Rocky Mountain Rogue (Rocky Mountain Bride Series Book 5) (25 page)

"Why not? I've spent the last day and night racking my brain, wondering why."

He turned to follow her but remained on his knees, a green eyed supplicant, though he didn't look any less powerful from his humbled position.

She wanted to run to him and put her arms around his shoulders and comfort him. Instead, she gave a broken little shrug. "Everyone knows."

"What do they know?"

She felt herself shrinking. "They know about me. How I wrote that I needed a husband, and you needed a wife..."

He stood then, towering over her, but kept his voice gentle. "And what, Susannah? That we needed each other?"

Her head jerked in negative.

"I don't understand," he said softly. "Help me understand."

She shut her eyes. "They know how desperate I was, how I was a charity case."

"They don't think that." He stepped closer. "I promise you, when they see us together, they think, 'Why would someone as lovely, as intelligent, as wonderful as her be with a man like him?"

She shook her head as if she could dislodge his words from her brain.

"Yes." He came close to her.

"They think there's something wrong with me."

"Who cares what they think?" His arms went around her, and she couldn't even fight to keep them away, though she averted her face.

"I care."

"Why?" His head dipped, his face came closer, near enough for her to feel his breath on her skin, close enough for him to kiss her. "Why, Susannah? What does it matter, except that we're together and happy?"

Her arms pushed at him feebly, but he didn't budge. "You don't love me." The tears did spill over then. "No one has ever really wanted me. Not even you."

He drew her against his chest, and let her cry it out, her head tucked under his chin. "I do love you, you silly fool. Why won't you believe me?" He pulled back a little to see her face, and his thumb came to brush away a tear. "It's like all the while I'm telling you, there's another voice inside your head shouting so you don't hear."

She shook her head in confusion. His thumb kept stroking over her skin, wiping all her tears away.

"You don't understand, Susannah. You don't know how much you're worth. Stay with me, and I'll show you."

She jerked away then. "No, thank you." Stepping away, she rubbed her own tears away. "You already have shown me my worth. A stake in a mine." Leaving him in the middle of the room, she went to the dresser.

Her face was stained with sad tears, and her hair was matted. Taking a deep breath, she picked up the hairbrush and started ripping it through her hair. "I should've known better than to trust a man like you."

He was at her side in a flash, hand on her shoulder spinning her around to face him. "Do me the courtesy of looking at me when you insult me."

She set the brush down, nostrils flaring. He loomed over her, green eyes bright, jaw set hard. "Well, Susannah? What sort of man am I? Tell me." His chin jerked as he threw out the dare.

Hands on her hips, she faced him. "You know exactly what you are. A liar, a thief, an outlaw, a scoundrel." Her fingers counted off insults until his hand closed over hers.

"Is that what you think? Truly?"

"If I had any sense, I would've turned you in at the first."

"Really? And why didn't you?"

She opened her mouth, but couldn't think of what to say.

"Can't answer that one?" His tone turned mocking. "Then let me say something. I thought you saw me, the real me. You were the only one, Susannah, in my entire life, who didn't take me for what they saw. You've seen every side of me. I thought you understood." His hand tore through his hair. "I guess I was wrong."

"Maybe you were."

"See, I don't think so. You act shallow and vain, but that's not really you. You're so afraid of what people think that you twist yourself into knots. You judge other people, but most of all you judge yourself."

She raised her chin. "I call it as I see it."

His fist crashed down on the dresser, and she jumped as the mirror and hairbrush clattered. "Who did this to you?"

She shook her head, not understanding.

He pushed closer, his big body crowding her backwards against the wall. "Was it your aunt? Your false fiancé? Tell me."

He was too close to her; she was fighting to keep her position, and losing the battle. "Tell you what?"

"For some reason you don't believe that anyone is capable of loving you. I'm right here, risking it all for you, and it doesn't even penetrate, how much I care for you. Who taught you that? Who taught you that you weren't worthy of love?"

Pain pushed through her. "What do you know of it? You don't love me. You don't know what love is! I was a fool to trust you."

His hand gripped a chunk of her hair, tugging her face back. She struggled against him. "Bastard!" Her nails tore at his clothes, fighting for freedom.

"That's it, Susannah, fight me."

"Let me go," she cried out in rage. The other hotel patrons were sure to hear, but she didn't care. He was bigger, and stronger, and her struggles meant nothing, but his hands were gentle on her wrists.

"You push me away whenever it hurts," he said. "You want to reject me before I reject you."

"I don't want you. I hate you," she shrieked.

"That's right, baggage. Shout at me, fight me. I can handle it."

Yelling and pushing at him, she flung all her rage at him. Finally getting a hand free, she slapped him hard across the face. "How dare you! How dare you target me and woo me. Make me leave my home under false pretenses. You didn't even tell me your real last name. How dare you rob my coach, make me kneel in the dirt. Humiliate me."

"That's it, Susannah."

She gripped his lapels, wanting to scratch his smug face. "How dare you drag me around in your plans, and throw me into all of this? How dare you bring me to your family, taking the long route so we spent more time together? Teach me to shoot, buy me a horse."

"Say it, Susannah. Let it all out. Say what you really want to say."

"I love you!" she shouted. "I love you damn it, and I never want to leave. How dare you give me something so wonderful, I'm afraid of losing it!"

"You're not going to lose it, baggage." He lifted her, set her on the bed. "I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. And you can bet that, after that, I'm never letting you go."

But Susannah was done talking. Her hands ripped at his clothes, a few buttons flying, scratching his skin as she clawed off his shirt.

He whipped off her nightgown, wrenched down his trousers, and then he was inside her, hips thrusting into her, mouth on her shoulder, biting until she cried out in happiness.

"You're not leaving," he said. "You're never getting away. I'll hunt you down."

"If you let me leave, I'll shoot you myself, Jesse Oberon," she snarled, and fisted her hand in his hair. Her legs wrapped around his violently bucking body, hanging on as he pulled out only to slam into her, a great rocking thrust that sent her head flying back and felt so damn good.

"That's it, Susannah. Pinch your breasts, let me see you go wild."

She obeyed, and the pain sent her straight over the edge. Howling her orgasm, she clawed at his back as her husband bucked and finished deep inside her.

For a long while afterwards they lay panting on the bed.

"Do you think that, when we fight, it'll always end this way?" Susannah asked as soon as she caught her breath.

"Damn, I hope so."

She rolled to face him. "I can't believe you almost let me go."

"Woman, you torture me. Make up your mind."

She crawled onto him. "No more robbing coaches. Or joining gangs, even to stop a bad man. Promise me, Jesse."

"If I promise, do you promise not to try to break my dick every time we fuck?"

Reaching down, she grabbed his cock. He yelped and swatted her bottom. "Naughty baggage. I promise, I promise. You'll make me an honest man."

She grinned fiercely. "I could make you into a lawman, if I wanted to."

"You're the only one who could do it. But I wouldn't bet against you."

She sat back with a satisfied smile as he drew the ring out of his pocket and presented it to her. "Mrs. Wilder."

She held her hand out, and he slid the wedding band home.

"I love you. I'll live and die for you." He kissed it. "I hope you know that, my queen."

"I know." She cuddled against him. "I'm sorry I called you names. You're not a liar, thief or murderer."

"A full pardon?"

She nodded.

"You also called me a bastard."

Sensing his seriousness, she lifted her head. "I did. I'm sorry. I should never have said it."

"It's all right." He shrugged. "My father called me that sometimes."

Susannah felt apprehension at her husband's flat tone. "He did?"

"Yes. He didn't trust my mother, thought I wasn't his son."

"Jesse." She laid a hand on his shoulder. "That's awful."

"It's not a mistake that my middle name is Oberon for the play. My mother loved a traveling man, an actor. When I left, she gave me the only thing she had of him."

"The ring?" she guessed.

He nodded. "She gave it to me when she knew I was leaving. The only thing she had of him."

Susannah was quiet for a moment, her thoughts swirling. Suddenly her husband's recklessness, his biting humor and the way he held everyone and everything at arm's length made sense. "So Lyle is your half-brother?"

"I don't know. It doesn't matter. My father never treated me as his own. So you see, I really am Jesse Oberon. And I know something of what it's like to be unloved, and unwanted."

She stared at him, her stomach twisting on his behalf. "And I said all those horrible things."

"Yes." He lay back with a half grin. "You should be punished."

Susannah twisted her ring, and then laid her hand on his chest. "You're right."

His eyes opened a little. "What's that now?"

She cleared her throat. "You're right. You should punish me."

"You're asking for discipline?"

"If it will clear the air between us, I am." She lifted her chin. "Punish me, Jesse."

For a moment, he just stared at her. Then he was off the bed and across the room so fast, she started.

He was back in a moment, quirt in hand. Susannah recognized the braided whip from his saddlebags.

"You sure about this?" His face was so serious, it frightened her. But she felt she needed to do something, anything, to repair the breach between them.

Wide-eyed, she nodded.

"Stand up," he ordered.

Suddenly Susannah's world was very narrow; there was nothing but the room, Jesse and the mean strip of leather in his fist. Slowly, she got out of bed and let the blanket drop from her naked form.

"Lean over the bed."

As she did so, her heartbeat picked up as if readying to run a mile. She settled her body down, feet on the floor and torso on the bed, cheek to coverlet, and hid her face in her arms.

A large hand touched her back, and she jumped, but his fingers ran down her skin lightly, stroking from shoulder to thigh. "You're so beautiful," he said. She relaxed a little at the reverence in his tone.

His hands moved to her head, pulling her hair back into a loose braid, then tucking it under her.

"I'll warm you up with a hand spanking, first," he told her, one hand at the nape of her neck while the other roamed up and down her flesh. He squeezed one globe then the other. "Then we'll try the quirt." He paused, and she focused on trying to breath. "Susannah?"

"Yes?"

"Do you understand why you're being punished?"

"I called you names."

"You didn't trust me. You said hurtful things to push me away." His touch, feather light on her fair skin, drove her mad. He paused and leaned in. "But most of all, Susannah, I'm punishing you because I want to, and you're mine." His hand dipped between her legs then, and she let out a whimper.

"Spread your legs," he said hoarsely. She obeyed, and he rewarded her with soft touches up and down the slippery folds.

"You'll like it," he whispered. "Maybe not all of it, maybe not right away, but you'll feel good. I'm going to take care of you."

"All right," she whispered back. His hand stroked over her bottom, squeezing one fleshy globe and then the other.

Then he smacked her. "When I'm disciplining you, the correct answer is 'Yes, sir.' Do you understand?"

For a moment, she couldn't think.

He smacked her bottom again, the opposite cheek. "What do you say, Susannah?"

Face to bedspread, she hesitated.

He kept spanking her, peppering her bottom with hearty smacks, laying them on one cheek and then the other, angling his hand so he hit upper, lower and either side of her cheeks.

"I can do this as long as it takes for you to learn." His hand caught her bottom from below and she gasped, surging forward. He did it again, left and right cheek, on the underside of her bottom, close to her pussy. "You will submit and call me 'sir.'" His hand let loose a flurry of smaller swats, like stinging nettles on her bum.

She squeaked something out, and he paused.

"What was that, Susannah?"

Gulping, she repeated, "Yes, sir."

"Good girl." His large hand cupped her buttocks, kneading the flesh. It felt so good, she sighed and melted into the bed.

"I love the way you submit to me," he said in his rough voice. "Your body is so beautiful laid out on the bed. Your bottom is just starting to get nice and pink." He laid two more hard strikes on either cheek, followed by the deep massage. "You'll be red before dawn. And all the way home, you'll sit and think about me, and how much I love you." Again, his hand ventured lower, long fingers trespassing her secret lips, parting them like petals of a flower. He teased her, stroking her lips, pinching them lightly, then circling around the little pearl hiding in the folds.

As his finger grew closer and closer to her pleasure spot, Susannah moaned into the bed.

"You like this?" He paused for a moment, then pinched her bottom. She jumped, her legs snapping together, and realized he was waiting for a reply.

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