Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.
Caesar King's ad for a mail-order bride is an answer to Queen Esther Payne’s prayer. Her family expects her to adhere to society's traditional conventions of submissive wife and mother, but Queen refuses. She is not the weaker sex and will not allow herself to be used, abused or turned into a baby-making machine under the sanctity of matrimony. Grateful that love is neither required nor sought, she accepts the ex-slave's offer and heads West for marriage on her terms. Her education and breeding will see to that. However, once she meets Caesar, his unexpected allure and intriguing wit makes it hard to keep love at bay. How can she hope to remain her own woman when victory may be synonymous with surrender?
First Kiss Excerpt
Caesar looked at Queen. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. She gasped then swallowed hard, unnerved by the sight. Her lips trembled.
Reverend Warren smiled at Queen then addressed Caesar. “You may kiss the bride.”
Kiss? Queen flinched. There’d be no kissing in this marriage. She’d promised to be his wife for two years with sex provided at agreed upon intervals. At the end of two years that requirement would end and she’d be free to live as she chose. She could go anywhere she pleased, especially with the respectability of missus before her name and Caesar’s promised severance. No. This coupling made them business partners. Business partners did not kiss.
She extended her hand to seal their arrangement. He returned the handshake but instead of releasing her, his too rough fingers imprisoned hers and pulled her to him. With his other hand he captured the back of her head and secured her mouth to his.
A squeal of surprise parted her lips. His thick tongue swept into the shelter of her mouth. The assault ambushed her with pleasure and vanquished her resistance.
Her hands rose, as if of their own volition, and pressed against his chest. The firm muscle beneath his shirt coaxed her hands to linger, to explore—however discretely—the muscle beneath her palms and fingertips.
Caesar broke off the kiss.
The embrace didn’t last more than a few seconds, but Queen swayed, robbed of reason and resentment.
Reverend Warren handed Caesar the marriage certificate and shook his hand. Queen stood, mouth gaping, startled by the confusion roiling through her mind, amazed by the moisture roiling in her sex.
With a simple kiss, this bull of a man had exhumed the sexual hunger she’d thought buried.
“Thanks for being available, Pastor.” Caesar shook the minister’s hand. “Mother Maybelle.” He hugged and kissed the older woman. Again, their affection stirred an unexpected sympathy in Queen’s chest. She sucked in a breath to dispel it.
He gripped Queen by the upper arm and hauled her back to the wagon.
“What’s the rush?” she asked.
He hoisted her up to the seat by her waist before she could object. She swallowed the gasp elicited by the press of possession in his grasp.
“Daylight’s burning,” he stated. “Don’t want to be caught out after dark.”
Queen eyed his lips, their fullness still remembered against her mouth. She shifted several times but found no relief from the pressure pulsing along her labia. Good Lord, how was she to make sense of so strong a physical reaction to this stranger? Had celibacy left her defenseless against physical contact from anyone?
Or was this physical attraction genuine? She’d heard of people who derived pleasure from both men and women. Could she be one?
His throaty baritone interrupted her thoughts with an occasional question or comment. She could only listen, still stunned, still roused by the command in his embrace.
“Over there to the west lie the pastures where my cattle graze...”
Images of him lassoing wayward steer transformed into images of him performing a similar round up with her. Damn that kiss. Her labia quivered in drenched delight. She’d never survive this exile if a simple kiss could awaken desire.
Her gaze stole to his fly and a bulge that had her mouth-watering. Closing her eyes didn’t bring relief. A wave of anger crashed over her. How had he done it?
“What woman-loving woman taught you to kiss that way?”
His massive head jerked back as if she’d slapped him. “Well, that’s a first. I talk about cattle, and you ask about kisses.”
“No man knows how to kiss like that. Only women do.”
A bushy eyebrow rose over a countenance suddenly darkened by suspicion. “How would you know? Your experience has only been with women...or so I understood from your letter.”
Embarrassment warmed the tips of her ears. She brushed her fingers along the excited flesh, uncomfortably aware a similar excitement troubled her nether lips.
“All my pleasurable experiences have been with women.” Until your amazing, conquering kiss. “I’ve known the brutality of male lips and tongues and...” She looked down at his bulge again. “Certain appendages.”
“Brutal, eh?” He smirked. “So you’ve chosen my brutal lips and tongue and appendages over those of the brutes you knew in Philadelphia.”
“If you must know, yes.”
He angled his head and eyed her. “But isn’t the adage better the devil you know?”
She fisted her hands in her lap. “Not for me it isn’t.”
He put his attention back on the road. “Well, if you must know, my wife Emma trained me.”
His features softened. Queen glimpsed melancholy in his smile.
“Our first kiss was nectar.” He closed his eyes and inhaled. “Each kiss after that tasted sweeter than the one before.”
She had her suspicion confirmed: ecstasy did look good on him.
He cleared his throat and flicked the reins against his horse’s rump. All traces of sadness vanished. “You needn’t worry. ‘Twas memory of her I embraced before Reverend Warren. Not you. ‘Though...” He looked her up and down. “I had not expected such a warm response from an ice princess.”
Ice princess. Her belly clenched. The phrase shouldn’t have hurt. She wanted the arctic between them. The unanticipated thaw created by that kiss proved she needed a frozen emotional wasteland between them more than ever.
He let his scrutiny linger in her lap. “Where else do your fires burn?”
She squeezed her thighs together and kept her sight on the horizon. “I wouldn’t recommend you try to find out.”
“Oh wouldn’t you, Mrs. King?”
The wagon heaved to a halt. She turned in time to see him put on the brake, but not in time to prevent him hauling her against him. His body suffused hers with an erotic heat.
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