Savage Heart is the sequel to Indian Summer. Set in 1740, things are heating up between the Spanish and British. A war in Europe, between the two nations, has dribbled over the ocean to the New World. As the situation worsens, the Governor decides to send the women to Jamaica for safety. Gabriella, of course, refuses.
"You're insufferable!" Manuel threw up his hands, tugging at his hair. "How can I do my job when I'm worried about you?"
"And what will your job be? The most unavoidably difficult and dangerous? Why would you choose something easy? You live for the adventure, Manuel. Admit it. You hunger for the active life of a soldier again."
"Nothing of the sort, Gabriella," he muttered unconvincingly.
"Well, what then? Tell me. I demand to know!"
"Very well." Manuel rubbed his chin, pursing his lips. "I am going to spy on the British soldiers and try to infiltrate the ranks as an Indian compatriot."
Gabriella's blue eyes chilled as she glanced from her husband to her father. "I'm not happy with that," she said quietly. "I know whatever we learn from them, they can learn from us. What's to prevent them using you against us?"
"They won't know who I am," he tried to explain.
"Manuel!" Anguish filled her voice, her heartbreak plain. "You can't, you simply can't! Papa, I won't let you send him!"
"Me, send him? My girl, this is the first I've heard this wild notion."
Gabriella slapped her husband, bursting into tears. Manuel grasped his cheek, face reddening as he fought his anger. He could understand his young wife's hysteria, but that made it no easier to deal with. A man well known for his temper, he sought to control it.
"You promised me," she growled. "You promised after we were wed that you'd never leave! As we came together that first night, you said, Cariña, I'll never leave you again. This I swear. So what of your promise now?"
Her father and brothers-in-law looked extremely embarrassed. This conversation tread on intimate secrets between man and wife.
"I do this to protect you, Cariña," Manuel said, tight-lipped, his fingers pressed against the red mark on his cheek. "I do this for us all."
"What if I told you I am with child?"
"Forgive me, my love, but you're above such manipulations. Even if I thought it was true, I'd still go. It is more than just our love and happiness at stake here. This is for everyone, including any children we may have."
"You're impossible!" Gabriella raised her hand to strike him again, bursting into angry tears.
Manuel put up his arms to block another strike, but it never came. Her father insinuated himself between them. Manuel stepped back, bowing slightly. Gabriella stamped her foot, crossing her arms angrily across her chest.
Turning abruptly, she stalked from the room, back to the loggia, leaving the door open behind her. "You promised." her voice drifted back to them, lingering on the breeze.
"Don't just stand there," Jason said, moving toward the door himself. "Go after her!"
Hesitantly, Manuel raced out the door. He found Gabriella wandering in the plaza across from her father's house. Approaching cautiously, he saw that she wasn't crying. Tears streaked her face, but she was calmer now, her sobs had subsided. She slumped to the ground as he approached.
"May I sit? Or do you wish to slap me again?" He held himself stiffly, his anger still bubbling near the surface.
"Sit, damn you. I can't stop you from doing what you want."
"Don't say anything. Don't tell me again how you do this for me and our children. I don't want to hear that. You swore to me, Manuel! You promised!"
Tucking the tails of his coat in front of him, he dropped gracefully to the grass. Taking a deep breath, he bent his head ignominiously. "A man may say many things in the heat of passion, Bella. It doesn't make them any less true, but it certainly makes them less—accurate." He shrugged, staring across the moonlit water. His long fingers absently tugged at tufts of grass.
Gabriella laughed suddenly, her bright giggle filling the cool night air. "How can you wiggle out of something so important by claiming it was said in passion and therefore not binding? Words spoken when you're in my arms should be even more of a firm promise."
"Firm, eh? I'll remember that. A very firm promise, eh Cariña?"
"You're very fortunate I love you, else I'd be tempted to slap you again. Get that expression off your face."
"Which expression is that, my sweet? The one that shows you how much I love you?" He moved closer, pulling her to him. "Or the one that says you are the most beautiful woman in my world and I can never get enough of loving you?" He buried his face in her hair, inhaling deeply. "God, I love you, Bella," he purred.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes