She took another sip from her champagne glass, set it back down on the small side table, and selected a new letter from the looming pile of Sebastian’s unopened correspondence. Had it not been for her insistence, he would have left the whole stack behind untouched at his chateau in Brittany. He was enjoying his newly found laissez-faire attitude with his typical thoroughness. She had read two ignored letters from the new prime minister, William Gladstone, who tried to woo Sebastian to become a strategic advisor for the Liberal party, and from Lady Lingham, who, keen to make amends, offered to introduce Annabelle into polite society in a while, preferably as some “long-lost French nobility.” And this missive, holy hell, was from His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. Sent months ago!
A splashing sound had her pulse kick up. She lowered the letter in her lap and watched as Sebastian’s head appeared over the yacht’s ladder, followed by the sculpted curves of his bare shoulders.
Her face heated. After they had set anchor at the Peloponnesian coast a few days ago, her new husband had taken one look at his swimming costume and had decided to dive into the sea naked as God had made him. And he was so, so well made. Tall and lean and gleaming wet in the sunlight, he was a sleek Poseidon rising from his element. Rivulets of water were streaming down his torso, across defined bands of muscle and slim white hips. He was already half aroused, and now her skin was heating up all over.
His bare feet left wet tracks on the smooth floorboards as he padded toward her. In his right hand, he held a glossy pink seashell.
He placed the shell next to her champagne flute and looked down at her expectantly. Here under the azure Greek skies, his eyes looked almost blue.
She smiled. “I see you come bearing gifts.”
“Treasures of the sea for Your Grace,” he said absently.
His gaze had homed in on where her silk robe had parted in the front and revealed soft, bare skin.
“You have a letter from the Prince of Wales,” she said.
“Bertie? What does he want?”
“Essentially, he says, ‘I didn’t think you had it in you, old chap. You were so dreadfully stuffy back at Eton. Come hunting with me in autumn.’”
“Hmm,” Sebastian said, his eyes glittering as if he were already on the stalk.
She couldn’t resist stretching languidly under his perusal.
He pounced and crouched over her, showering her and his correspondence with salty droplets.
She squawked and raised the letters over her head. “You are getting everything wet.”
“That is the intention,” he murmured, and began scattering kisses down between her breasts, pushing her robe open wide.
Pleasure throbbed through her at the hot, urgent feel of his mouth. She shifted restlessly as he kissed lower. “You, sir, are insatiable.”
“Are you complaining, wife?”
He licked around her navel.
“No,” she managed.
His head lowered, and his tongue flicked softly between her legs.
She moaned. “No. Why, it’s my duty to please you.”
She felt him smile against her. “That is right.” He rose over her, then settled his weight on her fully. “And this pleases me very, very much.”
She bit her lip when he pushed into her.
“Very much,” he repeated, and his eyes lost focus.
She raised her knees higher, allowing him closer, and he gave an appreciative groan.
He rocked into her and it was not long until their cries mingled and he fell against her, his heart hammering against her breast.
She lay still beneath him as the rush of his breath against her neck slowed. Her fingers stroked aimless patterns on his sun-warmed back. High above, the sails were snapping in the breeze.
She tightened her arms around him.
How she loved him.
She had been worried that the price for being with him would be her hard-won slice of independence, but he had continued to be open to her needs and ideas. He had resigned himself to a two-month engagement to let her finish her term at Oxford after he had managed to have her place reinstated. If he had installed a protection officer against her objections, she never saw the man. His many letters from Brittany had the brevity and efficiency of estate reports, but that had made it all the sweeter to finally be in his bed again on their wedding night, where the intensity of his passion had told her more than words ever could.
He stirred and raised himself onto his elbows, his light eyes searching. “Are you sure you do not want to sail on to Persia tomorrow?”
She grinned. His hair had half-dried and stuck up rakishly.
She smoothed her hand over the ruffled locks. “I like it here,” she said. “It’s lovely, not having to do anything or be anywhere.”
“Hm.” He turned his cheek into her palm, and she felt the scratchy beginnings of a beard.
“Also, your brother enjoys meeting us for dinner.”
Peregrin was two bays away, helping Professor Jenkins with his excavation work on the battleship. Unlike Sebastian, who had to stay in the shade or become pink like a shrimp, Peregrin had turned bronzed and wheat-blond like a Viking in the sun. Being outdoors, digging and coordinating, suited him infinitely more than sitting behind a desk, and Jenkins seemed pleased enough with his unlikely apprentice. Pleased enough to recover somewhat from losing his prospective assistant bride to a duke.
“How about we stay for another week,” Sebastian said as he rolled off her, “and then sail to Persia.”
She was quiet for a moment. “Will you go hunting with Prince Albert in autumn?” she then asked.
He arched a brow. “Are you asking whether we are going to avoid England forever? We won’t. I believe your next term begins in May.”
She frowned. “You think our scandal will have died down by then?”
He gave a short bark of laughter. “No. Next year, perhaps.”
Sebastian surveyed his wife, looking rosy and tousled and ponderous, and a surge of love made him mount her again.
Her green eyes gazed back at him with a soft welcome. A smattering of golden freckles had begun forming on her nose. He dipped his head and kissed them.
Their scandal would probably never die down. He had changed his place in history for her.
It was his best decision yet.
Besides. He had a feeling that one day, history would squarely side with them, and he was usually correct about these things.