BY CYNTHIA WOOLF
Turning her back to the room, she unbuttoned her jacket and hung the garment on the back of the wooden rocking chair. The room they occupied tonight belonged to Jamie’s son, Jake. The furnishings consisted of a double bed with an iron head and foot boards that were painted white, a small light wood dresser, and a commode of matching wood.
Next she took off her skirt and actually sighed. The release of pressure around her middle felt amazing. She’d expanded to the point of barely fastening the buttons at the waist and she’d redone the waist band and button as many times as she could. She would have to start wearing her blouses untucked.
“Gideon, I don’t have any clothes to wear as I increase. Will you be embarrassed if I wear my blouses untucked so I can hide the fact that my skirt does not button all the way to the waist?” She felt heat in her cheeks and her hands were getting moist.
“No, but why don’t we ask Mama if she can’t help. Maybe she can show you how to move the buttons so you have more room.”
Gideon caught her and brought her flush with his also naked body, her back to his chest.
He turned her in his arms so he could see her. “Don’t hide from me. I told you I want to know you. Especially since you are increasing, I want to see you. I want to know the baby and watch him or her grow within you.”
She swallowed against a dry throat. His member was rigid between them and Gideon was very well formed. John had not been as endowed.
With his hands on her shoulders, Gideon guided her to the bed. “Lay down, please.” He whispered the request in her ear.
She tried to ignore her racing heart and the way her breathing seemed shallow. “What side of the bed do you want?”
“The side of the bed you sleep on will determine where I lay.”
“Lay in the middle.”
He sounded a little exasperated so she moved quickly.
“All right.” She lay down and crossed her arms over her chest.
Gideon looked toward the heavens and whispered, “God grant me patience.”
BY CAROLINE CLEMMONS
That night when Olivia and Jamie were in their room, she slowly undressed. All day she’d thought about what she would say. How naïve to think she could trust this man so easily. How stupid she’d been not to ask more questions before surrendering her body to him.
Somehow, Olivia had the sense of having been cheated in the marriage bed. She had no real experience to go on because she had no one in whom she could confide.
Judging by the novels she’d read, though, there should have been talk after their coming together.
She faced him. “Jamie, why did you go through with the wedding?”
He sat on the bed holding the boot he’d just removed then set it on the floor. “No choice.”
What a maddening answer. She wanted to plant her fist on his handsome chin. Instead, she took a deep breath before speaking and exhaled slowly.
“Of course you had a choice. You’re the head of the family and could have refused and sent me back where I came from or set me up in town so I could meet someone else.
Barring that, you could have paid me off and sent me to Denver. There’s always a choice.”
He shook his head as he started on his shirt buttons. “Not in this case. Any of those options would have caused talk. After you’d been here several nights, your reputation would have been compromised.”
“If I weren’t here, why would that matter to you?”
His hands stilled. “Ah, well, because Mama’s reputation would also have been damaged, as she pointed out to us brothers.” He removed his shirt and hung it on the bedpost.
As she unfastened the ties of her petticoats, a horrible thought occurred to her and she froze. “Do you mean you don’t want more children?”
His powerful chest muscles rolled with a shrug. “Wouldn’t mind, now that we’re wed, but I was content with Jake and Cat. Matter of fact, earlier today I mentioned how nice life would be with us brothers taking our kids to visit with their cousins.” He stood and unbuttoned his pants.
She turned her back and slid off her clothes then quickly pulled on her gown. “Weren’t you lonely?”
Her back was to him and she couldn’t see his expression, but his voice sounded hard,
“Look, Olivia, you seem like a nice enough woman, attractive, and intelligent. Sorry as I am you were brought here under false pretences, I don’t know what you expected to find.”
Again, she froze for a moment. He thought she was attractive? When she turned around, he was sitting up in bed with the sheet at his hips. How could she concentrate on the conversation with all those rippling muscles and skin in sight?
Despairing of the situation, she admitted, “I wanted a husband who would grow to love me and who’d love the children we’d have together. From the letters I thought were from you, I wanted to be a mother to your children, to be your partner and friend as well as your lover.”
“I’ll love any children we have and you’re stepmother to my children. As for love, sorry but you’re out of luck there. You’ll have to be content with us being partners and friends. I’ve tried love and found it lacking.”
BY SYLVIA McDANIEL
Ethan glanced at her, his eyes flashing with annoyance. “Just why did you come to Colorado?”
Now even Ethan was beginning to have contempt for her. Soon he would hate her like the others.
“I told you, I was running from a wedding.”
“Did you even consider what you were getting yourself into? Beth this is our life. This is what you can expect every day. Nothing more. No fancy parties. No theaters or socials.
Just hardworking folk taking care of the ranch, day in and day out.”
Obviously, she hadn’t contemplated what kind of life she was getting into. All she could think about was leaving before her father forced her to marry a man who didn’t want her.
Just her trust fund and a hostess for his parties.
“Thanks for telling me,” she said, pain gathering like a storm in her chest as she turned and walked away to the kitchen to help Milly and Clara serve the noonday meal. Then she would help Clara skim the cream and churn the butter and slowly die inside.
As she went into the bunkhouse the men were already at the table scarfing down the food put in front of them. She entered the kitchen. “Milly, where’s the cake we made?”
Milly smiled sadly at her and an uneasy feeling settled in the pit of her stomach. “Beth, baking is an art and for some people it takes several tries for them to feel comfortable in the kitchen.”
A sense of foreboding overcame Beth. “Where’s the cake?”
Laughter roared through the dining room and she heard someone say, “Beth’s first cake.”
Milly’s eyes widened. “Oh no. I’m going to take a broom to their hide.”
Together, she and Beth ran to the dining room door where Spunky Barton, one of the hired hands, was holding the disastrous desert up for everyone to see Beth’s ill-fated creation. The men were laughing and slapping Ethan on the back.
“You’re going to starve if that woman ever has to cook for you,” Spunky declared.
She’d suffered enough at the hands of everyone on this ranch and refused to take it anymore. Enough already.
With her head held high, her heart crying inside and her feet carrying her, Beth stoically walked over to the man, took the pan from him and smashed the desert in his face. “You try to make a cake and see if you can do any better.”
She’d had enough of being the brunt of everyone’s joke’s. She was doing the best she could.
Stunned, Spunky stood there with yellow cake dripping off his face.
Beth turned and walked out of the dining room, her head held high, her back as rigid as the Rockies with tears brimming her lashes.
To hell with the whole bunch, the husband who was ashamed of her and trying to change who she was. She was Elizabeth Worthington, debutante, heir to one of the richest fortunes in Chicago, and she was returning to where she belonged. Today, right this minute, if possible. She was done.