Cres was always staring at her, and it made Laraina nervous. A white man constantly staring at a Negro girl, even a tan-skinned one born free in Ohio of mixed-blood, runaway slaves was rarely, if ever, a good thing. Laraina didn’t like being closely . . . observed. She made other people’s lives easier and comfortable, which usually kept everyone respectfully out of her personal business, as she ran the best dry goods store in the Dakota Territories. Her lazy, white stepfather, Stanley Speran, owned the store on paper, since there were still few assay offices that would register property in any woman’s name. But, “Laraina’s Dry Goods” was completely hers. She picked supplies, dickered with the teamsters, and handled all the finances and staff.
She fought a persistent urge, which fell constantly on Cres.
Therefore, Laraina Newman kept to herself and didn’t relish the officer’s attention; despite his excellent manners, his velvet-toned voice, or his extraordinary good looks topped by sun-streaked, cinnamon brown hair, and those changeable, startling, so often unnerving blue-gray eyes, perfectly offset by his deep blue, cavalry uniform. Cres was of the Boston Grandviews, who owned or controlled more in that city and abroad than was natural to man. Lieutenant Colonel Cres Grandview of the Boston Grandviews out of the New Orleans and Paris Dumases was securely wealthy in his own right from inheritances and his own shrewd, personal investments. Making his background all too similar to those who’d once “owned” her late, beloved parents.
Cres, however, was nearly indifferent to any of that, especially since the first time he’d lain eyes on her dark auburn hair of natural ringlets; her vaguely exotic hazel-caramel eyes; and her curvaceous form, even though many other women sought his attentions.
He boldly observed her every move, whenever in sight of her, and seemed too often to be wherever she was; as if he hadn’t any responsibilities within his care, these past six months, as newly installed commander of the cavalry outpost just southwest of town. It oddly seemed that his topmost priorities were to speak with her or merely to be within sight of her. “Odd” because this was yet “hostile, wild Indian nations territory”. Cres was a successfully ruthless and deadly Indian fighter, which was why he’d been sent to this location, which is why Laraina had chosen its remoteness — while her industry in supplying her neighbors their hard-won comforts lulled them all into not scrutinizing her too closely. Until him.
He had caught up with her on the nearly empty street, while she was delivering old Miss Jansen’s special order.
“Miss Laraina Newman, really, you shouldn’t keep turning me down.” He wanted her to step out with him, “for lunch or dinner at Mae’s,” “or a picnic” to one of the wide bluffs or lushly wooded nooks.
“You know you like me, Laraina. You blush every time you discover me looking at you. Which means you blush a very great often.” He had her semi-cornered across from Dita Jansen’s little house, the one her brother built for her comfort before dying.
“Please, come out with me. I’ll give you my Colt™ service revolver. You can shoot me, if I say or do anything you deem improper.” His statement made her wide-eyed speechless, while she still tried to skirt ’round him, but Cres gently continued corralling the skittish beauty, while pressing his intentions.
“Have I ever been anything less than an exceptional gentleman with you, Miss Newman?”
She sighed and shook her head “no.” At least his attentions kept other men at bay, but he’d been increasingly stepping up his romantic onslaughts; she was weakening; and he knew it.
“Colonel, your parents, your command, no one wants to see you with me. Not in public. They . . . they might expect me to receive you in private, out of their sight, but not in broad daylight. You may be liked and I may be liked — separately — but never togeth—.”
“I don’t care. Besides, there are too many here, who don’t feel that way about you and still wouldn’t, if you were with me. Although, I’m quite certain Miss Jansen knows you’re too good for me, I know old Marcus Jansen did, from the short time I knew him. But, as far as my family back East are concerned, if they had their way, I most certainly wouldn’t be ‘in this wild, uncivilized wilderness’, as mother calls it, doing a job ‘any common Welshman could do’, as father regularly telegraphs to say. You’re not part Welsh, are you?”
She was yet uneasy, avoiding his gaze and . . . him, making certain he did not even appear to touch her; although desperately wishing otherwise.
“My family is a major patron of the Negro college at Oberlin and always have dinner with leaders of the Negro community. My mother’s Baton Rouge white Creole, y’know, and there’s a persistent family skeleton myth that there’s a Geechie or two on her side. Anyway, like you, I like it way out here. This is a new land for new beginnings. For a new, passionate people. Every day is different, every step an adventure — a dangerous one — but an adventure and . . . no inbreeding.”
She remained silent, solemn, and staring at a gold “U.S.” button on his shirt.
“I’d hoped I’d find something I couldn’t in the stuffy confines of toney Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. You’re the best of so many good things I’ve been so fortunate to find out here and you can’t keep me away from you or ever get away from me, Laraina, not without letting me try to win you first.”
He was uncomfortably close, as she glanced up at him, because despite what she logically thought, his inclusive and casual way with nearly everyone said otherwise. He was different. Many went daily out of their way, to mention it to her, as if they’d gotten together to campaign on his behalf. He was, after all, in charge of a garrison, whose survival rate and efficiency had improved noticeably in the protection of the citizenry, since his arrival. Most everyone wanted him happy.
Plus, a Boston bride wouldn’t want to remain in this savage wilderness.
No one, except Stanley Speran and Miss Jansen, seemed overtly disapproving of Cres’ interest. It said much about how both town and garrison felt about her and a great deal more about Cres Grandview’s power to remove opposition between himself and his goals. Plus, there was the other problem — she liked him . . . in the way he wanted her to like him. Which he obviously knew. He could tell she had very little “no” left in her, and stepped even closer, his gaze warmly caressing her like gentle hands, along with his soothing, confident voice.
“I’ll call for you to-morrow, at the time you close the store early. I’ll even come to the back door, if that’s what you want. I’ll bring everything. It’s not everyday a girl gets a man to slave over a meal for her.”
“You won’t ... slave. You’ll have your post cook put it together.”
“True, but I’ll have to keep an avid eye on him to make certain everything is perfect. Any special requests or just the usual?” She gently shrugged, overwhelmed.
“Cook’ll make your favorites. Yes, I know what your favorites are. Don’t let that frighten you though, because you never have to be afraid of me, Laraina. I’d never hurt you. I . . . .” Many things crossed his mind, hobbling his articulate tongue.
“I . . . I will see you to-morrow, Miss Newman?”
He waited for her answer, and her modest nod wasn’t enough, as his silent, urgent gaze pressed her nearly inaudible voice into action.
He backed away a bit, keeping his hands to himself, and walked her the rest of the way to Miss Jansen’s. He respected the elder spinster a great deal, mostly because she treated Laraina as the daughter she’d never had; like now, having been watching for her, she opened the door before they fully arrived, then, protectively inhaled the young woman into her home. He tipped his buff-colored service brim, and Miss Jansen pointedly shut the door on him.
* * * *
Cres wore his newest uniform and was promptly waiting with carriage and bountiful picnic basket for the nearly terrified Laraina at the back door of the residence adjoining her shop; he'd picked this time of day and this day because her stepfather customarily would be already off drinking. He took the route out of town that followed the circuitous river for awhile, before crossing wide grassland to stop at the crest of a hillock crowned by the windbreak of a spreading congregation of fruit, wild chestnut, and other deciduous trees permanently bent from the perpetual seasonal winds. They descended into a protected little paradise to the sound of nesting birds, the river trickling and sparkling, and the rustling tree grove standing tall, sheltering the picnickers.
He noticed her stop breathing as he took her by the waist and put her feet down on soft grass.
He'd sat up the picnic and served her and now he sat in his deep blue vest, jacketless and hatless, leaning on an elbow and she sat bolt straight, as if in a high-backed Shaker chair, in her manner he mentally called “wary attentiveness.” Their benign conversation was of their separate days, of town and post; neither was inclined to speak about their past or of family, either distant, present, or dead.
It pleased him that she’d taken off her sun hat, to enjoy the sun and the fruit- and earth-scented breeze lightly blowing on her flawless skin, colored what he mentally called “honey buttercream tan,” and she had relaxed enough to tease him, while yet seeking answers.
“My, what an expert peach skinner you are. Some even say you scalp as well as any wild Sioux warrior.”
“Really? I didn’t know Sioux bucks scalped peaches for cobbler.” She took the juicy slice he gave her.
“We're not making cobbler.”
“Oh, really. I don't know about that, Miss Laraina. I may call you that, may I?” She looked away a long while, never answering his question, before getting her nerve up to ask him her own.
“I-I’ve also heard two entirely conflicting things about you, Colonel.”
“I’ll say it again. Please, call me Cres, at least when we’re alone?” She nodded, then avoided his personal name.
“One young lady told me you think yourself ‘too good for the average girl’ and another woman said you ‘like to hide’ what you do, that you come to her ‘late, many evenings asking for . . . attentions’. She said she ‘can’t bear’ to turn you away, because you’re a Grandview, the garrison commander, and . . . you. Which tells the truth, or do both?”
“I don’t get a choice of false?” She didn’t laugh. He sat up, putting everything aside, and wiping his hands on a linen napkin, quelling his inner displeasure before answering. “I know of whom you speak. Others . . . have mentioned it to me. Both women are not worth your concern, especially, the latter. I really have no true interest in either. One is a complete ninny, whom I’ve barely spoken to and the other is . . . indiscreet, and unhappy about my continuing preference for you, over her.”
He observed Laraina’s reaction, as she apparently froze but was in too much inner turmoil to be utterly still.
“I hope what I’ve said doesn’t shock you. I’ve seen that neutral, patient look before, when your customers . . . or you are upset. If you are troubled by my past actions and my words, say so. But, I won’t lie to you. I am a man, quite grown and of the world, Miss Laraina, and I know you think . . . that you are afraid I will be frivolous with you, that I’m not actually serious about you. And pardon me for saying so, but you’re wrong in thinking so. Make no mistake — you’re the only woman I truly want.
“Hell, if I wanted a ninny or a floozy, I’d visit Philadelphia, Charleston, or Richmond for a better quality one, with impeccable family and business connections. I require more than that in the woman of highest quality I want, whose delicate, snow white, Chantilly lace veil I will remove, to kiss her; and whose soft hand I’ll place on my arm before proudly walking the bowered aisle to party and consummation. Because that woman, who will wear my name and bear my children . . . is already priceless to me.”
His words and intense gaze bore into her, softly, yet insistently, piercing her armor, causing her to frenetically, abruptly stand; leaving the forgotten Colt pistol on the picnic blanket, to walk in what ended up being a small, erratic circle before the spreading chestnut that shielded them like a parasol.
She placed hot palms on the tree’s rough, cool bark to reorient the tumult within her, then felt him behind her, gently slipping his hands around her corseted waist to hold her against him. Taking her breath away. Making her ache “down there.” The matter worsened when he placed his freshly shaved, hot cheek against hers. He couldn’t resist — nuzzling, then kissing her tender cheek, ear, and honeysuckle fragrant, pulsing throat.
Her sighing breaths signaled a personal triumph in him, as he pulled her even closer; hearing the rustle and feeling the crush of fabric in her voluminous skirt. He kissed her neck more ardently, entirely cognizant of her not actively resisting him. His lips brushed hers, but the angle was inconvenient; he gently turned her around by her cinched waist and clearly saw her waning doubt and flagging opposition, as he was winning her body.
He took her mouth delicately — not unlike a sneak attack — before pressing his command forward, harder, to make her succumb to him; his insistence parting her lips, his hard thigh cleaving hers, breaching her outer defenses. Assaulting all her senses. Laraina breathlessly shoved him away, but the distance he allowed her was minimal, and again he was rewarded by her look of not being fully committed to the task of entirely freeing herself from him.
“We should go back? We should go back, colonel.”
“Not just yet.”
He glanced around; taking her hand, coaxing her to follow him deeper into the small woodland, out of the easy sight of any casual passerby. A fear skittered across her heart, with the realization that he’d reholstered the Colt, which really didn’t matter so much because he could use his body as a weapon against hers. She stopped in panic, trying not to look afraid.
She knew of men who enjoyed frightened women.
Cres didn’t fight it. There was a limit she would not, could not pass, without a chaperone, as he situated her behind a tree, giving him a commanding view of the path up to them, and command of Laraina. He resumed kissing her, slowly and gently wooing her fear and reluctance from her, his desire for her becoming more hotly ardent, fired by her gripping him tightly to her.
He languidly kissed down the front of her dress, over modestly covered bosom, bending knee to kneel before her, before gazing back up to see if she were still following were he was leading, before slipping a hand past her dress’ weighty hem and many petticoats. She didn’t stop his journey, as he felt past the outer side of her high-laced boot, past full calf and delicate knee, and past the outer top of her long, silk stocking; to touch hot, bare flesh. He still held her gaze with his own, feeling the tension in her, as his inquisitive probe moved to the inside. She immediately closed her thighs, against intrusion. Cres loved her perplexed, innocent look, at the realization of successfully and unexpectedly capturing him, in that vulnerable position, which was as much reward as punishment for him.
She shook her head “no”; he removed his wayward appendage, dropped her skirttail, but remained kneeling before her.
“I would have you as my wife, Laraina.” He stopped her interjection. “I’ll accept no interference from anyone in the matter; not my family’s, not even yours.”
“C-Cres . . . Colonel Grandview, what you say . . . isn’t possib—.”
His outward expression scarcely changed, a tightness around the eyes and along his face, but mostly the color of his eyes drastically darkened, from bright sky to storm cloud, which had never been directed to her. His own troopers, had often mentioned their fear or elation at his expressions; depending on whether they were to receive his wrath or his blessing. Cres stood abruptly, and she clutched the bark covered tree behind her, feeling his potent, coiled presence, as the vibrantly alive, inescapable thing it was.
“Col . . . C-Cres. I’m sorry, but it’s just . . . just . . . .”
When he finally spoke, his voice was husky, soft, as he desperately strove for emotional distance.
“I’ll take you back, now, before the sun’s full gone and . . . .”
He stopped, causing her to fear he was angry with her, but he gently stroked her curly hair back with his warm palms, then cradling her face, kissed her again. His body, unable to resist, pushed against hers. When she gasped, he stopped but didn’t pull back from her, knowing she felt, through all their layers of clothing, his intense, intimate desire for her pressing large and hard against her.
It was bad form, he knew, but she needed to know how very much he wanted her and—.
She was trembling, so he stepped back, leaving her still feeling and wanting him against her.
“I’ll never force from you what isn’t mine. Never fear me, Laraina. I truly love you.”
He said it again, once she looked up at him; knowing she needed to hear the words again and to see the unblemished sincerity and soul of the man speaking. He wanted to say more, yet was afraid to, knowing he was fast losing control over his feelings for her, in his heart . . . and body. He gestured that they return; without speaking, without touching her. He was certain, that if he touched her again, flesh to flesh, that he might possibly make himself a liar and thought, “My god, give me strength. I can’t believe how much I want her.”
He put his gloves on before handing her up into the buggy. The gauntlets distanced her flesh from his own, but her scent, her silken hair and skin, especially, the memory of the burning invitation that was the inside of her thighs remained imminently arousing. All the way back to her home. All the way back to his fort, where, even after managing several late duties and dispatches, his entire body remained tensed in memory of hers. He finally took the matter in hand, twice, before he could sleep in relative peace; with lush, soft dreams of her, on their first night together, as his bride: unveiled, virginal, and unrestrained as a whore; until he awoke to reveille and sheets soaked with his longing.
—Novella (or is it a full novel?) a work in progress
Our hardcore main line
[sensuality is R, NC17, X, XXX]
medium and hard erotica / sensual romance / romantic erotica
Our softcore line
[sensuality is PG13, Soft R]
soft erotica / sensual romance / romantic erotica and general fiction
Our nonfiction line
[PG13, R, NC17, X, XXX]
Other projects Neale Sourna has written and have been published beyond PIE.
Copyright 2023 Neale Sourna
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