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Three Years Later
Ennui. That was the only word for it, Elizabeth thought as she walked toward the wide staircase leading to the second floor of her father's mansion. Lately, his parties did that to her. Well, not just his parties, any of the elite functions she'd attended, be it for her father, or charity, or whatever, made her feel that way. Whether in Boston or Esmerelda, it didn't matter.
Or maybe disillusioned was a better word for it. The fact that she was finally recovering from the second divorce she had sworn would never occur didn't help matters. A two-time divorcee–how pathetic was that? She no longer enjoyed the displays of polite, plastic demonstrations of interest, the polished mask of the sophisticated networking among the affluent. All she could remember now were the little affairs Evan, her second husband, had instigated at those social functions. The last straw had been when she came home unexpectedly early one day and found him and his latest conquest, make that conquests–plural–in her own home, in the bed they shared. Evan and two young women cavorting in the sanctity of their home. That was taking things too far and had been the last straw.
Maybe there hadn't been the passion of lovers between them, but there should have been some level of respect. He should have taken his little whores to a hotel, not to their home. Her home. The apartment she had paid for with money her mother had left her in a trust fund. But at least it was over now, and it had cost her a pretty penny, as well as the condo, to be shed of him. And it had been worth every cent.
Ascending to the secondfloor of the mansion, her footsteps muffled by the thickly carpeted hallway, she strode toward her father's office.
How had she become so jaded at thirty-three? She stopped at the polished oak door of her father's small library-cum-study thinking to grab a book and retreat to her room, away from the noise of the party taking place on the first floor. She had made her duty appearance, smiled and sat through dinner listening to the dull yammerings of the handsome, rich businessmen her father had seated near her, obviously hoping for a third spouse that might just take this time.
Sorry to disappoint you, Dad, but there will not be a third…anything. Not from this crowd.
She'd gone as far down that road as any dutiful daughter should be required to venture.
They did nothing for her, not even a tingle. Oh, they were handsome enough, just not men who interested her. Ever since her divorce from the county sheriff, J.W. Dalton, she had tried to do her duty to her father. She knew she had disappointed him when her marriage had fallen apart, but she simply could not stay with a man who did not love her. Truth be told, she wasn't sure she had loved him the way she should have. But it had pleased her father and that's what was important. At least it had been for about a year.
She finally realized that if she stayed with J.W., it would ruin the rest of both their lives, because J.W. did love someone else, with a passion that Elizabeth had only dreamed of. Until recently, that is. She had to set J.W. free even if it meant disappointing her father, because if nothing else, she liked J.W. and she wanted to see him happy.
It had taken a while, but Willow MacKenzie, the woman he truly desired, had finally returned to Esmerelda. They'd been married for several years now, with one beautiful daughter and another baby on the way. They looked very happy together, and Elizabeth knew every time she saw them, she'd made the right decision.
Then there had been Evan Manning. J.W. had at least loved Willow. Evan, on the other hand, loved only himself. He had hid it very well through their courtship, but Evan was a user, and once they were married he had been very blatant about exactly what kind of man he was.
The marriage to Evan, surprisingly, had lasted two years, but there had been even less holding them together. Certainly a lot less respect. She had tried so hard to make it work, closing her eyes to things she shouldn't have. She would not make that mistake again.
If only she'd been able find the right man for herself. Even to please her father, she could not approach marriage again with any of the potential suitors he'd thought acceptable. She simply couldn't bring herself to do it. She already tried it–twice. Never again.
She'd even gone back to Boston and spent time there, away from Esmerelda, and still hadn't found anyone whom she'd wanted to spend the rest of her life with. And then she'd returned home once more, closing up her condo in Boston, to play hostess for her father. Was it only four weeks since she'd returned this time?
She loved Esmerelda and enjoyed the small-town atmosphere, the familiarity and closeness of the small community. It had taken all her powers of persuasion to get her father to allow her to attend the local high school when she was younger. Only the promise that she would agree to attend Boston University and make the grades necessary to be admitted, kept him from shipping her off to a private school. She had tried so hard to be what he had wanted her to be. But the time had come to be her own person now. Enough was enough. And she had only begun to realize there was more to life than what her father expected of her. Much more.
She opened the door to the study and stepped inside. Before she could throw on the light switch a muscular arm snaked around her, twirled her around, and thrust her face first against the door. Her heart thundered in her chest. There was an intruder in her father's study. She struggled against the strong hold. A hard, callused hand pressed over her mouth.
She bit down and tasted blood.
"Dios, Elizabeth," a familiar, sensual voice growled in her ear. "What are you trying to do?"
"Isandro." She released a sigh of relief and the tension melted away. Speaking of passion. Who could have known what, or rather who, she would discover with this return to Esmerelda. What she found was that passion wasn't quite the elusive stranger she had thought it was. So what if she found it with the most unlikely person–someone her father would never approve of. Someone who would never enjoy being a part of the elite society her father so revered.
He spun her around and the next thing she knew, her breath was captured by a demanding mouth, his tongue thrust deeply inside. She wound her arms around his neck. Even in the dark, he exuded sexuality, and she was no match for his meandering, sensual possession. He lifted his head and his gaze glittered through the murky darkness of the room.
"What are you doing in here?" she gasped. "How did you get in?" She felt his hand at the zipper of her dress, felt it give beneath his knowledgeable touch. To hell with what her father thought. This man made her blood sing in a way it never had before.
Copyright © 2007 Adrianna Dane.