Kiss of Steel Page 24

A little flush of heat crept into her cheeks. “By whatever means possible.”

Esme mistook her meaning. A little smile played at the corners of her full mouth. “He’s in his rooms. Most likely heading for bed for an hour or two. The men only just returned.”

Despite herself, Honoria paused with one foot on the stairs. “There were no more murders?”

“Nothing last night,” Esme answered. “They were keeping watch. Good luck.”

“I thought you were in his corner.”

“Perhaps.” A hint of warm laughter came with Esme’s words. “Or maybe I’m sending the lamb to the slaughter.”

Ignoring the teasing, Honoria took a deep breath and started climbing the stairs. She was no lamb to the slaughter. Blade was going to pay for his deception. Esme’s soap still lingered on her skin from the night before. Hopefully he wouldn’t detect her presence.

She strode briskly to his door, then considered whether to knock. Esme wouldn’t knock, and Honoria wanted the element of surprise for a few seconds longer. That decided, she pushed the door open and whisked inside. And stopped dead in her tracks—

Blade spun on his heel at her shocked gasp, swiftly wrapping a towel around his hips. It wasn’t quite big enough and gaped over one heavily muscled thigh as he tucked the end into itself at his waist. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw her, then he scowled.

She couldn’t stop herself from staring. Acres and acres of wide, muscled chest. The barbaric band of tattoo around his left arm and down his ribs. An arrow of hair trailing from his navel down into the edge of the towel. And the tented suggestion of what that towel was hiding, proving that Blade didn’t find this intrusion entirely disagreeable.

Honoria turned away quickly. This wasn’t what she’d planned at all, but how could she go about her revenge when he was practically naked?

“Well,” he drawled. “I guess you ain’t ’ere to tuck me in.”

“Of course not,” she threw over her shoulder. She caught a distracting glimpse of him in the mirror and turned her burning face back to the wall. “You know exactly why I’m here. Put some clothes on. This is indecent.”

“I ain’t the one as just barged into a gent’s rooms without knockin’.”

The sound of the towel hitting the floor made her mouth go dry. Oh, my goodness. He was naked. And her mind’s eye was most enthusiastic about supplying her with a vision of what that might look like.

It would be very easy to confirm whether her vision was accurate. Don’t you dare, she told herself.

“I’m afraid you’ve got me at a loss,” he replied, leisurely moving around behind her. Sheets rustled and then she heard the unmistakable sound of leather sliding over skin.

“Are you decent?”

“Rarely,” he said, with an ironic drawl.

“Are you clothed?”

“Aye.”

He was going to play games with her. Her fists clenched and she turned to look him in the eye. At the edges of her peripheral vision, she could just see him tugging the leather breeches into place, but she didn’t dare look lower.

“I need those diaries,” she said firmly. “This isn’t a game. You know how important they are to me.”

“The diaries, eh?” He feigned surprise. “You’re ’ere to fetch your diaries. I thought you took ’em ’ome last night.”

“You swapped them while I was getting dressed! I opened the bag and found The Scarlet Letter and The Taming of the Shrew—no doubt you had a good laugh at that.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a steady look. The muscles in his forearms bunched.

“Aye. I were so desperate for your company that I stole your precious diaries. What’s in ’em that’s so important, Honor?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“Then you ain’t gettin’ ’em back.”

The ring on her finger seemed to burn. “Yes, I am.” She started toward him.

“You goin’ to turn me up sweet, luv? I got news for you—I’m tired o’ playin’ games.” He took a step forward and glared down at her. “And you already owe me a kiss which you ain’t paid.”

He was in her space again, using his size and height to intimidate. A little flutter started, low in her stomach. “I thought you didn’t want me to kiss you unless I wanted it too.”

“Maybe I changed me mind.”

A little flick of her fingernail opened the toxin-smothered needle. The thought of kissing him did horrible things to her willpower—and her knees—but it would also get her close enough to render him at her mercy. Honoria tilted her chin up and stared him directly in the eyes.

Go ahead, you bleeder. Force a kiss and it shall be the last thing you’re capable of doing for some time.

His eyes widened imperceptibly, and his voice was low and husky when he said, “Is that a dare I see in your eyes?” He took another step closer, so close that her skirts brushed against his legs.

“I can’t stop you,” she said. “But I promise you shall regret this.”

Blade reached up and slowly, slowly stroked her cheek, his gaze following the path of his fingers. They dipped over the lush pillow of her top lip. Tasted the wetness of her mouth. And then lingered at the center of her lower lip. She was shivering by the time he’d finished.

“Aye,” Blade murmured, his lips curving in a satisfied little smile. “A bleedin’ martyr till the end. I think not.”

He stepped away, giving her his back. Honoria’s jaw dropped as he turned and held up his shirt as though examining whether it suited him for the day or not.

“I beg your pardon?”

Blade knelt on the edge of the bed, with its rumpled sheets and mounded red cushions. His leather breeches molded faithfully to the lean curve of his bu**ocks, revealing a healthy amount of muscled thigh. He reached for his daggers, the thick black ink of his tattoo riding up over his ribs.

Her mouth went dry.

“You ’eard me.” He straightened and slung the belt around his waist, pulling the buckle tight. Only then did he look up at her, with that mocking little smile playing over his lips, as though he knew precisely what was going through her mind at the moment. “If you think I’m goin’ to steal a kiss just so as you can cry protest, you can think again. You want me, then you’re goin’ to ’ave to make the move yourself.”

“I don’t want you.”

“Aye. That’s why your scent changed. You smell all plump and lush, my little dove. I knows when a woman’s got ’er eyes on a man. One of the advantages o’ bein’ a blue blood.” He held his arms out, displaying his magnificent body to full effect. “Do you want to touch me? Is that what’s got your heart poundin’ in your ears and your breath thick in your throat?” A little smile touched his lips. “I’ll let you, you know. You can run those pretty little fingers all over me if you want. Or that sweet little mouth, if you’d prefer.” He took a step closer. “Do you want a taste o’ me, Honor? Do you want to lick the sweat from me body, taste the salt o’ me skin?”

He leaned closer, looming over her. It was only then that she realized she’d backed up against the wall, her gaze locked to his wicked mouth and all of the sinful things it was saying.

“I don’t want to touch you. I don’t want to taste you,” she whispered and shut her eyes. It was no good. She could still see him, that lean body caging her in, the muscles in his arms rippling as he pressed both hands flat against the wall on either side of her hips.

“Liar.”

A silky whisper. In her ear. A curious, whimpering sound came from her throat.

He took her hand. Pressed it against the ripple of his abdomen. Honoria’s eyes shot open and locked on his.

It was the perfect opportunity. All she had to do was turn her hand just so and press the tip of the needle into his body. But something stopped her. Perhaps the silky-cool feel of his skin beneath her hand. Or the look in his eyes as he stared down at her.

His mouth was close to hers. She barely felt his fingers trailing through her hair, tugging a soft curl over her shoulder. All she could see was that mouth, with its sensual lips, and the slight lopsided dimple as he smiled. A sinner’s mouth. A demon’s mouth. Tempting her with all manner of ungodly acts. His breath stirred over her face, caressing her cheeks.

Honoria could barely breathe for the pounding of her heart. This was madness. She’d never felt like this before, not even with the exquisite, practiced flirting of the blue bloods she’d encountered at Vickers’s house. Blade was nothing like them. Rough. Raw. Virile. The kind of man who would steal a kiss and not take no for an answer. The kind of man who could capture her heart…and crush it in his fist.

This was dangerous. And yet for the first time in her life she wanted to throw caution to the wind and simply take what he offered. To just be a woman who wanted to forget about all of her burdens, her worries, and simply be young and carefree for once in her damned life.

I want to know what he tastes like. I want to be kissed.

She stared up at him. And all at once, the willful part of her nature erupted from its cage. Damn it. What harm could one kiss do?

Honoria rose up on her toes and pressed her lips against his hungrily. Oh, God. A mistake.

The taste of him curled through her, shooting straight to her toes. Blade caught her arms in an iron grip, a muffled sound of surprise purring through his throat. Then he slammed his mouth over hers. No escape now.

It was too much. Not enough. She wanted to press herself into his body until she sank beneath his skin, and the feeling terrified her. She wanted more; she would always want more of this, of him, until she burned herself out or he wearied of her. This meant nothing to him, merely an urge he sought to satisfy. A contest he wanted to win.

And what does it mean to you, Honoria? she wondered. Her first thought was to deny it. But as he drew back, allowing her a chance to catch her breath, she realized to do so would only be to lie to herself.

Honoria turned her face away, struggling to gather her thoughts. Blade kissed her cheek, her brow bone, his tongue sliding to the delicate shell of her ear. Honoria clung to him, her heart and mind racing. What did she want of this? A moment of tumbled passion, a few nights of escape from the dreariness of her life? Or more?

Someone to love her. Someone to hold her in his arms, to tell her that she was the center of his world. That he would look after her. Someone to trust. Someone to love back.

Tears burned in her eyes. Foolishness. How could she even think of this with a blue blood, of all creatures?

“Stop thinkin’ so much,” he softly growled in her ear. “Just feel. You think too damn much, woman.”

Yes. So easy to lose herself in this. To just feel and close off the part of her that was gingerly reaching out, longing for something more. Honoria shook her head and pushed at him. “I’ve given you your kiss. Let me go.”

Blade raked a hand through her hair, gathering a knot of it in his fist. She couldn’t move. The tender roughness froze her.

“A kiss? Is that what you call it?” His voice was dangerous.

“A kiss. For the diaries. You promised and I delivered.”

“Ah, but there were two of ’em, weren’t there? I promised a diary for a kiss.” He was enjoying this too damned much. “And you know naught ’bout kissin’ a man, luv.”

Honoria’s gaze shot to his, her eyes narrowing. You didn’t seem to mind. “It seems fairly simple. I press my mouth to yours and you maul me.”

His fist clenched in her hair then released. A hint of something dangerous flashed through his eyes. “Is that what you think, luv? You don’t think I could seduce you? You think I’m just a bit o’ flash who pumps a dove like a dog in ’eat?” He loomed over her, his hand sliding over her hair and down her throat. “Let me tell you somethin’. I’m more ’n ’alf a century old. That’s a lot o’ time to practice, Honor.” A slow smile spread over his face. “Now you’re in trouble.”

Honoria gasped as he raked a hand through her hair, clutching a fist of it and tilting her head back. Her back hit the wall, his body pressed against her, each inch burning itself into her skin.

“I’ve been kind. And patient,” Blade explained, his breath brushing against her heated cheek. “No more.”

He took her mouth, his h*ps thrusting against her. It was a complete domination, a claiming that should have frightened her more but didn’t. She felt energized instead, her heart punching hard behind her ribs. Honoria clung to his shoulders to steady herself, but she might not have bothered. His hard body trapped her against the wall. There was no escape. Nothing but surrender.

Over her dead body.

She growled and pushed at him, but Blade was merciless. She caught just a glimpse of his burning green eyes, then he bit her lip, sucking it into his mouth. The sharp pain ricocheted through her, like a spark of lightning, soothed by the warm suckle of his mouth. His hand clenched harder in her hair, just a hint of pain, dragging her head back so that she couldn’t fight him any longer.

“Submit,” he told her.

“N-no.” Her voice, broken and weak, more of a gasp, really.

Blade changed tactics. His mouth traced the slight edge of her ear, his teeth biting down on her lobe just firmly enough to make her draw breath. A shaft of heat speared through her stomach, lower, to the junction of her thighs. She shifted uncomfortably, very aware of the sudden slickness between them.

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