet, no fire to hiss and spit, no birdsong from the open window. The June air was hot and heavy, settling on them both. The minutes crawled by, Nicholas too wretched to say another word.

Finally she spoke. "You cannot kill this man, n-no matter what he's done." Her usual stutter was almost absent.

"He deserves to die! He took my sister when she was thirteen. Thirteen. She still slept with an old doll in the nursery!"

"W-we must think of something else. You'll go to prison, or be tr-transported."

"What difference does it make? Look at what I'm capable of-I thought to whore out my own wife. Perhaps I'll shoot myself as well."

She was on her feet in an instant. "Nicholas! Don't talk such n-nonsense! I'll do it-w-whatever he wants."

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