When she opened her eyes, the stranger was staring deeply into her face. After a long moment, he left the bed. Was he abandoning her, tied like this? No, the sound of fumbling came from across the room -- clothes rustling, then the scrape of a chair.
When he returned, he held up a shriveled skein. A French letter. Without a word, he dropped it into the glass of water in his other hand.
So he planned to ravish her before she died. Her throat went dry. Although she’d fought off a man who’d tried to take her by force, the thought of this handsome stranger using her body made her heart leap. His air of control, of sensual mastery, told her he’d take great pride in making her spend before he took his own pleasure.
He moved to the side of the bed and raised long fingers to his shirt buttons.
He stripped off his waistcoat and shirt, then peeled down his breeches in one smooth motion. Her mouth went dry at the sight of those broad shoulders. Even in his smallclothes, he was a threatening sight. In a bare instant he stood naked, his bronzed chest covered with a thick pelt of black hair arrowing down his torso. His member jutted tautly against his muscular belly, thickened with lust and longer than any she’d ever seen.
For a gentleman who must be nearing forty, he had a tremendous physique. No man had ever displayed himself so proudly for her before.
And yet he still wore the mask. Why protect his identity if he planned to kill her? Perhaps he merely threatened to do so…perhaps he would use her, question her, and set her free.
Tasha squeezed her eyes shut. No sane woman would look at a murderer with lust in her heart. No sane woman would anticipate her own ravishment.
She’d best think of escape, not passion. If she persuaded him to untie her, maybe she could find a way to escape when he was in the throes of lust. She could use the mug as a weapon. Yes, she’d have to convince him to untie at least one hand. But how?
When the mattress dipped, she opened her eyes. He knelt on the bed, towering over her with his engorged member less than a foot away from her breasts. His gaze seemed fixed on her midsection. “How shall I spend the half hour before the French letter is ready?”
His idle tone required no answer. Long fingers trailed down her neck to her breasts. The tight pinch on one nipple drew a groan from her throat. His touch burned even through the fabric of her shift.
“Why did you follow me, Tasha?”
“I…” With his fingertips rolling her nipple ’twas difficult to think. “I wasn’t following you.”
He released her nipple, only to scratch over it with a fingernail. Her shift did nothing to dull the sharp flick. She shuddered, involuntarily lifting her chest -- or trying to. He had her tied too tightly to move.
“Still no answer?” He scratched the other nipple, and she whimpered. “Don’t lie to me. I can make this painful or pleasant, you know.”
His head dipped, mouth suckling at her breast, wetting her shift. With his chin, he pushed the fabric down to bare one aching breast, and an ardent tongue circled the nipple he’d abused. The soft caress felt unbearably arousing after his punishing scrapes.
“You see?” The rumbling murmur made her skin come alive. “Let me give you pleasure, Tasha. Tell me the truth.”
Did he not realize that his slaps and pinches excited her? “I wanted to observe you.”
A hand stroked her naked breast, molding the sensitive flesh. When his lips suckled gently on her nipple, she moaned aloud.
She dared not say it.
He lifted his head, and the fingers on her breast gave a threatening squeeze. “For whom do you work?”
What on Earth did he mean? “I have no employer.”
A hard pinch on her nipple sent a zing
of pleasure to her quim. Her chest lifted with shallow pants, drawing his tormenting fingers closer. “Don’t make me hurt you, sweeting. I’ll do a good job of it, and no doubt hate myself for it on the morrow.”
A murderer who teased his victims. And yet his nearness, his nakedness, had her panting. His biceps were easily twice the width of her own puny arms. She wasn’t a small woman, but he made her feel delicate and vulnerable. “I work alone.”
He freed her breast and held a long blade in front of her face. “I’m not a patient man. Tell me now and death will come more easily to you. Perhaps I won’t even fuck you first.” The rogue grinned at her, teeth flashing in the dim light. “Unless you ask me politely to do so. I never disappoint a willing woman.”
How could his threats cause such unbearable throbbing between her legs? “There is nothing more to tell.”
He turned the blade from side to side, and a flash of light glittered along the edge. “You invite a painful death.”
Would a lie satisfy him? No, if she lied, he’d kill her for certain. He seemed far too perceptive; he’d see through subterfuge. But truthfulness might cause him to lower his guard. Perhaps she could even convince him she welcomed his ravishment.
She tried to give him a smile. “I have no reason to lie.”
The blade lowered to her chest, colder than ice between her breasts. Her skin quivered under the chilling metal. She closed her eyes tight, gritting her teeth against the pain that was sure to follow.
“Shall I give you a reason?”
Rending fabric pierced the silence. Goodness, he’d cut off her shift, baring her breasts. Her nipples drew tight in the cool air.
The icy blade slid up one breast and scraped across the bare nipple, spreading fear and shivers in its wake. Tears formed in her eyes, yet she had to bite her lip to stave off a moan.
Little shudders followed the knife down her belly to her quim. The stroking edge of the blade over her private hair made a faint scratching noise in the silence of the room. When would the knife slice? Where? She held her breath, trembling.
A hard clamp on her breast caused a cry. “Oh!” His mouth was on her, biting deep enough to bruise, his firm tongue lashing her aching nipple back and forth. Sanity shattered as throbbing heat pooled in her sex. The sensual pain was exquisite, a gnawing, burning pleasure. If he touched her quim for an instant, she would surely explode.
Please, please, touch me there.
Suddenly the fire was gone, her breast freed. When his head lifted, she whimpered at the loss.
Blue eyes stared deeply into hers. “I can make it hurt even worse, Tasha.”
Her cheeks flushed with heat. Thank heaven he didn’t realize she enjoyed the pain. He’d torture her for certain.
He lifted the knife again, stroking her cheek with the cool, flat side of the blade. “I could cut your tender skin…” His gaze wandered down her body, as though tracing the path his knife would take. “I can slice you to shreds and leave you conscious for a brutal fucking.”
Brutal? His torment so far had given her pain and delight in equal measure. One hand slid along her side, thumb playing in her bellybutton like a lover would do.
“I know how to be brutal, Tasha. And you’re so lovely, I feel inspired to go at you all night.” His eyes pierced through the slits of the mask, narrowed in threat. “But if by chance I tire, I’ll call in a dozen men to take you before you die.”
She’d beg before it came to that. Beg, scream, fight in whatever way she could. Pride be damned. Fear clogged her throat, but she forced out a word. “No.”
His fingers touched her cheek, so warm where the blade had been icy. “Don’t make me torture this delectable body of yours. Tell me what I need to know.”
“There…” Her breath caught. His vivid eyes and tight lips scattered her thoughts. “There is no more to tell.”
His mouth tightened with displeasure. When he rose to his knees, the bed sagged under her head, tilting her face to one side. His member bobbed before her eyes.
“If you won’t speak, I’ll find another use for your mouth.”
Would he --
Suddenly his lips fell upon hers, kissing her with fierce pressure, forcing her mouth open for the hard thrust of his questing tongue. She closed her eyes and returned his kiss, using her tongue to duel with his, returning every ounce of his passion.
If she pleased him, he’d untie her. He’d want to feel her hands playing on his body, her legs wrapped over his when he took her.
He nipped at her lips, tenderly bruising her flesh with his sharp teeth. Oh, how she wanted to pull him closer, force his mouth against hers. She could only moan, encouraging him with sound.
Suddenly his lips were gone. She opened her eyes in time to see him raise the knife high, poised to strike. Her heart pounded.
“Who sent you, Tasha? I will not ask you again.”
With passion clouding her mind, she couldn’t formulate a reply. She shook her head, and the blade glittered in his hand. The knife fell to the bed. She braced, but he’d dropped it next to her it seemed. His hand descended, slapping her hard across one breast.
She nearly screamed with the surprise, the jolt of pleasure.
Then hot moisture surrounded her breast -- his mouth again. Teeth scraped over her nipple, then captured it with shards of pain. He bit delicately, rolling the aching point between his teeth.
What a devil, to torment her with threats and passion by turns. He could do anything to her -- any perversion at all -- and she would be at his mercy. Powerless to stop him…and free to enjoy. He’d kill her when he was finished, but first she’d have her portion of pleasure from his torment.
He released her nipple and bit the side of her breast, hard enough to bruise. The pain thrummed into her racing heart.
“Tell me,” he muttered against the slope of her breast. “Who do you work for?”
Would it be better to invent a name? Surely he’d know she lied. “No one.” Her voice shook.
He raised his head and lifted one hand high above her. Oh, yes.
When she arched a little, offering her breast to him, he frowned. “You enjoy this?”
Her face burned with shame. Never would she admit such a thing.
Being treated roughly by a man was her secret pleasure, a need she dare not indulge. Many men were brutish and uncaring. None would understand that though she craved roughness during bed sport, she would not accept harsh treatment in other ways.
Men who weren’t brutish by nature would understand even less. Her mild-mannered husband had been horrified when she’d begged him to bite her, strike her, hurt her. The only true pleasure she’d had in his bed was the night he’d broken her maidenhead.
The masked stranger slid a hand from her knee up to her quim, then delved into her body with his thumb. His eyes went wide, lips parted in surprise. “My god, you’re soaking wet.”
No point in denying the truth he’d discovered. As he twisted his thumb deeper into her body, the remnants of sanity fled; her brain had long since clouded over with desire. If he killed her tonight, she might as well take what pleasure she could first. If she satisfied him well, perhaps he’d set her free.
She tilted her head, trying to give him a coquettish glance but no doubt looking ridiculous. With a slow stroke, she licked her lips, and his gaze fell to her mouth.
“Bite me,” she whispered. “Please bite me again.”