Rocky Mountain Rose (Rocky Mountain Bride Series Book 3) (5 page)

“Do you like the show?” She pretended to curtsy. She’d left on her drawers, and the nightgown was thick enough to hide her skin, but it clung to every curve, particularly her ample backside.

“I’d like it better if I got to see it start to finish.”

She harrumped as if to say, “That will never happen.”

“Now,” Lyle said. “There’s the matter of your punishment. You left the room when I told you not to and forced a meeting with Doyle that could’ve ended badly. None of it would’ve happened if you’d obeyed.” He stepped back, rolling up his shirt sleeves. “Pull up your skirts and lie over the bed.”

Her body had stiffened at the word “punishment”, but his final instruction was the last straw. She started to dart away, but when her slippers tripped her up, he was ready for her. In one stride, he had her arm behind her and propelled her to the high four poster that stood in the corner. Face down, her shrieks were muffled by the calico quilt. As before, Lyle pinned her easily and threw her shift up over her head, despite muffled shrieks and kicking legs.

His hand crashed down on one cheek then another, over and over again, spanking over her drawers. She wriggled and fought, but her struggles got her nowhere, and when she turned her head to yell at him, he stuffed his handkerchief in her mouth, then pulled her drawers down so they tangled with her legs.

“Almost done, my lovely.” Lyle sounded almost nonchalant, even as his palm continued swatting her bare skin with enthusiasm. “You’re not to leave the room. When I tell you to stay put, you stay put. It’s for your own safety.”

She’d quieted, keeping silent so as not to give him the satisfaction of hearing her cry. The smacks rang out through the room; she couldn’t help but flinch a few times when his hand reddened skin that was already blistered.

“It’s my job to keep you safe, and I can’t do that unless you obey.” With one final smack, he hauled her up to face him. “Do you understand?” he asked. Rose glared bullets at him, and he pulled the handkerchief from her mouth.

“Go to hell,” she shouted.

To her surprise, Lyle just grinned and stuffed the handkerchief back in. “I was hoping you’d say that.” His hands flipped her easily back over the bed. “I love your spirit, Rose, but you will curb your tongue, or you won’t sit comfortably until Christmas.”

She squirmed, but he easily held her in place as he stooped to reach something. Then Rose felt her bottom being smacked with something harder.

Looking back, she saw he was spanking her with her own slipper. She shuffled her feet trying to escape again, but he held her firmly.

“You will listen to me.” Lyle punctuated his words with slaps of the leather shoe. “You will heed what I say.”

Her bottom throbbed in time to his words, and Rose took great gulps of air, trying to control her sobs. The slipper’s hard surface sent the sting deeper into her burning flesh. She felt herself losing her grip on anger. Worse, everywhere he slapped caught fire, first blazing with pain, then sinking deeper and transforming into aching arousal, until her cunny dripped. Every smack seemed to cause her lady parts to throb. She started to press her legs closed, but Lyle tapped the inside of her thighs, forcing her legs open again. To her great humiliation, the slipper came down right in the center of her legs, closer to her cunny than her sits spots. Rose cried out, not in pain, but horror as the sensation radiated through her, too close to pleasure for her liking. Her struggles increased, but Lyle only gripped her tighter and sent the slipper crashing down with more force, until she feared she might climax from the steady stimulation.

She couldn’t escape; she would have to give in.

With a moan, she let her head drop to signal surrender. “I’m sorry,” she said behind her gag.

“What’s that?” Lyle paused and pulled the cloth from her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated. Tears burned her eyes, but she would not let them fall. “I will not do it again.”

“Promise me.” Lyle drew her up and sat her on his lap. She winced as her aching bottom made contact with his iron thighs then realized this was also part of her punishment.

Faced with those fierce blue eyes, Rose searched for the anger she usually held up as a shield. But it was gone, melted away like snow in spring.

“I promise,” she said, slumping a little against him.

Immediately, his arms went around her, and she felt his lips brush her temple. “You do, and there will be a worse punishment for you. I did not come all this way to find you, only to lose you again.”

And with those unsettling words, he picked her up and set her on her feet.

She stood for a moment, dazed, while he re-tied her drawers and eased down her night rail. His hands brushed over her body lightly before he picked her up and carried her to bed. As before, her height and weight didn’t seem to faze him; she felt the muscles in his arms flex around her, but he set her down gently, as if she were made of glass and weighed no more than a flower. Her bottom hit the mattress and she whimpered, curling immediately onto her side.

“I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Rose. I mean it. Misbehave and I’ll blister your bottom, but I’ll never truly hurt you.” His fingers touched her hair then lifted a few fiery strands to clench in his fist. “And no one else is gonna touch you. I swear it.”

He smoothed her hair then covered her with a blanket. She felt his warm breath on her temple a second before he pressed his lips to her skin a second time. The kiss was confusing, so she stayed in a ball and shut her eyes, trying not to think about it. Every time Lyle touched her, whether to comfort or discipline, her body responded, a slave to its master. She was determined to fight it, but her flesh betrayed her.

Even now, she could sense his presence in the room with her, guarding her, keeping her safe as no man had ever bothered to do. After a time, she peeked out from under the blanket.

Lyle had seated himself near the door, a candle by his side. Their room tonight was small and not as fine as the last. There was no window and nothing but a big bed and a hard chair. Rose bit her lip. Would he stand watch all night? He couldn’t have gotten much sleep the night before, and tomorrow they faced certain danger. She felt a thrill go through her at the thought of leaving town with him by her side. As much as she put up a fuss about it, she thought it would be fine to ride out with Lyle Wilder by her side, a handsome escort who seemed as fiercely protective of her as she had been to Sam. It would be the first time she was in someone’s care, versus the other way around. If Lyle was to be a proper escort, he’d need his rest.

That thought in mind, she licked her lips and called to him. “Are you going to sit awake there all night?”

His head whipped around, his profile breathtaking in the candlelight. “May catch some shut eye.”

“You may share my bed, if you wish.”

After a beat, he stood and bowed. “Thank you, my lady,” he said as if he were a knight of old. He approached, and she searched his face for a sign of mocking, but didn’t see it.

As soon as his weight hit the bed, she regretted her offer. Even curled firmly on her side with her back turned, she felt his heat almost immediately as his presence filled the bed.

She lay as still as possible, listening as his breathing quieted.

He’s earned his rest
, she scolded herself.
And you’re not afraid of anything.
In the span of a day, Lyle had rescued her, faced off with Doyle and put his life in danger along with his brother’s. She wouldn’t blame a man for turning tail on her problems, but he hadn’t run. Instead, he defended her. He remained at her side. He protected her and vowed to rescue her.

It struck her: Lyle was her white knight, her hero, come to rescue her. The story her sister Mary had told her when she was young, about a handsome prince who would come and save them from Doyle, had come true. She’d waited all her life for him to come, and he finally had.

And she’d let him in, even after vowing to take care of herself. In less than two days, he’d climbed the tower and stripped away her defenses. Tomorrow he would carry her off, and she wasn’t fighting. She was lying beside him, grateful for his help.

What was happening to her?

Her breath came short and fast. Trembles hit her, a full body shiver spreading through her limbs, uncontrollable. She tried to scoot forward so she wouldn’t wake him, but he moved closer. One arm came over her waist and pulled her back into his warmth, near enough for him to rest his head on her shoulder. His breath stirred her hair. His other arm slipped under her, and in a few seconds she was caught, cocooned by his powerful arms, as he drew her against his chest. His body absorbed her tremors and gave back only comfort. As he held her, he made shushing noises until the fear seeped out of her and she could relax.

“You’re okay, Rose. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. You’re mine now,” he whispered.

Her head drooped forward, and his tilted with it. His breath was soft by her ear, his short hair tickling her cheek.

“Lyle…I can’t…” Her words choked off.

He waited a few long minutes, but she couldn’t finish.

“Sleep now, Rose,” he commanded. “Whatever it is, we can face it in the morning. Together.”

Trapped in his arms, she let go and did as he said.

*

In the darkness, she jerked awake, a harsh banging noise filling her ears. Someone was in the hall, pounding on a door next to theirs.

“Lyle?” she asked, voice filled with fear. Terror raced through her, transporting her back into the body of a little girl hiding under her sister’s bed while Mary barricaded the door against the shouting monster their father turned into every night.

“Shhh,” he whispered, just above her ear, and she realized the solid warmth at her back was his long body. He still hadn’t moved, after all those hours of sleep.

The banging outside their room continued, raised male voices and boots with a heavy tread adding to the sinister cacophony. Breathing hard, Rose pressed her face to the mattress unable to fight the fear clawing at her. In past years, sleeping alone or with Sam nearby, she’d rise and fight the urge to hide under the bed, Nelly her only comfort. Tonight, though, the threat was real, and her demons were too many to fight. She must have whimpered, because Lyle went up on one arm, gun cocked, pointing towards the door.

The tension lasted a few minutes, then the noises died away, the boots receding down the hall. Rose sensed the tension go out of Lyle’s taut body as he lowered his gun.

“They’re gone.”

She couldn’t stop herself, but she didn’t want to. Rolling to face him, she pressed her face into his chest, burrowing into him.

He curled around her, setting the gun down and then pulling her securely into his arms.

“It’s okay, Rose,” he whispered. “You’re safe. No one is going to harm you.” Both his arms went around her, cradling her against his strong chest. Again the tremors gripped her, but Lyle only held her closer, letting her shake against him, his muscular form her port in a storm.

In her panic, she was almost deaf to his soft reassurances, but she felt him kiss her head. At last her eyes grew heavy and she fell asleep.

She woke to a dark form shaking her.

Lyle caught her hands before she could lash out. “Rose, it’s me. We have to leave. Otis has found us.”

Feeling numb, she rolled out of bed and dressed herself quickly, securing her pistol under her sash.

Lyle waited by the door.

“But what about…” Her voice died off as his serious silence hit her. Her life was in danger, and any delay might mean death.

There was a sudden commotion outside, and Lyle stepped nearer, a tall, dark guardian angel. Rose stood and slung the bag over her shoulder.

“Jesse has your trunk; he will meet us outside of town.”

Most of the gaudy gowns she would be happy to never see again—they reminded her of Sam. Her throat closed when she realized they would not have time to bury her friend.

“Tell Jesse to sell the rest,” she said. “I have no need of it.”

“You sure?” Lyle asked, but didn’t wait for an answer, just took her arm and led her to the door. In the hall, he paused, gun in hand, checking the shadows for enemies. They snuck out the back where a black horse waited. Lyle wasted no time handing her up and swung up behind her before she could protest.

“Hang on,” he said into her ear. He leaned forward, his arms going around her to grab the reins. She could feel the lithe strength of his muscles as he guided the massive stallion into a trot, then a gallop.

The town fell away quickly. Horse and Lyle seemed to know the way, they moved swiftly over rocky ground, riding into the brush. With her face to the wind, Rose felt frozen. When she shivered, Lyle pulled the long lapels of his coat around her and pulled her back, forcing her to relax against his body. His warmth seeped into her as they rode into the breaking dawn.

After a long, hard ride, they changed direction and swung to the right, so the mountains ranged along beside them. Lyle’s horse ran like a rushing river, and Rose found her body moving between man and beast, as naturally as breathing.

The sun was up and climbing when they broke out of the wilderness scrub. The stallion swerved around boulders and leaped over a stream, its movements powerful and eloquent under its master’s guidance.

After miles of nothing, they came over a hillock, and there were two horses. Jesse stepped out from behind a cactus, rifle in hand, grinning at them as they slowed to a stop.

“I beat you here,” the younger, rougher brother observed.

“Took the long way so we wouldn’t be followed. East, then south.” Lyle bounced down and then turned to help Rose.

“Where are we?” Rose asked. She looked around the wild landscape, wondering why they’d stopped.

“Safely away from Doyle.” Jesse grinned at her. “Good morning to you too, Rose. You look lovely.”

She ignored him, but Lyle frowned at his flirtatious sibling.

“We’ll take a break here,” Lyle told her. “Jesse brought that horse for you.”

She noticed the gelding, smaller and more mild tempered than Lyle’s great stallion, it would suit her. Then she noticed the makeshift carrier it had pulled, and the still shape wrapped in a blanket.

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