The Rancher's Callous Heart Ch. 10byJazzMatthews©
For the first time in her life, Andrea awoke the next morning to find herself next to an extremely sexy man. She looked up to find him staring down at her, turned on his side and his hand propping his head up while she still remained on her back on their rough and ready made bed. There was something unreadable in his eyes with an emotion she couldn't place. However, despite the fact he was naked, and with the help of his five o'clock shadow, he looked absolutely dangerous.
And he did something she rarely saw. A genuine, lazy smile surfaced on his lips. That was enough to send her heart into overdrive.
"Morning, baby," he indolently drawled.
Her insides stirred at hearing the positively sexy roughness in his voice. "Morning, Braden," she quietly replied. His eyes drew down her body appreciatively, taking in the sight of her breasts uncovered, the blanket resting just beneath them.
Andrea gasped, attempting to jerk the blanket up to cover them until he placed his hands on hers to still her actions. "Uh-uh," he lightly chided. "What did I tell you about covering yourself?"
"Sorry, but I don't do this on a regular basis," she answered.
His eyes flashed. "Good thing you don't. I like that I'm the only one who's seen you like this." His rough hand caressed the tender skin of her stomach, causing her to jump a little. He smoothed up to cup a breast and leaned forward. "Can't imagine who wouldn't want to wake up every morning next to these sweet babies."
Andrea gripped the blanket, her back arching as he took a dark tip into his mouth, tenderly greeting each one good morning in their turn. Andrea sighed his name breathlessly, drawing his head closer. He eased out of her tender grasp, taking one of her hands to place a light kiss on the pulse at her wrist.
Braden read in her eyes the need of wanting to be filled with him again. He groaned as the back of his fingers stroked her soft jaw. Jesus, she looked so beautiful and sensual looking back up at him with those dark chocolate eyes that only made him want her more than anything.
His thumb stroked her soft, plump bottom lip that he had nibbled on numerous times through the night. "God only knows if I had it my way, we wouldn't leave this place for days." Andrea moved sensually against his muscled body, putting her arms up to embrace him, to draw him down upon her. Braden, as painful as it was, resisted. He shook his head ruefully. "No, baby. It's too soon for you. Maybe after you've gotten a good soak in the tub and rested for the day, we can play later on. Now, we should head on back. I bet everyone's wondering where we've gotten off to."
Andrea popped up when she remembered the guys and how they were probably worried sick at her stupidity on yesterday. She did forget, however, the low clearance of Braden's chin. Her forehead rammed into it, knocking her and Braden on their backs. They cradled their respective pain areas as they throbbed for seconds on end.
"This will probably be the only time in my life that I was nearly knocked out by a woman's forehead," he murmured. Braden pushed up to get back on his side. Andrea still had her hand covering her forehead, rubbing it to massage the pain away. "Still hurts?"
"Like hell," Andrea replied. "You have a bony chin. The scruffy hair doesn't help."
"You're only mad 'cause it still hurts." He attempted to pry her hand away, even though she was determined to fight, he finally won. His hand smoothed over it, then reached down to give it a kiss. "You'll be all right." He gave her a couple lingering kisses on her lips. "Get up and get dress. We need to get back."
He reluctantly withdrew from her and got to his feet. Andrea admired the view of his tight, corded backside which he wasn't at all ashamed of showing off. The last time they had made love, she had grabbed hold of it as he rocked within her, feeling the muscles undulate beneath her hands as he propelled her pleasure onto her, not to mention his own.
Andrea dawdled for a few moments before she rose to her feet, and almost every single one of her muscles was against the idea, especially the muscles of her inner thighs. She put her best face on to disguise the pain when she walked out of the stall. She grabbed for her dry things off the door, but then cut a sly eye to Braden. He had just slipped into his pants, the fit of them looking unusually tighter than before. He had fetched his belt, placing it through its appropriate loopholes, those keen silver eyes of his not straying an inch off her body.
She proceeded to slowly get dressed with the occasional glances cast his way and mystified by the heat in that look. Braden finished buttoning his shirt and proceeded to get the horses ready to go. Andrea busied herself in the meanwhile, gathering the blankets, folding them and placing them back in the bins. She grabbed the can of lighter fluid and turned it over. What reflected back to her upon the lackluster surface was the image of a woman who had been well loved throughout the night. All though she had the same eyes, same mahogany features, she felt different. She was no longer a virginal girl, but had become a woman who had deep and ardent passions, although nowhere equal to the man who made her insides burn to cinders by a mere touch.
Andrea's hands smoothed down scattered strands of what used to be straighter hair until it was introduced to the rain yesterday. Now it retained its natural wavy texture. Her scalp still tingled the countless times Braden's fingers ran through it, cradling her head as he stared down at her, his hips going a hundred miles an hour to bring her to her second delightful orgasm of the night. And her third, fourth & fifth.
She fingered an uncooperative curl ruefully, wondering what she could do with it without any help to hair care products to make her look halfway presentable.
"Your hair looks fine." Andrea spun around to look at Braden, who had a bemused look on his face. "We're just going back to the ranch, honey. Not a county social." He faced Daredevil again, tightening the saddle back in place. "Besides, I'm starting to love what my loving's done to you. The look of a woman's who's been thoroughly satisfied by a man."
Despite everything they had done last night, Andrea felt her cheeks flame. Braden glanced back to see that just in time. "The former virgin's blushing. That's unusual, considering all the times you've jumped down my throat."
The blushing gave way to anger. "Like you didn't deserve it most of the time."
Braden turned away, stroking Daredevil. "You're right. I did," he quietly admitted. He didn't see the surprise on her face from his admission, but her silence was enough. He grabbed Daredevil's reins and the leading rope attached to Samson. "You ready to go?"
Andrea shrugged. "Why not? It's not like I have to wait for the concierge to bring my luggage out."
Braden released a brief, husky chuckle. "C'mon, honey."
Andrea followed him outside and waited patiently as he closed the barn's doors, secured it, and then proceeded to mount Daredevil. Andrea moved toward Samson, placing a foot into the stirrup.
"Uh-uh." Andrea looked up over to Braden. He crooked his finger. "Come here."
She moved over to him, only standing beside him for a second before she was lifted effortlessly in front of him. She immediately started to object. "Braden..."
"Hush," he murmured. "It wouldn't be a good idea, honey. Not when I rode you so hard last night. Better if you just rode sideways in front of me. And hold on tight, baby. I promise I won't let you fall."
Andrea did, wrapping her arms around his waist. Braden gave a little more slack to the lead rope, wrapping it around his right hand once before starting off. They trotted back at a leisurely pace as if they had all the time in the world. Andrea closed her eyes, snuggling close to him as her head rested against his chest. Braden had his left arm enclosed securely around her waist, his hand holding Daredevil's reins with careful ease. His jaw rested comfortably against the crown of her head. This was how they stayed through the seamlessly long journey back home, not as if Andrea minded. She lost herself into his scent, his warmth, his protection.
The reverie came to an end when the ranch was in sight. Andrea was jolted from her dreamlike state, reality kicking back in. Braden dismounted then helped her down. He led both the horses into the stables, and they were both greeted by faces that could have used about forty winks, but life and relief poured into them at the sight of the couple.
"Thank the Lord you're all right, Miss Andrea," Handy replied, lifting her hand and giving it a comforting pat. "You had us scared with worry."
Andrea smiled sadly. "I'm sorry, guys. What I did was beyond stupid. Even that's putting it lightly. Forgive me. I didn't mean to have you worried."
"We're just glad you were found all right," Cooper confided. "The way the boss man rode out of here, many of us are relieved you're back here in one piece and not buried in the woods out there."
Andrea blanched at that. As blatant as that statement sounded, Andrea didn't dare look to Braden for a denial when she knew firsthand how angry he was when he discovered her. Dealing with a silently fuming Braden was bad enough.
Cooper quickly fumbled for a slight subject change. "When did he find you?"
"Last night, just as it was getting dark. We stayed in a barn to wait the rain out."
"We're sure you did," Dane supplied, although he, like the rest of the men, now looked at each other, hardly suppressing the chuckles and looks of knowing. And the ever crude Dane wasn't done. "If I had a beautiful woman alone to myself in the middle of nowhere and I hadn't fucked one in years, I know exactly how I'd spend my time. I'd spend all damn night letting my dick warm her up. Judging by the color in her cheeks, boss, you did a mighty fine job in that."
Andrea was absolutely mortified, mortified by the whole situation now that reality, like ice cold water, had been doused on her. What happened last night seemed like a dream. This was reality, the real world where all their problems were visible once again and their actions were transparent to others. Dane, always having the capability of shooting his mouth off first before thinking, didn't realize how far he had gone until he saw her reaction.
She quietly excused herself, stepping around the group of men and out the stable door. As they watched her quick exit, they barely noticed the lightning move of Braden as he grabbed Dane by the collar and propelled him hard against the wall. "Goddamn you, Dane!" he gritted. "When will you learn to keep your mouth shut? You say another thing like that in front of her, I'll string you up by your dick. Do you understand me?"
Dane stuttered out an affirmative, and Braden strode away, leaving him to face the goading jeers and teases of the men.
Andrea leaned back in the tub, sighing in relief. It felt so good to just sit there and soak quietly in her bathroom to ease the tender ache in her body. Her hands ran over the sensitive tips of her breasts, still sore from Braden's constant worship of them. She shivered, her nipples instantly hard again due to the thought.
He had called after her. She didn't stop for a minute. Not until she was safely upstairs in her room. He had called her name again, softly, once he was inside the house. As he had mounted the stairs, she listened to that and the thudding in her chest as she leaned against her bedroom door. However, his steps turned left, down the hall to his room, and she breathed easier. She would have to confront him sooner or later. She knew. She just wanted some time to herself before she had to. The wall she had built around herself was gone. Everything she had kept secret had been finally laid bare. She had been on her guard for so long, it was hard to accept that this man had somehow gotten inside and was able to penetrate her defenses.
Andrea never thought she'd see the day that she'd be able to trust a man in this way. To trust anyone. But Braden, this man who everyone perceived as a complete ass, though in most cases the title was well deserved, was suddenly becoming something Andrea never expected. She was starting to see a decent man who was capable of feelings, capable of caring even if he doesn't give that impression. The tender moment they shared in the barn when she cried in his arms, the way he held her soothingly were indications that the coldness was a hard shell to the emotions he didn't want anyone to see. But last night, he allowed her to take a glimpse of a different Braden. A Braden whom she could fall carelessly in love with.
She held her face in her hands, tormented by her feelings. Andrea couldn't be in love with him. She couldn't. Maybe it was just a fantasy of wanting to fall in love with her hero. But there wouldn't be a happily ever after. Not if Edward Gaines or Braden had anything to do with it. Even if Gaines wasn't in the picture, Andrea believed Braden would never love anyone. Sure, he was capable of tenderness and regard, but he'd never be interested in nothing more than what had been consummated last night. She was now going to pay for his protection with her body, and although she wanted the same thing too, Andrea couldn't help but wonder what might happen when he eventually tired of her.
Her mind was so preoccupied she didn't hear her door open until she glanced up to see Braden staring heatedly at her. He was leaning against the doorjamb with his black Stetson in hand, neatly dressed in a casual sports coat, a crisp white shirt, jeans and a shiny pair of boots.
Andrea audibly gasped, her arms instinctively crossing over her chest. "Braden!"
His eyes diverted down to her arms, then back up to her gaze before pointedly doing it again. Understanding his unspoken wish, she slowly lowered her arms back down to her sides.
"Smart girl," Braden praised. "You'll get accustomed to being naked around me. Lord knows I could look at every sweet inch of you forever."
He looked down when she didn't answer him, facing straightforward in the bath. He turned his hat in his hands, needing something to keep them occupied instead of filling them of her. "I know you heard me calling you. Why didn't you answer me?"
"I'm surprised you didn't come after me."
Braden scoffed. "You didn't answer my question." He paused. "Look at me."
Andrea turned her eyes into his direction as he now remained quiet, patiently waiting for an answer. "You know why," she responded. "I was mortified and embarrassed by the whole thing."
Braden didn't seem overly concerned. "What's to be embarrassed about it?"
Andrea looked heavenward, a fierce, irritated growl sounding from her throat. "God, Braden! What do you think? Every one of them knows what happened between us last night. They aren't stupid." She closed her eyes, fighting the stinging tears that formed behind her eyelids. "God, they must think I'm some kind of immoral whore or--"
She stared at him, those doe-like eyes shimmering beneath the wall of tears. "I am."
"No, you're not," he replied firmly. "Between you, me, and God, we're the only ones who know that you've given yourself only to me. I'm the only one who's possessed that lovely body. Regardless, they know you don't jump from bed to bed."
"But everyone else will know how I suddenly went from someone you hated to your convenient lover." She shrugged. "I can't deny that I didn't want last night to happen. I'm woman enough to admit that I wanted it just as much as you did, but now we've come back to reality where mores still exist and judgments are passed. I still care a bit of what people in town may think. How guilty I'll feel to go to church with you on Sundays then you taking me to an empty pasture to fuck me not long after the preacher gave a sermon on chastity. If you actually had some kind of loving feeling toward me, this change in our relationship would be better for me to swallow. But since our personal relationship won't go anywhere beyond the bedroom, it makes me wonder what'll happen after all of this. If you'll keep me on as a pity case or tell me to get loss."
"It won't be like that," he softly confided.
"Then how will it be? So far, you haven't been able to answer that."
Braden rotated the hat within his hands again, quiet for a spell. Andrea's fingers lightly drew over the surface of the water, his response exactly what she supposed it would be. Even though her face didn't show it, she was disappointed that he had conviction for everything else but was hesitant in dealing with their personal situation. Then again, so was she, but mostly terrified in hearing that he didn't want anything but someone to fill the vacancy in his bed at night.
"I'm going be gone for most of the afternoon," he murmured. "I'm expecting a couple of people for dinner tonight. Make sure to prepare a nice dinner, the dining room's ready and everything."
Andrea nodded, not sure what else could be expressed between them.
She turned back to look up at him. Braden neared the tub, bending over to lift her chin, and for the longest time, he got lost in her sparkling, dark chocolate eyes.
"Do you trust me?"
As if in a trance, she nodded. He then closed the distance between them, his tongue surging deep once his mouth connected with hers. It as a kiss that was subtle, yet she still saw starbursts behind her closed eyelids each time his tongue brushed against hers.
Braden drew back, his fingertips lightly skimming her soft, chocolate cheek. "I'll be back before dinnertime."
He gave her another lingering kiss before leaving the room, leaving its now solitary occupant alone again to her thoughts. Hopeful thoughts of what would probably never be.
Andrea seemed to be in a dreamlike state for the rest of the day. She found herself analyzing every little look, touch and breathless statement he told her last night, especially the possessive one that flew out of his mouth effortlessly. However, she kept telling herself not to read too much into that except that her body belonged to him for the time being. He would probably forsake the feelings of home and family she secretly longed for in exchange for the heated passion they shared for one another.
How could she downplay such emotions each night when sharing his bed? How could she dismiss the curiosity in her mind that wondered what her children would look like with Braden as their daddy? He'd probably read into her pensive stares and see that what she wanted was something he'd probably refuse to give her. However, she couldn't help but wonder what a future with Braden would be like if only he wanted to get married again. Andrea was sure after his first wife, the thought of marriage didn't sit well with him, nor would he ever think of going through it again.
How he confused her, and it made her hesitant to read further into what it was. Andrea understood that people were capable of change, but she had high doubts that Braden was able to do that even in the smallest increment. His soul seemed impenetrable, buried deep down to cover the feelings he refused to let anyone see. But she had been a witness to small flashes of them, emotions he had probably never shared with anyone. Now, it seemed, that he had to live up to the fixed opinions of everyone who knew him to be a cold son of a bitch, doomed from the beginning because of a harsh father and a cruel former wife. And it seemed that everyone was expecting her to be his heroine, his saving grace, but Andrea wasn't sure if she was able to shoulder that burden. Trying to preserve what caring emotions were left in that man could very well jeopardize her own feelings and completely shatter them in its wake. She feared she didn't have the strength, and it scared her witless in wanting to try.