face hiding everything but your wicked, wicked smile and the light that danced like fairy glamour in your eyes.”
“You stood out from the other women like a phoenix amongst hens.” He cupped her jaw in his hand, the calluses of his palm rough against her sensitive skin. “Beautiful and a little dangerous, eh?”
He leaned in, inhaling above the skin of her throat. Dominique held her breath, her pulse fluttering in response to his nearness, the solidness of his body against her. Still so familiar despite the passage of time.
“You smelled of bourbon, your family’s best. I could taste it on you even before I caught you…kissed you.”
Every word that passed his lips fed Dominique’s memory, plucking at all the delicious sensory details that went with them. Her blood had been hot that night, warmed by bourbon and dancing, and the pure, unadulterated joy that marked the Midsummer Celebration. She’d been young, but powerful, born with a natural gift that rendered her an easy vessel for the loa, a willing and able conduit for their power. Her mother’s words of caution had more often than not fallen on deaf ears. With power like hers, there had seemed little need for politics, for manipulation. She didn’t need to win the people’s respect or fear. It was hers by birthright.
She’d been spinning, arms flung out to the sides, face tilted up to the sky. Her skirts had reached for the corners of the earth, lifted in the whirling chaos of her dance. His gaze had been a physical weight on her, a heated iron left in the fire. Her head had spun far after her body had halted, and her first look at the pirate had done nothing to ground her.
Dark hair with a hint of curl had brushed broad shoulders tight with muscles built over years of working on a ship. He’d prowled around the crowd, threading through the tangle of bodies as easily as if he were navigating the current. There’d been so much potential in him that night, so much behind the dark eyes reflecting a light that had nothing to do with the torches.
Step by step, he’d circled, growing closer with every turn, spiraling inward. She’d caught his scent on the wind, the tang of sea air, and something hot, something…burning.
The seduction had been quick, something that even now failed to inspire shame in Dominique. He’d cut her from the herd like a wolf culling cattle, had chased her as she’d led him on a merry run through the trees, deep into the bayou. She could have lost him at any time, the terrain as familiar to her as her own face. But she’d let him catch her, let him carry her to the ground, laughing and breathing heavily.
And his kiss…
Julien’s lips covered hers, a perfect mirror to her memory. There was a heat in his mouth that no other man had ever matched—though admittedly there had been few given the opportunity to try.
Strong hands gripped her hips, slid her more firmly onto his lap, pushed her legs so they splayed. Her back ached, sharp pricks of pain reminding her she was wounded, but she ignored it. Nothing so paltry as torn flesh could distract her from who was in her arms now.
“He is an attractive man, my daughter, but there is a price to pay for that pleasure. See the wild light in his eyes. That is not a man who will stay. The morning sun can be cruel.”
Dominique stiffened at the memory of her mother’s voice. She’d ignored those words back then. She hadn’t really heard them over the echo of Julien’s words, over his promise to take her away. He’d talked of a life at sea, a life they could share together, free from the demands of her training and her mother’s constant lectures on behavior and respect. Facing her mother that morning had been the hardest thing she’d ever done.
The air tasted bitter after the sweetness of Julien’s lips, but Dominique forced it into her lungs anyway. He leaned closer, trying to continue the kiss, but she planted a firm hand on his