Excerpt from The Wicked West - e-Harlequin Books, June 2009!
The sun began its slide behind the mountains, but it remained fiery hot all the same. Lily could feel the warmth slip across her forearm as the light slanted farther into the room.
She didn’t move. She’d long since finished her solitary meal of rabbit stew, one of the few things she could cook on her own as it didn’t take much skill or knowledge to let something bubble on the stove for three hours. Undoubtedly, the novelty of cooking would wear off soon, but at this moment she felt proud and full of... herself. Yes, full of herself and what she could do.
She’d been nobody her whole life. A marionette, at best. A statue at worst. First, an obedient daughter, then a meek wife, and finally a helpless young widow. But now she was... well, she was nobody, still, but a much better version of it. She was nobody because she was working to decide just who she wanted to be. She had the power now. Power over herself, even if that meant the simple choice of who would come to her bed.
She wanted Sheriff Hale.
The sunlight seemed to brighten for one last, desperate moment, then dusk fell like a shadow when the sun finally slipped behind the jagged peaks to the west. That instant twilight flooded her with anticipation. The sheriff would return home soon, and Lily would offer him her body again.
She was sure she wasn’t wrong about him. At the first moment of their introduction, she’d recognized something in his body, as if his nerves were taut and humming with an energy only she could sense. He seemed to glow with need, and when she had instinctively lowered her eyes before such power, his jaw had clenched, his eyes had narrowed. He’d liked that. But when he’d noticed her watching past her lashes, Sheriff Hale had jerked his chin up and schooled his features.
Lily was not the type of woman to make advances. Aggression was not her role in this game. Her only solution was to make it clear she would submit to his needs, if only he would take her.
Just as she closed her eyes and let her head loll to the side, the distant sound of boots on wood floated past her open curtains. A door squeaked, then shut with a crack. Sheriff Hale was home.
Lily stiffened in her chair but didn’t rise. It was early still. Not quite nine o’clock. But she was ready. She’d undressed and arranged the length of her silk robe around her on the chair. The lamps burned at their brightest. So did her lungs. Excitement and fear nearly choked her as she waited for him to appear in his bedroom window.
She was wet already, thinking of him watching her. If only he could tell her what to do, exactly how to please him. Her hands shook at the thought.
He must not have gone to the saloon tonight, because she didn’t hear his tread as he walked up the stairs. Her first hint that he’d arrived on the second floor was a soft scuff against the floorboards of his room. He didn’t light a lamp.
Her heart leapt. Now. Now.
She’d done it the night before, but tonight the idea of performing for him was more frightening. He’d given her no encouragement this afternoon, no hint that he appreciated her offer. And if she put on the same show tonight, he’d know. He’d know that she planned it. That she opened her curtains and arranged the lamps to set her body aglow just for his eyes.
His window stayed dark and quiet.
Now. Even the voice inside her head trembled as she tried to convince herself, but Lily reached for the pins that held her hair up.
The Wicked West, available June 1st from eHarlequin!!!