Giddy up

This sexy story from Her Cowboy King by Madeline Ash is published with permission.

Giddy up

“Please leave.” She pushed herself to the bedroom door and gripped the open edge. It was the only thing that kept her upright. “Now.”

He crossed to her, his jaw tight, his body tense. He stopped so close her stomach jolted, remembering her careless visit to his room the night before. She’d intended to say goodbye, but instead been derailed by the intensity of his touch, the excitement, the hook and ache between her legs. She’d hardly been able to stop shaking afterward. Gossip would be rampant among his staff—she had talked her way into the most private wing of the palace in her nightgown.

Once again, Markus was so near their shoes touched.

“You see me as a king, not a man,” he said roughly. “Dominating, taking without asking.” In a few swift jerks, he’d removed the blazer, balled it, and thrown it across the room. Discarding the clear symbol of his status. “Treating you how you expect to be treated.”

She didn’t move.

“Is that it?” His voice dropped to a murmur. His breath fluttered over her face. “You expect me to replace that pain with something that hurts just as much?”

She shook her head, but she wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

“Ava,” he said. “I want to help.”

“I see you as a king, because it’s what you are,” she whispered, her hands slipping off the door. “Every second of your life will be scrutinized. Even if I trusted you with everything, we could never be together. I need to be unseen to be happy. And you will always be seen.”

His eyes bored into hers; his chest ballooned with breath. Her words seemed to travel through him, a ball bearing rolling along a tunnel, dropping through a hole, before passing along another dark tunnel. Working out, perhaps, that not every problem had a tidy solution.

Then he said, in a voice quite unlike his own, “No one can see me now.”

She stared, her heart pummeling her ribcage.

He stared back.

The passing seconds seemed to discard everything between them—doubt, fear, breath—until Markus slowly lifted a hand and placed it on the door. With a small shift of his shoulder, he pushed it closed behind her.

The bedroom was silent. A cool breeze moved in from the balcony. He didn’t pull his arm away. Her shoulder was a hair’s breadth beneath it and her skin strained for contact. She closed her eyes, but it only heightened the pain of having him so near without touching. She had just under an hour before she’d walk out of his life.

She had to make that time count.

“Yes,” she said, and looked up at him.

His elbow bent as he closed in on her, his mouth taking hers, his body bearing down until the doorknob dug into her side.

The magnitude of her nerves—about this, about everything—converged at the taste of him. It lit her up from within, a ball of raging feeling seeking release.

With a shaky reach, she unzipped her dress. It puckered around her breasts, fabric falling forward. Markus drew back, slipping the straps off her shoulders with warm palms.

Trembling, she ran a hand over what was left of his traditional attire. “I don’t want to see this.” Duty and responsibility had no place here.

He obliged, his pupils wide, dark. His shirt went first and then his belt. Swiftly, his hands worked the top of his trousers, and after dipping into his back pocket, he discarded them. When he made to move in, she raised a hand and he halted near-naked in front of her.

He was faultless. Resilient muscle reinforced by hard work. Rigid torso, strong thighs, and skin made rough with dark hair.

She scarcely breathed as she circled him, one hand gathering her dress at her waist, the other’s fingers trailing along his shoulder blades, his bicep, the taut rise of his nipple—a princess contemplating every angle of this man deemed worthy of her.

She stopped in front of him, watched his shoulders rise and fall. With a tilt of her head, she beckoned him.

Done waiting, he dragged the dress down over her hips, kneeling with the fabric as it gathered on the floor, and eased her feet from her shoes. Then he straightened, locking her against him. His skin was hot, his body stone-strong. A flush of longing heated deep inside her.

He had her on the mattress in several steps.

Her heart expanded, blood flooding in at the strange feeling of him on her bed, then constricted as he nudged her down onto her back. The covers were cool, lush with silk. He pressed himself over her, awakening her breasts with open-mouthed kisses, and when he shifted, moving down her body, the golden canopy of the four-poster rippled above her.

The times she’d spent with her violin tutor had been fresh, thrilling. She’d been young and he’d been hypnotic, an impassioned musician who knew how to use his skilled hands to get what he wanted. And in those long, secluded lessons, her rebellion had allowed him to take it.

Markus didn’t do fresh. The slide of his hands on her body was like gravity settling, an ancient, time-honored force.

The calloused pads on his palms swept her thighs apart, exposing her, before his thumb stroked and her pleasure rose like a furious, feverish blush.

She twisted, sighing, as his fingers entered her. Crazed and edgy, need built inside her, low and swelling fast. His elbow whispered against the inside of her leg, glorious contact, and his glides grew slick with her heat. Her breath was shallow, her head tipped back. She struggled with his shoulder, gripping and slackening as her pleasure mounted.

She lay open to him—trusted him.

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He straightened, startled, when she sat up. His dark hair was loose around his face, jaw flexed, lips parted. Then his brow creased. “Are you—?”

Her kiss cut him off, a rough shove of her whole body that drove him back onto his spine. Her dismay presented as fury, appalled at the unfairness of finding a man she trusted right when she had to leave. Life seemed to drag her in circles, waiting until she saw only darkness before teasing her with a shining light. This time, she’d crawled toward the glow of her son only to be blindsided by the love of her life.

Her kiss took that out on him. She bit his lips and tugged his hair and marked his skin with her nails.

He let her do it, gently grasping her hips and pulling her around to straddle his waist. He let her do it until she broke away, clutching his biceps with a noise of infuriated defeat.

“Ava,” he murmured, easing her hands off him.

“I hate you,” she said, sitting up with a hand on his chest. Her lips stung. His probably stung worse. “You accept everything.”

His face was shadowed, his blue eyes seeming almost black. Grasping her hips once again, he slid her down his body so the juncture of her thighs pressed over his erection, and she clenched above him, warm and needy and desperate.

His eyes closed for a moment. “I don’t accept that you hate me.”

“After the way I’ve treated you?” All she’d ever done was hurt him. The dismay faded, replaced with a spluttering emptiness. Her fingers slipped, her nails raking down his stomach to the waistband of his briefs. “You’re too trusting.”

“I trust you.” His hand closed around hers and guided it over the cut of his abs, the hard swells of his chest.

Her body ached to gather him close and she dropped her head, her hair spilling over her shoulders as he said, “You can’t convince me not to.”

And he pushed up onto his elbows, covering her mouth with his.

She didn’t try to convince him.

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He flipped her onto her back again, tracing the tender bend behind her knee, the hollow between her breasts.

It was bliss; it was torture. He reached for her grandfather’s ring where it rested over her solar plexus on a rose-gold chain. A reminder that she would choose her own future—that she had already chosen, and Markus had no place in it.

He lifted it up, as if to unloop the chain from around her neck.

She grabbed his wrist. “Leave it.”

She wanted to feel the band trapped between them, heated with the imprint of his skin, the intricate pattern of his pores. It was the closest he would come to wearing it.

He watched her, serious, before inclining his head in that sweet cowboy acquiescence. It broke something inside her. His willingness to concede was not a weakness, but a sign of picking his battles.

Not a stubborn man, but she suspected that when he dug his heels in, nothing on earth would move him.

“Ava,” he murmured. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this now.”

“Please.” Her breath shook in her chest. “I want to.”

He frowned down at her. “You’re not happy.”

“I am.” Somewhere in the mess inside her, she was radiant. “I just—wish things could be different. I’m guilty over you. Torn up. I can’t stay. But I want this, with you, more than anything.”

“Are you sure?” The question came out as a rumble.

“Yes.” She found his shoulders and tugged. He resisted, busy with a small packet, and then in a single movement, he covered her. Broad, heavy, and safe, just as she’d imagined, and she shifted, tucking herself more completely beneath him.

He pressed his mouth to her forehead as he brought his hips down, a warm weight that thickened the arousal between her thighs. She rose to meet him, her body melting as he entered on a soft groan.

“Don’t leave tonight,” he murmured, combing a hand into her hair and pressing his face against her neck. Slow at first, he moved into an aching rhythm, each stroke just shy of meeting the pressure building inside her. She clamped around him, a tight clench that smoldered on each slide. “I’ll take you riding tomorrow.”

She closed her eyes. As her pleasure gathered, sorrow matched it, ache for ache, at the base of her throat. She couldn’t stay—couldn’t be with him tomorrow. Her breaths hitched through the growing lump, hard with loss.

“This feels sad,” he murmured, his lips against her neck as he moved inside her. The curve of his palm spread down her side, a stroke of reassurance. “Don’t be sad.”

She turned her face into his hair, her mouth against the curl of his ear. The confession of her heart budded on her tongue but it would be wrong to mention love, not on the brink of leaving. “Don’t ask me to stay,” she managed, her voice strangled by too many forces.

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His movements slowed and he propped himself up to look at her. Frowning at what she failed to keep from her face, he found her hand and brushed his thumb along the insides of her fingers, a delicate scrape that shivered right to her soul. When he raised it to his mouth, her palm became the source of all feeling.

Then he smiled, a small, loving thing, and she wondered what it cost him to make it look so easy. “Okay.”

His lips returned to her neck, kissing gently as his thrusts grew harder. She angled her hips to take him in, her body bright-edged with heat, and tension reached out, urging him further. Once more and again, until he was there, right where she needed him, a bursting energy inside her that shattered her stress and dreams apart, every thread, thought, and vapor.

He ground out her name on a final shudder.

Empty, her body unwound. The covers caught her. She couldn’t move—and with him full of life above her, she didn’t want to.

The mother in her regained balance first. She ordered the lover to pull herself together, reform her heart without Markus in it, because this next part was not going to be easy.

She did as she was told.

*

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You can buy Her Cowboy King here.

Madeline Ash is a contemporary romance author. A two-time RITA Award finalist, she has also won Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award (RUBY). You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Bookbub, or give her five stars on Goodreads or Amazon.

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