Man of Her Affairs Ch. 02

bylepetiterose©

'An introduction to your granddaughter.'

Lady Gainsbourgh went white. 'Why?'

'Why not?'

'What do you want with her?'

'I fail to understand why you--'

'Lord Earlsford, you may have declined to partake of ton life, but do not think me ignorant of your detestable reputation!'

'Grandmother!' Charlotte was stunned as she watched the scene unfold before her.

But the older woman could not be stopped. 'My Lord, I cannot and will not introduce you to my granddaughter.'

'I never knew you to willingly create scandal, Elena. And at your granddaughter's own coming out ball, no less.'

Lady Gainsbourgh looked as if she had just sucked a lemon. 'I know you well enough that I rather weather the gossips than allow you to know her, James.'

'War changes a man.'

'Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.'

At that, the increasingly enigmatic man just smiled. Slight, humourless, it was more a cold twist of the lips. 'So be it.' He executed a smart bow and began to move away.

For a moment, Lady Gainsbourgh held still, seeming to deal with an inner struggle. Then, with an irritated press of the lips, she called him back to them. 'Do not make me regret this, James.' With a sigh she pulled Charlotte forward. 'James, I introduce to you Miss Charlotte Grey. Charlotte, this is James Rochester, the Marquess of Earlsford.'

Charlotte sank into a curtsey, hiding her amusement. She had gathered her stranger's full name by then, but even so, she could not help but be a bit surprised at it. She wondered why he had never told her his complete title. Her grandmother's reaction to him made her all the more curious.

When she had risen, she found James' eyes on her. It was the first time he had looked at her in the last few minutes, and she felt herself grow warm under its intensity.

'May I have this dance, Miss Grey?'

Charlotte glanced at her grandmother for confirmation, even though it galled her to do so. It was one of those things about London society she could not reconcile with: to wait for a man to choose to dance with her went against every independent bone in her body.

Her guardian inclined her head in consent, but frowned as she concentrated on the strains of music. 'It is a waltz.'

James kept silent, but the way he stood screamed 'of course.'

'Fine. The quicker you go, the quicker you can bring her back.'

And so, a minute later Charlotte found herself gliding across the dance floor in the embrace of, she was fast coming to realize, a very experienced dancer.

The waltz was a relatively new dance in Britain, leaving most of the guests content to sashay across the hall in a set routine of simple steps and turns. However, as soon as he pulled her into his arms, the Marquess led her into a myriad of turns, swirls, gentle about turns and swooping stops. He flowed around her, directing her every move, making her feel each step to be the natural continuation of the last

'Stop that,' she gasped as they came out of another perfect spin. His hand at her back tightened to stabilize her and in doing so drew her closer. They were now scant inches away from each other, and fast approaching the line of public indecency.

James, who had been silent till then, looked down at her, feigning innocence. 'Stop what?'

'Stop¬--' Charlotte inhaled sharply as they turned suddenly, the move allowing James to step between her legs. For a brief moment, she felt his thigh press intimately against her own. She gritted her teeth as heat shot to her core.

'Do you not like it? This morning you did.' He smiled knowingly, his eyes burning into hers. 'You were quite disappointed when I stopped.'

She blushed in humiliation. He was right. Even after he had ridden away, she had felt the unsatisfied need clawing inside of her, and she had wanted more, so much more.

It was only later, once her flesh had stopped aching for his touch, did she fully comprehend her disgraceful behaviour.

She was ashamed of herself, but she would not let him see that. 'Why are you here, Lord Earlsford? To make a spectacle of me?'

He seemed to hesitate. 'No, to warn you.'

That deserved at least one raised brow. 'To warn me? How intriguing.'

'I suggest you do not treat this flippantly, Miss Grey, even ballrooms have their dangers.'

'Dangers? Now I really am curious. So, what is it?' She could not help herself. Her lips picked up into a sly grin. 'Is it the lemonade? Is it poisoned? Or perhaps one of the chandeliers is loose? But I can see by your expression it must be far worse.' She clapped a hand to her cheek in mock realization. 'I know! A lion from the local zoo has escaped and is hiding under the banquet table!'

James could not take much more. 'Fortune hunters,' he bit out, finally.

Charlotte was silent for a few beats as they danced, her eyes wide and lips parted in shock. Then she burst out laughing.

In the blink of an eye, James felt his annoyance at her flippancy transform into anger. Why did this woman insist on being so stubbornly averse to his authority? He was older, more experienced and a man to boot, yet she continued to treat him like nothing but an amusing fly.

'This is no laughing matter, Miss Grey.'

'Oh, but it is. You should have seen your face. So serious.' She removed her hand from his shoulder to wipe away a tear. 'Really, Lord Earlsford, you must stop being so paranoid.'

'And you must stop being so childish in your opinion of people.' He did not know why he said it, but he knew it was the wrong thing as soon as the words flew from his mouth.

Charlotte's face lost all sign of mirth. 'I have faced greater threats than a mere fortune hunter, Lord Earlsford, and so have many women, I dare say! I think that out of the two of us, you are the one in danger of looking like the child,' she snapped, her eyes crackling an electric blue in anger.

To his dismay, she looked even more beautiful when angry. 'I am doing you a favour, Miss Grey.' The music drew to a close and they executed their respective bows and curtsies, but before Charlotte could move away, James took a hold of her arm and firmly drew it through his. He leant down to talk softly into her ear as he led her off the dance floor. 'Viscount Thorsby. Just remember the name if nothing else. He has his eye on you and not for your golden heart.'

She glanced sharply at him. 'I have already been introduced to the Viscount and he is a perfect gentleman. I also know that he has his own finances, therefore is in no need of mine.' They had reached the main crowd of guests. 'The next time we meet, Lord Earlsford, I hope to find you more agreeable.'

James stood for a moment, staring after the shimmering woman as she made her way regally though the crowd. Disbelief, incredulity, and finally, anger, began to well up inside of him. She hoped to find him more agreeable? He, who had gone out of his way to warn her! She had not even thought to thank him, the ungrateful woman.

The dark place that had opened within him that morning reemerged without warning. It was fed by all the frustration and desire he had felt rack is body over the last day, during the encounters with the infuriating Miss Grey and through the long hours as he thought of her.

He wanted her to thank him on her knees. He wanted her to admit that she was wrong. He wanted her to beg for his forgiveness.

Damn it, he just plain wanted her.

Dark, erotic images followed these thoughts. Charlotte, clothes ripped from her lithe form, hair tumbling down her back as she knelt before him, hands tied tightly behind her. Charlotte bent over his desk, pert white bottom arching in the air as he punished her. Charlotte, beneath him, begging for release.

Before he became too aroused in the middle of the ballroom, James followed his innocent seductress through a door way and into the shadowy hall beyond.

He would find her. Then, he would make her realize just what she got herself into.

*

Charlotte made her way to a washroom she knew to be a few corridors down from the main ballroom. The hallways here were dim, candles alight at distant intervals to discourage any wayward guests. She was thankful for the lack of illumination as she struggled to hold on to her last scrap of composure.

That man! How dare he presume her to be so feeble? What made him think that she would appreciate such an intervention! And in such a manner.

As she had escaped the ballroom, she had caught sight of her grandmother: she looked far from pleased.

Many of the other guests who had witnessed her dance with the Marquess watched her go with sharp, probing eyes, probably wondering what about her had drawn Earlsford back into society; and why there seemed to be so much animosity between them.

Finally, Charlotte found the washroom, and entered with a sigh of relief. Her argument with the Marquess had shaken her, and she had to admit, she did not feel strong enough to go back and face the displeasure of her grandmother just yet.

Looking into the mirror, her face highlighted by a single candle, Charlotte stared at her reflection. The woman there looked composed, sure of herself, confident: she was who Charlotte had always believed herself to be, before she had met Lord Earlsford. But now, her heart thrummed in her breast, her body tense with emotion while her mind reeled with the memories of how she had felt in his strong arms; the alluring scent of him, the sight of his austere face staring down at her. A white-hot curl of desire swirled low in her stomach.

She splashed cold water onto her face to dispel these thoughts and the emotions with them. 'Stop it. He is just an overbearing, arrogant, egotistical male. You have dealt with his type before.'

Mentally reinforced, she dried her face and squared her shoulders. Her reflection smiled confidently back at her. With a last tug at her skirts, she exited the washroom and made her way back towards the ballroom.

Before she had gone a couple of steps, however, a large shadow moved away from a pool of darkness and pinned her violently against the wall. Abruptly, she felt a wall of muscle press hard against her, her breasts pressed flat as she was crushed against the wall.

Not again! Charlotte began to struggle as teeth grazed her exposed shoulder, interspersed with scalding licks of a tongue as they followed the line of her neck to her ear. Large, powerful hands caught hold of her hips, then swooped up to the curve of her waist. They were there barely a second before cupping her full breasts. The hands squeezed roughly, and Charlotte heard a low moan breathe into her ear.

Charlotte arched as pleasure laced with pain raced through her. Against her will, her body remembered the pleasurable state of that morning and moisture rushed to between her thighs. Her intimate flesh began to throb and she could not help remembering the feel of his finger as it was thrust into her.

But she could not let this happen. She did not want him to have this power over her. Not after the way he had treated her.

She brought her hands up and tried to tear herself away. Her sharp nails bit into exposed flesh, and her elbow connected with something solid. She was satisfied to hear a hiss of pain.

Her satisfaction did not last long, however. Abruptly, her wrists were caught and pinned above her head. Her captor's hips pressed intimately against her own to hold her.

She looked up defiantly into the dark, predatory gaze of the Marquess of Earlsford.

'When will you learn, Miss Grey, that you cannot fight me?' He said softly, warning lacing his voice. His eyes dropped to her parted lips. 'Nor can you resist me.'

He bent to kiss her.

Desperately, Charlotte turned her head to the side to evade his kiss. Hot lips met her cheek instead.

He chuckled. 'Your resistance increases my desire, my dear.' His lips ghosted to her exposed ear, letting his whispered words burn into her soul. 'And when you finally give in,' a hand slid down to fondle her firm bottom, 'I will take great enjoyment in making you beg for me to take you.' He pulled her into him and she gasped a she felt the hard ridge of his manhood press into her soft flesh.

'Over.' He pulsed his hips into hers.

'And over.' Harder this time. Oh dear god.

'Again.' He sucked and nibbled at her ear as his hips thrust slowly against her, unrelenting in their rhythm and sinister in their promise.

The wet heat of his mouth and tongue heightened the growing inferno within her. Her breath was coming in uneven gasps and she found it difficult to think straight.

'You can not do this to me,' she managed to get out. The words seemed to reinforce her will and she renewed her struggle. Charlotte was stronger than most women due to her years of traveling, where she was expected to help with chores and such duties along with everyone else. She managed to free one arm and swung out wildly.

Her hand connected perfectly with James' cheek, the sharp slap loud in the hallway.

Slowly, he pulled back. Fingers clutched her chin in an inescapable grasp, forcing her to look at him. 'If you were a man, I would strike you.' He looked at her dispassionately, as if he hadn't just cornered her in a darkened hallway and tried to seduce her. It scared the hell out of her. 'But, seeing as that hardly stung, and you are a woman.' He leaned forward once again, so that his mouth was a mere whisper from hers. 'Which you undoubtedly are: I should know, I felt you.'

Charlotte blushed angrily.

'I think the best punishment would be to take something from you instead: I could take your innocence, or your dignity. But first I think,' she felt him smile against her lips, 'I will take a kiss.'

With that he covered her soft lips with his, his anger robbing the kiss of any and all gentleness. Instead, he concentrated on forcing her to submit to him though her desire. He could see it in her eyes, even as she fought. She felt the same hungry need to take and be taken, to touch and be touched. But he knew she hated it: hated feeling her body become responsive to his touch, hated feeling pleasure at the hands of her dominator. It meant submission, weakness. Even now as he kissed her relentlessly, she tried to pull away.

His hands came up to sink deep into her hair, the pins holding up its style falling out like rain. Holding her immobile, James forced her lips apart with his tongue, and then slid its scalding length into her delicious depths. She moaned in dismay as he claimed her mouth, his lips painfully hard against her own whilst his teeth and tongue nipped and licked her mind into sultry submission

Then, suddenly, she was kissing him back. Her tongue tangled with his, her teeth nipping and biting at his lips. At one point, pleasure shot to his groin as she inadvertently sucked his tongue into her mouth. Her hands were in his hair, tugging him to her as she sought to give back what he gave. She was fighting with what she had left. It drove him wild.

Rucking up her skirts with one hand, James felt Charlotte stiffen. She had not yet lost her mind completely to passion. He would have to change that.

He squeezed the soft, delicate flesh of her thigh possessively, his thumb drawing circles on the sensitive area of her inner thigh. He hardened unbearably against his already straining breeches as Charlotte gave a hoarse moan that turned into a breathy plea.

'Oh god, please, no. I do not want this!'

'Your body wants it, my dear, and that is all that matters.' His fingers followed a dribble of wetness up her quivering flesh.

'No, that's no true.' But her confidence was wavering. Her head fell back against the wall as she cried out. He had found her core and thrust not one, but two fingers deep inside her.

'You cannot deny it. You are already dripping for me.' He made her take as much of him as possible before slowly withdrawing. He had to take a steadying breath as he felt the velvet tightness of her virgin channel constrict around him. Soon, he promised himself.

He drew his fingers lazily through her folds, watching her face as he did. Her eyes were shut and her teeth gritted as she tried to deny him.

He smiled darkly. 'Charlotte?'

'What?' she snapped.

'Scream for me.'

'Nev--! Aaahhh!' Desperately, she tried to wiggle away from his naughty fingers, which were now languorously, but firmly, stroking her clit.

'That's it.' He pushed back into her lush body, wrapping his free arm around her to hold her still as he forced her to take her pleasure. He thrust his fingers back into her snug entrance.

'Ah!'

His fingers skated up to her clit and pressed hard.

Charlotte hands clutched desperately at his shoulders.

James burned with victory as he alternated between thrusting his fingers into her and leisurely playing with her clit. He wanted her to understand that she had given in, that she had submitted and needed him for her pleasure. By going slowly, he would make her a slave to her desire, and soon she would realize she would need to surrender to reach her climax.

With every push into her body, Charlotte moaned in reluctant pleasure. The feel of his fingers as they filled her, along with the tight sting of his invasion brought to her a heady pleasure that soothed the deep longing she had felt since that morning. That spot above her entrance was so exquisitely sensitive, and each time he playfully brushed it or fleeting pinched it, she jumped as if shocked.

She ached for more and grew frustrated at his steady but slow rhythm. He knew what to do, knew where this divine pleasure led. She was at his mercy and she knew it.

She began to move with his hand, hesitantly at first but then with increasing vigor as his thrusting and stroking quickened. She was heedless of the ecstatic sighs that fell from her lips as she bucked urgently against him, only that the quest for fulfillment urged her on.

James encouraged her with harder and rougher strokes. He listened in wonder as her breathy sighs quickly turned into soft, staccato cries as she neared her climax. His own need, still a painful throbbing in his groin, did not diminish but rather withdrew into his consciousness as she surged against him.

Finally, Charlotte, a woman he had only known a day and was more attracted to than any other, stilled in his arms, her kiss plumped lips parted in a silent cry as her body stiffened in ecstasy. His fingers were still embedded in her slick channel and as it rippled around him, he continued stroked her lightly to help prolong her climax.

Slowly, she relaxed. Her eyes fluttered open, and for one, heart-stopping moment, she gazed up at him, blue eyes unfocused. Then, she allowed her head to rest against his chest. 'Oh, James,' she breathed.

At her soft words, James felt about nine feet tall. Unbidden, a wash of warmth enveloped his body, and the victory at her surrender changed into a need to--

He froze. He did not, no, would not, go into that realm of his feelings.

The sudden tension in his body brought Charlotte crashing down from her floaty cloud of contentment and back to reality. Embarrassment overcame her as she realized James's fingers still filled her.

With that understanding, she became excruciatingly aware of what she had just done. She had let a man she had barely known a day, less if one only counted the hours they had been in each other's presence, handle her in the most intrusive and intimate way. And she enjoyed it. No, she had loved it.

Charlotte closed her eyes in self-recrimination and became conscious of James lightly stroking her back. Tears began to well up in her eyes.

She had to escape. Distraught, she wrenched herself away from him and fled back towards the ballroom. She did not dare look back.

After a few minutes, however, she realized that the washroom had been farther away than she thought. Or, perhaps, she was so upset that she got the corridors mixed up.

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