Spicey Excerpt from LUKE'S CUT
Copyright © Sarah McCarty 2017
All rights reserved
The pad of his thumb was callused, but his touch on her cheek infinitely gentle as he wiped away tears. “I do like to see you smile.”
Running his finger down her nose, he tapped the end before he shrugged. “Because it makes me want to smile, too.”
A simple straightforward answer when she’d expected evasion. Would she ever understand him?
His arm shifted beneath her shoulder. He tucked her a little closer. So close, he was all but lying on her.
“I’ll have you know, I managed to wiggle out from almost this very position a little while ago.”
His eyebrows arched and then he winced. “Now, why would you want to do that?”
Reaching up, she touched the makeshift bandage. A spot of blood was beginning to seep through “I thought you were dead, and as exciting as Mr. Savage makes these events sound in his stories, it wasn’t enjoyable at all in real life.”
“You’ve got a real passion for that author.”
“He’s such a vivid writer.”
“You shouldn’t mock him. Without the landslide scene in Savage Storm, I wouldn’t have known how to tie off the tree and hitch it to Chico to lift it off you.
He sighed. “Chico thinks he’s too fine to be used as a plow horse. It’s going to take a month of oats to sooth his ruffled dignity.”
Luke might be complaining, but it was clear the man loved that horse. “How long have you two been together?”
“About eight years now. I’ve had him since he was a foal. His mom rejected him. I couldn’t get another mare to take him on, so he became my responsibility.”
“So you raised him from a baby?”
“Yes.” He shook his head and immediately groaned and put his hand to the bandage. “Don’t ever do that. They get to know you too well. It makes it hard for them to remember who’s boss.”
“Because you love him.”
“Don’t go fanciful on me. He’s a horse.”
“That you love.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Is he standing nearby?”
“Yes. He’s just on the other side of the ditch.”
“Then I’m not answering that question.”
“Why? Do you think if you don’t say it, it doesn’t make it true?”
“The truth has nothing to do with it.”
She was beginning to understand his sense of humor. Another smile tugged at her mouth. “Oh?”
“The sad truth is, he’s got a swelled head and he has a tendency to lord it over the other horses.”
Humor after terror, she realized, was like the sun coming out after the storm. It was healing. And so was Luke with his calm acceptance of life’s ups and downs. “You’re feeling better.”
“I wouldn’t go whole hog on ‘better.’ I have a heck of a headache that’s only getting worse.”
She wasn’t surprised. “You have quite a gash on your head. It should have stitches.”
“But at least I’ve got the feeling back in my toes.”
She struggled to get up, her wet skirts hampering the effort. The darn things were like octopi wrapping around her legs. “You didn’t have feeling in your toes?” she asked, leaning over, yanking the twist of her skirt from under her knee.
With a tug, he pulled her back down. “Relax. It was a joke. I am feeling better.”
She eyed him, not sure what to believe. “Is that the truth or are you feeding me bits and pieces again?”
He didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “I started to feel better about three minutes after I woke up.”
He’d been feeling better that long? “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“Hey, if a pretty girl wants to lie in my arms, stroke my face and whisper sweet nothings in my ear, I’m not going to rush it to an end.”
He made it sound so sordid, so why did she want to chuckle?
“Don’t try to make it sound like such a rare thing. Tia told me how women love you.”
He brushed the hair off her forehead. Her eye twitched as a strand dragged across the sensitive lashes. She was glad for the distraction.
“But just because women love me doesn’t mean I love them back.” He smiled and continued, “I’m a picky son of a bitch.”
She believed that. In her experience, only the truly confident believed there was always another opportunity. And only those with plenty of opportunities were confident enough to be picky. Which didn’t explain why Luke Bellen was here cuddling with her, but she wasn’t questioning miracles today.
Reaching up, she cupped his cheek in her hand, tickling her palm with the light stubble, enjoying the novelty of the sensation. She knew she must have touched her former fiancé, Jason, like that, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember when. Drawing her fingertips down Luke’s beard-roughened cheek, she kept going until she found the remnants of his smile. His lips were soft yet firm against her touch. They pursed against the slight pressure in an equally light kiss that broke all the remaining rules of propriety. He was completely outrageous. And unique.
She sighed. “I do like you, Luke Bellen.”
It was his turn to blink. “What brought that on?”
“Would you believe my nerves were overcome by the excitement of the moment?”
He snorted. “I might buy that from another woman, but not from you.”
She chose to take that as a compliment. And as much as she was enjoying this moment, it had to end. Luke was a very seductive, very dangerous man. “We need to get up and find the others.”
He didn’t move. If anything, he pulled her closer to the seductive hardness of his big body. As if obeying a silent command, her curves melted into his planes. She was in so much trouble here.
“If they’re out looking, they’ll spot Chico and ride on over.”
But what if they’re hurt?”
“There’re more of them than us. If someone’s hurt, they’ll be able to handle it.”
“All right, but what if there are bugs beneath where we’re lying?”
He laughed outright. “What would your Mr. Savage say about your squeamish nature?”
“He’d likely say I’m a greenhorn.”
“I’m thinking he’d say you’re a beautiful lady too fine to be bug bait.”
“You have an answer for everything.”
“I’m an old man.”
“You’re not that old. Thirty, maybe?”
Sighing, he rubbed her arm. “Thirty-two, my darlin’. Thirty-two.”
She steeled against reading anything into the endearment. “I’m twenty-six.”
“That’s a good age for a woman.”
She looked at him askance. “Most call me a spinster.”
“What’s a thirty-two-year-old man going to do with an eighteen-year-old girl except listen to her giggle?”
“I don’t giggle.”
He didn’t miss a beat. “Thank goodness.”
The smile that was on her lips spread deeper. She really did like him. “I don’t know what to do with you.”
With a grunt and a smothered groan, he rose up over her. “I’ve got a couple ideas.”
“Are they as scandalous as all your others?”
His finger traced her eyebrow, skimmed down over her temple and jaw before tantalizing the side of her neck in mesmerizing, butterfly-delicate strokes.
“Good.” She hoped. It wasn’t like her to court disaster. She was always the quiet one. The safe one. The invisible one. But today, after everything they’d been through—after almost dying—she wanted to be seen.
His “Good” echoed hers.
He leaned in slowly, so slowly that she wondered if he was giving her a chance to change her mind. He didn’t have to worry. She wanted this kiss. For once in her life, she wanted all that was declared “forbidden.” She wanted to be brazen and bold. She wanted to actually be the scandal she’d always been accused of being. He drew closer and closer, so close his features blurred and she had no choice but to close her eyes and block out the distortion. She didn’t want to be distracted from this.
His breath touched her cheek first. Moist and warm, it blended with the humid air, wafting over her skin like a summer breeze. Every nerve ending came to a fine point as his chest settled against hers, her anticipation humming. The heat of his skin reached out along with his scent, enveloping her in promise. And then their lips touched in the briefest encounter. Once. Twice. A shiver took her from head to toe.
Oh yes. This.
That inner smile grew and then his lips were fully on hers, testing, teasing, stealing that smile for himself. Chest to chest. Lip to lip. Heartbeat to heartbeat. Sweet, yes this was sweet. And primal. And inspirational. And all they’d done was touch lips.
The impact of that kiss went through her like a lightning strike to her core. Yes. This man. Just yes. His palm cupped the back of her head, tilting her up. She went willingly. A laugh followed his groan. “I’m trying to preserve your virtue, darlin’.”
Damn. So much for their being in tune. “Don’t.”
Not now. Not when she wanted the full forbidden moment. Not when she wanted more. Digging her nails into his sleeves, she sought just that. More of his passion, more of his scent, more of the sensation he rained upon the parched landscape of her soul with such devastating ease.
“Oh, I’ll please you,” he whispered. With a press of his fingers, he tilted her head a little farther. The firmness of his lips slid across hers, the brush of his beard providing a deliciously abrasive counterpoint. “I have a feeling we’re going to please the hell out of each other.”
He slid his tongue along the seam of her lips. “Then let me in.”
He did it again with a little more pressure. Her gasp gave him what he wanted. Entrance. He kissed her hard. He kissed her softly. He kissed her deeply. He kissed her as if she were his own personal nirvana. As if he’d searched his whole life for her and now that he’d found her, he was ready to devour her.
Moaning, she slid her hands up his arms, unable to bear a moment of separation, needing to be closer. So much closer. His hair, caked in mud, was stiff against her fingers. Cool when she wanted heat. Needed heat. It took just a little effort to work her fingers under the collar of his shirt, to find his nape. Warm skin. Vital man.
He nibbled at her lip, taking it between his teeth, drawing it out slightly. Shivering, she dug her nails into the back of his neck, leaving her own mark. Yes.
No wonder women chased him. She’d never been kissed like this. Engaged for five years, the most she’d ever know was affection. Oh, that was a crime, because every woman should know this bliss, this pleasure, this joy, this anticipation. All of it feeding into desire, which fed into a craving that thrummed through her blood in a primitive beat.
She wanted him here. She wanted him now. She wanted him like hell on fire. She kissed him back, teasing his tongue with hers, tempting him and taunting him in an erotic duel, subtly daring him to take it further. They needed to go further. Groaning, he pressed her back into the ground. And she went, accepting his lead, his lust, his power. A nudge of his knee and her legs fell apart in natural invitation. Holding her face between his hands, holding her gaze, he settled between her thighs. In his eyes, she saw the pleasure. On her next breath, she breathed it in.
Luke groaned. “Sweet,”
Yes. Yes, it was.
Against her inner thigh, he was hard. She wasn’t so naive that she didn’t know what that meant. She’d been warned about the evils of men’s passions throughout her youth, so much so that she wondered if she’d ever truly been innocent. And now she didn’t want to be. She wanted to be a siren for this man. A jezebel. A fallen woman. Just as long as it was Luke’s arms into which she fell. She wanted to be free.
His hand on her hip drew her up. “Come closer.”
Closer. She needed to be closer. Arching up, she rubbed against him, finding pleasure in his guidance, in her power, relishing every groan she drew from his lips, teasing him just as he teased her. This was a kiss, but somehow more.
He pulled her closer still. It wasn’t close enough. She kissed him deeper. It wasn’t deep enough.
“Come here,” he growled.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispered back, her breath mingling with his.
His fingers fisted in her hair, anchoring her attention. Eyes dark with desire, he agreed, “No, you’re not.”
She didn’t know if it was a threat or a promise, and in that moment, she didn’t care. All that mattered was the passion arcing between them. She nodded.
He held her still for another moment, studying her with an intensity that made her shift, waiting on something she didn’t know how to give. His eyes narrowed. Desire flickered.
Immediately, his grip shifted to her cheek. “Right here, my darln’.”
And he was, this time his passion tempered with something else. Something powerful. Then his lips slid to torment the corner of her mouth, to nibble her cheek, her ear. Her ear! Who knew a man’s lips on a woman’s ear could start a wildfire? She moaned as her nipples peaked and ached. Arching up, she rubbed them against his chest, finding some relief, then gasped as he heightened the sensation, kissing his way down her neck, his lips finding the rapidly beating pulse in the hollow, his beard rasping over her skin as his teeth nipped lightly. He drew a long breath.
“How the hell do you smell so good after going through so much?”
“I’m a lady.”
That backed him up.
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
She touched his cheek, amazed that humor could live within passion. Yes.
“Ladies don’t sweat. We just get dewy.”
Dropping his forehead to hers, he chuckled, “Dewy.”
On her next breath, she took his laughter inside her. And discovered something else—intimacy within passion made it sweeter, hotter.
Looping her arms around his neck, she asked, “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Not a one.”
“Good. Can we get back to kissing now?”