“I had no reason to look at your end of the table.”

He braced one arm on the wall above her head, leaning closer. “You looked at me earlier.” He sounded as if he were speaking through clenched teeth.

It was embarrassing to find that the merest glance at his lips made her knees feel weak. But she managed to summon up her self-respect. “You should be spending time with Lala. Go!”

He paid no attention. “Do you know that most people find me intimidating?”

Meeting his eyes made India drag in a deep breath and begin to turn sideways, to dart toward freedom. But his body closed in, and his mouth came down on hers. Their kiss was deep and wet—not sweet, but scorching, as if there was no air in the world other than what she took from Thorn’s lips.

It was silent, this desperate kiss, so insistent that she could actually feel her lips becoming bee-stung. His hand shoved into her hair, and the pins that had held in place a pyramid of elaborate ringlets tinkled to the floor.

“No,” she gasped. But his mouth found hers again. She hardly registered that she had launched herself away from the wall, and she was now plastered against him, as close as if she were trying to melt into him.

In fact, she didn’t notice at first when his hands slipped under her skirts. Not until she realized that they were cupping her bottom, hitching her higher and backing her against the wall again. Her legs instinctively curled around his hips as he pushed his pelvis against her, sending flames arcing down her legs.

She said something in a shamefully weak voice. It might have been “No.” But even worse, it might have been “Yes.”

Whatever it was, he ignored her. His fingers slipped into the silky tuft of hair between her legs. The moment he touched her, her lips opened in a cry that he caught with his mouth.

His kiss and caress tumbled her into a haze: her head spun and she couldn’t see or even breathe. She clung to him, his clever, clever fingers igniting a fever in her blood. Need rose in her like a dark storm.

“No!” she whispered hoarsely, pulling away from his kiss. “You cannot spend the afternoon with Lala and then come to me. You cannot seduce me while you’re betrothed to another.”

He met her eyes, his face strained with desire but confused. “I am not betrothed to anyone. I have said nothing about marriage to Lala or any other woman.”

India stared at him. It was hard to think when her body was shaking. His fingers had stilled, but they were still there, touching her. “You’re sure you’re not betrothed? Even informally?”

He shook his head. His eyes had darkened to the color of a storm over the sea, and his fingers started that caress again, touching her in a teasingly regular pattern that made her body oddly lax and tense all at once.

As if she was waiting . . . waiting for something.

“I have spoken to Lala’s father, but given the circumstances of my birth, he declined to consider the matter unless I received Lady Rainsford’s approval. I never asked Lala for her hand.” The words grated from his throat, and India believed him. Whose fault was it that Lala was dreaming about marriage to Thorn? Probably every other woman in London was dreaming about Thorn.

The thought drifted away, because Thorn lifted her with one arm—her weight seemingly nothing—and unbuttoned his breeches with the other, pulling himself free. She gasped when their bodies came together again, her thighs instinctively tightening around his hips.

“I did not spend the afternoon with Lala,” he growled at her, his voice jolting, as if he were in a runaway carriage. “I was at the rubber factory, trying to make that damn machine work.”

“Oh,” India breathed as he nudged her softest, most private spot.

“May I?” he growled, his eyes holding hers. Her arms tightened around his neck. She could no more say no to him than she could tell the sun not to rise. She wiggled against him at the very same moment he drove into her.

She would have screamed but his mouth covered hers again, a frantic kiss in time with the rhythm of his rough thrusting. Wild pleasure flared in her limbs as he kept going and going, an arm around her back to protect her from the wall.

They were both mad, India thought dimly, not really thinking, just feeling: the strength of his arm holding her up, the way they were connected, and the powerful way he was pumping into her, as if she were life.

And then . . .

And then she was coming, her head falling backward, her body jerking as if she were falling into a well full of stars, a deep one. The stars flew out to the very end of her fingers. It was so pleasurable that it was almost painful. And it kept going and going.

Thorn groaned, braced himself against the wall and—

It was different. It felt different. He was deep inside her, his breath rasping, his hips pumping. His breath was harsh and his control lost.

He was like a man starving, a man possessed. And with that thought, she was coming again, succumbing to the rhythm of his hips . . . the rhythm of his heart.

A moment later, India’s breath was still sobbing from her chest; he still had an arm around her bottom. But he was leaning his head against the wall, gulping air. They stood together in silence, her body blissful and her mind blank.

At length, reason returned, bringing abject terror with it.

“Thorn, you didn’t use a sheath,” India whispered. “You forgot!”

She heard a sharp inhalation, and then his response, a word she’d never heard before. But she knew what it meant. It meant he dropped her to the floor as fast as a child might drop a cat. Unlike a cat, she landed wrong, lurching on one of her elegant little Italian heels, and managing to stay upright only by grabbing his sleeve.

He didn’t notice.

She knew what he was thinking. Now she would force him to marry her. Trap him, and keep him away from sweet, dizzy Lala. She wouldn’t.

“I have never lost control before,” he growled.

“I’m certain everything is fine!” she said, chirping like Adelaide. “My mother tried for years to have another child and never succeeded.” She let go of his sleeve and shook down her skirts, ignoring the fact that her legs were throbbing.

“My father has six bastard children,” he stated. “If my father had married your mother, you’d probably have seventeen brothers.”

“Nonsense,” she said, frowning. “May I remind you that Eleanor has borne only one child? I am aware that you have strong feelings on this subject, but I can reassure you that all will be well. Adelaide told me . . . well, conception has to do with the time of the month, and rest assured, you are not going to be a father.”

He stared down at her, his mouth tight.

Humiliation was welling up inside, and if it made its way out, India would likely burst into tears.

It was one thing to have a romantic affaire, a sweet memory of a single night’s bliss. But Thorn hadn’t even brought her to a bedchamber, but had simply shoved her behind a curtain and pulled up her skirts, as if she were no more than a night-walker.

The worst of it was that she’d liked it. She had practically begged him to do it, even knowing that he was marrying another woman. And that Lala was dreaming of their marriage.

She’d done that to herself, betrayed her own standards. Self-hatred crept up the back of India’s throat like acid.

She had always scorned her parents, but they had never done anything like this. They had danced naked but their intentions were pure, even if the villagers had never understood. Her mother and father had truly believed in Diana, the moon goddess.

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