Authors: LaVyrle Spencer
She trembled with sensation. Jesse, Jesse, she thought, you are so good at this… so good…
He looked down to find a faint smile upon her lips, her eyes still closed, her breasts now straining as far forward as she could manage and still keep her shoulder blades against the door. He smiled slowly, understanding her well, letting his elbows slide several inches lower, bringing his midsection away from hers, then flicking his tongue out to touch the very corner of her eye.
She's had so little love, he thought, I will drown her in it for the rest of her life.
No word was said. Her hands came from behind her to blindly find his hips and pull them back against her, bringing his heat and hardness where she wanted them, making him smile against her hair and slip one arm between her shoulder blades and the door, down to her waist. His other hand grasped the doorknob for leverage as he ground himself against her, a hand clapped tight now upon the seat of her petticoats, quite unable to feel much more through all those layers.
Her hips began to move with his, while her palms remained just below his belt as if she must know fully his every motion—she must, she must, she had waited so long. She opened her eyes as if drugged, pleading silently until his mouth came down to find hers open, waiting, yearning. And together their tongues dove deep while their flesh pressed so tightly together that pulses seemed inseparable.
She writhed between him and the door and he moved his mouth to her ear, whispering hoarsely, "Abbie, I'm going to take you to that bed and make love to you like you never imagined you'd be made love to again."
He felt her shudder and understood what was happening inside her. His own body was straining against the confines of clothing. Still, he leaned low and lightly bit one of her nipples—as if in passing—through the cloth and all, making her twist and suck her breath in sharply and open her eyes.
He slipped an arm around her shoulder, the other beneath her knees, and lifted her effortlessly from her feet, her arms twining up and about his broad shoulders, fingers twining into the hair at the back of his neck while he turned slowly, slowly toward the bed.
"And I'm going to keep it up… and keep it up… and keep it up… until you admit that you love me and say you'll marry me," he said throatily.
They stared into each other's eyes as he strode toward the bed, the muscles of his chest hard and warm against her breast.
She heard the springs sing out as he knelt with one knee and leaned to lay her down. With a hand on either side of her head, he hung above her, and said into her eyes, "And I don't intend to be hindered by the petticoats you chose to wear for any wedding to another man—whether I paid for them or not." Then without watching what he was doing, he found the buttons at her waist and she felt them come free.
Tingles shafted through her and she smiled, a glitter of eagerness now playing up at him from behind fringed lashes.
"But, Jesse, you paid so dearly to arrange that wedding," she said softly, seductively.
"Well, I'm unarranging it," he said gruffly, and he stripped the petticoats away down her calves, then grabbed her hand and pulled her to a sitting position.
"And neither will I contend with Victorian collars that signify nothing."
With agonizing slowness he removed her blouse. She obediently complied, but when his dark head dipped near hers as he slid the garment away she informed him, "Whether I marry you or not, I will dress as I see fit—like a lady."
"Fine," he returned as the blouse came off. "You do that. In our parlor when you have the ladies of the other railroad barons to tea." He tossed the blouse over his shoulder "In our bedroom you leave them hanging in the chiffonier along with your camisole and these." He inserted a single finger into the waistband of her pantaloons, tugging.
She fell back languidly, arms flung loosely above her head, and lay there in wait, loving him more with each passing word.
"You paid for these too. I suppose that gives you the right to do what you will with them."
He knelt beside her and without taking his eyes from her face, removed his vest and shirt, flinging them over his shoulder to join her petticoat and skirt on the floor.
"Exactly. Just like I paid for that green coat you were going to wear on your honeymoon. And if you weren't proud of the fact that I'm rich you wouldn't keep pointing it out time and again." And off came his belt.
"I would have been content to run a simple shoe store," she purred, reaching out to brush the backs of her fingers against the part of him she'd first seen when he was dying upon her bed, making his eyes burn bright before her fingers trailed away from his trousers.
Then slowly, tantalizingly, he freed the buttons up the front of his pants, while his voice poured over her like liquid silk.
"When I'm done here, I'm going to shoot down that goddamn sign that's got your name on it with his."
The ardor in his tone made the word
almost an endearment. Then his pants, too, were gone.
"Signifying nothing," she murmured with a slow smile.
"Like hell," he said gruffly, reaching to untie the string at the waist of her camisole, then sliding a hand inside, up, up, over her ribs as he sat on the bed and stretched his long, dark limbs toward Abbie.
Her nostrils widened and her breath came jagged.
"You don't think it's significant that I'm taking back what I once gave away so foolishly?" he asked possessively, pushing the camisole up by increments, leaning his dark head to kiss the hollow between her ribs, then that beneath her left breast.
Eyes closing, she whispered, "This whole town probably knows what we're doing right now," caring not the least, loving it anyway.
He moved his tongue to the hollow beneath her other breast, chuckling deep in his throat, his lips nuzzling against her skin.
"And they'll probably run home and do a little of it themselves, just at the thought."
"Not everyone's like you, Jess," she said, smiling behind closed lids, wishing he would hurry up.
But he moved like a seductive snail, unbuttoning the waist of her pantaloons and slipping them only to her hips, exposing their hollows provocatively.
"No, but you are, and that's all that counts." Again his mouth found her hollows, these just inside her hipbones, while she stirred sinuously. And after some moments the last garment moved slowly, slowly downward while he kissed a path in its wake and she lay with a wrist across her forehead, all resistance gone, her lips parted as his tongue danced upon her.
"I remember this best," he whispered hoarsely before delving into her, following as she arched, stroking until she moaned and fell back, shuddering beneath him.
"I did too… I did too," came her strangled voice.
He knew her well, he loved her well, he drew his head back just at her breaking point, moving up her body to thread his fingers back through her hair and lay his hot, hard length upon her, not in her.
"Say it, Abbie," he begged, kissing her beneath the jaw as her head arched back. "Say it now while I come into you."
She opened her eyes and found his filled with love as they probed hers. His elbows quivered beside her as he braced away, waiting to hear the words.
She reached between them and found him, guided him home, her eyes never leaving his as he came into her, moving strong and sure to the rhythm of her repeated words,
"I love you, Jesse… love you… love you… love you…" over and over again in accompaniment to his long, slow strokes. He saw tears well and slip from the corners of her eyes as her lips formed and reformed the words, faster and faster, until her lips fell open. And shortly, he followed the way she had gone, through that plunging ride of ecstasy.
The room grew quiet, the afternoon light reflecting in off the snow as her hand lay on the damp nape of his neck. She toyed with his hair absently. Then, closing her eyes tightly, she suddenly grasped him to her, holding him, possessing him, lying perfectly still for that moment, recording it in her memory to carry with her into the length of their days together.
"Jesse… oh, Jesse."
Lost in love, he rocked her, rolling wordlessly from side to side, and finally falling still beside her, looking into her serene face.
"The train is coming," he said softly.
She smiled and touched his lower lip, then trailed a fingertip from the center of his moustache to its outer tip. "Even the train schedule accommodates you, doesn't it?"
"And what about Miss Abigail McKenzie?" he asked, holding his breath.
She gazed into his beloved eyes. "She too," she said softly, "she too."
His eyes slid shut and he sighed, content.
But she made them open again when she asked, "But what shall she do with her houseful of wedding cakes and sandwiches?"
"Leave them to the mice. They'll like them better than oatmeal."
"Leave them?" she asked, puzzled.
He braced up on one elbow, all trace of smile gone from his face as he gazed at her intently.
"I'm asking you to get up off this bed and put on your clothes and walk to the train depot with me, holding my arm, never looking back. Everything starts with now."
"Leave my house, my possessions, everything—just like that?"
"Just like that."
"But the whole town is probably out there waiting for us to come out of this hotel. If we go straight to the depot, they'll know."
"Yes, they will. Won't we create a sensation walking out right under their noses, boarding the executive coach—Miss Abigail and her train robber?"
She eyed him, considering it.
"Why, Jesse, you want to shock them, don't you?"
"I think we already have, so why not finish it off with aplomb?"
She couldn't help laughing. At least she tried to, but he hugged her again, pressing his chest across hers, and he was very, very heavy. All that came out was a soundless bouncing, which made him relieve her of some of his weight, but not quite all—not until she said yes.
"We are so very different, Jesse," she said, serious again, touching him upon his temples. "In spite of what we have in common, we are still opposites. I could not change for you."
"I don't want you to. Do you want me to?" For a moment he was afraid of what she might answer.
Instead she said nothing, so he sat up on the edge of the bed, turning his back on her.
But she knew him well enough by now to recognize the tensing of his jaw muscle for what it was. She sat up behind him and ran a hand over one of his shoulders, then kissed his back.
"No," she said quietly against his skin, "just as you are, Jess. I love you just as you are."
He turned to her with a smile aslant his lips, the bedeviling moustache inviting as he reached out a single hand, palm-up.
"Then let's go."
She placed her hand in his and let him tug her off the bed, almost catapulting into his arms, laughing.
He hugged her naked body long against his, running his hand down her spine while her bare toes dangled above the floor.
"Back off, woman," he warned with a chuckle, "or we're going to miss that three-twenty to Denver."
Then he let her slip down and slapped her lightly on her naked rump.
They dressed, their eyes on each other instead of what they were doing. But when she began gathering up the torn wedding gown and the buttons and satin shoes, he ordered gently, "Leave them."
She looked down at the dress. The touch of its satin beneath her fingers reminded her again of David, and she knew what she must do. "Jesse, I can leave everything else, but I must…" She looked up entreatingly. "I must not leave David—not this way." Jesse did not move a muscle or smile. "Not hurting him as I have. May I just go back to the store and try to make him understand I never meant to hurt him?"
Jesse's eyes were dark, inscrutable, as he knelt before her, buckling the straps on one of his photograph cases.
"Yes. If it'll mean not having him between us for the rest of our lives, yes." They were the hardest words Jesse DuFrayne had ever spoken.
A few moments later he held the new green coat as she slipped her arms into it. Then they turned at the door to survey the room for a moment—the overturned screen still lying on its side, wedding gown in a heap, torn and wrinkled, its buttons strewn around the room along with her crushed veil and the discarded satin pumps.
Hoping he'd understand, she went back in and retrieved the shoes, tucking them into her coat as they left the hotel and stepped into the cold, sparkling sunlit afternoon.
He held her arm as they walked along the boardwalks to the shoe store at the end of the street, and he stood outside stoically, his hands buried in his pockets, waiting, while she went inside to return the white satin pumps to David Melcher. It seemed to take forever, though it was a matter of only several minutes.
The bell tinkled and Jesse looked up, searching her face as she came back out and took his arm to walk back toward the depot.
There was an odd, sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He looked down at her gravely.
She smiled up at him. "I love you, Jesse."
And he breathed again.
They walked the length of Main Street, feeling eyes upon them every step of the way. At the station the train waited, chugging and puffing impatiently, its breath white upon the cold Colorado air.
On the side of the second to the last car glittered an ornate crest bearing an R.M.R. insignia done in gold leaf, intertwined with a design of dogwood petals.
Puzzled, Abbie looked at it, then up at Jesse, but before she could ask, he scooped her up in his arms and mounted the steps of the executive coach.
But suddenly he stopped, turned, looked thoughtfully out at the deserted street, deposited her on her feet again, and said, "Just a minute. Don't go away." Then he swung down the steps again.
And cool as you please, Jesse DuFrayne drew a gun, took a bead on the sign down the street that bore the names of David and Abigail Melcher, and popped off two shots that brought every person out of the shops from one end of Main Street to the other to see what in tarnation was going on.