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Jillian Hart (16 page)

BOOK: Jillian Hart
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    He watched her cook breakfast over the campfire, his blood still pulsing with desire. He studied her during the meal, his body still aching for her. He helped her do dishes, and every brush against her made his need for her flame.
    Mrs. Brooks arrived to dry, shooing them away from her work. Then Adella and her mother showed up to take Emily for the day. The little girls waved goodbye, giggling in the back of the wagon.
    He was alone with his wife, his beautiful, enchanting, sexy wife.
    She didn 't seem to know how tempting she was. Her blue skirts hugged her hips when she hurried down the steps, and her breasts swayed gently with her quick gait. She'd forgotten to put up her hair, and the wind tousled her rich, dark curls.
    He stepped out of the stable. "I've got the horses saddled."
    "You want to go riding? I could go change–"
    "No, it'll be easier to seduce you in that dress than in your trousers."
    "You're aren't going to give up on that?" She gazed up at him, one slim brow quirking.
    "Not a chance."
    She tossed him a half-smile, and he remembered the flash of fear across her face when he'd held her this morning, naked in front of the mirror. She'd been responsive to his caresses, and recalling how ardent and free her pleasure had been made his groin heat up. He was hard and throbbing before he even stepped foot inside the stable.
    "The pinto is yours." He came up behind her.
    Polly sidestepped. "You saddled her for me."
    "Yes, but she's yours from now on."
    "Mine?" She tilted her head to one side, and he watched her worry that bottom lip. That luscious sweet lip he wanted to lave and suck and kiss.
    He reached out.
    She dodged and circled around the horse. "I've missed my roan so much." She didn't meet Ben's gaze as she ran her hand along the mare's neck, and let the animal nuzzle her slim hands. "What's her name?"
    "Renegade."
    "I like it." She tossed him a smile, and she was no longer skittish, no longer unsure. "She's a fine animal. I should pay you for her. I've got the bounty on Dixon and his men–well, the half I didn't put in savings for Emily. And the gold claim has been paying off."
    "So I heard." He circled around the mare. "You like having your own money."
    "It keeps a woman from being too dependent–" She jumped as his hands settled at her waist. His shaft straining against the confines of his denims pressed against her fanny.
    "I don't want you dependent on me." He pulled her against him and placed his hands on her breasts. "Is that what you're afraid of?"
    "I've seen it often enough. "She sounded strangled, yet there was no mistaking the low husky note of arousal in her voice.
    He let her move away and gather the pinto's reins. With one slim hand on the pommel, she climbed into the saddle. Her skirts bunched over her knees and she smoothed them. He was surprised she didn't want to change, then remembered his comment about making love.
    Maybe she was thinking over his offer.
    Heat pulsed in his blood, leaving him weak. He mounted up and joined her out in the yard. She was heading toward the river and he followed her lead. He enjoyed the view–the slim cut of her back, her soft fanny settled on the saddle, the lean curve of her thighs as she gripped the horse.
    When the trail widened, he drew up alongside her. "Tell me about growing up with one of the most notorious outlaws in the West."
    "There isn't much to tell. My mother died when I was Emily's age. I cooked for them. It was better than an orphanage."
    "Roy Brown is a harsh man."
    She didn't answer. She stared up at the peaks of the towering Rockies. They were so close, she had to tip back her head to see those grand, snow-capped peaks. "It won't be long until snow falls."
    "The leaves are still turning."
    "It won't be long." The beautiful summer had ended, and Polly's stomach tightened. She was afraid to believe this happiness could last She'd spent her life on the move, one camp to another, then onto a shanty, then up into her father's mountain hideaway. It had never been permanent, never stable, and never kind.
    As Ben's hands snaked around her waist and the other around the bottom of her thigh, something changed in her heart. Maybe it was the crisp mountain air or the tenderness as he lifted her to him. They shared the saddle, pressed together. His arms wrapped around her and his lips brushed her hair, and the fear flitted away like those dying leaves on the wind.
    She'd been afraid Ben would beat her. He'd turned out not to be that kind of man. She'd been afraid he wouldn't trust her, but he'd been the one trusting her with his daughter's heart. She'd turned away from his tender touches, but he did not turn away from her.
    She thought of his touches this morning.
Having sex would be like that, but much, much better.
Could she do it? Could she trust Ben that much? How could she not?
    She leaned against him, closed her eyes, and vowed not to be afraid to love this great, gentle man.

    "So, this is the gold claim?"
    "This is it." Polly gazed down at the swatch of bank, river and woodland with pride. "Emily chose that spot right by the first curve, and I've been downstream, working the slower current."
    He brought the horse to a stop. "Something tells me Emily's spot has produced the most gold."
    "Imagine that." She'd helped Emily find the best spot. The sweet memories of the afternoons they'd spent together, peacefully playing in the water warmed her. She suspected before this afternoon was gone she would have made new memories of this serene spot.
    The waters whispered as they rushed in a lazy cadence down the hillside. Sparrows hid in the thinning limbs of a cottonwood as a bald eagle soared overhead on the crisp wind. The grasses rustled, and a doe peeked out of a thicket of huckleberry bushes to stare at them.
    Ben's arms tightened around her waist, perilously close to her breasts. "I thought for our first full day as man and wife you'd like to be here at the claim, where you're the happiest."
    "I'm happiest with you and Emily."
    "You love the outdoors." His hands closed over her breasts. "We could fish, pan for gold, find a quiet spot in the sun and make love–"
    "I bet you don't have a whole lot of interest in fishing or finding gold. It's the lovemaking you brought me up here for." She moaned when his thumbs plucked at her nipples.
    "I don't deny it" His kiss brazened along the outside of her neck and lingered against the top button of her collar. "I want to make love to you with the leaves overhead and the crisp grass for a bed. I want you to know a better woman couldn't have been locked up in my jail."
    "Lucky me." She didn't stop him when he plucked at the buttons at her bodice and the fabric parted. His hands slid inside to knead her swollen breasts, already aching for him. "We had an agreement and you've broken it."
    "I didn't break it alone." He ran his thumbs over her nipples, then dipped low to sweep over her ribs and as far down as her dress would allow.
    She cried out with pleasure. "Seems to me we need to fight this out."
    "Fight?" His hands loosened the ties at her waist. "I don't want to fight. I want–"
    "I know what you want." She plucked the pack of cards from her pocket and held them high. "Five card stud. The winner of the best of three games gets to decide if we make this marriage a real one or not."
    "Is that a challenge?"
    "Absolutely."
    Ben snatched the pack from her fingers. "Prepare to be conquered by the best card player in five counties."
    She laughed at the confidence in his eyes. Oh, poor respectable Ben MacLain. He probably figured she was as inept at cards as she was at cooking on his stove.
    He was dead wrong. And he was going to learn the hard way. She would humiliate him. Then she would make him love her beneath the hot touch of the sun.

    With the Autumn breezes stirring the blanket spread out in the watery sunshine, Ben tapped the cards from the box and into his nimble hand. "It's showdown time. Are you ready?"
    "Ready to win." Polly leaned forward. "Are you sure you want to risk losing to a woman?"
    "I haven't been defeated yet."
    "And I don't intend to lose." She felt a flutter in her chest when he leaned close and brushed his cheek to hers.
    "Don't be afraid," he whispered. "I'll be gentle."
    "I intend to be rough."
    He arched one brow, as if he liked that idea. His fingers stroked the smooth, blue-backed cards. He handled the cards like an expert, with the ease and agility of a seasoned player.
    Polly had to wonder what Ben did for a living before he'd hired on as a small-town sheriff. She could sense a hard and fast game, and her blood sang in her veins. "Deal, Sheriff."
    "You seem confident."
    "That's because I know I can beat you."
    "I'm fairly certain you'll be writhing beneath me on this blanket." He shuffled with amazing skill, stroking the cards with his fingertips, and they fanned together and parted over and over again. Then he tossed out five cards to each of them. "Normally I only play with whoever can challenge me."
    She recognized that teasing glint in his eyes. "Challenge you? I'm going to humiliate you. I've played with more at stake than this and won."
    "Your pride is about to take a beating." Ben glanced at his cards and his eyes sizzled. He took one card, then lifted a querying brow.
    She cupped the cards in her palm and took some pleasure in her royal pair, although she didn't dare let it show on her face. She bit her lip and asked for two cards, just to feed Ben's confidence.
    He thought he had a good hand. He was about to be disappointed.
    He laid down a pair of queens.
    She laid down a pair of kings.
    Ben's gaze narrowed, and he measured her up. "It's luck."
    "It's called skill." Victory tasted sweet. She gathered up the cards with a sweep of her hand. "My deal."
    It was her turn to show him she knew a thing or two about shuffling. Surprise darkened his eyes as she handled the cards, then dealt with quick, professional flicks of her wrist. She may be playing to win, but she wanted him. More with each passing breath.
    This time her hand wasn't as good. She liked that. Now was where the skill came in. She tossed out three low cards and was pleased with the flush beginning to form.
    "Give me two cards." Ben's brows furrowed. Maybe he wasn't happy with his hand. Maybe he was bluffing. "Let's up the ante."
    "There is no ante."
    "Maybe there should be." Wickedness gleamed in his eyes.
    "If I win this hand, then I want you on top when we make love."
    "On top?" She dealt him two cards, then took two for herself. "Fine. If your hand beats mine, I'll be on top for as long as you want."
    "That must be some hand you've got there."
    "Maybe." She bit her lip.
    Ben's gaze fell to her mouth. His pupils darkened. Momentarily she forgot about the cards cupped safely in her hand to watch his gaze travel slowly along the curve of her bottom lip, lingering in the center where her sensitive skin began to quiver.
    "But if I win," she added, "you stop trying to seduce me."
    "No more kisses?"
    She shook her head. "And no touching me like you did this morning."
    He considered that. "I hope you have a lousy hand, because I'm not going to stop until I win."
    "Neither am I." Ooh, she loved teasing him.
    He wanted two more cards, and she dealt them to him.
    She took one. "Do you call?"
    "You bet."
    The moment of truth. She held her breath and spread out her cards.
    "I really hate to take advantage of a woman." Ben tossed his cards to the blanket. His flush was higher than hers. "I'll be looking forward to having you on my lap."
    The idea thrilled her. Desire tugged low in her stomach, and she tried to hide her shiver. "You haven't won yet, MacLain."
    "We're tied, and it's my deal." He shuffled. "What are you going to do if I win?"
    Her chin shot up. "What are you going to do if you lose?"
    He'd played hard, but he wasn't about to force the issue. Then again, she was the one who'd challenged him. He glanced at his cards, considering. "I want you."
    "I know." She tossed him a wicked little grin.
    Blood thudded in his groin. It didn't take a genius to know what she wanted. "I'm ready. I call."
    "You can't–"
    "I call." He laid down his hand; not much of anything.
    She had a full house. The shock on her face was priceless. "You wanted to lose."
    "I wanted you to win. You're going to regret turning down my invitation."
    "About my being on top?" A slow blush warmed her porcelain skin.
    "Exactly. I know it's all I'm going to think of."
    "Me, too." Her gaze pinned his and left no doubt. "Especially since I was planning to lose that hand."
    "I know." He swept the cards aside, the blanket stretched between them. It would make a perfect bed to make love to her on, with the scent of autumn crisp in the air and the sun to warm them. What came next between them depended on Polly. "You won the match. If you want me to lay you out on this blanket and love you long and hard, then
you'll
have to seduce
me
."
    "Seduce you?" Her mouth fell open, lush and supple.
    His groin thudded. "I can take off my clothes if it will help."
    "Like you did with me?"
    "Exactly." The memory of her naked and in his arms tormented him. His pulse thundered with pure strident need. He wanted to kiss every inch of her. He wanted–
    Her hand shot out and tugged at his buttons. They popped like corn from a hot pan. His shirt fell open and her hand splayed against his chest
    Her mouth brushed his. "I guess I'll have to seduce you."
    Ben had never been so glad to lose a game.

Chapter Fourteen

    She claimed his mouth with hot demand, and she gave him all she had. Lips brushed and tongues tangled. She wound her fingers into the hair at the base of his neck and plundered.
    "Be gentle with me," he begged.
    They tumbled laughing to the blanket, and he spread out over her. The weight of his body pinned hers to the ground, and it was a thrilling feeling. She tugged off his shirt as his mouth covered hers again.
    On a sigh, she tossed the garment somewhere off the blanket. "It's hard for me to seduce you from here. I can't reach your belt buckle."
    "There's a remedy for that." His arms slid around her and they rolled.
    She came up on top, her hair spilling over her shoulders. "You were serious about this?"
    "Believe it." His hands came up to brush the hair from her face. "What about my belt buckle?"
    "I can reach it now." She tugged it loose. "I've never seduced a man before. How am I doing?"
    "You're talking too much." He rolled her back over and wedged his knees between her thighs. "I'm going to have to take over now."
    He tugged off her dress and ran his hands over the sensitive peaks of her breasts, the curve of her stomach, and between her thighs. Sensation roared over her like an avalanche, forcing her along faster and faster toward an uncertain end.
    Ben caught her nipple with his tongue. Somehow, he'd taken off his trousers and his bare thighs pressed hers open wide. That sweet sharp pleasure spiraled through her belly again and gathered low and hard. Every sweep of his tongue, every flicker of his hands across her inner thighs made that pleasure tighten.
    Then his fingers eased upward along the sensitive skin of her inner thighs. White-hot sparks ignited wherever his fingers touched. She arched up against his hand. Nothing had ever felt this good. And it was because of Ben–because of the kind of man he was. Noble and honest, strong enough to be tender, giving instead of taking.
    His fingers moved over her like magic, brushing over a hot bright place that made the pleasure sharp as a knife. Her hips bucked up against his hand. The sensation sharpened, and she cried out. She felt her muscles tighten. She felt her body open. The tension gathering deep inside her began to coil ever tighter.
    Ben settled between her parted thighs. "Are sure you want to do this?"
    She opened her eyes, breathless, dazed by his question. Her entire body was strumming with so much want that she ached for him. "It will be like this, won't it?"
    "Even better."
    "Then I want you, Ben MacLain. How I want you."
    A smile was his answer, and then his fingers dipped between her parted thighs and touched her again. The molten pleasure returned, ever hotter and brighter, and she leaned back into the blanket. Her hips arched upward, and the pleasure spiked like pain.
    She cried out, but his mouth covered hers, swallowing her cry. His weight pinned her, and his hard shaft nudged very high against her inner thigh. Goodness, her body felt ready to explode as he moved his hips and his thickness pushed at her. She opened to him, hungry for this new way of loving him. She moaned as he thrust inside her.
    "Does it hurt?" he murmured, easing up on his elbows to study her face. Concern crinkled his brow and bracketed his kiss-swollen mouth. "I don't ever want to hurt you."
    "It feels strange. It's like you're filling me up."
    "I am." His mouth caught hers, and he filled her all the way. He felt so big and thick, she felt stretched to the point of breaking but somehow, when he began a slow deep rhythm, the stretching tightened. Pleasure cut like the sharpest of blades, she clung to his shoulders and held on.
    He drove into her, then retreated only to do it again. Her muscles tightened around him. He reached down and drew her thighs up over his hips. She felt him thrust deeper, and the pleasure was too much to bear. She couldn't go on, she couldn't keep doing this.
    Then her stomach coiled and twisted, and an incredible sensation spilled through her. Like the edge of an avalanche first breaking away, she tumbled helplessly over the cliff, falling. Pleasure tore through her, carrying her away. Her back arched, her hands dug into Ben's back, and she cried out as the first wave of spearing sensation broke through her. The second wave unraveled that unbearable tightness inside. She clenched hard around him, again and again until her climax faded and she gazed up into Ben's dark eyes.
    "We can stop if you don't like that." One corner of his mouth drew up into a slow, sexy grin.
    "Yeah, let's never do
that
again." She laughed as he rolled her over, keeping a firm hand to her bottom so they stayed joined. She came up on top, gazing down at him. "You're still hard."
    He kissed her thoroughly. "It's a problem I have whenever I'm around you."
    "I've noticed this particular affliction." She sat up, feeling powerful as she gazed down at him. "I might be able to make it go away, but it will take a lot of effort."
    "I'm never one to shy away from a little hard work."
    "Oh, you think you're funny." She lifted up, traveling the length of his erection, then back down again.
    Ben groaned, and his hands settled at her hips. They found the perfect rhythm together. She came fast and hard, and he tensed beneath her, driving up into her. His seed pulsed hot and wet inside her and she wove her fingers between his, realizing how truly joined they were.
    This wasn't just sex, like Ben had said. This was a real marriage. A true bond. His kiss was tender as he tucked her beneath him and loved her all over again.

BOOK: Jillian Hart
13.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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