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TOP FIVE GIFTS THE BEVINGTON SISTERS WILL RECEIVE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY FROM THEIR HUSBANDS
VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT NO. 1: Breakfast in bed! Each of the three couples have spent the night before at their grandfather, the Earl of Wolverton’s, London home. Between the three husbands, Vane, the Duke of Claxton, is the only one who knows how to cook, and he’ll insist on preparing the meal, to the mortification of the earl’s long time Cook. Northmore and Blackmer will of course, mischievously pass off the duke’s efforts as their own, although their wives, Daphne and Clarissa, won’t believe them for a moment.
VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT NO. 2: A ride in Hyde Park. Rather than going off to their clubs or to meetings with other members of Parliament, our three husbands will devote Valentine’s Day to their wives, starting off with a fun, decidedly rowdy and crowded—yet romantic ride through the park in an open barouche.
VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT NO. 3: Our devoted husbands will take their wives shopping on Bond Street for frivolities. Claxton purchases a new garnet and gilt letter opener for Sophia. Northmore purchases a red and pink Carnival mask, decorated with hearts, for Daphne. And Blackmer presents Clarissa with a new gold band-ring that when turned, reveals a “secret” message of love.
VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT NO 4: A stop for refreshments at Gunter’s, where the gentlemen have previously arranged to have their wives presented with ridiculously enormous, towering ices, made up of pink watermelon and red cherry flavored hearts.
VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT NO. 5: Valentine’s Day turns into night. Claxton, Northmore and Blackmer escort their wives, dressed in their evening finery, to the opera, where their love and devotion is on full display in their private box, for all of the ton to see. They’ve spent the day together, but they’ll depart in separate carriages, and go to their respective homes, because the ladies’ mother, Lady Margaretta, has insisted on keeping the children at Wolverton’s home for the night…which means the husbands’ romantic plans for their wives on Valentine’s Day have only just begun! **WINK**
He set the nightshirt back on the bed, and spoke over his shoulder.
“I think it’s time you returned to your room.”
He spoke the words without passion. She could only assume he’d had enough talking and wanted her to leave. The night air chilled her skin, and she wrapped her arms around her waist for warmth. She felt rebuffed by him. Stung. Her husband, the man with whom she would spend the rest of her days, did not have the slightest interest in spending a moment more in her company.
She knew she ought to calmly say ‘Very well then, I bid you good night,’ and quit the room, but she feared with a certainty that if she opened her mouth and attempted to utter a single syllable, her voice would falter and reveal the confused tumult of her emotions.
Not because she cared for him. Of course she didn’t. Clearly he did not care for her.
They’d been thrown together, and no amount of wishful thinking or good intentions would create a spark between them, when such a spark was never intended to be. She blinked away tears. Foolish tears! As if he had hurt her, but he hadn’t.
It had just been a long day, and a long night before that, and she’d made a terrible mess of everything, and she hated Quinn. And perhaps still loved him. And she was lonely. So very lonely and frightened of what the future held.
So instead she nodded jerkily, her chin outthrust, and turned on her slippered foot to escape into the dark dressing closet, taking care to close the first and the second door firmly behind her. Miss Randolph reclined in her sleeping gown and robe on the chaise with her book open and steepled across her forehead, snoring, which was just as well because Clarissa could not face the woman’s questions or her pity.
She doused the lamps and, in darkness, with only the scant light from behind the fire grate to see, crawled into bed and lay on unfamiliar sheets, her mind tangled with thoughts of… Mr. Blackmer.
Suddenly, the door swung open, and a shadow moved toward her, stealthily and swift, with only the faint white swath across his hips visible in the night. She recognized Blackmer instantly and desire ignited inside her. He crouched above her, breathing hard, his skin still damp and the tight flex of muscles in his shoulders darkly illuminated. The scent of the soap from his bath filled her nostrils. Her pulse raced, her heart near exploding.
“You,” he growled deep in his throat. “Are my preference.”
A second later, he kissed her hard, pressing his thumb against the side of her jaw, commanding her lips to part while his tongue boldly entered and teased. She gasped for breath, stunned into half-senselessness…and surrendered, her mouth opening fully to accept each deep, possessing stroke.
He gave a husky groan. His large hands caught hers by the wrists, pinning her to the mattress. She squirmed beneath him—but with no intent to escape.
Moments before he had dismissed her coldly, and made her feel invisible and unwanted and yet in this moment, he revealed his true feelings, ones he’d tried to conceal. She knew without a doubt that her husband desired her. Something about that made her weak, and—
His mouth moved to her cheek…her neck, leaving her skin hot and awakened wherever his lips touched. Sensations she’d never experienced spiraled up from inside her, delicious and achingly sweet, awakening a need in her body and rendering her unexpectedly wild.
God help her, she didn’t understand, but she wanted him as well. The moment he released her hands she moaned and seized his shoulders, sliding her hands upward over his neck, finding unexpected appreciation in the powerful contraction and flux of his muscles beneath her palms. He exhaled, filling her mouth with his breath, and sucked her bottom lip—
Only to groan and twist away.
No. She reached, her hands trailing over his shoulders and his arms, desperately wanting more. More of his kiss, and his warm, firm skin. And yes, for him to ravish her so she would forget—
The bed creaked, relieved of his weight. She heard his sharp exhalation of breath–a laugh, perhaps?
“Good night then, Mrs. Blackmer,” he murmured.
Silence filled the room.
“Good night,” she answered breathlessly.
He crossed the room, disappearing into the dressing closet, gone the way he had come. She heard the door close.
After a long moment of silence, Miss Randolph’s voice came from the direction of the chaise. “Well that was rather thrilling.”