When Ella realizes that her mysterious guest, Travis, has a deadly past, she has to come to terms that it may just be the cause of her husband's untimely death.
Ella Gilby lost her husband to the perils of living in the wilderness of the new frontier. When her son finds a wounded man in the barn, she does what any Christian woman would do for a needy soul. She takes him in until he's able to move on, but never expects the attraction to blossom between them.
With a gasp of breath, Travis bolted upright in the bed. Sweat drenched his body. The pitcher Austin had fetched sat on the table beside the bed, beads of moisture running down the side. He'd fallen asleep and remembered...what? Travis groaned and grabbed up his tin cup. Tremors rippled through his fingers. He cursed.
Then, on a whisper of the wind, her heavenly visage blossomed in his head. The shaking subsided and he filled the cup. His thirst took over. Before long, the pitcher was empty yet the heat still burned within. To make matters worse, his bladder had reached its capacity.
Soft moonlight filtered through the wavy glass windows as he made his way through the living area and into the kitchen. His footsteps were light. No telling if the others had turned in for the night. The door creaked, and he stepped out into the chilly night air. His urgency hit him full force. Mindful of the dark, Travis headed toward the back of the house for privacy. Each bush along the barn called to him, but the very first one got the honors. Relief spread through him as he did his business. He jerked at the sound of a coyote in the distance. They were close, but nothing to worry about with him heading back inside.
As he rounded the house, something caught his attention along a small picket fence. He hurried along, the mournful howl of the coyotes ever closer.
"What in..." Lying next to a mound of dirt was Ella sound asleep. Travis scooped her up. She was surprisingly light. The moonlight framed her face. So peaceful like an angel. He took her inside. The scent of her hair tickled his nostrils. A faint smell of wood fire from cooking and the fine sandy earth from the grave lingered. She was heaven and hell all wrapped into one.
He took her into the bedroom and onto the bed. At the doorway, he hesitated. Her legs were all askew. The boots she wore had mud caked on them. He sighed and went back to her side. No sense leaving her with more cleaning in the morning. One by one the boots came off. Not content with leaving her in a dress worse for wear, he searched around her bedroom for her night attire. It hung off the side of a beautiful screen. He tossed it to the bed and lifted Ella to a sitting position.
"Ma'am? Sorry, Ella?" He brushed away the few strands of hair from her face. "I don't think you want to sleep in your dress." Her head rolled to the side. Again her intoxicating scent hit him full force. His breeches tightened, and a lump formed in his throat. Closing his eyes, he fumbled with the clasps and buttons on the back of her dress.
"Lord, forgive me," he whispered. "Wake up and save me from doing this." Ella did not respond. Continuing his dubious task, he shimmied her arms out. She fell from his arms back onto the bed. Bared in front of him were her unblemished breasts. Unable to contain his growing erection, heat burned in his veins and fueled its ascension. Yet he never looked away, much to his embarrassment. Ella was a fine sight to behold. Though she wore her tan lines well, the pale flesh she kept hidden from the world enticed him to touch, nip, and taste. He reached over for her nightgown, and guided her head through. His elbow grazed her nipple. A slight moan whistled through his lips. What wicked thoughts brewed in his head? He worked quickly to slide her arms through the sleeves. The rest of the dress crumpled to the floor.
Tucked under her blankets, she posed no threat to his aching trousers. At the doorway, he stared at her sleeping peacefully. Slumber would elude him this night. Her flesh would torment his dreams if he dared lie down. He'd form a plan to keep his distance from her so that his want to touch her soft skin would not boil over to unwanted advances. The woman had lost her husband and didn't need some stranger pawing at her.
Back in his room, Travis propped himself up against the wall trying to conjure up the image he had when he'd fallen asleep previously. Time ticked by, and the pink glow of a new day stretched into his room. Only one thing slid across the recesses of his mind: Ella half undressed resting peacefully on her bed.
"I am surely bound for hell." He jumped off the bed and headed outside. Perhaps dunking his head in the trough would clear his unclean thoughts away.
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