Many thanks to my critique partners Grace and Virna for their continued support, invaluable ideas, their laughter, and their friendship. And to my husband Mark for his patience, his love, and support.
A big THANK YOU to the readers and bloggers who help support my writing by spreading the word, recommending my books, and reviewing them.
Only wearing his breeches, Gabriel gazed at the woman who stood before him in her virginal night rail. The lace trim around her neck and sleeves only accentuated her innocence. Earlier in the day, the minister had declared them man and wife before God, but now it was time to make Jane truly his.
This was his wedding night, a night he had anticipated with the eagerness of a young buck ready to start his own brood. Except for a few kisses, he had not been intimate with Jane. Her strict religious upbringing had demanded he wait to touch her until they were married.
He’d waited because he truly loved her with all his heart, but also because he had his own inhibitions about making love.
Jane took a tentative step toward him. Gabriel met her halfway. His arms snaked around her back and pulled her to him. The fabric under his fingertips was soft and so thin it felt like touching her naked skin. As he lowered his lips toward hers, he inhaled her perfume, a mix of roses and jasmine which had been the flowers of her wedding bouquet.
Underneath it was her own personal scent, the heady smell of Jane, a scent that had made him dizzy when he’d first taken it in. He’d been hard and ready ever since.
“My wife,” Gabriel whispered. The words felt right when they rolled off his lips and collided with her sweet breath. On a soft moan, he kissed her with all the passion he’d been holding back, waiting for her to become his wife. Her body clung to him more eagerly than he had expected, yielding to his touch, imprinting him with the love he’d seen in her eyes long before he’d asked for her hand in marriage.
Without breaking the kiss, he untied the little ribbons on the front of her gown, then brushed the garment off her shoulders and let it fall to the floor. With a soft rustle it pooled at her feet. She would never again need a nightgown. He would warm her every night from now on. The shiver he noticed go through her lithe body wasn’t from coldness. No, she was nearly as aroused as he was.
Gabriel released her lips and looked at her. Small round breasts topped with dark hard nipples stood firm. Her hips were wide, her skin soft and yielding to his touch. When he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bed they would share for the next fifty years, his desire for her spiraled.
Already, his breeches were so tight he could barely breathe, but now his cock expanded even further, impatient to impale her. He laid her onto the bed and watched her as he opened the buttons of his fly with trembling hands, his heart beating into his throat. Perspiration built on his brow. All the while his anxiety spiraled. As he stripped, Jane’s loving gaze drifted from his face lower down his body. Then her expression suddenly changed. It was what he’d secretly feared most.
“Oh, God, no!” She jerked up, her gaze transfixed on his groin, horror distorting her features. “Get away from me!” she screamed and jumped off the bed on the other side.
“Jane, please, let me explain,” he begged and went after her as she ran out the door. He should have prepared her for this, but it was too late for it now. He’d hoped that if he was gentle and patient with her, she would accept him.
He caught up with her in the kitchen.
“You monster, get away from me!”
Gabriel snatched her arm and stopped her from running any further.
“Please, Jane, my love, listen to me.” If only she would give him a chance, he would prove to her that inside he wasn’t a monster, that inside he was the man who loved her.
Her eyes wild, Jane darted frantic looks around the kitchen, before she struggled free from his grip and turned.
“Don’t ever touch me again!”
“Jane!” He had to get her to calm down and listen to him. Their future depended on it.
When she turned back to him, all he saw were her horrified eyes.
Too late did he see the gleaming knife in her hand – too late to turn away and avoid its blade slashing his face. But what hurt more than the stinging blade cutting his flesh was seeing his wife recoil from him in horror.
“Now, women will shy away from you like they should – you’re a monster, Gabriel, you’re the devil’s creature!”
The scar that would form on his previously handsome face reached from his chin to the top of his ear, and it would be a constant reminder of what he was. A monster, a freak at best – not worthy to be loved by any woman.
San Francisco, Today
The click-clack of her heels echoed against the buildings. Maya could barely see the pavement through the fog, which hung like a thick mist in the night air, amplifying every sound.
A rustle coming from somewhere behind her made her accelerate her already hasty steps. A chill so severe it felt as if an icy hand had touched her skin went through her. She hated the dark, and it was on nights like these that she cursed her on-call duty. Darkness had always scared her and lately it did even more so.
She opened her purse as she approached the three-story apartment building she’d been living in for the last two years. With shaking fingers, she fished for her house keys. The moment she felt the cold metal in her damp palm, she felt better. In a few seconds, she would be back in bed and