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Billie Ferris always knew she would inherit Maiden's Hope, her father's family farm. She spent every summer learning the intricacies of the business. They'd ride the boundary fences with Aunt Willa impressing upon her what a treasure the farm truly was.
When her aunt passes unexpectedly, she's crushed by emotions and, ultimately, the responsibility. Still adjusting to the loss, strange things begin to happen at the farm. Nuisances turn serious when her vehicle is tampered with and she has an accident. Waking in pain, she sees Ward Castel, her childhood nemesis and first crush, has come back to help. While his military training will be helpful, Billie can't help but bristle at his tactics.
Billie and Ward are both still attracted, and she hopes they'll finally have an adult sexual relationship. That will have to wait until they discover who is trying to run her off her land and why.
Billie chose to believe the locals who clasped her hand with downcast eyes or bear hugs were genuine. They left her smelling like thirty different kinds of perfumes and aftershaves that would cling to her skin forever. She understood that no amount of washing would cleanse the scent from her memory. Adding to the perfume smells were those of rotting floral arrangements covering the whole private, family graveyard. She prayed the aspirin she took would lessen her headache. She knew the pounding within her was a conglomeration of sorrow, stress, and perfumed scents. Billie knew she’d make a point of not putting the clothing she currently wore in her closet. Instead they would head directly to the dry cleaner. The last thing she needed was her whole wardrobe to carry the assortment of scents. What she needed now was a few moments of peace and quiet to gather her wits before heading back inside to her guests.
She was mistress of Maiden’s Hope now. Taking off on horseback just wouldn’t do when there was still a house full of strangers to deal with. How she wished she could bolt down to the barn, throw a saddle on one of them, and ride the fields. Feeling the breeze on her face and the control over the animal was cathartic in many ways. Today she couldn’t ride, but the idea reminded her of the many times she and Willa rode side by side, checking the fields and the boundary fences. Those were their special times, when Willa would explain how the farm worked. Willa’s words struck her at that very moment.
“This is a special farm, Billie. One day you’ll learn all her secrets and you’ll know what to do and how to handle the secrets.”
“What secrets?” she’d ask every time Willa brought up the subject. Instinctively, she’d known not to ask questions in front of anyone else. Only when she and Willa were alone did she try to get more information.
“When the time is right, you’ll learn all about them. But for now, we check the fences and the crops.”
Billie smiled, remembering how old Willa looked to her at that time. Now those days seemed a lifetime ago, and in reality they were. Twenty years was a long time.
As she grew each summer, she’d been given a bit more independence. Tomorrow, she promised herself, she’d make a point of taking a ride in Willa’s honor. Then she could enjoy her memories instead of being anxious that strangers would intrude.
Car doors slammed in the distance, commanding her attention. She hoped that soon the last of the mourners and caterers would leave. All she wanted was the house to herself, void of interlopers and sightseers. She bent down and repositioned a floral arrangement on top of Willa’s grave and smiled. It was a spray of gladioli in white variegating to deep purple tips. It was sent from Ward Castel. He hadn’t made it to the funeral, but Billie didn’t hold it against him. She knew he was her aunt’s favorite friend and he could do no wrong. She also knew he worked for the government and his time wasn’t his own. While she didn’t know what his job was, she just knew he was in the military and often away from the area for months on end. How she wished he’d been there to steady her during the service and then she was instantly glad he wasn’t. It wouldn’t do for anyone to see or assume they had a personal relationship, even if it was one of Billie’s fantasies.
She thought back to the first time she saw him. She was ten that season and Ward was the new farm boy. Even then, though she didn’t understand her excitement, she knew he was special. That he wouldn’t give her the time of day made her more curious. Every summer from then on, she couldn’t wait to get there and see Ward, even if he treated her like a child. It wasn’t until she was fifteen that she understood her fascination with him. The next year, she cornered him in the barn and tried to kiss him. He’d been adamant about her young age and his and that Willa would shoot him if he touched her. She let out a small laugh, remembering the look on his face when she all but launched herself into his arms.
There was more noise from the house and the memory was gone. She turned her attention back to the grave site, waiting for these strangers to leave. She knew she was supposed to be there accepting their condolences, but she didn’t move.
Ward pushed the phone back in his pocket. He looked down at her, saw anger and angst. Her hair was pulled from its normally sleek braid, and she had dust on her cheek where he’d dropped her to the ground. “Just stay down, Billie. If they wanted to hit one of us, they could have. They’re toying with us. But we’re vulnerable here.” Ward tried to keep his tone even.
“I’ve been stationary for the last five minutes. Why didn’t they shoot me then?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe they don’t like you.” She tried to hold back her laugh but didn’t.
Ward knew her laughing was a nervous reaction. He decided to take advantage of the moment and held her tight to him. “Now do you believe me when I say you need to stay in the house?”
“Yes I get it, but I’m not going to let anyone make me a prisoner.”
“Billie, you try my patience. If I thought it would do any good, I’d take you over my knee until you figure out you’re in real danger.”
Billie froze under him for several seconds. He watched a wide smile slowly overtake her lips. “You want to spank me for being bad?”
“It’s a passing thought,” he grumbled.
“What else would you do to me if I don’t listen to you?” She shifted under him, her hand reaching for his cock. Ward tried to pull away but she had her hand cupping him, her fingers squeezing against him. “You’re hard, Ward. So the idea of spanking me gets you hard. Do you picture fucking me afterward so you can see how red you made my butt? Am I facing you, taking your cock in my pussy or am I draped over something and you’re fucking my ass? Am I tight around your cock?”
“Billie, shut up!”
“I’ll shut up, but you better tell your cock it’s chosen an inappropriate time to rear its head.” She was laughing at him.
He looked down at her and didn’t care that they were possibly in jeopardy at that very second. Instead, he dropped his mouth over her, kissing her hard. It was her reaction to the kiss, spreading her lips and thrusting her tongue against his that made him groan. She continued to pump his cock with her glove-covered hand. “You’re getting harder,” she told him as she pulled from his mouth. “Ward, rub against me.” She lifted her other hand and let her fingers sift through his hair, closing around his neck and drawing him back to her lips.
Ward knew this wasn’t a good idea and at the moment didn’t care. His cock was doing his thinking. “Billie, if you keep doing that you’ll make me come.”
“Then come for me,” she told him, holding his face between her hands. “Open your pants and slide up here. Let me suck you.”
“So danger turns you on?” He forced himself to lift up off her only a bit, enough to let his weight ride on his forearms.
“A lot of things turn me on. You just never bothered to find out what they are.”
“Billie, this is not the time or place.”
“We never have the right time or right place. Tell me, Ward, why you always push me away. I’m not looking for a permanent commitment. I’m looking to fuck you until we’re both exhausted and sated. I want to feel how you’ll stretch my body with your fingers and cock.”
“Willa will kill me.”
“Willa’s dead. She can’t do a thing about us. I’m an adult woman with sexual needs and wants and would like to see if you can satisfy them. Don’t you have needs, too, Ward? Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to bury your cock inside me at this time in our lives? We’re both older and more experienced. I have and I can only imagine how you’d make me feel right now. I know how it felt to have your fingers stretch me while you sucked my clit. I know you would have fucked me that night in the barn if the storm hadn’t rolled by and shut down the power. I’d like to get past imagining and actually experience you.” She sighed but didn’t look away. “The only time I’ve felt your cock inside me was out here on the land. Maybe that’s your turn-on. Do you have to be outside with the danger of getting caught to get off?”
“Billie,” he started and grabbed her wrist, halting her motions against his erection. Her hand movements were getting faster, her grasp around him harder. If he didn’t stop her, she’d make him come.
“Ward, I want this.” She gave him a smile he hadn’t seen from her before. It said, “I’m confident and experienced.” He felt his cock pulse against her fingers.
“What happens when it’s over?” He was staring down at her and instantly knew it would be too hard to leave her when their itches were scratched.
“I’m a big girl. I can fuck a man and not expect him to marry me. I’m looking for pleasure and release.” She stared up at him, her gaze a dare that matched her words.
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