Read Goodnight Kisses Online

Authors: Wilhelmina Stolen

Tags: #prequel, #texas cowboys, #sexy contempory, #novella romance, #contemporary cowboy, #teaser for book, #proposal of marriage, #texas ranch, #contemporary romance western, #love and romanve

Goodnight Kisses (13 page)

BOOK: Goodnight Kisses
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His face softened with a smile that made her heart
flutter. “I’ve always noticed you, darlin’. I’ve just been waiting
for you to grow up.”

Tiny moments of his affection over
the last couple of years flashed
through
her mind. The moments
when no one was watching. The moments they connected without a
word. Quick kisses. Tender hugs. Loving glances. Teasing smiles.
All things they’d shared that could be interpreted as notice, but
nothing which would have brought about a marriage proposal. “You
were?”

“Yes. I was.” The chalice of his hands on her face
and his gentle kiss made his answer nearly convincing, but his
words lacked sincerity and sentiment.

She drank in the taste of his lips, the feel of his
tender hands, and the magic of her love for him. She wanted time to
stop. She wanted to keep McCrea this close, this real and this
devoted. But something inside her told her there was more to his
proposal. She drew back and lifted her eyes to meet his. “I know
you, McCrea. You don’t want to get married.”

His hands fell from her face.

“So just cut through the bullshit and tell me what’s
going on.”

A shift of his lower jaw signaled annoyance. Her
directness caught him off guard. “I have to find a wife.”

“Why?”

“As part of our inheritance, Wade promised each of
us a piece of land when we finished college.”

“Land?” Why was he talking about land?

He propped a shoulder against the door, and a bare
foot tapped the floor. “My inheritance is over three-thousand
acres. It includes Promise Point, the old homestead and most of the
original land that started the ranch. It’s been in our family for
generations, but now,” he exhaled. “The fight with Willard has made
Wade reconsider mine.”

The well-worn wood of the floorboards creaked
beneath her feet as she began backtracking across the room.
Marriage? Land? Help him? Her mind rattled with questions. The
whiskey. Solving his problems his way. Piece by piece the night
came together.

“He doesn’t think I’m responsible enough to inherit
it. He thinks I need a wife.”

That was it. His motive behind all the kissing and
cuddling. He needed her. His tender lovemaking was nothing more
than a scam to lure her into accepting his proposal.  Her legs
buckled when her heel made contact with the stone hearth.
 “That’s what the three of you were talking about this
afternoon in the study?”

Both hands raked up the back of his head. “Yeah and
dad kept talking about how much he wanted a grandkid. Hell, I don’t
want kids! Ever!”

I was right.
He doesn’t want children.
Her fingers
rubbed the edge of an overhanging hearth rock.
No babies. No kids. Ever
.

“Diapers and droolin’, that’s not me.”

The level of disdain in his voice triggered
something inside her. An anguish which caused her to rip the loose
rock from its mortar. The razor sharp edge sliced into her finger.
She let out a yelp and clutched her hand.

“Careful.” Two quick strides, brought him kneeling
in front of her. “Some of those are sharp.”

She winced and bent forward, holding her bloody
finger. “God, it hurts.” Everything hurt. Her finger. Her
heart….

“Hold it up,” he instructed and leaned over to draw
the lamp closer. Tenderness and concern etched across his face as
he examined the cut. “It’s deep.” He wrapped the hem of his shirt
around it and pressed hard to stop the bleeding. “It might need a
stitch or two, and a bandage,” he continued with a kiss to the tip
of her finger. “I may have to buy you two rings. One for the
wedding and one for after it heals.”

Not only was he asking her to marry him, but he
wanted her to do so for the sake of his inheritance. Not because he
loved her or wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. A sharp
pain penetrated her body, and she withdrew her hand from his.
“Don’t bother.”  Her eyes closed, bearing the awful truth of
his intentions. Grandma Rose was right. McCrea was a heart breaker.
No truer words had ever been spoken. How could she have been so
blind? “I’m not marrying you.”

“I have plans for the land. A game
ranch with trophy bucks and elk…” The
scald
of his eyes pinned her
down. “This is a chance for me to have something of my
own.”

What about love and commitment? Children? Home?
Family? They meant nothing to him. She meant nothing to him. “I’m
leaving for college on Sunday,” she whispered her last argument and
pushed him away, hoping he would land on his ass.

He staggered
backward
without
falling and oddly enough, his face brightened. “We’ll find a place
in Austin and come home on the weekends.”

She stood up. “No.”

“I’ll pay your tuition.”

Wasn’t he listening earlier? “You’re a real sweet
talker, McCrea, but I have a scholarship. Remember?”

“Then use the money for the ranch.”

She didn’t want him to have any part in rebuilding
Redemption. “No, I’m not the type of woman who can be bought.”

“I’m not trying to buy you, only
compensate you for your time.” His knuckles grazed the side of her
breast. “Look at
it
like
a business agreement with
benefits.”

“God. Stop.” She shrank back, revolted by his
suggestion. “How could you suggest such a thing?”

“What can I offer you?” Desperation replaced
enticement. “What do you want?”

Did she dare answer that? Did she tell him her
heart’s desire? Or did she walk away? “If I marry you, what happens
after you get the land?” She went back to the bedroom and snatched
her panties from the floor. “What then?”

He had followed her and was now watching her dress.
“I pay you and,” he shrugged, “we go our separate ways.”

She shivered out of his shirt and found her dress to
whisk over her head. “The marriage is over,” she snapped her
fingers, “just like that? I say “I do” and a year later you hand me
a check along with divorce papers?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t have to be
complicated.” To him, it was simple. To
her,
it was a stab in
the heart.

“What if I don’t want a divorce? What if I want a
white picket fence and ─ and growing old together?” The kind of
love Charlie and Rose had. “What if I want kids?”

A quake of dark emotion ripped through his eyes.
“I’m not the type of man who takes to the bridle or kids.”

Her heart made one last bid. “What if what I’m
feeling isn’t puppy love? What if it’s the real thing? What then,
McCrea.”

His smirk not only insulted her, it crushed her.
“Fairy tales or happily ever after only exist in your
books.”

“They do exist,” her defense was weak. “In people
like Wade and Sophia. Charlie and Rose.”

His face hardened. “The marriage is a twelve-month
business agreement.”

A year. That’s all he was willing
to give her. God, this was a nightmare! There was a part of her
that wanted to agree to this stupid business agreement just to keep
him, but she wasn’t desperate enough to be trapped in a loveless
marriage. And though his tenderness during the night suggested he
cared about her, his cold business agreement shined
light
into the dark recesses of the truth.

She sat down on the bed and shoved her bare feet
into her wet boots. “I see, and if I don’t marry you?”

“I’ll find someone else.” She knew McCrea Coldiron
was a man of business, but she never suspected he would ever be
this heartless.

“So this,” she waved a frantic hand
between them. “All your gentle persuasion, and – and
lovemaking
was for…”

“No,” he cut her off.

She felt like melting through the floorboards. “I
trusted you. I thought you cared for me.”

“I do!” he belted. “I want to take things one day at
a time, but if I don’t get married I don’t get the land! I have to
find a wife. Now!” He gave the air in a frustrated punch. “Damn,
it! I asked you first! Doesn’t that count for something?”

“I suppose I should feel flattered since half the
women in Santa Camino would trade places with me in a heartbeat.”
Sarcasm wasn’t her style, but it helped to hide her pain.

“They would want more than the cost of tuition,” he
returned with the same amount of cynicism.

“That’s why you asked me, wasn’t
it?” Pain tore through her heart. “You thought I would jump at the
money. You─” her voice broke. “You
thought
you could buy me like
that damn dress or Romeo Baby.”

“No. I don’t even want that goddamn
horse!” His voice cut through the oak rafters, scattering her
nerves so much that she flinched
in
defense. Her reaction
softened his demeanor. “I didn’t mean to shout. Let’s just calm
down and talk about this.”

“There is nothing to talk about. You planned
this.”

“You’re the one who came looking for me, remember?”
he said between his teeth.

She recoiled at the sobering truth. “You’re right. I
did. I was stupid enough to think you might love me.” A mocking
laugh emerged from her tight throat. “I guess all the boys down at
Tubs had a good laugh watching me bounce out of there on your
arm.”

He stood firmly planted in his cause without any
emotion. “Fuck the boys.”

“I made myself a prime target, didn’t I?” She wiped
away her tears and attempted a smile. There was no way in hell she
would let him see her pain. “Lesson learned.” When the emotion
covering her face threatened to crumble into uncontrollable tears,
she ran out the door. “Don’t worry about giving me a ride home.
I’ll walk.”

He was too fast for her quick
getaway. She hadn’t gotten one foot out the
door
before he caught
her by the arm and whipped her around. “You don’t understand! Wade
likes you.”

“Wade?” she repeated softly, and understood why he
had chosen her. “Wade likes me?”

“He thinks you’d be good for me, and that you’ll
settle me down. You remind him of Grandma.”

Any other time the comparison to
Sophia Coldiron would have been a welcome compliment. She was the
backbone of the family. A true lady who would
have been
appalled
by her grandson’s proposal and behavior.

A frosty bite of
animosity
ran over her. “You asked me to marry you to pacify
Wade?”

“No.”

“It all makes
sense
now. The
three of you were in a deep discussion about Wade’s new terms when
I walked in, weren’t you?” She seen the imprint of something
serious on their faces even though they tried to hide it. Wade’s
interest in her plans for the future. His offer to help in any way
he could… She felt sick. Both Mr. C and Wade seemed so sincere, so
kind.

Nausea kicked in a dry heave, causing her to cover
her mouth. “Would tonight have happened if Wade hadn’t given you
those terms? Would you have kissed me?” she hesitated with another
wave of nausea. “Made love to me?”

He stepped closer to caress her
upper arms. “Let me take you home, and we’ll talk about it after
you’ve had time to
─”

The smack across his right cheek was hardly enough
to cause damage, especially to a man as tough as McCrea, but it did
rouse his temper. She could see it in his eyes. He blinked and
gritted his teeth. “Calm down.”

She drew back for another blow, but his fingers
closed around her wrist. “Stop smacking the piss out of me!”

“Tell me tonight wasn’t about the
land.”
Please tell me you love me,
her mind cried.

His hands on her forearms gave her a gentle shake
“Don’t you see? This way we can both have what we want.”

A quick jerk freed her. “I’ll never have what I
want.”

An
indescribable sadness
entered her as she
walked the long distance back to her house. The path was one she
had
taken years
ago, the day McCrea found her. The day she fell in
love with the boy next door. 

All her hopes and dreams for what they might one day
have together, died within her, and she couldn’t help the tears
which overpowered her as the flame of her love was
extinguished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE
AUTHOR

Wilhelmina Stolen is a country
girl and loves the hometown atmosphere of her small Kentucky town.
Life in her little corner of the world consists of long winter
nights curled up by the fire, cheering on her favorite football
teams in the fall, enduring March Madness in the spring and walking
barefoot through her garden with a cold jar of sweet tea in the
summer - fireflies at sunset accompanied by a serenade of crickets
and frogs, and lazy summer nights in the porch swing with her
husband. 

 

wilhelminastolen.com

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BOOK: Goodnight Kisses
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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