Authors: Johanna Lindsey
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #Erotica
Heart of Thunder
February 8, 1870, Denver, Colorado
AMANTHA stopped pacing as she caught sight of herself in the large oval mirror over the fireplace. She was standing across the room, far enough away from the mirror to see almost a full view of herself. Samantha’s eyes glittered. She didn’t see how provocative she looked in the stylish two-piece dark-green-taffeta suit trimmed with black velvet. All she could see was that her hair, which she had spent an hour arranging artfully, had fallen into complete disarray because of her furious pacing. Two of her silken auburn locks hung all the way to her slim waist.
Samantha gritted her teeth and stomped across the large hotel suite she was sharing with her friend, Jeannette Allston. Jeannette was not at home, but even if she had been, Samantha wouldn’t have tried to hide her anger. Usually, she did keep her temper in check around the petite blonde girl, but just then she was too furious.
She halted her angry stride and stood directly in front of the oval mirror, hands on hips, glaring at herself. Large emerald eyes flashed back at her.
“See what you’ve done now, Samantha Blackstone Kingsley?” she hissed at the mirror. “You’ve gone and
let him upset you again. Look at you!
” She often cursed in Spanish because she knew it as well as she knew English.
Viciously she poked the loose curls back into place, not really caring anymore how she looked. Her green velvet hat would hide the coiffure anyway. She would put it on just before leaving.
Adrien ever got there to escort her to the restaurant.
An hour late—an hour! Her stomach growled with hunger, and that increased her fury. Why had she told Jeannette she would wait there for Jeannette’s brother? She should have left with Jeannette. But, no, Samantha wanted the chance to be alone with Adrien. It seemed she was never alone with him.
She loved Adrien, she adored him, and how could she let him know it unless she could get him alone for just a little while? But Adrien was late. He was always late, and this time she was furious about it.
This one time she had had a chance to have Adrien all to herself, but he had spoiled it by being late, and he had put her in a temper because of it. When he came,
he came, she was just mad enough to let Adrien Allston know what she thought of him! The nerve!
Why had she chosen
to fall in love with? Sophisticated Adrien. Handsome—no, beautiful. He was simply beautiful. Not too tall, but so muscular, so virile looking.
He was going to be her husband. Of course, Adrien didn’t know that yet. But Samantha had known it from the moment she met him, two years before. He was the man for her. And Samantha always got what she wanted. Ever since she had come to live with her father ten years before, when she was only nine, she had had everything her way. She was used to getting what she wanted.
And Samantha wanted Adrien. So she would get him, one way or another—if she didn’t alienate him completely today.
She really had to calm down, because she couldn’t afford to vent her anger on Adrien. He wouldn’t expect it at all. She had always managed to be the sweet, gentle lady he thought she was. From the moment Jeannette had confessed that her brother couldn’t tolerate emotional disturbances of any kind, Samantha had never raised her voice in his presence. She was always calm, even demure. What an effort! She who was always so quick to fly into a rage, so temperamental.
, her tutor had called her, spoiled and selfish and willful. But he didn’t understand what she had gone through during her first nine years, living with her grandmother in England. So he didn’t know that, once she had tasted freedom, she couldn’t get enough of it. She was determined to forget the rigidity of those first nine years, determined to do whatever she wanted. And if she had to show a little temper at times to get her way, and if she was spoiled, what of it? She got her way. Always.
Maria, the Kingsleys’ housekeeper, who was the closest thing to a mother Samantha had ever had, was more kind than the tutor. Maria called her
little fox. “You are wily like
la zorra, niña
,” Maria would scold whenever she saw that determined gleam in Samantha’s eyes. And one day she had added, “You are wise enough to handle your papa, but someday you will meet a man you cannot handle. Then what will you do,
But Samantha had scoffed and replied confidently, “I will have nothing to do with a man I can’t handle. Why should I? I’m not ever giving up my freedom.”
That had been…how long ago? Nearly three years. Right before she went East to finishing school. But she still felt the same way. And she would be able to handle Adrien, she was sure of it. Sure enough to marry him.
But he didn’t know about her plans. Why, Adrien hardly knew she was alive. It was a wound to her vanity, for if Samantha was anything, she was beautiful.
It was her good fortune, yet she took it for granted and had never given it much thought—until recently. Because, for all her effort, for all her endeavoring to improve what the good Lord had given her, Adrien still didn’t notice.
Hers was almost a classical beauty, and she had vivid coloring, hair that gleamed almost crimson in certain light, and eyes like the brightest of emeralds. A fine, slim figure. And remarkable features that demanded more than one look from anyone. But did Adrien look? He seemed to see right through her, to look, yet not to be looking at all. It was maddening.
Samantha’s belly grumbled embarrassingly loudly and shook her out of her reverie. She glared at herself in the mirror once more and then suddenly, in a fit of temper, ripped out the pins she had taken such pains with and let the bright reddish-brown locks fall over her shoulders and back in an abundance of unruly waves and curls.
“That settles that,” she said petulantly, spiting herself and her gnawing hunger. “Now I can’t go even if you
show up, Adrien.”
Too late, she realized she was hurting no one but herself. Adrien wouldn’t care. In his typical emotionless way, he would serenely ignore the possibility that she might be angry because of his tardiness. Then again, he might not show up at all. The lunch hour was long past. Was Jeannette still waiting for them in the restaurant with the chatty widow they had met on the bumpy stagecoach ride from Cheyenne to Denver? Mrs. Bane had taken it upon herself to be the girls’ unofficial chaperone. Or had Adrien gone straight to the restaurant because it was late? Had he just forgotten about their luncheon engagement?
“Damn him,” she swore softly. She was alone, and no one would hear the shocking breach of etiquette. “If I didn’t love him, I’d kill him.”
The knock on the door startled her. Her eyes nar
rowed, then widened in dismay as she remembered what she had done to her hair. Oh, why couldn’t he have come five minutes sooner, before she gave in to her temper?
“Go away, Adrien,” Samantha called reluctantly. “I have decided to forgo lunch today.” Would he be disappointed?
The knock sounded again, and she frowned as she started toward the door. “Didn’t you hear me?”
“Yeah, I heard you, Miss Kingsley, but why don’t you open up anyway?”
Samantha stopped. It wasn’t Adrien. She would recognize that voice anywhere, though. Tom…Tom…She couldn’t remember his last name, but the man had been at the stage depot last week when they arrived. He had taken an instant liking to her—a disagreeable liking at that. The man was downright rude. He was ignorant, as well, for he had followed her around all week, talked to her whenever he could, and would not accept her hints that she was not interested in him.
He was handsome, in a rugged sort of way. A young man, he was prospecting in Denver, trying to strike silver, like so many others. Gold had dwindled in the Pikes Peak region, but silver had only just been discovered the year before.
But Tom held no interest for her. In fact, he’d begun to frighten her, with the intimate way he spoke to her when no one else could hear, and the way his eyes roamed over her, as if he were trying to imagine what lay beneath her clothes and was doing a good job of imagining. But what disturbed her the most, what angered her, was that the man actually believed she was attracted to him despite her having gone out of her way to show him otherwise. The last time she had passed him in the hotel lobby, refusing even to glance his way, he had pulled her aside and warned her to stop playing hard to get! He had said he was running out of patience.
She had been so shocked that she hadn’t known what to say when Jeannette asked what was wrong.
And now he was at her door.
He had the audacity to pound then, a loud and insistent pounding. “Come on now, Miss Kingsley, open up the door for me.”
“Get away from my door, do you hear?” she ordered angrily. “I’m not going to open it, so just leave.”
It was quiet for a moment, quiet enough to hear the doorknob turning. Samantha gasped. The nerve! Worse, the door was not locked. It opened slowly, and the tall young man stepped into the room. He grinned, quickly closing the door behind him.
Samantha was speechless—but only for a moment. “Are you crazy?” she demanded, her voice rising on each word. “Get out of my room!”
He just shook his head, amused. “I aim to stay, Missy, least till we’ve had a little talk.”
She threw up her hands. “Lord, you
crazy.” And then she drew herself up stiffly and attempted a calm approach. “Look, Mr…. whatever your—”
He cut her off with a narrowed look and said sharply, “Don’t pretend. You know my name. Tom Peesley.”
Samantha shrugged. She had never heard the name before, but she seemed to remember everything else he had ever said to her. It was because of him, and the way he stalked her, that she wouldn’t leave the hotel alone. He was always in the lobby, always, as though waiting for her.
“I don’t care. Can’t you understand? Why won’t you leave me alone?”
“I hear what you’re sayin’, Miss Kingsley, but I know better. When are you gonna stop pretendin’?”
“Just what is that supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean,” he growled. “You like me, but you gotta keep pretendin’.”
Samantha held her tongue. Was he angry? So far he had been a very exasperating man, hardheaded, per
sistent, but not really threatening. Yet he was huge, tall, and brawny, with enormous arms and shoulders, hard-muscled from working in other men’s mines when he wasn’t looking for his own stake. She remembered him telling her about that, that and the reason he stayed in Denver. He liked the excitement of a large city, and Denver was large, almost Eastern in its prosperity. Unlike most towns that had started with the gold rush, Denver had survived, and the town continued to grow.
“You didn’t answer me.” He ran a large hand through reddish-gold hair in a show of impatience and then pinned her with light brown eyes. “When are you gonna stop pretendin’ so we can get down to some serious courtin’? It’s time for some honest talk ’tween you and me.”
“You and me?” she snapped. “There
no you and me. Why can’t you get that through your head?”