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Authors: Tami Hoag

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BOOK: Sarah's Sin
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He brushed two crystal teardrops from the
web of her lashes with his thumbs. “Sarah?” he whispered, his heart hammering in his chest. “Are you all right? Did I hurt you?”

The smile that stretched across her face doused his fear. Beneath him she rolled her hips in a way that made the air tighten like fists in his lungs. He let his body answer hers with a deep reaching stroke.

Sarah sighed his name in her mind, in her heart. She may have even spoken it aloud, but she was beyond knowing or caring. All she could think of was the perfect sense of lightness and of completion she felt joining with him. This was the man she had been waiting for all her life, the missing piece of her soul. This was the man she loved.

She wrapped her arms around him and moved with him, letting her spirit fly higher and higher, embracing the feeling of freedom that had suddenly been let loose inside her. She arched against him, taking him deep and urging him deeper still. He moved within her strongly, rhythmically. He kissed her mouth, her neck, his breathing echoing hers in gasps and pants that came faster and faster. He traced his tongue over the shell of her ear, whispered a word she didn't understand, a plea, a command. She raked her fingers down his back and pulled him hard against her as she arched upward into his thrust, and the night seemed to explode around them and in
side them in starbursts of color and waves of love.

The faint sound of the wind rattling the dried leaves of the tree outside the bedroom window was the first sound that penetrated Sarahs numbed consciousness. She blinked and listened, lying very still. Amazing. The world still existed. It seemed unchanged. How could that be?
She
had just changed radically. She felt as if every cell in her body had been rearranged and then infused with a powerful elixir that made her feel at once euphoric and energized and languid.

She waited for some sense of guilt or shame, but neither assaulted her. Matt was not her husband. She had known him only a matter of days. Yet she had lain with him, shared her body with him. She had been raised to believe such behavior was sinful, but she didn't believe it now as she lay in the warm circle of Matt's arms. She loved Matt Thorne. In the world they were poles apart, but in her heart they were soul mates. No matter what came of it, no matter what happened she would not regret that she had given herself to him in the name of that love.

Matt shifted beside her, taking more of his weight off her and lifting himself up on one elbow. He grimaced as she stretched to switch
on the bedside lamp, then settled once again beside her.

“Well,” he said. “You keep telling me I ought to be in bed. Are you happy?”

Happy? Happy didn't begin to cover it. But she was unaccustomed to talking with a man after making love—Samuel had found sex a duty and talk afterward unnecessary—and she wasn't sure what kind of response was appropriate at any rate. It struck her as unseemly to give him a critique of his performance, and she wasn't sure she wanted to hear one. She ducked her head and dodged his eyes, fumbling for the edge of the sheet.

Matt was touched by her shyness. He knew without asking, Sarah didn't just jump into bed with every halfway decent guy who came down the pike. She radiated innocence and inexperience, both of which excited him, and he wondered vaguely if that made him some kind of pervert. He'd just made love to an angel and, instead of feeling guilt about it, he felt powerful and male, vulnerable and in love. The strange mix of feelings swam inside him as he stared down at her.

“I'm happy,” he whispered. He traced the back of a finger along her far cheek, turning her face gently and leaning down to kiss her. Lifting his lips just a heartbeat from hers, he looked into her eyes and said, “I can't remember the last time I was this happy.”

It was the truth. For a long time now he had felt nothing but weariness and cynicism. He had maintained a frantic pace to his life more to distract himself from falling into despair than anything else. He had set out to achieve a goal that was unobtainable, and the disappointment had taken much of the joy out of his life. But that life was a long way away just now. Here, in the country, he felt cleansed and at peace. Here, lying next to Sarah, he felt happy and whole.

“Me too,” she murmured, sharing his sense of completion.

“I know it seems like this is all happening too fast,' Matt said, giving voice to the obvious argument. “I know it's only been a few days. But I know what's in my heart, Sarah. I'm falling in love with you.”

Sarah stared up at him, her eyes as wide and dark as a new moon. Falling in love. She had finally realized where the saying had come from. Every time she looked at Matt she felt half-dizzy. It was the same sensation she got when she dreamed she was falling from some towering height. Now he was telling her he felt it too. She was too stunned to say anything.

“I&ve never said that to a woman before,” Matt confessed.

“Why not?”

“Because it wouldn't have been the truth. No woman has ever gotten as close to me as you have. I guess I haven't allowed it. I've always put my career first. It doesn't leave much time for anything else.”

She wanted to ask what now, but she bit her tongue and held the words back. Matt had finally had a few extra minutes in his schedule to fall in love, but his career was still there waiting for him in the Cities. She didn't want to hear him say what she knew was the truth, that he would go back to his job, that this time he was allowing them now would dry up and disappear and the love would be just a fading memory.

“I love you too,” she whispered, smiling when he smiled. She couldn't let future sadness intrude on what she was feeling now. And it didn't matter that it was crazy to love him so soon or at #11, that there was no future in it. She was in love with him right now, and it felt wonderful.

He traced a finger along her chest just above the edge of the sheet, the hooked the crisp cotton fabric and drew it slowly down, his eyes on Sarah's the whole while. A bloom of color blushed high across the apples of her cheeks.

“You don't have to be shy with me, sweetheart. I'm a doctor. I've seen lots of naked bodies.”

Sarah's straight brows pulled together low over her eyes, “That is supposed to make me feel better?”

Matt chuckled at the unmistakable flare of jealousy in her eyes. “None of them were quite as sweet and pretty as yours.”

She sniffed. “Ingrid warned me you were full of flattery.”

“I'm surprised she didn't tell you I was full of something else.”

“She did”' she said, unable to keep her wry smile from curving her mouth. “But you don't smell like a cow yard so I guess she was exaggerating.”

“Oh, very funny,” Matt said sardonically, throwing a leg over hers and raising himself above her, a smile twitching at the corners of his lips. His dark eyes twinkled like starlight. “You'll pay for that remark, Sarah Troyer. I feel it only fair to warn you that doctors are trained to know the body's most ticklish spots.”

“No! Oh, Matt! No!” She squealed and squirmed beneath the onslaught of his knowing fingers, twisting the sheets and rocking the bed as she struggled. “Matt! Don't! Stop!”

His fingers stilled at the sides of her breasts, and be stretched himself out on top of her, trying not to laugh too hard out of deference to his ribs. He rubbed his nose against the tip of Sarahs. “We'd better hold it down. Mrs.
Parker is liable to come charging in here and blow us away. We might even wake the elusive Tim.”

Sarah giggled and shifted her hips beneath him, making their contact more intimate. Their gazes caught and heated. “You're not doing a very good job of keeping it down,” she whispered in a husky voice.

“No, I'm not,” he murmured, rocking gently against the heat of her.

Matt watched her intently as her eyes drifted shut and her face tightened in concentration. He dipped inside her and withdrew. She caught her breath and sighed.

He lowered his head and sampled the soft flesh at the side of her throat. Slowly he made his way down her body, lavishing attention on every inch of skin, nuzzling the full underside of her breasts, kissing the tiny mole just above her left hipbone, rubbing his nose across her belly button.

He pushed the sheet down farther, raising his head to study the downy nest of dark curls that cloaked her femininity when something else entirely caught his attention. Stretch marks. They were faint, but they were unmistakable to a trained eye. Matt traced a finger along the line that angled from her right hip.

“You had a baby,” he whispered, feeling the
most alarming sense of disappointment that it hadn't been his.

Sarah met his gaze, wondering if the news would make her less desirable to him. “Yes,” she whispered in return. “He died.”

“Oh, Sarah.” Matt slid up beside her once again and leaned over her, stroking her hair back, his dark eyes full of sympathy. The pain he felt for her was as strong as if the loss had been his too. “I'm sorry. What happened?”

“Pneumonia. We didn't realize until too late. The doctor said it was just the croup, but then it got worse so quickly….”

“The doctor?” Matt said, tensing, anger rising up inside him. “Coswell?”

“Yes.”

“That man isn't fit to take care of monkeys. He ought to be drummed out of the profession.” He started to say something else, but Sarah lifted a hand and pressed her fingers to his lips.

“Bitte,”
she whispered, begging his understanding with her eyes. “It's in the past. Nothing can bring Peter back. Let's not talk of it now. I don't want to be sad tonight, only happy. Please, Matt. Only happiness. Only good things tonight.”

“All I want is to make you happy,” Matt said, pushing his anger aside for Sarah's sake. He leaned down and kissed her with such tender
ness, it brought a lump to his throat. “I love you.”

He trailed his lips along the delicate line of her jaw and let his hands set off on another fingertip tour of her body. She moved restlessly beneath him, her skin heating with the flush of desire.

“Matt?”

“Hmmm?”

“What you whispered in my ear before— what did that mean?”

He raised his head and looked at her, confused for a moment, then it dawned on him—both what he had whispered in the throes of passion and why Sarah hadn't understood what he meant. Of course she wouldn't have the same sexual vocabulary he had, if she had one at all. He smiled and leaned down again to nibble at her earlobe.

“You remember that incredible explosion that happened afterward?” he said in a voice warm and silky with passion remembered and renewed.

“Yes.”

“That's what I wanted to have happen.”

“Oh.” She caught her breath again and moaned as he lifted her hips and entered her, filling her. It was an incredible sensation, being claimed by him, feeling not only her body but her soul invaded by him. Her mind fogged
as he began to move, and she whispered breathlessly, “Do you want it to happen again?

“Oh, yes, sweetheart,” he answered on a heartfelt groan. “Oh, yes.”

Matt woke alone. He wasn't particularly surprised, but he was disappointed. He wanted to lie beside Sarah and watch the soft light of dawn fall on her face. He wanted to watch her drift up out of sleep layer by layer until she blinked open those incredible blue eyes. The first thing she would see would be his face and she would smile and they would kiss and he would make love to her. Instead, he had nothing beside him but a rumpled pillow, no sweet lips to kiss, no soft body to ease the throbbing ache of his arousal; just the space where she had slept beside him and the faint scents of sex and perfume.

He rolled onto his back and cast a slit-eyed glance at the clock on the nightstand. Seven-thirty. Sarah had probably been up for an hour, seeing to her chores. When he breathed deep, he could smell breakfast cooking.

He wondered how she would react to him today. She had certainly responded to him during the night. Lord, she had exhausted him. Making sweet, thorough love to her twice had
drained his depleted energy reserves. He'd slept liked a dead man. He wondered now if she would be shy with him today or if she might be feeling regrets. He hoped not, because he sure as hell wasn't. He might not have felt certain about anything else in his life, but he was sure of one thing—he wasn't going to let Sarah slip away from him. She was his.

“Why don't you tell secrets to a pig?” Jacob asked. His eyes sparkled with mischief as he waited for his sister to answer his riddle. He took a big slurp of milk and set the glass back down on the table, nearly overturning it as he reached for a fresh hot muffin from the basket.

Sarah gave him an indulgent smile as she bent to take a coffee cake out of the oven. What she missed most about not living at home was seeing Jacob every day. She was well aware that in her heart he had taken the place of the son she had lost. The only harm she saw in that was that she was much too attached to him considering their current living arrangements. She looked at him now with his blond hair pressed flat from his hat and a big milk mustache framing his upper lip and felt a surge of warmth inside that had nothing to do with the heat of the oven.

“I don't know,” she said, coming up behind him and pressing her oven mitts to his cheeks
while he looked at her upside down. “Why don't you tell secrets to a pig?”

“Because pigs are squealers!” he announced and dissolved into triumphant giggles at having stumped his sister.

Sarah laughed with the sheer pleasure of watching Jacob, then went utterly still as the kitchen door swung back and Matt stepped into the room. After their night together, she was acutely aware of him as a male, even across a room. His gaze captured hers, and everything female in her came to attention. Her breathing grew shallow, her skin tingled. Having lain with him, touched him, felt him pressed against her and within her, she was much more aware of his body—the lean, muscled strength of it, the shape of it. The word handsome had taken on a stronger meaning for her. It was resonant in her mind as she looked at him now dressed casually in faded jeans that hugged his hips and thighs and a wine-colored jersey that emphasized his shoulders. For her, Matt Thorne was the living definition of handsome, and he was hers—at least for a little while.

The corners of his mouth turned up in a smile, and he went on looking at her as she went again to the stove, but when he spoke, it was to Jacob.

“What kind of wood is like a king?”

Jacob chewed his lip and screwed his face in
concentration, oblivious to the strong sexual currents humming between the adults in the room. Matt went on staring at Sarah, mouthing
I love you.
She blushed and glanced away, fussing with her oven mitt, unaccustomed to open declarations of affection. It wasn't the way of her folk to speak their feelings aloud, especially not in the company of others.

“Oak?” Jacob asked.

“Nope.” Matt moved slowly across the room, skirting the big harvest table, stalking Sarah like a wolf stalking a deer. She glanced around nervously for an escape route.

“A pine tree?”

“Nope.”

He corralled her up against the big institution-size stove. Sarahs heart was pounding frantically. Her gaze darted from Matt to Jacob, who was scratching his head as he stared at his muffin, still paying them no mind. Matt leaned forward to kiss her, and she turned abruptly so his lips just grazed her cheek.

Matt frowned, but moved away from her. He took the chair beside Jacobs and reached for a muffin. “Give up?”

The boy nodded.

Matt gave him a wink and a grin. “A ruler.”

Jacob groaned and made a face, wriggling on his chair and hitting himself in the fore
head with the heel of his hand, tipping his milk glass once again. Matt caught the tumbler and set it out of harm's way and tossed a napkin on the milk that had splashed onto the table.

“No school today again?”

“Today is Saturday,' Jacob said, sneaking a piece of muffin under the table to Blossom. “Not even the English go to school on Saturday, Matt Thorne.”

“How's the arm?”

“Much better. My mother put a milk poultice on it.”

Pouring himself a cup of coffee, Matt nodded and made doctor noises. Sarah bent across the table to set down a platter of scrambled eggs, her face lowering to within inches of Matt's. He caught her eye and mouthed I
want you.
She gave a little gasp, her cheeks blooming, her eyes dodging to Jacob again.

Matt leaned back in his chair and studied her. This wasn't just shyness, this was something else, more like fear. She didn't want Jacob catching on to the fact that they were attracted to each other. That thought hurt. His feelings for her were tender and fragile. The idea that she was ashamed of what she felt for him was like poking a raw nerve with a needle.

“It still looks pretty terrible,” Jacob said.

Matt dragged his attention away from Sarah
and back to her brother. “Still looks gross, huh?”

“I am not supposed to use that word. I got into trouble with it from my pop.”

“You did? Gee, pal, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get you in trouble.”

“I know.” Jacob nodded. He took a big bite out of his muffin and blueberry juice oozed down his chin.

“Still friends?” Matt asked, raising his brows.

The boy grinned, revealing a fresh gap in his smile where another baby tooth had disappeared. “Ya, sure.”

“Great.” He caught Sarah's gaze as she settled into the chair across from him and held it meaningfully for a moment. “What about you, Sarah? Are we still friends?”

“Of course,” she answered just quickly enough to bring a guilty flush to her cheeks.

She wanted to go to him and hug him and rub a finger over the worry line that appeared between his eyebrows, but she couldn't with Jacob sitting there. All the boy would have to do would be to mention in passing that he had seen his sister kiss the English doctor, and a cloudburst of trouble would come raining down on their heads.

She gave Matt a look of apology, glanced at Jacob, then stared down at her empty plate.

The kitchen door swung back and Lisbeth
Parker sailed in wearing a lavishly fringed western blouse and a gallon of perftime. She wore her sunglasses again, undoubtedly hiding the aftereffects of the brandy she'd put away the night before. “Am I late for breakfast? I certainly hope I didn't keep y'all waitin'.”

“No, Mrs. Parker.” Sarah said, popping out of her chair like a jack-in-the-box, glad for a reason to dodge Matt's steady, condemning gaze. “We serve breakfast here until ten. If you'll have a seat in the dining room, I will bring you your meal.”

“Oh, pooh.” Lisbeth waved a dainty bejew-eled hand. “Ill just sit right down here. I enjoy company while I eat.”

“Mr. Parker won't be coming down?”

“No, no, I'm the early bird in the family. Tim is liable to sleep till noon. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't see him at all today.”

“Me neither,” Matt mumbled into his coffee cup. Sarah smacked him with a hot pad as she moved around the table.

Mrs. Parkers gaze fastened on Jacob, and she made a little squeal of surprise. “Well, who have we here? Are you a little Amish boy? Well, aren't you just as cute as a bug!”

Jacob gave her a long look of open amazement, his gaze following the swinging fringe hanging from the precipice of her enormous bust upward to her sunglasses and her tower of auburn hair. “You have really big … hair.”

Matt and Sarah released pent-up breaths as Jacob's final word came out.

“Jacob, manners,” Sarah hissed between her teeth.

Luckily Mrs. Parker took his comment as a compliment and flashed her beauty queen smile all around. “Why thank you, honey. Aren't you sweet!”

“Did you sleep well, Mrs. Parker?” Matt asked, spreading butter on a hot muffin.

“Like a log. I declare, I wouldn't have heard a bomb go off!”

“Sarah will be glad to hear that, won't you, Sarah?” He glanced up at her as she settled in her chair once again, perversely enjoying the dark look she sent him. He was being childish, but he didn't care. “Mrs. Parker says she didn't hear a thing last night. How about Mr. Parker?”'

“Slept like the dead.”

“I spent half the night tossing and turning myself. How about you, Sarah?”

She picked up a carafe and thrust it at him. “More coffee, Dr. Thome?”

“No, thanks. It keeps me up. It's just one of the things that can keep me up at night.”

“You suffer from insomnia, Dr. Thorne?” Mrs. Parker asked as she trimmed the crusts from her toast and piled them beside her plate like tiny cord wood.

“Oh, I wouldn't call it insomnia, no. Would you, Sarah?”

Sarah sent him a fuming glare. “Jacob, why don't you and I go gather the eggs together?”

Jacob was halfway to the door as he answered. “I can't. I have to get home to help. We are stuffing the mattresses today. It's a big job.”

Sarah felt a twinge of resentment as he disappeared out the back door, the pockets of his trousers bulging with muffins. It was followed closely by guilt. She had no right to demand Jacob's time; he was needed at home. Besides that, she should have been ashamed for wanting to use him for her own purposes. Both feelings, however, took a backseat to the need to get away from Matt. Mouthing words of love one minute and making suggestive remarks the next, he had her off balance again.

She pushed her chair back from the table. “Will you be needing anything else, Mrs. Parker?”

“No, no, honey. You go on with your little jobs,” the woman said distractedly as she picked blueberries out of a muffin and made a smiley face with them on her place of scrambled eggs.

“Dr. Thorne will keep you company, then.”

Sarah didn't even glance at Matt as she made her exit. She wanted to get out into the fresh air where she could think. In the com
foiling dark of night she hadn't given much thought as to how she would deal with Matt during the day. In the comforting dark of night she could be anything she wanted to be. With the rising of the sun came the sure fact that she was nothing but an Amish woman. How else was she supposed to behave? She knew nothing of taking a lover; in truth, knew little about physical intimacy. She had experienced more in one night with Matt than she had in all the time she'd been married to Samuel.

He seemed hurt that she hadn't been openly affectionate with him in the kitchen, but that kind of behavior was foreign to her. Even if Jacob hadn't been there as a set of eyes and ears for Isaac, Sarah didn't know if she could have done it. Their loving was a very private, very personal thing to her; she didn't want to share it with anyone who happened to be looking their way. What passed between them would be a secret because that was the way it had to be and that was the way she wanted it. When he left, she would keep that secret locked in her heart, taking it out at special times to appreciate like a treasure.

“Can I help?”

She looked up sharply, freezing in the motion of snatching an egg from beneath a dozing red hen. Matt stood in the doorway, blocking out much of the morning light. “No,”
she said, returning to her task. “Seems you can only hurt,'

“Well, you would know all about that, wouldn't you, Sarah?” He made no move to enter the henhouse, but turned and leaned his back against the doorjamb and crossed his arms over his chest. Blossom settled herself on his feet and stared at the chickens. The chickens watched the basset hound, making low sounds in their throats.

Sarah moved from roost to roost, plucking the eggs out of the straw beds with a stealth and speed bred from long experience. She piled them carefully in a basket slung over her left forearm. She didn't know what to say to Matt. If she told him she was holding back because she didn't want other people to know about them, he would be hurt. If she told him she was holding something back because she knew in the end he would leave, he might just end it now, and she didn't want that. What she wanted was for the world to recede as it did every time he kissed her. What she wanted was to be transported to a different place and time where loving him wouldn't be difficult or dangerous or doomed to disappointment.

“Don't you regret it,” he said tightly, turning to block her path as she neared the door. He dislodged the dog from his feet and planted himself squarely, filling the frame of the doorway like a gunslinger come to duel. “Don't you
regret what we did last night, Sarah. It was beautiful and special. Don't you dare regret it.”

BOOK: Sarah's Sin
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