Authors: Linda Howard
Tags: #Fiction, #General
FAITH DEVLON: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it
with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott – and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled, sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Publication of POCKET BOOKS
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10.020
Copyright © 1995 by Linda Howington
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10.020
First Pocket Books printing December 1995
POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Stepback photo by Franco Accornero Printed in the U.S.A.
was a good day for dreaming. It was late in the afternoon, the sun throwing long shadows when it could manage to break through the thick woods, but for the most part the translucent golden light was tangled in the tops of the trees, leaving the forest floor mysteriously shadowed. The hot, humid summer air was redolent with the pink sweetness of honeysuckle nectar, all mingled with the rich, brown odor of the earth and rotting vegetation as well as the crisp green scent of the leaves. Odors had color for Faith Devlin, and since she’d been a little girl she had entertained herself by coldring the smells around her.
Most of the colors were obvious, drawn from the way something looked. Of course the earth smelled brown; of course that fresh, tangy scent of leaves would be green in her mind. Grapefruit smelled bright yellow; she’d never eaten one, but once had picked up one in the grocery store and hesitantly sniffed its skin, and the scent had exploded on her taste buds, sour and sweet all at the same time.
The smell of things was easy to color in her mind; the color scent of people was more difficult, because people were never just one thing, but different colors mixed together. Colors didn’t mean the same in people smells that they did in thing smells. Her mother, Renee, had a dark, spicy red
scent, with a few sworls of black and yellow, but the spicy red almost crowded out all the other colors. Yellow was good in things, but not in people; neither was green, or at least some shades of it. Her father, Amos, was a sickening mixture of green, purple, yellow, and black. That one was real easy, because from a very early age she had associated him with vomit. Drink and puke, drink and puke, that’s all Pa did. Well, and pee. He peed a lot.
The best smell in the world, Faith thought as she meandered through the woods, staring up at the captured sunlight and holding her secret happiness cradled deep in her chest, was Gray Rouillard. Faith lived for the glimpses of him she got in town, and if she was close enough to hear the deep, dark rumble of his voice, she trembled with joy. Today she’d gotten close enough to
him, and he had actually touched her! She was still giddy from the experience.
She had gone into the drugstore in Prescott with Jodie, her older sister, because Jodie had stolen a couple of bucks from Renee’s purse and wanted to buy some fingernail polish. Jodie’s smell was orange and yellow, a pale imitation of Renee’s scent. They had been coming out of the drugstore, the precious hot pink polish carefully tucked into Jodie’s bra so Renee wouldn’t see it. Jodie had been wearing a bra for almost three years now, and she was only thirteen, a fact she used to taunt Faith whenever she thought about it, because Faith was eleven and still didn’t have any boobs. Lately Faith’s flat, childish little nipples had begun to swell, though, and she was in an agony of embarrassment that someone would notice them. She had been intensely conscious of them poking out under the thin, purple LSU T-shirt she wore, but when they almost collided with Gray on the sidewalk as he was going into the drugstore and they were coming out, Faith forgot about the flimsiness of her shirt.
"Nice shirt," Gray had said, amusement dancing in his dark eyes, and patted her on the shoulder. Gray was home for the summer from college. He played football for LSU, a starting linebacker in his freshman year. He was nineteen, six foot three and still growing, and weighed a hard-packed two hundred thirty pounds. Faith knew because she’d read
all that in the sports page of the local newspaper. She knew he ran a 4.6 forty, and had great lateral speed, whatever that was. She also knew that he was beautiful, not in a pretty way, but in the same wild, powerful way that his father’s prize stallion, Maximillian, was beautiful. His French Creole ancestry was obvious in his dark coloring, and in the clear, strong bones of his face. His thick black hair hung down to his shoulders, making him look like a medieval warrior accidentally set down in the present time. Faith read every romance about medieval knights and their fair ladies that she could get her hands on, so she knew a knight when she saw one.
Her shoulder had tingled where Gray touched it, and her swelling nipples throbbed, making her blush and duck her head. Her senses were whirling dizzily with his scent, a rich, indefinable blend that she couldn’t describe, warm and musky, with an even deeper red than Renee’s, full of tantalizing colors in deep, luxurious hues.
Jodie thrust out her round breasts, covered by a sleeveless, hot pink blouse. She had left the top two buttons undone. "What about
shirt?" she asked, pouting a little to make her lips stick out more too, as she had seen Renee do thousands of times.
"Wrong color," Gray had said, his voice going hard and contempt leaking into the tone. Faith knew why. It was because Renee was sleeping with his father, Guy. She’d heard the way others talked about Renee, knew what "whore" meant.
He had brushed past them then, pushing open the door and disappearing into the drugstore. Jodie stared after him for a few seconds, then turned her greedy eyes on Faith. "Let me have your shirt," she said.
"It’s too little for you," Faith replied, and was fiercely glad that it was. Gray had liked her shirt, had touched it, and she wasn’t about to give it up.
Jodie had scowled at the obvious truth. Faith was small and skinny, but even her narrow shoulders strained at the seams of the two-year-old T-shirt.
"I’ll get my own," she’d declared.
She would, too, Faith thought now as she gazed dreamily
up at the flickering patterns made by the sun in the trees. But Jodie wouldn’t have the one Gray had touched; Faith had taken it off as soon as she’d gotten home, carefully folded it, and hidden it under her mattress. The only way anyone would find it there would be if they stripped the bed to wash the sheets, and since Faith was the only one who did that, the shirt would be safe, and she could sleep on it every night.
Gray. The violence of her emotions scared her, but she couldn’t control them. All she had to do was see him and her heart would begin pounding so hard in her skinny chest that it hurt her ribs, and she felt hot and shivery all at the same time. Gray was like a god in the small town of Prescott, Louisiana; he was wild as a buck, she’d heard people say, but he was backed by the Rouillard money, and even as a young boy he’d had a hard, reckless charm that made feminine hearts flutter. The Rouillards had spawned their share of rascals and renegades, and Gray had early shown the potential to be the wildest of the lot. But he was a Rouillard, and even when he raised hell, he did it with style.
For all that, he’d never been unkind to Faith, the way some of the people in town had. His sister, Monica, had once spat in their direction when Faith and Jodie had met her on the sidewalk. Faith was glad that Monica was in New Orleans at some fancy private girls’ school, and wasn’t home very often even during the summer, because she was visiting with friends. On the other hand, Faith’s heart had bled for months when Gray had gone oif to LSU; Baton Rouge wasn’t that far away, but during football season he didn’t get much time off, and came home only on the holidays. Whenever she knew he was home, Faith tried to hang around town where she might catch a glimpse of him, strolling with the indolent grace of a big cat, so tall and strong and dangerously exciting.
Now that it was summer, he spent a lot of time at the lake, which was one of the reasons for Faith’s afternoon expedition through the woods. The lake was a private one, over two thousand acres, and totally contained by Rouillard land. It was long and irregularly shaped, with several curves in it; broad and fairly shallow in some places, narrow and deep in
others. The big, white Rouillard mansion was to the east of it, the Devlin shack on the west, but neither was actually on the lakeshore. The only house on the lake was the Rouillard summerhouse, a white, one-story house with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a screened-in porch that totally encircled it. Down from the summerhouse was a boathouse and a pier, and a brick barbecue pit had been built there. Sometimes, during the summer, Gray and his friends would gather there for a rowdy afternoon of swimming and boating, and Faith would slip along the edge of the woods so she could watch him to her heart’s content.
Maybe he’d be there today, she thought, aching with the sweet yearning that filled her every time she thought about him. It would be wonderful to see him twice in one day.
She was barefoot, and her threadbare shorts left her skinny legs unprotected from scratches and snakes, but Faith was as at home in the woods as the other shy creatures; she wasn’t worried about the snakes, and disregarded the scratches. Her long, dark red hair tended to hang untidily in her eyes and annoy her, so she had pulled it back and secured it with a rubber band. She slipped like a wraith through the trees, her big cat eyes dreamy as she pictured Gray in her mind. Maybe he’d be there; maybe one day he’d see her hiding in the bushes, or peeking out from behind a tree, and he’d hold his hand out to her and say, "Why don’t you come out from there and have some fun with us?" She lost herself in the delicious daydream of being part of that group of laughing, roughhousing, suntanned kids, of being one of those curvy girls in a brief bikini.
Even before she got to the edge of the clearing where the summerhouse was, she could see the silver gleam of Gray’s Corvette parked in front of it, and her heart began the familiar violent pounding. He was here! She slid cautiously behind the shelter of a big tree trunk, but after a moment she realized that she couldn’t hear anything. There were no splashing sounds, no yells or shrieks or giggles.
Maybe he was fishing from the pier, or maybe he’d taken the boat out. Faith moved closer, angling for a view of the pier, but the wooden length was empty. He wasn’t there. Disappointment filled her. If he’d taken the boat out, there
was no telling how long he’d be gone, and she couldn’t stay there waiting for him. She had stolen this time for herself, but she had to get back soon and start cooking supper, and take care of Scottie.
She was turning to go when a muted sound reached her ears and she stopped, head cocked to try to locate it. She left the edge of the woods and took a few steps into the clearing, closer to the house, and now she could hear a murmur of voices, too low and indistinct for her to understand. Instantly her heart swelled again; he
here, after all. But he was inside the house; it would be difficult to catch a glimpse of him from the woods. If she went closer, though, she could hear him, and that was all she required.
Faith had the knack of small, wild things for silence. Her bare feet didn’t make a sound as she crept closer to the house, trying to stay out of a direct line to any of the windows. The murmur of voices seemed to be coming from the back of the house, where the bedrooms were located.