Ben shook his head. Tonight, tomorrow, and every day after that, Ben planned to get to know her. As much as she would let him.
“You’re awful quiet.”
“She’s a remarkable woman. One I want to spend as much time with as I can. I appreciate all you’ve told me, Bill.”
“You care about her?”
“Then you’ll be all right with Dottie and me.”
They walked back to the campfire, where Dottie and Liv were snuggled up under a blanket. Liv’s head rested on Dottie’s shoulder.
Ben stroked her cheek with his finger. “Tired?”
“Content.” Liv stood and put her arms around his waist. “Ready go back to the house?”
Bill handed Ben a set of keys. “You take the old Ford. I’ll come get it in the mornin’.”
“Thanks, Bill. I’m glad you and Dottie got to meet Ben.”
“We are too. Ben, how long you in town for?” Dottie asked.
“Through the weekend. If she’ll have me.”
“Well if she lets you stay, I expect the two of you for dinner on Friday night. You can take her out on Saturday for date night.”
“I’ll do that.” Ben smiled and took Liv’s hand in his.
“Can you drive a stick shift?” she asked as they walked up to the driveway.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Does that mean yes?”
“That means of course. I have to get you back to Crested Butte. You don’t have any idea how much of a good ol’ boy you’ve gotten yourself mixed up with.”
“I noticed you didn’t have any trouble finding your seat on a horse.”
“Did I pass a test tonight?”
“Will there be more?”
“Lots more, cowboy.”
The next day Ben followed Liv around like a mix between a newspaper reporter and a lost puppy. He wanted to know everything about her, and didn’t want to let her out of his sight.
By dinner, she was exhausted. They ate, cleaned up, and sat in the family room. “This house is spectacular,” Ben said, looking up at the cathedral ceilings and the rafters that looked as though they’d come from an old barn. “Did your father build it?”
“No more questions, Ben.” She pushed him against the arm of the couch and put her hands on either side of his head. He pulled her in and kissed her deeply. “You’re trying to distract me.”
“Are you writing a book, Ben? Is this a ‘This is Your Life’ interview?”
“I want to know everything about you.” He pushed the bottom of her shirt up, and put his hand on her breast. “I want to memorize every curve of your body, and every nuance of your soul, baby.”
“Let’s focus on the body for the rest of the night, okay?”
“You got it.” Ben nuzzled under her ear and breathed in the scent of her. “You smell so good I want to bottle you and keep you with me all the time.”
“Ben.” That way she said his name made him want to devour her. He kissed her hard, while his hands roamed wherever they reached.
Ben reared back from her. “Here or the bedroom, Liv?”
He pulled himself up, reached under her back and knees, picking her up as if she was no more than a pillow in his powerful arms. He carried her in and stood her by the bed. He broke their heart-stopping kiss to finish undressing her. When she stood before him naked he said, “Now, me.”
Liv’s hands pulled at his shirt, trying to get it off over his head. “Lean down,” she breathed. Her hands were on his belt, pulling it loose, grabbing at the button on his jeans and pulling down the zipper.
He threw his head back. She leaned forward and licked across his throat, down over his sternum. Ben groaned, “I need you now, Liv.”
Her mouth slammed into his, cutting short his demands. His rough hands cupped her bottom and lifted her. Her legs circled his waist. “Wait,” he said, lowering her to the bed. He reached for a condom.
“I wondered how you got them on so quickly. I thought you had a magic trick.”
His mouth was hard on hers again, picking her back up, putting his hands on the back of her thighs, helping her circle his waist again. “Shh, no talking, remember?”
With a quick snap of his hips, he was inside her. “Hold on to me,” he demanded. Liv wrapped her arms around his neck. He thrust hard again and again, holding her firmly against him with both hands. He started humming, the deep vibration of his voice spread through her and she trembled.
“Fall with me, Liv. Let yourself go.” Liv gasped at his words and cried out.
As soon as her head stopped spinning she opened her eyes, and he was gone. The bed shifted as he lay back down beside her.
“Liv, can I ask you something?”
She rolled to her stomach. “I thought we agreed, no more talking.”
“This is different. I don’t want anything to come between us. I don’t want to use a condom when we’re together.”
Liv hesitated. “I’m not on birth control, Ben.”
He put his arm across her back and kissed her shoulder. “Do you want to be?”
“By the time I do…”
“Finish the sentence, Liv.”
“We might not…you know.”
“What? Be together?”
Ben rolled to his back and looked up at the ceiling, taking a deep breath, gathering his thoughts before he spoke. “Have I given you the impression I wasn’t in this all the way?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Then why are you so hell bent on ending this thing between us?”
Liv had to answer him. He would keep at her until she did. “I’m very independent, Ben.”
He pulled her until she was stretched out on top of him, her head resting on his chest. “I’m not letting go of this, Liv. I haven’t felt this way for a very long time. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this way. I want to be with you every chance I get. Can you please accept that and quit fighting me on it?”
“I can try.”
“That’s all I can ask, but, Liv?”
“I want you to try a whole heck of a lot harder, okay? I want you to let go, let yourself fall for me.”
“I’ll try,” she said again.
“Repeat after me, ‘Ben, I will let myself fall for you’.”
Silence. “Come on, Liv, do it. Repeat after me.”
“Ben, I will let myself fall for you.”
“There, that wasn’t so hard. Now keep repeating it in that beautiful head of yours.”
“I’ll try, Ben. I promise I will.”
He waited until her breathing evened. She fell asleep splayed on top of him, and his heart surged with joy. No more sleepin’ alone, that’s what he was after with her. He sensed the road to it wouldn’t be an easy one, but she was worth whatever it took to get them there.
He closed his eyes and let himself drift to sleep.
Ben wanted to make time stand still, but the week sped by too quickly. Wednesday night they had dinner in town with Paige and Mark, and then went back to their house. Ben had an acoustic guitar with him, and he and Mark went off to jam for a while.
“Was he on his way when we were in the barn Monday morning?”
“No, he called after I left your place. I wouldn’t have lied to you about it. He wanted to surprise you, so you wouldn’t tell him not to come, and so he got an honest reaction out of you when you did see him.” Paige poured Liv another glass of wine.
“He doesn’t drink.”
“I noticed that when we were in Las Vegas.”
“You were too busy paying attention to what the rest of his body was doing.”
Liv blushed. “Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t bother me, but he hasn’t talked about it. He doesn’t talk much about himself. He asks me plenty of quest
“He wants to get to know you better.”
“It’s as though he wants to know everything right this minute. Why is he in such a hurry? It’s not natural…he’s forcing it.”
“Have you told him that’s the way you feel?”
Liv shook her head. “And that’s the other thing. I’m not used to having to tell somebody how I feel all the time. I’m used to being alone, Paige. All this togetherness…”
“How long is he staying?”
“Through the weekend, he says. His boys are on vacation with their mom and stepdad.”
“That’s a lot of together time for you, isn’t it?”
Liv didn’t answer. She was enjoying the togetherness. Even after just a couple of days, she liked waking up with him, spending the day together, being a couple.
“What’s he say?”
“About being together? That he wants us to do it as much as we can. I don’t know how that looks, or how it feels, or what his expectations are.”
“You should try asking a few questions of your own.”
Liv woke up before Ben the next morning, put a pot of coffee on, and went out to the barn to feed the horses. Yesterday he had helped her, today she wanted time alone with her routine.
She stroked Micah’s nose as she led him out of the stall. “Let’s get you outside this morning. We’ll take a ride a little later.” She threw the lead up and over Micah’s withers. “What do you think of him? Seems okay, right? And when he leaves, you’ll still be here for me, won’t ya, boy?”
Ben stood outside the barn door, listening to Liv confide in her horse. It sounded more as though she expected him to leave permanently, not just leave at the end of the week. He wasn’t sure how to convince her he wanted more. Only time would show her that. Only a week ago they were in Las Vegas, and he was trying to convince her he wanted to see her again.
He was impatient when it came to her. The more she resisted, the harder he pushed. He didn’t understand it himself, how could he explain it to her?
He came around the corner and cleared his throat. “Mornin’,” he said as he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek. “I was lonely when I woke up and you were gone.”
“You used to having a woman next to you every morning when you wake up, Ben?”
Ouch. He hadn’t expected that from her. “No, can’t say as I am. I can say though, that these last couple of mornings I liked waking up next to you. Not any woman, Liv. You.”
Liv pulled away, leading Micah toward the panel door at the back of the barn. “Be back in a minute.”
Ben guessed that meant she didn’t want him to follow. He walked in the opposite direction, got his guitar out of the back of his truck, and went out on the deck.
The view was spectacular from the deck that wrapped all the way around the back of her house. In one direction were the big trees that made up the Black Forest, in the other direction, prairie. On a clear day, Ben would bet you could see all the way to Kansas, and most days in Colorado were clear.
He sat down and strummed his guitar. This is what he wanted to do when he was alone. Liv was probably used to quiet mornings taking care of her horses. He’d give her space, he understood her need for it.
Besides her daughter, Liv had lived alone since her mother died. Ben hadn’t found out how long ago that had been yet, but decided that today he’d stop asking her questions and start telling her more about himself. For now, he’d play his guitar. There was a song inside him, itching to get out.
A while later, maybe as long as an hour, he heard her moving around in the kitchen. As tempted as he was to go in and wrap himself around her, he stayed put. He’d let her come to him when she was ready. His yellow pad was full of lyrics and notes. The song he was working on was coming together.
“Whatcha’ doin’?” Liv sat down on the arm of the Adirondack chair next to him.
“There’s my girl.” Ben put his hand around the back of her neck, and pulled her closer. His lips covered hers. What he intended to be a chaste and simple kiss, turned into something much hotter.
He pulled back. “I’m sorry. I do that a lot, don’t I?”
“Do what? Kiss me? Don’t be sorry, I like it.”
“I’m an affectionate guy. My mom and dad were. Still are. They never held back showin’ each other how much they cared. They never held back with me or my brothers, either. Not everybody is used to that, I guess.”
“It’s okay. I like it,” she said again.
“But you’re not used to it.”
“Ben, I’ve been alone a long time. I’ve been alone a lot more than I’ve been with somebody. My husband died before I had a chance to learn how to live with somebody that way. My mom and dad loved each other, and me, but you’re right, they weren’t as openly affectionate as even Dottie and Bill are.”
“I like being here with you, Liv.”
“I like having you here. I’m sorry about earlier.”
Ben set his guitar down, and patted his lap. “Come here.” He pulled her down on this lap and snuggled her into him.
“This isn’t a normal way of going about courtin’ you, I admit that. I should be callin’ you up, askin’ you out on a date, givin’ you a few days in between to decide whether you like me or not. But it hasn’t been that way between us, has it? Here I am, invadin’ your space, not givin’ you much choice about it.”
Liv didn’t answer. She ran her finger up and down the back of his hand, lost in thought.
“Do you want me to leave?” He hated to ask, he was so afraid she’d say she did. He got here on Monday and dug his heels in, telling her he was staying rather than waiting for her to ask him to stay. He held his breath, waiting for her to answer.
“No, I want you to stay.”
He let the breath out, so relieved he started to laugh. “God—what you do to me, girl.”
“I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve never had a man come and stay with me. Ben—wow, this is harder to say than I thought it would be. I should tell you…” She looked as though she wanted to jump up, run into the house, and lock the door.
“I haven’t been with another man since Renie’s father, and that was a long, long time ago.”
Ben tightened his arm around her shoulder, keeping her close to him. Her muscles strained, but he wouldn’t let her go. How did he say this? “I know.”
“You do?” She tried to pull away from him again, and he held her tighter.
“It wasn’t anything you did, or didn’t do. Don’t go getting all insecure on me. It was a feeling. I can’t explain it.”
“It’s the re-virgin thing.”
“The what?” When she smiled he knew he hadn’t hurt her.
“I told Paige it had been so long since I had sex I was a re-virgin.”
His leaned his head back and laughed. He felt her muscles relax as she rested against him.
“Hungry?” she asked.
“Starving. Guess what I want to do?”
“I want to cook in that fantaspacular kitchen you’ve got in there. I’ve been jonesin’ for it since I saw it.”
“You’re on, cowboy. I’m going to give Paige a call and invite her to join us, if that’s okay with you. Paige usually has breakfast here with me a couple times a week. She’s staying away on purpose.”
“Please Liv, it’s your house, you don’t need to check with me before you invite somebody to breakfast. Does Mark usually come along?
“Sometimes. Would you like me to invite him?”
“Yeah, I would.” Ben started to chuckle. “Mark’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. I had a good time last night at their place.”
“Most people say that. And you’re right. Most of the time I’m with them, I laugh so hard my stomach aches by the end of the night.” Liv hugged him.
“What’s that for? Although, you never need a reason to wrap yourself around me.”
nbsp; “You like my friends.”
“Baby, I like a lot more than your friends.”
“We should go out and do something today since it’s going to be warm and sunny. Away from the ranch I mean,” Liv said as Ben and Mark were clearing the dishes. “I have a new horse coming in tomorrow to board. I should be here most of the day, to make sure he’s settled.”
“Tomorrow night we’re having dinner with Bill and Dottie. Is that still on?”
“Yep, Dottie left a message on my cell asking us to be there at six.”
“Whatever you want to do is fine with me, baby.”
Paige got up from the table and motioned for Liv to follow. They walked out on the deck, and Paige closed the door behind her.
“What’s up, Paige?”
“I had to get out of there before I opened my big mouth and stuck my foot in it.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. You’re such a…couple.”
Liv swatted at her. “Oh, stop it. We are not.”
“You are. Making plans, figuring out your day. ‘Whatever you want do is fine with me, baby,’” Paige mimicked him.
“He’s being polite. Stop it.” Liv got up to go back inside.
“Wait. It’s nice to see you this way.”
“It’s nice to feel this way.” Liv turned and faced Paige. “I won’t like it when he leaves.”
“You’ll cross that bridge when you get to it. Enjoy your time with him, and then make plans for the next time you’ll be together.”
“But what if—”
“Really? You’re going to go there?”
“No, I guess I better not.”
Since it was unseasonably warm and dry for late March, Ben and Mark made plans to take Mark’s four-wheel drive up one of the mountain roads. They were like two little boys when they talked about it.
“What do you say? Liv? Paige?” Mark asked.
“Liv will be in, I will not,” answered Paige. “I have too much to do anyway. Go enjoy yourselves.”
Fall for Me (Cowboys of Crested Butte Book 1) Page 8