by S.R. Mallery
What do a well-bred Southern Belle and a Northern working class Pinkerton detective have in common? Espionage . . . and romance. At the start of the U.S. Civil War, while young men begin dying on American battlefields and slavery is headed toward its end, behind the scenes, female undercover work and Pinkerton intelligence are alive and well. But in the end, can this unlikely Romeo and Juliet couple’s love survive, or will they be just another casualty of war?
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
––William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“Finally, we meet again,” he said so low, so deeply, she almost couldn’t hear it. Truth be told, she probably wouldn’t have been able to hear much of anything he said, her heartbeat was rattling so loudly inside her chest.
When he took her hand to kiss it, it amazed her how wobbly and unsteady her knees felt, as if she had just been hit hard by a low-lying branch. Yet, she didn’t fall. Instead, for the first time in weeks, a broad smile appeared on her face.
“Oh Hannah,” he murmured and leaned in close, still holding her hand. “Why didn’t you ever come back to me?”
“I swear I tried, truly I did, but I kept being stopped by my family.”
. . .“Shall we go out onto the balcony?” he asked.
Nodding, she let him guide her outdoors, away from the waltzes, and the general conversation growing more sonorous by the hour. The evening chill had remained at its peak and the distant sound of soldiers maneuvering in their tented camps served as a soft, pleasant background. . . .
Standing side by side overlooking Washington, they heard the occasional clacking of carriages over the cobblestones and saw the glow of street lamps casting long shadows everywhere.
“Still reading Wordsworth and Harriet Beecher Stowe?”
Laughing, she touched him lightly on his arm. “Always.”
She could feel that same gravitational pull overcome her, the same urge to touch him as she had felt that day on the park bench, only now, with the closeness of their bodies, it was stronger than ever. She thought about what it would be like to be in his arms, to feel his breath on her face, feel his broad shoulders underneath his jacket.
When he gently kissed her, it didn’t last long. It gave her just a hint of his lips. Still, she didn’t know how to handle the new sensations instantly sparking in her body. This was unchartered territory. He kissed her again, slightly longer this time as he encircled her waist with his arms and drew her up against his broad chest. Her only thought was she wanted, no, needed, more. The third time he kissed her, she could feel the urgency sweeping them both into some unknown cavern of pleasure, and when he kissed her a fourth time, it was long and deep. She lost consciousness of anything else but how he was making her feel. When he began gently kissing her neck, her breasts tilted upward to be touched, and as shameful as she always had assumed it was, she was no longer able to suppress the ache she was experiencing between her legs––her ‘thing,’ as she once overhead a couple of the slaves call it when they were discussing a topic no self-respecting, well-bred white southern girl would ever discuss.
“Hannah, we must stop,” he growled.
“Oh, my,” she managed, her breath shaky, her chest heaving.
He drew a large, wavering breath as well. “Exactly. That’s why I had to put a stop to this. You mean too much to me, Hannah, to let things go any further.”
Let’s face it. S. R. Mallery is as eclectic as her characters. Starting out as a classical/pop singer/composer, she next explored the fast-paced world of advertising as a production artist while she simultaneously dipped her toe into the Zen biosphere as a calligrapher. Having started a family and wanting to work from the home, she moved on to having a long career as an award-winning quilt artist and an ESL/Reading instructor before settling on her true love––writing. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt. Her quilt articles have appeared in Quilt World and Traditional Quilt Works.