Kensington Aphrodisia (March 1, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780758220585 ♦ ISBN-10: 0758220588
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In Regency England, there is a world ruled by feral passion and forbidden desire—a world where every fantasy is realized as four brothers take their women to rapturous new heights of carnal bliss…
The Ursus brothers are descended from a Viking clan whose ancestors doomed them to a life of all-consuming sensual urges. Haunted by their insatiable hunger, each brother knows that only one thing can tame their wild yearnings: claiming the heart and soul of the woman who is his destiny…
Surrounded by an aura of danger and driven by his unshakeable instincts, each brother knows immediately when he’s encountered the right woman, and they immediately instruct them in the art of giving and receiving pleasure. But once these women get their first sizzling taste of raw abandoned ecstasy, they only want more and more…
Read an Excerpt
Sweet mother! What a blunder she’d made! Jane’s hand shot to her mouth, and she bit the skin of her palm.
Jonathan had never loved her. He lied.
Tears blurred her vision and streamed down her cheeks. She tripped and stumbled, barely seeing the wooded trail before her. The flesh of her sex burned, and her legs ached. How she needed a nice long soak in a tub and time to sort this out. Dash it!
When had she misunderstood his intentions? They had been secretly touching and kissing behind his tavern for months. The whole town thought they would marry. Then, today at the fair, they’d snuck into the woods.
“Lovely, lovely Jane, ye give me a tickle, won’t ye, love?” The smell of the ale from his breath wafted about her.
She shouldn’t, but how she fancied him. What could it matter?
“You will marry me?” she breathed into his hair, her head spinning in aroused bliss.
He grunted as her touch ran down his muscled back.
He’d grunted! Her teeth ground together as she ran without seeing the trail before her. Sweet mother! He had never said he would wed her. She had craved his touch and the feelings he created in her so madly she’d mistook the grunt as an affirmation of his designs.
She’d given her innocence to a man who had no intentions of wedding her. Her fingers clutched her stomach. She could be with child, and she had no way to take care of a babe nor herself. Daft, truly daft.
Her head spun. She gasped for air as her legs tangled in her skirts, and she tripped, landing, limbs spread wide on the hard, damp earth. Oh. She lay, lungs burning, unable to breathe, and closed her eyes. Her entire life had changed in one act of wanton misdeed. She would pull herself together. She would find a way if she carried a child, but for now … she would grieve while no one could see her.
“Lovely Jane.” He buttoned up his trousers as he inhaled a deep breath, the crisp air clouding as he exhaled. “Not bad for a green tickle, and no worries about the clap.”
The clap. He’d rutted with her like she was no better than a tavern wench. He loved her. He said he loved her. Her eyes closed as tears welled.
“‘Twas a lovely, Jane. Ye have a sweet little honeypot. Take good care of it and we’ll come out here again sometime.” He turned and headed off into the trees.
By God. What had she done?
With her face down in the dirt, tears silently ran down her face. Her limbs trembled, and her head spun. She hadn’t cried in an age. The act depleted and exhausted her. Pull yourself together, Jane. With a sob, she straightened and got to her feet on shaking legs. She was a wealthy merchant’s daughter. He was friends with her pa. How dare he treat her ill?
Panic grabbed at her heart.
This act ruined her prospects of a normal life and brought shame on her family name. Her father’s business would suffer. How could she be so selfish? Her family, she held dear.
Frantic, her gaze darted around the forest. Nothing but trees. Think, think, you fool….
Her fingers pinched the bridge of her nose. She would go to Jonathan and beg him not to say a word. Dash it all. Her eyes squeezed shut.
If she could only figure a way out of the woods. She held her breath, listening for any sounds from the fair. Nothing. What is the rule? Follow the sun and it will lead you to the north…. No…. Sweet mother, she should have listened to her father when he talked about directions.
She stepped toward the setting sun; pain spread through her ankle and up her leg, and her temples throbbed. Ouch! She put weight on her leg and swayed. She could limp but not far.
The forest grew darker. Where was she? She hobbled up the path. Dash it all. Lost, that’s where. She picked up her pace. Frost eased up around her heart, and she pushed aching dreams down. Just ahead, a road loomed, and the sun dipped below the horizon. The lane, rutted and ill used, surely led somewhere….
Thunder cracked in the distance as she stared up at the large wooden door. Darkness brewed, and she passed not a soul on the road to this place. The house stood four stories tall, with huge spires that reached to the sky. She had resided in Cumberland for five years, and not once had she heard of an estate such as this. Lifting her hand, she knocked as rain plummeted to the earth in large wet thunks behind her.
She knocked again; shivers raced over her skin. The door creaked open.
“May I help you, ma’am?”
“Oh, indeed.” She practically jumped at the man sticking his head out of the small crack. “I’m lost and injured.” She pointed to her ankle. “And, well, you see, it is beginning to rain. Would it be possible for me to stay here this night? I could sleep in the kitchen or … or … the barn. I shan’t be any trouble.”
The man’s eyes went wide behind his round spectacles, and his face twisted in what looked like horror.
“I … I … know this is highly irregular, but please?”
He schooled his features back to a serious line. “I’m sorry, ma’am. There is no safe way for you to stay here.”
Safe? “Pardon?” Oh, please just let me in.
The wind whipped up and blew down the last of her pinnedup hair. A shiver racked her body, and her teeth chattered.
“Oh … Oh …” He glanced into the house. “Very well, ma’am. You will do as I say, do my bidding exclusively. Without fail. Women should not be in this house.”
He was concerned about propriety? What a jest! She was ruined. Tears touched her eyes in shame, and she shook them away. What silliness! This man possessed no way of knowing that.
“I will do as you wish, sir.” She had no choice. Either she stepped into this house and escaped drowning in one of Cumberland’s deluges, or she would try to find her way back in the dark and probably die. She cringed. That was a bit too pessimistic, but she just couldn’t go another step this night.
He hesitated and then opened the door just enough to admit her. She slid into the darkened hall and glanced around. A grand staircase stood twisting up to the roof. Dim light shone through a window above the door and illuminated the entry and the paintings that covered the walls. Where did the stair lead? An eerie chill raced up her spine, and she stepped forward, eager to see what lay at their end.
“This way, miss.”
Startled, she spun around and followed the servant down a hall that went off to the left of the entry.
“I will put you in the east wing. You will lock your door. Every bolt. I will bring you warm water to wash. After, admit no one to your room.”
A bit protective for a servant, but then again, maybe his master was a real curmudgeon. The last thing she wanted was to end up back out in the rain now. “Very well, sir. I have no wish for you to lose your post. I can surely sleep in the kitchen.”
“No!” His voice was a sharp shrill.
Her brows drew together as her eyes adjusted to the dim light in the hall they trod down. Why was he so nervous?
“Until I tell Lord Tremarctos you are staying with us, you will stay out of sight.” The man swallowed hard. His hand moved upward as though to tweak his collar and then stopped midair as he glanced at her from the corner of his eye.
Odd! Surely she had nothing to fear. Besides, tiredness ruled her, and the events from the day shook her so terribly it would be no problem to stay locked behind a door in this house.
This house…. Her gaze darted around the hall, and she almost stopped and spun on the spot. What a beautiful house! The floors shone of a dark, polished marble. The doors stood floor to ceiling with massive iron hinges bigger than anything she had ever seen.
In the dim light she could tell that the house shone with delights she would never see again. Truly a pity. She wished she could see every detail. They turned a corner, and she followed the man up three flights of narrow servants’ stairs. At the top of the hall another male servant approached, and the man who let her in waved his hand, calling him to them.
“Bring me hot water, a pitcher, and have Jack send up tea with cheese and biscuits.”
“Sir.” The man inclined his head and stared at her as she passed.
Her attire was a mess! Nevertheless, politeness dictated that he shouldn’t stare. Her fingers picked at the mud that covered her dress, and her gaze settled on her dirt-splattered hands. She rolled her eyes. Just her luck! Finally she saw the inside of a fancy house, and she looked as if she’d spent the day gathering greens from the garden.
Halfway down the hall, they stopped and he pushed open a door. She stepped across the threshold and stopped. Her eyes widened, settling on the well-appointed room. “Oh, sir, a servant’s room will suffice.”
“No, ma’am. None of the servants’ rooms have doors. And … well, you promised to lock yourself in.”
She turned as he bent to light the fire in the grate. The sputtering flame cast more light into the dark room. Oh, how she wanted to get warm, wash the filth from her body, and curl up in that huge, heavenly bed. Her mouth dropped open. My goodness, the mattress was enormous; the posters were carved but with such dim light she couldn’t see the design.
The linens looked a scrumptious deep shade, too dark to discern in the glow from the fire. The image of her lying on deep scarlet silk, naked, flashed before her. Her hair spread across the pillows as a lover caressed her thighs, his head between her legs, licking the entrance to her womb. Her knees wobbled as tingles scorched through her sex. Oh, my! Her hand shot to her mouth in shock, and she shook herself, trying to erase the image from her mind.
Never in her life had such thoughts entered her head. When she imagined the act with Jonathan, loving never involved a bed, and never with his mouth there. Her hand smoothed down the front of her dress to the apex of her thighs. Would kissing there be pleasurable? Her cheeks flushed warm, and she snatched her hand away. Thank goodness no one could see her thoughts!
She was tired; that was all. The man who had passed them brought up water and filled a tub for her to wash in; he was followed by a gentleman with a tea tray. She waited until they left, bolted the door as requested, and then sat down on the chair by the fire. Tears trickled down her face; they were the last she would allow because of Jonathan. Tomorrow would be a new day, and she would find a way out of this mess. But tonight … she let herself cry once more.
A noise pierced her slumber. What was that?
The sound increased as her eyes fluttered open to darkness. The fire in the fireplace burned no more, and the rain outside fell in a deafening pour.
Lightning lit the edges of the curtain as a scratching from the other side of the door grew louder. Her heart increased to a fast beat. What was that? A dog?
She pushed back the covers, scrambled to her feet, and crossed the icy room to the door.
She shivered as she stood before the white painted wood. Her gaze scanned the line of eight locks the servant had requested she bolt. She had felt silly when she listened to him, but his nervousness about letting a woman stay here made her wonder what lay beyond that door. Leaning toward the door she placed her ear to the crack.
Sniff, sniff. A low rumble of a growl came from the opposite side. “I can smell you.” Sniff. “The virgin’s blood, the semen, dripping from you.”
She jumped and scrambled back, an arm’s reach from the door in outrage. How … how could anyone know what she did today? She had washed … thoroughly. There was no possible way anyone could smell her folly. Was this a dream?
“Who … who is there?” Her voice wavered as she reached out and touched the bolts she had thrown that night.
“Let me in.” The growl, so low and throaty, made the hairs on her neck stand. “Let me taste what you have so freely given to another.”
She continued to stare at the door; shame and panic boiled through her body until her body shook. The scratching increased. The sniffs echoed as if the person outside her door stood beside her. “Let me in…. Let me in….” the raspy growl rang, and sweat slid down her back.
It would not give up. Somehow she sensed it.
The sound of something dragging widened her eyes, and with a bang, the door shook on its hinges. “Let me in, damn you!” It howled in outrage. “I will have you. There will be no denying me.”
“No…. Go. Leave me be!” She yelled into the blackness and stepped back from the door as the wood once again shook and creaked with the weight of the pounding.
This surely was a dream. Nothing like this could be real.
Her body shook, her gaze stuck on the door. Please let the locks hold firm.
A sharp cry of pain came from the other side of the door, and a breath tickled her neck. Her hand shot to that spot as she spun, expecting to see someone there. Nothing. The curtains blew, and the window snapped open with a crack.
Dash it all! She jumped and hurried for the window. The wind howled, blowing her hair back from her face in a gust. She grasped the sodden wood in her hands and tugged; she stared out at the night. Rain came down in sheets, and as the wood frame clicked shut, lightning lit up the gardens below.
A figure clung to the wall at the base of the building. Crimson eyes stared up at her. She gasped, bolted the window, and pushed away from the glass, the curtain falling back as-she swore-the eyes emerged above the edge of the sill.
The cry rang in her head once more. Her heart pounding, she spun and stared at the door.
Nothing. Not a sound except the pounding in her heart. Her body shook uncontrollably as every shadow in the room moved, alive and coming for her.
This is just a dream.
Close your eyes and things will all get better.
She jumped, nerves taut as she stumbled back to the bed and crawled up on the mattress. Her eyes darted back and forth between the window and the door, searching for anything she could make out in the black, but all stayed still.
Just close your eyes and things will be well. In the morning you can leave this place for home.
As she forced her lids shut, quiet met her.
The warmth of smooth silk surrounded her, and a pleasant aroma tickled her nose. Mmmm. She inhaled again.
Her mother’s baking. She loved her pastries. Jane’s stomach rumbled, and she lazily stretched, scooting her bum to roll on her side.
Firm pressure compressed her into the mattress, not allowing her further motions. What? She strained again as her eyes fluttered open to darkness. She was not home. This was not her bed.
She pulled, and her muscles strained as her gaze shot around the darkness. Her eyes gaped as she sighted the vague outline of the door. The white painted wood stood, unlatched and open into the room. Her heart rapidly sped. Jerking her body, she frantically strained. She couldn’t move. Her muscles shook. Yet nothing restrained her. Another dream; this was just another dream. She squeezed her lids shut.
Sniff, sniff, sniff. Warm air tickled her stomach.
Sweet mother, that was real. Her eyes shot open. Still, she saw nothing. The bedclothes lay flat, but beneath the covers her shift slid up her torso to her breasts. What … “Stop! Don’t touch me!”
She squirmed. Warm silk touched the peak of her nipple, and her lungs locked.
“Please!” Panic gripped her, and her body turned clammy. This is what happens when you willingly participate in the act outside of marriage. You go mad with nightmares and dreams of carnal desire. She squeezed her lids shut, and warm, moist air puffed up her neck to her ear.
“I said there would be no denying me.”
The smell of cinnamon grew stronger, and her whole body trembled.
“What do you want from me?” She strained and pulled to move but couldn’t.
Silence met her.
“Why can’t I see you? Is this a dream?”
Still nothing. Chills raced her skin; she squirmed and strained her muscles. Warm smoothness dragged down her stomach, and her body trembled in the touch’s wake. Heat flooded her core.
“I will not harm you,” the male voice cooed softly, reassuring her. “To whom did you give your gift?” The warm cloth dragged up to her breasts and circled her nipples.
“Oh, God. …” Her breasts grew heavy, and she groaned. Why … how … Oh, why did her body respond to this bizarre touch? “That is no concern of yours.” This had to be a dream-a pleasant yet strange dream.
“Ah, but if this is a dream, what does it matter?”