Book two in the Rock Hard series. When Rex and Quinn hire a chef to come on tour with the band, Beau Trudeau finds a welcome distraction in quirky Gigi Somerville. She's not his type at all, but she's fun to have around, and she's sort of growing on him… If Gigi wants to start the business she's worked so hard for, she needs something big to happen. When the members of Hank Lemon and the Law contact her to cook for them during their summer concert tour, she's elated. Not only is this a dream opportunity, when she meets Beau Trudeau, she realizes she can kill two birds with one stone. He's the perfect guy to foist her unwanted virginity upon before she has to go back to the real world and fifteen-hour workdays. He's scorching hot but, even better, he has no interest in a relationship. In fact, he's so perfectly wrong for her, there's no chance of her actually falling for him…
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Enticing Read
Posted February 21, 2011 by Dionne M. A. , ElizabethThis story has kept me in the middle of my bed, until it was all over! Leigh has captured the wants and desires of all those, both male and female, interested in the darker side of sexuality. Hats up to you Lora, I cannot wait to read more.
2 . Excellent new series
Posted May 30, 2010 by Terri , ColoradoGreat beginning to a new series. I like the antics of Marley and the sexual banter between her and the brothers. Hot menage scenes leaves you needing ice cubes. Smokin.
Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc
July 24, 2008
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Excerpt from Marly's Choice by Lora Leigh
Marly's eyes opened slowly, blinking in awareness that he watched her. Cade stood beside her bed, his body hard and aroused, his eyes nearly black as he stared at her naked body. Those eyes focused between her thighs, where her fingers moved slowly on her smooth flesh, the small bud of her clit clearly visible as she massaged it sensuously.
Her breath halted in her throat. He stood naked, his erection long and thick, one hand massaging it with slow, even strokes, his lashes lowered over the lust filled look in his eyes. Breathing harshly, Marly watched him lower himself beside her. She shook,
recognizing the dream, but needing him so badly, she could only pray that this time, this time it was real.
He stretched out on his side, one arm going beneath her neck, bracing himself on his elbow, his other hand touching her cheek gently. His body was hot and vibrant, heating her blood, her passion.
"Do you know how beautiful you are, Marly?" he whispered, his voice low and rough, his head lowering to caress the corner of her lips with a soft, heated touch.
Marly could only whimper. She couldn't answer him. She didn't have the breath to.
Then she didn't have the chance. His lips moved over hers, parting them. His tongue licked sensually at her lips, sliding into her mouth, taking her in a kiss so heated it
Caused every nerve in her body to zing to life.
She arched against the hand that moved to her stomach. Hard and wide, warm and work-calloused, moving over her skin, sliding slow and sure to her heaving breasts. Her arms went to his shoulders as she turned to him. She wanted to rub against him. To luxuriate in the warmth and maleness pressed so intimately against her body. The heated length of his shaft lay along her hip, searing her with the erotic touch of the silk-encased steel.
"I've stayed away as long as I could," he growled against her lips, his hand palming her breast, his fingers rasping over her nipple, making her cry out at the pleasure. "As long as I could, Marly. I have to have you now."
His head lowered, his mouth covering the tip of a breast, drawing it into the heated warmth, suckling in strong, rhythmic motions at her swollen flesh. His tongue flayed the tender tip with slow, hot licks, his mouth drawing on her with all the sexually charged intent in his hard body.
"So beautiful." He moved over her, pushing her onto her back, his lips roaming from one breast to the next.
He licked and sucked. His hands pushed the mounds together, making the hard points quicker to access, making Marly arch desperately against him, needing more. She had known it would be like this. Mind destroying when he took her into his arms. Driving her crazy with the sensual demands he would make of her.
He moved lower...his lips sipping from the skin of her abdomen, his body moving further toward her aching center. Fiery need flayed her body, destroying her, rebuilding her. Her breathing harsh, her body humming, Marly watched Cade spread her legs, his eyes centered between her thighs, his lips sensually full. She whimpered. His hands, large and work roughened, ran along her thighs, his fingers moving slowly to her swollen, wet flesh. Her entire body ached, pulsed, begged for possession.
"I'm going to lick every drop of cream from your body, Marly," his voice, dark and rough, feathered over her. "Starting now."
His head lowered, and Marly cried out as his tongue swiped through her pouting flesh. She cried out moments later, feeling him circle her hard clit with torturously slow movements. Her hips arched to him, her thighs quivering with tension, the need to climax, to sate the hunger rising in her body, overwhelming her senses. His fingers moved to the soft lips, pulling them apart gently, his greedy tongue moving lower to catch the flood of juices spilling from her body. He lapped at her, his mouth sucked at her, his tongue licking her, drawing the sweetness into his mouth, driving her to the brink of insanity.
"I can't stand it," she whispered, her hands tangling in his hair. "Please, Cade, please take me."
"Not so fast, Marly." His hand pressed against her stomach, holding her to the bed. "I've only begun. You were warned. Weren't you warned about what I would want from you?"
His expression was tight and hard, his eyes nearly black when he raised his head, staring at her from between her splayed thighs. She shuddered, suddenly fearful. She had prepared herself, had made certain she could take what he would need, but now she wasn't so sure.
She felt his fingers spreading the thick essence around her vagina, running slowly, teasingly to the tight little hole, lower. She jerked as his finger dipped in, then retreated, spreading more of her lubrication, preparing her. With each pass, his finger would slip further inside her anus. Marly fought to relax against the building tension of her own out-of-control desires.
Her thighs tightened, her moans keening whimpers in the silence of the bedroom as he inserted first one, then two fingers into her. He moved slowly, stretching the small opening as his mouth continued to sip from her velvety inner lips, his tongue stroking her into an inferno of need while his fingers stretched her nether hole with deep, slow thrusts. Dipping out, drawing more of her natural lubrication as it pulsed from her cunt and spreading it to the tight little hole he was preparing with sensual, slow thrusts of his fingers.
"I want you to come for me." His voice sounded raw and sensual. He whispered the words against her straining clit, ignoring the grinding motions of her hips, the plea in her cries. "I want you to scream for me, Marly. Scream..."
His fingers thrust deep and hard, his tongue spearing into the gripping channel of her vagina. She was close, so close. She arched into him, her breathing suspended, her throat closed against the scream building.
"No scream, no climax." The dream shattered.
Marly's eyes flew open on a cry of protest, and silence greeted her. An empty room, an empty bed, an empty body. Her thighs quivered from her fight for release. Her breasts were swollen and throbbing, the nipples aching and hard. She whimpered in distress, turning into her pillow, her body curling into a tortured ball. She needed him. God help her, she needed him so bad she knew it would kill her.
Her body ached and pulsed in time to the harsh thump of her blood through her veins, her fingers curling into the mattress, her eyes closed tight on the building fever in her body. He was her dream, her only fantasy, and Marly knew she would never survive if he didn't touch her soon. Cade. Her Cade.
She had loved him forever. Since she was fourteen, thrown on him by her mother, his stepsister, in a desperate bid to hide Marly from her stepfather, Jack Jennings. He had been a deviant pervert intent on molesting her at every chance. When her mother, Annie, saw Jack's obsession with Marly, she had tried to leave, and to hide. But he kept finding her, and each time he had hurt Marly worse. Finally, Annie had given up. She had brought Marly to the only place she could think of where she would be safe, then Annie had disappeared, hoping to draw Jack away.
Marly missed her mother. It had been six years since she had seen her, and she wondered daily what had happened to her. But she had been right, bringing Marly to the ranch. Cade and his brothers protected her, even if their father hadn't.
But Joe was dead now. His burial the next day would end his reign of misery. The old bastard had lived to hurt anyone he could. He had finally died in his own bed, cursing Cade, and the miserable luck that had him tied to the small county of Madison, Texas.
She rolled over on the bed, burying her head in the pillows, trying to find sleep again. She wished she could sneak into Cade's bed, rub herself against him, feel him hard and hot as he made love to her. She suppressed her groan, thinking of the last two years of preparation, the lengths she had gone to, the acts she had committed.
Technically, she was still a virgin. The hymen was still present, but Marly knew technicalities didn't always count. She was determined to get Cade's attention, and keep it. She couldn't do that if she was as pure as snow. And she sure as hell wasn't pure anymore. Now, she was just horny and impatient, and very nearly out of control.
She was naked and willing. Her lips glistened with moisture, swollen and full from his kisses, her deep blue eyes were dark and glittering with need. Cade could feel his erection throbbing with need, pulsing with demand.
He watched, his breathing harsh, overly loud in the silence of the bedroom as she slowly went to her knees before him. Long, long black curls tangled in his hands as moist, heated lips closed over the head of his cock. He growled fiercely as lightning raced up the thick length of his flesh and seared his belly. His scrotum tightened painfully, his erection throbbed with the pent up need to spew itself into the tight, waiting depths of her mouth.
"Suck it," he whispered, his voice sounding demented even to his own ears. "Suck it deeper, Marly."
He was thrusting slowly into her mouth, groaning at the suckling sounds she made, at the tightening of his body. He wanted it to last forever. He wanted the pleasure to never end. It was incredible, her mouth so tight and hot, her tongue licking over him, a wash of searing, agonizing joy.
He looked down at her, watching as her mouth tightened on him, barely taking half his length, her mouth stretched over his flesh, her cheeks hollowing as she drew on him. She wanted it. She wanted him thrusting into her until he released every drop of his seed into her waiting mouth. She was hungry for it. Hungry for him.
He thrust harder, faster, feeling the moan that came from her throat, echoing along his shaft. It made his body shudder. Her hands were on his scrotum now, tightening, stroking him, her mouth suckling him until he was crazy to release.
"I'm going to come--" he thrust harder against her mouth, feeling the moist, heated motions increasing as her tongue flickered over his flesh. "I'm going to come, Marly."
He thrust harder, his breathing ragged, harsh. Then his hands tightened in her hair, dragging her mouth further over him, thrusting as far as the shallow depths of her mouth would allow before spewing his load down her throat. Spurt after spurt of hot sperm shot from the tip of his erection as she sucked harder, faster, determined to drain ever drop of his seed from his body...
Cade came awake with a ragged cry, his hand clenched over his bursting cock as he ejaculated harshly to his own stroking caress. Bitterness yawned inside him as the dream dissipated, and he realized she wasn't really there. Her hot mouth hadn't actually been stroking him, receiving his harsh thrusts as he shot his release into it. Her moans hadn't caressed his flesh; her body hadn't been naked and willing before him.
He cursed harshly, rising slowly from the bed and walking wearily to the bathroom. He washed his hands quickly, then his still-hard cock. When every last trace of his humiliating release was gone, he sighed deeply and stared into the mirror above the sink.
He looked the same as he always had. The same gray eyes, the same overly long black hair and tanned features. But he knew what lurked just beneath the surface. The monster he fought on a daily basis.
Cade knew he shouldn't have drunk the night before. Knew he shouldn't have sneaked into Marly's room and watched her sleeping. If he had left her alone, if he had just stayed away from her, he wouldn't be tormented now. But he had been unable to. He had slipped silently into the connecting bedroom, standing in shock at the foot of her bed; unable to believe what his eyes were seeing in the light of the low lamp she still refused to sleep without.
The blankets covered only her midriff. She had kicked them clear of her hips and thighs, and her full thrusting breasts. Her nipples had been hard, elongated and pointed, begging him to taste them. And between her thighs--he swallowed harshly. The flesh of her mound was waxed clean, and bare. Not a wisp of a hair remained, and it had glistened.
Thick and rich, her juices had coated her flesh. He had been unable to resist, unable to stop himself. Drawing nearer he had leaned down, his fingers running through the sweet glaze of desire. Smothering a groan of need, he had brought his fingers to his mouth.
He could still taste her on his lips. Sweet, addicting. Like the lightest fruit, and he craved more. He didn't know how he forced himself away from her. Didn't know how he managed to keep from sinking his hard cock into her over and over again until they both screamed out in climax. But he had. He had retreated to his own room, his heart beating fiercely, his loins burning with need. He needed her. He needed her too damned much, and she was the one woman he couldn't have.
Shaking his head, he found he couldn't hold his own gaze in the mirror. He was as perverted as his father. As sexually deviant as the monster who had tried to take her when she was but a child. Not much better than the demon of his own
Nightmares. He had raised her, loved her, but he had always known she wasn't a
blood relation. As she grew, that thought had always been in the back of his mind, and as she got older, it had tormented him more often.
God above, when had she begun waxing? Why had she? It was the one thing guaranteed to make him harder than anything else could. Guaranteed to make his mouth water, his need to taste her all the more imperative. Slick, wet flesh. Glistening with the dew of her desire. Her taste sweet and fresh. He was dying. Slowly, surely, a dead man expiring from need.
Grandpa Joe was finally dead. Marly stared out the limo window as they drove away from the cemetery, studying Cade's fiercely controlled expression in the glass. The savage features of his face, with its high cheekbones, brooding black-lashed eyes, and the sharp line of his nose. But his lips were softer when he wasn't pulling them tight like that. The lower curve just slightly fuller, and often smiling when he was with her. But he wasn't smiling today. He was distant, silent. He had been ever since Grandpa Joe's death. He didn't talk to anyone, least of all Marly. He had shut her and everyone else out.
Marly knew Grandpa Joe's death would affect him. She had left school as soon as she had learned of his death, but she hadn't expected this. Grandpa Joe hadn't exactly treated any of his children with love and affection. Marly especially had been exempt from his good will. But that had always suited her, because she had never cared much for him either.
Marly sighed, then turned her gaze to the others in the car with them. His brothers, Sam and Brock, were silent. They were twins and only two years younger than Cade, though they weren't nearly as hard as their older brother.
Sam and Brock had light blue eyes, and their hair was just as black and silky as Cade's. Their faces weren't as savagely hewn though. They were nearly as tall as their brother, with the same broad-shouldered, slim-hipped build that characterized the August males. They could have been triplets, their looks were so similar.
They were silent now, too, but more because Cade was quiet than out of reflection. Grandpa Joe had not been the nicest person in the world. Often, he was taunting, his tongue cutting like a knife. Cade seemed to be the only one capable of ignoring him. Marly had just stayed away from him as much as possible. It seemed her very presence was enough to set him off.
Sitting on the other side of the boys was her friend, Greg James. He had driven from Dallas with her the morning before to keep her company. Greg was nearly as tall as Cade's six feet four inches, but he wasn't nearly as comfortable with his height. He stooped his shoulders often to hide it, and complained regularly that he would be a string bean all his life. He wasn't a jock, and often bemoaned that fact.
Greg had thick, dark blond hair and hazel green eyes. He wore glasses in thin wire frames, and had more of an academic, rather than forceful male, demeanor. Marly thought he was the nicest guy she knew. He was quiet and considerate, and never made the crude advances that the other young men at school did. He was talkative once you got past the shyness, and had an amazing depth of loyalty. It was nearly as deep as that of Cade and his brothers. But, he was extremely uncomfortable right now. As though Cade's tension reached out across the seats and smothered him. As she thought about it, Marly didn't doubt it. Cade was more than intimidating, but usually the attitude didn't bleed over to her or to company. Until Grandpa Joe's death. Now he was hardly speaking to her. And that hurt Marly more than anything. In the eight years she had lived with him, Cade had never distanced himself from her this way.
Breathing deeply, Marly crossed her legs and went back to staring out the window. She smiled slightly as Sam made some comment to Brock. The sight of her straight, perfect teeth flashed in the image created in the window. It still amazed her how determined Cade had been that she not be ridiculed for her teeth when she was a child. It had been their first trip out of the house. The second had been for new clothes. Cade had always been there for her, no matter what. Fixing childhood aches, and soothing bitter tears.
Cade wasn't going to allow her to help him though, no matter how much he might need her now. But he was letting her sit next to him, crowding her against the door when there was plenty of seat for him to sit in. His thigh rubbed hers, and if she wanted, she could lay her head on his broad shoulder.
"Hey Munchkin, where did you get those legs?" Sam was looking at her legs as he spoke, acting as though he hadn't seen them before, shocking her from her thoughts.
His light blue gaze was curious, and frankly admiring as it traveled along her foot to where her thighs disappeared beneath the skirt.
Marly looked down frowning, wondering what was wrong. Surely she hadn't already snagged the new silk stockings?
"What's wrong with my legs?" she asked him, turning one this way and that to see what he was talking about.
"Hell, you finally grew some," he teased. "I hadn't noticed before. Damn fine ones too."
Marly looked up at him with the intention of blasting him, but seeing the near desperation in his eyes, she grinned instead. Cade's silences affected the other two men as well as they did her.
"You're as silly as ever, Sam." She shook her head. And he was. Sam was their prankster, and everyone loved him. Even at twenty-eight, he hadn't fully matured and stated often that he did not intend to ever do so.
"Marly has the prettiest legs in college." Greg spoke up earnestly then, as he cast Marly a shy look. His admiration only earned him one of Cade's fierce glares.
The look was darker than any Marly could remember seeing in a while. His eyes narrowed, his jaw jutting forward in a challenging motion. She was shocked. She had received compliments often in his presence over the years. Never before had he reacted so strongly to them.
"Marly's legs are not up for discussion," he informed them all darkly, the gray in his eyes darkening dangerously.
Sam gave Brock a knowing look. The other brother only shook his head as Marly looked on in confusion. She had no idea what kind of problem those two had.
Silence lapsed once again. An uncomfortable, heavy silence. You didn't mess with Cade when his voice got dangerous like that. Even Marly was extremely careful, for the most part. Shrugging, she crossed her legs, adjusting the hem of her short skirt as she did so to cover her thighs and staring out the window once again.
She saw him glance at her legs as his image reflected in the dark, tinted glass. His frown became darker. Then his gaze rose, taking in the long French braid of her hair, and her own refection as she stared back at him. Her eyes were wide, her lips parted, and Marly knew she looked as entranced by him as she always was. Cade's dark good looks, and muscular body had always taken her breath.
"That skirt is too short, Marly," he told her, his voice still dark and deadly. "I thought I just forwarded you enough money for new clothes?"
"This is new, Cade," she told him as she turned back to him, facing his wrath directly. "Shorter skirts are in style."
The thigh high, navy blue skirt, and matching jacket-style blouse was one of her favorites. Matching heels accompanied the outfit, and lifted her several inches taller than her normal five foot four inches.
"It barely covers your ass," he bit out.
Marly flushed as Greg's expression now reflected astonishment.
"Ignore him Greg, he never really bites. He just likes to bark a lot. Sort of like the junk yard dog you talk about all the time." Marly ignored the muffled laughs from the other two men, as well as the anger that lit Cade's eyes.
"Uh--umm--the dog bites too, Marly," Greg told her warningly as he glanced in apprehension at Cade. "Really hard."
"Well, Cade won't bite you, Greg. And if he dares try to bite me, then he just might find out I bite back." She shot him a fierce glare. "So stop trying to intimidate me and my friends, Cade."
Cade arched one black brow as the gray in his eyes shifted, like thunderclouds moving into alignment. It made her nervous when they did that, made her want to run and hide. But she was determined not to run any longer.
"I never try at anything, Marly," he reminded her darkly, his smile all teeth and no warmth. "You would do well to remember that. If I wanted to intimidate you, I would succeed."
"I didn't say you couldn't," she replied sweetly, "I'm merely telling you to stop."
He watched her curiously now, as though her newfound sass intrigued him.
"Damn, Marly's getting teeth," Sam murmured, earning him his own 'Cade' glare. "Sorry Cade." He shrugged, but Marly caught the careful control of his grin.
Silence descended once again. It was uncomfortable, suffocating.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here before yesterday, Cade," she told him softly; afraid that was the reason he was angry with her. He had been unable to get hold of her. She and several of her friends were at Greg's that night, studying for a test. She hadn't learned of Grandpa Joe's death until the next morning.
"There was nothing you could have done." He shook his head.
"I could have been here for you." She laid her hand on his arm. "I would have been."
He looked down at her hand lying on his muscular arm as though surprised she had touched him.
"The will was read the night before you returned home," Cade informed her suddenly. "I'm sorry, but Joe never got around to changing it--"
"I never expected him to leave me anything." Marly moved her hand back at his cold tone. "He hadn't liked me from day one. So it doesn't matter."
It merely reaffirmed what she knew. Grandpa Joe had truly hated her. Hated her so much, that he was determined that nothing he had would go to the little waif he had taken in. Sometimes, she wondered why he had done so at all.
"It wasn't dislike," Cade began.
"No, it was hatred," Marly rebutted. "And there's no sense in us arguing over it now that he's gone. I didn't want anything he had. I want nothing you have. That's why I'm going to college, to learn how to provide for myself."
"You'll always be taken care of Marly, I've ensured that," he told her softly. "You won't have to struggle."
"Then you can unensure it," she told him calmly. "Because I don't want it, Cade."
Greg was practically gaping at them now, drawing Cade's fierce look once again. He dropped his gaze, but his brown eyes were still rounded with surprise.
"I could have sent the limo," Cade muttered, and she knew he was talking about her decision to bring Greg. Marly frowned at his rude behavior. She had never known Cade to act so surly, so hard to get along with.
"So you could have. But I didn't want to be alone Cade, and no one was offering to come after me."
That had hurt her. Marie, their former housekeeper, and now sometimes cook, had been the one who had informed her of Grandpa Joe's death, Cade had been unable to even place the second call, or leave a message in her apartment. She knew he would have been busy. But she also knew he would have been considerate enough to do it for Sam and Brock.
"If you had asked, one of us would have," he told her quietly, glancing at her in surprise.
"Had I been offered, I may have taken you up on it," she snapped back. "But I wasn't, and I didn't want to ride alone. Greg kindly offered to come with me."
Marly smiled sweetly at Greg in thankfulness. She watched in amazement as his chest seemed to puff out two extra inches. What the hell was up with this? Evidently, Cade saw it too, if his look of disgust was anything to go by. Sam barely contained his mirth as she glanced at him, frowning. Brock, as always, was quiet, but when his glance met hers, Marly saw the edge of amusement in it.
Marly shook her head at them all. The moon phases must be really out of whack today, she thought. Every man she had met with seemed to act like they had rocks for brains. It was disconcerting to say the least.
* * * * *
Cade didn't know why he was so furious with Marly. It wasn't her fault that the old man had a nasty, perverted mind, or that he was a depraved monster. That he had seen emotions and needs in Cade that couldn't, shouldn't be there. It wasn't her fault that her legs were gorgeous, and any man with eyes in his head would be more than impressed. It wasn't her fault he could barely control his own body's response to her, or the swift hardening of flesh between his thighs every time he saw her.
She had been raised as his niece. She was growing up whether he wanted to admit to it or not. She had likely already had sex, most girls her age had. Cade wanted to clench his fists at that thought, and barely restrained the need. She may even be having sex with the little punk sitting across from him.
Cade stared at the boy, not caring as that narrow face paled and the hazel eyes widened behind the lenses of the glasses. Greg swallowed tight and hard, giving Cade a measure of satisfaction.
"Please, Cade--" Marly's voice wrapped around his fury, pleading, desperate.
Biting back an oath, Cade stared resolutely into the tinted glass that separated the driver from the family. He was in a lousy mood and he knew it. He wasn't fit company for man or horse, and he should have driven himself to the cemetery alone. But Marly was riding with the family, and he was damned if he hadn't missed her this past year and a half since she started college.
She only came home infrequently, despite the short distance to Dallas. Christmas, Easter and birthdays. Three weeks total if you added it, and he hated it. The house was so still, so silent without her laughter, or her girlish tantrums. No more Marly sneaking into his study at night when nightmares plagued her to sleep on the couch while he worked. He wondered who soothed the nightmares now. His gaze sliced to the James boy, but his head was lowered as he stared in fascination at a loose thread on his jacket. The little jerk.
Cade hadn't expected her to arrive with a friend. And he sure as hell hadn't expected a male friend, considering how wary she was of men. She always had been, since her stepfather, and her Grandpa Joe.
Cade's teeth gritted with renewed fury. She carried a scar on her leg from the first and only whipping she had ever received in his house. A whipping Joe had administered that first month Marly had lived with them. Cade would never forget his horror that day when Marie had run screaming to the barn that Mister Joe was whipping Miss Marly. Oh God, Mr. Cade, she had screamed, he's gonna kill her.
Cade had rushed to the house, horrified to see his father beating the tiny girl with a leather strap. Joe had been enraged, furious, demented with anger. Cade had nearly killed him that day.
He had whipped her when he overheard her telling Marie that some little boy at school had attempted to kiss her. An innocent kiss on the cheek by a child with a crush on her, and Marly had paid in a way that left her unable to attend school for two weeks, until the deep bruises and lacerations on her legs and buttocks healed.
"Cade?" Her worried voice interrupted his thoughts, her soft hand on his arm made his skin heat. "Are you okay?"
He covered her hand slowly as his head turned and he gazed into the deep pools of those mysterious blue eyes. She drew him in, her innocence and lack of guile soothing the raging beast in his soul. How in the name of God would he survive when she left again?
"I'm fine, honey," he sighed, his hand covering hers, holding it close to him when she would have moved it. "Just thoughtful. I'm sorry I've been such a grouch."
Her head went to his shoulder, strands of riotous curls falling over his chest where they had escaped from her braid. He laid his cheek against her silken hair and breathed her scent in deeply.
"It's okay, Cade. I understand." It wasn't a little girl's voice anymore. A child years younger than her actual age as she had been when she came to them.
The voice was sweet and lyrical. A woman's voice, and he knew from watching that damned James boy what it did to the male race to hear the sexy sound.
"I've missed you, Munchkin." He sighed against her hair, feeling a sense of warmth replacing the cold knot of fury that had filled him.
"I've missed you too, Cade." There was a note of regret in her voice. A sigh of wanting that he didn't want to delve into too closely.
Stretching his arm behind her, he pulled her close to his chest as the limo moved towards the ranch. The cemetery Joe had wanted to be laid in was hours from the ranch, and completely disconnected from it. Joe had no friends; no family laid to rest in that hallowed ground. He had wanted nothing to do with the ranch at his death, having hated it so much during his life.
Marly's hand was laid at his chest now, just below her head. Trusting, warm, she lay against him, a fragile weight as cherished to him as any could be. He couldn't imagine never having her in his life, not needing to hold her, to be assured she was okay. She was still tiny, barely five four to his six four. She was slender and light, with a thick mass of black curls that flowed past her shoulder blades and very nearly to her hips. She didn't cut it because he loved it so much. She had sworn over the years that if it weren't for Cade, she would have shaved her head bald.
And he did love her hair. When she was little, Cade had brushed and braided it every day until she was sixteen and started getting fussier with her it. Even then, though, there were times she would ask him to brush her hair. Many times when she sought him out in his study deep in the night, she would carry the silver brush he had bought her. She would lay it on the table beside the couch, and he would come to her and brush her hair until she could sleep.
And on that couch, she would sleep until he went to bed. Then he would carry her to her own room, tuck her into the lacy canopied bed and kiss her cheek before going to his own room. The last time he had done so had been the night before she left for college. The nightmares had been bad that week.
"I want to stay home a while," she whispered now against his chest. "Spring break starts tomorrow, and I thought I'd just stay on until school starts back."
She had been spending the breaks studying, pushing herself through summer and holidays in her studies.
"Stay home with us then, honey," he answered her, ignoring Sam and Brock as they watched them quizzically. "You can let your friend take your truck back, and I'll drive you back to school when you need to return."
"No, Greg needs a break too." She yawned as his arms tightened against her. "We're both gonna stay. Do you care?"
Cade moved his gaze slowly to the suddenly nervous Greg James.
"Th--th--that's okay, Marly," Greg stammered. "Really. Fine. I can go back."
"Absolutely not." Marly shook her head against Cade's chest. "I remember how excited you were about spending the week here. We'll stay and just laze around and enjoy ourselves. Besides, you know you don't want to return to your sister's house."
Cade read a thread of anger in Marly's comment. The boy just shrugged and looked at Cade beseechingly. Dammit, did all kids have that look in their eye, that plea for understanding when faced with Marly's resolve?
"You're welcome to stay, Greg." Cade wasn't about to incite Marly and cause her to move from his hold.
It had been too long since she had let him hold her. He didn't want the boy there. Didn't want to know if his sweet, innocent Marly was sleeping with such an incompetent youth, but he would allow the visit to keep his tenuous hold on her now.
"Thank you." There was a vein of regret, of deeply laced loneliness in the boy's voice.
Dammit, Cade thought, another kid was the last thing he needed right now. Marly made him crazy enough. She didn't need help. He didn't need someone else helping her to push him over the edge. She was doing just fine all on her own...