Her husband was, quite simply, an expert in torture.
Oh, not in any of the ways she had believed him upon mere acquaintance. Anthony did not in fact enjoy antagonizing the masses or mocking the meek or despoiling innocent maidens--save herself--but nevertheless…
Curse her broken leg.
His mouth was open, with some new onslaught of tantalizing ideas doubtlessly tipping towards his tongue, when he blinked at her breathless interjection. “Something the matter?” Anthony asked, his hooded eyes blinking without guile and his crooked smile twitching with excess of it.
Set upon a number of superfluously fluffed pillows, her still-healing leg taunted her. There it sat, utterly useless, prohibited from moving, let alone indulging in either of the impulses thrumming at her muscles. (Option one: hooking her legs around his hips, and drawing him close against her. Option two: kicking him. Profusely.)
She'd had to tilt her chin over her shoulder to see Anthony's lips curve, propped beside her on their bed as he sat. Ever careful of her broken leg, he kept at her side, with one arm stretched behind her shoulders, and his face, voice, and breath hovering by her loose hair. Her wrinkled chemise sighed a stark contrast to the rigid strength of his forearm.
Kate wanted to growl, yes. He had just devoted a veritable monologue to describing, in painstaking detail, every single attention he intended to pay her body once the physician declared her fully healed, nipping some promises against her earlobe, breathing some others against her cheek or jaw or temple. Teasing her until she felt afire and hollowed and teetering over some edge that would land her in Anthony’s arms.
But she knew enough of her husband to realize that he was aiming for precisely that admission. That he wanted her desperation. That he wanted her begging.
His fingertips teased the tender skin beneath her collarbone.
Just as she undoubtedly knew enough of her husband to realize that his ego needed no such bolstering.
So Kate narrowed her eyes. “Nothing. I’m only a bit stiff,” she said, grateful when her voice didn’t tremble or grit.
She straightened her chin to face the closed door, but not before seeing his brow creasing with worry. “Would you like me to reposition you?”
“Just slightly.” As he leaned over to slide her shoulders into better purchase against the ornate headboard of their bed, Kate moved her hip against his lap. Then squirmed for good measure.
“Better?” Anthony asked, tone a blend of concern for her leg and suspicion of her motives. Clever man, her husband.
Even if she hadn't felt his breath fracture at her ear, she would certainly have still felt him hardening against her side
“Oh, much.” Anthony was clever, yes. But she would read Edwina’s complete collection of Aristotle before yielding that he was a bit more clever than her. “Now…” she drawled. “You were saying something?” As if she couldn’t pick up on the exact word that she had interrupted. A distracting image involving her skirts thrown to her head and his fingers—
Kate flushed. (She had been married for months now; eventually, she would have to stop blushing for Anthony quite so easily.)
“Something,” he agreed, voice tight with amusement or aggravation or—most probably—both. “Care to remind me, wife?”
“I believe you had just confessed that you've always longed to let me tie you to our bed.”
A snort of gruff laughter warmed her ear. “Not quite.” Within a heartbeat, he moved his hands down from her shoulders to trap her restless wrists between their palm lines.
Kate hummed a challenge as his thumbs traced her veins.
“You would want my hands unbound for what I was planning,” he murmured into her neck. His lips wandered the slope of her throat, slow and searing and pausing every so often to suckle the spots that he knew to be her most sensitive.
It took all the willpower Kate could muster to feign a yawn when she wanted nothing more than to sink into his touch. “You mention so many plans. It grows tedious to keep track.”
He paused, the thin skin of her neck still snared between his teeth. “Tedious?”
Then Anthony growled, Kate pressed her lips together to keep from smiling, and she swallowed the certainty that she had him.
His wife, Anthony Bridgerton felt quite strongly, was a menace, albeit for none of the reasons he’d originally believed. Not because she trampled young men’s feet, or because she wielded sarcasm with a—well, a Bridgerton’s precision, or even because her tenacity could rival his own. Those traits of hers had long come to number among his favorites. He liked hoarding her waltzes away for himself, delighted in her sharp tongue, and would not have altered a stubborn bone in her body, save the wounded ones currently troubling her leg.
No, his wife was not a menace to society, but to him.
(God, he loved her.) (God, he loved allowing himself to think those words.)
He still didn’t dare bed her properly--not with her injury still remotely fresh, nor with dread of her death still so raw in his head--but every movement she stirred against him, every moan she tried to mute, was threatening to drive him bloody insane.
Anthony smoothed his hands into a tighter cuff around hers, soothing and stroking their fair skin. It was only fair that he returned the favor.
“Is this tedious?” he challenged, raising one of her hands to his curling mouth and murmuring his lips from her mound of Venus to her knuckles to her fingertips. He dearly hoped that Kate never realized the extent of his fascination with her hands. The minx was capable enough of undoing him without free ammunition.
Anthony’s tongue had just begun to peruse the muted green veins spindling down his wife’s inner wrist when she made a noncommittal noise that might have been a gasp, might have been a sigh. Narrowing his eyes again, he dropped her arm, and then dropped his own hand down to the light, yielding neckline of her chemise. “Or this?”
She didn’t answer aloud, but clutched his fingers with the hand he’d kept twined with his. A vehement no, Anthony decided. Tilting a smile into her undone hair—the only positive result of her indisposition: she hadn’t bothered to arrange her hair into one of her entirely unnecessary bonnets since—he slipped his thumb down the curve of her breast, and circled its pad around her nipple. Not nearly as satisfying as bracing himself above her and licking his way down her entire body from lips to thighs, and yet…
Anthony's thoughts paused, his fingers still teasing her dusky, peaked skin. Well. That had potential. As long as he was careful of her leg, and Anthony was nothing if not careful. Especially with what he cherished. Especially with his family.
Nevertheless... he would rather she asked first. He was not entirely sure of the game his wife had chosen to play, but Anthony had no qualms over making up the rules alongside her as they went.
“Just tell me what you want, Kate,” he breathed, moving his palm to cup her round, heaving breast in full. Ruinously beautiful, his wife was.
“I…” Just missing a bruise from the headboard, her head arced back against their bed’s ruffled pillows as her eyes shuddered shut. “What you were doing before…”
Even though she couldn’t see his face, with her eyes so closed and her head so thrown, Anthony blinked sham bemusement. “That wasn’t too tedious?”
A glare snapped her eyes open and bright. “I would like to tie you up.”
Anthony’s throat bobbed at the thought. “We can return to that subject once you’re healed,” he said with a shake of his head. He darted a kiss, which was almost more of a bite, at the tip of her earlobe. “I’ll find something soft for your wrists.”
As he maneuvered his way loose from her side, unfolding his arm from its frame around her upper back, Kate made a low, mewling sound that he knew she’d identified as a favorite of his sometime over their honeymoon.
Plenty of ammunition, indeed.
Looming above her with one knee on either side her waist, Anthony intertwined their fingers, and held one of her hands against the cool headboard. “Know that I’m sincere when I say that I will tie your wrists if you strain yourself.”
Kate latched her gaze to his, dark hair rustling over her shoulders with the defiant tilt of her chin. “All talk.”
And—Anthony had no further recourse for that beyond a hard grin, a harder tug at her chemise, and an intent dip of his mouth towards her bared breast.
(Anthony declared the game his when his wife unleashed a deep moan.)
(Kate had decided the victory hers as soon as her husband put his tongue to better use than talking.)