The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1) - Page 27

“Well, yes,” he said with affected modesty, “but I wasn’t going to say it.”

She swatted him on the arm.

He kissed her in return. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.”

“And how is the clan Bridgerton?” he asked, linking his arm through hers.

“Rather wonderful,” Francesca replied. “I am having a splendid time, actually.”

“Actually?” he echoed, looking vaguely amused.

Francesca steered him away from the house. It had been over a week since she’d had his company, and she didn’t wish to share him just then. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“You said ‘actually.’ As if you were surprised.”

“Of course not,” she said. But then she thought. “I always have a lovely time when I visit my family,” she said carefully.

“But . . .”

“But it’s better this time.” She shrugged. “I don’t know why.”

Which wasn’t precisely the truth. That moment with her mother—there had been magic in those tears.

But she couldn’t tell him that. He’d hear the bit about crying and nothing else, and then he’d worry, and she’d feel terrible for worrying him, and she was tired of all that.

Besides, he was a man. He’d never understand, anyway.

“I feel happy,” she announced. “Something in the air.”

“The sun is shining,” he observed.

She gave him a jaunty, single-shouldered shrug and leaned back against a tree. “Birds are singing.”

“Flowers blooming?”

“Just a few,” she admitted.

He regarded the landscape. “All the moment needs is a cherubic little bunny hopping across the field.”

She smiled blissfully and leaned into him for a kiss. “Bucolic splendor is a marvelous thing.”

“Indeed.” His lips found hers with familiar hunger. “I missed you,” he said, his voice husky with desire.

She let out a little moan as he nipped her ear. “I know. You said that.”

“It bears repeating.”

Francesca meant to say something witty about never tiring of hearing it, but at that moment she found herself pressed rather breathlessly against the tree, one of her legs lifted up around his hips.

“You wear far too many clothes,” he growled.

“We’re a little too close to the house,” she gasped, her belly clenching with need as he pressed more intimately against her.

“How far,” he murmured, one his hands stealing under her skirts, “is ‘not too close’?”

“Not far.”

He drew back and gazed at her. “Really?”

“Really.” Her lips curved, and she felt devilish. She felt powerful. And she wanted to take charge. Of him. Of her life. Of everything.

“Come with me,” she said impulsively, and she grabbed his hand and ran.

Michael had missed his wife. At night, when she was not beside him, the bed felt cold, and the air felt empty. Even when he was tired, and his body was not hungry for her, he craved her presence, her scent, her warmth.

He missed the sound of her breathing. He missed the way the mattress moved differently when there was a second body on it.

He knew, even though she was more reticent than he, and far less likely to use such passionate words, that she felt the same way. But even so, he was pleasantly surprised to be racing across a field, letting her take the lead, knowing that in a few short minutes he would be buried deep within her.

“Here,” she said, skidding to a halt at the bottom of a hill.

“Here?” he asked dubiously. There was no cover of trees, nothing to block them from sight should anyone stroll by.

She sat. “No one comes this way.”

“No one?”

“The grass is very soft,” she said seductively, patting a spot beside her.

“I’m not even going to ask how you know that,” he muttered.

“Picnics,” she said, her expression delightfully outraged, “with my dolls.”

He took off his coat and laid it like a blanket on the grass. The ground was softly sloped, which he would imagine would be more comfortable for her than horizontal.

He looked at her. He looked at the coat. She didn’t move.

“You,” she said.


“Lie down,” she ordered.

He did. With alacrity.

And then, before he’d had time to make a comment, to tease or cajole, or even really to breathe, she’d straddled him.

“Oh, dear G—” he gasped, but he couldn’t finish. She was kissing him now, her mouth hot and hungry and aggressive. It was all deliciously familiar—he loved knowing every little bit of her, from the slope of her breast to the rhythm of her kisses—and yet this time, she felt a little . . .



One of his hands moved to the back of her head. At home he liked to pull the pins out one by one, watching each lock tumble from her coiffure. But today he was too needy, too urgent, and he didn’t have patience for—

“What was that for?” he asked. She had yanked his hand away.

Her eyes narrowed languidly. “I’m in charge,” she whispered.

His body tightened. More. Dear God, she was going to kill him.

“Don’t go slow,” he gasped.

But he didn’t think she was listening. She was taking her time, undoing his breeches, letting her hands flutter along his belly until she found him.

“Frannie . . .”

One finger. That’s all she gave him. One featherlight finger along his shaft.

She turned, looked at him. “This is fun,” she remarked.

He just focused on trying to breathe.

“I love you,” she said softly, and he felt her rise. She hoisted her skirts to her thighs as she positioned herself, and then, with one spectacularly swift stroke, she took him within her, her body coming to rest against his, leaving him embedded to the hilt.

He wanted to move then. He wanted to thrust up, or flip her over and pound until they were both nothing but dust, but her hands were firm on his hips, and when he looked up at her, her eyes were closed, and she almost looked as if she were concentrating.

Her breathing was slow and steady, but it was loud, too, and with each exhale she seemed to bear down on him just a little bit heavier.

“Frannie,” he groaned, because he didn’t know what else to do. He wanted her to move faster. Or harder. Or something, but all she did was rock and back and forth, her hips arching and curving in delicious torment. He clutched her hips, intending to move her up and down, but she opened her eyes and shook her head with a soft, blissful smile.

“I like it this way,” she said.

He wanted something different. He needed something different, but when she looked down at him, she looked so damned happy that he could deny her nothing. And then, sure enough, she began to shudder, and it was strange, because he knew the feel of her climax so well, and yet this time it seemed softer . . . and stronger, at the same time.

She swayed, and she rocked, and then she let out a little scream and sagged against him.

And then, to his utter and complete surprise, he came. He hadn’t thought he was ready. He hadn’t thought he was remotely near climax, not that it would have taken long had he been able to move beneath her. But then, without warning,

he had simply exploded.

They lay that way for some time, the sun falling gently on them. She burrowed her face in his neck, and he held her, wondering how it was possible that such moments existed.

Because it was perfect. And he would have stayed there forever, had he been able. And even though he didn’t ask her, he knew she felt the same.

They’d meant to go home two days after the christening, Francesca thought as she watched one of her nephews tackle the other to the ground, but here it was, three weeks out, and they had not even begun to pack.

“No broken bones, I hope.”

Francesca smiled up at her sister Eloise, who had also elected to stay on at Aubrey Hall for an extended visit. “No,” she answered, wincing slightly when the future Duke of Hastings—otherwise known as Davey, aged eleven—let out a war whoop as he jumped from a tree. “But it’s not for lack of trying.”

Eloise took a seat beside her and tilted her face to the sun. “I’ll put my bonnet on in a minute, I swear it,” she said.

“I can’t quite determine the rules of the game,” Francesca remarked.

Eloise didn’t bother to open her eyes. “That’s because there are none.”

Francesca watched the chaos with fresh perspective. Oliver, Eloise’s twelve-year-old stepson, had grabbed hold of a ball—since when had there been a ball?—and was racing across the lawn. He appeared to reach his goal—not that Francesca would ever be sure whether that was the giant oak stump that had been there since she was a child or Miles, Anthony’s second son, who had been sitting cross-legged and cross-armed since Francesca had come outside ten minutes earlier.

But whichever was the case, Oliver must have won a point, because he slammed the ball against the ground and then jumped up and down with a triumphant cry. Miles must have been on his team—this was the first indication Francesca had that there were teams—because he hopped to his feet and celebrated in kind.

Eloise opened one eye. “My child didn’t kill anyone, did he?”


“No one killed him?”

Francesca smiled. “No.”

“Good.” Eloise yawned and resettled into her chaise.

Francesca thought about her words. “Eloise?”


“Do you ever . . .” She frowned. There really wasn’t any right way to ask this. “Do you ever love Oliver and Amanda . . .”

Tags: Julia Quinn Bridgertons Romance
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