Authors: Constance O'Banyon
Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #REBEL TEMPTRESS, #Adult, #Adventure, #Action, #Yankees, #Plantation, #Yankee Major, #Enemy, #Unportected, #Alone, #Bloodshed, #War, #Lonely, #Captured Hearts, #Seductive, #Vowed, #Possess, #Precious, #American Revolution, #18th Century
Table of Contents
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LOVE WITHOUT HONOR
"Stay with me, Honor," Adam urged in a deep voice, his lips gently brushing her cheek. "I've dreamed of you so often," he whispered.
"Please, don't do this, Major. I am a married woman." Honor's voice trembled as she spoke.
"Don't you know that I am tortured by that fact?" His blue eyes gazed at her steadily. "I love and need you, Honor."
Honor was unable to move. Adam was telling her that he loved her, and she knew she loved him. She watched his handsome face as his lips descended to hers. She could feel the hard outline of his body pressed against her soft curves. Her hands moved over his back, pulling him closer....
Honor Landau watched as her sister, Meagan, crammed the last of her belongings into a brown leather valise, then snapped it shut with a determined look on her face.
"Meagan, I beg you to reconsider. Do not do anything hasty. Just think how you have already upset Aunt Amanda. She has shut herself in her room and refuses to even talk to you."
Meagan tossed her shoulder-length red hair and looked at her younger sister. "Do you think I give a fig for Aunt Amanda's feelings? She has never cared for me; you were always her favorite. I doubt she will even miss me. She will most probably be relieved when I have gone."
Honor jumped up from the bed where she had been sitting and threw her arms around her sister. "That is not true, Meagan. Aunt Amanda is brokenhearted that you are going away with a man like Horace Elderman. She cares a great deal for you and is concerned for your future well-being."
Meagan dislodged Honor's arms from about her waist and pushed her gently away from her. "I am going to marry Horace, Honor, and not you, Aunt Amanda, or anyone can dissuade me."
Honor's eyes clouded with tears. "Oh, Meagan, I shall miss you terribly, and I am afraid you are making a dreadful mistake. He is at least twenty years older than you and is not even accepted in polite society. I cannot bear the thought of his touching you."
Meagan threw back her head and gave a throaty laugh. "You are such an innocent, Honor. It does not matter to me how old Horace is. I would marry him even if he had two heads. He is wealthy beyond anything you can imagine, and as for his being accepted by polite society, I could not care less whether they accept him or not. The people who make up the "polite society" have not been overly kind where I am concerned anyway. Lately I have been snubbed by the cream of the rocking chair set."
Honor knew Meagan spoke the truth. Her unorthodox behavior concerning Horace Elderman would not be well received by their friends and neighbors, who considered Horace nothing better than a scoundrel, or worse yet, a misplaced Yankee.
Honor loved her beautiful sister, and she had been forced to defend Meagan's behavior more than once lately. She feared she would never see Meagan again once Horace took her to New York as he planned. Feelings toward anyone who was classed as a Yankee were becoming hostile, and hatreds ran deep as the war between North and South reached a fever pitch.
Meagan had told Honor that Horace had sold all of his holdings here in Virginia and was returning to what he termed the safer territory of the North.
Honor studied her sister. Meagan was beautiful. Her hair was deep red with golden highlights, her skin was smooth and creamy. She was so lovely that people seeing her for the first time would stare in open admiration.
Honor was often referred to as "poor Honor" beside her beautiful, vivacious sister. Her hair was a nondescript color, more white than gold, and that combined with her pale complexion made her feel plain and unattractive. She was tall and gangly for her age. "All legs" was the way her aunt described her. Honor felt her eyes might be her one redeeming quality. While they were not the beautiful blue of Meagan's, they were a deep emerald green and were framed by long, dark lashes.
Honor had often overheard people saying how hard it must be for "poor Honor" to live in the shadow of her beautiful sister. What they did not realize was that Honor adored Meagan and could never resent her beauty. She was the only family Honor had except for her Aunt Amanda.
Honor thought of Jordan Daniels. He and Meagan had been in love for many years now, and everyone expected them to be married as soon as the war was over.
"Meagan, what about Jordan? He will be devastated when he learns that you have wed Horace Elderman and moved to the North."
Meagan was working her fingers into a pair of black leather gloves. She smiled slightly and looked at Honor. "I make you a present of Jordan, along with anything else I leave behind," she said flippantly.
Honor shook her head in disbelief. "I cannot see why you would want a man like Mr. Elderman when Jordan loves you."
Meagan reached out and tilted Honor's face up and studied her features for a long moment. "Poor little sister, you are in love with Jordan, are you not? I have suspected it for a long time now. Maybe with me out of the picture he will turn to you." Her eyes narrowed. "Yes, one day you will be a beauty. I am almost sorry I will not be around to see the little caterpillar turn into the beautiful butterfly."
Tears rolled down Honor's face. She thought she had hidden her feelings for Jordan. She had not realized that Meagan was aware of her love for him. "I will never be as lovely as you are, Meagan," she said, not bothering to deny her feelings for Jordan Daniels.
Meagan released Honor's chin and shrugged her shoulders. "Who can say. Aunt Amanda seems to think you will someday put me in the shade as far as looks are concerned. She may be right."
A sob broke from Honor's throat. "You are just saying these things to make me feel better about your leaving. Oh, Meagan, I cannot bear to think of your being married to that awful man and moving so far away. Do not leave me."
Meagan sighed in exasperation. "Honor, you just will not listen, will you?" She took Honor's hand and led her to the bed and sat her down, then sat down beside her.
"I am marrying Horace because it is what I want to do, and he cannot remain here in the South where he is not received. I will admit to having some deep feelings for Jordan, but I would never be happy married to him."
"But Meagan, Jordan has money, if that is what you are concerned about," Honor interrupted her.
Meagan frowned. "Jordan would never be able to afford the things Horace can give me. As Mrs. Elder-man, I will have all the finer things in life. I will live in a grand house, wear expensive gowns, I can travel and see the world. Horace has promised to take me to Paris for our honeymoon. Try to understand, Honor, I cannot live on love alone, I need excitement, and to be surrounded by beautiful things. Love alone would never be enough for me, but the things money can buy will keep me happy from now on. I know you cannot understand, and maybe you think me mercenary, but it is the way I am. Horace understands and is willing to indulge me."
Honor shook her head. "No amount of money would make me prefer Mr. Elderman to Jordan. Besides, Green Rivers is the biggest and most prosperous plantation in the Shenandoah Valley. Jordon could not be classified as a pauper."
"Yes, I will grant you that, but Green Rivers does not belong to Jordan yet, and will not as long as his father is alive. Besides, who can say, perhaps Jordan will not survive the war, and even if he does, there may not be a plantation to return to. Horace says that the South cannot possibly win against the North in the long run."
Honor jumped to her feet. "How dare you say such things to me? I cannot bear to think of anything happening to Jordan, and how can you let Mr. Elderman speak of the South losing the war? Have you no loyalty?"
Meagan rose to her feet. "I am not driven by loyalty such as yours, little sister. I go with the winner, and as I see it, that means Horace and the North." She slipped her arm around Honor's shoulder and hugged her tightly. "Your loyalties are commendable, while mine have been either misplaced or never really existed in the first place. Accept me the way I am, Honor, for I doubt I will ever change. You know of the chink in my armor, and you can see why Jordan and I would never be happy together."
Honor realized Meagan might be correct. Jordan was a very honorable man, and he loved the South enough to die for it if the need arose. But he loved Meagan, too.
Honor was not disgusted by Meagan's confession; in a way she admired her sister's honesty. The one thing about Meagan that had not endeared her to many people was that she spoke bluntly and honestly, rarely sparing anyone, even herself.
Meagan steered Honor toward the bedroom door. "Come downstairs with me and be polite to Horace. I am mortified that Aunt Amanda will not receive him. This is the last favor I will ever ask of you. Will you do it for me?"
Honor nodded her agreement. "Will you write me, Meagan, so I will know how you are faring?"
"I am afraid not, little sister. Horace told me a letter would never make it through the Yankee lines, let alone the Confederate lines."
"How will you get through the lines yourself, Meagan?" Honor asked, a worried frown creasing her brow.
"Have no fear, Horace is a very resourceful man. He has assured me there will be no problem. If you have enough money, anything is possible."
"Meagan, I will pray for your happiness every night."
Meagan smiled. "You do that, Honor. You have a better rapport with God than I do."
Honor walked to the bottom of the stairs and waited for Meagan. Her heart was heavy knowing she might never see her sister again. Meagan sat her valise down and turned to her.
"Will you come with me to wish Horace farewell?"
"Meagan, what shall I tell Jordan when he comes home?"
Meagan tied the ribbon of her green silk bonnet, one of the many presents Horace had given her, as she considered how to answer her sister. "Tell him anything that pleases you, I do not care, and for goodness' sake get that woebegone look off your face, and do be nice to Horace."
Honor followed Meagan out to the front porch where Horace was waiting and watched as a coachman loaded Meagan's valise into a fancy carriage. She dreaded the thought of facing Mr. Elderman, and she shuddered when she saw the intimate way he looked at Meagan.
He was not a tall man, standing eye-to-eye with Meagan; he was fat, and the gray hair that covered his head was thin and balding in spots. His jowls were pudgy and seemed to hang down, almost meeting with his mouth. His bearing was not enhanced by his obviously expensive clothing. He turned to Honor and smiled. "Little Honor, will you not give your future brother-in-law a farewell kiss?"
Reluctantly, she offered him her cheek feeling revulsion at the touch of his lips. She backed away from him quickly, not wanting any further contact with him.
"Take care of my sister," she said in a voice that shook with emotion.
He reached out to her and touched her cheek. She resisted the urge to push his hand away. "I shall take very good care of Meagan, you need not worry. As soon as we are settled and it is safe, I shall send for you. How would you like to live with us? I would see that you wanted for nothing."
"I would never leave my home to live in the North," Honor said ungraciously.
She suffered in silence as Horace enfolded her in his arms. And she pulled away when he laughed in her ear. "You are a dyed-in-the-wool rebel, are you not?"
Honor's eyes sparkled defiantly. "Yes, I am loyal to the South, Mr. Elderman, if that is what you are asking."
He smiled. "It is to your credit. You do not much care for the idea of your sister's marrying me, do you?"
"My sister is of age and does not need my consent," she told him haughtily.
He laughed. "A regular spitfire, aren't you? I think I would enjoy getting to know you better."
"You will never know me, Mr. Elderman," she said, not bothering to cover up her anger.
"Do not mind my sister," Meagan said. "She is upset that I am going away."
Horace bowed to Honor, but did not attempt to touch her again. "You are indeed fortunate that you have a sister like Honor, who cares for your welfare. I think one would be lucky to be held in high regard by her. Perhaps one day she will become less hostile toward me."
Honor thought he might have paid her a compliment, but the point of it was lost on her.
"I will bid you goodbye, Honor, and wait in the carriage while you say your farewells to your sister."
After Horace left them, tears spilled down Honor's face. "Meagan, I shall miss you so much. Please take care of yourself."
Meagan hugged her tightly. "I know I have not been a very good sister to you at times, but in my own way I love you and will always want what is best for you."
There were tears in Meagan's eyes as she turned away from Honor and was helped into the carriage by the waiting coachman.
Honor watched the carriage until it was out of sight. She could smell the lingering scent of the expensive perfume Meagan wore. "Oh, Jordan," she said aloud, "I cannot bear to think how this will affect you when you find out about Meagan and Mr. Elderman." It was sad to think of the heartache Jordan would feel at losing Meagan. She wished things could be different, for her love for Jordan was an unselfish one, and above all else, she wanted his happiness.
Why did Meagan always do the unexpected? Honor hoped her sister would not live to regret her actions this day. She sat down on the porch swing, suddenly overcome by a feeling of loneliness. How she would miss her beautiful, vivacious sister.
Honor remembered when she and Meagan had first come to live at Landau ten years before, after a boating accident had taken the lives of both their mother and father. Meagan had been ten at the time and Honor six. Meagan had never liked living on the plantation, but had preferred the life they had led when their parents were alive. Their father had been a lawyer with a successful practice in Richmond, where he had met and married their mother. He had not liked living on the plantation where he had been born, and once, when he needed money, had sold his share of the plantation to his older sister Amanda.