I hope you’ve enjoyed Rae’s first Halloween at Beulah Land. Here’s the final snippet of “Take Me.” I’ll get a pdf up on the Free Reads page in a few days. Warning: explicit sex, spanking, and a sappy sweet ending!
How could she be lost? Rae had made the five-minute trek from his cottage on the edge of Miss Belle’s property to her house every day for weeks. At night with ghostly fog blanketing the trees and hills into an unrecognizable landscape, nothing looked familiar.
Wheezing for breath, she stumbled and slipped through the darkness. Trees crowded the endless path, branches snagging at her hair that had long ago tumbled loose. Her headdress was tangled up in a thorny patch at least a hundred yards back. The air was so damp and heavy she couldn’t pull it into her compressed lungs. Light-headed, she didn’t dare slow, not with the heavy crashing thuds behind her. He didn’t have to run to keep up with her panicked flight hampered by the unfamiliar clothing.
The steady thwack of the sheath against the tree trunks directly behind her sent a fresh flood of delicious anxiety flooding through her veins. The leather sheath bit much deeper than his hand ever did. She could still feel the burning marks he’d managed to land: White-hot fire spread to a melting heat that threatened to liquefy her bones. If she slowed, she knew what she’d get.
So why do I want him to catch me?
Rae searched for a place to hide, some wall or door she could fling up to block his path. Nothing would stop him for long, but she needed a minute to gather her wits, calm her knotted stomach, and catch her breath before she passed out.
Her ankle turned on a stone. The plain leather shoe slipped off, tripping her even worse. She felt herself falling and flung out her bound hands, flailing for something to catch. Nothing would break her fall into the jagged stones and mud.
The chemise, she sobbed silently. It’ll be ruined. Mom worked so hard on it!
A powerful arm snaked around her waist and whirled her around. A hard shoulder slammed into her stomach. She hung down his back, dizzy and upside down, but that didn’t stop her from fighting. She drummed her fists against his back and kicked and squirmed against his grip, until he clamped his hand on her buttocks—beneath the chemise. Those powerful fingers squeezed hard and then pushed between her thighs in a rough caress. And damn her traitorous body, but her thighs fell open and a ragged moan escaped her lips.
He laughed, a low, wicked chuckle that sent fury whipping through her. She reached lower, grabbed his leather-clad ass for leverage, and sank her teeth into his flank.
Hissing beneath his breath, he jerked her off his shoulder and tossed her backward. She tried to shriek, but the corset made it sound more like a squawk as she landed in a pile of hay.
Lying tumbled on her back, looking up at the grim-faced warrior who stood with feet braced wide apart and eyes dark with lust, Rae swallowed hard and tried not to whimper.
Hurry, please hurry.
He yanked his shirt over his head. His hands settled on the enclosure of his pants, and she broke. Rolling, she scrambled to her knees, skidding and wading through hay.
He slammed into her, carrying her back down into the straw with his full body weight. Hay dug into her cheek and stabbed through the linen. For long agonizing moments, he simply lay on top of her, his breath hot and heavy against her face, the raw scent of sweaty, aroused warrior filling her nose.
In a low voice more like the professor’s and not the barbarian’s, he whispered, “’In mind a slave to every vicious joy;/ From every sense of shame and virtue wean’d.’”
He was testing her, waiting to see if she would give her safe word and call the whole thing off. If she were so terrified she couldn’t manage to quote something back to him, he’d take that instead of Ozymandias. This was her last chance to wave the white flag—or snap the red one directly on the bull’s nose.
He despised his first name, so…
“I always knew you were a fiend, Verrill Connagher. ‘Fickle as wind, of inclinations wild.’”
He sighed out her name against her cheek, his lips tender, and then his fingers tightened incrementally on her hair until her eyes burned. Leisurely, he shifted to his knees, straddling her thighs. He worked the chemise out from beneath his knees so he could flip the skirt up. Air chilled the backs of her thighs and buttocks, but the heat of his gaze made her flesh burn.
“Very good, darlin’,” he purred, kneading both cheeks in his big hands. “I commend you on your historical accuracy. But first–” He tossed his shirt down by her head. “–Put this under your face.”
She couldn’t help but laugh then, albeit raggedly, for even while playing the role of the bezerker who would ravish the helpless maiden, he still remained in control—and cared—enough to make sure she didn’t end up looking like a pincushion with hay sticking out of her face. Deep down, he feared he was a very, very bad man who might hurt her beyond her tolerance for pain, but his tenderness even in the midst of his “forbidden” fantasy confirmed the truth she already knew in her heart.
Conn was a wickedly passionate, fiercely dominant man who loved her too much to ever really hurt her.
Burying her face in the damp linen, she moaned deep in her throat, grateful the sound was muffled by the cloth. The shirt smelled like him and was almost as good as having her face tucked against his throat.
Fisting a hand in her hair to ensure she stayed put, he kneed her thighs apart. Leather rubbed against the tender inner skin of her thighs. He rammed his knee up higher, grinding against her, while he trailed the sheath along her hip, the small of her back, her ribcage. He let her think about it long and hard, how that sheath had cut across her skin, sharp and intense. The harmless implement could be oh so vicious on her tender skin if he chose to be brutal.
Her muscles coiled and flinched, trying to anticipate where he’d land the first blow. Leather stroked higher, teasing a path of trembling fire along the curve of her breast, her shoulder, her cheek, even across her lips. Then it whistled backward and cracked across her ass.
Crying out, she jerked away from the blow, from him, ignoring the pull on her scalp. It burned, too much, surely too much—but he rubbed his thigh against her and the pain blurred to something else. Molten heat curled within her. He fed that fire, expertly landing scattered blows to her backside and outer thighs, keeping the pressure against her groin until she sobbed out his name and shuddered beneath him.
He wrapped his left hand around her nape and it was like he’d cut the puppet strings commanding her body. Something about his hand on her neck always turned her body into mush. She burned, inside and out, a throbbing, stinging mess of tears and sweat and longing, but she couldn’t move a muscle.
“Next time, wear my collar. It matches your costume perfectly.”
She shifted her head in as much of a nod as he allowed, but that wasn’t enough for him, not in this mood. He gripped her right hip and jerked her back to her knees, keeping her head pinned low. “I gave you an order, Rae.”
“Yes, sir,” she gasped out, digging her fingers into his shirt beneath her cheek.
He lowered his chest against her back and his heat seared her through the thin linen. “Why do you wear my collar?”
“Yours,” she panted, pushing her hips back as hard as she could. He rubbed against her folds, letting her feel his thickness, but he didn’t slide inside. Her heart pounded, her ears roared, and she ached so badly it hurt more than any blow he’d ever thought to deliver. “I need you, Conn, please!”
“For centuries, women were chattel,” he growled out against her ear. “A man saw what he wanted, and he took it. He ran her down, slung her to the ground, threw up her skirts, and took his pleasure. Just like I’m going to take you now.”
He slammed deep, so deep, without any hesitation. He knew she was ready. He knew what she wanted. And she wanted him out of control, reckless, taking his pleasure.
Taking her pinned, helpless, willing body as hard as he wanted.
Why on earth would he think she might be afraid of this? Of him? A strange sense of power welled within her, fueled by his deep, pounding thrusts and the low, guttural sounds from his chest.
Only I could ever give him this fantasy.
This time it was his turn to groan out her name on a shuddering cry of pleasure. “Rae, my Rae, my love.”
Conn cradled her in his arms, and she nuzzled deep into his throat, her arms around his neck. She made a delicious hum of contentment against his skin.
“Where are we, anyway?”
“The old barn.” He scanned the hay to make sure they’d gotten everything. She was still missing at least a shoe and her kirtle, while he needed to go back and fetch his sword. All before his noisy grandma noticed half of Rae’s clothing scattered all over the property.
He frowned, noting the condition of the hay. It was fresh and golden yellow, not dried out and musty. Nobody had used this barn for years; all the livestock had been sold ages ago because the Healys had been overseas for most of his adult life. So why would there be fresh hay in this old ramshackle building?
He carried Rae home and all he could think about was the day he would carry her across the threshold as Mrs. Connagher. He hadn’t formally asked her yet, although she knew very well what he wanted. Once she’d come into his bed he had absolutely every intention of getting his ring on her finger and his name on hers.
But the timing had to be right. He’d only ask when he was assured of her answer. He knew she loved him, but was she ready to marry him? Could she put up with his bossy, demanding ways for the rest of her life? Had she enjoyed letting him ravish her senseless as much as he thought—or days from now, would she lie awake, alone and scared, and wish that she’d escaped him before it was too late?
She squirmed in his arms so he set her on her feet. “Look! Who did that?”
He’d been so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice the strange stack of items on his doorstep. His sword was propped in the doorframe, her shoe hooked over the hilt, her kerchief tied around the pommel, and her red gown carefully folded into a neat package.
“Your sword weighs a ton,” Rae said. “Surely Miss Belle didn’t carry it all the way down here.”
“I wouldn’t put it past her.” He stroked her cheek, searching her gaze for any regrets or hesitation. “You all right?”
“Mmmm,” she stretched up and brushed her mouth against his. “There’s just one thing troubling me.”
He narrowed his eyes, braced to hear the worst. Dear God above, don’t leave me, not now. It’ll kill me to lose you.
“If I’m going to occasionally wear your collar in public, then don’t you think it only fair that I wear your ring too?”
“Rae, darlin’, are you…” He swallowed and cupped her face in both shaking hands. “Are you asking me to marry you?”
“Yes, I believe I am. On one condition,” she said firmly, pulling her head back and glaring up into his eyes. “If you tell Miss Belle—or God forbid, your mother—before I’m ready, then I will chase you with your sword this time.”
“They’re going to know when they see my ring on your hand.” Conn hooked his arms beneath her ass and lifted her up high in his arms. It was all he could do not to whoop like an idiot at the top of his lungs. “’Damaetas ran through all the maze of sin,/ And found the goal when others just begin.’ You’re my goal, darlin’. You always have been. Do you have any idea how much I love you?”
Laughing, she stroked her fingers over his face. “I think you just showed me out in that old barn.”
Her laughter cut off and she stiffened in his arms. “Rae? What is it?”
“I thought…” She searched the shadows, so he turned and scanned the trees, too, but he didn’t see anything. “They were just there. Two people, walking hand-in-hand up the path. I could have sworn it was Miss Belle, but whose hand would she be holding?”
Only Colonel Healy’s, and he’d been dead for a decade. Chills rippled down Conn’s spine but he threw open the door and carried Rae inside. “Happy Halloween, darlin’.”