“He was shot.”
Both men’s eyes widened.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Walker murmured. “You must miss him keenly.”
I pushed back my chair at the ridiculous notion, then stood. “What about you, Walker?” I asked, steering the conversation away from me. “Why did you agree to this unusual marriage?” I pointed to the two of them as they stood as well. They certainly had good manners.
“To be honest, I want a woman in my bed every night.”
His bluntness caught me by surprise. “So no interest in a love match then?”
He tossed his napkin on the table, moved to pace the room. “I am a widower.”
I could hear the darkness in his voice, see the tenseness in his shoulders.
“Marrying again was not something I ever considered. But the new law forced Luke’s hand into marriage.” He shrugged, then turned to look at me. “It offered me the opportunity I had never considered before.”
“A woman deserves love in a marriage. Fair warning, you won’t get that from me. Not because I don’t think you are deserving, but because I just don’t have it to give. But you’ll get that from Luke. I’ll give you everything else: my protection, my money, my attention. My body.”
The idea of having continuous and permanent access to Walker’s body was definitely enticing, but it wasn’t enough. Wiping my hand over my face, I laughed, although without any amusement. “None of us want this. Luke, you’re marrying me out of duty—”
“I didn’t just fuck you out of duty,” Luke said, cutting off my words. “As for want, you wanted me as much as I wanted you.”
I could not argue, for it was true.
“Walker, you’re… marrying me for a lifetime of fucking.”
He ran a hand over the back of his neck. “Based on what I watched, it does not appear it will be a hardship for either of us.”
“All of us,” Luke clarified. “What about you, Celia? You deflected our questions. It’s time to bare all, sweetheart.”
He moving to lean against the back of the couch, arms crossed.
“I am the only one who has bared everything,” I countered, meaning I’d been naked while he’d remained fully dressed. They were not swayed by that diversion tactic and I sighed. “You want to know how my husband died?”
Luke offered a simple “yes,” then waited.
“My husband was shot in our marriage bed as he was fucking his mistress. The woman’s husband discovered their illicit activities and found them together. Killed them both.”
“Fuck,” Walker murmured, shaking his head.
“He left you without money?”
I glanced at both men, then away. They seemed more angry than upset.
“The house and any money in the bank went to his nephew.”
“Couldn’t you have worked as a nurse for another doctor?”
Putting my hands on my hips, I stared at Luke, narrowed my eyes. “You’re thinking like a man.”
“What doctor would hire a woman whose husband had been murdered, you mean,” Luke replied.
Walker shook his head. “No, it was worse than that, wasn’t it, doll? They blamed you. The husband, the town, everyone.”
Tears filled my eyes, but I blinked them away, refused to meet either of their gazes. I was used to John being distracted, never offering me his full attention. But with Luke and Walker, theirs didn’t waver and I was uncomfortable beneath their scrutiny.
“Ah, Celia,” Luke whispered.
I dropped my hands to my sides. “I should have been a better wife. Kept him happy. Gave him children. Satisfied so he wouldn’t stray.”
“There was something wrong with your husband, sweetheart, not you. Look at you.” Luke lifted his hand and his eyes grazed over my body. “You’re beautiful. You came alive in my arms, on my cock. Any man in his right mind would want you. Hell, I couldn’t even wait ten minutes.”
“I want you, too,” Walker added, putting a hand to the front of his pants and rubbing his cock.
I blushed at their words, thinking of how bold I’d been, how while I’d been bothered at first that Walker had walked in on Luke and me, I’d liked it.
“Without means, without a job and your name in disgrace, you decided to become a mail order bride,” Walker finished, breaking me from my carnal thoughts.
What he said was all true. Every bit of it. He wasn’t being cruel by saying it aloud, only honest.
But from my recounting, I’d left out Carl Norman, the brother of the man who’d killed John and his mistress. As I’d witnessed Neil Norman’s crime, my testimony had sealed his fate and he’d been hung within the week. Carl had first accosted me two days after the hanging and had dogged me about town ever since, blaming me for his brother’s death, threatening to kill me.