Rocky Mountain Rogue (Rocky Mountain Bride Series Book 5) (17 page)

"It's not that hard, if one has the head for it." Rosie met her gaze squarely. Beside her, Chivington coughed as if he would interrupt their verbal sparring, but both women ignored him.

"See, this is where you could school me. I wouldn't think it had to do much with the woman's mind at all, only her... charms."

"Depends on the woman I suppose," Rosie said flatly.

"And her charms," Susannah said mockingly, and then was startled when her husband's chair scraped back.

"Miss May, Chivington, if you would excuse me and my wife. We have something to discuss." He drew Susannah up by her arm before she could protest, and propelled her out the door.

"What on earth?" Susannah hissed as he dragged her down the hall, stopping only when they were far enough away from the door.

"You know what." Jesse released her arm and faced her with a thunderous expression. "You were being rude."

"I was not." Susannah made a great show of straightening her dress, even though her pussy was already damp from Jesse's rough handling.

"You treated Rosie May like she was dirt beneath your shoe... even though she's a hardworking woman who's making it on her own. Who are you to judge her?"

"That woman is a floozy, and not fit for good company."

"Wrong, Susannah. Rosie may not have made her living in the most respectable way, but she has a heart of gold. You're the one who wasn't fit for good company tonight."

Susannah felt her cheeks flame. "Well, I never." She started to turn away, but Jesse hauled her back.

"Don't walk away when I'm talking to you." Jesse released her arm again as if he'd rather not touch her. "The way I live my life, I'm not ashamed to sit with beggars or eat with kings. But I was ashamed to be associated with you tonight."

Angry tears pricked her eyes. "Jesse—"

"It wasn't you, Susannah. Not the real you. But how can I be proud to bring you to my home? My sister-in-law, Rose, was the real Rosie May. She was on her own from a young age. Her sister sold her body to get food for them to eat. You might not like to hear this, but this is reality. And you sit on your high horse and look down on good people."

"Do you want me to befriend the jade? Perhaps the two of us will both share your bed."

"The woman you disparage so easily is risking her life for my family. I tried to talk her out of such a dangerous act—but it was her idea. My family and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for what she's done—and continues to do for my family's sake.

"You're paying her…"

"Yes, I'm paying her. She refused it at first, and I insisted. By the time Doyle's done, she'll have enough to live off the rest of her life. I'll see to that. I owe it to her, for sticking out her neck to keep my family safe."

Susannah bit her lip. In light of these noble actions, it seemed very mean to judge the garishly dressed woman, though it still offended all proper sensibilities. "But," Susannah protested, "besides that, the way she makes her living, entertaining men…"

"I've lain with whores," he said. "I've eaten with them. In my opinion, they make an honest living, and I'd rather a year in their company than one hour with the stuffed, two faced lords and ladies you fawn over. What has Chivington done with his life? Spent his father's money. He's a wastrel with no direction. But at least he knows it. He's the first to mock himself. But you think you're better than anyone else."

Susannah sucked in a breath, feeling his words stab through her. Whirling, she ran away, down the hall and through the hotel lobby, bursting through the outside doors. In the late summer night, there was still enough light to show her there was no one on the street, and without stopping to hear if her husband was following, she turned to the right and rushed blindly down the wood porch.

How dare he lecture her? She was trying to save both of their reputations. He really was a rogue, to hang out with such women, and worse, prefer their company to hers. Oh, why had she come to Colorado?

Her exit ended when the porch ended, and the next step would land her in the mud. Susannah looked around, trying not to cry. This place didn't even have proper streets!

"Where do you think you're going, Mrs. Wilder?"

Her shoulders stiffened at her husband's voice and steady tread on the wooden porch.

She didn't have to look back at him to imagine his tall, lean body moving as easily as a predator towards her.

"I want to leave. Tomorrow. I won't remain here."

She drew in a sobbing breath.

"Where would you run? Back to Boston?"

She started to speak, but the weight in her chest wouldn't let her, and she just shrugged.

"Back to your fine things, and your aunt who taught you a person's worth is based on what they look like?"

She shook her head wildly, biting her lip to hold back a sob.

"You can't run from this, Susannah. It's a part of you. As heavily as your judgment weighs on people like me and Rosie, it rests doubly on you." His hands rested on her shoulders, and squeezed lightly, comforting her. "You're almost free, my lovely."

She did cry out then, a strangled sound to ease the growing pain in her chest. "I can't do this."

He turned her to face him. "What are you so afraid of?"

Even if she had an answer, it would've caught on the lump in her throat. She shook her head again, and then whimpered when a few loud voices echoed down the porch—men coming out of the saloon. Jesse glanced back and made a frustrated sound, then scooped her up in his arms.

Susannah huddled close to her husband as he carried her away from the drunken laughter. Even when he was angry with her, he was still the source of the most comfort she'd ever known. A few strides and he was off the main street, heading to a small building off by itself. The door opened easily when he struck it with his shoulder, and then strode into the black interior.

Inside, he let her down, and she used the cover of darkness to scrub tears from her face. She must look a mess, but then, around Jesse, she almost always did.

A few feet away from her, Jesse struck a match, and lit a candle. Susannah looked about the room, noting the smell of fresh lumber. She stood in the center of a one room building, in an aisle made by a few rows of benches. At the head of the room, Jesse set the light on a small desk.

"You know what this building is?"

She shook her head.

"It's a school," he told her, and then she saw it. There were only benches for students, and the teacher's desk at the front, with a few precious pieces of slate and a primer. One primer for the whole schoolroom, and only one room, with a little stove to heat it.

"It's not much, is it?" Jesse continued. "Certainly not what you're used to. But it's all they have, and it's enough."

Turning in a circle in place, Susannah imagined the room filled with dirty-faced children, their little hands raised to learn. Who was the schoolteacher? A young man hired with precious money? A spinster? More likely a girl too young to be married, but older than the rest. She would stand at the front of the room to teach the lessons, and take turns working with the children one by one. The older students would help the young ones.

Susannah's hand went to her throat, suddenly choked up by the imagined scene. Her aunt had never wanted her to become a teacher. It wasn't proper for a lady of leisure, and her aunt believed it would degrade Susannah's status. Until her fiancé rejected her, Susannah hadn't believed that her aunt was right.

"Would you look down on the people here, because they have next to nothing? They came to live out here, to be free."

Jesse started back towards her. With the shadows crawling over his face, forming a dark mask, he looked like a demon come to torment her. Her heart beat in her throat, but she couldn't move.

"You've lived in a fancy city all your life, surrounded by pretty things. Let me tell you the truth, Susannah. Those things were chains. They were beautiful, but they weighed you down until there was nothing of you left."

Tears streamed down Susannah's face. Was she really turning into a woman like her aunt? Too bound by society's rules to really live? She'd tried so hard to be different, to live free. First college, then wearing bloomers, then teaching school—only to end up in a soul sucking engagement that devastated her when it ended. When her aunt demanded she marry, Susannah knew she had to escape, or she would never be free.

Her husband leaned over her, his powerful presence a balm to her ravaged heart. "Stay with me, Susannah."

"I can't," she sniffled. "I don't belong here."

"Oh, but you do." He cupped her chin. "I see your spirit. It's like a bird caught in a trap, beating its wings hard to get free. You're almost there, you're almost home."

The storm inside her was settling, and she could breathe again. "You don't know me."

"I know you." He took a handful of her hair and gripped it in his hand, not pulling it, just fisting it as if he wanted to possess her. "You put on these nice clothes, fix your hair and obsess over presenting a perfect vision to the world. But inside you're dying; I see it. You were meant to fly." He released her hair, and walked around her, settling his hands at her waist.

"What are you trying to prove with this fine dress and corsets pulled too tight?"

"I want to be beautiful," she whispered. "I want to be loved."

"You are beautiful." His hands dominated her as he spoke, his lips at her neck. "Last night and the day before, on the trail, I got to see the real Susannah. And she was the loveliest thing I'd ever seen." His teeth nipped at the skin and lightning flashed down her spine, her legs grew weak. "Let me prove it to you."

He pressed against her, and she felt his proof nudging her backside, even through all her layers. Despite herself, she was becoming aroused.

"You don't need this to be beautiful." He came around to face her again, and his fingers moved over her scalp, massaging, pulling out pins and letting her hair cascade down her back.

Susannah's lips parted, and her breath came in pants. Her hands flattened against his chest, and she leaned in and tilted her head back, asking for his kiss.

Instead, Jesse jerked her around, and her breath caught: fear, excitement, horror, desire all rising in her. She felt him rip at her buttons, tearing open the back of her dress, not caring that he ruined the fabric. His fingers were rough on her body, grasping, claiming, leaving marks. He was wild, insatiable, and his hunger for her was a living, breathing monster, threatening to consume them both.

It was real and raw and she loved it.

Jesse finished tearing her dress and stripped it from her. She put her arms around her waist as he drew the fabric down to her feet.

He rose before her like a devil, his face stone and hair wild, and took her in his arms. "You don't think you're beautiful? You don't think anyone could love you?"

His hands dragged down her back and then kneaded her bottom before lifting her. "I want you."

"Jesse," she cried out, glad and terrified.

"I want Susannah. The real Susannah. Not the silk and lace. You." He carried her away from the mess of taffeta and crinoline to the teacher's desk.

"This is you, Susannah." He laid her down and ripped her petticoat. A little cry escaped her throat, a sound of fear and longing, as he set his dick against her mound and rubbed, sending sparks exploding in her brain. Her hands slid up his shoulders and pulled him closer, urging him forward as he threaded his fingers in her loose hair and tilted her head for his kiss.

He plundered her mouth, and her desire overtook her like a storm. Throwing her legs around him, she rubbed against him, a low keening rising from deep within her, a wild, savage need to feel, to be alive.

"Not so fast," he said, and pulled her up again. She tottered a moment, unsteady on her feet before he whirled her around, and bent her over the desk.

"There's still a matter of how you treated my friends, and demeaned yourself. I won't tolerate it." He picked up a long wooden ruler from the desk. "Time for the teacher to learn a lesson."

The ruler slapped down and she yowled. He kneaded her bottom roughly, soothing the ache before the wooden implement bit down again. A strike and then massage, over and over again, until she was soaked and panting, her nipples hard against the desk and bottom tilted up to take its punishment. "Will you disrespect my friends again?"

"No, Jesse, please," she begged, feeling her desire trickle down her thigh. The end of punishment or beginning of pleasure, she didn't know which she was asking for, but she'd take whatever her Jesse would give.

A few more harsh swats on her bare ass, and he threw the ruler away with a clatter and flipped her around. He gripped her hair, forcing her backwards over the desk. Susannah arched her back as much as she could, offering her breasts to him until he bent his head. He busied himself there for a while, alternately licking and sucking and rubbing his face against her sensitive mounds. Her hands went to grip his hair and he set them away, holding them on either side of her head until she panted with need. He released her and added a thumb to her clitoris and soon she moaned and writhed beneath him.

"Come for me, Susannah," he commanded, and she obeyed, bucking against his hand.

* * *

Later that night, Jesse lay next to his wife, listening to her breathing. Ever since he'd watched her shake apart for him, his cock had been throbbing for release, but he'd ignored it. Her sweet pussy had been through a lot in the past day and a half; it didn't need another pounding.

Besides, he had a lifetime to spend seducing and bedding his baggage, buying her clothes and ripping them off.

He'd been too rough with her that night. As he carried her limp form back to the hotel, wrapped in his coat, he'd promised her he'd be gentler next time. A little smile had curved her lips and she'd snuggled closer.
It's all right,
she'd whispered back.
I like it.

He never thought he'd find anyone who would fit him so completely. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that a part of him had expected to die confronting Doyle. His plan was barely that—a plan. He had always acted from his gut, and it had saved his life on more than one occasion. He'd been obsessed with revenge against Doyle, the courtship, and impending marriage had been an afterthought.

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