Authors: Cara Covington
Kate grinned. “I’m sure.”
Coco took that moment to nudge her shoulder with her head. Despite what she’d just said, she didn’t know if she was
sure, or not.
But she thought perhaps it was time for her to find out.
* * * *
Gerald had been furious with his father. But that hadn’t stopped him from saying, “Yes, sir,” mounting up, and heading toward their old campsite on a search for wayward bovines.
His usually even-tempered brother had felt the same way if the tension he could see in Patrick’s jaw was any indication.
At first he’d just wanted to find the bloody cows and get back to Kate as quickly as possible. It hit him, then, that his mind had supplied the expletive
He pulled up on the reins and sat still, his ears attuned to his surroundings, his eyes taking in the slightly rolling landscape, the scattered trees—this sight one he’d enjoyed since the first time his grandfathers had taken him on a campout when he’d not even been old enough to sit his own pony.
“Hell, I missed this.” Patrick stopped his own horse beside him.
Gerald nodded. “Me, too. You have to wonder at the old man’s smarts, don’t you?”
“To know we needed to do this, just the two of us?”
Gerald sighed, then turned his gaze to his brother. “I hadn’t understood how edgy I was until just now.”
Patrick nodded toward an oak tree that, when he’d been younger, had seemed as if it reached to the heavens, the branches extended like arms in supplication.
“Damn near broke my fool neck the day I tried to climb up and see into that nest that was up near the top. Do you remember?”
Gerald laughed. “I remember how alarmed the dads were when you fell and started bawling—and now I understand their worry wasn’t
for your well-being.”
Patrick grinned. “Mother likely would have been beside herself if she knew half the things the dads and granddads let us do. She’d have chased them out the house with a broom. Or granddad’s shotgun, whichever was in closer reach.”
“A boy’s got to have room to grow into a man,” Gerald said. That had been one of Caleb Benedict’s favorite sayings—at least around his grandsons.
Joshua would just nod and say, “Damn straight.” And then he’d wink at whichever one of them—him or Patrick—Caleb had been talking about.
“I want to head over toward the stream.” Patrick didn’t wait, just angled his horse and put his heels into the animal’s sides.
Gerald followed, knowing what it was Patrick wanted to see. Every new season would find the Benedict men out here, camping. Sometimes there’d be Jessops and Kendalls with them, and sometimes not.
But at the beginning of each season, they’d come. They’d fish, and drink—when they’d come of age, of course, the boys would assure their mother, and not before—and they’d listen to the dads and the uncles and the granddads tell tales of what it was like growing up in a different time, of keeping company with men like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, and of derring-do.
Each season they’d come, lay their fire in the same spot, spread out their bedrolls, and fall sleep under the open sky to the sound of the stream flowing close by.
The grass in their favorite spot was no longer depressed from bedrolls, but the fire ring appeared intact, and the ground within the rocks remained barren of new growth. To all appearances, this spot had hosted a fire in the spring or early summer.
“I wondered if they’d come out here without us. I’m glad they did.” Patrick dismounted, dropping the reins of his horse to the ground. “I’m glad they did because sometimes, late at night, when sleep wouldn’t come, it helped to imagine them here, doing what they’d always done, what we’d always done, together.”
The roan gelding Patrick had ridden stayed close, nosing out grass to nibble, trained not to just take off and strand his rider.
Gerald crossed his right arm over his left, and leaned forward in the saddle. “I have to agree with you, on both counts. I want us to bring Kate out here. We can’t really woo her the way we’d like, because duty calls. Hell, maybe we were being completely thoughtless to arrange for her to come to Lusty when we can’t even promise her more than a few stolen moments here and there.”
“She seemed completely comfortable in the Big House last night.” Patrick looked up at him. And then his gaze seemed caught by something behind him.
Gerald turned in his saddle to look over his shoulder to see what had captured Patrick’s attention.
His heart sped and his cock came to life as they watched Kate ride toward them. The way her body moved with her mount told him she was indeed an accomplished horsewoman.
By damn, that woman just keeps getting more and more perfect for us.
As she neared he could see the hat she wore was one of his father Charles’s standby hats that he kept in the saddle barn. He guessed he would have to thank his father later for sending her out to them.
Of course Dad sent her. She wouldn’t have known where to find us, otherwise
“Our morning is definitely looking up.” Patrick moved slowly, and Gerald could see he did so without taking his eyes off their woman.
Gerald swung his leg over the horse and dismounted, so that he could stand with his brother, and wait for their woman to reach them. He guessed they’d surprised her, because the closer she got to them the slower her horse moved.
When only a few feet separated them, she stopped and for a long moment simply looked from him to Patrick.
His brother flicked him a glance, and Gerald nodded. Patrick and he were fairly competitive sometimes, and absolute equals. But in this, his brother would let him take the lead. He turned his attention back to Kate and said, “Thank you, sweetheart. Thank you for coming to us.”
She’d proven herself both brassy and with plenty of spirit. Back in Washington, her bravado had gotten him hard, fast. She’d challenged him like a little devil and kissed like an angel, and Gerald knew he would remember this day until he breathed his last. Here and now, they three would become one—just as had happened for his fathers, and their fathers before him.
Kate’s confusion charmed him, and her honesty captured his heart.
“You’re welcome, but I have no idea what happens next,” she said.
“What do you want to happen next?” Gerald knew what he wanted, but he could certainly understand her hesitation.
Kate wouldn’t give herself lightly, and never casually.
“If these were normal times, I’d want to spend the day getting to know you. Having you getting to know me.” She looked around her surroundings, and he wondered, in that moment, what she saw.
“But these aren’t normal times. There’s this sense of…”
“Urgency?” Patrick asked. “Like a feeling in the air that tomorrow might not come?”
“Yes! I saw that back in Washington, a lot. People rushing things, because of a basic, underlying fear that if something didn’t happen now, then it wouldn’t happen at all.”
“We feel it, too, sweetheart.” Gerald had felt it, still did, though not as strongly now as when he was in England.
“So I feel that, which makes everything seem as if it’s been sped up, like a snowball rolling down a hill.” Kate looked from him to Patrick. She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again she said, “I’m pretty sure that I want to make love to you, but I really don’t know what happens next.”
“It’s all right, Katie. We do.” Patrick’s voice took on a quiet quality Gerald knew would soothe her. He was grateful for that. Patrick’s finesse, and his gentleness, meant he could just be himself.
He stepped forward and held out his hand. Patrick could placate. He would command.
“Come here, Kate. Let us take care of you. Give yourself to us and let us give you what you want and what you need.”
Kate’s heart pounded so hard that she wondered it didn’t pop right out of her chest.
In one instant of crystal clarity, she understood that by getting on this horse and following the directions she’d been given and the trail she’d found, she
come to them.
She knew from talking with them the night before that the time they’d have together, the three of them, was limited. The men might get some leave once a month—at least for as long as they remained stationed as instructors at Goodfellow. But who knew what the future held? She certainly didn’t. They could get orders at any time and find themselves shipped off to God would only know where.
And she could be left wondering about what might have been.
Kate found herself in the bizarre position of taking an irrevocable step that only a few short months before she could never have considered. She’d been determined to have no romances, and to in no way even
about settling down.
How could she have known she would fall in love, in a heartbeat of time, with not one man, but two men?
How could she have imagined that the urgency to act, to claim these men as her own would race through her blood filling her with a reckless kind of carpe diem?
Did that passage she’d read in Sarah’s journal, about the night that young woman made the decision to give herself to her gunslingers, have something to do with the decision she’d just made? Maybe, a little. For here she was with another two Benedicts, who were also brothers, with no one else in sight for miles around. The sun shone, the breeze blew, and, Kate admitted to herself, arousal simmered.
And while she could try to deny that she’d come to them to make love with them, she’d be lying—both to them and to herself.
Kate Wesley was not going to lie to herself anymore. Generally, she knew it could be said that she had more brass than could possibly be healthy for any woman, even in these modern times. Her mother wasn’t happy about that fact, but Kate couldn’t change her nature. That was simply the way she was.
She just wished her brass hadn’t chosen this time and this place to desert her.
Gerald’s commanding words still shimmered in the air between them, and in their aftermath, she could do nothing but reach with both hands for what she craved beyond all reason.
Gerald lifted her down from the saddle and pulled her flush against his body. She could feel the hard planes of his bones and the strong cording of his muscles rippling beneath her hands as she held on to his arms. She held on to him as if he’d plucked her from the ocean and he was her only lifeline.
“Kiss me, Kate. It feels like forever since I had your flavor on my tongue.”
Kate grinned, and despite the fact that she needed to do just exactly that, she said, “You’re a bossy man, Gerald Benedict.”
He gave her what she could only call an arrogant look. “I’m so glad you noticed, woman.”
This will only be our second kiss.
The thought formed and then evaporated as Gerald’s mouth devoured hers. His tongue invaded, sliding against her own, bringing heat and arousal and the flavor she recognized as being, simply, him.
The feel of his hand in her hair, his fingers working themselves under the pins to cup her scalp sent shivers down her spine. Captured by his strength, conquered by his manliness, Kate wrapped her arms around him and surrendered.
His heat seeped into her body, warming her when she hadn’t even known she’d been cold. Nothing existed in the world for her right then except the man kissing her, and the one pressing himself close to her back and caressing her hips.
“Jesus.” Gerald’s lips deserted hers, and she actually whimpered! He kissed her cheeks and her forehead and she tried to capture his lips with her own.
She’d been called feisty, formidable, and fierce, but here and now she knew that beneath the façade she showed the world, she was a woman who hungered for the touch and the kiss, not of one man, but of two. Not of any man, but of these men—and
these two men.
As if she was nothing more than a doll to be passed between them, Gerald gave her over to Patrick—her feet didn’t even touch the ground. His mouth covered hers, and his tongue, slow and sly, invaded her mouth and caressed her own.
The heat she’d felt the first time they’d kissed her was nothing compared to the conflagration that burned within her now. Having the taste of both men on her tongue at the same time aroused her. Their individual and unique flavors combined to form an essence more powerful than liquor. That essence addicted her instantly, and she knew with a certainty she couldn’t explain that she would forever feel incomplete without them.
She clung to Patrick, her lips melding with his, her arms clutching him as possessively as she had his brother. He held her, one hand on her head, the other on her bottom, pulling her snug against his body.
The sensation of the erection pressed against her stomach actually made her wet. She could have sworn the lips framing her slit swelled and then quivered in anticipation.
How could she hunger so desperately for what she’d never tasted? A sound emerged from her, a sound she recognized instinctively as feminine need.