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It is a vast spread in the eastern wilds of the newly independent Republic of Texas, the ranch their parents fought for…and died for. To the eight Graham siblings, no matter how much hard work or hard love it takes, life is unthinkable without…
In the wake of his parents’ murder, Matthew Graham must take the reins at the Circle Eight. He also needs to find a wife in just thirty days, or risk losing it all. Plain but practical, Hannah Foley seems the perfect bride for him…until after the wedding night. Their marriage may make all the sense in the world, but neither one anticipates the jealousies that will result, the treacherous danger they’re walking into, or the wildfire of attraction that will sweep over them, changing their lives forever…
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Hannah’s thighs and behind were on fire. The burning sensation yanked her out of a deep sleep. She gasped as she came into full consciousness and the soreness slammed into her. The two days spent riding had taken their toll on her unprepared hindquarters. She opened her eyes and recognized their bedroom at the ranch. A hazy memory of Matt carrying her flitted through her mind. It had to be what happened because she certainly hadn’t walked in there on her own. Heck, she wasn’t sure if she could walk.
She groaned and turned on her side. Her husband was there, fast asleep, with dark smudges of exhaustion beneath his eyes. It was the first time she’d been able to study him without him knowing about it. He looked so much younger asleep, as though slumber washed all the stresses of the ranch.
He had dark lashes, not overly long but thick. A bump on the bridge of his nose spoke of an injury earlier in his life. Another scar marred his skin just above his left eyebrow, perhaps an inch long and whitened with age. The stubble that graced his chin and cheeks was darker than that on his head. Unable to resist she reached out and touched one fingertip to his chin. He was a beautiful man, even in sleep.
His eyes popped open and she froze in place. Her heart thumped hard as she waited for him to do something.
“Hannah.” The rasp of his voice sent a skitter across her skin.
Their gazes were locked and the air between them crackled. She wanted so badly to kiss him, but hesitated. They’d only been married less than a week, and although they’d been intimate, she was absolutely shy around him. Now she’d been caught ogling and fondling him. Perhaps what she’d done might not be considered fondling, she had been touching him.
“Where did you get the ring?”
She wasn’t expecting the question. “The ring?” She held up her left hand, just now noticing she still wore it. “Granny gave it to me. It belonged to her mother.”
“It fits you.” He touched the ring with one finger.
“Like I was supposed to wear it.”
His gaze snapped to hers and the moment stretched out. She leaned toward him and her muscles reminded her of just how much pain she was in. Hannah hissed in a breath and moved back to her side of the bed.
“Are you sore?” He shifted to a sitting position and the tension between them broke.
Hannah cursed her own foolishness and wondered if she would ever be strong enough to be a normal wife.
“Yes, a bit. Mostly on my ah, the parts that rest on the saddle.” Those parts were currently throbbing with more than soreness from the ride.
“I’ve got some liniment. Thought we’d use it when we were on our trip, but I didn’t think we’d ride straight back either.” He rose from bed and Hannah was startled to see his erection clearly evident in his drawers. Was it like that every morning?
He fished around in the saddlebags on the floor before pulling out a tin. “Found it.”
She didn’t know what would happen when he rubbed the liniment on her, but she was filled with anticipation.
“Roll over and pull up your nightdress, Hannah.”
It didn’t sound sexy, but it sure made her feel naughty as she managed to do what he asked. Her muscles were in sorry shape, but it was the idea his bare hands would be rubbing her that was foremost in her mind.
“My hands are a little rough.” He opened the tin and put some liniment on his hands.
“I don’t mind,” she confessed into the pillow. “I like your hands.”
He chuckled softly. “I’m glad to hear it. Now try to relax.”
Now that would be quite a challenge. She wanted to enjoy the experience, but her anxiety was warring with her need.
Matt touched her behind her knees, making circles as he worked his way up to her thighs. Although his fingers were strong, his touch wasn’t overly so. She closed her eyes and focused on how good it felt.
Her sore muscles slowly unknotted under his hands. Matt’s thumbs swiped her inner thighs, so close to her core that she clenched her muscles. A jolt of pain slammed up her body at the sudden movement.
He stopped, his hands still touching her. “Easy, Hannah. I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.”
“I know. I, um, I’m not used to people touching me there.” She sounded foolish to her own ears.
“I’m not people. I’m your husband.”
Hannah was glad he couldn’t see her blushing. “Please keep going.”
After a moment, he started again. She wanted to show him how much she trusted him, truly she did, so she spread her legs wider.
He made a funny noise and his hands momentarily stopped. “You, ah, surprise me.”
“I hope so,” she spoke into her pillow but she hoped he heard her.
His thumbs traveled upwards again, nearing her pulsing core, then slid past to her behind. He spread her cheeks with each circle, allowing cold air to land on her heated center. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot.
When he kissed the nape of her neck, a moan popped out of her mouth. The massage had turned into something much more.