Copyright © Sabrina York, 2016
An annoying illicit thrill walked down her spine as he took a step toward her with something glinting in his eyes. But she was no longer the innocent trusting girl with whom he’d once dallied. She was no longer a passionate soul. The long cold winter of her marriage had frozen her to the core. Nothing could thaw her. Certainly not his laugh, his smile, his smoldering gaze.
There was no place for him in her life now.
She swallowed the lump in her throat at the thought, at the regrets screaming through her. They were as pointless as her frail, withering hope.
Her hands were red with cold. Surely that was the only reason she turned away from him and stormed over to the hearth. Trembling, only a tad, she held her palms closer to the licking warmth. He followed, stood behind her. Far too close. Heat rolled off him in waves, bathing her back.
“Cressida.” Oh, how did he do that? His voice, a low rumble, resonated through her, sending an echoing twinge through her barren womb. “Your clothes are damp. You should take them off.”
She spun around with a squawk of indignation.
Oh dear. Perhaps she shouldn’t have done that. He was so close, the tips of her breasts scraped over his bare chest. Her nipples pinged with delight at the contact.
Drawing in a sharp breath, she stepped back.
Again he followed.
And then, before her mind could process his intention, he put his large hands to her waist and lifted her, spinning her around to settle her in the chair by the fire. He knelt before her and flipped the hem of her velvet dress up onto her knees. Shock, outrage and an illicit brand of anticipation warred within her, making her utterly incapable of speech or movement.
Slowly, he slipped her shoes from her feet. And her stockings. Then he cupped each foot in his warm grasp. Rubbing. Stroking. Stoking some long-dead fire in her belly.
“Stop that,” she hissed, attempting to yank away. He did not allow it.
But then, truth be told, she didn’t want to yank away. Dear Lord, it was exquisite, the firm caress of his knowing fingers on her tender flesh.
What a pity it was wholly inappropriate. She should make him stop.
“Your feet are like ice.”
“It’s cold outside,” she muttered. “I just marched through a blizzard.”
“Hmm.” He bent his head. His hot breath trickled over her toes. She squirmed, tried desperately to hold in a moan. “I noticed that.” He glanced up and their gazes met. “You came to chastise me, to punish me for my defiance.”
“Yes.” All right. Perhaps she hadn’t needed to snap. But now he was trickling his fingertips over her instep and at the seam of her toes. It was delicious, but far too much to bear.
“I also noticed you came alone.”
“And?” She succeeded in wrenching her foot from his grasp.
He found the other.
“I thought it…interesting that you didn’t bring your Royal Guard.”
“I— I…” She hadn’t bothered to rouse them. She’d been too infuriated.
“As though you wanted to be alone with me.” His expression tightened. Gone was the subservient minion. All of a sudden, he was once again the dark and dangerous boy who once had held her down and kissed her. Teased her. Mercilessly. His fingers rose higher, massaged her calves. Then, when she didn’t protest—couldn’t, in fact—they rose higher.
Slowly, he drew her knees apart.
“Do you remember the games we played, Cressida?”
Oh. Oh. She remembered. She’d never forgotten. Never stopped aching.