The Wicked West
slipped his hand into his trousers and freed himself.
    Mrs. Anders hands were just as busy. She squeezed and caressed and pinched. Then she cupped one hand beneath the neckline of her shift and pushed the edge beneath the heavy curve of one breast. Her nipple was dark and red from the attention she’d shown it, and Hale’s mouth watered. He wanted it in his mouth. He wanted to bite it.
    He stroked harder, faster, thinking of putting his teeth to her until she cried out in pain. Her thumb pressed against the red bud, then suddenly she pinched it and twisted hard.
    As she whimpered aloud, Hale’s balls tightened to stones and he exploded, his seed arcing away from his body onto the bare wood floor while he imagined it splashing across her white breasts.
    “Ah, God,” he panted, shame filling the space lust had so recently occupied. Averting his eyes from the sight of Mrs. Anders’s half-nude body, Hale stumbled toward his bed and let his knees give way.
    Damn it all to hell.
    There was a difference between a man knowing he was an animal and actually behaving like one. He was supposed to protect the people of this town, not degrade them.
    He threw an arm over his eyes and spun down into the dark knowledge that his wife had been right about him. He was an unnatural beast, and she’d been right to leave.
     
    Lily’s arm shook from the heavy pull of the pail of milk she carried as she moved down the wooden walkway. She tried to maintain a pleasant expression despite the ache taking over her shoulder. She wasn’t strong enough for this place. She understood that. The people were pleasant, but she saw every doubtful glance they sent her way when they thought she wasn’t looking.
    Her trembling arm didn’t inspire confidence, even in her own mind. When milk began to spill out, Lily set the pail down and switched to the other hand. That arm began to shake almost immediately.
    No, she wasn’t strong enough for this place. But somehow, it suited her.
    When she’d received word that her brother Hamilton had died, Lily had been filled with guilt. She was the reason he’d left England in the first place. Her childish, foolish outburst had caused a rift in their family that had never healed. Hamilton had fled to America, and Lily had married a man old enough to be her father, just to escape the memories of her missing brother.
    But Hamilton had written to her several years later, and she’d sent a letter back, filled with her regrets and apologies. Over time, they’d become closer as correspondents than they had been as siblings. So although Lily had been shocked and distraught at the news that he’d died of a fever, she hadn’t been surprised at being named his sole heir. The little he’d had belonged to her now and it had given her the opportunity to start a new life free of her late husband’s world.
    Twenty feet from her front door, Lily set the pail down and stretched her shoulders back. Almost there. She wanted to do this. Women here did not depend upon servants for everything. Lily had hired a girl to cook and clean and help her dress, but the girl couldn’t do everything. And it felt good to have purpose.
    Lily rolled her neck and bent down to carry the pail for the last little stretch.
    When she straightened, she saw that her path was blocked by a man. A very large man. Heat pumped through her veins at the sight of him.
    “Sheriff Hale,” she breathed as he stuttered to a halt before her. She let her eyes fall to the ground as she always did when he was near. Something about him made her want to curl up at his feet and purr. He was so powerful. So in control.
    He stepped back. “Mrs. Anders.” His deep drawl stroked her nerves. “You need help with that?”
    “No, thank you.” Her nipples tightened, and she dared a look up at his face, wondering if he were picturing her as she’d been last night. His eyes were hard and unforgiving. Lily shivered, sending a few drops of milk splashing against her

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