Beneath a Blood Red Moon Page 2

She leapt atop Demon and rode across fields, then picked her way more carefully through the swamp that hugged the shore. She knew the way, she knew the bayou. She had been born in it, and she did not fear it, nor any of the creatures of the night.

It seemed as if the reddened moonlight guided her well, as if Demon raced with winged hooves. Even as she worried with a heavy heart about her father, she burst upon Stone Manor, the old mansion off the bayou which Alec had bought upon his arrival in New Orleans. Beneath the eerie moon, it, too, seemed cast in a blood-red glow. The tall white columns were crimson with red shadow, and the smoke issuing from the chimney seemed touched with gold-red sparks.

He waited for her.

Waited ...

From his bedroom window, Alec DeVereaux felt a quickening that steeled the length of his body and sent hot sweet shudders surging through him.

He had waited for her an eternity. Waited forever. And he had known, from the moment he saw her laughing far across the room, that he would love her. Then he had touched her. Held her while they danced. And he had wanted her. Wanted her with an anguish that surpassed desire. Wanted her so that he lay tormented in the night. He could take her, seduce her. He was a master of the craft. But she had to love him, as he loved her. And so he had waited.

Until tonight.


Tonight she had come. She appeared on a sudden rise, seated atop pitch-black Demon, bathed in the glow of the moon. She looked up at the house, and he longed to touch her face.

The dark horse began to race across the overgrown lawn to the house. Alec watched, mesmerized, as she leapt from the horse. He heard her speaking to Thomas below in the entry, and then he heard the soft fall of her footsteps as she raced up the stairs.

He threw open his bedroom door, and she was there. He lifted his hand to touch her at last, and the hood from her cape fell back. “You have come,” he whispered, and stepping back, drew her into his domain. Her hand seemed so small within his own. Small, delicate, elegant. He lifted the cape from her, and let it fall to the floor, and his eyes devoured the length of her, the slender column of her throat, the rise of her breast, the slim grace of her body as she swirled into the room then, drawn to the red fire that burned in the hearth below the marble mantel. She stretched our her hands to feel the warmth from the fire and he followed her, gripping her shoulders both fiercely and gently, inhaling the scent of her hair.

“Where does your father think you are?” he asked.

“In bed, asleep,” she responded.

He saw the pulse ticking furiously against her throat. He touched it with the lightest kiss.

She spun around, passionate, vivacious. “Alec, I could not lie! We fought dreadfully. I—”

“It’s all right.”

“I told him that we wished to marry.”

“Ma belle, it is all right.”

She sighed and then threw her arms around him. “He must accept us. For I love you.”

“Do you? Can you really love me?” he whispered. “It means so much to me. You cannot begin to understand.”

She drew back from him, puzzled, as she sometimes was. Dear God, but he was an extraordinary man.

So tall, striking with his ink-dark hair and nearly black eyes. His shoulders were handsomely broad, his waist was whipcord lean, his jaw firm and square. There wasn’t a woman in Louisiana who had danced with him who didn’t consider him the most dangerously handsome man she had ever met. She knew a little bit about him from the things he had told her. Much of his family had perished in the French Revolution, but there had been survivors as well, defying the guillotine. He himself had fought at the Battle of New Orleans—as a boy, of course, a runaway in the employ of the pirate Jean Lafitte. He had traveled extensively, he had fought duels, he admitted, with pistols and swords. He was an excellent marksman. By the very nature of all that he was, all that he did, he was magnificent.

He turned his back on her suddenly and walked away from her. There was a silver tray holding a bottle of wine upon a small table. He poured two glasses, his back still to her. She looked around his room, his private abode. The spread had been pulled down from his bed. It was black satin, a startling contrast to the snow-white sheets beneath it. Numerous pillows had been laid high against the headboard. More wine chilled in a silver bucket by the bed. Champagne, she thought, French champagne. There was no pretense as to why he had wanted her here. He was clad in a floor-length black dressing gown with a red satin lining. She was sure he wore nothing else. Yet it seemed he pulled away from her.

“Perhaps your father is right. Perhaps you should not love me.”

“Do you love me?” she whispered.

He turned to her, very solemn. “With all my heart. For all my—no, for all eternity.”

“Then there can be no reason I should not love you.”

“And what if I were a monster?” he inquired.

“For being a Frenchman?” she teased.

He smiled slightly, and she loved him all the more.

“For haunting the darkness,” he said softly. “For haunting the night. I have killed—”

“Many men have killed!” she reminded him.

He smiled slightly again, watching her. She felt his eyes. Felt them. The fire of their touch seemed to seep into her, into her blood. She felt dizzy, hungry, delicious. She wanted him more than she had wanted anything in her life; more, she ached for him. Hurt. She had to feel him. His hands, on her body. His lips, kissing her everywhere. Himself. Inside her. A part of her.

She could barely breathe. She wet her lips. Her fingers seemed to rise and fall of their own volition to the buttons of her gown.

“Ma belle amie, ma petite cherie!” he whispered very softly. Sound on air. Sound that touched her.

Sound that seemed to sweep around her like a soft red mist rising from the fire, falling from the moonlight.

“You would not see evil in anyone.”

“I know that there is no evil in you.”

Button by button, she freed her bodice, letting the brocade garment fall to the floor, and stood shivering slightly in her corset and skirts. The red mist was like a balmy, soft whisper of breeze; she needed to feel it against her bare skin, just as she needed to feel the sweep of his eyes. You are not thinking, her father had told her, and it was true, she was not thinking.

Alec was strange tonight; it was almost as if he wanted to send her away. And she didn’t seem to care.

She knew right from wrong, and God help her, she wanted wrong. Yet, could it be wrong, to love so deeply?

He strode across the room to her, pressed a silver chalice of wine into her fingers. This close to him, she saw the torment in his eyes, the anguished passion. A stray lock of black hair fell upon his forehead. She stared into his eyes. He lifted her wine cup to her lips. She drank. The night breeze that seemed to swirl within the room rose and fell in waves of undulating red.

“What if I were evil?” he whispered.

“You are not.”

“I never wished to be ...”

The mist rose higher. The wine chalice was gone from her fingers. She couldn’t remember setting it down. She blinked. His robe was gone as well. Against the soft, wisping swirls of smoke and moonglow that remained, he was naked. Hands outstretched, still staring at her with ebony eyes. A trembling began inside her, in her blood, her limbs, her soul, her being. She had longed for him and hungered, and she hadn’t known just what she hungered for. Now she knew. His flesh was sleek, his chest was matted with dark hair. His body was perfect, powerful and strong. His legs were muscled hard, his waist and hips tapered lean and sleek from the breadth of his shoulders and torso. She stared from his eyes to the extent of his arousal, and she felt as if she spun and swirled with the mist that seemed to rise again.

“I don’t care what you are!” she cried. “I do not care!”

“I could bring you to pain—”

“I stand in agony now,” she swore. She could bear no more, and rushed forward, flinging her arms around him, bringing her lips to his. She had barely kissed before, yet she knew how to devour his mouth, to seek with her tongue, seduce, arouse. He lifted his arms, fought some fierce battle with himself, then crushed her against him. He lifted her chin. Kissed her. His tongue seemed to sweep down her throat, bathe her lips, her mouth, fill her with fire. She was up in his arms, flying with the night, with the velvet of the darkness. She lay upon the satin sheets, felt their coolness, felt his heat. His fingers, long, supple, tore at the strings of her corset, and it was freed from her body. She closed her eyes and felt him remove her shoes, her cumbersome petticoats, pantalettes, stockings. He ripped and tore at each with an urgency, yet she was so anxious for his touch that disrobing seemed to take an eternity. Each garment left more of her bare, naked to the heat of his whisper and caress. His fingers, so eloquently long, stroked her. Wet, hot, searing kisses followed each stroke. Touched her knee, her inner thigh. A drumbeat began within her. A pulse. It grew at a frantic pace. The red mist pervaded her flesh. She trembled, and was slightly afraid. She hungered too deeply, and ignored the fear. His palm moved erotically over the taut chestnut triangle between her legs. Wetness seared her. Then the excruciatingly intimate stroke of a finger


The pulse quickened. She cried out. He was beside her again, dark eyes as red as the moonlight, words intense, anguished. “Can you love me?” he demanded. “Can you love a beast?”

“Oh, dear God, why can’t you believe me? I love you, I love a man! A man who has made me laugh, made me feel alive, made me long for more than I know! A man who has lived, fought, learned. A man who commands, who listens, who is hard, who is tender. I love you!” She couldn’t understand him. She wanted him, wanted the mist and the promise of ecstasy that filled her.

She wanted to hold him, to take the anguish from his eyes, assure him ...

“Beast,” he told her. “And I do not know if God remembers me!” She pulled his head down, his mouth to hers, kissed his lips, aroused them. She brought his fingers to her breast, writhed to be even closer to him, a part of him.

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