Margaret Moore

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Authors: A Rogues Embrace
you have had a son, there is no need to act the unwilling, ignorant virgin.”
    “Perhaps you have been around actresses so much, you can no longer tell when a reaction is feigned or genuine. I assure you, Sir Richard, I am not
acting
anything.”
    “Would you rather disobey the king and risk his displeasure?”
    “I would rather have other choices.”
    Ignoring her remark, her husband sat up and bundled his breeches into a large ball. He listened to the now-thankfully-hushed voices beyond the bed curtains. Then, leaning over her, he opened the curtains and threw his breeches across the room.
    Charles’s rich laugh boomed. “A most excellent toss, Blythe!” he cried. “You hit Villiers right in the head.”
    “A thousand pardons, Buckingham. My wife was toying with me at the time.”
    Elissa gasped and flushed hotly as the courtiers snickered.
    “We are glad to hear you are making progress,” the king remarked. “Now, who has brought the cards? Shall we play cribbage?”
    Ignoring his beautiful wife, who apparently wanted nothing at all to do with him, Richard moved back to his side of the bed and contemplated the horrible irony of his situation. Minette and his other former mistresses might consider it just, perhaps, that he should wed a woman who apparently found him utterly unappealing, while he burned with passionate desire.
    As Elissa had stood before him clad only in her thin chemise, her bounteous hair flowing to her waist just as he had imagined, he hadthought her the most beautiful, desirable woman he had ever seen.
    There had also been a virginal vulnerability about her distinctly at odds with her surroundings and company. Given her subsequent behavior, however, he feared her vulnerability might have been completely imaginary.
    And since she had a child, she was most certainly no virgin.
    Well, that was something to be thankful for, he thought, his sardonic sense of humor coming to his aid. And there were many worse commands the king could make. Had he not, after all, pledged his sword to the king’s service? Of course, he had had a metal blade in mind at the time.
    He would simply have to begin at the beginning.
    He reached out and ran his hand up her slender arm. He could feel her tension, and his caress did not lessen it. “You do not have to be so stiff, madam. I should be, but not you.”
    “Tell me, Sir Richard,” she said, his attempt at humor obviously completely missing the mark, “do you like to have an audience for everything?”
    “I agree that having company in such close proximity is not conducive to intimacy, yet they cannot see us and if we are quiet, will hear little, unless my prowess—”
    “I will be quiet. Just do what you must and be done with it!”
    “Your current attitude is hardly encouraging.”
    “Since when has a husband required encouragement? Or a man of your ilk?”
    “My ilk?”
    “Your experience, then, or your many conquests.”
    “If one’s alleged opponent surrenders eagerly, can it be called a conquest?”
    “Are you always so talkative, sir?” Elissa demanded with exasperation. “Or is this what a playwright considers a necessary prologue, like that before the play begins in earnest? If so, given that I am not an ignorant virgin, you may dispense with it.”
    “My sweet,” he whispered, inching closer, “there is no such thing as an unnecessary prologue when I am the writer. Allow me to demonstrate how necessary—and pleasurable—a prologue can be.”
    Elissa realized he was getting under the covers. In another moment, his naked body would be beside hers.
    In another moment, it was.
    “There is no need to be so anxious, wife,” he whispered. He took her hand, but did not kiss it. Instead, he pressed it against his warm, bare chest. She felt his taut muscles and the beating of his heart. “You have nothing to fear from me.”
    “I am not afraid of you.”
    “I am glad to hear you say so.”
    He lifted her hand to his chin so that her

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