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By Brenda Williamson
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Brenda Williamson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJack's very soul leapt in excitement. Standing in the middle of the store, looking as pretty as a new day, the woman of his dreams talked to a young girl. He used every ounce of self-control not to snatch the woman off her feet and hug her with all his eager anticipation.
"Hello again." Jack tipped his hat. "You know, when I woke up-"
"Marshal McCay," she interrupted. "This is my daughter Emily."
"I am ..." The girl started to speak and stopped with some delight to a hat shoved on her head. "Oh Mama, it's so pretty. I'll just go up to the counter and tell Mr. Bass you'll be paying for it in a few minutes."
"You know, I never did get your name." Jack lowered his voice. "I woke up dressed and something tells me we didn't get to ..." he looked up at the girl bouncing back toward them, "... dance?"
"You didn't ask, and you are lucky you woke up at all." She pushed past him and went to the counter. "As for the ... the dance, you fell asleep."
He grinned, liking her offended tone.
"I was a little drunk and extremely tired."
"And don't forget insulting."
He took her elbow as they neared the counter. "I'd like to make it up to you."
"I'm no longer interested."
His fingers tightened to still her gait. "Maybe we can pick up where we left off. You're a mighty fine lookin' woman and I do apologize. I like to leave women completely satisfied."
"What part of my having a daughter did you not understand? Don't you think my husband would have a problem with you wanting to get under my skirts again?" She tugged her arm and he released his grip.
"You and I both know she ain't your daughter. Makes me also doubt there's a husband." He sensed her nervous excitement as much as he felt his own.
"What makes you think I would lie?" She tensed and clutched her reticule tighter.
"You wouldn't have been any older than the girl to have had her." He lifted a lid on a glass jar and pulled out two peppermint sticks. One he held to her lips.
"No, thank you, Marshal." She swatted his hand away.
"Howdy do, Miss Creager." The storeowner, Mr. Henry, shuffled up to stand along side her. "What else can I get you aside from that right purdy hat you're buying your niece?"
Jack chuckled at the passel of information the store owner gave him in one statement. Niece, not daughter, and her last name was Creager.
"Nothing," she replied. "No, there is something else. I'd like a cake of that lavender soap and everything else on this list. I'll also be paying off Miss Simpson's account."
"It was a right good thing she done takin' in Miss Emily after them Injuns killed your brother and his wife," Mr. Henry commented. "I'll just be a minute getting this other stuff for you." He hurried off.
Jack touched the lovely lady's arm, knowing who the storekeeper spoke about.
"Guerrero killed my brother and sister-in-law a month ago," she informed him. "It's a good thing he's in the hands of the army otherwise I would have to kill the murderer myself."
"Sugar, I'm sorry to hear about your family, but it wasn't by accident I came this way. Guerrero escaped from the army before they got him to Tucson. He killed an army scout and three soldiers, and then stole a horse. I've come this way with every intention of catching him again and personally escorting him to the stockade at the fort." He lifted a hand to her cheek, but she swatted it away.
"Not if I find him first."
"I still don't know your first name, Miss Creager." Jack sidestepped another patron as he followed her. "I asked around that town we were in, but seems no one had seen you before."
"You know more than you need to know about me already." She looked up at him. "And if you were all fired interested, my name was on the hotel register."
Jack pushed back his hat and folded his arms over his chest.
"You know, that never occurred to me."
"If that little fact slipped by, then I can't imagine how you think you'll find Guerrero if you couldn't even learn my name. Doesn't speak well of you being a marshal."
"Let's just say you didn't leave me thinking too clearly."
Her head swiveled away and he looked at her perfect profile. A nose just right, a chin tipped up, and a delicious curve to her jaw, were all invitations to him.
"Mr. Henry, I'll be back later to pick up those items," she called to the storekeeper.
"I guess I could just keep calling you honey, sweetheart, sugar, or a dozen other different terms of endearment that you'd have to explain to these good town folks. Of course, they'd question how we know each other and then I'd have to mention the saloon, the hotel room then there's this." He pulled the stocking of hers from inside his pocket.
"TJ Creager." She hissed and tried snatching the red stocking from his hand.
"I'll be keeping this little memento, dearest." He tucked the thin knitted stocking back in his pocket.
"Then keep it. The thing doesn't mean anything to me. I can't imagine why you'd want it."
"Has your scent." He patted the pocket. "Reminds me of your soft thighs and your succulent-"
"If you'll excuse me, I have a niece to round up and feed."
"Sounds like you're talking about a horse rather than a little girl. Not quite the motherly type, are you?"
She gave a vexing snort and spun around to face him. Pursing her lips, she placed her hand on her hip. She had fire in her eyes, and darned if she still didn't have the prettiest face he'd ever seen.
"You know nothing about me and I sure as hell don't want to know anything about you." She poked her finger in the center of his chest.
"Don't poke a snake unless you want to get bit," he warned, circling an arm around her waist and crushing her to him. "I recall a night you were quite eager to know the inside of my mouth with that tongue of yours."
She opened her mouth ready to spit out more venomous words and it presented him with a challenge to conquer. He'd done it in the hotel room and if he hadn't been so doggone tired, he would have insinuated himself into all kinds of pleasures with her that night.
"TJ!" the little girl, Emily called. "I'm hungry so stop courtin' that pretty man and let's go."
Jack released TJ at the sound of the child.
TJ's heavy breathing raised her breasts up, near bursting from the dress. It wasn't nearly as revealing as the one she'd worn in the saloon the week before, but it gave him a view of her ivory skin along the rim of eyelet.
"She thinks I'm pretty. How about you, Miss TJ Creager?"
"You put your hands on me again and it will be the last day you breathe." Her nostrils flared, her eyes went black and held steady for one long minute. He stared at her moistened lips deciding if he should rile her with a kiss.
She swallowed down her half-restrained squeal when she apparently figured out his thoughts. Then as she turned to walk away, her skirts tripped her up. The cloth wrapped tightly on her legs and she stumbled, but recovered and continued to march away. He'd never seen a woman look more serious or more deadly. She reeked of a woman's musky scent and was shaped like a goddess. Lord, he thought, he had to have her just for the excitement and the pleasure it would be to hold her with that untamed wild passion.
"I'll remember the warning, TJ Creager," he called after her. "Just take note I consider you a challenge and I don't back down from fights or women I want." Of course, he'd never met a woman he had wanted before in any of the ways he wanted her.
Excerpted from Devil's Kiss by Brenda Williamson Copyright © 2006 by Brenda Williamson. Excerpted by permission.
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