Authors: Connie Mason
“Take off your clothes, Alexa, and get into bed,” Adam ordered brusquely, unbuttoning his shirt as he spoke.
“I think not,” retorted Alexa, deliberately turning her back. “You will not use me as an instrument of revenge.”
“You think not?” Adam smiled thinly. “I’m perfectly capable of undressing you should you refuse. In fact, I might even enjoy it. Which will it be?”
Alexa glared at him murderously, refusing to budge. Perhaps if she displayed courage he would go away and leave her alone. But she was mistaken. Adam would not be put off.
It took but two strides to reach Alexa’s side and too late she turned to run. His body rigid with desire. Adam easily captured Alexa’s struggling form in his arms, turning her until she was crushed against his chest….
My Lady Vixen
© 2004, 2011 Connie Mason. All rights reserved.
To all my faithful readers, especially those in Clermont, Florida, and Buchanan, Michigan.
My Lady Vixen
Thin wisps of mist settled above the damp ground, shooting ghostly tendrils heavenwards as leaden-gray skies released weak rays of dawn. From his vantage point some distance away behind a line of trees a lad just beginning to fulfill the promise of youth watched, his distinctive silvery eyes hardened into slits of granite that were to become harder and colder as the years matured him.
Unbeknownst to the boy he was not the only interloper that chill fall morning. Some distance to his left a closed carriage waited on the path. A woman’s pale face, hauntingly beautiful yet strangely sad, stared fixedly through the curtained window into the gloom, her magnificent violet eyes wide and horrorstruck as she silently watched two men enact a drama in the clearing ahead.
She sighed audibly as a case containing a magnificent
pair of duelling pistols was offered to each man. As if aware of the woman’s indrawn breath the boy echoed her response, adding a grimace, distorting the features that held but a hint of the rugged good looks that would one day be his.
Formalities dispensed with, the two duelists stood back to back, weapons held aloft. At a signal the counting began, and to the watching boy each step was magnified and intensified until he imagined he heard the exaggerated pounding of each footfall against the spongy earth. But they were only his own heartbeats thundering in his ears.
The lad had been instructed to remain at home, as was the woman. Both had deliberately disobeyed, choosing instead to watch from a distance the one-sided match. Each viewer had their own reason for being present, but the common bond that compelled them was love.
Suddenly the opponents in the clearing halted, slowly turned and took aim. Simultaneously two shots rang out but only one man spiraled from the impact and crumpled to the damp ground: the other remained standing. A cry of despair left the boy’s bloodless lips to mingle in the still air with the woman’s heartwrenching wail. Such was their concentration that neither heard the other’s outcry.
A tall, cadaverous man, presumably a doctor, knelt over the prone form. Shaking his head negatively, he swiveled to face the victor, spreading his hands helplessly, suggesting the wounded man to be beyond mortal help. Shrugging negligently, the victor impatiently turned away to a waiting carriage just as the doctor bent to cover the fallen man’s face with a square of linen he had withdrawn from his pocket.
His gray eyes consumed with hate, the boy watched as the wheels of the carriage disappeared from sight, lost in the shrouding mists. “One day you’ll pay for this!” he
shouted to the silent heavens, shaking his fist to emphasize his words. “Someday, somehow. I’ll take from you something or someone you hold dear, just as you took from me! By all that’s holy, I swear it!”
Silent tears slipped unbidden from his eyes as his rage focused on one man and his unfaithful wife. A rage that was to consume him body and soul for many years to come as he grew to manhood, waiting for the right time to exact his revenge. With faltering steps he stumbled from his concealment to kneel numbly beside the body sprawled in the dirt. Suddenly his shoulders straightened, and in those few short moments he seemed to pass into adulthood.
Inside the carriage, the woman, her face a pale reflection of death, slumped boneless against the cushions. The man’s death foretold the ending of her own useless life. Living no longer held any meaning. Not even her love for the precious three-year-old daughter waiting for her at home possessed the power to alter the course of events.
Lady Alexa Ashley pirouetted on dainty feet, setting her voluminous white skirts awhirl about her shapely ankles. Her engagement ball was all that she had hoped and her violet eyes sparkled with excitement. Her father, Sir John Ashley, confidant and advisor to King George III, had only moments before announced her betrothal and impending marriage to Lieutenant Charles Whitlaw of the Royal Navy, only son and heir of Sir Brandon Whitlaw. It was a marriage Alexa’s father extolled until Alexa herself became convinced that Charles, though staid and somewhat dull, was the handsome Prince Charming she had always yearned for.
It was true Charles was handsome and young, as well as completely besotted by her. Rich, too. What more could a girl of eighteen hope for? Alexa often asked herself. Surely marriage to Charles would settle once and for all the nagging doubts that plagued her. Charles would be a wonderful husband, kind, thoughtful, loving.
What did it matter if her heart never sang out with joy when he kissed her? Or that her body ached for something she could only guess at? She supposed, given time. Charles would teach her body to respond to his. Smiling beguilingly. Alexa knew she was the envy of all her friends as she bent her thick mass of ebony curls toward her dashing betrothed, allowing his arm to curl possessively about her slim waist.
“Are you happy, my dear?” beamed Charles, his smile slightly askew.
Alexa hesitated but a moment. “Of course, Charles, extremely so. Are you?”
“Ecstatically.” Charles assured her, giving her waist an intimate squeeze. “Even more so when I’ll have the right to lead you off to our bedroom and close the door.”
“Charles!” Alexa scolded, somewhat shocked. It was unlike Charles to speak so boldly, but she had watched him consume a large quantity of hard liquor and supposed the drink lent him courage. She stifled a giggle at the thought of Charles exhibiting the passion she had thus far only read about in books, and concentrated on the dance steps.
From across the crowded room the cold gray eyes of Adam Foxworth never left the slim shapely figure swathed in virginal white who appeared to melt into the uniform-clad arms of her young fiance. He surreptitiously studied her face. It was a lovely face, delicate and fragile, a face of strange contrasts, deep violet eyes black-fringed and smoldering against pale creamy skin, translucent as alabaster. And her mouth, unexpectedly full-lipped and sensuous. A cloud of raven hair, shiny as glass, was arranged in an artful mass atop her proud head with wayward tendrils framing her perfect features.
Against his will Adam was thoroughly beguiled by the face and form of Lady Alexa Ashley. Slim of waist, her
full breasts rose enticingly above a low, square neckline. When she turned he saw a provocative expanse of smooth back and sloping shoulders. He imagined her legs beneath her full skirt were long and shapely. Deliberately he forced his mind and eyes from the innocent beauty to concentrate on her father, Sir John Ashley, a man truly deserving of his hate. A small twinge of regret at what he was about to do twisted his handsome features but he hardened his heart as he remembered his pledge of long ago. Fifteen years had done nothing to ease his rage or lessen his thirst for revenge. If anything, the long, lonely years only added to his resolve. Finally fate had intervened and his moment of vengeance had arrived, just as he always knew it would.
“Are you having second thoughts. Adam?”
Adam reluctantly turned his gaze from the dancing figure in white to eye his companion malevolently. “Never!” he denied vehemently. “Did John Ashley have second thoughts? By now you know me well enough, Mac, to realize I don’t easily back down from a vow once given. Though young when it was made, I have not wavered once in the intervening years.”
“Don’t do this, Adam, please,” begged Mac, his blue eyes intent upon the silvery orbs of his friend. “In the end you’ll hurt no one but that innocent girl, and yourself.”
Adam smiled ruefully, smoothing back hair the color of thick, tawny gold with long, splayed fingers. “She’s the spawn of the devil and his mate, how innocent can she be?” he replied tersely.
“Be reasonable, Adam. That girl knows nothing of this vendetta of yours.”
“She’ll soon learn,” answered Adam coldly, his icy gaze finding and locking on Lady Alexa once again.
“Adam,” Mac whispered urgently, “let it go. We have
more important business at hand. You know Captain Jones …”
“Quiet, you fool!” hissed Adam angrily. “Do you want all of London to know why we are here? I know my duty as well as the next person and nothing will interfere with it. And if you’re worrying about the girl, don’t. No harm will come to her. Unlike her father. I am not entirely heartless. I intend to use her, not kill her.”
Alexa could not help but notice the tall, handsome man dressed entirely in muted gray. For some time now his eyes had followed her every move and when she turned to meet his gaze she was shocked by the animosity that flew out to meet her from those slitted orbs the color and texture of cold cement. A chill of foreboding shook her slight frame as he bowed mockingly and smiled at her with a smile that failed to reach his eyes.
Raw masculinity exuded from his every pore, enhanced by the cut and color of his clothing. Though drab in comparison to the other males present, his garb accentuated the strength of well-muscled limbs and shoulders that put every man Alexa had ever seen. Charles included, to shame. His profile spoke of power and ageless strength. His teeth, even and white, contrasted pleasingly with suntanned skin pulled taut over the elegant ridge of his cheekbones. It was a stubborn and arrogant face, Alexa decided.
Nervously Alexa’s gaze shifted to the imposing man’s companion. Though nearly as tall, his flaming red hair and beard gave him a comic appearance. His bulging biceps left little doubt as to his strength should it be put to the test, but unlike his silver-eyed companion, there were touches of humor around the mouth and near the clear blue eyes. Both men looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties.
“Who is that man, Charles?” Alexa could not help but
ask. “The one dressed in gray satin. I’ve never seen him before. Is he a friend of yours?”
Charles swiveled his neck and met head-on the icy eyes of Adam Foxworth. “Good God, he’s no friend of mine, Alexa!” he shuddered. “I thought your father invited him.”