Excerpt from Deceive Not My Heart

Morgan had busied himself preparing for the journey to Natchez. The next day dawned sunny and hot but there was the hint of a thunderstorm on the horizon, and eyeing it, Jason had said, "Are you certain you don't wish to delay your departure for a few hours?"

     Morgan grinned. "My dear friend, what flimsy excuses you present to hold me here. I am not made of sugar, I assure you, and a little thundershower will not melt me!"

     Jason had laughed, their hands meeting in a tight clasp; then, astride a prancing, chestnut gelding from the Beauvais stables, Morgan had ridden away, heading up the river for Natchez. Attached to his watch fob was the little gold cross from a virgin whore.

     He had looked at that little gold cross more than once during the past weeks, wondering about its owner. A dozen times, he had cursed the darkness that had hidden her features, cursed the circumstances that had allowed the girl to vanish from his life as quickly as she had appeared. And the fact that he thought of her often, that he had almost desperately wanted to know more about her, that he had regrets about that particular evening, annoyed him. What the hell—she was a whore, he had reminded himself repeatedly, ignoring the taunting voice in his mind that wouldn't let him forget that he had initiated her into her profession. Nor could he forget the feel of her in his arms, the sweet mouth beneath his, the soft body pressed next to his. He was grimly aware that if he could have found her, if his attempts to learn her identity from Gayoso's servants hadn't been fruitless, that he would be taking her with him now as he left New Orleans.

     If she had been determined to sell herself, he reasoned that he might as well be the one to take advantage of it—she would have found him a generous protector. A discreet house in Natchez, a stylish carriage, blooded horses, clothes, jewels, servants, he would have gladly provided them all, and as his mistress she would have been safe.

     Now why did I think of that? he thought sourly, as his horse trotted along the river road. Safety wasn't what she had wanted and he was angry that she could even now, weeks later, arouse a curious feeling of protectiveness within him. Scowling at the darkening sky, he angrily tried to push her out of his mind. But it was useless; a mile down the road, he caught himself wondering where she was now and what was she doing. And why the devil had she thrown his money back in his face?

     * * *

     The thunderstorm broke a half hour later, and to Leonie it seemed only fitting that the heavens should weep with her. For the past two weeks she had tried to ignore the signs, had tried to tell herself that nothing was different about her body, but this morning when she had arisen and the nausea that had been with her the last few days had attacked again, she knew it was no use pretending otherwise. She was to have a child... a child fathered in darkness and by a man whose name and face she had never known... and would probably never know!

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