Stella Raines was looking for a change. She moved to the small town of Riverville to begin her first year of teaching history. She quickly learns that teaching in such a rural high school is no picnic, but the math teacher in the class down the hall makes her first week all the more intriguing….
Darien Wolfe is a staple of Riverville High School, with his rule-breaking hair and attire. He seems to have taught there since, well, forever. However, Darien never knew how much his long life might change until he notices the new history teacher down the hall.
Their attraction is instant and for eternity, like the stars under the full moon. But can Stella survive Darien’s secret?
For the first time, Stella realized that the house sat in the midst of thick woods, aged trees with broad trunks that isolated it from the road. Not one neighboring house was visible through the thickets and in addition, the lawn ran wild with forsythia bushes, rose of Sharon trees, evergreens, and even dogwoods. Flowers bloomed everywhere, some in neat, tended beds but others rampant across the lawn. Most were old-fashioned flowers, storybook blossoms like hollyhocks, roses, lilies, and more. The sheer wild beauty of the scene caught her breath for a few moments, and then she turned to Darien with honest enthusiasm.
“This is absolutely lovely, Darien. It is like something out of a storybook or fairy tale. It reminds me of Sleeping Beauty’s castle when the prince found it, a jewel tucked away in a verdant wood.”
Darien offered her his hand, chuckling with pleasure as they mounted the broad stone steps to the wide covered porch that ran the front of the house. There, too, clematis and moonflower vines climbed trellises, adding to the air of privacy.
“You approve; that’s very good,” he said. “Let’s see what you think of the interior.”
He threw open the heavy carved door and let her walk ahead into a huge room with many windows. To her right, a carved staircase ascended, as graceful as an Edwardian lady waltzing would. A chandelier with multiple prisms sparkled from the very center of the ceiling. Each doorway that led from the room – into a dining room, a hallway, and the library – each had dark walnut trim. Even the furnishings, crushed velvet crimson sofas and chairs, added to the air of mystique and yesteryear.
“Darien, this is amazing. This room is stunning.”
“No. You, my dear, are stunning,” he said. He stood beside her and then turned her to face him. Stella’s heart pounded faster as he bent and kissed her, unhurried, his lips burning against hers, warm and soft as melted candle wax. Her body kindled at his caress and she leaned against him, letting the fever that spread over her body consume her. Stella felt his powerful body surge against hers, masculine and vital. His passion, his desire was a living thing between them. When he released her, she almost fell, her legs weak but he caught her.
“Stella, dear heart, you are a delight. Come have a drink with me in the library before I lose my head. Will champagne do?”
Her mouth refused to work so she nodded, trailing in his wake into the library, tucked behind the foot of the stairs. This too was a marvelous room, cozy with a granite fireplace, each block carved with intricate designs, and the walls lined with books. Most appeared to be antique volumes but among them Stella recognized a few more modern works. A small bar stood opposite the hearth and after he pointed her to the black leather loveseat, he brought out two fragile flutes and filled them with Dom Perignon. Darien handed her a flute and raised his glass to touch hers with a soft, ringing sound.
“To what the future and the stars may hold,” he intoned in a voice as serious as a prayer, soft as a blessing.
“To the future,” Stella repeated and sipped.
The sweet, crisp wine was a good vintage and her surprise was evident as the smooth taste burst into her mouth.
“This is 1975 v Dom Perignon,” Darien said. “It is one of the best modern vintages available. Will it do??”
“It’s awesome,” Stella said, draining her glass. The wine must have gone to her head, she thought, for without hesitation, she mimicked a child’s British accent and quoted Oliver Twist, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”
Darien’s face shifted, his lips twitched and his eyes rolled until he burst out laughing. He sat down on the loveseat, wiped tears of mirth from his eyes, and drank his champagne.
“You are the most remarkable woman I have met in years.” Darien said, shaking his head. “Stella, I find myself quite smitten with you. Dare I hope that it might be reciprocated?”
She made a quick translation of his old school language and replied in her own vernacular,
“I think you’re totally hot, Darien, so yes.” Champagne evaporated her polite façade so that she said what she felt, without restraint or embarrassment. The sweet , sparkling wine swept through her veins like liquid wildfire and she could feel not just the heat but the giddy spin it always gave her head. He tossed back his head and chortled with such gusto it almost became a howl.
“Good. Then let me pour you another glass and we shall see where the evening takes us.”
“Let’s do that,” Stella said, surprising herself with her boldness. She was not usually so outgoing, so outspoken, or so easily aroused but Darien and champagne brought out her latent qualities.
They ended up in the garden, finishing off the Dom Perignon and talking until the longer shadows of dusk fell. With so many tall trees and vegetation, the night seemed to move in on fleeter feet and there were no street lamps or yard lights to mar the darkness.
“It is.” He agreed and rose from the black wrought iron bench with grace. “Shall we go inside or would you prefer that I deliver you home? The night is young but your wish is my service.”
“Could we stay outside and watch the stars come out?” Stella asked. She loved the stars, perhaps because of her name, chosen by her star-gazing parents in honor of their favorite hobby. “The moon isn’t quite full but it’s waxing enough that the moonlight should be very pretty. Doesn’t all of this look spectacular by moonlight?”
A strange expression flitted across Darien’s face, a look of dismay, she thought, or something more. Whatever it was, it vanished in seconds, leaving her to doubt that he had ever looked anything but serene.