During the Battle of the Wilderness, Union Major Chase Whitlaw shoots a Rebel soldier, just as they’re both cut down by a terrible explosion. As the Reb lies dying, he begs Whitlaw to return a locket to his wife, Libby, in New Mexico and tell her he loves her.
Chase half-heartedly agrees, until Libby’s picture in the locket becomes his touchstone, helping him to survive his injuries.
In New Mexico, Chase finds Libby in desperate straits and offers help instead of truth.
Libby’s horse ranch, plagued by unexplained accidents, is failing. Until the arrival of the war-scarred stranger, a neighbor’s unwelcome offer of marriage was the only way to save her son’s inheritance.
But now, she has Chase. Working side-by-side, their passion becomes undeniable until Chase’s truth is revealed.
Now, Libby must decide: forgive or say goodbye forever.
“…a splendid tale of strong men, stubborn women, wild horses and a love that heals as it grows.” ~Melinda Helfer, Romantic Times
“Take it easy, Libby,” he said. “I’m only gonna kiss you.”
“I’m not afraid, if that’s what you think.”
“Aren’t you?” His fingers circled her wrists and he and pulled them to his chest. The rest of her body followed, until she was as flush against him as moss on a tree.
“Holding me this close wasn’t part of the bargain.”
“I don’t remember discussing any ground rules on holding,” he retorted in a low voice.
She was close enough to see the beginnings of stubble on his cheeks, inhale his scent—woodsmoke and saddle leather and the particular masculine fragrance that was his alone. Lord, Libby, now you’ve thrown kerosene on the fire. “This was a bad idea….”
His eyes told her he thought she was wrong. His hands slid slowly up her arms to her shoulders, setting off waves of heat in their wakes. Deliberately, he lowered his gaze to her mouth.
“It’s been a long time since a man’s kissed you proper, hasn’t it, Libby?”
Libby swallowed hard. Proper? Was there anything proper about what they were doing? “I told you, my…my husband, died two years ago in the—”
His arms tightened around her. “I know. Shhhh,” Chase’s whisper implored, while his thumb lightly traced her lips. “No ghosts allowed in this kiss. This one’s just between you”—his knuckle trailed a path of heat down her cheek—”and me.”
His voice was low and smooth as fine whiskey and went straight to her head. Thoughts of Lee, guilty, useless thoughts, spun away with Chase’s caress of her cheek. She kept her hands curled tightly against his chest, as if she could keep him from doing to her heart what he was doing to her body. Oh, why had she agreed to this foolish bet?
Because Chase is right, a quiet voice answered. It had been a long time. Too dangerously long. And his tender touch was reminding her of how many years she’d done without that.
Cupping her face with his hand, Chase dipped his head down toward her. Like the whisper of a breeze that surrounded them, his lips brushed hers—once, twice—before claiming them fully. A sinking feeling of pleasure curled through her. His mouth on hers was firm, yet achingly gentle; at once, demanding and entreating.
Beneath her fingertips she could feel the quickening beat of his heart, whose tempo seemed to match her own. Her hands explored the taut, well-defined wall of muscle on his chest. She knew in that instant how capable he was of both tenderness and great violence. But it didn’t make her afraid. It made her want him more.
Somewhere in the dim recesses of her mind, while her body turned to molten liquid, she knew this wasn’t the friendly kiss they’d agreed on. But as his tongue urged her lips apart, and he explored the dark, long-untouched recesses of her, she ceased to care. Like a skein of wool, too tightly spun, Libby felt herself unraveling as his kiss deepened and changed.
Chase hadn’t meant to kiss her like this, but as he’d felt her body give in to his, the flame that had sprung to life inside him had trebled. She was sweet, so sweet, just as he’d known she would be. She smelled of fresh mountain air, pinon smoke and…wild lilacs?
He forgot, for a moment, to think; to remember who he was, or to wish she wasn’t the wife of that Reb soldier. For the moment, she belonged to him. Every fiber, every inch of her. He felt it in her surrender, in the way her hands let loose of the folds of his shirt and spread across his chest like fingers of fire. He felt it in the slow mindless dance her tongue was doing with his and in the way his blood pounded in his veins, washing away all thought and caution—and every shred of his common sense.
WILD WESTERN HEARTS SERIES:
Book 1: Holt’s Gamble
Book 2: Renegade Bride
Book 3: Renegade’s Kiss
Book 4: Chase the Fire
Novella 4.5: “Ethan’s Bride” in Pistols and Petticoats