Trailing Home Ch. 08byharemgirl©
Taking a firm hold on herself, Selena quelled her panic and eyed the mule through the thick gloom of twilight. He was not far away, and she thought that she might be able to reach him. She sat on her bottom and slid down the rest of the hill. By then, the mule was only about fifty yards away, but she couldn't walk that distance with a twisted ankle through the deep mud. Tossing aside all dignity, she crawled on hands and knees toward the beast. He snorted and pawed at the ground as she approached, but Selena talked to him in a soothing voice. She hoped and prayed he wouldn't bolt, and she took her time. When she was within a few feet, she slowly stood up, so the mule could see her more clearly in the near darkness.
"Come here," she coaxed him. "Come on boy."
The mule fixed her with a baleful stare and refused to budge. Selena sighed. Of course it would be too much to hope that the wretched beast would make it easy for her.
"Come on," she cooed, hobbling her way over to him. She stretched out a hand, letting him smell her, and she managed to grab hold of his halter. "Thank God," she breathed.
No sooner had she said the words than the mule shied, yanking the halter loose from her hand before he ran a short distance away. Selena ground her teeth in frustration and began crawling toward him again. Each time she got within reach of him, the hateful mule would bolt a few feet further. Selena was beginning to despair. It was almost completely dark by the time she finally managed to grab his halter once more.
"Gotcha," she cried triumphantly.
The mule backed up a few steps, and Selena landed on her rear in the muck. This time, she stubbornly refused to release her hold on the halter, and the mule drug her a few feet, coating her entire lower half with oozing mud.
"Will you stop it, you stupid mule?" she railed at him. She heaved a frustrated sigh and struggled to her feet again, wincing at the pain in her ankle.
Glancing up at the sky, she noticed it was nearly fully dark. Selena was afraid to let go of the halter, so she had to stretch and grope to reach the length of rope that had been used to hobble the mule. He had kicked it loose from his back hooves, and it was trailing behind his front leg. Grunting with the effort, Selena managed to grasp the rope and slip it off from first one hoof and then the other. She leaned against him, panting from her exertion and the throbbing pain in her ankle. When she regained her breath, she tied the rope to the sides of the halter, fumbling in the darkness to tie the knots. When she was satisfied that they wouldn't slip loose, she looped the rope over the mule's head to form a makeshift bridle.
Hauling herself onto his back was no easy task, especially since it was now dark enough that she couldn't see what she was doing. The sucking mud and her heavy skirts combined to thwart her efforts, and the mule had a nasty habit of sidestepping just when she seemed to get a good hold on him. Still, Selena was determined, and by sheer dint of will, she finally managed to drag herself onto the beast's back. She sat for a moment, feeling relieved and exhausted before she realized that she had become completely disoriented in the darkness.
Hoping that the mule would know which way to go to get to camp, she gave him his head and prodded him forward. She could tell they were climbing a hill, and she prayed it was the right one. When they reached the top, she gave a frustrated groan. She could just make out the faint glow of their campfires, but she had gone the wrong way and was even further away than before. She fought back tears and took a few steadying breaths. She was cold and tired and oh so ready to be back at camp.
It took a lot of coaxing, but she managed to get the mule headed back in the right direction. Selena couldn't see her hand in front of her face, but she hoped the mule could see well enough to walk slowly along. They trudged down the hill, with Selena biting her lip and hoping the mule would keep going straight. They climbed back up a hill, and Selena released her pent up breath when she realized it was the hill she had originally been on. She had never been so happy to see the glow of a campfire getting nearer.
All of a sudden, she heard her name. "Selena! Selena, where are you?"
She recognized Liam's anxious voice and could see a lantern light weaving around as he carried it through the tall grass. He was clearly looking for her and couldn't see her in the dark, so she yelled in response.
"I'm here! Liam, I'm here!" she yelled.
He came toward her voice at a run. She kept calling and steered the mule toward him at the fastest pace she could, but it was still several minutes before she reached him.
"Oh Liam, thank goodness," she cried.
He set the lantern down, nearly tipping it over in his haste. "What the hell were you thinking?" he snarled, snatching her off the mule's back.
When he had returned to camp to find her gone, his mind had been consumed with fear. During the time he had been looking for her, his fear had turned to panic. Liam didn't appreciate being reminded once again of how devastated he would be if something happened to Selena. Now that he knew she was safe, his panic had congealed into cold hard fury, pushing aside all vestiges of common sense. He shook her roughly by the shoulders as he yelled at her, clearly enraged.
"Dammit, what possessed you to go wandering off by yourself in the dark? Don't you know you could have gotten lost or hurt? I ought to take you over my knee and tan your backside."
"Liam, please. You're hurting me," Selena cried. His fingers were biting into her shoulders, and he had set her roughly down on her ankle. She winced, leaning on him for support. "My ankle is hurt," she wailed.
For the first time, he really noticed her appearance, and a tiny bit of his anger dissipated to be replaced by concern. She was liberally coated in mud and muck. Her hair hung in filthy globs, where it had escaped from her bun, and she was soaking wet and shivering. She was uncomfortable beneath his regard. She didn't like for him to see her like this.
"Please Liam, let's just get back to camp," she implored him.
Liam lifted her back onto the mule and led them back to camp, his jaw rigidly locked. Marcia and Gerald came running, and when they saw Selena, Marcia put a hand over her throat, obviously distraught.
"What happened to you?" Marcia cried. "I thought you were just going to the top of the hill to look around."
Selena blinked back tears of humiliation. "I meant to, but then I saw your mule on the other side of the hill, and I wanted to catch him for you. I slipped and twisted my ankle. I'm sorry if I worried all of you." She noticed the glare Liam shot her, but she ignored it for the moment.
"You poor dear." Marcia patted her arm and looked at Liam, "You'd better get her washed up before she catches a chill."
"You must all be starving by now," Selena said. "Go ahead and eat, it might be a while before I can get washed up. Take the pot of soup, and we'll come and join you in a bit." She watched as Marcia lifted the pot off the fire and carried it back to their own campsite.
Without a word, Liam lifted her down and carried her to the wagon. He sat her inside with her legs dangling out the back and turned to get the dry blankets she had stashed inside the wagon earlier that day.
"Stay here," he growled.
He turned on his heel and stalked to the tent. After laying the blankets out into a fresh pallet, he returned to the wagon. He didn't look at Selena as he grabbed her suitcase, the wash basin, towels and soap from the small trunk. He disappeared once more to the tent, and Selena blinked back tears, realizing that he was still very angry with her. She could hear him filling the basin with water from the barrel, and he carried it to the tent before returning for her.
Without saying a word, he scooped her up and carried her into the tent. His body was rigid with anger, and she bit her bottom lip, feeling foolish and childish. He stood her on the ground next to the pallet and stripped off her filthy clothes, steadying her with his strong hands while she balanced on one foot. When she was naked, he picked her up and set her none too gently on her bottom in the middle of the pallet, leaving her muddy feet off the edge of the blankets.
"Here," he commanded, shoving a clean cloth into her hands. "Clean up your face and hair."
Selena flushed with chagrin, and she meekly complied as Liam took another cloth and began to wash her body. He handled her roughly, scrubbing at her skin until it was pink from the friction, but Selena didn't complain. She understood that he had to get his frustrations out somehow, and she would prefer this over him shouting at her.
He cleaned her entire body, even her private parts, with the same impersonal, rough strokes. Only when he washed her injured ankle did he soften his touch. When Selena was clean from top to toe, Liam handed her a clean chemise.
"Put this on and let me see your ankle," he growled.
While she meekly complied, he sat down and balanced her calf across his thigh. He gently probed her wounded extremity. Her ankle was swollen to nearly twice its normal size, and he grunted his displeasure, giving her another disapproving look. His fingers were infinitely gentle as they probed the swollen joint, but his brows were drawn together in a fierce scowl. When he was satisfied that nothing was broken, he laid her foot aside and rose.
"Don't move," he barked over his shoulder as he left the tent.
He came back in a few moments with the medical kit. Selena remained mute as he rubbed her ankle with liniment, his fingers gentle but firm as he massaged it into the skin. Finally, he wrapped her ankle tightly with long strips of cloth bandages and tied them neatly over her foot. He washed his hands and replaced everything carefully into the medical kit. He would have risen without a word, but Selena delayed him by grasping his arm and pulling him around to face her. Her eyes scanned his harsh features, and she reached up to caress his rigid jaw.
"I'm sorry, Liam," she whispered softly. "I should never have gone wandering off like that."
"It was a damned fool idea," he agreed, still glaring at her. "You could have been seriously hurt."
"I know. I wasn't thinking clearly and I should never have taken such a risk."
She scooted on her bottom until she could reach her arms around his neck. She trailed tiny apologetic kisses along his neck and up over his cheeks. When she finally reached his mouth, she pressed her brow to his and her eyes begged him for forgiveness.
"I'm truly sorry. Do you forgive me?"
As she watched, his eyes softened ever so slightly, but his fierce scowl remained. "You realize that you had me worried sick," he accused. He hated feeling so vulnerable, and he was furious with her for stirring up those feelings by taking foolish risks.
She bit her bottom lip. "Yes, just like I was worried sick about you. But we're both alright, so can't we just put this whole miserable day behind us?"
Searching for a way to divert him from his anger, she toyed with the hair at his nape, wrapping a tawny strand around her finger as she nibbled at his ear. She had seen his eyes flitting over her barely concealed bosom and knew he wasn't immune to her state of undress. Taking her lower lip between her teeth, she leaned against his chest, pressing the ripe mounds of her breasts up invitingly and smiling at Liam from beneath her lashes.
"I made you a lovely pot of chicken soup. You must be hungry after not eating since breakfast."
Liam's sharply raised brow indicated that he knew just what she was doing to try and soften his anger. His temper was still brewing, flayed by his fear and worry for her, but he was holding it sternly in check...for the moment.
"Alright," he growled, his eyes raking over her breasts as if evaluating her offering. "I'll eat your soup, but I still haven't forgiven you."
He skimmed a hand over her ribs to cup her breast. As he fondled her flesh with possessive familiarity, he set his lips to cruising along the ivory column of her throat. His fingers deftly plucked at her buttons until her chemise was open to the waist. Reaching inside the filmy garment, Liam gave her nipple a sharp tweak, eliciting a pained gasp of surprise. There were angry sparks in his hazel eyes.
"I still haven't given up the notion of spanking your backside," he growled, "and I might decide to do so yet. It's no more than what you deserve." His face was all hard planes as he gave her a threatening scowl.
Selena stared at him for one long moment as she realized that for the first time, Liam was so angry with her that he wasn't treating her with tender caution. Thrilled at the thought, she yanked his face to hers and gave him a devastatingly thorough kiss, purposefully taunting him with her mouth as she brazenly pressed her breast into his palm.
She knew she was playing with fire by inciting him in his current mood, but she deliberately did so, hoping to overcome the only remaining obstacle between them, his memories of her stepfather's abuse. She wasn't some fragile rose but a woman, strong and passionate, and she wanted Liam to realize it.
"Come to think of it," she whispered, raising a challenging brow as she brazenly stroked his erection through his breeches, "supper could wait just a bit longer."
His barely leashed temper snapped. If Selena thought she could torture him by foolishly endangering herself and then make him forget all about it by seducing him, she had another think coming. Liam crushed her lips with a punishing kiss as he impatiently yanked her chemise off her shoulders and then down over her hips before tossing it aside. Bending her backward over his arm, Liam crudely kneaded one breast, twisting Selena's already taut nipple between his thumb and fingers, squeezing progressively harder as she moaned softly and stroked the back of his hand in wordless encouragement.
His lips were hard and demanding on hers, swallowing her low moans as he continued to torture her breast. He broke off the kiss, unable to resist tasting her nipple. The fact that she threaded her fingers through his hair and arched her back to offer him better access to the tender flesh only served to heighten his irritation. Dammit, didn't she realize that he was serious?
He twisted both her arms up high behind her back and held her wrists securely in one of his hands. With his other hand, he cupped her trembling breast and pulled hard on her nipple, savaging the sensitive peak with his teeth even as he watched her bite down on her bottom lip to keep from crying out. When she was writhing in his arms, he switched to the other breast and repeated the torture, using his fingers to keep tormenting the first nipple as he worked on the second with his teeth.
Still, she did not protest his cruelty, and Liam became even more determined to teach her a lesson as he rubbed his rough whiskers back and forth across her nipples, knowing the coarse texture was cruelly abrading the sensitive flesh of her breasts. As he watched, the delicate, creamy skin of her breasts turned bright red beneath his mistreatment, and the nipples quivered. Selena finally released a muted sob, and Liam relented, suckling first one then the other abused nipple deep into the hot cavern of his mouth as he soothed them.
Just when Selena was beginning to regain her composure, Liam surprised her by abruptly setting her on her knees. He pushed her down onto all fours, baring her naked bottom to the cool evening air and his heated perusal. Liam cupped her buttocks and squeezed roughly on the soft globes as he eyed them with concentration. He moved to her side, placing one arm securely over Selena's waist to hold her still.
Selena's eyes opened wide, shocked that he meant to actually spank her. "Liam, if you think I'm going to let you . . .Oh!" She had to bite her lip to suppress a yelp as his palm connected on her naked bottom with a loud thwack. Liam continued to rain blows onto her buttocks to a steady rhythm, heedless of her pleas and promises that she had learned her lesson. He didn't stop until her entire bottom was bright red and hot, and he could clearly see the imprint of his hand in several places.
He took several deep breaths to calm his anger as he kneaded his wife's fleshy behind and listened to her shaky sobs. His erection was throbbing painfully, but he ignored it for the moment, gazing instead at Selena's exposed folds that were glistening and wet.
When her sobs finally subsided, Selena held her breath as the silence stretched out, wondering if he was finally finished punishing her. Her bottom felt like it was on fire, but the stinging pain gradually faded and warmth radiated through her. She bit her lip again, realizing that she was more aroused than before. She wondered if Liam could tell the effect he was having on her, and her face flamed.
Just when she thought she couldn't bear to remain still any longer, two broad fingers delved deep into her softness without warning, boldly invading her with angry, possessive strokes. Liam had never made love to her from this position before, and her sensibilities were equally shocked and pleased by the prospect.
Stark, searing pleasure shot through her to coalesce in her loins. Selena gasped as she realized that her body was illuminated by the light from the lantern sitting on the ground behind her. Liam could view her in intimate detail, but she felt no shame. The fact that she was displayed before him, completely naked while he remained fully clothed, served to underscore his dominance and heighten her pleasure.
For the first time, there was a dangerous undertone as he handled her, his anger investing his body with a hint of ruthlessness, but because she trusted Liam completely and knew he would never hurt her, she found it powerfully erotic rather than frightening. If she had to use Liam's rage to get even closer to him than before, she was glad to do so.
Selena held herself perfectly still while Liam took his time, staking his claim on her body. He explored her thoroughly exposed pussy at his leisure, drawing out the moments until she felt her vulnerability in every pore and fiber. Selena glanced over her shoulder and saw that Liam's gaze was firmly fixed between her thighs, scowling intently as he examined her shining folds, bared for his inspection. His features were hardened with anger and determination.
His fingers drew back as they taunted and tantalized, surging into her slick heat only far enough to make her want more. He used his other hand to part her swollen folds and locate the tiny nub of her arousal. He teased it, circling the throbbing flesh with the pad of his thumb as his other fingers continued to delve into her heat. As she grew more desperate, his strokes became even more bold and possessive, almost domineering. His message was clear. He was letting her know without words that she belonged to him. She was his and he wouldn't tolerate her taking foolish risks.
His fear for her had unmasked his primitive soul. Now that he knew she was safe, he needed to reassert his claim on her to ward off those fears. Selena understood his need; indeed she was eager to appease it. She focused on what he was doing, keenly aware of each quiver of his long fingers, each bold invasion, as she felt herself growing wetter, hotter, needier. He knew how desperate he was making her, but Liam kept her there, torturing her with his knowing fingers but not letting her reach completion until she was frantic and whimpering. Then, his fingers reached deep as he squeezed hard on her clit, and he sent her over the edge.
Selena stifled her scream when sweet release finally washed through her body, but when she would have collapsed in a boneless heap, his hands held her rigidly in place, digging into her hips and granting her no mercy. Liam kept his fingers buried deep within her until her contractions finally eased, crushing his own throbbing need beneath an iron will as he watched the pleasure wash over her in waves.