A Wanton Woman(14)

By: Vanessa Vale

“My husband died and left me without money. While I have skills as a nurse, my chances for a job were limited in Tyler.” Especially with my history and the gossip that followed. “I felt it was best to move somewhere else.”

That was vague and did not cast any light to the real reasons for my departure. Pleased with myself, I took a sip of water.

“We are businessmen, Celia. We can bullshit better than most,” Walker said, not softening his words. “Luke’s the mayor and this kind of vague talk is his strength.”

“That’s right, sweetheart,” Luke added. “You’ve probably been raised not to share your burdens, being diplomatic and aloof. I appreciate a woman who can keep a secret, but we’re your husbands. There will be no secrets between us.”

Husbands. Instead of being standoffish, they wanted me to bare all.

The mashed potatoes on my tongue tasted like sawdust and I worked hard to swallow them down.

“Let me ask you more specific questions and that are easier to answer,” Walker said, placing his fork and knife on his plate. “How long were you married?”

“Five years.”

“From your clothing, it does not appear as if you were destitute in your marriage. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” I answered, then took a moment to study him. “You sound like a lawyer.”

Walker smiled then, brilliantly, showing off straight white teeth and a face so handsome my breath caught. “That’s right. You have me figured out, doll. Now let’s do the same with you.”

“What was your husband’s profession?” Luke asked.

“He was a doctor.”

“Impressive. And you were his nurse?”

I nodded.

“How did he die?”

I bit my lip, recognizing Walker had started off with easy questions and they were quickly becoming more difficult to answer. Using my napkin, I wiped my mouth.

“He was shot.”

Both men’s eyes widened.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Walker murmured. “You must miss him keenly.”

I pushed back my chair at the ridiculous notion, then stood. “What about you, Walker?” I asked, steering the conversation away from me. “Why did you agree to this unusual marriage?” I pointed to the two of them as they stood as well. They certainly had good manners.

“To be honest, I want a woman in my bed every night.”

His bluntness caught me by surprise. “So no interest in a love match then?”

He tossed his napkin on the table, moved to pace the room. “I am a widower.”

I could hear the darkness in his voice, see the tenseness in his shoulders.

“Marrying again was not something I ever considered. But the new law forced Luke’s hand into marriage.” He shrugged, then turned to look at me. “It offered me the opportunity I had never considered before.”


“A woman deserves love in a marriage. Fair warning, you won’t get that from me. Not because I don’t think you are deserving, but because I just don’t have it to give. But you’ll get that from Luke. I’ll give you everything else: my protection, my money, my attention. My body.”

The idea of having continuous and permanent access to Walker’s body was definitely enticing, but it wasn’t enough. Wiping my hand over my face, I laughed, although without any amusement. “None of us want this. Luke, you’re marrying me out of duty—”

“I didn’t just fuck you out of duty,” Luke said, cutting off my words. “As for want, you wanted me as much as I wanted you.”

I could not argue, for it was true.

“Walker, you’re… marrying me for a lifetime of fucking.”

He ran a hand over the back of his neck. “Based on what I watched, it does not appear it will be a hardship for either of us.”

“All of us,” Luke clarified. “What about you, Celia? You deflected our questions. It’s time to bare all, sweetheart.”

He moving to lean against the back of the couch, arms crossed.

“I am the only one who has bared everything,” I countered, meaning I’d been naked while he’d remained fully dressed. They were not swayed by that diversion tactic and I sighed. “You want to know how my husband died?”