Midnight Caller (Moonlight Romance)

BOOK: Midnight Caller (Moonlight Romance)
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Midnight Caller

Moonlight Romance Book 1

Haley Whitehall

Published 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62210-028-6

Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2013, Haley Whitehall. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Manufactured in the United States of America

Liquid Silver Books

http://LSbooks.com

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Blurb

When Emma Bennett’s husband dies in a carriage accident in 1865, she is released from her loveless, controlling marriage. Now she has a chance to find happiness and raise a family. But before she begins courting again she wants to experience her freedom. At the advice of the leading socialite in town, she takes a black lover to fulfill her sexual needs. His raw, masculine power awakens feelings she didn’t know existed. After the first touch she craves more.

Frederick works as a roustabout by day and moonlights as a prostitute. He knows better than to fall in love with his white client, but Emma enchants him the first time he calls on her. To keep them both safe, he works hard to put up barriers. Unfortunately, he can’t protect Emma from the slimy Mr. Hawthorne, who wants her as his bride. Frederick vows to keep her safe even if his forbidden love costs him his life.

Dedication

To my friend Eva Lefoy for encouraging me to write historical romance and supporting me every step of the way.

Prologue

February 7, 1865

Louisville, Kentucky

Emma stared at her husband’s body laying cold and stiff on the doctor’s table. A sheet covered all but his face, shielding her from his mortal wounds. It didn’t stop her from imagining his crushed body. A carriage accident. She didn’t ask to know the details. It didn’t matter.

The doctor placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I did all I could do, Mrs. Bennett. He was unconscious when they carried him to my office. He didn’t suffer.”

Emma nodded. Was that supposed to comfort her?

The chill in the room seeped into her bones, as cold as the winter air outside. She shivered and pulled the shawl tighter around her shoulders. The thick wool coat she wore provided little warmth. The sanitary office emanated an icy energy. She took a step back from the table. This couldn’t be happening. She distanced herself from Hank’s corpse, looking at it not as his wife, but as a casual observer—trying desperately to keep herself together.

She’d break down. But not here. Not in the doctor’s office.

Her vision narrowed and her head felt fuzzy. The doctor took her by the arm and led her to a chair. “Sit down before you faint. Would you like a glass of water?”

Emma shook her head. She just wanted this day to end. She was now alone in the world. Again.

He walked over to his medicine cabinet and handed her a bottle of pills. “Take two of these tonight. They will help you sleep.”

“Thank you,” she said in a hollow voice.

“Is there someone who can stay with you?”

Emma shook her head. Her voice had died with Hank. Hank, who’d rescued her when she was merely a girl, barely budding. She married him out of appreciation. Once the women of Society in Louisville started wagging their tongues, Hank proposed. It was to save his sparkling reputation. It was never love.

A strange euphoria mixed with the grief in her heart. She was now free. Free and still young enough to find a handsome husband and settle down and raise a family.

Hank never wanted children. Well, not with her anyway. They had sex but he always pulled out. It was a strange marriage. He took care of her needs, but it was more of a business arrangement. Like she was his cook and he was her banker.

Despite her best efforts to hold them back, tears pricked her eyes. Once they started it was impossible to make them stop.

The doctor handed her a handkerchief. “You’ll feel better once you let it out,” he said, sitting down in the chair beside her.

Emma finally allowed herself to cry. But what the doctor didn’t understand—would never understand—was that her tears were of relief.

She would follow mourning etiquette, donning black. She owed Hank that much. He was a proper gentleman and would expect nothing less. But even in her state of mourning, it was time for her to start a new life. Now, with a home and money, she had a chance at happiness.

Chapter 1

July 8, 1866

Emma sat in Mrs. Dimshire’s opulent parlor feeling extremely out of place surrounded by plush green carpet, silk curtains, and a chandelier. The oak table was carved with intricate flower-and-leaf motifs. Mrs. Dimshire was among the first families of the area, inheriting a fortune from her father.

Mrs. Dimshire dismissed her maid, carrying in the tea tray herself. Her cornflower-blue eyes were sharp, despite the fact she was nearing sixty. Her face certainly didn’t show her age. Emma wished she knew the woman’s secret for stopping the hands of time. Mrs. Dimshire walked with grace, her back straight. The ease with which she carried herself made Emma jealous.

Emma shifted in her chair, her lavender skirts rustling. She had always felt socially awkward and her three years with Hank failed to help. If anything, his scrutiny made her even more self-conscious. Mrs. Dimshire is a nice lady. Granted she’s the leading socialite…but she doesn’t bite.

Visiting Mrs. Dimshire without Hank made the event a little daunting. Could it be mere coincidence her invitation to tea had come the day after she chose to come out of mourning? What did her hostess have planned?

Mrs. Dimshire set the tea tray on the table and gracefully took her seat. A proper woman worthy of a painting with her blue silk dress, waist belted to help emphasize to her shape. She reached for the silver tea service.

“What is your preference, Mrs. Bennett? Strong or weak?”

Being called “Mrs. Bennett” increased Emma’s already rapid heartbeat. She breathed through her nose, hoping the constant rise and fall of her chest was not visible. “Strong, please.”
Really strong. Maybe add a little brandy
.

The smell of tea and wisps of steam encircled Emma’s teacup. Perhaps the steam would hide her nervousness. She wished the fog could conceal her from Mrs. Dimshire’s probing gaze. She felt she was being evaluated—for what she didn’t know. Moisture dotted the china surface and Emma’s tanned skin.

Gardening had been the one indulgence Hank allowed her even though it made her look more like a farmer’s wife than the wife of an accountant. Perhaps her sun-darkened skin now garnered attention.

Since her husband had died, were they going to forbid her from attending social events? Had they found out her secret?

Emma placed a hand on her chest, the warmth of her palm soothing the dull ache.

“How much milk would you like, dear?” Mrs. Dimshire’s voice was honeyed and light. But the woman’s tone did nothing to put Emma at ease.

Mrs. Dimshire picked up a small china pitcher, her eyebrows raised in question.

“None, thank you,” Emma said. She did not need to dilute the tea.

“Sugar?”

“Two, thank you,” Emma replied. Just enough sweetness, not too much to be overpowering.

Emma took the cup, her back tense. “Thank you, Mrs. Dimshire.” Conscious of every move, every breath, she stirred her tea and then took a dainty sip. She would be the proper lady Hank expected. Hank had said she needed to overcompensate for her shortcomings.

“You are welcome to a scone,” Mrs. Dimshire said, motioning to the plate between them.

Emma swallowed another sip of tea. Nausea roiled her stomach. She took the smallest scone. “Thank you,” she said, flashing a polite smile. She took her time spreading the strawberry jam.

“How are you doing, dear? It has been a long year and a half.”

“Yes, it has. But I’m fine.”

Mrs. Dimshire held the cup to her lips, gazing at her while she took a drink. “You seem lonely. That was why I invited you for tea.”

“Thank you. I appreciate the invitation. I’m happy to be wearing color again.”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“It has been an adjustment learning to be more independent. Of course you would know about that.”

Mrs. Dimshire nodded. Her husband had passed away five years before. “I think I will live the rest of my life alone. I’m too old to remarry, but you have many years ahead of you.”

Emma’s cheeks warmed, and she bowed her head to hide the blush.

“Nothing to be ashamed of, Mrs. Bennett. It is time for you to move on, live your life.” She paused and leaned a little farther across the table. “Have children perhaps?”

Oh my word.
Did Mrs. Dimshire have someone in mind? Did she want to set her up immediately after she became socially available?

Her hands grew clumsy, making the teacup slippery in her fingers. She set the cup down and took another bite of biscuit. She wasn’t ready to court. Yes, it had been a lonely eighteen months, but she wanted to experience her freedom.

She didn’t want to cook and clean for a man.

“You know, Mr. Hawthorne is interested in you.”

Emma gave a slight nod. Everyone in town knew Mr. Hawthorne was interested in her. Hank had forbidden the telegraph operator to come around her again, but now Hank was gone, would he pursue her?

“Mr. Hawthorne is a respectable man,” Mrs. Dimshire said.

A throbbing pain began above Emma’s left eye. Surely, the old lady wouldn’t try to set them up. Out of all the eligible bachelors in town…with his thinning auburn hair and long, homely face, he was as attractive as a gnarled tree. She couldn’t imagine sleeping next to him. Her lungs compressed, making each breath a chore.

“He isn’t my type,” Emma squeaked out. He was worse than Hank. He would be more than demanding and controlling. He would be jealous and overbearing, maybe even violent.

She picked up her cup again, hoping the tea would be soothing. It wasn’t. Her hands shook and she set the cup down before she spilled it on the white lace tablecloth.

Mrs. Dimshire’s wrinkled hand grabbed her wrist tenderly. Emma’s heart punched her ribs. The touch was probably meant to be comforting, but she felt trapped.

“Do you know how I get through each day without Connor?”

Emma shook her head.

“Whenever I feel the need to have a man next to me, I satisfy that need.”

Emma’s eyes bulged. Had the leading socialite in Louisville just said she shared her bed with a variety of men? But there would have been gossip, surely. No one had said a word.

Mrs. Dimshire’s eyes were sincere and she spoke as matter-of-factly as if she had just ordered a cut of beef from the butcher.

“I know you are not ready to remarry.” The older woman’s fingers slipped away from her skin. “But I thought you might like some male company once in a while.”

A thrill rushed from Emma’s head to her toes. Being with a man, no-strings attached. All the power and freedom she wanted. She could control the affair.

“Ah, I see the glow in your eyes,” Mrs. Dimshire said. “Yes, it is exciting and invigorating for a woman to take charge. I can tell you where to go. No one will ever find out.” Mrs. Dimshire paused and leaned back in her brown-and-burgundy striped chair. “And I trust you will keep my secret.”

“Yes, ma’am. Of course.” Going against Mrs. Dimshire would be social suicide.

“There is one thing though that might dissuade you,” Mrs. Dimshire said and then dabbed her lips with a linen napkin. “The men are colored.”

Emma blinked.
The men are colored?
Her eyes bulged in pretend horror. She gasped and a hand rose to cover her gaping mouth. Most would consider that demeaning. Wouldn’t it be safer to juggle knives? It would certainly be safer on ones’ reputation!

If the rest of Louisville knew Mrs. Dimshire had…she shuddered. She couldn’t picture the respectable woman lying with a black man. She tried to, but the visualization hurt her brain. It just didn’t seem possible.

The sudden turn in conversation dried Emma’s throat. She took a large gulp of tea, forgetting her manners.

Mrs. Dimshire waved her hand in the air. “They know their business though. They are clean and gentle and bring protection. Does that bother you, Mrs. Bennett?”

Emma’s fingers tingled. She had always fantasized about being with a colored man. Hank had been so boring, bless his soul.
Lie on your back. Spread your legs open. Get it over with.
With a colored man, the danger factor would at least be arousing, even if the sex wasn’t.

But she just knew it would be different, better.

A colored man who did this regularly, who was not so restrained in his sexuality…

“Not at all, Mrs. Dimshire.” She smiled, hoping she didn’t look too eager.

BOOK: Midnight Caller (Moonlight Romance)
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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