Authors: Robin Schone
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Historical, #Romantic Erotica
by Robin Schone
It filled the storm, pounding and striking the night sky.
It filled the stranger, fueling and stoking a burning lust.
For a woman.
A woman who knew more of life than surviving one day at a time.
A woman with kindness and passion.
A woman who would share with him her soul as well as her body.
A woman who, perhaps, could give him back his own soul.
The man raised his face to the sky and cursed the icy rain. He cursed the wind that drove it into every pore of his body. He cursed the African Boer who had used his left leg for target practice, thus necessitating convalescence in the cold, drafty country that was England . He cursed the horse that had thrown him in such a godforsaken, isolated area. But most of all he cursed the need that had driven him from the warmth and comfort of his seaside cottage.
Need that a man like him, born on the streets of London , could not afford.
Need that, in a man like him, haunted by the nameless dead, could never be appeased.
A fork of jagged lightning split the sky; a warning shot of thunder echoed through the night.
The storm promised death, lost as he was with neither horse nor shelter.
The storm promised life, the dawning of a new day in the aftermath of pain and desire.
The stranger lowered his head. And saw the light.
"My desires were excited to the highest pitch. I depicted to her the pleasure she would experience when, after arriving at the chateau, I should deflower her of her virginity, and triumphantly carry off her maidenhead on the head of this, 'dear Laura,' I said, as I took one of her hands and
A raging black wall of wind and rain turned candlelight into night, swallowing whole the illicit, newspaper-type print that was in that second the sum total of Abigail's existence.
Blindly, instinctively, she scooped up the forbidden journal she had been reading. Beside her, frenzied fingers rifled through the earlier installment of erotic literature, whipped it through the air. Behind her, china clicked and clattered in the cupboard. And before her
A dark silhouette, darker than the storm outside, filled the space where the cottage door should be. Where it
been but a moment before.
Abigail's heart slammed against her ribs as she made the mental transition from the fictional Laura who was being initiated into the pleasures of sex to the flesh-and-blood spinster that was herself.
Another explosion resounded through the one-room cottage the door slamming shut. Barring the buffeting wind and the drumming rain. Barring what light the night provided.
Barring Abigail inside the cottage with an intruder.
An intruder who, judging by the height and breadth of the silhouette that had filled the doorway, could only be a man.
A very large man.
Lingering desire pulsed through her bodyand dawning horror.
She was all alone and
she had forgotten to bolt the door.
Abigail surged to her feetnaked feet, defenseless feet,
where had she put her shoes?
"Who are you?"
Her voice was loudtoo loud in the sudden quiet. Certainly it did not belong to the placid spinster everyone took her to be.
No more than it belonged to the wanton woman she had been but a moment before.
Hair rose on the back of her neck as she strained to see through the black abyss that was all that separated her and certain theft or death. "What do you want?"
Droplets of water pelted her in the faceas if some great animal shook itself dry.
"What do you think I want?" The low, masculine growl came from the vicinity of the door. "Lady, in case you haven't noticed, there's a storm outside. I want shelter."
Abigail's breath escaped in surprise at the blistering censure in the intruder's voice. His accent proclaimed that he was no local boy, but an educated man.
"I am fully aware that there is a storm outside, Mr. ..."
"Coally. Robert. Colonel," the disembodied voice curtly supplied.
White dots pricked the blackness in front of Abigail's eyes. "I am fully aware that there is a storm outside, Colonel Coally, but you can not possibly stay here. There is a"warmth flooded her cheeks at mentioning the unmentionable"a little house out back. You will find shelter there."
"Lady, I am soaked; I am cold; I am hungry. I am
going to spend a night in a privy. Light that candle before one of us does ourselves an injury."
The order was abrupt, imperious and rude. As if Abigail was a soldiera rather dim-witted soldier at thatderelict in her duties.
A tide of shock washed over her; it was followed by rage.
She forgot that the colonel was an intruder. She forgot that gently bred ladies such as herself fainted in the face of danger and submitted to the voice of masculine authority. She forgot everything but the fact that
she was not going to take orders, here,
in this seaside cottage that she had rented far away from the dictates of society so that she could enjoy one precious month of freedom before she gave up
A dull clunk of boots on wood ripped through Abigail's fury the colonel was bridging the darkness that separated them. The clunk was interspersed by a dragging sound, as if he limpedor staggered.
Military men were notorious for their drinking habits.
Abigail hastily stepped back.
Only to collide with the chair she had just vacated. It skidded across the floor.
"Please stay where you are while I light the candle." Her voice in the darkness was just as sharp as the colonel's. "Are you injured?"
A grunt was her answer. And a flare of light.
Abigail stared at the intruder alias colonelfrom across the scarred wooden table instead of from across the room where he should be.
Her first thought was of how dark was his skinas dark as the gentlemen of her acquaintance were fair.
Her second thought was how ridiculously long his eyelashes were. They created jagged shadows on his cheeks as he concentrated on touching the head of the match to the wick of the candle.
Then he was entirely visible, illuminated in a widening circle of light.
Droplets of water trickled down off pitch-black hair. His face was lean, shaved clean of the sideburns or mustache that fashion dictated. The hand holding the match was as brown as his face. His fingers were long, strong, with square, blunt tips.
Far, far too large to fit inside a woman other than one at a time, surely, was her third and totally incongruous thought.
Shaking his hand to extinguish the match, the colonel abruptly straightened.
Unwittingly, Abigail's gaze followed his movements.
Standing five feet nine inches tall, there were few men Abigail did not top, but she had to tilt her head back to look at this man. Eyes the color of pewter locked with hers.
The one-room cottage shrank to the size of a closet.
She had never seen such stark eyes. There was nothing soft about them. And yet they were beautiful in their uncompromising masculinity.
The dark lashes flickered; she could feel the touch of the cold gray gaze on her lips, her throat, her breasts
Breasts, she suddenly remembered, that were confined by neither corset nor chemise.
Her fingers involuntarily clenchedabout damp, curling paper.
A hurried glance downward confirmed her suspicion.
The colonel wasn't staring at her breasts; he was staring at
The Pearl , A Journal of Facetiae and Voluptuous Reading ,
NO. 12 June 1880 . Which she clutched to her chest with the cover outward.
She whipped the journal behind her back.
Simultaneously, the colonel pivoted toward the iron bed against the right wall.
The covers were turned back in ready invitation.
Alarm leapt up her spine. "What are you doing?"
He bypassed the bed and limped to the smaller of the three trunks that sat at the foot of it.
Scalding blood filled Abigail's face. Just as quickly it drained.
For the first time in her life she thought she would faint.
She darted after the colonel. "Now, you wait just one minute"
Too late. He thrust open the trunk.
To reveal a jumbled collection of leather and paper. Books with unmistakable titles:
Adventures of a Bedstead; The Story of a Dildoe; Tales of Twilight, or the Amorous Adventures of a company of Ladies before Marriage.
And more copies of
The Pearl .
No one had ever seen her collection of erotica.
Anger that this man,
had barged into her private retreat and discovered her secret vice overrode fear and shame.
"I asked you a question, sirrah, and I expect to be answered! What are you doing?"
The colonel stared at the contents of the trunk for a long moment before he lifted his gaze to hers.
For a second there flared inside the gray eyes something that caused Abigail's nipples to harden. Then the eyes became cold and flat, like his voice. "I am looking for a towel. And a blanket."
"Well, you will
find them there." Abigail threw the journal inside the trunk and slammed shut the lid. She glared up at him, daring him to comment on the literature that no lady was supposed to know about, let alone possess. "There is a towel by the pump in the corner near the stove. Why do you want a blanket?"
She must have been mistaken at the brief flare of heat in those eyes. They were as hard as the pewter they took their color from. "My clothes are soaked, Mrs.?"
"Miss." Abigail hesitated. She was not about to give this autocratic colonel her last name lest he know someone in society who was acquainted with her family. "Miss Abigail."
"My clothes are soaked, Miss Abigail. I want a blanket so that when I strip down I can cover my nakedness."
Abigail stared. The words
momentarily drowned out the pelting rain and the relentless wind.
"Colonel Coally." She drew herself up to her full height. "I will give you shelter from the storm, but I will not allow you to to"
The gray eyes were implacable. "Miss Abigail, there is nothing you can do to stop me."
Abigail bristled, fully prepared to fightor flee.
A crack of thunder shook the cottage.
A warning that she had nowhere to run.
A reminder that she was behaving more like the juvenile Laura in
than a mature spinster dressed in a faded green shirtwaist and who, furthermore, was already sprouting a few strands of gray in pale-brown hair that was straggling free of its bun.
Clothed or buck-naked, there was little likelihood of a man like him forcing his attentions on a woman like her. Especially chilled through and through as he no doubt was.
Dripping water formed a dark circle about his boots.
"I asked if you are injured."
The coldness in the gray eyes intensified. "No."
"Good," she said curtly. "Then you will have no trouble walking to the table and taking a chair. I shall procure you a towel and a blanket. But first let me stir up the fire in the stove"
"That won't be necessary."
"Miss Abigail, there is a full-fledged storm going on outside your door. You have a thatch roof. If the wind should remove your chimney, it will, if the stove is blazing, quite probably cause a fire. I would as soon suffer from a slight chill as roast to death."
Abigail took a calming breath. Even her elder brother, the Earl of Melford, was not as overbearing as the colonel.
"Very well." Tight-lipped with anger, she retrieved a towel. While he briskly dried off, she flounced toward the bed and yanked off the top blanket.
When she returned to the table, he had dried his hair and slicked it back from his forehead. It was not black as she had earlier thought it to be, but the color of burnt umber. The water, she noted, did not bead on it, which meant he did not pomade his hair like his contemporaries in London .
Abigail could not recall the last time she had seen a man who did not pomade his hair. His cleanly shaven skin, tanned from the sun, was extremelyvirile.
She dropped the blanket onto the table.
"I will wait over by the bed. Pray tell me when you have changed and I will hang your clothes up to dry."
The wailing of the storm did not hide the creak of the chair as he struggled to remove his boots, or the thunk they made when they dropped to the plank floor. Cloth, too, made a sound, she discovered. It whispered, the outer clothes a harsh one, the inner clothes softer, more beguiling.
She suddenly wondered if all of his body was as brown as his face. And fought the flare of heat the thought engendered.
"You may turn around."
He sat at the table with the blanket wrapped like a toga about his body. The stark gray gaze snared hers as he held out a wet bundle of clothing.
Quickly averting her eyesthe naked brown arm and shoulder sticking out of the gray blanket were indeed as brown as was his faceAbigail accepted the sodden mass of clothes.
They smelled of rain and damp wool and something indefinable. Spice. Or musk. Something strictly male.
Bending down, she grabbed the mud-caked boots.
Only to have a cat's-eye view of a pair of long, narrow feet. He had shapely, muscular ankles.
They were brown, too. And liberally sprinkled with fine dark hair.
Abigail had never before seen so much mannaked.
Cheeks burning, she straightened.
The gray eyes were waiting for hers.
"In the future, draw your curtains, Miss Abigail. Few men can resist a free peep show. And bolt your door. Some men might take more than you are willing to offer."
For a second Abigail thought she would burst with rage at the insinuation that she might welcome such attentions. Humiliation immediately followed, at the thought that perhaps unconsciously she had. Hostility was born, that the intruder should guess at her secret desires that were not at all ladylike.
"Colonel Coally, I have been at this cottage for an entire week and the only man I have encountered who was unable to resist a 'peep' is yourself. Furthermore, how dare you castigate me for not bolting my door when it is you, sir, who are the intruder"
The violence of her feelings erupted in a shatter of glass.
Pivoting, she stared in astonishment at the tree branch retreating through the window closest to the bed. Wind and rain tunneled into the jagged hole it left behind.
The candle flickered and flamed, creating a wild jig of shadow and light.
"Stay where you are!" The colonel's command was pistol sharp. "The floor is covered with broken glass. We need something to bar the windowthe cupboard will do. Hand me my boots, then douse the light."
Abigail gritted her teeth. The colonel had issued one too many orders.