Gentling the Cowboy (Page 30)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(30)
Author: Ruth Cardello

Arrogant bastard.

He withdrew for a moment, let go of her hands, and adjusted their position so he could raise both her hips off the bed. He claimed her mouth with his, savoring the depth of it with his tongue while entering her again with one deep thrust, then another. Sarah found herself spiraling toward a second orgasm. She gripped the sheets on either side of her, turned her head to one side, and cried out as she peaked again, loving that with one final, shuddering pound he joined her.

He rolled to the side, disposed of his condom, then pulled her to him and tucked her into his side. Sarah closed her eyes and caught her breath.

Tony ran a hand gently up her spine and kissed her lightly on the lips. Sarah enjoyed the warm afterglow of the touch, then opened her eyes and met his, drawn again into their green depth.

Which one is the real Tony? The controlling man who makes rules and pushes everyone away, or the gentle, tortured soul I glimpse when he lets his guard down?

Both are amazing in bed, but which one will send me packing when this is over?

And could either of them love me?

As if he heard her question, he kissed her lightly on the forehead, then rested his chin on her hairline. She fell asleep to the sound of his deepening breaths and the steady beat of his heart beneath her ear.

Tony held her to him and tried to sort the day out.

She leaves as soon as I get her out of my system.

Even after their wild ride and his recent release, his c**k stirred at the thought of having her again. It may take a while, though.

He’d been far from celibate over the years, and he was comfortable with his routine. Sex was a natural function that two consenting adults engaged in without much drama. A leisurely f**k, a promise to call that neither believed, and the occasional repeat if the sex was good enough. Too much sex with one woman led to expectations that he had no intentions of honoring, so he kept it simple and brief.

So what was this?

If by some miracle the story of what we did today stayed out of the paper, there wasn’t a person in Fort Mavis who wouldn’t have heard about it. Was that why I did it? Some primal need to pound my chest and stake my claim?

What happened to wanting to save her reputation?

A realization sent his heart pounding in his chest. I wasn’t thinking about what this would mean for her or for me. I wasn’t thinking at all.

Sarah nuzzled against his chest in her sleep and he wanted to wake her, to warn her again that her trust in him was misplaced. Instead, he held her to him and joined her in the escape of slumber.

The windows were dark with night when he sat up in bed, gasping for air, his cheeks wet from tears he shed only in his dreams. Sarah sat up and cupped his face in a move of comfort. Her hands stilled when she felt his tears.

He pulled back from her and turned away, dropping his feet to the floor on the side of the bed. She followed him and wrapped her arms around him from behind, laying her head on his back.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said harshly, fighting both the memories of his dream and a wave of shame.

“You don’t have to,” she said softly and held him tighter. Bare skin to bare skin, normally a source of excitement, brought him comfort this time. They simply sat there while his breathing returned to normal within her embrace.

Eventually he covered one of her delicate hands with his own. “You are a good woman, Sarah. You deserve a man who can treat you better than I will.”

“I had a good man. We bored ourselves into a breakup.”

Tony chuckled lightly, further distancing himself from the tortured images of his dreams. “I never know what you’re going to say.”

Sarah kissed the base of his neck, then hugged him again. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” When he didn’t respond to her joke, Sarah said, “Everyone has scars, Tony. If yours were on your skin and not in your heart, would you hide them from me? Would you be ashamed?”

Tony rolled onto his back and pulled her to his side again, looking at the dark ceiling instead of her. “If they were as ugly, I might.”

While rubbing one hand on his chest, Sarah said, “I killed my younger brother.”

Tony’s arm tightened around her, knowing that although she believed that, a woman like her never would have.

She said, “We were at my family’s lake house. My parents were cooking. Charlie went to ask them a question. I was supposed to watch Phil, but I didn’t notice that he’d stopped making his sandcastle. I don’t remember which daydream to blame. They found his body a few hundred feet away. He’d drowned. Not a sound. Not a scream. Just there and then gone. He was only three.”

“How old were you?” Tony asked, feeling her pain entwine with his own.

“Eight. Old enough to know better.” Five words, but they were heavy with years of self-recrimination.

“Too young to be responsible,” Tony growled.

Sarah shrugged and shook within his embrace. “That’s what everyone said, but I know the truth. It was my fault. I was supposed to watch him.”

He hugged her to him. He sought the words that would ease her pain, but he had never found them—not even for himself.

“Whatever you did, Tony, has keeping it inside made you feel better? Or has it festered? I would give anything to go back and undo what I did that day, but I can’t. All I can do is face it and try to go on.”

“Go to sleep, Sarah.”

She leaned up and kissed his jaw. “Okay, but think about what I said.”

He did.

Long after she fell asleep again, he stared into the darkness and thought about what she had shared and why hearing it had touched him so deeply.

Chapter Twelve

Sarah woke up in Tony’s arms and froze. Her cheeks warmed as she remembered the drive to the cabin. Normally she would have said that most displays of affection were best kept private. She and Doug had shared quick public kisses at the beginning or end of a date, but they’d both agreed that more than that was inappropriate.

She and Tony had no such agreement.

In fact, it was a little unsettling to consider what she’d agreed to by coming with him to his cabin. All or nothing.

I agreed to “all” without reading the fine print. What if “all” exceeds my temporary throw-caution-to-the-wind-to-discover-the-real-me comfort zone? Desire sliced through her as she remembered how good it had felt to feel so out of control and safe at the same time.

She ran her hand over Tony’s chest and followed the trail of hair to his navel. She and Doug had always gotten dressed after sex, perhaps a habit left over from a lack of privacy in college. They’d never slept nude together.