The soft glow of the oil lamp illuminated the room and cast dancing shadows across the two women changing into their nightclothes. Brianna struggled into a flower print nightgown while Ty slipped a thigh length sleep shirt over her head.
If it had been left up to the bounty hunter, she would have skipped the clothing altogether, but she still remembered her mother's words of wisdom for this special moment, not to mention the conversation her brother had shared. It had been a few days past their fifteenth birthday and she had known that Tyrel had had 'The Talk' with their father.
"C'mon, Tyrel! All Mama told me was that I had to do what my husband said. And," she had grimaced at the thought, "that the best a lady could hope for was for him to be gentle. There's gotta be more to it than that!"
Tyrel had laughed at her in his new deep voice and shaken his head. "That's pretty much what Papa said, Victoria Lynn. We men have to treat you ladies like delicate flowers and not inflict our baser selves on you any more than necessary."
"Baser selves," she snorted. "This delicate flower can beat you with one hand tied behind her back and you know it!" That had gotten her a wounded glare, but Tyrel hadn't argued the fact. Victoria Lynn had been able to beat him up since they were twelve. Not something the growing man was proud of.
He leaned back against a tree and frowned thoughtfully. "It's kind of stupid, really," he admitted. "You're supposed to marry a girl because she's beautiful and will give you beautiful children, but Papa says I have to make sure all the lights are out before I touch her." He glanced at his sister in confusion. "What's the point of having a pretty wife if you're not allowed to look at her?"
Victoria Lynn settled next to him and rubbed her chin. "Hmph. That doesn't make much sense. Did he tell you to keep your clothes on, too?"
Tyrel nodded. "Yes. And to make sure that I only pulled up her gown enough to do my duty," he sighed dramatically.
"Doesn't sound like much fun," she stated mournfully. "It's a wonder people have children at all."
"I guess that's why they call it a man's duty and a wife's burden," Tyrel agreed.
They'd sat quietly absorbing their new knowledge until they had suddenly looked at each other and grinned. "Beat you there!" Tyrel had yelled, jumping to his feet and running to the creek.
"Not fair!" Victoria Lynn shouted back, her long legs enabling her to catch up with him and they dove into the cool waters laughing with youthful exuberance.
The soft voice of her young bride brought the bounty hunter back to the present with a jolt. Her lips curled in a gentle smile as she noticed that Brianna was already snuggled under the covers, the faded quilt drawn all the way up to her chin. "Just thinking, sweetheart," she rasped out quietly. "I'm sorry."
Brianna inched her hand out from underneath the covers and stroked Ty's forearm. "Do you...are you...." She sighed and tried again. "Have you changed your mind?" she finally got out with a nervous smile.
"No! No I haven't, Brianna." Ty sat still for the longest time and then breathed out a heavy sigh. She turned her body so she was facing Brianna, a long leg tucked up beneath her. Worried azure eyes studied the young woman's face. "Did your mother talk to you about this?" Slender fingers waved in a vague motion across the bed.
Brianna felt the heat rise in her face and she smiled shyly. "Yes, she did."
"Oh. Good, good." Ty gave her a weak smile.
"What's wrong, Ty?" Brianna was more nervous about Ty's odd behavior than she had been about the consummation of the wedding itself. Her mother hadn't said anything about having to actually discuss the act. Brianna had thought they would just do whatever came naturally and that Ty would have enough experience for the both of them.
Ty brought Brianna's hand up and dropped a kiss on her knuckles. A stalling tactic, maybe, but she couldn't figure out a graceful way to get rid of the covers and do her duty like her brother had told her. No matter which way she thought about it, it just seemed awkward as all hell. We should've stayed in the damned tub. At least there she'd gotten to feel her young bride's smooth skin against her own.
Brianna had an unexpected thought as she watched Ty's gaze dart about the room and her eyes widened. "Honey? Haven't you ever...done this before?"
Ty blushed furiously, both at the use of the endearment and at the thought of admitting she was untried. Bolting to her feet, she stood in front of the small window trying unsuccessfully to hide her uneasiness. "Women are supposed to save themselves for marriage," she muttered at last.
Brianna sat up in shock, grateful her husband couldn't see what was probably a most unladylike expression on her face. Once again, the odd combination of male and female that was Ty Mason struck her forcefully and she struggled to come to terms with it. A small smile started and slowly grew as she realized that she'd be the first to initiate the bounty hunter, just as Ty would be hers. She was both delighted and proud.
Easing out from under the covers, she took a few short steps and wrapped her arms around Ty's waist, leaning her head against broad shoulders. "Good thing we're married then, isn't it?"
The tension drained away from Ty's stiff form and she turned around to face her wife. A crooked grin lit her features and she chuckled before bending down to give Brianna a gentle kiss. "Did your mother mention anything about clothes?" she asked hopefully.
"Just something about them not staying on very long," Brianna murmured in response, small fingers already reaching for the pearl buttons of Ty's sleep shirt.
"Oh. Good, good."
There were only the sounds of slightly elevated breathing and the rustling of clothing for the next few moments, as Ty fought with the slim ribbons that served as fastenings for Brianna's nightgown. Small hands smoothing back Ty's shirt and lightly tracing her breasts only served to make it impossible for the bounty hunter to concentrate. A frustrated growl slipped past her lips and Brianna laughed in response, taking pity on her husband and stepping away to remove her clothing herself.
Ty followed her example and their clothing hit the floor at the same time. Neither woman noticed the synchronicity of their actions—they were much too involved in staring at the sudden expanse of flesh bared to their gazes. Deep blue eyes shot up to misty green and Ty swallowed hard.
"You're...built...differently than me," she stated inanely.
Brianna ducked her head shyly, self-consciously running her fingers over the smooth curve of her waist and hips. Most of her strength was hidden by soft flesh and, while not heavy by any stretch of the imagination, she'd often bemoaned the sturdy nature of her build. "Good breeding stock" she'd once overheard someone tell her father. "Not in your lifetime," her father had answered brusquely, which had made her feel a little better...but not by much.
To her dismay, her lower lip started to quiver and she automatically tightened her mouth to control it. Then the heat from Ty's body enveloped her and Brianna sighed as she stepped closer. "Can I touch you?" Ty asked hesitantly.
Brianna nodded mutely and stood as still as possible as Ty traced the outline of her figure with the barest of pressure. "So soft," came the quiet whisper, "so beautiful. Your skin's like silk," Ty observed, with a hint of awed wonder.
The young blonde looked up in surprise, catching the most breathtaking smile she'd ever seen. "You don't mind?" she couldn't help asking.
Ty frowned at her in confusion. "Mind what?"
"That we're so different." Brianna let her own fingers travel across Ty's whipcord muscles. "You're so lean and so strong...." Her voice trailed off as her hands dipped to the almost nonexistent curve of Ty's hips. She shook her head as she motioned to herself. "I'm just..."
Two fingers placed across her lips silenced her. "You're just the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. You're perfect," Ty told her emphatically.
When Brianna didn't seem to be convinced, Ty tilted her head and studied her silently. She took Brianna's hands in a gentle grasp and settled them around her neck, then took a half step closer, sliding her thigh between the blonde's until there wasn't a hint of space between them. The curves of their bodies fit as though they were made for each other—and as far as Ty Mason was concerned, they were.
"Absolutely perfect," she whispered in her bride's ear, strong arms holding her close.
"Mr. Mason?" Brianna finally spoke after giving Ty a gentle squeeze and lingering a bit longer in the warm embrace.
"Yes, Mrs. Mason?"
"Your hand is on my posterior."
Ty jerked back as if she were stung and her face flushed crimson. "I...I'm sorry! I thought..."
Brianna just giggled at her and leapt onto the bed, somehow making the childish act look graceful. She gave the stunned bounty hunter her most seductive smile. "I've heard that gunslingers have to be very fast," she stated softly.
Ty watched her warily and nodded her head, having no idea where this was going.
"Do they have a lot of stamina, too?" Brianna asked, tracing an idle pattern on the quilt and looking up at her husband through her lashes.Sparkling blue eyes narrowed and Ty flashed a wolfish grin. "More stamina than a farm girl, I'd bet," she growled back and slowly stalked her way to her giggling bride.
Ty's grin softened to a smile as she eased herself onto the bed next to Brianna. "What? You're not going to ravish me?" the blonde playfully questioned.
"Only if you want me to," Ty responded uncertainly, not sure if they were still playing or not.
Brianna turned so that she was facing Ty, propping her head on her right hand. "I'm sorry. Sometimes when I'm nervous I just plow on ahead and hope for the best." She blushed lightly.
"Well, you know, I'd be more than happy to ravish you if I knew how to do it," Ty admitted with a shy little grin.
Brianna grinned back and reached out a hand to trace a path across her husband's collarbone. "We could always learn. Then just speed up when we figure it out," she offered.
"Yes," Ty managed to whisper, struggling against the tingles spinning down her chest and back from the light touch.
Then somehow they were leaning toward one another, lips meeting and caressing, hands finding purchase on each other's hips. "What do you want me to do?" Ty gasped out on a ragged breath.
"Everything," Brianna sighed. "Touch me," a kiss, "hold me," a nibble, "love me," and their bodies melded together, as Ty pressed Brianna's shoulders flat against the bed.
If it weren't for the calluses on Ty's hands, Brianna was certain she wouldn't have been able to feel the feather-light touches along the length of her body. Gentle kisses provided a soothing counterpoint to the caresses, but her youthful exuberance called for more and she strained her body upwards seeking a stronger touch. Warm lips nibbled an earlobe and she shuddered at the raspy whisper asking for direction.
"Please, Ty...I need to feel you." Blue eyes, darkened with desire, met hers before Ty slowly lowered her taller frame onto the small blonde's, slipping her legs between Brianna's until they were snuggled tightly together.
They simply held each other for long moments, adjusting to the feeling of their bodies touching from head to toe. Then Ty kissed her way from the soft hollow of Brianna's neck to the sweet haven of her mouth where they exchanged more heated kisses, while Brianna unconsciously undulated her hips against Ty's hard stomach. The bounty hunter pulled away slightly, ignoring a protesting moan.
There was a definite wicked gleam in the dark woman's eyes as she looked down the length of their joined bodies. "I think I need to investigate further, darlin'," she murmured.
"I think so, too," Brianna agreed breathlessly.
"You'll tell me if I do something you don't like, right?"
"You mean like stopping in the middle of things?" Brianna whispered back with a slight glare.
"Sorry." Ty grinned and went back to her slow exploration of the small body beneath hers.
Bracing herself on powerful forearms, she leaned forward and dragged the hardened tips of her breasts over Brianna's, slowly maneuvering downward until her mouth was within range of the coral nipples. A quick glance to an enraptured face and then she was finally tasting delicate flesh, rolling the tiny nub between her teeth and laving it with her tongue.
Soft moans filtered through the air as she continued her attention to the generous peaks, while her right hand casually drifted down to stroke a gently rounded hip. A slight shift of her weight and she continued her exploration, dropping small kisses across Brianna's abdomen and playfully thrusting her tongue into the blonde's belly button. A small hand that had been running through her hair suddenly whacked her and Ty chuckled.
When Brianna wiggled, Ty's hand was dislodged and she found herself with a handful of soft blonde hairs. The rising heat against her sensitive fingers made her raise a dark brow and steal another look at her bride. Forest green eyes stared back at her, silently begging her to continue. Brianna's face was flushed and more beautiful than Ty could have imagined, and she couldn't resist going up and kissing those sweet, pink lips again.
Small hands traveled restlessly across her shoulders as their mouths played delicately with each other. Ty carefully kept her hand from moving, even though every instinct was screaming at her to sink into the warm depths. "I'll try to be gentle," she reassured her young love.
"I know you will," Brianna responded with a glowing smile.
A spark in the sea green eyes was Ty's only warning, then Brianna lifted her hips and Ty's fingers were dipping into satiny warmth and both women gasped. Slender arms wrapped around Ty's neck and the bounty hunter buried her head into the soft curve of Brianna's shoulder, her body half covering her wife's smaller frame. She tried to control her breathing to no avail as Brianna arched against her hand and let out murmuring cries of delight in response to Ty's gentle caresses.
They trembled uncontrollably, perspiration-soaked skin gliding together. Ty embraced Brianna tightly, then poised one finger at the entrance to Brianna's passion, almost undone by the fire racing through her bloodstream. "Please, darlin', please," she whispered into a small, shell-like ear.
"Oh yes, Ty! Now...now!"
One smooth stroke and Ty was past the thin membrane guarding her wife's virtue and being enveloped by an astounding velvety sheath. A sharp cry slipped through Brianna's lips and Ty rushed to soothe her with small, heated kisses. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she whispered continuously, curving her body protectively over Brianna's as she held still as a statue waiting to see how badly she had hurt her.
The small blonde shuddered once, then twice, before she began to instinctively move against the alien presence within her. She gasped harshly and captured Ty's head in her hands, kissing her as deeply as she could. "I love you so much," she breathed out unsteadily.
Ty let out a relieved sigh and relaxed slightly. "Thank God," she muttered. Her smoky blue eyes met luminous green. "Now what?"
Brianna choked out a laugh and swatted her husband with one hand, while her other held on tightly to a strong shoulder. "Now you'd better keep going or I'll be forced to kill you."
A dark brow arched. "Can't have that."
The smug expression on Ty's face almost got her whacked again, but Brianna was suddenly much too interested in the sensations radiating throughout her body. It took only seconds for Ty to match the rhythm of Brianna's hips, each steady thrust driving her finger deeply into her wife's center, the palm of her hand unknowingly brushing against a hidden bundle of nerves with every stroke.
A high, keening wail startled the bounty hunter so badly she came close to leaping off the bed, but Brianna had her in such a strong grip, she couldn't move a muscle. Slender thighs gripped her hand, holding her in place while Brianna tipped her head back and screamed.
Massive shudders shook both women, before the tremors finally trailed away and left Brianna in an exhausted heap. Ty looked on, wide-eyed and with mouth agape, as a slow, dreamy smile crept across her wife's flushed face. The blonde languidly stretched and cuddled close to her astonished husband. "Mmm...that was wonderful, Mr. Mason," she purred, then promptly fell asleep.
Ty lay for quite some time, just staring at Brianna's face so relaxed in sleep, a bemused grin lightening her own dark features. Placing a gentle kiss on slightly bruised lips, she arose and went to the washbasin to clean up a little. The cool water she dunked her head into did little to cool her off and the grin on her face never faltered.
She'd done it. She'd actually made love to her wife...and Brianna had enjoyed it. Ty caught her reflection in the mirror and her smile widened impossibly further as her eyes twinkled back at her. The bounty hunter couldn't help sticking her chest out a little in pride. "Stamina? Guess I showed her," she muttered smugly.
"My, aren't we the cocky one," came a laughing voice from behind her.
Ty slowly turned around and watched her young bride sprawl across the covers. The slow, seductive smile she received was enough to make the breath catch in her throat. "How're you feeling?" she asked, sitting on the edge of the bed and using a wet cloth to pat down Brianna's face.
Brianna had rolled onto her back when Ty came next to her and now she lay quietly as Ty carefully cleaned her skin. "I feel wonderful, happy, tired, excited..." she gazed at her husband with absolute devotion, "...and well loved."
"And a little chilled," Ty added, hoping her blush wasn't too apparent. Tossing the cloth aside, she lay next to her wife and traced small patterns on her delicate skin with the tip of her finger. "We should get under the covers, you know," she murmured.
The blonde head shook negatively then tilted back as Brianna flashed another small smile. "I was quite warm a few minutes ago," she offered, punctuating her statement with a kiss. "Maybe we should try that method again."
Ty chuckled quietly. "You passed out the last time. Are you sure you can handle a second try so soon?"
"I did not pass out! I was simply gathering my energies," Brianna told her indignantly.
"For an hour?" The bounty hunter rolled onto her back and laughed, which was the wrong thing to do as she quickly found out. Small hands found every single ticklish spot on her body, and the two women fought for dominance across the bed.
Ty had never been so glad to lose a fight in her life.
Playful touches changed to inquisitive caresses as Brianna slowly discovered her husband's body, delivering healing kisses to each wound and scar she found. She marveled at the transition from hard muscles to soft flesh, before she came to the juncture between Ty's hip and thigh and found herself at a loss.
Brianna's fingers tingled with need, yet there was something else she wanted to do—that the musky-sweet scent so close to her was calling for her to do—and she didn't know if it was allowed. Misty green eyes caught blue flame as she stared up the long length of Ty's body, fascinated by the tremors she saw going through her.
"What is it, Brianna?" Ty rasped quietly, seeing the questioning look. Every stroke of Brianna's hands was sending tendrils of desire spinning through her veins and it felt as though her skin would melt from the heat of it. The bounty hunter was trying desperately to control her breathing and not scare her wife as she had been earlier.
Brianna swallowed hard and laid her hand over the dark hairs hiding the treasure she sought. " I want to...to...." Her voice trailed off, an anguished gaze catching her husband's again. She just couldn't say it.
With a swift movement, Ty gathered Brianna up and held her tightly, her touch soothing and light upon her back, while she murmured gentle endearments in her ear. "Oh, sweetheart, you can do anything you like. Didn't you know that?" They rocked slowly back and forth. "Anything you want to do, I promise."
"What...what if you don't like it?" Brianna asked shakily.
A small chuckle escaped Ty's lips. "Then we'll stop and try something else, that's all. I won't be mad or anything," she promised. "Did I do anything you didn't like?" she questioned.
"No. You were wonderful. I loved it...and I love you," the young blonde answered emphatically.
Ty tapped the tip of her finger on Brianna's nose. "I'm all yours, darlin'. Do what you will."
They exchanged lingering kisses as the banked embers of their passion flared into life once more. Brianna eased her way to the cradle of Ty's thighs and let trembling fingers slowly uncover her husband's womanhood. Risking another glance upward, she was surprised to see Ty's head tilted back so all she could see was the long line of her throat and the faint scar there.
A deep breath, and the essence of Ty filled her lungs and her heart. Quickly, before she could lose her nerve or Ty could stop her, she lowered her head and tasted the sweet nectar awaiting her.
And she was lost. The pounding of her heart drowned out the strangled groan from above, and Brianna concentrated only on the soft petals of flesh beneath her lips and the moisture filling her mouth. A tentative tongue reached out, causing Ty's hips to nearly buck her off, so Brianna wrapped an arm around a muscled thigh and held on tighter. After several moments of exploration, she pulled back to take a deeper breath, but found a strong hand on the back of her head keeping her in place.
She allowed herself a small smile as she heard the muttered words tumbling from Ty's lips. "Don't stop, don't stop, don't stop..." She had no intentions of stopping. Not until she'd wrung every last bit of strength from her husband's body.
A slight shift and she brought her fingers up to join the exploration. While her lips and tongue delighted in a small nubbin of flesh she found, she carefully eased a finger into the entrance to Ty's maidenhead. Brianna wasn't exactly sure when the right time would be to do it, but then the bounty hunter took the decision way from her by thrusting forward with a desperate lunge.
Long legs wrapped around her torso kept her firmly in place as the two woman settled into a steady rhythm, and sweat from their exertions poured out of their bodies. Brianna thought for sure she was going to have to admit defeat until, finally, Ty's body tightened around her own and she heard her voice hit an octave she hadn't thought the bounty hunter capable of anymore.
The tremors weren't as obvious as Brianna's had been, but they left the bounty hunter just as weak. Ty struggled to catch her breath and tried without much success to bring her wife back up to the shelter of her arms. She frowned slightly as she realized Brianna was leaving the bed, but before she could protest, she was back with a glass of water.
"I thought your throat might be bothering you," Brianna related with a blush.
Ty thirstily downed the glass, then tossed Brianna a rakish grin. "We'd better keep water handy. I have a feeling we're going to need plenty of it in the next few weeks."
"Just the next few weeks?" The girl's cheeks went from pink to crimson as she realized what she said, and Ty laughed.
"C'mere you," she chuckled, throwing back the covers and motioning Brianna to climb in. The bounty hunter pursed her lips, surveying the bed thoughtfully. "You know, I'm pretty sure we were supposed to be under the covers for all that."
Brianna started to speak again, then hid her head under a pillow. Ty looked at the lump quizzically. "Hey!" She peeked underneath and found Brianna with her eyes tightly shut. "What's the matter?"
"I'm going to sleep now," Brianna muttered.
"Not until you tell me what you were going to say," Ty told her. "We're married now, you know...no secrets."
Brianna grumbled a bit, but finally came out of her hiding place to find her husband staring at her expectantly. She drew the covers up to her chin and kept her gaze leveled at Ty's chin when she answered. "I'd have suffocated."
"What?" Ty choked out, desperately trying not to laugh.
Brianna sank further into the bed. "If we'd been under the covers, I'd have suffocated," she stated precisely. Then turned her back on her husband as Ty tilted her head back and laughed herself silly.
Ty spent the rest of the night trying to make up to her wife. And after the fourth or fifth try, she was pretty certain she'd gotten the hang of it.
Ty awoke slowly, automatically stretching her muscles to gauge how sore they were. Her hand touched warm skin at the same moment her mind registered a slight ache in her groin. Memories of the previous evening flooded her mind and she grinned, turning to take in the sprawled form of her wife. There was a lingering stiffness in her hip, but she happily ignored it in favor of curling her taller frame around Brianna.
"Good morning," she husked into a conveniently close ear. Ty felt a shudder run through the younger woman, but other than that and a muffled grumble, Brianna didn't stir. Undaunted, the bounty hunter tried again. "I love you..." Strong white teeth nibbled on an earlobe and Ty watched goose bumps rise up on Brianna's arms, but the girl's eyes remained stubbornly shut.
Ty pursed her lips thoughtfully. This required drastic measures. She eased away from Brianna slightly and raised her voice. "Morning, George. Wonderful day, isn't it?" she asked cheerfully.
The bed exploded in a flurry of motion, bare limbs and blonde hair flying. Ty found herself landing on the floor as the covers were jerked out from under her body and Brianna buried herself beneath them. The bounty hunter flopped onto her back and laughed until tears poured from her eyes.
The cold seeping into her bones from the floorboards finally sobered Ty up, but her eyes were still twinkling when they met the outraged green ones peering out at her over the edge of the bed. "Sorry, darlin'," she said as she struggled to her feet. "I couldn't wake you up."
Brianna looked from the still dark window back to the naked woman climbing into bed with her. "It's not even daylight yet! Why on earth did you need to wake me up?"
Ty shrugged and a faint blush stained her cheeks. "I just wanted to see those beautiful eyes light up when I told you I love you," she explained huskily.
That effectively diffused Brianna's temper and put her so far off balance she almost missed the shiver that ran through Ty's body. Shaking her head, she tucked the quilt around Ty, giving her a fleeting kiss as she did so. "I'm going to stir up the fire," she murmured. "You stay put."
"Yes, ma'am," Ty drawled out, watching appreciatively as Brianna clambered out of bed to go out into the kitchen. Once she was safely alone, she allowed a grimace of pain to cross her features. Bad enough she'd landed so hard on the floor, but the addition of the cold had set up a steady throbbing in her injured hip. God help her if her young wife found out how sore she was. She had a strong feeling that if Brianna knew, there wouldn't be any lovemaking sessions any time soon—and that would be a real tragedy. Ty chuckled to herself and snuggled down further into the mattress to patiently await Brianna's return.
The rest of the morning was spent in quiet cuddling and what little remained of cleaning up. Ty and Brianna had heard George arrive early on to do the morning chores, but he hadn't come into the house at all, much to Ty's relief. Even though she had grown used to binding her chest after so many years, she was still grateful to be able to spend a few hours unencumbered.
Not to mention her wife found many inventive ways to sneak her small hands under the soft flannel shirt.
"Brianna..." the bounty hunter mumbled against searching lips, while fending off another advance, "...they'll be here shortly." She gasped as Brianna found a tender spot. "I really don't think you want your mother to see this," she tried again.
Brianna sighed and poked out her lower lip. "Fine," she acceded none to gracefully. "Just you wait until we get to the cabin, though." Green eyes twinkled with promise. "You're not going to see the light of day for a long time, Ty Mason."
Ty's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Promises, promises," she whispered, then bit Brianna's earlobe gently. The resulting gasp made her laugh and she steered the blonde toward the bedroom. "Let's finish packing your things so we can hit the trail."
There wasn't much, really. Anything frivolous had already been left behind in Missouri before her family had made the trip west, and since then any extras had gone to building up the homestead. Brianna was uncomfortably aware that she wasn't bringing anything into the marriage at all in the way of a dowry.
Strong arms snaked around her waist and she leaned back gratefully, unconsciously noting that Ty had wrapped her breasts again. "What's wrong, darlin'?"
"Besides the fact you didn't let me help you?"
A low chuckle sounded in her ear. "I'd rather you help me take it off. Now stop trying to change the subject."
Brianna turned in Ty's arms and snuggled into her chest. "It's silly," she protested half-heartedly. But a single tear rolled down her cheek in spite of her words.
Ty felt a painful clenching in her chest as she wiped away the moisture. "If it makes you cry, it's not silly." She paused and took a fortifying breath. "Have you changed your mind?"
Startled green eyes flew up and searched her face. "Oh no! Never!" Brianna blurted out anxiously. "Don't you dare even think that! I just..." She waved her hand mutely toward the two carpetbags waiting on the bed.
Ty frowned in puzzlement, still not quite sure what was going on. "I know it's hard to leave your family and all, but..."
"No, no, no." Brianna pressed her fingers to Ty's lips and shook her head. "I'm very happy we're married and I can't wait to get to our new home." She tried again. "I just wish I had more to offer you than just some clothes and some books." It wasn't exactly what she wanted to say, but any more and she was afraid she'd start bawling like a child.
Ty, on the other hand, finally figured it all out and gently led her new wife to the bed. She settled on it comfortably, then pulled Brianna until she had her tucked neatly on her lap. "Can you cook?" A nod. "Can you clean?" Another nod. "Can you sew?" A brief hesitation, then another nod. Ty made a mental note to delve into that later. "Can you make me feel like I'm the luckiest woman on earth when you love me?" That got her a soft look and a toe-curling kiss. When both of them were breathing raggedly, Ty pulled away and grinned. "Then, Mrs. Mason, you're giving me everything I could ever need."
"Thank you," Brianna whispered and snuggled deeper into Ty's arms.
They stayed that way, resting quietly, until the rattling noise of the wagon signaled that it was time to rejoin the world. Brianna took one last look around her old room, letting pleasant memories take shape and thinking of new ones to come, before helping Ty take her bags outside.
Ty made her way to the stables in the cool midmorning air completely unaware she was about to receive another lesson in what life would be like with her new bride. Slender fingers had just touched the worn leather of the saddle when Ty felt a presence behind her, but her welcoming smile faded as she took in the sight of Brianna standing in the doorway, arms crossed and foot tapping.
"What do you think you're doing?" Amazingly enough, the small blonde's voice was even chillier than the Fall air.
Wary blue eyes went from Brianna to the waiting saddle and back again. "Saddling my horse?" she ventured, at a complete loss as to what the problem was.
"I don't think so," came the sharp retort. "And don't try that dangerous gunslinger routine on me, Tyrel Mason!" Brianna continued as she saw Ty's posture stiffen in anger. "You were limping when you walked out here and there's no way you're riding anywhere until that hip heals up."
Jaw muscles clenched and unclenched as Ty tried to rein in her temper. Brianna matched her glare for glare until the bounty hunter finally heaved an exasperated sigh. Her hip really was pretty sore, after all, especially after the previous evening's activities. "Fine," she acceded, less than graciously, "I'll drive the wagon into town then."
Ty's anger faded quickly as Brianna walked up to her, the dark woman's eyes drawn inexorably to swaying hips. She was still finding it hard to believe she was married to this little beauty. Petal soft lips brushed hers in a fleeting kiss and she almost missed the whispered, "No."
Dark brows drew together in a puzzled frown. "No? What do you mean, no?"
"No, as in, no you're not going to drive the wagon, you're going to lay in the back and take it easy." Small fingers tracing along Ty's jawbone, down her neck to her collarbone, until slender arms entwined themselves around her neck and Brianna's body was pressed tightly against her accompanied the words. "I'll stay back there with you and keep you company," Brianna added enticingly.
Any thoughts of protesting died quickly at the feeling of the soft form cuddled so nicely against her and Ty sighed again in defeat. "This is going to completely ruin my reputation," she muttered, before the temptation to taste Brianna's skin overwhelmed her and she began dropping light kisses wherever she could reach.
"I'll flirt with a cowboy so you have an excuse to beat him up," Brianna offered somewhat breathlessly. Her attention was more on the heat stirring within her at Ty's touch than on what she was actually saying.
"Keep touching me like this and I'll have to beat up a whole posse," Ty laughed, then gently untangled herself from the girl. "Now c'mon, before we scandalize your parents."
As if on cue, George Duncan showed up in the doorway, shaking his head at the young couple. Shooing both of them out of the stable, he gathered up Ty's gear himself and met his family outside. One more trip and Ty's stallion was soon hitched to the back of the wagon.
It had been decided that Helen and the children would remain at the homestead while he drove Ty and Brianna into town, so the next half hour was taken up with tearful good-byes. George and Ty exchanged bemused glances. "You'd think I was taking her away forever," Ty muttered to the man.
"It's a woman thing," George answered sagely. "You don't have to understand it; you just have to go along with it and hope it's over soon."
Ty was already regretting her decision to take Brianna back East on a trip in the Spring. If this parting was any indication, it would take days for her wife to say good-bye to her family.
"Brianna," she finally called out. "It's time to go." An eyebrow shot up as neither her wife nor her mother-in-law showed signs of letting go.
George wisely held his counsel. Obviously the young man had to learn about women the hard way.
The bounty hunter tried again. "Honey, we need to get going while there's still light out," a quick glance toward the overcast sky, "and before it starts snowing on us."
Still nothing...except a hastily muffled giggle from Leroy and an amused grin from George.
Sapphire eyes sparkled in determination. Two quick strides and a startled squeak from the blonde, and Ty had Brianna firmly swept up into her arms. "See you next week, Ma!" Ty called over her shoulder brightly, as she carried her protesting charge to the wagon. "Let's go, George, time's awastin'."
"She's still my little girl."
"Yes, sir. I know."
Ty and George watched as Brianna dashed from one end of the cabin to the other, busily discovering where everything was located. Not too difficult a task considering how small the place was. A doorway on the left led to the kitchen, and stairs at the back right of the living area led up to a sleeping loft that took up half the ceiling. Mabel and her cohorts had cleaned the cabin up, as promised, and it was surprisingly cozy. They'd taken up a collection to supply the newlyweds with various linens and kitchen supplies, so all they really had to do was unpack and settle in.
Satisfied at last, Brianna made her way back to where her father and husband were standing just inside the doorway. "Did you want to stay for coffee, Papa?" Her eyes were sparkling with delight at her new home.
"No, no. I need to get back home and finish up the chores." George hugged Brianna tightly to him and kissed the crown of blonde curls. "You take care of yourself, Brianna. Mind your manners," he added gruffly.
"I will, Papa, don't worry." She gave him a kiss on the cheek and smiled.
"All right then." He patted her awkwardly on the back and then turned to Ty. "There's one last bag in the wagon. Why don't you come out with me and get it, then I'll be on my way."
Ty nodded, a slight frown appearing as she wondered what they'd forgotten. As far as she could tell, they'd already brought everything in. Brianna mentioned something about going to dish out the stew Mabel had left for them and Ty followed George outside.
At the wagon, George reached under the seat and pulled out a small sack. He hefted it lightly in his hand before giving Ty a solemn gaze and handing it to him. "These are her favorites. But you have to watch her, else she'll talk you into buying a whole barrel full."
Ty's lips curled up into a half smile as she looked into the bag and saw the hard candies. They were her favorites as well. "Guess there'll be a fight when she finds out I like 'em, too," she told George with a grin.
George clapped the bounty hunter on the shoulder and climbed up into the wagon. "Let's hope that's all you'll fight about," he said in parting, then snapped the reins and went on his way.
Ty stared after him thoughtfully before heading back into the cabin and into her new life.
She found Brianna in the kitchen pouring coffee. The stew was already ladled out and waiting on the table, and she gave her a kiss in thanks. "What bag did we forget?" Brianna asked curiously.
In answer, Ty popped a golden ball into Brianna's mouth and watched as she grinned in pleasure. "Oooo, the most important one!"
Ty chuckled and sat down. "That's what he told me. If you're nice to me, maybe I'll share the rest with you," she added teasingly.
Brianna snuggled onto her lap and kissed her deeply. Ty's eyes widened as she felt the candy being transferred from Brianna's mouth to her own. The blonde was definitely sporting a smug look when she leaned back again, and Ty stifled a laugh. "I think I'm gonna like this sharing bit," she admitted.
Dinner passed fairly quietly after that and they soon found themselves snuggled up on the couch watching the flames dancing in the fireplace, each lost in her own thoughts. "What would you be doing now if you were still out on the trail?" Brianna finally asked quietly.
"Hmm." Ty shifted a bit and pulled her wife closer into the circle of her arms. "Probably laying out my bedroll. Staring up at the stars. Just another end to another day." There was the slightest shrug of her shoulders.
"What would you be thinking about?" Brianna persisted. For all that they'd been through, she really didn't know her husband at all.
Ty sighed heavily. "I'd be trying not to think, darlin'." Brianna gave out an inelegant noise and Ty grinned against her will. "All right, all right. If I was working, I'd be thinking about what I needed to do to capture whoever it was. And if I wasn't working, I'd be thinking about who to go after next."
Brianna bit her lip hesitantly. "Didn't you ever think about home...or maybe having a family one day?"
The answer was delivered bluntly and completely without emotion. Brianna felt her heart break. "What about now?" She purposely kept her gaze well away from the blue eyes she knew would be too cold for her to bear.
But those blue eyes were far from cold as they looked down fondly at the little spitfire who'd arrived so suddenly into the bounty hunter's life. "Now that's all I think about," Ty whispered softly. "And how glad I am that my home has you in it."
Brianna's eyes filled with tears and she hugged Ty wordlessly.
"What about you?' Ty asked. "What would you be doing?"
Brianna gathered herself again and thought about it. "I'd be reading to the children—after the chores were done, of course. Then I'd get ready for bed and dream about my knight in shining armor."
A dark eyebrow shot up. "Knight in shining armor?" she asked incredulously.
"Yep," Brianna grinned impishly. "And what do you know...my knight showed up right out of the blue one day. The armor was a bit dented, but not too bad, all things considered."
She let out a giggle as Ty attacked her and began tickling her mercilessly. "I'll show you dented, young lady," she growled menacingly.
Joyful laughter split the clear night air as the happy couple proceeded to make new dreams and transform the old abandoned cabin into a home. There were still a lot of plans to be made, but for tonight everything they wanted and needed was right there in their arms.
The wind was biting cold, sweeping around Ty Mason's heavily protected torso and sending bits of snow down the tops of her boots. Gloved fingers kept a careful grip on the rope extending shoulder level from the small stable to the back of the cabin she called home. The rope was a necessity, a life-line for sudden storms such as this one where the blinding snow could cause one to lose his path in a blink of an eye and not be found until much later—frozen to death within mere steps of safety. Ty had pledged that neither she nor her wife would ever meet that fate.
She stamped her feet energetically before swinging open the back door and stepping into the welcome warmth of the cabin. A smile came unbidden as she took in the crackling fireplace and festively decorated tree standing proudly next to it. A small table bearing steaming mugs took up residence in front of an overstuffed couch and a dark eyebrow rose questioningly.
"I thought it would be nice to just relax this evening," came a soft, lilting voice from behind her.
Ty turned around to see the lovely form of her wife strolling toward her from the kitchen, blonde hair glistening in the lantern light. She pulled off her gloves absently and granted Brianna a smile. "No quilting bees tonight?" she asked teasingly.
"No card games?" Brianna responded just as lightly, a twinkle causing her emerald eyes to glow.
They came together easily, molding to each other's body and sharing a melting kiss that warmed Ty up quicker than any fire could have. "I thought I should be home this evening," Ty finally said when she could speak again.
Small hands busied themselves with removing the heavy jacket and scarf that had protected the bounty hunter while she was out in the storm. Then there was a raspy chuckle when those same small hands wormed their way under her flannel shirt and palmed the flat plane of her belly. "Cold, love?"
"Not any more."
The jacket was tossed over the back of a chair and Ty drew Brianna over to the couch. A few small adjustments and they were settled in comfortably, the blonde tucked into Ty's shoulder as they leaned back in companionable silence and let the peace of the moment wrap around them.
"Do you think he'll like me?" Brianna asked at long length, the faintest tremor betraying her uncertainty.
"He'll love you, just as I do," Ty answered with a small squeeze of comfort, and was gratified when she felt the gentle press of Brianna's lips against her neck.
It had been a shock to learn that the guardians of her nephew had died in a carriage accident, but she was thankful the boy and his nurse had been safely at home. Arrangements were quickly made and now the two were on a train making their way westward to their new home.
A sigh escaped her and suddenly her lap was filled with the soft warmth of her wife. Small kisses rained on her face and Ty grinned in spite of herself. "You'll make a wonderful father," Brianna whispered, stroking a strong cheekbone.
"And you'll make a wonderful mother," Ty replied quietly. "Even though it may be a bit sooner than you..."
"Shh...hush now. The timing doesn't matter at all. What matters is that we'll be a family and that makes me very, " a kiss, "very," another kiss, "very happy." Brianna pulled back slightly and gave Ty an impish grin. "Now drink your coffee so you can take me to bed."
Thankfully the drinks had cooled down somewhat as they talked, so Ty didn't scald her tongue when she gulped it down hurriedly. Tinkling laughter drifted through the room as she hoisted Brianna into the air and ran up the stairs to the loft.
A new wife, a new child, a new life...the future was beginning to look bright, indeed.
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