The Cowboy's Mail Order Bride
Author:Carolyn Brown

Chapter 14

 

 

 

 

“Who is that exquisite creature?” Mason Harper set his scotch down with a thud on the shiny bar top.

 

Greg turned around on the bar stool and his mouth went as dry as if he’d been sucking on an alum lollipop. He downed the beer left in his longneck Coors before he could speak.

 

“Well, I’m going to find out right now.” Mason stood up and brushed the shoulders of his Western-cut jacket.

 

“That would be Emily Cooper, my mother’s assistant and the new girl at Lightning Ridge,” Greg said.

 

“Well, hell! Like the old saying goes, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

 

“And what does that mean?” Greg couldn’t peel his eyes away from her in that blue dress. It looked like she was wearing cool water the exact same shade as her eyes.

 

“It means that I’m not so far from Ravenna that I don’t hear the gossip. And I’ve been left out in the cold again because you’ve done beat my time.”

 

“You didn’t hear wrong.” Greg took a deep breath. Several cowboys had already headed toward Clarice and Emily, no doubt angling for an introduction.

 

Mason smiled. “Come on, cowboy. You can introduce me to Emily just in case she decides she doesn’t like you.”

 

***

 

Emily was aware of exactly where Greg was sitting when she walked in the door. He was dressed in black creased jeans that stacked up just right over his shiny black boots. His silver belt buckle was embossed with the Lightning Ridge brand. Flashes of a white shirt showed behind the lapels of his black Western-cut jacket. Her mouth was so dry that she craved just one sip of that longneck Coors he was holding.

 

Clarice introduced people to her so fast that she’d never remember any of the names. She’d shaken hands with dozens of cowboys and as many ladies when suddenly someone turned up the heat in the Denison Country Club about forty degrees. She felt Greg’s hand on her bare back exactly one second before she looked past his glasses into his green eyes and realized that it was the sexual energy between them that had caused the sudden rise in temperature and that it had nothing to do with the thermometer.

 

“Emily, this is my friend, Mason Harper. He’s got a ranch called Bois D’Arc Bend over near Whitewright and a set of twin girls that look like angels but are living proof that looks can be deceiving.”

 

She extended her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

 

Not a single spark flashed between them even though he was as tall as Greg and had gorgeous big brown eyes and a killer smile.

 

“Pleasure is all mine. How are you this evening, Miz Clarice?”

 

“I’m fine, thanks for asking, Mason. You should bring the twins over to our ranch sometime. I bet they are half-grown by now,” she said.

 

“They would love that, I’m sure, and they are growing up faster than I like,” he said.

 

Mason waved at a couple across the room and headed in that direction. “Oh, there is Lucas and his new bride. Did you hear that they got married over Christmas? Baby’s already on the way. His grandfather and daddy are happy as piglets in a fresh wallow.”

 

Greg slipped an arm around Clarice and one around Emily. “So can I tell everyone that you two lovely ladies are my dates tonight?”

 

“I’m Clarice’s date. You’ll have to ask her,” Emily said.

 

Clarice patted their shoulders. “I’m going to talk to Natalie. Yes, my grandson. I’ll relinquish my date into your hands until the clock strikes midnight. Then you are driving home alone and my date is driving me home in the van. That’s your punishment for telling us that you had a date.”

 

The band kicked off with a slow two-stepping song, and Greg held out his hand. “May I have this dance, ma’am, even if you aren’t my date?”

 

She let him lead her to the middle of the dance floor. The singer did a fine job of Toby Keith’s song “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like That,” and Greg was an expert dancer, one that she could easily partner with for the rest of the night.

 

The lyrics said that he had gotten a funny feeling the moment that her lips touched his. Greg pulled her closer and looped both of his hands around her waist. She reached up and wrapped hers around his neck and laid her head on his chest. His heartbeat was strong and steady, but it beat faster when he started singing softly in her ear. The words said that everyone was watching them and thinking that they were falling in love and that they would never believe that they were just friends.

 

She leaned back and looked up at him. “Do you think everyone thinks that we are falling in love?”

 

“I imagine they are.”

 

The male singer stepped aside, and a lady in tight-fitting jeans and a red satin shirt took the microphone. She sang a slow Lorrie Morgan song, and Greg brought the dance down to a slow country waltz. The lyrics sunk deep into Emily’s soul, but she didn’t hear them, just felt the spirit of the melody as her heartbeats blended in unison with Greg’s.

 

“Please be my real date,” he whispered.

 

She barely nodded.

 

“Is that a yes?” he asked.

 

“Okay, but if Miz Clarice needs me to get her some punch or another shot of bourbon, you’ll have to take the backseat for a little while,” she teased.

 

He tipped her chin up with his fist and brushed a sweet kiss across her lips. “That’s just so everyone in this room knows that we are together tonight.”

 

“Branding your territory, are you?” she asked.

 

He grinned.

 

She tiptoed and kissed him long, hard, and passionately. “Now all those hussies staring at your cute little ass will know that you are branded for the night too.”

 

“Whew!” The grin widened. “Let’s get out of this place and find a motel room.”

 

“I don’t do sex on first dates,” she said. “And besides, two kisses are probably all that Clarice wants to explain for one night.”

 

“You really think my ass is cute?” he asked.

 

“If I didn’t I wouldn’t have said it,” she answered.

 

“Well, darlin’, I think all of you is downright sexy as hell tonight. That dress looks like moving water,” he said.

 

She smiled. “Why, Greg, you are romantic at heart, but I bet you say that to all the girls.”

 

“Never said it before. Never saw anyone that could take my breath away like you do,” he said.

 

***

 

The night was over too soon.

 

It lasted until eternity and beyond.

 

How both could be the truth was a complete mystery, but that’s the way Emily felt at midnight when the party ended. She drove Clarice home in the van, but she could see the headlights of Greg’s truck in the rearview the whole way home.

 

Home?

 

When did that happen? Two weeks ago, her ranch out there in west Texas was home. A grown, responsible woman did not make a change in her thinking like that in such a short time. Not even after a Cinderella evening when she had been transformed into the belle of the ball.

 

Home?

 

Gramps used to say that home was where the heart was. That was scary as hell. Her heart should be out there in the flat country, not in north Texas rolling hills country, tangled up in mesquite and scrub oak.

 

 

“You sure are serious and quiet,” Clarice said.

 

“So are you,” Emily said.

 

“I was thinking about Marvin. I danced lots of times at Angus parties with my Lester. He was a good dancer and a wonderful man and I adored him. I never got to dance one time with Marvin. Tell me, Emily, did he like to dance?”

 

Emily slowed down as she drove through Ravenna. “He loved to dance. He and Nana used to dance around the living room floor, and sometimes he’d dance with me after she was gone.”

 

“I suppose it’s come about from reading those letters again, but I wish I’d danced with him, held him, and kissed him like you did Greg tonight. I wish I had that memory, even if it hadn’t worked out and fate declared that I would marry Lester.” She sighed.

 

Emily reached across the console and patted Clarice’s hand. “Gramps felt the same way about you. He adored Nana, but his past was unsettled.”

 

Clarice leaned over and kissed Emily on the cheek. “Thank you for tonight, Emily. You made my grandson happy, and that made me happy.”

 

Emily’s smile lit up the van. “He made me very happy tonight.”

 

Clarice got out of the van and made her way up the steps, opened the front door, and disappeared inside the house. Emily drove the van around to the detached garage and parked it. She grabbed her weathered old work coat from the backseat and slipped her arms into it when she got out of the van.

 

“That sets off the whole look,” Greg said from the shadows.

 

“It’s cold.”

 

“Tough as nails on the outside. Soft and gentle on the inside,” he said.

 

“You got it, cowboy,” she answered.

 

He took a step forward and she did the same. Somehow the distance between them disappeared and she was in his arms. His lips were on hers, his tongue making love to her mouth, and she was floating somewhere between the garage and heaven.

 

His hand slipped inside the coat and massaged her bare back as he deepened the kisses even more. She leaned in, giving way to the fire that had been building all evening as they danced. His fingers inched their way down inside the back of her dress.

 

“My God,” he groaned.

 

“What?”

 

“If I’d known you didn’t have anything on under that dress, I would have busted out my zipper. I had to think about cleaning horse stalls to keep from having a problem as it was,” he whispered.

 

“This zipper,” she said as she laid a hand just below his belt buckle.

 

“I thought you didn’t do sex on first dates,” he said.

 

“I’m not totally inflexible, Mr. Adams,” she said.

 

“Oh, I bet you are very flexible.”

 

“Your truck or the van?”

 

His hand cradled her neck as his lips came closer. “Two nice bedrooms in the house.”

 

“Not with Clarice and Dotty in listening distance,” she mumbled between scorching hot kisses.

 

He scooped her up in his arms and carried her across the garage floor to a door on the other side of his truck. He opened it and she pulled away from his lips.

 

“What is this? In a closet? Is it big enough?”

 

“Trust me, Emily.”

 

He carried her up a flight of narrow stairs to an attic room with a sloped ceiling. A twin-sized bed shoved up against the wall with a small table beside it was the only furniture in the whole room. He laid her down gently on a handmade quilt and stretched out beside her.

 

“You feel so good just lyin’ here beside me,” he whispered hoarsely.

 

She slipped up a hand in the narrow space between them and shoved his jacket down over his shoulders. He helped her and tossed it across the room, then slowly removed her coat and threw it in the general direction of his jacket.

 

A window above the bed made a picture frame for a big lovers’ moon sitting in the middle of twinkling stars on a midnight blue background. The light of the moon sharpened the angles of his face. She reached up and traced his lip line, then his strong jaw.

 

“Your touch brings those stars out there into the room with us.” His deep drawl sent warmth through her veins.

 

“I know. You do the same to me.”

 

“I’ve wanted to touch you all week. Even just your hand or your cheek. Keeping my hands to myself has almost driven me insane.”

 

She unfastened his shirt, one button at a time, kissing his muscular chest as she bared it.

 

He pulled her even closer and slipped the dress up over her head. “My God, you are beautiful.”

 

“I believe that’s a cliché line from an old movie.”

 

“I don’t give a damn where it came from, it’s the gospel truth, Emily. You are stunning.” He teased her with strings of kisses starting at her lips and going to that tender part of the neck right below her ear before he moved down to her breasts, her ribs, and her belly button. She trembled and arched toward him when he went even lower.

 

“I’m going to catch plumb on fire if you don’t get on with it.”

 

“I’m already on fire, and I don’t want to have sex with you, Emily. I want to make love to you,” he said. “Protection is…”

 

“I’m on the pill. We don’t need anything else.”

 

She pushed the covers back and straddled his waist and unzipped his jeans. “Is this an eight-second bareback bronc ride, or is it an hour-long horse ride up to the cabin and back?”

 

“First or second time?”

 

She giggled. She had trouble pulling his belt from the loops, so she left the sides hanging as she freed his erection from the tight jeans. “Help me get rid of all this packaging. I want the present, not the jeans it came in. And darlin’, if I’d known that you were commando, we would have snuck out of the dance and locked the bathroom door.”

 

“We call it going cowboy, not commando.” He kicked his jeans and boots off in one easy motion.

 

“I call it downright damn sexy.”

 

“Cold is not my friend.” He chuckled.

 

She slipped her warm hand around his erection and said, “This help?”

 

He returned the favor, running a hand up her inner thigh until he reached the place that had her wiggling and moaning in less than a minute. “It’s been a while, Emily. Would you be terribly disappointed if the first was a bronc ride and the second was a trip to the cabin?”

 

“And the third time can be…” she panted.

 

He covered her mouth with his and slid into her with a long, hard thrust. She groaned and worked with him, rocking at the right time to bring them both the most pleasure. He took her to breathtaking heights half a dozen times and then backed off before the thrusts finally became shorter and faster.

 

“God, that feels so good. I think this is a trip to the cabin instead of an eight-second ride,” she panted.

 

“I never knew anything could feel like this.” His drawl was deep, hoarse, and hungry.

 

“Me either,” she moaned.

 

“Ready?”

 

The moonlight shifted so that she could see his eyes change from sexy to soft and dreamy. She managed to nod, but she didn’t have the breath to answer.

 

He slipped his hands under her bottom and with a dozen fast and furious thrusts, he brought her right up to the biggest climax she’d ever known.

 

“Wow… all to hell!” The words came out in a high-pitched squeal when she could catch enough breath to force them out of her mouth. She floated toward the window, toward the big lovers’ moon and the stars, and then she fell back to the narrow bed with a thump that knocked the breath out of her all over again.

 

 

Would it be a total sin to stay in the attic and live there forever with him, doing nothing but making love like that until she died? She had never felt such raw passion in her entire life.

 

“I’ve never…” he said.

 

“Never what?” She inhaled deeply and straightened her legs.

 

He pulled the edge of the quilt around them, making a tight-fitting cocoon. She thought that she’d burned up every nerve in her body, but when he kissed her inside that quilt, desire shot through her like white lightning through an IV.

 

She buried her face into his neck and whispered, “I still want you.”

 

“Good, because it’s a long time until daylight.”

 

***

 

Dotty met Clarice in the kitchen the next morning. The coffee was already made and Clarice had turned on the oven for biscuits. She poured two cups and handed one to Dotty.

 

“We’d best make a big breakfast. They’ll be starving.”

 

“Already planned on it. They came in the back door quiet as mice about an hour ago. She was carrying her dress because I heard him say something about not getting it all dirty. It was well worth the money, wasn’t it?”

 

Clarice giggled. “Now, Dotty, you know that dress was payment for a favor.”

 

“Yes, and I know that favor was paid back ten years ago and the diamond studs in Emily’s ears are the payment. I was there when Tressa handed them to you and told you how much she appreciated you bankrolling her.”

 

Clarice carried her coffee to the kitchen table. “You got the memory of a damned elephant.”

 

“Long as I don’t get the elephant’s big nose or big gut to go with it, I ain’t complainin’. Van or truck?”

 

“Attic,” Clarice said.

 

“Shit! I forgot all about the attic.”

 

“Lots of memories up in that attic.”

 

Dotty pulled a package of bacon from the fridge. “Want to share?”

 

“Now, Dotty, you know I never was one to kiss and tell.”

 

“You ain’t no fun at all. Won’t let me read them damned letters and won’t tell me about the attic. Is that pretty log cabin quilt still on the twin-sized bed up there?”

 

“How’d you know about that?” Clarice asked.

 

“I don’t kiss and tell neither.” Dotty giggled.

 

“You didn’t!”

 

“I did. Remember, darlin’, I was here in Ravenna a month before I got married. I met you right here on this ranch at a picnic. Johnny was working for Lester’s folks back then.”