Hi, everyone.I hope your first month in our new year has gone well. I’ve spent mine in 1887 Texas, working on Nell Carter and Juda Kincaid’s story. It began as a short Christmas piece meant for the holidays. But, when I traveled back in time to Eclipse, suddenly all the locals started popping in to say hello and update their stories as well. An Eclipse Christmas has evolved and grown. I’m not ready to turn it loose yet, but until then, I’m sharing a diary entry from the Journal of Lucy Quince, the first book in the Eclipse Heat series.
February 14, 1867. Dear Diary, I am cutting and pasting a wonderful surprise for Ambrose. I’m making him a Valentine’s Card. We are still not speaking and I have decided upon a course of action—I will seduce my husband.
For three days, Quincy and I remained estranged until the housekeeper said, “You best get that man back in your bed. I like to have the morning’s to myself while I fix breakfast, and having him snoring on the couch gets my day started off wrong.”
“How?” I muttered miserably. Ambrose came in late, left early, and avoided my company.
Mrs. Carmichael suggested a course of action that had eluded me. I, a woman heavy with child, would enthrall my husband with desire. It was so silly and incongruous it made me laugh—and then comply.
We pillaged my closet looking for dresses that could be let out and redesigned. I had no sewing skills and hers were limited. But, as she noted, anything would look better than the chenille robe I had fallen into wearing around the house night and day. When we’d inspected the barn, I had changed in order to go outside. Nothing had fit and I’d had to leave the back of my dress undone and wear a heavy shawl to cover the exposed underclothing. Since then, my depression had left me wandering in a disheveled and untidy state indifferent to even dressing.
My spirits rose as we pillaged the closet and chose any outfit from my wardrobe that seemed worth redesigning. “Not very practical, these things,” Marta opined around the pins in her mouth.
“But oh so pretty,” I countered, stroking the soft burgundy velvet of the gown I stood in. In my physical wretchedness, I had forgotten how wonderful it felt to look elegant. When Mrs. Carmichael began ripping seams apart, I cringed, hating the deconstruction of one of my favorite winter gowns.
But when she loosed the sides and raised the waist recreating it into an empire style, I began to have hope.
“We need an insert here,” she frowned at the material pulled taut over my burgeoning breasts.
We both looked at the pile of dresses on the bed and spied the grayish pink gossamer silk at the same time. I watched eagerly as she cut into the fabric, not caring this time at all, with the promise of a beautiful costume before me.
Many tiny stitches later, I stood in front of the rosewood vanity and admired the outcome.
“You can’t stand there drooling over yourself all day, Missy,” Mrs. Carmichael reminded me. “You need to take a nice long bath, splash in some of that smell-pretty you use, and present yourself tonight looking fine.”
We were two women engaged in battle using the weapons God had blessed us with. I luxuriated in the steamy tub of water, planned my hair-do and felt like a human being for the first time in months.
After I emerged and toweled dry, Mrs. Carmichael shooed me into the sitting room saying, “I’ve got men to feed. I brought your clothes down here for you to dress in front of the fire. You’ll have to finish by yourself.”
I combed out my hair and plaited it into a long braid that hung down my back. Then walked to the window and peered at my reflection. The burgundy velvet cascaded down my torso hiding my stomach and hugging my bosom. Mauve rose in a swirl of silk brushing across my plump breasts offering a suggestion of flesh as the bodice rose into a draped collar, wrapped high on my neck.
I walked to the kitchen and stood before Marta for inspection. She laid down her spoon, folded her arms and circled me checking the fit and presentation.
Ending her perusal in front of me, she stepped back and cackled like a witch. “If that don’t git him off the couch, I don’t know what will.”
Perhaps Quincy was thawing, or else he had simply run out of ways to stay out of the house. I heard his voice from the sitting room, where I remained when the men came into eat. Ben Carmichael joined them as he had each night, and I heard the murmur of the men’s voices as they discussed the day’s work and what the morrow held.
When I judged the end of the meal near, I carried my handmade card into the kitchen, removed his plate from in front of him, and laid the lace and beribboned message next to his coffee. He ignored my actions as if I was no more than a serving maid in a tavern and I retreated, sure that my attempt at wanton wiles had just incinerated.
As the kitchen door swung shut behind me, I heard him growl, “What in tarnation is this?”
The sound of a scooting chair sent me hurrying to take up a penitent stance in front of the fire. I was not disappointed. He pushed the door open and filled the room with his presence striding across the floor to my side. Holding my heart shaped missive in his hand he loomed over me, asking gruffly, “What’s this?”
I’d made it quite ornate. Burgundy ribbons matching my dress, were tied in tiny love knots woven around the outside of a lacy doily, inscribed with the message, ‘Lucy loves Quincy forever’. “It’s a valentine, Husband. My first to you.”
Quincy’s eyes crinkled the slightest at the corners, his expression softening just a hint as he said, “My first, ever. I’ve heard of such, but never seen one before.”
His brusque comment was accompanied by his hand stroking the folds of my dress. He feathered a touch across the velvet, then walked his fingers down my shoulder to brush across the opaque material of my bodice. The pads of his fingertips spread a trail of heat as his fingers climbed up my neck and tilted my chin, capturing my gaze with his own. He asked, “Are you conniving to get your own way again?”
I lifted his fingers, carrying them to my lips and kissing them before answering. “Yes. Is it working?” I murmured my question mischievously.
His face resumed its stern expression and he growled, “What is it you want?” But, he caressed my bottom lip with his thumb, sending shivers of desire through me at the same time he stepped closer, molding his body to mine.
“You,” I whispered in a voice suddenly husky. I had set out to seduce my husband but found myself intoxicated by his male scent, his burning touch, and the naked hunger for me his harsh demeanor couldn’t disguise.
His chest brushed against the bodice of my dress and my already sensitive nipples became taut, straining toward Quincy, asking to be pleasured. My womb clenched and liquid heat pooled between my thighs. The baby shifted as though rolling over in sleep, causing a ripple across the velvet material covering my stomach and reminding me of my delicate condition.
Ambrose laughed gruffly and turned me in his arms so that my hip nestled against his swollen member. He put his hand on my belly, his fingers claiming the great expanse as he caressed me through the soft material.
“There’ll be no combining McKenna money with Quince funds,” he warned gruffly.
I pressed his hand against my stomach and said, “We have other mergers that are of greater importance.”
Quincy plowed on, determined to cover each point of our discord. “I’ll pay the loan, with interest, into your Eclipse account as soon as we cull the herd this spring.”
I said breathlessly, “You owe me no interest. You wasted time courting me when you could have been getting ready for winter.” Before he could disagree, I pulled his head down, angling my own to steal a kiss brushing against his mouth, and nibbling on his lower lip.
He tucked my face against his shoulder, preventing me from seeing his expression as he spoke. “I married you because I had to have you,” he confessed, segueing back into our final words from our quarrel days before. “You don’t belong with a rough man like me. Your ways are too different from mine.”
“Sometimes differences give life a little more spice, Husband.” I quoted him from his days of wooing.
Quincy clasped the velvet between finger and thumb, measuring its worth as his words rumbled against my cheek. “I can’t buy you fine clothes such as this.”
I said tartly, “I can dress myself, thank you.” Then I added softly, rubbing sinuously against his groin. “You can un-dress me.”
“Woman,” he growled, lifting me into his arms as easily as if I were a fragile maiden and not a voluptuous mother-to-be. “It will be my pleasure.”
I wrapped my arms around his neck, nuzzling the line of his jaw until he captured my mouth in a kiss lasting the duration of our ascent to the bedroom.
The stark cold of the bedroom penetrated the heavy velvet of my costume, and Ambrose wrapped me in his warmth as he threw back the bedcovers, crawling with me under them to make a nest and generate a cocoon of heat before we disrobed.
“Someday, I’ll get a fireplace in here,” he promised as I shivered in his embrace. Sooner than that, I’ll have a Franklin stove delivered, Husband, I assured him silently.
Our passion changed to tenderness, as we huddled under the blankets and faced each other. Ambrose smoothed his hand over the velvet material, then fumbled open the closures Marta had devised and I wiggled out of the dress and he set it aside.
I tugged his shirt over his head and tossed it on the pile. Piece by piece we disrobed, stopping to inspect each revealed body part, both his and mine.
“You could have been killed.” I traced the jagged scar on his thigh, evidence of his time in war.
“Wasn’t my time—at least that’s what Ham decided. He dug the bullet out and burned the hole shut. He carried me most of the way home.”
They had been far from Texas at the time and Quincy’s few words wrought such a vivid picture of his past, I shuddered and pulled him closer. “I don’t want to have to thank your opinionated brother for anything, but I will endeavor to be tolerant of his misguided advice from now on.”
I did not mention the olive branch Hamilton had tendered, counting it as a temporary aberration in my brother-in-law’s usual obnoxious behavior.
Ambrose said gruffly, “You’ve made it a home for both of us, Lucy. It’s been a long time since either of us came home to a light in the kitchen and a meal waiting on the table.”
I poked his chest and said archly, “And the lovely sitting room, don’t forget that.”
He chuckled and rolled me onto my side, curving around my back until his hard manhood prodded my rump and he slowly eased inside of me. “Lucy,” he growled in my ear. “You feel that thumpin’ inside?”
I shifted, rubbing my buttocks against his groin. “Yes,” I confirmed, giggling.
“Not that, sweetheart, this.” He pulled me tight against his chest, until I felt the heavy beat—a steady cadence that matched the rhythm of my own. “I didn’t get you a valentine today, Lucy. But I want you to know, you have the real deal. You’ll always own my heart.”
I melted into a puddle of emotion and whispered, “I love you too, Quincy. Never forget that. I’ll love you always.”
Wishing you enduring love and great chocolate this Valentine’s Day!