The weather was pleasantly warm on this early spring day in the year 1883. The slightest of breezes played daintily with the great oak trees that fined the long driveway leading to Wakefield Manor. Two fine white steeds attached to an open carriage stood breathing hard before the huge, twostory mansion.
Inside, Tommy Huntington paced fretfully back and forth across the large drawing room with its gold-brocade furniture, waiting impatiently for Christina Wakefield to come downstairs. Tommy had rushed over to see her after finally reaching a decision concerning her, but now he was getting nervous.
Damn it, she never used to take this long, he mused as he finally stopped pacing and stood before the window looking out at the Wakefields' vast estate, not until she started wearing dresses and putting her hair up. Now every time he came to see her, he ended up waiting a half hour or more before she would join him.
Tommy was having second thoughts about what he wanted to tell her, when two soft hands slipped over his eyes, and he could feel Christina's breasts pressed against his back.
"Guess who?" she whispered playfully in his ear.
Oh God, he wished she wouldn't do that anymore. It had been fine when they were children growing up together, but lately her nearness was driving him crazy with desire.
He turned to face her now, and was enchanted by her uncommon beauty. She was wearing a formfitting dark-blue-velvet dress with white lace adorning a high collar and long sleeves, and her golden hair was piled in countless ringlets about her head.
"I wish you wouldn't stare so, Tommy. You've been doing that more andmore of late, and it makes me nervous. I would think I had dirt on my face if I didn't know better," she said.
"I'm sorry, Crissy," he stammered. "It's just that you've changed so much this last year that I can't help myself. You're so beautiful now."
"Why, Tommy Huntington, are you telling me that I used to be ugly?" Christina teased him, pretending to be affronted.
"Of course not. You know what I mean."
"All right, I forgive you," she laughed as she crossed to the gold-brocade couch and sat down. "Now tell me why you are here so early. I didn't expect you until dinnertime, and Johnsy told me that you looked fit to be tied when you rushed in here." Tommy felt perplexed trying to find the right words, for he had not prepared his little speech. Well, he had better say something before he lost the courage.
"Crissy, I don't want you to go to London this summer. Your brother will be home in a couple of months, and I plan to ask him for your hand in marriage. Then, after we are married, if you still wish to see London, I'll take you."
Christina stared at him aghast. "You take too much for granted, Tommy!" she said harshly, but calmed down when she saw the stricken look on his boyish face. After all, she had always known this day was bound to come. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I realize that our families have always considered us a perfect match, and perhaps someday we'll marry, but not now. You're only just eighteen, and I'm seventeen. We're too young to get married. You know I've always been isolated here. I love my home, but I want to meet new people and know the excitement of London. Can't you understand that?"
She paused, not wanting to hurt him. "I love you, Tommy, but not the way you want. You have always been my best friend, and I love you the same way I love my brother."
He had listened to her patiently, knowing how strong-minded she was, but her last words hurt him deeply
"Damn it, Crissy. I don't want to be a brother to you. I love you. I want you as a man wants a woman." He came over to her and, taking her hands, pulled her up against him. "I want you more than I've ever wanted anything else. Taking you in my arms and making love to you is all I can think about. It's become an obsession."
"You're talking foolishness, Tommy. I don't want to hear any more!"
Christina puffed away from him, and a moment later Johnsy, her old nanny, bustled into the room with tea. So no more was said on the subject.
They had an enjoyable dinner together after going for a long ride to relieve the tension. Since Christina had resumed her normal, carefree manner, Tommy tactfully did not mention his desire for her again.
Later that same night, as Tommy lay in his own bed thinking of Christina and that afternoon, he felt horribly apprehensive. He was suddenly positive that if Christina went to London this summer as she planned, it would change her whole life and ruin his. But there was nothing he could do to stop her.