Read Mary Fran and Matthew Online

Authors: Grace Burrowes

Tags: #Historical Romance, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Highlanders, #love story, #Scotland, #England, #Literature & Fiction, #Historical, #Scottish, #Regency Romance, #Scotland Highland, #Victorian, #Romance

Mary Fran and Matthew (7 page)

BOOK: Mary Fran and Matthew
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“Matthew Daniels, when are you going to bestir—Oh, that is…” Her hand relaxed on his bum and smoothed over him in a languorous pat. “That is lovely.”

Lovely was an understatement. To his questing fingers, the folds of her sex were dewy and hot, soft and sweet to the touch. He wanted to feast on her by moonlight, visually, orally, tactilely, but did not indulge himself beyond what would pleasure her directly.

“Shall I stop?”

She shifted to flat on her back and kissed him as his fingers dallied between her legs. When he dipped shallowly into her heat, she moaned into his mouth.

“More?”

Her grip on Matthew’s hair was fierce enough to distract him from the lust racketing through him.

“Aye, more. Now, if you please.”

“Always in a hurry. Don’t rush me, Mary Fran. I’ve things to see to.”

She was exquisitely responsive, and Matthew had the sense she wasn’t sensitive merely from long abstinence. Despite his own period of self-enforced celibacy, he found the resolve to drive her mad with arousal, then soothe her with petting and kisses, then drive her mad again.

“Matthew, I canna… I willna… Ach, damn ye…” She trailed off into muttered Gaelic, most of which Matthew understood, thanks to Scottish grandparents on his father’s side. She called him daft and damned and dear, among other things. Lest she reveal unwitting confidences, Matthew increased both the pace and the pressure of his caresses.

“You can have your pleasure, and you shall, my lady. Fly free, Mary Fran.”

He infused the last admonition with a touch of command, despite himself, and though he wanted to watch her face as pleasure overcame her, he instead bent and took her nipple in his mouth.

When he drew strongly on her, she started bucking against his hand in short, sharp rolls of her hips. He thrust two fingers deep into her heat and felt her body fist around him in pleasure. The sensations were in some ways more intimate than coitus, more punishing than a shared climax would have been. Inside his breeches, he was undergoing torture, but in his heart, he flirted with something approaching absolution.

“Ye wretched, pestilential mon.”

“You’re welcome.” He pushed her over to her side and spooned himself around her. “You’ll take a chill in a moment.”

“Not with your great, lovely self draped around me. You make me rethink my estimation of the English.”

“Don’t.” He tucked his arm around her, cradling a full breast in his hand.

She kissed the back of his wrist. “Are you giving me an order, sir?”

“I’m begging you not to trivialize this shared pleasure as some exercise in international diplomacy. Are you all right?”

He was not all right. He was suffering the pangs of unsatisfied lust, which he’d suffered often enough in his life, but he was also suffering more of that need to cherish a woman—this woman.

“No, I am not all right, Mr. Daniels. A relatively harmless, well-mannered if gorgeous fellow has just sashayed out under the stars with me and plucked from my grasp not only my very dignity, but also the one thing I could keep—”

Her voice caught a little. Matthew threaded an arm under her neck and gathered her closer. “The one thing you could keep?”

“Damn and blast you, Matthew.” She heaved out a sigh and shifted. For a frustrating moment, he thought she was going to sit up and start dressing, but she instead shoved him to his back and straddled him. “What just happened—inside me, between us—it has happened before.”

“Frequently, I hope.”

She left off nuzzling his throat to frown at him in the moonlight. “Only when I’m drowsing, ye ken. More asleep than awake. It never happened with my husband. I wouldn’t allow it.”

“Mary Frances MacGregor, you probably drove the poor bastard right out of his mind, which is exactly what he deserved for entrapping you.”

“I drove him to Canada.” This was said miserably, the words muttered against Matthew’s shoulder.

He recognized guilt and recognized even more when guilt had been carried too long. “Gordie had choices too, Mary Fran. A marquess’s second son has a damned lot more choices than an eighteen-year-old virgin has. He could have transferred to a ceremonial regiment, could have apologized, could have wooed you properly, could have admitted he’d been desperate to secure your hand at any price because he was smitten. You would have let him serve out a reasonable penance and then taken pity on him.”

She went still in his arms, her whole body in an attitude of listening. “I might have. I have a terrible temper, but I’m not unjust, usually. Fiona would say as much.”

Matthew traced the bones and muscles of her back, marveling at the texture of her skin, wishing he could count the freckles on her shoulders. Her silence suggested she was still thinking, reconsidering matters she’d long ago arranged in the optimum configuration for self-torment.

He knew how that felt too.

“When he took ship, I saw him off. The night before…”

Matthew gently squeezed her nape, and she sighed. “You forgave him. It’s good that you forgave him, Mary Fran. Men are much in need of forgiveness, particularly young men who’ve been spoiled their entire lives, and men afraid of losing their heart’s desire.”

When she said nothing, Matthew groped about for his shirt and waistcoat, piling them loosely over her. His next objective involved extracting his handkerchief from his trouser pocket and stuffing it into the hand she’d curled onto his chest.

While the stars winked into view and started their slow journey across the night sky, Matthew Daniels indulged—shamelessly and without limit—in the need to cherish a woman.

***

The season was flying by, just another summer, just another stretch of long, long days between the brisk months of spring and the brisker months of autumn, and yet Mary Fran had to admit this summer was also different.

Wonderfully different. The source of the difference walked along beside her while Fiona gamboled ahead of them.

“She has your energy,” Matthew observed, “your sense of things to see to.”

“My sense of recklessness. I worry for her.”

He patted the hand she’d curled around his arm. “You should make a list of the matters you must fret about. Write it down and haul it out at first light every day. Spend a full minute worrying about each item on the list—no skipping and no skimping—and then forbid yourself to waste any more time worrying until the next day.”

“You do not have children, Mr. Daniels. See how much good lists do you when that blessing befalls you.”

A shadow crossed his features, reminding Mary Fran that anything having to do with Matthew’s father, even something as oblique as an allusion to the baronial succession, invited that shadow into the discussion.

“I see one!” Fiona went scampering into the stables just as a marmalade kitten disappeared down the barn aisle ahead of her.

In the next instant, Mary Fran connected a tensing of her escort’s posture with the crunch of a boot on the walk behind them and a whiff of cigar smoke on the breeze. “I don’t know when I’ve seen a child exhibit such poor decorum,” the baron drawled. “Regular beatings are your only recourse at this point, Miss MacGregor.”

Matthew turned but kept his hand over Mary Fran’s knuckles. “Altsax, our hostess is Lady Gordon Flynn, if you’re to address her properly.”

“Lady Gordon Flynn? That means she’s claiming to have married the late Quinworth spare, and I would have heard of such a misalliance.” Altsax swung his gaze to Mary Fran, his smile diabolically ugly. “My own son is known as the corrupt colonel. You needn’t put on airs to gain the notice of the likes of him.”

Beside her, Mary Fran felt Matthew petrify with rage.

“Mama, come quick!” Fee’s voice, redolent with wonder, came from the stables. “I’ve caught one, and it’s
purring
!”

Altsax rolled his eyes. “No doubt my son has purred for you too, my lady. Alas for you, he’s purred for many. Pity you can’t ask his late wife about that, isn’t it?”

“Mama!”

Altsax offered Mary Fran a jaunty bow and spun on his heel as Matthew dropped her arm. Beneath his tan, he’d gone pale, his lips ringed with white. In his eyes, there was no emotion, no warmth.

“Lady Mary Frances, if you’ll excuse—”

She grabbed his hand, which he’d balled into a fist. “You’ll not let that man have the last word like this, Matthew Daniels. Do you honestly think I’d believe one word of the bile he spews? Your father is unnatural. Come.”

He hesitated as Altsax went whistling up the path.

“Matthew, please. You cannot help who your father is—what he is.”

Fiona emerged from the stables, cradling a ball of black and white fur against her chest. “He’s purring! I think he likes me—or maybe it’s a she.”

Mary Fran did not turn loose of Matthew’s hand, but she turned an indulgent smile on her daughter. “Of course the dratted beast likes you—they all do. Take it to the dairy, and I’m sure there will be a dish of milk about for a wee new friend.”

Fiona scampered off, leaving Mary Fran to half drag Matthew in the direction of the stables. “Say something, Matthew. Clootie Itnyre knows all the herbs and potions. I’ve half a mind to ask him what I should serve up to your father to permanently shut the baron’s foul, lying, obscene—”

They’d gained the aisle running between the loose boxes when Matthew spun her up against the wall and fused his mouth to hers.

He was enraged—Mary Fran tasted that in his kiss, though the rage wasn’t directed at her—and he was in some desperate, silent frenzy that was expressing itself as passion. He’d lost a wife—that explained a few things, but exactly what it explained she could not fathom, not when she had to hang on to the man kissing her simply to keep her balance.

“I could love you,” Matthew whispered, his voice hoarse in her ear. “God help me, I could have loved you.”

“Hush, Matthew.” She lashed her arms around him, held him tightly, held him as if she could protect him from every injury. “You’re grieving. When the loss rears up, there’s a temptation to find comf—”

This kiss was different. His mouth moved slowly over hers, as if the tumult and desperation of the last kiss had never happened. His body no longer pressed her back against the hard boards behind her; it sheltered and warmed.

“Come.” She eased sideways and took his hand, leading him down the rows of stalls to the saddle room. Wherever this was going, she wanted a locked door between her and the prying eyes of the world.

God
help
me, I could have loved you.

She’d no sooner thrown the bolt on the saddle room door than Matthew had her back against a sturdy wall. He rested an arm against the wall and leaned down to run his nose along her collarbone.

“You cannot defend me against my own father, Mary Fran.”

The way he hung over her conveyed both passion and something else—despair, in his voice, in his posture.

“Kiss now, talk later, laddie.”

Kiss, caress, tease… a little dusty sunshine came through a small window high up on the outside wall. Time slowed, and Mary Fran let the moment seep into her bones: The good smells of horse and leather, the flutter of a small bird up in the rafters, the soft wool of Matthew’s jacket, and the certain knowledge that of her own volition, she was going to make love with a man worthy of the honor.

“Mary Frances?”

He was asking permission to love her, permission to make love with her. She answered him by easing back and meeting his gaze. In the gloom, his eyes were not blue; they were simply watching her, ready for her to sigh and smile, to leave him here alone with his father’s accusations wreaking their vile havoc.

She shaped him through the fabric of his riding breeches. He was wonderfully hard, ready for her. When she freed him from his clothing, his head fell back, and he hissed out a slow breath. She stroked his length, reacquainting herself with the odd wonder that was the male breeding organ in anticipation of its pleasures.

As she traced her fingers over the smooth skin of his erect cock, she saw the tension in him shift from arousal to self-restraint.

“I could love you too, Matthew Daniels.” In that moment, she couldn’t
not
love him. Couldn’t deny herself the pleasure of his body, hard, masculine, and pressed against hers in desire.

She
hated
her clothing, simple attire though it was. Drawers and stays and chemise and petticoats—the morning was cool—came between Mary Fran and the man she sought to possess. Between kisses, sighs, and a few muttered curses, she stepped out of her drawers; with some assistance from Matthew, she got dress and chemise shoved about enough and her stays loose enough to free her breasts from their confinement, but the delay, the damned, fussy delay, had her ready to scream.

“Matthew, I want…” Mary Fran lifted her forehead from his shoulder to glance around. They were in a saddle room. The plank floor was littered with dried mud and bits of hay and straw; the only solid surface was a pair of trunks along the opposite wall. The entire space was designed for hanging bridles, stowing saddles on racks, and storing brushes and riding gear.

“We can make it to the hayloft,” she said, trying to find something amusing about dashing up the ladder out in the barn aisle.

“Bugger the hayloft.” Matthew shifted away, his shirt and waistcoat flapping open, his neckcloth hanging loose and wrinkled. He bent, and in one mighty heave, stacked the two trunks one atop the other. His next move was to grab a wool cooler—a MacGregor plaid, no less—and fold it over the top trunk. When he turned, his clothing askew, his erection straining up along his midline, his expression was unreadable.

“Or I can come to you tonight,” he said.

Mary Fran eyed the trunks. “I’m not sure exactly…”

He hauled her across the small space and hoisted her onto the trunks. “You sit.”

She shifted back a bit on the trunks. The cooler was thick, folded several times, and the seat wasn’t uncomfortable. The one shaft of sunlight fell on Matthew’s red-gold hair as he stepped between her legs.

“You sit,” he said again, bending his head so Mary Fran felt the words breezing past her ear as much as she heard them. “And we love.”

BOOK: Mary Fran and Matthew
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