NOTE: Texas Trio was my first-ever novel-length erotica, which I’m revising and posting here a few chapters at a time. There’s an actual story to back up all the naughty bits, so it will be more fun if you start at the beginning! Thank you so much for the hearts, stars, comments, and emails—they make all the work worthwhile!
–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:– CHAPTER 8 –:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–
Cat waited patiently at the kitchen door, not wanting to alarm the servants by invading their territory. She couldn’t believe she was doing this for the man her awful Uncle Harrison intended her to marry, whether she herself wanted a wedding or not.
On the other hand, she’d been chock full of unlikely behavior lately… and all of it began five weeks ago, when she woke to find a blue-eyed burglar standing over her. Torn between shock at her own wanton ways and constant torturous arousal at the memory of Colt’s body against her, Catherine had tried not to think of him at all.
She’d repeated the vow silently, dozens of times, and failed just as often, despite the passage of days whispering she’d probably never see him again. Up until two weeks ago, it had seemed like thinking of Colt was all she did. At least it had been an escape from the anxiety of awaiting her uncle’s mysterious houseguest .
After dozens of Uncle Harry’s horribly explicit threats, by dinnertime on the appointed evening, Catherine had resigned herself to being at least temporarily tolerant of her unknown suitor. She’d gone to meet him with a pasted-on smile, a heavy heart, and her sister’s welfare firmly in mind. Instead of a lout like Monsieur Louis or another vapid scion of some wealthy family, however, Cat had been astounded to discover a twist of fate had provided her with a surprisingly charming, well-read, shockingly attractive dinner partner. How her cretinous uncle managed it was almost beyond imagining, until Catherine recalled the quiet, well-mannered man she thought he’d been… before the death of her domineering Aunt Frannie freed the tyrant.
In the two weeks since Señor Alejandro’s arrival, Catherine had spent a few hours every day with the handsome South American rancher, and she had yet to find anything truly objectionable about the man. His manners were perfect and his speech refined. They walked in the garden, took a buggy out to look at the new houses going up along Broadway, or rode around the public square on Twentieth Street just to see who was doing the same.
Going against all convention, Catherine had declined every invitation and call she received since Señor Allejandro came to stay. She knew she was causing an upsurge in Galveston gossip, but getting to know a person when you were separated socially by dance cards and managing mamas or brandy and cigars wasn’t practicable. She might be forced to wed this man, after all, and she’d like to know what she was getting into.
What she’d learned so far seemed promising: Señor Allejandro liked some of the same things Catherine did, and wonder of wonders, he was merely amused by her choice of reading material. He’d actually read the Henry James novel she used to shock potential suitors into revealing themselves, but he merely questioned Catherine’s interpretation of its ambiguous ending. Maybe South American men were less constrained, Cat thought curiously.
Her chief reservation about her suitor was his own reserve. “Big Jim” was often quiet, more inclined to listen than to tell stories of his own. It was a welcome change from the young men she knew, but she’d noticed Señor Allejandro often turned the topic when asked about his parents or his past. He was especially quiet around her uncle, too. Catherine didn’t know how to interpret his silences, but she suspected he was hiding something, and that suspicion prevented her from trusting him. It also allowed her imagination occasional reign to return to Colt, regardless of whether he intended to return to her.
Standing outside the kitchen doorway that morning, she frowned without knowing she did so. Perhaps Colt had altogether forgotten about her. Perhaps asking her to run away with him hadn’t been a sincere proposal on his part; maybe returning to see her a second time had been just a lark for him. Catherine knew she wasn’t the type to inspire instant devotion. Nanny said she’d grow into her looks, and while Catherine hoped that was true, she couldn’t depend on ever turning into a femme fatale. Right now, she had to be satisfied with nicely put-together, well-coifed, and erudite… as if that ever mattered to a man! So maybe her impact on the blue-eyed burglar had been less striking than the impression he’d left in her mind.
Cat gave her head a hard shake and smoothed her skirts.
Today was for getting to know “Big Jim” better. Cat’s lips curved in anticipation. She’d enjoyed their stimulating conversations, but she loved the way he looked at her. She’d been forced to drop her own eyes more than once, so he wouldn’t read the desire bahis firmaları written there. It was indecent to lust after a man one had so recently met, potential spouse or not. Her intended had been a perfect gentleman so far, but Catherine hoped this picnic would offer him the opportunity to kiss her, and she wanted him to take it.
She flushed and came to a precipitous stop in the hallway, arranging her face into a proper greeting. As shameful as it was, she wanted to know if Señor Alejandro’s kisses had the power to arouse her the same way her absent burglar had.
She sighed again, straightening as Cook pushed the big door open, picnic basket in hand.
“Thank you, Cook.” She smiled prettily and Cook grinned in reply. The staff loved Miz Catherine. She and Miz Becky– the minx– had always been kinder than the strict, unsmiling Matthews.
“You have fun, now, Miz Catherine.”
Cat got one fleeting glimpse of a man who must be Jim’s valet as Cook retreated into her domain. From the black queue at the nape of his neck, he appeared to be a stoop-shouldered hulk of a Chinaman. Cat had never seen a Chinaman that big, but maybe it was just the position in which he sat. She shrugged and put both the strange valet and her romantic burglar out of her mind.
Hot on Cook’s heels, Nanny scurried from the kitchen. “Don’t you think o’ goin’ anywhere without a chaperone, Miz Cat!”
Catherine raised her eyebrows. “Nanny! Of course I’m not!” She paused, letting her eyes fall to the picnic basket as she began fiddling with the lid. “I was about to send for Jenny.”
Nanny squinted, studying Catherine, innocently toying with the basket over her arm. Nanny had cared for more than one adventurous young lady– she knew all the tricks. “I don’t think so, Miz Cat. I’ll go get Mary-Ann.”
Cat’s eyes snapped up to Nanny’s face. “But– “
Nanny shook her head. “No, suh, Miz Cat. Mary-Ann’s goin’ witchoo.”
Cat pursed her lips until Nanny was well out of sight.
An hour or so later Catherine and her suitor were seated in a secluded glade on the bank of a stream outside town. The horse had been given a drink and a handful of hay to keep him busy, and Cat and Jim were “strapping on the feedbag”, as he’d kidded her in his exotic Spanish accent. Mary-Ann was curled up on the rear seat of the carriage, where she’d fallen asleep less than a mile from home. Cat’s penchant for listening in on the servants when they thought her mind was elsewhere could be extremely useful sometimes. For instance, she’d recently overheard a rumor that Mary-Ann had spent every night this month spooning with one of the stableboys.
Jem watched Catherine unpack their lunch, thinking Colt was right; there was an indefinable quality about the woman. At first glance, he hadn’t seen the world-class beauty Colt described: she was very pretty, and her eyes were stunning, but since then, she’d grown on him. By the end of their first few hours together, Jem wasn’t sure he’d have used any less glowing terms than his smitten partner.
He’d been entranced to discover his prospective bride was a well-read, insightful, curious scholar, despite her uncle’s obvious disapproval. Jem had been forced to split himself between his honest opinions, what he really wanted, and the image he deemed necessary to maintain for Matthews’ benefit. He didn’t want to alienate the man: Matthews needed to believe he and Jem were birds of a feather. So, he’d tried not to show the wild enthusiasm he felt during most of their conversation. Still, he’d begun to think this venture would be more difficult than anticipated in many ways, and the days since that first meeting had done nothing to alleviate his concern.
Catherine nibbled on a cold chicken leg, watching Jim dig into Cook’s bountiful basket. She couldn’t eat ten bites strapped into this corset the way she was. Nanny had gone nuts with the strings this morning, wanting Catherine at her best for their handsome houseguest. Cat wanted to look nice, too, but she could barely breathe. She sat rigidly upright– she had no other choice– and sipped the chilled wine supplied with lunch, letting her eyes roam over Señor Allejandro.
His hair was plastered down, and under cover of the ubiquitous gentleman’s hat, she couldn’t tell if it was black or dark brown. His eyes, a striking golden brown, were almost the same shade as his skin. Señor Allejandro wasn’t quite as tall as– Cat called a halt to her wandering train of thought, sipping the wine– he was tall, broad-shouldered, and under his fashionably tight trousers, Cat could discern bulging, muscular thighs. And another bulge, too. Catherine dragged her eyes from his lap to find Jim staring at her in fascination.
Oh, my goodness! He had not caught her staring at his… thighs… had he?
Cat blushed prettily and nodded at the plate on his knee. “Are you enjoying Cook’s fried chicken?” she asked, hoping he’d think her flush was due to the heat, or some kaçak iddaa other less distasteful reason than perusing his–
Oh, my goodness! she thought again.
“Señorita, are you unwell?”
In the dappled shade of the grove, with a breeze blowing from the unseen Gulf, the spring heat didn’t reach the levels it did inland, but Catherine’s skin felt hot, her thighs damp beneath the voluminous layers of her skirt.
“What? I’m sorry– ” Catherine was beginning to feel dizzy. In consternation, she tried to set the glass down beside her on the blanket, but the ground wasn’t where it should be, and she dropped it from a foot above, splashing wine over her bodice.
He sounded so concerned.
“That’s sweet,” she thought, and the world went black.
The breeze felt so nice on her face, Catherine thought dreamily, drifting lightly into her head. So nice on her heated skin.
Why was she so hot?
Oh, the heat. I blushed, that’s right. The picnic, the day, her suitor, all flooded into her mind at once and Catherine’s eyes snapped open. Jim, a worried expression on his face, leaned over her, fanning her with a damp napkin. That accounted for the cool breeze.
“What happened?” Catherine asked, still woozy and closing her eyes to stop the spinning.
“You fainted, Señorita Catherine.”
His voice was like a caress on her skin, replacing the breeze as he stopped fanning to press the cool napkin to her brow.
“I’m all right, thank you, Señor.”
“Jem, please. All my friends call me Jem.”
How odd. It must be some Argentinean family nickname. Catherine kept her eyes closed and smiled at his low, cultured voice.
“Jem, yes. Thank you.”
She reached up to rest her hand on the shoulder hovering just above her own. “Thank you so much.”
Catherine opened her eyes to find Jem staring, his golden eyes as piercing as if he were searching for her soul. Her belly tensed, and she couldn’t help it, her own eyes fell to his full lips. Answering the silent call, Jem leaned slowly forward, giving her plenty of time to protest. Catherine didn’t want to protest, she wanted to taste him. She closed her eyes and wrapped her fingers around the peak of his shoulder, pulling him down to her.
Some of Cook’s fried chicken lingered on his lips and blended with the summery flavor of the wine to make Jem’s kiss a sensual, succulent pleasure. Salty and sweet, Catherine thought, as tingles trickled southward from her lips to light up other parts of her body.
Perhaps subconsciously remembering Colt’s kiss, Catherine opened her mouth to Jem’s and felt his heart pounding faster in the breadth of his chest, as it plastered itself to hers. A tiny squeak slipped from her mouth when he withdrew, but Jem was merely shifting his weight before resuming his leisurely exploration of her lips.
Catherine ran her palms across Jem’s shoulder blades, buried under an inch or two of dense muscle. Her fingers itched to feel his skin, instead of the summer-weight suit and shirt he wore, though that was one thought she wouldn’t admit, even to herself.
Jem lifted his mouth again, this time to nibble and nip along her jawline, capture her earlobe in a sensual pinch of the full, warm lips. His tongue flicked out to tease the delicate dip underneath and Catherine gasped. His tongue….
She tipped her head, encouraging his attention, and Jem complied. Her fingers dug into the firm shoulders.
His tongue… feeling it like this was so different than when he kissed her. The kiss of moisture left behind tingled in the summer air.
Jem let his lips drip down the long, sensual column of her neck to where her high-necked blouse imprisoned the silky white flesh.
When he returned to lavish her lips with small sips of pleasure, Catherine drank in the sweet sensation, leaning her head back and succumbing to the heat of the day and his body above hers. She stopped trying to quantify what she felt and just languished in the sheer hedonism of feeling it.
Her chest heaved as he kissed from the side of her throat to the hollow in the middle, and she gasped when the point of his tongue again darted out to lick the hot skin located there, then his mouth moved lower.
Gasping was practically all she was doing a minute later– she’d almost forgotten how to breathe normally… Catherine couldn’t believe how exquisite Jem’s lips felt as they wandered onto the upper curve of her breast, leaving lingering spots of heat dancing across her skin as his hand– Oh, my goodness! His hand settled gently around the full curve of her breast, his fingers resting lightly on the swell above her corset, where only her silken chemise separated his tender strokes from her own bare skin. Only her silk… Her chemise!
Cat’s eyes flew open. The upper half of her body was clad only in chemise and corset, and her high-necked beige and burgundy lawn bodice was gone! Catherine gasped and realized then that she could breathe.
“Mmm.” kaçak bahis His acknowledgment sounded more like desert than conversation.
“Señor Allejandro!” Catherine tried to sound stern, which might be easier if she weren’t gripping his shoulders so tightly, she realized, relaxing her fingers. “Señor Allejandro, where is my–“
Despite the way Jem’s mouth was making her feel, Cat’s hands dropped reluctantly to his chest and she pushed him away. “Señor Allejandro,” she began for the fourth time. “Where is my blouse?”
Golden eyes met her pale green gaze.
“Señorita, you could not breathe. I loosened your ladies garment–” Jem allowed his fingers to creep slowly over the round curve of her breast and into the dip of her waistline, still covered by the corset but infinitely freer than she’d been this morning. “–to let air into your body.” Jem’s eyes followed his hand and his head fell forward, his lips embracing her shivering flesh as he placed several small kisses across the exposed ivory skin of her chest.
Cat may have had the breath, but she didn’t have the will to protest his actions, and she didn’t even realize he hadn’t answered her question.
Jem went on, murmuring against her skin, “It is a shame for all this beauty to be so cruelly contained.”
His hand returned to her breast and Cat allowed her own to cross his back. Her lids closed as she tipped her head. She didn’t notice the buttons of her chemise slipping from the corresponding slits, nor the first of the metal corset clasps releasing its restraining hold. She was conscious only of Jem’s mouth gaining access to more of her. She arched toward him, pleading wordlessly.
There were no words in Cat’s head at all, physical sensation having wrested control from reason. She didn’t notice the next metal clasp open, either, as it coincided with the exact moment Jem’s warm mouth gained access to the aching, swollen spot where she most wanted to feel the heat of his mouth’s embrace. His lips closed around one plump nipple as his fingers delved beneath the other side of her chemise, plucking at the hard bud concealed there.
Cat moaned, her fingers digging into Jem’s broad shoulders as he lay stretched out alongside her. He shifted his weight, reclaiming Catherine’s mouth as she rolled in his direction, wordlessly offering herself up. One-handed, Jem speedily undid the few remaining clasps and buttons keeping her hidden from his eager eyes. Soon her chemise was spread wide, his hands and mouth roaming her ribcage and the pink-tipped peaks above, making her tremble in his arms.
Somehow Cat’s leg made it’s own way over Jem’s booted calf.
He took the opportunity presented to him, running his hand from the bare skin of her torso over her satin-covered bottom to gently tug her thigh higher on his hip, plastering their bodies together from neck to knee, wanting more contact than the shifting, ruffly layers of her skirts allowed.
Catherine moaned into heat of his mouth, and Jem tried desperately not to grind his hips against her. In a distant way, Jeremiah was aware that the situation was getting out of hand, but so far, he’d managed to temper nearly all of his baser impulses. He’d been trying not to frighten her with his growing need, but when she responded so passionately to his petting, Jem began to lose control along with her.
He tore his mouth from Catherine’s, hoping to slow his heart rate, but his resolve went sideways and he bent his head to her breasts again. He delighted in the sounds she made and the feel of her fingers gripping his shoulders. Colt was right, the lovely lady in Jeremiah’s arms had no idea what she was doing, but she definitely liked what he was doing to her.
Jem wanted to show her everything, introduce her to every intoxicating sensation she could feel in his bed, in his embrace. Their marriage wouldn’t be a sham to get her away from her uncle: he’d fallen in love with Catherine Connor, and he was determined to have her. He wasn’t thinking those words at the moment, but they were implicit in his actions: he would never have taken such liberties with Catherine if he hadn’t already committed his heart and soul to making her his own.
From the first words she’d spoken to him across the table, he’d been entranced. Secretly amused every time Colt referred to her as an angel, Jem could no longer hope to disagree. After only a few hours in Catherine’s company, he’d gone from calling Colt insane to sharing his best friend’s fate. She was bright and caring and compassionate, and Jeremiah couldn’t imagine returning to the ranch without her.
And as angelic as Catherine appeared, Jem hadn’t missed the heated glances she’d been trying to conceal. He’d been successful in acting the gentleman despite the lady’s blatant curiosity, despite the frequent erections he suffered in her presence… until today. Catching her eyes roaming lustily over the lower half of his body had pushed him too far for reason to intercede.
Jeremiah knew his behavior was beyond the pale, even though he meant to marry the woman, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself from tasting——sampling the delicious curves of the angel in his arms.