Authors: Lee Savino
Now, lying next to a slender blonde, watching her sleep with one delicate cheek resting on her folded hands, and smelling the clean scent of lavender, he didn't want to die. He wanted to live, and fight for her.
He'd die to himself every day, and live to love her, and be her champion. She'd never want for anything at his side. If she asked for the moon, he'd find a way to take it down. He would bleed himself dry to provide whatever she wanted: rubies, diamonds, gold. A fine house in the valley.
His body was raging just looking at her. He wanted to wake her up just so she'd give him the sharp side of her tongue, and he could tease her, then silence her complaints with a kiss. He grinned, at the same time as pain stabbed his heart at the thought of losing her.
Taking a fistful of her hair, he squeezed it and made the silent promise. He'd give her everything, because she'd already given him everything.
He lay back down beside her, his body fitted to her sweet form, one arm over her body, head above hers, but tipped so he could scent her hair. For the first time in his life, Jesse Oberon Wilder was home.
* * *
The door slammed open and both Susannah and Jesse jerked awake, the latter already half out of bed, gun in hand.
Sebastian Chivington stood at the door, looking grim. "Doyle's men caught up with you. They're here."
Jesse exploded into action, pulling on his clothes, and tossing Susannah's things in her direction.
Chivington shut the door and turned his back so she could dress.
"How?" Jesse asked, buckling his holster.
"I overheard them this morning at the saloon, talking about Doyle's obsession with Rosie May and your connection to her. I think they're here for her, but have eyes out for you two."
"Is Miss May safe?" Susannah asked, finishing her buttons and rushing to hand Jesse her things to pack away in the saddlebags.
"Rosie's already left, and refused my escort. She insists she can take care of herself. I saddled Jordan—he's ready and waiting."
Snatching up his rifle, Jesse swung the saddlebags up, holding their ties in one hand and reaching for Susannah with the other. Finishing her bootlaces, Susannah rose and took it.
"You're leaving with us." Jesse didn't make it a question.
Chivington drew himself up. "Don't worry about me, old boy. I'll make sure you get out, and might stick around a little while, see if I can send them down some false trails."
Both Jesse and Susannah stilled, staring at the Englishman, who shrugged. "More fun than getting drunk at ten o'clock each day. Besides, where would I be without my favorite dinner partners? You still owe me a main course."
"We're indebted to you," Jesse said quietly, and Chivington slapped his arm.
"Just keep the missus safe."
The minutes spent sneaking out of town where the longest of Susannah's life. True to his word, Chivington went ahead of them, making sure they got to the stables and Jordan without being caught. The fair-haired Englishman looked more serious than Susannah had ever seen him.
"Be safe," she whispered, looking back at the lord's lanky form as Jesse urged Jordan into a gallop. They left the town and went straight into the wild, heading for the mountain peaks that rose like a forbidding wall before them.
After a few miles, Susannah felt she could breathe again. She shifted in her seat, feeling the bumps on her welted bottom, but didn't complain. "Where are we going?"
"Into the mountains. We'll take the long trail into the peaks and back down again. With any luck, we'll lose them."
She squeezed her arms around him once, to let him know she believed that. His gloved hand gripped hers.
"After that, baggage, I'll take you home."
* * *
By the time they broke for camp, they were high above the plain. Susannah paused in gathering kindling wood to look down on the foothills and endless prairie beyond. Though patches of grass, trees and wildflowers were few and far between, there was a wild beauty to the arid land.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Afterwards, Jesse laid out his guns and cleaned them while Susannah sat on a rock. Her husband wasn't his usual light-hearted self. She'd never seem him so somber, and missed the sarcastic amusement that accompanied all the trouble they'd been through.
Finally, she stood and put her hand on his back. "Jesse, tell me what's wrong."
"It's my fault we had to run from Doyle. I stayed too long and underestimated him. I put my friends in danger." His head and shoulders were bowed, and she rubbed his back lightly, wishing she could relieve the strain.
"They understood what they were doing when they agreed to help. Besides, you said it yourself. Chivington is looking for a cause. He rose to the challenge today willingly, because you gave him a chance to be a hero."
"He's a good man," Jesse said.
"So are you. He wouldn't follow you if you weren't. He's too smart for that."
Jesse's brows went up at her observations, and Susannah took the opportunity to finish her speech.
"So is Rosie May. You're right—she has a heart of gold, and you gave her the chance to do a good thing. They see you fighting against a man no one else will stand up to, and they want to be a part of that. And that's a testament to the sort of man you are. A good one, and a leader."
He bent and kissed her with none of his usual roughness. She returned it, reassuring him as best she could, and even though she missed his usual dominating self, she enjoyed the softer intimacy.
When the kiss was done, he rested his forehead on hers. "I've spent my life being a vagabond, a useless fool. If I could go back and do it again, I'd be a better man for you."
Curling her hands around his neck, she kissed him again, as if she could take his rancor from him. "You already are. You're the best man for me." She poured every bit of honest eagerness into her expression, knowing her wide blue eyes could cause a man's heart to melt.
His finger came up to trace her lips. "I can't believe I found you."
She smiled. "Finding me isn't the same as keeping me."
His expression turned cocky. "I think I can keep you."
"Oh really, Mr. Oberon?"
His hands skated down her arms and then found her tucked in waist. "That's right." His thumbs brushed her breasts, and his expression changed. "No corset?"
Biting her lip, she shook her head.
His grin grew wide, and his eyes lit like a little boy's at Christmas. "Really? What about..." His hands slid up her legs, coming to rest under her thighs, bare under her skirts.
She shook her head. "There wasn't time."
"Oh, Mrs. Oberon." He pulled her to him and she squealed.
"No, no, not so fast. You caught me at a disadvantage." She twisted away and scrambled back over the rocks.
"I'm taller, stronger, faster, little baggage. You're always at a disadvantage," Jesse said with a grin.
She put her hands on her hips. "A gentlemen wouldn't be so crass as to remind me of it."
"I'm not a gentleman." He prowled to the side, a predator scenting prey.
"Jesse." Her breath caught as a thrill of fear went through her.
"You better run, baggage." His body was poised, ready, up on the balls of his feet and his eyes sparkled with excitement. "Because you may not like it when I catch you."
Her feet skidded backwards on the rocks, but she didn't take her eyes off him. Her heart thudded in her chest.
For a moment they both were perfectly still. Then with a squeal, Susannah turned and raced down the trail, hands out in case she fell.
He must have given her a head start because it took her a few minutes to hear him stalk after her. Even chasing her, he moved slower, as if he knew she might fall and hurt herself.
Susannah still felt the wild danger rise in her, everything in her telling her to run, even while a part of her knew the best part of running would be getting caught.
Glancing back, she sighted her husband's dark form loping towards her, and she raced away, branches and brambles grabbed at her arms and skirts.
The trail narrowed and she ran, feeling her muscles leaner and stronger after weeks of travel, energy flowed through her, she was wild and free as a deer, a jackrabbit, the goddess Artemis racing with her hounds. Unbound breasts jiggling under her bodice, heart pounding painfully and breath ragged in her throat, she'd never felt more alive.
She looked back again, and felt a surge of triumph. Jesse was nowhere to be seen—he must have fallen behind.
That was her last thought before her husband dropped down from a boulder, right next to her. She screamed and veered to the right. Her foot caught on a fallen log and she went flying, almost falling.
He caught her easily, cushioning her fall, then rolling so she was on her back looking up at him, breathless, her body pinned by his long form. Panting, she looked up at him.
With a little growl, he lowered his head and kissed her roughly. Her hands went up to clutch his hair and he caught them and slammed them into the dirt on either side of her head. With her hands secured, all she could do was writhe under him, bucking her hips to put him off. It didn't have the intended effect. Instead of rolling off her, he pressed into her more firmly.
"I win," he said.
"All right," she said, breathless. "Now what?"
"Now, we play."
She realized a few sharp stones pressed into her back, she shifted with a grimace. "Not here."
He was up and pulling her to her feet, keeping her hands in his grip, he led her up the path again. She pulled against him just to test him, but her weight was no match for him. In the end, he just whirled and stooped, tossing her up over his shoulder and carrying her off, a conqueror with his tribute.
"Jesse." She kicked her feet and he slapped her bottom.
They were near Jordan's pasture. The stallion looked up for a moment, then huffed and went back to grazing, ignoring their foolishness.
He set her down on the bedroll, and stood over her. "You like it when I take control?"
Brushing her hair out of her face, she nodded.
"You're sure?" His eyebrow questioned.
"On your knees," he said softly, and freed himself from his trousers. She knelt, a supplicant come to the temple to worship her god. Her hands stroked his cock, sliding over the heated flesh while she looked to him for guidance. Her body buzzed with desire.
He let her fingers slide over him for a moment, and then brushed them aside to grip his cock. She let her hands drop. "You want this?"
On her knees, his rod was right at her face. She kept her head back to look into his eyes. "Yes."
"Truly?" His eyebrow mocked her. His hand slid up and down. "You want me to keep you? To train you to please me?"
There was nothing in her mind but need. Desire took over, causing her breasts to swell and her nipples to harden into points. Watching him fist his own cock, she licked her lips. "Yes, Jesse. Please."
"You belong to me. Say it."
"I belong to you."
He lowered his cock closer to her face, his breath coming fast and hard. "Kiss it."
With a little sigh, Susannah pressed her lips against him, feeling the wet drop on her lips. He pulled away before she could lap at the dew collected there, and she licked her lips again instead, her big blue eyes gazing up at him, begging for more.
His eyes narrowed. "Undo your dress." His stern expression waited while she struggled to obey, twisting her arms behind her. "Draw it down. Pull out your breasts."
She did so, laying her breasts on top of her loosened garments like an offering. Never had she felt such an intense ache, a desperate desire to please someone. He nodded his approval and she felt herself melt.
"Whenever you pleasure me on your knees, you will bare yourself to me." He moved away from her then, circling her while she remained on her knees, breasts heaving with her breath. Even out here in the wild, kneeling in the middle of a field with the trees and sky around her, she had no thought for how exposed she was. Did she please him?
His voice cracked like a whip. "Pinch your nipples. Hurt yourself for me."
She did so, amazed at how the short pain shot straight to her secret places. Arousal flooded through her, washing any trace of hesitation away. There was no thought, no Susannah, just pure need and wanting. He stopped in front of her again and she looked up at him with half lidded eyes, her breath coming in short pants.
The side of his lip curled up. He stepped forward and presented his cock to her lips. "You may please me."
Leaning forward, she kissed him again, looking up for approval. When he nodded, she kept pressing her lips up his shaft, finally coming back down to the dewy head. Her tongue flashed out to taste it.
"That's it. Lick."
He stood over her, muscular form casual as a god above her, his head cocked to the side. Susannah kept to her duties, lapping up one side of his member and down the other, kissing it again and practically rubbing her face against it. Her nipples hardened to pebbles and her secret places throbbed desperately.
"Open your mouth, sweetheart. No teeth."
Part of her didn't want to, but the rest of her couldn't stop. She opened her lips and accepted him, pushing her tongue against him. His soft groan was sweet to her ears. She pushed her mouth further up, then came back down, gasping for breath.
"Good girl. Again."
After a deep breath, her mouth started its journey. Even though she was serving him, her whole body thrummed with pleasure.
His hand came down to stroke her hair. "Susannah. So pretty. So lovely with my cock in your mouth." His fingers tightened and after she finished the down stroke and came away for a breath, he pulled her head back by her hair, in what she was beginning to recognize as his favorite gesture. As always, his grip bordered on pain, but she accepted, and almost reveled in it.
"You know how to touch yourself?"
"Do it. Now. Rub yourself off while you choke on my cock."
Shifting, her hand burrowed under her skirts, finding her little pleasure pearl and teasing it before accepting him back in her mouth. He watched her work for a moment, the little quirk at the side of his mouth growing.