Home > The Damsel and the Daggerman (Blud #2.5)(11)

The Damsel and the Daggerman (Blud #2.5)(11)
Author: Delilah S. Dawson

“I’m sorry about this, Jacinda.” His voice was low, husky.

“You’re forgiven, provided you keep doing that.”

His hands froze. “I suppose it’s the least I can do.”

She wiggled her toes at him, and he sighed. There was something sad in the sound, some unknowable sense of loss, but she forgot it as soon as his touch changed, his thumb pressing with warm intimacy against the sensitive arch of her foot and running down to the cleft between her toes. With her eyes closed and the welcome but unfamiliar feeling of having one leg completely bare, she gave in to the eddies of warmth and electricity whirling through her.

“I should tell you to leave, woman.”

“You’re not going to.”

“I should pack up and hit the road. Find another caravan to hide in.”

“I’d find you.”

“I should treat you badly. Say cruel things. Set fire to your conveyance.”

“You should kiss me, Marco.”

“I most definitely should not do that.”

“But you want to.”

“What’s wanting got to do with anything?”

She leaned forward, her lips a breath away from his. “You think you’re so tough, don’t you, Marco Taresque?”

He tilted his head, his lips almost brushing hers. “Pretty sure I stabbed you today, and I wasn’t even trying.” He kissed her, lightly, teasingly, pulling back almost instantly. “You should see what I can do when I actually put my mind to it.”

“Oh, I’d like to see that.”

She tried to kiss him, but he pulled away. Her temper flared, but she tamped it down. There had to be some way past his defenses. With a sly smile, she leaned back and slowly unlaced her other boot, kicking it off and slipping her stockinged foot into his lap with the one he still held, cradled in warm, callused palms. It wasn’t difficult for her toes to find what she was looking for, and he groaned, his fingers tightening on her other foot.

“I’m going to be blunt. I want to bed you. It has nothing to do with the story. This is for me.”

She felt the effects of her words under her toes and smiled at the truth he couldn’t hide. He closed his eyes, his mouth falling open deliciously for just a moment before he groaned and stood, dumping her feet angrily on the floor. “I can’t. I flat-out can’t. You think I don’t want to?”

“I know you want to. You certainly seem . . . able. I just don’t know why you won’t.”

“I have my reasons.”

“You’ve already got a girl? You’re married? You took an oath? You’re cursed?”

Marco turned away. “There’s no one else. But otherwise, you’re closer than you think.”

He snorted and shook his head bitterly, his back to her. She didn’t mind the view, but it pained her to see him so conflicted, to know that there was some real, deep reason he couldn’t just throw her against the wall and kiss her until she cried, even if he ached for it as much as she did. She wanted him, she liked playing and flirting with him, and she realized that as little as she knew about him, she cared for him. And he was hurting.

She stood, wrapping her arms around him and putting her cheek against the solid curve of his shoulder. He smelled familiar and warm, wood and metal and the same incense she remembered from the caravans she’d visited on her way to find Criminy’s. She didn’t grind herself against him, didn’t let her hands roam. She just held him.

“I’m sorry for pushing you, Marco. I thought you were just flirting with me, enjoying the back-and-forth. I didn’t know there was an actual impediment. I’ll back off. Getting a story is one thing, but I’m not the sort of journalist who tears people down. All along, I just wanted to prove you were innocent. But if you don’t want that to be proven, if you can’t take this farther, consider the issue closed.”

She pulled away from him, her hands lingering briefly, wistfully, on his biceps. Silly. She felt silly now. Pursuing him when he didn’t want to be pursued. Pushing him when he didn’t want to be pushed. Coming back for more, when he’d made his position clear, told her again and again it was a game, not real. Whatever his reason, it just seemed cruel to them both to continue on as she had been, goading and pressing and toying with him for her own amusement and pleasure.

As she bent to slip on her boots and leave, an embarrassed blush high on her cheeks, he murmured, “This issue damned well isn’t closed.”

Before she could straighten and ask him what he meant, his hands caught her h*ps and pulled her back, hard, against him. Jacinda gasped and straightened and wobbled, her foot half in her boot. He steadied her back against his chest, one arm around her waist and the other traveling up to her jaw to hold her, tightly but gently, against the length of his body. With a small sigh, she pressed against him, forgetting everything she’d just said about respecting his boundaries.

His lips found the edge of her ear, and he turned her face to kiss along her throat, half frantic and half tender.

She didn’t want to say it, but his earlier conviction, his passion, had left its impression. “But you said—”

“I know what I said.”

His tongue slid past the lace edging of her collar, his fingers deftly undoing the buttons as his mouth undid the woman. It took every ounce of fortitude she had to wrap an arm around his neck, grab a fistful of hair, and yank his lips away from her skin.

“I told you I would back off, and you agreed it was for the best?”

He shook her hand off and nipped the shell of her ear. “I did agree with that.”

“Then why is your other hand cupping my ass?”

“Because it’s perfect.” Both hands slid down to briefly frame the part in question, his lips warm on her neck. “And because I’m sick of running from the past. And the future.” He flicked two more buttons and pulled back her collar, exposing her entire throat. “You can run, if you still want to.”

She let her head fall back over his shoulder, her mouth against his ear. “I never wanted to run at all.”

He caught her throat in one hand and turned her face, their lips meeting, half open, and she realized that they’d never once kissed normally, lined up like they were meant to. Thus far, it had always been sideways, upside down, over her shoulder, her back against his chest. She didn’t care; she didn’t want anything average. The fierce abandon of their tongues, their mixed breath, his hand slowly sliding down her open collar, seemed fitting for a wild creature like him. Caught between his hands and mouth, spine twisted and body pulled taut, she kicked off her boot and gave in to him entirely, to taking whatever he would give her, heedless of his best intentions.

With sudden ferocity, he swept her up into his arms, carrying her toward the back room of the wagon. “I want to see you.” He kicked open the door and laid her gently on a wrought-iron bed neatly made with a quilt of patchwork silks. “All of you.”

She stretched her arms overhead, lifted her bare foot to let the hem of her dress slide up her calf and give him a view of creamy skin. Then, with a slow and wicked smile, she reached to grasp the headboard, arms spread wide, fingers curled around the iron bars.

“Reminds me of being strapped to your target.”

“Mm. You forgot something.”

With a matching smile, he took an ankle in each hand and pushed them apart until she lay there, spread-eagled on his bed, as he climbed up to straddle her. She couldn’t help admiring the way his black breeches stretched tight over his thighs, making her fingers twitch around the iron bars. His boot tips hooked over her ankles as he found the next button on her jacket and slipped it open.

“You city women and your buttons,” he mused, and she shook her head.

“I’m not a city woman. Haven’t lived in a city since I left university.”

He undid another button, traced a fingertip down her throat. “What are you, then?”

“Nothing that has a name.” He flicked another button, this one just over her heart, and before she could elaborate, his mouth was on her, his tongue tasting her throat as his fingers continued downward, exposing the edge of her corset. She unclenched the bed frame, but he caught her hand and put it back firmly.

“I like you like this, spread out for me. If you let me enjoy myself, I promise you won’t regret it.” His lips nibbled her clavicles, his tongue tracing the fine lines of her bones. “I told you: I like to take my time.”

“I’ll do my best. But I’m not one for following orders.”

“Consider it a polite request, then.”

His tongue dipped into the valley between her br**sts as he finished with the last button of her jacket, spreading the thick cloth from chin to waist and revealing an emerald-green corset that made her fair skin glow like porcelain held before the fire. She wanted so badly to touch him, to enjoy the softness of his dark hair and the breadth of his shoulders and the smart, enticing curve of his ass, but she was painfully aware of what had happened the last time she’d moved her hands from his chosen place before he was satisfied. The frustration heightened the touch of his fingertips, callused from flicking blades and perfectly nimble with softer flesh as he gently eased her breast from under her corset. Her nipple hardened and pearled as he pulled it into his mouth, licking and tasting it. His fingertips found her other nipple, rolling and rubbing it, making her squirm to be free of the confines of stays and thick satin. He teased from one to the other before pressing them both together and tonguing both of her ni**les at once, a sensation she’d never experienced but that made her throw her head back with a strangled moan.

“You make that noise again, I’ll have to do something about it,” he murmured, his breath hot against her flesh.

“If you’re daring me to dare you, then I dare you.”

Before she’d finished speaking, his tongue was in her mouth, messy and wild and wet and all too brief, and then he was kneeling between her legs, his hands on her ankles under the hem of her skirts. His knees against her thighs made her squirm, as did the painful slowness with which he slid her skirts and petticoats up, revealing her legs inch by inch.

“Oh, this is pretty.” He ran a fingertip up and down the lone silk stocking she still wore.

“When I put them on this morning, I was thinking of you.”

“Holy mother, they go all the way up. Maybe the cities aren’t so bad.” Walking his fingers up her leg from ankle to thigh, he lifted just that side of her skirt to expose the dove-gray stocking. She closed her eyes and writhed, so impatient for him to reach the ribbon bows that connected the Franchian silk to her corset.

Reaching the curve of her hip, he paused.

“You weren’t lying.” His fingertip stroked the place on the crease of her thigh where an Almanican shaman had etched her skin with needle and ink in an elaborate ceremony. The stylized quill tattoo had been hard won, and she treasured it beyond words. After a short pause, he kissed it gently and said, “Beautiful,” and she exhaled in relief.

He leaned over, taking the black ribbon in his teeth and pulling so slowly that she could hear the bow spring free. It took everything she had not to let go of the iron bars and dig her nails into his back, not to beg him to give her something besides exquisite frustration.

“Mmm.” He rubbed his cheek against her hip, the rasp of his stubble delicious against her skin. “I like the stockings, but I like what’s underneath better.” He took the silk in his teeth and lightly dragged it down her thigh, his breath hot on the inside of her leg as he exposed her flesh to the cool air. When his nose grazed the tender curve of her ankle, she shivered, and he slipped the stocking free with his teeth and tossed it onto the floor.

Jacinda lifted her eyes, and he was staring straight at her, a look of such profound emotion on his face that she was momentarily bewildered. There was hunger and lust and darkness and a strange sort of sadness in him, and before she could ask him why he was so worked up over simple love play, he was nibbling up her ankle, his hand on her other leg matching pace and pulling up the other side of her skirt to expose her completely. His tongue and lips traveled up her calf, paused to dip into the tender spot behind her knee, and then began the ticklish, devilish, delicious trip up the inside curve of her thigh, closer and closer to the place where she’d been dreaming of his touch. He was drawing it out as long as possible, making her breath build to pants and causing her body to strain toward him.

“Damn, Marco, but you can work a woman up.”

“I’m very generous.”

“Generous with torture.”

“It’ll be worth it. You won’t believe the things I can do with my tongue.”

“I’m more interested in what you can do with other parts of your body.”

Marco’s lips froze with a quick intake of breath, almost as if she’d wounded him, even though there wasn’t anything she could have done, spread out as she was.

“I hope I live up to your expectations,” he murmured, licking gently up the inside of her thigh until he exhaled, slowly, at the core of her.

Jacinda held her breath, waiting. He was so close, his thumb nearly brushing her, just next to his mouth. Her entire world started and ended with the place where she waited for his touch, and she realized she hadn’t wanted anything this badly in a long, long time.

When his caress came, it nearly ended her. Just the tip of his tongue, wet and gentle, barely dipping to taste her as his thumb pressed, softly, just beside it. She was already wet, dripping with want, and she whimpered and went stiff, beyond desperate for more. Lick by lick, he teased her, tasted her, touched her, pressed in the tiniest bit, nowhere close to satisfying her, taking his time as he had promised. One finger slid into her with infinite patience, his tongue probing her most secret of places. Marco was just as frustrating in bed as he was on his feet, and she loved and hated it with equal measure.

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