Bedded Then Wed(7)

By: Heidi Betts

But then, Emma had never liked the woman. From the moment Mitch had brought her home to Gabriel’s Crossing, having met her at a truck stop in Abilene, Emma had known that every dream she’d ever had of spending her life with Mitch was destroyed.

Suzanne was tall and blond and built like a 1920s pinup girl, while Emma had always had a more boyish figure. Small breasts, narrow hips, no feminine curves to speak of. She was a bit of a tomboy, and had always been proud of the fact, until Suzanne Yates had waltzed into town and reminded her of all the things she wasn’t, stealing Mitch in the process.

It had been a silly dream to start with, thinking that just because she and Mitch had grown up together he might fall in love with her. She’d grown up with Chase, too, but had never had an erotic or ever-after thought about him.

And until tonight, she’d truly thought she was over Mitch Ramsey. Or, if not over him, at least had come to terms with the fact that he was never going to completely heal from Suzanne’s betrayal. He was off the market and more out of her reach than ever before.

Now, though, she wasn’t sure what to think. Her heart wanted to believe this was the start of something permanent. That by driving her home tonight and making love to her in the barn loft, he was showing that he was recovered from his lousy marriage and willing to love again.

But her rational, more somber brain warned her to be careful. Reminded her that one night of passion did not a marriage proposal make.

She would keep that in mind, play it safe and follow his lead, whatever it may be.

“Mmm.” He moaned low in his throat like a man waking from a good night’s sleep and pushed himself up on one elbow.

Cool night air washed over her skin where his body no longer covered, and she fought not to shiver. Not because she was cold, but because she missed the intimate contact.

“You okay?” he asked, still leaning over her, staring down at her with those slate-gray eyes.

She nodded, biting the inside of her lip to keep from saying more.

He shifted again, rolling farther away on the bales of straw. She felt bereft without his touch, but curled her fingers into fists at her sides and took deep breaths until she got the urge to reach for him under control.

“We should think about getting dressed before your father gets home and catches us out here.” He shot her a wicked grin. “I’ve made it almost forty years without getting chased off by an angry, pitch fork-wielding father. There’s no sense in starting now.”

Moving around her, he climbed to his feet and began gathering their discarded clothes from the straw-strewn floor. She sat up and accepted her things when he handed them to her, taking her time putting bra and panties then her jeans and blouse back on.

She ran her hands through her hair, picking out pieces of straw and wishing for a brush to smooth the tangled mass. When she looked back at Mitch, he was dressed and just fastening his belt.

When he was finished, he slapped his hands against his thighs and fixed her with a lopsided smile. “Should we head down?”

She glanced around, surprised to find no visible signs of what had happened between them. After their explosive joining, she’d expected to see burn marks, singed straw, smoke still rising from the ashes. But, instead, there was just plain yellow straw, a little flat in places, but ordinary enough, and the litter of kittens curled up sleeping around their mother.

Turning back to meet his gaze, she nodded, then climbed down the ladder ahead of him.

Just as they reached the door of the barn, they heard tires crunching on the dirt and gravel drive, and saw headlights headed their way.

“That’ll be Pop,” she told him.

“Looks like we made it just in time.” He stuck his hands in the front pockets of his jeans, his thumbs hooked over his belt and waistband.

If he was nervous about coming face-to-face with her father only minutes after having her naked and writhing beneath him, he didn’t show it.

Her father pulled his pickup into the yard and cut the engine. A second later, the door opened and he climbed out.

He didn’t look completely steady on his feet, and she rushed forward to take his arm, hoping he’d kept his word about only finishing off that one last beer.

His head snapped up when he felt her hand on his elbow, and he smiled through his shaggy gray beard and mustache.

“Well, there you are. I thought you would have been in the house, asleep by now. What are you doing out here?”

“Mitch and I were just…um…”

“Checking the livestock,” Mitch offered, stepping out of the shadows of the barn and into the glow of the house’s front porch light.

“Good, good,” her father said. “Thanks for helping out my girl, Ramsey.”