Table of Contents
NEW YORK TIMES
BESTSELLING AUTHOR CATHERINE COULTER
“Her plots are like rich desserts—sinfully delicious and
hard to pass up.”
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Catherine Coulter romances readers.”
—Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph
“Coulter is excellent at portraying the romantic tension
between her heroes and heroines, and she manages to
write explicitly but beautifully about sex as well as love.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Delightful . . . witty . . . engaging.”
“Coulter’s characters quickly come alive and
draw the reader into the story. . . . You can hardly
wait to get back and see what’s going on.”
—The Sunday Oklahoman
“Charm, wit, and intrigue. . . . Sure to keep
readers turning the pages.”
—Naples Daily News
—The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Published by New American Library, a division of
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Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
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First Signet Printing, March 1999
First Signet Printing (Updated Edition), March 2002
Copyright © Catherine Coulter, 1986, 2002
All rights reserved
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eISBN : 978-1-440-65751-1
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Wakehurst Plantation Near Natchez, Mississippi, 1844
“Drew just left to visit the Radcliffes, with my encouragement, of course. He took his paints. He’ll be gone for hours. I’ve sent the slaves away. We’re alone.”
Brent stared at his beautiful stepmother, her soft words dinning in his ears. She was only four years older than his proud eighteen. She was so desirable, her breasts high and full, her waist so narrow he was certain he could span her with his hands, and all that titian hair, loose now, flowing down her back. He watched her tongue glide over her lower lip. She was so unlike the girls he’d loved from the precocious age of fourteen. He’d pictured making love to her, pictured himself thrusting inside her, so deep.
He gulped and took a step back. “My father is your husband,” he said. He felt his blood pumping wildly, knew that he was straining against his tight breeches. He hurt.
“Yes,” said Laurel. “But he is old, Brent. I am so lonely and he can’t love me, not the way you could, not the way I need.” She shrugged and the silk peignoir slipped a bit.
Brent forced his eyes away from her breasts, and looked frantically toward the door of her bedroom. He shouldn’t have come in here. God, what was he going to do?
“We wouldn’t hurt anyone, Brent. Just give each other some pleasure, that’s all I ask. You are so young, just as I am. I’ve wanted you since I came here. You’re a beautiful man, Brent, so desirable. I watched you kissing Marissa Radcliffe. Did you know that? I want you to kiss me too.”
His body was trembling as he watched her walk toward him, her magnolia scent filling his nostrils.
His hands fisted at his sides. He knew he should walk to the bedroom door, open it, escape her, escape his own frantic lust. Her hand touched his shoulder. He stiffened.
She stood on her tiptoes, looking at his mouth. “I can teach you, Brent, show you how to love a woman. I can give you such pleasure. We won’t hurt anyone. No one, I swear it.”
She touched her mouth to his, but his arms remained locked against his sides.
“My father,” he gasped into her mouth, but her tongue touched his, and he was lost. He’d scarcely ever tried to control his surges of bone-deep lust and found it impossible to do so now. Her breasts flattened against his chest; he felt her belly and her thighs move against him. “My father,” he repeated again.
Her small hand found him, began to caress him, and he moaned, knowing that he would spill his seed if she didn’t stop. “Laurel,” he whispered, “don’t. I can’t control myself.”
“Come,” she said. She led him to her bed. Her eyes never left his face as she slipped out of the silk peignoir and gown. She let him look his fill, then began to unfasten his clothes. God, he was beautiful, she thought, lust swirling wildly, deep inside her. So tall and well-formed, so strong. So young. When he was naked, he stood quietly before her, closing his eyes as her hands stroked over him. He gritted his teeth when she caressed him with her fingers and then her incredibly soft mouth, wrenching a moan from deep in his throat. She knew, he realized vaguely, that he would spill his seed if she didn’t stop, but still he wanted to yell when she left him. He felt her hands around his back, felt her pull him with her to the bed. He fell on top of her with a wild cry. The shame and the guilt were there, tangling in his mind. “My father,” he whispered yet again, the agony of his young body making his voice shake. He pulled away onto his side. But his eyes went to the triangle of dark red hair and he could see her delicate woman’s flesh. “No, I cannot,” he said, but she straddled him, her hands splayed against his chest.
“Yes, Brent,” she said against his mouth. “He will never know. He would not care.” Her tongue was in his mouth as he bucked upward against her. His hands tangled in her hair, and he knew nothing else mattered, nothing else existed.
Laurel drew up, and guided him into her. As she drew him deeper, she knew that this time she would not find her pleasure. But it didn’t matter. He was so young and vigorous, so splendidly male. There was time enough. All afternoon. All the tomorrows. He would give her all the pleasure she wanted. She felt him stiffen, saw the cords in his neck as he reached his climax. His brilliant blue eyes, deep and mysterious as the stormy sea, narrowed as if in pain. “Yes, Brent,” she whispered, and rode him fiercely until he climaxed.
She kissed him, pressed herself on him. To her intense delight, he stayed hard inside her. He was far from sated, far from being exhausted. In the hour that followed, she taught him to pleasure her. The warmth of his mouth, his tongue, made her wild.
“So good,” she said, pressing his head closer to her. “Gently, my love, gently.”
Brent felt utter power and triumph when her body exploded with the pleasure he gave her. He reared up over her and thrust between her thighs. He pumped into her, lost to everything but the exquisite sensations building in him.
It took several moments for his father’s voice to penetrate his mind. All sensations ceased as if they’d never existed. He jerked out of her, rolled off the tangled bedcovers, and rose shakily to his feet beside the bed. He stared at his father.
“Jesus, my own son. You filthy little bastard!” His father’s face was red with fury. Brent realized his father’s eyes had fallen, that he was staring at his sex, wet with himself and Laurel.
“Slut, whore,” Avery Hammond screamed at his wife. “God, I’ll see you in hell.” He rushed out of his wife’s bedroom, and Brent could hear his galloping steps down the long corridor.
Laurel grabbed the cover. “He wasn’t supposed to come back,” she said blankly. “Not until tomorrow.”
“He is here,” Brent said as he quickly pulled on his scattered clothes.
He was jerking on his boots when his father reappeared in the doorway, a whip in his hand. “I’m going to flay the flesh off your back, you slut.”
Brent quickly moved in front of his father. “Father, stop. Please, it wasn’t her fault, sir.” Brent drew himself up tall and proud. “I seduced her, Father. I forced her. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t want me.”
Avery Hammond stopped in his tracks, quaking from rage, as his son’s words penetrated his mind. His son, his beautiful son, his flesh and blood, his pride. Oh God. Vaguely, as if from a great distance, he heard his wife sobbing. Brent, his son. Wild to a fault, but young. Wild as he himself had been wild when he was his son’s age. “You dishonorable bastard.” He felt the pounding of blood in his ears. He raised the whip and brought it down, slicing open his son’s face.
Brent felt the searing pain, but he didn’t move. He felt warm blood trickle down his cheek and off his chin, dripping to the carpet at his feet. He found himself wondering if the blood would wash out of his mother’s precious Turkish carpet.
“I never want to see your face again,” Avery Hammond said as he lowered the whip. His hand was shaking. God, he’d scarred his son. Brent’s eyes never wavered from his face, and Avery felt something die deep inside him. Then once again he saw his son’s powerful body thrusting between his wife’s legs. “You are not worthy to be my heir. I disown you. May you live with this disgrace for the rest of your miserable life. Be gone before dark or I’ll kill you.”