The Love Token by Raven McAllan

Chapter One

February 1818

Miranda Riston stared at her parents in horror. Surely they must be mad? Addle-pated and, not to put a finer point on it, ready to be admitted to Bedlam. Otherwise, why on earth would they suggest such a thing?

“Do I understand you correctly?” she said with deliberate care as she did her best not to lose her temper and show herself in a less than rational manner. Even if she was of a mind to scream like a fishwife and throw things. “You think I should become betrothed to Edward Twain? Viscount Carville’s younger brother?” Over my dead body—or yours. “Never in a million years.” Apart from the fact Edward had an understanding with another young lady, he was one of her beloved Jonathon’s siblings.

The least effectual one. The one who moaned and whinged and assumed almost everyone was against him.

She wasn’t against him, but if she were honest, she had little time for his attitude and feeling of entitlement. If he had worked with Jonathon and helped to create a strong and growing family estate, she probably wouldn’t have been so critical, but as far as she could tell, he had not.

Jonathon. Who worked tirelessly for his family and country and was happy not to be recognised for all he achieved. He just, as he’d once said, “got on with what had to be done and did it without a fuss”. “Fussing”, he had added with a grin, “was so much effort for very little reward”. Unless it was over her.

Miranda had laughed.

If only he was there now to say the same things. She put one hand over the necklace she had worn under her gown for the past three years. The tiny blue sapphire in half of a silver four leaf clover. A symbol, he had said, of his love for her. My lover. Even if he never became her husband, he was the one man she’d given herself to gladly, and she would do so again as easily as before.

“You are nigh on the shelf. It is a good alliance,” her papa said in a ‘listen to me, I am your parent’ voice. “He is the heir, and it will cement your future.”

There had to be more to it than that. “He is not the heir,” Miranda said firmly. Why on earth did they think that? Unless they knew something she didn’t. That was not anything to bear thinking about. “Jonathon is the heir as you well know.”

Jonathon.

The only man she would ever love. The one man who she admitted she would go to the ends of the earth for.

The man she had spent one magical night with, learning all about love and sex. How to pleasure and be pleased. How to take his cock in her mouth and lave it until he bucked under her and filled her mouth with hot salty liquid, which she had gladly swallowed. How to gently squeeze his bollocks and help him hold back his climax or come hard and fast.

Discovering how he could lick, lave, nibble and suck her nub, swirl his tongue into her channel and make her shake and scream. Then enter her, move inside her until she swore his cock swelled and reached her soul.

Sadly, to feel him pull out before he filled her with his seed. In order, he’d said, to ensure there was no child of that union. Not yet, not until he returned.

Now she wondered if it would have been better to clamp her legs around him, tighten her inner muscles and ensure he’d climaxed in her. If a child had resulted this situation would never have happened.

Or would it have? In some ways it might have given her parents what they would have seen as more leverage. Lack of legitimacy.

“Miranda?” her papa asked irritably. “Are you listening to me? You need to marry. Edward is a neighbour. It would be a good and useful match.”

“Useful?” Who on earth wanted a useful marriage? “For whom? What about Jonathon? He is, I believe, the heir, unless his mama played his papa false, and I could never see Edwina doing that.” Jonathon’s mama was devoted to her husband.

“Do not be crass,” her papa snapped. “Jonathon is to all intents and purposes dead. No one has heard from him for nigh on three years. His papa says so. Not one sighting, no mentions in dispatches.”

“No body,” Miranda said quietly. If he were dead, I would know it. Feel it. I am sure he is not.And I have heard from him. Cryptic notes, left at their trysting place every so often. No more than ‘I am safe’, or ‘I love you’, but it was enough. She’d left replies. ‘Stay safe’, and ‘I love you’. The only one she’d received that worried her had not been in his hand, nor by him. It had said simply, ‘he is safe’. She had been thankful he was but had wondered who had left it.

“However, that,” she continued, “in this case, is immaterial. Be he alive or dead, I will not marry Edward. We would not suit. Plus, I will not marry for convenience. Only love.”

“Overrated,” her papa retorted. “As for a body, do you know how many were left unknown at Waterloo? Too many to mention.”

Miranda’s mama paled. “Thank you, Henry. How good to know where I stand, and your dismissing of our brave soldiers. I agree with Miranda. She and Edward would not suit.”

“It’s Edward Twain, or I disown her. And you.”

What on earth was going on? Why was her papa so adamant? “Papa, have you lost all our money on ‘change?”

His face reddened, and his anger was palpable. “Indeed, I have not. I want to see you married and settled. You have shown no partiality to anyone, so it is my duty to find you a husband. I have.”

“No,” her mama said forcefully. “You have found her someone you want her to marry, and no more. I told you, Henry, I begged you to reconsider but you did not. I also wonder why?”

“It’s… I think it sensible.”

He didn’t sound too sure.

“Papa, I’m sorry, but I do not agree and I will not agree.” It was rare she defied her papa—she loved him, and he was in general a reasonable man. What maggot had got into his head and given him this irrational idea she couldn’t think. Whatever it was, she disagreed vehemently.

“Nor do I think it sensible. Or rational,” her mama said. “Henry, you may not love me, you may indeed choose to disown me, but I have always loved you and admired your sense of honour. This is not honourable. We always said we wanted Miranda to have what we have. Or,” her mama corrected herself, “what I thought we had. It appears I was wrong.”

Her papa appeared horrified. “My dear, how could you doubt I love you? I have since the moment I set eyes on you.” His anger disappeared as fast as it had arrived. “I spoke in the heat of the moment. Miranda has a fortune. We do not want fortune hunters sniffing about. I worry for her.” He turned to his daughter. “Miranda, I just think that if you did love someone you would be wed by now. I haven’t noticed you show any partiality towards any of the gentlemen you’ve met, so I would be failing in my duty not to suggest someone.”

“As long as that person was around, you would see my partiality,” Miranda said softly. Luckily, it appeared no one heard. She wasn’t prepared to share that information. Not then, maybe not ever, and she had no idea why.

“Papa, you did not suggest. You insisted,” she said instead. “At the risk of being rude to my elder and better, I’m not wed, and I will not marry Edward,” she added firmly. She grinned for a second before the seriousness of the situation hit her once more. “We would not suit at all.”

“Nor will he and the Amble chit,” her papa said. “She’s no future Lady Twain, or an eventual Viscountess Carville. Edward’s papa will not allow it.”

“Henry, come with me, and let us talk about all this,” her mama said as she took her husband’s arm and began to propel him out of the room. “We have to listen to Miranda.” She winked at her daughter. “And let her marshal her thoughts and reasons.”

They left the room.

Miranda let her breath out in one long whoosh. “Of all the stupid, awful, arrogant, idiotic, insane, asinine ideas…”

“I totally agree. Lock the door,” a familiar voice said from outside the open window.

Jonathon held on to a thick bunch of ivy and swore long and fluently under his breath. What in hades was going on? Who in their right mind would imagine Edward and Miranda as a couple? When all and sundry knew Edward had been in love with Ann Amble, and her with him, since they’d first met in their youth. Edward had confessed they hoped to marry when he came into his inheritance. Which, Jonathon realised, was only a few months hence.

When he’d arrived a half hour or so earlier, he’d seen Miranda look out of the first-floor window of the room he’d remembered was her own private sitting room. The room where, she’d said, her parents had decreed she could spend time when she chose to be alone. Something she admitted she often craved, and a room she frequently retired to.

He’d decided to climb the ivy. Both to surprise Miranda and to avoid being seen by anyone in the household. With that in mind, he’d chosen his arrival time carefully—the hour when all the servants would be at lunch in their dining room on the other side of the house and usually her parents out or dressing for their lunch, which in that house was held later.

Jonathon was well aware he shouldn’t be in the area, where anyone could recognise him, which was one reason he’d covered his tracks. His footprints were undiscernible on the grass and his horse tied up in a nearby copse. He hadn’t resorted to a mask or his cravat around his face, but he was dressed roughly. More like a vagrant than a viscount.

As he had been for the past three years.

Hopefully one day soon he could be himself again.

That time had not yet come.

He hung onto the window ledge with one hand and the ivy with the other as he listened to the conversation inside the room. Once her parents had left and he heard Miranda’s diatribe, he let his presence be known.

“The door is now locked.” Miranda peered out of the window. “I prayed it was your voice. Are you coming in?”

“Of course.” He pulled himself up and put one long leg then the other over the window ledge and let himself down into the room.

Miranda flung herself at him, sobbing and laughing. “I can’t believe it’s really you.”

“It is really me, though of course to anyone except you, I am not really here. Come, let’s sit down so I can explain. I do not have long but I had to see you. To try to explain and to—”

“Make love?”

“I wish we had time. Alas, I must be gone within the hour.”

“We should make time,” Miranda said stubbornly. “In fact, you talk and I… I will act.” She drew him to the long chaise set across one corner of the room and as soon as he was seated avoided his arms so he couldn’t pull her onto his lap. Intrigued, he settled back on the cushions to discover what she intended to do.

“Talk,” she commanded as she began to undo the placket on his trousers. She grabbed a cloth from a nearby table and spread it over his lap. “Tell me what you need to, while I…I do what I need to, yearn to do.”

He watched as almost reverently she cradled his staff in her palms then bent her head to sip the drops of liquid already forming there.

“Talk.” She put his cock in her mouth and began to mimic the movements he would make as he made love to her.

“To be loved as you are doing to me now is not conducive to talking about things other than how…how amazing it is,” he said in a deep, guttural voice, and gasped as she grazed his cock with her teeth. “Do not stop, ah, fuck me, love, please fuck me fast.”

She lifted her head, so his shaft rested on her tongue. “I intend to,” she mumbled around the mouthful of his staff before she held him tightly between her lips, sucked and began to, as he described it to himself, fuck the hell out of him.

How in hades he was holding on to his sanity he had no idea.

Let go, just feel, let…“Ahh…” He clutched Miranda’s shoulders as his shaft swelled to the point of pain, and he knew without a shadow of doubt he was about to come hard and fast. “I’m ready… I’m—”

Miranda sucked harder. Jonathon stiffened, shuddered and let himself float with sensation. His seed spilled into her mouth as she renewed her movements and milked him dry.

The silence in the room was broken by his harsh breath and her soft gasps as she slowly let his cock go free with a gentle plop to rest on the convenient cloth she had put out in readiness. She lifted her head to look at him with an impish grin.

“You were saying?”

Jonathon wiped his staff on the cloth and chuckled. “I don’t think I got as far as saying anything of any interest. My mind was otherwise occupied. Now though.” He tucked his staff back into his trousers and lifted Miranda onto his lap. “Now I will endeavour to explain.” Almost absently, he slipped one hand under her gown and inched his fingers up her leg, over the top of her stockings, and stroked the soft flesh of her upper thigh.

“Nice,” Miranda said in a low, sultry voice. “Higher would be better.”

“Minx. I need to concentrate.” Nevertheless, he moved his hand to circle and pinch her nub. “I am to catch the high tide from Hornsea. I was only given leave to find out what my family is about.” There was more of course, but he didn’t intend to share that information. The less she knew the better it would be for her. Less to worry about. “My…a friend sent a cryptic message to one of the people I report to saying he was worried about Ambrose Amble and his connections with France. I was dispatched to do some sleuthing without it being known I am here. However, to visit you was non-negotiable. So here I am.” He slid one finger inside her channel and began a sensual swirl and scrape, using his fingernail to maximum effect.

“Th…ahhh…oh my…er…yes…um…tha…thank goodness. F-for some strange reason my papa thinks I should marry Edward. He thinks you are…ahh, ah are, oh dear lord do not stop, this is so, so…needed.”

“Thinks?” Jonathon said with laughter in his tone.

“Dead.”

“So do a lot of people. I wonder if that has something to do with the pressure Amble appears to be under. It is said he is trying to contact those who once supported Napoleon, but we do not know why. Thanks to Edward, we know we must discover more, and I cannot be found to be here. Nor can I visit him. It is a worrying time.”

I can talk to him though.”

That was what he’d hoped she would say. However… “I do not want you in any danger.”

“A visit to Edward and your parents should not be dangerous. Amble, however, I would not go near alone. His eyes…”

“Please do not go near him. Ask Ann to visit you perhaps.” He moved his finger in and out of her channel in a rhythmic manner. “See if she is happy or…”

“How do I tell you what I have found out? What if she mentions the Corsican?” Her voice rose as he rubbed her nub before returning to his sensual teasing of her cunt.

“You’ll see. I’ll come to you.”

“Strange. I thought the business with Napoleon was over?” Miranda said with a catch as he kissed her nape and with his spare hand undid the ribbons at the neck of her dress to expose her breasts.

“We had hoped so…but no…not entirely, not yet. Plus, there is news that people who supported him in the Caribbean are trying to cause problems for the British. With little success so far, but… Anyway, enough of that for now.” He bit one hard nipple gently and relished her soft mewl. “I wondered if I would be welcome after so long.”

“You are always welcome in my home,” she said as he moved another finger to join the first inside her. “And in my cu—” She tripped over the word, and he remembered with fondness how shocked she had been at his use of common words for parts of the body.

“Your?” he asked.

“My curious mind,” she finished and wriggled. “And my body, my channel, my-y cunt. Now.”

“Never let it be said I refused a lady. My lady,” he amended. “You, only you. Others I will and do refuse with impunity.” He had no worries with regards to whether his cock had recovered. The way it pulsed and stiffened told him all he needed to know. He lifted her from his lap. “Kneel on the seat and face the wall.”

“Face the—” She shrugged but did as he asked.

“Put your hands on the top of the back and rest your face on them.” He waited until she complied, then flicked her gown up and over her head to expose her perfectly rounded posterior.

Jonathon gave in to his desires and let himself admire it for a few seconds. One day

That day was not now. He swiftly released his cock from the confines of his trousers and moved forward. “Spread your legs, love, let me in. Let me love you, fill you.”

“And come in me,” Miranda said firmly. “Come in me.”