Cold Case, Hot Bodies(2)

By: Jule McBride

With a yank, he’d brought her against his chest. “You’re a virgin if I’ve ever seen one.”

“No, sir!” she’d protested, tears stinging her eyes.

“What are you doing this for?”

She’d been so surprised at his demanding tone that she’d started crying, then the whole story had tumbled out. She’d lost her father in Ireland, and her mum had been left behind, trying to work land that could no longer grow potatoes, much less anything else.

Nathaniel had comforted her, and she’d cried harder, then his lips had settled on hers, nibbling at the beauty mark beside her mouth, and within the hour, they’d made love. Ever since, she’d been his mistress, and his alone. He’d arranged for her to keep accountancy books for Angelo Donato, at Angel’s Cloud, earning far more than she had making shirts, and for her to live on the upper floor of a building behind the bawdy house, removed from the rowdy clientele. She’d benefitted from being Nathaniel’s lover in other ways, too. He’d given her jewels, and most important, brought over her mum who’d died due to natural causes on American soil. He’d given her a son, too. Twenty-three years ago her reputation may have been lost, but she’d fallen in love.

“Can you stay tonight, darling?” she whispered.

When he didn’t respond immediately, Gem imagined trouble was brewing on the home front. Long before she’d met him, he’d been carousing in Five Points, searching for the love his wife withheld. He was an honorable man, though, and did as Isme wished by maintaining separate bedrooms and attending public functions together. Isme had borne him one son, just like Gem, a boy the same age as Mark, named Dirk. The young man was reputed to be wild, even dangerous, and Gem suspected it was due to the loveless bond that had created him.

Suddenly feeling furious with herself, she shook her head in self-admonishment. “Never mind. I’ve no claim on you. I shouldn’t ask—”

He tilted back her head, to look into her eyes. “We have a son…”

She craved more of him, though. He rarely shared a bed with Isme, but they did share a home. A real home. He could come and go in sunlight, not under a cloak of darkness. Why can’t you let this be enough? she thought. Nathaniel escaped to her bed at every opportunity. He loved her. He adored their son. But she wanted times to be different! Codes of morality to change…wanted their passion to have full rein.

Something broken came into his voice. “How could you believe I’d leave you on our son’s wedding night? Damn it, Gem. You’re the one I love.”

“Kiss me,” she whispered, the depth of their passion drawing them together. Like the current of a river, it ran between them—reliable and unstoppable, so when his lips found hers once more, an arrow seemed to pierce her heart. He would leave in only a few hours! His tongue thrust deeper. She met the thrust, pushing back. The carriage was flying, bouncing on cobbles, throwing her into his arms. His hands raced down her sides, flesh seeking flesh. He moaned when his fingers stroked the smooth skin of her thighs. Grasping a garter, he opened it. As he pulled down the stocking, she gasped.

“Let’s recreate the night we made our son,” he murmured.

He was rocking her against his hips now, making her feverish. She shuddered from the heat in the wandering caresses of his hands. When he squeezed her thighs, she thought passion had seized him, but no…he was alarmed! Abruptly, he broke the kiss, and she craned to stare through the carriage window, but she saw only the black winter’s night.

“What was that?” she whispered, hearing a rattle as she fumbled with her clothes, in case they needed to get out of the carriage.

“The wheel,” Nathaniel returned hoarsely.

The carriage was wobbing, but the horses continued to run. If the carriage overturned, she hoped no reporters would find them…a town father with a woman associated with Angel’s Cloud. Nathaniel drew back the curtain and leaned his head through the window to shout. “Something’s wrong with—”

Before he could finish, the wheel spun away. The rear of the carriage dropped and the driver screamed. Gem thought he’d been thrown. The horses reared, rising on their hind legs, then hooves came down hard, clattering on cobbles as the animals galloped, dragging the carriage. Gem’s head slammed into the seat. She could hear metal dragging on stone, then through the window, she saw sparks from the friction.

“Oh, God,” Nathaniel muttered hoarsely. He was trying to grasp her waist, but his hands couldn’t find purchase. Neither could hers. They were being tossed like weeds in wind. Pounding hooves raced on, and as the sound diminished, she realized the horses had broken free. The carriage was flying on its own momentum, careening toward the river.