Texas Mail Order Bride(122)

By: Linda Broday

He loved her.

Smoothing her dress, she pushed aside the curtains of her new home and gazed out at the land she’d never thought it possible to see again. She couldn’t get enough sunlight. For her, the darkness held suffocation, rats, and nightmares. That first week, Cooper had never left her side.

Though they hadn’t made love since his marriage proposal, he’d slept with her fully clothed and held her as though she was the most precious thing to him. He’d wiped her eyes when she cried and murmured soothing words in her ear when the night pressed around, strangling her, trying to pull her back into her hell.

Delta saw the ache that came in Cooper’s gray eyes each time he glanced at the red scars that were still raw, especially the one around her neck. She knew he blamed himself and wished she could take his pain. But she couldn’t. Time would have to heal both of them.

The month had also brought healing in other areas. Cooper finally told Jenny about her real father and how very much Isaac Daffern had loved her. Jenny cried, then smiled and said she wished she could’ve known him. Delta was happy for the peace it gave her friend.

Now, she gazed with pride at the ranch that seemed so vital and energized and new. Her Women of Vision and a slew of men from town had dived in and worked like a hive of bees to help her get it fixed up.

Change also came to Battle Creek. In the last week alone, two new businesses had arrived, a gunsmith and a cobbler. Then a real honest-to-goodness man of the cloth had ridden into town and started to build a church. The new schoolteacher, Mr. Peter Callahan, seemed well suited to the community. As Delta looked from her window, counting her blessings, pinching herself at her great fortune, Cooper rode up on Rebel. His gaze met hers. When he grinned, showing his white teeth, her heart fluttered.

My, my, her handsome husband-to-be stole her breath.

She ran out to meet him and flew into his arms the second he reached the porch.

“You’re a mighty lucky woman, Miss Dandridge,” he growled, holding her tight against him.

“How’s that, Mr. Thorne?”

“If it weren’t for my deep sense of honor, I’d throw you onto the back of my horse, take you somewhere far, far away, and have my way with you.”

Happiness spilled from her heart. She buried her hands in his hair. “Oh, you would, would you?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He slanted a kiss on her mouth.

They’d say their I do’s in five more days when Judge Hawthorne passed through. Delta had already bought yards of satin and silk, lace, and delicate seed pearls. Mabel, Abigail Sinclair, and Violet had worked night and day sewing the lovely creation. Delta could hardly wait.

“I love you, Cooper. Are you sure you can give up your bachelor ways?”

He tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear. “I’ll do anything to have you, pretty lady. Thank you for not giving up on me even though I’d pretty much given up on myself.”

“I knew you’d come around eventually. Took your own sweet time, however.”

“No one better knows how to show me the error of my ways, darlin’.”

“Just remember that when you bow up your back and dig in your heels like a government mule, dear. Lord in heaven, I do have my hands full. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Delta burrowed into his embrace, reveling in the strength of his arms around her.

“We make a good pair. All I know is the future will be interesting. And exciting. I can’t wait to get started.”

She tipped her face up to meet his gray stare that melted her. He began with her eyes, kissing them with reverence before moving to her cheeks and throat and finally her mouth. His kiss seemed to come from somewhere deep inside where the ability to love that he’d locked away all those long years ago lived.

He seemed to be coming alive by degrees, allowing himself to feel things again.

When he let her up for air, she took a step back. She’d put this off too long. “We have things to decide, Cooper.”

He sighed. “Such as?”

“Where will we live? Here or the Long Odds?”

“I won’t ask you give up this ranch, darlin’. I know how much this land means to you, my Texas mail-order bride.”