Authors: Maddy Barone
“Peachy,” Carla snapped. Her eyes closed briefly, and when they opened, tears gleamed. “Sorry. Yeah, I’m okay. You?”
How was she? Lost. Happy the man who won her was someone she knew. Scared she was about to be separated from the only person in this world she knew. All that and more. “Yeah, I’m okay. But Eddie says he doesn’t see much of Taye or his Pack. I’m going to miss you.”
Carla’s hand was cold, and her fingers trembled when they gripped Lisa’s hand so hard she almost winced. Lisa watched her only friend in this place struggle with her tears. “I’ll miss you too.”
Eddie put his arm around Lisa’s waist again as Taye Wolfe stepped next to Carla. He looked at Eddie. “You have free passage to the den if you want to bring your wife for a visit. Just send a message ahead, and I’ll clear it for you.”
Eddie tightened his arm and gave Lisa a little squeeze. “Thanks, Lisa will like that. We’ll take you up on that after the honeymoon.”
Honeymoon? Lisa’s body melted a little when she remembered his hard erection pressed against her a few minutes ago. A honeymoon with Eddie wouldn’t be any kind of a hardship. She gave him one of her flirty smiles.
Taye Wolfe nodded at Eddie. “We better get moving. We need to be home before dark. Eddie. Ma’am. Congratulations.”
Lisa watched Carla walk away with the three muscular, dark men circling her. The stiff line of her back was a silent shout of reluctance. When Taye Wolfe reached for her arm, she glared until he dropped his hand and settled for walking beside her. He smiled at Carla a lot, but not at anyone else. In fact, the way he stared at the men around them was scary. The guys with Taye seemed to make a path through the crowd simply by scowling. They were scary. Lisa laid her hand over Eddie’s arm where it curled around her waist, and leaned against his chest.
“Is she going to be okay with them?” she asked.
“Yes.” Eddie’s lips grazed her ear. “Taye and his Pack make bad enemies. They live by some hard rules. But his mate will be their treasure. I wouldn’t want to be the one who makes her stub her toe. There won’t be much left of the idiot after Taye gets done with him. Anyone who even annoys her will be in big trouble.”
“I think Taye annoys her.”
Eddie chucked. “He does
to her. It will be interesting to see how things are going with them when we pay our visit.”
“After the honeymoon? How long…”
He turned her around so they were nose to nose, his hard, muscled arms holding her tight enough to flatten her breasts again his chest. “How long will our honeymoon last? A loooooong time, Lisa-love.”
She blushed furiously. It was the curse of being a towhead with pale skin. ”Oh,” she squeaked. “Um, are we going anywhere?”
She blushed harder, but looked him in the eye with a smile. “I figured that. I meant are we going away somewhere? The Bahamas? Or Hawa…” Her smile dimmed. “I guess not that far.”
Eddie looked serious now. “We don’t travel much. It’s too dangerous. Especially for a woman. Come on. I’m going to take you home.” His hands smoothed up her arms to cup her face. “I want to have you to myself.”
When they left the shadowed area below the balcony, the crowd began to clap, chant, and throw something like confetti at them. Lisa was reminded of a bride and groom leaving the church after their wedding. The crowd hadn’t done that to Carla and Taye. They probably hadn’t dared. Lisa smiled until she began to understand what they were saying. Good lord! They were shouting ribald advice to Eddie about how to treat her in bed, even offering to help. She faltered, but he kept striding through the people, laughing. As they got to the door to the theater lobby, he paused and waved.
“Thanks for the advice, but I think we’ll be able to muddle through on our own.”
Outside the sun was low in the sky, and the late October breeze was cold on Lisa’s hot cheeks. “That was so embarrassing I could have died!”
“You can’t die yet,” Eddie said too solemnly. “We’ve still got our honeymoon ahead of us.”
Lisa smiled and pressed closer to his side, relishing the feel of him. Sex with Eddie wouldn’t be repugnant. She’d already thought that, but it was worth repeating. What should she do to him first? She cast a sideways glance at him, wondering if he’d like for her to go down on him.
Four men separated themselves from the clusters of men on the sidewalk, jerking her from her heated daydream. Eddie nodded at them, and they moved to walk two in front and two in back of them. Eddie removed his arm and moved a step away from her as the six of them began a quick-paced march up the street away from the theater.
Lisa bowed her shoulders to conserve body heat and made a sound of protest. “Eddie? It’s cold out here.”
“It’s only a twenty minute walk back to our compound,” Eddie said briskly. “I’ll warm you up once we’re home.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Lisa hummed. She smiled a slow sexy smile and flicked him a flirtatious glance from under half-closed lashes. “I’m looking forward to that.”
Amazingly, Eddie blushed. “I mean, I’ll build us a fire when we get back.” He cleared his throat, the flush still glowing on his cheeks. “Right now I need my arms free in case I need to fight.”
Alarm killed Lisa’s flirtatious mood. “I thought the fighting was done.”
His eyes roved over the street, the blush gone from his face and something harder taking its place. “I won the Bride Fight. Now I have to fight to keep you if some idiot tries to steal you.”
“Oh, my God!”
“Don’t worry. Anyone who tries to steal you is dead.”
Lisa lengthened her strides. The sooner they were some place safe the better. Eddie had fought enough. Clusters of men stood along the street as they passed, some looking sullen, others calling congratulations to Eddie, but no one stopped them until they were within sight of the gate in the wall around the mayor’s house. A man stepped in their way. He had a friendly smile on his face, but his eyes went over Lisa in a way that made her uncomfortable. Eddie quickly stepped protectively in front of her, but she could see the other man over his shoulder.
“Dane,” Eddie said in a hard voice. “What can I do for you?”
“That’s a cold greeting for a friend,” Dane said, his smile widening as his eyes went again to Lisa. “You can introduce me to the lady.”
Lisa couldn’t see Eddie’s face, but his back was stiff. “Lisa, this is Dane Overdahl, from the settlement northeast of town. Dane, this is my wife.”
Lisa gave him one of her habitually flirtatious smiles and nodded. Dane was very tall and lean, dressed almost like a cowboy in worn jeans, a leather vest over a flannel shirt, and cowboy boots. Unlike so many of the men in this backward future world, Dane’s smile showed perfect teeth. His hair was lighter than Eddie’s golden mane and hung in thick shiny waves an inch below his shoulders. Dane’s good looks were those of a man, not a boy. She guessed his age between thirty and thirty-five, several years older than Eddie. His mouth was a little too hard for her taste, even when he smiled at her. Maybe he was curious, but she had seen that look in enough men’s eyes to know he was scoping her out and liked what he saw. She faced that every day of her life since she was fifteen. It didn’t bother her. But Eddie shifted in front of her, like he didn’t want Dane to be able to see her.
“It’s good to meet you, Lisa,” Dane Overdahl said easily. “I didn’t get word about the Bride Fight until it was too late for me to enter. But you have a good man in Eddie. He and I have plans for making the world a better place in the future. I work with the technology from the Times Before. I’d like to learn what you know about it.”
Lisa’s smile turned doubtful. “Well, I’ll help any way I can. But I don’t know much about how things work. I’m a blonde,” she joked brightly.
Dane seemed puzzled. “Yes, your hair is lovely.” His smile was sensuous when he reached a hand as if to stroke her hair.
Eddie pushed her behind him with one arm. “She’s my wife.” His voice was flat, oddly uninflected. “We have plans for the evening, so we’ll be leaving now.”
Dane laughed and nodded to Eddie. “Congratulations, you’re a lucky man. I hope to see you both soon.”
Eddie nodded back and started forward. It seemed for a minute Dane wouldn’t move out of the way, but he eventually did. Lisa could almost feel his eyes on her back as Eddie swept his arm around her waist and pulled her alongside him toward the gate a man was opening for them. Lisa looked at Eddie’s set face with confusion.
“Is Dane one of your friends?” she whispered.
“Never speak his name again.”
“What?” Lisa stumbled as Eddie picked up his pace. “Hey! Isn’t he your friend? He said you were.”
Eddie stopped so suddenly she tripped again and fell against him. He steadied her with a grip on her shoulders so tight it almost hurt. “You smiled at him,” he accused.
Lisa blinked, trying to free her hair from where it was stuck between his hand and her shoulder. “Well, yeah. I was being polite.”
“You think he’s handsome?”
Lisa was blonde, not stupid. The thought he was jealous struck her. “Not as handsome as you are.”
His fierce eyes searched her face for several breathless moments. She shivered. It might have been from the cold air, but she didn’t think so. “I won the Bride Fight. You belong to me. Don’t ever forget that.”
Like she could? She hurried alongside when he took off again. The men inside the gate called happy congratulations, but Eddie just nodded tersely. He
jealous. Lisa wasn’t sure if she was flattered or annoyed. Honestly, she had only been polite! Eddie’s long strides made her have to stretch her legs to keep up. It was dark now, so she couldn’t really see where they were going. They passed the mansion she and Carla had left this morning and followed the cracked, pot-holed road to a smaller house behind it. Maybe it had been the coach house a hundred years ago? Eddie let her go long enough to say a few quiet words to his friends, who grinned, slapped him on the shoulder, and walked off.
Eddie turned to her and smiled, apparently having forgotten about Dane Overdahl. “This is our house. Isn’t it tradition for the groom to carry the bride in?”
Lisa smiled as her heart fluttered in her chest and nodded. Eddie lifted her against his chest and walked up the steps. She shrieked and giggled when he almost dropped her while trying to turn the doorknob. But he managed, and carried her over the threshold, kicking the door shut behind him. She met his lips halfway when he bent his head to kiss her. Under his shirt, the muscles in his chest were bunched from holding her weight. She stroked them as she slid her tongue along his. Desire dampened her panties, a familiar craving she knew this beautiful man would satisfy. The moment was ruined by her stomach growling loudly, followed immediately by the entrance of his mother and sister from another room of the house.
“Edward, put her down!” said Mrs. Mason sternly. “Bree and I have your supper on the table. You let that girl eat before you—” she broke off, glancing at her teen-aged daughter, “—show your new wife your house.”
“Oh,” said Bree too innocently. “Is that what he was doing?”
Lisa slid out of Eddie’s embrace. “Um, well…” she said lamely.
Mrs. Mason gave her a no-nonsense hug. “Welcome to our family, Lisa. Bree and I will get your meals for the next week so you and Eddie can have some time to get acquainted without bothering about that. If you need anything, just let us know.”
“Thank you.” Lisa waved good-bye while her new in-laws left. Then she gave Eddie her best come-hither smile. “Where were we when we were interrupted?”
His eyes were hot, but he shook his head. “You’re hungry. And you’re too thin to miss a meal. I’m pretty hungry myself. All that fighting works up an appetite, you know.”
Lisa’s appetite was for something besides food. And she certainly didn’t need to gain any weight. Overweight models did not get jobs. But he must be starving. “Okay. We have all night, so let’s eat first.”
His fingers tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “All night. I like the sound of that.” He twined his fingers with hers. “I’ll show you around. This is the living room. Through here is the kitchen. The door on the right leads to the pantry. The dining room is past the pantry, but it’s closed off to save fuel. You don’t mind eating in the kitchen?”
No, Lisa didn’t care. The house was small and might have been considered plain in 1900, but the woodwork was gorgeous. Even in the kitchen the floors were hardwood, and the cabinets glowed with polishing. “I think it’s beautiful, Eddie.”
Eddie brushed his lips lightly over hers. “And it’s private,” he murmured in a husky voice. “The perfect home for newlyweds.”
Lisa wanted more than a light kiss, but Eddie continued his tour. “To the left is the washroom. There’s a section for showering behind that wall, and a washbowl here. The outhouse is about fifty yards that way.”
“A shower!” Lisa’s smile was beatific.
Eddie couldn’t seem to resist a quick kiss. “Anytime you want a shower, let me know. I’ll fill the water tank for you. We can even heat a stone and put it in the tank so the water won’t be so cold.”
Ugh. No indoor plumbing was one of the worst things about this new world. She hid her grimace under a return kiss.
“In the back of the house are the two bedrooms. I’ll show you our bedroom after we eat. I am going to wash up now. You should stay here, because if you come with me…” His charming grin was depraved. “Well, then we won’t be having supper ‘til later. Much later.”
Lisa turned resolutely back to the kitchen. The table in the windowed nook was set with what would have been antique china even during her time, and a vase of autumn chrysanthemums was in the center. It was very pretty. A covered dish sat at one end of the table, little tendrils of steam escaping from under the lid, and a basket covered with a cloth was beside it. Maybe she was hungry after all, and not just for Eddie. Although, she smiled to herself, Eddie would make a great dessert.
She could hear Eddie splash as he washed and allowed herself to visualize his lean muscled chest and narrow waist. His face was arrestingly handsome with its high cheekbones and perfect lips. But at the moment, it was the rest of him she was interested in. She had slept with several men in her life. Her lovers ran the spectrum from high school classmates to jaded Hollywood movie stars. Whoever they were, her lovers had one thing in common—she cared for each of them, if only for a little while. Eddie was no different. She had only known him for a day, but she already liked him. Tonight she would go to bed with him happily. He was, after all, her husband. A handsome husband with a body so sexy a movie star would envy it. Lisa closed her eyes to savor the slow burn that spread through her body. She wanted his sexy body pressing into hers in the worst way.