“I've half a mind to ride out of here tonight.”
“You can't.” He raised a hand toward her, but lowered it. “Don't you see? I'm your Sun. You're my Moon.”
“That's silly.” She paced back and forth, feeling like crying in anger and frustration. “The rattlesnake scared me. The maiden scared me. You scare me. For that matter, Indian Territory scares me. And it all makes me mad.”
“I'll keep you safe.”
“I thought my life was rough till I met you. I thought seeing and talking with ghosts was bad. I thought being a bride was the worst possible thing that could happen to me.”
“I let you lure me out of Texas with money. I let the Bend flatter me with money and paintings and friendship. I should have known you were all out to use me.” She stomped her foot in anger.
“No!” She finally burst into tears, caught between fear and anger.
“Do I need to shoot the sidewinder?”
“He's already dead to me.” She wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “I'm divorced! I know that's worse than seeing dead people.”
“I could have sworn you were untouched by a man.”
“He left me at our wedding reception and took off with the last of Grandma's money.”
“And he used it to become a whiskey peddler in Indian Territory.”
“He does need to be shot, doesn't he?”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Never.” He patted the blanket beside him. “That explains a lot. You must be after your groom. But why?”
“I want Grandma's money back.” She bit her lower lip. “If you think I'm greedy, that's just fine with me.”
“He stole from you and your family. He left you in a precarious position. You've got every reason to want what's yours back. You also have every reason to be proud of yourself for going after him.”
“Really?” She was surprised at his words. He sounded rational, but she didn't trust that anymore.
He patted the blanket again. “Please join me.”
Against the darkness, the campfire appeared safe and warm. She doubted she could find her way in the dark, even if she could stand to get on a horse so soon. She stepped into the light from the fire, but immediately realized her mistake when his gaze traveled from her face to her body, a smile quirking one corner of his mouth to reveal his dimple. She glanced down and groaned. She might as well have been nude.
“I need to get dressed.”
He picked up his shirt and tossed it to her. “Let our clothes dry first.”
She felt too tired, too confused to fight the situation any longer. She just wanted some peace and quiet to rest and heal. She slipped on his shirt and was enveloped in his scent. She sat down by the fire across from him and held out her hands. She shivered even as she felt the heat. She had to put things right, but she wasn't sure how to do it.
Lucky leaned forward, shadows from the firelight dancing across his face. “There's no need to be afraid. I'm not playing games. You do realize that you saw a ghost.”
She hesitated, thinking back over the experience. “Are you sure you didn't see her?”
“No, I didn't.”
“But why didn't you say so earlier?” Tempest rubbed the place over her heart that still hurt. “I've never had anything like that happen to me. She didn't act like a ghost. She touched the snake, or I thought she did.”
“Let me help you through this experience.”
“I understand ghosts, or at least normal ones.” She crossed her arms over her stomach, trying to get warm. She pulled his shirt tighter around her body, as if it could keep her safe. But no. She couldn't depend on any man, especially not one like him.
“You can't escape your fate any more than I can escape mine.”
“My life was pretty simple till I met you.” She stared into the fire, not wanting to look at him for fear her resolve would weaken. “I'm not at all sure our partnership is going to work out.”
He got up, stalked around the campfire, and held out his hand. “I'm your Sun. Let me prove it to you.”
Lucky couldn't lose Tempest now, not after they'd come so far together. He just needed to bring her over to his side.
She'd had a rough awakening by the Moon Rattler. He regretted it, but it wasn't surprising. Tempest hadn't been trained or prepared for the experience. He hadn't been warned to expect it, either. Like an unborn chick, she'd had her shell broken open too soon. Now she was unstable and vulnerable to any spirit, malicious or benign.
Tempest needed to be grounded, sealing in the Moon Rattler's gift. He had to complete the initiation. He knew several ways to do it, but only one quick way. He'd wanted to woo her and win her as his ladylove, but not till after they'd completed the mission. He hadn't wanted to chance their success. Now he didn't have a choice.
“Lucky?” She touched him with her fingertips.
He clasped her hand, shuddering with desire so strong that it took his breath away. He had to retain control of his body even as she succumbed to him. He hoped he had the strength to do it.
“I think she burned me or something. I don't know how a ghost could do that, but it hurts. Please take a look and tell me what you think.” She pulled open the shirt that she'd been clutching together.
At the sight of her lacy chemise accentuating more than covering her breasts with their rosy tips, he felt his control threaten to break. He knelt beside her, slipped the shirt down her arms, tugged it off, and set it aside.
He grasped her upper arms, and turned her so that she was illuminated by the firelight. She looked so delectable that it took him a moment to focus on the raised red area on the upper slope of her left breast. He wasn't surprised to see the mark. When it healed, she'd have her own Soleil Wheel, but hers would be an outline where his was solid. Negative to positive. Female to male. When combined, that power was energized, completed, and grounded.
He sat back, stroking down her arms to her hands. He hesitated, holding her fingers and gazing into her violet eyes. He wondered if she had Indian in her bloodline. She'd been born on Turtle Island, so she had a physical connection to the land. Many Europeans and their descendants carried second sight, even if most disavowed it. Rattlers mated or married outside their clan, so there was no taboo against what he was about to do. She was a rare Spirit Rattler, so her bloodline would be welcomed into his Rattler clan.
Raising her hand to his lips, he pressed a soft kiss to each fingertip. He only hoped she would understand when she learned the total truth. For now, he was her Sun and she was his Moon.
He pressed a kiss to the crimson place over her heart and felt power swirl against his lips. She hummed with ability. Maybe that was why he'd been placed with her. If he didn't take her for his Rattler clan, she'd be vulnerable to those more ruthless who would not hesitate to own and use her.
“I asked you to look, not touch.”
He smiled as he raised his head. “Didn't my kiss make it feel better?”
“No. It aches even more.”
“Did you rub against poison ivy out there?”
She glanced down. “I don't know. Is that what it looks like to you? I guess that makes more sense than a ghost mark.”
“I'm sorry if I scared you with the rattlesnake.”
“If they're sacred rather than a threat, it makes a difference. But I've never seen anyone dressed like that ghost. She must have been around a long time.”
“Did she say anything?”
“No. She was insistent about pointing to the northeast. Do you suppose she's connected to where you want to go?”
“I hope so.”
“I don't know why I got so sick.”
“You were shocked and scared by the snake.”
“That strange ghost didn't help matters.”
“I didn't, either.”
“If I'm seeing ancient ghosts, I may be able to help you.”
“I'm sure of it.” He raised her hands to his lips again and pressed warm kisses to her palms.
“What do you think you're doing?”
“Comforting you.” He kissed the inside of her wrist, ran his tongue over the soft flesh, and felt her pulse quicken.
She inhaled sharply, but didn't pull away.
“Let me make it up to you.” He kissed her other wrist.
“Did you ever get your wedding night?”
“No.” She spoke in a husky whisper.
“I've admired you from the first.” He planted hot kisses up her arm to the soft flesh on the inside of her elbow. He lingered there, tracing the indentation with his tongue, and then nipped the fragile skin.
She inhaled sharply. “I've always thought you so beautiful.”
“I'm more than that.” He trailed warm kisses up the inside of her other arm, sucking gently on the sensitive flesh.
“Are you saying that you'll give me my wedding night?”
“I'll give you whatever you want. I owe you for the fright.” He felt her shiver under his touch.
“What if I don't know what I want?”
“We can discover that together.”
“I think ladies are warned about men like you.”
“Warned to take advantage of us?”
He trailed kisses up to her shoulder. “Warned to have your way with us?”
“You know what I mean.”
“But we're the vulnerable ones.” He kissed up to the sensitive area where her shoulder met her neck. And bit, ever so lightly, then laved with his tongue.
She caught her breath. “How so?”
“You set us on fire.” He bit harder and felt her shiver, so he moved upward to her earlobe and bit and sucked and nibbled until he elicited a moan. “You make us burn for you.” He placed kisses across her jaw to her chin, to her lips. “Our cocks hurt.” He stopped and raised his head to look at her.
“Oh.” She gazed at him with eyes the color of rich, ripe, juicy plums.
“Shouldn't something be done about it?”
She widened her eyes as if in contemplation of hot, hard shafts. “What?”
He cocked his head, as if considering the dilemma. He toyed with one strap of her chemise, running his fingertips over it, under it, and then slipping it down so that it dangled over her arm. “That's better.”
“Such beautiful skin shouldn't be marred with coarse fabric.”
“That's fine lawn.”
“Silk would be coarse compared to your skin.”
He toyed with her other strap, taking his time even though his cock was straining to break free. He could see her nipples tightening into hard buds under the sheer fabric of her chemise. He tugged the strap up and down, revealing a little more of the slope of her breasts each time. And when he thought neither of them could stand the suspense any longer, he jerked down the strap and her chemise fell to her waist.
She inhaled sharply, causing her naked breasts to rise and fall.
He took his time looking at her, feasting on her beauty, enjoying what had been denied him. He glanced up at her face. She was sucking on her lower lip, white teeth worrying the plump flesh. And he wanted her luscious mouth on his cock that moment, nipping him, licking him, sucking him.
“You are the perfect example of why men are in such pain,” he growled, hurting with the denial of his own needs.
She tossed her head. “I'm doing nothing but sitting here.”
“Do you think you should be punished for hurting us?”
She shook her head, watching him warily.
He allowed himself the luxury of clasping her breasts. They filled his hands like ripe melons, soft yet firm. As he squeezed, he rubbed his thumbs back and forth across her nipples until they swelled under his touch. He leaned forward and flicked each nipple with the tip of his tongue, then bit and licked and sucked until she shivered and moaned. He pressed a soft kiss to the red area over her heart, but resisted inflaming it more.
“Is this . . . punishment?” she panted.
He raised his head as he continued to massage her breasts. “Are you in pain?”
“Where most of all?”
She squirmed, rubbing her thighs together.
She shook her head, glancing downward.
He slid his hands from her rib cage to her waist, where he spanned the small circumference. He tucked his thumbs under the waistband of her drawers and found her navel. He stroked the indentation with one thumb and then the other while she squirmed and wiggled, growing more heated by the moment. He massaged over her hips and down until he clasped her rounded butt with both hands. He squeezed, lifted her up, and set her on his lap so that she straddled him.
“This is indecent.” She sounded prim, but excited, too.
“Do you want me to stop?” He nuzzled her neck. She smelled like violets and tasted like honey.
“Maybe this shouldn't go too far.”
“How far is far?”
“I don't know.”
He kissed her lips, nibbling and sucking, licking and biting until she opened her mouth and he plunged deep inside with his tongue.
She moaned and threw her arms around his bare shoulders, digging in her nails as she pushed her breasts against his chest.
He massaged the round globes of her butt, slowly rucking up the fabric so that he could get to the heart of her. At the same time, he stroked his shaft back and forth across her small, hot nub, knowing the friction and roughness of the material would set her on fire. Soon she wiggled against him, rubbing on the ridge of his blue jeansâcovered prick with growing urgency. He pillaged her mouth, tasting her sweetness, drinking her essence.
When she shivered against him, he used one hand to press her back so that he crushed her breasts against his chest. With the other, he slipped under her lacy drawers to the hot, wet core of her. She stiffened for a moment, but he didn't give her time to think. He stroked her plump lower lips with his long fingers until she writhed against him, and then he thumbed her swollen bud until she stiffened and shuddered and moaned into his mouth.
He continued to stroke her, inside and out, until she collapsed in his arms, spent and weak and pliant.
Not quite his yet, but almost there.