from Chapter Fifteen"'Tis right, Retha. And I will make it even better."
Jacob's baritone rumbled through Retha's being, more powerful than the surging falls. Her head spun from all she had told him, all he had accepted, even forgiven--and her heart sang from his response. He could love her. He had as much as said so when he had confessed that his love of his first wife did not mean he couldn't love his second.
His touch rippled through her like a stone skipped across water. She shook her skirts to dispel the heat and looked down at the small ledge where they sat.
He waved a hand over their makeshift bower. "We won't do much in this jumble, however," he grumbled amiably. Briars and branches hemmed them in while deadfall and cracked stones littered the ground.
Hardly a bed for him, she thought. She laughed, standing and giving him a hand up. "We don't have to." She felt airy, light, a buzz of anticipation humming in her brain, through her veins. She had brought him here for this. Here in the open air where she felt safe and free.
His breath warmed her neck, and he reached for the tapes that tied her skirt. His touch at her waist surprised her, and yet she did not want him to stop. She was ready, now, to delve into the mysteries her friend had told her of. He freed the top pin from her bodice, and she leaned toward him, shivering with an eager hope when his hand brushed her breast. He flung her rose dress and white petticoats over the tangled bushes that grew to the water's edge. Sunlight poured down on her exposed skin.
Instinctively, her arms folded over her breasts.
Gently, he lowered them to her sides.
"Bitte," he said. "Please. We talked of this. Do you remember?"
Everything. All too well. She nodded, feeling brave, but not brave enough for words.
"Let me give you this pleasure. Don't be afraid."
She did not want to be afraid. She wanted to be free. She wanted to explore this craving rising within her, this tension pulling her to him. This delight in her body, his touch.
He untied the rawhide thong around her braids, unraveled the plaits with his fingers, and draped her hair over her shoulders and down her back. A reluctant tendril encircled the sensitive tip of her breast. He swept it away and took a short step back, frankly admiring her. "I have longed to see you so."
Shyly proud, she stood for his inspection, her nipples puckering into hard points. His gaze traveled down her body. The triangle of fleece at the base of her belly seemed a glaring red, the weight of his attention there almost too much to bear. Moonlight had been far less revealing. And the day he had bathed and dressed before her she had been too shy to truly take in the sight of him. Today she would try.
She slid her hands under his waistcoat and eased it over his shoulders. He rewarded her with a smile of incredible sweetness. Before, she remembered, he had not wanted her to fold his clothes. Following his example, she tossed his coat and shirt over a nearby limb, and he shucked off his boots, his breeches. And her husband stood before her, naked as Adam in the garden, and more beautiful. He seemed even larger than when his clothes contained him. Her civilized town Elder was the golden bear she had first thought him to be. The midday sun dappled the work-bronzed skin of his massive torso.
She hardly knew where to rest her eyes. As before, her gaze skittered down his body--just so far--and retreated up to the familiar safety of his face. "Look at all of me, Retha. I want you to."
She made herself look down. The thicket of hair around his manhood was a darker gold than the hair on his head. And his arousal--
She saw that he was aroused, felt him watching her. She turned away from this intimate knowledge.
He turned her back. "Look again, wife," he said, his voice softer, entreating. "Think of me as you. We are one. All of me is yours. This too."
Her eagerness--her courage--deserted her. The concept was too grand, the sight too personal. Despite her intention to seduce her husband, she had to stifle an urge to bolt into the woods. Briars seemed safer than this leap into the unknown. She cast about for words that might distract him.
"Alice never said to do it standing," she ventured.
His grin was indulgent. "No, not here. I wouldn't try to love you standing here."
Relaxing his grip on her hands, he bent, scooped her up and waded into the pool that the waterfall had carved into rock. The creek bank dropped off sharply. Suddenly, her toes, her trailing arms, her buttocks skimmed cool water. She squealed and struggled playfully against him, even knowing that it was hot and summer and that she was safe.
"I've got you," Jacob said, wading in deeper, immersing her to the tips of her breasts. His head bent toward them. She closed her eyes.
His mouth seized one taut nipple in a tender, suckling bite. Pinpoints of feeling like a driving rain rushed through her breasts to the center of her being. She cried out in surprise, opening her eyes to his brilliant indigo gaze.
His own fierce pleasure glowed as he murmured encouragement.
Under the mist that the falls churned up, he released her legs. They drifted down. Her feet came to rest on his large, corded ones, securely planted on the rock bottom of the pool. He flattened her body to his. In his arms, she felt like a leaf floating down the stream. Above her, the falls roared, drowning out his breathing and her own. There was only his body holding hers, his chest rising and falling against her, his massive thighs rigid against her thighs, and at her belly, his swollen shaft. An urgent pulsing flooded her deep inside, bringing back the feelings that had frightened her before, the ones for which she had no name. She named them now: Longing. Craving. Desire.
Jacob's eyes could not disguise his want; she saw a hunger to match her own. "Wrap your legs around me, Liebling," he grated.
She hesitated, not quite understanding what he asked. He slipped her body inches higher. She reached out for balance, grasping air. He claimed her hand and brought it to his mouth.
"I want you holding on to nothing but me."
And there was nothing, no one but him. With a shiver of anticipation, she parted her thighs around his slick hips and hooked her legs around his. Her arms draped over the reassuring shelf of his broad shoulders. He held her effortlessly, his awesome strength her refuge as the water lapped around them. But he was so still.
Was she supposed to still herself likewise?
Perhaps. She hadn't been instructed in the art of loving her husband while they were standing. She struggled not to move. But opened to him, her body demanded contact, pressure, movement. Despite herself, her hips curled into him.
With a groan of surrender, he pressed against her belly, and a sense of wonder surged through her. And of her own power. She had driven him to that. Then rigid with tension, he stilled himself again.
"You stopped," she gasped into the mist from the falls.
"Not my turn," he said hoarsely. "This is for you. Move as you wish to move."
As she had to move, he might as well have said. He helped her glide her mysterious, private center up and down along his ready shaft. Her body felt weightless in his grasp, but a heavy heat pooled between her legs. He mumbled encouragement, his hot words exhorting her to crush herself to him, faster, harder.
This was far from gentle, she thought, exulting at his power. At her own. Yet, no matter what he said, this had to hurt, and so she slowed.
With a low growl, he shifted her tighter to him. "Don't stop, Retha. Your body knows what to do."
His strong hands on her buttocks guided her to a shorter, tenser movement. Thrills showered into her core, leaving her breathless, pressing her center into him, seeking something unknown, unnamable, something just out of reach. "I can't let go," she cried.
"Danke Gott," he said, and spun her under the falls, drenching them in its spray. "Where is your fear now, Liebling?"
"Gone, all gone," she laughed, still seeking his heat.
He returned them to the sun. With a new-found joy, she shook streams of water from her hair, its wet tendrils lashing both of them. His voice thickened. "You're so close, so close, to where you're going. Let me send you over the falls."
Slipping one hand between them, he touched her hungry flesh with deep, gentle pinches. She almost screamed as an upsurge of sensation poured through her, as her very center contracted around him. Of its own accord, her body arced out of control, wrenching a cry from her that she recognized even as it scraped out of her throat. It was the cry of women in the night, the cry that she had taken for pain. But this was not pain, this was torrents of pleasure, slaking desire, fulfilling need.
And she was whole, and she was his, and she was free.
She sunk her head into the safe haven of his shoulder, clinging, shaking, shaken. She marveled at her power, the forces flooding her senses.
"Ah, Retha," he groaned. "I wanted this for you."
She could feel the hot pulsing of his body, but he remained as still as stone. Consciousness, memory trickled back. They were not done. She had been too eager. Too selfish. He had not entered her.
"You didn't . . ." She trailed off. Their awesome act of loving had been easy, compared to putting anything in words.
"Finish?" he said for her. He grinned down at her, looking not in the least put out but like a very hungry man. "Not yet. We have all day. We have a lifetime."
"Shouldn't you? Now, I mean?"
"We could do it now," he drawled, as if considering.
"You don't want to?" Perhaps she had done it wrong. But how could she have when it had felt so wonderful?
"I want to. And we will." He gave her a hard, convincing kiss then simply held her in the stream as if she were a treasure, a cherished woman. The water eddied around them, cooling her. She heard a scolding jay, a noisy wren. The sun dried her face. Finally, he began again. Nipping, where he had kissed before. Kissing, where a tender bite had flamed into her body. In minutes, she was trembling, and he was no longer still. Or quite so steady as he had been. "But can we really do this here?" Standing? In the water? She still felt ignorant, but she was game.
A wicked grin strained across his face. " We can try."
She braced her arms on his shoulders, opened her legs around him, and he guided himself in. She quivered at the newness of this inmost touch, its rightness, her stunning satisfaction.
"Ah, Liebling, you're so tight." From the rapt tension in his voice, she gathered that this was good. He pushed inside her, feeling hot and hard and slick all at once. The pressure was delicious and then suddenly, sharply painful. She gave a small cry of surprise, and he withdrew. Cold water filled the empty space where he had been, and she felt the loss, the deprivation.
She wanted him in her. She wanted his pleasure. She wanted to be his.
"Alice told me, Jacob. I can bear the hurt. Make me your wife."
Remembering all she knew of Cherokee courage, she fortified herself. But before she could think another thought, he entered her, arching up and tearing her maiden barrier. The stabbing pang brought tears to her eyes, but she did not pull away. He waited, his manhood throbbing inside her. The hurt stung, lingered, ebbed. She felt herself contract around him. Only then did he begin to move, slowly at first, and deeper, until she enfolded all of him. Surrounded by the pounding fall of water, she rode his driving rhythm until deep shudders cascaded through her. He met her ecstasy with a fierce growl, a final plunge into her depths. This time, at last, she relished all the satisfaction and the triumph of his cry.
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