Wildflower

Wildflower

Virginia Brown

January 2013 $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-247-7

Book 1 of the To Love an Outlaw series.


 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

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He’s a legendary gunslinger working for the powerful business baron she intends to bring down. When he takes her captive, desire makes a prisoner of them both.

Leaning his hard body against hers to pin her to the rock again, Jake asked roughly, "You could try by remembering that it’s against the law to rob trains.”

"You work for Durant—what do you care about the law?”

"I might go easy on you if you’ll talk. Where’s the rest of your gang?”

The mutinous stare she gave him was indicative of the answers he would receive, and Lassiter shrugged. "Fine. Stay quiet. I’m getting paid to stop ‘Colorado Kate,’ and I guess that’s who I’m taking back with me.”

"You’re taking me to Durant?” she asked softly. He nodded. So this was really the end. She had no illusions as to Durant’s intentions. He’d kill her just as ruthlessly as he’d killed her parents.

"Care to tell me where I can find the Lost Canyon Gang?” Jake asked

When she refused to answer, he curled his fingers around her wrists and straightened, pulling her up with him. Caitlin stared at him warily, seeing in his dark, reflective gaze something she didn’t recognize. The sun beat down in a blaze of heat; a hot, dry wind blew, lifting her hair to drift around her face, yet she felt a sudden shiver.

To her sudden, intense surprise, Lassiter lowered his head and kissed her.

Virginia Brown is the award-winning author of nearly fifty novels in historical romance, mystery and general fiction.


Reviews

"It's been a long time since I read a good western historical romance. I really enjoyed this one. I wish they still wrote 'em like this. There is plenty of romance, steamy sex, action, adventure, laughter and tears." --Julie Whiteley, Net Galley


Excerpt

Chapter 1

"IT’S COLORADO KATE!” someone shouted as the outlaws stepped onto the train with guns drawn, snarling orders for the passengers to stand with their hands up.

A whoosh of steam from the train’s engine and the high-pitched scree of the brakes drowned out any replies as it ground to a halt. Caitlin Conrad edged down the center of the railroad car on light feet, her eyes narrowing over the red scarf she had drawn up over her nose and mouth.

Snug-fitting tan pants outlined her legs and hips as she sauntered down the narrow aisle, and she could feel damp patches spread on her shirt from the heat. Even with her hair tucked up beneath the wide-brimmed sombrero she wore, they knew her. She gave a mental shrug. She didn’t care. She hoped—prayed—that G.K. Durant would know that she had robbed his payroll train once again.

Flicking her wary gaze around the railroad car and its passengers, Caitlin balanced the pearl handle of her .45 in one palm, taking comfort in its familiar weight. It had become part of her in the past few years. She depended upon it to keep her alive—and keep her vengeance alive.

Now, letting her eyes drift from one passenger to the next, Caitlin’s gaze was arrested by a man at the far end of the car. He was standing, as were the others, but instead of seeming afraid or angry, he seemed poised, and her instincts immediately shouted danger at her.

"Keep an eye on that one,” she told her brother in a low voice, and indicated the man. She felt Devon’s attention shift from the heavy payroll bags he was taking from a furious guard. They had a man at each end of the car, and three of them were inside—enough to keep everyone in line and collect their weapons. Devon shrugged.

"Get their hands in the air. I’ll back you.”

"Hands up!” Caitlin barked, swaggering down the aisle with her gun at the ready. She saw the man’s reaction, and felt a wave of irritation. He seemed only faintly amused by her order. A slight smile curled the corners of his mouth, and when he saw her quickly narrowed gaze beneath the wide brim of her sombrero, he was bold enough to actually lift a dark brow as if mocking her.

Caitlin left her brother Devon’s side and strode toward the man, taking careful note of the low-slung holster and the lethal weapon at his side. He looked like a man who knew how to use it. He was tall, wide-shouldered and lean-hipped, and his legs were slightly apart and braced, his hands resting on the back of the seat in front of him. An air of leashed power and arrogance emanated from him.

Irritated by his lack of concern and mocking amusement, Caitlin barked, "Get your hands up, mister!”

His smile kicked higher, but his hands remained on the back of the seat in front of him. Caitlin recognized the challenge in his dark eyes and stifled a spurt of rage. She could not allow herself to be provoked into doing something foolish. No one had ever been killed during one of their holdups, and she had no intention of it happening now.

Coolly, her voice low and gruff, she approached the man and stood very close, letting her gaze rake him with cold deliberation.

"You seem to be a bit stubborn, mister,” she said at last.

"Do I?”

His voice was low and husky and held a faintly ironic edge. Caitlin recognized a note of suppressed fury behind his words and smiled beneath her red scarf.

Green eyes glittered slightly as she tilted back her head and brought her pistol up. Deliberately drawing back the hammer with her thumb, she took careful aim at the man’s midsection. Her voice was soft.

"That could be dangerous.”

"Could be,” he drawled, his dark eyes narrowing slightly. He still didn’t lift his arms into the air, but met her icy gaze with one of his own. For the first time, she could see the fierce resolve in his eyes, and felt a moment’s uncertainty. Then she dismissed it.

"A gut-shot man, I’m told, takes a long time to die.” She saw a faint flicker in his gaze, but no other reaction. "I wonder if that’s true,” she mused aloud, the barrel never wavering. "If you don’t put your hands up, I guess we’ll both get the chance to find out.”

Behind her, Caitlin could hear her brother and the others still ranging up and down the aisle, gathering guns and valuables from the passengers, but her world had narrowed to this one stubborn man with dark hair, a strong face, and murder in his eyes. She felt a brief spurt of triumph when his arms slowly lifted.

"I yield to the lady with the loaded pistol,” he said in an insulting tone that left her in no doubt that he didn’t think for a moment that she was a lady.

That didn’t matter to Caitlin. She didn’t really care what he thought. A slow sparkle lit her eyes as she reached out to pluck his pistol from its holster and toss it out the open window of the train. Then, as she stared up at him, she had the thought that this insolent man with the hard eyes was attractive. And he was furious that she had made him back down. It wasn’t unusual for men to have this reaction when she robbed them, but his cool insolence irritated her. Caitlin decided to infuriate him some more.

Reaching out one hand—keeping her pistol trained on him—she slid it up and over his broad chest as if searching for more weapons, smiling at the way he sucked in a deep breath at her touch, his mouth tightening.

"You’re Colorado Kate,” he said flatly, adding when her head tilted back, "I heard you were little more than a leather-faced slut.”

Caitlin stiffened, but refused to let him see her swift anger. "Did you? Too bad youwon’t find out if it’s true,” she mocked, her gaze locking with his. "Any hidden weapons on you, handsome?” Slowly, ignoring his murderous gaze and the flabbergasted stares of the other passengers, Caitlin began to unbutton his shirt and pull it loose from the waist of his denim pants. Let him squirm. He needed to be brought down a peg or two, and she would enjoy doing it.

Caitlin expected him to be uncomfortable—what she didn’t expect was the quick, strange tingling that jolted her nerves at the feel of this man’s body beneath her hand. It made her pause for an instant, and she felt a flash of confusion. The man’s deep, richly masculine voice had started a tremor in her, and now the smooth, slick feel of his slightly damp skin beneath her fingers made her throat tighten and her insides feel all funny and hot. She could feel his black eyes on her, cold and as expressionless as pieces of jet, and that made her want to bait him some more.

She allowed herself a moment’s admiration for his flat muscles, the taut span of flesh that was slightly damp from the heat, and the mat of curling hair on his chest. She noted his jerk of reaction when she dragged her hand in a caress across his rib cage and the scrub-board ridges of his belly. Caitlin smiled. The strong column of his throat corded briefly, and she knew he was resisting the urge to shove her away, or grab at her. His effort to hold back showed on his face, in the deep lines cutting down each side of his mouth. He knew as well as she did that a loaded pistol at this range would not miss.

The man’s discomfiture slightly eased the unfamiliar tight warmth inside her.

"Kate!” Devon’s exasperated voice came from behind her, and she smiled up at the furious man. She knew he could see amusement in her eyes, and that it made him even more angry at his helplessness. Her hand pressed more firmly against his chest, and she felt the quiver of his tense muscles beneath her palm. Lightly, teasingly, she slid her fingertips across the pelt on his chest, watching idly as it curled around her fingers.

Without looking behind her to her brother, Caitlin said in a mocking voice, "I think we’re going to have to search this one. He’s too stubborn to dig into his pockets for us.”

Slowly, watching the man’s features sharpen into a cold mask, she let her hand trail over his skin and down to his waist, pausing before she tucked one hand into his pocket.

"My partner has his gun aimed at your head,” she reminded when the man’s muscles bunched beneath her palm. "And don’t forget this little toy in my hand.”

"Enjoying yourself?” the man asked without taking his eyes from her face, and Caitlin almost wished he could see her smile.

"Are you?” she countered, and was momentarily disconcerted by his husky, amused laugh.

"Not yet. Move your hand a little lower...”

Stung, Caitlin snatched her hand out of his pocket, feeling the eyes of the other passengers on her, and knowing what they must be thinking. Her chin tilted. She felt a flush of heat stain her face and was glad no one could see it. Not that she really cared. Hadn’t she worked hard to cultivate this very reputation? She had a job to do, and she shouldn’t have let herself be dissuaded from it for a moment. She made her voice deliberately cutting.

"Sorry, mister, you don’t have anything I want. Let’s cut this short.” She injected laughter into her tone, and it grew deeper as she saw the fury in his eyes, and the taut line of his mouth grow thinner.

"Nothing?” he asked mockingly, and she shrugged.

"Nothing but money.” She stepped back. "All right,” she said then, her eyes glittering above the edge of her mask, "put your valuables into my partner’s sack here, and we’ll be out of your way. Ah—use your left hand.”

Holding her gaze with his, the man drawled, "I’ll see you again, and when I do, you won’t be so cocky.”

"Really?” Her gun barrel waggled at him. "I hope you’re faster on the draw next time. This time, you were beat before you knew it.”

"Next time, I’ll be after you.”

"I hope that’s not a threat,” Caitlin said around the lump in her throat. The man looked dangerous, suddenly, and she felt the menace in his heavy-lashed black eyes.

"No. It’s a promise.”

When the man had dropped his wad of money into the sack Devon held, Caitlin stepped back several more steps, and felt her brother’s angry gaze on her. She knew he’d have something to say about her unusual actions later.

Hoof beats drummed along the ground in a steady rhythm as the five outlaws rode away from the train, strung out in a line. Caitlin could feel Devon’s furious silence as they put some distance between them and the train. He didn’t say anything until the train was only a small speck below and they were up on a high ridge, and then his voice was low and tight as he rode up next to her.

"What got into you back there, Kate?”

She flicked him a glance and shrugged. "I don’t know. He was just so arrogant, I guess, so cocky. I wanted to see him squirm a little bit.”

"If he’d grabbed at you, one of us would have had to shoot him. You should never have put yourself in that position.”

"I know that!” Her voice was irritated, and she pulled down her mask as they rode over the crest and out of sight of the stopped train.

"So what are you going to do,” Devon pursued, "if that guy decides to come after us, too?”

Her voice was scornful. "I doubt very seriously he’ll do that. He looked—”

"He looked,” Devon broke in in a growl, "like he wanted to strangle you! Dammit, Caitlin, I thought you knew better than to provoke a man. It’s provocation enough to have a man at the business end of your gun, but when you push some men, they push back.”

"So how do you think he’ll ‘push back’ if he can’t catch us?” she shot at her brother, shrugging to hide her unease. There had been a definite aura of danger about the man, and she was already beginning to regret having allowed him to provoke her into humiliating him.

Dragging back on his reins, Devon glared at her. "We’ve already got every lawman in the territory after us, as well as Durant—do we need a gunslick on our trail, too?”

Her unease grew. "Do you think that’s what he is?”

"I’d bet my life on it.” Devon glared at her, his blue eyes narrowing. Grabbing impatiently at the brim of his hat he pulled it off and added, "Camp’s dropped back to see if there’s any men following us. We nailed shut the doors to the cattle car, but since some of their guards were on the inside, you can bet they won’t be far behind.”

"You can bet they won’t catch us,” Caitlin muttered, and dragged her hat from her head, letting her hair spill over her shoulders in a russet fall. It gleamed in the Colorado sunshine, glittering with fiery lights and whipping around her delicate face.

Without her mask and .45, Colorado Kate could have passed for a schoolgirl. Few would have guessed that she was almost twenty-two, or that she’d been extremely feminine until fate had stepped in and changed the course of her life. That former life was only a vague memory now.

The last ten years had been spent just like this day had been—riding, robbing, running. And it was all because of one man. G.K. Durant.

Durant. Just his name made her throat ache with hatred. He’d killed her parents, and tried to kill her and Devon, and she would never rest until he was dead or she was dead. She’d vowed vengeance, and she’d done her best to see to it that he regretted stealing not only the lives of her parents, but her heritage. Oh yes, one day, Durant would face her again, and one of them wouldn’t walk away.

"Caitlin,” she heard her brother say. Her gaze slid to his face. He was frowning, his blue eyes hard as polished glass. "It’s getting dangerous for you to ride with us.”

"Excuse me?” Her voice was cold, and her delicate brow arched so high it slid beneath the tumble of hair over her forehead. "Just who do you think finds out which trains Durant is using for his payroll, and when, and where, and how many guards he has? I do, Devon. If I don’t ride, none of us ride.”

He didn’t look at her, but stared out at the jagged ridges of the mountains surrounding them. Snow still capped the highest peaks, and a brisk breeze lessened the heat some, tossing Devon’s pale hair. He slapped his hat against his open palm, then tugged it back on his head and pulled the brim low over his eyes. His gaze swung back to her.

"It’s getting too dangerous for you,” he repeated. "I don’t like taking chances with you.”

"If you’re talking about what just happened, you know very well I’ve never done that before. Something just got into me, that’s all.”

"Something?” There was a note of laughter in Devon’s voice as he urged his mount up a steep slope, and he looked over at her to say, "Next time you decide to court a man, pick one that doesn’t look like he wants to murder you! I’ll rope him, tie him up, and present him to you—but not in the middle of a robbery!”

Spurring her mare past her brother, Caitlin glanced back over her shoulder, her lips parting to tell him in no uncertain terms that she had no intention of "courting a man.” Her words died unuttered when she looked past Devon and saw the long line of riders strung out over the slopes, and the train in the distance, barely visible from this far, but its steam still puffing up into the blue, blue sky. Their pursuers were closing fast, riding hell for leather, and it looked as if they had every intention of catching them.

"Devon,” she said in a choking gasp, and he turned in his saddle to follow her gaze.

Muttering an oath, he reined to a halt, then motioned for the two men with them to ride closer. He brought up an eyeglass and peered through it. "Looks like they’ve got Camp,” he said tersely. He leaned back, reached behind him and dug into one of his saddle bags to bring out a wad of money. "Kate, take this and ride north.”

"What?” She stared at him, her gaze shifting from her brother to Wright and Morton, two of their partners.

"You know what I mean,” Devon said impatiently, "and I don’t have time to argue. We’ve been through this before; if there’s any danger of being caught, we split up. You know the route.”

Nodding, she took the money and stuffed it into her pocket, then wheeled her mount around and rode north at a rapid pace. A glance over her shoulder told her that her brother and the other two had all split up and were riding in different directions. A faint smile curled her mouth. It had worked before, and it would work again. When a posse was faced with following four or five different directions, the moments spent in brief conference were vital. But the outlaws knew this area like they knew the back of their own hands, and could ride to earth and not be seen.

Leaning low over her sorrel mare’s neck, Caitlin let the horse go. She felt the hot wind whip across her face as she rode hard. Her sombrero bounced against her back, and she spared a moment’s regret that she’d removed it. The sun would burn her tender skin before she reached the box canyon where they’d made their hideout. She’d lose their pursuers. It never failed.

JAKE LASSITER intended for it to fail this time.

While he’d retrieved his pistol from the ground where Colorado Kate had tossed it, he’d only half-listened to the ramblings of a fellow passenger, a nervous, ferret-faced little man who had named the female outlaw who’d sauntered so boldly down the aisle of the railroad car.

"She’s said to be mean as a snake and wild as a mustang. She’s leader of the Lost Canyon Gang, and stays that way ’cause she’s the most vicious.”

"Is she?” Jake had murmured, and his casual reply had been misinterpreted to mean interest.

"Yes. Killed a dozen men, I hear, and those she doesn’t kill right off, she takes as lovers. That man with her is her favorite lover, the way I hear it.”

Deftly cleaning his pistol, Jake had barely listened as the man rambled on, but something he said finally snagged Lassiter’s attention, and his gaze jerked up.

"What was that?”

The man seemed startled. "What was what?”

"What you just said. About the lost canyon.”

"Oh. It’s supposed to be around here somewhere. Guess that’s why they always seem to attack the trains along this stretch, but say—aren’t you one of the men who was hired as guard for this payroll?”

"Yeah.” Jake didn’t offer any more information, and the ferret-faced man struggled with himself for a moment before daring to ask another question.

"Then why’d you let them get away?”

Jake’s dark gaze lifted and focused on the man, and as he snapped his pistol shut and slid it back into his leather holster in a lethally graceful motion, he said softly, "Nosy little bastard, aren’t you?”

The man paled and gulped back a reply. There was a fire in Jake’s eyes that warned him not to push.

Pivoting on his boot heel, Jake walked away and went to one of the back cars where his saddled horse and companions waited. The other men had already spilled out of the boxcar, and when Jake asked mildly what kept them, Roger Hartman pointed sheepishly to the door that had been nailed shut.

"Seems like they knew we were here.”

"Didn’t keep them from robbing the train.”

"No,” Hartman said with a shake of his head. "Guess they didn’t know about you up front.” His gaze was slightly curious. "Why didn’t you take them?”

Stepping into his saddle, Jake said, "The day isn’t over yet.”

As they closed on the outlaws, Jake saw them divide and go in different directions. He’d expected that, and waved a hand at the men behind him. Spurring his horse, Lassiter went after the woman with streaming hair. He had a debt to settle.


 

 

Chapter 2

WHEN CAITLIN saw that one of the men had swerved to follow her, she felt the tight pang of panic and tried to swallow it. This wouldn’t do. She couldn’t allow herself to lose control. She had to keep cool and lose her pursuer, not her head.

Nudging the mare’s sides with her booted heels, Caitlin wheeled the animal sharply around a clump of aspens, then down a draw, hooves thundering over the ground as she flew like the wind. She jerked sharply left, then right, knowing the convoluted path as well as she knew the back of her hand. The trail wound around a rising crest, then down a steep slope, across a creek, then up a sandstone slope before it led over hard rock and through a stand of trees. Down the next slope and through a keyhole pass waited a box canyon, hidden from sight by rock and brush. It was the perfect hideout, and no one had stumbled across it in all the time they had used it.

Only, now someone seemed in danger of doing just that. Caitlin heard the relentless thunder of hooves behind her as she urged her mount up the crest and splashed through the icy creek. She felt a moment’s unease, wondering if she dared risk her brother’s safety by keeping to her course.

Sucking in a deep breath, Caitlin leaned forward and gave her mare an encouraging pat on her damp neck, reining in just beyond the creek. She swung down from the saddle in a smooth, swift motion, drawing her pistol at the same time. She left the Winchester in its saddle scabbard; her determined pursuer was too close for her to use it. Slapping the mare on her rump, she dove behind a rock and waited.

She threw herself to the ground, feeling the hard scrub of rock against her stomach and thighs, and aimed her pistol at the trail. Her heart was hammering against her ribs in a painful rattle, and she could barely draw a steady breath. Mechanically, she pulled her hat atop her head again and drew up the red scarf to hide her face. No one had ever come this close before. She couldn’t help but wonder who had been able to manage it now.

It wasn’t as great a surprise as it might have been to see the dark-haired, dark-eyed man she’d taunted on the train take the corner, his big bay scrabbling up the crest. A tiny current of fear raced along her nerve endings, and Caitlin hesitated before pulling the trigger. She’d never killed anyone before. Even with her terrible reputation, she’d never been forced into it. That reputation as a ruthless killer had saved her from having to take a single life so far. So far. What should she do?

Her pursuer saved her from having to make a decision. Some sixth sense must have warned him of the danger waiting behind a rock, and hauling back on his reins, he slid from the bay in a lithe movement that would have commanded Caitlin’s admiration if she hadn’t been in such danger.

Groaning softly as she saw him take cover, she edged closer to a grove of trees to her left and drew her knees up under her, her breath coming hard and swift as she tried to decide what to do. Her boot soles slid slightly on the surface of the rock slope, then sunk into the springy turf beneath the aspens. She shoved impatiently at the hair in front of her eyes, and cursed the scrape of rock against her palms as she tried to see over the top of the boulder that hid her pursuer from her sight.

Her heart hammered painfully in her chest, making her rib cage ache with the force of it. The man’s handsome face had looked predatory, with no laughter in his expression. Obviously she had provoked him into coming after her. Oh God, why had she yielded to perversity and allowed that man to prompt her into retaliation?

Glimpsing a movement, Caitlin tensed slightly. She drew back and aimed carefully, intending to keep him behind the rock. She knew how to shoot. She’d trained with Devon in those dark days after their parents’ deaths, practicing and practicing until she was almost as good as her brother. Devon was a natural; she had to work at it to be as good.

Her heavy pistol jumped in her hand as she squeezed the trigger, and she felt a spurt of satisfaction when she heard the man swear at her, heard the sound of lead hitting rock and saw the shower of granite splinters fly. She took another shot at him, just to keep his head down while she tried to figure out how to get away.

A bullet zinged over her head, much too close for comfort, showering her with soft chunks of sandstone that peppered her cheek above the scarf she’d pulled up to hide her face. She emptied her pistol in his direction, then sat back to reload.

The sun beat down relentlessly, heating her shoulders and back, burning her ungloved hands. She swore softly. It took longer than it should have to shove the cartridges into the empty chamber of her pistol. When she clicked the cylinder closed, she wiped a hand across her damp forehead and squinted back at the rock where she’d seen her pursuer take cover. Shuddering slightly, Caitlin lay in tense silence, her pistol clutched tightly in her hand as she waited for him to make a mistake.

Unfortunately, her quarry didn’t wait around for her to shoot him. Circling behind her, he caught Caitlin unaware.

"Drop your gun,” his deep voice demanded, and when she whirled and brought up her .45, she saw that his was already trained on her, the hammer drawn back. At first, the cold black eye of the pistol commanded her attention, then she looked past it.

He was taller than she remembered, more dangerous. His lean body radiated the confidence of a prowling panther, taut-muscled and just as sleekly deadly. Caitlin felt her heart drop to the toes of her boots.

She froze, sensing his grim determination in the hard set of his mouth and the cold lights in his eyes. Waiting for him to move, she didn’t lower her pistol. His dark eyes narrowed at her.

"I said, drop it!”

Seeing no mercy in those relentless black eyes, Caitlin dropped her .45 to the ground, her fingers suddenly chill and nerveless. She lay there, half-sprawled on the rock, heart pounding, her gaze riveted on his hard face.

A sand-colored Stetson covered thick black hair, pulled down over his forehead to almost meet the straight slash of his eyebrows. The black eyes looking at her so intently had no hint of humanity in them, or maybe that was just her overactive imagination. It was easy to imagine anything fatal when there was no sound but the rasps of her breath in her throat and the sound of sweat trickling down her face. She was scared, more scared than she’d ever been in her life. And the man with the straight, arrogant nose and finely molded mouth seemed to know it. Her fingers dug into the rock.

A faint smile curled his lips, and he stepped forward, his boots scrunching against the rock as he approached.

"So, we do meet again,” he mocked her, and Caitlin’s eyes narrowed. She decided to try for arrogance.

"Who are you?” she demanded boldly.

"Jake Lassiter.” He grinned at the slight widening of her eyes. "Thought you might recognize my name. Don’t let it frighten you—I’ve never killed a woman. Yet.”

Caitlin froze, her mind spinning. Most people knew that name. Jake Lassiter was well-known as a ruthless gunman, a man who gave no quarter. Dear God—it was worse than she’d thought. She cleared her throat of the sudden lump in it.

"I take it you were hunting someone, Lassiter?”

He shrugged. "Let’s see what’s hiding under your mask,” he said, and reached out. She deftly avoided his hand, ducking under his outstretched arm. Half-running, half-rolling, she made a run for it.

She didn’t get far. He caught her easily, his long legs eating up the distance between them. One hand caught her by the collar, yanking her backward, and Caitlin felt her feet leave the ground as he picked her up. She swung with a sickening, helpless motion.

"Damn you,” she said in snarling pants, "let go of me!”

The only reply was a faintly mocking laugh, and then he swung her around. His body wedged her up against the rough surface of a rock. Caitlin fought him. He let her wear herself out in a futile struggle of arms and legs, and when she subsided, panting and furious, he shifted so that his weight held her against the rock. His face was only inches from hers, and his hand tore away her sombrero, then curled into the edge of her mask to drag it from her face.

Surprise was evident in Jake Lassiter’s eyes as he stared at her. She glared back, spitting fire with her wide green eyes. Dark russet hair spilled over her shoulders in a gleaming fall that obscured her vision, waved over face and throat and shoulders in the wind. He stared at her for a long moment, then let his gaze drift slowly down.

Perspiration had dampened her skin and shirt, and it clung snugly to her curves. Caitlin knew with a kind of odd twinge that he could see the outline of her breasts and darker nipples with no trouble at all. She should have worn something underneath, but she hadn’t.

Another unsettling warmth settled in the pit of her stomach, spreading in a slow heat through her body. It was a heat that had nothing to do with the hot sun overhead, or the fact that even the wind felt like a blast from a furnace. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the man was so close to her. She could feel the length of him pressed against her, feel the cording of the muscles in his arms and thighs.

And when she looked slowly up at his face and saw her disquiet mirrored in his eyes, she knew she was in trouble.

Their silent battle abruptly changed to a sexual one; the angry gleam in his eyes had altered to a hot masculine hunger that made her throat tighten with fear.

Caitlin watched the growing heat in his eyes, and not exactly unaware of such things, as she’d spent so much time in the company of men, she felt a sudden, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She’d never lain with a man, had never wanted to give that much of herself. But she saw in this man’s eyes the need she’d never felt, and for some reason, felt a response that made a small, insistent pulse throb between her legs.

Damning herself as well as him, Caitlin managed to say in a flat, calm voice, "Get your filthy hands off me!”

"And if I don’t?” he mocked. "What do you intend to do about it?”

His hands were strong; she felt the flex of his muscles beneath the restraining hands she had on his forearms. It didn’t make her feel any better to know that she had little chance of fighting him off.

"Kill you the first chance I get,” she said boldly. Her narrowed gaze dared him to laugh at her, and he didn’t.

Instead, he brought up one hand to cup her chin in his palm, and though his gaze was faintly amused, his voice was only objective. "That’s something no one else has been able to do, Colorado. What makes you think you could?”

"What makes you think I couldn’t?” she countered. She wished he wouldn’t lean against her, his hard man’s body so intimately pressed against her curves, so close she could feel the rise of his desire for her. She squirmed.

As if he sensed the reason for her unease, he ground his hips against her, his mouth curling at her gasp. She saw the flare in his dark eyes, the fires burning hotter and hotter, and she knew that she was in more danger than she’d ever been in before.

"Do you intend to turn me over to the law?” she asked in a sort of gasp, one leg drawing up to push him away. He wedged his body between her thighs with almost contemptuous ease, and Caitlin’s eyes widened at the hard ridge nudging against her. There was a determined look on his face that scared her, and she put her hands up between them with a kind of desperate futility. She could smell the heat of him in a clean wash of shaving soap and sweat that was somehow arousing.

"I’m thinking about it,” he replied after a moment. "I wasn’t hired by the law, though.”

Her gaze sharpened. "Who hired you?”

"Durant.”

"You bastard!” One hand flashed up, and her closed fist managed to graze his jaw before he could catch her wrist; he swore loudly, his grip punishing.

"I take it you prefer the law to Durant,” he said in a rough growl as he bent one of her arms behind her, and Caitlin winced against the harshness of his grip. But his action had brought her up hard against him, and gave her an opening.

Bringing up her knee in a reflex movement, she had the brief satisfaction of seeing his expression change from grim intent to pain. He grunted with it, and when his hold loosened on her arm, she jerked free and ran, her feet flying across the ground almost as if she had wings. Her defensive reaction should have gained her freedom, but this man recovered quickly, and caught her before she reached her horse.

"Little bitch,” he muttered, swinging her around by her hair, his hand tangling in it to hold her still. When she let out a yelp of pain, his grip loosened slightly, but he wound a bright length of her hair around his fist, slowly pulling her toward him. She tried to pull away; he simply tugged her back, using her hair like a tether. Caitlin winced slightly, but stared up at him defiantly as she waited to see what he would do. She ached all over. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so brutally used.

Staring at her, his groin aching where she’d kneed him, Jake Lassiter wondered why he didn’t just tie her to her horse and take her back. There was more than one reason, not the least of which was the fact that he’d been totally surprised at seeing the pretty girl beneath the mask and sombrero.

According to all he’d heard, Colorado Kate was a hardened woman with a leathered face and list of lovers two miles long. This young girl with dark, fiery hair, and hot emerald eyes certainly didn’t fit his picture of how she’d be. Colorado Kate was supposed to have killed dozens of men, yet this girl had not even been able to shoot when she had the advantage. He felt a moment’s doubt, but she wasn’t denying that she was the infamous Kate, so he didn’t know quite what to do with her. He knew it was the same outlaw who’d taunted him on the train; he recognized those jade eyes and thick lashes.

Jake felt the thundering beat of her heart against his chest, and knew she was frightened of him. A faint, hard smile curled his lips. She should be. The painful ache in his groin had altered to another kind of ache. If he did what he wanted to do, what his body was urging him to do, he would react to the feel of her curves. Her skin was soft beneath his hands, and there was no smell of stale perfume or other men on her.

Jake’s gaze narrowed slightly as she squirmed, inadvertently pressing her breasts closer to his chest. It sparked an immediate response in him, one that made him as angry as it did uncertain.

Maybe he should just take what he wanted from her, then let the law decide what her fate should be. It sounded reasonable enough, and though Jake had rarely been drawn to women who spread themselves for any man who happened by, there was something appealing about this young woman and her soft body and challenging eyes.

He swore softly and dragged his attention from the hot temptation of her curves back to business.

Leaning his hard body against hers to pin her to the rock again, he asked roughly, "Why did you rob that train today?”

"Jeez, what a stupid question! Why not?”

His dark brows drew down in a knot at her impudent reply, and any sympathy he might have felt began to fade. "You could try by remembering that it’s against the law to rob trains.”

"You work for Durant—what do you care about the law?”

"What’s that supposed to mean?”

Caitlin’s voice was bitter. "I think you’d know that a lot better than I would.”

"I might go easy on you if you’ll talk. Where’s the rest of your gang? And your hideout?” The mutinous stare she gave him was indicative of the answers he would receive and Lassiter shrugged. "Fine. Stay quiet. I don’t give a damn. I’m getting paid to stop Colorado Kate and I guess that’s who I’m taking back with me.”

Caitlin’s face reflected shock, dismay, then a dull acceptance of fate.

"You’re taking me to Durant?” she asked softly, and closed her eyes when he paused, then nodded. Well. So this was really the end. She had no illusions as to Durant’s intentions. He’d kill her just as ruthlessly as he’d killed her parents.

"Care to tell me where I can find the Lost Canyon Gang?” Jake asked after a moment, and she opened her eyes to glare at him with such obvious contempt that his mouth twisted wryly. "Guess not.”

He was too close—much too close! She could see every feature of the face only inches from hers and feel the hard detail of his man’s body pressing into her, insinuating and strong and vaguely frightening. His dark brows swooped low over his black eyes like a hawk’s wings, and his chiseled lips were pressed into a straight, harsh line. Thick lashes shielded his eyes from her for a moment, lowering in an inky brush, then lifting again.

After a moment, he curled his fingers around her wrists and straightened, pulling her up with him. Caitlin stared at him warily, seeing in his dark, reflective gaze something she didn’t recognize. The sun beat down in a blaze of heat; a hot, dry wind blew, lifting her hair to drift around her face, yet she felt a sudden shiver.

To her sudden, intense surprise, Lassiter lowered his head and kissed her. His mouth moved slowly over hers, a heated press of lips that made her stiffen with resistance.

She jerked away as if burned. "What are you doing?!”

Lean fingers grabbed her chin to hold her still. "I’m kissing you, what’d you think I was doing—branding you? Hold still. You’ve done this before. Relax and enjoy it.”

"No—no I won’t!”

"Bet you’re wrong on that,” he said softly, and before she could move, he brought his mouth down over hers again. As he continued kissing her, drawing unwilling response from somewhere deep inside her, Caitlin felt her iron-held control slipping. Crazy. It was crazy to allow him to get to her, to allow him to kiss her, but her head was falling back and her eyes closing as he kissed her mouth, kissed the rapid pulse fluttering in the hollow of her throat, then that soft spot beneath her ear. Her hands worked, fingers convulsively clutching the material of his shirt in small, reflex motions.

Jake felt the slight rippling of her muscles against him and knew the reason. He briefly considered not acting upon his inclinations, then dismissed such concerns. It was not as if this was an untried girl he held in his arms, and in spite of himself, he felt a strong attraction for her. It was as perplexing as it was irritating, and he decided that there was no point in denying himself what he wanted. Her blond lover would just have to share. Jake liked the way she felt against him even while she tried to avoid his kisses; he liked the bold way she had showed her interest in him earlier, unbuttoning his shirt and rubbing her hands across him, even in front of her lover. Yeah, why not taste what she’d so freely offered before he’d made her mad?

He lifted his head and looked down at her flushed face. A faint grin squared his mouth as he asked, "Got any weapons hidden on you, Colorado?”

Flinging back her head, she stared up at him, and her throat worked. "Don’t you dare touch me!”

"How else am I gonna find any hidden weapons?” One hand tugged at the buttons on her blouse in the same way she had taunted him, and she knocked his hand away. He only laughed as he curled his hand around her small-boned wrists in a relentless grip. He pulled her arms behind her in a move that thrust her breasts out at him. Caitlin felt as exposed as if she were naked.

His voice was taunting. "Got any guns hidden in your shirt, maybe? A man can’t be too careful...”

Her skin tingled, and she bit her lip to keep from making any sound as he ran a light hand over her breasts. His touch made that dreadful, insistent pulse between her legs ache again. Her nipples tightened, pushing at the thin material of her blouse in a provocative pout. The air in her lungs seemed to just disappear, and when his fingers grazed the peak of her breast, she squeezed her thighs tightly together to stop the sharp ache. She was shaking and felt like she’d swallowed all the dust in Colorado.

Jake shifted slightly, spreading his legs for balance; he held her hands behind her, using his free hand to stroke her squirming body. He was breathing fast now. Circling the rigid peak of her breast with his thumb and forefinger, he watched her through narrowed eyes as he pulled gently at her nipple. She couldn’t seem to stop the quick, ragged drags of air into her tortured lungs, or the small moan.

Caitlin wanted to scream at him, to sob with frustration and some other raging emotion inside her, but she didn’t dare make a sound that he might interpret as weakness. Or encouragement. Everything around them had faded into a dim haze; the only reality was Jake Lassiter, and the hand that was drifting from her breast to the throbbing between her thighs. He touched her lightly, and a spear of heat shot through her. She closed her eyes as an involuntary shudder racked her body.

Damn, her body seemed to have taken off on its own. Her thighs spread slightly as if to allow him entrance, to help the rhythmic stroke of his hand that only made the throb there worse. This time she couldn’t hold back a soft moan.

She opened her eyes with an effort, and looked up into the dark face watching her closely. There was an exultant light in his eyes that made her flush, made her resistance return in a flood. Caitlin spat a rejection at him without the least hope that he’d listen.

"Get your hands off me!”

"All in good time, Colorado, all in good time,” he said softly. He pulled her away from the rock and dragged her along with an ease that infuriated her. He ignored her efforts to fight him as he took her to the shady bower of the aspen grove where she’d hidden earlier. Jake forced her down to the ground and lay half-atop her, his weight pinning her down on a cushion of fallen leaves. He still held his pistol in one hand, and he laid it down just out of her reach, laughing at her longing glance toward it.

"Don’t even think about it, Colorado,” he murmured, and he drew a lazy finger over the curve of her jaw. His hand brushed away burnished tendrils of hair from her mutinous eyes, and their gazes met and locked.

Caitlin saw her fate in his eyes, in the lustrous dark gleam beneath the straight brows, and grew still. She had no intention of giving him the satisfaction of defeating her, but neither would she give him the satisfaction of pleading for mercy. It wasn’t as if she didn’t know what went on between men and women; after all, she lived in a camp of men, and heard them in the night with their women. Even Devon, though he was discreet because of his sister, had his women. Caitlin had always ignored them with a kind of lofty contempt, not understanding why a woman would yield her body to a man for the brief pleasure it gave him. She’d heard the contempt in the men’s voices later for their easy surrender.

She wouldn’t give him the same opportunity. He may take her, but she wouldn’t make it easy. Summoning the strength from somewhere deep inside, she twisted and kicked and swore at him, taking him by surprise. Apparently, he had thought her stunned complaisance was willingness. Caitlin wasn’t certain it hadn’t been, but whichever, she’d changed her mind now.

Swearing back at her, Jake Lassiter levered his body over hers so that he fit her from breast to ankle, clamping her thighs between his muscled legs in a firm grasp.

"You blow hot and cold, huh?” he muttered. "Or do you just like it rough?”

Not quite understanding what he meant, Caitlin said in between gasps for air, "I don’t like it at all!”

That seemed to amuse him. He drew back slightly to look at her. His features were shaded by the overhanging trees and the brim of his hat, and she couldn’t see the expression in his eyes as she arched her slender curves against him in an effort to escape. She turned her face away when he tried to kiss her again.

Dragging her face ruthlessly back to him, he held her by her arms, his mouth only inches from hers as he muttered hotly, "I know I’m not the first, and probably won’t be the last, but you won’t forget me. Share some of your honey with me, sweet Kate.”

Before she could reply, his mouth covered hers in a hot, drugging kiss, stealing her resistance, inhaling her very soul. Caitlin shuddered, feeling his body press her back onto the mossy ground, his legs wedging between her thighs. His hands were at the buttons of her shirt, and she felt the cool air whisk across her breasts as he opened her shirt. His hot, moist mouth captured the peak of a breast in a searing kiss.

Tremors of shock racked her body. No man had ever tried to kiss her there—none had dared. But this man was, and it sent currents of jolting response through her body that confused and frightened her.

"What are you doing?” she demanded shakily, batting at his head, knocking off his hat and yanking at his hair until he grabbed her wrists again and dragged her arms over her head. "That’s indecent!”

His tongue traced the outline of her beaded nipple in lightning flicks, and he watched her face as he moved to the other breast, the incredulous expression slowly being replaced by uncertain pleasure. She obviously had not had much experience with the finer points of passion, Jake decided. Her lovers had probably been quick and clumsy, and for some reason, he wanted to show her what she’d missed. This would be no quick release; this would be a lingering passion that she would remember for a long time.

Slowly, deliberately, he stroked her slender curves, his hands unbuttoning her trousers and sliding beneath the waistband, caressing the silky skin. Heat waves shimmered around them, but the heat that was growing in Jake began to overpower even the sun’s fierce intensity.

"Open your mouth for me,” he muttered against her lips, and when she turned her head away, he drew it gently back. His lean fingers gripped her chin, forcing her lips to part for him, and he covered them quickly when she gasped with rage, his tongue sliding inside. Stabbing inside her mouth with deep, penetrating strokes, he slid one hand down to her breast again, his thumb and finger teasing her into the writhing response that he sought.

That was it, that was what he wanted—her soft moans of pleasure, the helpless surrender and sensual undulation of her hips arching against him. God, she was sweet, in spite of her way of life, in spite of who she was; it was a contradiction he couldn’t explain.

Briefly lifting his head, Jake stared down at her for a long moment. Her face was flushed, her eyes smoky and her lips bruised and slightly swollen from his kisses. She looked confused, even shocked, though he knew she couldn’t be. For an instant, Jake wondered why he wanted her. If only half of what he’d heard was true, she was used to bargaining this way.

But there was something... something that lured him to her, something besides the obvious allure of her body and face. A frown knit his brow as the answer eluded him, then he forgot it when she began to struggle again.

Her long legs kicked out, and he quickly held them down with his own, shifting slightly so that his weight held her. This game he knew, this one had rules he understood. It was a game he’d played frequently, with a number of willing partners.

His dark head lowered, and his mouth covered her lips in a lingering kiss as his hands explored her body, and he could feel her shiver in spite of the heat. Jake kissed the small, throbbing pulse at the base of her throat, then her temples before returning to her mouth, and this time she opened for him willingly, returning the thrusts of his tongue in an inexperienced but eager duel.

Caitlin knew very little about kissing; all her previous experiences had been clumsy, inept efforts that left her cold. But this was different. This was no clumsy boy who held her now, but a man who knew how to awaken that hidden part of her. And he obviously knew it. It was as frightening as it was intriguing. And when he tucked her more closely against him, Caitlin suddenly understood all the overheard whispers in the night, the laughter and fumblings that had so often left her feeling awkward and uneasy.

Shifting his long body between her thighs, Jake pressed his erection against her woman’s mound, and she stiffened with shock at his arousal. She wasn’t so innocent she didn’t know what that meant, what it presaged. The realization was like a blast of cold water in her face, awakening her from a sensual haze to the reality of her danger.

Arching against him, she cried out. She hated him and ached for him at the same time, and thought that she must be mad. His hands cupped her slender hips, lifting her to press himself harder against the notch of her thighs, and though Caitlin had wanted to resist him, she could not. There were emotions raging inside her that she didn’t recognize, couldn’t understand. Her body seemed to be following some course of its own.

When she felt his hand at her trousers, flicking open the last button that held them around her slender hips, Caitlin knew she was lost. There would be no reprieve from what he had in mind.

Jake scrubbed his palms over her sweet, soft skin and didn’t stop to think about anything but possessing this enticing form beneath him. When he shoved his hands up her blouse to pull it away, he tested the ripe weight of her breasts; he skimmed her body with a feathery touch until his fingers tangled in the waistband of her snug-fitting trousers. He pulled them down gently, taking her boots with them; he saw the silky russet nest of curls at the juncture of her thighs, and bent his dark head to press kisses over her belly.

Lost in heated discovery, Caitlin shivered, thinking that it was just as well she experience life before she faced death. Why not? She already knew what Durant would do; her life would be ended without her ever having really lived. She shouldn’t have to die before she’d tasted life, she thought distractedly.

Maybe it was fate that they had met. If Jake Lassiter was to be the instrument of her death, he should be the instrument of her awakening.

Jake wasn’t thinking beyond the moment. All he knew was that he wanted this warm female, this alluring creature with the infamous reputation and the enticing body. As he pulled away her clothes, he felt the hot slap of a passion that he’d never felt so strong before. It had to be the unusual circumstances. There was no other reason he would feel this surging drive to bury himself inside a woman he’d been sent to bring to justice.

Sunlight drifted over them, weaving through the lacy branches of the trees, gilding the girl’s body with golden light. Jake rose to his knees, straddling her, tearing at his shirt, unbuttoning his pants and shoving them down. He wanted her beneath him, wanted to feel her close around him and hear soft, husky cries in his ear.

Staring up at him, Caitlin’s throat grew tight with fear. His hard-muscled body was powerful, and as he pushed impatiently at his pants and she saw the full force of him, she shut her eyes against it. She’d never seen a completely naked man before, and she was suddenly terrified. How could her small body accept this huge one? It couldn’t be done...

His hard lean thighs nudged her legs apart, and when he pressed close, she stiffened.

"No!” she couldn’t help saying at the painful intimacy of his intrusion, and pushed fiercely against his chest with the heels of her hands.

"It’s too late for that,” Jake muttered against her ear, and curled his fingers around her wrists to drag her arms over her head. His mouth lowered to capture her lips again, and his tongue slipped through the barrier to fence hotly with hers. It explored in heated strokes that left Caitlin quivering.

The heat grew again, coiling inside her, spreading in slow, molten waves through her body. Along with the heat, a throbbing ache pounded, an ache she couldn’t explain but knew he could ease, and to her vague shame, she felt her hips lift and press closer to him, to the very thing that threatened her. It was madness of a kind she had never imagined.

"Please...” she heard herself say, and was vaguely ashamed that she’d yielded to the urge to plead.

"Kiss me.” Jake’s fingers gripped her chin when she tried to turn her head away, and held it still. "Kiss me, dammit...”

A dizzying emotion consumed her, and even though she knew that she was embracing him with willing arms, Caitlin did her best to keep her emotions aloof.

His bare chest grated against her naked breasts, and she felt the abrasive scrape of his thick pelt against her sensitive nipples. When she would have moaned a protest, his mouth lowered to seize her lips, holding them hostage as his tongue plundered her mouth with swift, tantalizing thrusts that made her belly ache with that consuming fire. The moist, aching throb between her thighs grew more intense, and Caitlin began to feel as if she’d lost every bit of control over her body.

The steamy heat between her legs was unbearable; Jake slid a hand down to touch her there, and she wanted to scream with the shock of it. His bare fingers against the soft folds of flesh were like fire. He rubbed her until she gasped and arched upward again, until she was whimpering with need. Something waited just out of reach, a prize that he held the key to, a release from the raging torment that made her reach for him.

Jake stroked her until she felt the gathering rush of a hot wave that was like nothing she’d ever felt before; she cried out with it, strained toward it, met it and felt the exquisite shattering of a sensation so strong it was almost like pain. She thought she’d die with it. Only vaguely aware that her thighs had parted even more for his hand, that she was arching up toward him, Caitlin cried out when he took his hand away.

His voice was hot and husky in her ear. "It’s not over. I’m not through.”

Panting, her breasts shivered with the effort of her breathing. She couldn’t stop her urgent movements, the almost frantic motion of her hips, and then he was over her again. His scrub-board-hard belly raked against the mound of her stomach in a tantalizing, erotic motion as he moved up, and Caitlin felt the hot, smooth nudge of him between her thighs. She closed her eyes to shut out the sight of his taut, intent expression.

Surely this wasn’t happening to her; this hard-eyed man who intended to turn her over to Durant after he was through with her—was she actually lying naked and unbearably intimate with him? And worst of all—she was helping him. Her thighs had parted as if waiting eagerly for his assault, and she was kissing him back.

The velvety steel heat of his body between her thighs grew more insistent. Caitlin moaned softly, then bit her lips to stifle the sound.

Jake released her wrists, but she didn’t try to fight him. His hands cupped beneath her hips to lift her slightly. Guiding his body with one hand, he pressed forward, muttering soothing words as if she was a fractious horse he was trying to gentle. Caitlin’s body arched upward, her shoulders scrubbing against the cushion of leaves with a rustling crackle as she felt the burning invasion; it grew sharper, painful, almost intolerable, and she tried to throw him off. He caught her wrists again, and pinned her arms over her head, making her cry out as the movement brought his body harder against her.

"Stop! That hurts...”

Panting, Jake lifted his head and stared down at her with a slight frown. She handled like a virgin, but she couldn’t be. Not Colorado Kate, as notorious for her lovers as she was for her robberies. Of course, his fevered brain told him in a surge of practicality, she’d also been notorious for having a leathery complexion and being as hard as Belle Starr. That information had been obviously wrong...

He kissed her again, kissed her until she quieted. There was a taut strain to her body as he held her, as he levered on his elbows to lessen the press of his weight. A hot, bewildered light glittered in the green eyes staring back at him, and he briefly wondered why before he bent to kiss her again. She shouldn’t be this tense.

"Take it easy, Colorado,” he muttered thickly against her ear, easing his body deeper into her tight passage. It occurred to him that the fabled outlaw seductress shouldn’t be this tight, this frightened of what he was doing, but his body was screaming at him to finish what he’d begun, and Jake was determined.

Caitlin’s entire body was throbbing, partly with pain, partly with an odd kind of pleasure. The pain supplanted the pleasure after a moment; she had only an instant’s warning when she felt his muscles tense, then he lunged forward in a driving thrust that made her entire frame shudder and tore a scream from her throat; through the haze of pain that enveloped her, she heard him swear softly. He lifted his head to glare down at her.

"Dammit,” he said in a low growl, his eyes narrowing, "why didn’t you tell me you were a virgin?”

"You didn’t bother to ask,” she said through stiff, cold lips. Pinned by his body, Caitlin tried to draw in a steady breath and couldn’t. She felt completely overwhelmed by him. He was deep inside her, over her, around her, and all she could feel and see and smell was Jake. If she tried to move the slightest bit, she felt the sharp ache of his hard body inside her; it kept her still, and she flicked up her lashes to look at his face. His expression was taut.

Jake swore again. "Idiot,” he muttered. "I wouldn’t have gone this far if I’d known.”

"So. Now you know.” Caitlin couldn’t keep her eyes on him. There was something too painfully intimate about meeting his gaze when his body was joined with hers. Why hadn’t she ever thought about how intimate sex could be. It had never been something she’d allowed herself to think on too much, and now here she was—coupling with a man whom she’d never known existed until a few hours earlier.

When he shifted slightly she winced, and hoped he didn’t think she was weak. Her mouth tightened as her body began to adjust to the aching fullness of having him inside her. She tried to relax.

There wasn’t any way she could relax completely; he was obviously going to finish what he’d started, and she had no choice but to follow. But what was defeating was the fact that her body ached for his touch, for him to ease the tension he’d sparked inside her.

Caitlin looked up at him, deciding in that moment that what was done was done and she might as well derive some sort of satisfaction from it.

"Well?” she demanded, wriggling her hips. "Is this all there is to it?”

He stared down at her incredulously. Then a small smile began to curl his hard, chiseled mouth, and he shook his head. "No, sweetheart, this isn’t all...”


 

 


 


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