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Authors: Debra Cowan

Whirlwind Reunion (7 page)

BOOK: Whirlwind Reunion
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Riley strode into the house, his boots making a light scuffing noise against the pine floor. “Is Button in here? Ah, I see she is.”

Matt grinned at the man's nickname for his daughter. Holt had called her that from the day she was born. She had been adopted by him, but no one thought of her that way, especially Riley. He loved the child as if she was his own blood.

“Papa!” The little girl jumped from her chair and ran to him. “Dr. 'Lise fixed Margaret!”

Smiling, Riley swung the little girl up in his arms. “Did the doc tell Margaret not to play with mama's china anymore?”

“Yes.” Lorelai soberly clutched her doll tightly to her chest.

The rancher smiled at Annalise. “Thanks.”

“Thanks,” the child parroted. “You're welcome.”

Riley left, Lorelai chattering about the doctor's instructions to tend the doll's cut finger.

Skirts brushing against his trousers, Annalise started past Matt.

“Wait.”

She didn't.

She was almost to the front door when he said, “You were good with her. You would've made a good mother.”

She froze, making a choked sound. “I don't want to talk to you about that.”

“I kinda got that message,” he muttered.

She reached for the doorknob and all the frustration he had tried to tamp down got the better of him. Two strides brought him in front of her and he tugged her hand from the knob.

Shaking him off, she stepped back.

He got right in her face. “You can't keep pretending I'm invisible. There's still something between us.”

She gave him a cool look. “We're connected by the death of our child. That's all.”

Her words dug under his skin. “It's more and you know it.”

“No, it isn't.”

What little patience he had snapped, and he planted himself against the door, blocking her exit. “You kissed me, Angel. You can't pretend it didn't happen.”

Her green eyes narrowed. “Move.”

“You still want me. Why can't you just admit it?”

In the room's golden lamplight, her eyes were bright with anger. And tears. “It doesn't matter what I admit. I'm not interested in picking up where we left off. Whatever was between us died with our son.”

Wanna bet?
“That's a lie.”

She reached around him and he wanted to pull her into him, make her stay. Instead, he stepped away so she could open the door.

Drawing in her enticing scent, he let her walk out although it took considerable effort not to go after her, haul her into Pa's office and kiss her until she admitted what they both knew.

As he watched her march away, her spine rigid, he realized he hadn't said any of the things he'd come to say.

 

Three hours later, Matt stood at the east end of town beside the Whirlwind Hotel, watching Quentin say good-night to Annalise. The moon was half hidden behind a cloud, but Matt could see just fine. She and Prescott were in front of her clinic, at the foot of the two steps that led to her stoop.

Matt had followed them from the ranch and had been watching them for almost ten minutes. How damn long did it take to say good-night?

Thinking about the way she had walked away from him earlier had frustration churning inside him. A frustration that only burned hotter as he observed her with the other man. Matt tried to calm the recklessness pumping through him, the possessiveness that had been sparked by watching her dance with and talk to other men.

She laughed, the full-throated sound like a punch to his chest and when Prescott took her hand, tension stretched across Matt's shoulders. He relaxed when the newspaperman did nothing more than squeeze her hand then bid her good-night.

The man waited until she got inside before steering his wheelchair down the main street to the other end of town where his house sat behind the livery. With Quentin gone, Matt expected the raw searing need to possess her would ease. It didn't.

In the front window of the clinic, a light flickered then grew. A curvy silhouette appeared and he started across the moonlit street. The breeze kicked up a swirl of dust around his boots. Surrounded by the noise of chirping
insects and the distant bawl of cattle, the town itself was quiet. Everyone had turned in for the night.

He had things to say to Annalise and he wasn't leaving until he said them.

He didn't believe for one second that whatever was between them had died with their child and he knew in his gut she didn't either, but he still intended to leave her be once he'd said his piece. He would apologize for taking a strip off of her hide about the baby's marker and thank her for identifying the weapon that had been used on him.

Seeing her with Quentin made Matt want to do more than that, made him want to bind her to him in some way, but he wouldn't.

He paused on the porch, taking a moment to calm the rough tension inside him before he knocked. But when she opened the door, a tightness clutched at his chest. He was rocked by a savage elemental need to claim her. She belonged to him.

Taking himself completely by surprise, he demanded, “What's between you and Quentin?”

Shock flashed across her delicate features. “None of your business. What do you want?”

You. You. And you. Reminding himself why he'd come, he gentled his voice. “I wanted to apologize for what happened at the cemetery.”

Eyes widening, she went still, wariness in every line of her body. “You mean, kissing me?”

“No.” Without an invitation, he moved to step inside. When she didn't stop him, he entered then shut the door, leveling his gaze into hers. “I'm not apologizing for kissing you. I'm sorry for…sorry I jumped on you for not telling me about the baby's marker.”

She eyed him disbelievingly, her pulse fluttering wildly in the hollow of her throat.

“I mean it,” he insisted.

She let out a slow breath and silence ticked between them, scraping Matt's nerves raw before she finally said, “Well…all right. Now if you don't mind—”

“I also wanted to thank you for identifying the weapon that tore up my back.” He'd thought getting this off his conscience would ease him, but his muscles were still tight. “You could've just let it drop and I appreciate that you didn't.”

“What's really going on?” She folded her arms, the movement plumping her breasts up.

Damn, he wanted to touch her. He dragged his gaze from her chest to her face. “You beat all. I just told you what.”

She shook her head. “There's something else.”

“Those are the things I wanted to say to you at the ranch earlier, but you walked out before I could.”

“So you came all the way into Whirlwind to tell me,” she said skeptically.

Suddenly, Matt realized what he really wanted, what he
needed.
“There's one more thing.”

“Ah, now you get to it.” Turning away, she walked to the opposite side of the room, near the fireplace in the corner.

His gaze slid down the slender line of her spine. He itched to wrap his hands around her and pull her into him, but that didn't seem prudent at the moment. He closed the distance between them and stopped at her back, close enough for silky tendrils of her hair to brush his shirt. “I want you to look me in the eye and tell me it's over, that
we're
over.”

She stiffened. “I already told you.”

Her scent settled in his lungs as he bent to murmur in her ear, “Square in the eye, Angel.”

The shiver of reaction that went through her had him going hard. Clenching his fists so he wouldn't reach for her, Matt didn't move. Tension knotted his gut. He had to go slowly here. His heart beat so hard he could hear it.

Straightening her shoulders, she faced him, her voice calm and steady. “We're over. Finished.”

“No.” He nudged her chin up with one knuckle. “My eyes, Angel. Look in my eyes. Not at my chin or my chest or anywhere else.”

She pulled away from him, fists clenched at her sides. “Don't be ridiculous. I've already told you. Why do you want to make things more difficult?”

“You can't do it. You can't tell me.”

“You need to leave.”

Her refusal to admit what they both knew grated on him. “Is that really what you want?” he asked roughly.

“I…yes,” she choked out.

It might have taken Matt's mind a moment to register that she hadn't flat-out told him to go, but his body got it right off.

Before he realized he had moved, he scooped her up and covered her mouth with his. Her resistance lasted two heartbeats then she sank into the kiss. Into him. Matt's mind blanked.

She was warm and soft and willing. All he cared about was getting more of her. Her arms went around his neck, her mouth opening beneath his. Curling her tight into him, he somehow managed to make it several feet over to the stairs. He sat and settled her in his lap.

Short nails grazed his nape as her fingers slipped into his hair. The years fell away. He had missed this,
missed her. The quick flare of heat between them, the connection he'd only ever felt to her, what they had shared before things went south.

She shifted against his arousal and hard, hot want burned away his last bit of common sense. A savage hunger tore through him and he wanted to peel her out of her dress, touch her all over.

Locking her body to his, he speared one hand into the satin cloud of her hair, cradling her head. She turned full into him, her breasts pressing against his chest, her primrose scent swirling between them. Satisfaction spread through him. She could deny it all day long, but she wanted him. And he wanted her. All of her, not just in his bed.

He deepened the kiss, drinking in her sweetness before moving his lips to the silky curve where her neck met her shoulder. Nuzzling her throat, he touched his tongue to her collarbone, worked his way down. Her skin was like cream beneath his mouth, just the way he remembered. He brushed his lips across the swell of one breast then the other and a curious ache lodged in his heart.

She made a ragged sound that put a throb in his blood. He buried his face between her breasts, breathing her in as he fought the desperate driving need to strip her naked, take her upstairs and lie with her on her bed.

She was the only woman who had ever been able to make him go stupid inside of five seconds. She's always been able to spin him like a top.

His heart was pounding hard; so was his head. It kept pounding. Surfacing from the fog of desire, he realized the hammering wasn't in his head. Someone was knocking on the door.

She suddenly stiffened in his arms, the action striking
him like a whip. Matt struggled to remember why he had come to see her in the first place.

Before she could push him away and tell him—
again
—that there was nothing between them, he pulled back.

She blinked up at him, her green eyes smoky and dazed.

After a few seconds, when he could think past the fog of desire, he set her gently on her feet.

She wobbled a little and he steadied her with a hand on her taut waist. Breathing hard, he rose.

The banging came again and Annalise hurried across the room. The flickering golden-amber light showed a deep-rose flush on her face.

Matt followed, startled and irritated at being interrupted. “Why the hell is someone here this late?”

“Because I'm a doctor,” she said breathlessly before opening the door.

Cosgrove stood there, sweeping off his hat. When he saw Matt, a look of surprise crossed his face before he turned his full attention to Annalise. “Dr. Fine, there's been an accident at the ranch. Could you come please?”

“Yes, I'll get my bag.” Looking slightly dazed, she reached behind the door and picked it up from the floor.

The other man smiled, his dark eyes hot on her in a way that had Matt wanting to pull her behind him. “Do you have a buggy?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I can escort you there and send a man back with you.”

“Thank you—”

“I'll be taking her.” Matt adjusted his gunbelt and settled a hand on the butt of his Peacemaker.

The other man's slit-eyed gaze went from Matt to the doctor. She drew in a sharp breath, her voice brittle with irritation. “I'll be right behind you, Cosgrove.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

She practically pushed Matt out the door then locked her clinic and started for the livery. The ranch manager mounted his bay and followed.

Matt had no trouble keeping up with her agitated strides. “You're not going out there alone,” he said in a low voice.

She wouldn't look at him. Inside the livery, she led her mare from its stall to her buggy at the back of the building. “I am perfectly capable of driving myself.”

“And now you don't have to.” He took a harness from the weathered wall and went to her.

“I don't want you to come.” she said hoarsely.

“There's no chance in hell you're going to Julius's ranch without me.” His pulse finally steady, Matt hitched her horse to the buggy. “Not while Cosgrove is in sight and those rustlers are on the loose.”

She shoved her bag under the buggy seat, looking as if she might explode. “It has nothing to do with you.”

“Yes, it has.”

“I said no.”

“We're wastin' time arguin' about it,” Matt pointed out, offering his hand. “You want that man to keep hurting, maybe bleed to death while we stand here?”

Biting her lip, looking torn, she finally grasped his fingers and let him help her into the buggy. Her hand trembled slightly in his. He climbed in and snapped the reins against the horse's rump. The buggy rolled out of
the livery stable to join Cosgrove on his horse where he waited just outside of town.

The other man galloped ahead of them. They drove in silence, Annalise's shoulders rigid as she stared out at the moonlight-gilded prairie. Spoke-high grass swished against the wheels. Thanks to the size of the buggy, she was snug against Matt. She shifted a couple of times, her breast grazing his arm and he fought the urge to pull her tight into him and just hold her.

BOOK: Whirlwind Reunion
7.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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