Dakota crossed the room and impulsively brushed a kiss against Ian’s cheek. “Thank you.”
The words, softly uttered, hung between them as the bodyguard looked at her. She’d caught him completely off guard. Those same stirrings that had been invading and haunting him these past few days increased in magnitude, threatening to overwhelm him. He’d banked them down before, but this time they proved a little more difficult to hide away.
The next thing happened as if it had been scripted somewhere. But not by him. He wasn’t given to impulse, not unless he was on the job, reacting by instincts.
His hand spanning so that it partially framed her cheek, Ian cupped it ever so lightly as he brought his lips down to hers. He did it even as something inside of him ordered, Stop!
He didn’t listen….
Because a Husband Is Forever
Nancy Neubert and old friendships renewed
This RITA® Award-winning author has written over one hundred and thirty books for Silhouette, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide.
October 8, 1861
My dearest love,
I hope this letter finds you and that you are well and whole. That is the worst of this awful war, the not knowing where you are and if you are. I tell myself that in my heart, I would know if you are no longer among the living. That if you were taken from me in body as well as in spirit, some piece of my heart would surely wither and die because it only beats for you. Each evening I press a kiss to my fingers and touch the cameo you gave me—the very same one I shall not remove until you are standing right here beside me—and pray that in the morning I will rise and look out my window to see you coming over the ridge. It is what sustains me in these dark hours.
I miss you and love you more each day.
June 1, 1861
Amanda Deveaux looked at the cameo in her hand. Embossed on the delicate Wedgwood-blue oval was the profile of a young Greek woman, carved in ivory. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, even though her vision was blurred because of the tears in her eyes.
She gazed up at the man who had given the cameo to her. Lt. William Slattery of the Confederate Army. Her Will, dashingly handsome in his new gray uniform, a uniform she had sewn for him herself. She was achingly proud of him for what he was about to do. And heartsick about it at the same time.
“I want you to wear this, Amanda.” Will took the cameo from her and tied the black velvet ribbon at the back of her neck. “Promise me that you’ll wear it until I can come home to make you my bride.”
“But why can’t I marry you now?” she pleaded.
Will glanced over at the stone-faced woman who stood several feet away, guarding her precious daughter. “Because,” he told her, “a lady doesn’t hurriedly get married like some penniless servant girl.”
Amanda didn’t care about tradition, only that the man she loved was going away for who knew how long. “I don’t want to be a lady. I want to be your wife.”
“You’ll be both when I come back. Promise you’ll wait for me,” he repeated.
She clutched his hand, ignoring her mother’s reproving looks. Her mother had never liked Will. His family didn’t have enough money to suit her. As if money could ever be the measure of a man’s worth.
“You know I will. From the first moment I saw you until the last moment I’ll draw breath, there’s only you, my darling,” she whispered to him.
Will kissed her hand in the tradition of the times. And then, because he was young and in love and this would be the last time that they would be together, he drew her into his arms and kissed the woman he’d loved since he was a small boy.
He kissed her long and hard, fashioning a moment and a memory that would last him through however many days and weeks and months he would have to be away. He had to fight a war he had never asked for. A war that his young honor demanded he fight. He hadn’t bought his way out the way some others of his class had. They had sent in paid substitutes to fight in their places. To die in their stead if that was the way of it.
The son of a very small plantation owner, Will’s honor forbade him to allow others to brave danger in his place. But, oh, his heart felt as if it was breaking as he stood there, the April wind ruffling his hair, kissing the woman he would rather have died for than leave.
“I believe it is time to take your leave, Lieutenant,” Belinda Deveaux told him sharply.
He took a step back and looked at Amanda, sealing her image in his mind. “Wait for me,” he begged her again.
“Forever if I have to.”
Clutching the cameo to her, Amanda waved as Will mounted his horse and then rode away. She waved until the horse and rider had long disappeared from view.
Amanda ignored the disparaging sound her mother made. It faded into the background, muted by the sound of her breaking heart.
“Forever,” she repeated in a fierce whisper.