“Like maybe God would send me with a little suitcase full of essentials?”
“You’re laughing at me.”
“No.” She surprised Rixen by winking up at him. “You’ve been really sweet to me, as far as kidnappers go. You get a glowing report.”
Was she flirting with him or being sarcastic? If only he’d studied books about female behavior, maybe he wouldn’t be so lost right now. He nodded to the camera around her neck. “Do you want to take some pictures, my gift?”
“I’m dying to. This place is kind of scary, but…it’s eerily pretty.” She blew out a breath and let go of his hand to point into the distance. “See how those shafts of sunlight split apart the trees. I want to shoot it from, like, ninety angles. Different exposures.”
Rixen’s earlier hope returned. When they sat at the kitchen table and she’d confided about her desire to learn a location’s secrets and photograph it, he’d started to glimpse possibilities. Yes, the swamp could be an intimidating place, but he knew from experience people could adapt. Rixen was born to this land, along with his brothers. But some came here to escape the demands of society, others were brought here—like his sisters-in-law. Once Morgan knew how to navigate the Everglades in a safe manner, she could learn to call it home. Even learn to be happy. With him. “Go. I would like to watch you work.”
Excitement danced in her features. “Won’t we be late?”
He caught her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing her knuckles. “You are most important, Morgan.”
They stared at one another for a long moment and Rixen’s heart started to pound triple time, his intuition telling him Morgan was beginning to feel something for him. Why else would that pulse at the base of her neck be fluttering so fast, her eyes softer than usual as their bodies moved closer, closer beneath the trees. As if gravity wouldn’t allow for anything else. Before he could bend forward and kiss her exquisite mouth, though, she danced away and began taking pictures, her skin noticeably flushed.
Rixen did his best to content himself watching Morgan crouch down and go up on her toes to catch different angles, even though his cock was a stiff rod inside his jeans. At one point, she couldn’t get high enough for a shot, so Rixen threw her up on one shoulder. It felt so good providing a place for her to rest, he continued the remaining distance to his brother’s house with Morgan seated there. Her creamy, naked thighs so close to his mouth did nothing to ease his aroused condition, but the sound of her giggle sent a happy jolt to his heart.
That happy jolt waned when his youngest brother answered the door, a toothpick stuck in the corner of his mouth. The little piece of wood fell to the ground when he caught sight of Morgan, his posture going from lazy to alert. “This…” Rod started. “This is your bride, Rixen?”
Morgan shifted from her perch. “Bride?”
The awe in Rod’s voice had not pleased him. In fact, nothing about his brothers pleased him, but they were family and Rixen, as the oldest, refused to shirk his commitment to them. It was written in blood, whether he liked it or not. “Yes.” He let Morgan slide off his shoulder, catching her against his chest. “She is mine.”
His middle brother, Gus, joined Rod in the doorway. “No way.” He gave a rasping laugh. “Is she blind or some shit?”
“Yeah.” Both brothers doubled over, laughing in earnest now. “She couldn’t have actually seen you, brother.”
Gus took a step closer—too close—and Rixen growled, curving his body around Morgan protectively. “Blink twice if you’re being held against your will,” Gus said on the tail end of a guffaw. “Girl looks like you, she has to have better options. Any other options.”
Dread settled in Rixen’s belly. This was it. Morgan was going to seek aid from his own brothers. The men who’d been ridiculing him since they learned how to speak. Since they realized he was bigger and uglier than everyone else. Instead, Moran skirted around Rixen and extended her hand toward Gus and Rod. “I’m Morgan. The gift. Nice to meet you.” She shook both of their hands. “Now if you’re finished being dicks, maybe you could invite us in?”
As they ate their meal, Morgan quickly saw what was happening in this corner of the swamp. Rixen’s brothers were awful people. Truly awful. They poked fun at Rixen, insulting him, trying to get a rise out of him. And he never once took the bait, simply making sure Morgan had everything she needed, watching her eat with affection written on his features.
Gus and Rod were jealous of their older brother. It was obvious. He was bigger, smarter, smelled better, had more patience and the sweeter crib. Even their wives, who mostly remained quiet in the midst of their husbands’ obnoxious mealtime antics, seemed relieved to have Rixen around. As if he was proof that men could be decent, even if theirs couldn’t.