Butterflies fluttered in my belly as I looked at him. His fair hair was short and neatly trimmed. His eyes, so fair and yet intense, were beneath a strong brow. His nose seemed to have a slight crook to it, as if it had been broken at one time. While it appeared he had shaved earlier in the day, whiskers dusted his square jaw and I wondered if it would feel raspy against my palm.
The entire journey from Texas I’d wondered and fretted as to the man to whom I’d been matched. Would he be just like John—a well-respected man with absolutely no conscience or values? I hadn’t had to share much of my past with Mrs. Carstairs at the establishment that matched men to mail order brides. My past had preceded me certainly, but women who came to her had varied reasons for wanting to be sent to marry a stranger. I was sure she’d heard it all, even a story like mine. The underlying reason though was most likely the same. Desperation.
I had been desperate to escape Texas the only way a woman with no money or job could. That did not mean I hadn’t been wary and doubting my choice for the thousand miles it took to arrive in Denver. The relief of finding Luke visually appealing was a start; however, John had been an attractive man, educated too, but a philanderer, so that did not allay all of my concerns. Only time would tell if Luke was the same.
I was wary about my attraction to him. It was instant. The moment I saw him on the station platform holding the Bible, I’d been interested. Intrigued. Immediately overwhelmed. Newfound desire had coursed through me, heating me at just the sight of him. I’d shivered when I stood before the two men. It hadn’t been from cold, but the heavy feel of their attentions on me. Yes, both of them. It wasn’t just Luke that had made me feel… curious, but his brother, Walker, too.
He’d been just as attentive as Luke, just as solicitous. His hair and eyes were dark, but it was obvious that they were brothers. Even in physique they were different; Walker was a touch taller and leaner. While Luke had offered a soft smile that softened the look in his eyes, Walker appeared to be more of a brooder. Intense, but no less kind.
But it was Luke who approached me now; Walker had not come to the suite with us. My heart leapt into my throat with the realization that this handsome man was my husband. Mine, and he would soon touch me, hopefully in a way I’d wanted for so long.
Without saying a word, he lifted his hands to my head, removed my hat. I breathed in his clean scent and tried to calm my racing heart. Blunt fingers ran over my hair, then tugged the pins from my prim bun.
“I’ve been wanting to see your hair down, to feel it,” he murmured, his eyes on his ministrations.
I held myself still and let him touch me. Once all the pins were removed, my hair uncoiled and spilled long down my back. It was unruly, with a wayward curl to it. Luke grunted out what I had to hope was satisfaction as he ran his fingers through the strands. My eyes fell closed at the decadent feel of it.
“Like spun gold,” he murmured. When he gently placed his hands on my shoulders, I looked up at him and watched as his eyes lowered to my mouth. “I’m going to kiss you.”
“Yes,” I breathed, my heart beginning to gallop like a runaway horse. I wanted that so very much.
His lips were gentle and soft. Only for a moment. Then the kiss turned carnal and deep, his tongue slipping into my mouth as I gasped. The kiss was startling, for it was like instant heat. Desire pulsed through my veins and settled between my thighs. My hands took hold of his shirt and gripped tightly as his own hands cupped my face. His palms were callused, but warm.
I had no idea how long we stood there before the fire, but Luke eventually lifted his head and I whimpered. His eyes were a dark green, narrowed and clouded with need.
I couldn’t catch my breath.
“This suite has a washroom. A tub with hot water.” His eyes stayed fixed on my swollen lips. “Bathe. Relax, for when you come out, I will have you well occupied.”
“You… you don’t have to wait,” I said. My voice was unfamiliar, breathy and eager as I admitted my needs.
The corner of his mouth tipped up as his knuckles raked over my cheek. “So brave,” he said with a groan. “I am not denying you. Quite the contrary. I only have so much control, sweetheart.” He tilted his chin in the direction of the washroom. “I wish for you to scrub the journey from your skin, to take a minute to yourself before I possess you.”
Possess. Oh God. Not take, or claim or even fuck. Possess was… more. So much more.
Offering a wobbly nod, I turned to the bathing room.
“Celia,” he called.
I looked at him over my shoulder.