Lady Lavender - Page 34

He caught her hands, busy with the metal closings of his jeans, and lifted them against his bare chest. Quickly he shrugged his shirt off one shoulder, then tore the garment free.

She made a small sound and moved to the bed wearing only her lacy drawers. Wash shucked off his own drawers and reached for the tie at her waist. It came away in his hand. He splayed his fingers over the subtle swell of her stomach, then over the curve of her buttocks.

For a moment he couldn’t draw breath. She turned to face him and his throat closed up. She took one step forward and lifted her arms around his neck.

He could feel her naked body from his thighs to his chest. He caught her mouth under his and edged them to the bed.

Not much room in the bottom bunk. He wrapped his arms around her, pushed her down on the mattress, and rolled on top of her. He bit his lip. The mattress—her cornhusk mattress, he realized—made a scratchy rustle, and she choked off a laugh.

“Not funny,” he murmured. “Can’t move around much.”

She blew out a long sigh. “Then don’t.”

She arched upward and he forgot to breathe. He was poised right at her entrance. If she moved again he’d…

Then he was inside her, enveloped in velvety heat and softness, her hands urging him to thrust. He forgot all about the crackly mattress and did what she invited.

It was brief but intense. At his climax he kept himself from shouting aloud by biting down hard on his lower lip, but when her body began to spasm with her own release, she cried out and he covered her mouth with his.

Later, when their breathing returned to normal, they made love again, face-to-face, and slowly.

For hours afterward, Wash lay holding Jeanne in his arms, her warm body pressed against his, her head nestled between his neck and his shoulder. He hadn’t had a woman in four years, and yeah, he was more than a bit in need. But nothing—nothing!—had ever been like this. He felt different. Alive.

And scared like he’d never been before.

When the faint light through the gingham-curtained window shaded from gray to peach, he carefully edged away from her sleeping form, pulled on his jeans and shirt and carefully stepped out of the door carrying his boots in his hand.

Chapter Fourteen

Jeanne woke to find herself alone. She scrambled out of bed and flung open the door of the bunkhouse, but Wash’s horse was no longer tied up beside the wagon. In its place was the old rusty plow she’d seen last night. He must have ridden back to find it and dragged it over to the bunkhouse after…after they had made love last night.

She studied the worn-out farm implement and smiled. That man was remarkable. Formidable. Wash Halliday paid attention to her with more than his body. A shiver of remembered pleasure danced into her belly. Most of all she remembered the small things: his hands in her hair, his low voice murmuring her name, his tongue stroking her intimate places. Never had she experienced such a night!

All at once she wanted to weep. She gazed up into the dazzling blue morning sky, wondering about the man who had moved her so much. How did a man know when to thrust hard and when to take the time to draw things out?

Mon Dieu, she wanted it all over again!

She gazed down at the plow resting against the bunkhouse wall. And how did he know this was exactly what she wanted to find on this glorious morning?

She pivoted and reentered the bunkhouse. “Manette? Wake up, chou-chou. After breakfast we must ride into town.”

Carl Ness, the mercantile owner, gave Jeanne a friendly smile. She had feared the townspeople at first, even Monsieur Ness. She struggled to speak their language, and they thought her prickly and unfriendly. She was not unfriendly; she was so frightened she could scarcely swallow. But that she could never admit.

Now Carl shook his graying head. “No, Miz Nicolet, haven’t seen Colonel Halliday this morning. Might be he’s still sleepin’ over at Mrs. Rose’s boardinghouse where he stays. I heard there was some kinda fracas out at Jensens’ barn last night.”

“Ah, no, he cannot be sleep—” She bit her tongue just in time. Could he have left her bed and crawled into his own to get some real rest? Her cheeks grew warm.

“About your lavender wreaths, Miz Nicolet?”

“Ah, yes. I will bring my wreaths this afternoon.”

“And some more of them sachets?” he said eagerly. “My women customers keep askin’ about them, and about the Lavender Lady, too. Seems they can’t get enough of your pretty little bags of good-smelling herbs, especially in this heat.”

Jeanne spun toward the front door. “I will bring some,” she called over her shoulder.

Outside on the walkway in front of the mercantile Manette was perched in a bent rocking chair, watching a ladybug crawl over her palm. “I saw Monsieur Rooney,” she said without moving her uplifted arm. “He went inside that place over there.” She pointed to the Golden Partridge saloon. “Bon. But we shall not bother him. Come, I have work to do.”