The Wicked West
window, and he froze.
    It was just the widow, he realized almost immediately. Before she’d moved in two weeks before, the place next door had been empty for months, and he’d gotten used to looking out at darkness. But now a soft glow lit the small table where she sat in her bedroom. Her hand rose toward the lamp and set the flame a bit higher. The light touched her body now, and the sight stole Hale’s breath away.
    She wore some sort of delicate wisp of a gown, something he guessed wealthy ladies wore as they tended to their toilette. The women here in Wyoming, on the other hand, didn’t truck with such luxuries. They wore a shift when a dress wasn’t needed. Even the whores didn’t waste money on these kinds of unmentionables. But this woman did.
    As he watched, she slipped off the fluttery sleeves of the robe, and it collapsed into a puddle on her chair.
    Hale’s breath hitched. Now her shoulders were bare but for the thin straps of her chemise. Fine, white shoulders led down to pale arms and, finally, to delicate wrists. Her hands, unblemished by even the barest hint of labor, rose to her hair and began to work the long pins free. Hale followed the line of her arms back down. Her corset, another wonder of delicate fabrics, cinched her waist into an impossibly small span.
    Mrs. Anders was a portrait of sophistication and impracticality. She was a pampered flower, and she’d wilt soon enough. Hale shook his head in scorn. But the motion was stopped by the abrupt fall of her hair.
    The heavy darkness fell across her shoulders and stopped his previous thoughts. How did she fit that much hair up into such a tight coil? Her arms flexed, and she began to brush.
    For some reason, Hale’s cock tightened at the sight.
    Actually, there wasn’t much mystery about it. He hadn’t been with a woman in months. And each stroke of the brush pushed her breasts higher above the lines of her corset. Her hair curved around her, as if it wanted to touch her skin. As if it wanted to wrap her tight and never set her free.
    By the time she’d finished brushing, Hale was rock hard and throbbing. When the widow reached back to tug at the ribbon of her corset, Hale reached for the buttons of his trousers.
    Marie had called him cruel. She’d cried and said he was too rough when he made love to her, too demanding. He still couldn’t quite understand that. He’d been painfully gentle with her, doing his best to keep his real needs hidden, suppressing every urge to slate his true lust. But she’d known somehow. She’d claimed to be frightened by the fever in his eyes.
    And Marie hadn’t known the half of it.
    The things he’d wanted to do…The things he fantasized about doing…Hale had to go to Cheyenne to buy those kinds of services, even the watered-down versions of his fantasies he tried to appease himself with. But a man couldn’t live for six months without some kind of release.
    Still, that didn’t make this right.
    He’d just convinced himself to turn away when her corset loosened. Mrs. Anders pushed the front hooks together, and suddenly the whole contraption broke open and fell to the ground.
    Hale held his breath while the widow filled her lungs. The gossamer fabric of her shift clung to her skin. Her breasts rose, her back stretched, and her hands curved into her waist, as if the sensation of freedom was almost too much.
    She dug her fingers briefly into the flesh above her hips, then she dragged her palms up, up, touching every rib along the way before her hands curled over her full breasts and squeezed.
    “Jesus,” he breathed.
    When her head fell back, there was no longer any doubt that her caresses weren’t about rubbing away the day’s pain. Her fingers closed over her nipples and squeezed, and her lips parted on a gasp. The sound floated through his open window to seize his throbbing cock.
    Hale’s mind swam with whiskey and lust, and despite his stubborn nature, he couldn’t find the will to resist. He

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