Trailing Home Ch. 06byharemgirl©
A few mornings later, Liam awoke to find Selena snuggled close against his side. It had rained steadily the day before, but he noticed that the rain had stopped sometime during the night. There was still a damp chill in the air, and he could hear drops falling from the leaves.
Selena was obviously drawn to his warmth, and she had wrapped an arm around his waist while she slept. Her face was nuzzled in the crook of his arm, and her warm breath feathered the side of his neck. He took advantage of the moment to admire the way her lashes lay in thick velvety crescents against her cheeks, and her lips were slightly parted. He couldn't resist the urge to sample her mouth.
He rose on one elbow and kissed her, cradling her head on his arm. At first, she lay unresponsive, but as his kisses became more insistent, she roused from her sleep and sighed. She stole his breath when she began to respond. He tasted her with a leisured thoroughness, enjoying her softness even through the layers of blankets between them.
Wanting more, he worked at the buttons of her thick cotton nightgown until he had it opened to the waist. He rose up and watched as her eyes fluttered open. She stared up at him, and he wished he could make out the color of her eyes. When he pulled the blanket from between them, she made no move to stop him, and he felt the blood throbbing in his loins. He reached inside her gown to cup her naked breast, and Selena released a soft sigh.
The feeling of his hand on her breast was like heaven. His strong fingers kneaded the flesh, and when he squeezed her nipple between his thumb and fingers, she bit her lip to keep from moaning out loud. Shards of desire shot through her, and she felt an aching, empty hunger between her thighs. She couldn't resist the urge to close her eyes and arch her back, mutely offering her breast for more of his attention.
When Liam dipped his head to suckle her nipple, she released a strangled groan of pleasure. The heat of his mouth on her breast made her feel like her bones were melting, and she threaded her fingers through his hair, marveling at these new sensations. Of a sudden, she understood the soft sighs and moans that she had sometimes heard coming from her parents' bedroom. The effort it took for her to remain quiet beneath Liam's touch sapped her strength, but she didn't want to make any noise when nearby campers might hear her.
He nipped and sucked her nipple, taking his time to savor its softness before he moved to her other breast. The thick stubble on his jaw grazed her breasts, and despite her best efforts, Selena couldn't suppress another soft moan of delight. By the time Liam had paid homage to both of her breasts, Selena was writhing with need, and when he raised his head to look at her, they were both breathing hard. She could feel the insistent pressure of his erection against her hip, and she knew what he wanted, but she wasn't afraid. For some reason, she didn't feel the need for questions between them. Her mind was complacent, for once not demanding that she ask Liam to declare his love for her. She wanted this, and she would worry about love and commitment later.
Liam let his eyes drop to her naked breasts, rosy from his ministrations. He felt a primal satisfaction. Somehow he had stumbled on the one woman who could hold his fascination, and he wanted to discover all that she was, both physically and emotionally. Selena was his, and he was anxious to stake his claim. His hand drifted down over her hip and thigh to reach beneath the hem of her gown. His fingers trailed up the inside of her thigh, and she opened her legs for him, gasping when his hand reached her heat. His fingers stroked her moist folds, and their eyes met and held as he explored her with increasingly bold caresses, slipping one finger into her.
Nearby voices intruded on the moment, and Liam looked out the tent flap to see several nearby campers already up and moving around in the predawn darkness. Liam's frustration was supreme. He briefly considered completing his conquest, but he dismissed the idea just as quickly. He wanted their first time to be something more than just a hurried coupling during which they both felt self-conscious in case someone nearby might hear them. Yet, he knew that stopping now, he would be uncomfortable throughout the day.
"Damn!" The single word was full of aggravation.
Selena reached up and cupped his cheek in her palm, waiting until he met her eyes. She smiled at him, and her eyes were limpid pools full of promise.
"Shall we continue this tonight?" she whispered.
Her proposition did much to lessen his disappointment, and he gave her a lopsided grin. "Madam, that is my most sincere wish. I want you in the worst possible way, and if I don't have you soon, I fear that I'm going to go crazy."
"Well, I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for that," she whispered with a grin, running a fingertip along his jaw. "We'd better get up." She moved to rise from the pallet.
Even though he knew it would increase his frustration, Liam forestalled her. "Just one more kiss to last me through the day?" he asked.
The raw need in his voice tugged at Selena's heartstrings. She pulled him down to her and kissed him, letting her own pent up longings overflow. In her innocence, she couldn't understand what a devastating effect she was having on Liam, but when he finally broke off the kiss on a groan, they were both breathing raggedly. Liam stroked his finger deep inside her as he met her gaze. The fire in his hazel eyes nearly stole her breath.
"Until tonight then." His voice held firm conviction, and Selena shivered with anticipation.
Liam rose in the dim light of dawn and stepped into his breeches, noticing that for the first time, his wife was watching him dress. Her close attention only served to further aggravate his lust, and his hands trembled as he fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. As soon as he was decent, he beat a hasty retreat from the tent. Selena waited until he left before she rose and hurriedly donned her own clothes. Her body was tingling from Liam's caresses, and she felt feminine and pretty knowing that he desired her. She went about her morning routine with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.
The day started out well. They got off to an early start and the weather was fine after the previous day's rain. However, the trail was muddy and deeply rutted, and they struggled throughout the day. They freed the wagon from one mud hole only to get mired in the next. Progress was achingly slow, and Liam and Gerald took turns lending assistance to each other as they plodded along. Several times they had to use all the extra oxen to pull the wagons out of the muck. By evening, they had only traveled a few miles, and they made camp near a creek that flowed through dense woods.
Liam was covered nearly head to toe with a liberal coating of mud. He should have been exhausted from the day, but he was too eager for the coming night. After wolfing down his supper, he retrieved clean clothes, soap and a towel from the wagon. He gave Selena a roguish grin.
"I'm going to take a bath in the creek." He came to tower over her and was careful not to get her dirty when he bent to press a quick kiss on her upturned lips. "Then I believe we have a date."
Selena blushed but met his eyes and gave him a sultry smile. "I'll be waiting. Hurry back."
She watched him disappear into the woods and quickly washed all the dishes. When they were put away, she went to the tent and made their pallet. She smiled to herself as she made one larger pallet rather than two, and her smile turned into a lustful grin. Closing her eyes, she remembered their morning interlude, and she was anxious to again feel Liam's strong arms around her. From habit, she went to retrieve her nightgown, but then she thought better of it. She was hoping not to need a nightgown tonight.
She puttered around, but after a while, she ran out of things to keep her occupied, and she wondered what was taking Liam so long to return. He bathed every evening, and she usually had barely enough time to make out their beds before he was back. Suddenly worried that something might have happened to him, she set out to look for him.
Liam reached the creek and quickly doffed his muddy clothes beneath the light of the full moon. He grabbed the soap and waded into the creek, sucking in his breath from the coolness of the water. Although it was late May, the rivers and creeks were still cold enough to make bathing somewhat uncomfortable, but lately, he had come to welcome the chill since it cooled his ardor. Tonight, he barely noticed the cold water as he hurried to wash.
Standing thigh deep in the water, he lathered his body and hair, scrubbing away the sweat and grime from the day until he felt fresh and clean. He sank beneath the water and resurfaced, wiping his hair out of his eyes as he walked toward the bank. He was nearly to the edge when he glanced up and saw a woman standing nearby. At first, he thought it was Selena, but he quickly realized his error and took a few steps back until the water was above his waist.
"Natasha, how long have you been there?" he growled.
She came forward with a throaty laugh. "Long enough to thoroughly enjoy your bath. I always thought you would look magnificent without your clothes and I'm glad that I wasn't disappointed."
Liam placed his hands on his hips and glared at her. "Well now that you've enjoyed your little peep show, get lost so I can get out of here."
"Oh don't be such a spoiled sport," she simpered. "I thought I might join you." She began to unbutton her dress.
"Dammit, Natasha. Stop acting like a floozy and go back to your family."
"I don't think so," she said, shrugging out of her dress to let it fall at her feet. She started on the buttons of her chemise.
"Natasha, I'm a married man. I already have a wife to warm my bed, and I don't want you."
Liam was holding his temper firmly in check. Natasha's forwardness angered him but not nearly as much as the fact that she was delaying him from getting back to Selena.
"Ah, but that's the problem isn't it?" Natasha asked.
She dropped her chemise and quickly wriggled free of her pantalets. Her naked form was clearly lit by the moonlight, and she showed no shame as she waded into the water. Natasha had overheard Selena talking with her mother, and she knew that Liam's marriage was not what it seemed. She was determined to steal him away for herself, and she was willing to use all her feminine wiles to accomplish that goal.
"I know that Selena is not really a wife to you, Liam. I've noticed the two of you together. She doesn't want to please you, but I do."
Liam was taken aback by the woman's boldness. His eyes raked her naked body dispassionately, and he gave her a harsh frown. "Grow up, Natasha. I don't want you."
Before he could stop her, Natasha closed the distance between them and threw her arms around his neck. She pressed her breasts against him and kissed him full on the mouth. Liam reached to grab her arms and shove her away just as he heard a startled gasp. He saw Selena standing on the bank, and his heart sank to his toes. He knew quite well what conclusions she would draw. She whirled and fled back through the woods.
Liam cursed viciously and flung Natasha aside, heedless of the fact that she sank beneath the water and came up sputtering and coughing. He waded to the shore and wrapped the towel around his waist, not even bothering to dress. He stepped into his boots and scooped up his clothes before turning a heated glare on Natasha.
"Don't ever come near me again. You're lucky I'm not going to tell Gerald about this, because I have a feeling he would beat you senseless. However, if you so much as look at me the wrong way again, you can bet I will tell him."
Without another word, Liam hurried back to camp.
Selena raced back to camp, running so fast her side began to ache. She felt panicked tears welling and she angrily brushed at her cheeks. She felt like such a fool! Thank God she hadn't given herself to Liam. That would have been the crowning blow to her pride.
By the time she reached the tent, cold fury had began to blossom in her heart. She flung the flap aside and her eyes lit on the pallet she had carefully laid out. The covers were turned back invitingly, and they now seemed to mock her. In a temper, she stepped onto the blankets and kicked at them until they were a tangled heap. She snatched up two of them and went to the wagon, where she bent and made a pallet underneath it. Just as she was smoothing out the top blanket, she heard Liam returning.
At first, he didn't notice her beneath the wagon, and he went straight to the tent. Not seeing her inside, he glanced around and spotted her.
"Selena, listen. It's not what you think," he assured her, rushing to her side.
Selena threw him a glare from over her shoulder. When she saw that he was still wet and dressed only in a towel, she jerked back to face her pallet. "Leave me alone."
"Dammit, you don't know what happened." Liam grasped her arm to turn her around. "I can explain."
Selena was in no mood to hear his explanations and she yanked her arm loose from his grasp. "Let go of me!" Her eyes burned with fury as they raked his naked chest. "To think that I almost fell for your seduction, when all the time you've been enjoying Natasha on the side. Now I understand why you are so faithful about taking your evening baths."
Liam's temper began to flare at the unjustness of her accusations, but he was struggling to control it. Still, his voice was an ominous growl as he replied.
"Selena, it's not like that. I swear to you that I haven't been with Natasha before. She just showed up tonight, and before I could stop her she had stripped off her clothes."
Selena's mocking laughter made it clear that she didn't believe him. "Oh sure," she sneered. "Poor Liam. It's such a shame that beautiful women just throw themselves at you and you're helpless to defend yourself." Her eyes took on a feral gleam as she viciously poked a finger into his chest. "Well don't worry. I won't be one of them anymore. As soon as we get to Oregon, I'll be out of your life for good."
Liam grabbed her arm again when she went to turn away. "I know what it must have looked like, but Selena, you have to believe me. I wasn't making love to Natasha. I told her to go away and leave me alone."
Selena looked down at his hand on her arm before she fixed him with a steely eyed glare. "Take your hand off me," she gritted out. When he reluctantly complied, she continued. "Don't ever touch me again. I'm not one of your little trollops to be handled whenever you feel like it. From now on, I'm off limits to you."
Without another word, she brushed past him and stalked to the back of the wagon to retrieve her nightgown. Liam stood rigidly watching her go. He hated to admit it, but his reaction would have been even worse than hers if the situation had been reversed. He would likely have murdered any man that he saw holding his naked wife, and he knew there was no way to make her see reason until she had time to cool off. He ran a hand through his hair and walked to the tent.
He entered to find the heap of blankets on the ground and his heart constricted in his chest. This was supposed to be the night he and Selena would have shared their bodies and consummated their marriage vows. Instead, he was destined to spend another sleepless night alone. He tossed his clothes on the ground and smoothed the blankets into a pallet. He crawled between the covers and stared up at the tent.
He would speak to Selena tomorrow and explain what had happened. He could only hope and pray that she would be willing to believe him, because he didn't know how much longer he could stand this tension. He could hear her settling into her own bed, and he released a deep sigh of frustration. Liam had realized some time ago that he wanted Selena as his wife. He loved her, and he knew he could never be happy without her in his life. He would have to find some way to make her understand what she meant to him.
Selena lay on her pallet and tears rolled unheeded down her face. Over the last few weeks, she had begun to believe that she and Liam were building a future together. He had told her about his farm in Oregon, and she had envisioned herself there, as his wife and the mother of his children. Now, her entire future was up in the air. She knew she could still go to her sister's home, but the idea seemed suddenly unappealing. Selena had always wanted a home and a family of her own. She had thought Liam was the husband of her dreams. Now, she realized those dreams had been built on nothing but a fantasy.
She felt empty and hopeless. Nothing really mattered to her now. She closed her eyes to sleep, but she kept seeing visions of Liam and Natasha clasped together in the moonlight. Nothing had ever hurt Selena this much. Even when her mother died, Selena had felt the desire to go on with life. Now, she felt like there was nothing left to work for, nothing left to wish for.
She managed to doze fitfully, but when morning came, she was exhausted both physically and emotionally. She dragged herself up from her bed and went about stoking the fire out of habit. She put the coffee on to boil and had begun to make biscuits when Liam emerged from the tent. He gave her a long look, as if he were gauging her mood, before turning away to tend to the oxen. Selena ignored him and finished the biscuits.
Liam brought her the morning eggs and milk before he left to finish his chores. He gave her another questioning glance, but she refused to acknowledge him. By the time Liam returned, Selena had breakfast ready. She filled a plate for him and handed it to him without comment. She took a plate for herself, even though she didn't feel like eating.
Selena normally sat beside Liam to eat, but this morning, she elected to sit on a log, some distance from where he was. She pushed the food around, eating a few bites but not tasting them. When she couldn't eat any more, she started to gather the pans and dishes and turned to Liam to retrieve his plate. She noticed he hadn't been able to eat either. When she would have brushed past him, Liam snagged her hand and pulled her down beside him.
Selena started to struggle against him, but his fingers remained locked. His hold on her was gentle but firm, and he waited patiently until she met his eye.
"Are you ready to listen now, Selena?" he asked her quietly.
"We have nothing to talk about. Just let me go." Selena felt tears burning at the backs of her eyes and she was loath to cry in front of him.
"We have a great deal to talk about, but I need you to listen." Liam's voice remained calm. He reached out to lift her chin until she was looking at him. The tears that he saw swimming in her lovely eyes nearly broke his heart, but he ignored them for the moment. "Selena, if you think about it, you will realize that I have never lied to you."
"That's what I thought until last night," she cried. Her hurt and anguish caused her voice to crack.
"Selena, last night was a big misunderstanding. I swear to you, as God is my witness, that I did not betray you. I don't have the slightest interest in Natasha, or any other woman for that matter." Liam smiled ruefully, "I've been so obsessed with thoughts of you that there is no room in my tiny brain to think about anyone else."
His comment would normally have made Selena smile, but she jerked her chin free from his hand and looked away. "Liam, what do you expect me to believe? I saw you with my own eyes."
"I know what you saw, sweetheart. I thought about it last night and I would have jumped to the same conclusion you did, but that doesn't mean it's the right conclusion."