Colters woman, p.11
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       Colters Woman, p.11

         Part #1 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
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Page 11


  “I’m proud of you,” he whispered.

  Tears streaked down her face as relief poured out of her system. So many weeks of constant fear had eaten away at her. Now she was free.

  She snuggled deeper into Ryan’s arms, curling herself as close into him as she could.

  The next thing she knew the engine had stopped and cold air brushed over her as a door opened. Had she fallen asleep? All she really knew was that she had no desire to move from Ryan’s arms. Reluctantly she picked her head up. They were back at the cabin.

  She slid over as Adam opened the door for her then she climbed out of the Land Rover. She pulled her coat tighter around her and hurried for the front door, anxious to be inside where it was warm.

  They all entered the house, stamping the snow off their feet inside the door.

  “I’m hungry,” she announced, realizing she hadn’t eaten a thing since the day before.

  “Go warm up in front of the fire, and I’ll start on lunch,” Ethan said, pushing her toward the living room.

  Adam and Ryan followed her and Adam went to add more logs to the dying embers.

  “So what happened in there?” Ryan asked.

  Adam paused in his task and turned to look at Holly, obviously wanting to hear as well.

  “Mason was there when we got to the sheriff’s office,” Holly began.

  Adam swore. “Lacey must have known he was there all along. ”

  “He tried to leave immediately, but I refused to go with him. I thought he was going to force the issue, but Lacey wouldn’t let him. I asked Lacey to leave us alone for a few minutes. ”

  “You did what?” Ryan demanded, his expression darkening.

  “It was the only way,” she said. “I told him that I knew what he’d done on our wedding day, that I’d seen him kill that man. Then I told him I wanted a divorce, and he was going to agree to that divorce or I’d make sure the whole world knew what he’d done. ”

  “Fuck,” Ryan said.

  “Yeah, fuck is right,” Adam said, rubbing the back of his neck.

  She looked at them in surprise. “But I thought you wanted me to get a divorce. ”

  “Baby, we do,” Adam said, pulling her into his arms. “But we want you safe, and you’ve just told us that the bastard now knows you can put him away for life. ”

  “It was the only way to get him to agree to the divorce,” she said defensively.

  Adam rubbed her shoulders soothingly. “Don’t worry about it, baby. You’ll get your divorce, but more importantly, you won’t ever have to face that bastard again. ”

  Ethan called to them from the doorway. “I threw together some sandwiches. Come eat. ”

  Holly turned and walked toward the kitchen. Had she made a mistake by threatening Mason? She frowned, worry inserting itself back into her mind.

  She sat down at the bar and Ethan shoved a plate in front of her. The brothers took their places, and they began to eat.

  “What now?” she asked, unable to keep the question back any longer.

  “What do you mean?” Adam asked.

  She hesitated a moment, feeling unsure about the entire situation. “I mean us. ”

  “We go to Denver to see Cal so he can fast-track your divorce. And then we get on with our lives. Together. ”

  She looked down at her plate and fiddled with the sandwich. A thousand questions crowded her mind, and she didn’t know where to start.

  “Want to go riding after lunch?” Ryan interrupted.

  She looked at him in relief. Fresh air and a break sounded very inviting. She nodded then caught herself.

  “I assume you mean horseback riding? I haven’t ridden in a long while. ”

  Ryan shrugged. “I’ll make sure you have a good mount. ”

  “Don’t go too far,” Adam warned. “We’re in for a storm. ”

  “I don’t need a babysitter,” Ryan said darkly.

  Holly shoved her plate aside, no longer hungry. Maybe getting out of the house for a while would help. She wanted to relax and not worry about looking over her shoulder for once.

  Ryan pushed away from the table. “You ready?”

  She nodded and stood up. “Let me go get something warmer on. ”

  “I’ll be in the barn. Head on out when you’re done. ”

  “They’re a lot alike you know. ”

  Adam turned his head to Ethan after watching Holly leave the room. “What do you mean?”

  “Ryan and Holly,” Ethan replied. “They both know pain. You can see it in their eyes. ”

  Adam’s lips tightened. He didn’t like to think of either of them in pain, but he knew Ethan was right. Holly and his younger brother fought their demons. He just hoped they won.

  “What do you suppose happened over there?” Adam muttered.

  Ethan shook his head, sorrow washing into his eyes. “I wish to hell I knew. I wish he’d talk about it. Maybe then the poison would leave his system. I never wanted him to join the damn military anyway. ”

  Adam nodded in agreement. But Ryan was stubborn, and once he’d made the decision, no one had been able to sway him. He’d left a cocky, arrogant young man and come back a brooding, tortured soul.

  “Maybe she’s what he needs,” Ethan murmured. “Maybe she’s what we all need. ”

  “And maybe she needs us just as badly,” Adam added.

  * * *

  Holly stepped into the snow, shivering as a wash of cold air blew over her. She crunched her way down the slight incline to the barn. Ahead of her the terrain sloped upward, a testament to the mountain they were nestled on. Snow-capped peaks jutted skyward on the horizon. Around her the world was ablaze with white.

  Her breath came out in a cloud in front of her as she mounted the last few steps to the barn door. Then she slipped inside, enjoying the warmth that greeted her.

  Eight stalls lined either side of the barn. In the back, there was a large open area where stacks of hay bails stood. Ryan stepped out of one of the stalls leading a horse by the reins.

  He glanced in her direction. “I’ve got her saddled for you. Come hold the reins while I ready my mount then we’ll head out. ”

  Holly hurried forward and took the leather reins from Ryan.

  Ryan motioned toward the back. “Take her over there and wait. ”

  Holly moved to the back, her horse clopping obediently behind her. While she waited for Ryan, she smoothed her hands over the mare’s neck. She was a beauty. Gentle looking. Her head bobbed appreciatively as Holly stroked her mane.

  A few seconds later, Ryan walked up, leading his mount behind him. “You ready?”

  Holly nodded. As Ryan moved ahead of her, she cast an appreciative glance over his body. Damn, the man filled out a pair of jeans like no one else. He looked exceedingly masculine in his lambskin-lined coat, cowboy hat and scuffed boots. And his ass. What could she say about a man who had an ass that begged to be touched, fondled and squeezed?

  She squeezed her legs together and picked up her pace. She was a walking hormone. But who could blame her after the night she’d experienced? Her cheeks warmed to the point of discomfort when she thought of all they had done. She couldn’t wait to do it again.

  “Do you need help up?” Ryan asked, his voice close to her ear.

  She jumped and looked around. Hell, she hadn’t even realized they’d walked outside. Hard to notice the cold when her entire body was erupting in flames.

  She flushed and turned her attention to the horse. She was short, and it was a long way up into the saddle.

  She looked back at Ryan. He grinned and in one swift motion, he wrapped his large hands around her waist and hoisted her up as easily as a sack of potatoes.

  “Misty’s a good mount. She’ll follow my lead, so don’t worry about it. Just enjoy yourself,” Ryan said.

  She smiled down at him. His hand lingered on her leg then he squeezed it before he walked over to mount his horse.
  They picked their way through the snow around to the front of the cabin and down the drive to the road. Holly glanced back at the cabin. It was fully ensconced on the mountain as if the brothers had carved their home right into the surface. Snow covered the roof, and smoke drifted lazily from the stone chimney. It looked like a scene straight from a Christmas card. And it was now her home.

  Her chest tightened, and she had the absurd urge to grin like a kid in a candy store. Home.

  Life was a strange chain of ironies. She’d learned that quickly enough. Only in the demise of her dreams had she actually found them.

  But would it work out?

  A shadow of doubt marred her jubilation. She’d thought Mason was the answer to her dreams. Wealthy, seemingly doting on her, protective. The stuff a girl’s dreams were made of. Or nightmares.

  Was she making the same mistake again? She sure hadn’t given any more thought or care to this decision than she had the one to marry Mason, and it had landed her in a kettle of hot water.

  She frowned. If there had never been a Mason, if she had never made such a monumental mistake, if she hadn’t desperately needed a place to run and hide, would she have been drawn to the brothers and what they offered?

  She fought to try and place herself in the frame of mind she’d been in before she’d ever met Mason, but found it impossible to match the woman she’d become to who she’d been.

  Her head hurt. She was trying too hard to analyze her feelings. She knew what she thought she felt for the brothers, but what if she was wrong? What if her attraction to them was merely a measure of self-preservation? Gratitude for the safe haven they provided?

  Fuck a duck.

  It wasn’t fair to them. They wanted a woman who could love all three of them, not a woman who couldn’t think for herself, who was a weak mess, one who’d made one bad decision after another.

  “If you frown any harder, you’re going to screw up that pretty face of yours forever,” Ryan said mildly.

  She glanced up, guilty heat suffusing her cheeks. She hadn’t even been paying attention to him, her horse or where they were going. And Ryan knew it.

  “Sorry,” she said in a low voice. “I was just thinking. ”

  Ryan shrugged. “It’s why I asked if you wanted to go out for a while. You looked like you could use a break. ”

  He turned back around in his saddle and stared ahead, silence looming between them once more.

  She sighed. He wasn’t pushy. She liked that. But then none of the brothers had pushed her hard. Adam could be demanding. Any fool could see that, but he hadn’t pressed her boundaries.

  “It’s beautiful here,” she said, focusing her attention on Ryan.

  He nodded. “No place on earth is more beautiful than the Rockies. ”

  He loved it here. She could tell by the way his eyes scraped across the landscape. Some of the bleakness and torment he wore like a permanent tattoo disappeared, replaced by satisfaction.

  “How did you all end up here?” she asked.

  He shrugged again. “We grew up on a ranch. It was only natural that we’d want one of our own. And we like to hunt. So we decided to combine those factors and make our living at it. ”

  She thought on that a moment. The cabin they lived in was large. Though they didn’t take meals in the dining room, the room sported a table that could easily sit two dozen people. And there were several rooms she hadn’t explored yet. An uneasy thought crept into her mind.

  “So when it’s hunting season, there’ll be lots of hunters in the cabin?” she asked.

  He studied her for a moment as if delving into her thoughts.

  “Are you worried about what they’ll think?” he asked, his tone slightly challenging.

  “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I mean I don’t know how I’ll be presented. How do you introduce me to other people?”

  “As our woman,” he said.

  Her stomach turned over. On the one hand, it did funny things to her, the idea of three sexy as hell men claiming her as their woman, but on the other hand, it could be awkward as hell.

  “You’ll get used to it,” he said.

  She felt her cheek warming again as another thought struck her. One she hadn’t considered, but in light of their very different relationship, she wasn’t sure.

  She cleared her throat, wondering how to present such an awkward question.

  Ryan sighed. “Just say it, Holly. Whatever’s on your mind. I don’t bite. ”

  She stared up at him, sure she was growing redder by the minute. “It’s just that I wondered, that is I wasn’t sure…” She took another steadying breath. “You won’t want there to be others, right?”

  His eyes darkened and a scowl twisted his features. “I’ll kill any other man who touches you. ”

  Her breath eased from her in relief.

  Ryan scrubbed a hand over his chin. “Holly, just because we have a different situation, in that all three of us are fucking the same woman, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be sharing you with every man who crosses our path. You’re ours. You belong to us, heart and soul, and if another man so much as looks at you, we’ll rip off his dick and cram it down his throat. ”

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