“Jessica, you are a pain in the arse, do you know that? If I were not so immensely fond of you, I should throw you out the window."
She wrapped her arms about his waist and laid her head against his chest. "Not merely 'fond,' but 'immensely fond.' Oh Dain, I do believe I shall swoon."
"Not now," he said crossly. "I haven't time to pick you up.”
“I must be besotted,” he said evenly. “I have the imbecilic idea that you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. Except for your coiffure,” he added, with a disgusted glance at the coils and plumes and pearls. “That is ghastly.”
She scowled. “Your romantic effusions leave me breathless.”
“With the world securely in order, Dain was able to devote the leisurely bath time to editing his mental dictionary. He removed his wife from the general category labeled "Females" and gave her a section of her own. He made a note that she didn't find him revolting, and proposed several explanations: (a) bad eyesight and faulty hearing, (b)a defect in a portion of her otherwise sound intellect, (c) an inherited Trent eccentricity, or (d) an act of God. Since the Almighty had not done him a single act of kindness in at least twenty-five years, Dain thought it was about bloody time, but he thanked his Heavenly Father all the same, and promised to be as good as he was capable of being.”
“. . I tell you Dain is a splendid catch. I advise you to set your hooks and reel him in.”
Jessica took a long swallow of her cognac. “This is not a trout, Genevieve. This is a great, hungry shark.”
“Then use a harpoon.”
“I love these pet names," she said, gazing soulfully up into his eyes, "Nitwit. Sap skull. Termagant. How they make my heart flutter!”
“You'll want all your strength for the wedding night."
I cannot think why I should need strength," she said, ignoring a host of spine-tingling images rising in her mind's eye. "All I have to do is lie there."
"Naked," he said grimly.
"Truly?" She shot him a glance from under her lashes. "Well, if I must, I must, for you have the advantage of experience in these matters. Still, I do wish you'd told me sooner. I should not have put the modiste to so much trouble about the negligee."
"It was ghastly expensive," she said, "but the silk is as fine as gossamer, and the eyelet work about the neckline is exquisite. Aunt Louisa was horrified. She said only Cyprians wear such things, and it leaves nothing to the imagination."
Jessica heard him suck in his breath, felt the muscular thigh tense against hers.
"But if it were left to Aunt Louisa," she went on,"I should be covered from my chin to my toes in thick cotton ruffled with monstrosities with little bows and rosebuds. Which is absurd, when an evening gown reveals far more, not to mention--"
"What color?" he asked. His low voice had roughened.
"Wine red," she said, "With narrow black ribbons threaded through the neckline. Here." She traced a plunging U over her bosom. "And there's the loveliest openwork over my...well, here." She drew her finger over the curve of her breast a bare inch above the nipple. "And openwork on the right side of the skirt. From here" --she pointed to her hip--"down to the hem. And I bought---"
"Jess." Her name was a strangled whisper.
"--slippers to match," she continued." Black mules with--"
"Jess." In one furious flurry of motion he threw down the reins and hauled her into his lap.”
“Dain kept his gaze on his plate and concentrated on swallowing the morsel he'd just very nearly choked on. She was possessive... about him.
The beautiful, mad creature - or blind and deaf creature, or whatever she was - coolly announced it as one might say, "Pass the salt cellar," without the smallest awareness that the earth had just tilted on its axis.”
“And so I beat him and beat him until he kissed me. And then I kept on beating him until he did it properly.”
“We've been wed more than a month. Since it appears you mean to stay, I might as well give you leave to call me by my christian name. It is preferable, at any rate, to 'clodpole.”
“You are well aware of your effect on women, and I'm sure it gratifies you no end to watch them sigh and salivate over your magnificent physique. I do not wish to spoil your fun, Dain, but I do ask you to consider my pride and refrain from embarrassing me in public."
Women...sighing and salivating...over his magnificent physique. Maybe the brutal bedding had destroyed a part of her brain.”
“You refuse to listen. Because, like every other man, you can keep only one idea in your head at a time-usully the wrong one.”
“Women don't have a sense of humor. They don't need one. The Almighty made them as a permanent joke on men. From which one may logically deduce tha the Almighty is a female.”
“Jessica swallowed. "I think you had better stick to English."
"But Italian is so moving," Dain said.
"To ho voluto dal primo che ti vedi." I've wanted you from the first moment I saw you.
"Mi tormenti ancora." You've tormented me ever since.”
“Jessica: “You great drunken jackass!”
Dain: “I did not give you leave to use my Christian name.”
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And the better the world liked seeing them fall.”
“I should like to see you try.”
“Jessica frowned at her. “It was very difficult to keep a straight face—but that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was—” She let out a sigh. “Oh, Genevieve. He was so adorable. I wanted to kiss him. Right on his big, beautiful nose. And then everywhere else. It was so frustrating. I had made up my mind not to lose my temper, but I did. And so I beat him and beat him until he kissed me. And then I kept on beating him until he did it properly. And I had better tell you, mortifying as it is to admit, that if we had not been struck by lightning—or very nearly—I should be utterly ruined. Against a lamppost. On the Rue de Provence. And the horrible part is”—she groaned—“I wish I had been.”
“Jessica, I know I've been...difficult," he said. "All the same—"
"Difficult?" She looked up, her grey eyes wide, "You have been impossible. I begin to think you are not right in the upper storey. I knew you wanted me. The only thing I've never doubted was that. But getting you into bed— you, the greatest whoremonger in Christendom— gad, it was worse than the time I had to drag Bertie to the tooth-drawer. And if you think I mean to be doing that the rest of our days, you had better think again. The next time, my lord, you will do the seducing— or there won't be any, I vow.”
“Adieu, Lord Dain,” she answered without turning her head. “Have a pleasant evening with your cows.”
She was merely trying to provoke him, Dain told himself. The remark was a pathetic attempt at a setdown. To take offense was to admit he’d felt the sting. He told himself to laugh and return to his… cows.”
“The Challenge is to pry Bertie loose from Dain and his circle of oafish dengenerates,” Jessica said severely.
“It would be far more profitable to pry Dain loose for yourself,” said her grandmother. “He is very wealthy, his lineage is excellent, he is young, strong, and healthy, and you feel a powerful attraction.”
“He isn’t husband material.”
“What I have described is perfect husband material.” said her grandmother.
“I don’t want a husband.”
“Jessica, no woman does who can regard men objectively. And you have always been magnificently objective.”
“You needn't consult me about redecorating. I know no female can live two days in a house and leave anything as it was. I shall be much astonished if I can find my way about when I return.”
“He pulled away the glove, and at the first glimpse of her fragile, white hand, all thoughts of negotiation fled. "I don't see how matters could become worse," he muttered. "I am already besotted with a needle-tongued, conceited, provoking ape leader of a lady."
Her head jerked up. "Besotted? You're nothing like it. Vengeful is more like it. Spiteful.”
“Thank you, Dain," she said. "I should like that very much. I've never seen a proper wrestling match before."
"I daresay it will be a novel experience all round," he said, gravely eyeing her up and down. "I can't wait to see Sherburne's face when I arrive with my lady wife in tow."
"There, you see?" she said, unoffended. "I told you there were other benefits to having a wife. I can come in very handy when you wish to shock your friends.”
“Dain wasn't certain what exactly was wrong with her, but he had no doubt that something was. He was Lord Beelzebub, wasn't he? She was supposed to faint, or recoil in horrified revulsion at the very least. Yet she had gazed at him as bold as brass, and it had seemed for a moment as though the creature were actually flirting with him.”
“Sognavo di te.
I’ve dreamed of you.
Ti desideravo nelle mia braccia dal primo momento che ti vedi.
I’ve wanted you in my arms since the moment I met you.
Ho bisogno di te.
I need you”
“It's about time you saw how fortunate you are. You have ... the most virile man in the world." He grinned, and in his eyes, black as sin, she saw the devil inside him laughing. But he was her devil, and she loved him madly.
"The most conceited, you mean," she said.
He bent his head until his great Usignuolo nose loomed as inch from hers, "The most virile, " he repeated firmly. "You are pathetically slow if you haven't learned that by now. Fortunately for you, I am the most patient of tutors. I shall prove it to you."
"You patience?" she asked.
"My virility. Both. Repeatedly." His black eyes glinted. "I will teach you a lesson you'll never forget. "
She tangled her fingers in his hair and brought his mouth to hers. "My wicked darling," she whispered. "I should like to see you try.”
“He had relieved whores beyond counting of frocks, stays, chemises, garters, and stockings. He had never before in his life unbuttoned a gently bred maiden's glove. He'd committed salacious acts beyond number. He'd never before felt so depraved as he did now, as the last pearl came free and he drew the soft kid down, baring her wrist, and his dark fingers grazed the delicate skin he'd exposed.”
“Beaumont wanted Esmond very badly. Esmond wanted Beaumont’s wife. And she didn’t want anybody.”
“We have been wed scarcely three days," she said. "You do not desert your new bride for your sapskull friends. You will not make a laughingstock of me. If you are unhappy with me, you say so, and we discuss it— or quarrel, if you prefer. But you do not—"
"You do not dictate to me," he said levelly. "You do not tell me where I may and may not go— or when — or with whom. I do not explain to you and you do not question. And you do not come into my room and throw temper fits."
"Yes, I do," she said. "If you leave this house, I will shoot your horse out from under you."
"I will not permit you to desert me," she said. "You will not take me for granted as Sherburne does his wife, and you will not make all the world laugh at me— or pity me —as they do her. If you cannot bear to miss your precious wrestling match, you can jolly well take me with you."
"Take you?" His voice climbed. "I'll bloody well take you, madam— straight to your room. And lock you in, if you can't behave yourself.”
“Any idea what she said, Dain?"
„What was it?”
„Men are ignorant brutes.”
“I’ve come to know that what we want in life is the
greatest indication of who we really are.”
“The ordinary man looking at a mountain is like an illiterate person confronted with a Greek manuscript.”
“What are Christians known for? Outsiders think our moralizing, our condemnations, and our attempts to draw boundaries around everything. Even if these standards are accurate and biblical, they seem to be all we have to offer. And our lives are a poor advertisement for the standards. We have set the gameboard to register lifestyle points; then we are surprised to be trapped by our mistakes. The truth is we have invited the hypocrite image.”
“At all costs the true world of childhood must prevail, must be restored; that world whose momentous, heroic, mysterious quality is fed on airy nothings, whose substance is so ill-fitted to withstand the brutal touch of adult inquisition.”
“The marketplace has many similarities to nature's rainforest and oceanic ecosystems. Left to their own devices, the marketplace and the earth's ecosystems are self-regulating. Neither requires our forceful intervention to establish a holistic balance in which a diversity of complimentary niches can evolve. Aggression in the marketplace or destruction in a natural ecosystem upsets this balance. Some of the niches are destroyed along with their occupants. Diversity is lost.”
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