The Mask

He rose to his feet and moved over to the table by the door and was surrounded by the pool of light cast by the oil lamp. She tried not to look at him, but to no avail. Dear heaven, he was as beautifully exotic as a jungle animal and just as free from shame.

A faint smile touched his lips. "This must have been meant for you."

On the table was an extravagant feathered mask of brown, black, and turquoise peacock feathers. "Pretty thing. I'd like to see you in it." He held up the mask to his own eyes. "Would you care to oblige me?"

The exotic feathered mask covered the entire top of his face and a spray of sable peacock feathers jutted out on either side. His blue eyes shimmered through the almond-shaped holes and the close fit of the mask enhanced the beautiful molding of his cheekbones.

He looked wild, wicked, and completely male, a rare, splendid creature from an alien land.






























Promontory Point, Utah

November 25, 1869


Dear God, he hadn't heard her. He was still striding across the wooden platform toward the train. In a moment he would be out of reach.

Panic soared through Jane Barnaby and she broke into a run, the faded skirts of her calico gown ballooning behind her. Ignoring the pain caused by the ice shards piercing her feet through the holes in the thin soles of her boots, she tore through ice-coated mud puddles down the wheel-rutted street toward the platform over a hundred yards away. "Please! Don't go!

Patrick Reilly's expression was only a blur in the post-dawn grayness, but he must have heard her call, for he hesitated for an instant before continuing toward the train, his long legs quickly covering the distance between the station house and the passenger railway car.

He was leaving her.

Fear caught in her throat, and she desperately tried to put on more speed. The train was already vibrating, puffing, flexing its metal muscles as it prepared to spring forward down the track. "Wait for me!"

He kept his face turned straight ahead, ignoring her.