I’m thrilled to introduce Reyn Durant to the world. He’s an unusual hero who’s had grave difficulty in school but success on the battlefield. His heroine Lady Maris Kelby is a bluestocking who needs a lesson in love, and Reyn Durant has been hired to provide just that.
Here’s an excerpt of that first lesson:
Captain Durant was here too, and he was naked. No dressing gown for him. His hair was a bit rumpled and he smelled of tooth powder and sandalwood. Had she brushed her own teeth? She couldn’t remember. He lifted the blanket from her, tugging a bit before she released her grip on it.
She couldn’t think of a thing to say. Then she remembered she wasn’t going to say anything.
His kiss made speech a moot point. Again, he was gentle. Tender. His moves were not abrupt or startling. He touched her with the barest contact and kept his body away from hers.
He was close enough to touch, though she wouldn’t. Maris felt the heat of him, was aware of every lazy lick of his fingers and tongue. He seemed to be spelling something on her lawn-covered shoulder, but she couldn’t make out the letters. She concentrated on the faint whorls as if they were a sort of code.
Maris expected the stroking and kissing to stop soon enough. The captain was in no apparent hurry for the main event, however. The inventory. The reckoning of her body. Maris hoped he permitted her to keep her night rail on. She was not ready to be inspected, dim firelight or not.
The kissing really was very nice. Nearly relaxing. Maris tried to give in to it, to accept its claim on her. She was thinking too hard to do so.
What was he thinking about?
Could a man rise to any occasion? Maris had been taught their appetites were insatiable. Duchess or dairy maid, it made no difference—their male equipment knew no impediment, no class distinction. All cats were gray in the dark. She had discovered Captain Durant in the midst of perversion in a heightened state of excitement. Would this gray darkness be enough to rouse him?
Good heavens. Why was she worrying about him? He was being well-compensated for this night and all the other days that would follow.
His fingers stopped their spiraling. Belatedly Maris realized his mouth was still on hers, but his tongue had stopped dancing as well. He drew back.
“I can practically hear the gears grinding in your head. This won’t work if you cannot accept it. Focus on just the physical. The pleasure. Stop thinking.”
“I cannot stop thinking, Captain.” She sounded querulous even to herself.
“Remember, this was your idea. I was willing to wait for tomorrow.”
He was right, damn him. Maris was not giving this her best effort. But she had no best effort, no real experience of how it was meant to be between a man and a woman. While Henry had given her a measure of satisfaction, she’d been hopeless at doing the same for him.
And David didn’t bear thinking about.
“I’m sorry, Captain. Reyn. I don’t know what to do.”
He squeezed her shoulder. “You don’t have to know. You only have to do.”
“I’m sorry if I cannot distinguish the two.”
“Am I not sweeping you off your feet just a little?”
Maris realized she still had her worn needlepoint slippers on. “Obviously, I’m off my feet.”
“And in my bed, yes. Some progress has been made, I grant you. But you’re coiled as tightly as a clockwork spring. You are not kissing me back.”
“I certainly was!” What had her tongue been doing then if not touching his? Tasting wine and tooth powder and his Durant-ness? Kissing was an intimacy she’d had very little practice with.
It almost seemed more important than the other thing they would do once he stopped arguing with her.
“I know when you really kiss me. When you lose yourself. When you toss all those rules you’ve lived by away. When you let that beautiful body of yours have its way for once.”
Pretty words. He couldn’t mean them. Maris sat up.
“Perhaps you’re right about the wine. Go fetch some. Please,” she added. She had sounded exactly like a Countess of Kelby ordering a minion about. Maris didn’t do that, and no one in their right mind would think Reynold Durant was suited to be a minion, even if he was in her husband’s employ.
Deep down she knew the wine wouldn’t help, but it would get rid of him for a few seconds. His insistent nearness confounded her. He wanted something she couldn’t give.
He padded across the room and opened the door to the sitting room. When he returned with the glass of wine—no bottle, wasn’t he optimistic?—his rangy body was limned with light, his erection unmistakable. The captain pushed the door closed with his bare arse and the bedroom returned to dusk.
“Here you are.”
Maris took the goblet from him, her hands brushing his. “Th-thank you.” She took a tentative sip. It was very good, but then everything at Kelby Hall was of the finest quality.
Even Captain Durant.