Blue Glass Lake was breathtakingly beautiful. James Meadows certainly hadn't exaggerated, but Genevieve was surprised he hadn't mentioned the trees, for they were even more glorious. Like towering sentinels keeping watch, they surrounded the lake on all sides. They were so thick in some spots it wasn't possible to squeeze through the openings between the trunks. Long branches arched gracefully across the expanse of water, and like the fingers of a lady's hands, they were elegantly entwined. The sun dappled on the leaves, and in the soft breeze they glittered like diamonds.
Adam told her the oaks were at least a hundred years old. He sat down on the ground with his rifle across his lap and leaned back against a fat tree trunk, smiling as he watched her try to get a foothold so she could climb up to fetch the rope hanging from one of the lower branches.
Her skirts hindered her movements, and after trying several times, she gave up.
"Now, aren't you happy we decided to make the detour?" she asked.
"I'm happy you quit hounding me," he teased.
"Look what you would have missed," she told him. She put her hands up and twirled around in a circle. "It's a paradise."
He silently agreed. He felt as though he had just entered a magical land. Spring's vibrant colors surrounded him, and he knew that if he had seen a painting of this idyllic spot, he wouldn't have believed that it really existed. Yet here it was in all of its perfection, and for a short while the beauty belonged to him.
He stared at Genevieve and decided that she belonged in such a place. Her surroundings enhanced her beauty. The joy in her face, so innocent and pure, made his breath catch in the back of his throat.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
She sat down beside him and began to untie her shoelaces, but then glanced up at him when he hesitated in answering.
"I was thinking that you never take anything for granted."
"I've learned not to," she replied quietly.
"How did you learn not to?" he asked.
Her shoulders sagged. She removed one shoe and started on the other. "Family," she whispered. "So many people go through their lives with blinders on. They become self-involved and only want to think about their wants and their desires. They don't leave room for anything else, and then, too late, they realize how important their families were."
"Were you like that?" he asked.
"Yes, I was," she replied. "I was so busy getting where I thought I wanted to go I didn't make time for the people who loved me. Now they're gone."
The sadness he heard in her voice made him want to put his arms around her and comfort her. When she leaned against him, he gave in to the urge and pulled her close.
"I'm sure your family was very proud of you."
"Yes, they were proud of me, but I'm not sure they really knew what to make of me. I rarely came home for a visit, and when I did, I never stayed more than a night or two. I would be all decked out in the latest fashions, and I tried to act so sophisticated. I called them 'mother dear' and 'father dear,' and now that I look back, I realize they exhibited an amazing amount of patience with me. I'm not sure if I was trying to impress them or myself. I never took time to think about it. I was so busy back then chasing fame and fortune." She shook her head and then added, "What a waste of precious time."
"Genevieve, I'm sure they understood."
"Perhaps," she agreed. "I didn't understand them though. My father put in a lovely garden in the front of the house, and every evening after supper he and my mother would tend it. They spent hours there. It was lovely," she added. "They had every flower you could imagine blooming, and on the fence were roses. Red roses. I used to think my parents led such boring lives, and now…"
"Now what?" he asked.
"I want to have a garden of my own someday just like theirs. I don't want to waste time. I want to appreciate every minute, and I want to teach my children to do the same thing."
"I thought you longed for adventure."
"Living is an adventure, Adam. Look around you. Being here is an adventure, and we would have missed it if we had hurried to Gramby."
He laughed. "Point taken."
"I love the fact that it's so secluded. Right this minute, this beautiful spot belongs to us and no one else."
He also liked the seclusion, though for a different reason. Blue Glass Lake was so far off the beaten path Ezekiel Jones and his friends wouldn't find them here. On their way to the lake, Adam had led her through a creek bed so that their tracks couldn't be followed, and he was certain no one was going to intrude on them now.
She shrugged his arm off of her. "I'm going swimming if the water isn't too cold. Would you like to join me?"
"Maybe later," he replied.
She turned away from him to remove her socks, then stood up and ran to the water's edge.
"It looks deep," she called out. She lifted the hem of her skirt and tested the water with her toes. It was surprisingly warm and too inviting to resist. Had she been alone, she would have taken her skirt and blouse off and swum in her underclothes. Since Adam was watching her like a hawk, she was going to have to keep everything on.
She turned around to face him, put her arms out wide, closed her eyes, and then fell backward.
She could hear him laughing when she came up for air. The sound echoed through the trees around her. She would have laughed with him, but she was too busy trying to stay afloat. Her skirt and petticoats had absorbed quite a bit of water and were weighing her down. She was able to swim, but she stayed close to the bank, and after fifteen minutes or so, she was exhausted.
Getting into the water had been much easier than getting out. She made three attempts before she gave up.
All she had to do was call to him and he was there. He reached down with one hand and pulled her out of the lake with incredible ease.
He didn't let go of her. Honest to God, he tried, but his hands seemed to have a will of their own. They slid around her waist and pulled her up tight against his chest.
Her clothes were plastered to her, and she was dripping wet. He didn't mind. Her head was tilted back, and all he wanted to think about was kissing every inch of her perfect neck. No, that wasn't true. He wanted to do a whole lot more than simply kiss her.
Her hands were pressed against his chest. She could feel his heart beating under her fingertips, and she had the almost overwhelming desire to caress him. She blamed the urge on him. The way he was looking at her made her shiver with excitement. He was so serious and intense.
She stared into his eyes and felt as though she were drowning under his dark, sensual scrutiny. Was he going to kiss her? He was frowning, and she didn't think he wanted to, but, oh, God, she would die if he didn't.
"Adam?" she whispered. "What's come over you?"
He shook his head. How could he tell her that he thought she had cast a spell on him and he didn't know how much longer he was going to be able to resist her? From the moment he'd met her, she had ruled his every thought.
The infatuation had to end. "You'll be leaving tomorrow," he said, his voice rough, angry.
"Yes, I will," she whispered.
"We'll never see each other again."
"No, we won't," she agreed.
She was making circles on his chest with her fingertips. The feathery light caress was driving him crazy.
"It's for the best." He was slowly pulling her arms up around his neck.
"Yes, it's for the best," she said.
His frown deepened. "My life's all mapped out, Genevieve. I don't have time for you."
"I don't have time for you either," she told him. Liar, liar, she silently chanted. "Adam? Are you going to kiss me?"
And then his mouth came down on top of hers, and it was the most amazing kiss she had ever experienced. His mouth was warm and firm and wonderful. He nibbled at her lips until she opened her mouth, and then his tongue slipped inside, and, oh, Lord, that was even more glorious. She clutched handfuls of his shirt and held on for dear life while he slowly, meticulously devoured her.
The kiss seemed endless, and he didn't lift his head away from hers until he had taken every ounce of her strength. She sagged against him and closed her eyes.
Her head rested in the crook of his neck. She sighed into his ear. "Are you going to want to kiss me again?" she asked dreamily.
"It was very nice," she whispered.
She kissed the side of his neck and felt him shudder. Then he slowly pulled her arms away from him. The moment was over.
"Tomorrow you're going to get on that coach and I'm going to go back home."
"I know," she replied. "I'm going to Kansas."
"No, you're not. You're going to Paris."
He put his hands on her shoulders and took a step back. She had a bemused look on her face, and damn if he didn't want to kiss her again.
He made himself turn away from her instead. "I shouldn't have kissed you. It won't happen again."
"I wouldn't mind…"
"I'd mind," he snapped. He softened his voice when he next spoke. "You're shivering. You should get out of those wet clothes."
"That isn't why I'm shivering."
"I'll build a fire."
Those were the last words he said to her for a very long time. She thought he was probably thinking about all the work he had to do when he returned to Rosehill.
The long day had worn her out. Wrapped in a blanket he had given her, she fell asleep and didn't wake up until the following morning.
After a breakfast of fresh fish, Adam saddled the horses while she put the supplies away. They left paradise a few minutes later. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and the sky became an omen of what was to come.