“Be sure of what you ask for,” Thorn said, his voice dark. “If you continue to beg me, India, I will seduce you, and I won’t be sorry. But I won’t marry you simply because my cock has been inside you.”

India’s heart quickened at his words, although she should have been outraged that anyone would say such a vulgar thing to her. But she wasn’t outraged. She was exhilarated.

“I do not want to marry you,” she said, being as clear as she could. She had managed to tug his shirt free, and the warm, sleek skin of his back was under her fingers. “I don’t even like you very much.”

“I like you,” he muttered against her lips. “But I have as good as committed myself to marry another.”

India was tired of talking about marriage, or indeed of talking at all. She wiggled down, which made the hammock sway, just enough so that her face was under his. “I want to do all the things in that book.”

His mouth quirked, even though his eyes were hungry. “All of them?”

She thought about it for a second, and nodded. “Except the one with two women. I’m not interested in that.”

“Damn,” he muttered, but she saw laughter in his eyes.

“You taught me how to kiss, and that didn’t make me want to marry you. Now you can teach me this,” she said, feeling as if she were about to jump out of her skin. “If you won’t, just tell me, because—”

The fierce look he gave her made the words catch in her throat. “Because what?”

“Because I’ll find another man who’s not a gentleman,” India said, not letting him intimidate her.

“You’d find another man,” he said, slowly and ominously.

Though he looked as if he were about to pounce on her, India didn’t flinch. Thorn liked to boast that he wasn’t a gentleman, but he was about to behave like one. He was going to refuse her. He wouldn’t take a lady’s dearest possession, her virtue.

She slid her palms up his back, under his shirt, and announced, “I am not a virgin.” She was whispering again, but really, how could a woman say such an outrageous thing, other than in a whisper?

She wasn’t accustomed to lying, and it was surprisingly difficult to lie to Thorn.

He stared down at her silently for a few long minutes, and at last said, “Do I have to find some scoundrel and kill him for taking you without your permission?”

She shook her head. Something imperceptible changed in the air around them. He shifted his weight, just slightly, but it was so delicious that a shudder coursed through her.

“I will not do this in a hammock,” he stated. His mouth drifted across her cheekbone and she felt the heated touch of his tongue.

She said, with a little gasp, “All right.”

“However, we can begin in the hammock,” he said, his voice like a purr. And with that, his hand swept up her leg and didn’t stop. Didn’t dandle and caress, or trace patterns on her inner thigh. Instead, it went straight to her sweetest spot, which had in truth never been touched by anyone but herself.

Now his fingers slid into her softness, plundering her without asking permission, taking what they wanted. Fire rushed up her body as he unerringly pressed down in just the right spot. India opened her mouth to scream, but he put his lips over hers. With the kiss, and what he was doing with his hands . . . she squirmed under him, breathless, unable to keep her legs from moving. Her fingers tightened on his back, thinking dimly that she wanted his weight, that feeling, the way it was when he—

One of his broad fingers sank into her and she tore her mouth from his because she was on fire and the sounds in her throat had to come out. . . .

And she came. Like that. In a hammock. The orgasms she gave herself were nothing to this one, not with Thorn beside her, one muscled leg pinning her down, the hammock swaying, his fingers . . . his tongue in her mouth.

“Thorn,” she gasped, not knowing what she wanted to say. “Thorn!”

His fingers slipped away and the hammock lurched. Then all his delicious weight was on top of her, elbows on the sides of her face, and he was kissing her with a fierce, consuming hunger that turned her nerves to fire. She had just come, and already she was shaking, her heart pounding, her hands flying over him. Instinctively she pushed up against his heat and strength.

He tore his mouth away, but India was beside herself, her breath coming in little sobs. Thorn wound a hand in her hair and pulled her head toward him. His lips brushed hers, the hammock swayed, and his body ground against hers. A desperate sound broke from her throat and drifted into the air.

“You will not be able to be quiet, will you?” Thorn asked, his eyes smoldering. “You will never be silent.”

India didn’t know how to reply. Her mind was clouded, absorbed by the chiseled contour of his mouth. She arched toward him again and licked his lower lip.

His eyelids dipped, and he answered his own question. “Never. You’re in it with your entire being, aren’t you, India? All of you.”

India was certain of only one thing: she was completely uninterested in a comparison of herself to other women. She felt at once satisfied and unfinished, replete and hungry. “I can be silent,” she said with a gasp.

A half smile curled his lips. He tilted his hips. The hammock rolled and his weight pressed between her legs. A moan slipped from her throat.

“You’re lying,” he said, whispering it against her throat as he nipped and kissed her. “There aren’t many women like you, India.”

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” she cried, exasperated. “Are we to make love in this hammock?”


Her heart plummeted into her slippers, and her hand slid from his back. “Oh.”

“We shall make love in my bed,” he murmured. “In that red bedroom you made for me.”

“I can’t make love to you in that bed!”

He chuckled, and she felt the quake of it against her skin. “Yes, you can.”

“Making love in your bedchamber would be wrong.”

“Wrong how?” It was miraculous, the way he could maneuver in the hammock without making it turn over and dump the two of them on the lawn. He pulled away her bodice again and the pale cream of her breast fell into his hand, overflowing his palm. She couldn’t see what he was doing because his hair fell forward.

But she could feel.

What she felt made her start to pant even as she tried to explain. “Your bedchamber is for your wife. For a man and his wife. We’re not that, and this is just one night, so . . .” Her voice trailed off when she forgot what she was saying.

Thorn raised his head and swiped a thumb across her nipple. She squeaked. “I can’t make love to you outdoors, India. That means my room.” He rolled fluidly from the hammock and pulled her straight into his arms. Just like that, they were both standing.

“Not in the house,” she managed.

“Why not?”

“As I just said, the house . . . the bedchamber is for you and your wife,” she tried again, stumbling into words as she tried to read his eyes. “You’ll make memories there, and I don’t want any of those memories to be—” She broke off awkwardly.

He gave her that ironic half smile of his. “Lady Xenobia India St. Clair, are you telling me that I’m not allowed to bring a mistress to Starberry Court?”

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