Authors: Connie Mason
He poured another tot of rum and polished it off. Then he sank down in a comfortable chair and closed his eyes. What precisely did he feel for Sophia? He lusted for her, craved her kisses, her sweet body, but he knew there was more, that his feelings went deeper. But he wasn't ready yet to explore the depth of his emotions. Was he capable of feeling love?
He fell asleep before he arrived at an answer.
Sophia was sitting up in bed when Chris visited her the following afternoon. “You're looking better,” he said, studying her with an intensity that made her flush with pleasure.
“You're not. Didn't you sleep last night?” Though he had bathed and shaved, he still looked exhausted.
“I fell asleep in a chair in my study. I'm leaving the house as soon as we've had our little talk.”
Sophia patted the bed. “Sit down, Chris.”
Chris hesitated a moment before gingerly settling on the edge of the bed. He took her hand in his. “How do you feel?”
“Not too bad, considering. The headache powder worked wonders. I hope to leave my bed and go downstairs later today. Perhaps we can have dinner together.”
“Isn't it too soon?”
“I don't like lying in bed.”
“You almost died, Sophia.”
“I might have died had the Maroons not found me.”
“You were unconscious four days.”
“Udamma said that was a healing time for me.”
“Are you feeling well enough to talk?”
She sighed. “I already said I was sorry. I know I acted rashly, and I promise to do nothing in the future to worry you.”
“Your brother was here. He accused me of failing to protect you. For once he was right. I shouldn't have taken a wife while I have no time to devote to one.”
“Since when have you listened to anything Rayford has to say?”
“Since I've had a chance to think.”
“What exactly are you saying?”
He stood and walked to the window. “I don't really know.”
Sophia eased out of bed and joined Chris at the window, surprised to find she wasn't the least bit dizzy. “It's a beautiful day outside.”
He glanced at her over his shoulder. “You shouldn't be out of bed.”
“Why not? I feel fine.” She searched Chris's face, reading nothing but concern in his expression. How could she have been so stupid as to think he could love her?
“Hold me, Chris.”
“Please, I've been so lonely. I know you don't have time for me, but I miss being close to you.”
Chris stepped behind her and wound his arms around her. “Is that better?”
Her head fell back against his chest. “Hmmm, much better. When I was caught in the hurricane, I feared I'd never see you again.”
He turned her in his arms and stared into her eyes. “Would that bother you?”
“I know you don't want to hear this, Chris, but my feelings haven't changed. No matter how you feel about me, I still loâ”
He stopped her words with a kiss, as if he didn't want to hear her declaration of love. Nevertheless, Sophia tasted love in his kiss, sensed his desperate attempt to deny his own feelings. How long did he intend to resent her and blame himself for Desmond's death? How long would he deny what was in his heart?
“Damnation,” he growled as he broke off the kiss and tried to pull away. Sophia's hold on him tightened.
“You're not well enough for this.”
“I assure you I am fine. Make love to me, Chris. I need to feel alive again.”
She could tell by the look in Chris's eyes that he was fighting a battle within himself. But in the end it was no battle at all. He was as hungry for her as she was for him. Her nightgown fell away as if by magic. She stood before him naked and unashamed as she reached for the buttons on his shirt and frantically worked them free.
Chris tore off his shirt and carried her the short distance to the bed. She slid down his body until her feet hit the floor. Chris dropped to his knees before her, kissing a path between her breasts and down her stomach to the nest of curls protecting her womanhood.
Sophia's knees nearly buckled when he parted her with his thumbs and teased the hard little nubbin he found there with his tongue. Sophia clung to his shoulders for support as he inserted two fingers inside her and licked along the dewy folds of her cleft. She was only moments away from climax when Chris rose abruptly.
“Nooo!” she wailed.
He gently pushed her onto the bed. “Roll over on your stomach, love,” he urged hoarsely.
Sophia stretched out on her stomach, watching as Chris locked the door and then pulled off his boots and trousers and tossed them aside. He was already hard, his engorged sex jutting upward from between his muscular legs. Sophia reached for him.
“Not yet,” he said, deliberately avoiding her touch. “Lie still and let me love you.”
Sophia felt him leaning over her, his body hot, his breath even hotter. She jerked in response when his lips touched her neck, kissing and nipping gently as his mouth slowly moved down her spine, pausing to lavish attention on her firm buttocks. Her patience at an end, Sophia wanted to scream for him to hurry.
“Soon, love, soon.”
She felt him shift behind her. Then he pushed her knees up and placed a pillow under her stomach. Open and vulnerable, Sophia waited for him to tell her what to do. She felt his mouth on her, felt his tongue enter her pulsating center. She squirmed and moaned, raising her bottom to give him better access.
“Chris, please.” She wanted more than he was giving her.
She was nearly mad with need when he finally thrust his sex inside her. She wiggled her bottom and pushed backward against him, begging without words.
“I know,” Chris gasped. “I feel the same way.”
Grasping her hips to hold her still, he shoved hard, withdrew and shoved again, this time to the hilt. Sophia cried out as he thrust and withdrew, setting a frantic pace, driving her higher and higher. Leaning over her, he pushed her hair out of the way and kissed her neck. Then he lifted her breasts in each hand and alternately pulled and massaged her nipples.
Sophia felt as if her soul were leaving her body. The ache grew intense, stronger than she'd ever felt before. Her need was greater than reason, her pleasure soaring higher than mortal comprehension. Then she shattered.
Moments later, Chris joined her. Sophia heard him cry out, felt his final thrust and then the warm gush of his seed as he exploded inside her. He collapsed against her, causing her to crumple beneath him. They lay still, panting, limbs entwined, his weight pressing her down into the mattress. Then he rolled away, staring at the ceiling. Sophia shifted around to lie on her back.
“Are you all right?” Chris asked. “I didn't mean to be so rough. I can't seem to control myself when I'm with you.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
He turned his head and looked at her. “The worst. You make me forget my guilt, and I'm not ready yet to forgive myself.”
“Or me,” Sophia ventured.
“I . . . don't know what I'm feeling right now; however, I can no longer find it in my heart to hold you responsible for Desmond's death, if that's any comfort to you.”
Sophia considered his answer and decided she could live with it. She smiled and snuggled against him.
Except for the colorful and still somewhat painful knot on her forehead, Sophia felt like her old self again. A week had passed since Chris had made love to her. They had made love twice that night, and Sophia couldn't have been happier. The only thing she wasn't at peace with right now was her uselessness. She was of no use to Chris except in bed. She wanted to be his helpmate, someone he could confide in, someone who could help ease the burden of running the plantation.
Over dinner one night, Sophia voiced her misgivings about her place in Chris's live. “I'm bored doing nothing all day,” she said as the last course was taken away. “I need something to fill the void. You are always so busy; there must be something I can do to help.”
Chris considered her request and then shook his head. “I don't know what that would be, Sophia. Isn't taking care of the house enough for you?”
“The house runs itself. There's little for me to do except go over the menus with Chandra.”
“You can't work in the fields, I wouldn't allow it. The same goes for the distillery. It's hard, dirty work.”
“What about the books? I am a quick learner.”
“My financial records are kept up to date by my solicitor in Kingston. Mundo keeps a daily accounting, and I take the results to Mr. Fenton weekly.”
Sophia's shoulders slumped. There must be something she could do.
“Why don't you visit the Chesters? I'm sure Lady Agatha will tell you how she occupies her days.”
“It's not the same, Chris. Agatha has children to keep her busy.”
Chris searched her face. “Do you want children, Sophia?”
“It's bound to happen.”
“That's not what I asked. Do you want my children?”
“Do you want me to bear your children?” Sophia shot back.
“I hadn't really thought about it before, but as you say, it's bound to happen.”
He was evading the issue, Sophia knew. “Why are you being evasive?”
“I didn't think I was.”
“I told you I loâ”
“Be careful, Sophia.”
Since Chris didn't want to hear words of love, she began again. “I want children, Chris, your children. But until it happens, I need something to do.”
“Most women would be happy to engage in ladylike pursuits such as embroidery, gardening, music and shopping.”
“I'm not most women.”
His blue eyes kindled. “I know.” He pushed his chair back and rose. “Shall we explore the difference in our bedroom?”
She couldn't resist that devilish smile of his, especially when it was directed at her. She placed her hand in his. “Very well, but this conversation isn't over.”
Sweeping her into his arms, he carried her up the stairs. He did indeed hear the last of the subject from Sophia that night, for he kept her mouth far too busy to talk.
Lord and Lady Chester and their house guest arrived at Sunset Hill the following morning. They had come to inquire about Sophia's health.
“We didn't come sooner because we didn't want to interfere with your recuperation,” Agatha explained. “You're looking marvelous, my dear, except for that ugly discoloration on your forehead, and I'm sure that will disappear in time.”
“We've brought our niece,” Lord Chester said. “Sophia, I'd like you to meet Lady Amanda Dartmore. She was just recently widowed and has come to Jamaica to get over her loss. She arrived yesterday on the
out of Liverpool.”
“Welcome,” Sophia said. “I hope you enjoy your visit to Jamaica.”
Sophia thought Lady Amanda very young to be a widow. She was petite and blond and round in all the places a woman should be round. The only unattractive thing about her was a certain hardness about the eyes. Her catlike gaze settled disconcertingly on Sophia as she offered a limp hand.
“I'd like to speak with your husband,” Chester said. “Is he about?”
“Please make yourself comfortable in the parlor while I send someone for him. I'm sure he'll be happy to see you. Will you stay for luncheon?”
“We'd be delighted,” Agatha replied. “Wouldn't we, Chester?”
“I believe I can spare the time. Perhaps you can tell us about your ordeal, Sophia. I understand you were found unconscious by the Maroons.”
“Later, dear; let dear Sophia send for the captain,” Agatha scolded.
Sophia hurried from the room, uncomfortably aware that Lady Amanda had judged her and found her lacking. She wondered why. She sent a kitchen boy for Chris, ordered tea and returned to the parlor to await her husband.
The conversation faltered after the weather was explored. Lady Amanda jumped into the void. “I'm dying to know what happened to you while you were with those horrible Maroons.” Her eyes gleamed. “Did they . . . did they harm you? I would kill myself if one of them touched me.”
Sophia felt a slow building of anger. Lady Amanda knew nothing about the Maroons, yet assumed the worst. “They treated me very well. If not for them I would have died.”
Amanda gave a delicate shudder. “I'm glad it was you and not me.”
Fortunately, the tea tray arrived, allowing Sophia to drop the subject. Unfortunately, Amanda wasn't about to let it drop. While Sophia poured, Amanda asked, “What did your husband think about your sojourn with the Maroons?”
As Sophia struggled for an answer, Chris walked through the door.
“I am grateful for their care of Sophia,” Chris said as he joined the small group. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Amanda.
Glancing over at Chris, Sophia noted his stunned expression and wondered if he knew Amanda Dartmore.
“Christian!” Amanda squealed. “How wonderful to see you again! I've missed you.”
Chris seemed to pull himself together. “Lady Amanda, I'm speechless. You're the last person I expected to see in Jamaica.”
Agatha clapped her hands. “How wonderful! You already know one another.”
Jealousy clawed deep into Sophia's heart when Amanda rose to her toes and kissed Chris's cheek. Was that a gleam of appreciation in his eyes? How well had he known Amanda? He certainly seemed to be devoting a great deal of attention to her.
Amanda seemed overly flirtatious and friendly for a newly widowed woman. She eyed Chris hungrily, as if she wanted to pounce on him and devour him. As for Chris, he appeared suitably embarrassed.
Finally he disengaged himself from Amanda. “Shall we retire to my study, Chester?”
The moment the men left, Amanda said, “If my dear departed husband had been as attractive as Christian, I wouldn't be so happy to be a widow.”