A virgin bride in the wild west frontier. A jaded cowboy forced to marry her by the shotgun held at his back by her stepfather. Who knows enough his bride needs a little tenderness on their wedding night. And as he learns she’s experienced little tenderness in her stepfather’s home…

Tangled Past

Copyright © 2011 by Leah Braemel

[T]he walk up the stairs to their room went too fast. Too soon she was standing in front of the single big bed. He’d want her to undress and get into it. What if she didn’t please him? She didn’t know what a man expected when it came to satisfying them in the bedroom. Oh Mama, why didn’t you tell me what I needed to know about these things?

Behind her, Jackson flipped shut the latch on the door, locking them in.


Was this how prisoners felt when they were locked in their cells for the first time? Her breath burning in her chest, Sarah wet her lips. What if he wanted her to do some of the things Jed had whispered? She tugged off her gloves and laid them beside her brush on the dressing table. Like her ring, they’d once been her mother’s and bore the signs of age and use. Conscious of him watching her, she fiddled with the ribbons of her bonnet.

“You look scared to death. Do you really think I’ll be that mean to you?” Jackson took the bonnet from her and set it over her gloves.

“I’m f-fine.” Her words might have held more weight if she hadn’t stuttered.

“Nice try, but I ain’t buying what you’re tryin’ to sell.” He picked up her hands and chaffed them between his large palms. “Take a nice deep breath for me, will ya?”

Honor and obey. She sucked in a lungful and immediately regretted having that slice of peach pie for dessert. Her knees lost any sense of direction and wobbled beneath her, and the light from the kerosene lantern dimmed.

“Whoa. Stay with me, Sarah.” He lifted her as if she weighed nothing and laid her on the bed. His face wavered at the edge of her vision, his eyes dark and concerned.

“Damned corsets. You can barely breathe, can you?” he growled. He bent his head and set to work on her stays like a man intent on solving a puzzle. Once he freed the last hook, she drew in the first deep breath she’d been able to take the entire day.

“Better?” The corset landed on top of her valise with a thud.

“Yes, thank you.” But she grabbed the edges of her bodice together and wrapped her arms over her chest almost as tightly as the corset had squeezed her.

vHis lips pursed together into a hard line. “Whatever you’re thinking is going to happen is probably a hell—beggin’ your pardon—heck of a lot worse in your head than it will be in fact.”

He was right. Something inside her quivered. Not in fear, but with an awareness she’d never known before. Her body softened, wanting to trust him, to rest against him and let him protect her. Her hands twitched, wanting to touch his shoulders, to play with the thin furring of hair on his chest and feel the strength of his muscles rippling in the dim light.

She took another deep breath. “All right. Let’s get this over with.” She stood up and grabbed the hem of her chemise.

“Now hang on a second.” He captured her hands. It was the first time she’d seen him smile, she realized, and it changed his whole face. With that deep dimple in his left cheek, and the way his eyes sparkled, he looked like a little boy who planned to put a frog in her bed. “Let’s get this over with? As much as a man likes to know a woman’s willing, I’d rather not think of lying in our marital bed bein’ a chore.”

“I’m sorry.” Maybe he wouldn’t be able to consummate the marriage. Maybe he could only find satisfaction with a man in his bed. She dropped her eyes at the thought. No, from the bulge against his placket, he didn’t need a man’s touch to arouse him.

Nominated for "Best Erotic Menage a Trois and More"“Uh-uh, no apologies from you tonight. We’ll take tonight right slow, all right?” He leaned back and tilted his head. “Sit down on that chair in front of the dressing table.”

Bemused, she did as he bid. He stood behind her and removed the net covering her bun, then began plucking the pins holding her hair in its bun. “Let’s start with this, shall we?” When she reached up to try to help him, he tapped her hands. “Nope, this pleasure’s all mine. You just sit there.”

He hmm’d as he removed more pins, freeing her hair from its rigid confines, letting it fall past her waist. “You’ve got beautiful hair. Why do you wear it all bound up so a man can’t appreciate it?”

“Mr. McLeod insisted on it.”

He met her gaze in the mirror. “Even when you were little?”

“Yes.” Because when it was down, her Indian blood became even more obvious.

He made a disapproving noise in the back of his throat, then picked up the hairbrush she’d set out when they’d arrived.

She found herself relaxing with each stroke of the brush.

*HARLEQUIN COVER ART: Cover Art Copyright© 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. © and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

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Snippet Saturday: Try a little tenderness