Breaking Magnolia: A Contemporary Western Romance (The Wild Hearts Contemporary Western Series Book 1)
After scrubbing cow filth from his skin and fighting the urge to touch himself in the shower to thoughts of Magnolia, Dax decided the only way to get her out of his system was good, hard physical labor. He’d made his way out to one of the barns at the back of the property and did the only thing he could think of. He climbed up into the loft, grabbed a pitch fork and started pitching hay. The ranch had many hands to help do this kind of work, but Dax needed to burn off the excess energy. Soon, sweat gathered across his shoulders and back as he continued to stab at the hay and move bundles of it to ready it for the herd the following day.
In frustration, he ripped the shirt from his body and threw it from the loft. Damn it! Stop thinking about her. Stop wanting her. She isn’t yours. She’ll never be yours! He threw down the pitch fork, and breathlessly pressed his hands to the sides of his head, squeezing. Just stop thinking of her. Why, why did he have to obsess over her? She’d gotten under his skin. Knew him inside and out. Hell, he knew her inside and out. Even after ten years, the scent of her drove him to madness.
He paced back and forth, trying to talk himself out of going up to the house, making some excuse to see her.
He froze. Was he hearing things, or was that Magnolia? “Yeah?” He spun around, searching for his shirt. Shit! He realized he’d thrown it down from the loft.
“Are you up there?”
“Um, yeah. Just… um… doin’ some stuff.” He sounded unsure even to his own ears.
Then, to his utter dismay, he heard her begin to climb the wooden ladder to the loft. “I just wanted to talk to you for a second.”
With his pulse racing in his veins, he did the only thing he could—he stood and faced where she would appear. There was no hiding what he’d been trying to conceal all along. Ever so slowly she came into view—first, those soft caramel waves, then her too-smart green-hazel eyes, her pert nose and plump red lips. Lord help him… When she finally came to a stand beside the ladder, she wore a fucking sundress. And not just any sundress, a light blue one that came to the middle of her thighs and had white buttons down the front of it. Her shapely legs tapered down into a pair of worn brown cowboy boots. And her white cardigan covered just enough of her shoulders to give her that sweet hometown girl look. It was the same look that had damn near driven him to his knees all those years ago. He cleared his throat. “About what?”
She took a small step toward him and froze, staring at his chest. He had the urge to cover up but stood with his shoulders back, looking her in the eye. If she was going to stick around Triple R Ranch, then she was going to find out. Might as well be now.
“I-I, ah, I didn’t know you had a tattoo.” Her breath hitched and she took another step forward.
He swallowed around his nerves. “Yes.”
As if she couldn’t help herself, she hurried toward him and pressed her fingers over his left pectoral. Her touch seared him from the inside out. It had been years since her fingers brushed his skin, and it felt utterly heavenly. The breath rushed from his lips and he closed his eyes, relishing her touch. She traced the lines over his skin. “It’s beautiful.”
When he peeked down at her, she leaned in closer. Her breath danced across his body and he fought the need to grab her up. But for how long? How long could he stay away from her? They were like magnets, pushing and pulling toward each other at every turn. No matter what anyone else said or how many people warned him to stay away from her, they were utterly inevitable. And right now, this close to her, he felt like a drowning man about to let go and take a plunge he might never come back from. His breath hitched as he whispered, “Magnolia…”
With her fingers pressed to his chest, she could feel the heat coming off him in waves. His woodsy scent enveloped her, like an aphrodisiac to her fiery blood. “Dax, this tattoo.”
“It was because of you. It was for you. And I regret nothing.” Those maple eyes melted into her gaze, holding her a hostage in place. She ran her fingers over the lines of the magnolia flower tattooed into his skin. It was the most beautiful, sad thing she’d ever seen. It was surrounded by barbed wire that looked like it poked into his skin while small beads of blood dripped from them.
It hurt her to see it, but at the same time, she knew he was under her skin as much as she was on his. “It’s beautiful.”
When his shoulders relaxed just a fraction, she looked up at him. “I am so sorry for how I left things. I just thought… I don’t know what I thought.”
“We were young, and you wanted your freedom.” He wrapped his arm around her back, pulling her body closer to his.
His words were low and lulling to her. She leaned into him. “That’s not it. I just thought you’d move on.”
“Like you did?” He pressed his fingers into her back and slid his hand lower, to just above her backside. A flash of anguish passed over his face; his eyebrows drew low over his eyes and he loosened his grip from her.
Magnolia didn’t want him to let go of her—not now, not ever. She leaned in closer. “I made mistakes. I know I have. But you should know I never felt the way about him as I do about you.” It was the truth. The years might’ve dimmed her feelings and she ignored them. But being close to him only renewed that intense connection she felt for him so long ago. It had never died; it had always been there.
“Do? As in now? Today?” He raised his eyebrows.
She answered honestly. “Yes.”
It was like a dam broke within him. He pressed his body to hers, taking her lips in a savage kiss. With a desperation she never thought she’d feel, she opened to him, letting her tongue dance with his. His mouth tasted like mint, and his lips were soft yet so strong against hers. She felt herself melting for him. Slowly, he began to back her up against the wall, one step at a time, until she pressed up against the shelf running the length of the wall.
His hands slid from her back, cupping her rump. He broke the kiss for a second, whispering, “Magnolia?”
It was a question as to what would happen next. She nodded up at him, seeing the desperation she felt reflecting in his own eyes. When he lifted her onto the shelf, perching her, she knew this was something they were never going to come back from. He ran his calloused hands up her thighs, his touch both scorching and soft at the same time. Liquid heat flooded her panties, and her legs trembled as he stepped between her knees.
His hands were everywhere all at once. His lips were pressed against her neck. All she could hear was his ragged, desperate breaths against her skin. When he pressed his thumbs on the top of her inner thighs, she tilted back her head, moaning. Then she felt the give of her panties and heard the sound of the fabric tearing away. Did he stick them in his pocket?
Cool air drifted up her dress and she spread her legs. When his fingers drifted over her, she nearly fell against him. A low groan escaped his lips. “So ready for me.”
“Yes,” she whispered, knowing she’d been ready for him all day long.
When she heard his belt buckle coming apart and the sound of his zipper going down, she had to force herself not to close her legs. She wanted this, wanted Dax in so many ways. This was always going to happen. They were like two trains heading at each other at full speed. Eventually they would collide.
“Ohhh.” She titled back her head as he pressed forward, penetrating her every so slightly.
“Ugh,” he grunted in her ear. “Magnolia.” Thrust. “I need.” Pump. “You.” Thrust. His body rippled between her legs. He rolled his hips, his stomach flexing and shifting with each of his moves. It was a sexual dance only he could master.
Magnolia reached up and wrapped her hand around the back of his neck, pulling him in to thrust her tongue into his mouth. The ragged racing of her heart was deafening in her ears. Wetness coated the top of her thighs. Desire like she’d never known overcame her. She needed him deeper, closer, harder. “More.”
Wrapping her legs around his hips, she drew him in. One by one, he unbuttoned the top of her sundress, exposing her lace demi-cup bra. When he reached past the material to cup her, she couldn’t stifle the moan escaping her lips. Her nipples ached for him, for his touch. When he freed them from the material, he leaned his head down taking a taut peak between his lips, giving it a delicious suck. She arched her back, thrusting out her breasts for more. “Oh, yes.”
She ran her fingers through his hair, pulling him closer. All the while, his hips flexed up into her. This was what she wanted, needed from him. Dax was always heat and passion. He was like air to a fire—the more he gave her, the brighter she burned for him. The sounds he made were jagged and wanting, as though it pained him to be with her. With his lips on her skin, leaving a trail of wet kisses, and his teeth grazing her skin, all her senses were on overload.
The wooden shelf beneath her creaked and groaned under their weight, but Magnolia didn’t care. All sense of control was gone. She could think only of Dax and where they were connected. Her body began to quicken and her muscles contracted around him. “Dax.”
“Right here, darlin’. Just let go, I’ve got you.” Wasn’t that the truth? He always got her. He pressed his chest to hers, cupped her backside and thrust harder. Her body shook from head to toe, panting ragged breaths passed her lips, and drops of sweat ran down her chest.
Dax slid his tongue over the small stream. It was enough to drive her higher. With him there was no such thing as polite sex under the covers at night. This was Dax—he was raw, sexual and demanding. Magnolia had no choice but to give herself over to him, letting his punishing thrusts shoot her higher. When his teeth grazed her nipple, she toppled over the edge and shot into ecstasy. Spreading her legs as wide as she could, she dug her nails into him and pulled him to her. “Yes! Dax!”
“Oh, God, I feel you tightening around me.” He speared her harder. “You’re going to steal it from me, aren’t you?”
“More,” she cried, falling into the abyss that was Dax Everett.
His body rippled, and she felt the hot pulses of his hard length within her. Breathlessly, she welcomed each of them. Then with a final thrust, he stilled within her, grinding his hips against hers, and meeting her gaze while he too found pleasure. Each lapping pulse was scorching, but the intensity in his eyes was what she craved as he never looked away from her. Need, desire, painful yearning all crossed his chiseled features. The muscle in his jaw ticked, and his nostrils flared as he held himself motionless as though telling her she was his and always had been. In that moment, she knew it was true.
They stayed like that, him held within her. Their panting breaths mingled together. He pressed his forehead to hers. And there it was, the thing she’d always been missing with Eric… a soul-deep connection.
“Dax!” Her father’s voice boomed down from the main area of the barn. He wouldn’t be able to see them, but Magnolia’s heartrate skyrocketed anyway. Dax pressed his finger across her lips. “Shh.”
Then he leaned back, calling out. “Yeah?”
“Boy, what in the hell are you doin’ up there?”
“Just,” he smiled, “getting the hay ready for the boys for tomorrow.”
“You work too damn hard.”
“I’m almost done. I’ll be down in a minute.” He took a small step back, slipping free of her.
Magnolia squirmed at the loss, the cool air hitting their mingled wetness, and goosebumps broke out over her skin. Her father called back, “Have you seen Maggie? I can’t find that damn woman anywhere.”
She shook her head back and forth, warning him not tell her father she was up there with him. With the gentlest touch, he cupped her cheek and smiled. “You know, I thought I saw her heading back to the corrals to look at the herd.”
“Okay, I’ll take a gander out there. You comin’ for dinner tonight?”
“Yep.” He tucked himself back into his pants, then reached over to right her clothing.
“All right, I’ll see you later.”
Magnolia was about to open her mouth to say something when he pressed a brief kiss to her lips. “Shh.”
He tilted his head to the side as though listening, then she heard the movement of tires over dirt. “Is he drivin’ out here?”
“He likes that four-wheeler.” Dax chuckled, and for the first time when he looked at her there was a lightness to him she hadn’t seen over the past week. His smile was free and easy, there was no tightness around his eyes, and in that moment, he looked like the young man she’d fallen for all those years ago.
“I can’t believe we just did that.” After everyone warned her to stay away, told her to keep her distance, she couldn’t stop herself from going after him.
“Regrets already?” He froze, staring down at her, as if preparing for a blow.
She stepped toward him and wrapped her arms around his waist, kissing the tattoo on his chest. “Not a single one.”