Her eyes glowed playfully when he loaded the fork with a perfect bite and held it up for her. He slid it between her lips, and watched Charlie close her eyes when it hit her tongue.

It was a damn good pie.

When her eyes opened, he was poking through her box of chocolates, picking one with a look on his face that said fair is fair. Giggling, Charlie snatched her treats and took them upstairs before Nathaniel or Eli tried to steal one… and knowing them they would.

Once up in her room, Charlie could hear the men closing up early, the sounds of grumbled complaints from the drunks who wanted to stay making her chuckle while she brushed her hair and changed into something that was going to drive Matthew to distraction.

Downstairs, Nathaniel saw the discarded valentines, waving them about once Eli left for his rendezvous with Ruth. Laughing over what a fool his brother had been, he teased, “I don’t think I ever saw a girl smile so big for one little box of chocolates. Wish I could’ve seen you buy it. Was Mrs. Fletcher itching to ask you who it was for?”

Everyone knew who it was for. The whole damn town had been yapping about it since they saw him dance at the Christmas Hoedown. Shooting his brother an unamused glance, Matthew went back to counting the night’s earnings.

“You are one lucky bastard, Matthew.” Nathaniel dropped the unwanted cards in the garbage. “She certainly has stars in her eyes. Best marry that girl soon before she realizes what a jackass you are.”

Matthew grunted, looking up slowly from the money. Shifting his mass out of the chair, he motioned to the door. “Head on home now and take it easy on the jar; weather’s been bad and it’s rough road to Chicago.”

Not surprised he was being booted, Nathaniel shuffled out, muttering about what a stingy prick his brother was for not sharing his pie, only to hear the door lock rudely behind him.

Turning off the lights, Matthew headed upstairs to find Charlie lying in their bed wearing something so filmy it glowed like gossamer.

Posing like a pin up, she gave him a hungry, lust-filled look. “When I made your pie, I might have had just a bit too much whipped cream left over.” He swallowed, watching her move to her knees and beckon him over. “It would be a shame to put it to waste…”

* * *

After the wild night Charlie and Matthew had shared, she woke up with a wonderful lightness of spirit. The way he had pounced for all her teasing had been nothing but fun. Her poor little gown had lasted less than ten minutes before he tore it down the middle, past caution from her fooling with the whipped cream. Needless to say, not a dollop was wasted.

Charlie marveled at the man. Matthew could be so gruff and distant with folks, completely assertive in his bearing when he interacted with the community. But when they were in bed, he doted on her in the dark. He didn’t need to speak to make it clear all his attention was hers. And he was anything but distant, took an extravagant amount of time seeing to her gratification—curious and attentive.

Feeling rather spoiled, Charlie sat up.

One look at the mayhem in the room and her jaw dropped. They had done a number on the bed; had somehow moved it several feet during the first, maybe second… perhaps the third round of lovemaking. Items had been knocked off the dresser. Beyond that, somehow the spindle chair had been broken, and for the life of her, Charlie could not recall how on earth they’d done it. When the man looked up to see what she was frowning at, she blushed scarlet, and Matthew actually chuckled at her embarrassment.

Unconcerned with the disarray, certain of one way to settle her spirits, he pressed his lips to her throat and rolled her naked body beneath him. By the time breakfast arrived, Charlie was loose limbed and smiling again.

* * *

Devil’s Hollow closed up for the day so the Emersons, with Charlie’s help, could prepare for the Chicago run. The morning and early afternoon were dedicated to filling up jar after jar of moonshine. Once dusk arrived, she was dropped off back at the roadhouse and the men were on their way.

She found herself soaking in the tub, happy for the quiet. How different it was to be there without the perpetual sounds of customers talking or the hum of the radio.

Home… this is what having a home felt like.

Her enjoyment of the peaceful revelation was shot to hell a moment later. There was a sound—the small crack and scrape of the lock being picked downstairs—that set Charlie’s hackles to rise.

Sopping wet, she moved with the speed of a woman accustomed to adrenaline, pulling on the nightshirt Matthew left hanging on the bathroom door. In less than half a minute, Charlie had her rifle at the ready and the spare shotgun swinging from her shoulder.

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