To her surprise, Lady Mallory Byron finds herself walking down the aisle with the last man she ever expected to ask for her hand.
Everyone knows the Byron brothers are “mad, bad, and dangerous.” Now their sister shockingly discovers she’s the newest talk of the Ton when she marries the scandalous Earl of Gresham. Faced with a tragic loss, she’d sought comfort from him as a family friend. But soon consolation turned to passion, scandal––and a wedding! In the bridal bed, she finds pleasure beyond her wildest dreams. But can nights of wicked delight change friendship into true love?
Charming rakehell Adam, Earl of Gresham, has secretly loved Mallory for years. He lost her once to another man, but now he has a second chance to win her love––and plans to do so by any means necessary. Will Mallory’s heart give him what he so dearly desires? Or is the past too much to overcome?
Nominee for Romantic Times BookReviews Best Regency Set Historical of 2010.
Selected as one of the Apple iBookstore’s “Best Books of 2010.”
Selected as one of Joyfully Reviewed "Best of 2010"
Finalist for RomCon, Inc Readers’ Crown Award Best Long Historical Romance
"From page one this book is a reader’s delight!"––Mary Gramlich, The Reading Reviewer
"I loved this story!! LOVED IT! Warren delivers exactly what I’m looking for in historical romance! Sexy and wildly emotional, Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed should be on the top of all historical romance lovers to-be-read list." –Melissa, Joyfully Reviewed.com
"Warren’s emotionally wrought protagonists are beautifully portrayed. Romance fans who aren’t missish about sex scenes will delight in this book."—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Grade A** "Another fabulous story! Wicked Delights Of A Bridal Bed is definitely remaining on my keeper shelf and is most assuredly one of my picks for a Selected Read."–Rose, Romance At Heart.com
“An exceptionally entertaining Regency historical [that] offers readers a delectable combination of lushly elegant writing and lusciously sensual romance.”––John Charles, Chicago Tribune
4 1/2 Stars TOP PICK! “Warren's incomparable talents lie not just in plotting and pace, but in creating characters like the Byrons of Braebourne, who leap off the pages."––Kathe Robin, Romantic Times Book Reviews
Drawing a breath, Adam Gresham stroked a hand along Mallory’s arm, and met her sorrowful, sea-colored gaze. “I can tell you without hesitation that Michael Hargreaves wouldn’t want you to be sad either. He would want you to live and have a happy life. He’s found his own peace. Give yourself the right to find yours.”
Mallory trembled, something shattering on her face. “But I’m afraid I’ll forget him,” she confessed on a whisper, as more tears slid free. “We had such a short time together before he was sent away to fight. I worry if I go back to my old life that it will be as if he never existed. As if I’ve abandoned him somehow.”
Adam curved an arm around her back and drew her close. “You haven’t abandoned him and you will never forget. You loved him. Real love never fades.” He pressed a handkerchief into her hand and offered what comfort he could, as she buried her face against his chest and cried.
He didn’t speak as he held her, fighting the jealousy that twisted inside him while she sobbed out her love and grief for another man. It was an emotion unworthy of him and one he knew he should not feel. Still, he wasn’t a saint, far from it. He was only human, only a man. And despite his best efforts to be noble and self-sacrificing, a small, selfish part of him couldn’t help but resent the hold Hargreaves had on Mallory––even from beyond the grave.
At length, her tears ceased, her sobs turning to shaky inhalations and weary sighs, as she leaned against him. Using the damp silk handkerchief she held balled up inside her fist, she blew her nose and blotted her tearstained eyes.
Reaching into his pocket, he produced a fresh handkerchief. “Here, have another.”
She drew a hiccupping breath, and tried, but didn’t quite manage to smile. “You’re right, I have rather used this first one up, haven’t I?” Accepting the second square of white silk, she pressed the dry cloth to her eyes and cheeks and nose, pausing at his gentle urging to give “one more good blow” despite the inelegance of such behavior.
But he and Mallory had known each other for far too many years to stand on formality at this point. If they had, she would never have cried in his arms today at all, he realized.
“Gracious,” she declared, straightening slightly inside his embrace. “I must look a sight.”
But she didn’t, she looked beautiful, he thought. Her lashes framed her luminous aquamarine eyes in dark, spiky rings, while her cheeks were burnished as red as a crisp fall apple. As for her lips, they were swollen from her crying––plump and full and lusciously moist.
Sweet as candy, he thought. And every bit as delicious, he was sure.
“No,” he murmured in answer to her query. “You look lovely as always.” Then, before he even knew what he was doing, he bent and touched his mouth to hers, desperate for a taste, however brief it might be.
But a taste couldn’t begin to be enough, yearning roaring to life inside him, burning in his veins as blood beat between his temples and pooled lower in his belly and between his thighs.
She gave a clearly startled whimper, but didn’t try to push him away. If she had, perhaps he would have stopped. Instead, desire urged him on, encouraging him to take more. He’d waited years to hold her like this and kiss her. He’d dreamt countless times of how her lips would feel against his and the way her small, supple body would curve into his own much taller one. Yet his imagination was as insipid as water to wine when compared with reality––the sensations, scents, and flavors more divine than anything his mind could create.
Mallory, my love, he whispered in his head, as he gave in to what he craved and deepened the kiss. Parting her mouth, he claimed her with a long, slow, sultry ease that was just this side of heaven.
She whimpered again, this time with confused hesitation, the relative inexperience of her touch impressing itself upon him as nothing else could have done. She might have been kissed before, he realized, but she was still a novice when it came to sex and the sensual arts. He, on the other hand, was experienced––extremely experienced––with a knowledge of things that would have set her blushing from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes. Compared to him, Mallory was a dewy-eyed lamb wandering unaware in a peaceful meadow, while he was the hungry, ravening wolf lying in wait just over the nearest rise.
Suddenly aware of exactly what he was doing, he broke their kiss. She swayed slightly in his grasp, her eyes closed as breath puffed in tiny gusts from her mouth.
“Oh,” she sighed.
“Oh” didn’t begin to describe it.
Taking a step back, he made sure she was steady on her feet, then he let her go.
Her eyes popped open and immediately fixed on his. “W-what was that?”
Rather than responding, he lifted a brow, schooling his features into a calmness that hid the violent need still coursing through his body.
“I-I mean I know what it was,” she went on in a breathless voice that made shivers run down his spine. “But why? Why did you k-kiss me?”
She looked utterly and completely bewildered.
“Because, my sweet,” he drawled in a smooth tone, “you looked as if you needed to be.”
Mallory stared, her heart racing frantically in her chest.
Stars and garters, she thought, Adam just kissed me. And not a peck either but a full-blown, passionate claiming that was unlike any kiss she’d ever had before. Even Michael had never kissed her like that and he’d been her fiancé.
She paused suddenly at the thought of Michael, yet she was so dazed, so mesmerized, that the usual melancholy she felt when she thought of him didn’t appear. All she could do was stand there, her entire body tingling with heat and pleasure.
For years, she’d been aware of the rumors about Adam’s prowess and reports of all the women who secretly––and not so secretly––clamored to share his bed. Once at a party in London, she’d accidentally overheard a pair of women––one a widow and another who wished she were––comparing a list of their lovers. None of them, the widow told her friend, came close to the ecstasy she’d found in Adam Gresham’s arms. Then she’d gone on to bemoan the fact that she’d only been with him once and that despite her best efforts to win him back, he wasn’t interested.
Apparently, Adam had a habit of never staying with any one woman for long, his elusive behavior seeming only to enhance his already formidable appeal among the fairer sex. And now that she’d experienced his kiss, she could see that his reputation for pleasuring women was in no way an exaggeration. Fully two minutes had passed since he’d ended their own kiss and she was still worried the top of her head might blow off, her riding hat along with it.
“Are you hungry?” he inquired, jarring her out of her musings.
“I had Cook pack us a little something again just in case.”
Hungry? How could he possibly think of food at a moment like this? Then she recalled why he said he’d kissed her.
Because, sweetheart, you looked as if you needed to be.
So it had been a sympathy kiss, had it? His embrace driven not out of any real sense of desire for her, but rather from a need to distract and cheer her.
What a lowering realization.
And yet, she knew he’d meant it in a kindly way and was only acting as her friend. Obviously, he was willing to do whatever it might take to rally her spirits, even if that might require shocking her out of her gloom with an unexpected embrace.
One that had clearly dazzled her more than Adam.
All she had to do was look at him to confirm that fact, since he seemed his usual calm, sophisticated self, unruffled and apparently unaffected as well. Considering all the women he must have kissed in his two-and-thirty years, why should she be surprised? She was just one among many, she supposed, memorable only by virtue of the fact that she was his long-time friend.
No wonder he was so unfazed.
For all she knew, maybe he hadn’t enjoyed their kiss at all. And if that were true, what must his touch be like when he really wanted a woman?
Her brows drew into a frown.
Adam cocked his head. “Shall we stay and eat or would you rather ride home?”
A mere half an hour ago, she would have opted to ride straight home. But a strange restfulness seemed to have invaded her system, along with a sense of shared understanding. Adam knew what it was to grieve. He’d experienced loss and come out the other side. As for his rather high-handed kiss, she supposed she couldn’t hold it against him, not when she knew his intentions had been good.
Besides, she’d left the house again this morning without eating breakfast and quite suddenly she realized she was starving.
“A light meal wouldn’t go amiss,” she admitted. “But don’t think we’re going to make a habit of riding together and sharing a meal in this spot every morning.”
“Of course not,” he said solemnly. Then he ruined the effect by smiling, his face so handsome her breath caught at the sight.
It’s only the kiss, she told herself, and she would forget it in a trice. She and Adam were friends, no more, no less, and he was only devoting himself to her at present because of that friendship.
For now she would let herself take advantage of his kindness and hope it helped her heal. Beyond that, she didn’t know. She would deal with each day as it came and care naught for the future.
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