Courtney Milan

“I’m here to horrify you,” he said. And then, because he couldn’t bear it any longer, he reached out and pulled her to him. She was warm and soft in his arms, and she smelled so deliciously right. He could have inhaled her scent for hours.

“Hugo—”

He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want to answer any questions. He didn’t know who he was or what he wanted or what dreams would come to fill his heart. He only knew that if he couldn’t have her, nothing would ever be right again. And so he kissed her. He tasted her, sweet and steady against him, put his hand in the small of her back and drew her toward him.

She kissed him back.

“I love you,” he said. The truth took root inside him. For the first time in years, the dark words of his past receded.

“But, Hugo…”

He set his fingers over her lips. “Let me do this,” he said. “I thought I had to prove myself with money and accomplishments. But those will always ring hollow. They will never be enough. I want to be somebody. Let me be your husband. Let me be the father of your child—of all your children. I got more satisfaction from striking Clermont than I did from any success I found in business.”

She pulled back from him. “You struck Clermont?”

“Twice. And—that reminds me—I blackmailed him into promising to send your child to Eton.” Hugo tightened his grip around her. “I’ve never pretended to be a good man, you know. It’s just that…I’m yours.” He leaned his head against hers.

Her breath was warm against his face. “Did you hit him hard?”
“I’m afraid I did.”

“That’s my Hugo.” There was a grim satisfaction in her voice. “I love you, you know. If you hadn’t come, as soon as winter set in and the ground became too hard to work, I’d planned to come for you.”

“Well, I’m glad I came to my senses,” Hugo said. “You shouldn’t have traveled, not in your condition. Yet curiosity impels me to inquire. What did you plan to do, once you arrived?”

“Allow me to demonstrate.” She lifted her face to his, traced the line of his jaw with her fingers. “This.” She pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “And this.” She kissed the other corner. “And…” She took his mouth full on, her lips soft against his, tasting of all the things he’d most wanted.
“I’d do that,” she whispered, “until you were forced to admit you loved me.”
“I love you.”

“Well, that’s no fun.” She kissed him again. “Now what excuse do I have?”

He drew in a shuddering breath and pulled her closer. “You could make me say it again,” he whispered. “Make me say it always. Make me say it so often that you never have cause to doubt. I love you.”


Courtney Milan
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