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Chapter Twelve

She married a crazy man. She was so happy she couldn't stop smiling. She had even laughed out loud several times while she'd been in the bath, for she was filled with such an abundance of joy and love she couldn't keep it all inside.

She was waiting now for her husband to join her. She stood at the bedroom window above the Perkinses' parlor and stared out into the night while she brushed her hair. The moon was beautiful tonight, and the sky was alive with at least a hundred stars. Crickets were singing their nightly song in unison. The scent of pine filled the air, and everything seemed magical.

The long-stemmed pink rose Travis had given her before the wedding ceremony was in a vase on the table beside her. She picked it up and held it against her heart.

She turned around when the door opened. Travis came inside, bolted the door, and turned to look at her. His breath caught in his throat, and he was suddenly overwhelmed by the beautiful woman he had managed to capture.

She was dressed in a prim white nightgown that covered her from the top of her neck to the bottom of her slippers.

"Good evening, Mrs. Clayborne."

She laughed, and he felt as though he'd just been embraced by her warmth. He leaned back against the door and grinned at her.

"Don't be nervous."

"Why do you think I'm nervous?"

"You just threw your brush out the window."

She laughed again. "I want it to be perfect for you."

"It already is."

It was the most perfectly wonderful thing he could have said to her. Oh, how she loved this man.

He removed his shirt, tossed it on the back of a chair, took off his shoes and socks next, and then came to her.

"You aren't really nervous, are you, sweetheart?"

"Just a little," she admitted. "I know what's going to happen. I'm just not familiar with the how."

"You mean you haven't made a thorough study on the subject?" he teased.

"No, but I imagine you have."

He took the rose out of her hand and slowly trailed the fragrant bud down the side of her cheek. His gaze never left hers, and within seconds, the apprehension she had felt was gone.

"I love you, Emily. And only you," he told her in a rich, gruff voice.

Impatient to take her into his arms, he put the rose back in the vase and carried her over to the side of the bed. She kicked her slippers off on the way.

"Do you want me to explain in detail what I'm planning to do?"

She knew from the tone of his voice that he was teasing her. "No, thank you very much, but I appreciate the offer. I believe I'd rather you showed me."

He gently placed her in the center of the bed and came down on top of her, careful to brace his weight with his arms.

He leaned over her and stared into her eyes, savoring the love he saw there. "I'm going to make a thorough study of you, Mrs. Clayborne. God, I love the sound of that, and when I'm finished, it's my sincere hope you'll thank me very much."

He was tossing her favorite expressions back at her. The way he was looking at her, with such love and desire, filled her with anticipation, and if she had trusted her voice, she would have told him he didn't need to worry about putting her at ease now. She was more than ready to become his wife in the most intimate way. Heaven help her, she was eager.

Shivers raced down her spine when he nuzzled the side of her neck. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and stroked his back.

He was determined to let her set the pace tonight, and within minutes he was richly rewarded. She tugged on his hair, demanded he stop teasing her and give her a proper kiss. One was all it took for passion to explode between them. By the time he removed her gown and his trousers, she was breathless with excitement and he was having a hell of a time breathing at all.

He knew more about how her body would react to him than she did. His hands were strong yet incredibly gentle as he stroked the fire inside her.

And when at last they joined as one, it was all so astonishingly exquisite, she couldn't contain her cry. She was overwhelmed with the love she felt for this man. He made it so very perfect for her.

He felt her tighten around him, and he gave in to his own climax, shaking now because he had never experienced such splendor before.

It took a long while for either one of them to recover. They lay together in a tangle of legs and arms, and, damn, he was so happy and content he thought he must be in heaven.

She was so happy she needed to cry and laugh at the same time. The satisfied look on his face was comical to her. Then she realized she probably looked the same way.

He kept her in his arms when he rolled onto his back. She stretched out along his side and put her arm across his chest.

"Now, aren't you sorry you made me wait so long?"

She patted his chest while she gently corrected him. "It was only two weeks. You knew that stagecoach was going to leave while you were kissing me, didn't yu?"

"Of course. Did you honestly think I would let you go?"

"I honestly think I'm happy you didn't."

He laughed. He was so pleased with her he had to kiss her again. Then he let his head drop back on the pillow and let out a loud, sleepy yawn.

"You put me through hell waiting to get my hands on you."

He was exaggerating, of course, at least she thought he was, and she wouldn't have given up the last two weeks for anything. He had proven to her during that time that he was possibly the most romantic man in the entire world. He'd courted her with what he referred to as a vengeance. She had never had a chance against him-he'd warned her about that-but she had held out for as long as possible to give him time to make certain he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

She had been concerned that it was only an infatuation on his part and therefore he saw only the good qualities in her. He had set her straight about her misconception at dinner the night before by cheerfully listing every single one of her flaws. It took him a long time to get them said too, and though she had been aware of a few, he pointed out several more she hadn't even known about. She was still stubbornly insisting that she wasn't stubborn at all.

"Do you know what I think, Travis? That one kiss good-bye led to this night."

He rolled her onto her back again. "I knew before then, and so did you. I love you."

"I love you too."



"Kiss me good-bye again."

Chapter Eleven | One Pink Rose, One White Rose, One Red Rose | Chapter One