Isidore heard him outside the door and her heart leapt so high it felt as if it were in her throat. What on earth was he doing? He wouldn’t go to the barn with Honeydew, would he?

Would he?

She looked down at herself, reclining on the bed. “Come in!” she called.

The door opened and she saw him in the doorway. She gave him a moment, looking down at herself, trying to see her body through his eyes. She was plump in the right places, she thought, and sleek in others. She’d lit candles, and the reflection of small flames darted over her skin, making her look like a marble statue, the naughty Roman kind. Her hair tumbled around her shoulders, and Isidore had arranged it so that one of her breasts showed and the other didn’t.

“You may come in,” she said, feeling a nervous giggle in the back of her throat.

He closed the door with great precision and then put his hands to his coat.


He raised an eyebrow.

“It’s your turn to learn about my body.”

He walked over to the bed. “May I sit with you?”

“No!” He looked so large that he made her feel dizzy. He sat down in a chair and crossed his legs. The look on Simeon’s face made him look younger than she’d ever seen him. There was devilment in those eyes. You couldn’t look like that when you were buried in a smelly old house, surrounded by bills.

“I want you to pay very close attention to this lesson,” she told him, propping herself up on one elbow.

He had to wrench his eyes away from her breasts, but he finally looked up. “I do. I mean, I am.”

She couldn’t help grinning. She sat up all the way. “These are my breasts.” She actually never touched them very much. But his eyes made her bold. She let her hands curve around her breasts, sweet and firm, the way she would like to be touched. “This afternoon…” She shook her head.

His eyes were wide and clear. “Not right?”

“Your hands are very strong. I had bruises on my hips.”

“I apologize.” The look of desire disappeared from his eyes and he stopped looking at her breasts.

“That wasn’t what I meant!” she said hastily. “I liked it, but…I would like this even more.” She smiled at him and, just like that, all the desire came back into his eyes.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?”


“Just tell me if I’m ever holding you too hard,” he said. “I didn’t know. I need to practice.” Without even seeming to move, he was sitting at her side. But he didn’t touch her, just watched her hands, still holding her breasts.

Isidore felt a flush and she dropped her hands to the bed. “So lovely,” he murmured. He reached out with just one fingertip and ran it over the curve of her breast. “Beautiful.” The finger trailed over pale pink, touched her nipple and she jumped.

She couldn’t stop looking at his face. He was beautiful, not for a man, just beautiful. His eyes were fringed with thick lashes, still a little spiky from being in the rain. His cheeks were lean and he had the chin of a man who would always protect you, never leave you.

She murmured something that even she couldn’t hear and leaned into him so that his hand, his large callused hand, curled around her breast. His palm came hard against her nipple and made her shiver.

“Does that feel good?” he asked. His voice had changed. It was deeper. Not tired or strained, the way it sounded when he was talking to Honeydew about the drains, or his mother about anything at all.

She nodded. He did something else with his thumb and she flinched back.

“Too much?”

She pulled away. “It’s stupid, but I feel…” She looked down. “They feel as if they’re just too sensitive. It feels good, but then it hurts.”

“But first it feels good?”

She smiled at him, loving the way his eyes were dark with desire, carefully thinking at the same time, watching her, learning. “So this is the time to learn about my body,” she said almost chattily.

He nodded.

“I’ve never been with a man before you, but I’ve thought about it.”

“Tell me what you thought about, sweetheart.”

“I’d like to be kissed, not just here.” She put a finger to her lips, waited until his eyes followed her finger. “But here.” She touched her shoulder, her neck, the curve of her breast, the side of her waist, the inside of her thigh. “Everywhere,” she whispered.

That was laughter in his eyes. It made her almost embarrassed—except that embarrassment made her feel obstinate.

“I’d like to be kissed everywhere,” she repeated. Why not? It was beyond scandalous. But she was three-and-twenty, and she’d heard stories. The stories about what men did—sometimes, with some women.

She’d always thought that those stories sounded like heaven.

From the smile curling Simeon’s lips, he didn’t think it was a terrible proposition.

“Gently,” she added.

“Did you enjoy this afternoon?”

Isidore blinked.

“The truth,” he clarified.

“Not very much.” He flinched. “But you knew that,” she said, puzzled. “You didn’t enjoy it either. Remember, you told me that—”

“What in particular didn’t you like?” he asked. “We won’t do it again.”

She cleared her throat. “I think I’d prefer kisses to some touches. Your hands are very strong.”

He smiled slowly. “Kisses. Anything else you’d like to show me?” His eyes moved over her slowly, like a caress, and Isidore suddenly felt naked. Which she was. His finger slid down the pale skin of her stomach and paused, pulling out a little ringlet of hair. “What about here?”

“A very delicate area,” Isidore managed. She felt as if she were getting a fever. His leg, clothed in fine woolen breeches, brushed against the naked skin of her leg; it was unbearably erotic. She reached out and wound her hands into his hair.

“You don’t like my hair unpowdered,” Simeon said, as if he were promising something.

But it was thick and silky under her fingers, strong as he was. It didn’t smell like violet powder, but like that indefinable smell of clean male. “I like it now,” she whispered.

His mouth lowered to hers but hovered without touching her lips. That finger was still—

“What are you doing?” she whispered. The fever was spiking, focusing between her legs in an embarrassing way.

“Kissing,” he said calmly, looking straight at her.

“That’s not—”

“Think of it as pre-kissing.”

Isidore couldn’t even think, not with that finger touching her so sweetly. It was completely unlike the way he gripped her the previous night…She anchored her fingers in his hair and pulled his mouth to hers. “Kiss me!”

He kissed her deep and soft, and at the same time, his fingers just kept wandering, kissing in their own way, a kind of finger kisses that made her shiver and feel a singing heat down her legs. He pulled his mouth free and licked her lip; to her embarrassment, Isidore’s head fell back and a hoarse little sound came from her throat.

“Does that feel good?” he whispered. He was kissing her jaw, and gave a little nip to her ear lobe, but frankly, Isidore wasn’t paying much attention. It was what he was doing with his hand that was making her hips rise into the air and little moans fly from her mouth. Dimly she was aware that he was kissing all the parts that she had indicated. Unfortunately, she didn’t care anymore.