posted on 23-May-2002 11:53:58 AM
Title: The Isle
Rating: PG, with NC-17 in some parts
Author: me
Disclaimer: Roswell does not belong to me, I just borrowed a few characters for this fic.
Author's Note: You've probably already read this on the board, so I'm not going to include a summary, I'm not very good at them.


~Part One~

The wind was blowing softly, carrying the scent of salt and sea and bringing it to her. Liz Parker stood on the prow of her father’s merchant ship, letting the breeze blow through her long, dark hair. She wished it would take her with it, away from the depressing duty she was faced with.

Nearly a year ago her father had come home to a happy family of his wife and daughter…his news had taken that happiness away. Jeffrey Parker was a good man, but he was slightly dense in matters concerning women. In this case, he could not understand why his wife, Nancy, and his beloved daughter weren’t happy with the fact that he had secured a marriage between Elizabeth and a duke in England. It would keep them all set for life and his Lizzie would be taken good care of.

So now she was here, on her way to England to meet her future husband, wishing the wind would blow her overboard and she would be lost in the sea. As if in answer to her silent prayer her dress started billowing around her and her hair whipped into her face.

“Elizabeth!” She turned toward her father’s voice.

“Yes, Father?”

“Get below, little one,” he ordered softly, “there’s a storm coming.”

“Aye, aye, Captain!” She gave him a mock salute and kissed him gently on his cheek. “Be safe, Father.”

“The Whirlwind is steady, Lizzie, she’ll keep all of us safe,” he assured her. Liz smiled, but was unsure. The ship was old, older than herself even, and while it had weathered many a gale…It wouldn’t last much longer. She sighed, as much as she wanted to get away, she did not want to die.

“What is happening, Elizabeth?” She looked at her mother and smiled kindly. Her mother was afraid of the sea, Liz never understood what had possessed her to marry a sailor, but whatever works…

“There is a storm approaching, Mother. Father asked that I come below and stay with you.”

Her mother was a pale and she was clutching her hands together. “Lord help us, the ship is getting too old to handle these storms.”

“We’ll be fine Mother, Papa will make sure we come out of this safe.”

“I know, honey bear, I know…Come here.” She smiled and held her arms out and Liz went to her, allowing her to rock her just as she had done when she was small. “It will be all right. You’ll see, Jeffrey says he’s not a bad man.”

“He’s so much older than me, Mama,” she said softly, realizing her mother was trying to stay away from the topic of the storm. “And England will be so different from New Mexico. How will I know how to act in their society?”

“You must do as I did, accept it and try and make the best of it.” She gave her daughter a wistful smile, “Mayhap you will be as lucky as I was Elizabeth. Mayhap he will be someone you can fall in love with.”

“I hope so,” she whispered fervently. The two women were silent for a time, one remembering and the other praying. THUNK! Liz started and stared at the plank. CRACK! “Oh God! Mother, we must go above.”

“What? What’s going on? What was that noise?”

“Mother, please!” she begged, tugging her mother up. The sound of another board loosening…cracking…The ship was not going to make it. She tried to hurry her mother along, keeping her from seeing the water seeping in through the broken bottom. “Hurry!”

“Elizabeth, I don’t-” Her mother was cut off as they were flung forward. Regaining her footing quickly she turned back to her mother. “Elizabeth,” Nancy’s voice was faint, “I do believe we are in trouble.”

“Mama…just come.”

They clasped hands, her mother’s grip painfully tight and they carefully made there way up the step to the deck, ignoring the rocking and waves. Liz saw her father at the helm, attempting to control the doomed ship.

“Papa!” she shouted, her words lost in the wind. She looked at her mother and nodded toward her father, knowing Nancy would not hear her if she tried to talk. The two shuffled forward and soon Jeffrey spotted them.

Liz narrowed her eyes against the rain that was blinding her. Father was shouting something and gesturing back to the hold. She shook her head, and continued forward, dragging her mother along.

Just then a large swell banged against the side of the ship, knocking them to the railing. Her mother’s hand slipped from hers and she screamed, looking down suddenly into a toiling ocean as the ship tipped upward onto its prow.
posted on 23-May-2002 11:54:32 AM
~Part Two~

Liz held tightly to the railing of the ship as it tossed and turned, afraid for her life. The storm had come upon them so swiftly, completely unexpected in its intensity. So now her mother, her father, the crew, and herself were clinging to the one thing standing between them and death.

The waters were raging, whitecaps pounded furiously into the side of the ship, rain poured downward, drenching them. They were freezing and losing strength, losing their grips…She wasn’t sure they’d make it out of this alive.

Her cramped hands spasmed as another wave crashed over the ship. She was slipping! Oh, God, she was slipping! She was able to scream once, she was able to take one last look at her family, before she was swept away into the dark, churning waters.

She couldn’t breathe, she was being buffeted by rain and wind from all sides. She had no idea how she had managed to surface, but here she was. She looked around, trying desperately to see, to spot some sign of…The ship had disappeared, and she had no idea of where she was. She picked a direction, one that went with the current, and started swimming. Hoping against hope that she’d find land soon.

After hours, she was tiring. She was surprised she had made it as far as she had. She stopped, treading water, trying to catch her breath, but swallowing water in the process. She coughed, ridding herself of the bitter taste and gulped at the air as she rose higher. There was nothing anywhere. She was going to die out here, alone. Lost at sea…How tragic.

A wave swept over her out of nowhere, dragging her to the side. She didn’t fight the pull. She was tired of fighting. She gave up.

At least, she thought she had, but apparently her will to survive was stronger. She found herself clawing her way back up, choking on the salt water that was flung in her face.

Liz just managed to make out the large looming shape of a rock ahead of her as another wave appeared…

She just managed to think last thoughts about her family…to decide that this was it…

And then she was smashed against the hard, unyielding mass of stone.
posted on 23-May-2002 11:55:27 AM
~Part Three~

She came awake slowly and started coughing and spitting. Oh yuck, she thought, sand does not taste good. She wiped at her mouth again and, finally assured that there was no more sand, looked around.

Where was she?

The trees grew lush and thick, a vibrant green color…Brightly colored flowers were seen everywhere. She turned her head both ways, staring down the strip of beach. No one was in sight, so she picked herself up and started walking. There had to be civilization somewhere. Right?

Two days later she was exhausted, hungry, weak, and bad-tempered. There was nothing anywhere, except a jungle that frankly, she was scared to go into. She rounded a bend and gasped.

Before her lay a large, cultivated field, extending far back into the jungle. Well-kept squares led up to a huge mansion. It was a farm or a plantation probably. She looked with disgust at the scarcely clad, dark-skinned people working in the fields. Slavery. How barbaric.

“Who are you?”

She spun, coming face to chest with a young man holding the reins of a horse. She tilted her head back so that she was able to meet those oddly amber eyes. “What?”

“I asked you who you were and what are you doing here?” He pursed his lips in annoyance.

“I’m trying to get home.”

“Well, you won’t find it here. This a privately owned island, only a few families live on it, and I know each member of each family and you do not belong to any of them,” he sneered down at her impatiently.

Her mind was racing. How did I get on an island? Why is he such a…such a…

“Now, who are you and where are you from? Maybe it won’t take that long to get you back.”

She looked down at herself. Her heavy petticoats were torn and still damp. She reached her hand to her hair and felt like crying it was such a mess.

“Well?” he demanded again.

She was drawing a blank.

“I…I don’t remember.”
posted on 23-May-2002 11:56:18 AM
~Part Four~

The girl started to breakdown. He dropped Ebony’s reins and started panicking. “Don’t cry! Don’t cry! Please, please, stop,” he pleaded. What was he supposed to do?

Putting hands on her shoulders he shook her slightly. She gasped and looked up at him. Tears were streaming down pale cheeks, more welling up in her bottomless brown eyes. “Please stop,” he whispered again, “I’m sorry.” She seemed to gulp back another sob and wiped her eyes dry.

He heaved a sigh of relief. It really wasn’t his fault she couldn’t remember her own name, but he had provoked her crying fit by asking. “Come on, we’ll get you to the house, try to straighten out this mess.” She nodded silently and followed him back to Ebony.

He helped her mount, and had started to himself, when he noticed the slaves staring. “Get back to work!” he ordered. They obeyed immediately.

“That was rude.”

“Beg pardon?” He turned to look up at her. Her face bore no signs of the tears he had seen just moments before. Her eyes were glittering angrily, her mouth drawn in a disapproving line, and her nostrils flaring slightly.

“You shouldn’t treat them like that!”

“They’re slaves!”

“Yes! They work for you, for free! They support you, and just…They do everything! You should treat them better!”

“They’re slaves!” he said again.

“I know! We just went over that!” She huffed and turned her face away from him.

He stared at her incredulous, before shaking his head in anger and getting on the horse. She stiffened, as if not wanting to come in contact. This girl was exasperating! One minute she’s crying her eyes out in his arms and the next she’s berating him for nothing.

He spurred his horse into a gallop. She gave a little shriek and grabbed at his arms. Ebony leapt over a hedge as they rode to the front doors and she whimpered in fright.

He gave a little self-satisfied smile, determined to unnerve her as much as she did him.
posted on 23-May-2002 11:58:56 AM
~Part Five~

He helped her down off his horse and led her into the house. She was pale, which was, and wasn’t, surprising.

It was because she had no memory, had obviously been through a trauma, and had probably been walking around for a while; tired, hungry, and thirsty.

It wasn’t because this was a tropic island, as in warm weather, hot sun, and tanning…

It just didn’t make sense. It was an enigma. She was an enigma.

She stopped mid-way through the entry hall and sort of staggered into a decorative table. Pale, wide-eyed, and shaking, she collapsed onto the floor.

He raced to her side, kneeling beside her on the carpeted hall. Her breathing was erratic, and her pulse fluttered rapidly. Something was definitely wrong, and it had nothing to do with heat exhaustion.

Max slid an arm under her head, and another down by her knees, intending to pick her up and carry her to a spare room, but he paused…

He slowly removed the hand that was cradling her head and stared at the wet, sticky, red liquid substance covering it. Gently, but quickly, he propped her up, staring at the dark, matted hair and bloodstains he had not noticed before.

She was injured.

He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking. “MARIA!” he bellowed. Almost immediately the light-skinned slave was at his side.

“Yes, sir?”

“Take Ebony and ride to Doctor Whitman’s, bring him here as quickly as possible.”

“Yes, sir.” She fled the hall, amazed that her unacknowledged half-brother was allowing her to ride his prized stallion, but even more so at the sight of the girl in his arms.

Maria was a byproduct of two families. Her grandfather was Edward Harding, he had dabbled with one of the slaves on his plantation and her mother had been born, the only difference was lighter skin and light eyes. Edward hadn’t wanted anyone to find out about her, so he had sold Amy to the Evans when she was sixteen.

Two years later, Phillip Evans had returned to the island from war and had taken an interest in girl. Hence Maria. Amy had died in childbirth and Phillip had allowed Maria to stay, taken her into the house as a maidservant to his wife and young daughter. When Phillip and Diane had moved back to England, after they had married Isabel off to some Spanish Lord, and left Max in possession of their portion of the island, he had allowed her to stay on.

So now, here she was, twenty-six years old and housekeeper to her brother. She spurred Ebony faster, fighting back tears. Michael would be coming back from his last trip to England soon; she’d feel happier than.

“Dr. Whitman!” she shouted as she reached the small house on the edge of both the Evans and Harding lands. A man looked out the window at her and his face broke out into a smile.

“Maria, what a pleasant surprise! Have you come to join me for tea?” He opened the door and walked out to meet her. She was riding Max’s horse. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure, Alex. Max told me to fetch you. There was a girl, not from around here, I think she was hurt. Max said to hurry.” He ran back into the house and grabbed his medical kit, and then he jumped onto the horse behind Maria.

“Then hurry,” he commanded, holding on for dear life.

The ride back seemed to take longer than the journey there, but then again, Ebony had been galloping without rest for hours. Maria dropped the doctor off at the front door and hurried to the stable. She dismounted and looked around. The stable boy was sleeping, lucky Max wasn’t the one to catch him. “Sean! Wake up!”

“I’m up! I’m up!” The twelve-year old blinked up at her sleepily.

“You’re lucky I wasn’t Master Maxwell, you dimwit!” She smacked him upside the side. “Unsaddle Ebony, walk him, and wipe him down. Feed him well and give him a lump of sugar as a treat. He may have saved a life.”

“Was the Master hurt?” he asked hopefully. She sent him a withering glare and flounced away.

Servants were bustling around the house when she entered. She grabbed one by the arm, “Where has Master Maxwell taken the doctor?”

“The North wing, Maria. But we’ve been ordered away.” She yelled as Maria ran up the stairs toward the spare bedroom. She slowly opened the door to see her brother pacing as the Doctor knelt by the bed.

Slipping in, she looked at the girl. She was small and wet, and smelt of the sea. Her skin was bronze from the sun and she appeared more of a slave than Maria with all the dark hair. “Max,” she whispered, dropping all pretenses of servant and master now that they were in private.

He gave her a small smile and squeezed her arm softly in gratitude. “Thank you.” She nodded.

“Do you need anything?”

“Alex wants to make rounds today instead of later this week, he said there was no point wasting a visit. If you could just help him with those that need it, I’d appreciate that.”

She nodded again, but then shook her head. “I meant with the girl. Who is she?”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t even know,” he looked faintly amused, “She couldn’t remember anything when I found her.”

“Do you think she’s a runaway from the Harding’s?”

He shook his head. “Her speech is different and she doesn’t act like someone used to labor. I can’t figure her out Maria.” His eyes fell on the slight form under the covers of the bed. And she saw something she hadn’t expected; worry.

Max didn’t care about anyone if he could help it, but the fact that he was worried about this nameless girl meant that she had to be someone special. She glanced once more at the dark head and then curtseyed and left.

The door shutting pulled him out of his reverie. “Well?” he asked.

Alex got up and brushed off his trousers. “She’ll be fine, the blood flow was staunching already, but the blood loss just caught up with her. Some rest should help, I’ll come by later to check on her again. When she wakes up, make sure she stays in bed and make sure she gets something to eat, preferably soup.”

“What about her memory?”

“I can’t do anything about that, she’s got retrograde amnesia, the best we could do would be to get her around something familiar, but that seems impossible if she isn’t from around here.”

“Okay,” Max said, “Thank you, Doctor.”

Alex patted him on the back, “I’ll show myself out.”

Max watched him leave and then glanced down at his mystery girl on the bed. He brushed a stray hair away from her forehead and she stirred. He drew his hand back and walked over to the window of the room, staring down at the fields.

She woke up groggily, as if waking from an odd dream.

It had been the strangest thing. She dreamed she had woken up on a beach, wandered aimlessly for days, then met a devastatingly handsome, but incredibly annoying, young man, and that she had lost her memory.

She sat up slowly and realized that this wasn’t her room. She frowned, she didn’t even know what her bedroom looked like, but she knew this wasn’t it. Confusion rose up…

“Are you awake? The doctor just left, he said you’ll be all right, you just need rest and relaxation.” The golden-eyed man looked at her questioningly, and she just looked back.

It wasn’t a dream.

The reality of the situation finally hit her. She had no idea where she was. She had no idea who she was. She was lost and alone in a totally foreign place.
posted on 23-May-2002 11:59:59 AM
~Part Six~

There are winners and losers in life. She stared out the window at the losers. She had been stuck in this room for the past three days, and she was going insane with boredom. What right did he have to lock her up like this? She snorted briefly, probably the same right he thought he had to keep slaves!

She knew he considered himself a winner, that much was obvious by the way he talked to her during his brief visits to her sick room. Always in that same condescending tone…She wanted to hurl a vase at his head.

But she didn’t. She suffered his idiosyncrasies in silence, knowing she should be grateful that he had helped her. Knowing she wouldn’t be alive if he hadn’t.

However, as she looked out over the many dark-skinned natives, working away in the hot sun, she wished everybody could be winners, because those people didn’t deserve to lose.

The clock rang, chiming in a two o’clock in the afternoon. She looked expectantly toward the door to her room, a knock sound authoritatively three times. She grinned, he was so unfailingly punctual. “Come in.” Not like she could stop him, he had the key, not her.

He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. She was standing at the window, looking out at the fields. Great, he knew what that meant, he’d been getting three days full of it.

He would have to sit patiently through another one of her “lectures” on the evils of slavery. The topic bored him to tears, but her passion for it fascinated him. She’d go on and on, endlessly, every visit, which is why he tried to get done with it quickly. She’d just keep talking…

She unnerved him, and that managed to both intrigue and disturb him, because he never got unnerved. He was always perfectly at ease, self-assured, and assertive, and she was starting to unsettle his balance.

He tried to make allowances though. She was a stranger to the island. She didn’t understand the social hierarchy, didn’t know how the island operated. So he remained silent.

But not today. He did not want to deal with her impossible indignation today, he was tired of it.

“You should be in bed,” he stated harshly. She started and turned to him, those doe eyes wide and wary.

“Dr. Whitman said it was all right to be up and around again. He said I should take walks and reflect, but not to try to hard. He says it won’t pay to get frustrated, though I find it very frustrating to try and follow my doctor’s orders and find my door locked,” she accused, her gaze withering.

Max didn’t say anything, just stared at the floor. She made a noise from the back of her throat and flounced back over to the bed, settling in comfortably, and then watched him intently. He looked down at her, frowning. She stirred up something in him he didn’t want to have to confront.

“Speaking of things that are unfair,” she started, “I think you-”

“Oh, no,” he interrupted, “I’m not going to listen to it again, today I’d like to get some things put straight.” She blinked up at him and something in him marveled at her beauty, but then she had to go and ruin it by opening her pouty pink mouth.

“That was very impolite, Mr. Evans, but then one would assume no less from a man who owned slaves.” She was eyeing a Ming vase on the vanity.

“That is the first order of business,” he said, ignoring the last part of her comment, “We do not know your name, and I am not going to lower myself and walk around calling you, You. So, you must pick a name for yourself.”

“A name?” she considered, “I do not know what to call myself.”

“How about Annoyance,” he suggested. She glared at him. He shrugged and smiled, “Just an idea.”

“I did not ask for your input Mr. Evans, kindly refrain yourself from making a bigger fool of yourself and leave.”

“This is my house, Miss, not yours, and I’m not going anywhere.” He reclined in the lounge chair in the corner of her room and smirked at her. “MARIA!” he yelled suddenly, scaring her half to death.

She was about to reprimand him, but was taken off course when a small, blonde woman whirled into the room. “Yes, sir?” she asked.

She studied the woman covertly. She was of medium height, green eyes, blonde hair, older, her skin a light brown, nearly a cocoa cream color. She wasn’t even a servant, merely another slave, even if she didn’t look it.

“She needs a name,” Max told the woman, Maria. Green eyes regarded her with amusement.

Maria methodically looked her over, from head to foot. “How about…Psyche?”

“Maria!” Max groaned.

“What? You can see her soul in her eyes, it’s poetic.”

“You are not naming her after a Greek goddess, and you’re not going to name her something idiotic like Moonbeam, or Sunshine, or Sassafras.”

Maria rolled her eyes, “Don’t get your breeches in a bunch, Maxie, I’m not going to name her Sassafras! That’s my cat’s name.”

She went from being resentful at being treated like a pet, to astonished by Maria’s casually, dismissive air with her owner. Maybe she was his mistress… For some reason the thought made her heart constrict and she grew disgruntled. “Can we just calm down and pick me out a sensible name? Please?”

“Fine. You want sensible, simple…boring. Fine. We’ll call you Amena.”

“That’s not normal, Maria,” Max pointed out.

“But it’s pretty,” she retorted, smiling at him cheekily.

She sat there, silently pondering. Amena. It wasn’t right, she knew that it wasn’t her real name, but until she figured out what her real name was, she could live with it. “All right,” she said quietly, “My name will be Amena.”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:01:50 PM
~Part Seven~

The newly dubbed Amena was wandering through the halls of the old house, Max had finally relinquished in the act of keeping her prisoner. So now she was allowed to roam around inside. So far, everything was singularly boring.

What she really wanted to do was go outside and talk with Max’s slaves. She wanted to discuss their lifestyles, their treatments…Whether or not they wanted to be paid, or even if they would continue working if given a choice.

The only slaves Amena had met so far were the serving maids, who had no time to talk what with all the running around they had to do, and Maria, who was Max’s housekeeper.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about Maria. There was something about her that told Amena they could be great friends, but something about her bothered her… She remembered that time a few days ago, when Maria had given her a new name. Her easy-going manner with Max irked Amena. For some reason the thought of Max with a mistress disturbed her, and she didn’t comprehend why.

He was irritating, infuriating, aggravating, exasperating, annoying, maddening, frustrating, galling, vexing, and an overall pain. How any woman could put up with him was beyond her, but somehow Maria managed to do it. Maybe even enough to share a bed with him.

She shuddered, and, prying her thoughts away from such unladylike topics, became aware of voices. Looking around, she spotted a half open door just up ahead of her. She was about to leave, when the voices spoke her name.

Amena didn’t know much about herself, except that she had a very definite sense of right and wrong. Slavery was wrong, and speaking about someone behind their back was also wrong. She frowned and moved closer. Normally, eavesdropping was considered wrong too, but not in this instance.

“Alex said she needed fresh air, Max.” That was Maria, Amena decided, having learned the other woman’s voice, and from her tone, she was not happy.

“I don’t want her outside. She’s enough trouble as it is, imagine what she’d do if she had access to the slaves.” Her frown deepened, Max was such a meanie. She was also upset that he had managed to discover her plan in only a few days. So what she wanted to incite a revolution? What was it to him?

“Max!” Maria sounded incensed, “How can you be so callous? She’s healing. Just think how hard it is for her not to remember a single thing about her past.”

“Maria, I’m not trying to be uncaring, I’m merely fed up with her reprimands. I mean, really, there’s only so many time you can say, ‘Slavery is bad.’ I heard her the first hundred times, I don’t need it.”

“Max, slavery is wrong. But I agree with you. Amena is a little hung up on the issue. And I will concede that you have been subjected to many of her speeches, but the only reason she keeps giving them is because you never seem to listen.”

“What is there to listen to? I should have her see the Hardings, see how they treat their slaves. See if she complains about me anymore!”

“You can’t do that, Max. If those Hardings see her, they’ll put her too work. She looks more like a slave than I do!”

“You’re not a slave, Maria.” And Max’s tone held a weariness in it that suggested they’d had this talk before, “You’re my housekeeper and my friend. My only confidant. You’re not a slave.”

“Maxie, whatever way you look at it, I am not accredited as your half sister. I’m just a servant. Your servant. Besides, what about Michael?”

Amena was frozen outside the door. Sister? An unexpected feeling of relief swept through her. Maria was Max’s sister. How did that work? And who was Michael?

“Speaking of Michael,” Max said, “He should be back today. Why don’t you see how our houseguest is doing and find a way to keep her away from me. I don’t need to deal with her.”

“Yes, sir,” Maria replied, in a meek tone of servitude, “Right away, sir. Your wish is my command, oh high and wise master. I’ll bend over backwards to please you-“

“Enough!” Max roared, but she heard the laughter lurking behind the shout, “Just get out of here you pest.”

“Yes, sir,” Maria said again, and giggling, came through the door. Amena jumped and blushed, ashamed to be caught. “Amena! What are you doing out here?”

“I…um…I…”

“What?” Max asked, hearing Maria’s question. He headed to the door of his study and glared at the tiny woman on the other side. He was outraged to see her, knowing she had been listening to their private conversation. He could tell Maria had noted his expression and led the girl away before Max lost his temper.

He couldn’t believe her! She was a damned nuisance. He couldn’t even find sanctuary in his study anymore. She was everywhere. Everywhere!

“So, Amena, this is the library.” She had followed Maria, paralyzed beneath Max’s forbidding glower, unable to keep her mind from the discussion she had overheard. Not even the sight of so many books could keep her from her curiosity.

“So you’re Max’s sister?” she blurted out.

“Half sister,” the blonde said matter-of-factly.

“How?”

“Same father. I’m the bastard daughter. So, Max is it?”

Amena blushed again, knowing Maria had changed the subject and she allowed the conversion, even if it caused her some embarrassment. Maria had to be feeling horrible about the…other thing.

“Well, he calls me annoyance, and such. I think it’s only fair to be just as rude to him.” That was weak, she scolded herself. Maria was smiling.

“If you-“ She stopped, head cocked to the side, and then ran to the window of the library. “Finally!” she exclaimed.

“What?” Amena followed her over. A man was riding a horse to the front door. “Who is that?”

That is Michael, Max’s man of affairs, and my fiancée. And he’s finally home from London.”

“Man of affairs?”

“It’s a Haute Monde term. Basically he’s errand boy. Checks investments, does inquiries, etc. Max will probably dispatch him on his next mission, to find out who you are, and he’ll be gone before the week is out.” She sounded sad, and suddenly Amena felt terribly selfish.

“Go to him, Maria. You shouldn’t waste time with me. I’ll be fine here.”

Green eyes registered hesitancy, “Are you sure?”

“I can find my way around, Maria, don’t worry. You spend time with your Michael, I’ll find Max and distract him so you have more time.”

“Amena…”

“Go!”

Maria gave her a smile and a quick hug, “Thanks!” And then she was out the door.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:04:26 PM
~Part Eight~

A knock sounded on his study door and he slammed a hand down on his desk, frustrated. “Come in,” he growled.

The swish of skirts let him know who his visitor was. “What now, Maria?”

“I’m not Maria.” He closed his eyes, rubbing them with his fingers in response to that clear, soft voice. He opened his eyes finally and stared at her coolly, letting her know she wasn’t welcome here.

She didn’t say anything, just looked back at him serenely. Max studied her. Maria had taken in some of his mother’s old dresses and gave them to her to wear. Today she was wearing a simple blue one, with white petticoats underneath. Her long brown hair hung in a braid down her back, leaving her face in plain view.

She wasn’t a beauty, but there was something about her. Something in the litheness of her tiny body, the way she held herself, her velvety eyes…

Stop!

Just keep those thoughts to yourself, he ordered her brain.

“Can I help you Amena?”

She smiled at him, something she had never done, and it hit him low in the gut. He didn’t wait for a reply, not trusting himself to speak amiably. “It was very rude to eavesdrop on my conversation with my housekeeper.”

She merely smiled some more and glided over to his desk, sitting on the chair placed in front of it, and gave him her full attention. “Your sister is a very nice person,” she finally said, trying to change the subject.

“Yes, she is-“ He narrowed his eyes at her, “And I will not be deterred that easily. Now then…”

Amena tuned him out, concentrating instead on the interior of his study. The furniture was what she would expect of him; solid, dark, plain, yet exquisite in it’s simplicity. He had a large bookcase of his own and she was dying to discover what type of reading he did. Her eyes drifted over him, still lecturing her, and then above.

There was a large painting over the desk where he sat. She studied it intently. An older woman sat on a chair with red velvet brocade. She was small, had brown eyes that reminded Amena of Max’s, and black hair pulled back into a bun at the base of her neck. Her dress was lovely, simple, unadorned except for an emerald pendent at her neck. A little girl was in her arms. She had blue eyes, blond hair, and a sweet smile. Her dress was old-fashioned, frilly with lace…

“Are you even listening to me?”

She snapped her attention back to Max. “No,” she told him.

“I thought as much,” he said grimly, “You were being too quiet.”

“Who’s that in the painting?”

“What? He spun, looking at the portrait of mother and daughter, and smiled. “That’s my father’s mother, Claudia, and her mother, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth…

“She was my great-grandmother. I was named after her husband, Maximilian. I didn’t know her that well, but Grandmamma Claudia told wonderful stories about her to Isabel and I when we were younger.

Elizabeth…

~“Elizabeth! Your father’s home, come help me set the table!” A blue-eyed, red-haired woman picked her up and carried into a modestly furnished kitchen. The door swung open and a blue-eyed man with hair like hers came booming through, laughing.

“How’s my little Lizzie?”

“Papa!”~


“Amena? Are you all right?” She was pale. So pale, and her eyes were unfocused. No, no, no…Alex said she would be fine, that she was perfectly healthy again. “Amena!” he cried desperately. Striding over to her chair and dragging her out of it, and shaking her harshly.

“Stop!” she yelled, pushing against him, her eyes snapping with anger. Thank the Lord. And he frowned at her, trying to smooth over any sign of worry about her.

“Amena, I would kindly thank you to stop doing such things. It’s bad enough with your lectures and your invasions into my private sanctuaries, but I don’t need you to-“

“No.”

“What?”

“My name. It isn’t Amena.”

“We know that, we gave it to you so we wouldn’t- Wait, did you remember…” he trailed off.

She nodded. “My name is Elizabeth. My father used to call me Lizzie, or Liz, I think.”

“Wonderful, what else do you remember?” He leaned forward, pressuring her, and she shrunk back down into her chair.

“He had blue eyes and brown hair and my mother had red hair and blue eyes too. That’s all I can recall.”

He ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “Great, just great, that doesn’t really help.”

“Well I’m sorry!” she burst out, “I can’t think of anymore! I’m just as lost on this front as you are, so don’t act all superior Mr. Evans! I want to know who I am too, and I want to get off this island and away from you as fast as I can!”

“Believe me, Elizabeth, I want exactly the same thing!” he snarled back. They were standing toe to toe, glaring at each other, when the door opened again to admit a laughing couple.

“Oh, Max, Michael’s home-” Maria stopped and stared at the two in front of her. Max was angry, really angry…

“Are we interrupting something?” Michael asked, looking between Max and Amena, completely baffled.

“Oh! Where are my manners? Michael, this is our guest Amena. Amena, this is my fiancée Michael.”

“It’s nice to meet you Michael,” she said warmly, “And my name is actually Liz.”

“Liz,” Maria repeated dumbly, then, “You remembered! That’s fabulous!” She hugged her new friend and grinned happily at Max.

“Yes,” he said dryly, “Unfortunately that’s all she remembers. Michael I need to speak with you.

Maria sighed, “And it starts.” She smiled at Liz as they walked out of the room. “Thanks for distracting him, I appreciate it.”

“Don’t mention it,” Liz said, “Hey, I mean, I remembered something.”

“And you’ll start recalling more, I know it. Just be patient.”

“Yeah…”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:06:30 PM
~Part Nine~

The rain poured down. He watched from the window in his study. Sighing dejectedly, he turned away and gazed off into space, trying to decide what to do.

Originally he had planned on riding, but the sudden rainfall had prevented it. It would actually be good for the crops, but he needed to get out of the house and away from that damned woman.

He decided on the library as his new refuge, considering she had already invaded his office as well as the rest of the house. Thankfully, he had yet to encounter her today, of course, she was probably off stirring up a rebellion among his slaves.

He had given up trying to reason with her. She just couldn’t be reasoned with. Impossible woman! Frustrated, Max pushed open the library door with enough force to crack a man’s skull.

Imagine his surprise to see the object of his angered thoughts before him.

Max froze, the anger floating away, arrested by the sight of her. A big fire crackled merrily on the hearth, casting a subtle glow onto her body. And she, in turn, absorbed that glow and it shone like starlight through her skin. By God, he thought, she’s an angel…

She was asleep on the couch in front of the fire, her body twisted slightly, feet dangling off the edge, the book in her hand rested lightly on her abdomen. It rose and fell with each breath she took, in the same rhythm as her breasts, confined in her rose corset.

He walked toward her, almost in a trance, and knelt down beside the delicate piece of furniture that held her fragile being. He was more captivated by her in that moment, than he had been of anything in his entire life.

Max gulped, his hands hovering over her body, as if unsure what to do. His eyes never left her face, her were eyes closed, the firelight provided a flicker of light over her flushed cheeks…her rosy lips parted, breathing softly. Her brown hair was loose, and flowing around her.

He gently placed a hand on her chest, toying with the silken curl resting just above her heart. He tenderly brushed it back, tucking it behind her ear. He then allowed his fingers to trail over her smooth cheek, until it brushed her pouting lips.

She gave a little gasp and moved her head with his hand, her body following the movement, and the book fell from her hand.

THUD!

~Liz started and stared at the plank. CRACK! “Oh God! Mother, we must go above.”

“What? What’s going on? What was that noise?”

“Mother, please!” she begged, tugging her mother up. The sound of another board loosening…cracking…The ship was not going to make it. She tried to hurry her mother along, keeping her from seeing the water seeping in through the broken bottom. “Hurry!”

“Elizabeth, I don’t-” Her mother was cut off as they were flung forward. Regaining her footing quickly she turned back to her mother. “Elizabeth,” her mother’s voice was faint, “I do believe we are in trouble.”

“Mama…just come.”

They clasped hands, her mother’s grip painfully tight and they carefully made their way up the step to the deck, ignoring the rocking and waves. Liz saw her father at the helm, attempting to control the doomed ship.

“Papa!” she shouted, her words lost in the wind…~


“Papa!”

She shot up, and suddenly realized she was not on a capsizing ship, wet and frightened. She was warm, and her heart was slowing slightly. She was in someone’s arms and suddenly became aware that that someone was talking to her.

“-Elizabeth? Liz, please, what’s wrong?” She looked into worry-filled amber eyes and the full effect of her nightmare came back to her.

“Max?” she croaked.

“Are you okay?” he asked, “You were screaming, what was it?”

“Nothing,” she told him, “Nothing, just a bad dream.” Lightning and thunder crashed outside the window of the library and she went still, quivering.

“Liz?”

“Hold me…Please Max…” she begged, unable to stop the tears from coming. He didn’t say another word, didn’t make any arrogant, insufferable comments, he just took her in his arms and held her.

And she buried her head in his shirt and cried for her parents.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:10:34 PM
~Part Ten~

He was riding through his field again, checking on the progress of their crops and the general health of his people. He was heading back to the house when he saw her. Gritting his teeth he rode Ebony over to where she was helping with the harvest.

“Liz?”

She looked up, blocking the sun from her eyes as she gazed at him. “Max.” And then she waited.

That was it, nothing more. She had been abnormally quiet since that day in the library last week. It wasn’t almost as if something essential had gone out of her. And he found himself missing it, missing the willful spirit of her.

He had kept an eye on her since that day, and he noticed the change happened suddenly, it wasn’t just a gradual decline. She picked at her food at dinnertime, she locked herself in her room for hours on end, and she never sought him out for lectures anymore.

An emptiness had started to fill him as he watched he go through the motions of living. He was truly longing for her sharp comments and snapping eyes.

And, even though her being out in this field meant she was starting her campaign against slavery again, he couldn’t help but feel a little thrill that she was showing interest in something again, although he would have preferred something less hazardous to his livelihood.

“What are you doing out here?” he asked politely.

“Helping,” was her short reply as she bent down again. The slave beside her gave Max a helpless glance and moved a bit away from Liz.

“Please come inside,” he said.

“I’m not finished,” she responded stubbornly.

“Liz!” he exclaimed, fed up, “You’re going to have a heat stroke!” Didn’t she care that she was still healing?

“Why, Master Maxwell,” she adopted a sarcastic tone, “Why care about little old me when all these other people are out here day in and day out under that burning sun.”

He growled, “They’re used to it, Elizabeth, you, on the other hand, are not. Now come inside.”

“No.”

He moved Ebony forward a few paces and picked her easily off the ground, sitting her in front off him. “Max!” she cried in outrage, and struggled against his hold. He just tightened his grip as they galloped to the house, unwilling to let her fall and be trampled to death.

He pulled up into the stable and dismounted, then swung her protesting form down after him. “I am quite capable of dismounting, myself, thank you very much!” she huffed, and tossed her head, refusing to look at him.

He didn’t deign to reply. “Sean!”

The boy popped his head out of a pen, “Yes’um Master Maxwell, sir?”

“Please give Ebony a run down, I don’t have time to do it myself.”

“Yes’sir,” the boy said meekly. Max took Liz’s hand refusing to let it go as she twisted it, and led her to the house.

“Let go of me!” she cried, “You have no right to treat me like this!”

“No right!” he echoed, voice roaring through the front hall. Servants froze like rabbits and then fled away from their master, frightened of his wrath. “You have no rights, Elizabeth. This is my home, and you are my guest, and yet you persist in defying me left and right, undermining my authority, and being an overall thorn in my side! So do not try and explain to me my rights!”

“Max, you’re overwrought-”

“No, I am not! You are being completely unreasonable, and have been since the moment you walked into my life!” he exclaimed, “Now, I want to know what happened in the library, and don’t tell me it was just a bad dream. You’ve changed since then, something a dream couldn’t manage on its own. You’re destroying yourself, Liz, and I refuse to watch it happen if it’s in my power to prevent it! Tell me what’s going on or I’m not going to be able to help you find out who you are, or where you’re from, or who your family is!” She was silent. “Please, Liz, just…just trust me.”

She finally raised her eyes to his, the brown wet and shiny. “I don’t have a family, Max. The dream…it was a memory. I think it’s how I lost my memory…There was an accident, the ship was caught in a storm…My parents are dead, Max. I’m all alone.”

“You’re not alone,” he told her, wiping the tears away, “You have me and Maria, and we’re not going to give up, Liz. I promise you that.”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:12:41 PM
~Part Eleven~

She had been feeling better since Max had yelled some sense into her. She knew in her heart that no one else had made it off that ship alive. Her mother couldn’t swim, she remembered, and her father would never have left her alone.

She was watching him work right now, studying him intently as he deliberated the papers on his desk. He didn’t even notice her, she was sure, but she didn’t care at the moment. Something had changed in their “relationship” when he had offered her his arms. Something that changed the way she viewed him.

She realized that he wasn’t a bad person. True, she considered slavery bad, but he wasn’t a harsh master. From what she had heard, the people who worked for him genuinely liked him. Those that had whip marks were men and women he had bought from the Harding plantation next door.

Apparently the Hardings were not nice people. In fact, the only person who had professed a hatred for Max was the stable boy Sean, and she had a feeling his dislike came from the fact that Max actually required the pudgy boy to work.

She was drawn from her thoughts by Max sitting back in his chair. She met his curious gaze and smiled. He gave her a small smile back and then sighed.

“What?” she asked.

“You’re distracting me,” he accused her.

“I’ve been as quiet as a mouse,” she replied cheekily. Max sighed again, and realized he couldn’t very well admit that her very presence was arousing him to embarrassing proportions.

“Be that as it may, Liz, I must ask you to leave.” She looked at him, surprised, and then her brown eyes clouded over with hurt.

“Fine,” she said shortly and then got up and stomped out of the room. He watched her go, aware that he had just put a cramp in their budding friendship. Why couldn’t he do anything right around that woman?

Liz stormed down the stairs to the front hall, needing to go for a ride or a walk or something. That man was so infuriating! One second he was letting her cry on his shoulder and the next he was ordering her around!

The door opened in front of her and she stood, stock still as a blond girl came bouncing in haughtily, in a blue riding dress. She spotted Liz and cracked her riding crop against her boot.

“You, there, girl.”

“Me?” Liz asked.

“Of course you,” she scoffed, tossing her blond curls and eyeing Liz with distaste. “Inform your master that Lady Tessa Harding has arrived and I wish to speak with him.” She began stripping off her gloves, not paying Liz any more attention.

Liz stared at this woman, a little upset at having been mistaken for a slave, and didn’t move. Lady Tessa finally glanced upward again and saw her standing there.

“I gave you an order girl,” she told her icily, “I expect it to be obeyed, or must I notify Lord Evans that you need to be taught obedience?”

Liz raised an eyebrow, hackles up. She did not like this woman. “I believe you will have to tell him,” she responded offhandedly, “And while you’re at it, you can tell him you’re here, because I will not.”

She turned around and began to walk back up the stairs. She was aware that Tessa was behind her, fuming and trying to gather up an insult. Liz smiled, but that faded when she heard Max pounding down the stairway. He came closer, eyes locked on hers, apologetic.

“Liz,” he started, “I’m sor-“

“Maxwell!” came a shriek from the bottom of the stairs. Max raised his gaze to see the woman and Liz turned around, glaring at her.

“Tessa?” he asked in surprise. Unwelcome surprise, Liz noted by the tone of his voice.

“Oh, Maxwell,” she said, batting her eyelashes, “This girl refused to comply with my orders, I want her whipped as punishment.” She raised her pointy chin and threw Liz a triumphant look. Liz rolled her eyes, which seemed to confuse the woman. But she rallied and looked pleadingly at Max again. “And I’d like to administer it.”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:14:45 PM
~Part Twelve~

Max stared at Tessa in shock, then looked at Liz, who was gazing at him, one eyebrow raised. “Um…Tessa, it doesn’t quite work like that.”

Liz growled low in her throat sent a glare at both of them, and started up the stairs again. “I’m going to my room. When you finally manage to grow a backbone, Mr. Evans, you can come apologize for your guest's rude behavior."

Max watched helplessly as she left him, her graceful form traveling up the staircase at an alarming speed. He knew he should be insulted that she had called him a coward, but she was right in this case. But Tessa was someone you had to handle delicately, otherwise there was the slight possibility she’d burn something down.

“I can’t believe you let her speak to you that way! And to me! She needs discipline, Maxwell. If you’re too squeamish I will buy her and handle it for you, but she is far too out of line for a slave-“

“Tessa, Elizabeth isn’t for sale,” he interrupted, “She’s not even a slave.”

“Not a-? What are you saying Maxwell, of course she’s a slave, just look at her!” She gestured imperiously to where Liz had disappeared, and then placed her hands on her hips and glared at him. “I demand an explanation!”

Max looked at the floor. He knew Liz was darker than most Englishmen, but he had a feeling she had some Middle East roots, and that was what tinted her skin, but she didn’t act like a slave. She was straight-backed and proud, well cultured and mannered (unless she was yelling at him), and he also suspected she came from a family of high station, not the daughter of a Lord, but perhaps a merchant…

“Elizabeth is a guest in my home while she is recuperating, and I have undertaken the task of finding out where her family is so that she may rejoin them.”

“Recuperating?”

“She is suffering from what Dr. Whitman calls amnesia, and cannot remember her past. I found her injured and wet and brought her here.”

“She’s probably just a run away from our plantation. Maxwell how could you let yourself be so deceived?” Tessa demanded.

He shook his head, “Her clothing was silk, Tessa, finely made silk. Of a Lady’s quality.” He let her think upon that for a moment, knowing that that, of anything, would convince her of Liz’s status.

Tessa was quiet, mulling things over. “Silk?”

“Silk,” he assured her.

She sighed, “When is dinner, Maxwell? I’m fair famished.”

He hid a smile behind a hand, knowing he had won. “Shortly. Proceed to the dining hall without me, Tessa, I must let Elizabeth know that we are about to sup.” She frowned, but waved him away and headed down the stairs.

Max waited until she was out of sight before running up the stairs to Liz’s room. He had to inform her to tread carefully around Tessa, if only because she was certifiably insane, and to please be more patient, and he had to apologize for before and now for how he handled Tessa in front of her. He knocked on the door, shaking his head. Sometimes he thought keeping her around was more trouble than she was worth.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:16:56 PM
~Part Thirteen~

The door opened and Liz peered at him, still miffed. “Is she gone?” she asked.

“No, actually, she’s in the dining room,” he told her.

She snorted. “That figures. A pretty face comes and you lose your spine-”

“Hey!” he interrupted, “My spine is still intact! And I didn’t lose it when you came did I?” She looked at him, surprised, had that been a compliment? Had he implied she was pretty? “And Tessa isn’t even pretty, she looks like a rodent. Her nose is all pinched and her eyes are too close together, and-”

“Wait a minute,” she raised her hand, forestalling further comment from him, “If you don’t like her, why did you let her in the house? Why did you let her speak to me like that?”

“Liz,” he sighed, and sat on the bed beside her. Her body slid down into the depression he had made until she was flush against him, her head on his knee. She blushed, but he made no move to get up, and she didn’t want to look ridiculous by trying to escape his presence. “You need to understand how things work around here.”

“Then explain it to me Max. Because I’ve been trying to figure it, but Maria’s too busy to help, and you only yell at me! Just…tell me, Max, talk to me.”

“The Hardings, Tessa’s family, have been our neighbors for generations. They’re harsh Liz,” he informed her, not precisely sure how to word what he was trying to say, “The way they treat their servants and slaves…it’s not something you want to have happen to you.”

“She can’t touch me,” Liz declared.

“She can if she tries, Liz. I can’t always be around to protect you, and Tessa is dangerous.”

“I could take her,” she muttered rebelliously, a hand unconsciously coming to rest near her face, stroking his knee. Max drew in a breath, afraid of what this closeness was going to do to his body

“She’s insane, Liz. I mean really a candidate for Bedlam.”

“Then why isn’t she locked up?”

“Her grandfather, Edward, is too powerful. He could destroy this place in an instant if he caught any sign that we’d tell someone crucial, and I can’t risk that, Liz. This isle is my family’s livelihood, and if I’m not here, they’re ruined socially in London, and all the people down there in that field will have ruined lives. The Hardings would treat them worse than cattle, Liz, and…”

“All right,” she said gently, “All right, I understand. I’m sorry I’ve been so troublesome.”

He shook his head and gently tucked some of her silky hair back behind her small ear. “I’m sorry I’ve been troublesome too. Now, will you come to dinner and make nice?”

“If I have to,” she replied haughtily.

He chuckled a little and got up, helping her once he was on his feet. “May I escort you to the dining room, Lady Elizabeth?” he asked, crooking his arm. She slipped her own through it and walked in step with him.

“I’d be honored Lord Maxwell,” she said, smiling and batting her eyelashes coquettishly. “Thank you.”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:18:12 PM
~Part Fourteen~

Dinner was mainly a quiet affair on Max and Liz’s part. Tessa however, chattered away gaily about everything to do in London society. She told them who was cuckolding who, who was the most titillating couple of the Season, all the scandals, and any and all gossip.

She would occasionally ask Liz a question about what she thought, sneaking sideways glances at Max all the while. It was obvious to him that she was trying to trip Liz up. Trying to find any shred of evidence she could use to convince him that Liz was playing a game with him.

Liz’s response, when first addressed, had been a cool, “I don’t believe in gossiping.”

“But, Liz,” Tessa had protested saccharinely, “How do you know you don’t believe in gossip when you don’t remember anything?”

Liz’s warm brown eyes had frosted over, and she sent a chilling glance in Tessa’s direction. “My name is Elizabeth, and I seem to have made it through the trauma with all my morals intact.”

Max looked covertly at Tessa, hiding his grin by bending over his food. His uninvited dinner guest had her mouth hanging open in a most unattractive manner. He exchanged a glance with Liz, who gave him a small smile and then gave her attention back to her plate.

After that Tessa didn’t bother talking to Liz, she just ignored the other woman’s presence and tried to engage Max in what she believed was interesting conversation.

“Lady Tessa,” Max said gently, “It appears to be getting late. Perhaps you should start home before darkness fall?”

She looked at him, blue eyes startled. “You are not going to invite me to stay the night?” she asked, sounding hurt.

“I’m afraid not. As you did not inform us of your arrival, we were unprepared and have no suitable accommodations ready for use,” he lied easily, willing his eyes to seem innocent. Liz was laughing at him, but she was hiding it well.

“I believe I shall also retire for the night,” she said, “Good-night Lord Evans, Lady Harding.” Max glared after her retreating figure. She had left him alone on purpose!

“Finally! I don’t like her Maxwell, I suggest you get rid of her as soon as possible.”

“Assuredly, Tessa,” he decided agreeing would be the best possible course of action, “But I believe it would be best to wait until her family is found.”

She rolled her blue eyes, “You are such a bleeding heart Maxwell.”

“A sorry affliction indeed,” he replied flippantly, though she didn’t seem to take note of his sarcasm. “Would you allow me to escort you to the edge of your property, Tessa?” he offered, hoping she’d agree and he could make sure she really was gone.

She simpered and giggled annoyingly. “A sunset ride!” she exclaimed, “How delightfully romantic of you Maxwell!” And she grabbed his arm before he could object, and dragged him through the entrance hall, out the door, and to the stables for their horses.

Liz watched all this bemusedly from her position at the top of the stairs. It was obvious Max didn’t care at all for this Tessa lady, but that she had a tendre for him. It was also obvious she was mentally unbalanced, her moods shifting too rapidly to make sense of her. She sighed, agreeing with Max on the point he had made earlier. She’d have to tread carefully around Tessa.

“I can’t believe he let her in the house.”

She turned to Maria, who had come up to sit beside her. “You don’t like her either?” she inquired.

“Lizzie, no one likes Tessa. Except maybe her grandfather, but he’s as crazy as she is. The whole family’s a bunch of rotten apples, bad blood. Luckily my mother didn’t get any, and therefore, neither did I.”

“What-?”

“Edward Harding, he’s my grandfather too.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. So, I received a letter from Michael, he hasn’t made any headway on your family.” She sounded pitying, but Liz just shook her head.

“I don’t think he will, Maria, I think they’re gone,” she commented sadly.

“Don’t say that, Lizzie, we’ll find them.”

“My mother couldn’t swim Maria. They’re dead.” She didn’t wait for an answer, just got up quickly and ran to her room, locking herself in. She threw herself on the bed, refusing to cry. “They’re dead,” she whispered to herself harshly, “Dead.”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:20:36 PM
~Part Fifteen~

The knock on her door roused her from a fitful slumber. “Come in,” she said groggily. The door opened and Max came in carrying an oil lamp. She smiled at him, “I see you survived.”

“Just barely,” he replied, grinning back, “She tried to convince me that it was too dark to attempt a return to my side of the island and that I just had to spend the night. I of course, assured her it was no trouble for me as Ebony knew the island better than any human ever good.”

“Bet she took that well.”

Max grin grew wider. “Tsk, tsk, Miss Elizabeth, ladies never bet, it’s most unbecoming.” He put the lamp down on the washstand and walked over to the bed lying down next to her.

Liz held her breath, knowing she should tell him to leave. It was compromising enough to have him in her room after dark, but in her bed… And if he could read her thoughts right now, he’d think she was a harlot.

She couldn’t help it though. She didn’t know what had happened exactly, what had triggered the transition between thinking he was an arrogant, harsh, slave-driving bastard, to the man she dreamt about at night.

And she did dream about him. About the way it would feel to have him kiss her, touch her, hold her…Her body got all hot and shivery just thinking about it. Her breathing picked up and she let her body slide towards him, reveling in the warmth he was giving off.

She hadn’t responded to his teasing, but he had kind of forgot about it. He had kind of forgot about everything he had wanted to talk to her about when the light had fallen on her.

He couldn’t deny the fact that he was attracted to her, but he had at least thought he could hide the way she aroused him from her. Luckily, by the time his mind had fully processed the sight of her ripe breasts pushing against the thin lawn of her nightgown, he had put the lamp down and was immersed in darkness.

Of course, laying down in her bed, with her in it, hadn’t been the most intelligent thing to do in the dark. He could hear her breathing, the rhythm becoming faster and more erratic, and he couldn’t help but wonder what she’d sound like if he made love to her right now.

Max shook his head, refusing to contemplate the intricacies of a relationship with Elizabeth. She would probably end up lecturing him all day on something minor he did if he did marry her-Wait…marry? Where had that come from?

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping after such a tiring confrontation?” she finally asked, her voice coming out all breathy and low.

“Probably, but I needed to talk to someone, and I couldn’t find Maria.”

“So I’m the second choice?” she questioned, feigning hurt, “I’m crushed.” She felt him shrug his shoulders. “What did you need to talk about?”

“I don’t know. I just wanted to talk.”

“You make no sense, you know that?”

“Maria’s told me that on several occasions, only she’s more vocal about it.” He winced, even though she couldn’t see it, remembering his sister’s sharp tongue on more than one occurrence.

Liz giggled, “I can just picture it…”

Maria smiled outside the door, shamelessly eavesdropping. She knew it was wrong for them to be together like they were, without a chaperone, but she didn’t have the heart to interrupt them. She had felt so bad earlier when Liz had ran out, it was good to hear her laugh again. And she knew Max was developing deep feelings towards their guest.

They were falling in love, she sing-songed in her head.

She’d leave them alone for now, she decided, they couldn’t get in too much trouble after all…Right?
posted on 23-May-2002 12:24:17 PM
~Part Sixteen~

He woke up bit by bit. Part of him was resisting being dragged away from the dream world and, more specifically, Liz as his dream wife, but the other part was eager, because it was perfectly aware that his dreamgirl was sleeping beside him.

Wait…what?

Fully conscious now, he froze, afraid to move as he became aware of the warm body pressed against him. Unfortunately, one part of his anatomy would not freeze over, and was growing increasingly in size.

This was unfortunate because it was painful to him, knowing he’d have no release, and because Liz’s thigh was pressed against it. She, undoubtedly, could feel his response quite plainly.

He was a little surprised at the position they were in. He hadn’t remembered falling asleep, and couldn’t recall crawling under the covers with her either. But somehow that was what had happened. She was snuggled up to his side, her arms wrapped around his chest, her head was nestled on his shoulder, and her left leg, which was bare to the top of her thigh, was caught between his legs.

Max eased himself away from her carefully, knowing that if he were to wake her up an incredibly embarrassing scene would commence and the whole household would believe her compromised. Which was something he did not need right now.

And he was also a little afraid she would reject him.

So he left, quietly tiptoeing to and out of her bedroom door, hoping not to wake her. “Maria!” he hissed in surprise as he tripped over his sister in the hallway. She jolted awake and glared at him. “What are you doing out here?” he demanded.

“What were you doing in there?" she retorted, smirking.

He flushed and shook his head, “That’s none of your concern.”

“Actually it is,” she said, “Liz is my responsibility, and I didn’t feel she should have a man in her room unchaperoned. So I took it upon myself to keep watch and not let you get all intimidating on her.”

“Maria, this is me we’re talking about,” he told her, eyebrow raised in disbelief.

She rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips. “I know Max, but you are still a member of the male species and you are in love with that woman,” she stated.

“I am…not,” he protested weakly, knowing it was a lie and knowing she would know that too.

“Go on Max, I’m gonna get her some breakfast, it’s nearly ten, and you have work to do.”

Ten! He sprinted to his study, leaving Maria to serve Liz breakfast and whatever else she did during the day. Maria watched her brother leave, and then laughingly headed to the kitchen, knowing Liz would wake up soon and no doubt be famished.

“Mmm…” She turned over, snuggling deeper into the covers on her bed. There was a subtle scent of cedar wood lingering on her pillow, and a warm imprint on her feather mattress.

She remembered that Max had come in late last night, and by every indication he had slept in her bed. With her. A blush crossed her face, which she hid, even from herself, by burrowing her head under Max’s pillow.

There was a sadness growing in her that he hadn’t stayed until she woke up, but he was probably embarrassed. He probably didn’t want her to get the wrong idea of how he felt about her.

“Hello?” a muffled voice called through the door. Liz started desperately attempting to fix her hair and garments.

“Come in, Maria.”

Her friend walked in, food heaped on a tray. “Thought we could have breakfast together.”

“Sounds great, “ she agreed, getting up and putting on a robe. Then she sat at the day table across from Maria and began to spread strawberry jam on a piece of toast.

“How do you feel about my brother?” Maria asked abruptly.

“What?” she gasped.

The other woman shrugged, “Well, it’s just that he’s in love with you, and I don’t want you to break his heart by not returning the sentiments.”

She was taken aback by Maria’s offhand tone. “You’ve got to be mistaken, Maria, Max has no feeling for me what so ever, at least, not those types of feelings…”

“So you do love him too?”

“Well, yes…I mean no, I mean, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter Maria, because Max is not in love with me.” Maria didn’t respond, she merely smiled blandly and took a sip of her tea. “He’s not,” she repeated, but she didn’t sound very convincing, not even to herself.

He isn’t, she thought, is he?
posted on 23-May-2002 12:26:32 PM
~Part Seventeen~

“He’s got some new woman!” she ranted to her grandfather. Edward looked at her over the news his steward had brought, his blue-gray eyes curious.

“Are you talking about Maxwell, Tessa?”

“Of course!” she exclaimed, “She’s not even pretty. She looks like a slave Grandfather, how could he like her over me?”

“I have no idea Tessa,” he replied absently, frowning over the papers.

“Are you even listening to me?” she demanded.

“Yes, you want Maxwell, I will arrange for that to happen,” he consoled, not looking up.

“You will?” she asked. “Oh, thank you Grandfather!” she gushed. He was jarred abruptly by a tight hug, and he allowed her a moment of affection before drawing way.

“Enough of that nonsense,” he said gruffly, “I have business to attend to.”

“But-”

“Tessa, do not worry, I will have it all taken care of. An invitation will be extended to Lord Evans and he will come. Now go, Tessa, you begin to grate on my nerves.” She dropped him a curtsey and rushed from the room, more than likely to torture some kittens.

He shook his head. True, he was appalled by some of her actions, but she was family, and he would not allow her to be locked away. It would cause unnecessary gossip and would reflect poorly on him.

But she was beginning to try his patience a little more each day. But once he married her off to Maxwell he wouldn’t have to deal with her. Plus, the alliance would gain him even more control over all goings on around island.

A slave was sent to deliver the message to the Evans plantation, telling Maxwell he was expected later that night and to be prepared to stay through the following day.

“I don’t believe this!” Max cried, throwing the envelope down on his desk. “What right does he have to demand my time?!”

“What is it?” Liz asked from her position behind his desk. She was sitting in his chair, lost in the vastness of it, and looking, to him, as if she belonged there.

“Edward has ‘invited’ me to his plantation for a day. I have to leave tonight.”

“Why don’t you just politely decline?” Liz asked, frowning as she picked up the brief note.

“You don’t ‘decline’ an invitation from Edward. I shall have to go, there is no help for it.” He sighed and poked his head out of his study door. “MARIA!” he bellowed.

“WHAT?” came his sister’s voice from below. He heard her come up the stairs and waited patiently. “What is it now, Max?”

“Can you pack me an overnight bag? I’ve been summoned to the Harding’s,” he finished sarcastically. Maria rolled her green eyes.

“Fine. When do you need it?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

She clucked her tongue and waved him away, heading for his room. Max turned back to Liz, who was rising from his chair. “I’m sorry Liz, I have to saddle Ebony. I’ll see you in a couple days.”

“I’ll see you off,” she offered and he smiled at her, happy to be in her company if only for a while longer.

“I’d like that,” he said quietly, proffering his hand. She took it, smiling shyly, and let him lead her to the stables. Sean was startled into action, and Maria was darting down to them when they were about to leave.

“We could stop at Alex’s,” Max suggested, wanting to prolong his absence from Edward’s. Liz nodded, her dark bun bobbing.

“I’d like that,” she told him, “I haven’t had an opportunity to thank him properly for taking care of me.”

Max felt a pang of jealousy. He had been the one to take care of her. But Alex was the doctor, and he had been the one to prescribe appropriate treatment. Plus, he was old. There was no reason to be envious of him.

He was pulled from his disturbing thoughts of resentment towards his friend by Liz nudging him. He looked over into her mischievous brown eyes. “What?”

“Race you!” And then she was gone, he spurred Ebony after Amber’s golden form. He quickly pulled abreast of her, mainly because she had a hard time galloping riding sidesaddle, and slowly began to get ahead. He spotted Alex’s cottage ahead.

But a rumble above turned his attention upward and the gray clouds that had been threatening all day began to rain. “Hurry!” he called back to Liz, not wanting her to get caught in the rain.

He looked back, and nearly reined Ebony back. Her face was completely white, her eyes wide and black in the face of the sudden storm, and he remembered that her parents were dead because of a storm. But she kept on, even though he could tell she was struggling to hold on to Amber’s reins.

Another crash of thunder sounded, and a bolt of lightning lit the sky, streaking down towards them. “Liz!” he warned, turning Ebony around to reach her.

The bolt hit the ground between them and everything seemed to move more slowly. He saw Amber rear in alarm and Liz slip from the saddle, her foot caught in the stirrup. “Max!” he heard her scream as Amber cantered forward, panicked.

He abruptly came back to himself, her scream echoing in his ears, and raced after her. Luckily Ebony was used to his master’s commands and was able to do as Max wished. He soon had Amber stopped and Liz in front of him, clinging to him as she gulped back tears of pain.

He led Amber to Alex’s and tethered the horses outside, in a small stable that was rarely used. “Alex!” he called as he carried Liz inside. “Alex help!”

Doctor Whitman entered immediately, throwing on a robe. He took one look at his visitors and took control. “Put her upstairs,” he ordered grimly, and grabbed his bag.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:29:50 PM
~Part Eighteen~

Liz shifted uncomfortably and glared down at her bandaged foot. A soft knock came at the door and she gasped, pulling the cotton sheets up tighter around her naked body. The door opened without her invitation, and Max poked his head in.

“Hi,” he whispered.

“Hi,” she replied, equally as quiet.

He entered the room and shut the door behind him, then paced over to the single window, staring for a long moment at the bright moon in the storm less sky. Then he turned to her, illuminated in that same patch of light.

He sucked in a breath and gazed at her. Her brown eyes were liquid pools, staring at him inquiringly, her long hair fell like a silky curtain around her bare shoulders. His breathing got shallower when he realized she was nude beneath the thin white sheet. He gulped loudly and walked over to her, sitting down beside her injured foot.

Liz watched him curiously as he placed a gentle hand on the wrapping. “You’re lucky it was only sprained,” he told her, voice strained and hoarse.

“I know,” she whispered, watching his hand as it made little circles on the brown skin surrounding the vivid white. She inhaled sharply as his hand slid further up. “Max…”

“Do you have any idea how scared I was?” he asked, looking at her. To her surprise there were tears shining in his beautiful eyes. She opened her mouth but he spoke again. “I thought…Lord, when you fell…I’ve never been so scared.”

“Max…” Her heart sped up at his words, at the fact that he was inching closer and closer to her.

“Ssh,” he ordered softly, placing a finger on her lips, “Please Liz, just this once, lets just pretend there’s nothing outside this room. No Tessa, no Edward, no plantation, or Maria, or bad memories. It’s just the two of us…you and me. And I’m in love with you.”

“Max-” But he cut her off again, this time with his lips. Her gasp was lost as his tongue entered her mouth.

He moaned deeply, lost in the warm sweetness of her. His hands took on a mind of their own and removed the sheets from her limp hands. She gave another gasp as his fingers ran lightly over the peaks of her breasts.

She should do something, she realized as he explored her body. She should be protesting his treatment of her. But right now she didn’t care that this was wrong in the eyes of society. It was like he said, just him and her. Max and Liz. And she loved him too.

Liz opened her mouth a little more and began to return his gestures tentatively. Her hands followed his lead and slowing began undoing the buttons of the simple white shirt he had borrowed from Alex while their clothes were drying.

She broke the kiss abruptly, attention now focused on the smooth muscles gliding under her soft caresses. His mouth traveled down her neck while she was occupied with this task, his body beginning to bear down on her, pressing her into the bed.

“Liz…” he groaned as her wandering hand found its way to his throbbing arousal. He deftly reached down and unfastened the breeches, allowing Liz full access to him. She gasped loudly yet again, brown eyes huge as she gazed down at him.

“Max, you’re…you’re not going to fit,” she stated, trying to wriggle out from beneath him.

“Liz,” he chuckled, using one hand to stay her movements. “I will fit, I promise.”

“How do you know?” she demanded, “You don’t. You’re too big. Get off.” He laughed louder at her imperious commands. “Stop laughing at me!” she exclaimed, irritation seeping into her voice. “You are such a-Ooh…ooh, Max, what are you…doing?” she panted.

Her body tensed as he slowly slid one finger into her core. “Just trust me love,” he coaxed, “Just open for me Liz, I’ll take care of the rest.”

Her hands spasmed on his shoulder, sharp nails digging into the skin, causing him a painful sense of pleasure. He eased another finger in her, creating a rhythm her body began to echo. He watched her face as she experienced her first taste of carnal knowledge, she moved against his hand with a fierce concentration, her expression making him want to bury him self inside of her.

He had never been with a virgin before. He hadn’t actually been with a lot of woman, he had had a mistress in London for a while, but when he moved permanently to the island, he hadn’t brought her along. She’d never made him feel the way the tiny woman beneath him did. And he was determined to make this enjoyable for both of them, so he had to take it slow.

Liz head shifted from side to side restlessly, seeking something she couldn’t name. “Max,” she begged, not knowing what was happening to her. He covered her mouth with his as his hand moved one last time, and her body left her control, shattering into thousands of tiny pieces…

He felt with satisfaction her climax as she quivered and shuddered beneath him, her cry lost against his lips. Max drew his hand from her welcoming heat and carefully replaced it with his arousal.

Honey was dripping from her core, and he meticulously coated himself in it before inserting himself into her wet heat. Her breath caught and she stared at him, wide-eyed, as her whole body went from a state of total relaxation to one of nervous anticipation. “Max!”

“Hush Liz,” he murmured, pushing further into the tightness of her channel. “It will be all right, just part your thighs a bit more, love… That’s it.”

She followed his instructions obligingly, but she wasn’t sure if she liked this part. He felt different than his fingers. She wanted to have that floating feeling again… “Are you sure this will work?” she inquired, grasping his shoulders as his lower body slid in and out of her.

“Positive,” he assured her. “Just hold me tighter, this will sting,” he warned as he surged upward, breaking her maidenhead. She cried out and pushed at him.

“Stop, this isn’t nice at all. Please get off now.”

He rested his head in the hollow between her shoulder and the bed and hid a smile. “I can’t Liz. Just wait a moment and don’t move.”

“Max!” she said, exasperated.

“Liz!” he mocked, lifting his head up and smiling down at her. She grew quiet as he peppered kisses over her face. When he had her suitably distracted he began to thrust again, gently.

When she became aware of his movements within her again, she was going to scold him, but them she realized it wasn’t that uncomfortable. It fact, the friction was really quite pleasant…

Liz felt the hum build up in her body again as Max’s thrusts became more frantic. Now she moved against him eagerly, wanting that feeling…She was just on the edge when Max let out a strangled cry, his last push sending over the brink and she let out her own shout of release.

When they had both come down off their highs, Max gradually detached him self from her tranquil body. He grabbed a cloth from the washstand and tenderly cleaned her. Blushing, she started to close her legs, but he gave her a gentle smile and pushed them back apart.

Then he lay back down beside her, taking her in his arms. She nestled closer to him, seeking out the intimacy she had discovered when they had become one. Max tightened his grip on the woman who had overwhelmed his soul, as she fell asleep. Nothing had ever felt as right as it had when he had been lost inside her.

His last coherent thought before he followed his lover into oblivion was that they had fit together perfectly.

She was his match.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:33:26 PM
~Part Nineteen~

Liz woke up warm and feeling fulfilled. Memories had haunted her dreams, wonderful memories of her mother and father, baking, swimming, sailing, laughing, playing…She had managed to find herself last night, Max had triggered something in her…Something that was content and loved.

She laughed suddenly as the thought occurred to her. She was Elizabeth Parker, and she was completely in love with Maxwell Evans.

She turned to him, to tell him of her latest discovery, and found her bed empty of another body.

“Max?”

A knock drew her attention to the door and Alex peeked his head in. She clutched the covers closer to her bare chest as he walked in with her dress. “I thought I heard you were up,” he said, laying the dress at the foot of her bed and patting her leg, “Let me see your foot.”

She moved her foot from beneath the sheets and he bent studiously to access her ankle. Clucking to himself he unwound it and poked and prodded, looking up at her face to see her reactions. Then he wound it back up and Liz finally found the courage and the words to ask what she wanted to know as discreetly as possible.

“Is Max awake yet?”

Alex looked up, surprised, “Up and away just after dawn. He said he had an appointment at the Hardings.”

“So he just left?” she demanded in disbelief.

“Well of course.” Alex looked at her as if she were a bit mad. “I’m surprised he didn’t leave last night after you were settled. One does not keep a man like Edward Harding waiting after all, not if he wants to keep what’s his.”

“What do you mean?” she inquired.

He gave her another look, “Never you mind Miss Liz, Max can handle it. He always does. But, if it makes you feel any better, I have strict instructions to see you home safe, and to make sure Maria puts you in bed and keeps you there.”

“That’s not necessary Dr. Whitman, I’m sure I can manage.” Another stern look was shot in her direction and she smiled, he reminded her of her father. “I promise Doctor, I’ll be all right, and I’m sure you have things to do today.”

“That’s true enough,” he told her, relenting, “But you will stay for breakfast, is that understood young lady?”

“Yes, sir.” She gave him a mock salute, like she had so often given her father in the past, and reached for her clothing. “I’ll be down in just a bit.”

Half an hour later Alex helped her into Amber’s saddle and sent her on her way. Liz rode at a steady trot until she reached Max’s home, at which she waited until Maria came barreling out to assist her down.

“Where have you been? Goodness, Lizzie, what happened?” The older woman continued to chatter away, supporting Liz as they limped their way to her bedroom.

“It’s just a sprain Maria, the doctor said it would be all right in a couple days.”

“And why didn’t my brother escort you home?” Her green eyes were flashing, “Unless you left him in the dust the rate you came galloping up…”

“He went to the Hardings.”

“You mean he just left you?” Maria demanded, “Of all the ridiculous things that man has done…”

“Alex said he was right to, that you don’t keep Edward Harding waiting.”

“True enough, I suppose,” Maria conceded, “But normally he’s a tad more considerate…” Her friend trailed off, staring at her with her head cocked to the side. “What happened last night Liz? Besides the storm and your ankle. Something happened, I can see it in your eyes.”

Liz looked away, unsure whether to confide last nights amazing events to her lover’s half sister. But she needed someone to talk to. “He made love to me,” she whispered.

“No,” Maria breathed, eyes wide, “He didn’t dare.”

Liz nodded earnestly, “He did. He told me he loved me and then he laid me down and…” she sighed, “It was odd at first, but so utterly wonderful too. I’ve never felt like that Maria.” She gazed dreamily off into the distance, reliving the incredible experience. “And when I woke up I remembered everything Maria, I know who I am now.” She smiled sleepily, feeling tuckered out over the exertion of the day. “Max set me free.”

Maria watched her young charge fall asleep and vowed to kill her brother quite painfully. How dare he take advantage of Liz’s innocence like that! It didn’t matter at the moment that she knew they loved one another, what mattered was that Max hadn’t done his wooing properly. No flowers or chocolates, no rides through the fields or whispers of devotion. She’d even wager he hadn’t asked her to marry him first. And he called himself a gentleman. Humph.

A few hours later she came bustling out of the kitchen when a ruckus drifted through the front door. “What in Heaven’s name is going on here?” she queried harshly.

Tessa Harding turned triumphant blue eyes on her, “None of your business, go back to work.” And then she continued to shout orders at scurrying servants. Maria was going to tell her off when she noticed Max, huddled miserably in a corner, and rushed over to him.

“Max, what is that woman doing in my household?” He looked at her, brown eyes filled with a supreme sadness. “Max you tell me what’s wrong this instant.”

“Don’t be too angry with me Maria, I didn’t have a choice.”

“A choice in what?”

He just shook his head. “Where’s Liz?”

“She was napping last I saw, by the way, I believe you said you didn’t need a chaperone.” She raised an eyebrow at him.

He didn’t smile. “I wish I had had one last night, maybe then this wouldn’t be such a mess.”

“Max,” she whispered, pale, and looked back over at Tessa, “Tell me honestly what’s going on, and why she’s here.”

“Well Miss Nosy,” Tessa put in, hands on her hips, obviously having heard Maria’s last comment, “As Maxwell’s fiancée, I have a right to be here.”

Maria’s jaw dropped, but before she could blow up a distressed gasp came from the top of the stairs. Everyone’s eyes turned to the brown-haired girl, who had been woken by the commotion, as her wide eyes filled with tears and she spun, blindly heading for her room.

“Liz,” Max said inaudibly to all but Maria. He started as his beloved tripped on her hurt ankle, heading for the staircase, but his sister stayed him.

“I’ll go, she won’t want to see you.” Green eyes conveyed the message that they would talk later, and that he’s be sorry afterwards. But he didn’t much care if Maria threatened his life, because his heart was already breaking at the betrayal he’d seen in her eyes.

Curse that Edward Harding, curse him to the most fiery depths of Hell.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:35:44 PM
~Part Twenty~

Humiliated, Liz scrambled up from the floor. She wiped viciously at her watering eyes, hating herself for being so weak. She got her bearings slowly, testing her wait on her foot, but refused to look back down at them. Standing straight she kept her eyes on her bedroom door and began to hobble toward it, trying to keep as much of her dignity intact as possible.

“Liz!” The soft shout made her walk faster, but she could hear Maria’s footsteps behind her, light and quick.

The door, she told herself, just get to the door. She couldn’t talk now, not even to Maria. She needed to not think, she needed to cry and sleep and forget. God, how she needed to forget!

“Liz!”

But she shut the door, sobbing as she collapsed against it. “Let me be Maria,” she pleaded.

“But Liz,” she said, voice muffled through the door, “You need to talk-”

No, I don’t,” she countered, not letting her friend finish her sentence, “Just go away Maria, what I need is to be alone.”

Maria rested her head on the inert door and felt tears rise to her own eyes as she listened to Liz’s movements on the other side. So slow and broken. She could hear the hushed crying too, and it was breaking her heart…

Straightening abruptly, she collected her wits and stormed off, fire coursing through her veins. Max had better have a good, no a very, very plausible, explanation for this or he’d never live to see his wedding day!

“Max!” she bellowed, peering over the railing to the lower level where Tessa was still standing. Disdainful blue eyes looked up at her.

“He went to his study to conduct some business, do not disturb him.”

Rolling green eyes she pushed away from the banister and mocked Tess all the way to her half-brother’s study. She pushed open the door with no warning and swept down on him.

Max started and looked up alarmed, but then he relaxed and gestured for her to shut the door. “I thought you were her,” he informed Maria, relief coloring his voice.

“Which her?” she responded, and Max did not like her tone.

“Tessa.”

“Oh,” she said, coming to sit primly in the chair before his desk, which Liz so often occupied these days. Max felt a pang, wondering if she’d ever be able to forgive him. "That her."

“How’s Liz?” he asked, ignoring her sarcasm.

“How do you think she is?” Maria demanded, but at Max’s pained expression, she softened, “I don’t know, she wouldn’t talk to me.”

He groaned and scrubbed his face with his hands. “Everything’s gotten so muddled, Maria. One minute I’m watching her sleep, and the next…” He shrugged, feeling lost in his head.

“The next you’re engaged to someone you don’t even like.”

“Exactly.”

“What happened Max?” she asked, “You love Liz. I can see it, have seen it, for weeks and weeks now. Why all of a sudden this thing with Tessa?” She knew he had to have a good explanation, he never did anything without one. But she just couldn’t imagine what was so gargantuan, that he’d hurt the one person that meant more to him than anything.

“He threatened her,” Max said, staring blindly at the wall behind her. His fist clenched unconsciously. “He dared to threaten her!” The fist crashed down on the desk, the impact making Maria jump. She hoped he hadn’t broken his hand.

“What, Max?” she inquired, slightly irritated, “You’re going to have to elaborate on that.”

His attention swam back into focus and his lovely eyes bled helplessness. “Edward, he threatened Liz’s life.”

Her jaw dropped for the second time in an hour and she shook her head. “Oh, I knew he was scum, but to stoop that low…”

“I couldn’t think of what to do Maria. I just froze and I kept seeing her…dead,” his voice was no more than a whisper, “I couldn’t think of any other way to protect her besides what he offered…Liz for Tessa…”

“Oh Lord, Max.” Maria went around and hugged her little brother. They sat in silence for a while, Max crying in her arms. “But what about sending her to London,” Maria suggested, trying to come up with some way to get him out of the arrangement.

“No,” he shook his head, “That’s worse than here. You know how powerful he is, and all those assassins for hire…She wouldn’t have a chance there.”

“Well,” she said briskly, “I’ll think of something, don’t you worry.” Nodding decisively she got up to finish her daily chores. She’d come up with something foolproof, and then Max and Liz could be happy and Edward and Tessa would be out of the picture.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:40:07 PM
~Part Twenty-One~

The flare of a match broke the stillness in the room and she set it to the taper of the candle, making the wick burn. She waved the matchstick out and seated herself on the vanity chair, taking out a piece of scented paper she had found in a drawer.

She stared into the candle flame for a moment, contemplating what she was doing. Did she really want to…? But wasn’t it the only way? To escape Max, Tessa, their wedding, this place…

Decisive now she dipped the quill into the ink stand and pressed it to the paper:

Dear Lord Valenti...

She paused and took a breath, trying to compose herself and organize her thoughts:

I hope the times find you well in both health and spirit. I myself have not been so lucky. I do not know if you are aware, or heard of what happened on our way to London to meet with you. But in case the news did not reach you, I will attempt to explain my absence.

The
Whirlwind was caught in a large storm…I was thrown from the ship and awoke on an island several days journey from my destination. For the past few months I have been living on that island with the people who saved me from death. But I did not have my memories.

I regained them just yesterday and my immediate thoughts were of my family. I do not know if they survived the storm, though I suspect they did not… However, if there is any news, any at all, I would appreciate the information.

My second thoughts were of you, your Grace, I knew you would be worried when the
Whirlwind did not make it into port at the scheduled time, and I have written this letter to ease your mind.

I am also unaware if your offer of an alliance between the two of us is still valid. Forgive me if I seem too forward, but I am anxious to leave this place. I will accept the proposition if you still desire me to wed you.

The man who delivered this letter will be back on the morrow to collect your answer. He is my friend, and very trustworthy. I shall anxiously await the arrival of your response.

Yours,
Elizabeth Parker


She sighed heavily and read the letter over. Satisfied, she folded it and placed it inside an envelope with his Grace’s name printed on the front. Then she picked up the quill again and began to write to her ignorant courier.

Dear Michael,

Please do not roll your eyes at me when you finish reading my request, this is an urgent matter that I would have resolved immediately.

If you would bring the enclosed letter to the proper recipient I would be most grateful. He will be expecting you the evening after to give you his reply. I will be anticipating the response upon your return.

Thank you,
Liz


She put this note in another envelope along with her letter to her fiancée and wrote the address on front in clear, concise handwriting. This was it. She was holding her future in her hands.

Glancing up she saw it was almost morning and decided to get some more sleep. She’d give the letter to Maria in the morning. Maria would handle everything.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a letter,” Liz replied innocently, “I wrote to some people in London who may have news of my parents…just in case they’re alive.” She looked away for a minute to catch hold of her still sore emotions on that front. “I didn’t know their directions so I just wrote their names down and would like to send the whole thing to Michael. He’d know who they are, right?”

Maria’s eyes were now both sympathetic and amused. “That man knows anyone who’s anyone. I’m sure he’ll be able to help. I’ll just ride it down to the harbor to the correspondence ship. They’re set to sail late this evening, out with the tide and all…”

“Thank you.”

“No trouble at all Lizzie,” she hesitated, biting her lip, “Liz, can I talk to you about this Max and Tessa thing?”

Her friend stiffened and her brown eyes became unreadable. “Nothing to discuss Maria.”

“Liz-”

“I have to go.” And she took off, heading again for her room and sanctuary. Maria sighed and considered heading after her, but if Liz wanted this letter gone this week, she’d need to leave now.

She pouted a bit, wishing she could jump on the mail boat and head to her Michael with this dispatch. But she couldn’t, too many responsibilities… And so she set out, planning to talk to Liz about Max when she came back.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:42:59 PM
~Part Twenty-Two~

“Michael!” Maria shrieked. She slid down the banister of the front stairway and into his arms. He twirled her around twice, a little stunned at the impact, and then set her down, scrutinizing her.

“Have you gained weight?” he inquired, grinning.

Her jaw dropped, and her beautiful emerald eyes flashed, before she turned red and let out an indignant squeal. “Michael, you…you clod! How dare you even-” He cut her off, kissing her deeply, the way he had wanted to from the moment he had seen first seen her. The way he had always wanted to whenever he saw her.

She stamped her foot and pushed against him, obviously trying to tell him that she wasn’t in the mood, but then she melted, wrapping her arms around him and sighing into his mouth.

He let her go leisurely, and his grin grew at her dazed, soft expression. “I was just jesting, Maria, you know you’re the most beautiful woman in the world to me.”

She smiled up at him, still in a dreamy fantasy world, and then she abruptly snapped out of it. She shot him a warning glare and looked around briskly, making sure no one had witnessed their “heart-to-heart”. “Nice work, Michael,” she hissed, “Just what I need, to be viewed as a compromised woman. Thanks a lot!”

“Maria,” he chuckled, hugging her, “You are a compromised woman.” She made another one of those squeals and attempted to escape his embrace yet again. He held her fast, “But I made an honest woman of you.”

She stopped struggling and turned her head, brushing blonde hair from her eyes. “We’re not married yet Michael.”

“We’re engaged Maria, it’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not. Engagements can be broken,” she pointed out.

“Maria…I’m not planning on breaking our engagement.” He turned her around and looked at her closely. “Where’s this coming from?”

She sighed, “Edward threatened Liz’s life if Max didn’t propose to Tessa. So he did and now they’re engaged and Liz is sad and I don’t know what to do!”

“Why would Liz be sad? And why would Max care? I thought they detested each other…”

“You blockhead! They’re in love with each other!” she yelled.

“Oh,” was his response, “So, where are they?”

“Max is out riding, and I have no idea where Liz is. I can never find her lately, and neither can Max. One minute she’s in her room, and then she’s in the library, and then the kitchen, the fields, the stables, Dr. Whitman’s…She just doesn’t want to be found, and I need to sit her down and have a talk with her about the situation.” She gave a frustrated groan. “She doesn’t even know why Max did it.”

“Well-”

“Michael!” came another shout and Liz ran carefully, delicately down the stairs from the direction of Max’s study. “Michael do you have my letter?”

She stopped just beside them, looking anxious. Michael pulled an envelope out of his back pocket and handed it to her. Maria watched in stunned fascination as she tore it open and read it over. An expression of relief came over her face and she looked up at Michael. “What time is the ship set to sail back to London?”

“Tomorrow, at dawn,” he replied, seemingly lost, and Maria was right beside him. She had no idea what Liz was getting at.

“Liz, I need to talk to you-”

“I can’t Maria,” she replied, turning and heading back up the stairs. “I have to pack now.”

“Pack?” Liz nodded and continued on her way, Maria on her heels. Michael decided to go get something to eat from the kitchen. He didn’t want to get mixed up in girl stuff. “Pack for what?” Maria demanded, panting as she leaned on Liz’s doorframe.

Liz dragged a bag from under her bed. “I’m allowed to keep the clothes, right?”

“Of course, but-”

“I’m getting away Maria. I can’t be near him, not now.”

“You don’t have the funds to survive in London!”

Liz paused and looked at the floor. “I remembered everything Maria…” She trailed off and Maria tapped her foot impatiently. “I remembered I had a fiancée.”

“What?” she cried, not expecting that.

“I’ve never met him. My father made the deal, that’s why we were going to England, to meet him. But we never made it.”

“Lizzie…”

“When Max…Well, I wrote him, to see if he still wanted me, and he does, so I’m going.” She picked up the small bag and stood straight. “I’ll write you when I get there, all right?” She gave Maria, who was still standing there, shocked, a hug. “I love you Maria.”

A few minutes later Maria shook herself out of her stupor and ran down the stairs shouting for Liz, but it was too late, she was already gone. “Ugh!” She was just going to have to get a horse and go after her.

“Maria!” came a cry from the kitchen, “Maria! Mr. Guerin is eating the Master’s dinner!!!”

“Oh, fiddlesticks! Michael!” she roared.

Max ran up the front steps, completely happy for the first time since he had made love to Liz. “LIZ!” he shouted once he shut the front door, “LIZ!!”

“Max? What is it?” Maria came running from the kitchen, Michael on her tail.

“Edward had a heart attack, he’s dead. Which means I’m free and Tessa will be locked in Bedlam as soon as the proper authorities get the word!” He grinned, “Where’s Liz? I need to kiss her.”

“Uh…” Maria and Michael exchanged looks, “She’s gone Max.”

Her frowned, “What do you mean she’s gone?”

“She left this morning, on the ship to London. You were gone, and we didn’t…” Max shook his head in disbelief.

“I’m going after her.”

“Max, she went to see her fiancée.”

He looked up sharply, amber eyes jewel hard. “What?” he bit off.

“She remembered… And she wrote to him, and she went…”

“Well then I’m going to get her back,” he said, determined.

“Max-”

“No, Maria,” he interrupted, “She loves me, I know it. She knows it. And I know I’ve handled this situation badly, but I can fix it now and I’m damn well going to! Now please, both of you pack, we leave for London on the next ship.”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:45:05 PM
~Part Twenty-Three~

~“I’ve arranged for you to have a well-staffed townhouse all to yourself until we are married,” James told her kindly. Liz smiled at her fiancée, touched, but a little put off.

James was thirty years her senior, with graying hair, wrinkles, and a gut that suggested he enjoyed fine wines. He also had a daughter five years older than Liz, who was unable to have children. She looked across the room to the older woman.

Kyla gave her a forced smile, blue eyes unhappy. It was obvious the golden haired Lady did not want to relinquish her title as heir or her position as mistress of her father’s home, but she was not going to stand in James’ way of having a male heir, granted that Elizabeth could provide one.

“Thank you my lord,” Elizabeth replied, “But I wish to speak with you alone,” she shot a look at Kyla, “Please.” James nodded at her and dismissed his stocky daughter.

“What is it Elizabeth?” he inquired gently.

Liz took a deep breath, “There are things you should aware of before we go through with this marriage, my lord.” She looked straight into his blue eyes. “I am a compromised woman, sir.”

The bemused blue eyes went from surprise to confusion. “What?”

“I will not be coming to our marriage bed a virgin, my lord. There was a man where I was stranded…We…” she trailed off, blushing. She blocked her mind from remembering that night, how safe she had felt in Max’s arms…”I just thought that you should know, in case you have second thoughts.”

James smiled again, “Elizabeth, I realize you were lost and alone, and naturally you’d cling to your savior. I won’t hold it against you, after all, I’m not exactly untouched my self.” He laughed, “I wouldn’t expect anything of you that I couldn’t promise myself.” He watched her smile in gratitude and he felt a paternal sort of happiness fill him.

She was a sweet girl, pretty, and far too young for him. He knew he wouldn’t be long in this world, so she wouldn’t be bothered with him for an extended amount of time, but he would have a son of her before he went.

“Thank you, my lord.”~


Elizabeth smiled at yet another acquaintance, freeing her mind of the discussion she had had with James weeks ago. She had settled comfortable in to London society, but missed the simplicity of the isle. But that was another thought she viciously repressed. Nostalgia would only drag her down.

The isle didn’t exist for her now.

Max didn’t exist for her now.

She was the Duke James Valenti’s fiancée, debutante of the Season, and the most titillating person of the ton. Everyone wanted to know every detail of her “ordeal”, terming it an absolute triumph. The women would sigh over the mystery man she blushed over, gasp about the horrendous treatment of the neighboring plantation’s slaves, and gossip about the events Elizabeth refused to disclose to the general public.

To tell the truth she never really said anything, the members of the Haute Monde filled in every aspect of her trauma for her. She just gave a sad smile and tried to avoid them. She didn’t want to think about that part of her life, it was over with.

James had prepared a funeral for her parents, even though they had died at sea, and had lived in Roswell. The empty burial site was on the Valenti family plot, and Liz rode there each day to lay fresh flowers and allow her mind to explore her newfound memories.

Their assets had been discovered and recorded, Liz had written letters to the people closest to her family and tried to create a closure about the incident.

She had recently begun to join her future husband in his ventures on the town, with Kyla chaperoning her and showing her the sights. She had met no one who rivaled Maria in her position of best friend, and there was no man who caught her eye like Max had. She had resigned herself to be a good wife to James and forget her past.

Unfortunately, she had to continually remind herself of that fact.

Tonight was another ball, and right now she was searching for James. She was feeling dizzy from the champagne and wanted to take her leave for the night. She had also had the unnerving feeling that someone had been watching her all night, but when she looked around, no one was there.

Liz finally spotted him next to Kyla, talking to a man who looked startlingly familiar from the back. She frowned as she approached, trying to put her finger on where she had seen that stance before…

James’ blue eyes twinkled as she walked closer, “Ah, here she is.” The man turned around and Liz bit back a shocked gasp. Amber eyes bore into her, amused and passionate. Max…

“Lord Maxwell Evans, may I present my fiancée, Elizabeth Parker?”
posted on 23-May-2002 12:45:57 PM
~Part Twenty-Four~

“Miss Parker,” he said warmly, tone colored with amusement at her shock. She looked stunning standing there, her pink lips parted in surprise, the smooth skin of her shoulders trembling, the way her breaths were coming faster, making her breasts push against the silk fabric of her dress…He wanted to take her here, now. He wanted to renew his claim on her.

But that would come soon enough.

He watched her take a deep breath and extended a gloved hand, her eyes boring into him, “Lord Evans,” she murmured. He took the hand she offered and bent, eyes locked on hers, placing a kiss on the back of it. He felt her tense, and she unfurled her fan, waving it in front of her face, but Max could she the faint flush of roses rising in her cheeks.

He straightened, but kept hold of her hand, his grip tightening when she tried to pull away. “Lord Valenti, might I persuade you to allow Elizabeth to join me in the waltz?” He glanced at James, who was smiling.

“Of course Maxwell, I’m sure she’d enjoy that. I’m afraid I can’t dance like I used to,” he gave another smile, “Bad leg.”

“Oh, no,” Liz began to protest, but Max whisked her out onto the dance floor. “Just what do you think you are about, sir?” she hissed, glaring at him.

“I’ve come to take you home,” he whispered back, confidently twirling her into a complicated spin, and ending it with her caught tight against his body.

Liz gasped and resisted the urge to curl into him. She couldn’t believe he had the nerve to pull a stunt like this, showing up here looking all appetizing in his coat and tails, and the way his trousers fit…She felt hot all over and knew he had done all this just to put her off guard.

“Somehow I don’t think Tessa would appreciate my presence,” she muttered.

“And I don’t give a damn about what Tessa appreciates,” was his response. She looked up at him sharply to find his eyes had darkened to the black they had been the night they made love, and the volatile passion was roiling just on the surface.

“That’s rude, Lord Evans,” she reprimanded, “Your fiancée should be the most important person in your life at the moment.”

She watched in amazement as a grin spread over his face, “I haven’t got a fiancée.” Her mouth dropped open slightly and she gazed up at him, eyes a mass of confusion. He bent his head, “Stop looking so inviting,” he growled, pressing her tighter against him. Her brown eyes widened as she felt his arousal.

“Max!” she gritted out, her hand clutching his shoulder. Infuriatingly, he laughed, and she stiffened. “Max, whatever it is you’re doing, just stop please,” she begged, “Just tell me why you’re here.”

He relented, loosening his hold on her. “I told you, I’ve come to bring you back. I love you Liz, did you really think I’d just let you go? Just like that?”

Her eyes narrowed angrily, “I will not demean myself to be your mistress, Maxwell Evans!”

“I’m asking you to be my wife, Liz,” he corrected.

“Wha…What? How?” she demanded, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Tessa’s being locked away in Bedlam even as we speak, Edward died of a heart attack…The isle’s ours Liz, ours to do with as we please. Come back with me Liz,” he pleaded, “Be my wife.”

“Max…” she trailed off, casting an anxious glance around them, everyone’s eyes were upon them, speculating. She should have protested more, dancing the most scandalous dance known to man with a supposed stranger. She shook her head, “You’re creating a scene Max,” she scolded, voice lowered, “I will not hurt James in such a manner, he’s been too kind.”

Max snorted, twirling her around and switching steps as the orchestra began a new set. “Oh, yeah, very kind. He’ll be expecting recompense in bed, Liz.”

She set her mouth in a disapproving pout, “I’ve already told him of my compromised state, my lord, he assured me it was of no consequence.”

He leaned closer, ignoring her hiss of warning, “And what happens if you’re pregnant with my babe, right now? What then, Liz? Will he be so very understanding then?”

“Maxwell, stop please,” she entreated him.

He cursed under his breath and stopped, leading her back to James, through the crowd. She gripped his hand tightly, imploring him to understand, to make him see it was killing her, but it was the right thing to do. Suddenly he ducked them out of sight, behind a pillar holding up the ceiling.

“Max!”

His arm was resting above her head, the other holding her arm. “You never told me good-bye Liz,” he whispered, leaning down, his eyes focused on her lips.

Her breath caught in her throat and all thoughts of being seen flew from her head as his lips met hers gently, tenderly sliding over each other until her lips parted in defeat, allowing him to slip into her, groaning from the pleasure of tasting her again. “Max,” she moaned softly, her body moving closer to his, pressing against him and rubbing demandingly.

He broke off the kiss with a ragged breath and grabbed her jaw with one hand, forcing him to look in his eyes. Her own were huge, star-filled and lovingly dazed, and he knew she still loved him, that all the protesting she was doing was a front.

She’d come home with him.

Satisfied, he kissed her temple and took her arm, leading her away from the sanctuary and towards her fiancée. James’ daughter was watching them suspiciously, staring too hard for Max’s liking at Liz’s expression.

“Maria will come by tonight to help you pack,” he muttered to Liz, and then set his face into a smile, “James, I must say you’re missing out. Elizabeth’s a wonderful dancer.” He grinned down at her as she blushed and placed another kiss to the back of her hand before allowing James to take her arm.

Liz stared at him shyly, “Thank you, my lord.” She sent him a soft smile as their eyes locked.

“Father, we should be leaving, Elizabeth is looking weary,” Kyla said, interrupting the moment. She gave Max a fake smile, blue eyes glittering dangerously, “It was a pleasure meeting you, my lord.”

He gave her a noncommittal nod, “Miss Valenti, Lord Valenti.” He gazed at Liz, smile curving his lips again, “Miss Parker,” he said lightly, voice warm. Liz blushed again, much to his delight, “I wish you all a good-night.”

“Good-night to you too Evans, tell you parents hello for me,” James told him as he led Kyla and Liz away. His lover looked back at him as they made their excuses to their hostess.

“Tonight,” he mouthed, and she nodded.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:48:28 PM
~Part Twenty-Five~

“Thank you for escorting me home Kyla,” Liz told the older girl politely, starting to take down her long hair, “But you must know by now that I am perfectly capable of preparing myself for bed.”

She glanced over and Kyla’s blue eyes were fixed on her, suspicion lurking in the ocean’s depths. Liz met her gaze, knowing what was coming. “Are you planning on having an affair with Lord Evans?” Kyla asked forthrightly.

Liz blinked rapidly, she had known it was coming, but to hear it put so bluntly was odd. “No,” she said softly, “Max and I are not going to have an affair.”

“Max?” Kyla demanded, “You have the gall to call him by a diminutive of his first name, and then tell me you’re not planning to bed him after you marry my father?!” The blue eyes were sparking with anger and Kyla rose to her full height and strode over to Liz, towering above the girl’s slight frame.

Liz held her ground, “I am not planning to marry your father, Kyla.”

The statement arrested the taller woman, who glared at Liz in confusion. “What?”

She took a deep breath and looked straight into Kyla Valenti’s eyes. “I love Max, Kyla. I have for a very long time. He’s the man who…He rescued me, Kyla, when I was dying on his isle. He saved me, and in the beginning he regretted that decision because I was a thorn in his side, but something along the way changed and we fell in love. He didn’t come to London to visit his parents, he came to get me back. And I’m going.”

Kyla sat on the edge of Liz’s bed. “So you were just using my father,” she accused, “Used him to buy you pretty things and a home and now you’re going to discard him like, like…” She stood up abruptly, “I’m telling him.”

“Kyla please!” Liz called, one hand outstretched to the escaping woman. She paused in her flight and stared at Liz. “Don’t hurt your father like that.”

“Me hurt him?” Kyla choked, “Me?”

“It’s better he doesn’t know. It’s better for me just to be gone.”

“And let him live with the ridicule while you live happily ever after with your Lord Evans?” she concluded derisively, tears thickening her voice. She could not believe Liz would do this to her father!

“Kyla, you don’t like me. James doesn’t love me.” Liz shook her brown head, “What life would that be for any of us? This way you and James can find a woman who suits both of you, someone you can both live with. Someone with a title, money… Someone beneficial. I can’t provide that. I’m a merchant’s daughter, there are only two ships left to the Parker name, and I’m in love with someone else. I’m not for London or the country. I need the sea air, the freedom, the smell of spice as I fall asleep…I’d whither away here.”

She needed Kyla to understand that this was for the best way, for all parties involved. By the look in Kyla’s eyes, it seemed she was accepting the explanation. After all, Liz knew she wanted to be rid of her.

“Very well,” she finally said, nodding her blond head, and then she left.

Liz breathed a sigh of relief and sat down on the floor, the skirts of her dress spread out around her. Well, that was one thing taken care of. Now, she needed to pack. But Liz didn’t move, she stared at the wardrobe for a long while, debating whether or not she should take the things James had bought her or not.

Should she leave them, or bring them? He’d bought them for her thinking she’d be marrying him. Liz had accepted them thinking she’d be marrying him. But now she wasn’t, and was it right to take them?

In the end she decided that they had been made especially for her, fitted by a modiste, and made to her exact measurements. No one else was going to get any use of them, so she might as well pack them, but she decided that she’d leave the jewelry.

She dragged bags out from underneath the bed and went about pulling dresses and shoes from her wardrobe and piling them on the bed. Suddenly she gave a little shriek and spun around.

There was someone outside her window!

She was about to call for help when the figure pushed back a black cloak to reveal blonde hair, green eyes, and a bright smile. “Maria!” Liz gasped, and then ran to the window to open it. Her friend tumbled in and then stood and hissed out the window for someone to stay put.

“Oh Lizzie,” Maria cried, pulling the smaller woman into a hug, “I missed you so much!”

“I missed you to Maria,” Liz told her, hugging her back tightly. They broke apart, both smiling and tearing up.

“Come on,” Maria said briskly, “Let’s get you packed and home. Max has been rampaging since you left. He’s a complete boar to live with.”

Liz giggled and pointed to her things. “I’ve already started, so it shouldn’t take too long.”

They got to work, voices hushed and excited, and soon got everything done with. Then they tossed the bags out the window to a waiting Michael, and climbed down the ladder. They made their way to the carriage Michael had parked down the street, quietly and under the cover of darkness.

Liz began to get nervous when they pulled up in front of a large brownstone townhouse. He was in there. Waiting for her.

Max perked up when he heard movement in the room next door. She was here, he thought with satisfaction. He moved from the chair in front of his room’s fireplace and moved over to the connecting door, listening with impatience as Maria chattered on. Why couldn’t his sister just leave things alone? No, that wasn’t Maria’s style, she always had to be a nuisance.

Thankfully he heard Liz inform her that they didn’t need to bother with unpacking, and she was capable of getting herself ready for bed. There was some more light talking and then he heard a door close.

Finally, he thought, and leaned his head on the door, listening now to Liz undressing. Max took a deep breath and knocked once, then opened the door. His eyes went straight to her slender form, hidden by a dressing robe, much like the one he himself was wearing.

A sense of rightness swept through him at seeing her here, in the bedroom meant for his wife.

“Lord Evans?” she inquired, brown eyes amused as she turned to face him. He smiled, gliding further into the room and closer to her.

“I’ve been warned away from you Miss Parker,” he commented, taking her into his arms. He dropped a kiss on the side of her neck, smiling as she gave a little moan and wrapped her arms around him.

“Really?” she asked, “By whom?”

“Everybody,” he said airily, “The latest on dit is that you’re a ruined woman.” He chuckled and reached down to untie her robe, pulling her nude body against his. She was so soft and warm, pliant against the hardness of his masculine body. The mamas of the eligible young heiresses had been quite forthcoming with information on the mysterious Elizabeth Parker. “Gossips have it you were spirited away to a heathen island and spent your days and nights making reckless, passionate love to a native.”

Her rich laughter filled the room. “Funny,” she murmured, “I don’t recall mentioning that to anyone.” Her lips found his in a searing kiss until he had to break off, lungs screaming for air.

“And I only seem to recall one night of passion,” he added, hands traveling down her body. He picked her up and flung her onto the bed. She sat there, eyes wide, mouth smiling, body inviting. Max undid his robe and joined her in the bed. “I’ll have to remedy that situation,” he told her before he kissed her.
posted on 23-May-2002 12:50:21 PM
~Part Twenty-Six~

Maria grumbled as she made her way to the front door. Max had decided against equipping the townhouse with a bunch of servants due to the fact that they wouldn’t be in London long, so Maria was stuck with the duties of housekeeper, butler, and cook.

Speaking of which, Max and Liz had not gotten out of bed yet and the scrumptious breakfast Maria had made had gone to waste. And now, she had to answer the door.

She opened it slowly, letting whoever was out there that they weren’t welcome. She composed her face into a bland mask and looked at the older gentleman on the front step. “Lord Evans is not receiving visitors today,” she informed him politely.

The man started and smiled. “If you could please tell Maxwell that Duke James Valenti has come to call, I’m sure he’ll speak to me.”

Now it was Maria’s turn to start. So this was Lizzie’s fiancée. Well, he was definitely too old for her, no doubt about that. She nodded her head curtly and stepped back, allowing him indoors. “If you’ll wait here, my lord?” And then she walked unhurriedly up the stairs to Liz’s bedroom and knocked.

Max groaned, “What?” he shouted at the door, burrowing his head in Liz’s silky hair.

“You have a caller, Max,” Maria replied, amusement coloring her tone.

He lifted his head and Liz cuddled up to him, kissing his chest. He glared at his sister, who had just opened the bedroom door and was staring at them, eyebrows raised, not the least bit embarrassed. “I’m not seeing anyone today, Maria, you know that.”

She smirked, “He told me to tell you that he was the Duke James Valenti, and he was sure you’d receive his call.” Max’s expression darkened and Liz turned pale.

“Oh, no,” she breathed, brown eyes huge, “Max…”

He gave her a gentle smile, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.” He dropped a kiss on her forehead and made to get out of bed, but then he stopped and subjected Maria to another icy glare. “Do you mind?” he inquired.

She gave him another smirk, “I’ll ask him to wait in the parlor.” And then she left, closing the door behind her.

He got out of the bed and cursed under his breath at the cold and the situation. “Max?” Liz said softly from the bed. He turned to her and his face softened. She looked so vulnerable lying there… She was so small…

Max kissed her again, deeply, promising her the world. “I’ll take care of it.” He went through the connecting door to his own chamber and dressed quickly, in his traveling clothes, and then went downstairs to the parlor, where Maria was serving tea.

James rose, “Lord Evans.”

“Lord Valenti,” was Max’s reply. They shook hands and then sat.

“I’m sorry for inconveniencing you Evans, it’s just I heard you were leaving London today.”

Max gave a noncommittal nod, “I came to visit my parents, and since they decided to leave for Spain to visit my sister and her husband… I didn’t see the point in remaining in town.”

James nodded thoughtfully, “Well if you see Elizabeth on your travels please write to me.”

“Elizabeth?” Max said sharply, “Why? Has something happened to the lovely Miss Parker?”

His guest frowned, “She has disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” Max repeated, “Really?”

“Yes,” James nodded again, “And I do not know if she has run away or was kidnapped-”

“Kidnapped?” Max interrupted incredulously.

James gave a faint smile, “One of the maids thought they heard a shriek last night, but she wasn’t sure if it was a dream or Elizabeth.” He shook his head. “We shall see soon enough, if a ransom note comes she’ll have been kidnapped, and if not, I’ll assume she has run from me.” There was heavy sigh.

“James…” Max had no words to offer comfort. Mainly because he was the one who abducted Liz, and he had no intention of ransoming her or ever returning her…

Now Valenti shook his head and stood. Max followed suit and soon they were shaking hands and James was on his way to his carriage. “It was pleasure making your acquaintance, Evans,” he said, “You’re a fine young man.”

Max gave him a smile, feeling a little guilty, “I could say the same of you, my lord.”

James laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, “Only not so young, eh?” He nodded again to the dark-haired Max and descended the steps just as another hackney coach pulled up. He got in just as a man came from the depths of the other carriage. James frowned, staring after the man as he entered the house. He seemed strangely familiar…

Michael let out a great whoosh of air as soon as the door shut behind him. Max raised an eyebrow in curiosity to his friend’s reaction, and Maria put her hands on her hips. “What’s the matter with you?” she demanded bluntly.

“That was that Valenti guy,” Michael responded.

“So?”

“So,” he exploded, “What if he had recognized me? I’m the one who delivered Liz’s damn letter to him!” The other two blinked and Michael made a disgusted sound and raked a hand through his hair. “Never mind,” he muttered.

There was a commotion on the stairs and Liz came into appearance, bags in hand, a smart little traveling dress on, ready to go. “Everything set?” she asked brightly, smiling at everyone.

Max shot Michael a look. The latter pulled papers out of his front pocket and handed one to Max and the other to Maria. The blonde squealed with delight and through her arms around him, kissing him repeatedly. When Liz finally got down the steps Maria rushed over to her and swung her around, singing, “We’re getting married! We’re getting married!”

Liz laughed and studied the marriage certificate Maria thrust into her hands. It looked like all the papers were in order. She smiled and turned shining eyes to Max, who was gazing at her lovingly.

They were getting married today, a quick ceremony at Gretna Gren, a honeymoon on the sea, and then home to the isle, where they would free the slaves, and live happily ever after. Her smile widened, life was good.

~The End~


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 24-May-2002 7:18:23 AM ]