Read Saving Cole Turner Online

Authors: Anne Carrole

Tags: #Romance, #western historical, #western, #historical

Saving Cole Turner (6 page)

BOOK: Saving Cole Turner
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His grin was rueful. “And what about my
thoughts
? How do I turn them off?”

She rose, looked down at him with a coy expression. “You’ll manage. Or you’ll join me.” Her shrug was calculated to convey it didn’t matter to her one way or the other.

He swore but settled himself against a fallen limb and pulled his hat down as if that would protect him from the sight of her.

She undressed behind a bush, then ran to the bank. The water felt icy at first, but soon turned pleasant on her skin. She felt the slick rocks under her bare feet and stepped gingerly to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Finally accustomed to the water, she dipped and splashed and called to him, but Cole didn’t turn her way. He sat looking out at the trail, guarding as she’d asked him.

If Kate calculated right, she didn’t have much more time before her father arrived. She scoped out the perfect branch and swam to it. It took a few tries, but then the branch caught her wet chemise and was holding her like a puppet on a string.

“Help,” she yelled. “I’m stuck. Help me, Cole.”

He didn’t move from his spot or turn his head in her direction. “You think I was born yesterday?”

“Really. I’m stuck and I can’t pull loose. If I do, I’ll tear my chemise, Cole. Do you hear me?” She hoped the pleading in her voice would do the trick.

Cole rose to the full splendor of his height and, for the first time, turned to look at the water. With his eyes shadowed by the brim of his hat, he cast his gaze over the shimmering pool until he found her. She heard his low masculine laugh.

Kate gave him a pouty expression and tried to look insulted. “I’m all tied up like a turkey ready for roasting and all you can do is laugh.”

“I’m coming.” He began shucking his gun and holster, his boots and socks—and then his shirt.

Kate knew Cole was built like a god, but she still wasn’t prepared for the sight of his bare chest, flat abdomen, and carved arms. Angles and curves defined his muscled body while his skin was washed in a golden hue to match his face. She couldn’t help but follow the thin line of bronze hair which trailed down his torso only to disappear beneath the waistband of his pants to regions she yearned to explore.

Kate soaked him in, committing to memory the glorious sight of him, wondering if anything else was coming off. The water felt much warmer now.

He gave her a self-satisfied smile.

“Like what you see?” he drawled as he entered the water, not bothering to take off his pants.

He created a wake as he moved toward her with graceful strokes of his powerful arms. The idea that there might be nothing but hard flesh under those wet pants sizzled across her brain heating her insides clear to her toes. She was counting on Cole having the same warm feeling.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Cole had nothing on under his denims so they were staying put or she’d be getting a sight more than her innocence could handle. He was harder than the rocks under his feet.  Maybe this dunking in the cool water was just what he needed to take his mind off what was waiting for him. He must have been out of his mind to agree to stand guard and let her swim in the creek. It was bad enough knowing that her young, ripe body was wet, that the fabric was clinging in places he yearned to touch, but she’d have to come out and he couldn’t count on not taking a peek. And if he did…she’d be getting her wish for sure.

He reached her in a few strokes, dipping under the water, his denim pants heavy against his legs, before popping up in front of her. She hooted at his antics and he felt just like that boy who played with her in the creek so many years ago. He’d never been carefree as a youngster, not with what had been going on at his house, but when he’d been with Kate playing in the creek or running in the woods, it had been the closest he had come to that state of mind, then or since.

He tried not to notice the damp tresses that clung to her face, tried not to see the little beads of water that settled on her long eyelashes, or the drops that kissed her lips like he wanted to. He tried to stop himself, but he couldn’t--just like the cool water hadn’t stopped the pulsing between his legs. He gently touched her shoulders, the branch holding her for his taking.

Kate had her lips tilted toward him, her breasts pushing out under her chemise, with nipples begging for his touch like some kind of offering. His shaft throbbed, pleading with his mind to take what she was giving.

This was the last time he’d see her, touch her, feel her. He silently cursed his helplessness.

His mouth swept over hers and he tasted her honeyed lips, caressing the softness of her wet tongue. Need gripped tighter as he ran his hands down her damp back. He pressed her to him and she wrapped her arms around his waist like a warm blanket on a cold day.

He kissed her, deep and hot, and his hands moved over her smooth, satiny skin. His fingers found the branch and eased the fabric from it while he kissed her again and again, tasting the cool water and her sweet lips.

He palmed her breasts and rubbed her hardened nipple until she moaned against his mouth. God she was passionate, with a body built for making a man happy. Melding to him, she rubbed against the fabric of his trousers. Tremors of pure pleasure surged through him.

He whispered her name as he searched for the forbidden entrance between her thighs until he touched the soft mound where he was sure no man had ever ventured. She sighed into his mouth but didn’t break away. He wanted more,
needed
more, and she was going to let him have more.

“Make me yours, Cole,” she whispered.

It was if something snapped in his mind. He released her so swiftly she almost tumbled. He couldn’t do it. She deserved more, better.

“No.” Not trusting himself to keep the promise of that word, Cole turned and waded for shore, not certain what he’d do when they both reached land.

Dripping water, his bare feet crunching over pine cones, branches, and rocks, he headed for his horse and the blanket attached to the back of his saddle. It wasn’t the cleanest blanket but it would at least keep her covered, keep the sight of her wet and willing body from his gaze.

When he turned back, she stood on the bank, water running down her chemise and pantalets, the fabric clinging to her so that nothing was left to the imagination. He swallowed hard and tried to pull his gaze from all that shapely flesh she was showing but it was a losing battle.

“Like what you see?”

That jerked his head up for a glimpse of the provocative smile on her lips.

“You know I do.”

“Show me.”

He’d like to. But he couldn’t. Kate deserved better than a tumble on dry pine needles like some floozy from the Red Bull. She deserved better than him. And she knew it. It was why she had felt she needed to sneak out to see him. And knowing he wasn’t good enough was the only thing keeping him from answering her invitation.

Instead, he steeled himself and walked the short distance, blanket stretched between his hands.

When he reached her, he wrapped it and his arms around her. He needed to hold her. One last time. He kissed her damp hair and willed himself to keep breathing. Unfortunately his own body was shivering, though not from the cold, but from the sheer force of will he was exerting.

“Let’s sit a spell and dry off,” he finally said when he thought his voice wouldn’t fail him.

At least with the faded blanket wrapped around her, he wouldn’t be as tempted. It would, however, be a while before the ache between his legs left. A while before either of them would be dry enough to go their separate ways.

They settled on the blanket where they had eaten. She sat across from him sitting cross-legged, his blanket wrapped around her, covering those breasts, but still revealing the shape of her beautiful legs under those pantalets. Warm blue eyes stared back at him, watching him as if she expected some sign.

“Do you want to be a bounty hunter?” she asked, breaking the awkward silence that had settled between them.

“What I want doesn’t matter.” He kept his voice even, intending to be honest with her. Now was not the time to let her see the turmoil his emotions were in. “But someday soon I’d like to see about raising horses, maybe out in Montana or Idaho Territory where they’re running wild.”

Her eyes widened.

“Too far for you, Kate.” He reached for her hand. This was, after all, the final time he’d be seeing her. He didn’t want his last memory to be filled with angry words. “I’m trying to do an honorable thing for once in my sorry life.”

“You don’t think you’re honorable?” Her face was crinkled in a frown.

“No, it’s
you
who doesn’t think I’m honorable.” If she looked like he’d just slapped her, well, the truth hurt sometimes. And he needed her to recognize the truth. “If you did, you’d have invited me to the house to court you proper instead of sneaking out to meet me in the woods like I’m some kind of criminal. Like you’re ashamed of me.”


To the house
? Would you have come?”

“Of course I would have come.” He scoffed. “I’m not afraid of Will Flanders. I’m not afraid of anyone, Kate.” Except her and the feelings she stirred in him.

“I’m not ashamed of you, Cole. Really I’m not. I never thought…well I’m sorry if I made you feel I was.” Her eyes held sincerity as she pulled the blanket tighter as if needing comfort.

“But you’re not proud of me either.” He ran his hand through his hair, trying to bide time to find some way to say what he had to say. “And I don’t blame you.”

“I am,” she pleaded in a voice asking him to believe her. “You’ve survived what would have broken others. Instead, it’s made you stronger. And I do love you, Cole.”

“Love me? Or pity me?” A lump formed in his throat at the importance of her answer.

“Love you.”

“But not enough to walk down the street at my side. Not enough to leave with me even if I have to be a bounty hunter a while longer. Not enough to leave your father.”

The words hung in the air. Cole waited, but he knew the answers to those questions. And so did she.

“Just as I thought.” Cole pushed down the sorrow rising through him, through his heart. He had no right to feel regretful that she was doing what he knew she had to do. The pain in his chest would ease in a couple of days—maybe weeks. But it would fade.

“No,
not
just as you thought,” she said, her tone clipped. “I’ll walk down the street with you right now and show you there is no reason you have to leave this town. Maybe you’ve got to love yourself, Cole, before you can believe that someone loves you. And maybe you’ve got to forgive yourself before you can expect the people of this town to forgive you.”

What the hell was she talking about? Forgive himself? Love himself? Before he could reply, his horse whinnied.

Cole jerked his gaze around to the trail. Someone was coming and coming in fast. With a lightening reaction that had allowed him to survive in his line of work, he reached for his gun and holster and had it strapped to his waist well before the bay gelding with the familiar rider had pulled to a stop.

Will Flanders sat on his horse with a rifle cocked and an expression as hard as stone.

“You liver-bellied, one-eyed mule of a sinner!”

 

“Daddy!” Kate yelled to stop her father as she gripped the blanket around her. She knew she had played with fire setting this confrontation in motion. She had to be sure no one got hurt.

Her father’s wild-eyed gaze shifted a fraction to take her in, but his eyes were still on Cole who stood rigid and alert, ready for action.

“Tell me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot the bastard here and now and be done with it,” her father spat out.

Out of the corner of her eye, Kate saw Cole’s hand hovering over his gun. Without hesitation, she slid in front of Cole and faced down the angry beast that was her father. She’d known violence was a possibility. Her ace card was that both these men cared about her, and she aimed to play it.

“I love him.”

“And nothing happened.” Cole’s voice was low and ominous. It held a warning she knew her father, given his state of mind, would not heed.

“Like hell nothing happened. You’re both undressed. Alone. And looking like the kids who just stole a cherry pie.”

“Tell him Kate,” Cole ordered.

She may not have gotten Cole to bed her, but these circumstances would do just as well.

“I’ll tell him that I’m going to marry you,” she said, still staring straight ahead at her father.

“Marry?” The word came out of Cole and her father’s mouths almost simultaneously, like two hawks screeching for the same mouse.

Her father lowered his rifle and stared at her as if she was out of her mind. Kate didn’t dare turn around and face Cole.

“I’m a ruined woman no matter what the truth is.” She held her voice calm and impassive. She was playing for high stakes and, though she’d never played poker, she’d watched her father bluff more than one poor cowhand out of his wages.

“Now wait a minute…” Both men were sounding like echoes of one another. If her future wasn’t depending on it, she’d be inclined to have a good laugh.

“And I want a real wedding. With the whole town invited. I’m not going to have it look like I’m ashamed to marry Cole Turner,” she continued waving her hand for emphasis.

“Kate, I ain’t proposing.” Cole’s voice was edged in anger. She whirled around. The fury wasn’t just in his voice; it was etched in every frown line of his face.

“Well, I am,” she declared.

“We’ve been through all this. I haven’t changed my mind.”

“You’re refusing my girl?” Her father slid down off his horse and puffed himself up like a bull frog, weapon in hand.

“Yes. She can’t marry a man she’s not proud of, doesn’t respect. Who’s always on the move, and leaving this territory for good.”

“My feelings exactly,” her father said, satisfaction riding his face. “Go then if you’re leaving.” He waved the rifle toward the trail.

This wasn’t going as she planned. Her father was supposed to make Cole marry her. She’d been caught in her pantalets and chemise with a man, for goodness sakes.

BOOK: Saving Cole Turner
11.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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