Stella Hole, Texas, 1840
The sounds of the saloon drifted to my ears: the shouting, the clinking of glasses, the gruff sound of the men gambling, and Sarah's off-key singing that no one could hear except me above the din. The noise didn't matter because I snuggled deeper into the arms of my Ranger. His warm, invigorating scent filled my nose and helped calm the raging hunger that crept up on me. Of all the humans who I had ever been with, he was the only one who had this effect on me. Our affair had been going on for two years. In this time and environment, that was an eternity.
Sometimes I wondered if my reverie was all a dream and when I woke up I'd be stuck in a coffin, deep underground, and my burly Texas Ranger--the one who made my blood boil and clouded my mind--would be gone. Cash Madsen had walked into the saloon one day and stolen my breath. Now he was kissing my neck and bringing me back to myself. He slipped his arm around my waist and cupped my breast.
"Where were you a few moments ago? I don't think you heard a word I said." He nipped my throat and pinched my nipple.
I giggled and leaned back into him. "Sorry, I was just thinking."
He bit the tip of my ear and wound his hand through my hair. The stubble on his chin scraped along my skin and made me tingle. I was already wet from our recent lovemaking. The warmth of the orgasm he had given me was fading. Knowing him, he'd want another go-around before he left. It was part of our routine. He would come in, and we would chat. Sometimes he smoked, and other times he played a game of cards with the other men while he kept me close. Halfway through the night, Cash would whisper in my ear to get a bottle of whiskey and bring it upstairs. After that, we would talk for a bit and fall into bed, where I'd show him a few of my specialties. He would snore some, wake up, tell me more about the outlaws he was chasing, and we would make love a second time. Sometimes he would stay until dawn was close. Then I would push him out the door with promises of more nights to come. Tonight, he had arrived early. Trouble dotted his eyes and furrowed his brow. When I had asked him about it, he brushed me off.
"What were you thinking about?" His free hand roved lower on my belly while he kissed my shoulder.
A pleasurable sigh escaped my lips. "I was hoping you'd tell me what's on your mind. You always feel better after you talk to me. Besides, I don't think I rode off all your tension earlier."
"Why is it that you know me better than I know myself, Becca?" He groaned and got off the bed.
The absence of his warmth left a hole in my heart. Not being able to soothe him hurt my soul. I followed him to the window, wrapped my arms around his middle, and rested my head against his back. He was almost two heads taller than me so that my head reached the middle of his broad shoulders.
"It's all the time I spend listening to you shoot the breeze with the bartender and some of the others in the town. That and practice. Honestly, we've been together for a while now. I like to think I can read your moods." I bit my lip not telling him I could also read his mind, which I tried never to do. I had when we first met to see if he was one of the good guys. If he wasn't, he would've been my evening meal long ago. Many corrupt Rangers roamed around Texas, and I didn't need one of those thinking he could take advantage of me or my girls. "So what's troubling you?" I kissed his shoulder blades and slid my fingers along the tops of his thighs.
"I killed two men today. The first one had it coming. Horse thief. The other, he was just a boy. I didn't see him. He was hiding behind a couple of sacks of grain. I heard a noise, turned, and shot. I just reacted, but he was an innocent."
The pain he felt cracked his voice. He drew in a ragged breath. The muscles in his shoulders tensed under my kisses. I yearned to pull the agony from his spirit, but even I didn't have that power. Cash abhorred killing whereas I was all about taking a life. It was all part of the vampire condition. You had to kill to survive. Some among my kind didn't believe in killing and only drank what they needed to live. They were subpar in my book. There was too much blood in a human to savor than to let it go to waste. Of course, I had supped on Cash's blood during our throes of passion, and he never knew what bit him. His blood calmed my hunger and kept me rational enough I never went into a feeding frenzy with him no matter how long it was since I last fed.
"I'm sorry. I know how much you despise taking lives, but--"
He spun around and gave me a hard look. "I know what you're going to say. That it comes with the territory of my job. That I have to get use to all the bloodshed." He grabbed his pants and began to pull them on.
I put a hand on his arm. "I wasn't going to say that."
He sighed. "What were you going to say?"
"I was going to say that your compassion for others is your greatest strength. Now come back to bed. I was hoping I could ride you one more time before you return to your official duties." I wound my fingers through his and tugged on them, hoping he would return to the bed so I could help relax him.
He ran his fingers through his hair. I saw the balancing of his thoughts. He wanted to stay, but he was torn to go because he had bared his soul, which he was very uncomfortable with. I batted my eyelashes and pressed my body close to his. BEGIN EXCERPT His desire electrified his skin and transferred to me from our close proximity. He dropped his pants. A winning smile appeared on my lips. I always got my way with him. The warmth of that nudged me closer to him. I trailed my fingers over his chest, playing with the stray hairs sprinkled on his pecs. Cash scooped me up in his arms and pushed his lips to mine. His cock started to harden again the longer he kissed me. Finally, he deposited me on the bed.
"You are a siren. I can't say no to you. I only wish . . ." He shook his head.
I felt the change in his demeanor. "You only wish what?" I began to knead some of the tension he carried in his arms.
"You'll think me some besotted fool if I tell you."
"Cash, I would never think that. You know I cherish everything you say."
He chuckled and kissed my cheek. "That's the problem. Here you are a notorious woman of the night and me a dashing Texas Ranger. We live in two separate worlds. I wish that we didn't. I would have you for my wife. I don't care about your past or what other patrons you entertain. I only want you at my side."
His admission shocked me. I struggled to find the words. He had never declared how strong his feelings were for me. I had never confessed that I was in love with him. In my profession love was a dangerous thing to have for a client. It could make me lose my edge, so I buried the emotion deep and only allowed it when I was with him.
"I don't know what to say."
"I know. That's the problem. I know love isn't something you afford yourself. And I've tried to deny my feelings for you. But I can't. I know it's impossible for either of us. I shouldn't have said anything." He began to pull away from me. If he walked out the door, I'd never see him again.
"Make love to me, Cash."
"It'd be better if I just left."
I grabbed his hand and placed it on my breast. "Please. You can't tell a girl you love her and then walk away."
"It wouldn't work between us. Why prolong the agony?"
I took his hard cock in my hands and ran them along his shaft. His expression softened as he began to lose focus. The distraction would be short-lived, but it would be enough time for me to reason with him. I didn't want him to go anywhere. We had a wonderful thing going, and I looked forward to our nights together. I gave him an innocent look and ran the tip of my tongue over the head of his cock. I batted my eyelashes and brought his engorged dick to my mouth. I slid my lips over his cock slowly, licking the thick vein on the underside. I grabbed his balls and rolled them in my hand. The moan that escaped his lips was music to my ears. He placed his hands on my head and began rocking his hips gently until I was sucking on him faster. I wrapped my tongue around his length, letting him come all the way into me, touching the back of my throat. I closed my eyes and let the hunger creep in. The enticement of his blood being so near, below the surface, and his skin being so warm with it, almost got the better of me, but I caught the beast before it took over my nature.
"God, Becca, you suck a mean dick. I want to fuck you again."
I gave him one long lick, dragging my teeth along his sensitive flesh, and released him from my hold. I pushed Cash down on the bed. The sound of the springs filled my ears from his added weight. I leaned over and kissed him, flicking my tongue along his lips until he sucked it into his mouth. I met his tongue, tasting him, letting him taste me. The hunger was there. One sip of his blood and it would drive the beast away. I didn't want to think like a vampire at this moment. I only wanted to be the woman he loved, the woman he wanted to marry.