CHAPTER fifteen

Behind her registry counter, Polly Moran, the proprietress of the boarding house looked up from her account book, and when her sharp gaze locked on her guest, she exclaimed, “Telt Longtree. You dog. I haven’t set eyes on you since last April. What have you been up to?” Telt tipped his hat to her. She took a breath. “No good, I’d bet my best corset.”

Usually, Telt came to Pendleton looking for a night or two of hard drinking and a few hands of poker. Sure, he availed himself of the dance-hall girls, but mostly he came looking for some excitement. When that excitement began to wear off, and his hangover began to dull his senses, he took refuge at Polly’s. He wisely considered it downright dangerous to go on a toot for more than a week in a no-holds-barred kind of town like Pendleton.

The town of Pendleton stretched out along the Umatilla River in the bottom of a draw. Polly’s boarding house sat on the south slope of the draw on the east end of town. As it happened, Wren’s warehouse, also on the east end of town, along the river, stuck in between a mill and a granary, sat just below the boarding house on the main road into Pendleton. Telt could see the roof of the warehouse from the wide veranda that wrapped halfway around the first story of Polly’s Boarding House.

He’d left Wren directing the warehouseman, and two of his helpers, on how and what she wanted them to load into her wagons. Telt hadn’t told her what he had planned, he just said he needed to make a call and wouldn’t be more than an hour or so. She barely noticed when he rode off. Telt had to shake his head at that. When the woman went to work, she was all business; the rest of the world could go hang.

Telt had discovered Polly Moran and her boarding house about six or seven years ago while in the military. He knew her whole story: A dance-hall girl from the Silver Spur, she’d married a well-to-do rancher who died and left her with a lot of land and plenty of money.

Polly had a voluptuous figure, going to seed a little bit, but then she wasn’t a spring chicken anymore. Telt suspected a good strong corset had a lot to do with her hourglass figure. She had fiery red hair that didn’t look natural. He didn’t think anyone came into this world with that shade of red hair and suspected she got it from a bottle. The laugh lines and wrinkles around her eyes and mouth she disguised with a liberal amount of face powder. Even with a slight double chin, she still presented to the world a mighty fine figure of a woman. Considering her to be a worldly woman, Telt hoped Polly would turn a blind-eye to his renting the best room in the house for himself and his lady.

Grateful for the warm welcome, he flashed her his best smile and said, “Polly, this is a special occasion.” Planting his hands on her registration counter of polished oak, he leaned in to take her into his confidence, “Tell me that honeymoon suite of yours is available.”

Polly blanched, then squealed with delight, “No! You rascal, you didn’t?” Her ample bosom jiggled, flesh spilling out over the top of the low-neck, wasp-waisted, black satin gown she wore today. His gaze went to her bosom, and his thoughts went out of his head. “Didn’t what?” he asked.

Polly grabbed him by his shirtfront and gave him a little shake, “You big, dumb clod…honeymoon suite…marriage?”

He blinked. “Oh, oh, no, didn’t…but might,” he offered, his grin back in place.

“Telt Longtree, I’m confused here,” Polly said, folding her plump arms on her highly polished counter with her breasts cradled within the folds of her arms. “You planning on having a honeymoon with yourself? If so, you don’t need my best room, which is available, by the way. What you need is a cold bath, or get thee to a nunnery.”

He really didn’t understand why he needed a nun, but he did realize he better come right out with it before he pissed her off. Polly didn’t have all that red hair for nothing.

He shifted from one foot to the other while twirling his hat on one finger, then took a deep breath, looked around, and leaned in over the counter to gaze into Polly’s pretty, hazel eyes. “I’ve got a special lady. We…we…well, I was hoping you’d let us have that big room with the bathtub. You see, we just come over the pass, during that storm yesterday, with two wagons, six mules, and two dogs. We sure would like a big bed…you understand?”

Polly pulled back, her eyes fairly glistening with devilment. “What, no monkeys or elephants, just one man, one woman, two dogs and six mules and two wagons? You can’t get all that in one room, Telt. The woman and the dogs, maybe, but no mules, you hear? I don’t allow mules, not the four-legged kind anyway.” She narrowed her gaze. “You runnin’ a circus?”

Her laughter boomed up to the rafters. The doors were open to her veranda. Telt noticed an elderly couple sitting in the wicker chairs out there, their heads turned, looking inside, ears straining to hear his story.

Trying to hush her, he lowered his voice, “Okay, okay, but you’re going to let us have that room. Right?” he pleaded.

He had to wait for his answer. Polly was a smoker. When she laughed too hard, it set her off into a coughing fit. She hacked, blew her nose, and wiped her eyes with a red lace handkerchief she’d produced from her cleavage. She waved it in his face while she caught her breath.

He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his nose. Damn, that hanky reeked of eau de cologne. Made his eyes water.

Polly stuffed her hanky back down between her breasts with one finger. He couldn’t help it, the gesture fascinated him, her bosom fascinated him. Polly had a mighty fine, plump bosom.

“Five dollars for the room,” she said, suddenly completely sober. “Two dollars…each for the bath. Two people, three dollars each for supper and breakfast. If you keep them dogs in the room that’s a dollar a dog, two dollars to stable your horse.”

He pinched her cheek. “Won’t need to stable the horses or the mules, they’ve got a coral down at the bottom of the hill. I don’t know how you do it, but you always know how much cash I’ve got in my pocket. I’ll take it,” he said and slapped the double eagle down on the counter.

Polly picked it up, put it between her teeth and clamped down hard. “I don’t know what you got to complain about,” she said as she gave the heavy coin a flip, “you got three dollars change comin’. I bet there’s another dollar stuffed down in those trousers that hasn’t seen the light of day for a month of Sundays. You always hold out. I know you, Telt Longtree. I can’t wait to see this gal that’s got you all tangled up, spending your money. Can’t imagine what kind of woman it would take to get you to let go of your runnin’ money,” she said with a wink as she dropped the gold piece down between her bosoms.

“Well shoot, I got to get; she’s waiting for me down by the river at her warehouse. We’ll be back directly. Supper is at six, right?”

“On the dot: pork roast, sweet potatoes, applesauce, green beans, dinner rolls, and peach pie with ice cream.”

Telt stood there, his hat over his heart, and his mouth watering. “I love you, darlin’, but I know you’re too much woman for me,” he said, and swept her a bow, then put on his hat and sprinted out her door.

“You got that right, Sheriff,” Polly called after him. “No dogs on my beds!” she yelled.

* * * *

They’d made good time today getting to Pendleton. It wasn’t even five o’clock. The wagons were loaded, the mules in the corral chewing away on some alfalfa hay. The day was bright and sunny, a big contrast to yesterday. Wren sat watching some hens peck around inside the corral, wondering if she could buy one for their supper. She sure was tired of corn bread and beans.

When she’d passed this way on her way to Laura Creek, she made camp down by the river behind the warehouse. Now she looked forward to making camp. While she waited for Telt to return, she took inventory of what she would need to keep with her: her satchel, her carbine, her revolver in her duster pocket, and her peashooter—as Telt called it—in her other pocket. She’d laid the tarp on the ground beside the warehouse. And gone ahead and fed Mac and Queenie. They were lying in the shade of the warehouse, napping.

Glancing to the hill across the road, she admired the big, two-story house painted a lovely, light shade of blue and sighed a wistful sigh, missing her home in Oregon City. The veranda, and the trim around the windows and doors, was a crisp white. She imagined big beds, crisp sheets and hot water. There were two big maple trees on either side of the drive, and she thought she could see flowerbeds below the wrap-around veranda. She took note of a rider coming down from the house, only mildly curious as to his business.

He looked like Telt. Coming to her feet, she shaded her eyes against the setting sun. It was. It was Telt. Both dogs came to attention. They didn’t bark or set up an alarm. A knot of apprehension settled in her stomach. What business did he have up there at a house like that?

She watched him gallop down the hill, headed in her direction. He’d shed his black duster. He had the sleeves of his brown chambray shirt rolled up to his elbows. He liked to wear his hat low over his brow to shade his eyes.

She muttered, “He certainly is a good-looking man. I wonder why trail dirt doesn’t look half-bad on a man? It doesn’t do a thing for me.” The injustice made her want to stomp her foot.

“Hey,” he called out as he rode up to her. “You got everything loaded up?”

“Yes, everything, we’re all ready to go in the morning. I can hardly believe it. I thought it would take a day to get loaded, but with the extra hands, it took no time at all. I thought we would camp by the river tonight. I thought we could ask the warehouseman if we could kill one of these chickens for our supper.”

“Hand up your gear,” he ordered with a grin on his lips.

She complied, although puzzled. It didn’t matter if he wanted to carry her things down to the river; it was all right with her.

“Now climb up there on the fence rail,” he instructed.

“I don’t need to ride. I can walk down to the river.”

“We aren’t going to camp down at the river, not tonight. Now climb up on that fence, and I’ll swing you up in front of me on the saddle. You’ll have to ride sideways. It won’t be too comfortable, but it’s only a short way up the hill. I wouldn’t want you to slip off Roonie’s shiny backside.”

“Up the hill? Telt, where are we going?” she asked, even as she hopped up on the second rail of the fence and prepared to board Roonie.

“Just hang tight,” he said as he hooked her by the elbow to swing her up to sit sideways on the saddle in front of him, one of her legs going over the saddle horn, her other leg draped over his thigh.

* * * *

The scalloped-edged, blue and white sign on the lawn read “Polly Moran’s Boarding House.”

“Telt. No,” Wren hissed in protest, squirming around to look into his face, meeting that grin, the one that said, we’re doin’ it anyway. “I can’t go in there looking like this. I don’t want anyone to see me. No. I’m not going in,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest and setting her jaw.

Telt urged Roonie up to the hitching post at the side of the house. The dogs, trotting alongside, had followed them up the hill, tongues hanging out, appearing happy and looking forward to more adventure. Wren hated them for their carefree attitude, and she hated Telt Longtree for being obtuse and inconsiderate. “We would be perfectly comfortable camping. We could have a nice camp down by the river.”

He had started to dismount. “I’m not sleeping by the river with the rattlers, rats and skunks,” he told her. “We’ve got a big room upstairs there, with crisp, clean sheets on a big featherbed, and a big, big tub. Big enough for two,” he said, his hand resting on her thigh and a naughty gleam in his eye.

She brushed his hand off; the heat from it threatened her resolve. She would not go into that boarding house. She would not. He stood there, waiting. She could see by the look in his eyes that he awaited her surrender, not about to give in. Situated the way she was in the saddle, with restricted blood-flow, her toes had started to fall asleep. She wanted to move, to get down, but didn’t dare.

After what seemed like a very long time, but probably not more than a couple of minutes, she allowed him to lower her stiff little body to the ground.

“I’ll go in,” she snarled up to his grinning face, “but—I want to go in the back door. I do not want to be seen, Telt. Did you tell anyone you had a woman with you?” she asked, tears coming to her eyes. Which Wren found almost as exasperating as the predicament in which she now found herself.

“Look…,” he said, taking Roonie’s reins and tying them off at the hitching post. Wren slipped out of sight behind Roonie.

* * * *

Telt found her by moving Roonie’s head to the side—he couldn’t believe it. “You’re really scared to go in there. You are the same woman who set out to cross the Blues all alone in one of the worst storms we’ve had in the last twenty years? You are the same women who traveled from Oregon City all by herself, driving six mules, with nothing but a dog for company. And now you’re gonna stand there and tell me you’re afraid to enter a boarding house. No, I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, I can’t.”

“Look at me,” he said, reaching out and pulling her up to his chest. He put a finger under her chin to lift her eyes to meet his steady gaze. “Polly Moran is a good friend of mine. I’ve know her for years. I know she’s gonna take to you right off. You got a lot in common; you’re both businesswomen on your own.”

She looked like a chastised child. He untied her satchel from the back of the saddle and handed it to her. She hugged it to her chest, like a safety blanket. He started to tuck her carbine under his arm, but she held out her hand, her gaze insistent. He considered not giving it to her, but her chin had started to quiver. He shrugged and handed the carbine over to her. The dark look she gave him said she wouldn’t fight with him about going inside, but she would never forgive him.

He hoped she’d change her mind once she made it through those doors and into the lobby of the boarding house, and encountering no one ready to dispute her right to enter just like all the other guests.

* * * *

Polly watched them through the lace curtains of her front parlor. “What-in-the-hell?” she muttered, jumping back as Telt, his retriever, and another dog that resembled a flesh-ripping canine from one of Polly’s worst nightmares, started for her veranda. The mean-looking dog’s eyes, my God, they were blue-white. Polly shivered. What really threw her was his companion. Telt Longtree’s…special lady?

Polly thought of Telt as a big ol’ hunk of male. He could melt a woman’s heart with one of his smiles. She knew him to be fair and kind, not a mean bone in his body. Polly couldn’t tell what he had walking there beside him beneath that long, dirty, cattleman’s duster. Whatever—male, female, boy or girl, they carried a carbine under their arm. Polly thought the sour look on the person’s face said they knew how to use it too, and probably would, at the drop of their dirty sweaty-looking old hat.

Telt escorted his so-called ‘lady friend’ up to her registration desk, looking as proud as could be. Polly tried real hard to see what he saw in this grubby little woman. As soon as the two passed over her threshold, Polly noticed the woman’s fine, dark eyes. That is, after the woman brought her head up and gave Polly a look that told her, if you don’t like what you see, you can go take a flying leap.

Coming to stand before the registration desk, the woman dropped her satchel to the floor and removed her felt hat. Her hair came tumbling loose, falling over her ears. Polly didn’t think the woman knew it, but this worked to soften her features and gave her more of a waif appearance—a look that Polly found more appealing.

Telt removed his hat and began the introductions. “Polly, this is Wren O’Bannon. Wren, this is Polly Moran, the owner of this establishment,” he said, and stood there with his hat to his chest and, Polly thought, his heart on his sleeve.

The women eyed one another for a second, a very long second. Polly wasn’t sure how to react; the urge to bust out laughing she found nearly her undoing. The little woman looked like she wanted to make a break for it. Telt had her by the coat sleeve, his body behind her to keep her right where she was. This struck Polly as amusing too. He glanced her way and Polly read the look in his eyes; he wanted this to work. She couldn’t laugh; she didn’t want to offend a good customer.

“O’Bannon,” Polly repeated, looking to Telt, then taking a hard look at his woman. “O’Bannon, you say?” she asked again, putting the question to Telt. He nodded.

To Miss O’Bannon Polly asked, “You any relation to Gregory O’Bannon?”

The woman batted her big eyes, looked to Telt, then turned to Polly. “He was my father,” she managed to answer, her voice weak, full of uncertainty, but decidedly sweet and feminine with a slight brogue.

“Was?” Polly repeated.

Miss O’Bannon swallowed and managed to make a response, “Yes, Ma’am. He passed on to his reward early June this year.”

Polly put her hand to her heart and felt the tears welling in her eyes. She whispered with remorse and sorrow, “No, oh, I’m sorry to hear that. He was a good man.”

“You knew my father?” Miss O’Bannon asked in disbelief.

Telt jumped in, looking relieved to have the women settled down.

“I’ll get Roonie back down to the coral,” he told them, taking advantage of the situation to make his escape. “I’ll leave you and the dogs with Polly to get settled in,” he told his lady, giving her cheek a tender little stroke with the back of his knuckle before he left her side.

Polly could see Miss O’Bannon wasn’t too keen on being abandoned. She reached out to stop him but found the ugly dog pressed against her thigh. Polly saw the look of resignation in her eyes as her shoulders slumped forward. They both watched Queenie trot out the door to follow Telt.

Polly came around her registration desk to put her arm around Miss O’Bannon’s waist. She started to pick up the satchel, but Miss O’Bannon was there before her.

“You come with me, Wren O’Bannon. It is Wren, isn’t it? That’s a pretty name,” Polly said before the woman could make a reply. “Tell me now, what is Gregory O’Bannon’s daughter doing out here, the backside of nowhere, with a rascal like Telt Longtree?”

Miss O’Bannon took a second to look around her to take her bearings, then, as Polly ushered her up the stairs, she told Polly about the mercantile in Laura Creek and the warehouse in Pendleton. The ugly dog followed politely, which Polly found unnerving.

“I haven’t seen your daddy for a couple of years. Could be more, now that I think on it, might be more like eight or ten. Time does have a way of getting by me these days. Your daddy used to come this way now and then to do some horse trading with the Cayuse.”

Miss O’Bannon nodded; her eyes had gone wide with wonder as Polly opened the door to the honeymoon suite. Polly was proud of this room; she’d decorated it herself, choosing each embellishment very carefully. There were white lace curtains at the tall windows, and white lace on the canopy that hung over the enormous, four-poster bed. On the floor she’d tossed a real bearskin rug. The dog took an instant dislike to it and started to growl. Miss O’Bannon called him to heel. But he proceeded to inspect the thing from one end to the other, then, deciding it was not a threat, lay down on it and let out a big sigh of contentment.

There were paintings of roses in gilded frames hanging on the wallpapered walls of embossed moss-green. White ceiling tiles, embossed with gold, drew the eye to the chandelier, dripping with crystals that hung in the center of the room. There were two bedside tables, and on each table sat a crystal lamp. A large chifforobe made of warm, black oak stood in the corner of the room.

“The bath and water closet are through there,” Polly said, pointing to a door to the side of the chifforobe. “Hot water on tap, indoor plumbing,” she said, and winked, “everything up to date,” her bosom swelling with pride. “You’ll find some bath salts in there.”

Polly opened the little gold pendant she had pinned to her bosom. “It’s almost five-thirty. Supper’s at six. I’ll get out of your way, and I’ll see you shortly.

“Welcome, Wren O’Bannon, welcome. It sure is a treat to meet you. You and Telt Longtree, what a pair,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief, chuckling to herself as she went out the door. Closing the door behind her, she let loose and laughed right out loud all the way back down the stairs.

CHAPTER sixteen

It was a beautiful room. Wren, surrounded by all the luxuries she had longed for, for weeks, thought she’d died and gone to heaven. And yet, she felt miserable. No, she was angry, afraid, and she didn’t understand why she felt that way, it didn’t make any sense at all.

Her confusion made her angrier still. Stripped down to her chemise and petticoat she scrubbed her face, neck, arms, and hands until they were good and pink. She attacked her hair. Brutally, without mercy, she dragged the brush through her tangles until her eyes watered.

The conversation inside her head insisted she had no one to blame but herself; after all, she couldn’t deny that she wanted Telt Longtree, regardless of the consequences to her reputation. And, damn-it-all, she still wanted him—God help her. Right at the outset she’d known how uncomfortable her life would become if she allowed herself to get involved with the sheriff of Laura Creek. Having him all to herself, making love, was divine, as she had known it would be. She had no complaints. But this part, the swallowing of her pride while maintaining her self-esteem, and accepting the fact of her folly, that proved a bitter pill and the true source of her anger. The time had come to hold her head up and accept that what she’d done would forever change how people looked at her. She had to go out and face the public, deal with certain censure and judgment.

What really go her goat—Telt wasn’t ashamed…not one little bit. With that stupid grin on his face, he meant to show her off, a woman to whom he was not married, a woman he’d no intention of marrying. Right now, she would bet he was talking to his horse, telling Roonie how pleased he was with himself for having a woman to bed tonight.

The real crux of the problem, she’d seen it coming and did nothing to stop herself. She knew better than to think she’d have done anything differently if she had it to do all over again. That rankled too. The question now became how to proceed. Wren gave herself about fifteen minutes to decide.

Looking at herself in the mirror above the pedestal sink, she straightened her shoulders and aloud advised, “You better get a spine…a good stiff, impervious one.”

She started to French-braid her hair. She had it styled in a loose chignon at the nape of her neck, combs in place, when Telt returned.

“Polly said supper is at six,” she called out from the bathroom. She heard Telt whistle and assumed the whistle expressed his approval of their accommodations.

The bathroom door opened. She stood over the sink and looked at him through the reflection in the mirror. No, she had no regrets. How could she? The look in his blue eyes told her all she needed to know. He was proud to be here with her. There was no shame in his eyes, no regret, just anticipation.

* * * *

“You’re irresistible.” He moved up behind her, wrapped his arms around her womanly waist and pulled her into his hips. “Hmmm, you smell good,” he said as he pressed a kiss to her shoulder. Her hand cupped his jowl, holding his face, her fingers felt warm on his skin and smelled clean when he closed his eyes and inhaled her scent.

“We don’t have time for this,” she said on a sigh, closing her eyes.

“No,” he groaned. “I reckon we don’t. I’m hungry.”

“Me too,” she said, and whimpered with frustration.

“Okay, then,” he said, and pushed himself away from her. “But damn, just wait ‘till we get back from supper, lady.”

With shining eyes, she turned and faced his threat. Coming up on her toes, she pressed her lips to his while her hands tugged at his shirttails. She laid her palms flat upon his chest, he fingers seeking his erect nipples, playing with them briefly before moving on around to run her fingernails over his bare back. Telt grew helpless and held his breath.

“I think you should eat a hearty meal. You’re going to need nourishment. It’ll increase your stamina,” she whispered, her lips against his shoulder before she withdrew, leaving him standing there on the precipice of unsatisfied desire.

Fighting his way out of his shirt, he quickly doused the flames of his passion with lots and lots of cold water. He quickly washed his face, arms, underarms and neck, then toweled off.

Wren, wearing her russet skirt and cream-colored blouse, sat on the edge of the bed patiently waiting for him, her hands folded in her lap, all innocence. Grinning at her from behind the towel, he’d about convinced himself that food wasn’t all that important. About the time he’d made up his mind to take her down, one of the clean shirts from his saddle bag flew across the room and hit him in the face.

* * * *

Polly couldn’t believe it to be the same woman. The girl on Telt Longtree’s arm was stunning. Wren O’Bannon wasn’t a beauty in the modern-day sense, more artifact than real. Polly suspected the woman didn’t realize what she had was genuine beauty, real and earthy. She had big, dark eyes, dark brows, and full lips. Her face was heart-shaped, cheekbones high and full. Polly sat amazed by the transformation.

However, she cursed the girl; Wren O’Bannon probably didn’t wear a corset, didn’t need one. Her figure was full where it needed to be full, and curved where it needed to be curved. The girl’s curves hadn’t been apparent when covered from shoulder to ankle in that awful duster of hers. Polly sighed, oh, to be young again, firm, round, and ripe.

Telt had his hand on the girl’s waist; everything about him said, look what I’ve got. On the other hand, Miss O’Bannon appeared ready to turn tail and run. She held herself all stiff, a tight little smile upon her lips.

Polly, a long time observer of human nature, thought the crux of the problem lay with Mr. Longtree. The girl didn’t know where she stood with the man—of course he probably hadn’t told her, hadn’t tried to assure her—no, men didn’t do that, didn’t think about that. By the looks of it, Polly would have to say, the girl had nothing to worry about; Telt Longtree was as far gone over a woman as a man could get, which delighted Polly no end.

However, she did think he’d put the girl in a very untenable position. A man could fool around with conventions, but a lady…? Never. The two of them were pushing the edge of acceptable behavior. As for Polly, she didn’t give a damn about any of that nonsense.

“Come on in,” she called out to Telt and Wren as they crossed the front parlor to the dining room. “Come in,” Polly waved her hand, “come meet the other guests.”

* * * *

There were four other people seated at the large, oak dining table. Telt nodded to the elderly couple he’d seen sitting on the veranda earlier, then to a large woman who looked to be in her late fifties. Polly introduced her as a permanent resident of the boarding house, Miss Swanson, Pendleton’s schoolmarm. Giving her a nod, Polly then introduced them to a Mr. Bowman, a harness and plow salesman from Boise. Wren, Telt noticed, smiled at everyone, but he could feel the tension in her body beneath his fingers on her arm. He wanted to remind her to take a breath, but didn’t dare.

Polly announced, “Everyone, this is Miss Wren O’Bannon from Laura Creek. She’s the new owner of the mercantile there. She’s here in Pendleton to pick up more supplies,” Polly said with her arm draped around Wren’s shoulder.

Looking beyond Wren to Telt, Polly said, “This is the sheriff of Laura Creek, Telt Longtree. He’s acting as Miss O’Bannon’s escort across the Blue Mountains.”

Wren sagged with relief. Telt heard her exhale and he wanted to grab Polly and give her a big fat wet kiss.

* * * *

Polly made it sound reasonable, even decent that she would of course need the sheriff for her protection. Wren instantly fell in love with Polly Moran right there on the spot. The woman could do no wrong in her eyes. She would forever be the salt-of-the-earth in Wren’s opinion.

The rest of the guests didn’t matter. Wren didn’t care what anyone thought. Her conscience relieved, she sat down and ate until she couldn’t swallow another bite.

* * * *

Both dogs were asleep on the bearskin rug when Wren and Telt returned to their room after supper. The dogs acknowledged their return by lifting their heads, shifting their bodies around, and promptly going back to sleep.

Telt stayed quiet, giving a comment or two about the good food, but for the most part, he appeared pensive. If he felt as full and replete at she did, then it could be he was too full to make conversation. The meal Polly had served her guests was delicious, beautifully prepared and served.

Telt’s silence, however amplified Wren’s feelings of inadequacy. She worried that Telt’s expectations were too high. She really didn’t know what she was doing. So far, she’d just been going with what she wanted. Telt, she had no doubt, had plenty of experience with women; it made her wonder how she compared. She couldn’t ask and really didn’t want to know.

He left her side to light the lamp by the bed. Without looking at her, he went into the bathroom and started to run the water into the tub.

A bath. Oh, yes, a bath. How wonderful. She hadn’t had a real bath in weeks. Seated at the vanity before a lovely gold-rimmed oval mirror, Wren pulled the combs out of her hair to loosen her braid. She would wash her hair as soon as she had her turn in the tub.

When she looked up, Telt stood behind her. He began to unbutton the waistband of her skirt. She turned around, and looked into his eyes. They were a dark blue. Their gazes held as she rose to her feet and went into his arms. Her skirt dropped to the floor. She helped him unbutton his shirt, then flattened her palms on his bare chest, running her hands over his warm skin. He started to undo the pearl buttons on her blouse. He slipped it off her shoulders and moved the sleeves down her arms.

Without saying a word, he led her into the bathroom and began to help her out of her chemise and petticoat. Naked, Wren climbed into the oversized copper tub, the hot water stinging her ankles. She hissed, then closed her eyes as the water came up over her hips. The water smelled wonderful, like roses and oranges.

Telt removed his trousers and climbed in to sit behind her, his long legs bent up to either side of her hips. His hands cupped the hot water and began to baste her back. She leaned forward to turn off the tap.

“Slide down, I’ll wash your hair,” he whispered reverently. Wren slipped down into the water, her head resting on his abdomen and her hands on his hairy shins.

* * * *

The feel of her hair engulfing his manhood, the sides of his legs, covering him, made Telt hard. His hands moved into her hair as he lathered in the chamomile soap. She moved forward and got on her hands and knees to rinse her hair. He couldn’t resist the temptation. He began to place inappropriate kisses all over her ripe, pink rump. Wren started to giggle, and he kept nipping and planting kisses.

Before he could stop her, she slithered around, sliding up at him with a naughty gleam in her eye. She took the soap away from him and began to give him a thorough cleaning. Her hand slid all over his chest and down into the thatch of hair above his cock. It was while she soaped his testicles that he had to grab her hand, had to stop her or embarrass himself.

She pulled back and waited for him to rinse the soap off. She gave him a wicked little smile of satisfaction, then pulled herself up onto his thighs to straddle his hips. She slowly lowered herself, taking the length of his erection deep inside her. She opened herself like a flower ripe for pollination, her head back and body forward. His hands were on her hips as she slid her womanhood up and down the length of his stiff shaft. Her breasts were right in his face, wet, round, and sweet smelling. His lips latched on to one of her nipples. Her thrusts came quick and grew deeper. She gripped the edge of the tub and arched her back as the world went dark, then burst into a blinding light of sensations and consuming ecstasy. The night had just begun.

Click here to read chapters 17 and 18