A woman with no memory
Two men with a dangerous secret
Thrilling adventure meets sizzling romance
Hot darkness, pressing soft on her face. Musty lavender and unwashed feet. An urge to sneeze. She pinched her nose, hard.
A sliver of light. She peered through the crack. Johnny, slumped on the floor. Dead. A whimper escaped her lips, and she curled into a tight ball. She must not be found.
Light blazed around her. Wood splintered, metal crashed. She screamed. Something muffled her mouth, her nose, choking her. Thrashing, she clawed at her face, pulling away spider webs that turned into cloth in her hands. Hands reached, pulling her free, hauling her upright. She screamed again, scrabbling to escape.
“Tranquila, nena, tranquila!” The command was firm, the arms about her strong.
Heart pounding, fear a knot in her belly. Her face mashed into a chest, iron hard under warm skin. The scent of pine, of leather. Familiar, safe. She stopped struggling.
A hand stroked her hair. Her fingers curled around bare arms, stretching to encompass thick muscle. She opened one eye and saw a whitewashed wall.
Colina de Cobre.
“She okay?” Wilder’s voice, but it was not he who held her.
“Cord?” she croaked.
“Sí, nena. Are you well now?”
“I—I was dreaming. I saw—I saw…Johnny. Dead.”
“Your husband, Juan? You remember?”
Belle squeezed her eyes shut, trying to hold onto the dream, but it was slipping away. Tears pricked her eyes. “I saw him dead, but that’s all. I can’t remember anything else. How… How did he die?”
“A bar fight. His body was found in a ditch near a bodega. Though rumor said he could not pay his gambling debts, and someone came to collect.”
“He was murdered?” Belle shivered.
The hand in her hair moved under her chin, tipping it up. She stared into Cord’s velvet brown eyes, dark with concern. “You are safe, Belle. We will not allow anything to happen to you.”
“I know,” she whispered.
Cord made as if to stand up. Her hands convulsed around his arms, and she failed to stop the little noise that whined from her throat. Cord settled back down, tucking her head under his chin.
“Wilder, please fetch the whiskey.”
“Can’t give a lady strong liquor,” said the deputy.
“Oh yes you can,” said Belle into Cord’s chest. “I’d give my right eye for a good slug of whiskey!”
Wilder chuckled. “Coming right up, ma’am!”
Her face pressed into him, she felt Cord’s laughter as much as heard it. “Your eyes must stay where they are, Belle. They are finer than the finest jewels I have ever seen.”
“No such thing. But if you call me a liar, I shall say no more.”
“Oh no, don’t stop,” she sighed.
He laughed again. “You like a man to tell you how lovely you are?”
“What woman doesn’t?”
She tilted her head back to look at him. Teasing words dried on her lips, and her heart, slowed from its frantic hammering, started to thump again. She was accustomed to seeing admiration in a man’s eyes. It often led her to flirt, even let him romance her. But as she met Cord’s scorching gaze, heat shivered across her skin. Her mouth fell open on a gasp, and her stomach hollowed. Between her legs, a pulsing begged for attention.
His mouth was so close she could taste his breath.
A door opened, and Belle jerked, startled. She suddenly became aware Cord was shirtless. Little wonder he had been so warm against her. Flushing, she shrank away, and he immediately released her and rose from the bed. She pulled up the blankets to cover herself, acutely aware her nipples were visible through the sheer silk of her chemise. Gratitude surged when Cord did not add to her embarrassment by looking down. He merely turned to Wilder, crossing the threshold.
“Here’s that whiskey,” said the deputy, pouring a shot into a glass and placing the bottle on the dresser.
Cord bestowed an affectionate smile on him. He took the glass and offered it to Belle. The liquor was deep amber in hue, and she sniffed its heady aroma appreciatively. Of course a man like Cord would stock fine whiskey, not the horse piss one commonly found in a saloon. She sipped, closing her eyes to savor the taste. Smoky, biting in a most pleasant fashion. Heat tracked down to her belly and spread across her breast.
“I’m much obliged, Hal,” she said, smiling at him.
It was then she noticed Wilder’s chest, bare and magnificent. Like Cord, he wore only pants. Her eyes slowly tracked north to his face, then slid to Cord. Afternoon sun streamed through the high windows, illuminating both men who were half turned towards each other. Belle had seen some fine men in her day, but could not recall seeing anything that surpassed the sight of the two before her. Black hair and blond, pale eyes and dark, they made her think of night and day, of the sun and the moon.
The deputy was tall and broad, the patrón lean and wiry, but both had the well developed muscles of men accustomed to physical labor. Corrugated stomachs and lean hips on which their trousers rode. Just above both waistbands, a spread of hair blazoned what lay below. Belle licked her lips and, with a flick of her wrist, downed the rest of her drink.
Holding the glass loosely, she stretched out onto her side, propping herself up on one elbow and smiling up at them. “So, gentlemen,” she drawled. “If you fetch another couple of glasses, we could start the festivities early.”
Copyright © Jules Radcliffe