A Tiger's Courage
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by Susan Kelley
Description: Weston Gavon wishes only for death after years spent in slavery, but his duty to Harmony and the other young innocents dependent on him forces him to gather his tattered honor and stagger onward. Harmony doesn't know the details of the years Weston spent away from her, but she's determined to make him into a better man. But an evil from their past will soon disrupt the slow-healing of their relationship. Will the strength of their love survive the test and be enough to save them?
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: February 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [338 KB]
Reading time: 220-308 min.
Weston never questioned his extraordinary senses and at the moment he felt a sorceress approaching. Even from far away, he recognized her seat upon her horse. He'd taught Harmony to ride. When last he saw her, her gift shone like a lambent glow of a small oil lamp, difficult for him to detect unless he stood beside her. Her abilities had strengthened greatly for him to feel her at such a distance.
She rode with a recklessness that lightened his heart. He loved the daring, brave part of her. Her long, blonde hair streamed behind her, the speed of the lathered horse enough to lift the mass in the dry air. Her horsemanship nearly matched his, but he'd never taught her to treat a horse in the way she abused the poor animal she rode now.
He drank in the sight of her familiar but more mature face as she neared. Perfectly shaped, slightly tanned and dark, sparking eyes. Mouth turned down? He'd dreaded a tearful reunion.
She pulled the tired horse to a stop only steps from him. "Is it true?"
"I'm glad to see you too, Harmony."
"Don't shout." Her anger spurred his to rise. "Your horse is going to throw you if you don't calm down."
"Tell me the truth."
"I always tell the truth, and you know it."
"Do you love that woman?"
"What woman?" But dread tightened his belly. How could Harmony know his shame?
"I don't love Serena." He despised her.
Harmony blinked a few times, her mouth opening and closing without sound as if his answer had stolen her voice. Then she slid from the back of her horse. "You don't?"
"Do you really think I could love someone like her?" How did Harmony know of the woman?
Harmony smiled, and the desert brightened for him. Beautiful outside, fiery inside. Seeing her again reminded him that his despair over the years had been a small price to purchase her safety.
"I knew Belladonna lied." She closed the distance between them and moved into his arms.
Weston held her tight, noticing her growth meant the top of her head fit neatly under his chin. Her soft breasts pressed into his chest and triggered a bittersweet tug of desire. He inhaled the fragrance of her unbound hair, the mass tangled from her wild ride. "Belladonna is not known for her high virtues."
Harmony laughed, the sound as refreshing as a rain storm. She stepped back but grasped his upper arms. His smile felt strange and foreign on his lips. How long since he'd experienced genuine pleasure?
"I shouldn't have let her upset me."
"You shouldn't have gone near her at all." The moment of pleasure withered. "Didn't you learn your lesson a few years ago, little one?"
"I'm not so little." Harmony lifted her chin and flung her head so her long mane flipped over her shoulders in a practiced, flirtatious manner.
Weston took a sharp breath against a jolt of jealousy and anger. Had he thought she would stay a child forever? Many girls married before their fifteenth year.
"Don't hurry to grow up."
"At the last market Regan had to turn away three men asking for my hand."
"Did you encourage them?" How could he live knowing another man kissed her luscious lips and made love to her petite, muscular body? She was to have been his.
"Be quiet, Wes." Harmony giggled and poked him in the chest.
Her silliness calmed him. His father would look out for her.
"Did you encourage the attentions of sweet Serena?"
"I only give her notice if forced to."
"I knew that. Belladonna didn't fool me with that baby story. As if you'd bed a nasty piece like her." Harmony giggled again.
"Baby?" Confusion danced around the edges of Weston's thoughts.
"Can you believe she would spout such nonsense?"
A heavy ache grew in Weston's chest. How could the Good Fates allow an innocent to fall into Belladonna's misery-drenched hell? How could Serena be pregnant?
Weston wondered if Harmony could understand his helplessness while she remained innocent of men. "Did Belladonna tell you Serena is with child?"
"Why do you have that funny look on your face?" A thin edge of panic lined Harmony's rising voice. "You didn't breed with that simpering whore!"
"Harmony." But he could think of nothing else to say without lying or revealing things he never wanted her to know.
She dropped her hands from his arms for a heart beat. Then she slapped him, again and again. Her hands beat over his chest and face while he made no attempt to defend himself. Her small hands inflicted little physical damage though the blows to his heart felt fatal. Her words delivered the most lethal hits.
"I hate you!" Harmony repeated the vow with every slap until her sobs rendered her words unintelligible.
Weston tried to pull her back into his arms, while his mind searched for words to explain. She pushed away from him so violently she landed hard on her backside.
"Don't touch me!" Ragged sobs punctuated her words, while tears streamed from the corners of her burning eyes. "I never want to see you again."
She stood, not even brushing at the gritty sand coating her clothing, and then mounted her horse with disjointed movements lacking any of the superb horsemanship of her arrival. The heat in her wet eyes cooled. "Serena isn't the whore. You are. I loved you. I would have waited forever for you."
She rode way and never looked back. There would have been nothing for her to see for nothing was left of him.