Johanna hadn’t been able to spend much time with her friends, Sarah and Angela, though she did manage to share three dances with their brother Michael. She had dealt with more stress in the past few days than she ever had and listening to the twins’ relentless chatter about boys and parties, was less than appealing. Especially tonight.
She smiled as Michael twirled her around the floor, dancing to the full orchestra who had been hired for the celebration. She felt very comfortable in his embrace. The need to be with someone who didn’t look up to her, or needed her to protect and lead them, was exactly what she wanted right now, and she really didn’t care who was watching them or what they may think.
It was during the last dance with her friend that she spotted Samuel. He was watching her with an intent stare as he stood from the table he’d been sitting at for the past half hour. She could almost feel his eyes even before she saw him. It was a strange connection they seemed to have developed and it was enough to make her feel unsettled.
“Who is he?” Michael asked as they moved to the soft classic tune played by the string section of the band.
“Who?” she asked with a frown, turning to see the humor dancing in her friend’s hazel eyes.
“The stud with Alissa and Dad,” he clarified with a wide grin. “He hasn’t taken his eyes off you all night, and you’ve been watching him just as much. If I didn’t know you so well, I’d swear you were falling in love.”
“I do not believe in love, remember? Anyway, he seems to have had his hands full lately.”
“The girls would suck the life out of any man with two legs, strong arms, and a sweet smile,” Michael said.
He hadn’t been blind to the fact Johanna had been glaring at the twins when they were hanging on the man’s strong arms.
“You have to admit, that guy has everything going for him. He’s absolutely gorgeous, and he has a nice firm ass. Care to introduce me to him?”
“He’s not your type,” Johanna smiled. “I’m not sure what type he is, but I do know he’s straight.”
“Pity. I could think of a few incredible things to do with that one. Yum,” he said with a soft growl that made Johanna laugh.
“I may tell him that, just to see what he’d say.”
“I didn’t think you were into blondes, Johnny,” he said calling her by the knick-name only he was allowed to use. “So, who is he?”
“His name is Samuel Carrington,” she began as Michael turned her back toward the man in question, so he could inspect Samuel without seeming flamboyant in his observation. “He’s the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the son of Lord and Lady Carrington of Spring Arbor.”
“Wow. That sounds like you’re writing an essay about him. Tell me who he is, and what he means to you. I’ve seen the look, Johnny. He’s got a thing for you, and you’re fighting too hard to deny the fact he’s gotten under your skin.”
“It’s only a primal desire,” she told him, verbalizing the sentiment she had been trying to convince herself of the past week. “He has all the characteristics that women have looked for in a mate for thousands of years.”
“And you like him.”
“I do not,” she snapped, a bit louder than she intended and immediately noted the number of eyes that turned to her.
“I can’t say I blame you,” Michael continued as if he hadn’t heard her. “He’s definitely got that primal look down to perfection. I like the longer than normal hair, and the hairy face. Very sexy.”
“He doesn’t have a hairy face,” she said in defense of the man.
“What do you call the beard?” Michael smiled.
“It’s just…a shadow of a beard. And stop looking. Your sisters may get jealous that you’re trying to steal one of their future conquests.”
“It looks like they’ve found someone else,” he told her, turning her enough for her to see the girls hanging on the arms of Kevin Carrington. “And he doesn’t look like he’s exactly objecting. He looks like your stud. Do you know who he is?”
“He’s Samuel’s younger brother, Kevin. And he’s straight too.”
“Damn,” Michael said with a feigned sulky expression. “I have a feeling we’re both in for a dry spell, but from the way your guardsman is staring at you, I’d say yours is about to end.”
“Enough,” Johanna said irritated. She didn’t want to think about the man any more than she already was.
“What about you?” she continued a few moments later. “How is that boyfriend you told me about? What was his name…George?”
“Jordan, and it’s over,” Michael said with a sad expression. “He decided he wanted to explore different avenues.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she frowned as they danced closer to the orchestra.
“He found a girl who liked both ends of the rope. With her, he could have his cake and eat it too. He always did like pussy, but he was great with a dick.”
“Do you mind,” Johanna asked with a wrinkled nose. “I don’t need you to paint a picture for me.”
“Seriously, have you found anyone to help you create the next heir to the throne?”
“No, and I’m not looking. I have a lot of work to do before I can consider having a child. To be honest, I’m not looking forward to the idea. I’ve never had that maternal instinct other women have.”
“You have a lot more to offer a person - child or man - than you give yourself credit for. You’re the best friend a guy could have, and that’s better than being a great lover. If you have a friendship in a relationship, you’ve got it made. Sex and love will follow in time.”
“Well, I don’t have a friend either, unless you count you, and you swing from a different tree than I do.”
“I know. I’m the nut that fell off the family tree,” he chuckled. “At least I’m not out there giving it away like my sisters.”
“Thank heavens. You’re far better than that and you deserve someone who will respect you for the person you are, not what you have in your pants.”
“But I want a guy to appreciate that,” he laughed.
“You’re incorrigible,” she smiled.
“Don’t look now, but I think your guard is heading this way,” he whispered, “and he has a hungry look in his eyes. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he planned on making you his dessert.”
“Stop it,” she scolded in a soft whisper as Samuel stepped up, interrupting their dance.
“I beg your pardon,” he said, bowing slightly to the new queen, then glanced to her companion. “May I have this dance?”
“Of course,” Michael said in a sultry voice. “But I have to lead. No offense, it’s just that I like to be on top.”
Samuel stared at the boy with wide eyes, then glanced to Johanna who started laughing. She leaned into Michael and offered him a kiss on the cheek.
“I’ll come find you later,” she told him. “We still have a lot to catch up on.”
“I won’t be hard to find,” Michael promised, squeezing her hand briefly, then smiling to Samuel. “Captain,” he offered with a wink then walked away toward the table Samuel had just left.
“What the hell was that?” Samuel asked as he wrapped his arm around Johanna’s waist, staring back at the tall brunette who was actually wiggling his behind as he walked away.
“Michael is…unique,” Johanna offered. “He was just trying to be friendly.”
“I’m not sure if I care to be his friend, at least not the kind he wants,” Samuel said as he moved Johanna back onto the dance floor, dancing with her through a slow waltz.
“He’s completely harmless, and he’s my best friend, so I would appreciate it if you reserved your judgment for those who deserve it.”
“Are you angry with me for some reason?” he asked with a slight frown.
“I’m surprised you have time to dance with anyone tonight. Don’t you have plans with…new acquaintances?”
“I would love to provide you with an answer if I knew what you were talking about.”
“Never mind,” she said looking away from the blue eyes that stared down at her.
The warm strength of his arms was beginning to make her feel a little dizzy, as her pulse increased its strong rhythm. She couldn’t help but remember the touch of his lips on hers, or the way she had so easily allowed him to manipulate her emotions.
“You’re very quiet,” he whispered next to her ear, causing a warm shiver to travel down her spine and settle in her stomach.
“I don’t have anything to say to you,” she responded much less forceful than she had wanted.
“We need to talk. I don’t want…what happened earlier to interfere with our working relationship.”
“It won’t, nor will it happen again. The only reason you were able to…” she paused and smiled at the elderly couple who danced past her, nodding politely. “It’s like trying to walk on glass around here,” she complained.
“It is a bit crowded. Perhaps we could arrange a brief encounter in a dark corner,” he suggested with a smile that made her heart jump into her throat, blocking any response she may have given.
They continued to dance until the music stopped, applauding as the orchestra leader turned and bowed. Johanna tried to walk away but found her hand lifted toward his lips. He wasn’t about to let her out of his sight until he had the chance to apologize for what happened in the hallway outside her office.
“Meet me in the garden in half an hour,” he told her in a hushed tone as he kissed the back of her knuckles. “We need to talk and putting it off will only make things more awkward tomorrow.”
“Alright,” she said after a moment to consider what he said.
Pretending nothing happened was going to cause an uncomfortable rift between them that would only get worse as time went by, and they had a long working relationship to face.
“Half an hour,” he said with a grin.
Johanna watched him walk away before turning and walking back to the table her aunt and the Carringtons were still sitting at. She paused twice on her journey, shaking hands with visitors and accepting their congratulations, then managed to get to the table without being stopped a third time.
“What a day, huh?” Franny asked with a motherly smile that seemed to calm Johanna’s racing pulse a small degree.
“Yes,” she answered as she sat down and accepted the champagne the waiter brought to her.
“You look tired, Sweetheart,” Alissa said with a slight frown.
“I’m fine Alissa,” Johanna answered, pushing away the emotional concern that echoed in her aunt’s voice. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to mingle a bit more before I retire. If I don’t see you again until morning, I’ll bid you a good-night now.”
Alissa watched Johanna walk away before looking back at the glass she left behind. She felt like crying, but she knew that would only show her niece that she cared for her, and that was as unwelcome as a viper in her sleeping bag.
“You have to stop doing that,” Martin told her gently, setting his arm around the back of her chair. He caressed her shoulder tenderly, hoping to give the woman a bit of comfort.
“I can’t help it,” Alissa answered swallowing the remaining wine from her glass before reaching for the one Johanna left behind. “I’m going to worry about her, no matter how much she pushes me away.”
“Maybe all she needs is a strong man with enough determination to tear down the wall she’s built around her heart,” Michael commented with a knowing smile as he looked across the room to the tall blonde who was walking casually toward the terrace doors.
“Where are you ever going to find someone, who will stick it out that long?” Alissa asked with a bitter tone to her voice.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Michael chuckled softly. “Maybe she’s already found him. The chore now is to get her to admit to it.”
Johanna had been successful in slipping out the side door as the crowd of people began to make their way back onto the dance floor. A cool breeze blew in from the ocean, helping her aggravation dissolve.
The heavy crown she had been wearing all evening was handed off to Annette to tuck away in her wardrobe, allowing her to walk unnoticed into the night. She felt relieved of the heaviness on her shoulders and neck and allowed the weightlessness that seemed to filter down her legs, to embrace her tired body.
She kicked her shoes off with a sigh of relief as she padded her way through the thick green lawn. It was cool and moist from the afternoon’s watering, and it tickled her toes as she moved closer to the garden. For the first time all day, she felt free from obligation and responsibility, and she was going to treasure the few moments the sensation was with her.
Samuel moved through the roses and rows of island flowers as he waited for Johanna. A part of him wondered if she was going to stand him up, but he knew her well enough to know she wasn’t that kind of woman. She would come to him as he asked. All he had to do was fight his instincts and keep his hands off her.
He looked up and saw the woman approaching the brick patio positioned in the middle of the floral garden. She looked more beautiful than he imagined she would. Her long hair blew gently in the soft breeze and the moonlight shone against her soft satin gown. She set her shoes on the round metal table, then looked around. Samuel didn’t say anything at first. Watching her was hypnotic and he didn’t seem to have the strength to fight it.
Memories of their encounter danced through his mind for the millionth time that evening. He could still taste her mouth against his, the sweetness of her tongue as he sparred with it. The feeling of her breast in his hand, the moist heat of her womanhood against his fingers made his neglected manhood spring to life. How could this woman…this beautiful angel, cause such erratic sensations to race through his dormant libido? For five years, women had been throwing themselves at him and he’d dodged every one of them. So, why did he decide to come back to life in time to find the woman he had secretly been dreaming of for years?
“Samuel?” she called out in a soft voice, pulling him out of his thoughts. “Where are you?”
Fighting the urge to spring out at her, to wrap her in his strong arms until she surrendered that lovely body to him, he cleared his throat. Her eyes fell on his shadow as he moved casually through the bushes until he reached her side. He raised a single pink rose he had picked from the bush of buds, then bowed at the waist.
“My queen,” he teased as she took the flower and lifted it to her nose, sniffing its sweet fragrance. “I was afraid you were going to stand me up,” he added as they moved toward the ornately designed metal benches and sat down beside each other.
“I never break a promise,” she assured him, stretching her legs out in front of her and wiggling her toes.
“That is very good to know,” he said studying her profile for several long moments. “You look beautiful,” he whispered.
“It’s just the makeup,” she insisted.
“The makeup enhances what’s already there.”
Johanna didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say, and she dared not attempt to look at him right now. She knew if she did, there would be a reencounter of earlier, and she wasn’t certain she was ready for it.
“I wanted to apologize for this morning. I don’t know what came over me, but I can assure you, it won’t happen again without your consent.”
“I won’t be giving my consent, so it will never happen again,” she said in a flat tone.
“Is it because you’re afraid?”
“What?” she asked turning to him with a frown. “That’s ridiculous. I merely meant, I wasn’t going to allow you to…that is, you won’t be given permission to…you just won’t, alright?”
“Didn’t you enjoy it?”
“Of course, I mean no…what I mean to say is…”
“For a woman who bawled me out pretty sufficiently for chasing you down on a horse, you’re having a hard time finding the words tonight,” he teased. “Maybe it’s the moonlight. You’re only able to fight with the sun up.”
“Don’t be daft,” she snapped.
“Then tell me why you won’t let me kiss you again?”
“You said you wouldn’t, so it’s you who has set the rules, not I.”
“And if I decided to alter those rules and kiss you, would you let me?”
“No,” she said staring at the man with a warning glare.
She looked into the eyes that seemed to shine in the dim light of night, knowing it was a mistake. As soon as their eyes met, she felt the resistance abandon her. Samuel didn’t say a word, he just held her gaze as his willing prisoner, then broke his stare as his eyes drifted down to her lips.
“Are you a virgin, Johanna?” he asked in a soft whisper.
“Is it important?”
“Not really. Are you?”
“Yes,” she said after a few moments to consider his question.
“Why?” he asked, his eyes caressing her face.
“I’ve spent the past fifteen years digging up mummies. It’s not like they can rise to the occasion if you know what I mean.”
Johanna was thankful for the darkness that hid her blush as he laughed at her comment.
“What about that guy you were dancing with?” he asked a few moments later. “You looked as if you liked him pretty well. Why haven’t you given him a try?”
“Michael?” she asked with a soft chuckle that seemed to break the spell of his eyes. “He’s my friend, my best friend, but he’s not the lover type.”
“Why not? He’s young and somewhat handsome. I’m sure he’d be a willing partner if you offered him that…very lovely body.”
Johanna stood and walked to the small table, putting space between them to allow her a moment to collect her thoughts.
“Michael and his sisters are Martin’s children. We’ve been friends since I was ten, but I’ve always gotten on better with Michael than the girls. We’re very close and we have a lot in common. We like the same colors, the same foods, even the same music.”
“That proves you have what it takes to make great lovers.”
“Michael and I are great friends, as I said, and we share a lot of the same interests…including our taste in men.”
Samuel stared at Johanna for a few long moments until he understood what she was saying. His eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open, then he pointed toward the ballroom.
“He honestly thought I was asking him to dance,” he said in a slightly higher voice than she’d ever heard. The look of shock on his face was so humorous she couldn’t resist laughing.
“No, he didn’t,” she said with a wide grin. “Michael likes to tease people. It’s one of his best qualities. He had just finished commenting on how handsome you were before you interrupted us. He finds your butt rather pleasant.”
“And did you agree with him?” Samuel asked after recovering his shock, watching the color rise on her tanned cheeks through the dim moonlight.
“I don’t think I’ll tell you,” she said as she began to walk the path into the gardens.
“Why not?” he asked as he joined her.
“Your ego is quite large enough. I doubt you need me to help inflate it.”
“So, you do think I’m handsome,” he smiled.
“And do you think I have a nice butt?”
“I suppose that’s better than a no,” he teased. “So why are you still a virgin? A woman with your looks and body would have very little difficulty finding a man to warm her sheets.”
“Does that mean you find me attractive?” she teased then instantly regretted it when she looked up and saw the expression on his face.
“I’d be a liar if I said no,” he told her in a hushed whisper. “And I don’t like lying.”
“I’m sure you can find someone more to your liking,” she told him.
“I doubt it, but then I haven’t been looking.”
“I saw you with the twins. You looked like you were enjoying their attention well enough.”
Johanna felt the sting of jealousy as she thought about how Sarah and Angela had been hanging on him.
“Twins? You mean those girls I met a little while ago…Shawna and Amanda?”
“Sarah and Angela, yes,” she answered feeling slightly less irritated. They hadn’t made as strong of an impression as she thought if he couldn’t remember their names. “They are Martin’s kids.”
“And Michael is their brother,” he paused as she nodded. “And Martin and Alissa are…”
“Partners. They have worked together for twenty-three years,” she told him bending down to sniff the blossom of a colorful bird of paradise. “Martin’s wife didn’t like him spending so much time with Alissa, despite their working relationship. After she divorced him, he went with Alissa to dig up the past on a fulltime basis. They’ve been steadfast since then.”
“Are they partners in the platonic sense, or the biblical?”
“I suppose they’re lovers. I’ve never bothered to ask. I always figured it was none of my business, and I’ve never stopped to pay much attention.”
“How long have you been with your aunt?” he continued, trying to sort out the barrage of information Nora dumped on him last night.
She had been so excited to meet Johanna, to have her in their home, that she couldn’t stop talking about her until she was forced to go to bed.
“Since I was five. When my grandfather died, he failed to leave a guardian for me, so legally I was emancipated. Lady Catherine wanted to send me to a boarding school where I’d learn to be a proper lady, but she died before she had the chance to act on her desires. Alissa offered me a choice. Either go to school where I’d have to obey rules and wear a dress or stay with her. I hate dresses, so I chose the life of a desert rat.”
Johanna looked at Samuel with a curious expression. She was beginning to feel like she was being interviewed by one of the reporters who had been hanging around her all day.
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m curious about you.”
“I’m not that interesting.”
“I find you fascinating.”
Johanna didn’t comment. She could feel the heat coloring her cheeks as he continued to stare at her.
“So, you’ve been with your aunt since your grandfather died,” he continued hoping to bypass the awkward silence that fell between them. “We knew your parents, and your grandparents. The last time I saw your mum and dad, was the summer before you were born. They honeymooned on the island, and since our fathers were friends, Edward would bring his young bride over to the house for supper, or to just visit.” He stopped talking for a moment noticing the disinterested look on her face. “You look a lot like your mother,” he commented. “I remember how beautiful she was. I was only about five when they were here, but I had such a crush on her. She was extremely nice, and she loved to smile and laugh.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it since I never knew them,” she answered, folding her hands behind her back.
“You don’t like talking about them, do you?”
“I never knew them, so whatever conversation there would be about them, would be one-sided.”
“Do you miss them?” he asked watching her turn to stare at him with a frown.
“How can I miss something I never had?”
“Do you ever feel like you missed out on having a normal life?”
“My life was normal…to me.”
“You missed out on a lot during your desert travels.”
“The camaraderie of friendships, school dances, proms, summer holidays. Everything a normal kid experiences.”
“But I had those things, just in a different way than you know. I had the best education available. I had specialized tutors who taught me everything I needed to know, and more. Because of the dedication of my tutors, I was able to graduate formal school by the time I was twelve, and I obtained my undergraduate by fifteen. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything.”
“That’s just learning,” he said. “Haven’t you ever done anything just for the fun of it?”
“Of course. We’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve seen some amazing places.”
“It sounds more boring than relaxing.”
“It was the life I wanted.”
“Why are you so uncomfortable around people?” he asked with a suspicious look on his handsome face.
Johanna frowned as she looked at him through the darkness. She wasn’t uncomfortable…exactly. She just didn’t like crowds. She was more content to be on her own, to have space and freedom she was used to.
“Is it wrong that I like my own company? I probably know myself better than most people ever will. I’ve always heard Sarah and Angela talking about finding their selves. Well, I already have.”
“You need more, Johanna. You deserve more.”
He paused on the path next to her, then reached up and caressed her cheek with his thumb and again cupped the side of her head in his hand.
“Why? I already know what kind of person I’d have turned out to be,” she snapped, pushing his hand away. “I’d be exactly like Sarah and Angela. Vain, arrogant, conceited. Worried about the way I look and how my hair is styled. Moving from one man to another. Sleeping with anyone who offered me a smile or paid me a compliment. They are cheap, reckless and irresponsible. If growing up in a normal family would make me like them, I’ll take my life over theirs any time.”
“Not every girl is like that,” he told her. “You would have been different because you are different. You’re a unique and amazing young woman. I can’t imagine that part of you would ever change.”
“I’ve heard enough,” she told him with a heavy sigh. “You make me sound like some kind of…freak.”
“I never meant to make you feel like that.” Samuel took her hands in his and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry I’ve upset you. I just wanted to know more about you.”
“Well, you have.” Johanna pulled away from him and took a step backward to keep distance between them. “It’s been a very long day and I’m exhausted,” she continued with a heavy sigh. “As for what happened this morning, I can assure you, it won’t happen again. If you cannot keep yourself under control, Captain Carrington, I suggest you assign another guard to accompany me to Northern Shores before I’m forced to remove you from service.”
Johanna turned to leave when a strong hand pulled her around. Samuel’s arms were around her waist in the matter of a heartbeat, his lips pressing against hers in an urgent movement that left her breathless. Instinctively, she moved her hands between them as every movement Master Chang had taught her came rushing into her mind, but immediately fell out as his tongue gently invaded her mouth.
The resistance left as quickly as it came, and she no longer wanted to fight him. The way he touched her, the way his mouth claimed hers, was intoxicating. She felt possessed and under control but needed at the same time. The desire to know more, to feel more, made her relax in his embrace as her tongue mimicked his movements.
Samuel moaned softly, deep in his throat when she began to imitate him. His firm assault against her eased once he realized she was no longer fighting him. He moved one of his hands down to her hips, pressing her tightly against him as his free hand slipped between them, easing her fingers off his chest and around his neck. He knew it was only a matter of time before she came to her senses and pushed him away, but until then he was going to take full advantage of her temporary submission.
His hand cupped her full breast in a gentle grip as his mouth absorbed the soft moan that escaped her lungs. He continued to test the water, pinching the pebble-hard nipple that rose against his touch. He had a deep desire to be alone with her, to have a soft flat surface to lay her against, but all that was available was the cold stone path, and that was not how their first encounter was going to take place.
The sound of music drifted out of the ballroom and he felt her slowly regaining her senses, but he wasn’t ready to let her go. Slowly, he broke his kiss, moving his lips across her cheek, then down her neck, nipping the delicate skin and smiling to himself as she moaned again. She lifted her chin, allowing him further access to her throat as his kisses trailed across her shoulder and collarbone. Samuel continued kissing her, licking a heated path up the other side of her neck to her ear where he tickled the outside with the tip of his tongue.
A shiver ran down Johanna’s spine, but it wasn’t from the evening breeze. The heat of his tongue caressed her and embraced her in a cocoon, making her feel breathless. She moaned again, this time becoming aware of the sound, but she fought to come out of her euphoric state of arousal. He slipped her earlobe into his mouth and began a gentle suckling motion around her earring. The sound of a young woman’s laughter echoed through her mind, bringing her out of the web of passion he was weaving around her.
Instantly, her eyes opened, and she was aware of what she was doing. Her fingers had wound their way into his hair and she was holding him against her body tightly. She hadn’t realized how deeply she had become involved in his seduction until that very moment. She knew she was guilty of enjoying his touch again, as much as he was enjoying touching her. She wanted to feel his hands on her body, to imitate the acts she had seen on the program about the Bordellos, but she knew it had to stop. She could not allow herself to become any more involved with him than she already was.
With as much reserve as she could call on, she pressed her hands against his shoulders and pushed him away. They stood close together staring into each other’s eyes. Neither one moved out of the embrace of the other until the laughter rose up around them again. The sounds of teenagers playing bounced off the palace walls and they realized they were no longer alone. The voices disappeared around the bend of the yard as the teens made their way out of the party, heading down to the seaside below the palace.
Johanna knew they were well hidden away from the cobblestone path that wound around the side of the property but felt a degree of fear filter through her senses. She couldn’t allow herself to be caught with the Captain of her guard, no matter how much her body begged him to continue. She had to remember what she was, who she was, and what was at stake.
Slowly, she moved out of his embrace, their eyes still locked with each other. She didn’t want to go, she wanted him to tell her to stay, she wanted him to pull her against the strong wall of his chest, but he didn’t.
Samuel watched as she turned away and walked out of the garden and around the back of the palace to the door that led to the secondary kitchen. It took a few minutes for her to disappear among the shadows before he went back to the small patio. He sat down on the cool metal seat and ran his fingers through his hair.
What had he done? He promised not to allow himself the opportunity to touch her again, but he not only touched her, he nearly made love to her on the cold garden grounds. He couldn’t believe he had gone as far as he had, but she hadn’t resisted him. She could have, she could easily have pushed him away, but she didn’t. She was an equal, willing partner to the event, which made the effort to resist her impossible.
Samuel stood and looked at the shadows where she had disappeared, as he loosened the tie around his neck. What he needed now was a cold shower and a case of beer, not necessarily in that order. He started to walk away when he noticed her shoes sitting on the metal table. He just stared at them blankly. His mind was imagining her small feet in them, and the hard pulsing in his pants increased. Good God, he thought. He definitely needed a cold shower if the thought of her feet aroused him. He picked up her shoes and headed back to the veranda.
The ballroom was nearly empty, with only a few small groups left to finish their current conversations and four guards to protect the remaining guests. He spotted the twins Johanna had referred to as cheap but chose to ignore them as he made his way out the door and around to the parking lot. He was not going to cause any more problems between himself and the woman his body was screaming for.
He found his truck sitting by the side of the front driveway where Kevin had parked it earlier for him, and climbed in. With an exhausted sigh, he laid his head back against the headrest. Why did his body have to come out of its celibate slumber now, and why did it have to be with her? She was far from being the typical woman. She was the bloody queen, for God’s sake! What the hell was he thinking getting physically involved with her? If he had any senses he would refuse to go with her to Northern Shores, but he knew he couldn’t avoid her forever. Westerly wasn’t large enough to hide on.
Then the thought of sending another guard with her crossed his mind, but it made his stomach churn. The idea of another man filtering his way into her life, even professionally, was a thought he could never permit. If she was going to have a man in her life, it was going to be him, even if it was platonic. Even if it killed him.
Samuel started the engine and shifted his truck into gear, driving out the front gate. Heading toward Spring Arbor, he passed two Bordellos. The urgent need to turn around and go back controlled his hands and he circled around the roundabout, heading his truck back to Miss Teresa’s, the oldest and most respected Bordello on Westerly. He drove around to the back and shut off the engine. For several long moments, he just sat behind the steering wheel, staring out the windshield to the rear entrance of the home.
The sound of music and laughter echoed from inside and he knew the home was in full swing. The celebrations on Westerly were still going on, and probably would for many more hours, despite the curfew. He could see shadows on the curtained windows of the bedrooms and knew exactly what was happening. He had spent many long hours in that home in his younger years. But that was before Melinda. Since that time, he’d convinced himself that all women were like she was. They were all conniving, selfish bitches who would spread their legs for the right price, whether it be money or a wedding ring and title.
Samuel watched the shadows play out across the curtains. He tried to visualize the games going on inside. He allowed his mind to drift, pretending he was in the company of a beautiful, skilled woman of pleasure and satisfaction. He closed his eyes, feeling the soft, gentle fingers of a woman caressing his naked body. He could taste the kisses of her lips, feel them against his engorged penis. He moaned as he thought about the eruption that would follow the hot, moist mouth closed tightly around him, sucking him down as he came in her mouth. The woman looked up at him, her beautiful violet eyes alive with passion, her long dark hair laying across her naked body, resting on the floor behind her.
Instantly, his eyes opened, and he realized who it was he was mentally seducing. She was even in his fantasies about the whores at the Bordello. He knew it was useless. He would never be able to enjoy the touch of another woman while he was desiring Johanna. She was what his heart wanted, it was her touch his body craved, her kiss his tongue hungered for. Trying to convince himself to take another woman was never going to work. He didn’t want them. He wanted her.
He started the engine and began to pull back onto the street when his eye caught sight of the large brown envelope. He had tucked it under the passenger seat when he left Johanna that morning and forgotten to give it back to her. He picked it up and looked at the postmark from England. It had been important to her, so important she was tearing apart her office to find it.
If he took it back tonight, he would be able to see her once more. He could try and convince her into letting him spend the night with her…but he knew it wouldn’t work. She was a virgin. She wasn’t an easy lay like the other women he’d known in the past. She was a lady. For hell’s sake, she was the queen! He had to remember that.
Tossing the envelope to the seat with her satin shoes, he pulled away from the Bordello. His need to get drunk flooded his senses and for a moment he contemplated stopping and picking up a case of beer. No matter how hard he tried, he knew he would never be able to drown his loneliness in the depths of a bottle. The best he could hope for was to forget her for a few moments, but it just didn’t seem worth the pain he’d suffer in the morning.
Samuel drove back toward Spring Arbor, but instead of turning right through the roundabout, he went straight. He had his own home not far from his parents’ mansion, and it seemed the perfect place right now. He didn’t know if he could tolerate Nora’s constant praise of Johanna. He pulled up into the long driveway and shut off the engine. He hadn’t been here for more than five years. It was the home he used with his young bride until he realized what kind of bitch she was.
He pulled the key for the front door out of the glove compartment and stepped out of the truck, taking the envelope and Johanna’s shoes with him. He locked and secured the doors, then slowly walked up the eight stairs to the front door. He paused before going in. He just stood there as the memories of his wedding night came flooding back to him.
Melinda had been a very beautiful young woman and bedding her was all he could think of the day of their wedding. It was a long, elaborate celebration with as much flamboyancy as money could afford. Her gown was pure white satin, tight and lacy. Taking it off her was his only thought the entire day.
When they returned here, everything was as it should be. He had arranged champagne and strawberries to be waiting for them in the bedroom. He carried her over the threshold, just as all the romantic novels dictated. He kissed her the entire way, then he deposited her onto the bed. He stood beside her as he undressed. The size of him alarmed her, but he managed to calm her as he very slowly, very passionately undressed her.
Making love to her for the first time was amazing, in fact, the entire week they spent there was like a dream. They made love more times than he thought possible. He once imagined they could be happy. The perfect couple. But the night he left her came rushing back to him and he clenched his teeth.
Melinda wanted everything his name and title could give her. She knew he would one day be the Regional Leader of Spring Arbor, but waiting wasn’t in her plans. She wanted the title now. She started making plans on how their lives would be. The parties they would give, the lavish dinners and expensive clothes she could afford being the wife of the next Regional Leader. When he informed her, it was going to be many more years before he took the title, and that he was going to continue building his equestrian stables, she flipped out on him. She didn’t want to be the bride of a man who smelled of horse shit. What would her friends say? How could she show her face in public, knowing her husband was home playing in manure?
Samuel unlocked the front door and stepped in, flipping on the switch that controlled the sofa lights. The maid he’d hired to keep the place clean had been doing her job. Everything looked orderly and neat, nothing like that last night. They had fought long and hard. Melinda threw a number of ceramic dishes and knick-knacks they had received for their wedding at him. The lamp next to the sofa had been knocked over with her fits, as were the dining room chairs.
Melinda insisted she deserved a better home than this one, with servants to tend to her every desire. She wanted the limousine, the chauffeur, the elaborate furnishings. Everything a woman of her future status was owed. The argument continued late into the night until she told him he was never to make love to her again, unless he agreed to complete his university studies and gain his engineering degree. She would rather have a husband who owned his own contracting firm than a man who spent his waking hours playing with ponies.
The night he left Melinda, ended horribly. Their argument resulted in him slapping her across the face and packing a bag. He left that night and had never returned since. He contacted his father’s attorney and filed for an annulment but was forced to retract it two weeks later when she told him she was pregnant.
Samuel shut the door and locked it. He set the envelope and shoes on the coffee table then walked into the kitchen that opened out into the living room. He tugged his tie off his neck and removed his jacket, tossing it to the recliner as he passed it. He insisted the kitchen was to remain stocked in the off chance he would ever want to come back, or for guests he allowed to use it. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of wine, then opened the cupboard door and took out a glass. He moved back into the living room and sat down on the leather sofa, kicking his shoes off under the coffee table.
He opened the wine and poured a full glass of the dark liquor, then recorked the bottle and set it on the table. He placed his feet up on the coffee table’s polished surface and pulled the remote for the television out of the side table’s drawer. Taking a drink, he flipped on the large flat screen television hanging over the fireplace and tried to relax.
The television was filled with news reports of Johanna’s coronation and celebration. It was bad enough he was back in the one place he swore he’d never step foot in, but to be reminded of the woman who had driven him here, was too much.
Flipping through the channels, he finally settled on a late night black and white detective show. It was old and poorly filmed compared to today’s movies, but it was enough to keep his mind off Johanna. He watched the program for nearly an hour, predicting the murderer long before the fat detective in the bowler hat revealed him.
Samuel switched off the television and took the half empty bottle of wine back to the kitchen. He poured another full glass, then returned the bottle to the fridge. He retrieved the envelope from the coffee table and walked down the hallway. He passed the formal dining room and library on his way to the stairs that led to the bedrooms. He reached the master suite and stopped. He wasn’t sure why he hesitated. It was his home and he had every right to be here, but the memories wouldn’t allow him the chance to relax.
Opening the door and flipping on the overhead light, he walked in and stopped to look at the room. It was definitely different than the last time he was here. It was clean, neat, and the new bed he insisted on buying after Melinda died, sat in the middle of the room like a masterpiece. It was a simple four poster bed, but large enough for three grown adults. The covers were also different with the thick, deep red duvet spread out across the mattress.
He walked to the bed and set his glass and the envelope on the bedside table, then used his hand to test the mattress. It seemed firm enough and he turned the lamp on then switched off the ceiling light and shut the door. He prayed he would pass out the moment his head touched his pillow as he stripped off his shirt and moved into the bathroom.
Perhaps with a couple of sleeping pills, he’d be able to forget about Johanna long enough to fall asleep. He knew he would be dreaming of her. It had been the same every night. She would visit him in his sleep and wrap him in her warm arms, holding him against her delicate body where they would make love the entire night. If only he could convince the real woman to respond to him the way his dream-lover did. Maybe then he wouldn’t need a cold shower every night.
Samuel removed a new toothbrush and toothpaste from the cabinet and began brushing his teeth. He stared into the blue eyes that stared back at him through the reflection of the mirror. How could he have two women on his mind at once? Two very different women, with very different personalities. Melinda was cold-hearted and hateful, and Johanna was kind and caring, even if she wouldn’t allow herself to feel love.
He finished his teeth and turned to the shower, stripping his long legs from his pants. The shower brought back memories he had forced from his mind years ago but being back here made them seem like yesterday. The water was hot, and the steam filled the room like a fog. He only wished his mind would fog up as easily, he thought.
Fifteen minutes later, he was washed and dried and laying in the new bed with darkness all around him. He was tired, but he couldn’t relax enough to sleep. Fighting the battle was useless. He flipped the light on, looking at the clock next to him. It was half past one in the morning. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t sleep in this bed, new or not. The house had too many bad memories for him to relax.
Samuel had no choice but to surrender his fight. He sat up in bed and reached for his wine glass, seeing the envelope Johanna was so eager to find. He hesitated for a few moments just staring at the handwriting on the front. Reginald must have had a significant reason for requesting this from England, as well as securing it in the safe. For a moment, he just held it wondering what was hidden inside, then cautiously he opened the back flap.
Inside, was a stack of papers from Scotland Yard. It contained the police report on Charles Abbot-Worthington’s death as well as the investigation performed after Edward and Juliet’s plane disappeared. He may not be as intelligent as Johanna, but he could tell from the papers that there was a lot more going on than everyone had been told. It was no wonder she was so anxious to get her hands on it. If what he was reading was correct, Johanna was about to stir up a hornet’s nest, and as her guard, it was up to him to make sure she didn’t get stung.