Authors: Cara Covington
Kelsey felt her jaw drop, then shut her mouth with a snap. “I don’t know…I mean, I haven’t…that is, I’m not sure what this is between us, let alone where it’s going.”
“Oh, I know that, sweetheart. You haven’t reached the point where you’ve finally said good-bye to your lost loved ones yet. I understand that. And so, too, do my sons.”
Her understanding and that of her sons, come to that, simply floored Kelsey. “I never could have guessed that a place like this would have existed.”
“This town was formed to be an oasis. Do you know about the Town Trust?”
Kelsey had heard the expression, but she had no idea what it meant.
She shook her head and then closed her eyes as that action hurt.
“All of the land in Lusty is owned by the Town Trust. There’s a substantial fortune to see to the needs of the community. Every member of the Benedict, Jessop, and Kendall families has a vote in the trust. Even so, there are things we cannot do. Breaking the covenant that Warren Jessop set up all those years ago is one. So the rules that govern this town stay the same as they were more than a hundred years ago when the town was established. That covenant is simple. People are free to live as they choose, and no laws can be passed to prevent that. In this day and age, such a covenant may not be necessary. You can be certain it was in the eighteen hundreds. Even so, it still stands. ”
“So this town is actually all private property, and the Town Trust voted to let me open my restaurant?” Kelsey asked.
“We did. One of the best decisions we’ve made in recent years if you ask me. Listen to me going on, and here you are not feeling well. You close your eyes and rest. I’ll just go downstairs and set the kitchen to rights. I’ll come back up and check on you in a while until my boys come back to take over for me.”
She’d been enjoying her time with Bernice, but she
tired. “Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a few moments.” The bed felt so comfortable, she was barely conscious of falling asleep.
It seemed like just minutes later that she opened her eyes to find Matthew sitting beside her where his mother had been.
“Hey.” She sat up slowly, waiting for the sledgehammer to start in on her head. It remained silent, but her arms, shoulder, and chest were sore. She inhaled sharply.
“Headache?” Matthew asked.
“No, it’s gone.”
“Ah, then it has to be the effects of the seat belt. Hot tub would work wonders.”
“Hmm, I bet it would, too. If I could get there.”
“How about dinner first and then a nice soak?”
“That sounds good. I am a little hungry.”
Matthew stood up and then scooped her into his arms. Kelsey squeaked and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“I could probably walk.”
“Why walk when you can ride?” He gave her a look that told her it would be useless to argue with him.
She closed her eyes and relaxed, not at all worried that he would drop her. He carried her down the stairs, then down to the end of the hall. She opened her eyes when they reached the kitchen.
Benny greeted her. “Hi, Kelsey!”
How could I have forgotten about Benny
? “Hi, Benny. Sorry I’ve been a little out of it today.”
“That’s okay. Steven and Granny Bernice took me to see the horses, and then I got some more new toys. Did you get hurt when your car got smashed up? Is that why Matthew is carrying you?”
Steven and Matthew both chuckled. Steven rubbed Benny’s head.
“I got just a little bit hurt when my car smashed up,” Kelsey said. “Matthew just wanted to carry me to show me how strong he is.”
“Matthew said he didn’t find my mom yet, but he’s getting closer. I told him it’s okay. Mom said it might be a while until I see her again.”
Kelsey met Matthew’s gaze when he set her down on a chair and knew he did have something to report but that he didn’t want to do so in front of Benny.
“I hope you’re hungry,” Steven said. “Mom sent over her famous homemade lasagna fresh from her freezer, and Auntie Anna brought us a Caesar salad and garlic bread.”
“I am hungry.” She sat quietly while the men served up dinner. She frowned at the amount of pasta Matthew heaped onto her plate. She helped herself to some salad and one piece of garlic bread that smelled entirely too good for her to resist.
“I think that you’re probably going to be really sore tomorrow,” Steven said. “I was in a car accident once. Like you, I wasn’t seriously hurt, but the next day was pure…um, heck.”
“I’m afraid you might be right. The doctor did tell me to take it easy for a couple of days. I’ve already spoken to Tracy. She’s going to run the restaurant tomorrow.”
“Good,” Steven said.
Kelsey couldn’t eat much of the delicious dinner. “I’m sorry. I’m sore, and I’m tired.”
“I’ll take care of the little one. You take care of the big one,” Steven said to Matthew.
“Come on, pretty lady,” Matthew said. “I’ll help you get ready for bed.”
Benny scrambled down from his chair and rushed over to give Kelsey a hug. She held him snugly for a long moment, breathing in the familiar scent of a boy who’d played hard all day.
“A bath is on our agenda,” Steven assured her.
Kelsey laughed, and Benny groaned.
It didn’t take long for Matthew to carry her back to the bedroom. He set her on the bed and then walked out onto the balcony and turned on the heat and jets for the spa.
“While that’s getting ready, let’s shower.” He undressed her, his touch gentle and patient. Then he quickly stripped himself. Kelsey insisted on walking into the bathroom, even though she knew she couldn’t hide the stiffness with which she moved.
“Lean on me, sweetheart,” Matthew said.
Though she would have characterized herself as independent, she gladly did as he asked. There was no way she’d be able to lift her arms above her head to wash her hair. She didn’t need to worry as Matthew took care of that for her.
When they were both clean, he turned off the water, wrapped her hair in a towel, then picked her up and carried her, naked, out to the balcony.
She sighed with pleasure when he climbed into the spa with her and lowered her into the hot, frothing water.
“Oh, God. That feels so good.”
“I was right about the bruising,” Matthew said. He traced the largest bruise, just above her right breast, with his finger. “It hurts me to see this on you, to know that you’re hurting.”
She leaned over and kissed him, a gentle, nearly chaste kiss that tasted like more. Then she eased back so she could see his eyes.
“What did you find out today that you didn’t want to talk about in front of Benny?”
Matthew sighed. “We’ve had a bit of a breakthrough on both cases, actually. The Highway Patrol notified us that a car with occupants matching the description of Benny’s mom and the man she was with stopped at one of the Pit-Stop service stations just off the state highway about an hour north of here on Sunday evening.”
“So they’re going to focus their efforts looking in that direction?”
“Yeah. They’ve begun checking the motels along that route, which leads to Abilene.”
“The other development would be about my accident? Did they find that drunk?”
Matthew picked up her hand, kissed it. “The car that ran you off the road is owned by a woman named Mary Peterson, who works as a shop clerk at a discount mall just outside of Waco. The local cops interviewed her at work earlier this afternoon. She’d been at work all day, with witnesses to prove it. However, when she led the cops out to where she’d parked her car, it was gone. They did find it, on mall property.”
“You look really worried. What am I missing?”
“The person behind the wheel of that Taurus wasn’t drunk, sweetheart. He was trying to kill you.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying that asshole targeted me
?” Kelsey couldn’t wrap her head around what Matthew had just said.
“We believe so, yes. He picked up the Taurus at the mall, likely early this morning. We think he sat and watched, determining which cars belonged to mall employees. Then, of course, he returned it, likely because he’d left his own car there.”
“But…who would want to kill me? I haven’t done anything!”
Matthew shook his head. He slid closer to Kelsey and stroked a finger down her face. “Baby, we’re not going to let anyone hurt you. We have no idea whatsoever why this happened. The Waco police seized the Taurus and are going over it very carefully. That bastard had to have left some evidence. They’ll find it. They’re also going to go over the mall’s security surveillance tapes. In the meantime, until we know what’s going on and he’s caught, we don’t want you going anywhere alone. Okay?”
Kelsey couldn’t imagine why someone would deliberately try to harm or kill her. There had to be another explanation. One look at Matthew, though, and the answer to the question he’d just asked seemed obvious. She’d never seen such a serious expression on his face. She recalled the way Steven had looked as he’d taken her out of the cruiser and carried her into the clinic. She didn’t want to cause these two good men any unnecessary worry.
“Okay. You’re the cop. I’ll do whatever you say.”
His beautiful smile melted her heart. Amazing that such a simple thing on her part could please him so.
“No more dealing with reality for tonight,” Matthew murmured. “Lean back, close your eyes, and let the water, and me, make you feel better.”
“I have a real good idea how you could make me feel better,” Kelsey said. She sent him a smoldering look. A quick glance down at Matthew’s hardening cock told her he thought it was sexy, too.
“So do I, baby. Now relax, close your eyes, and let me take care of you.”
The heat of the water and the skill of Matthew’s hands as he set about massaging her combined to turn her bones as soft as butter. At least that’s how it felt as the tension eased out of her and her stiffened muscles began to relax. She hadn’t truly understood how much discomfort she’d been in until it began to ease. Her groans of delight elicited smug masculine chuckles, but she didn’t care.
With her eyes closed and her body relaxing, her mind let loose of the questions and the worry. She drifted on the slightest thread of wakefulness, going to that luscious pre-sleep state where sounds muted and melded, cares evaporated, and her spirit soared free.
Matthew lifted her into his arms, and she turned into him, her head seeking the hollow in his collarbone. With her face flush against his chest, she inhaled him. His scent, so masculine right there at the base of his throat, both aroused and soothed her at the same time.
“You’re like a sleepy little kitten,” Matthew whispered. She felt the soft fluff of a towel against her flesh. A part of her mind knew he dried her and she should probably help. The rest of her decided to just stay in this happy place of care and comfort.
She thought she might be very close to sleep, and although she really wanted to make love with Matthew, she decided that maybe her body needed the sleep more.
“On your tummy, baby,” Matthew said.
He helped her so that rolling over didn’t take a great deal of effort on her part. Kelsey drifted some more, not really paying any attention to sounds or anything else. The ache in her shoulders had lessened, and lying prone proved comfortable. The brush of cotton against her nude flesh felt wonderful. He must have turned down the bed before he laid her on it. She’d already discovered all the eight hundred thread count linen for this giant double king bed had been made to order. It was the most luxurious bedding she’d ever felt.
Naked male thighs straddled her ass, and her feminine bits began to wake up.
“Something cool,” Matthew warned just before he set his hands on her. The scent of lavender teased her. Kelsey recognized her own lotion and sighed as the sensation of Matthew’s hands working her back and shoulders continued the process of relaxation.
“You’re going to smell like flowers.” She heard the slur in her own voice. Speaking had taken a great deal of effort.
“No, darling, I’m going to smell like you.”
“Mmm. Am I going to smell like you?” Those words weren’t slurred at all.
“Oh, yes. Outside and in, and before long, too.”
Such a provocative promise kindled Kelsey’s arousal. Before she’d taken Matthew and Steven into her body, she’d believed herself a woman with a fairly low libido. Sex had been good with Philip, warm, tender, and satisfying.
With Matthew and Steven it was all of that and so much more.
Matthew’s hands continued to massage her muscles, easing the soreness, relaxing the tension. She loved the weight of him on her bottom, loved the feel of his engorged cock and scrotum resting on her.
This intimacy had nothing to do with sex.
She didn’t know what he began to do differently, but relaxation soon gave way to growing arousal. His touch became less firm, more sultry. He trailed his fingers down her side, just brushing by her breast, and her skin turned to gooseflesh. She shivered and felt her nipples drawing in, tightening, so that she had to lift her chest off the bed to center her breasts on the mattress.