Read Let Me Love You Online

Authors: Mary Wine

Tags: #Erotica, #Fiction, #Romance, #Western, #Historical

Let Me Love You (6 page)

BOOK: Let Me Love You
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But that left her nude.

A little sound of horror escaped her lips as she found herself standing bare in front of a man. Her brain flatly refused to grasp the complete idea of it. Sloan didn’t give her any time to consider what he was doing. He scooped her up and moved across the floor. He settled her into his bunk in one efficient motion.

“I’m sorry, honey, but modesty isn’t worth your life.”

The black duster landed on top of the blankets she was under. He glared at her for a long moment before moving his rifle to lean against the nightstand. He watched her face as he began to open his shirt. She should have protested and found some harsh retort to force past her frozen lips, but she became distracted by the hard flesh each turn of a button revealed. She’d seen her father a few times, bare above the waist, but Sloan looked nothing like her daddy. His chest was wide and covered with thick ridges of muscle. Dark hair ran across his chest, covering each flat male nipple. The dark hair continued down over his belly to disappear under his waistband. He turned and sat on the bunk, levering his boots off. A second later he rolled under the covers and reached for her.

Contact with his flesh hurt. He was too hot and she strained away from him. Sloan pressed her right back against his body. She could feel his heart beating against her breasts as he hugged her firmly against his burning heat.

“We have to get your temperature up to normal.”

He smoothed his hands over her back, molding their frames together. His feet and legs joined the embrace, one knee going right between her thighs. She shook violently as his warm skin touched her. Fear surged through her as she recognized just how correct he was. Her swim had placed her far too close to the border of death. The steady throb of his heart against her own suddenly beckoned with the promise of life.

“All right.” Her voice was working again. Brianna sighed as she stopped shivering and her muscles began to relax. Tension flowed out of her as she slumped against the solid body heating her frozen flesh. Sloan’s hands moved constantly, smoothing over her spine and her head and even down to her hips. The crisp hair covering his chest teased her skin as she nuzzled her nose against his neck to thaw it. She was suddenly more comfortable than she could remember being in a very long time. Her lungs filled and her eyes refused to remain open as she pressed closer to the warm male holding her. There was no more reason to struggle.

She couldn’t think and she discovered that she didn’t want to. Not while the scent of Sloan’s skin filled her senses. She’d get back to contemplating her actions later. For the moment she just wanted to indulge her body and be cradled by his strength while she reaped the benefits of not giving up during her fight to live.

Leaning on him appealed to her as her brain slipped into that dark oblivion it had resisted back in the river.

God was getting even with him. Sloan wanted to cuss, but gritted his teeth instead. He stroked the back of Brianna’s head and listened to her breathing even out. Tiny shivers still shook her body as she nuzzled against his neck, and his cock ached.

Yup, the Almighty was calling in a few debts tonight, but it was worth it. Somehow, the privilege of holding her was worth a whole hell of a lot of frustration. Leaning down, he buried his face in her hair and inhaled her sweet scent. It was the purest form of torture, the way her skin smelled. Like roasting meat to a starving man. Time stood still while it worked its way around his head, pushing each and every other thought aside. There was only the craving and the scent that awakened it.


He gritted his teeth against the feel of her satin-soft skin. She smelled more feminine than he could recall a female ever doing. Almost like she was clean and pure, better somehow than the last woman who’d shared his bed. Her nipples were twin little points poking into his chest. He had to remind himself that it was an icy river that had raised the tender flesh into peaks. Not her journey into his bed. His cock didn’t much care about the detail. The flesh was hard and aching inside his pants, demanding freedom from his britches. He’d left that single garment on, unwilling to trust himself with her clothing lying on the floor. It had been a good bet. There was no way he’d stand the feeling of her thighs against his cock.

“Stay awake, honey.”

His endearment roused her. No one called her “honey” and she’d made sure a few of her more base customers understood that respect was a must if they wanted their grain ground. Sweet-talking wasn’t going to jump their order to the front of her line or gain them a seat at her supper table. Sloan clasped the back of her neck and tipped her head up so that their eyes met. There wasn’t a lot of light in the room, but she felt his stare just about as much as she saw it.

“You go to sleep while you’re this cold and you might not wake up.” “Oh…of course.” She knew that. When the body was too cold, you had to keep your eyes open. She remembered now. That was why she was fighting to feel the pain back in the river.

But she was so tired! Bone weary and it was too hard to keep her eyelids up. They fluttered as she fought to stay awake, but her strength was gone, completely drained.

“I just need to rest my eyes is all.” Her eyelids closed and she sighed in relief.

Sloan cupped her breast and her eyes bulged open. “Sloan McAlister!” Her voice cracked as she felt each one of his fingers grasping her breast, holding the tender globe with a steady grip that didn’t squeeze too hard. A gleam of enjoyment entered his eyes as he gently stroked her breast, his thumb grazing the sharp point of her nipple. Sensation flooded her, rushing through her chest and over to the opposite breast.

“Stay awake, Brianna, or I’ll be happy to help you.”

Heat snaked through her breast, moving across the delicate skin to the hard nipple. Pleasure filled her as she discovered that she enjoyed the way his hand felt on her. It was a terrible time to discover such a fact. Until that moment, her breasts were rarely thought about. The corset lying on the floor kept them laced securely every day. Sloan watched her eyes for a moment before he slid his hand off her tender flesh and down over her ribs. He stroked her back once more as a little wave of disappointment hit her. Her breast missed his touch, the nipple begging for his fingers to stroke it. The idea was so intoxicating she became lost in it, her eyes fluttering shut once more so that she could hide the fantasy from his probing gaze.

He cupped one side of her bottom next. She jumped as his fingers curled around her cheek and right into the space between her legs. Her head cracked against his chin as she bucked away from the unaccustomed touch. A soft grunt hit her ears, but the hand on her fanny tightened, rubbing and kneading the private portion of her body.

“You can’t do that.” But he was and as hard as she tried to remember just why it wasn’t allowed, Brianna couldn’t find an answer. All her mind seemed concerned with was the heat moving from where his hand gripped her bottom to that secret part of her body between her thighs. The heat snaked right down the center of her slit to the front where a tiny throbbing began.

“Keep your eyes open and I won’t.” His voice was gruff and unsteady for the first time that she could recall. She stared at the taut expression on his face, her eyes held wide open by a mixture of shock and excitement.

“That’s right, honey.”

His hand left after a final squeeze and a little whimper escaped her lips. Surprise flashed across his face as she bit into her lower lip in confusion. Sloan’s obsidian gaze dropped to where her teeth were pushing into her lip. Hunger filled his gaze and it sent a surge of heat through her. All ideas of slumber dissipated as she opened her jaw and licked her lower lip instead of biting it.

He cussed, low and deep, before capturing the nape of her neck in one strong hand. He angled his head to fit his mouth against hers. It was a hard kiss but that fit his embrace. Her nipples tingled as he clasped her against his chest. He pushed her lips apart, the tip of his tongue licking over her lower lip. It was vastly different than the feel of her own tongue. His was strong and male. He pressed his kiss harder against her mouth as he rolled her onto her back, her thighs parting as his hips nudged them apart.

Another whimper rose from her throat, but this time it was born somewhere in the pulsing current of heat flowing through her. Her hands reached for his warm skin, stroking over it, absorbing more heat. Her back arched towards his hard chest and she moaned as pleasure went through her breasts pressed against his chest. It felt so perfect, the contact between their bodies. Her breasts were soft and his chest was hard—they complemented each other.

“Jesus, Brianna. I didn’t mean to drag you into this.” His voice was gruff in that way that you apologized for something you knew was wrong, but you liked enough to shoulder the shame.

She didn’t want to stop, didn’t want Sloan to think about anything but kissing her some more. Lifting her head she tried to press her mouth against his, but his fingers on her neck held her in place.

“No, honey. I’m a hell of a lot of things, but I’m not a bastard who’ll take your body when you didn’t land in my bed under your own choice.”

God knew he wanted to take her. Sloan growled as he pressed her flat onto her back. Everything inside him agreed with the sight of her beneath him, but the memory of the spunk in her eyes held him away from what he wanted to take from her. That surge of protectiveness surfaced above his lust and he soaked up its soothing presence. Being worthy of her was more important than fucking her because he could. It was a subtle moment as he balanced on the edge of giving in to the instinct to just take and instead grasped the opportunity to prove that he could do the correct thing by leaving her chaste.

Men could choose to not act like animals. That was what defined you as a decent man opposed to the lawless scum sharing the earth with you. Some men were better than others. They earned respect through perseverance.

But he wasn’t going to leave her wanting either.

Moving a hand over her body, he locked her down as his opposite hand smoothed across her belly to her spread thighs. She jerked as passion battled against her morals but the scent of her arousal hit his senses, confirming that he wasn’t alone in his cravings.

She moaned. Deep and low, like some animal. Brianna was shocked by her own sound as Sloan touched the most intimate part of her body. Heat poured through her as he stroked a single finger through her folds. Her flesh was slick for some reason and sweet sensation spiked up into her belly as he fingered her again. He stopped at the top of her sex, rubbing gently over a hard button hidden there.

“You can’t touch me…like that.” Her voice, breathless and husky, stunned her with just how carnal she sounded.

He leaned down until she felt his breath against her moist lips. “You enjoy it, don’t you?”

He stroked her again as she gasped. Pleasure shook her as her hips bucked beneath his hand. He pressed her flat onto his bed as he rubbed faster. Her lungs couldn’t seem to keep up with her heart as sweat popped out on her skin.


He kissed her to end her comment. His finger rubbed her and a moment later pleasure exploded under his touch. She screamed because it was just too much to keep inside her body. Such an abundance of sensation. It snapped her body like a leather whip. His mouth absorbed her cries as he slowly stroked her slit a few final times. Gently now, only a smooth touch of his fingers against that bud at the top of her slit.

“Now you can go to sleep, honey.”

Her breath was slowing down as she tried to lift her eyelids and demand…something…from him. But her brain refused to be denied the sweet slumber it had been looking for since her struggle to live began. Her body was full of little ripples of delight and they rocked her like a babe. Sloan smoothed and cradled her body, pushing her into sleep as contentedly as a child now that she was warm, the fingertips resting on his chest no longer icy.

He felt the steady beat of her heart as he hugged her close. If there had ever been a single moment in his life that might be termed perfect, this was it.

Yeah, he was a bastard but he wasn’t a defiler. When Brianna spread her body for his use, she would do it with full surrender or he would take his cock to bed hard. His life was often harsh and brutal, but at the center of everything that he was, Sloan still had his principles.

He wanted her and that meant all of her. Complete surrender or nothing at all.

It wasn’t something he needed to rush. Guilt weighed on his conscience as he looked at her dress lying in a wet puddle on the floor. Little shivers still shook her body, and he hugged her closer as she continued to relax and let the tension leave her mind. His temper heated up faster. There weren’t many reasons that would have sent her into the river. None of them were good. She was restless, wiggling and kicking against his embrace. Whatever had frightened her bad enough to go swimming still rattled around in her brain. Smoothing a hand over her wet hair, he felt his resolve harden. Sure, it wasn’t his job, maybe not even his business, but he was going to uncover just who had driven Brianna into an icy current. Whatever—or whoever—she’d been trying to escape needed killing.

He was just the man for the job. That was one place he did belong. Enforcing the law. Brianna shouldn’t have to face that ugly reality of life. It wasn’t his job to enforce civility on the culprit, but at that moment, with her head resting on his shoulder, he was tempted to make it his responsibility. It sure felt personal. Sloan smiled at the idea and let it rest in his mind for a bit. Temptation was one of those things that he just couldn’t keep himself from considering once in a while.

Tonight, it was sleeping in his bed.

And no one took what was his. Even if he hadn’t taken it himself.

Chapter Four

Brianna stretched her legs and sighed. She felt as content as a cat. The bed was warm and there was plenty of room for her toes. Even the air on her face was cozy. Her eyelashes fluttered while her brain attempted to clear the night’s slumber from it. If the room was warm, she’d put too much coal in the stove. That was an oversight her budget couldn’t afford.

She tried to push herself up, but the blankets keeping her so toasty-warm held her to the bed. Kicking at the stubborn bedding, she dislodged a corner and sat up. Her eyes rounded with horror as she cast a look around the cabin. Unfamiliar and Spartan, furnished with the bare basics. A black cast-iron stove sat in the corner, a small pot-bellied model. A neat cupboard stood next to it with a few tins stored on the upper shelves. Heat radiated from the stove and her dress was draped over the back of a chair sitting a few feet in front of it.

Her face burned scarlet as she looked down at her nude body. There was nothing on her but what she’d come into the world wearing—skin. She was caught between the need to giggle and groan, because not once in her memory could she recall being bare for an entire night. A part of her found it ridiculously amusing, just as long as she didn’t look too closely at the fact that it had really happened.

And Sloan McAlister had stripped her down…

Tossing the blankets off, she hurried across the wooden floor to snatch her knickers off the seat of the chair. There was no sign of her shoes, making her hiss in anger as she realized the harsh current must have plucked her footwear right off her feet. She could add a pair of shoes to whatever else had been stolen from her house last night. The moment she closed her grip around her knickers, pain burned up her arms. Dropping her knickers she looked at her hands. Dark splinters decorated her palms and fingers. The skin had swelled up around the little daggers. Clinging to dock last night hadn’t been without its price. However she was still breathing, so she welcomed the little shards of wood as a testimony to her will to survive.

The possibility of being completely wiped out, right down to her shoes was too frustrating to contemplate. Better to wait until she was staring at the burned-out shell of her father’s mill before thinking the worst. Hope might not be much, but it sure beat desolation. At least the grinding stone couldn’t burn. The waterwheel that powered it was another matter too grim to entertain until she was forced to. Replacing that would mean taking out a second mortgage against the land note to pay a carpenter. That would saddle her with two notes to pay and only her to earn money. It was a vicious circle. She couldn’t mill without a waterwheel and she couldn’t build one herself.

The stove was glowing with heat, but gooseflesh raced along her limbs as she picked her knickers back up. Shimmying into the garment, she ignored the complaint from her splinters long enough to cover her nudity. Her face turned red as she contemplated facing Sloan, but at least she would do it with her dress buttoned!

Never mind that he knew exactly what she looked like and felt like beneath the worn calico. Her nipples tingled as her mind offered up a crystal clear recollection of the burst of pleasure he’d unleashed in her last night.

“Oh, Brianna Spencer, you’re a shame.”

Working the busk on the front of her corset, she kept glancing at the door. Turning, she placed her back towards it as she stepped into her petticoat. Wiggling her hips, she sent its hem towards her feet. The cotton was completely dry and felt cozy against her legs. After she’d fallen asleep, Sloan must have remained awake and hung her wet garments up. Her face remained hot as she pushed her arms into her dress sleeves. In spite of being innocent, she wasn’t ignorant as to just why Sloan hadn’t drifted off into slumber as she had.

He hadn’t been satisfied.

Her mother’s ghost was going to rise up and haunt her. Brianna felt the icy grip of moral retaliation grazing her shoulder as she looked around for something to brush her hair with. It was a tangled mess, half of her hairpins long gone. She picked out the remaining ones when she found a small mirror on the opposite side of the room. A large comb sat beside the porcelain basin beneath it. A thick length of leather hung on the wall as well as a razor. A shiver went down her spine as she gazed at the masculine items. There was something intimate about being in his private space. Certainly, she had toyed with the idea of marrying and sharing a home with a man, but that hadn’t prepared her for the pure rush of sensation that moved through her right then. A hint of vulnerability touched her body as she realized just how easy it was for Sloan to handle her. The surge of enjoyment that went along with it all confused her. As if a part of her liked being bent to a man’s will. It didn’t make much sense. But there was no denying she liked it. Lying to herself wouldn’t change the facts.

She didn’t understand just what he’d managed to draw from her body last night. Another ripple of sensation moved over her, but this time it was deeper and shot down her spine to that spot between her thighs that he’d touched. She had never been much of a gossip, but a few rumors had made their way past her ears. She’d heard that some women enjoyed their marriages more than others. It didn’t make any sense and, somehow, she hadn’t felt comfortable asking her father about it. It seemed more like a question a daughter took to her mother. Maybe because only a woman knew a female’s body.

Well, Sloan sure did know a thing or two as well…

Pulling the comb down the length of her hair, she looked in the mirror at the blush staining her face. The memory of last night was bright as the noon sun. It shimmered with all the sensation that had raced through her flesh, twisting and tightening under his touch, making her wonder this morning at just how much more intense it might be if she yielded completely. Cross that boundary into womanhood by allowing Sloan to find his own comfort deep inside her body.

Oh, she knew the blunt facts concerning procreation, but she understood very little about the reason why men craved the act so much. From what she’d seen, not all men liked the babies that arrived nine months after they got the favors of their ladyloves. Silver Peak was full of miners who lamented the hard work needed to fill their children’s bellies. But that didn’t stop them from kissing those same women out behind the feed store when they thought no one was looking.

Some women craved the pleasures of the flesh, too. The good mothers at the church socials called them “fallen women”. But just what was it about enjoying your own body that was wrong? Sloan had sent delight streaming through her with just his hands, and if that was dirty, she didn’t really understand why.

Well, she’d have plenty of time to contemplate it after seeing to the matter of her home.

After pinning her hair up as best she could, Brianna turned to the bed. She shook out the bedding and tucked it neatly on top of the bunk. Once she’d replaced the chair against the wall, it was impossible to tell she had ever been in the room. A naughty little smile covered her lips briefly as she considered the dark hours that she had lain with Sloan. She pressed the secret against her heart for a moment of stolen enjoyment before turning towards the door. Reality was waiting and the consequences of being lazy were never kind. She had to take stock of the damage and decide how to face the winter without starving. The only bright point was the sure knowledge that she had taken Clayton’s money to the bank. Having applied it to the mortgage on her father’s property, she didn’t need to fear the banker until spring. That left her facing the weather. Better odds, but still a challenge.

Hesitating, she looked over the belongings near the basin. A leather case caught her eye and she deliberated opening it to find some tweezers to pull her splinters. She rolled her eyes at her own bashfulness and lifted the male grooming kit off the wooden side table. A razor and lather brush was neatly stored inside it, along with trimming scissors and a pair of silver tweezers. Pulling them free, she held her hand up to the morning sunlight to begin removing the shreds of wood. Tears stung her eyes as she picked at the deeper ones, but she still was happy to feel the pain. She finished up the chore by washing her hands with soap and water to clean the wounds. They stung as the lather covered them. An unladylike grunt filled the cabin as she replaced the tool.

Pushing the bar up, she opened the door. Icy cold bit at her cheeks. Instead of sunlight, there was only the gray light of a day promising a storm. Her foot halted one step from the threshold. Another dark-eyed man watched her from three feet in front of the door. Her hand froze on the handle as she stared into his serious expression. Whoever the man was, his eyes studied her for a long moment before he offered her a slight nod. He touched the brim of his dark felt Stetson.

“Morning, ma’am.” He returned his hand to the revolver sitting on an overturned section of a tree in front of him. His fingers moved in slow motions over the weapon, polishing it. “Warren Howell, at your service.”

His voice was steady and smooth, just like the motion of his hands over the barrel of his gun. A rifle was propped up against his knee within easy reach. His gaze shifted around the dock briefly before returning to her. “You’ll want to step back inside.”

Brianna swallowed the lump in her throat. There was no point in getting twisted up in some idea of what others thought of her. She knew the facts concerning just how she’d landed in Sloan’s boarding room. As well as the knowledge that she wasn’t missing anything a future husband might expect her to have on their wedding night. “Excuse me, but I will be on my way.”

Forcing her frozen feet forward, she moved forward into the light of day and pressed the door closed behind her. There was a faint rustle of fabric as Warren Howell stood. He stepped right over the tree section he was using as a table and she had to tip her head back to look at his face.

“You’ll need to step back inside, ma’am.” Solid authority rang in his deep tone. Although his words were the model of perfect manners, it wasn’t a request any longer. Hard determination flickered in his gaze. His eyes were a strange combination of colors that reminded her of whiskey. “Sloan will explain things to you as soon as he concludes his business. He left me to look after you until then.”

A ripple of excitement went through her, but right after that her pride flared up in response to being left under guard. Maybe Sloan McAlister was accustomed to laying down orders, but she wasn’t bound to obey him.

Not that you minded it last night, missy…

Her curiosity was going to land her in a mess of trouble if she listened to it. She was leaving and promptly too. “Thank you for your concern, Mr. Howell, but I have work to attend to.”

She had made it two paces from the front door before Warren hooked her arm and spun her in a circle back to where she’d begun. He did it expertly and with a solid control that made her gasp. The man was every inch as deadly as Sloan, but she wasn’t aware of him in the same heated way. She stared for a long moment as she tried to reason out just why he didn’t strike her the same way as Sloan did. His features were smoother and more handsome than Sloan’s, but she still didn’t feel that twist in her lower belly. There was no rising heat in her face, only a flicker from her temper at being thought easy to intimidate.

“My apologies, sir, but you will have to extend my regrets to Mr. McAlister.” She used her firmest voice and kept her back straight with her chin steady, but Warren wasn’t impressed.

“No, ma’am. You’ll have to take the matter up with him yourself. But you will be here when he returns.” There was a chink of chain as Warren reached behind his back and drew a pair of handcuffs off his belt. Her mouth actually dropped open as she viewed his threat. She blinked a few times as disbelief stunned her. But the iron bracelets didn’t vanish and the stern look on Warren’s face told her the man was dead serious.

“You are quite out of line, sir.”

“That may be, ma’am, but you’re not walking off on my watch.” The hint of concern in his deep voice perplexed her. Any manner of empathy seemed completely misplaced when the man threatened her with physical restraint. “Now, turn around and go cook up some breakfast for yourself. You’ll find that a hard task with one of these iron bracelets on your arm.” He moved the handcuffs and the metal rattled against itself, making her flinch. Her hands clasped behind her back in an unconscious defensive motion. Warren took one long step closer.

“But you are staying put until Sloan returns from checking out your place. That’s man’s work and I gave him my word that you’d be here when he got done making sure your unwelcome guests didn’t just bed down when they found the place empty. Don’t worry, he didn’t go alone.” Warren softened his voice a tad with his last statement. A clear effort to ease his order, but the look in his eyes wasn’t softening one bit. “Now don’t make me lock up a pretty lady like yourself. Step back inside.”

Her gaze darted from side to side as she tried to conceive a plan of escape. Her ears detected a soft hiss of male disgruntlement before her upper arm was hooked. Warren’s grip was firm and unyielding as he turned her around. He pulled the wooden door open and pushed her through the doorway before she swallowed the unladylike retort she wanted to fling at him.

“One step out and I’ll chain you to that bunk…ma’am. Lady or not.”

The “ma’am” was added on as an afterthought. Brianna turned and watched the door being closed. A blast of air hit her face because she was standing so close when it was stopped by the doorjamb. The wood actually touched the hem of her skirt.

Her temper caught fire as she snarled at the rough wood panel. She stomped beneath her petticoat, but she couldn’t do a whole lot. Sure, it wasn’t legal, but she would have to complain to the sheriff in order to get anything done about it. That meant getting out of her impromptu prison. Pulling the door open, she looked straight into Warren’s somber expression. He was right back in his seat facing the door. One of his dark eyebrows rose as she looked at him over the tree stump. He stretched his tall frame up out of his seat and flexed his hands.

BOOK: Let Me Love You
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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