This Duchess of Mine Page 49

“The bottle is still there. Don’t move.” He reached over her and apparently managed to grab the bottle. “I suppose I’ll just have to serve you.”

“Oh? And just how do you plan to do that?”

“Like this.” Suddenly she felt a warm, large hand on her hair, running like the softest caress she could imagine over her forehead. One finger paused on her nose, and was replaced by a kiss.

Another finger traced her lips, and a kiss followed.

“Imagine that,” he whispered. “Anywhere my hand can go, I can find with my lips. The possibilities are…limitless.”

She couldn’t help giggling, but the truth was that being blindfolded made her feel uncertain. She had never, ever, made love without constantly checking the effect of her body on her partner—whether it was Elijah, all those years ago, or her two French lovers.

In fact, her pleasure came more than a little from that, from the sense of control and power she got as a man eyed her breasts. As she adjusted her legs, just a little, and he let out a muffled groan. As she watched a man’s eyes darken with lust so he looked as if he were in pain.

But now…

Blindfolded, she felt vulnerable, as if all her skills, her power, her attraction, were gone, along with her sight.

“I feel strange like this,” she whispered. “Maybe we should stop, Elijah.”

His fingers were on her lips, followed by the cold smooth edge of the Champagne bottle.

“I don’t drink from bottles!” she squeaked.

“Tonight you do.” His voice was a purring command that made her feel even more vulnerable.

She drank. It gave her the oddest sensation, as if her senses narrowed to the icy, sparkling feel of the wine in her throat. Elijah wasn’t touching her, but she could sense him there, his breath stirring her hair, his body just next to hers. He smelled delicious, like spice and soap and clean male.

“Enough!” she said, trying to regain her sense of control.

She heard a clink as he put the bottle down. “Now let me see if I understand the parameters of the game. We’re going to lie here, next to each other—after all, the rules demand that we stay in bed—and imagine the chessboard in our heads.”


“I’ve never played chess without a board,” he said thoughtfully.

“You might lose,” she said.

He nuzzled her ear and she jumped. “Or…you might lose.”

“Of course, that’s true as well.” Suddenly she felt just the brush of his tongue. “Elijah!”

“I feel as if we’ll be lying next to each other, like those medieval tombs.”

“What?” He was distracting her, playing with her ear. His thumb was tracing circles on her throat.

“You know, the tombs where Lady Whatsit and her husband lie next to each other in marble effigy, staring straight up. I think they usually have their hands arranged in prayer. Is that what we’re to do…at least until the game is over?” His voice dropped at the end of the sentence.

“Um,” Jemma said, trying to pull herself together. But she felt entirely unbalanced. She was stretched out on the bed, so it wasn’t as if she could fall off. Elijah was playing with her, as if she were one of the treats arranged next to the bed, but she felt immobilized by her sightlessness.

“Doesn’t this bother you?” she said, turning her head toward him even though she couldn’t see.

“No.” She could tell from his voice that he felt perfectly normal. “How do you feel?”

“Alone,” she said uncertainly.

“You’re not alone.” There was a thread of laughter in his voice that made her cross.

“I’m not enjoying this,” she said, reaching up to take off the scarf.

But he knew, somehow. He suddenly rolled on top of her, and a large hand trapped her hands over her head. “You’re changing the rules,” he whispered, running his lips over hers.

His body was hard. The silk of her nightdress might not even have been there: she could feel every button on his pantaloons, the weight of his thigh muscles, the bulge of his private parts.

The horrible, unbalanced uncertainty of being unable to see transformed into something else, something unbearably erotic. His hands were over their heads, holding hers. She should have felt even more powerless…but it was the opposite.

Slowly she stretched up against him, rubbing like a purring cat. She didn’t hear his low groan so much as feel it, with every fiber of her being. “This is better,” she said. “So: you’re White, and White moves first.” She raised her hips slightly.

“We need some rules.” His voice had darkened, deepened.

“I thought the same thing.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Every time a player loses a piece, he or she gets a boon, a request. She can ask for whatever she wants.”

“Is what you’re doing now a boon?” His voice was a low rumble; she was finding that rubbing against him made her feel happy.

“Indeed,” she said demurely, subsiding flat on the bed again.

“Every piece? That could be—”

“Twelve. Or as few as five. It depends on how well you play.”

“It depends on how well I can keep the board in my head, you vixen,” he said, nipping her lower lip.

She gurgled with laughter.

“And now that I think of it,” he growled, “your play is marked by rushing all over the board and knocking my pieces off.”

“But I also frequently win through wild sacrifice.”

He had kept still, so far, just allowing her to rub against him like a friendly cat. Now he pressed against her, just enough so she felt the strength of him. Her body instinctively sought his urgency, her legs cradling him.

Her mouth opened with the shock of it, and his lips covered hers.

Their kiss was devouring, fierce, indulgent, slow. He released his hold on her hands, and she wound her arms around his neck.

Slowly, Jemma realized that the best kisses are always blind. She tasted Elijah, let him explore her mouth, make his mark. She could feel what he was doing…she could feel what was happening.

Her gentlemanly husband had disappeared. The man on top of her was no gentleman. He wasn’t her Elijah, her safe, ethical husband. He seemed to her like a highwayman, an outlaw, come to savage an innocent maiden, the kind of man who thrusts his tongue into a lady’s mouth and then comes back for more.

The kind of man who suddenly pulls away, without a word. She felt him rise to his knees, and then a breeze as his coat flew to the side. She lay still, wildly excited, imagining Elijah as she’d seen him in the Roman baths.

His shirt followed. “Touch me,” came a growl at her ear.

Jemma grinned. She deliberately clasped her hands behind her head. “Did you win a boon?” she asked. “Because to the best of my belief, White goes first and you have yet to make a move.”

He groaned and bit off something that sounded like an oath, except that Elijah never swore. “Pawn to King’s Four.”

“The same,” she said. “Pawn to King’s Four.”

“Christ,” he said. His breathing sounded ragged. “I need to concentrate. I can’t think.” He was still braced above her, his strong knees brushing her body on either side.

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