Bound By Marriage(7)

By: Nalini Singh

“Nothing you didn’t already know,” she whispered to herself, running her hand down the ivory satin of her wedding dress. So why was she suddenly so sure she was about to make the worst mistake of her life?

“I miss you, Jessie. I should’ve never let you go. Come back to me…”

Trembling, she picked up the phone, barely aware of what she was doing and began to punch in a number from memory. The first six digits were easy but a single tear streaked down her face as her finger hovered over the last one. No. Shaking her head, she hung up before she threw away both her father’s memory and her own self-respect in an effort to chase an impossible dream.

A few short hours later, her hand squeezed the delicate stems of her bouquet with crushing force. Having Gabe by her side should have comforted her but it only increased her gut-churning tension.

He was a man who’d never bend, never gentle to tenderness. Certainly not for his convenient bride. Instead, as his kisses had shown, he’d demand. And he’d demand far more than she’d ever expected to have to give.

“Do you, Jessica Bailey Randall, take this man to be your lawful wedded husband?”

And even then, something inside of her was waiting for Damon’s familiar voice to call the wedding to a halt. If he had, she might have given up everything—her principles, her promises, her loyalties. But Damon didn’t come, as he hadn’t come yesterday, though everyone in Kowhai had to know she was back.

She set her jaw. “I do.” Her eyes were locked with Gabe’s as she spoke and she was startled by the open hunger that stirred in their depths, though she shouldn’t have been. Gabriel Dumont was a man who held onto what he owned. Of course he’d be possessive with his bride, no matter that she’d been chosen for reasons other than passion.

As far as Gabe was concerned, she was now his.

She felt herself jerk at a loud cheer and realized she’d missed the rest of the ceremony.


Blinking away her confusion, she looked up. “What?”

There was something very male in his eyes as he brushed aside a curl that had escaped her upswept hairdo. “They want a kiss. And so do I.”

“Oh.” She could feel a blush creeping over her cheeks as she stood on tiptoe, one hand braced against his shoulder.

When Gabe slid his palm across her bare nape, the roughness of his skin was an erotic caress she wasn’t ready for. She tried to stifle her gasp, but he’d heard. Smiling with masculine approval, he pressed her close using his other hand on her lower back. And then he kissed her.

Possession. Absolute, undeniable possession.

That was what it felt like, a branding even more dangerous than the claim of his kiss the night before. Yet once again, she couldn’t keep her body from molding to his, her arms from going around his waist, reason and sense obliterated under an avalanche of piercing sensation.

An unexpected wolf-whistle splintered the moment, jolting her into pulling away.

But she only got loose because Gabe decided to set her free. In the second before he turned to face the others, she saw something both very satisfied and very impatient in his eyes.

Gabriel was ready to seal their deal.

In the most physical way.

Chapter 3

Four hours, endless dances with the station hands and two flutes of champagne later, Jess was having trouble deciding what to wear. Stripping down to the corset-like lace teddy, which was all she’d been able to find to support her under the smooth lines of the dress, was out of the question. So was the slinky nightgown gifted to her by a beaming Mrs. C.

But if she wore her favorite old T-shirt, Gabe might think she was being deliberately provocative, defying both him and the explicitly stated rules of their agreement. She had no doubts that he was ruthless enough to call off the whole cold-blooded affair if she didn’t hold up her end of the bargain.

Which left her standing in front of the wardrobe, considering her options for the hundredth time. As a result, she was in no way prepared to hear the connecting door between her room and the master bedroom open.

Her heartbeat a jackhammer against her ribs, she swiveled to face him. “I thought you were downstairs.”

Having already undone and rolled up the cuffs to bare sun-browned forearms, Gabe now undid the top two buttons of his white dress shirt. “I figured my business with Jim could wait.”

“Oh.” She lifted a hand to her hair then dropped it again, not sure what to do with herself—knowledge was one thing, experience quite another. “I’m not ready.”

His smile was slow, sensual and very pleased. “I’ll take care of that.”