“Liam,” she gasped as she shattered around him.

“So beautiful,” he said softly.

Then, he picked up his pace, slamming her hips down. He was frantic, not holding back anymore, and then he was filling her, his fingers tight on her hips. She heard him say her name, heard him groan as he jolted inside of her.

Bella collapsed against him, emotions overwhelming her while he gently stroked her back. This was more than sex, more than a summer fling… what had happened between them was more.

It felt a lot like love.

Chapter Sixteen

Liam couldn’t sleep. His mind whirled like a dervish, constantly showing him images of his day with Bella—and their evening.

Her riding him, her breasts bouncing with the movement, and her hard nipples in his face. They’d made the SUV rock. Something he’d never had the opportunity to do before, but only because he’d never thought of it.

It was… gratifying as hell.

Not only that, it had been sweet. She’d been sweet, like before, and he suspected, like she’d be every time. It was in her nature to be so giving. So trusting.

Yet, there was an undercurrent of wariness there. He had it himself. One too many people, one too many times, had let him down. Even his best mate, Sebastian, had let him down. Bella had let him down, that first weekend they’d spent together.

Or perhaps no one had let him down.

Perhaps his bloody self-righteous arse held everyone who dared to grow close to him to an unattainable standard. Perhaps he put them on a pedestal with wobbly legs, knowing they would fall, and then he’d have the chance to catch them.

But not, he admitted, to help them back up again.

Everyone fell, including him.

He rolled to one side, propping up his head with hand, and stared at his bride. Moonlight streamed through the windows, between the wide part of the heavy curtain, giving him an unobstructed view of her face.

“Beautiful lass,” he murmured. Inside and out. This marriage could work. Really work, if the past two weeks were any indication.


Liam surveyed the area as he and Bella made their way to the center of the dance floor. A microphone waited for him, as he was expected to give a speech to the residents of Geimhreadh.

Bella squeezed his arm reassuringly. “You’ll do great,” she whispered as they came to a stop.

Every eye was on them. The noise was comfortably loud. People were actually enjoying the food and drinks.

He raised a hand, and the noise died down. “My duchess and I want to thank each of you for coming this evening. Celebrating our wedding with Geimhreadh means the world to us, and we hope that you have already enjoyed the evening as much as we did planning it.”

There was a polite round of applause.

He grinned. “To be honest, I have to confess that my bride was the one responsible for everything.”

Beside him, Bella waved at the crowd. He knew she was smiling, because everyone was smiling right back at her.

“We did this together,” she said. “Liam and I are a team, and together we want to work to make Geimhreadh the place for tourists to visit, with your help, of course. Geimhreadh is nothing without you. Wintersea is nothing but a pretty castle without you.”

The partygoers were all in now, he noted. “To that end, Bella and I are requesting that you consider joining the newly formed Geimhreadh Council for Village Tourism.”

“But not tonight,” he added, and a few laughed. “Tonight is for celebrating.”

Liam nodded at the band to begin playing. The microphone was transferred to the stage as he took his duchess in his arms.

“You look beautiful tonight,” he murmured.

“Thank you.” Her eyes sparkled. “You look handsome. But I’m a little sad.”

He almost frowned, but then remembered that everyone was staring at them as they danced. “Why is that?” Did she miss her family? Was she imagining this happening in Holland Springs? God, how could have he been so selfish as not to suggest that?

“You’re not wearing a kilt.”

“A kilt—that’s what making you sad?”

She shrugged a little as he spun her around. “You have really nice legs.”

“I don’t have to wear a kilt for you to see those, lass.”

She turned a charming shade of pink. “I know. But I had these expectations of Scottish men.”

“Men?” Jealousy began to burn, despite the fact that she was in his arms, only looked at him, and wanted to see him in a bloody kilt.

“Man. You. Better?” she asked, and he nodded. “I expected to see you in a kilt for at least one official occasion. This would be one of them.”

“And what would you do with me, if I wore such a thing?” he asked, warming to her flirting. Because that was exactly what she was doing. Flirting with him.

“I’d ogle you. A lot.”

“That’s all?”

“Super lustful thoughts would occur,” she said.

“But no acting on them?”

She gave him a teasing grin. “Depended on the kilt.”

He threw his head back and laughed. The villagers took that as their cue to join in the dancing. The music sped up and, pretty soon, traditional dances were being taught to Bella. He lost sight of her at one point, and his gut clenched.

Then her pretty, purple dress caught his eye, and he heaved a sigh of relief. For the rest of the night, he kept a watchful eye on her as she danced, ate, and talked with every single person there.

Bella glowed, her genuine happiness apparent. People responded to her, because she took the time to listen. He could tell by the way she held herself, by the way she looked each person in the eye, and focused on them.

“A treasure,” he said into his drink. That was what he’d gotten by marrying Bella. He had always known he needed his inheritance, but he’d never knew how much he needed another person, until her.

He set his bottle of beer down, and made his way to his bride. Her smile grew brighter when she spied him, and his heart turned over in his chest.

She nearly ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck and saying, “This is the best party ever, Liam. Everyone is having a great time.”

“But is my duchess?” he asked, more concerned for her than anything or anyone else.

“I am now.” She stood on her toes and gave him a long, slow kiss that heated him all the way to his toes.

“Ready to go home?”

Her eyes burned brightly. “To bed?”

“The bed, the floor, the dresser. Take your pick,” he said, his body growing hard at the thought of being inside her again.

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