Authors: Phoebe Conn,Copyright Paperback Collection (Library of Congress) DLC
This book made available by the Internet Archive.
Tis love that
makes me bold and resolute,
Love that can find a way
where path there's none,
Of all the gods, the most
—Euripides (480-406 BC)
ily, she fought to remain calm. Her step was silent as she padded around the desk on bare feet, but her hands were shaking so badly as she removed the pistol from the top drawer that she bumped it loudly against the highly polished mahogany. The noise echoed in her ears with an alarming wail until she realized it could not possibly have carried past the partially open door.
Whoever had entered the house would have seen the light in the study, so she didn't bother to douse it before stepping into the shadows beside the door. From this vantage point, she had a clear view of the hall, enabling her to see the intruder easily a second or two before he caught sight of her. Her mouth had gone dry. A cough hovered at the back of her throat, and she swallowed hard to dispel it.
Her elder brother, Beau, was a privateer away at sea, but he wore boots and moved with a confident stride she would have recognized instantly. Unlike a man returning home to a warm welcome, this fellow was creeping down the hall with a step so light the only sound was an occasional creak of the floorboards. The Barclays had far too many beloved relatives, dear friends, and goodmen working for them for Belle to risk firing at a shadow, but should she recognize danger rather than a familiar face, she was ready to do what she must. She cocked the heavy pistol and raised it with both hands, then drew in a deep breath and held it; her lungs had nearly burst before a man stepped into the ray of light thrown past the open door.
He was an Indian brave, and an exceedingly handsome one. His long ebony hair fell over his shoulders in careless disarray, and his worn buckskins were edged with tattered fringe. He was tall, with a lean, muscular build his soft deerskin clothing revealed in sensuous detail. As their eyes met, his dark glance lit with recognition, and the slow smile that spread over his well-shaped lips slurred into a rakish grin.
He reached out to brush Belle's pistol aside. "If you're standing guard, I like your uniform."
"Damn you, Falcon, you gave me an awful fright." After dropping the pistol to her side, Belle brushed her cousin's cheek with a light kiss. Then, embarrassed that she had revealed just how dearly she loved him, she turned away. Excited to see him, but relieved beyond measure that he hadn't been an enemy she would have had to shoot, her breathing relaxed to its normal easy rhythm as she circled the desk to replace the weapon in the drawer.
Falcon followed Belle into the study. He grabbed the crystal decanter of brandy sitting on the corner of his uncle's desk, raised it to his lips, and took a long swig. He returned the ornate bottle to its silver tray with deliberate care, but needed two tries to insert the delicate stopper. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, but his wide grin remained. Eager to claim a passionate welcome, he waited for Belle to return to his side, then drew her into his arms.
As Falcon's mouth covered hers in a bruising kiss, Belle reacted with shocked dismay. She slammed her palms against his chest to push him away but he was far too strong a young man to be bothered by such an ineffectual protest and hugged her all the more tightly. Caught in his embrace and nearly smothered by his ardor, Belle grew dizzy. The experience was exhilarating rather than unpleasant, and in the next instant she relaxed against him with a grateful sigh.
Swiftly lost in the wonder of him, her response grew as ardent as his. She slid her arms around his waist and clung to him as he deepened his kiss to explore her mouth with a lazy insistence that demanded total surrender. Thrilled by his forceful affection, she rubbed against him as he moved his hands down over her hips to mold her supple form to the hard planes of his.
Wanting still more, Falcon grasped Belle's waist. She was tall, but so slender he lifted her easily and sat her atop the desk. He shoved her linen gown up out of his way and
stepped between her legs. All the while his lips never left hers, and he moaned way in the back of his throat as he slipped his hands beneath her gown to caress the soft fullness of her bare breasts with a sweet sense of wonder.
Belle's heart pounded with passion rather than fear. She had grown up with Falcon, and that he finally wanted her with the same desperate desire that she could no longer hide was the most extraordinary happenstance of her life. His kiss was flavored with brandy and his hair scented with the smoky residue of a dozen campfires, but he was the only man she would ever love.
Unwilling to waste a precious second of this glorious night, she leaned into his touch. Wanting the same sweet sample of his bare skin that he had of hers, she slid her hands under his loose-fitting shirt to caress his back. He often went bare-chested in summer, and his deeply bronzed skin held a fiery warmth. It sang beneath her fingertips, calling to her as seductively as his passionate kiss.
She cuddled against his face as he nibbled her earlobe with playful bites, then pressed his lips to the rapidly throbbing pulse in her throat. His callused hands were rough, but his touch was gently adoring. He cupped her breasts in his palms and stroked her nipples into tight buds with his thumbs. Wild yet tender, Falcon was the magical lover Belle had always dreamed he would be. They relied on taste and touch in the darkened room, but their gestures had the smoothness of lovers long parted and at last reunited with great joy.
When Falcon drew away to loosen his belt, Belle realized she was about to lose her virginity on the top of her father's desk, but it seemed so utterly right she didn't voice even a hint of doubt. All she wanted was for Falcon to speak of the love that bathed his kisses in splendor. She had waited much too long to miss hearing the words now when she needed them most.
What Falcon craved was something far more primitive.
He yanked Belle forward and slid his hand between her legs to part the triangle of golden curls. Gliding his fingers along her cleft, he felt her fiery inner heat. Satisfied she was ready for him, he began to probe for the source of her slippery wetness with the smooth tip of his hardened shaft. He merely teased her at first, then pushed forward to delve deeper.
Falcon's mouth covered hers, but Belle gasped and recoiled at the first sharp stab of pain. She grabbed a handful of his hair and yanked his head back to force him to meet her gaze. His lashes veiled his eyes, but passion had made them bright.
"Say you love me first," she coaxed in an anxious whisper.
Poised to drive deep within her, Falcon had a firm grip on Belle's waist. He wanted her so badly he couldn't read the question in her eyes. All he saw were her kiss-swollen lips and a cascade of tousled blond curls. If what she wanted were pretty promises, he would gladly give them while he still could.
"Love you," he mumbled in a brandy-scented slur.
That garbled vow was a far cry from the tender declaration of affection Belle had hoped to hear. Suddenly the cause of his disappointing lack of eloquence was painfully clear and she cursed the fact she had not noticed his sorry state when she had first recognized their prowler as her cousin. "You're drunk," she cried.
As Belle choked on tears, she blamed herself for wantonly encouraging Falcon's desire without once questioning his sincerity. Mortified by how pathetically eager she had been for his love, she gave him a mighty shove that sent him stumbling backwards. She jumped down off the edge of the desk and fled the study before Falcon had regained his balance. She raced up two flights of stairs to the third floor, ran past her sister, Dominique's, room, and plunged into her own.
She closed and locked her door and wept with a bitter fiiry. That Falcon had to be drunk before he wanted her was so insulting she wanted to die. Thank God she had not been too proud to ask him to speak of love, or she might have given herself to him and then discovered he was so drunk she had to help him up the stairs to bed.
Clearly, the sip of her father's brandy had not been his first that night. Would she have been his first woman, or the second, or even the third? "My God," she shuddered. She had never even suspected fate could be so cruel, but as she began to pace, she doubted Falcon's memories of the night would be nearly as clear as her own.
Astonished, and then completely befuddled by the violent change in Belle's mood, Falcon pulled his pants back into place and started after her, but when she tore up the stairs as though she were being pursued by demons, he gave up the effort and entered his own room on the second floor. He was thoroughly disgusted with her for teasing him so shamelessly and then balking at the last moment. So what if he had been drinking? He was sober enough to have pleased her if she had only given him the chance. He yanked off his buckskins, flung them aside, and sprawled across his bed.
Then he remembered the silken sweetness of Belle's flesh, and moaned with frustrated desire. He ran his hand down the flatness of his belly, and still needing the taste of rapture she had denied him, moved lower to satisfy the longings she had aroused. With that blessed release came the first good night's sleep he had had in weeks, but Belle taunted him even in his dreams.
When Falcon awoke in his own bed the next morning, he rubbed his eyes and sat up slowly. He savored the blissful calm of home, then lay back down to enjoy another few minutes' sleep. As he closed his eyes, the sight of Belle
fleeing up the stairs filled his mind's eye and he groaned with the very same agonizing disappointment he had felt at the time. Then, recalling the wildly amorous encounter that had preceded her panicked departure, he began to laugh.
Wide awake now, he left his bed and went to the window. The tobacco was growing tall in fields that stretched as far as the eye could see, and if the war didn't come to Virginia, it would be another good harvest. The fact that the routine hadn't changed at home was comforting, but he knew he had changed, and definitely not for the better. He had seen too many good men die, and killed far too many of the enemy, to remain untouched. The shocking eagerness with which he had approached Belle had certainly proven that.
She deserved better than a rough coupling on a desktop and he was ashamed of himself now. After cleaning up and dressing in a fresh set of buckskins, he went out to the garden and picked the largest bouquet he could hold and carried it into the sitting room where Belle was seated with her mother, his mother, and Dominique. He winked at Dominique as he came through the door, kissed his mother and Aunt Arielle, then knelt down on one knee in front of Belle and handed her the flowers.
"I'd stopped at the Raleigh Tavern, and wasn't all that sober when I got home last night." He paused, knowing she would understand the true meaning of his vaguely worded apology while the others in the room would not. "I was rude to you, and I'm very sorry. Will you forgive me?"
Belle tried to focus on the beautiful bouquet rather than Falcon's grin, which she considered much too wide. Apparently he regarded the regrettable incident as merely unfortunate, but she was deeply wounded. She inhaled the luscious fragrance of the gardenias and roses nestled among the camellias, but their sweetness failed to erase her lingering sense of shame. She pushed the floral tribute back into his hands.
"Give these to your mother. I'm glad you're home, but please excuse me, I need some air." She rose, and without once looking at Falcon directly, left the room.
The damning realization that Belle was not about to simply dismiss what had occurred between them last night filled Falcon with a chill of dread. She could be stubborn when she set her mind to it, and it looked as though that was precisely how she had chosen to behave. A mountain of roses would not win forgiveness from Belle's lips when she was in that mood, and his happiness at being home evaporated in a cloud of regret. He grew awkward, and struggled to his feet without a bit of his usual manly grace.
"I should have brought flowers for you all," he apologized, and placed the bouquet on his mother's lap.
Falcon was usually as adept at masking his emotions as Hunter, his Seneca father, but that morning his mother saw his torment clearly etched on the finely drawn features which proclaimed his mixed blood. Easily imagining the problem with Belle which had caused his distress, she rose and went to the door. "Please come and take these flowers and put them in a vase, Dominique. They're so lovely I don't want them to go to waste."
Ordinarily, her Aunt Alanna was soft-spoken, but Dominique heard a definite ring of authority and feared that rather than a polite request, she had just been given a direct order. Reluctant to obey, she pretended not to understand. "Am I being asked to leave?"
"You've always been a bright girl," her mother complimented. A French woman who had been born in Acadia, Arielle's voice still held the soft accent of her native language. "Please do as your Aunt Alanna asked."
Disappointed at being excluded, Dominique left her chair, but paused to run her hand down Falcon's fringed sleeve. "Courage," she whispered, and then, taking the lovely flowers from her aunt, she swept out of the room in a colorful blur of coral satin.
WILD LEGACY 15
Alanna closed the door behind her niece and leaned back against it to prevent Falcon from leaving as well. "Lord knows, you are more your father's son than mine, but if you were too drunk to behave as a gentleman should, and insulted Belle, you are in real trouble, again. This family has had more than enough scandalous romantic liaisons to permit another to flourish under our own roof. Now, you're going to tell your Aunt Arielle and me precisely what took place between you and Belle last night. If it matches the stricken look that crossed your face when she walked out, I won't wait for your father to take a horsewhip to you. I'll do it myself"
Falcon had never lied to his mother, but he did not see how he was going to tell her the truth now. He licked his lips and tried to find a way to even begin the story he knew he would have to censor drastically as much for Belle's sake as his own. The silence grew strained before he finally cleared his throat and spoke.