A Knight of Passion
Author:Tarah Scott

chapter Two

Riana glanced at the low flames in the hearth. The hour had grown late. The knight should have arrived by now. Trepidation surfaced. If the duchess grew bored and went in search of him, and by some slim chance looked in on Siusan, their lives would be over. Her stomach roiled. Only one alternative remained until he arrived…if he arrived.

She faced the bed.

Heavy curtains hung between all bed posts save the one against the wall where the picture hung, and the curtain facing the fire was open so that firelight would illuminate the writhing bodies on the mattress.

She took two steps and leant forward, palms flat on the mattress, purposely allowing her breasts to sway slightly. The duchess’ gaze would be riveted to the full globes. Riana forced back revulsion and slowly crawled to the head of the bed. She settled on her back, legs spread on the white sheets. With one hand, she cupped a breast, while flattening the other hand on her belly. Riana jammed shut her eyes. If her eyes strayed to the picture and met the duchess’s gaze she would vomit.

Siusan. Remember her and their dear Glen, who risked his life to save them both. They were the reason she was here. She inched her hand downwards on her stomach. They must reach safety before the duchess’ attention waned. Which meant this time, Riana couldn’t distance her mind as she usually did when men rutted between her legs. This time, she had to enjoy being watched. Her fingers brushed the curls of her mound. Tears threatened. An unexpected vision rose of the dark-haired, dark-eyed young man who had gently taken her maidenhead. Pain slashed through her at memory of her husband, but she allowed her mind to sink into that kinder time, the day after Stuart had asked for her hand in marriage and they had met in the glen south of Fyvie Castle.

They were to be married. She hugged him close, aware of the erection that pressed eagerly against her belly. His body tensed against his self-imposed restraint. Riana laughed. She wanted him, intended to have him long before the wedding, still six months away.

Guilt stabbed through the memory with startling intensity. Stuart hadn’t been able to resist, just as the men the duchess sent never resisted. But Riana had loved Stuart…he had loved her. They were supposed to want one another. And they had.

Her body exploded when he touched her. Riana’s nipples puckered. A thumb brushed one marbled peak. She dragged in a breath. Desire streaked through her as his callused hand slipped into her heated folds. Riana moaned and arched into his warm palm. Gentle massages to her sex tightened her core with heart-stopping anticipation. She pulsed against the rhythm. Pressure built. His gentle touch drove her mad. He didn’t want to hurt her. But she wanted his fingers stretching her, his cock stroking the most intimate part of her, yet untouched by a man. She wanted hard thrusts that would push her over an edge she’d only dreamt of.

Voices intruded on the intimate moment. Riana thrashed against the need for release. The murmur grew louder. She reached for Stuart, but her fingers closed around thin air. Her eyes shot open.

The canopy over the bed in Arundel snapped into focus and grief slashed like a knife. She choked back a sob. Stuart was gone. The sound of voices in the hallway made her jerk her head in the direction of the door.

Sir Dunbar.

Riana yanked her finger from within her drenched channel and scrambled beneath the sheets. The door creaked open as the sheet settled around her. The soft click of the door being shut was followed by the clink of metal that told her the knight was removing his sword, then chain mail.

Heart racing, Riana willed her trembling body to still. She lay against the snow white pillow, dark hair fanned out around her face, sheet tucked around her full breasts, arms at her sides. She must appear the siren when he finally lifted the curtain and found her in his bed. No man had ever turned from her. Fear rushed to the surface. What if tonight was different? It couldn’t be. All she needed was these last few hours.

After Riana gave the knight the wine, she would flee Arundel. The duchess would stay to watch until certain the poison had drained his life before finally retiring for the evening. By morning, the keep would be abuzz as she played the part of the shocked patroness when the sheriff accused her ward of murdering Sir Dunbar.

When the sheriff finally knocked on Riana’s door she would be miles away, riding in the opposite direction to the one Siusan and Glen travelled. Even if they captured Riana, she would return to face charges of murder only to find the victim alive and well, with no ill after effects of the cantarella she’d used in place of the arsenic the duchess had given her.

Air wafted across Riana’s arms. Gooseflesh zipped up her arms. The knight must have lifted the curtain on the left side of the bed. A moment of silence passed before the bed shifted as he lowered himself onto the mattress beside her. He tugged the covers upwards and she tried to quiet the rampant beat of her heart when the cool linen settled back into place. Warmth radiated from him and her stomach clenched in anticipation of the weight of his large body pressing down on her. Instead, a feather-light caress wound circles down her left arm.

She shivered. He shifted and warm breath bathed her ear, then teeth gently bit down on her ear lobe. Moist lips trailed from cheek to mouth. He shifted and something brushed across her breasts. She jumped before realising he had braced an arm on the other side of her. He paused and lifted his mouth from hers. When she didn't move, he seemed satisfied and again covered her mouth with his. His tongue flicked against her lips and she opened for him.

He swept his tongue inside and Riana was surprised at the sweet taste of his breath. Too many of the men the duchess sent to her tasted of the foul world from which they came. But this man tasted of brandy and cinnamon. He must have partaken of Cook’s famous cinnamon buns. His tongue thrust in quick bursts and she wondered what that tongue would feel like on the sensitive nub between her legs. Riana jerked from the thought. How could she feel desire for a man such as Sir Dunbar…and only minutes after picturing Stuart’s face?

The knight broke the kiss and his mouth began a slow, moist slide down her jaw, neck, to the swell of her breast. When he closed his mouth around a nipple through the thin linen of the sheet, pleasure streaked through her. She gasped.

He lifted up. “I would prefer to see your beautiful eyes.”

A masculine voice, deep, rich—and not Sir Dunbar’s—caused her eyes to snap open. She gaped at the face before her. Instead of the brown eyes she had expected, emerald green eyes stared down at her.

Sir Bryant Cullen.

Her heart leapt into a furious rhythm. What was he doing here? Had the duchess changed her mind? Was it Sir Bryant she now wished murdered? No, that didn’t make sense. Yet he was here. Her mind whirled with questions. What was she supposed to do with the man? She’d seen him in the great hall, his massive body dwarfing even Sir Dunbar’s. He stood over two metres tall, and outweighed the older knight by at least three stone. Her pulse skittered at the memory of when he turned in her direction and their eyes met. She was accustomed to lust, but Sir Bryant’s expression had been one of curiosity—male curiosity, to be sure, but not the lewd lust she usually saw. That same look glinted in his eyes now.

His brows rose. “First you keep your eyes firmly shut, then you stare. Which is it to be, Lady?”

She startled at the word Lady spoken as if he truly meant the respect, as if she wasn't lying in his bed naked, a stranger to him.

A corner of his mouth twitched upwards. “So it is to be a stare, then?”

His deep voice, rich with amusement, befuddled her. She opened her mouth to reply, but her voice failed her.

“Surely you can speak?” he said.

She nodded, then realised the absurdity of the response and stilled.

He propped himself up on an elbow. “Forgive me, Lady, but to what do I owe the honour of this…visit?”

Her mind froze. How should she answer? Fear rammed through her. What would the duchess do now that her plans had gone awry? Had she left her seat behind the painting? When Sir Bryant had entered, Riana had closed her eyes and so been unaware he was the wrong man. The duchess might already be back in the great hall, looking for the older knight.

Calm yourself, she mentally ordered. Anger or no anger, Her Grace would not so readily give up her anticipated night of debauchery, particularly if she had company with her behind the picture.

“Not that I’m a man to complain.” Sir Bryant brushed her cheek with a finger. “What man would not be pleased to find you in his bed?”

Something in his tone snagged her attention. Of course, he knew who—what—she was. Every man who entered Arundel knew.

“There is no need for you to sacrifice yourself to me,” he said.

Riana blinked. Was he refusing her? Mayhap he despised whores. Ridiculous. What man didn’t take a whore when the need arose? But a tavern wench was different than a Lady who allowed her body to be a tool. He shifted and she realised he was rising. Panic bubbled over. She seized his arm. He paused and looked at her. She shook her head.

His gaze sharpened. “Do not—”

She tugged the sheet from her breasts. He dropped his gaze, and her nipples puckered. He shifted his eyes back to her face and she stilled. There was no mistaking the desire that darkened his eyes, but why the anger that was just as obvious? Her heart beat faster. Whatever his mood, she must make him want her. Her plans were in a shambles. How long did Glen and Siusan have? Not all night as she’d planned, but at least the time she kept the knight in her bed. Riana cupped the back of his neck and drew him to her mouth. He stopped a hair’s breadth from her lips, eyes locked with hers. His eyes narrowed.

Did he not like women? No. The way he had sucked her breast told her he had no need for another man’s cock in his arse. What had changed? She lifted her face and brushed her lips against his. His full mouth covered hers without hesitation. Relief flooded her, and she arched so that her nipples tickled his muscled chest. The tips hardened and Riana undulated them in a circle against his smooth flesh.

She slid a hand beneath the sheet and relief intensified when her fingers made contact with his engorged cock. He jerked back, eyes blazing, and she couldn’t halt the recoil that pressed her into the mattress. What was wrong? No man whose cock grew to such a length didn’t want the woman lying beneath him.

“I have displeased you?” she whispered.

“I have never taken a woman who didn’t come to me of her own free will,” he replied.

Riana stared. No man turned away a naked woman in his bed. No man gave a damn whether the woman was there willingly or not.

But a little voice inside asked, Wouldn’t Stuart have cared?