Love, Come to Me by Lisa Kleypas




  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Author’s Note

  PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF LISA KLEYPAS

  “This escapist delight features clever banter, sexual tension, a zesty pace, and the unraveling of various mysteries, including why people fall in love.”

  —USA Today

  “A character-rich love story with a delightful twist.... I didn’t want it to end.”

  —Jill Barnett

  “Brimming with superbly nuanced characters, simmering sexual chemistry, and wicked wit . . . a thoroughly romantic literary treat.”

  —Booklist

  “Inventive and exciting.”

  —All About Romance

  “Certainly the most sensual romance I have read this year.”

  —The Romance Reader

  “A delightful must read . . . whimsical and touching.”

  —Night Owl Romance

  “Powerful . . . a wonderful novel.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  “Kleypas can do no wrong . . . a fantastic read . . . poignant, heartbreaking, and deeply satisfying. Kleypas has a knack for making readers cry, laugh, and cheer—often within the first couple of pages.”

  —Romantic Times

  “High action and scintillating twists and trysts.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “This was the most fun I’ve had . . . in years.”

  —Dear Author . . .

  SIGNET

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  Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin

  Group (USA) Inc. Previously published in an Onyx edition.

  First Signet Printing, September 2011

  Copyright © Lisa Kleypas, 1988

  All rights reserved

  REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

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  ISBN : 978-1-101-54365-8

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  Dear Friends,

  Over the years many readers have asked me about this book, which I wrote when I was in my early twenties. I was living in Concord, Massachusetts, at the time, and the area was so lovely and rich with history that I felt it would make a perfect setting for a historical romance. So I created a romance that was set right after the Civil War, involving an innocent Northern beauty and a sexy Southern rebel. I remember researching it in the basement of the Concord Library, having a wonderful time poring over gorgeous dusty old books that no one’s hands had touched for decades. (Oh, the smell of those books—antique vellum and leather—heaven!) And I recall being so excited about this story that I could hardly wait to run to my typewriter when I woke up every morning. I hope you enjoy the story of Lucinda and Heath, which was written with an enthusiasm that will hopefully atone for any weaknesses that I must cheerfully ascribe to youth and inexperience. I am so delighted to be able to share one of my earliest novels with you.

  Wishing you happiness always,

  Lisa

  Chapter 1

  Heath turned up the collar of his overcoat, cursing through his teeth as he felt an icy draft of wind slip down his neck. It was his first winter here, and he was discovering that New England was not kind to misplaced Southerners. His booted feet crunched through hardened layers of snow that had accumulated over many recent storms. It had snowed and frozen over so many times that he suspected it would take until June to melt completely away.

  Although he was dressed in heavy wool garments like a native Northeasterner, it would have been clear to anyone that he hadn’t lived here long. His skin was dark with the permanent bronze of someone accustomed to the heat of the Southern sun. He was six feet tall, which wasn’t all that remarkable in Kentucky or Virginia. Here he towered over most of the slender, compact New Englanders, and he looked at them with a blue-eyed directness that seemed to make them uneasy. At home strangers greeted each other as they passed in the street; here, it seemed you weren’t privileged to look someone in the eye unless you were kin, old friends, or business associates. He wondered why people in Massachusetts didn’t realize how odd they were. There was no explaining why they were so stiff and cold, and how they came by such a damned strange sense of humor. Maybe the weather had done it to them.

  He smiled at his thoughts—a smile that had once set every female heart in Henrico County aflutter—and his gloved hand tightened around the ax handle as he set out for more stove wood. He used up wood and coal fast, trying to keep the small house he had bought last spring warm enough. It was so chilly outside that it was hard to whistle, but as he walked he occupied himself with producing a passable rendition of “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight,” one of the most popular tunes of the war. It had been composed by a Northerner, but a catchy tune was a catchy tune.

  Slowly his footsteps came to a halt and his whistling stopped as he became aware of a muffled noise from the direction of the river. He lived on high ground near the river, and the quiet sound floated up to him, borne on the steady breeze, dispersed by the trees until it was difficult to hear. But it almost sounded like a woman’s voice.

  It could not be possible that she would actually die now, in this way, in this place. Crossing the frozen river here in
stead of walking the extra quarter mile to the bridge had been foolhardy, but she did not deserve this—no one did. After the first shock of falling through the surface, Lucy had struggled violently among the chunks and shards of ice that floated around her, flailing her arms until she had grasped the edge of the hole. It had taken less than five seconds for the bite of the water to sink through her clothes into her flesh, down to her bones. All of it had happened so quickly, in less than a heartbeat. Her breath shuddered from deep in her lungs as she tried to pull herself out, but her cashmere mittens slipped on the ice, over and over again. Each time she slipped, she sank in the water almost up to her mouth.

  “Someone help me! S-someone . . .” Her voice cracked as she looked toward the snow-blurred landscape of the riverbank, which was punctuated with the drifts of smoke from the chimneys of nearby houses. She could not help crying, even though she knew it was draining her strength, and she called out in a wavering voice with words that intermingled with sobs. “I’m in . . . the w-water . . . someone . . . help . . .” Someone had to hear her. Someone would help.

  None of this could be happening to her. Not to Lucy Caldwell, who had been safe and protected all her life. In a burst of panic, she managed to get her mittens off and scrabbled wildly at the ice, coughing on a mouthful of water. The weight of her skirts and petticoats dragged her down like lead, and for one terrifying moment she slipped completely under. Surrounded by chilling darkness, she fought the weight that tried to pull her deeper. Reaching for the surface, the air, she somehow rose back up again, and she was able to breathe. Weeping helplessly, she clutched at the edge of the ice and rested her cheek on it. Unable to move any longer, she would not let go.

  Lucy closed her eyes, and dug the tips of her bare fingers into the frozen surface. No one knew she was here. Her father thought she was still in Connecticut with Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Josiah . . . and she had not sent a message to Daniel about coming back early . . . because of their last argument . . . because she had forced him into the quarrel that she had been spoiling for. I’m so sorry, she thought, no longer able to feel the tears dripping down her cheeks. I always make you argue with me . . . Daniel . . .

  Slowly the coldness of the water turned into a dry burn, and she floated motionlessly, her fear fading into numbness. The river seemed to be talking to her, and its silent voice—insistent, lulling—penetrated her mind.

  A girl had drowned here once before, many years ago. Had the river taken her as easily, as gently as this? Had it seemed like a dream to her?

  Let it all disappear, the darkness urged.

  Sunlight, springtime, Daniel . . . love . . . all a dream . . . all nothing.

  Suddenly one of her wrists was seized in a cruel grip hard enough to send pain piercing through her numbness. She stirred in protest and her eyes fluttered open. Through the wet strands of her hair, she saw that a man was lying on his stomach near her. His unearthly blue eyes moved to the pale mask of her face, and his relentless hold on her tightened as he began to pull her out of the river. Her lips came together to form a word, but the only sound she could produce was a faint gasp.

  He seemed to be saying something to her, but to her ears his voice was indistinct. She felt him pull harder on her arm, and then she sank swiftly into darkness.

  She was being carried through the woods. Her head rested on a wool-covered shoulder. Her forehead was nestled intimately in the crook of a man’s neck. Her legs swung gently, bumping against the stranger’s side. The man who carried her trudged through the gathering drifts of snow with the steady, dependable stride of a workhorse, his feet moving in an unbroken rhythm. Sensing that she was conscious, he spoke softly, in a pronounced Southern accent.

  “I was going out for stove wood when I heard you. I don’t know what you were doing out there, honey, but you should’ve had better sense than to set foot on that river. Couldn’t you tell it wasn’t frozen all the way?”

  Opening her mouth was like prying apart rusted iron. Lucy tried to say something and heard a funny shuddering sound. She was too cold to talk, too cold even to think.

  “Don’t worry. You’re going to be fine,” he said lightly, and in her misery and shock, his voice sounded immeasurably callous. Her clothes were heavy and icy, clinging to her body and making her limbs ache. All of her life, her cuts and scrapes and miseries had been attended to quickly, and with plenty of sympathy. She had never felt pain like this before, all-consuming, enveloping, unrelenting. This was suffering, and she found that she had no tolerance for it. She began to cry weakly, and with a soft oath, Heath lifted her higher in his arms until her head was settled more firmly on his shoulder. His lips were right by her ear, and he murmured to her quietly. “Such a cold little ear. Listen to me, honey. It won’t be long, and you’re going to be all better. I’m taking you to a nice, warm room with a hot fire. We’re almost there. Don’t cry. Hold on for just another minute, and we’ll see what we can do about thawing you out.”

  He was talking to her as if she were a little girl, and although he sounded outrageously patronizing, she was comforted by his soothing. Despite his assurances that they were “almost there,” it seemed to take hours before they reached a small, well-lit house, and Lucy was nearly panicked by the realization that she couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. Wild fears ran through her mind. Was she paralyzed? Had she lost any fingers or toes? Fear kept her quiet as the stranger carried her into the house. After closing the door and shutting out the billowing gusts of snow, he deposited her carefully on a sofa. He seemed heedless of the way her water-soaked clothes and hair dampened the furniture. The room was lit by the cheerful blaze of an open-grate woodstove. Lucy could see its warmth but could not feel it. Her teeth chattered audibly, complementing the animated crackle of the flames.

  “You’ll warm up in a minute,” Heath said, fueling the blaze with more wood.

  “N-n-never,” she managed to say, shaking violently.

  He smiled slightly, dropping an armload of quilts into a nearby chair. “Yes, you will. I’ll have you so warm in a little while that you’ll be asking for a fan and a glass of iced tea.”

  “I c-can’t f-feel anything.” Fresh tears welled up in her eyes, and he knelt by the sofa, pulling the sodden tresses of hair off her face.

  “I told you not to cry . . . Miss Lucinda Caldwell. That’s your name, isn’t it?”

  She nodded, shivering fitfully.

  “I’ve seen you working at your father’s store,” he continued, unwinding the limp, dripping cashmere scarf from around her neck. “My name is Heath Rayne . . . and you should know, Lucinda, that for a long time I’ve planned on meeting you. The circumstances are not of my choosing, but we’ll just have to make the best of them.” He unbuttoned her cloak with quick, impersonal efficiency, while her eyes rounded and her teeth chattered harder. “Lucinda. You’re all curled up like a little snail. I need you to help me. Let me turn you onto your back.”

  “N-no—”

  “I won’t hurt you. I’m going to help. Make this easier for me, Lucy, and turn over. Yes, just like that . . .” Quickly his fingers moved to the basque of her drenched walking dress, unfastening the garment and spreading it open. She cringed away from him as she realized what he was doing. No man had ever undressed her before. But it had to be done, and she couldn’t do it herself. With an effort, she tamped down the instinct to struggle against him. “It’s a good thing the river had such a weak current,” he remarked matter-of-factly. “If it didn’t, this bunch of petticoats and all these . . . ruffles . . . would have dragged you down fast.”

  Lucy closed her eyes, unaware that tears were still rolling down her temples until he dried them with the corner of a quilt. Deftly her dress, the fashionable bustle, the collapsible crinoline, and all of her petticoats were removed. Several buttons popped off her boots, making Heath swear under his breath as they rattled across the floor. The laces of her stays were soaked and impossible to untie. Grimacing, he drew a bowie knife with a clipped
point from his vest and cut the cords. The boned material gave way and the corset expanded, causing Lucy to gasp feebly as knifelike pains seemed to slide through her ribs. Heath paused only a split second before hooking his fingers underneath the straps of her dripping camisole. Her body went even more rigid, which hardly seemed possible. This had to be a nightmare. That was the only explanation for what was happening to her.

  “I’m sorry,” he whispered, stripping her of the flimsy camisole and pantalets. She thought she heard a soft intake of breath, but the sound might have been the rustle of the quilts that he proceeded to wrap her in. He cocooned her in them tightly, so that nothing except her head was visible. The cold was settling in at her joints, causing her to groan in agony and harden her knees and elbows against it. Picking up her swaddled form easily, Heath sat down in a chair by the fire, cradling her in a solid grip. Even through the blankets she could feel that his arms were rock-hard.

  “Daniel. I want Daniel,” she said as icicle tears rolled down her face. She was forgetting that he didn’t know who Daniel was.

  “Let me help you.” A huge, warm hand moved over her forehead, pushing the tangled hair away, sliding down to soothe her prickling cheeks with a gentle palm.

  “My l-legs hurt. My knees are aching—”

  “I know. I’ve been through the same thing before.”

  “Not like th-this—”

  “I sure as hell have.” He smiled down at her. “And lived to tell about it. So there’s hope for you yet.”

 
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