He always slept well, at least that’s what he wanted everyone to think. Truth was he never did. And tonight was no exception. Only exception was, tonight he knew why.
Pressing into the mattress, he shifted his weight back toward the headboard. With the movement came pain, a welcome distraction. His wound was still raw and warm to the touch. The stitches pulled, and he was hot, too hot. Heat from the day had penetrated every inch of the tiny room leaving the air feeling thick and heavy. Movement, any movement, was an effort and his fever left him with little desire to try. But there was another fire burning, a blaze so hot he couldn’t sleep.
Every inch of him longed for her, desired her, and it was wrong, so very wrong. She’d tended to his wound and cooled his fever. She’d fed him, bathed him; doctored him. She took care of his every need, except one. And it was that one that was driving him wild.
Dios, it was only natural for him to hunger for a beautiful woman. Hair, as dark as a moonless night, eyes the color of gleaming copper. And her scent, earthy, like after a spring rain.
It wasn’t true love. There was no room in his heart or his life for such foolishness. But it was a need as real as his need for water or food.
He’d been in this bed, this room; this house, too long. Her touch caused his skin to tingle and his shaft to ache. And it was only a matter of time before he… He shook his head, trying to wipe clean the image that caused him to suck in a shuddering breath.
Gathering his strength he rolled off the bed and dropped his feet to the floor. He felt stronger than he had in days, which wasn’t saying a whole lot. He had to do this, it was time. His blanket, damp with sweat fell at his feet, and he kicked it out of the way.
The room was near empty, her possessions few. There were no dressers or drawers. You needed to own things for that, and this family had next to nothing when he arrived. They had less now. Maybe it was for the best. But, it was hard knowing; harder believing.
He lifted his pants from the peg on the wall and, feeling their weight, couldn’t help but wonder how this simple task would get done. And beyond that, how would he saddle his pinto? No sense thinking too far ahead, one step at a time. He dropped heavily back onto the bed and cringed at the loud creak, waking them would be a mistake. Tugging the leather over his damp skin took all he had. It was too much of a bother to button them.
The door, from the small room to the rest of the house, scraped against the floor. He froze for a moment, not wanting to wake her or the kids. Little of the moonlight had found its way to this side of the house, and he took a minute to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Across the room, all three kids were curled together like a litter of puppies. He couldn’t help but smile. During the day they were never quiet and rarely still. Now they were both. A contented sigh shifted his gaze, and he saw her, lying on a pallet by his feet. A soft laugh tumbled from her lips, followed by mumbled words. She was lost in a dream. The sight of her caused him to suck in a halting breath. Her nightshirt was twisted about her waist, and she lay open to him. He felt his length harden, and he reached out, aching to touch her, to feel her warmth. He stopped, swallowing back the desire. Instead he returned to his room, grabbed the discarded blanket and covered her before stepping out the door.
Once outside he leaned back against the rough-hewn boards and struggled to regain control. Dios, he didn’t belong here. He didn’t belong anywhere, but especially not here. Not after what he’d done. Not with what he wanted to do.
Pain, his familiar friend, worked its magic once again and quieted his racing mind. Stepping away from the house he let the moon be his guide. His course should have led to the barn, to his horse, but he found himself moving in another direction.
He could hear it now, the river, rushing past on its way to somewhere else. It’s what he was supposed to be doing, moving on. Clearing the line of trees, it came into view. The moon’s glow bounced off its ripples as it splashed over the rocks. Then, where the deep pools formed it was black and still. The thought of its cool waters touching his heated skin caused a shiver to pulse through him.
He walked along the bank, searching for a spot where he could reach out and touch the water that called to him. Sweat trickled down his back and his breathing had become ragged. He slipped on some loose stones and the jolt of pain forced out an unexpected moan. Dios, he was done in and his old friend was making damn sure he knew it.
Easing himself down, he knelt over the water and splashed his face and neck. Then, he bent low and dipped his whole head under. What he really wanted was to wade in, let the swift current wash away his aching desire. What the hell was wrong with him? Since when did Madrid ever care about shit like that? Damn, been with enough women. Never once cared what happened to them after he’d gone. Course, neither did they. Whores mostly, shit; they were all whores, maybe not in how they earned a living, but in how they lived their lives. She was different, settled with kids for God’s sake. Worse, she was still married. Leastwise, she was until he showed up. How much more damage did he plan on doing?
He lay back in the grass, his head resting on entwined fingers. The position caused some pain, but not nearly enough. Not that or the blanket of stars overhead was enough to stop his thinking. Her scent, her gentle touch, each thought filled him with need. His body responded just as it had earlier. How long could he resist?
The snap of a twig brought his gun to bear. He released his held breath before dropping back down to the grass, propping himself up with his elbows. The moon hovered low in the sky. Its soft light wandered through her flimsy nightshirt, revealing the bow of her breasts, the curve of her hips and the pinch of her waist.
“You scared me,” she said.
“I’m sorry. You shouldn’t sneak up on me.”
She waved her hand in front of her face. “Not that. I thought you’d left.”
“That was the plan.”
“You know you’re not ready.” She kneeled beside him, her hand coming to rest on the edges of his bandage. He hissed at her touch. “Didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Do you still have a fever?” she asked, reaching out with her other hand.
He pulled back. “Does it matter? I need to leave.”
“I don’t understand. Why?”
Grateful for the shadow she cast, he didn’t want her to see how hungry he was for her. He laughed softly. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe ‘cause I don’t belong here, in your bed, in your house. Your husband is dead because of me. And yet…” He paused fighting the urge to wrap her in his arms. “…you help me.”
Her head was down, her fingers ran along the edges of his bandage, his stomach shuddered at her touch. “I’m better off, you know. I’ve known for a while that things weren’t right, he wasn’t right. Not being able to put food on your table can do things to a man, change him in ways you never think possible.” She turned her head to look at him. “I’m not trying to defend the things he did, just explain them. Does that make sense to you?” She reached out once more and this time he let her brush the wet strands of hair from his face. “Besides, what kind of woman would I be, if I sent you out - sick like you are? Knowing it was his actions that brought you to this place.” She frowned at the warmth radiating from his skin. “I’d be no better than him.”
“You could never be like him.”
A tear glistened as it trailed down her cheek. “I’m not so sure,” she said softly.
Their eyes locked as he brushed the tear from cheek. In surrender she pressed her face into the cup of his hand and closed her eyes. He traced her full lips with his thumb then pulled her close, covering her mouth with his. Lips parted and he moaned at his first taste of her.
Hands reached for him pulling him close and there was no turning back. Soft fingers traveled down his back as she pulled away from their kiss. Her tongue traveled down his throat and he gave in to her touch. His breaths quickened. He could think of nothing but having her.
Straddling him, she rubbed herself on his hardness. He pressed up, lifting her off the ground. Her groan nearly finished things for him right then.
Her tongue circled lower and lower, her hands pushed away his unbuttoned pants, freeing his erection. He watched as she took him in her mouth. Unable to control the natural urges he bucked into the wet heat. Her tongue flicked his tip sending shivers through him, never had it been like this. Never had the need for release pulsed through every muscle. He thrust deep and felt the explosion of his passion. Panting he gave in to the shuddering release.
Wearing a look of satisfaction she kneeled over him, eyeing him with delight as she gathered the last traces of him from her lips. “It is I who has been selfish. You are an answer to my prayers.”
“I offer nothing and I’ll never stay, how does that…?”
She pressed a finger to his mouth. “Hush.” Grabbing the bottom of her nightshirt she lifted it over her head. The moon’s white light fell over her body revealing the bruises and scars of repeated attacks. “Only where it doesn’t show. That is what he told me. He made sure no man would ever want me. Do you still think this moment a gift, or are you sickened by the sight of me?”
For a minute or two he said nothing, lost in the beauty of this woman before him. She must have taken his silence as disgust, because she began to pull away and thread her arms into her shirt. He sat up and took the shirt from her hands, letting it fall into the grass. Wrapping his arms around her, he ran his fingers over her back, caressing the puckers and ripples of each scar she bore. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met. And your gift was most generous.”
He pulled her down with him and gently positioned her beneath him. Feeling his passion stir once more he devoured her with his mouth, running his tongue over every inch. His fingers found her entrance, and she moaned loudly at his touch. Her breaths grew jagged and he felt her quiver in satisfaction. Before her breaths quieted she reached for him, and pressed his length into her hot opening. Together their excitement climbed, his thrusts grew more forceful and in one united cry he filled her with pulse after pulse of his seed.
Exhausted, they lay together hearts pounding, laughter bubbling up between their panting breaths. He was the first to speak. “I do believe you are a very good doctor. I can’t remember when I’ve felt better. Thank you.”
“It is I who thank you. I can’t remember the last time I truly felt like a woman.”
Together, wrapped in each other’s arms they watched the ever brightening sky signal a new day. As the shadows lifted, she moved to cover herself. He stopped her, pressing his hand to her chest. “In here, that’s where beauty lies and you are the most beautiful person I have ever met. Any man would be proud to lay with you. I hope you believe that.”
“You know? It doesn’t matter anymore. I felt it, in me, for the first time. I don’t need anyone else to believe it.” She dipped her head and when it came up she was crying. “What about you? Can you look at yourself and know there is beauty in there?” She kissed his chest then stood, reaching out to help him up.
He remained on the ground and looked away. There was no beauty in his dark heart.
“Not yet?” She asked, bending to place a finger under his chin. She lifted it so their eyes met. “One day you will. One day you’ll find the right place, the place where you belong. Then you will know what I know. Then you will see the beauty you keep buried.”
By: cobaltJan August 2009