“Ezra? Where are you? Ezra!” Ezra gave a low growl at merely hearing the sound of that sweet female voice calling his name. Not because he would have preferred to hear Clara screaming his name when his cock was fiercely thrusting into her cunny, because he knew that was never going to happen. No, the reason for his bad temper was that Clara would not seem to accept that was the case. “Mr. Long, your new estate manager, informed me you are working here in the stables, so it is no good pretending you are not!” Ezra held back a smile as a slight impatience began to edge that cajoling voice. His little Clara was no more known for her patience than he was. She had shown an equal amount of determination during the brief month of their acquaintance. His Clara? Ezra might be her equal in the eyes of Society, but his lack of wealth and his twenty years seniority in age meant Miss Clara Catchpole, daughter of Lord Harold and Lady Sarah Catchpole, was not, nor ever could become, his. “Ezra?” He grabbed up a cloth and began to wipe the sweat from his face as he stepped out of the forge where he had been preparing and shaping a new shoe for one of the many horses at his stud. He might be Lord Ezra Stone, but there was very little wealth attached to the title, and what little there was went into the continuing maintenance of the stud, which had become Ezra’s main livelihood. There was now enough money coming in to employ an estate manager, but learning to man his own forge was only part of Ezra’s duties as the owner of the Stone Stud. Whilst his new estate manager was nowhere in sight—after having imparted the information of his whereabouts to Clara, he had wisely disappeared—Ezra noted several of his grooms peering curiously from the stalls where they were working. They ducked quickly back inside after seeing the dark scowl on his face. “Are you quite finished making an exhibition of yourself and screeching my name about the place like a damned fishwife?” He hoped his bad temper hid his physical reaction—his cock had gone as hard as steel—to how beautiful Clara looked seated atop her docile mare and wearing a royal blue velvet riding habit and matching bonnet. Red curls peeped out from beneath that bonnet, at her temples and nape.
Ezra could have drawn a map of each and every delightful freckle across her pert little nose. Her eyes, the blue of a clear summer sky, gazed at him with a hunger Clara made no effort to try to hide. Clara was rendered speechless the moment the object of her romantic pursuit stepped out into the daylight. Not because of his comment, but because Ezra, unconcerned with the cold late November wind, was completely bare from the waist up, his unfashionably overlong brown hair caressing the broadest shoulders she had ever seen. The tops of his arms were so defined with muscle, Clara thought they might almost be as wide about as her waist. His muscular thighs certainly were. Her mouth went drier still as a drop of moisture ran in a rivulet down the side of his face before dripping from his chin onto that muscular chest. She watched in rapt fascination as it slowly meandered a sensual path over his pectorals and then each ridge of his abdominal muscles, before disappearing into the waistband of his breeches. Clara’s cheeks burned with embarrassed color as she realized she was licking her tongue across her lips as if following that moist path, and that she could actually taste Ezra’s sweat exploding upon her tongue. An earthy maleness Clara could breathe in, if not taste, when Ezra stepped forward to grasp the reins of her horse.
Just as she could feel the heat of his body as he stood close to her thighs. Ezra was so tall, easily several inches over six feet, that his face was on a level with hers, despite the fact she was seated upon the back of her brown mare. Ezra’s was not strictly a handsome face, but more one of strength: dark brows over even darker eyes, a sharp blade of a nose, sculpted lips, and a square and determined jaw. “Well, Little Miss,” he snapped. “Care to explain what you are doing here, and accompanied only by your maid?” He glanced at that maid some feet away and mounted on an even more docile mare than Clara’s. The word again hovered in the air between Ezra and Clara, unspoken, but there nonetheless. Because this past month, Clara had made any excuse she could to ride to Stone Manor, either by carriage or on her horse, accompanied by her maid and, very occasionally, her cousin, Miss Rachel Banford, in order to visit with Lord Ezra Stone. A man Clara had not been acquainted with at all until five weeks ago, when he had burst in and rescued her from where she was being held prisoner by the insane man who had abducted her. Clara shuddered at the memory of her hours of captivity, unsure if she would see another sunrise, let alone her beloved parents. Then this man had kicked in the door to the barn where she was being held, first rendering her kidnapper unconscious before gathering Clara up into the safety of his strong arms and carrying her from that place.
Since that time, Ezra’s arms were the only place Clara wished to be. Indeed, for the first week after being rescued, Clara would not be parted from her rescuer. Drifting in and out of consciousness from the sleeping draughts the doctor had given her, she became deeply agitated if she woke and the dark-eyed Ezra was not with her. It was a quirk he had seemed willing to indulge, more often than not, usually sitting quietly near the window in her bedchamber while she recovered from her ordeal. They had talked very little, Ezra’s mere presence enough to reassure her. Until Clara’s mother had reminded her that Lord Stone might have an estate manager, but he still had a stud and clients in need of his attention, and as such, he could not spend any more of his time with her. Clara had known the real reason for her parents’ concern, of course. Ezra might be aged eight and thirty but he was a single and obviously virile gentleman, and should never have been allowed to spend all that time in the bedchamber of an unmarried and innocent eighteen-year-old young lady. No doubt he would not have been allowed to do so if her parents had not been so worried about her. But Clara no longer considered herself to be the frivolous girl she had been before her abduction.
Just days before that, her family home in Surrey, along with all their belongings, had been burned to the ground, and necessitated the Catchpole family all decamp to the house of Clara’s aunt and uncle and her cousin Rachel in Worcestershire. They were to remain there until such time as the manor house could be rebuilt. Unfortunately, the perpetrator of that fire had followed the family into Worcestershire, where he had later kidnapped Clara. She had been forced to live with the threat to both her innocence and her life until Ezra found and rescued her thirty-six hours later. Those two events, along with her appearance at the closed trial of her abductor in London three weeks ago, had stripped away every last vestige of Clara’s girlhood. Thankfully, the madman had been returned to the asylum he had escaped from, and this time with no possibility of his ever being released or escaping. Nevertheless, Clara was no longer the young girl she had once been, giggling and whispering with her friend Rissa or her cousin Rachel over one handsome gentleman or another. Clara was no longer interested in the frivolity of Society and now considered herself to be a woman fully grown. Moreover, a woman who knew what—or whom—she wanted. She wanted Lord Ezra Stone.
“Well? Cat got your tongue, missy?” he snapped at Clara’s lack of reply. She gave herself a mental shake. Weak or undecided was the last thing she wished to appear in front of this man. Nor did she take exception to his tone, knowing this was Ezra’s normal brusque manner. “I have come to issue an invitation to dinner this evening from my Aunt and Uncle Banford.” It was not strictly true; Clara had pestered and nagged her aunt on the subject until the older woman had given in and agreed. Clara had immediately set out to deliver the invitation in person. The knowing look Ezra gave her said he was well aware she was the instigator of the invitation. “That is the third time this month, when previous to your family’s arrival at Banford Park, I did not have a social relationship with the Banford family.” “Previously you had not rescued their niece from a madman, either,” Clara snapped.
The flash of temper in Clara’s eyes caused Ezra to feel a softening of the resolve he had made four weeks ago to maintain a distance between himself and Miss Clara Catchpole. He would never forget his first sight of Clara after he had smashed in the door to rescue her from her captor. Her red hair had been in disarray and falling about a slightly freckled face smudged with dirt but showing clean tracks where her tears had fallen. Her wrists and ankles had been tied, a filthy gag fastened about her mouth, her gown ripped down one sleeve, and there were several bruises about the slenderness of her throat. All that had faded into the background the moment she had gazed up at Ezra with the clearest blue and long-lashed eyes he had ever beheld. The same blue eyes now looking at him with expectation for his reply to her aunt’s invitation to dinner this evening. Ezra knew he should refuse, both the dinner invitation and the pleading in Clara’s eyes. “Very well,” he conceded heavily. “But this is the last time,” he warned at the blaze of triumph he instantly saw in her eyes. She gave an unconcerned smile.
“You said that last week.” His jaw tightened. “And no doubt I shall say it again next week.” Clara’s smile became mischievous. “I understand that the invitations to attend the baptism of the Marquis of Stourport a week on Sunday are to be sent out this week. I trust you will not refuse the invitation?” “No,” he acknowledged again, knowing he would be expected to attend the celebrations of his neighbor the Duke of Weston for the birth of the man’s son and heir. Just as he had been expected to attend the wedding last month of the duke’s daughter, Lady Clarissa Spencer, to the Earl of Harrogate. Clara’s expression brightened. “There you are, then. We shall meet again at least once more before Christmas.
And I shall insist you spend Christmas Day with us all at Banford Park.” His brows rose. “You will insist?” Her chin set stubbornly at his obvious mockery. “Yes, I shall.” Ezra could not remember a time when Christmas had meant any more to him than the inconvenience of having to manage the stud on his own for the entire day whilst his grooms, all local men, celebrated the occasion with their families. He always gave as many of the household staff as could be spared the day off too, appreciating it was a time to be spent with loved ones. He did not have any loved ones or family, and even if he did, he would not have had the time to spare on sharing frivolous celebration with them. His stud had gained something of a reputation these past ten years, and having recently gained the patronage of such prestigious gentlemen as the Duke of Weston and the Earl of Harrogate, that reputation had only grown stronger. It was the extra income which had allowed him to employ Grayson Long as his estate manager. Ezra had no idea whether or not the other man had family he would wish to spend Christmas with, but if not, Ezra still could not, in good conscience, allow Clara to continue with this infatuation she seemed to have developed for him since he had rescued and returned her to her family and friends the previous month.
“I will attend dinner at your aunt and uncle’s just this once more, Clara, but do not ask me to do so again,” he warned sternly, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. “Nor shall I be joining you and your family for Christmas Day.” Her bottom lip pouted. “Why not?” “Because I have a business to run here and cannot go gallivanting off merely because everyone else has a holiday.” “Was that not the reason you employed Mr. Long?” He frowned his irritation. “I employed Long so that I no longer have to work twenty hours out of every day.” She huffed. “Then I shall ride over here with a picnic basket, and we shall eat Christmas luncheon together.” “No.
” The pout deepened. “Why not?” “Because I forbid it.” “You forbid it…” she repeated in a breathy voice. There was no missing Clara’s arousal, the sudden shortness of breath or the way her cheeks became flushed and her eyes overbright, merely at the thought of him instructing her to do anything. Alerting Ezra to exactly how responsive Clara would be to more intimate instructions. Such as baring her pert breasts to him before cupping and offering them to him to lick and suckle. Pulling up the skirt of her gown and parting her thighs so that his fingers might enter the slit in her drawers and caress and play with her pussy lips and clit. He would insist she continue to meet his gaze as he thrust a finger, then two, into the wet heat of her eager cunny. Have her kneel at his feet to unfasten his breeches and take his cock in her hand to stroke and pump. Telling her to hold still as he took over pumping his cock to paint her parted lips with his pre-cum.
Watching as her tiny pink tongue lapped up that cream before he pushed his cock fully into her mouth and thrust inside until his release spurted to the back of her throat and was swallowed down eagerly. But those were his fantasies. Raw. Demanding. Carnal. Too much so for him to be the right man to fulfill the fantasies of a girl as young and beautiful as Clara. No doubt those fantasies he had about her, as Ezra took his own cock in hand night after night, would both shock and repel a young woman of such sweet innocence. Dear God, how often had he imagined thrusting his cock into her sweet pussy until Clara gushed and came about his hardness, before then using that slickness to ease his cock’s way inside her other, naughtier, rosette. Merely remembering those fantasies, breathing in Clara’s arousal, caused Ezra’s cock to engorge and lengthen. He could feel the flush of that arousal moving up his throat and into his cheeks.
“Ezra…?” He closed his eyes to shut out the sight of Clara, only to find his senses invaded with her perfume instead. She smelled of strawberries and lemons, along with a womanly musk that spoke of her awareness of his close proximity. An awareness he could not, would not, take advantage of— Everything ceased the moment Ezra felt the warmth of soft and pouting lips pressing against his own. His heartbeat. The sound of the birds calling overhead. The chatter of his grooms in the stables. The wailing of the cold wind. All stopped, held in limbo, as those soft lips shyly pressed more firmly against his before he felt the heat of Clara’s tongue moistly exploring the harder contours of his lips.