The Cowboy's E-Mail Order Bride (Page 23)

The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride(23)
Author: Cora Seton

“Ethan,” she gasped, then arched her back as his tongue took her even higher.

Moments later he was back in her arms, covering her body with his, as naked as she’d somehow become.

“Autumn.” Her name was a question and she understood him completely. Was she sure she wanted this?

“Protection?” she gasped and he hesitated a fraction of a second.

“Wait,” he said and kissed her once more, a rough scrape of his mouth against hers. Then he was gone and she shivered in his absence. Before she could question it, he was back, a condom in hand. “My old stash,” he whispered. He had it on in an instant, then touched her chin, capturing her gaze once more. “Do you trust me?”

She nodded. Leaning forward he kissed her forehead, each of her eyes, her nose and then her mouth, covering her once more with his own lean, hard body.

She braced herself for his thrust, but opened her eyes again when he gently turned her in his arms. He guided her forearms to one stair tread, her knees to a lower one, framing her body with his own.

“Is this all right?” he breathed into her ear. He shifted forward, and his hardness pressed against her core, igniting an inner fire so bright it was all she could do not to press back against him and take him inside with one hard thrust.

“Autumn?”

“Yes,” she said, her voice so strained it was barely recognizable. “Yes. Please.”

She’d barely finished speaking when he pushed inside her. She cried out and he grunted, pulling out and pressing in again. He braced himself with a single hand on the stairs, using the other to cup her breasts. The sensation of him entering from behind her was breathtaking, but when he slid that hand down between her legs, the feeling was beyond any words.

Autumn bucked against him, the rhythm of his thrusts stoking the fire within her to new heights. She twisted her head to kiss him, to breathe raggedly into his ear, and when she nipped his earlobe, he redoubled his efforts, causing her to moan aloud.

Ethan’s pace quickened, her breasts swung in their own parallel rhythm, her sensitive nipples tantalized by the friction of the silky carpet against their tips. She arched her hips and pressed back into him, not able to get enough, unable to quench the thirst her body had developed for his touch.

Ethan grunted again, low and guttural, and Autumn clung to him, swept over the edge by want and need and desire. Ecstasy exploded within her, tossing her on wave after wave of sensation until she cried out again, bucking up against his hips, pressing her breasts down against the soft tread, closing her eyes in utter abandon to this lovemaking the likes of which she’d never known.

They collapsed together, full length on the stairs, Autumn taking his weight gladly until lack of oxygen made her wiggle and he pushed himself up on his elbows. She sighed with disappointment when he pulled out, and turned to snuggle in the curve of his shoulder as he lay beside her, still breathing hard.

“Woman, you’ll be the death of me if you keep up like that,” he said.

His exaggerated western drawl made her smile and she kissed the underside of his chin. “Can we do it again?”

He laughed aloud, and traced the length of her arm with one finger. “Any time.” He dropped a kiss on her cheek. “Any time at all.” Then he sobered. “But not too much longer on these stairs, I guess. Not if Claire has her way. I know I could pay off our debts over time, but buying out her half of the ranch – that’s just impossible. I don’t know what I’m going to do without this place.”

“What if you didn’t have to sell,” Autumn said, pulling back to see his face better. “What if you could keep the ranch and still buy her out?”

“What do you have in mind?” He sat up, placed his hat back on top of his head and began to dress.

She bit her lip. She only had the barest kernel of a plan. “Give me 24 hours, okay? I have an idea but I need more time to think it through. Tomorrow at dinner I’ll make a presentation.”

“A presentation? Like with a slideshow?” He laughed, and his smile warmed her heart.

She laughed with him. “Sure – I’ll do a Powerpoint presentation. I’ll lay everything out. Except…”

“Except what?”

“I don’t really know the numbers – what you bring in now, what your costs are. You’ve only known me a week, so I’ll understand if you don’t want to show me the books.”

Ethan glanced back up the stairs. “I’d say I know you better than I should at this point. And you are going to be my wife. And you might be carrying my child. If you want to look at the books, have at it. You know anything about numbers?”

Autumn picked up her camera and nodded. Boy, did she.

CHAPTER NINE

When Ethan returned from his afternoon chores, the smell of dinner made him want to skip his shower and head straight for the kitchen table, but Autumn shooed him along with a bright smile. “Fifteen minutes until the potatoes are done.”

Ten minutes later found him showered, changed and shaved, but he could still hear Autumn moving around the kitchen, so he let himself into the tiny room off of his bedroom he had converted into his office to pull out the ledgers he used to keep his accounts.

Matt Underwood, his accountant, swore at him every quarter when he brought in the dusty, old books to be photocopied by his secretary.

“Hell’s bells, Ethan – you’re the only holdout left in three counties. You own a laptop, so buy some software and get with the new century, would you? I’ll even set up the accounting program for you. You can punch in a few numbers, click your mouse and send in everything I need without leaving the ranch.”

He let Matt rant on, but it never made a difference. He wasn’t interested in fancy gadgets or pecking away at a machine. He hated the cell phone Claire had given him and his laptop sat untouched on his desk. The ledgers were good enough for five generations of Cruz’s; they were good enough for him.

But when he entered his study, it wasn’t account books that caught his eye. It was the collage of photographs covering a large portion of the windowless wall to the right of his desk. He saw it every time he entered the office, but it had been months since he really took it in. It had become as much a part of the tiny room as his desk and the ledger books.

Lacey made the collage after his parents’ accident, when he’d moved into the bunkhouse, but before he confessed the extent of the financial trouble he was in and she’d left him for good. One day, she asked him to take her to a home and garden show in Billings, and he’d begged off, saying he needed to work on his accounts. He had just learned the extent of his debts and was still reeling from his parents’ death and he couldn’t stand to spend the day listening to Lacey make lists of all the things she wanted to buy, and he could no longer afford.