“None of that,” Jasper said.
“Stay, lads,” he ordered.
And then he tugged Octavia deeper into the maze of halls she had only begun to familiarize herself with in her jaunts to The Sinner’s Palace.
Jasper pulled the new Mrs. Sutton across the threshold of her chamber. He had intended to show her the room, give her a thorough tour of The Sinner’s Palace, and find some sustenance. He released her fingers and moved to close the door at her back.
But when he turned her once more, all his good intentions fled. He had never wanted another woman as much as he wanted her. The force of the realization nearly had him stumbling.
The gown she had chosen for their nuptials was fashioned of white satin, striped gauze, and creamy lace. It put her breasts on loving display and clung to her hips in a fashion that would have tempted even a saint. He was no saint. Silk flowers bedecked the skirt of her gown and decorated her bodice and dark hair. There was a strand of pearls at her throat.
The hour was yet early, not quite noon. The hell would not come to life for some time. No one was underfoot to stop him. And the only hunger burning to life inside him had nothing to do with food. It was a fire, licking through him, burning hotter and brighter with each passing second.
“Your chamber,” he said through a throat gone thick with need.
His gaze was not on the room, however. Pen and Lily, who had moved to separate chambers after Caro’s departure, were once more sharing so that Octavia could have her own space. It was what a lady would expect, and he meant to keep her comfortable even if he was not particularly interested in playing husband aside from when it meant he could bed her.
But Octavia’s honey-brown eyes were not on him. They were on her surroundings. Jasper knew it was not the luxury to which she would have been accustomed as the daughter of a lord. Pen had taken care with the wallcoverings and furnishings, freshening the room in anticipation of Octavia’s arrival.
“How lovely the chamber is,” his wife was saying now, genuine appreciation lacing her soft voice. “Thank you.”
Her gratitude sent a spear of shame to chase some of the lust. “Thank my sister Pen. I had naught to do with it.”
“I see.” Her gaze returned to his, and unless he was mistaken, there was disappointment in her face, in her tone. “I will endeavor to thank her when I see her next. When will that be, do you suppose? Your family cannot keep away from The Sinner’s Palace for long, I presume.”
He tamped down a surge of irritation at her concern for his family. “They’ll be about. Don’t worry yourself over that lot. They turn up like bad pennies.”
She smiled. “Of course.”
What was this? He did not like the change in her.
“You’re displeased,” he observed, frowning.
They were not meant to be at odds just now. They were meant to be naked on her bed.
“I am merely growing accustomed to all the changes which have happened today.” She moved past him, beginning a cursory circumnavigation of the room. “This writing desk is lovely. I shall make good use of it.”
He planted his hands on his hips and watched her, the longing rising, supplanting all else. “If there is aught you need, merely ask. I will see it brought for you.”
She cast a glance over her shoulder. “There is only one need I have at the moment.”
His cock, already tortured after the weeks he had spent waiting to make Octavia his wife, stiffened against the placket of his trousers. Jasper had never been the sort of man who suffered privations when it came to female companionship. Since he and his siblings had built The Sinner’s Palace into the formidable success it had become—not without some dubious means, he would admit—he had never been without eager bedmates.
And yet, ever since his eyes had first lit upon an ebony-haired, brown-eyed lady, no other woman would do. As a result, he had been celibate for weeks upon weeks, and he was nearly mad with longing. He fervently hoped her need was the same as his. But something—perhaps common sense—suggested it was not.
“Oh?” he managed, silently praying she did not take note of the effect she had upon him.
His body knew no shame. His mind, however, did. It was a novel sensation for him. Satan’s teeth, this reaction to her was stronger than he had anticipated. He was not sure he liked it.
“The ability to start my own scandal journal,” she told him.
He had been correct. That was not the answer he wanted.