Wuthering winds was what the books called it. Emily leaned against the edge of the swimming pool and watched the sea and wind meet in a battle of wills that resulted in white froth and seething blue.
Her ancestors had sung to the ocean, she thought, to the mermen within the turmoil of those seas, and on nights like this, she could image a sea-swept lover reaching towards her, his night-dark hair swept back by the waves, and the moonlight catching on his scales.
There was an appeal, she thought, to being swept away from reality, carried into another life, where the responsibilities of the one before did not linger.
It was not even seven and the wild weather meant that she was trapped within the walls of the house. Being stuck in her family home was a better situation than most in the area had, however, she knew. She swam in the heated indoor pool watching the storm through glass, whilst the waters she floated in were untouched by the violence outside.
Emily had concluded her secondary schooling three weeks before and had returned home to have her season and be married. At eighteen, she stood on the cusp of her future, knowing that it was limited by a picket fence and a wedding ring.
The Beaufort’s finances had been ebbing away. They needed Emily to make an advantageous marriage in order to renew the family coffers and retain the social position that they were accustomed to holding. Being rich was expensive. There were servants and bills to pay.
The most eligible family in town were the Jamisons, and so it was to them that Emily was offered, like a prized mare. For less than, Emily suspected, the Beaufort’s prized mare would be sold, their daughter had been bartered.
In her youth, her parents would never would have paid the Jamisons any mind as they were not one the founding families of the area, but the Jamisons were persistent, and now they had the social and financial wherefore to afford a a Beaufort bride for their Jamison son.
A the start of season ball, Emily would officially begin being courted by Damion Jamison, although the outcome of that courtship was already determined, the deal finalised before Emily even graduated school.
Her childhood had been full of moments with Damion. His family had come to live in the seaside town of Winthrow not long after her birth, and like all residents of the town, their Summers had been spent wild on the beach or exploring the town.
Damion was seven years her senior, and as such had always had the glamour of seniority, never quite involved in the same games as she was, but always peripherally there with the older children, and often intervening when childhood games crossed the line into trouble.
He had prevented her from being caught by the property manager at the long empty Lancaster family home, known locally as the Big House, when she had been dared to ring the doorbell. He had been there to convince Sergeant Harrod to view it as a harmless childhood prank when she, Claudia Jones, Tara Wainscott and Jolene Smyth had been caught stealing candy from the corner store.
But, most significantly, he had been there when, swimming with childhood friends, she had been caught in the rip tide that cut through the ever treacherous ocean. She remembered sinking into the water, watching the light dwindle into the distance, and a moment of peaceful surrender... And then Damion Jamison had appeared above her, his hand out held.
She had taken it and he had pulled her to the surface, and he had held her as she had coughed and vomited water onto the sand.
“I have you,” he had told her. “You are mine.”
The thought of seeing him again surged within her, the promise that had lain between them in their youth unfulfilled, as adults meant so much more. “I have you. You are mine.” She would be, by the end of the Summer season, and the thought was equally exciting and trepidating.
She returned to her bedroom and found a window had been carelessly left open, the fine net curtains dampened by the rain and sticking to the glass. The wind that snatched at the curtains, sucking them free so that she had to combat them to push the window down, carried her scent out into the night, but it did not catch at the nose at a Jamison.
It was not a Jamison that crept up the vines that crawled up the balcony of the house. It was not a Jamison that pushed up the window letting the wind into the room for a brief moment as he parted the curtains and crept into her room, before closing it out again.
Emily’s eyes opened as if in a dream and met the eyes of the man who leaned over her.
“Do not fear,” he whispered.
She reached up, her limbs heavy with sleep, and her fingers threaded through the dark silk of his hair as her night-time lover eased back the sheets that covered her, his lips meeting hers. Their kiss lingered as he eased the satin of her nightdress up and from her. His skin against hers was heavenly, and she moaned, her exclamation smothered beneath his mouth.
His hand stroked down her hip, adjusting, and lifting her into him as he eased into her, both of them sighing, recognising the completion in their joining.
His fingers found hers, tangling and holding her hands to either side of her head as his body moved against hers, and his lips touched and lingered, drawing out the kisses between them as the storm outside broke, and the ocean soothed into calm.