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Just One Taste Part 42

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"God, no, Cat. You don't know what you're saying. I've seen him-hell, fucked with him. He's a monster. I may be a poor husband, but I love you. I'll not let him near you."

Her hand cupped his stubbled cheek-he'd been too busy desperately bedding her this morning to bother shaving. "You l-love me?"

He nearly smiled. "I know I have an odd way of showing it."

"It suits me, Nicholas. I'm not going to q-question what's between us. I might never have been happy if you hadn't m-married me. You cannot kn-know-" She paused. "I was so afraid of what was inside me. N-night after night, I craved d-domination. Only I had no word for it. There was a b-book-"

"The one you tried to buy."



Her mouth dropped open. "How did you kn-know?"

"Sheffield has spies everywhere. It was he who suspected what you longed for. I suppose I ought to thank him for introducing us." He gave a bleak chuckle.

"No m-matter how it all began-there is a b-bond between us now that has n-nothing to do with your ropes. We'll think of something then-something not involving g-guns or blood or imprisonment." She bent to pick up the bathsheet and turned it into a rumpled toga.

"I can't think what, Cat. Even if you-if he did as he wishes, he might not keep his word anyway. What if it's not just one night? What if he takes you away from me forever, as he did my sister? He deserves to die."

"But do you deserve to m-murder him? It would stain your soul."

Nicholas laughed. "My dearest Cat, my soul is already stained. These past five years have earned me a place in Hell."

She put up her hand. "Enough. How m-much do you owe him?"

"He holds the mortgage on this house, wreck that it is. And he's bought up all my vowels. They were-considerable. I gambled. I wonder now if Sheffield was responsible for me losing so regularly."

"My settlement-"

"Is nowhere near enough," he interrupted.

Her lips curved. "You should have c-courted a richer bride."

"There wasn't time. I saw my sister, how she was living. I had to marry you quickly."

"And there I w-was, in my seventh season. Papa was d-delighted with your offer."

"I wish someone had had the sense to marry you before, Cat. To spare you this. Even if Sheffield evaporated into thin air, life as Lady Harland won't be easy."

"I won't m-mind. Truly," she said, as he shot her a look of incredulity. "I love you, too, Nicholas. And I can b-bear whatever Anthony Sheffield does to me."

"But I can't."

"You have no choice. I w-will do this for your sister. For us."

"No." He would not argue the point. Nicholas went to his dressing room and returned with a pistol. The weight of it in his hand pleased him. He'd never been foolish enough to duel, but he was a good shot.

"When Sheffield comes to the door, open it, and then step away."

Nicholas watched as Cat swallowed convulsively under the pearl collar. They stared at each other across the room, words unnecessary.

Chapter 10.

And then jumped at the reverberation of a gunshot somewhere up above. Screams, a second crack. Nicholas took Cat in his arms.

"You stay here."

"No!" She snatched up a dull silver knife from the tray, and Nicholas almost laughed out loud.

"You are the most incredible woman. All right, then. Stay behind me."

The stench of gunpowder hung at the end of the long hallway. Nicholas climbed the stairs to the nursery. Diana's room. Grim and silent, he moved through the corridor, Cat behind him, still barefoot and wrapped like a Roman empress.

"Nicky! Nicky! Nicky!"

Diana. Nicholas broke into a run, afraid of what he'd see.

But nothing could have been worse than his last glimpse of his baby sister, her eyes dull, her tongue lapping about her lips.

Not even the two bodies sprawled on her bedroom floor.

"Wait outside, Cat, and give me that knife."

For once, she didn't argue. He stepped into the room, his gun pointed at Sheffield. There was no need of an additional bullet-the man's head was not quite intact. His partner in crime was in a similar fix, praise God. Nicholas went to Diana and hacked into the rough rope that bound her wrists to the headboard.

She was naked save for the diamond collar. Her breasts and nether lips were pierced with thick silver rings and she had been tattooed on her bare mons. Nicholas had seen none of this the night he discovered she was alive, and wished he wasn't seeing it all now. He fetched an afghan from their nanny's old rocking chair and covered her.

"Are you all right? What happened, love?"

Diana spoke so softly he could barely hear her. "They had a fight. Is she dead?"

"Yes."

"Good! I didn't like her much. She did things to me, Nicky. Horrible things. Anthony let her, and I told him I didn't like it, but he just laughed."

She tried to look around Nicholas's shoulder but he held her firm. "Is he all right? He's got to be all right. I can't do without him, you know. I love him. He says we'll get married when I'm finally trained. I was bad at first, but I'm so much better now." Her face was so eager.

"I know, sweetheart. No one will hurt you again, I promise." He cradled her shaved head. Her hair would grow back, but she could never reclaim her innocence.

She was still his beautiful little sister.

"Who is that?"

Nicholas turned. Cat stood in the doorway, white as her sheet.

"This is my wife, Diana. Her name is Catherine."

"She's the reason Mrs. Jones got mad. She didn't want Anthony to fuck her without her."

Ah. Nicholas felt his heart shatter. How would Diana ever overcome the past five years of horror?

"I don't w-want either of them," Cat said with a small smile. "That would q-quite ruin our honeymoon. You're safe now. Home. And I hope you will be s-sisters. I l-love your brother very much." She eased into the room, and Nicholas put his arm around her. "I think we n-need to get Diana out of this room before she really sees what's happened," Cat whispered.

"Take her to ours. I'll have to get the magistrate."

"Where is Rivers?"

"I sent everyone to the village. I should have sent you, too."

Cat shook her head. "N-no, Nicholas, this is the 'for better or w-worse part.' We're in this together."

"With my body, I thee worship." He couldn't wait to make it true.

Chapter 11.

July 15, 1818

Four weeks ago, Nicholas had burned Sheffield's markers, the stack of papers sparking up the chimney. Between her tears, Diana had told them of the false bottom in the man's traveling trunk. Not only were the documents there, but a very large amount of money and jewels. It seemed only fair that Sheffield in death pay some little way for what he had done to the Harland family in life.

And now they began again. His sister's difficulty in settling in was the only blight on Nicholas's life. Diana was with her nurse at the cottage, fighting lessons and prone to bouts of melancholia for her lost "love." She needed laudanum to curb her agitation and help her sleep, and Nicholas had consulted with the local doctor, begging for his discretion.

Diana refused to remove the metal signs of Sheffield's ownership of her. She knew more than a girl her age should, and Nicholas was coming to the reluctant conclusion she might not ever be happy unless she was being dominated again in some way. She truly mourned Sheffield, dressing in black-when she agreed to dress at all-and weeping.

He couldn't bear to think of it, but he had friends from his club that might help her if control became was necessary. When she was ready. More likely when Nicholas was ready. It was a blow to know that she had been so totally captivated by her captor that she had lost all reason. Nicholas had so much guilt already, but that knowledge nearly crippled him.

It had been Cat who pointed out that Diana was really still a child, had been robbed of her girlhood in the most brutal way. What had been learned perhaps could be unlearned, with time and patience.

Diana's case was entirely different from Cat's, who had craved mastery without any help from anyone at all. Given her nature, she would have found a dominant herself if she'd ever had the freedom to do so.

She relished her submission under his hand in a way completely different from what his poor sister had experienced, or at least it seemed like that to Nicholas. Perhaps he was deluding himself. Making excuses. Their lives were Cat's choice, based on Cat's needs. The fact they matched with his was a bloody miracle. Cat was his other half, and they completed each other to perfection.

He and Cat were completely in tune to each other's thoughts. Cat wished to delay childbearing, and Nicholas was in total agreement. The thought of losing her in childbirth terrified him. He wanted nothing to alter the exquisite state of their marriage, and knew he would lose his resolve in giving Cat the discipline she craved and required if she carried a child.

Let the Harland name expire-it didn't matter a whit to him. Perhaps he was selfish not wanting to share his wife with anyone. She belonged to him to take care of, and he knew precisely how now. She was glowing and growing with confidence, her speech vastly improved. There was nothing like the sight of her crawling across the bedroom carpet, the whip in her mouth, the tight pearl collar a sign of his ownership. The silk ropes tied intricately around her. The jewels shimmering on her breasts. She was his.

And he'd utterly lost his heart. Who knew he'd even had one? Each day he tested their bonds a step further. Cat was compliant and complicit. There was no hesitation at anything he suggested for his amusement, and he felt as if he'd fallen onto silk cushions from a very great height.

She was waiting upstairs for him now where he'd left her. Nicholas closed his account book. The infusion of Sheffield and Kerr cash was helping already. With luck and judicious management, he might yet be able to turn Harland Hall's fortunes around. But like his parents, he'd spend everything he had to help Diana if he had to. It was a bleak and confusing time for his sister, but he was sure Cat's daily visits to the cottage helped.

She was not going anywhere right now, however. Nicholas strolled up the stairs, anticipation building. Though he didn't much care for them, a shipment of condoms had arrived in this morning's post. He didn't really trust sponges, and the inquiries about herbs and cycles had proved inconclusive. He'd already made excellent use of her other orifices, but it was time.

Cat was desperate for him to come inside her vagina, and he was desperate to do so, even if it meant sacrificing some of his own pleasure. Their month of creative depravity had been vastly enjoyable, but today he would be an ordinary husband with an ordinary wife.

Oh, not quite. Nicholas grinned to himself as he turned the doorknob.

She lay naked on the bed, tied, blindfolded, a bit between her beautiful lips. He had shaved her nether hair and the slender marble dildoes he'd inserted to tease her were visible between her spread thighs. Though he was responsible for leaving her in such a state, it still thrilled him to see his handiwork.

Her chest rose slowly. His love was asleep, totally relaxed in her bindings. Safe. He had kept her up most of the night, poor girl.

Nicholas removed his clothes with quiet efficiency. He'd torn open the envelope downstairs, and fitted the French letter onto his already rigid cock. He knew she'd been wistful about his reluctance to fuck her in the conventional way, but making her wait had only made her more eager to do his bidding. Nicholas was confident she would never say no to him.

Not that he would ever ask her to do anything she'd have reservations about, or put her in any true danger. Share herself with another man, for example. Nicholas was far too possessive, and Cat was much too precious to him to risk any abuse to her perfect body. She trusted him to protect her, and Nicholas would slice his own throat before he let her down.

He'd come close to that once, and she had, miracle of miracles, forgiven him. Nicholas might never forgive himself, and swore to make her life with him all she could ever desire.

She'd confessed her dreams to him in the darkness of their room. Shown him the sketch book in the daylight. It was his job to make those dreams and drawings a reality.

"Cat," he whispered.

She didn't respond, the blindfold equipped with pads that covered her ears. She would wake soon enough.

With the deftest touch, he removed the dildoes. Cat gave a little groan and arched against his hand at the emptiness. Her inner flesh was ruby-red and wet, her clitoris peeking out from its hood. Nicholas gave it an idle pinch and she shivered.

"I'm going to fuck you now."

She couldn't hear him. Wouldn't she be surprised?

And grateful. Nicholas imagined just how she'd show him later.

The heat of her was scorching even through the condom. She thrashed beneath him, unable to articulate anything around the bit. She exulted when her tongue was rendered immobile-her eyes did all the talking then. He pushed the blindfold up and saw the ecstasy in them of finally, finally getting what she wanted. It had been worth it to wait and feel her quake around him in mere seconds.

The violence of her orgasm made him spill like a schoolboy. He'd do better next time. For there would be many next times-he would never tire of her.

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