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By Maya Banks
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Maya Banks
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe cabin exuded masculinity. All the rooms were sparsely decorated in earth tones. The living room was dominated by the stone fireplace, and the glow spread warmth over the rustic wood floors. It was, she imagined, just as a cabin may have looked a hundred years ago.
Ethan sat at a desk several feet from the fireplace. He was concentrating on a computer screen and occasionally tapping on the keyboard. Did they have internet access here in the middle of nowhere?
She looked around for the others, but the house was silent. Taking a deep breath, she crossed the room until she stood behind Ethan.
"Ethan?" she asked, damning how quivery her voice came out.
He swiveled around in his chair and looked inquisitively at her.
"Can I ask you some questions?"
"Of course," he replied.
He stood up and tucked her hand in his then pulled her over to the couch.
"Let's get comfortable."
She sank down beside him, careful to keep a safe distance from him. One touch from him and she was likely to throw herself into his arms and beg him to make love to her.
She stared at him for a long time then gathered her courage around her. "Is this for real?"
His gaze softened, and he sat back as if realizing she needed the space.
"This must be difficult for you."
She nodded. She swallowed back what she wanted to say then hesitated. Holding back her emotions wasn't natural for her, as problematic as it may be. Something told her she could be honest with Ethan.
"It's difficult, but not in the way you'd think."
She promptly blushed and looked away as she spoke.
He didn't prompt her to say more, he merely waited.
"I don't understand," she began again, trying to formulate her thoughts. "How can you all want me? I mean I can understand wanting me, wanting to have sex that is, but Adam said ... He made it sound like you wanted me to stay."
"But how? You don't know me. How can it be any more than lust at this point?"
He smiled and reached over, curling his strong fingers over her palm. He picked up her hand then turned it over until her palm faced up. Bending his head, he pressed his lips to her skin.
She shivered in reaction, a chill racing straight up her arm.
"Lust? Oh yeah," he said, lowering her hand. "But it's more than that."
Her hand fell to the couch, but she wanted to press it back to his mouth. The curl of urgency between her thighs had her shifting to alleviate the discomfort.
"If you're asking me if we're in love with you," he began, "well, I can't speak for my brothers, but I don't think it's that simple. As you said, we don't really know you. But we recognize you. Does that make sense?"
She shook her head wordlessly.
"Put it this way. I recognize you as the woman I will fall in love with. Maybe I've already started down the path. I won't know until we've had more time to explore each other." He flashed a wicked grin at her. "And explore, I plan to do."
For some reason, his simple honesty comforted her more than a declaration of undying love and devotion. She'd gotten those from Mason, and they certainly hadn't done her any good.
"What do you want?" he asked softly.
"I want never to have gotten married," she blurted out, allowing her regret to pour out of her soul.
Tears stung her eyelids and she looked away.
He scooted forward and pulled her against his chest. He tilted her chin up until she looked him in the eye.
"You don't have to stay married to the bastard."
Sadness swelled in her chest. "I don't think he'll let me go. I know ... I know too much," she said.
He arched his brow.
"What do you know, doll?"
She closed her eyes. She needed to release the heavy burden she'd been carrying for the last two weeks.
"I saw him kill someone," she whispered. "On our wedding day."
Ethan's grip tightened around her.
She pushed away from him, gritting her teeth to keep the tears at bay.
"You see, that's why I can't stay here. He'll find me. He'll kill you. It's nothing to him."
Ethan released his breath then looked over her shoulder.
"You hear everything?" he asked.
She swiveled around until she saw Ryan leaning against the wall behind her.
Ryan nodded, his eyes glittering dangerously.
"Did you email Cal?" Ryan asked.
She looked back at Ethan in confusion.
Ethan nodded. "Yeah."
"Who's Cal?" she asked.
"He's a lawyer," Ryan said.
Her eyes widened. She looked between the brothers, checking their expressions for something, some clue as to their intentions.
"He's a good friend of ours. He practices law in Denver. I emailed him about your situation. Asked him how best to proceed with terminating your marriage."
She stood up in agitation, shrugging off Ethan's hand.
"You can't tell him where I am!"
"No one's going to tell him where you are, doll."
"Don't you want to be rid of him?" Ryan asked.
She looked up to see him studying her, probing her as if measuring her reaction. Her eyes narrowed. Did he think she wanted to stay married to Mason?
"After what you heard, how can you doubt that?" she asked, staring back at him just as intently.
They squared off, neither backing down as they burned holes through each other with their eyes.
He relaxed his stance then crooked his finger at her.
It pissed her off that she found herself crossing the room to stand in front of him.
He pulled her roughly into his arms and melded his lips to hers.
She moaned low in her throat. God, he felt so damn good. She threaded her arms around his neck, and in that moment, she didn't give a damn what he thought about her. She wanted to rip his clothes off.
He sucked her bottom lip between his teeth and nipped erotically. He wasn't gentle, his touch was demanding. He slid his hands underneath her shirt, upward until he cupped her breasts in his palms.
She flinched when his thumbs flicked her nipples. She arched closer to him, wanting more.
Her breath came in ragged spurts as his mouth left hers. He burned a trail down her neck then sank his teeth in the curve of her shoulder.
She cried out, her legs collapsing beneath her.
Something caught her. Not something. Someone. She found herself rocked against two hard chests. One in front. One in back.
Gentle kisses rained where before Ryan's teeth had seared her skin. She leaned back, wanting more of Ethan's touch.
Ryan shoved her shirt upward, baring her breasts. He bent and sucked one nipple into his mouth. God, he was hot. No preamble with him. No teasing. He went for it. Hard and fast.
"Do you want it?" Ryan murmured.
Did she want it? If she didn't get it, she was going to kill someone.
"If you don't want this, now is the time to say so," Ethan said as he rocked her ass against his rock hard erection.
"No, don't stop. Please."
"Never let it be said I could refuse a lady," Ethan said, his voice thick with desire.
Ryan pulled the shirt the rest of the way from her body and tossed it on the floor. He hooked his finger in the waistband of her jeans and pulled her hard against him.
He devoured her mouth with his as he fumbled with the zipper. In a few seconds, he was shoving her pants impatiently down her hips.
"You've got too many clothes on," she protested.
Ryan's eyes flashed. "In the bedroom. Now."
Excerpted from Colters' Woman by Maya Banks Copyright © 2006 by Maya Banks. Excerpted by permission.
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