Cover image for Blue moon
Title:
Blue moon
Author:
Landis, Jill Marie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Jove Books, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
323 pages ; 18 cm.
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780515125276
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Call Number
Material Type
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Status
Central Library X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks
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Clarence Library X Adult Mass Market Paperback Open Shelf
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library X Adult Mass Market Paperback Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

New from national bestselling author Jill Marie LandisA love story that not only sparkles--it shines....Lost in the watery backwoods of Illinois, a frightened young runaway meets a lonely stranger...two wounded souls hiding from the world. Together, in a treetop sanctuary, they would learn the importance of trust, and forgiveness--and moonlight...


Author Notes

With her first novel, Sunflower , Jill Marie Landis won the Romance Writers of America's "Golden Medallion Award for Best Historical Romance." Her novels Wildflower , Rose , and Jade confirmed the promise of her unique talent for rich detail and characterization. Come Spring , winner of the "Best Romance Novel of the Year" award, was hailed by such celebrated authors as Julie Garwood and Linda Lael Miller, while Past Promises earned the praises of Amanda Quick. Her most recent novels include Until Tomorrow , After All , Last Chance , and Day Dreamer .


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Noah LeCroix made an appearance in Landis's Just Once; now the enigmatic recluse gets his own story, set in 1820. After a near-fatal accident while guiding 200 families down the Ohio River, Noah loses an eye and retreats to the swamps of frontier Illinois. He avoids all human contactÄuntil a mysterious girl stumbles into his swamp. Olivia Bond was kidnapped by river pirates and sold into prostitution. Having escaped, but still wary, she grudgingly accepts Noah's help. As she heals, Olivia comes to feel safe with Noah who, in turn, is intrigued by her beauty and how easily she has slipped into his lifeÄ"invading his senses and stirring up his world." Desire sparks between them, but Olivia doesn't feel worthy of his love, and Noah, respecting her refusal, agrees to see her home. He leaves her with her family in Illinois, unaware of the danger that awaits her at the hands of an obsessive ex-lover. In this gripping and emotionally charged tale, Landis delivers another unusual, beautifully crafted romance. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Heron Pond, Illinois Noah LeCroix walked to the edge of the wide wooden porch surrounding the one-room cabin he had built high in the sheltering arms of an ancient bald cypress tree and looked out over the swamp. Twilight gathered, thickening the shadows that shrouded the trees. The moon had already risen, a bright silver crescent riding beneath a faded blue sphere. He loved the magic of the night, loved watching the moon and stars appear in the sky almost as much as he loved the swamp. The wetlands pulsed with life all night long. The darkness coupled with the still, watery landscape settled a protective blanket of solitude around him. In the dense, liquid world beneath him and the forest around his home, all manner of life co-existed in a delicate balance. He likened the swamp's dance of life and death to the way good and evil existed together in the world of men beyond its boundaries.     This shadowy place was his universe, his sanctuary. He savored its peace, was used to it after having grown up in almost complete isolation with his mother, a reclusive Cherokee woman who had left her people behind when she chose to settle in far-off Kentucky with his father, a French Canadian fur trapper named Gerard LeCroix.     Living alone served Noah's purpose now more than ever. He had no desire to dwell among "civilized" men, especially now that so many white settlers were moving across the Ohio into the new state of Illinois in droves.     Noah turned away from the smooth log railing that bordered the wide, covered porch cantilevered out over the swamp. He was about to step into the cabin, where a single oil lamp cast its circle of light, when he heard a bobcat scream. He would not have given the sound a second thought if not for the fact that a few seconds later the sound was followed by a high-pitched shriek, one that sounded human enough to stop him in his tracks. He paused on the threshold and listened intently. A chill ran down his spine.     It had been so long since he had heard the sound of another human voice that he could not really be certain, but he thought he had just heard a woman's cry.     Noah shook off the ridiculous, unsettling notion and walked into the cabin. The walls were covered with the tanned hides of mink, bobcat, otter, beaver, fox, white-tailed deer, and bear. His few other possessions--a bone-handled hunting knife with a distinctive wolf's head carved on it, various traps, some odd pieces of clothing, a few pots and a skillet, four wooden trenchers and mugs, and a rifle--were all neatly stored inside. All he owned and needed in the world, save the dugout canoe secured outside near the base of the tree.     But even the sight of the familiar surroundings, sparse but comfortable, could not help him shake the feeling that something unsettling was about to happen, that all was not right in his world.     Pulling a crock off a high shelf, Noah poured a splash of whiskey into a cup and drank it down, his concentration intent on the deepening gloaming and the sound of the swamp. An unnatural stillness lingered in the air after the puzzling scream, almost as if, like him, the wild inhabitants of Heron Pond were collectively waiting for something to happen. Unable to deny his curiosity any longer, Noah sighed in resignation and walked back to the door.     He lingered there for a moment staring out at the growing shadows. Something was wrong. Someone was out there. He reached for the primed and loaded Hawken rifle that stood just inside the door and stepped out into the gathering dusk.     He climbed down the crude ladder of wooden strips nailed to the trunk of the massive, prehistoric cypress that supported his home and stepped into the dugout pirogue tied to a cypress tree that poked out of the water. Noah paddled the shallow wooden craft toward a spot where the land met the deep dark water with its camouflage net of duckweed, a natural boundary all but invisible to anyone unfamiliar with the swamp.     He reached a rise of land that supported a trail, carefully stepped out of the pirogue, and secured it to a low-hanging tree branch. Walking through thickening shadows, Noah breathed in his surroundings, aware of every subtle nuance of change, every depression on the path that might really be a footprint on the trail, every tree and stand of switch cane.     The sound he thought he heard had come from the southeast. Noah headed in that direction, head down, staring at the trail although it was almost too dark to pick up any sign. A few hundred yards from where he'd left the pirogue, he paused, raised his head, sniffed the air and listened to the silence.     Instinctively, he swung his gaze in the direction of a thicket of slender cane stalks and found himself staring across ten yards of low undergrowth into the eyes of a female bobcat on the prowl. Slowly he raised his rifle to his shoulder and waited to see what the big cat would do. The animal stared back at him, her eyes intense in the gathering gloaming. Finally, she blinked and with muscles bunching beneath her fine, shiny coat, the cat turned and padded away.     Noah lowered the rifle and shook his head. He decided the sound he'd heard earlier must have been the bobcat's cry and nothing more. But just as he stepped back in the direction of the pirogue, he caught a glimpse of ivory on the trail ahead that stood out against the dark tableau. His leather moccasins did not make even a whisper of sound on the soft earth. He closed the distance and quickly realized that what he was seeing was a body lying across the path.     His heart was pounding as hard as Chickasaw drums when he knelt beside the young woman stretched out upon the ground. Laying his rifle aside, he stared down at the unconscious female, then looked up and glanced around in every direction. The nearest white settlement was beyond the swamp to the northeast. There was no sign of a companion or fellow traveler nearby, something he found more than curious.     Noah took a deep breath, let go a ragged sigh and looked down at the girl again. She lay on her side, as peacefully as if she were napping, so very still that the only evidence that she was alive was the slow, steady rise and fall of her breasts. Although there was no visible sign of injury, she lay on the forest floor with her head beside a fallen log. One of her arms was outstretched, the other tucked beneath her. What he could see of her face was filthy. So were her hands, but they were beautifully shaped, her fingers long and tapered. Her dress, nothing but a rag with sleeves, was hiked up to her thighs. Her shapely legs showed stark ivory against the decayed leaves and brush beneath her.     He reached out tentatively to touch her, noticed that his hand shook, and balled it into a fist. He clenched it tight, then opened his hand and gently touched the tangled black hair that hid the side of her face. She did not stir when he moved the silken skein nor when he brushed it back and looped it over her ear.     Her face was stained with mud streaks. Her lashes were long and dark, her full lips tinged pink. The sight of her beauty took his breath away. Noah leaned forward and gently reached beneath her. Rolling her to her back, he straightened her arms and noted her injuries. Her wrist appeared to be swelling. She had an angry lump on her forehead near her hairline. When she moaned as he lightly probed her injured wrist, he realized he was holding his breath. Noah expected her eyelids to flutter open, but they did not.     He scanned the forest once again. With night fast closing in, he saw no alternative except to take her home with him. If he was going to get her back to the treehouse before dark, he would have to hurry. Gently he cradled her in his arms, reached for his rifle and then straightened. Even then the girl did not awaken, although she did whimper and turn her face against his buckskin jacket, burrowing against him. It felt strange carrying a woman in his arms, but he had no time to dwell on that as he quickly carried her back to the pirogue, set her inside, and untied the craft. He climbed in behind her, holding her upright, then gently drew her back until she leaned against his chest.     As the paddle cut silently through water black as pitch, he tried to concentrate on guiding the dugout canoe home, but was distracted by the way the girl felt pressed against him, the way she warmed him. As his body responded to a need he had long tried to deny, he felt ashamed at his lack of control. What kind of a man was he, to become aroused by a helpless, unconscious female?     Overhead, the sky was tinted deep violet, an early canvas for the night's first stars. During the last few yards of the journey, the swamp grew so dark that he had only the yellow glow of lamplight shining from his home high above the water to guide him. Run. Keep running.     The dream was so real that Olivia could feel the leaf-littered ground beneath her feet and the faded chill of winter that lingered on the damp April air. She suffered, haunted by memories of the past year, some still so vivid they turned her dreams into nightmares. Even now, as she lay tossing in her sleep, she could feel the faint sway of the flatboat as it moved downriver long ago. In her sleep the fear welled up inside her.     Her dreaming mind began to taunt her with palpable memories of new sights and scents and dangers.     Run. Run. Run, Olivia. You're almost home.     Her legs thrashed, startling her awake. She sat straight up and felt a searing pain in her right wrist and a pounding in her head that forced her to quickly lie back down. She kept her eyes closed until the stars stopped dancing behind them, then she slowly opened them and looked around.     The red glow of embers burning in a fireplace illuminated the ceiling above her. She lay staring up at even log beams that ran across a wide planked ceiling, trying to ignore the pounding in her head, fighting to stay calm and let her memory come rushing back. Slowly she realized she was no longer lost on the forest trail. She had not become a bobcat's dinner, but was indoors, in a cabin, on a bed.     She spread her fingers and pressed her hands, palms down, against a rough, woven sheet drawn over her. The mattress was filled with something soft that gave off a tangy scent. A pillow cradled her head.     Slowly Olivia turned her aching head, afraid of who or what she might find beside her, but when she discovered she was in bed alone, she thanked God for small favors.     Refusing to panic, she thought back to her last lucid memory, a wildcat's scream. She recalled running through the cypress swamp, trying to make out the trail in the dim light before she tripped. She lifted her hand to her forehead and discovered a swelling there. After testing it gingerly, she was thankful that she had not gashed her head open and bled to death.     She tried to lift her head again but intense pain forced her to lie still. Olivia closed her eyes and sighed. A moment later, an unsettling feeling came over her. She knew by the way her skin tingled, the way her nerve endings danced, that someone was nearby. Someone was watching her. An instinctive, intuitive sensation warned her that the someone was a man.     At first she peered through her lashes, but all she could make out was a tall, shadowy figure standing in the open doorway across the room. Her heart began to pound so hard that she was certain the sound would give her consciousness away.     The man started to walk into the room, and she bit her lips together to hold back a cry. She watched him move about purposely. Instead of coming directly to the bed, he walked over to a small, square table. She heard him strike a piece of flint, smelled lamp oil as it flared to life.     His back was to her as he stood there at the table; Olivia opened her eyes wider and watched. He was tall, taller than most men, strongly built, dressed in buckskin pants topped by a buff shirt with billowing sleeves. Despite the coolness of the evening, he wore no coat, no jacket. Indian moccasins, not shoes, covered his feet. His hair was black as pitch, cut straight and worn long enough to hang just over his collar. She watched his bronzed, well-tapered hands turn up the lamp wick and then set the glass chimney in place.     Olivia sensed he was about to turn and look at her. She wanted to close her eyes and pretend to be unconscious, thinking that might be safer than to let him catch her staring at him, but as he slowly turned toward the bed, she knew she had to see him. She had to know what she was up against.     Her gaze swept his body, taking in his great height, the length of his arms, the width and breadth of his shoulders before she dared even look at his face.     When she did, she gasped. Noah stood frozen beside the table, shame and anger welling up from deep inside. He was unable to move, unable to breathe as the telling sound of the girl's shock upon seeing his face died on the air. He watched her flinch and scoot back into the corner, pressing close to the wall. He knew her head pained her, but obviously not enough to keep her from showing her revulsion or from trying to scramble as far away as she could.     He had the urge to walk out, to turn around and leave. Instead, he stared back and let her look all she wanted. It had been three years since he had lost an eye to a flatboat accident on the Mississippi. Three years since another woman had laughed in his face. Three years since he had moved into southern Illinois to put the past behind him.     When her breathing slowed and she slowly calmed, he held his hands up to show her that they were empty, hoping to put her a little more at ease.     "I'm sorry," he said as gently as he could. "I don't mean you any harm."     She stared up at him as if she did not understand a blessed word.     Louder this time, he spoke slowly. "Do--you--speak--English?"     The girl clutched the sheet against the filthy bodice of her dress and nodded. She licked her lips, cleared her throat. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, but no sound came out.     "Yes," she finally croaked. "Yes, I do." And then, "Who are you?"     "My name is Noah. Noah LeCroix. This is my home. Who are you?"     The lamplight gilded her skin. She looked to be all eyes, soft green eyes, long black hair, and fear. She favored her injured wrist, holding it cradled against her midriff. From the way she carefully moved her head, he knew she was fighting one hell of a headache, too.     Ignoring his question, she asked one of her own. "How did I get here?" Her tone was wary. Her gaze kept flitting over to the door and then back to him.     "I heard a scream. Went out and found you in the swamp. Brought you here--"     "The wildcat?"     "Wasn't very hungry." Noah tried to put her at ease, then shrugged and stared down at his moccasins. Could she tell how nervous he was? Could she see his awkwardness, know how strange it was for him to be alone with a woman? He had no idea what to say or do. When he looked over at her again, she was staring at the scarred side of his face.     "How long have I been asleep?" Her voice was so low that he had to strain to hear her. She looked as if she expected him to leap on her and attack her at any moment, as if he might be coveting her scalp.     "You slept around two hours. You must have hit your head very hard."     She reached up and felt the bump. "I guess I did."     He decided not to get any closer, not with her acting as if she were going to come out of her skin. He backed up, pulled a stool out from under the table, and sat down.     "You going to tell me your name?" he asked.     The girl hesitated, glanced toward the door, then looked back at him. "I'm Olivia Bond. Where am I?"     "Heron Pond."     Her attention shifted to the door once again as recollection dawned. "The swamp," she whispered. Her eyes widened as if she expected a bobcat or a cottonmouth to come slithering in.     "You're fairly safe here. I built this cabin over the water."     " Fairly ?" She looked as if she were going to try to stand up again. "Did you say--"     "Built in a cypress tree. About fifteen feet above the water."     "How do I get down?"     "There are wooden planks nailed to the trunk."     "Am I anywhere, near Illinois?"     "You're in it."     She appeared a bit relieved.     "Are you hungry? I figure anybody with as little meat on her bones as you ought to be hungry."     What happened next surprised the hell out of him. It was a little thing, one that another man might not have even noticed, but he had lived alone so long that he was used to concentrating on the very smallest of details: the way an iridescent dragonfly looked with its wings backlit by the sun, the sound of cypress needles whispering on the wind.     Someone else might have missed the smile that hovered at the corner of her lips when he had said she had little meat on her bones, but he did not. How could he, when that slight, almost-smile had him holding his breath?     "I've got some jerked venison and some potatoes around here someplace." He started to smile back, until he felt the pull of the scar at the left corner of his mouth and stopped. He stood up, turned his back on the girl, and headed for the long wide plank tacked to the far wall where he stored his larder.     He kept his back to her while he found what he was looking for, dug some strips of dried meat from a hide bag, unwrapped a checkered rag with four potatoes inside, and set one on the plank where he did all his stand-up work. Then he took a trencher and a wooden mug off a smaller shelf high on the wall and turned them over to knock any unwanted creatures out. He was headed for the door, intent on filling the cookpot with water from a small barrel he kept out on the porch, when the sound of her voice stopped him cold.     "Perhaps an eye patch," she whispered.     "What?"     "I'm sorry. I was thinking out loud."     She looked so terrified he wanted to put her at ease.     "It's all right. What were you thinking?"     Instead of looking at him when she spoke, she looked down at her hands. "I was just thinking ..."     Noah had to strain to hear her.     "With some kind of an eye patch, you wouldn't look half bad."     His feet rooted themselves to the threshold. He stared at her for a heartbeat before he closed his good eye and shook his head. He had no idea what in the hell he looked like anymore. He had no reason to care.     He turned his back on her and stepped out onto the porch, welcoming the darkness. A little while later, Olivia lay in the stranger's bed, trying to make herself small, trying to fade into the bedclothes so that he might not notice her, but as they were the only two people in the treehouse, that was impossible. Noah LeCroix was careful to keep his face turned away from her as she watched him move back and forth. He stoked the fire in the fireplace and then buried a potato in the hot ash. When she thought of how he must have carried each stone up the tree in order to build the small fireplace, she wondered at his accomplishment and marveled at the craftsmanship.     Since he seemed to have dismissed her, she studied him freely, thankful that he had not asked any prying questions. She would not relish volunteering anything about herself, so she asked him nothing about himself, either.     Now that she had recovered from the shock of seeing the deep indentation and puckered skin of his eye socket, the ragged line that ran from below his eye to the corner of his mouth, she had to admit he was not a bad-looking man. In fact, she could see he had been extremely handsome. His looks were dark, exotic. His build rugged.     He had kept his distance, had not forced his company or any questions on her, had not pried. For that she was grateful. Still, she knew enough of men from raw firsthand experience to know not to let down her guard. Not even for an instant. She would remain wary, ready to flee if necessary, no matter how badly her head throbbed or her wrist ached. She would never let a soft-spoken, well-mannered man fool her again.     Now as she waited while her host prodded the coals in the fireplace and then poured her a cup of steaming coffee, she tried to remain alert. Her condition prevented her from making any kind of swift exit. Not that she would relish going back out into the swamp anyway. For now, though she found herself alone with a complete stranger, she was happy to be out of the dark, high and dry above the watery wilderness.     When the potato was cooked, he left her alone while she ate it, sipped strong coffee, and nibbled on jerked venison. She decided he must have been watching her from the porch while she ate, for as soon as she took the last bite, he immediately appeared, collected the trencher and mug, and set them on the crude sideboard. Then he turned to her again, took a deep breath and let out a long sigh.     "Just out of curiosity, what were you doing out there in the swamp alone?"     "I'd rather not talk about it right now."     Half expecting him to question her further, Olivia waited, but all Noah LeCroix did was nod. He appeared terribly uneasy as his gaze scanned the small interior of his tidy cabin. The pained expression on his face gave her pause. Because he was unlike any of the men she had dealt with lately, she did not know what to make of Noah LeCroix and no idea what to expect. That in itself made her feel vulnerable.     "I'm sorry to have to impose upon you like this, but--"     "No need to be sorry. There is no way you can leave tonight."     Olivia glanced around the room and wondered if she should make some effort to vacate the only bed.     As if he could read her tumultuous thoughts, he shifted his stance, cleared his throat and volunteered, "I'll bed down on the porch."     "Thank you. That would be kind of you."     An awkward stillness lengthened between them.     "If you don't need anything else, I'll put out the lamp," he said, reminding her that he was still there, still watching her.     She could not face the dark. "If ... if you could just turn the lamp low, but leave it burning?"     Noah nodded and did as she had asked. As the darkness slowly thickened, he once again became the illusive, mysterious figure she had first glimpsed upon awakening. The glow from the fire expanded his shadow until the elongated black shape wavered over the log walls, following Noah as he walked out and was quickly swallowed by the night. Copyright © 1999 Jill Marie Landis. All rights reserved.

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