One True Love



Virginia is determined not to let anything keep Mathias away. Not their parents, not an ocean, and not even Mathias's own vow never to love again. First, she has to find a way to bring him home, and then she'll find a way inside his heart.

Mathias never wanted to leave Virginia behind, but his father demanded he go. He tried a new life and love that turned tragic, and he vowed to never love again. He's determined to keep Virginia at bay once he returns home. When he sees how she's grown into a beautiful woman, will his mind be able to resist her beauty and charms, knowing that his body and heart want her more than anything?


ONE TRUE LOVE
GINA DUNCAN
Copyright © 2011

Prologue

Blackpool, England 1820

Mathias Alvcon was twelve years old when his father married a widow with a daughter just four years younger than himself. He wasn’t happy with the thought of having to share his home and father with two strange women, even if one was only a little girl. His mother had only been dead for two years, and he was finding it difficult to think that his father would want someone to take her place, even though Richard swore to his son repeatedly that no one would ever take the place of his mother. Mathias didn’t believe him anymore.

* * * *

Virginia Cunnings Marlowson was also finding it difficult to believe that her mother would marry so soon after her father’s death. It had only been a year since his accident, and already she was getting married to someone new. At eight years old she thought there was no one like her father. She had been a daddy’s girl for as long as she could remember.
Virginia did not like the thought of having to move into a new home. Not to mention there would be another man in their lives. Was he supposed to be her new father? Not only that, but now she finds out he also has a son around her age. Was he supposed to be her brother? She also did not like the idea of having to share her mother…she did not like it one little bit.
Their first dinner together as a family was awkward and quiet to say the least. Richard always sat at the head of the table, with Yolanda at the other end, leaving the children to sit opposite of one another. Every time Virginia dared look across the table, the boy would be giving her an evil look. It was going to be a long dinner.
Virginia was shown to her room by one of the maids who had a daughter the same age as herself. At least there would be someone there she could play with or talk to. The room was beautiful. It had been decorated for a young girl. Everything was lace and frills, just the way she liked it. Dolls everywhere her eyes could see. The wardrobe had beautiful dresses just her size. The dresses were beautiful and made to fit her, but this was not her home. Would it ever be her home?
Mathias’s room was just down the hall from hers. She had noticed it one day when he left the door open. It was very much a boy’s room. All blue and hardwood, nothing frilly there. She also noticed that he was very much a boy himself. He was hardly ever in the house. He was always off fishing or hunting or just out riding in the woods that surrounded their home. He was still yet to speak one word to her. She had a feeling that he never intended to. Every time he looked at her it was with disgust or something close to it. Maybe he resented them being there as much as she resented it herself. At least that’s the way she felt until one day as she was walking in the woods. She was just beyond the rose garden when she became lost. Mathias found her there sitting on the grass crying her eyes out. She could remember his words and taunts exactly. He was being cruel to her at first.
“What’s the matter, little baby, did you get lost?” he teased and taunted her as he stood there over her holding his fishing pole as if he was superior to her. “Well, do not just sit there crying. Get up and I’ll show you how to get back to the house.”
Virginia hated him at that moment for talking to her like she was just some stupid little baby, but she knew without him she wouldn’t find her way back. She sat there looking up at him until he held his hand out to her. She accepted it and then followed him without saying a word. She still hated him, but she was beginning to warm up to the idea of having him around. At least if she ever got lost he could find her. There wasn’t a place on their land that he didn’t know.
“Mathias?” she said once they were back in the garden safe and sound. “Thank you for bringing me back.”
“It’s okay. I was on my way back anyway.” He paused, looking down at her. “Why were you out there in the first place? Were you trying to follow me?”
“Don’t be silly. Why would I follow you? You haven’t even spoken to me until today.”
“Well you haven’t exactly spoken to me either,” he grumbled.
“It wasn’t you. I just don’t want to be here. I miss my daddy. I didn’t think my mother should be getting married so soon after my daddy’s accident.” She knew her pain was showing on her face as she tried her best to hold the tears back. She certainly didn’t want Mathias to think she was a baby.
“How long has he been dead?” Mathias asked, seeing the pain in the little girl’s eyes.
“Only a year.” Her voice was quiet and sad when she answered.
“I’m sorry. My mother has been dead for two years now. I still miss her. I feel the same as the day she died. I didn’t want my father to get married again. At first I didn’t like the idea of having to share him with the two of you. I just didn’t want you around, but you’re not so bad…I don’t suppose anyway.”
“Neither are you…I suppose.” She was quiet for a moment as they stood there together. “Mathias, do you think you could teach me to fish and ride a horse?”
“Do you really want to learn to do those things? They’re really not for frilly little girls. You might get hurt or dirty.”
“Yes. I would like to learn. I detest sewing, but Mother believes every lady should know how to do it. It gives her something to do while her husband is away. I don’t need to know how to sew because I never plan to marry.”
Mathias laughed. “You’ll change your mind once you grow up. All girls want to marry and have babies.”
“Not me, and don’t laugh. I’m being serious.”
“I’ll teach you if you really want to know. Besides, it gets kind of lonely when I’m out there by myself. I will be going fishing in the morning if you really want to go. We’ll leave the house after breakfast…if you can do without a nap.”
She smiled up at him. “I would love to. I get lonely here, too. It will be nice to have someone to talk to. I thought I’d be able to talk and play with Traci, but she’s not allowed. She has too many chores to learn.”
“That’s the way it is with servants. It’s not their jobs to play with us, silly.”
“Do you think that you and I will become friends one day?” she asked, looking up at him.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” he said, walking away from her.

* * * *

Virginia was up early the next morning, excited about the fishing lesson she was going to receive today. Mathias didn’t talk to her at the breakfast table, merely looked in her direction a couple of times. She understood that he didn’t want their parents to know they were starting to like each other. He enjoyed torturing them with the thought that they would never be a true family. She also found the game fun to play. After all, they did deserve a little torture for forcing this on them.
They slipped off together after breakfast while Richard was in the study and Yolanda had gone to the sitting room to get ready to teach her daughter to sew.
“Well, are you ready to learn to ride a horse?” Mathias asked as they headed for the stables.
“I thought we were going fishing today?” she questioned as she followed him.
“We are. I want to go a little farther out this time, and you have to ride to get there. It’s too far of a walk. It would take us all day to just get there on foot.”
“I’m afraid. Are you just playing a trick on me? Are you going to leave me out there somewhere alone?”
“No. I promise I won’t leave you out there anywhere. How about you ride with me today, and then I can teach you a little at a time.”
“Do you promise not to let me fall, as well?” she asked with a slight tremor to her voice.
“Of course, you can ride behind me and hold on to me if you want. Or, you can ride in front of me and I’ll hold on to you. Whichever you choose, it doesn’t matter to me.”
“I think in front of you,” she answered, following him into the stables. “That way I won’t fall off the back of the horse if I’m unable to hold on tight enough to you.”
“You’re probably right. I can hold on a little tighter than you can. I’ll help you on the horse then I’ll get on.”
Virginia sat sideways, half on the horse and half on Mathias’s legs. He started out slowly, his arms around her as he held on to the reins. This slow, casual pace was fine with Virginia until he kicked the horse into a gallop. Then she became a little frightened.
“Don’t worry, I already promised not to let you fall off.” He laughed.
She closed her eyes and turned toward him, wrapping her arms around him to hold on. She wanted to cry but was afraid he’d make fun of her again or just turn back and leave her at the house, so she just held on until the horse stopped.
Everything went fine after he hooked the worm to her pole because she wasn’t about to touch the yucky thing. They were sitting on the bank, quietly watching the ripples in the clear blue water. It was a warm spring day, and she was happy for the first time since arriving at her new home. She was happy just being there with him.
He showed her how to hold the pole and wait for a bite, telling her she would have to stand up to pull the fish in if she actually managed to catch one. She was very excited when she finally felt a fish tug at the line. She held on a little tighter when it happened.
“Hurry. Stand up, Gin. You’ve got a fish!” He sounded as excited as she felt. He hadn’t noticed how close she was to the water’s edge until she accidentally slipped and fell into the water. He laughed at first until he realized she didn’t know how to swim. He threw his pole down and jumped into the water to grab her. “Are you all right, Gin?” he asked once he got her out of the water. She looked like a drowned rat, and he would have laughed again if he wasn’t so worried about her. He didn’t know what he would have done if he’d been unable to find her.
“I think so,” she said, looking up at him a little angrier that he would laugh. “That wasn’t any fun at all, and how dare you laugh at me. I thought I was going to die.” She felt hysterical with the thought of all that water surrounding her. She hadn’t even been able to see Mathias through the murkiness of it.
“I’m sorry. I thought you knew how to swim at least.”
“Just because you know how to swim, doesn’t mean that I do. I’ve never been this close to the water before. Look at my dress…it’s ruined. What will Mother say?” she asked between choking and sobbing.
“Get in the sun. Maybe it will dry before we have to head back to the house.”
“But it has mud all over it,” she cried.
“Don’t worry. Father can always buy you a new one, it’s only a dress.”
“I didn’t even tell Mother I was coming out here with you. She never would have allowed it.”
“I know. I don’t think your mother likes me very well.”
“She doesn’t know you. You’ve never really spoken to her either, so how would she know if she likes you or not?”
“I don’t have anything to say to her. I was going to try to be nice to her until she tried to tell me what to do and what I could wear.” He shook his head. “And those stupid suits she makes me wear just to be able to eat at the same table with everyone else. She tried to act like she’s my mother. She will never be my mother…not ever.”
“Well, I like Lord Richard. He’s been very nice to me since we’ve come to live here with the two of you. He will never be anything like my father either. I’m sorry my mother is so mean to you. That’s just the way she is, I’m afraid.”
“She’ll really be mad when she finds out that I took you fishing and horseback riding. I hate to see what my punishment will be for it.”
“We can’t tell her. If she finds out, I’ll never be allowed to go again. We can’t let anyone know. I’ll sneak in and change then throw my dress away. No one will ever find out. It will always be our secret.”
“I like you.” He laughed. “You’re pretty sneaky for a girl.” They both laughed, her freckled face smiling up at him.

* * * *

Virginia and Mathias had spent the last four years growing up and enjoying each other’s company. The more time she spent with Mathias, the more she liked him. He told her stories about America and how someday he would go there to live. She didn’t like the idea that he would be going away and leaving her one day. Virginia wanted to be able to go anywhere that Mathias went. She felt closer to him than anyone else. She couldn’t imagine ever being without him. They were becoming good friends, if nothing else, as the years went by.
He had taught her to swim, fish, ride horses, and to even shoot a gun. She went everywhere he went, even if she had to wait and sneak away. He never seemed to mind until he turned sixteen. He was becoming a man and didn’t want to be bothered with a little girl all the time now.
She sat looking at him across the table. He had grown up so much over the last four years. He was built like a man now and was very handsome in the suits her mother still made him wear to the dinner table. Although to Virginia he looked better with only his britches. That was the way he dressed while fishing.
The problem was that other girls had started to notice how handsome he was, too, which didn’t really bother Virginia too much, until it came to one girl in particular—Stephanie. Or, as Mathias liked to call her, Steph. Her voice was too squeaky, and she wore way too much face powder and perfume for Virginia’s taste. But not only that, she clung to Mathias as if he was her prize possession. Stephanie hated when Mathias brought Virginia along each time they met.
“Must you bring your little sister every time, Mathias?”
Then, of course, Mathias would try to leave her at home. Virginia would throw a fit of her own, and he always gave into her. Each and every time she cried, she got her way. That was until the last day they were all three together. She sat there quietly until Stephanie reached over and kissed Mathias on the lips. Something inside of her was furious at the thought of him kissing this overly pampered tart. She grabbed his shirtsleeve and yanked hard. “I want to go home now, Matty.”
“In a minute, Gin,” was all he said to her at first.
“No. I want to go home right now! I’m not feeling well, and I would really like to leave, now.”
They dropped Stephanie off and then headed toward their own home. She moved closer to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. “Are you sure you don’t want me to take you by the doctor’s house before we go home?”
“No. That’s all right. I’m feeling a little better now.”
“Did you fake being sick, Gin? Did you do it just so I would take Steph home?” he asked, leaning over to look down at her.
“Don’t be silly. Why would I ever do something like that? I really wasn’t feeling well.”
“I don’t know. That is why I’m asking you. So, did you pretend to be sick or not?”
“Fine, yes, I did. I don’t like her. She acts as if she owns you or something. Besides, I thought you were going to move to America when you got old enough. If you marry her, she will never let you leave England, and you know it as well as I do.”
Mathias laughed. “Who said I was going to marry her in the first place?”
“You know very well that’s what she wants. I’ve seen the way she looks at you. Sometimes she looks as if she could eat you, like you’re her dessert or something.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry. She doesn’t own me, and I am going to America as soon as I’m old enough for Father to let me go. Besides, I think it’s about time I started doing some things alone from now on. You’re getting too old to be tagging along with me everyplace I go.”
“Tagging along?” she questioned.
“Yes. You’ve become a little tag-along sister. Do you see anyone else bringing their sisters with them while they’re out with a girl?”
“I can’t believe you’re saying that to me. And just when did I become your sister? I thought we were friends.”
“We are friends, you little tomboy, but everyone else sees you as my sister, including our parents. That is the only reason they started letting you go places with me. If they knew you were dressing up in my old clothes, going hunting and fishing with me, what do you think they’d say?”
“I don’t believe Richard would care one way or the other. Mother, on the other hand, would simply throw a fit.”
“More like she’d probably have me horsewhipped.”
“Oh, she’s not that bad, Matty.”
“She is to me. She’s never given me a good word except when she’s around Father. I think it’s time for you to start learning more about your sewing and running a house instead of going everywhere with me. You’re not a little girl anymore.”
“Does that mean you won’t take me fishing with you in the morning?”
“Yes. That is exactly what I’m saying. It’s time you start staying home.”
“But, Matty. You know how much fun we have together,” she protested.
“It’s time for us to grow up, Virginia. No more of our ventures together.”
“That’s not fair. You know I hate to sew, and I already told you that I never plan to marry anyone.”
“Don’t worry, Father and Yolanda will find you a good husband. That’s what parents do, you know.”
“Then I’ll just go to America with you. I won’t let them force me to marry anyone.”
“No, you won’t.” He laughed. “Besides, they’d never let you go that far away.”
Virginia felt tears welling up inside as she turned to watch the landscape as the buggy rolled towards their home. It was one thing to cry to get your way and another when the tears were real.
“Don’t you start that crying either. It’s not going to work this time. You know what I’m saying is the truth, so you may as well get used to the thought and start acting like a lady. You’re thirteen, and it’s time you start acting like a young lady.”
“I don’t want to be a lady. Thank you very much,” she said sarcastically. That was the last they spoke together as children.
Chapter One

1830

Five years went by, and the only time Virginia got to see Mathias was at the table as they ate their meals. He had stopped doing all the things they had enjoyed together. No fishing, no hunting. Everything that they once did together was over. He spent more time with his friends and Stephanie and less at home with his family and her.
Mathias had even evaded her coming-out party just two years prior. There were plenty of eligible bachelors there, but none like Mathias. Richard had introduced her to several. She had even danced with a few. She knew Richard and her mother were trying desperately to pair her up with the right gentleman. They just didn’t know or care that the only one she wanted was Mathias.
Virginia had decided to ride with Richard to town. He had a meeting to attend, so she was walking around and decided to stop for a cup of tea. She wanted to change her mind as soon as she saw Mathias there with Stephanie. They were just outside the shop, their arms around one another. He was kissing her for what seemed like forever to Virginia. She felt sick…really sick this time.
She wanted to scream and claw Stephanie’s eyes out. She wanted him to stop and stay away from that tart. Oh, I hate that girl! she thought, stomping her foot. She ran in the other direction as fast as she could instead. She tried to run away from the thought of the two of them together, but no matter how far or fast she ran, she couldn’t erase the image.

* * * *

Stephanie had opened her eyes in time to see Virginia standing there watching the two of them. She put her hand behind Mathias’s head to hold him there for a while longer. At least longer than he intended to. She smiled to herself when she saw how upset it made the little brat.
“What the hell was that all about?” Mathias asked as he held Stephanie away from him to look down at her.
“I just wanted our good-bye kiss to last a little longer than usual. Honest, that’s all I was trying to do. Can’t a lady want more from the man she cares about than what she’s getting?”
“I guess she can, but don’t you think you should find someone else to be caring about now? I mean, it would only be natural since I’ll be leaving for America soon.”
“No, I don’t. Besides, what if your father says that you can’t go? Then you’ll be sorry that I found someone new, and so will I.”
“I don’t care what my father says, Steph. I’m going to America whether he likes it or not. I have a life of my own, and it’s not going to be wasted here when I want to be there.”
“I can’t believe you would just leave me after all of this time. I was led to believe that we would be married in time.”
“I asked you if you wanted to go with me. You said no. You said that you’d never leave England to go to such a savage land. That was your choice, Steph.”
“I know, but I was hoping you’d change your mind and stay here in England with me. This is where you belong.”
“It’s not going to happen. I’m sorry. I really hope you have a good life, Stephanie. I hope you get everything you want out of life,” Mathias said as he kissed her on the cheek then walked away from her.

* * * *

Virginia had her britches and shirt on under her dress when she came down to breakfast the next morning. She looked across the table. Mathias wasn’t in his chair. She sat down with Richard and Yolanda and began to eat as if nothing was wrong. She had planned to ask him to go fishing with her at least one more time. But no matter, she would simply have to go without him. She would just have to talk to him at a later time. She wanted to find out if he had given up his dream of America to marry Stephanie.
“Where is Mathias this morning? Wouldn’t he dress for breakfast?” she asked casually, taking another bite as she looked at her mother. Yolanda merely gave her the look that meant to shut up.
“I believe he’s gone fishing. I saw him with his fishing pole this morning,” Richard said.
Virginia felt a little sick as a wave of sadness washed over her with the thought of Mathias fishing without her. It was the first time he had gone in a couple of years, and it hurt a little that he no longer wanted her to be with him.
“I think I’d like to walk around the garden for a little while this morning, if you don’t mind, Mother.”
“That’s fine, just don’t be out there all day. I do have some sewing I have planned for us today.”
“Yes, Mother,” she said and then excused herself from the table.
As soon as she was far enough away from the house, she stripped out of her dress then ran to the stables to get her horse. If he walked, she would be able to reach him quicker on horseback. Riding as hard and fast as possible across the field, it didn’t take her any time to reach the first fishing spot. Now, all she had to do was hope that this was the one he was at.
Tying the horse to a tree, she decided to walk the rest of the way to the water. She didn’t want him to hear her coming. She didn’t see him at first when she entered the clearing. His pole was lying on the ground, but he was nowhere in sight. She walked closer to the water to see if maybe he decided to go for a swim.

* * * *

Mathias heard her riding up. He wasn’t sure of who it was at first. No one really knew about this place, just he and Virginia, so he was pretty sure it had to be her. He snuck quietly up behind her, grabbing her. He spun her completely around to face him. “What the hell are you doing out here?” he demanded to know.
“I thought about going fishing, if you don’t mind.”
“More like following me around.”
“Don’t be silly. Why ever would I do something like that? Besides, how was I supposed to know you were here? You didn’t say anything about fishing, and you haven’t been out here in the last two years. Why would I think you were out here today?”
“I don’t know how you knew…but you knew…on that I’d bet my life.”
“I think you’ve lost what little sense you had. It must be Stephanie draining it out of you one kiss at a time,” she said, stepping closer to face him.
Mathias could feel her hot breath caress his face, her firm young breasts press against his chest. She felt so right against him. He wanted to reach out, wrap her in his embrace. Before he got the chance to, she pulled away, looking up at him.
“If you don’t want me here with you, then I’ll just go to the next fishing pond. I didn’t mean to interfere with your solitude.” She turned away from him and started toward where she’d left the horse tethered. “It really doesn’t matter either way, but I do like the other spot best anyway.”
Her voice sounded distraught to him. He didn’t really want her to go away, but he feared if she stayed he’d want her more than he already did. The way she looked in his old britches had his cock straining against the seams of his own. When had she grown into a woman? Where had this new body of hers come from? Had it all been hidden beneath all those layers of petticoats? Maybe he should let her go. His heart was already beginning to race with the thought of getting her out of those britches. He knew the little minx was teasing him. When had she learned to do that?
“Stay, Gin,” he whispered, not sure his voice would hold out as he watched her buttocks sway as she was stepping away. “The other fishing spot is too far for you to walk.”
“Who said anything about walking? I rode out here, and I’ll ride out there, too.”
“Wait. Gin,” he called to her back.
“Wait for what? So you can yell at me some more? I don’t think so. You can have your silly little fishing hole, and I’ll go to my own.”
“What I meant is that I’ll go with you. That is if you don’t mind. We need to talk. It’s been a while, and I wanted you to know that I’m thinking about going to America real soon.”

* * * *

She stopped walking when she heard that he was leaving soon. She didn’t want him to know it bothered her to think about him leaving. “I guess it’s up to you. Wherever you want to fish, that is. Besides, you have hardly spoken to me in two years. It doesn’t matter if we talk now or not. I can’t tell you what to do or not to do. Fish, don’t fish. Talk to me, don’t talk to me. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I’m leaving, Gin. I’m going to America as soon as possible.”
“Why are you telling me this?” she asked, not turning to look at him. “You can’t just not talk to me for five years and then tell me that you’re leaving.” She was so furious that he would ignore her for so long then all of a sudden he blurts out that he’s leaving—how dare he not care about her feelings more than that. Who did he think he was to decide he was leaving after all this time. She felt as if she’d waited forever to be with him, and now he decided to leave?
Mathias grabbed his pole and bucket and then walked to where she was standing by her horse. He stopped talking to her that night she faked being sick. He could tell that she was jealous. He was afraid she was starting to fall for him, and that was no good for either of them. He looked at her pouty lips when he was close enough to her. That’s when he began to notice everything about her. She was becoming a lady, and the more he looked at her, the more he liked what he saw. She was no longer the little red-haired, freckle-faced girl who used to tag along. Her hair was more of a strawberry-blonde now, and the freckles seemed to have vanished overnight. Her body had gone through a lot of changes, too. The britches that once were baggy on her were now skintight, hugging her hips. Not to mention he could see her breasts perfectly outlined and pointing out in his old white shirt.

* * * *

She climbed gracefully on the horse’s back. She no longer rode sidesaddle like a proper lady should. She looked down at him. “What do you want from me, Matty? Do you want me to beg you not to go? I would, you know. If I thought it would do any good. But we both know that it won’t. I’ve already offered to go with you. That was no good for you either. So, you tell me what you want me to do.” Her emerald eyes filled with tears, but she refused to let them fall.
“I just wanted to go fishing with you one more time. Talk like we used to. I have missed being with you like this, Gin. You have to know that.”
She shook her head the whole time he spoke. “Nothing’s like it used to be,” she murmured.
“What?” he asked, not really hearing her.
“Are you going to walk all the way there?” she asked.
“No. I thought maybe we could share your horse.”
“We haven’t done that since we were children, when you were teaching me how to ride. It would seem a little strange now.”
“I know it’s been a while. But like you said, it’s a long way there.”
She looked down at him. He looked so sad standing there that she couldn’t help but take pity on him. “Oh, very well. Get on then,” she said, moving forward on the horse.

* * * *

Mathias climbed up behind her, taking the reins from her small hands. As he put his arms around her, she leaned back slightly like she used to when she was a little girl. The ride was almost too much for him. Her buttocks moving against his groin the whole way was agonizing. He should never have suggested they ride this way. He should have put her on the back.
“Is there something wrong, Matty?” she asked as he tightened up, his body tense.
“No. Why?” he asked, trying to sound as normal as possible.
“Because you’re squeezing the life out of me, and you haven’t said a word since we started out on our ride.”
“There’s nothing wrong. I was just thinking about something, that’s all.” He couldn’t help but wonder if she could tell that he was getting aroused with being this close to her. What the hell was wrong with him? She was as close to him as a sister could be…and she was way too young.
“Well, we’re almost there. I think we should tie the horse here, so it won’t make too much noise and scare all the fish away.”
“All right, that sounds fine to me.” He breathed a sigh of relief. He was more than glad to be stopping before anything else got tense. He was at an age where he’d been with enough women to know what was going on. None that had ever made him feel like this, though. He knew she was still innocent at the age of eighteen. She hadn’t been with anyone and didn’t have any idea of the effect she had on men. Or did she? He wondered, listening to the sensuous tone of her voice. He closed his eyes as she slid off the horse and away from him. It took him a little longer to dismount.
“Why don’t you go on over and find us a good shady spot, and I’ll tie the horse and be right over there.” He didn’t want her to see what she was doing to him. He wasn’t sure if she was doing it intentionally or not. But then again, he wasn’t about to find out either way.
She nodded as she took her fishing pole and headed for the water. She was just standing there looking down at the water with a devilish smile on her face when he walked up beside her.
“What are you smiling about?” he asked.
“Do you remember the first time you brought me here? I fell in the water and never did get that fish,” she asked, looking at him. “And how you laughed at me until you realized I didn’t know how to swim?”
“Yes. I remember,” he said with a slight laugh even with the thought. He could almost see her, young and wet and crying.
“Do you think it’s as funny as this?” she asked, turning to him.
 “As funny as what?” he asked just before she pushed him with all her might right into the water.
She stood there on the bank laughing as he splashed around making his way to the edge. But her laughter was short-lived as he got close enough. He reached out, grabbing her leg and yanking her in the water with him.
“Now, that’s funny,” he said, laughing when she screamed because the water was cold, which was a good thing for him. It helped his problem out for the moment. At least until she wanted to play. She dove under the water as he looked around trying to find where she went to. She came up behind him, wrapping her body around his. He could feel her wet breasts pressed against his back and the heat radiating between her thighs. He pulled away from her then climbed out of the water, reaching in and pulling her out with him. When he looked at her he could tell that she wasn’t wearing anything under the white shirt. He could see her rosy nipples poking out at him.
“Come on, we’ll lie in the sun and dry for a while. Besides, you’ve scared all the fish away for sure with all that screaming and splashing around you just did.”

* * * *

She took his hand, letting him pull her out of the water, and then lead her to the clearing, laying down on the meadow where the sun would shine down on them. The water had been colder than she thought it would be, and she could feel her body tremble with the chill. But she was willing to do anything to get her mind off his leaving. She wasn’t ready to lose him. It was hard to decide what was worse, losing him to some tart or to a whole new country. She lay there with her eyes closed listening to his smooth voice trying to explain to her why he’d come out here alone today, even if she didn’t want to hear him.
“I came out here today to try to figure out how to tell you that I was leaving. But you didn’t give me the chance to think it through. I’m sorry I told you the way I did,” he said, lying down and closing his eyes so that he wouldn’t be tempted to look at her like a lecher.
“So when are you planning on leaving? Does Richard know about it yet?” she found herself asking as she was still thinking of a way to talk him out of it. This just couldn’t be the end of them. She hadn’t even gotten to kiss him yet. She could only hope that Richard would refuse to let him go. And if he can’t then what will I do?
“I’m leaving as soon as I can. The answer to your other question is no. I haven’t gotten to talk to him yet either. I was thinking that through as well.”
“Don’t go, Matty,” she blurted out before she could stop herself. “I couldn’t bear it here without you. Don’t leave me alone with them. Mother will force me to marry someone I couldn’t care less about, someone that won’t let me go fishing or swimming.” She looked over at him. He was laying there on his back looking up at the sky. She watched hopefully for a change to come over him. Couldn’t he just once see things her way? She was determined not to cry to get her way with him. He’d once told her that it wouldn’t do her any good to do it anymore. She would beg and plead if that’s what it took—and she would cry if he still wouldn’t listen to anything else.
“Yes, you can. It will be all right. Besides, you’re growing up, and it won’t be long before you find a suitor and get married.” He was praying that she wouldn’t start crying. That always did something to him. He had seen lots of girls cry when he wouldn’t give them their way, and none seemed to bother him the way she did.
“I am never getting married! How many times do I have to tell you that? Even if they try to force me—I’ll just run away and no one will know where I am.” She knew that she would never want to be with anyone but Mathias, and if he wasn’t here, then there would be no one else for her, not as long as she lived. “And stop that laughing. There is not one thing funny about any of this and you well know it.”
Mathias had to laugh a little. She was definitely stubborn when it came to that issue. Not once had she changed her mind about that over the years.
They laid there talked about his leaving and how much he looked forward to his new adventure. And then he wanted to talk about her getting married. Mathias was trying his best to convince her that one day very soon a man would come along that she just couldn’t live without. For some reason she wasn’t getting it into her head too quickly. Deciding to give it a rest and himself, he laid back and closed his eyes.

* * * *
She merely lay there thinking that one had already come along, and she was going to have to live without him because he was going to America on an adventure without her. When he stopped talking, she looked over at him. His eyes were closed, and his breathing was shallow. She knew that he’d fallen asleep. He looked so young and peaceful laying there on the grass as the sun shined down on his damp body.
Softly, she touched her fingertips to his damp hair. It looked almost brown wet. But she knew it was a much lighter color. It matched perfectly with his brown eyes. He didn’t have his shirt on now, and she looked at his chest, surprised by the mat of hair that had grown there. It hadn’t been there two years ago. He really was a man. And soon he would be gone. She wanted to know what it would be like to be kissed the way he had kissed Stephanie just yesterday. But she knew it would probably never happen to her unless she took it upon herself to do it.
What would he do if I kissed him? She wondered to herself. Looking at his soft pink lips, she knew they would be warmed from the sun. She licked her lips thinking about it. She wanted so badly for him to grab her and kiss her earlier when she was close to him…but he hadn’t.
“Matty?” she spoke softly. When he didn’t answer her she knew he was asleep. She touched his lips with her fingertip softly. She almost jumped when he moaned. It was a soft rumble in his throat, but he didn’t move or open his eyes. Without thinking twice, she lowered her head until her lips replaced her fingers. They were soft and warm, just as she thought they would be.

* * * *

Mathias wrapped his arms around her without thinking, deepening the kiss, urging her mouth open with his tongue, filling it…tasting the sweetness within, rolling her over until she was completely beneath him. He didn’t stop kissing her as she wrapped her arms around him, holding him tightly to her. He brought his hand up, filling it with a firm young breast, caressing her breast with his thumb, circling the small nipple that hardened with his touch.
Her breath caught in her throat as she sighed, feeling very content right where she was. The kiss was all she had imagined it would be, and she never wanted it to end. What shocked her was the way her body began to tingle when he pinched her nipple slightly.
Mathias opened his eyes slowly, praying that it wasn’t her. God, please let me be dreaming or let it be someone else, anyone but Virginia. He had been with women before, had even imagined it being her, but that was different than actually being with her. He raised his head quickly, taking his lips from hers as he looked down at her. Her face seemed to be glowing as she smiled up at him. He shook his head as he rolled away from her and sat up.
“What the hell are you doing, Gin?” he demanded to know, more mad at himself than her at the moment because he knew deep inside that it was her and he also knew that he enjoyed feeling her in his arms.
“I just wanted to know what it would be like to be kissed by you.” She reached for him to pull him back to her, but he pulled away. “I saw you kiss Stephanie yesterday, and I—” She trailed off without finishing.
“And you what? You thought I’d just go along with you?” His voice was sounding angry, but he wasn’t behaving as if he were mad. She had seen him mad before, and this wasn’t it—so what was this?
“You did, you kissed me, and you were enjoying it as much as I was. I want you to kiss me again, Matty,” she said, putting her hand on his shoulder.
Her touch seemed to burn him all the way to the core of his being. Kiss her again, yes that’s exactly what he wanted to do, but he knew if he did it wouldn’t stop with just a kiss. He’d have her, and then she would hate him, not to mention how much he’d hate himself. Not because he didn’t want to be with her. He did, but he knew it wouldn’t matter to his Father or Yolanda how much Gin meant to him. They’d never allow her to go with him to America, and he didn’t want to stay here. Hell, they probably wouldn’t let them be together even if he did stay here to be with her.
“No! You’re just a little girl, Virginia!” he yelled louder than he meant to.
She stared at him for a moment. It was the first time he’d called her by her given name since they first came to this place over six years ago. She knew he must be mad at her now. She pulled her hand away from his shoulder. “Are you mad at me, Matty?” Her voice was quiet, almost afraid of what he would say.
“No, you just shouldn’t do that. You don’t know what you could have gotten yourself into. It’s a good thing I woke up and realized who you were. And it’s a good thing I’m your brother or else.” He didn’t want to finish the sentence.
“You’re not my brother, you have never been my brother, and I’m not a little girl,” she said. Standing up, she began to run away from him.
“Damn it!” he said, getting up to go after her. “Stop running, Gin, we need to talk about what just happened, and what could have happened.”
“I don’t want to talk to you!” she yelled back at him.
Mathias’s legs were longer and stronger than hers, and he had no problem catching up to her in no time at all, reaching out for her, but she wouldn’t stop. He yanked her backwards until she was against his chest. She turned her head to look up at him, tears in her emerald eyes.
“Gin, I didn’t mean to yell at you,” he said softly. “But you just shouldn’t do that to a man while he’s sleeping. You don’t understand what goes on inside a man’s head when a lady kisses him or touches him the way you were doing.”
“Then tell me, Matty. What goes on inside a man’s head? What was going through your mind when I kissed you?”
“I can’t tell you that. You’re too young. You wouldn’t understand.” He shook his head, trying to clear it of all the thoughts of just taking her and saying the hell with everything else.
“I want to know what happened to you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He stammered, sorry that he’d said anything when she turned toward him. He watched as if in slow motion as she brought her leg up slowly and caressed it across his aching cock.
“This,” she said, watching what seemed to be pain streak across his handsome face at her touch.
Mathias sucked in a sharp breath. “It’s nothing.” He growled out the lie, pushing her leg away from him. How could he explain to her what he was feeling when he wasn’t so sure himself? He’d never felt this way about anyone before. It was as new to him as it would be for her.
He watched as she looked down his body to where her leg had touched him, and then as her emerald eyes made their way back up to his. She definitely wasn’t acting shy around him, and he began to wonder if she’d done this before. He was so lost in thought that he almost didn’t hear her when she spoke again.
“Don’t lie. You wanted me, and you know you did. I’m not as young as you think. Besides, Mother already explained everything to me, so yes, I do know what happens between a man and a woman.”
“I can’t want you, Gin. You’re supposed to be my sister, and you’re my best friend. You just aren’t supposed to want to sleep with either of those.” He’d say or do almost anything right now to get out of this situation with her, if he didn’t he knew he’d be damned one way or the other, and he wasn’t ready to give up his dream of going to America.
“I didn’t say I wanted to sleep with you. I said I wanted to kiss you. Now I want you to kiss me again, then look me in the eyes and tell me that I feel like a sister to you, and if you can, then I won’t ever ask you to kiss me again.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. He knew there was no way he could convince her she felt like his sister if he kissed her again. She could already see the evidence of his want for her straining against his britches as it was.
“Yes,” she whispered, not sure how to really tempt a man, but she would try anything if he would only kiss her again.
He watched in horror as she got on her tiptoes and took his face between her hands. He wanted to pull away from her, honestly he did, but found it hard to do. Wrapping his arms around her, he brought her closer to him. He could feel her breasts pressing into him, and he pulled her tighter to him, molding their bodies together and deepening the kiss. He wanted to taste her sweetness one more time, wanted to lay her back down right there in the meadow and make love to her. But it would be wrong, he kept trying to tell himself. Besides, if he did he’d never leave her. He groaned deep inside, burning her taste and the feel of her against him into his brain, and then he pushed her slightly away from him.
“We can’t do this, it’s not right to either of us.” His voice was hoarse with desire, and he watched as her eyes filled with tears, and it tore at his heart.
“Please don’t say that, Matty. It could never be wrong with you. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he breathed. “But I’m leaving, Gin. I’m going to America, and you’re too young. They would never let you go with me. They won’t let us be together here either. You have to know that. I need to get you home, and I have to talk to Father tonight. I’m leaving for America as soon as possible, Gin,” he said, shaking her, not sure if he was trying to convince her or himself.
“No, Matty, please don’t leave me. I want to be with you. We could run away together, go to America together, and they’d never find us.”
“No,” he said, taking her by the arm, pulling her to the horse. He picked her up, placing her on its back. Taking the reins in his hand, he decided it would be best for both of them if he just led the horse back home.
“You can’t even ride on the back of the horse with me?”
“No, I can’t,” he moaned, shaking his head. He knew if he got on that horse with her they’d never make it to the house with her virginity intact, and he’d find some way to take her with him to America, even if they did have to run away to be together, and he didn’t want to do that to anyone, not even Yolanda. Hell, at this point with the way he was feeling he’d even marry her if they’d let him. That way he’d never have to leave her again. She’d felt so right in his arms, as if she belonged there.

* * * *

Richard and Yolanda were sitting out in the garden as Mathias led the horse up the back of the house. There was no way of sneaking in now as he’d been hoping all the way home.
“What’s going on?” Richard asked, looking up at the two of them, tears streaming down Virginia’s face, and a scowl on his son’s face.
Mathias walked to the side of the horse, helping her down, taking her by the hand, and then turning toward his father. He led her with him to where they were sitting.
“I need to talk to you, Sir. It’s very important.” Mathias had thought about it as he led the horse toward the house. He would ask his father for Virginia’s hand in marriage. Then he would tell his father about America. He would just take her with him or send for her once he was settled. All they could do at this point was tell him no.
He looked from his father to Yolanda as she jumped to her feet.
“What have you done to my baby?” she yelled just before slapping him across the face.
Mathias just knew she thought he’d taken advantage of Virginia, and it didn’t matter to her that Virginia wasn’t supposed to leave the garden. She probably believed that he had coaxed her out into the woods. Then he saw Virginia out of the corner of his eye as she put her hand to her mouth, looking from him to her mother and shaking her head.
He turned his head sideways slightly, trying not to get mad at Yolanda for what she was thinking of him or for the fact that she made his teeth rattle. He listened as Virginia began to cry harder. He felt her yank her hand free and then watched as she ran past all of them and into the house. He didn’t say anything until his father stood up, stepping between him and Yolanda.
“I didn’t do a damn thing to your little girl, and in case you’ve failed to notice, she’s not so little anymore,” he said, looking Yolanda in the eye. “But I think she may need to talk to you about a few things, if you can be mother enough to do that.” He watched as the shock of his words came across her face and her mouth dropped open.
“Son, don’t speak to your mother that way.”
“She’s not my mother, and she never will be,” was all he said until Yolanda went into the house in search of her daughter. By the look on her face, he knew Virginia wouldn’t have a very good talk with her mother. She looked determined to get to the bottom of this situation. He could only hope that Virginia didn’t lie to her mother and say he did something that he didn’t do.
“Well, then I guess you better sit down and explain to me what the hell is going on around here. Did you do something to that child?”
“I want to marry her, Sir,” Mathias blurted out.
“Are you trying to tell me that something did happen between you and the lass?”
“Not what you are thinking, Sir.”
“You know I can’t allow the two of you to be married.”
“Fine, then what I want is to go to America, and I want to leave immediately,” Mathias demanded.
“That’s foolishness. You know we have a business here to run, and you’ll be taking it over once I’m too old to ride out to check on the fields and men tending it, or when I’m gone.”
“I’m afraid you don’t understand, Father. I have to go. I can’t stay here any longer…If I do, I’m afraid you wouldn’t like me very much. I’ve never cared much for the cotton business. It’s another reason I’ve wanted to leave England.”
“What I want you to do is sit down and tell me what you’re talking about, make me understand, and while you’re at it, tell me why Virginia is in the house in hysterics.”
“She kissed me while we were out fishing. She pushed me in the water, and then I playfully pulled her in with me. I laid down to take a nap in the sun while I was drying off, and the next thing I know she’s under me and we’re kissing. I don’t know what happened, and I didn’t realize it was her until she sighed and I heard her voice when I…” His voice trailed off, and he didn’t know if he should tell his Father about touching her or about the way she touched him.
“When you what?” Richard’s voice grew lower. He was thinking the wrong thing, and Mathias knew it.
“No, we didn’t do that, but, God help me, I wanted to…I wanted her more than I’ve ever wanted any other woman that I’ve ever been with. I’m afraid if you don’t let me go away or marry her.” He looked at his Father so that Richard could see the seriousness on his face. “I’ll have her one way or another…You won’t be able to stop me.”
“You better never touch the lass in any such way as that.”
“Did she look like a child to you in those clothes, ’cause I’ve got to tell you she didn’t look or feel like one to me. Her body was warm and quite inviting beneath me. It took every ounce of willpower I had to push her away. Besides, she’s not a child anymore. She’s already had her coming out party when she turned sixteen, and now she’s eighteen. I know you and Lady Yolanda are trying to find her a suitable husband. Can’t you even consider me? ”
“Stop it! I don’t want to hear such foolishness from you!” Richard demanded.
“Then you might want to sit yourself down, Father, because she didn’t want me to quit. She almost begged me to kiss her again. She wanted me just as much as I wanted her. I pushed her away. That’s why she’s in hysterics. When she touched me, it took every ounce of energy that I had to pull away from her.”
“I don’t want to hear any of this. Besides, why would she kiss and touch you like that? She thinks of you as an older brother.”
“No.” Mathias began shaking his head. “She doesn’t think of me as her brother, and I don’t think of her as my sister either. She was my best friend, though, and I’ll miss her. I love her, but I can’t be here with her and not have her any longer. So, either you let me marry her or you let me go to America and put an ocean between us.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to see about booking you a passage on the next ship bound for America because you know that Yolanda would never let you have her daughter. The two of you will never be together like that. No one would understand. We’ll register you in a hotel at the waterfront until it’s time for you to set sail. That way you two won’t be in the same house together.”
“That sounds like the best idea to me, Sir, but I may need to find someone between now and then to relieve this pain she’s started. It doesn’t seem to want to give her up either.”
Richard looked down at his son at the same time Mathias himself was looking down. His hard cock still pressed tightly against his britches, threatening to burst the seam any moment.
“I’m sure we can take care of that when we get to town, too. It shouldn’t be too hard to find you a woman.”
Mathias merely nodded his head. He just hoped any woman would do. Maybe he could find one that reminded him of Gin.
“We’ll leave now, and I’ll have Samuel deliver your things to you at the hotel later today.”
“Believe me, I am more than ready, Sir.” He watched as his father nodded his head. He could tell by the look on his face that he was proud of him. Could his father see how much Virginia had grown up and changed through his words? Could he understand how much Mathias desired her? Did he realize how much it took from him to pull away from her?


Chapter Two

Lady Yolanda found Virginia in her room lying across the bed crying still.
“What did he do to you, love? You can tell me. I always knew that boy was no good.”
“He didn’t do anything to me!” She sobbed her voice filling with anger. He was right. Her mother would never let her be with him here or in America. She didn’t like Mathias…It was plain to see now.
“Then why are you crying? I know he did something.”
“He’s leaving. He’s going to America,” she cried out.
“Well, that’s the best news I’ve heard since we moved here.”
“How can you say that, Mother? I love him.”
“Don’t be absurd. You sound childish. It’s time for you to start growing up. You’ll be getting married soon and having a family of your own, and then he won’t be around anyway even if he is still in England. You’ll soon forget all about him.”
“No, I won’t! You just don’t understand, do you?” She was shaking her head, fury in her eyes. She felt like hitting someone or something or just breaking anything.
“Yes you will. You will see,” was all Yolanda said as she left her daughter there and went to search for her husband and his no-good son. She wanted to see what he had to say for himself or what he told his father. She was sure Virginia wasn’t telling her everything. She became very upset when she didn’t find either of them. They’d left the house without saying one word to her. How dare Richard leave without saying anything?

* * * *

Yolanda waited in the study for Richard to return from wherever it was that he and his son had gone. She stood up as he walked through the door alone. “Where’s that no-good son of yours at? I have a few questions for him.”
“He’s gone, Yolanda. That should please you well enough.”
“No, what would please me is to know what he did to my daughter to make her cry so.”
“Didn’t she tell you?” Richard questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“The only thing she told me is that he’s going to America, and for the life of me I don’t see why that would cause her to cry so much.”
“Maybe because she cares about my son…Maybe you don’t know your daughter as well as you think you do, my dear. I would like to speak with her if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, I’ll send Samuel to get her.”
“Alone, Yolanda, and I’m afraid Samuel is a little busy packing Mathias’s things at the moment. You’ll have to send her to me yourself.”
“I don’t even get to hear what you two have to talk about?” she asked, a little hurt.
“No, you don’t, not this time I’m afraid. If Virginia wishes to tell you what we spoke of later herself, then that will be her choice.”
Yolanda stomped out of the study and most of the way up the stairs. After informing Virginia that Richard wished to speak with her in the study, she went to her own room, locking the door behind her. If he wanted to treat her like a child, then she would act like one, and he could very well sleep alone tonight…and for all the other nights to come.

* * * *

Virginia took her time getting to the study. She was half afraid of what Richard had to say and half ashamed of herself. She knew better than to throw herself at a man, especially her stepbrother. She had been a fool, and she knew Mathias was right. If it had been any other man, she would have been crying for a much different reason.
“You wanted to see me, Sir?” Virginia asked softly from the doorway.
“Yes, I do. Now come in and shut the door behind you, please.”
Virginia was still wearing Mathias’s old britches and shirt. She knew they clung to her body like a second skin. She could see by the look on Richard’s face that he didn’t like the way she was dressed.
She did as she was told and then walked slowly to his desk to stand before him, her head hung down.
“Well, have a seat. No sense being shy now…is there?”
She sat down then slowly looked up at him, her eyes filling with tears again.
“I took Mathias to the waterfront today and got him passage on a ship bound for America. He’ll be leaving this week, but he won’t be back here.”
“Sir, do you mean to just let him leave? He didn’t even say good-bye to me or anything.”
“It was for the best, don’t you think? I mean, he is a strong man, and I’m very proud of him, but he’s not that strong, Virginia. You put him through a lot today, lass, and I’m surprised things hadn’t turned out differently. You know what I mean, don’t you?”
“Yes. He told you what happened, didn’t he, Sir?”
“Yes, he did, and to tell you the truth, I’m surprised at you, Virginia. I would expect it from a lot of lasses your age, but not from you. I thought you were a different young lady.”
“I just wanted to know what it would be like to be held and kissed by him. I saw him with Stephanie yesterday, and I just wanted to be her for a little while. I needed to know what it felt like. I’m ashamed of what I did now, Sir. Can’t you go and get him? Make him come back home now. I promise to behave myself.”
“No,” he said. Standing up, he turned and looked out the window. “From what the two of you have said to me, I think his leaving is the best for everyone involved.”
“Are you saying it’s better for him to sail halfway around the world than it is for him to be around me? Better for whom, Sir? You and Mother? Because it’s not better for me. Did he have to leave because of me…” She paused to catch her breath. “He wanted to be with me, didn’t he?”
“Well, we don’t have to worry or think about that happening, do we? He’ll be in America, far away from you, and you’ll be here with us until we find a suitable husband and you’re married.”
“I do not ever wish to be married. I love Mathias, Sir, and not as my brother. I love him, and I want to be with him. Can’t I go to America, too?”
“You’ll learn to love someone else. Your mother would never let you go so far away. What happened today can stay between the three of us if you like, and your mother never has to know what you did if you don’t want her to.”
“I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean for Matty to go away, but he’s been planning on going to America since we were children.”
“I didn’t even know the two of you even talked to each other when you were children.”
“We used to do a lot of things no one knew about. He taught me to fish, swim, and ride a horse.” She laughed softly. “He even taught me how to shoot a gun. I guess it was wrong, but I thought he’d teach me everything, and I wanted him to be the one to teach me about life.”
“Well, that isn’t going to happen, and I’m sorry for you, too. Are you sure you love him? Marriages aren’t usually based on love. They are based on the best station in society,” he replied, turning to look at her again.
“I’m not a child, and I know what love is. Mathias means the world to me, and I’ll never love anyone the way I do him. He’s everything to me. Mother would never understand, but maybe you can.”
“I understand, and I think you really do love him, but it’s too late. He’s gone, and you’re right, your mother would never allow it. She thinks Mathias is no good.”
“Did he say anything about how he feels about me?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. Mathias had told him how much he wanted to be with Virginia, but it wouldn’t do any good to tell her.
“He probably despises me now,” she whispered.
“I do know that he doesn’t despise you, lass, though, he did tell me to tell you good-bye, and he wishes you a good life.”
“Will you please let me know if you hear from him before he goes?”
“I don’t think that would do you much good since you can’t see him ever again.”
Sticking his hand into his pocket, he touched the letter his son asked him to give to Virginia once he was gone, but he wasn’t sure that was such a good thing. She needed to forget about Mathias and go on with her life. There were already gentlemen wanting to call on her. He didn’t know why he had put them off for so long. Maybe all of this was his fault. If he would have only insisted on her receiving the gentlemen callers, perhaps they would have already found her a suitable husband. As it was, Lord Richard had a couple of gentlemen in mind, and soon he would send them the invitations to come calling.
“May I be excused, Sir?”
“Yes, of course, I’m finished.”
She got up, walked to the door, and then paused as she put her hand on the knob. “I’m really sorry, Sir. I love you, and I didn’t mean to run your son away from home.”
Richard smiled and motioned her to come back to him. When she reached his side, he wrapped his arms around her.
“You do know that I love you very much, don’t you, Virginia? I love you as much as I do Mathias. You are my child, too, so don’t you ever doubt or forget that.”
“I won’t,” she cried and then ran out of the room and up the stairs.
Richard opened Virginia’s letter from Mathias and began to read.

Sweetheart,
I’m sorry I’m not man enough to do this in person.
I guess I was just too afraid to look into your beautiful eyes because if I did I’d never be able to leave you.
You were right, my beautiful Gin. I do want you. I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life, but we both know they’d never let us be together.
I want you to know I’ll probably love you until the day I die. You need to finish growing up, and when you do I’m sure a man will come along to love you the way you deserve to be loved. Don’t wait for me, Gin. I won’t be coming home. I wish you a life as beautiful as you are.
With All of My Heart,
Matty

Lord Richard wadded the letter up to throw it away then laid it on his desk and smoothed it out once again. How could this have been going on without him even knowing anything about it? He always thought he’d know when his son was in love with someone. “Mathias, son, you should have told me the truth. I would have let you marry her,” Richard said to himself as he read the letter once more and then locked it away in his desk. I’ll have to speak with Virginia again tomorrow, and if she loves you the same, then I’ll bring you home, he thought to himself just before he went upstairs to retire for the night.

* * * *

Virginia slipped out of the house that night, careful not to make a sound. She dressed in her boys clothing, her strawberry-blonde hair hidden under a cap, trying to look as much like a boy as possible…hoping to make it all the way to the hotel without any problems.
She had to see Mathias one more time before he disappeared out of her life forever. She couldn’t just let him leave like this, not knowing how he truly felt about her after everything that happened.
It took her a while to reach the hotel. It was getting late by the time she got her horse saddled and led out quietly. She only hoped he’d still be awake enough to speak with her when she found him.
She stopped to ask the man behind the counter which room she’d be able to find Mathias in, changing her voice as much as she could to sound like the boy she was pretending to be. She lied to the man, telling him she was a messenger sent from his father to deliver a message.
The innkeeper looked at her a little strangely but gave her the room number after a few moments. Virginia made her way slowly until she was out of sight, and then she ran up the stairs, only slowing down long enough to read the room numbers. Pausing in front of his door, she wondered if she should knock or just go in. What’s he going to say about me sneaking out and coming all the way here alone—at night? she asked herself. Would he be mad or happy to see her one last time? She brought her hand up to knock when she heard a noise just inside the room. It was a female voice. It had to be the wrong room…didn’t it? She looked at the number again, then without another thought, she grabbed the doorknob, turning it quickly, and the door swung open. A candle flickered on the bedside table, sending shadows around the room, but the only thing Virginia saw was Mathias on the bed, naked with some strange woman.

* * * *

Mathias stopped all movement the moment he heard a sharp intake of breath from the doorway. Somehow he knew who it was without even looking. Jumping up from the bed, he grabbed the sheet, pulling it tightly around him, but from the look on Virginia’s face, he knew it wasn’t quick enough. He had yet to reach satisfaction, and his cock stood erect, pushing the sheet up, ready to finish the job it had started. The more Virginia stared at it, the harder it became.
“Virginia, what the hell are you doing here?”
“How could you do this to me? I thought you wanted to be with me.”
“I never said that. Besides, how the hell did you get here?” he demanded to know.
“It doesn’t matter how I got here.” Her voice was quiet. Did he just say that he didn’t want me? She wasn’t sure if she heard anything he’d really said. It had been too much seeing him with another woman like that!
Mathias watched as confusion and then pain moved across her face. He walked to her, putting a hand on her elbow to pull her into the room since people were starting to open their doors with all the noise to see what was going on.
“Don’t touch me!” she yelled, slapping his face, then backed away from him. “Not after you touched her!” she said, pointing toward the bed.
“We need to talk. Wait for me downstairs until I get dressed. Then I’m taking you home.”
“No you won’t! I don’t need you, and I can certainly tell that you don’t need me. Besides, I’m not a little girl. You don’t need to see me home anymore. It’s not as if I’ll get lost or something. I found my way here alone, and I’ll find my way back just as well.”
“Wait for me downstairs, Gin, and I mean it!” he demanded.
“No, Mathias, I won’t wait for you. I hate you! Just go get on your ship to America and stay out of my life!” she screamed as she turned, running toward the stairs.
Mathias wanted to chase Virginia down and try to explain to her why he was trying to be with the other woman, why he’d been pretending it was her. Seeing everyone staring at him, he finally realized he was only clothed in his bed sheet. Shaking his head, he made his way back to his room.
He looked at the woman still on the bed. When she moved toward him taking him by the arm to pull him back down with her, he pulled away, disgusted with himself for ever thinking he could replace Virginia with her.
“Get dressed and get out!” he ordered between clenched teeth, furious with Gin for showing up here and now. He was so hard he hurt.
“So, she’d be the one ye were pretending I’d be, milord? I be thinking she’s a might young, don’t you think? Why was she dressed like a boy? Was she sneaking away from home to be with you? How sweet and innocent she must be for you to turn to someone like me.”
“I said for you to get dressed and get out!” he yelled this time, trying to rush to put his pants on.
“Don’t worry, love. I’ll be going as soon as you pay me. I can’t say as I blame ye for wanting her, though. She was quite beautiful, but she really should be doing something about dressing the way she does if she wants to keep a man.”
Mathias took her by the arm when she was half dressed. Putting some coins in her hand, he opened the door, pushed her out into the hall, and then shut it back. He rubbed his face and then put his hand to his forehead to rub where it was beginning to ache. What should I do? he thought. If I go after her, I won’t want to leave again, or I’ll have to steal her away to America with me. Maybe it’s just better to leave things the way they are right now between us. She despises me now. Maybe she’ll go on with her life and forget all about me. He went downstairs to look for her in the end. He knew he couldn’t just leave her down there waiting for him, but when he got there she was nowhere to be found. He rubbed his forehead again. It was becoming a stabbing pain. Sitting down in a chair, he wasn’t sure of what to do anymore. He wanted her, but he also still had his dream of going to America. What do I do now? I want you, Gin, and I want you just as much as I want to go to America. I know I can’t have both. He lowered his head, putting it in his hands, and he was so frustrated he wanted to scream or hit something. He raised his head and looked around the room, and he knew what he would do at last. He would stay and marry her if she still wanted him tomorrow. I’ll send for Father tomorrow and tell him how I feel. I’ll stay in England, marry Gin, and work with Father if she still loves me tomorrow. Then one day we will both go to America together. He decided just before going back to his room.

* * * *

Virginia had said she hated him, but she knew no matter what he did she would never hate him, could never hate him. She also knew he was right to go to America. It was the only dream he’d had as a child. She had no right trying to make him give it up, and she had to let him go even if it meant giving up her dream of being with him for the rest of her life. She was lost in thought as she walked past Richard’s study, so she barely heard him call out to her.
“Virginia, could I speak with you for a moment?”
She turned slowly and made her way back to the study. Does he know what I did last night? she asked herself, sitting across from him. “Is there something wrong, Sir?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I hope not.”
She sat there waiting as he stared at her for the longest time, saying nothing.
“I was hoping we could speak about Mathias.” He put his hand in his pocket to pull the letter out that his son had written to her. He was going to give it to her if she said she was in love with Mathias, so she would know that he also loved her. Then he would go after him and bring him home where he belonged.
“I told you I was sorry for the way I acted. It was very foolish of me to behave that way, downright childish. I just didn’t want him to go away and leave me here behind.”
He left the letter in his pocket as he looked at her. “Are you in love with my son, Virginia?”
“No, Sir,” she lied. “I’m not in love with Mathias. I was just jealous that he was leaving me here as he went on an adventure.”
“And now, how do you feel now?” he asked, staring at her to see if he could tell if she was lying or not.
“Now it’s time for me to grow up and find my own adventure. I’m sure it won’t be as exciting as going to America, though. I do envy him that.Please, Lord, don’t let him know I’m lying. I have to let go of Mathias. It’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t love me anyway.
“That’s all I needed to know. You may go and enjoy your breakfast now.”
Virginia walked to the door then turned to look at Richard again. “Was there some reason you asked me about Mathias?” She couldn’t help but feel there was something he wasn’t telling her.
“No, dear, I was just curious,” he said with a fake smile of his own.
“Very well. I hope I helped your curiosity then.”
“You did,” was all that he said as she turned and left the room.

* * * *
A letter from Mathias arrived shortly after Virginia left the study. Richard read it a few times, and he knew he could keep his son here and let him marry her, but she said she wasn’t in love with him, she was just being childish. He looked at the letter again. Mathias confessed his love for Virginia, but it was best for him to go to America and follow his dream, because she didn’t feel the same way, or at least that’s what she had just gotten through telling him. He would go to the hotel and let his son know that he should go on with his adventure. Oh, how I would love to see you stay here and take over the company one day and marry your love, but it’s not meant to be, Son, Richard thought to himself as he folded up the letter, sticking it into his pocket with the other one. He left the house to go inform Mathias that Virginia wasn’t in love with him after all.

* * * *

“I’m sorry, Mathias. I truly am, but she doesn’t love you. It was just a little girl’s fantasy. You were her hero, and she saw you kissing Stephanie, so she was jealous and wanted you all for herself the way she always had you until Stephanie came along.”
“Are you absolutely sure, Father? I just have this feeling in my gut that there’s more to it than that. She was so convincing, and then she cried. I love her, Sir, and I don’t want to go without her…If you won’t let her go to America with me, then I’ll stay here and marry her.”
“Go to America, son, and start your life the way you always wanted to. She doesn’t want to go with you and she doesn’t love you that way. I’m truly sorry to have to tell you this, but that’s how she feels.”
“She’s just angry because she saw me with that woman last night. She wouldn’t even let me explain it to her. If I go to her now and tell her the truth, then maybe she would understand and forgive me. I love her. I want you to fix it so we get married anyway.”
“No, son, it wouldn’t be right for either of you, not when she’s not in love with you. Besides, how did she see you with another woman?”
“She came here to the hotel last night. She didn’t even knock on the door. She opened it and caught me red-handed, I guess you could say.”
“She snuck out of the house and came here all alone last night?”
“Yes, I told her to wait downstairs for me to take her home, but once I was dressed she was already gone.”
“The little minx didn’t say a word about that this morning.”
 “I don’t want to leave her, Sir.”
Richard hugged his son to him. It was hurting him to let Mathias go so far away, but the hurt and pain he saw in his son’s eyes today was almost his undoing. “If things don’t go well for you over there, come home, Son, and maybe…just maybe Virginia will be ready then. She’s just a child right now. Give her time to grow up some.”
“Sir, if I find that America is not the life for me and I return to England and the lass isn’t betrothed by then or married—would you then consider me a suitable caller?”
“Let’s see how things go with you in this new world first, Son. Who knows, you may like it so much you won’t want to come back here.”
“I will do my best to get on in America as I’ve always wished to do, but I’d like your word that if I should return I would at least be considered.”
“All right, if you come home and still wish to marry the lass and she’s not already betrothed or married by then, I will consider you as a suitor for her hand in marriage.”
“That is all I ask of you, Sir.”
“Take care of yourself, Mathias, and know that I will love and miss you.”
“I love you, too, Father, and will miss you. Hug Virginia for me and tell her it’s all right. I don’t hold anything against her.”
“The lass will be just fine. Don’t worry about her.”
Mathias merely nodded, walked his father to the door, and watched as he went down the stairs and out of sight. Leaving her behind was going to be the hardest thing he’d ever had to do, but he had waited a lifetime for this adventure. He wouldn’t let the whims of the lass rob him of it. If things didn’t work out for him in America, then who knew what he would do? Perhaps he would set his sights on a whole new adventure. Time would tell what life had in store for him, and he was sure by the look on his father’s face that he’d already found an eligible suitor for Virginia. Perhaps he would find the right woman for him in America.


If you enjoyed reading the first & second chapters of One True Love and would like to finish reading it the book can be purchased at:

Siren-Bookstrand Publishing