Copyright Lora Leigh, 2003. All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
The house was too quiet. She could hear her own footfalls as she walked through it, her own heartbeat as she stared into her coffee. She could feel her fear, closer, stronger than it had ever been before. The new house was so still, the memories that her New York home had held were absent here.
She had moved to be closer to Tess. To try in some way to make up for the cruel, bitter words she had thrown at her daughter. And she had moved to live again. She had hidden from herself and from the memories of her marriage for so many years that she was feeling the deprivation in ever increasing levels. Her family was here. Her sister, her friends. They were all here. With Tess gone, the New York house was too silent, too lonely. Though this one wasn't much different today.
She still wore the cream lace dress she had chosen for the wedding, though the matching wide brimmed hat had been thrown carelessly on the embroidered chair that sat inside the front entryway. She felt lost in a way she hadn't felt in years. A loneliness she couldn't explain haunted her; needs she couldn't admit to shadowed her mind and her desires. So she thought of Tess instead.
The wedding had been one of the most beautiful Ella had attended in her life. Her daughter, her baby, had made a gorgeous bride. The pervert she had married had looked handsome and darkly seductive.
She ran her fingers over the careful upsweep of her auburn hair, feeling the pinch of hairpins holding it in place. Her hairdresser had followed her orders to the letter. Not a strand of hair had slipped free of its mooring. Her dress hadn't creased, and her silk stockings hadn't dared slip or snag. She looked as well dressed now, six hours after the wedding, as she had when she left that morning.
Thankfully, with the move to Virginia, the damage she had done to the relationship with her daughter was healing. In her shock, in her rage, she had been hurtful to Tess. But, still, she couldn't believe what she had walked in on.
Her hands trembled as heat flooded her face. It had been Jesse, not James, but the likeness was too great. The twins were identical in nearly every way, even to their sexual preferences. Tall and distinguished, with a lean muscular build and dark toned skin that looked perpetually tanned. Thick, black hair fell along their napes, straight and glossy, tempting the women around them to touch.
Her legs trembled as she sat down at the small, walnut kitchen table. Her fingers trembled as they covered her lips. Her heart pounded with hard, driving beats within her chest. It had been her worst nightmare come to life, except her daughter played the role Ella had played within those dark visions.
Not with Cole, but with James. And there lay the demon that lurked in her mind. Perverse, depraved. She had walked away from her marriage and the life she had fought to build because of her husband Jase's perverse desires. The light spankings she had managed to tolerate, though they had seared her with shame. Being restrained had been easier, though even then, what pleasure had filtered through the experience had been tainted by the fact that she knew, knew what was coming and she knew she couldn't bear it.
Her lack of submission to Jase's needs had finally broken their relationship. She hadn't been able to give him the trust, the control he needed. She had been terrified, knowing instinctively what would come next, who would come next. And she knew she would never be able to maintain her control, her sanity, if James touched her.
He had been at Tessa's wedding. He had watched her with knowing eyes, so green, so wicked, her body had pulsed with depravity. He had shaken her hand, the heat and pleasure of his touch nearly taking her breath. And all the time he had watched her, knew her, tormented her.
She stalked to the glass door that led to the cool, foliage sheltered area of the garden. The slender heels of her shoes created a hollow, lonely tap against the wood of the porch as she moved to the end of the vine-covered shelter. Her hand gripped the thick post, her nails biting into the wood as she fought her anger, her fears for her daughter.
Tess was too much like Jase. Ella had always been afraid of that, especially after the books she had found years ago, hidden in Tess's bedroom. Her desires were extreme, and evidently she had no fear of them. Unlike her mother, who fought the demons, the knowledge of her own needs.
She couldn't get the image of it out of her mind. She couldn't fight the dark nightmares of James, holding her, taking her as another did. She never knew, never cared who joined them in those nightmare images, all she saw, all she knew was James.
One day, Ella, you'll have to stop running. When you do, let me know.
"Like hell," she bit out, turning and moving purposely to the house. She wasn't running, and she sure as hell wasn't going to let him know anything.
Jase's sexual tastes had nearly ruined her life, and now they would ruin Tess's. No man could truly love a woman, truly respect her, if he allowed another to touch her, to take her.
She fought the ripple of response between her thighs. The creamy moisture that she fought to ignore, the desires she kept carefully banked, always hidden. Controlled. She couldn't let him break her, couldn't let him see her response to him. If anyone had the power to break her heart, it was James Wyman.
She couldn't ignore him; she couldn't pretend he didn't exist. Due to her own foolishness, he would soon be a daily part of her life. But she could handle it, she assured herself. She had spent her life practicing the careful control that had sustained her over the years. She could handle James Wyman, easily. It was all a matter of control.