Sense and Sensuality: Erotic Fantasies in the World of Jane Austen [MultiFormat]
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eBook by J. Blackmore
eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Romance
eBook Description: Fans of Jane Austen often imagine what her fiction would have been like if she was more of a romantic, or allowed herself to chronicle what went on behind closed doors during the Regency. Many, many, many authors have written sequels, spin-offs, and missing scenes of Austen's work before, and recently many authors have even explored the paranormal underside of Austen. But there's never been anything quite like this. Enter into the erotic fantasies of Jane Austen fans in this new anthology, Sense and Sensuality. This is the way the Regency should have been: laced with magic, flagrant sexuality, and the triumphant power of true love. Join five talented authors as they journey through the era of men in tights and women in corsets with a twinkle in their eyes and some magic up their sleeves. This collection features stories of Regency dandies in love; lifelong commitment to the powers of darkness; bookish spinsters blundering into sex magic; and Fanny Price being brave! All incredible, all lushly erotic, and all worth reading; indulge in this new collection from Circlet Press. This collection includes: "A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment" by Elizabeth Reeve â?¨"Lord Rigby's Scandalous Secret" by Jack Dickson â?¨"The Lamia's Proposal" by Kayee Renee Robichaud â?¨"The Page of Wands" by Jay Starre â?¨"The Amber Cross" by Mei Lin Miranda Circlet Press digital titles are also available at the Amazon Kindle Store, B&N.com, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple's iBookstore, and many independent booksellers via Google ebooks, as well as specialty ebookstores like All Romance eBooks, Weightless Ebooks, Trapezium, Rainbow eBooks, and the GLBT Bookshelf store, to name just a few! (Please let us know if your favorite source for digital books does not carry this title and you want them to.)
eBook Publisher: Circlet Press, Published: 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2011
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2 Reader Ratings:
What you hold in your hands is the result of an experiment. The editors of Circlet crowded together, in the dead of night, in a darkened room, and asked each other, "Can we do this? Can we take all the paranormal perversion of Circlet Press and make it all... romantic?"
And lo, our voices cried out to the Internet, "Bring us your stories of love at first sight! Make them between werewolves and witches and vampires and demons! Make them sexy! Make them edgy!
Make them... Jane Austen?"
And wow, did you guys ever answer. I mean, seriously, you guys are messed up. And I love you for it. So this is my love letter to those of us who still believe in love, in longing looks and throbbing members, but also want a healthy dose of raunch. There's a little bit of everything here: Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park; heroes we've hated and villains we loved; matchmaking, spellcasting, and anal sex like whoa. I mean, dude, nobody does anal sex like a Regency gentleman, apparently.
We begin with poor Mary Bennet. If there was ever a woman who desperately needed a roll in the hay, it's her. In "A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment," Elizabeth Reeve takes this insufferable bore and gives her motivations and dimensions that none of us had ever suspected. What would happen if Mary carried her love of learning so far it led her to witchcraft? And when a major spell goes horribly wrong, will she let her pride hold her back, or can she allow herself to bend her principles for love? This is a funny, sexy spin on an often reviled character.
Now, we all remember that Emma Woodhouse was a shameless matchmaker. We can hardly have expected her to stop after her marriage. I mean, that's just not our Emma. However, in "Lord Rigby's Scandalous Secret," by Jack Dickson, she makes her most dangerous match yet. Emma has no idea what she's doing when she brings together her cousin Nate and her rich and handsome new neighbor, the soon-to-be Lord Rigby. Rigby is about to discover a terrible secret about his family, and it's one that will put both him and his new lover in harm's way.
And then there's Wickham. Ah, Wickham: probably Austen's most irredeemable cad. However in Kaysee Renee Robichaud's hands, he acquires new motivations; other than, you know, just being a bitter, jealous jerk. In "Lamia's Proposal," a young Wickham makes a Faustian bargain with a mysterious woman, one shapes the rest of his life. He even gets something like a happy ending, as ultimately uncertain as it is. This is a surprising and strangely satisfying study of who Wickham was and could have been.
"Page of Wands" delivers some of those talented Regency men I mentioned earlier. And a Darcy cameo, which is always a treat. But this story is about more than pretty men in tight pants. Jay Starre deals honestly with his characters: the fact that most upper class marriages were skillfully arranged during the Regency is never shied away from, and is dealt with head on. Not only that, but Heath is attracted to men and cursed with premonitions that have blessed and haunted him all this life. These two afflictions define his character, and mirror each other as problems that seem equally unacceptable to both him and his society. There's no sugar-coating here: there's not going to be a conventionally happy ending for our heroes, but their struggle and resolution is hopeful. And, after all, what's more romantic than love-at-first-sight that flies in the face of societal norms?
Finally, well, I honestly didn't expect to receive a story about Austen's least-liked heroine, Fanny Price. But, MeiLin Miranda surprised me with one called "The Amber Cross," and continued to surprise me all the way through. Miranda manages to somehow throw all of Fanny's passive-aggression out the window and gives her some real, if deeply hidden, backbone. She even manages to make it seem realistic. And to think, all it took was putting Edmund in mortal peril. Seriously, we should have thought of this sooner.
It was a pleasure to find so many stories that sought to add some spice to Austen's original wit and memorable characters. Also, a little magic and mayhem never hurt any drawing room drama. I hope you get as much joy out of this collection as I did. Kudos to five authors who accomplished what I truly thought was impossible.
A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment
It started in the library at Netherfield. Mary Bennet had grown up as the plainest of five sisters, without a dowry or any prospects to speak of. And even with three of those sisters now married, there was still Kitty to contend with, and she was a much more amiable, pretty girl than Mary could ever hope to be.
So, as the least desirable of two sisters, she maintained that practice which she had at first developed as a method of distinguishing herself among five: becoming accomplished. She played and sang, taught herself to draw, and read as extensively as she could manage, searching for wit and wisdom and making extracts. It was in the pursuit of this last that she discovered the existence of magic.
Netherfield's library was not vast, but Mr. Bingley's father had laid in a supply of books with more of an eye to quantity than taste, and the collection was consequently very interesting, offering a far greater range of opinions than those offered by Mary's own father's more sensible library. This was an irresistible attraction. Additionally, Mary could sit quite peacefully for hours on end at Netherfield, enjoying her reading without harassment from her mother or younger sister or teasing from her father. Indeed, she felt so comfortable in Netherfield's sitting rooms and parlors that she even dared to read the occasional novel without much fear of discovery.
She knew immediately upon seeing it that the spellbook was not a novel, but she guessed that it might be something scandalous. It was bound in pale blue velvet, with silver embroidery meandering over the covers, and no title in view. She hesitated. Until recently, her favorite extracts had come largely from religious texts, and she had taken some pride in her moral rectitude. It seemed unlikely that anything bound so lavishly could be meant for the delicate eyes of a respectable young lady.
But who would know? She was all but alone in the house. The servants would never trouble her, Jane and Mr. Bingley had gone for a drive, and Caroline Bingley had retired to her private sitting room with a headache after Mary had engaged her in some conversation on the topic of vanity.
She hesitated for only a moment, therefore, before taking the book down and folding back the front cover. The pages were unevenly cut and smelled curious. Not musty, as books often did, but almost spiced, as though they had been sprinkled with nutmeg, though the paper was as smooth and pale as cream. There was no frontispiece, nor a table of contents. The text, handwritten in an ink nearly as blue as the book's cover, began immediately. And what strange text it was! By the time Mary had fully comprehended that what she was reading was not a sentimental account of travels or a diary, but a book of magic, it was too late for even her formidable sense of morality to interrupt her study. She was fascinated.
She read steadily into the afternoon, until she was interrupted as she squinted in the half-light of early evening by Miss Bingley coming in with a candle. She looked up from where she sat hidden in the shadows, and Miss Bingley promptly shrieked in surprise.
"Heavens!" Caroline cried, pressing one hand to her breast. "Whatever are you doing, lurking in the dark like that? Are you trying to frighten me to death?"
Mary hid the book in her skirt, and rubbed her eyes, pretending to have been asleep. "No," she said mildly. And then, as Miss Bingley turned away, added very quietly, "Though I could."
She felt a little guilty, at the end of her stay with her eldest sister, when she tucked the book into her reticule and took it home just as if it belonged to her. But she couldn't risk leaving it behind. There was too much she wanted to learn from it. And, as the Bingleys quitted the property only a month later, she felt somewhat justified in her minor theft.
It was not as though she would have had much opportunity to get at it again, even if Mr. Bingley had brought it with him to his new estate. She knew she would not often be invited to visit her elder sisters. Their clear preference for Kitty's society--and her mother's promotion of it in the hopes of Kitty's marrying well, while seeming to have no expectation that Mary should be able to secure a husband at all--ought to have grated. Such slights had often wounded her in the past. But Mary did not care much for society, had long since learned to ignore her mother's opinions, and had never wanted a husband so much as she had wanted the influence and respectability that came with having one. And as her study of the spellbook progressed, she began to think that she could gain a certain kind of standing in another way, without dependence on anything so capricious as a man.
The testing of this theory would have to wait, however, until she was at a safe remove from Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet's keen interest in the doings of others would doubtless wake her mother from the soundest sleep to come and find her out even if she waited until the dead of night to try a spell. So when her second-eldest sister invited her for a visit, Mary was more than usually eager to travel to Pemberly, where she ordinarily would have dreaded being compared to the accomplished Miss Darcy.
But while she might not be the most studied young woman at Pemberly, she was almost certainly the only one who could light a candle with a whisper and a thought. Which, she discovered with very little delay, she could do. Her first effort successful, Mary tried out several other small spells from the book. She soon found that she could light candles, make them move through the air, and put them out again. Also, she could change the color of a gown, and make fairy lights appear and dance at her command. Paltry tricks, but satisfying nonetheless.
It was much easier to sit through a tedious morning with Lizzy and Miss Darcy after that. Though Mary was so caught up in deciding which spell she would try first that evening that her sister asked if she was unwell. She had spent fifteen minutes entirely in silence, neither turning the pages of a book, nor enlightening the other ladies with recently gleaned extracts. After staring at Lizzy in some confusion for a moment, Mary quickly seized on the idea. She excused herself to her room, and spent the afternoon increasing the shine of her hair, and giving a charming spring to the ringlets that framed her face. She felt a pang of unease, recalling her lectures on vanity, but banished it with a little experimentation in smoothing her complexion.
However, she soon found, as afternoon faded into evening, that cosmetic changes were almost the extent of her abilities. She could alter the size, shape, and color of nearly anything, but could not float more than one candle through the air, and certainly not herself. Her attempt to give herself wings met with similar failure, as well as an uncomfortable itching in the middle of her back.
She needed help.
Mary searched through the book again and found something she could try. It would take longer than her other spells, and be louder, and, if the ingredients required were any indication, might have a strong smell to it. So she gathered her tools, and crept out of the house and across the well-kept lawns, disappearing into Pemberley Woods.
It had seemed like the sort of thing one ought to do in blackest night, but as she scratched runes into the grass, Mary was glad that she'd chosen mid-morning instead. It was easier to get away from the house on a casual walk without arousing notice, and it was much easier to see what she was doing. After perhaps half an hour, she had finished her diagrams, combined her components in the proper order, and begun to cast the spell. It had advertised for "intimate knowledge of the occult," and as a colored mist formed in the center of her markings, Mary braced herself for the flow of wisdom that she was sure would come.
The man who coalesced in the circle was an unwelcome surprise.
He was most scandalously garbed. He wore buckskin breeches and boots, as any man might, but had no tailcoat at all. His shirt-sleeves seemed shockingly white against a blue waistcoat. A gold ring glinted from one earlobe. The slow, crooked smile that stretched his lips as he looked at Mary from top to toes only added to a general impression of unsavoryness.
"A gentry mort!" he said, apparently delighted. He moved toward her with easy assurance, and reached out to stroke her cheek. Mary froze, discomfited by this forward behavior.
"So shy now, little witch? Come, unrig yourself, and we'll play at rantum-scantum." His breath was hot against her ear, he'd stepped so close.
Mary started back, finally alarmed enough to move. "I beg your pardon?"
"Swive, rut, roger." The man's smile turned teasing. "Introduce my arbor vitae into your fruitful vine. Is this not why you called me?"
"Good Lord!" Mary cried. She did not recognize all his rough language, but he had made his meaning plain. "No, that is not--I did not call you, sir."
If she hoped by this address to shame him into an approximation of civility, she was to be disappointed. "I'll be sweet, I swear it, though I am well-hung. And as I am not a man, I won't fill your belly."
Again, it took Mary a moment to untangle his meaning, but she shook her head vigorously while she worked it out. "No! Certainly not. I am a respectable woman."
Now it was the demon (for if he was not a man, what else could he be?) who stepped back in alarm. He squinted at her thoughtfully. "A virgin? I see you're not some short-heeled wench, to fall on your back with ease. But, indeed, you may ride Saint George if you please, and be uppermost." His tone was wheedling, less assured.
"No," Mary repeated, absolutely firm, though she was less and less certain what she was refusing. What had Saint George to do with anything?
The demon frowned, almost pouting, and sat down on the ground. "Then what purpose did you have in summoning me here?"
"I... did not mean to," Mary confessed. "I apologize for disturbing you. You may go back where you came from, without delay."
The pout became a scowl. "Indeed, I can not. The terms of your spell were clear to me, if they meant nothing to you. I may not depart this plane until I have served you. A task I thought would please us both."
"You were mistaken," Mary said primly. She was as upset by her failure to either comprehend the nature of the spell, or cast it correctly, as she was by the demon's lewdness, but she chose to put as much of the blame on him as she could manage. She snatched up the spellbook, tucked it into her reticule, and turned back toward the house. "I shall leave you to find your own way home."
"Mar-all!" The demon shouted at her back. "Doggess! You'll not be rid of me so easy!"
She affected not to hear him. And when she chanced a look over her shoulder, she saw with no little satisfaction that, despite his words, he was gone.
* * * *
The demon rejoined her that evening. Mary had retired early to her own room for the night, feeling too fatigued from her recent studies to tolerate more than an hour of conversation with the Darcys after dinner. She had just dismissed the maid who was helping her undress for sleep and was turning toward the bed when she saw him, lounging against her pillows.
He winked. Mary screamed.
The maid came dashing back into the room. "What is it? Miss Bennet?"
Mary looked at her in astonishment. She was facing the bed, just as Mary was. Could she not see for herself what was the matter? But it seemed that she could not. The demon smiled, and winked again, and Mary shook her head. "Nothing. I thought I saw... Something foul."
"Foul, am I?" said the demon, when the maid had left again. "Take another look, you moon-eyed hen. I'm a fine figure of a man!"
He started to unbutton his waistcoat, as if he would display his figure more clearly, and Mary lost her shyness in indignation. She strode over to him directly and slapped his hands away. "Stop it! You're indecent enough as it is." She frowned. "And I thought you said you are not a man."
"I am man-like," the demon answered. "More than like enough for your purposes. But no, I am not one of your kind. I am an incubus."
Mary did not intend to demonstrate further ignorance by asking what that was, and merely nodded as though she understood. "Be that as it may, I have no purpose for you at all, and will not submit to your seductions. You had much better go home."
The incubus sighed. "I have said that I cannot. Your spell has bound me, to this world and to you, until I have completed my service. Only then can I return." His hands went to his buttons again. "Now, as you have expressed such dislike for my person, perhaps you'd prefer to get it over with at once, and have done. Then I will go, and trouble you no further."
Mary slapped at his hands again, then grasped them in her own and held them, heedless of the impropriety of their position as she attempted to prevent greater licentiousness. So close to him, she could see that his eyes were strange, a pale violet color instead of the blue she had taken them for at a distance. Beyond that, he did resemble a man, and a handsome one. His hair was dark and curling, his teeth even, and his skin was neither too fine nor too weathered. And there was something pleasing in his face when he smiled, even if the ring in his ear gave every expression a rakish cast.
He was smiling now, Mary realized, because she was still holding his hands. She dropped them at once. "I am sorry to have trapped you here, but what you ask is impossible. Surely there must be some alternative? Can not your service--" she tripped over the word. Would she ever be able to say it without blushing again? "--be rendered in another manner?"
"I doubt it," the incubus said peevishly. "But it seems that I have no alternative but to try, since you are determined to give me the worst bout of horn colic I have suffered this age."
Mary was struck with sudden inspiration. "Then perhaps you can tutor me in magic? You seem to know a great deal about it."
This flattery had its intended result, and the incubus seemed somewhat mollified. "I do, indeed."
"It is worth an attempt, then, is it not?" Mary knew that she had not her younger sisters' gifts when it came to feminine persuasion, but she had learned a thing or two about the gentle art of widening one's eyes and blinking rapidly. "You would truly be doing me a service."
He did not appear to be entirely convinced, but the incubus nodded.
"Good, then." Agreement secured, Mary returned immediately to her usual brusque manner. "We will begin in the morning. I must ask you to leave my room until then, however. I require rest."
She had been contriving, by means of calculated shrugging and very good posture, to keep her gown and petticoats on all this while. The maid had unfastened the dress and loosened her stays, but fortunately had left Mary to completely remove the articles on her own, which preserved some of her modesty. She had no intention of relinquishing that now by undressing in front of her accidental companion.
The incubus sighed. "Very well." He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up, then tipped an imaginary hat. "Until the morrow, then, Miss Bennet."
Mary was startled that he knew her name, until she recalled that the maid had said it. Belatedly, she asked, "What should I call you?"
The incubus grinned. "An excellent question. Call me... Call me 'Nick.'" And with that, he faded from view.
* * * *
Nick came back in the morning, almost immediately after Mary had finished dressing. So well-timed was his appearance, in fact, that Mary nervously wondered if he might have been there all along, as invisible to her as he had been to the maid the night before. However, if he had, the damage was done, and she determined to think no more about it.
"Good morning, Miss Bennet," he said cordially. Mary returned the greeting, and he inquired after her health, and then if she was ready to begin her lessons.
She was indeed, and with no little excitement. She had never had much in the way of formal education, and had often longed for the experience. Though she could read, and did her best to improve her mind with private study, she could not help but feel that a governess would have helped her to get on. Presumably, a tutor in magic would be a similar boon.
Nick took a seat on a little chair placed near the window. "Tell me what you already know, for a beginning. Then I will have some idea of where your understanding can be improved."
Mary was most eager to demonstrate her accomplishment in the sorcerous arts, and launched with no hesitation into a lecture on the subject, complete with asides that showed--so she hoped--her own perspicacity.
She was to be disappointed.
"Stop, I beg you!" Nick cried, with exaggerated desperation. "Leave off these break-teeth words and dog-Latin. I am satisfied that you have read a great deal of something. Where is the source of all this wisdom?"
Her face a little hot, Mary produced the spellbook.
"This is a cow-handed hodge-podge indeed," Nick pronounced after several minutes of silent page-turning. "I am no longer surprised that you summoned me by accident. The theory is sound enough, but it's so full of gingerbread work I am amazed that you managed to wring any spells from it alone. And yet you did do some magic as you intended?"
Mary nodded, and at further prompting exhibited her modest skills. She lit and extinguished candles, made small objects dance, and changed the colors of several things, including Nick's waistcoat. She had thought the alarming shade of purple would discommode him, but he laughed and said he liked it, so she left it as it was.
"Oh, cleverly done!" Nick said when she had exhausted her knowledge, with every appearance of sincerity. Mary's cheeks colored again, but this time with pleasure. "I think we will get on very well, if I can contrive to repair this text somewhat as we go along."
Thus encouraged, Mary settled down to her study, with Nick's assistance, and passed above an hour in this enjoyable pursuit. But she soon found that being accompanied in her quest for self-improvement had some unfortunate aspects to it as well as the beneficial ones. Nick was much given to obscene language, for example, which was distracting. As well, he fidgeted near-constantly, particularly with the gold hoop in his ear.
After perhaps the thousandth time his fingers toyed with his earlobe, Mary demanded, "Why do you wear an earring? Is it only to make everyone else uncomfortable?"
"This?" Nick twisted the gold ring again, and laughed. "It was much the fashion for men some hundred years ago, and I like the look of it still."
"A hundred years!" Mary cried. "I did not think you could be above thirty. How old are you?"
"I don't know. If I should ever chance to meet my mother, perhaps I'll ask her." Nick delivered this surprising response with a studied unconcern that Mary found less than convincing. "Why, Miss Bennet? How old are you?"
Mary looked down at the spellbook and muttered, "Old enough."
"Enough for... Ah, I see it now." Nick's eyes narrowed. "Old enough to be a spinster, is that it? I had wondered what would bring such a respectable young lady to the study of sorcery. Are you hoping to magic up a husband, then?"
Mary shut the spellbook with some force. "No. And I certainly wasn't hoping to 'magic up' an impertinent scoundrel like yourself. But if you must know, I have no interest in marrying. I am perfectly content to remain as I am. And though I have no fortune to sustain me, I have two liberal sisters well-married, and... And I will continue to be content. I will. No matter what people think of me. I have never cared for the opinions of others."
"Ah." Nick was still for a moment, then reached to take the book gently from Mary's hands. He opened it to the place they had stopped. "But you'd rather enchant toads than be made to swallow them, I suppose? Very well. Let us see if, in teaching you, I can manage to free us both."
It was not much of an apology, but Mary appreciated it nonetheless, and willingly bent her attention back to their work.
By breakfast time, they had made fair progress. Mary was able to move a few objects of greater size than she had managed on her own, and had a much better understanding of the principles behind the spells she had taught herself. She was satisfied, and ready to stop until evening, or perhaps the next day. Nick was less so.
"Tell your sister that you're ill," he suggested. "A lady can be alone when she's ill, can she not? If we go on at this rate, we'll be at this for weeks."
"I could retire for a few hours with a headache, perhaps, but if I stay in my room all day, Elizabeth will worry, and may send for the doctor. It will hardly serve your purpose if I am tended at all hours for a pretended illness."
Nick scowled. "I suppose you are right. It's only that while you have gained a tame magic tutor, I am trapped here. I had never thought to play petticoat pensioner to a woman who did not desire all my services."
"Are you so eager to go home again? I had thought demons must enjoy our world, or they would not come so readily when called here."
"Eager to go home? No," Nick said. "Ours is a shadow world. Everything of substance, all that is diverting, is here. But as long as I am bound to you, I may not go further away than a mile or two, and there is nothing to do on this estate."
"I am sorry for it," Mary said, feeling very uncomfortable. It was true that she had not intended to inconvenience him in this way, but it was still her doing. And she was forced to acknowledge that the country must be a far more boring place for him than it was for her. He could not easily go for a ride, after all, or enjoy music and conversation after dinner. There were no entertainments such as might be found in town, where he could lose himself in a crowd, and his presence would be noted with suspicion anywhere near Pemberly.
And there was a speedier remedy to his problem at her command... But that was entirely out of the question.
"I will be free again late this evening," Mary said, and left as quickly as she could without seeming to flee.
* * * *
They made speedier progress than Nick had gloomily anticipated. Within ten days, they had covered all of the spells in the book. And though Mary had not tried to cast all of them--there were some she would never wish to attempt, and others that she felt no immediate need for--those she had tested worked just as they were meant to.
She closed the book with a happy sigh. "I thank you, sir," she said, with a touch of the dramatic. The moment seemed to call for it. "You have truly done me a service."
But Nick was frowning, pacing back and forth across the room. "I'm afraid I have not, no." His form wavered, becoming transparent for a moment before solidifying again. He groaned, and cast himself violently onto the bed, where he covered his eyes with one forearm. "Bloody fucking arse!"
Mary was too shocked to reply. She stood up and, her cheeks burning, left the room.
Perhaps Nick would benefit from some time to compose himself, she thought. And in the meantime, she would go for a walk, and consider the problem.
After a quarter of an hour touring one of Pemberly's gardens, she was no nearer to a solution than she had been when she left her room. Her idea of substituting one kind of service for another had seemed sound, particularly when Nick examined the spell which had summoned him and said that it was constructed rather obscurely. But it had not worked, as evidenced by Nick's... passionate complaint.
Still, perhaps there was some merit in the idea of skirting the conditions of the spell.
When Mary returned to her room, Nick was in much the same state as when she had left it, though he had moved his arm and replaced it with a pillow that more fully covered his face. Mary sat down next to him, perching on the side of the bed. It was astonishing, how quickly she had become used to Nick's presence in her room. The idea of being anywhere near both a man and a bed at the same time would have seemed so scandalous to her only a fortnight ago.
"What if I let you kiss me?" she suggested.
The pillow shifted slightly. "I beg your pardon?"
Mary leaned over and removed the cushion. "A kiss," she said, looking into Nick's face. "Only a kiss, mind you. But could it be enough to satisfy the spell?"
Nick's expression was thoughtful. "Possibly." He sat up. "Are you certain?"
Mary took a deep breath, steeling herself, and closed her eyes. "Yes. You may proceed."
She thought she heard Nick chuckle, but then she felt the bed shift as he moved, and his breath against her cheek, and gave no further thought to it. His lips were dry and warm against hers. It was not unpleasant. She had allowed one of the Lucas boys to kiss her once and regretted it heartily. His mouth had been sticky, he had been rough, and the experience was wholly disgusting. But Nick was all gentleness, soft and light.
And then the dry brush of his mouth over hers changed slightly, a thin line of moisture passing over the seam of her lips, and Mary opened her mouth without thought. As soon as she realized that she had done it--that Nick's mouth was open, too, and his lips pressing to hers more firmly--his tongue had slipped between her teeth, and she was too fascinated to make him stop. What was he doing? It felt... good. Strange, but agreeable.
His scent, which she caught clearly now that their bodies were so close, was agreeable, too. As was the heat of his body, and a low sound he made in the back of his throat as she slid her tongue against his.
One of his hands went to her waist, drawing her closer. The other curved over her breast, fingertips questing dexterously under her fichu within the space of a breath.
Mary jerked backward and slapped him with as much force as she could manage.
He laughed, and raised his hands. "I apologize, Miss Bennet. I found I could not help myself." Seeing that she did not intend to slap him again, he relaxed, and rubbed the side of his face. "You served me out soundly for it. My compliments to your boxing teacher."
Mary's palm was stinging; she hoped that it had hurt him. The skin of her bosom felt as if he had branded it with his touch. "Did it work?"
Nick's violet eyes went hazy for a moment as he focused on something Mary could not see. "No." He looked at her again, and grinned, the light from the window glinting on his earring. "But we could try again."