In another part of London thirteen-year-old Nathaniel Abbot lives a wretched life, forced to steal food in order to survive. Living in squalid conditions at the local orphanage, Nathaniel and three of his friends are spared further suffering when Audra “rescues” them from their plight.
Two lost souls that cannot find their place in the word suddenly find a place in each other’s hearts. Follow the lives of Audra and Nate as they grow from loyal childhood companions to inseparable young lovers, struggling through the perils of their own lives and facing difficult decisions that threaten to keep them apart.
Genre: Historical Romance
At midnight, Audra finally felt the house settled enough that she arose from the bed, put on her clothes (God forbid if she was caught in her nightgown), and silently walked down the hallway to the stairs. Her knees were a little shaky but she couldn’t tell if that was from fear or from weakness. Not willing to take chances, she sat down on the top step and moved down the stairs one at a time on her butt, scooting slowly down to the bottom. So far, so good. All those years of sneaking food and clothing for the boys were paying off!
The back staircase emptied out into the breezeway. If she went straight, she’d end up in the stables; if she turned around, she would go back into the kitchens. Glancing around to make sure she was alone, she began her trek across the breezeway and into the stables. The door seemed heavier than usual, and she struggled to keep silent. Once through the door, she stood on the other side of it to catch her breath. Her legs were very shaky now but she was too close to stop. Ahead of her were the narrow stairs up to the loft area and Nate’s room.
This time, she crawled on her hands and knees up the stairs, hiking her skirts up so they wouldn’t be caught. This would the worst place to be seen with her bare legs showing and her skirt hitched up around her waist! She grinned at the picture she must make from the bottom of the stairs—at least her undergarments were clean!
Audra finally made it to the top and had to stop for a minute to catch her breath. Then she stood up and went to Nate’s room. Like before, Calvin had moved out to keep from disturbing Nate with his horrible snoring. Audra confirmed this with a glance to the empty bed and swiftly moved to Nate’s side. The chair was on the opposite side of the bed this time as his back was facing the door.
Audra went around the bed and kneeled next to his head. He lay there with both arms on his pillow, keeping them from touching the wounds on his side. Even in his sleep, his brow was furrowed in pain, his eyes tightly shut, his breathing ragged and shallow. His mouth was slightly open and he was making those little mewling noises she remembered from last time, as if he labored through his breathing and the movement hurt him.
She reached out and brushed his hair away from his forehead and checked his temperature by putting the back of her hand to his temple. He seemed okay. She stared at his face in the dark trying to make out each of his handsome features in the inky blackness. A little light came from the window over his bed, but the moon was in quarter and not much help. She was afraid to light a candle and draw attention to the room.
Audra put her hands in-between and over his, content to just kneel there and hold his hands. His breathing changed slightly, seeming to calm a bit for the next few minutes. As she lifted her hand to stroke his hair again, Nate opened his eyes.
“Oh, God, Nate.” She moved her face closer to his so they wouldn’t be heard. “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry.”
With great effort, he lifted his right arm and stroked her face with his hand. “Not your fault. He’s a bastard from the start and at least Termins was there to stop him this time. He really wanted to kill me. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He wanted me dead.”
“Shhhh. Don’t think of him anymore. He isn’t worth the energy it takes to think about him. Shhhh.”
“I am so glad you are here. That means you are better.”
“I am fine. A little weak still, but fine. Now we need to concentrate on you becoming better. I couldn’t stay away from you any longer. I can only think of you and that night, and your kisses…” her voice trailed off as she choked on her emotions.
Nate swallowed hard and closed his eyes, the effort of speaking overcoming him but not as much as the thought of that night when they shared their first kiss. Was that only five or six nights ago? Seemed like years to his tortured mind and body. But he wanted to relive the moment, to recapture the feeling of that night, to remember the stunning fire that had burned inside, to forget the dreadful fire that now burned outside. He opened his eyes and stared at the hidden face of his love, obscured by the darkness, backlit by the sliver of moon coming through the window. “Kiss me again,” he whispered hoarsely, “Kiss me now, Audra.”
She followed the line of his cheek and chin with her hand, feeling for his lips with her fingers. Then she moved her head so she could replace her fingers with her lips. His body cried out in pain as he rolled slightly to meet her kiss and hold onto her arm with his free hand.
Just like before, when their lips met, the world around them exploded with passion. Audra felt the kiss all the way to her toes, her mind focusing sharply on the intimacy of the touch. Nate moaned in pain and in pleasure, his body screaming at the pulling movement caused on his newly forming scars. But his heart and soul screamed at the joy her kiss brought him.
He moved his hand to the back of her head, pulling her even closer to him, searching the depths of her mouth with his tongue. She responded fully with a search of her own. There was nothing tentative about her exploration. It was as if she knew exactly what to do, what she was meant to do, what they were meant to do together. There were no secrets between them, no hesitation. They were a perfect match.
Audra broke the kiss, knowing the danger in which they were putting themselves. “I love you,” she whispered, lip to lip, “I am yours forever.”
Barbara T. Cerny has published four novels, Of Angels and Orphans, Tressa, Grays Hill, and Shield of the Palidine. She grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, and has wanted to write her entire life. She served twenty-two years in the US Army Reserves, retiring a Lieutenant Colonel in 2007. She is an information technology specialist and supervisor at Wright-Patterson AFB and is currently working on her several next books.
Barb has two books, a paranormal and the sequel to Shield of the Palidine, in editing. She lives with her loving husband, their two wonderful children, two lazy cats, and two even lazier turtles.