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.Gideon shook with exhaustion.Every bone and muscle in his body was sore as if he’d been beaten during the day.It was definitely an emotional beating, if not a physical one.A day of ups and downs, absolute lunacy in the purest sense of the word.He set the dishes down, added a couple more logs to the fire to keep it going for a while, then turned to the bedroll.Perhaps he expected her to look young and innocent in her sleep.But she didn’t.Chloe’s hair was splayed out like a fan, sparkling red and gold in the firelight.Her lips were slightly parted as though waiting to be kissed.The shirt gaped open as she lay on her side, revealing the barest hint of the curve of her breast.Blood surged into his dick, and he hardened in seconds.He forced himself to take deep breaths and not to touch her until he was more in control of himself.She was a slip of a thing, beauty in an unconventional wrapper.After all the women his friends had fallen in love with, Gideon had expected to find a simple woman to live a quiet, happy life with.He held back the snort with great effort.His experiences with Chloe had been nothing short of a disaster, yet he was drawn to her.There was a bond there, one that grew stronger with each passing hour.He hadn’t intended on falling in lust or love with a traveling smart-mouthed, short woman from Virginia, but damned if both hadn’t happened.Gideon sat down to take off his boots, then crawled in next to her, careful to stay above the blanket.His body still throbbed with the need to touch her, and the clean scent emanating from her side of the bedroll made it worse.He rolled over and gave her his back, but it didn’t help.His dick knew exactly where she was.“Tell me about where you came from.” Her words startled him.“Jesus, woman, I thought you were sleeping.”“I was, but I sleep light.Had to learn to.” She was right, of course; women traveling alone could not afford to sleep heavy or risk their safety and perhaps their lives for it.“Tell me about where you came from.”He felt peevish enough to be difficult.“You first.”A small fist landed on his shoulder.“You’re a hard man, Gideon Blackwood.”This time his chuckle was a strangled grunt.“You have no idea.”After a moment, she started speaking.“I grew up in the middle of Virginia, not too far from West Virginia.My parents had a tobacco farm, and we scraped by on what we had.Granny is my daddy’s ma.She lived with us after Mama died.I must’ve been about two, so I don’t remember much before she was there.” Her voice was soft and melodic, amazingly calming Gideon’s over-stimulated body.“I have, I mean had a brother.He was two years older than me, and we were best friends growing up.We climbed trees, caught frogs, went swimming in the pond out back.Heck, I was eight before I realized I wasn’t a boy like him.”“That explains a lot.”The fist thumped his shoulder again.“Hush up or I won’t keep talking.”He swallowed back the words that threatened to pop out of his mouth.After all, if she wasn’t talking, he’d be kissing her.He’d already vowed not to bed her again, but it was a damn hard vow to keep.“Adam was a good brother, I think.He would tease me like big brothers do, but he let me tag along with our cousin Tobias when they went fishing.Then they enlisted together, and I ain’t seen them since they left.My daddy died a year later, leaving me and Granny behind.We held on to the farm, but the world around us fell to pieces.” She sighed long and hard.“We decided to head to Texas to live with Granny’s sister.Right before we headed out, I found the girls hiding in a broken-down barn on their farm.Their mama had died at least a week before.Poor things.”She didn’t describe what she’d found, and he didn’t want to hear it.There was no need to explain since he could picture what the little moppets had endured.The war had destroyed the childhood of every American youth.“What happened to your brother?”“I don’t know what happened to him, and like I told you before, he wasn’t on the death notices.I looked every damn day for two years.I like to think he died a hero in battle, that way I don’t have to think about him and Tobias dying alone in a ditch.”Gideon turned over.Her face was a pale oval in the meager light.“If you loved them, they couldn’t have died alone.You were in their hearts.”Her eyes widened, and he was shocked to see they were suspiciously wet.“Thank you for that.”His own throat grew tight at the raw emotion in her voice.He knew that kind of pain well, lived with it for five years, denied it every day too.Chloe was all kinds of trouble for him.“Now it’s your turn.”He grimaced and took her hand, which was soft and small in his.She rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb.It helped him start talking.“I was born in Georgia, the only child of a cotton plantation owner and a Southern belle from one of the oldest society families in the state.My father was always disappointed in the fact I didn’t want to run the plantation or follow in his footsteps.He tried charming me to take over for him, and when that didn’t work, he tried force.” Gideon had to pause and swallow back the old bitterness before it spilled out over Chloe.“I had everything money could buy, including tutors, clothes, horses and cigars [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]