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Moonlight Fire

Moonlight Fire by Crow Connie
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Corinna McGinnis joins an Army column as a laundress to earn the land bonus offered, to have a place of her own. Her world collides with Captain Geoffrey Humbolt, from a very old, aristocratic family, who is smarting from being rejected by a fickle fiancée.
Awe-Struck Publishing; February 2000
171 pages; ISBN 9781928670841
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Title: Moonlight Fire
Author: Crow Connie
Darkness covered the camp when Corinna and Humbolt left the tent. They walked in silence along the edge of the parade ground to the grove of trees by the river. The pine branches covered the ground inside the grove. The snow had not penetrated the heavy cottonwood canopy or the cedar trees. The space was surprisingly warm and sheltered. Once inside, Humbolt caught her arm, turning her to him.

"You were wonderful today, you know that, don't you?"

She shook her head. "I was just trying to help."

He slipped his arms around her tiny waist and drew her to him. "Not everyone would help someone who had hurt them."

She leaned into the welcoming warmth of his embrace, letting it chase away the cold, ugly scene they'd just been through. "I'm glad you were there. Made it easier."

She buried her face in his chest, to block out the sights and sound of the operation still surging in her mind.

He pressed his lips to the top of her head, holding her close, feeling her breath slow, her body relax in his arms. The warmth of their bodies pulled them together, erasing the gruesome scene. He gently tucked his fingers beneath her chin, tipping her face up to gaze into those lustrous emerald pools. "You touch me more and more, every time I see you."

She leaned back, sliding her hands up his muscular arms. "Do I really, Geoffrey? "

Bending down, he whispered, "You touch me in a very, very empty spot."

His lips found hers, testing, seeking, acknowledging his unspoken caring. With a rush, he pulled her into a crushing embrace, never losing touch with her eager lips. The beating of their hearts pounded in time, more and more wildly. Her knees refused to hold her. They turned to jelly under the intensity of his emotion. She slipped her arms out of her buffalo coat, letting it fall to the ground, never moving from his kiss. She slid her fingers into his hair, pulling his mouth to hers, insisting on more from him.

He held her tight, rearranging the coat with his foot, kicking it open to receive them. Feeling her fiery curves pressed tight against him, he knelt down, lowering her to the ground, never losing touch with her mouth. And what a mouth. Her lips swollen with passion, pulsed with every beat of her wayward heart. He ran his tongue over her bottom lip, teasing it to a pout.

She groaned and met his tongue with her own, inviting him to explore. He stretched out beside her, deepening his kiss, allowing his hand to slide gently over her shoulder, finally cupping one of her perfectly molded breasts. Its nipple stood high, awaiting his touch. He massaged the perfect point with his thumb, wanting to excite her even more, wanting to take her the next step.

She unconsciously stiffened and a shiver ran through her body. Feeling the shiver, he raised his head, "Don't be afraid. I want you, Corinna, more than I've ever wanted anything in my life."

She traced his cheek with her fingertips. "I'm not afraid. It's just that ­ you're the first man in my life, Geoffrey."

He stared into her smoldering eyes. She might as well have thrown a bucket of cold water down the back of his neck. Her first man. What else had he expected?

"Your very first?" He took a huge deep breath and forced himself to stop. Reluctantly, he slid his hand away, back up her arm, to her perfect cheek. He brushed his fingertips across it gently, willing his body to stop its wild course. "Of course. I should have known."

He kissed her cheek gently, commanding his mind to cease and desist in its lustful imaginings. He could not escape the teachings of a lifetime, of the things honorable men do and do not do. He sat up, pulling her to his side.

"Is that bad?" Corinna stared at him, confused by this turn of events. Her body ached with desire, wanting to continue what they'd started.

"No, darling Corinna, that's very good. However, it does change things somewhat."

Heart pounding, Corinna gasped for breath. "You mean, you'd rather I'd be with someone else first?"

"No, no! That's not what I meant." Humbolt shook his head. "It's just that you're obviously a well-brought up young woman. Not a woman to learn about love this way. Your future husband should do the honors."

A long silence hung between them. "I think you're absolutely right." The shadows hid the darkening expression on Corinna's face. "Perhaps I've misunderstood your behavior toward me, Captain. I thought you were serious in your affection for me."

"I am. It's just that . . ."

"That what?" The cold, hard edge in Corinna's voice unmistakable.

"You just don't understand. . . "

Corinna squared her shoulders, anger replacing lust. "Oh, I understand. You want me, you just don't want to be my husband. You don't want to make any commitment to me, is that it?" She jumped to her feet, shaking off her powerful feelings for him, embarrassed at her own willingness to follow his lead.

He could see her inner fire blazing in those gorgeous eyes. "I didn't say that!"

He scrambled up, trying vainly to take her in his arms again, wanting desperately to kiss away the hurt in her eyes and anger in her voice.

"Don't." Corinna pushed him away. Dusting off her skirt, she tossed her head. "I'm not a camp follower, Geoffrey. You already know that I care for you. But I won't be used and I won't be an 'officer's companion', like Arabelle."

"But. . ," he stammered, " I can't. ."

"You can do anything you want, Captain. You know that as well as I." Snatching up her coat, she stomped out of the grove. She held her head high as she crossed the parade ground, fighting hard to maintain her composure until she reached the safety of her tent. Once inside, she gave in to tears of frustration. He was afraid, of even the smallest commitment to her. He might care for her, even want her, but they were still worlds apart.

Sitting on the edge of her cot, she tucked her arms in around her waist and rocked to and fro, the hot, passionate feelings he'd caused replaced by a huge, aching hole where he'd ripped out her heart.

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