Only With Your Love





  LISA

  KLEYPAS

  ONLY WITH

  YOUR LOVE

  To Pamela Bergeron with love…

  Carpe Diem!

  Contents:

  Chapters

  Prologue Together they lay in the tumbled bed, listening to the…

  1 Before ten minutes had passed the sounds of combat died…

  2 The sight of Griffin threatened Celia in every way a woman…

  3 Swift footsteps sounded behind Celia. Suddenly she was hauled off…

  4 Celia perched on the edge of the bed, nibbling a…

  5 When Celia had found her balance, Griffin let go of…

  6 “Regardes, I have put on weight.” Celia twisted to view…

  7 “How is he?” Celia stood in the doorway of the…

  8 Someone walked into the bedroom. Justin recognized the sound of…

  9 Astonished, Justin tried to take stock of the situation. Obviously…

  10 The three days that followed Justin’s departure may as well…

  11 Justin stared at Legare without expression. “Antoine Bayonne, isn’t it?”

  12 Curbing his impatience, Justin hovered at the side of the…

  13 Celia’s progress had been slow and uncertain, for she could see…

  14 After Celia’s tears had dried, she felt more at ease…

  Epilogue Celia walked across the sand alone, luxuriating in the balmy…

  About the Author

  By Lisa Kleypas

  Praise for Lisa Kleypas

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Prologue

  The Gulf of Mexico

  April, 1817

  Together they lay in the tumbled bed, listening to the creaking of the ship. Celia rested quietly against her husband’s chest, looking around the elegantly fitted cabin with a touch of wistfulness. In the long days since they had set sail from France the cabin had become a safe cocoon to her, a place she did not want to leave. A different world awaited her in New Orleans, one she was not at all certain she was prepared for.

  “We are in the Gulf now,” Philippe said, easing her from his chest and sitting up. The muscled surface of his back rippled as he stretched. “The journey is almost over, Celia. We should be home this very night.”

  “Home,” she repeated with a forced smile.

  Sensitive to the lack of enthusiasm in her voice, Philippe turned and looked down at her, bracing his hands on either side of her slight body. Modestly she rearranged the ruffled neckline of her nightgown and pulled the sheet higher over her breasts.

  “Celia,” he said tenderly, “there is nothing to be afraid of. You are going to love New Orleans. You are going to love my family.”

  “If only I could be certain they were going to love me!”

  Philippe’s family was one of the most renowned in New Orleans. His father, Maximilien Vallerand, was a powerful man, a Creole aristocrat with vast wealth and political influence. In addition to his plantation he owned a small but profitable shipping business. In fact, the vessel they were on, the Golden Star, was a Vallerand merchant ship.

  “They already love you,” Philippe said with a smile. “They know all about you. After I finished my studies in France and returned to New Orleans, I could talk about nothing but you. And I read your letters aloud—”

  “Philippe!” she exclaimed, a horrified blush flooding her cheeks. Emotions had always been difficult for her to express. To think of her private feelings being aired in front of Philippe’s family—

  “Carefully edited versions of your letters,” Philippe said, and grinned at her affectionately. “Certain parts I reserved for only myself.”

  Celia stared up at him, entranced as always by his coaxing smile. He was the only man who had ever been able to reach beyond her shyness. Gentle and patient, he made allowances for her that no one else did. In the past men had been attracted by her looks but were always discouraged by her withdrawn manner. They had no way of knowing it was fear, not indifference, that made her so awkward and quiet. But for Philippe it was unimportant that she was not flirtatious or seductive.

  “Did you tell your family I was a…an old maid?” she asked.

  Philippe laughed. “Twenty-four isn’t old, chérie.”

  “Oui, for a woman it is!”

  “You could have been married long ago had you wanted it.” He bent over and nuzzled into the soft curve of her neck. “You are a beautiful woman, Celia. You have no excuse for being so shy.”

  “I’m not beautiful,” she said gruffly.

  “Yes, you are. Extraordinarily beautiful.” He smoothed her long hair, which glinted with the silvery-gold of moonlight, and stared into her soft brown eyes. He brushed a kiss over her lips. “And even if you weren’t, I would still adore you.”

  Celia was filled with happiness as she looked up at him. Sometimes it was difficult to believe he was really hers. He was so handsome, with his thick black hair and blue eyes. She had never thought a man could be at once as strong and tender as he was.

  “Je t’aime,” she said, her voice soft and loving.

  “No, no,” he remonstrated with a smile. “English from now on. In the Vallerand household it is used at least as much as French.”

  Celia gave him a mock scowl and replied in her faulty English, “But…it sound better in French.”

  “Yes, it does,” Philippe agreed with a smile. Carefully he pulled the sheet from her hands and eased it down to her hips. She stiffened and he laughed softly, his hand skimming over her meagerly clad body. “Still shy with me?…I won’t allow it, chérie. You know me well enough by now to be certain I would never hurt you.”

  “I-I know you through letters, and chaperoned visits,” she said breathlessly, doing nothing to stop the exploration of that warm, gentle hand. “But we have not spent much time alone together, Philippe, and…” Her words trailed away as he fondled her breast through the folds of her nightgown.

  “And?” he whispered, staring into her eyes.

  Trembling, she slid her arms around his neck, forgetting what she had been about to say.

  His lips curved with a smile. “It is only because I love you so much that I’ve been patient with you. I want you, Celia. It has been torture, sleeping in the same bed with you and not making you my wife in truth. The vows have been said, and you belong to me till death do us part. But you asked me to wait, and I agreed because I didn’t want you to be afraid of me—or of the intimacies we’ll share.” He kissed her forehead gently. “We’ve waited long enough, ma chère.”

  “I…I feel the same, but—”

  “Do you?” he murmured. “I don’t think so. You’ll have to show me.” He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her.

  She protested feebly, understanding that Philippe’s patience had finally run out. “Philippe, you have been so kind—”

  “I don’t want to be kind anymore. I want my wife.” His hands swept over her body, cupping her breasts, pulling at the twisted fabric of her gown. “Show me, Celia,” he whispered against her neck. She shivered at the scratch of his unshaven jaw, and turned her mouth to his.

  Suddenly there was a loud rapping on the cabin portal.

  “Monsieur Vallerand! Monsieur!” a young midshipman called out, his fist hammering on the mahogany paneling. There was no mistaking the terror in his voice. Celia stiffened in alarm as Philippe leaped from the bed. Not bothering to put on his breeches or even a robe, Philippe opened the door a few inches. “What is it?” he asked tersely.

  “Captain Tierney sent me to warn you…” the boy said, gulping for air. “American-made schooner in distress…We went to assist…They just hoisted the Cartagena flag.”

  Before Philippe could utter a word the