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Only Love by Elizabeth Lowell - Romance>Historical America
Cast adrift during the War Between the States, Shannon Conner grew to womanhood in a lonely cabin high in the Colorado Rockies. Though stubborn and courageous, Shannon is ill-prepared to deal with the predatory Culpepper brothers--and the intoxicating ardour of the man who defends her honour, Rafael 'Whip' Moran.
A loner and a wanderer, a man tied to no place or promise, Whip aids the wary young 'widow' who has a walk like honey and a determined grip on her shotgun. But neither the Culpeppers nor grizzlies are as dangerous to Whip as the passion Shannon offers him--a passion that could cost Whip the freedom that is as much a part of him as his soul.
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She's frightened frightened.
She has a walk like honey.
The two impressions came simultaneously to the man called Rafael 'Whip' Moran. Whip didn't know which drew him to the girl more immediately, the fear or the honey.
He hoped it was the fear.
The heat in Whip's blood told him otherwise. Underneath the girl's threadbare mans wool jacket and trousers there was a very female body. And beneath her straight spine, high chin, and determination, there was very real fear.
Whip didn't know what caused the girl's fear or why it should matter so urgently to him. He did know that he was going to find out.
For a moment longer Whip stood in the cold mud in front of Holler Creek's only general store. The chill of the, high-country wind cut through his thick wool jacket. The girl must have felt the chill too. She shivered as she hurried through the grubby door of the mercantile.
With the easy motions of a man who was both fit and thoroughly at home in his own body, Whip followed the girl inside. The wind blew the door shut behind him with a loud bang. He barely noticed, He had attention only for the girl with the sweet, softly swinging walk.
She stopped in a shaft of light from the one window that hadn't been broken and boarded over. For a few moments her eyes ran hungrily over the scattered piles of dry goods, tools, and clothing. The fingers of one slender hand were clenched around something she held in her palm.
As though sensing Whip's intense interest, the girl turned toward him suddenly. He had a vivid impression of eyes the color of a wild autumn sky, a blue so clear and so deep that a man could look forever and never find an end to the beauty. What he could see of her hair beneath the hat was the color of autumn itself- glossy chestnut with red and gold running through it like leashed fire.
I've seen her before, he realized. But where?
With the next breath, realization went through Whip like lightning through a storm.
My dream. She's the girl in the cabin door, waiting, always waiting...
Motionless, Whip stared at the girl. A lock of hair had just escaped from beneath the girl's battered Stetson. The hair gleamed like silk against her pale cheek.
Without thinking, Whip walked closer and lifted his hand to tuck the strand back into place above her ear. When he realized what he was doing, he stopped, stepped back and touched his hat instead.
"Morning, maam," Whip said, nodding to her. The girl blinked and looked at his big hand, Whip knew why. He had moved so quickly that she couldn't be certain he had ever intended to touch her instead of tipping his hat politely.
Her glance went from his long fingers to the bullwhip coiled over his right shoulder. Her eyes widened.
Teamsters with bullwhips weren't particularly unusual in Colorado Territory, certainly not enough so that the presence of a bullwhip, should startle anyone. The girl's involuntary response told Whip that she probably knew him.
Or, to be precise, knew of him.
With a tight motion of her head, the girl acknowledged whips polite greeting. Then she turned away from him with cool finality.
"Mr. Murphy?" she called huskily.
Whip felt his body tighten as though the girl had stroked him from forehead to heels. Her voice, like her walk, was pure summer honey.
I've been too long without a woman.
No sooner had the thought come to Whip than he knew it wasnt true. He had never been a man to be controlled by his sexuality. He had spent too many years in too many cultures where women were prohibited to foreigners; even to a polite, softspoken foreigner with strong shoulders and smokegray eyes and hair the color of the sun.
Only LoveBy: Elizabeth Lowell