The Raging Hearts: The Coltrane Saga, Book 2 (4 page)

BOOK: The Raging Hearts: The Coltrane Saga, Book 2
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“Then you will be expecting for a damn long time, sir!” she sputtered.

“And stop cursing. You sound like a trollop.”

Sam laughed.

“I’ll curse when I want. Damn you, you bastard! Just who do you think you are? One minute you’re tender and loving, and the next you’re hateful. I’ll never marry you. I’ll never subject myself to being your slave. I’ll never marry any man. You’re all alike. And I am going into Goldsboro, if I have to walk every step.”

She whirled around and grabbed his sword from the saddle. Her fury only increased as Sam and Travis stood there with hands on their hips laughing until they were almost breathless. Kitty felt so foolish, standing there with the heavy sword held over her head. She didn’t want to think about what she might do if either of them took a step toward her.

“Sam, I think the river is close by,” Travis said. “Will you see if you can find me a nice, quiet spot?” Sam nodded, still laughing, and went crashing through the bushes. “Kitty, you know you’re acting like a child. Now, put down that sword and come here and apologize. Then I might go easy on you.”

“You bastard! You just step over there to the side of the road and stay out of my way while I get on your horse. I’m riding into town. I’m going to the hospital to see how things are. They probably need help badly, with wounded from both sides.”

“I’m sure they do, and I will see that you get there tomorrow. But you aren’t going in until I do, so I can see that you are protected.”

“How noble,” she said tartly. “You care for me as you do your horse, making sure I have plenty of oats and a roof over my head. You don’t own me, Travis Coltrane, and with your attitude, I never will marry you!”

“Well, now, I’m not so sure I want to marry you now, anyway.” His grin was infuriating. “I think I’ll just make you my mistress. Then, when I get tired of your temper—as I’m sure I will—I can just boot you out.”

“Oh, damn you, Travis Coltrane. I hate you!”

Just then Sam stepped out of the brush, his eyes shining. “I found a perfect spot, nice and private, right by the river’s edge. We can bathe and rest up till tomorrow. Right now I’m going to hightail it after a rabbit I just spotted, ’cause I aim to see him on a spit for our supper.”

Travis stepped toward Kitty and snatched the sword from her upraised hands so quickly that she had no time to hold on. He led his horse by the reins with one hand, gripped Kitty’s elbow tightly with the other, and began to make their way down an incline and through the brush.

The river was not very wide, and it rolled along sleepily, undisturbed by the thousands of Union soldiers gathered along a bridge farther down. Birds trilled in the trees overhead, and a large turtle plunged from his resting place on a fallen trunk as the intruders crashed through the brush near him.

“Take off your clothes.” Travis gave her a rough shove as he tied the reins of his horse to a nearby tree. Kitty stood frozen, blinking at him in disbelief. His eyes flashed. “I said take off your clothes, woman. They’re all you have at the moment, but if you want them torn from you so you can ride into town naked tomorrow, so be it.”

He took a step forward, and she threw up her hands to ward him off.

Muttering an oath, Kitty began to remove the filthy uniform. Then she went to the river and bent down, trying to scrub some of the grime from the thin material. She was quite aware that Travis was watching her, his eyes raking over her naked buttocks and large, firm breasts.

When she had twisted, wrung and beaten the clothes on rocks, sure that they were as clean as she was going to be able to get them, Kitty hung the garments on a bush to dry, then stepped behind the bush and crouched down. “I am not coming out of here until my clothes are dry. I am not going to parade around in front of you naked, like some trollop.”

“Oh, you’ve been naked with me before and haven’t minded. True, there were times when you pretended to object, for the sake of your silly female pride, but I remember nights when we slept in each other’s arms, bare flesh touching, and you loved it. I remember that we even swam naked together on occasion, and you seemed to like that.”

“Will you just shut up?” She covered her ears with her hands, furious. “And leave me alone? Why do you take such pleasure in tormenting me? You say you love me, yet you try to humiliate me at every turn…”

When he spoke, he was right behind her, and she jumped in surprise. “I do love you, Kitty, and you force me to humiliate you to keep you in line.”

“Does giving orders make you feel like a man? What will you do when the war is over and you can no longer order your men about?”

“I’m not worried about my men—just my woman,” he murmured, pulling her into his arms roughly. “Now come here and be my woman. Show me how much you love me and want me. Seeing you like that tears me up and you know it. You’ve got the most exquisite breasts I’ve ever touched…”

He reached to cup her breasts in his hands, and she shoved him away. “Don’t you dare touch me after the way you have talked to me.”

He chuckled. “You know, I’d almost forgotten that I promised you a sound spanking.” And before she could turn to flee, he grabbed her by her wrists, sat down on a stump and pulled her over his knees. Maneuvering to hold both her wrists with one hand over her head, he used his right hand to begin soundly smacking her bare bottom.

“Stop that!” she screamed, kicking her legs wildly. “How dare you, Travis? Stop that this minute, you bastard.”

“Is that any way for a lady to talk?” He laughed, bringing his hand down harder, watching the white flesh turn a fiery red. “Aren’t you ashamed? You, a genteel Southern woman, using saloon talk? I’d say you deserve a very hard spanking, my sweet, if you’re to learn your lesson.”

Kitty continued to struggle helplessly. But as Travis’s hand kept slapping her bottom, his blows became slower, his fingers pausing to caress the tender flesh. And then he stopped spanking her altogether, fingers smoothly stroking her buttocks as he murmured, “Are you ready to apologize, my sweet? Wouldn’t you rather have me love you than chastise you?”

And without waiting for an answer, he rolled her over on his lap, hands milking her breasts. He bent to touch his lips adoringly to each rosy nipple, working them to hard, tight points. Kitty closed her eyes, melting beneath his touch. He knew how to make her helpless with desire. The fight was gone from her body, replaced by the surge of passion only he could arouse so fiercely. Winding her arms about his neck, she pulled him toward her till their lips met. They tumbled gently to the ground, and he spread her thighs and positioned himself between them.

“My little spitfire,” he chuckled, fumbling with his clothing. “You make conquest so sweet, my love, because your spirit is so stubborn and hot. But I have learned you well in the time we’ve had together. I know how to make you writhe and moan.”

“Never leave me, Travis,” she murmured. “When you hold me like this, I feel as though nothing can ever hurt me again.”

“And if I can help it, nothing will. Trust me, Kitty. As I’ve told you, I never thought I could bring myself to believe in another woman, but I am taking that chance with you. Don’t fail me. Do as I ask. Ride with the Union ambulance wagons till the war comes to an end. It won’t be much longer. Then we can start our life together and forget all the pain of the past.”

He had moved from her body, and she struggled to her feet, suddenly embarrassed and self-conscious over her nakedness. Running to the river’s edge, she threw herself into the water. Travis followed her. When they were side by side, submerged to their necks, Kitty turned to him. All her pain was in her gaze.

“I do love you. You must believe that, Travis. I know I am everything you say I am—stubborn, willful, and I know that sometimes I am anything but ladylike. When other girls were learning to tat and embroider and weave, I was slipping away to hunt and fish with my father. My real love was medicine. I had dreams of being a doctor one day.”

“Kitty, I know all those things about you. Your father spent many hours talking of the daughter he loved with all his heart. But I don’t see what that has to do with our future. I love you the way you are.” He winked at her mischievously. “I know how to control that stubborn streak of yours, my love.”

She tried to return his smile but the effort was futile. “Travis, you say you understand me. Then why don’t you realize that I have to fulfill my father’s dream? I must keep my promise to him about the Wright land. I can’t leave here.”

He smacked the water with the palm of his hand, sending an angry shower into the air. “Damn it, woman, why can’t you see the obstacles you will face if you try to stay here? These people hate you as they hated your father. They burned the farm.”

“But why should they hate me? I nursed their wounded. I’ve stood on my feet till every muscle in my body cried out for rest, trying to save the lives of the Confederate soldiers. I’ve gone without food myself to give my portion to a wounded man. People here know I did not share my father’s feeling for the North. It was by accident that I fell into your hands and was forced to travel with you.”

“They won’t see it that way,” he argued. “Kitty, the word will get out about Nathan Collins’ death, and the version that spreads will be distorted. You will be blamed. He will be a hero and martyr for killing your father—a man your neighbors considered a traitor. They won’t want you in Wayne County. Can’t you get that through your head? And you are even so foolish as to think
I
could stay here with you. A Union soldier! Now, how do you think they would react to that?”

“But the North is going to win the war,” she protested. “You said so yourself. The South is beaten. Who would dare make trouble with a Union soldier?”

He threw back his head and laughed, the sound echoing around them in the stillness of the forest. “Oh, my sweet, you are so naïve. You think the hatred between the two sides will end when the South surrenders? Sometimes I think it will be worse then. No, you and I would be wise to leave this part of the country and settle elsewhere.”

“I won’t leave my home.”

“I think we had better talk about this later, Kitty. When we ride into Goldsboro, and you have a chance to see what kind of reception you receive, you will realize that our only chance for happiness is to put down roots elsewhere.”

He began sloshing water over his body. Kitty began scrubbing herself, but her thoughts were on the farm and her promise to her father. She loved Travis, but she had to make him see that part of her heart was here.

It had to work out, she thought fiercely, scrubbing at her skin. She had been through too much, suffered enough, without more heartache lying ahead. With Travis beside her, she could face anything. Together, there was no obstacle they could not conquer.

Chapter Three

Travis reined his horse in line with General Sherman’s troops as they prepared to ride into Goldsboro. Kitty, sitting behind him, arms about his waist, was self-conscious and uneasy. The other soldiers were staring openly at her. One of them, a burly man in a bloodstained uniform, grinned with rotten teeth and called, “Hey, Cap’n Coltrane, you already enjoying the spoils of war? That filly don’t look spoiled to me.”

The others guffawed.

Kitty felt Travis tense. Then he wilted the grinning soldier with a look. “Watch your tongue, mister, or you may lose it.”

“It’s going to be this way. I know it is, Travis,” Kitty said nervously, clinging to him even tighter. “I can’t ride into town with you. Just let me go. I’ll find my way in alone. I know every inch of these woods. I can meet you later in town. Everyone is going to wonder why you have a woman riding with you.”

“I can’t let you go, Kitty. You see how these men are reacting, even when you ride under the protection of an officer. They’re marching into a town they’ve taken without a fight, and they’re out to celebrate. You wouldn’t last five minutes before they’d have you stripped and raped.” She shuddered. He felt the movement and reached to pat her thigh. “I’m sorry, Kitty. I have to ride in with my men. It’s the general’s orders. Once we arrive, I’ll find a room for you at the hotel and keep you out of sight.”

“I want to go to the hospital.”

“I thought you said you were sick of war, that you didn’t want to be around dying and suffering any longer. The hospital will be full of soldiers from both sides.”

“I know that,” she said quietly, pushing back a strand of her strawberry hair. “I feel I have to go there. I’m not the only one who’s tired of war. Everyone has had their fill. But Dr. Holt was understaffed when I left, and he’ll have his hands full with both sides bringing in wounded.”

“Johnston took his with him.”

“I know. I was going, too, when Nathan forced me to go with him. Oh, God, if only he hadn’t.”

A bugle sounded and she felt Travis straighten in the saddle. All about them, men came to attention. They were bedraggled, weary, filthy—but at the sound of the brass, they came alive.

As the bugle’s call faded, the men moved their horses forward in columns of four abreast. As though a silent command had been given, they broke into song. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”

Kitty frowned. The Battle Hymn of the Republic. They could sing of God in a battle song, as though using His name gave them the right to plunder and kill. She bristled. The song was a sacrilege.

They finished their patriotic tune, and before they could join together in another Yankee song, Kitty straightened and lifted her face to the wind, her voice ringing out clearly. “Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten, look away…look away…look away…Dixie Land…”

BOOK: The Raging Hearts: The Coltrane Saga, Book 2
7.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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