Authors: Bobbi Smith
NEW YORK CITY
This book is dedicated to the Walton Clan, one and all—
Margaret, Tim, Mary, Julie, Aimee, and Randy and to
the brave and gentle men and women of the St. Charles.
Fire Protection District, St. Charles, Mo. Thanks!
Jim thought he was dreaming when he opened his eyes and saw the ivory-bodied goddess coming toward him. Held captive by his intoxicated state, he lay still, letting his gaze roam over her.
“Who are you?” he managed to whisper, the thrill of this midnight illusion making coherent thought impossible.
Delight was scared. She hadn’t thought he would awaken—not yet. Her lack of experience frightened her, but she wanted to be with him…needed to be with him.
“I’ve come to love you, my captain,” she replied, her voice as soft as a gentle breeze.
“Then tease me no longer, my beauty,” Jim responded, slowly extending a hand in her direction.
The blackness of the night surrounded them as their bodies touched intimately for the first time. His mouth descended to hers slowly, sensuously opening her lips to him and drawing her life from her in a devastating kiss unlike anything she’d ever dreamed.
“What pleases you beauty?” he asked between short, breathless kisses.
“Your touch pleases me, my captain,” Delight replied, without thought. “As I hope the gift of my love pleases you.”
Delight couldn’t control the urge to move against the hardness of Jim’s muscled body, and he was thrilled at her uninhibited response. “Not so fast, little one.” He slowed her with gentle hands as she twisted erotically beneath him. “Let’s go slowly—together.”
“I’m yours, forever, my captain, to do with as you will.…”
St. Louis, 1863
Wearily, Delight de Vries parted the heavy velvet drapes and stared bleakly out into the darkness of the cold January night. The wind was strong out of the northwest, promising yet another winter storm, and it howled in protest as it cut a chilling path down the snow-packed, deserted streets.
Though soft lights shone invitingly from the unshuttered windows of the other houses on Lucas Place, Delight felt none of their warmth. For a moment, she almost wished herself away from here…away from the cold and dark…away from the pall of sickness that hung over her home. But duty and love banished the thought forever. Her mother needed her.
For the better part of a week now, she had been nursing her mother through a very serious illness, and it seemed as if all of her efforts were for naught…Clara de Vries Montgomery had shown little improvement. She was not doing well.
Turning from the frigid, night-shrouded landscape, Delight let the curtain fall and returned to her vigil at her mother’s bedside. Curling once again into the high-backed wing chair, she pulled a warm knitted afghan about her and waited. Her eyes lovingly traced her mother’s pale features, hoping for some sign of life renewed, but there was no change. Clara lay quietly, her breathing shallow and labored.
Dr. Freemont had just left a short time before, and he had had little to offer in the way of encouragement. He had, however, given Clara a more potent sleeping potion in hopes that she would rest more peacefully. And, so far, Delight had to
admit that her mother was less fretful. Maybe, in the long run, sleep would be the best medicine for her.
But for Delight, the feelings of uselessness that assailed her as she waited in this emotional limbo were almost intolerable. She was tired of hearing “only time will tell.” She wanted some proof that her mother would get better. Patience was not one of her stronger virtues.
Sighing her frustration, Delight leaned her head back. Closing her eyes, she hoped a short rest would improve her worrisome outlook. Soon, Martin, her stepfather, would return, and her hours of lonely waiting would be at an end.
Odd, she thought, that Martin had been so supportive during Clara’s illness. Before, for some reason, she had always felt uncomfortable around him…. But his gentle forbearance these past few days had helped her to endure the tense, nerve-racking hours of waiting, and for that she would be ever grateful to him. Finally, as the clock struck ten, she dozed off, sleep erasing all of the cares and worries that beset her.
His dark eyes ablaze with illicit desire, Martin Montgomery stood silently in the doorway of the master bedroom. A triumphant leer curved his too-full lips as he gazed upon Delight, asleep in the chair by the bed. It was going to work! All of his careful planning was finally going to pay off!
Not wanting to awaken Delight just yet, Martin hesitated, taking the time to observe her as she rested. His gaze caressed her, lingering on her sleep-flushed cheeks and the glory of her silken, raven hair. It had come unbound as she slept and now fell about her shoulders in a cascade of soft curls. How he longed to bury his face in its seductive loveliness. Martin felt the familiar tightening in his loins as he imagined having Delight, willing, in his arms. With an effort, he fought down the urge to take her then and there. It would be soon, but not yet. He could wait another hour or two….
Schooling his features into a mask of concern, he entered the room, “Delight?”
Delight came awake slowly.
“Has there been any change?” he asked softly, his tone reflecting just the right amount of worry.
Delight looked up and smiled tiredly. “No. None. But I think she is resting more comfortably.”
“I only hope the new medicine the doctor left is doing some good,” he said with measured uneasiness. Then, turning to face her, he offered her the tray he carried with a small pot of tea on it. “I’ve brought you some tea…I thought you might need it.”
“Thank you, Martin.” Delight greatly appreciated his thoughtfulness. “Dr. Freemont said the medicine should help Mother to sleep all night, but as sick as she’s been…I was afraid to leave her alone.”
“I understand.” He was solemn. “But I’ll stay with her now. You go ahead to bed.” He smiled warmly at her.
“I think I will lie down for a while since you’re back…I just can’t seem to keep my eyes open anymore,” Delight finished the last of her tea and set the cup and saucer aside.
“It is late. It’s after eleven already.” Martin took her arm solicitously as she rose from her chair. “I’ll call you if there’s any change.”
“All right.” Her smile was tinged with fatigue as Martin escorted her the short distance to her bedroom. “I can’t begin to tell you how much your help has meant to me these past few days…I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“Nonsense.” Martin dismissed her words abruptly, irritation flaring. Gratitude was the last thing he wanted from her. “I love your mother. You know that.”
With warm affection, Delight reached up and kissed his cheek. “Well, good night. And please, call me if you need anything,” she told him as she entered her room.
“I will,” he answered and then murmured under his breath as she closed the door, “Don’t you worry about that…you’ll be the first to know when I need you.”
Pausing in the hall, Martin listened anxiously to see if she
was going to lock the door. When no telltale click of the bolt came, he smiled wickedly to himself and returned to his wife’s bedside.
With an unsteady hand, Delight lit the small lamp on her bureau and then sat down heavily on the fleecy softness of her half-tester bed. She felt uncomfortably warm all of a sudden, and with sleep-clumsy fingers tried to unbutton the bodice of her high-necked gown. After struggling in frustration for what seemed an eternity, Delight gave up the arduous task and lay back, savoring the welcoming comfort. She wanted to undress—to take off her shoes and really relax, but for some reason she couldn’t manage to keep her eyes open. Surrendering to the inevitable, Delight rolled to her side and, brushing an errant, tickling curl from her cheek, fell quickly into a deep, dreamless sleep.
With a click that seemed to echo loudly through the bedroom, Martin closed his timepiece and put it back in his vest pocket. Damn, but it had only been twenty minutes! Glancing at his sleeping wife, he smiled to think how convenient her illness was. For months, he had tried to figure a way to be alone with Delight, and now Clara had given him the perfect opportunity. At last, he had Delight right where he wanted her.
The knock at the bedroom door startled him and he looked up, almost guiltily, as Sue, Clara’s maid, came in.
“How is she doing, Mr. Montgomery?” Sue asked with genuine concern.
“She’s been resting quietly since Dr. Freemont gave her the new medicine.”
“Good.” Glancing at Martin, she inquired, “Can I bring you anything?”
“No, I’m fine Sue. But thanks.” Martin smiled benevolently, wanting the woman to go on to bed.
“Then I’ll be retiring for the night, sir.”
“Fine. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Martin breathed a strained sigh of relief as Sue left the room. Now, he was certain. For the rest of the evening there would be no further interruptions. Nothing could go wrong.
Rising, he paced the floor. As soon as he was sure that the double dose of Clara’s sleeping potion that he’d put in Delight’s tea had taken effect, he was going to make her his.
The fire of desire that was burning in his soul for Delight was reflected plainly in his handsome, swarthy features. Stopping at the foot of the bed, he stared at Clara, cursing the fates that had forced him to marry her those long months ago. At the time, marrying the wealthy, older widow Clara de Vries had seemed the easy way out…and Martin did pride himself on always handling things expediently. Money had been his main motive, and Clara certainly had enough of that. She had pleased him in bed, too, for a while. For what she had lacked in youth, she had made up for in enthusiasm. It was only when Delight, Clara’s much-adored daughter, had returned from school back East that Martin had discovered, much to his surprise, that she was closer to twenty than ten. Clara’s child was not the little girl he had expected. She was a young woman in full bloom. Delight was graceful and gorgeous, with hair as black as night, and fair, flawless skin. He had wanted her from the first time he’d seen her. His only problem had been finding the time to be alone with her. And now…well, tonight was the night.
Martin’s eyes raked over his wife’s colorless features as she lay inert beneath the heavy bedclothes. Clara’s illness had aged her, and she looked even older than her thirty-eight years. Angry for having tied himself to her, he turned his back on her and quit the room. He could bear it no longer. He was going to Delight.