A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Seventeen

He’d been dreaming of her in the candlelight, stretched out on a bed, at his mercy, but dreams didn’t come even close to reality. Now he had something to dream about, to remember. She was beautiful, her golden skin, the candlelight only making it glow more, contrasting with the white linens, her lips parted, her eyes languid and heavy-lidded. He could die now and die happy. She fit to him, against him, around him perfectly as if she’d been made for him. And her response had driven him absolutely insane with lust. So frenzied he’d had to keep a tight rein on his control in order not to hurt her. And still he’d gone too fast, losing control completely when she’d squeezed around him. The minx. He hadn’t been able to enjoy the view of her writhing underneath him, he hadn’t been able to imprint it into his memory fully. He’d just have to give it another go.

He grinned, lifted his head, and realized he was still lying on top of her. Damn it, she probably couldn’t breathe. He was hurting her. He slid out of her, gritting his teeth as her channel tightened around him as if not wanting to let him go. He just might die tonight. Her forehead creased, and her eyes slowly opened.

“Don’t go.”

He had no intention of going anywhere, and even if he wanted to, that soft plea would’ve kept him there as if chained to her. “I’m squishing you,” he whispered.

“Mmmm.” She smiled drowsily, rolled over onto her stomach, and tucked her arms under the pillow.

Aramis smiled, brushed her hair off her back...And froze. Short white lines crisscrossed her back. The scars looked old, healed over a long time ago, but Aramis knew scars never truly faded. Especially not those invisible to the eye. Inner scars a woman like Alexandra Hamilton-Burke also carried, judging by the ones he could see on her back.

He tenderly brushed his fingertip over one of the scars, and she stiffened. She must’ve forgotten her back was exposed, that he could see her in the glow of the candles. “What happened?” he murmured.

“Life,” she replied just as quietly, her voice guarded.

He bit back a curse. The scars looked like the markings of a whipping. He couldn’t imagine how she might’ve gotten them, what had happened to her. Why had no one protected her? Or had her brother the same signs of disciplining?

She made to turn, but he stayed her with a palm gently placed between her shoulder blades. “Don’t move,” he whispered. “What did you say before? Scars are badges of honour.”

She snorted, the sound filled with disgust. “Honour had nothing to do with it.”

What happened? Why had she been beaten? He wanted to ask, but knew she wouldn’t tell him, she was already pulling away. He couldn’t let that happen. He leaned down, pressed his lips to one of the many scars, noticing that up close there were many more, some shallower, more undetectable, than the others. “Yet you wear them with dignity,” he whispered, kissed another scar. “And pride. They are medals of valour.”

He continued his exploration, kissing and licking every scar he encountered, his heart breaking at the thought of her suffering through beatings—yes, multiple, judging by the scarring, so severe they left indelible marks. Kissing and licking down her back until her breathing quickened, and her skin heated. Then he turned her in his arms, and once again claimed her mouth. And her body.


“Aramis,” she panted, hanging above him, her knees on either side of him, her eyes a little wild. “Help me.”

He gritted his teeth to stave off his own climax. He wasn’t yet so far gone to forget her pleasure came first. That’s why he’s let her ride him until he was almost cross-eyed. There was no chance he’d leave her behind. Moving one hand from where it gripped her hip, he reached between their bodies, and brushed the pad of his thumb gently over her nub, and watched her come undone.

She arched her back like a cat, eyes closed, a long, guttural moan erupting from her kiss-swollen lips. He wanted to enjoy the view longer, but sheathed deep inside her, he could feel every spasm, every aftershock, every muscle squeezing around him like an iron fist. And with one last surge, shards of white-hot pleasure shooting out of his balls and along his cock, he joined her.

She collapsed on top of him, panting and trembling. “I love you,” she whispered as she nuzzled into his neck.

Aramis heart swelled. It wasn’t just post-coital nonsense, he doubted Alexandra ever said anything she didn’t truly mean. She loved him. He’d dreamt of this moment as well, and once more reality was so much better. She loved him. She loved him. A common soldier with blood on his hands, with no real home, and no fortune to his name—

He stiffened. What kind of life would she have with him? What could he possibly offer her? Nothing, except his love. But love didn’t pay bills, it didn’t put food into hungry mouths. And it didn’t keep people alive. What would become of her if he died, if he made her a widow, leaving their children fatherless? Children. Merde, she could be with child right now, he hadn’t protected her. He hadn’t done nothing but ruin her reputation if she remained with child. Would her brother marry her off, make another man accept his child as his own? A nobleman with lands and fortune, able to give her what she deserved. He certainly couldn’t. She deserved better than him and he certainly didn’t deserve her.

He disentangled himself from her limp limbs, stood, and quickly dressed. It was time to end this folly once and for all. For both their sake.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he replied curtly, searching for his sword, before he remembered leaving it in the park before climbing to her window. What had he been thinking climbing into her bedchamber? Apparently nothing, he hadn’t been thinking at all.

“Aramis.”

Her voice was so small, he couldn’t help but look at her. Mistake! She was sitting on the bed, clutching the sheet to her breast, her eyes hurt.

“What did I do?”

He swallowed, the urge to go to her, take her into his arms, and tell her everything would be all right, riding him hard. He wanted to tell her he loved her, promise her forever, but it would be an empty promise. “You didn’t to anything.”

Her eyes were suddenly flat. “Is it because I told you that I love you?”

He closed his eyes. Did she have to repeat it? “Alexandra.”

“You don’t have to say it back, I know you don’t feel the same way.”

“Jesus.” Of course, he felt the same way, how could she doubt it? But had he truly given her any indication she shouldn’t? “What do you want from me?”

“Nothing,” she echoed his earlier reply, her voice even, calm.

He looked at her with disbelief. “Nothing? You just told me that you love me, you must expect something in return.”

She shrugged. “I don’t.”

Women always expected something in return. She couldn’t be any different. “I won’t marry you,” he blurted out.

“I didn’t ask you to,” she retorted, her voice reasonable.

He sputtered. “Excuse me?”

“I never mentioned marriage.”

“Then what?” He was utterly confused.

She merely looked at him.

“No!” he snapped. “No!”

“What?”

“I won’t make you my mistress.”

“You already did,” she said, so damned reasonably that he wanted to strangle her.

“Lover,” he corrected. “And that is over as well.”

“Why?”

He surely was dreaming. He was lying somewhere in a ditch, bleeding to death, dreaming up this idiotic conversation. “You’re English, you’re returning home soon.”

“I don’t have to.”

Why did she have to be so calm? Why did she have to speak to him in such a reasonable matter? Why couldn’t she act like all the other women? Cry, threaten, beg, throw things. “You’re going back to England, Alexandra.”

She stood off the bed and walked toward him, the sheet tucked around her body as if she wore a wedding gown. “Why?” she repeated. “Why can’t I stay here with you?”

“No.” He swallowed as she stopped in front of him, their bodies almost touching. He needed to get out of here before he said something he shouldn’t, before he caved.

She frowned. “But why, Aramis,” she insisted. “You might not love me, but you desire me. I please you, give you pleasure.” She spoke clinically, detachedly, her voice even. Too even.

“You deserve better.”

She reared back as if he’d slapped her. “What do you know about what I deserve?”

It was his turn to frown. “You’re a duke’s sister. You deserve a better life than I could give you. You need someone who can offer you all that you’re used to—”

“Get out,” she hissed.

“What?”

“Who the hell are you to tell me what I’m used to?” she growled, her eyes thunderous. “You have no idea. You don’t know who I am, what I am. And you know nothing about what I want and what I deserve. Only I know that. No one dictates my life, not my brother, and least of all you. Only I decide what I want, and since what I want doesn’t want to have anything to do with me,” she said pointedly, “I want you to get out. And I don’t want you to return.”

If he hadn’t been already in love with her, he would’ve fallen for her now. She was beautiful, standing there in nothing but a bed sheet, lecturing him, magnificent in her indignation and anger. He wanted to kiss her just to see her eyes blaze even more with anger. Her dry eyes. “Why aren’t you crying?” he blurted out.

She arched an eyebrow, and he knew he was risking getting punched. “Excuse me?”

“Women usually cry at moments like this.”

“I’m not like most women,” she told him, as if he needed a reminder, she kept surprising him. “And I learned a long time ago that tears are completely useless and an utter waste of energy.”

He remembered the scars, and he wanted to kill whomever had hurt her, whomever had taught a young girl that not even crying would help.

“You know your way out.” She grabbed a handful of her makeshift gown, and turned from him. “Try not to break your neck while you’re at it. Wouldn’t want to have you on my conscience,” she threw over her shoulder, blew out the candles, and sailed out of the bedchamber, head held high. An exit worthy of a queen.


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