A steamy Downtown Abbey-esque romance TODAY!
“In other words, you were hoping a visit to my ancestors would put you to sleep.” It was so easy to tease her.
She scoffed in mock outrage. “I never said that!” She titled her chin and shot him a saucy look that punched him in the stomach. There was something there, at the edges of his memory, so faint, like the first breath upon waking. What was it about Ivy that ensnared him? Colors seemed deeper, sounds clearer, his heart beat like a wild rabbit’s, and he lived from moment to moment just to be close to her. A primal urge to catch her, keep her close, filled his being. He knew she was the answer, but he didn’t know what the question was. He sought memories he couldn’t place, so distant and long ago, they were just out of reach, like he was chasing phantoms of his youth.
Ivy stepped back, her eyes leaving his face as she studied the fire, and shivered.
“Who are you, Ivy?” he whispered, cupping her chin and turning her face toward his.
“If you do not know, I cannot tell you,” she replied, and then with a little chuckle she added, “Našti garaves muca ande gono, lake vundžja ka-sitjaren-pe.”
“What does that mean?” he asked. The words had been another language, soft and rhythmic. The effect on him was hypnotic. He could have listened to her speak like that deep into the night.
“It’s Romani for ‘the truth will eventually reveal itself.’ My father is Romani. I am half Romani.” Her hushed response sounded like a confession.
“Your mother?” he prompted, gripped by curiosity. He’d assumed she was possibly Italian but a Gypsy? Definitely not. It did explain her unique but beautiful coloring, though.
“English,” she replied. “Does it shock you, my lord? To have two Gypsies under your roof?” Her tone turned frosty. “Will you have Gordon counting the silver and locking it away now that you know what we are?”
A prickle of irritation stung his skin. He didn’t give a damn that she was half Romani. Her father was rich, and he had brought Ivy up in society to be an intelligent and fierce woman. There was nothing wrong with that. Leo may have been a traditionalist in many matters, but never about men making a life for themselves. If anything, he wished to commend Mr. Leighton on his success. But the last thing he wanted to think about in that moment was her father. All he wanted was to hold her in his arms and kiss her, the way he’d been longing to from the moment she’d descended the stairs for dinner and he’d been captivated by her radiant smile and honey-brown eyes.
“What you are…is my guest,” he answered.
Her lips parted, no doubt to protest with that all-too-sharp tongue of hers, but he didn’t give her a chance. He held the back of her neck with one hand and slanted his mouth down over hers in a possessive, silencing kiss.
Let her argue with this.
The swell of triumph was quickly consumed by his own desire to lose himself in her and the lingering spell of her lips. After her initial shock, she gave in and curled her arms around his neck. He drew her backward until the backs of his knees bumped into a chair. He settled down and pulled her crossways onto his lap. Her gown rustled as it fell over his legs. She felt good, so bloody good in his arms. He continued to explore her mouth; then he left little kisses along her jaw and down to where her neck met her shoulder.
Her elegant, slender fingers threaded in his hair, lightly tugging on the strands as she responded to his attentions with delightful abandon. The crack and snap of the logs in the fire were the only sounds aside from their shared breathing. The warmth of the flames heated Ivy’s back and Leo’s hands as they traced her spine. Everything about holding her, kissing her felt right. No doubts intruded on this perfect kiss.
God, please never let this end. He murmured the silent prayer over and over in his heart.
“Leo,” she breathed in his ear. “I feel so strange,” she confessed before pressing a kiss to his chin.
He didn’t let up but pulled her closer, one hand sliding up her skirts, tracing her stocking-covered calf.
“Strange?” he asked as he twirled his fingers in the ribbons that held her garter up.
The touch of his fingers burned her skin and made her tingle in secret places.
“Light-headed, hot and cold all over.” As she spoke, a little shiver moved through her. He kissed her neck and then her shoulder and collarbone, only increasing her physical symptoms.
“I’m doing something right, then.” He kissed her mouth and she smiled, delighted anew at the feel of their lips melding together.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
“I…uh…” She did trust him. She always had. Sixteen years away hadn’t changed that. Leo was a man she would follow anywhere if he asked her to.
“Let me pleasure you, please?” With gentle but determined hands, he explored her undergarments. Every rational thought screamed at her to deny him what he sought, but every carnal desire and instinct led her back to one gasping reply.
“Thank God.” He inched her closer and parted her legs with his hands. She gave him better access but jerked when he touched her.
“Easy, love, easy.” His gentle shushing soothed her. She tried to absorb the shocking sensation of his fingers as they stroked over her tender flesh. It took all of her control not to clamp her thighs together at the sudden rush of wetness.
“Look at me,” he commanded.
She realized her eyes had closed. With a little sigh, she met his gaze. Fires burned in his eyes, the searing heat of his own desire an almost tangible caress.
“Do you know how beautiful you are?” The tips of their noses touched as he continued to stroke her. When his thumb swept over the bundle of nerves, she jolted as though from an electric shock.
“You are beautiful, Ivy, so beautiful it makes me ache.”
She had never cared before about having an effect on a man. Beauty was often a curse because men would see only her face and care so little for what was in her mind, but Leo was her real weakness. If he thought she was beautiful, then she was. It did funny things to her heart and scared her witless.
His fingers between her legs became more insistent, and she shifted restlessly against him. He held her, moving with her whenever she twisted and writhed as though they were fashioned of the same body and soul. If she withdrew, he followed; if she pressed toward him, he gave way, like one connected being.
Their mouths joined again, and she dug her hands into his hair, trying to attach herself to him, press into him as much as she could. A tightness coiled in her belly and a ripple of fear followed. She couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe as her body started a furious flight toward the sky, yet she didn’t leave Leo’s lap.
“Let me see your eyes.”
The primal sound jarred her and spurred her those last few gasping breaths to a place she’d never experienced. Her eyes locked with his, and she clung to him as the tension in her body exploded in a blinding wave of pleasure. She was dying. Surely nothing so powerful, so wonderful could exist on earth. The captivating gleam of his eyes absorbed her soul, consuming her. Moonlight and firelight shared space in his spellbinding stare. His lips were parted and his warm breath fanned her face. The past held no power to what lay between them in that moment. He wasn’t a young man, and she wasn’t the girl called Button anymore. The distance of time that once separated them was gone. They were simply lovers, exploring carnal desires and lost in the ecstasy. How was it possible to feel such intimacy with a man she hadn’t seen in so many years?
“My God, Ivy,” he whispered, his fingers still moving inside her. She responded with a gasp as little twitches of echoing pleasure shot through her. He slowly removed his hand and held her close to him, as though he sought to protect her.
“That was your first…wasn’t it.” It was not a question.
She nodded and was relieved it was too dark for him to see her blush.
“I am honored that you shared it with me.” His voice was rough. He kissed her soundly, lulling her body into a state of bliss. It would have been so easy to stay there in his arms, enjoying the intimacy, but deep in her heart she knew it couldn’t last, knew it was a huge mistake.
An earl in the streets, a rogue in the sheets . . .
Leopold Graham, Lord Hampton, was never a man to let propriety stand in the way of his pursuit of pleasure. Hedonism is his only desire in life---until his father's death saddles him with debts that threaten to bankrupt the entire family. Now the only thing that stands between him and utter ruin is marriage to a proper, and preferably wealthy, young lady.
Ivy Leighton is no sweet English rose. Perhaps it's her gypsy roots, but she would rather make a spectacle of her independent spirit than sit quietly on the sidelines. If that means that the only place she'll ever have in society is firmly on the shelf, then so be it. But when Ivy runs into the handsome, rakish Leo who's looking for a respectable, well-bred wife, she can't stop thinking about the troubles they can get into. Now she just has to convince him that a life with her is really what he needs.
exploring exotic, ancient lands.
Over the years, Lauren’s studies have opened doors throughout the world. From spending two summers at Cambridge to attending classes at such divergent places as Ireland and Chengdu, China, she has discovered fascinating opportunities for enrichment wherever she goes. After completing college, Lauren moved to Michigan to attend law school at the University of Detroit-Mercy and University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. Armed with two Juris Doctorate degrees from both countries, she returned to Tulsa and became an intellectual property attorney.
Since third grade when her English teacher proposed that all students should craft a story for a young writers’ conference, Lauren has been hooked on writing. Her first self-illustrated manuscript described the mysterious disappearance of rare brown bats that were being captured by scientists bent on using them as carriers for an incurable disease. The immense sense of joy in sharing that story with others, and discussing plots and characters, made it clear to Lauren that writing was her true passion.
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