In the Mists of Time
In…, Book 3
Ebook ISBN: B018K0HY8M
Print ISBN: 978-1619234758
[ Paranormal Romantic Suspense, MF ]
On a mist-shrouded hill in the Scottish Highlands, Louise encounters a sexy ex-con with a dangerous secret, and gives into wild, irresistible lust. As a new investigation threatens Thierry’s freedom, his friends, and his fragile, passionate relationship with Louise, weird weather closes in, not least the recurring aphrodisiac mist…
Mist hung over the Highland hills, swirling in the valleys between. It seemed to have a life of its own, spreading its tentacles downward towards the house and threatening to follow with its main body, swallowing everything in its path like some evil science fiction entity.
Or so it seemed to Thierry, staring out his caravan window. As long as he could remember, he’d made up stories about mist and fog. He’d grown up on the coast of Brittany in a village not dissimilar to this one, and there had been days when he hadn’t even been able to see the sea. As he’d grown up and his reading tastes developed, the monsters and giants living in the misty kingdom had morphed into aliens and evil gas beings.
He smiled at the memories. He’d made up other tales too for his little sister who’d been afraid to go out in the mist until he’d peopled it with magical folk and princesses for her and told her wild tales of their adventures close by. She’d wanted to go out in it then and hear more while they looked for the people he described. He’d indulged her. But he’d still preferred his science fiction fantasies.
He glanced over his shoulder, from the window to the table, where he’d been working on some computer parts.
“Stuff it,” he said in English. Although he was French, he’d lived in Scotland so long now that he rarely even thought in his own language anymore. He strode to the door, snatched his waxed jacket off the hook and flung it on as he left the caravan.
Although the mist still hung mostly in the hills rising above the house, curls of it had begun to seep into the backyard.
You could smell mists, Thierry had always thought. London fog smelled different to Breton mist. And Scottish mist was different again. Mind you, until now, Scottish fog had been associated for him with the smell of prison. This was his first Scottish mist as a free man.
At the thought, a smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. He paused a moment to look around the yard. Jim, the house cook, was enthusiastically digging up some earth to the left of the kitchen door. He was making a little garden for herbs to augment what was already growing in the main garden. Glenn Brody, founder of the Ardknocken House project for ex-prisoners, strode across the yard with his dog, Screw, which the men occasionally remembered to call Rover for the benefit of Glenn’s stepson son, Jack.
Thierry raised one hand to Glenn and began to walk. Although he regarded Glenn as his best friend in the world, his mind was on the hills, not talk. Glenn, however, swerved toward him.
“Going to the village?” Glenn asked.
“No, just walking,” Thierry said reluctantly. “Why?”
“I told Izzy’s friend Louise you’d take a look at her computer sometime.”
“Will tomorrow do?” Thierry asked, his gaze straying towards the hills. It was good to be in demand, but the mist might have cleared if he went to the village first.
“Sure,” Glenn said. He must have been following Thierry’s gaze, for he added, “Watch yourself if you go up there. It can be treacherous in the mist.”
“Okay.” Thierry walked on without a backward glance.
At Ardknocken House, everyone understood about alone time and open spaces. No one there had any intention of going back to prison. For Thierry, the Scottish Highlands were perfect—quiet, beautiful and massive. Or at least he had the impression of hugeness that countered all his knowledge that Scotland was, in reality, a small country.
It didn’t take him long to walk up into the mist. From there, he only had his feet to guide him, for soon he could barely see his hand held in front of his face. It should, he reflected, climbing on, have felt as claustrophobic as a prison cell. Or as his caravan was becoming.
The caravan had been great at first. He could take it where he liked and sleep well away from anyone else, even while visiting family and those of his old friends still prepared to speak to him. He’d driven it quite happily up here to Ardknocken, and still appreciated the privacy, if not the size. Now that he’d met everyone and seen how totally privacy was respected, he began to think a room inside the house might be better. Len’s room was still vacant since the trouble back in January, though Chrissy seemed to be saving it for someone new. Maybe he could swap with Jim or Charlie?
He mulled it over for a while until the old imagination of his youth took over and he was striding through the fog to discover a lost world. It was a new and interesting story, filling his head with strong beings and powerful magic, so in some ways it seemed perfectly natural when the beautiful wraith emerged quite suddenly from the mist, only a couple of feet away from him.
Blinking the fantastic story from his mind, he fully expected the wraith to vanish with it. When she didn’t, he halted in surprise. So did the wraith, although at least she didn’t scream or even gasp. Somehow her silence added to her unreal, ethereal presence. Dampness from the mist glistened on her pale hair and lashes. Her eyes shone like blue lamps. Thierry had never seen anyone or anything more lovely. She seemed to have stepped straight out of the fairy tales he’d made up for his sister, or from his own much more adult fantasies. Lust seared through his shock. He wanted to touch her.
Hastily, he pulled himself together, hauling himself completely out of his imagination. She was no wraith or fairy princess. She was a young woman in a belted coat. He’d even seen her around the village once or twice and thought she was pretty. Well, if he was honest, her beauty had deprived him of breath and he’d longed for things to be different so that she might look back at him. He’d never even asked who she was. But she was no wraith. That was just the mist playing tricks on his mind.
Her lashes flickered against her cheeks as she blinked. Then she moved forward with quiet deliberation.
“Hello,” she said distantly.
“Hello,” Thierry replied and watched her walk past him until the mist enfolded her once more.
* * * * *
Louise’s heart thundered as she walked past him. He seemed the only still, solid thing in the swirling mist. Tall, dark, immovable. Although she made sure not to brush against him, she imagined a surge of heat from his body—or was it just hers?
She knew who he was. Roughly, at least. In Ardknocken, every stranger was obvious, and the ex-cons from Ardknocken House always stood out like sore thumbs. This man she knew to be one of the newer arrivals, though she had no name for him.
It didn’t seem to matter. With his romantically dishevelled, black hair, secretive eyes and tall, lean body shrouded in mist, he was drop-dead gorgeous. Louise was good at admiring men from a distance, acknowledging good looks with healthy dispassion. But close to, even in the mist, this guy knocked her out. She wanted to wind herself around him, feel every inch of his body, his mouth. He had a sensual mouth. She just bet he could kiss…
Shocked at herself, she shut down the fantasy before it could get properly going. She really wasn’t so desperate that she had to conjure up imaginary lovers from the untouchables at the big house.
Except, of course, the ex-cons were no longer quite so untouchable. Izzy was living up there now with the arch-con himself, Glenn Brody. Izzy was an incomer too, of course, and in general the village was more shocked by the fact that one of its own, Louise’s brother, Aidan, was in a relationship with the manager of the Ardknocken House project. Although, at least Chrissy hadn’t been to prison.
What crime had this guy committed?
What the hell was he doing out here on the hills in the mist?
Louise halted. He was a stranger; for some reason, just looking at him had heated her blood, distracting her from the far more real danger that he didn’t know these hills and he was heading straight towards the waterfall in the thickest mist she could remember.
Turning, Louise hurried after him. She moved quickly through the mist, her feet unerringly finding the path. He would move more slowly, of course, but there was no guarantee he’d even stay on the path. If he veered, he could lose his footing on loose rocks and still fall several feet…
“Hello?” she called. “Wait!”
Surely the mist wouldn’t muffle her voice so much that he wouldn’t hear her? But then, she should be picking up the noise of the waterfall from here and she couldn’t…
“Hello?” His voice drifted like a distant echo, giving her no idea of his direction. She could only follow the path to the waterfall.
Alarmingly, the mist seemed to thicken with every step. She couldn’t see her own feet clearly. How would he ever make out the edge of the waterfall rocks? Anxiety clawed at her stomach. She was nearly there. She thought she could just about hear its noise over the hectic drumming of her heart.
The waterfall came directly from a rushing spring under the rocky hill. The water spilled out in force and tumbled down the sheer cliff into the river below. Louise approached the waterfall from the left side—no water here, but just as dangerous a drop. She paused, listening, before she took another pace closer to the spring.
Then, quite abruptly, he stood in front of her, tall and looming. He must have been equally startled, or perhaps, like a gentleman, he didn’t want to crowd her. Whatever his reason, he stepped backward.
Without thought, Louise shot out her hand and seized his wrist. One more step and he’d be over the edge. Misty tendrils swirled across his hollowed face as she tugged on his hand, trying to draw him toward her. Words seemed to elude her, so she let her eyes do the pleading. A faint frown flickered between his brows. Then he took the step towards her, and she smiled at him with pure relief.
His breath caught. Suddenly aware of his physical nearness, she stepped backward, but she’d forgotten she was still holding his wrist, and he came with her.
“The waterfall,” she managed. “You were right at the edge. Another step and you’d have fallen thirty feet and probably drowned in the river.”
His hand twisted, and she immediately loosened her grip, but his fingers wrapped around hers, his touch cool, strong, electric.
“You feel too warm to be a spirit of the mist.” His voice was low and deep, sending tingles down her spine, his accent deliciously exotic. “Sent to save the unwary.”
“No one sent me,” she muttered. His gaze dropped at last from her eyes to her lips and the butterflies dancing in her stomach dived lower. “And, trust me, I’m no spirit.”
“Thank you,” he said, still watching her lips.
Before she could stop herself, she glanced at his, and the muscles between her legs clenched. Full and textured with the dampness of the mist, his mouth seemed to glisten. A surge of longing to feel it on hers weakened her knees, frightening her with the unprecedented force of this sudden desire.
Trying to pull herself together, she made a half-hearted effort to tug her hand free. It only drew his attention to their entwined fingers. Slowly, he raised their joined hands. He seemed as fascinated by the sight as she was. His fingers were long, tapering, smooth, apart from the pads at the tips, which felt hard and a little rough. This man had been in prison. Izzy had claimed last year that apart from Glenn himself, none of the big house residents had been inside for violent crime. But this guy was new. She knew nothing about him except that his dark eyes melted her and his nearness dampened her knickers with pure wicked lust.
He bent his head, turning her raised hand, and slowly, deliberately pressed his lips to the inside of her wrist. Delicious heat swept through her veins from his mouth to her core. Her heart was hammering.
“Thank you,” he said huskily. His fingers loosened.
Suddenly terrified that he would let her go, she opened her hand and touched his upper lip with one fingertip. It felt warm, alive. Daringly, she traced the creases across to the corner of his mouth and down to his lower lip. His mouth moved, caressing her finger, softly kissing.
Breathlessly, stunned by her own behaviour, she let him. His loosened fingers closed around her hand once more, and he began to kiss along the edge of her hand to her palm, with increasing sensuality. Somehow, she’d drawn closer to him, and because she couldn’t help it, she reached up with her free hand to touch his cheek—cool, damp, slightly stubbly.
God, he was gorgeous. No one had ever made her feel like this…
He stopped kissing her hand. His eyes devoured her face. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered. “How can you be so beautiful?”
Enchanted, she actually made the first move, raising her face, parting her lips, and his mouth lowered. All those butterflies intensified with the anticipation. He couldn’t draw back now, he couldn’t…
His lips brushed against hers once, twice, making her gasp. For an instant, he stared into her eyes with a weird mixture of hesitancy and desperation, as if waiting for her to push him away. She grasped the fabric of his raincoat, hard, and a smile flickered across his mouth as it took hers.
Her stomach dived; her bones melted. His mouth began to move on hers, sweet and sensual, and she was lost in lust.
This is insane. I don’t do this. No one does this. But clamouring desire smothered her feeble attempt at sense. If he’d stopped kissing her now, she’d have screamed. She thrust both arms up over his shoulders and around his neck, tangling her fingers in the hair at his nape, drawing him closer as she opened her mouth wider, sliding her tongue into his mouth, finding his.
As if that was some kind of signal, he groaned against her lips, deepening the kiss with sudden power and hunger. One of his hands cupped her face; the other was at her back, pressing her into him. Even through her coat, she could feel his raging erection. It should have frightened her, dragged her back to the reality that she was risking the rape of a stranger. But there was no question of rape here. Her body was way out of control and it wanted his fiercely, urgently.
Dare she risk taking him home to the B&B? Dragging him past her frail parents? She wished the self-catering flat were free, but it wasn’t, and in any case, amazingly, it seemed her stranger wasn’t prepared to wait that long.
He dragged open her coat, swept one hand over her throat and breast, and she held it there for an instant before his other hand pressed her into his hips and he began to draw her downward.
But Louise knew the hills, even in the mist. “No,” she whispered, resisting. Instantly, he straightened and his arms loosened, but she’d no intention of allowing that. Holding him by the waist, she drew him with her, several steps backward, several more to the left, until she found the big, jutting rock at the base of the next rise.
He came with her willingly, breathing deeply. His hands reached beyond her, feeling the sloping rock at her back. Another of those funny, sexy little smiles flickered across his lips, and then his hips pushed hers against the rock.
His erection, huge and hard, strained against his taut jeans. He ground it between her thighs. She moaned, reaching for him with both arms, impatient as he unzipped his jacket. Now, it seemed, he was in total control, and nothing would stop him. The knowledge excited her beyond endurance. He almost tore open the buttons of her woollen top, and then his hands devoured her breasts. He fell on her, his lips greedy on her skin as he reached behind her to unclip her bra. And then his mouth was on her naked breasts, almost fierce. His tongue lashed her nipples, and she arched into him, moaning, rubbing herself against his trapped erection. His lips closed around her nipples. She felt his teeth grazing, teasing, and then, with sudden strength, he sucked, and she really thought she might orgasm from the bliss of that.
Blindly, she fumbled between their bodies to find the fastening of his jeans, because there was only one way this could go now. While he kissed and sucked on her breasts, his hands were everywhere, roaming under her skirt, stroking her boots, her knees and thighs. Louise wriggled because she couldn’t be still. She had his jeans unzipped, had begun to push them down over his hips, when he grasped both of her hands and spread them wide on the rock above her head.
The position drove her wild. She moaned, desperate for the comfort of his cock inside her. Deliberately, he transferred both her hands to one of his and thrust his jeans and underpants the rest of the way down his hips. Although, infuriatingly, she couldn’t see it, she knew his cock was free, because she felt it, hot and hard against her naked thigh. His hand delved, thrusting aside the lust-soaked cotton of her knickers. He muttered something incomprehensible in French, perhaps because she was so wet for him. In any case, she had no time to dwell on it, for his hand vanished, to be replaced at once by his cock, sliding between her slick thighs and straight inside her.
He groaned, drowning out her choked-off cry of shock and pleasure. But there was no time to get used to his thickness within her, to savour the sensation of heat and hardness; he thrust again, fiercely, all the way in this time, and with a mindless cry, she pushed up onto him. She’d never been so turned on, so desperate for completion, in her life.
As the mist swirled around them, she writhed and strained with the stranger, the ex-con she’d never met before. She gave herself without inhibition, taking greedily for herself his every hot caress. She seemed to be drowning in his wide, dark eyes. Almost black with passion, they never left her face as he hammered into her, still holding her hands above her head, sometimes using his other hand to hold her hips steady against the rock, for his pounding, at others to knead her naked, hard-peaked breasts.
His every stroke was bliss, raising her higher and higher with impossible speed. Louise, who’d always needed a patient lover, reached for her orgasm with her whole joyful body, and shattered around the almost-fully clothed stranger in moments. Even better, her involuntary clenching seemed to drag him with her. He collapsed on her with a panting shout, burying his face in her hair, his breath hot and shuddering against her cheek.
“God, you’re amazing,” he whispered when he could speak.
Her hands, released at last, flopped around him. Or at least around his open rain jacket. Unsatisfied with that, she burrowed underneath it, and his sweater, to find smooth, hot skin, damp from his exertions.
“No, I’m just amazed,” she managed.
He raised his head, his eyes searching hers. “It was too quick. Over too quickly. I want you again.”
She tried to laugh. “You can’t! Not yet!”
But his deliberate thrust inside her denied her disbelief. And, God knew, he was right. It couldn’t be over yet. She wanted more, much more of him.
He slid out of her.
Appalled, she tried to grab him back, but his hands were already on her shoulders, lifting her, turning her so that her front was pressed into the rock and her grazed bottom exposed to the cold, misty air. This time she sighed as he pushed inside her. He slid his hands down her arms, stretching them around the rock, entwining his fingers with hers.
He began more slowly this time, as if to make up for the wild, almost rough first bout. But, somehow, it wasn’t enough for either of them, and after a few delicious moments of slow, sensual fucking, he groaned and thrust in hard, and that was even better. She pushed back into him, encouraging him, and again he pounded her, hard and fierce. Her naked breasts were pushed against the rock, but she welcomed the pain as part of the whole amazing, totally necessary experience.
When his breathing quickened even further, and she could hear his groaning voice in it, he released her arms, wrapping his around her upper body instead, straightening and pulling her back against him as he thrust into her. His hands closed over her breasts and his mouth latched on to her nape. She cried out, so close, so close…
He pushed into her with a muffled shout, emptying inside her once more. At the same time, his shaking hand left one breast and slid down to close over her pussy. His fingers moved, as if playing a scale on the piano and Louise came with him, just as hard as before.
I must be dreaming this… I never left home this afternoon, just fell asleep on the sofa.
“What you do to me,” her lover murmured breathlessly. Slowly, he eased his weight off her. His hands moved, finding her tangled bra, drawing it around her, fastening it. “Do you know I could do this again?”
Louise’s heart still thundered. So could I… Do it, then, do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s insane…
But he was fastening the buttons of her top, and slowly, almost reluctantly, he withdrew from her, adjusted her damp, mangled knickers for her, and drew down her skirt. By the time she turned to face him, his jeans were fastened.
“Next time,” he said, “you must wear jeans. And a chastity belt.”
An involuntary laugh spilled from her lips. “I never realized my old coat and hippy skirt were so sexy. Maybe it’s the boots.”
“Maybe it’s you.” His arm came around her shoulders. His fingers pushed up her chin until he could kiss her mouth, long and sweet and sensual. Somewhere during it, he began to walk, and she had to break off and pay attention, guiding them both toward the safe path.
He said, “The question is, rather, what was it about me?”
Actually, it was a damned good question. He was a handsome bloke with a nice body—a very nice body, as it turned out—and a hint of danger about him. But she knew many handsome men, some, like Glenn, also with the danger thing going on. But she’d never been remotely tempted to screw any of them with the first hello.
Maybe you just asked. She wasn’t sure which of them that answer insulted more, so she kept it to herself. She refused to feel down now about something that had felt so bloody good at the time.
She grasped his jacket, pulling him with her to the easiest path down the hill.
“You must know these hills very well,” he said curiously.
“I’ve lived in Ardknocken all my life. This was our playground.”
“Even playgrounds look different in the mist. Glenn was right, I shouldn’t have come up here in this. I just never expected it to be quite so impenetrable.”
“Neither did I,” she confessed. “I’ve never known it so thick.”
“And yet you see right through it.”
“Sort of,” she agreed vaguely. “I always have.”
He turned her face up to his once more. Her stomach dived, just like before. She parted her lips in anticipation.
He paused. “What was that? Is someone crying?”
Louise listened. They seemed to have come down out of the worst of the mist. A faint, muffled whimper drifted towards them. A second later, someone appeared around the edge of the hill, half running, half scrambling down the steeper slope.
Instinctively, Louise and her companion veered towards the figure, who emitted another sob. Louise recognized her.
“Nicole?” she called. “Are you okay?”
The girl stopped. Louise always felt vaguely sorry for her. The general view of the village was that Nicole wasn’t all there. She was certainly odd, but Louise suspected she was more eccentric than insane. Mind you, Nicole was a few years younger, so they’d never known each other all that well.
“Fine,” Nicole said. Her gaze flickered over Louise’s companion and widened before they flew back to Louise. “Are you?”
“Of course. Can you see through the mist? Do you want to walk down with us?”
“No,” Nicole said. “No.” And she began to run again, slipping and sliding her way down the hill.
Louise frowned after her. “I don’t think she is okay. I’d better make sure she gets home.” She looked around her. The mist had lifted. Even higher up, the sun was beginning to penetrate, a pale, almost eerie light. “If you walk straight down this path, you’ll end up by the big house. I’m going to follow Nicole.”
“Wait,” he said, holding her still at his side a moment longer. “Will we meet again? I don’t even know your name.”
She swallowed. After what she’d just done, she wasn’t sure she should admit to it. “Louise,” she confessed at last.
And for some reason, he smiled. He had a really gorgeous smile, sort of mischievous and shy, all at once, and Louise’s heart turned over.
“Then we’ll meet again,” he said. His head swooped, and he kissed her mouth once more, a little hard and blatantly sensual.
Part of her ached to stay just where she was, to take his hand and bring him with her, to take him home and maybe to bed for more of his delicious sex. But reality was setting in fast and with it, appalled shame. So although she kissed him back, she slid out of his arms as soon as his mouth released hers, and ran down the hill after Nicole. She was afraid to look back in case he was still watching her. Or in case he’d vanished without a second thought about her.
* * * * *
“Wow,” Izzy whispered as Glenn finally eased himself down beside her in the bed. “What brought that on?”
Glenn smiled sleepily. “You tell me. Temptress.”
“Not sure who tempted whom,” Izzy admitted in the interests of honesty. “But it had a pretty spectacular result.”
Glenn’s eyes darkened, his smile turning just a little wolfish.
Izzy touched his lips, tracing their shape. “I do love you,” she whispered.
His lips moved, kissing her fingers. His arms tightened around her. “I still don’t know why.”
“It’s the sex,” she teased. “You are rather fabulous in bed.”
“You’re mistaking fabulous for desperate.”
“You couldn’t have been desperate just now,” Izzy pointed out. “We made love before we got up this morning.”
“I was desperate,” Glenn insisted, “for you. In fact, I’m getting pretty desperate again.”
Izzy’s calming heart began to gallop again. “Don’t we have a busy day?” she asked breathlessly. “Preparing for tonight’s workshops and everything…”
“Later,” Glenn said, rolling over her and pushing inside her still tingling body.
“Oh my,” she gasped, thrusting up onto him, throwing both arms around his neck. “Later, whenever…”
Over his moving shoulder, the window of their attic bedroom looked white with opaque, swirling mist.