“You leave Harry out of this.” Claire was losing her resolve to tell Nyssa anything. She looked back at her plate of food.
“I’ll tell her you and I have spent nights of ecstasy together,” Trevelyan said softly. “I’ll tell her that of all the women I’ve had, you have given me the most pleasure.”
Claire looked up at him, and the way he was looking at her made chills go up her spine. “You would do that for me?”
He gave her the softest, swe
etest smile imaginable, and Claire smiled back at him. “Thank you,” she said, then on impulse, she leaned forward to kiss his cheek. She meant to kiss the scar on his right cheek, to kiss that place that had once caused him such pain, but he moved his head, or perhaps Claire moved hers, and instead she lightly kissed his lips.
When her lips touched his, it was as though an electric shock went through her. She drew away instantly and put her hand to her mouth, looking at Trevelyan in horror.
There wasn’t horror on Trevelyan’s face; he looked surprised. For one split second, that guarded look of his was gone, and she saw that he was as shocked by the brief kiss as she was.
Claire forgot all about lies to impress Nyssa. She got to her feet instantly. “I have to go,” she said, her voice sounding almost frantic. “Oman, will you guide me through the tunnels to my room?” Claire was busily fiddling with her skirt. Anything to keep from looking at Trevelyan.
“You don’t have to go through the tunnels,” Trevelyan said from behind her. “I’ll take you to the servants’ entrance.” He spoke as though his jaws were clenched, as though he couldn’t bear to give away words.
Claire started to protest, but she couldn’t seem to get the words out. Silently, she followed him down the stairs. She had walked with him, behind him, before him, many times, but this time was different. This time it was as though the very air around her were charged. The air felt as it did before an electrical storm.
At the bottom of the tower, he held the door open for her and they stepped into the cool, moonlit night. Claire shivered once and began to rub her arms, then looked up to see Trevelyan staring down at her. His eyes were like two coals, burning as they looked at her. She looked away from him and he started walking again.
She followed him along the side of the house and as they walked, she looked at him. She looked at the tall leanness of him, at the breadth of his shoulders, at the way his hips moved when he walked. She’d once thought him too thin, too old, too sickly, too different from Harry to be considered a handsome man. But now she could see that there was nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with him. At this moment he looked to her to be the most handsome man on earth.
At the back of the house he stopped abruptly and turned to her. “Go in this door, through the first doorway on your right. There’s a narrow staircase there and it’ll take you to the second floor. I assume you can find your way from there to your bedroom.”
She looked up at him and nodded, then he turned away. “Trevelyan,” she called after him.
He stopped and turned back to her but took no step in her direction. There was about three feet of space between them, but to Claire it might have been nothing. She could feel his nearness, feel the warmth from his body. The palms of her hands were beginning to itch.
“About what happened in there. I mean with Nyssa. I shouldn’t have done what I did.”
“What did you do?”
She’d never noticed his voice before. It was low and husky. It seemed to send tremors through her body. She tried to smile; she wanted to make light of what had happened and what she was feeling now. “The…kiss. It didn’t mean anything. It was just that Nyssa annoyed me and I didn’t like her implication that I was a woman who knew nothing.”
He stood there silently, just looking at her, not saying a word.
“You have no comment to make?” she asked, somewhat irritably.
He didn’t answer.
“I guess I’d better go in now,” she said.
Still he said nothing.
“Then I wish you good night,” she said.
He gave a curt nod, turned on his heel, and started walking away.
Although she knew it was wrong, although she told herself she shouldn’t—couldn’t—say another word, she heard herself whisper, “Vellie.” It was the smallest whisper in the world, so quiet, so soft that the breeze in the trees overhead completely covered it.
But Trevelyan heard it. One second he was what seemed to be miles away from her and the next he was in her arms and his lips were on hers.
Lust, she thought. She’d heard it was one of the seven deadly sins but she’d never experienced it before. Now, his lips on hers, she knew she wanted to bury herself in him, lose herself. She wanted to drown in him. She turned her head, not knowing how she knew what to do, but she did, and she felt the sweetness of his tongue touch hers.
Her body arched as she pressed against him, her breasts hurting inside her clothes, hurting as they pushed against his hard chest. He moved one leg so his thigh was between hers, and Claire moaned as she clinched that heavy thigh of his with her own. Her fingertips felt swollen, aching with wanting to touch him.
Some part of her knew that this was the only time she could ever touch him, that this was the last night. After this she could never, ever again feel him next to her. She could forgive herself one lapse but not two. She wanted all she could get from this moment. She wanted to feel as much of him as possible.