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by Diana Bold
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: When widowed Bethany Sinclair boards the stagecoach to Texas, she finds herself sharing the ride with a dangerous outlaw and the marshal who is returning him to justice. But when a winter blizzard sends the stagecoach tumbling into a ravine, the driver and the marshal are killed and she must trust the outlaw. Zach Price knows he might never get another chance to make his escape, but he can't abandon his lovely companion to certain death. They take shelter in a cave, and as the storm rages outside Bethany receives the best Christmas present of her life--an outlaw's love.
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: June 2008
23 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [88 KB]
Reading time: 54-76 min.
Bethany dreamed she was safe and sound in her husband David's strong arms, before his illness had left him rail thin and weak as a kitten. He cradled her against him, spoon fashion, his warm chest pressed against her back, his arm around her waist, holding her tight. She'd been cold for so long, but now she was toasty warm.
With a sleepy sigh, she snuggled closer, wishing she never had to awaken, wishing the dream could go on forever. It seemed an eternity since she'd last been touched, and she reveled in the texture of his bare skin next to hers.
His breath hitched as she shifted against his groin, letting the hot, heavy weight of his erection settle between the rounded curves of her bottom. Even at his healthiest, she couldn't remember David ever being quite so ... large.
Pressing his lips against her neck, he trailed his hand up her midsection before cupping her breast. "Christ, darlin'," he whispered, his voice ragged with need. "Please tell me you're awake."
It was wrong, all wrong. The voice didn't belong to David, nor did the beard-stubbled chin brushing her neck. The hand was too big, and so was the...
Wrenching away, she scrambled to her knees, then gasped at the sudden pain streaking through her calf. Clasping her wounded leg, she glanced wildly around, taking in the fire, the cave, and the naked outlaw who'd held her.
His bare chest gleamed in the flickering light, and his dark hair brushed his wide shoulders. Even through her terror, she couldn't help noticing that his body was a work of art; all lean muscles and bronzed skin. As she stared, he covered himself with the blanket she'd dislodged, hiding his arousal.
Swallowing, she forced herself to meet his intense blue gaze. "What happened? Why am I here with you?"
He shrugged and looked away. "The blizzard got worse. I found this cave, but I couldn't stay here knowing you wouldn't make it through the night. So I went back for you."
He came back for me. All she remembered was the biting cold, and the certainty she was going to freeze to death. She'd been so numb, unable to fight sleep any longer.
Her fear seeped away, leaving amazed confusion. "You saved my life."
"I couldn't leave you there. And I'm sorry for this..." He waved a hand at the pallet beside him. "But I couldn't think of any other way to warm you up."
She glanced down at her leg and saw that he'd also rebandaged her wound. "Thank you. I don't know how I can ever repay you."
"There's no need." He pushed himself to a sitting position and handed her one of the blankets. "It's the first decent thing I've done in years."
She wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and wondered what to make of him. Should she be grateful or terrified? "What's your name?"
"Zach," he answered, seeming as baffled by her actions as she was by his. "Zach Price."
"Bethany." He gave her a tentative smile. "Nice name. Soft and sweet, just like you."
Heat rushed to her cheeks, and she glanced away. She didn't know what to make of his compliment, given the fact she'd lain in his arms just moments ago. He'd held her to keep her warm, but she couldn't stop remembering how nice it had felt to be warm and cherished once again.
"Can you pass me my pants? Beside you. On that rock."
Nodding, she reached for the wool trousers he'd stretched out to dry beside her dress and cloak her dress and cloak. "They're still a bit damp," she apologized, handing them over.
Their hands brushed, and her gaze flew to his, awareness skittering up and down her spine. She'd never been alone with a man other than her husband, David. And this man ... this beautiful outlaw, had no reason to behave himself.
"It's all right. A little chill might be good for me right now." Giving her a pointed look, he struggled to pull the wet wool up over his lean hips.
His reference to his blatant arousal alarmed her, but within moments he'd accomplished his task and was on his feet, adding another piece of wood to the fire. "There's some food over there by the wall, and I think I have enough wood to see us through another day. By then the storm should be over, and I'll be on my way."
"I won't tell anyone which way you've gone," she assured him, crossing the cave to where the sack lunches were stacked against the wall. "Not after all you've done for me."
"I appreciate that, darlin'. They'll catch up to me sooner or later, but I don't intend to make it easy for them."
She shivered, remembering the last time he'd called her by the sweet endearment, when his hand had been on her breast and every inch of him had been pressed intimately against her. Forcing the thought away, she grabbed two of the bags and moved back toward the fire. The cave sheltered them from the wind, but it was far from warm.