Captive Bride

By Johanna Lindsey

Chapter One

THE weather was pleasantly warm on this early spring day in the year 1883. The slightest of breezes played daintily with the great oak trees that lined the long driveway leading to Wakefield Manor. Two fine white steeds attached to an open carriage stood breathing hard before the huge, two-story mansion.

Inside, Tommy Huntington paced fretfully back and forth across the large drawing room with its gold-brocade furniture, waiting impatiently for Christina Wakefield to come downstairs. Tommy had rushed over to see her after finally reaching a decision concerning her, but now he was getting nervous.

Damn it, she never used to take this long, he mused as he finally stopped pacing and stood before the window looking out at the Wakefields' vast estate, not until she started wearing dresses and putting her hair up. Now every time he came to see her, he ended up waiting a half hour or more before she would join him.

Tommy was having second thoughts about what he wanted to tell her, when two soft hands slipped over his eyes, and he could feel Christina's breasts pressed against his back.

"Guess who?" she whispered playfully in his ear.

Oh God, he wished she wouldn't do that anymore. It had been fine when they were children growing up together, but lately her nearness was driving him crazy with desire.

He turned to face her now, and was enchanted by her uncommon beauty. She was wearing a form-fitting dark-blue-velvet dress with white lace adorning a high collar and long sleeves, and her golden hair was piled in countless ringlets about her head.

"I wish you wouldn't stare so, Tommy. You've been doing that more and more of late, and it makes me nervous. I would think I had dirt on my face if I didn't know better," she said.

"I'm sorry, Crissy," he stammered. "It's just that you've changed so much this last year that I can't help myself. You're so beautiful now."

"Why, Tommy Huntington, are you telling me that I used to be ugly?" Christina teased him, pretending to be affronted.

"Of course not. You know what I mean."

"All right, I forgive you," she laughed as she crossed to the gold-brocade couch and sat down. "Now tell me why you are here so early. I didn't expect you until dinnertime, and Johnsy told me that you looked fit to be tied when you rushed in here."

Tommy felt perplexed trying to find the right words, for he had not prepared his little speech. Well, he had better say something before he lost the courage.

"Crissy, I don't want you to go to London this summer. Your brother will be home in a couple of months, and I plan to ask him for your hand in marriage. Then, after we are married, if you still wish to see London, I'll take you."

Christina stared at him aghast. "You take too much for granted, Tommy!" she said harshly, but calmed down when she saw the stricken look on his boyish face. After all, she had always known this day was bound to come. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I realize that our families have always considered us a perfect match, and perhaps someday we'll marry, but not now. You're only just eighteen, and I'm seventeen. We're too young to get married. You know I've always been isolated here. I love my home, but I want to meet new people and know the excitement of London. Can't you understand that?"

She paused, not wanting to hurt him. "I love you, Tommy, but not the way you want. You have always been my best friend, and I love you the same way I love my brother."

He had listened to her patiently, knowing how strong-minded she was, but her last words hurt him deeply.

"Damn it, Crissy. I don't want to be a brother to you. I love you. I want you as a man wants a woman." He came over to her and, taking her hands, pulled her up against him. "I want you more than I've ever wanted anything else. Taking you in my arms and making love to you is all I can think about. It's become an obsession."

"You're talking foolishness, Tommy. I don't want to hear any more!"

Christina pulled away from him, and a moment later Johnsy, her old nanny, bustled into the room with tea. So no more was said on the subject.

They had an enjoyable dinner together after going for a long ride to relieve the tension. Since Christina had resumed her normal, carefree manner, Tommy tactfully did not mention his desire for her again.

Later that same night, as Tommy lay in his own bed thinking of Christina and that afternoon, he felt horribly apprehensive. He was suddenly positive that if Christina went to London this summer as she planned, it would change her whole life and ruin his. But there was nothing he could do to stop her.

Chapter Two

A thousand twinkling stars could be seen on this clear summer's eve. A warm breeze softly tossed the tree-tops, giving a glimpse here and there of a full, rounded moon lighting the landscape. But the peace of the beautiful English countryside was broken by the Wakefield coach rumbling over the empty, dusty road.

Inside the large, richly upholstered coach, John Wake-field stared pensively at his own reflection in the window. A lone candle standing in a sconce on the opposite side cast a subdued light over the deep-blue-velvet interior of the coach.

He just might enjoy this trip to the city, John thought, he knew Crissy would. He turned to look at his sister, who was sleeping undisturbed on the seat across from him.

Christina Wakefield had changed from a mischievous tomboy into a strikingly beautiful woman, all in the short year that John had been away from home. He had been shocked to see her so grown-up on his return a month ago and still couldn't get over the incredible change. Her figure had filled out to stunning perfection, and even her face had changed so that John hardly recognized her.

He studied her face now, as she lay dreaming sweetly. Gracing her high cheekbones were thick lashes that seemed to have grown longer in just a year's time. Her straight, narrow nose and rounded chin seemed more pronounced now that she had lost her youthful chubbiness. John knew he would have his hands full trying to keep the young bucks at bay when they reached the city.

Crissy had wanted this trip to London for her eighteenth birthday, and John had found no reason to deny her wish. Christina Wakefield had always been able to get what she wanted, he mused. She had had their father wrapped around her little finger, and now she had done the same thing to himself. Well, he didn't mind. John enjoyed giving in to his sister: she was all he had left.

He remembered clearly that fateful day four years ago when Jonathan Wakefield had died in a hunting accident. John had to inform Crissy of their father's death, for their mother took it so badly that she died three weeks later— from grief, the doctor said. But even with John's own grief, he somehow managed to help Crissy through her suffering. Crissy spent most of that time riding wildly across their estate on her black stallion. John let her do this freely day and night, for she had told him only three months earlier that she could forget her troubles by riding with the wind.

John wanted to laugh at her then, for what troubles could she possibly have at her age? Well, he had learned soon enough that troubles come to all ages. The riding helped Crissy through her grief, and she returned to normal sooner than she might have after suddenly losing both parents.

It was up to John to raise Crissy after that, but he couldn't have done it without the help of Mrs. Johnson— Johnsy, they called her. She had been their nanny when they were children, but now she took care of Wakefield Manor and supervised all the servants of the estate. John could still see Johnsy shaking her finger at him before they left for London, her brown eyes wide with concern.

"Now you be keepin' an eye on my baby 'ere, Johnny boy," she had reminded him for the third time that morning. "You don't be lettin'er go fallin' in love with none of those London gentry. I don't care for the likes of those London dandies with their uppity ways, so don't you be bringin' any home!"

Crissy had laughed and mocked Johnsy as she got into the coach. "Shame on you, Johnsy. What would I be doin' fallin' in love with a London dandy when I 'ave Tommy 'ere waitin' on my return?" Crissy threw a kiss at Tommy Huntington, who had come to see them off. Tommy lowered his head in feigned embarrassment, but John could tell that he wasn't happy about Crissy's journey to the city.

Tommy lived with his father, Lord Huntington, on a neighboring estate. Since there were no girls of Crissy's age living nearby, she and Tommy had been constant companions since childhood. John and Lord Huntington had always hoped they might marry someday. But Tommy, with his sandy brown hair and light brown eyes, was only six months older than Crissy and was still just a boy in John's eyes. Crissy was now a young woman, however, and of an age to marry. John had hoped that Tommy would mature as soon as Crissy, but perhaps she would wait for him if she loved him.

Who knows how the mind of a woman works, John thought absently. He didn't even understand Crissy's feelings for Tommy: whether she felt only friendship for him, or something more. He must remember to ask her about it later, but she would probably be so busy the next few weeks that he wouldn't have a chance.

John smiled, imagining the surprised faces of the young men who would seek her out when they discovered that Crissy was not only beautiful but intelligent as well. John chuckled to himself, recalling the heated argument that their parents had had over Crissy's education. They had compromised, and Crissy was schooled like any man but was also taught the feminine arts of sewing and cooking whenever their mother could find her.