A ghost? Yes, Carl Norman was a ghost and I had no idea how to make him go away.
I took a deep breath, let it out, then smiled, although weakly. “Nothing. I thought I saw a familiar face, but it couldn’t be. I know only you two here in Denver.”
The men didn’t seem so sure, continuing to appraise those on the sidewalk for a few more seconds.
“We should be going to make it to Jasper before dark?” I asked, hoping to prod them back into motion. Chills ran down my spine and it wasn’t from the cold. The sooner we were out of Denver, the better.
Luke patted my hand in the crook of his elbow and we continued on. This time, Walker walked beside me so I was flanked by two imposing men. I was reassured by their size and protectiveness, but I doubted it could keep Carl away.
We rode into Jasper two hours after dark. Snow was falling so the route was bright, but I was ready to get out of the cold and into bed with our bride. She’d ridden on her own for most of the journey, but the last few miles she grew weary—not that she complained—and Luke coaxed her to ride with him and he held her on his lap and let her animal be tethered to mine. I was mighty jealous of him holding her, but I was also glad for the distance, for I would have interrogated her like a witness in court if she were in my lap. With my new resolve in our marriage, I was impatient to know about the man on the street. I was possessive and protective and I needed to know, but I had to wait. At least until we were all warm again and fed.
She’d known the man, whoever the fuck he was. We’d watched her alight the train in Denver and had kept her well occupied, so she hadn’t seen him in town before. That meant she’d known him from before her arrival. Had he bothered her on the train or was he someone she knew from Texas? The way she’d reacted, equally stunned and afraid, was obvious to me, although she’d hidden it fairly well. That meant two things. She wasn’t expecting to the see the man and she wanted to keep him a secret.
On the street, I’d glanced at Luke but he hadn’t seen the man. His gaze had been focused on Celia. The stranger had disappeared quickly, as if, like Luke said, he’d been a ghost. He was no ghost. I’d seen the man’s smirk, the roiling anger in his gaze, directed squarely on Celia, without question. Why? And who the hell was he?
We’d find out soon enough, because a man like that, with anger directed at my wife, needed to be stopped. While I’d been reluctant to take a bride—especially because of the new town law—I’d given in because I wasn’t averse to the idea of a wife warming my bed again. But Luke had called me out when I climbed from the bed of a willing woman. From Celia. Hell, I’d been teaching her about ass play with my thumb. I was an asshole and an idiot, but I’d been fucking scared and panicked.
What other reason would a man climb from the bed he shared with a naked and well-sated woman?
I’d married Ruth when we were both so young. I’d thought it was love, but it had been youthful randiness on my part. She’d been beautiful and I’d wanted her in my bed. Ruth had wanted out of her zealous and strict parents’ house. So I made her mine and when I got her just where I wanted her, beneath me, she’d been… disinterested. I’d wanted to show her the fun that could be had in lovemaking, even some more unusual aspects of the act, but she’d gotten all she wanted. Escape. It had turned into a stale and empty marriage, but I’d vowed never to go through that again. To be bound to a woman for life, to a woman who kept you from love.
And so when I agreed to the plural marriage with Luke, it had been easy. I’d planned to let Luke worry about keeping her happy while I just enjoyed the… perks of the union . But she’d stepped of that train and destroyed every wall, every defense I had. One small smile, one look of surprise when our touch brought her pleasure and I never had a chance against Celia. I walked away this morning, not because I didn’t want her, but because I wanted her too much. I wouldn’t do it again.
I was a stupid fuck and I was going to make it right. I was going to give her everything.
As for Celia, while she was so open and passionate when we touched her, she had to learn that we were her husbands and there would be no secrets elsewhere in our marriage. She would not keep things from us. We would protect her at all costs. Whoever that man was, he would not even look at her wrong again. But to help her, she needed to talk. I was willing to do whatever it took to get her to open up, even if that meant tossing her over my knee and spanking her ass until she shared.