A night of forever, p.9
A Night of Forever, p.9Lori Brighton
A rustle of leaves filtered through her hazy mind. Meg stiffened, her smile falling. Too loud to be a bird. The rustling stopped. Meg cocked her head to the side and listened. The shadows remained still, not a leaf moved. Even the wind seemed to have disappeared. Had she imagined the noise?
From behind, a twig snapped. She spun around, her heart slamming wildly against her chest. Her dress still lay in a puddle on the bank, but too far to reach in time.
“H…Hanna?” she called out.
Saints, if anyone from town noted her state of undress, she’d die of mortification. She pressed her hand to her neckline, where her breasts threatened to spill from the material. Why hadn’t she splurged on a new shift that actually fit instead of continuing to wear one two sizes too small?
Another snap rent the air. A deer? A squirrel? Surely nothing else. So why couldn’t she calm her racing heart? She started toward the bank when the branches parted. A scream bubbled in her throat but refused to go past her lips.
From the shrubs, a dark-haired man stepped into view not feet from where her dress lay. The scream died on her lips and her mind went fuzzy. A God? King of the Fairies? Perhaps a knight from King Arthur’s time? He was far too beautiful to be human.
His gaze met hers and he drew back, seemingly as startled as she. Just when she thought he’d vanish, disappear back to the mythical realm from whence he’d come, his lips parted and she heard his soft gasp.
The sound rushed her back to reality on a torrent of heated embarrassment. His attention traveled her form, from her toes in the clear water, up to her stomach, lingering at her neckline were the tops of her breasts glistened with moisture. Meg was painfully aware of the way her wet shift clung to her body, the way her damp tendrils hugged her neck, the way she stood practically naked in front of a strange man. Painfully aware, yet she couldn’t seem to move.
“I…I apologize.” His deep voice surprised her, so strong, so unlike the quiet gentleness of nature. Yet smooth, like warm honey on a hot summer day. “I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
Oh God, he was real, truly real! Meg gasped and crossed her arms over her chest. Without a word she scurried toward the bank. She attempted to climb the small hill, while covering her breasts with her hands, but the deed remained impossible. With a cry, she slipped to her knees. Groaning partly from pain, but mostly from horrifying embarrassment, she glanced down. The neckline of her shift gaped open, showing the valley between her breasts. The thought of wading back into the creek and drowning herself held certain appeal.
As if she needed further embarrassment, the tips of his brown boots appeared in front of her. Daisies reflected in the shiny leather and she had no doubt she’d be able to see her face should she lean forward. Why couldn’t he just leave and let her die of shame on her own? Swallowing hard, her gaze traveled up his muscled legs, clad in tight buff riding breeches, up to the wide expanse of his chest covered with a pristine white shirt.
Hell, this could not be happening.
Finally, she dared to look into the face of the dark-haired devil. A lock had fallen across his pale forehead, mussing his otherwise tidy appearance like a soldier out of rank. Stubborn, square jaw, firm lips that seemed to be molded into a permanent frown.
He quirked a black brow, as if finding her predicament ridiculous. “Do you need assistance?” His deep voice rolled over her, sending strange waves of heat spiraling through her body, not unlike when one had a fever. The feeling left her confused, unsure.
“No.” She tried to press her feet to the ground.
Her heels slid across the wet grass. With a yelp, she started backward, toward the creek. Strong fingers grasped her upper arms, the man impossibly quick. His hold was tight, strong and sure. Even through his leather gloves, his hands were cold. Before she could break free, she was dragged upright. She suddenly found herself only inches from him, their breaths mingling…close…too close. For one brief, terrifying and oddly thrilling moment, she thought he would kiss her…she hoped…
No. She drew back, attempting to get as far away as his grip would allow. Dear God, she couldn’t be…she wouldn’t be attracted to a stranger. “How…how dare you!”
She jerked out of his grasp and stepped back, angrier with her body’s reaction to the man, than his bold touch. Her foot slipped out from under her and she felt herself falling. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the thud to her backside. But he was there once more. His sure grip tightened around her arm and he quickly pulled her upright.
“I did apologize,” he said, although his voice certainly lacked conviction. He sounded bored. Bloody bored and for some reason Meg was offended. “I hardly see the need for you to carry on so.”
More than a little annoyed, she focused on his face and realized with a start that he had green eyes, eyes the very color of the moss on the bank. Green eyes surrounded by thick, black lashes that any woman would murder for.
Remaining traces of panic mixed with something long ago repressed...a tingle that spread from the spot where his fingers wrapped around her arms to the middle of her body and lower to the pit of her belly. And just as she was wondering if he felt anything, his nostrils flared ever so slightly, his lips parting almost as if he was breathing in her very essence. The blue vein on the side of his pale face jumped to life.
“I know. You were only trying to help,” she whispered.
How could she explain? She wasn’t daft, she’d heard the stories of innocent women seduced, whether they wanted to or not, by wealthy lords. And by the fine cut of his clothing, he was certainly wealthy and most likely a lord. She stepped out of reach, but could still feel the sting of his touch. No, it wasn’t attraction…it was merely the heat of the day.
Dancing around him, she snatched up her dress. “But you see, you shouldn’t appear on other people’s property when…”
He stepped forward, so close she could see flecks of gold in his eerie green eyes, and something else…anger. Through the heady scent of earth and woods, she smelled him… male, outdoors and leather…spice of some sort. A wonderful smell that pulled at her, made her want to step even closer.
“And grown women should not frolic like children wearing nothing but their undergarments.”
Heat raced to her face. When she opened her mouth to rebut, he held up his gloved hand. “Besides, this stream runs through my property and I may walk here as much as I damn well please. I should not have to worry about women hiding in the reeds.” He pointed toward the fence that disappeared into the trees across the creek. “To that fence there is owned by the procurer of Pease Manor.”
His words sank into her stomach like her sister Mary Ellen’s cooking. Pease Manor? This arrogant oaf was the new owner? It was horrible, too horrible that he should live so close. Perhaps he wouldn’t stay; perhaps he was merely here to hunt for a week or two.
She rubbed her brow and shifted, uncomfortable under his scrutiny. He was obviously awaiting her response. “They aren’t reeds, they’re wildflowers.”
He was silent for a moment, as if attempting to understand the sudden change in conversation. “What in hell are you talking about?”
Her ire grew and her hands twisted her faded pink dress. “You said I was hiding in reeds, I’m merely pointing out that they are wildflowers.”
His gaze narrowed. “Your name?”
“My name?” She blinked rapidly, attempting to pull herself from the odd sensual fog she currently waded in. She didn’t wish to tell him her name, yet surely he’d uncover the truth from the villagers if she didn’t offer a response.
He snatched the leather riding gloves from his fingers, one by one, drawing her attention to his hands; pale, large and clean. He cleared his throat. She jerked her attention back to his face.
“Are you dimwitted? Do you not know your own name?”
“Meg,” she blurted out, annoyed and exasperated that she’d answered him so easily. Obviously she’d lost control of her wits.
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Lori Brighton, A Night of Forever
A Night of Forever by Lori Brighton / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes