Hilda awoke with a start, sweat breaking out along her hairline. A small noise had roused her. There it was again—a rattle at the window.
She didn’t dare light a candle. For the first time, she wished she had weapons stashed in her room. When would she ever need such a thing? No one would dare attack House Goneril. Holst was a terror on the battlefield, and although her father was getting on in years, he was still a fearsome warrior.
Her fists would hopefully be up to the task. Blood rushed in her ears as she threw open the curtains, ready to attack. A dark silhouette appeared on the other side of the window, hanging upside down. All it would take was a well-thrown chair. The glass would shatter, and the attacker would—
“Hilda,” the shadow said. “Open up. It’s me.”
Hilda stared. Claude. Of course. No one else was crazy enough.
She undid the latch and opened the window. Claude ducked inside, shirtless and barefoot, and landed silently on the floor. A rope encircled his waist, and a bag was fastened to the rope. She glanced out the window. The other end of the rope appeared to be tied to something on the roof.
“What are you doing here?” she whispered. “If Holst finds you, he’ll kill you!”
Claude put his hands on her waist and pulled her near. “Does your brother often check on you at night? Because that’s creepy.”
“Yuck, no! But he might if he heard something. His room’s only two doors down.”
“That’s why I didn’t use the corridor.”
Hilda sighed. Claude’s hands were warm and strong. Her gauzy nightgown didn’t pose much of a barrier between them.
“I missed you,” he whispered. “I couldn’t sleep without you.”
Hilda slid her arms around his neck and kissed him. “I missed you, too.”
“If I lose tomorrow, will you still consider marrying me?”
“This is the first time you’re actually asking instead of suggesting.”
“I would have proposed already if I thought you’d say yes. I had it all planned before we left Derdriu. I can go get the ring right now if you—”
Hilda quieted him with a kiss. “You’d better win.”
“There’s no way I can possibly lose.”
Claude swept her into his arms and carried her to the bed. It was more like staggering—she knew she was heavier than she looked, but honestly. Fortunately, it was only a short distance, and his legs were strong. He set her down, dropped the bag and his trousers, and fell upon her. They tangled on top of the sheets, kissing and stroking each other. His hands worked their way underneath her nightgown. She shivered at his touch.
Hilda rolled away from him to take off her clothes. By the time she tossed her nightgown on the floor, Claude sat on the bed, taking things out of the bag. He produced a small jar, a sash, and two feathers.
“What are those for?” she asked as she came up behind him and ran her hands over his strong shoulders and chest.
Claude leaned back against her and looked up into her face with a mischievous grin. “Revenge.”
Hilda gasped as he wound the sash around her wrists and knotted it. He repositioned her in the middle of the bed and tied the other end of the sash to the finial in the center of her headboard. The sash’s knot was tight enough she couldn’t easily break free, but not so tight she didn’t have the option if she really needed to. The finial appeared sturdy, fortunately.
“Where did you get those?” she asked as he picked up the feathers.
“Stole a quill from your family’s drawing room.” He drew the stiff feather from her sternum to her navel. The softer feather brushed the skin around her areolas. “Took this from my pillow. Don’t worry, I sewed it up again.”
“Someday I’ll steal your heart.”
Hilda’s ears filled with the thrumming of her pulse as he ran the feathers over her skin. Goosebumps broke out all over her, and Claude chuckled. Light from the full moon poured through her window and cast shadows on his beautiful body as he leaned over her. He teased her breasts with the firm feather, and her nipples tightened in response.
Just when the tingles started to change to tickles, Claude put the feathers aside and reached for the jar. The scent of honey wafted toward her as he opened the lid.
“You stole from the kitchen, too?” she asked.
Claude shrugged, dipped his finger in the jar, and licked the honey off it. Watching his mouth and tongue only made the fire low in Hilda’s belly burn hotter.
“Want a taste?” Claude purred.
Hilda nodded, and he kissed her. The sweetness of honey spread through her mouth. She sucked on his tongue and was rewarded with a moan. His weight slowly settled on her. She rocked her hips against his hardness.
A whimper left her when he withdrew, and the sash drew taut. Part of her was tempted to break free and pounce on him, but the rest of her was enjoying the game. It was only fair after what she’d done to him in the tent. He’d been singing her name like a canary, and she had loved every minute of it.
Claude drizzled a thin line of honey down Hilda’s chest and over her breasts. She moaned as he licked and sucked.
“Still not as sweet as you,” he murmured against her skin.
Hilda wanted to reply, but his tongue against her nipple was too much. It felt different from his usual ministrations. She writhed and pulled against her bonds.
Claude’s hand slipped between her legs, and he shuddered against her. “You’re so wet.”
“Don’t stop,” Hilda gasped.
Pleasure spread through her as Claude suckled and fingered her. She tried to rock against his palm, but each time she moved, he pulled away just enough she couldn’t reach him. The sash holding her stretched tight, and the wooden bedframe creaked.
Just when she thought she’d go crazy, Claude slid his body the length of hers until his head rested between her legs. Hilda gasped as he ran his tongue over her. He kissed and sucked until she thought she would burst. She was close, so close. Her entire body quaked.
“Say my name,” Claude said and kissed the inside of her thigh.
Hilda pulled on the sash. The headboard made an ominous sound. “No.”
His response was to flick her clit with his tongue. She gasped and writhed.
“Keep your voice down,” he said. “Wouldn’t want your brother rushing in.”
Hilda bit her lip as he licked her again. His tongue dipped inside.
“Please,” she panted.
Claude groaned. “That was way more arousing than I expected.”
He knelt between her legs and rubbed her with his shaft. They slid against each other easily. She angled her pelvis for better contact, but he stopped. A growl worked its way between her clenched teeth.
The growl turned to a gasp as he put the tip of his cock against her opening. He didn’t push inside. In fact, he didn’t move at all other than the expansion of his ribs as he panted.
“Don’t worry, I’ll wait until we’re married,” he said.
Hilda barely heard him. All her attention focused on the point where their bodies touched. The part of Hilda’s brain that was still operating did some quick calculations. It was unlikely she’d get pregnant this time of month. Even if she did, he wouldn’t abandon her. She loved him, and she wanted to be one with him. Now. If she could just scoot down a little more….
“Ah-ah, naughty girl,” Claude said with a smile.
“Claude,” she moaned and pressed against him, trying to push him inside.
Claude shuddered and withdrew. His hands clamped down on her hips and pinned them so she couldn’t move. “I thought you wanted to wait,” he said, voice hoarse.
“I don’t care anymore.” Hilda burned, and he was the only person who could douse the flames.
“What if I lose to your brother?”
“I don’t care what happens. I’ll go with you anyway.”
Claude bent until his head rested between her breasts, panting. “Are you sure?”
“You just like hearing me beg.”
“Guilty as charged.”
Still he made no move, only stared down at her, chest heaving. Sweat trickled down his temple in the moonlight.
“Claude.” She pulled on her bonds again. Her body was aflame, her mind fuzzy with need.
He pushed incrementally further and withdrew again. She used the moment to scoot a tiny bit closer to him. As she hoped, he didn’t bother to reposition himself. When he pressed against her again, she thrust her hips toward him.
They gasped in unison as his glans slid inside her completely. Hilda lost her ability to speak as he slid all the way inside. It hurt as he stretched her, and she winced. He stopped and looked down at her, his hands smoothing her hair away from her face.
“Let me know when it feels good,” he said.
Hilda swallowed. She wanted to knock him on his back and ride him until he passed out. Her headboard creaked as she wrapped her legs around him. He began to thrust. Hilda gripped him tighter. There was no space between them now. They were as close as two people could get. The ecstasy surging through her was more than just physical.
He moaned and went faster, and it was too much for her. Her body tightened like a spring about to break. She cried out as she climaxed, arching so violently she lifted them off the mattress. Spasm after spasm racked her, and by the time she finally calmed, her body felt like jelly.
“I’ve never…that was…” Claude’s words turned into a moan as he started moving again. Hilda went to pull against her bonds only to find the sash had gone slack. The finial had snapped off her headboard. Oops. Hilda extricated her hands and ran them down the corded muscles of his arms, her heels pressing against his thighs as he thrust. His strokes lengthened and deepened.
“I’m going to pull—” he panted.
“No.” Hilda clamped her hands on his ass.
He made a strangled sound and pressed into her as spasm after spasm ran through him. Hilda smiled against his shoulder. He collapsed on top of her, panting. She ran her fingers through his thick hair and kissed his throat.
“Did I win?” he murmured into the bed.
Hilda smiled and stroked the back of his head. “I certainly got a prize.”
Claude rolled off and settled next to her. His eyes fluttered closed as he fumbled to pull her into his arms. She snuggled against him, heavy and sated.
“Kick my brother’s ass tomorrow,” Hilda said.
Claude immediately dropped off to sleep. Hilda rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. If this was a preview of the rest of her life, she couldn’t wait for it to begin.