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Authors: Arthur Mitchell

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BOOK: DarkPrairieFire
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The kitchen echoed every time I moaned. The sounds rattled off the ceilings and surged back to us –

one last invisible dagger entering my bloodstream, so sharp I could feel it in every atom.

I'm not gonna hold up like this. And why should I? Why should I try to hide anything when surrender
feels so fucking amazing?

My teeth snagged my bottom lip. I sloppily tried to muffle my cries as the tsunami rushed in, loud and furious as a distant train.

My sex gushed and constricted on his fingers, his hands moving so fast that they were like riding a real wave. The heat on my ass deepened the orgasmic fire consuming me.

I came, crying and slamming backward into his thrusting hips. If anything could've been more perfect right then, it would've been having him buried deep inside me.

Halfway through my orgasm, Ethan leaned his face to me.

I moaned louder, a loud spasm tearing up my inner thighs, pleasantly surprised by his gravelly stubble. I kept coming when he bit my neck, holding me down the same way an alpha male forces his female into submission, barbaric and beautiful all at once.

His teeth released me just as my knees weakened. I pushed my hands out just in time, falling back onto the table, struggling for breath in my collapse.

My cheek smashed itself on the cold surface as I fought to replenish my depleted oxygen. But not for long.

I whimpered as he grabbed the ends my hair and yanked me up. One of his hands wrapped tight around my waist, lingering there for a second before shifting lower and ripping away my panties.

“Wha – no break?” I coughed, overcome with my dizzying climax.

“We're finished when I say. Not until then.”

New fire raced up my back. I exhaled in a rush as he pushed me between him and the wooden ledge again, this time helpless and bare assed against his jeans.

I heard the familiar slap of his metallic belt buckle, but this time he didn't need to bind me. He had his hands for that, aggressively wrapped around my waist like a rock hard python.

My breath hitched when his naked cock brushed my freshly spanked surface. Growling, he grabbed it with his free hand and positioned it lower, right at my pliant opening.

We choked on our nerves as he pushed inside me. I was so wet for him, so perfectly ready, and taking it like this in the kitchen made him feel ten times harder and warmer than before.

Ethan held nothing in. From first thrust to last, he jack hammered into me, mercilessly power fucking me into a new maelstrom of ecstasy.

I clawed at his arm for support. He never let go, even with my nails tearing at his skin. We were simply too far gone into our whiplash pleasure, hurling our bodies into one another.

I hoped the insane friction would light a fire in my belly, burning me with him. When I came, faster than I ever remembered coming from penetration alone, I knew that he'd turned me to ashes.

His pitch rose, all the better to drive his horn through my wet, sucking sex. Spasms that were unbearable became a hundred times more agonizingly good when he emptied himself inside me.

Ethan's hot come splashed against my walls, filling my fertile soil with another coating of his seed. I wouldn't do much if I were already pregnant – but I certainly wasn't going to turn it away.

In just a few weeks, I'd become a complete addict to his liquid fire. My body yawned open for him, pumping its pleasurable heat into my brain.

I swallowed, milking his erection for every last drop.

I wouldn't allow anything to be wasted. Not until I knew it had wedged itself in my soft womb, baking to completion over the next nine months.

He stayed rooted in me as we spiraled toward the table together. I curled my head around to find his lips, and we kissed softly, the perfect conclusion to our fevered sex.

The sensual indulgences continued upstairs for awhile, until we collapsed on the mattress, totally spent for another day. Possible more than one too.

Somewhere in the darkness of sleep, I heard thunder. I woke to Ethan's gentle arms around me, holding me so close to his lightly snoring, well sculpted frame.

Normally, I slept like the dead.

I never knew why something deep inside me urged me up that morning, more than an hour before sunrise.

I was weirdly conscious, without the usual groggy haze weighing over me. I slipped out of his protective grasp and headed for the bathroom across the hall, grabbing some clean clothes off the top of my dresser.

Dried remnants of his seed were still smeared across my inner thigh. I showered quickly, lightly cleaning myself with fragrant soaps and nothing more than my own fingertips.

I never liked losing any part of him, no matter where that part happened to be. But the refreshing waters soothed the dull anxiety.

An eerie unease gnawed at the pit of my stomach, restless and commanding.

Just get it over with. At least if it's a no, you can start your day fresh, probably without worrying
about this for another month...

I reached into the medicine cabinet and fetched one of the pregnancy tests I'd purchased. I did my business and waited for the sample to show.

It was like waiting for a sentence in front of a merciless judge. My breath evaporated so much that I grew light headed.

Part of me wondered if I'd pass out before I saw the final reading.

I tried not to look at the small plastic stick. But that sickly lump inside me, just above my womb, forced me to look, if only at my vision's edge.

Something weak and pinkish began to materialize.

I sucked in a deep breath and closed my eyes, quietly preparing myself. My fingers shook mildly as I reached for the test, guiding it to face level.

Let's do this on three. One...two...

Three.

My eyes opened, staring in disbelief. The watery plus sign shimmered on the surface, so faint that I stared at it for almost a full minute before I really processed my fate.

“Oh my God.” No other words could capture the fullness of the emotions rampaging through me, except that simple three word phrase.

Ethan and I had done it. In just nine months, give or take a couple weeks, our lives would change forever.

My future snapped out before me, diverging down a path I'd only vaguely dreamed about before. In a matter of seconds, that small plastic strip had changed everything.

There would be long breaks from work around the ranch, a ton of new stuff to organize and arrange, and holidays to plan at his house or mine.

“No, Cat. You're getting ahead of yourself.” I spoke to myself softly, hearing Ethan's comforting voice in my head. “Focus on the now.”

I smiled weakly. If anything were more easily said than done, it was that last part.

The fondly remembered teenage girl inside me wanted to leap up and scream with excitement. She wanted to dip out the bathroom and dive into our room, pouncing on his chest to deliver the great news.

But I'd left her behind years ago.

Mature women approached this sort of thing calmly, I thought. Besides, I didn't
really
know what his intentions were when he finally heard the news.

I shook my head, knowing he wouldn't betray me or throw me away like a useless toy. He was too good for that. And he enjoyed me too much, maybe even
loved
me.

But beyond that...what did he want?

I wondered if I was really ready to marry him. And if I wasn't, was I ready to be a single mother with a beautiful, but tenuous tie to the father?

My head swam. I picked up my fresh change of clothes and slowly rolled them on.

The shower's steamy remnants added extra humidity to a stifling late summer morning. A thick cloud of wet heat had rolled in from the east, burying the Dakota plains in tropical air.

I ran the faucet, slathering my brow and neck with cool water before stepping out. The first amber-red rays were starting to show on the horizon as I made my way downstairs and walked outside.

The dewy air seized my nose. It was the perfume of newness, and it brought an instant smile to my face.

I rarely took walks right away in the morning, and never so early. But under the circumstances, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

My sandals guided me up the narrow dirt path, through the departing darkness, toward the slightly overgrown shoulder of the dirt road that seemed to go on forever. I stopped at the part where my driveway wound onto the broader country gravel and gazed to my left, looking toward his property.

Amazing how there's no border except that little sun bleached fence along the side of the road.

How easily this could all be one for our son or daughter someday. Or maybe several small plots,
divided among our children, a small piece of our sweat and tears for each of them.

My thoughts had consumed me so deeply that I didn't realize I was coming up on Pa's memorial until I was right at it. It had been more than a week since I'd visited the site – the longest I'd gone since Ethan, Jimmy, and I pieced it together.

Guilt flickered through me. I was just trying to get on with my life, visiting old ghosts a little less.

Yet, Pa's spirit had to be restless. There hadn't been any real answers about his death – only more dark questions. Evil questions I hadn't fully come to terms with, even if the obvious threats had waned.

I breathed deep, inhaling the fresh morning air, and kneeled to the Earth. My face soured.

More intermittent rains had turned the ground soggy. Pa's silver cross leaned a little to its side, and the weeds behind it were closing in.

“Everything's going to be okay. See, Pa? I've got things under control here. Maybe not as neat as you would've wanted, but this place is going to stay in family hands for a long time to come. I promise.”

I gently pulled apart the long grass blades. I moved to the cross next, and I was so focused on making it just right that I didn't hear the dull roar until it was right next to me.

My head turned toward the heavy footsteps, but it was too late. Much too late.

Lean arms covered in tattoos reached over me. A pair of muscular hands grabbed beneath my armpits and lifted me high.

I kicked and screamed. There was no way they belonged to Ethan – not even close.

The cold interior of an old Escalade demolished the heavy atmosphere. I kept sweating, oozing out my terror, even as the door slammed and those skinny arms held me deep into the seats.

Upside down and trapped in the tight leather, I only saw my captors once before the vehicle kicked into motion.

My head turned toward the rear view mirror. It was filled with dark, narrowed eyes, the kind that belonged to someone no sane person should mess with.

I couldn't see the rest of his face, but I knew he was smiling. If you can call a jackal's grin plastered on a man's face a smile.

The tight space around his black pupils contracted. The man next to the me coughed, hectic and uncaring.

Fuck. These are the kinds of guys best left alone.

Except now they aren't going to leave me alone. All because I have something they need, and I don't
think they'll stop until they get it.

VIII: Captive, Captive, Captive

The old alarm clock next to the bed went off like an antique fire alarm. Ethan smashed his fist on the steel, clenching his jaw.

“I hate that piece of shit,” he muttered, and not for the first time.

Strange. Cat wasn't next to him.

He tugged on his jeans and shirt in a fit, pausing only to fit the belt perfectly through the round denim loops in his jeans.

She normally didn't get up so early. It was usually he who kissed his sleeping beauty before heading to his truck, just as Jimmy or someone else was winding their way down the last stretch of road to Nichols Ranch.

In the bathroom, the shower had been used recently. A box for a home pregnancy test was torn open, and he stopped to study it.

He held his breath, searching for the little test that had been in the box, the deceptively simple looking thing that had the power to tilt his whole life in a new direction.

It wasn't anywhere, even in the trash. There was no sign of the pinkish box's contents.

He washed his face and shuffled downstairs. Maybe she had
good news
, if that box was any indication.

He half-expected to sit down to a big breakfast and receive the best news of his life. His stomach growled selfishly.

But if she were cooking, he would've smelled it by now. The kitchen was empty and still, without so much as a rinsed breakfast bowl in the sink.

“Awful quiet around here,” he said, noticing the door was open.

He peered through the screen and looked for life signs. Her car hadn't left its place next to his truck, and no one else had arrived further down the path, where the workers normally parked.

His heart began to pound. Every step off the cement stairs to the dusty ground sent thunder through his blood.

Ethan ran up the path, eying the ground closely for footprints. It was a calm day, and the wind hadn't disrupted anything.

Her recent imprints trailed the line all the way up to the road. They weren't as easy to follow once he hit the sand and gravel, but he knew she never went in the direction toward his farm.

The memorial to the Senior Nichols looked awry, even from several feet away. The sticky air pulled at his skin, sending sweat dripping off his forehead in rivulets.

“Oh, fuck! No, no, no,” he roared, dropping to his knees.

Grass had been yanked out and discarded. Some of the prints looked normal, but his heartbeat reached its peak when he saw the way her knees had smeared the ground, and then those unknown boot prints behind her...

He grabbed dirt in both hands and hurled it to the ground. Ethan got up and ran back the way he came. He didn't stop until he popped his door and threw himself into the pickup's driver's seat.

“I'll ask you one last time, girl. Where's my fucking money?”

I didn't dare yell, fighting every fearful instinct in my body as he lowered his face to mine.

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