They hadn’t engaged in a sordid affair, thrown up against a wall when any servant might walk by. They respected each other; no, they adored each other. They might have been eccentric, but they were married.

For the first time in her life, she had behaved in a way that shamed her parents, rather than the other way around.

“I must go,” she said. At least she had the tears under control.

“We have to talk,” Thorn said, his voice a low rumble.

“We cannot! Anyone might walk down this corridor at any moment!”

Their eyes met, and she saw as he grasped her unspoken point: her lips were swollen, her hair down her back . . . she even smelled like the two of them. “I am going to my room,” she stated, “and this did not happen. It will never happen again.”

She jerked her arm from his grip, threw open the curtain, and ran toward the back staircase as quickly as she could. When she made it to her bedchamber without being caught, she had the impulse to send up a thankful prayer to the goddess Diana.

Just in case.

Chapter Twenty-eight

Thorn felt as if a bolt of lightning had struck a crowded street and he was the only one in its path. Sensation rushed through him: strong, sharp, biting.

What in the hell was happening to him? Had he truly lost his mind? After India began ignoring him during dinner, there was no further point to the meal. He kept glancing at her, but she turned her shoulder to him, laughing and talking with Vander.

He had been closer than he wanted to admit to dragging her out from the room, carrying her straight to his bedchamber, and losing himself in her. Only his tight control had kept him in his chair.

But after dinner, when he’d seen India talking to Fleming, he hadn’t been able to stop himself. He’d treated her as if she were no more than a trull, a woman taken wordlessly by a ruffian who tossed her a sovereign afterwards. Took, moreover, without using a sheath or giving a thought to the consequences.

Naturally she had looked at him with betrayal starkly written on her face. The first time they’d made love, he had promised that she would never face the possibility of carrying a child out of wedlock.

Now he slumped against the wall, a string of curses running through his mind. He would marry her; that went without saying.

But he couldn’t get over the fact that he had neglected to use protection. It hadn’t even occurred to him. Even though it was an unshakable tenet of his adult life that Thorn Dautry never bedded a woman without using a French letter.

Finally he tucked in his shirt, buttoned his breeches, and went to find Fleming. He needed to obtain a special license.

Fleming’s bushy eyebrows flew up when Thorn told him to send Fred to Doctors’ Commons in order to request a special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“I believe the fee for a special license is five pounds,” the butler said, taking the twenty-pound note Thorn handed him.

“The archbishop will have to leave the license blank, since I am not there in person,” Thorn said. “The clergy do not like to do that, by all accounts. Twenty pounds should be sufficient persuasion, proffered as a donation to the poor, of course. Make sure Fred understands that.”

“Yes, sir,” Fleming said, bowing. “Fredrick is most reliable. I shall send him straight away.”

Thorn nodded and glanced over his butler’s shoulder, only to meet his father’s fascinated eyes. “A special license?” His Grace drawled. “And I thought my eldest son was lamentably conservative. I pictured you in Westminster Abbey. I suppose I should be grateful that you are not contemplating Gretna Green.”

“The cathedral would never allow me through its doors,” Thorn said.

“They damned well would take you,” the duke stated, his eyes darkening.

Thorn hadn’t the energy to discuss the consequences of illegitimacy with his father. He had to find India and inform her that they would marry as soon as the next day. Wasn’t there some rule that nuptials had to be conducted before noon? They could marry the day after tomorrow.

“May I inquire as to the name of the bride?” his father asked.

Thorn met his eyes. “I’d be very surprised if you didn’t know.”

A satisfied smile played around his father’s lips. “I suspect that I do.” He fell back a step and swept one of his magnificent bows. “Son. You do me proud.”

Thorn made one of his own perfunctory bows in reply.

Then he retired to his room, brooding over the fact that a blindingly foolish slip would result in marriage to India.

Which meant, in turn, living with India every day, coming home to the amazing hunger that matched his own. The thought sent fire searing through him. India’s sweet arse beside him in bed, India’s blue eyes glazed with desire, begging him for relief, India’s intoxicating moans.

He scarcely touched her, and she was already wet. You couldn’t fake that. A woman could fake many things, but not that.

And he trusted her, as much as he’d trust anyone. He even liked her.

She was almost like a man, though her mind worked in fascinatingly different ways from his. India rubber bands were going to be an enormous success. He knew it in his bones, and he was never wrong about business.

After a bath, he dressed and walked down the long corridor to India’s room. He entered without knocking and closed the door behind him.

She was curled in a chair reading a book, her face bent to the page. A wall lamp cast a glow over her shoulders, turning her hair to a river of white gold.

With just a glance, he began to harden again, even though he’d just had her, barely an hour ago. Likely their whole life would be like that. He would spend years dragging his wife into corners, into the hammock, into their bedchamber.

He would never grow tired of making love to India. He knew it instinctively, with every fiber of his being. Once they married, her lush body would be his, his for the taking, for the asking, at any time. What’s more, she would laugh and scold and argue with him.

Perhaps that was even more important.

Thorn stood in the doorway, struggling to control the emotions raging through him, when India said, without looking up from her book, “I’d much prefer that you didn’t walk into my bedchamber without invitation. And I have no intention of extending that invitation.”

She was angry. Of course she was. He had explicitly promised that he would never put her at risk of bearing a child. He still didn’t believe it had happened. At the same time, all he wanted to do was pull her nightdress from her body, sweep her onto the bed, and thrust inside her.

Without a sheath.

He had spent his youth learning the intricacies of pleasuring a woman from an assortment of females. He had been with many women, more than he cared to remember, knowing that someday he would bind his wife to him with his lovemaking, satisfying her in ways that would ensure she never left him.

Or, more to the point, never left their children.

With India, everything he had learned about slowly bringing a woman to pleasure flew out the window and all he could think of was—one thing.

“A husband needs no invitation to enter his wife’s bedchamber,” he said, his voice coming out husky and rough. Surely she too understood that they now must marry.

“What a husband does or doesn’t need is debatable, but it hardly matters in this instance, as you are not my husband,” she said, turning the page. She finally looked up at him. “In case you are wondering, Thorn, you will never be my husband.” Copyright 2016 - 2024