Catrìona ran her hands down the hard back of her lover, reveling in the flexing muscles as he thrust deep into her woman’s center, becoming a part of her. This was the only time she ever felt complete.
“I love you, Catrìona. Feel me; know me.” His voice was rough, like sandpaper, and yet it drifted over her senses like velvet.
“I do; I do feel you.” Pain danced through her voice and heart as she realized her time with her knight was growing to an end. “I love you, Braden. Forever.”
She grabbed at his strong buttocks in a pitiful attempt to hold him close.
“Aye, lass, forever,” he whispered.
Catrìona sat upright in bed pushing her tangled hair out of her eyes. Tears streamed down her face, but she ignored the salty drops. Her body burned as if she actually had been making passionate love, and she tried hard to bring her breathing under control. She was tired of forever waking to the taste of her tears and the pain in her heart.
An ache between her legs reminded her she was still unsatisfied. Yet she knew in her heart she would only experience the release she desired in the arms of her dream lover.
Reaching over, she clicked on her bedside lamp. The mournful sound of a saxophone from a jazz club down the street danced on the air. The lamp cast its buttery light over the small room as she gazed with longing at the old portrait hanging over her bedroom mantel. Her Scottish knight; her dream lover. She feared he was the only man she’d ever love.
Pathetic. He was nothing more than canvas, paint, shadows and color. But he looked so lifelike. On more than one occasion she had reached out to touch him, yet it was always in vain.
Catrìona padded over to the portrait and stared. “I wish I knew who you were and why you haunt me so.”
The man in the portrait didn’t answer her, but she didn’t expect him to. Still, something compelled her to speak her thoughts aloud. Somehow, she knew he heard her. He had always heard her. He stood in a commanding position with his broadsword in hand, ready to do battle for his lady-love or clan. Regardless of the reason, this man was willing to fight for what was important to him.
His long dark hair fell in sensual waves down his back, and his well-developed chest was bare, with the exception of a swath of plaid across the tawny skin. A Celtic armband encircled his left bicep, drawing Catrìona’s eye to the sinewy strength there. This strength would never be used against her but rather to protect her. A shiver of longing danced across her skin at the thought. Those dark eyes of his stared out, tempting and promising so much. She often wondered if her ancestor had taken artistic license when she created him.
Catrìona knew deep in her heart she had not. The artist had faithfully captured the sensual gaze in his beautiful, dark brown eyes. The promise of fulfillment burned there, beckoning the unsuspecting.
Catrìona called the painting Her Highlander, not knowing who he was or if he even hailed from the Highlands. “Why do I dream about you with such detail? I can feel your hot breath on my skin. Your rough and callused fingers are like magic on my flesh.”
She continued to stare. Tonight the dreams had been different. Tonight she had almost reached orgasm. This time the slight clenching of her womb had rippled through her—she’d tottered on the sweet, delicious precipice and ached to crash over the edge to total oblivion.
No answer came from the painting, so she turned away from him and padded back to her bed. After taking a moment to straighten the sheets, she climbed into the cool linen. A quick glance at her alarm clock confirmed it was still too early to get up. It was two a.m.
Catrìona hadn’t even been asleep for three hours before the dream had wakened her. Her sensual dreams were not uncommon, but it had been different this time. This time she had felt more than her phantom lover’s touch. This time she’d smelled him; a combination of spice and male musk—a potent elixir. She was supremely aware of the rough texture of the sheeting beneath her naked body. The scent of heather and wood smoke hung in the air.
Her feelings for the portrait were odd, and she was the first to admit it. Her grandmother had accepted Catrìona’s preoccupation with the knight right from the beginning. That had been the summer she’d turned thirteen. Catrìona had always loved visiting her Grammy. It meant seeing him. Her mother would drop Catrìona off with a kiss on the cheek and promise to call—a promise she never managed to keep, no matter how hard Catrìona prayed she would. Grammy would dry her eyes and set her up in her special bedroom with the portrait of the knight hanging across the room on the wall. When she finally asked about him, when she was around eleven, her grandmother’s answer had been vague but offered with a smile. Catrìona now knew it had been a knowing smile.
“See, lass, you have your very own guardian knight. He will ease your loneliness.”
And he had. He came to her, teasing her with his kind words, making her feel like a princess of old. There had been magic at Grammy’s house.
Well, her grandmother was dead now. She had passed on to the next realm three weeks ago, leaving Catrìona bereft. Frustrated at her physical and emotional condition, Catrìona growled aloud. Why was she being so unreasonable? And what did it say about her that she was so taken with a painting? It was as pathetic as the women who went gaga over Brad Pitt, convinced that if they were able to get his attention he’d leave Angelina Jolie. Yeah, sure, that happened all the time in the real world. The same could be said about her. Her Highlander was not going to step out of his frame and into her arms.
She turned away from the picture and stared at the opposite wall. She had a very important client appointment tomorrow, and needed to get her act together. Catrìona designed wedding dresses, and this next commission could win her the success she’d been working towards for years. She had to land this account.
Staying up into the early hours of the morning, lamenting over her pathetic hang-up with a man who did not exist, was not going to help her situation. The sounds of the French Quarter drifted on the air. No matter the time of day, the Quarter hummed with activity. Voices rose in laughter and good cheer, reminding her of how alone she was at that moment. Punching the pillow in a pitiable attempt to make herself comfortable, Catrìona closed her eyes and allowed the sandman to work his magic once again.