- Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.28(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.97(d)
Read an Excerpt
Written in the Stars
By Nan Ryan
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1998 Nan Ryan
All rights reserved.
San Francisco, California August 1895
At a gala dinner party in a luxurious Nob Hill mansion, a dark, lean man in an impeccably tailored suit of slate gray linen lazed comfortably on a Louis XV patterned brocade chair. The legs of the gentleman's stylish trousers were narrow in cut and sharply creased. The cuffs and collar of his pristine white shirt were stiffly starched. His neckpiece was a pale lavender silk four-in-hand with a large, flat knot. His shoes were of the softest English leather and polished to a high gleam.
His slightly too-long jet black hair, raked by dramatic silver streaks at the temples, was clean and carefully brushed. That thick raven hair shone with healthy luster in the light cast by electric chandeliers which party decorators had swagged with silver lamé. The gentleman's tanned face was not handsome in the classical sense. It was a lean, hard-set face with dark, brooding eyes which remained constantly half hidden by lazy lids. Those lids, plus a small white scar beneath his dark left eyebrow, a nose that had been broken and imperfectly set, a mouth that was full enough to suggest sensuality, yet amazingly looked cruel, added up to a slightly sinister appearance.
His name was Benjamin Star, and his manners were polished, his intellect was keen. He had a quick, self-deprecating sense of humor. He was tall, slim, and graceful. He moved with stylish masculine ease. His lean brown hands were nothing short of beautiful, the fingers long with clean, short clipped nails. Those attractive hands never gestured nervously as he spoke. He didn't fidget about on the brocade chair or twist and crane his neck to catch a glimpse of late-arriving guests. He never laughed too loudly or drank to excess or purposely attracted attention to himself.
Benjamin Star was, in every sense of the word, a gentleman. Educated. Cultured. Urbane.
And yet ...
The expensively dressed ladies in their elegant gowns and glittering diamonds were not drawn to the maddeningly elusive Ben Star because he was the consummate gentleman. Every female present at the summertime Nob Hill party was helplessly attracted to the wild, animalistic side of his nature which they were certain lurked dangerously close to the surface. Was there any doubt that beneath that smooth, imperturbable veneer and those perfectly tailored clothes there was an abundance of such frightening untamed masculinity that no female would be safe alone with him?
Ben Star lifted a sparkling fluted glass to his lips and drank of the fine French champagne. He was casually aware of a trio of very rich, very pretty young socialites staring hungrily at him as if he were a part of the tempting buffet laid out in the mansion's dining room.
A tiny muscle twitched in his tanned jaw. Their twittering reaction to his nearness was nothing new or unique. Ben Star was used to causing a stir. Had been used to it for the past fifteen years.
But at this particular party on this particular night, it seemed to Ben Star that he had lived through just such an annoying moment a hundred times before. Struck with a strong sense of déjâ vu, he suddenly longed to bolt and run. To head for the nearest exit this very minute. To seek out the sweet solitude awaiting him far from this crowded room.
He didn't do it.
Rudeness was intolerable. In himself as well as in others. He had been invited to this gathering, and he had accepted. He would stay for a decent length of time, endure the tiresome chatter, the uncomfortable feeling of being trapped. Observed. Caged.
Then tomorrow ...
"Your attention, everyone!" His beautiful hostess clapped her delicate hands, pulling Ben Star from his reverie. "Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen."
Ben Star's dark eyes lazily lifted, came to rest on the slender blonde in a stunning, frothy gown of midnight blue chiffon. She stood on the marble steps leading down into the sunken drawing room. Widowed for less than a year, the thirty-four-year-old Mrs. Richard Barnes Crocker was one of the Bay City's wealthiest, most respected citizens.
San Francisco's Old Guard adored and admired the glamorous Maribelle Crocker. The manner in which she had conducted herself since the loss of her doting husband was commendable beyond belief. Grief-stricken though she was, Maribelle had continued to discharge her charitable and social duties with a stiff upper lip.
Though desperately lonely she surely must be, the well-brought-up young widow was never seen alone in the company of a gentleman. Never. Maribelle wouldn't consider allowing another man to take her dear departed Richard's place for years. Perhaps never.
Or so they thought.
"... a lovely surprise for your enjoyment," Maribelle was telling the attentive gathering. "You're all to take your drinks and go out into the garden. I've arranged for the most spectacular pyrotechnic display this city's ever seen!" She flashed a charming smile, her upswept white-blond hair shimmering like moonbeams. "Shall we?" She lifted the swirling skirts of her blue chiffon gown and gracefully descended the marble steps, a bare slender arm extended toward the open French doors across the room.
Laughter and chatter filled the air as the crush of guests excitedly exited the spacious beige and white drawing room, eagerly rushing outdoors to pick a choice spot for watching the fireworks. Waiting politely, Ben Star set his wineglass aside and came to his feet. He unhurriedly started toward the tall French doors to join the guests as they made their way down to the manicured garden.
But the blond, beautiful Maribelle Crocker, authoritatively ushering everyone quickly outdoors, spun about as the last ones spilled out onto the stone terrace. She anxiously pulled the doors shut behind her, leaned back, and smiled at the tall, imposing Ben Star.
Ben smiled back. "Are you shutting them out or us in?" he asked, his voice an intriguing low, deep monotone.
"Both." Maribelle's smile became flirtatious. "Them outdoors in the garden. You inside with me."
"And here I thought you enjoyed fireworks," said Ben, the corners of his cruel-looking mouth lifting in an engaging half-smile.
"Oh, I do," Maribelle said, slowly advancing on him. "You know I do, Ben." She stopped directly before him, lifted a pale, bejeweled hand up to toy with his silk lavender tie. "I thought perhaps while the others watch the burst of fireworks over the bay, you and I could launch skyrockets upstairs in my bed." She smiled up at him and added, "Think I can ignite your fuse, darling?"
Ben Star was not particularly shocked. Despite the spotless reputation enjoyed by the blue-blooded widow, he had shared Maribelle Crocker's bed more than once in the past few weeks. But always they had been totally discreet. He was slightly taken aback that she would suggest such a tryst with a house full of guests.
"Sounds delightful." He was gracious. "But isn't it a bit dangerous?"
"Yes ... dangerous," Maribelle replied breathlessly, her large emerald eyes already glittering with anticipation. She took his tanned right hand in both her hands and led him toward the marble steps. "We'll have to hurry so we won't get caught." Laughter bubbled from her berry-red lips.
Ben Star grinned and allowed the foolish, spoiled woman to lead him up the grand staircase toward the opulent master suite. He had no objection to giving her the physical satisfaction she so brashly sought. Maribelle was a most desirable woman and a delightfully insatiable one as well. He and the beautiful blond widow had spent precious little time in conversation. He knew almost nothing about her, other than the fact that she was like dozens of other pale beauties he'd known over the years.
She desired him because he represented the forbidden, the wild, the dangerous. She was thrilled by the notion of breaking long-lasting taboos. Titillated by the idea of giving herself to a man prohibited by the mores dictated by polite society. Aroused by the savage touch of his dark hands on her pale, perfect flesh. Guilty pleasures.
It mattered little to Ben.
In his arms Maribelle Crocker was a warm, responsive lover, willing to do anything that pleased him. She never failed to provide exquisite sexual pleasure, so he had no call for complaint.
As for Maribelle Crocker, she certainly had no complaints. To her delight, the tall, dark Ben was male enough to make love on demand, and that was all Maribelle cared about. It never for a moment occurred to her that her handsome lover might also be sensitive enough to long secretly for a kind of lovemaking that went beyond the physical.
When the pair stepped inside Maribelle's shadowy bedroom, she dropped Ben's hand and rushed across the room to throw the tall French doors open to the wide balcony.
"There," she said, turning back to him. Smiling, she reached up to release her long blond hair from its diamond-studded restraints so that it spilled about her shoulders the way Ben liked it. "We can watch fireworks while we make some ourselves. Won't that be exciting?"
"Out of this world," said Ben. He moved toward her. She stood framed in the open doors, the suffused glow of the city lights behind her. "Shall I help you with your dress?"
Tingling with excitement, Maribelle eagerly nodded and pushed her shimmering white-blond hair behind her small, perfect ears.
"Would you, darling? Your fingers are so deft at that sort of thing." She looked up into his dark, smoldering eyes, strangely compelling eyes which at odd moments she could almost swear were a deep navy blue instead of black. "I love the feel of your hands on me," she added in a throaty whisper.
Star leaned down, placed a soft, lingering kiss on the left corner of her brightly painted mouth, and teasingly bit her full bottom lip. Then he lifted his hands, cupped her bare shoulders, and gently turned her about so that her back was to him. The first of the fireworks display began as he started unfastening the tiny hooks going down the center back of Maribelle's blue chiffon dress.
Shouts of delight went up from the gay party crowd in the gardens below as great showers of multicolored light filled the night sky. At the same time gasps of delight filled the shadowy bedroom as Ben Star skillfully peeled his hostess's gown and satin chemise down to her waist, then filled his dark hands with her bare ivory breasts.
For a long, enjoyable moment the pair stayed as they were, standing before the open French doors, watching the splendid spectacle. As the blues and reds and golds exploded against the black velvet San Francisco sky, Maribelle Crocker sighed and pressed her head back against Ben's hard chest while his hands caressed and lifted her heavy, swelling breasts, his lean; dexterous fingers teasing and toying with the large, aching nipples.
Squirming happily against his tall, ungiving frame, Maribelle wasn't certain which was the more pleasing sight: the magnificent fireworks in the distance or the dark, skilled hands of her lover covering her pale, naked breasts.
Suddenly dying to get Ben Star into her bed before the wondrous fireworks display ended, Maribelle drew his hands away, turned them up to her face, kissed each palm gratefully, then spun quickly to face him.
"Ben, make love to me. Now, darling, right now. Let's hurry ... hurry, before it's too late."
Not waiting for his reply, she pushed the frothy blue skirts of her gown down over her generous hips, squirming to be free of them. Watching her with a half-smile curving his lips, Ben Star leisurely shrugged wide shoulders out of his gray linen suit coat. As he pulled the jacket off, a folded paper fell out of an inside pocket. It fluttered to the deep beige carpet. Curious, Maribelle kicked her lovely gown aside, bent, and picked up the fallen paper.
"What's this?" she said, and withheld it when Ben reached for it. Lips parted questioningly, she unfolded the slim document and saw that it was the current Union Pacific train schedule. "Denver, Colorado," had been circled in red ink. Her emerald eyes frantically met his. "Darling, you're not planning to—"
Before she could finish her question, Ben Star silenced her with a commanding kiss. Pulling her close, he thrust a lean brown hand into her flowing white-blond tresses.
In the shadowy light a wide silver bracelet flashed on Star's dark right wrist. Concealed beneath that silver bracelet was a white, satiny scar.
The scar was a perfectly shaped X.CHAPTER 2
On that same August evening, three thousand miles across America, a young woman stood alone on the balcony of a Washington, D.C., town house. She was an exotic-looking creature. Her hair was as black as the darkest midnight, and it reached to her waist when unbound. Her skin was as pale and flawless as porcelain.
A tall, slender woman, she wore a cool pastel gown which was the exact same color as her large, expressive eyes, an enchanting pale violet. Shaded by a double row of black, spiky lashes, those violet eyes darkened to purple when she was angry or aroused.
Directly above those magnificent violet-hued eyes were perfectly winged black brows, which shot up with inquiry when something interested her, lifted impishly when she was in a teasing mood, and knitted together ferociously when she was annoyed or upset.
Her small nose was decidedly patrician, but her lush, lovely mouth suggested an undeniable earthiness. With her firm chin and finely boned face, she appeared haughty and unattainable. At the same time there was about her a sense of arousal beneath the gentility, a hint of the passion that lurked below the cool exterior.
Her name was Diane Buchannan. Miss Diane Howard Buchannan. She was unmarried, and she had just passed a very important birthday. A milestone in the life of any female: One quarter of a century.
Diane Howard Buchannan was twenty-five years old and not the least bit nervous or apologetic about the fact that she was neither married nor engaged to be married. While society considered any woman still single upon reaching the ripe age of twenty-five sadly destined to be an old maid, Diane Howard Buchannan didn't give a fig about such foolish concerns.
She was perfectly content to be single, independent, her own boss. "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul," she was fond of quoting to doubters and worrisome would-be matchmakers. Including her well-meaning aunt Lydia, with whom she lived. Grudgingly her friends were forced to admit that the spirited, self-reliant Diane was maddeningly successful at running her own life, captaining her own ship.
It had always been so.
Orphaned when a carriage accident claimed the lives of her parents when Diane was only two, she was reared by her paternal grandparents, the fiery Colonel Buck Buchannan and the calm, unshakable Granny Ruth Buchannan. From the devoted, strong-willed pair Diane had learned a great deal about life and love and loyalty.
So Diane Howard Buchannan stood alone in the moonlight because she chose to do so. She looked dreamily down at the silver ribbon of the Potomac as it wound its sure, slow way eastward to Chesapeake Bay and on out to the great Atlantic Ocean. From behind her, inside the roomy, well-lighted town house, the sounds of music and laughter and chatter drifted out on the still, muggy air.
A party, with dozens of guests, was in progress. The party was for her, given in her honor. Diane knew she should go back inside, knew her behavior bordered on rudeness. But, Lord, she was bored and restless and anxious to leave. She had long since tired of Washington's endless parties, where the conversation predictably centered on politics.
An educated woman, the raven-haired, violet-eyed Diane was bright and sophisticated. At twenty-one she had come to the nation's capital, her mother's birthplace and still home to her only living Howard relative. The Howard name was an old and highly respected one in Washington. Her aunt, Lydia Howard Dansby, enjoyed a great deal of influence with the city's powerful.
Lydia Howard Dansby had invited her only niece, Diane, to share the imposing Howard ancestral home, with a promise to help Diane find just the correct position in the nation's capital, if she insisted on being employed. Diane had quickly accepted, and Aunt Lydia had been as good as her word.
Excerpted from Written in the Stars by Nan Ryan. Copyright © 1998 Nan Ryan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
The book was decent, but the characters didn't really have depth to them. They reminded me of shallow teenagers. Author also used the same inner dialogue word for word for each main character, several times, instead of coming up with something original. Not a book a highly recommend.
In 1895, Benjamin Star leaves San Francisco for Denver at about the same time that Diane Buchannan leaves DC for the Mile High City. Benjamin was raised by the Shoshoni who rescued him from a fire as an infant, travels like a native; Diane rides the train to join her grandparents who raised her when her parents died. Diane plans to help her beloved family with the financially failing ¿Colonel Buck Buchannan¿s Wild West Show¿ as a trick rider and lariat artist. Employees of the show led by the Cherokee Kid bring in a savage dubbed ¿the Redman of the Rockies¿. Though afraid of him, Diane feels sorry for the captive. Unable to ignore the ignorant brute, she frees him, but he abducts her. On their trek she pleads with the ¿Beast¿ to free her when he suddenly speaks perfect English because he is Benjamin. After overcoming the shock that he is not some feral savage, Diane frees the attraction she hid from herself and soon she and Benjamin fall in love. However, the nasty Cherokee Kid wants Diane for himself and he will not stop until he kills the Beast and takes the Beauty his style. Indian romance readers will gain much pleasure from Nan Ryan¿s latest tale, WRITTEN IN THE STARS that is more of a westernized Beauty and the Beast. The action-packed story line never slows down even before the abduction. The lead couple is a delight and most of the support cast provides depth to their personalities. However, the Cherokee Kid is so nasty he subtracts from a powerful historical romance. Harriet Klausner
This is a well - written compassionate book. Nan Ryan indulges in great imagery and stabalized sequelism througout a well spun story! I loved it.