Colters Woman: Page1
Maya Banks (2006)
Adam Colter drew his coat tighter around him and tugged his Stetson lower as he stepped out into the snow. He started down the winding driveway to collect the mail, his face numb from the biting wind.
Winter had set in, and already he was restless. The lodge was quiet, housing just him and his two brothers until next hunting season when clients filled the bunkhouses. For ten years, he had lived for the fall when he could guide hunters into the mountains. But now he felt edgy. Unsatisfied.
He yanked open the mailbox and reached inside for the pile of envelopes. He turned back to the house, thumbing through the junk mail when a flash of color caught his eyes. He blinked, bringing the object into focus. There, huddled in the ditch, half covered with snow, was a person.
Dropping the mail, he rushed over to the still form and knelt in the snow. Afraid of what he would find, he grasped a small shoulder and flipped the person over. To his shock, it was a woman. A beautiful woman.
He felt for a pulse, holding his breath until he felt the faint tremor in her neck. He brushed snow from her face and smoothed her blonde hair from her forehead. How had she gotten here?
Swinging her slight form into his arms, he stood up and strode rapidly back up the drive. He stared worriedly into her pale face and felt his groin tighten. A sharp tingle snaked up his spine, and he was besieged by unfamiliar emotions. Anger, possessiveness, concern, and pure unadulterated lust.
His cock swelled in his jeans, and his grip around her tightened. He was assailed by the nagging thought that she could be the one. He’d never reacted this strongly to a woman, and certainly not to one he knew nothing about, but he also knew no matter his reaction, his brothers might not be in agreement.
At any rate, he couldn’t leave her to freeze to death. He couldn’t concern himself with what his brothers thought until he made sure she didn’t die on him.
As he shouldered his way inside, Ethan looked up from the couch where he was reading. He dropped the book when he saw the woman in Adam’s arms.
“What the hell’s going on?” he demanded, standing up.
“I found her out in the ditch,” Adam murmured, examining his brother closely for his reaction.
Ethan closed the distance between them and gazed down at the fragile looking woman. “Is she alive?”
“What’s going on?” Ryan asked as he entered the living room. His expression was guarded, a look that had become second nature since his discharge from the military. For the first time in a long while, Adam felt a surge of hope. He’d give anything to be able to draw Ryan out from the private hell he endured. If she was the one…
Adam turned his attention back to the woman in his arms. “I need to get her warmed up. Go draw a hot bath while I get her out of her wet clothes,” he directed Ryan.
Ethan raised a brow. “You going to strip her in here?”
Adam shrugged. “I doubt modesty is an issue when you’re this close to freezing to death. ”
Ethan’s eyes darkened, and he moved closer to the woman. He studied her then reached out his hand to touch her cheek. “She’s beautiful,” he said huskily.
When he looked back up at Adam, his eyes shone with a multitude of emotions. Desire, tenderness and possessiveness. Adam felt a surge of triumph. Ethan felt it too.
“Am I missing something here?” Ryan asked as he returned to the living room.
“Is the water drawn?” Adam asked.
Ryan nodded and Adam strode past him. “Ethan will explain,” he said briskly.
Adam walked into his bedroom and gently laid her on his bed. She didn’t even have a coat on. He frowned as he began to peel her wet sweater off. She was soaked through.
As he pulled the sweater over her head, he sucked in his breath. The skimpy bra she wore didn’t do much to cover her breasts. The second thing he noticed was a large bruise that marred her porcelain skin. It covered an area the size of his hand. And he had large hands.
Had she been in some kind of accident? Is that why she was lying in the ditch?
He set to work pulling the damp jeans from her legs. As he rolled the material down her legs, his eyes were drawn to the dark curls clearly outlined against her underwear. So, she wasn’t a natural blonde.
Suffering only a tiny moment of guilt, he peeled the scrap of silk down her legs, then unhooked her bra, leaving her completely naked beneath his gaze. He didn’t think it possible that he could get any harder.
Every nerve ending in his body was on full alert. All it would take was one touch and he’d explode.
He cursed vehemently and worked to keep his raging hormones in balance. She was unconscious and injured, and all he could think about was plunging his cock so deep within her that he’d become a permanent part of her.
With shaking hands, he examined her limbs for any sign of a break. Her skin was cold, but she showed no sign of frostbite. The bath shouldn’t do her any harm.
With great care, he picked her naked body up and walked out of the bedroom and into the huge bathroom he shared with his brothers. It was the size of a bedroom, with two showers and a huge Jacuzzi tub. The counter that lined one side of the wall had four sinks. A testament to their knowledge that one day one woman would share their lives.
The tub was full, and he leaned over to ease her into the warm water. She let out a small moan but didn’t open her eyes. He held her so she wouldn’t slip down further.
He turned when he heard the door open. Ryan stood there, his eyes hooded.
“Ethan says she’s the one. ”
Adam nodded, not knowing what else to say. He knew Ryan would have to make up his own mind.
Ryan’s gaze swept over the woman but he didn’t move forward. “I’ll wait until you’re through. I wouldn’t want her to awaken with both of us here. It might scare her. ”
“I won’t be long,” Adam said, trying to interpret the shadows in Ryan’s eyes. “Do me a favor and put her clothes in the dryer. ”
Ryan shrugged and backed from the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind him.
Adam returned his attention to his charge just in time to see her eyes flutter open. Soft brown eyes stared at him in shock and confusion. Then fear.
* * *
The first thing Holly became aware of was delicious warmth. After being cold for so long, she was certain she’d died and gone to heaven. Or maybe it was hell judging by the temperature.
Then she opened her eyes and quickly decided it had to be heaven because the devil couldn’t possibly look as good as the man bending over her.
After staring at him for a moment, she realized she was naked. In a tub. With a gorgeous stranger looking at her, completely unabashed by her nudity. Maybe instead of drooling she ought to be afraid.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man said in a soothing tone as he backed a few inches away from the tub. “I found you in the snow. ”
She crossed her arms over her chest and drew up her knees, trying to cover as much of her body as possible. “Where am I?” she asked, hating how shaky her voice sounded.
“Three Brothers Hunting Lodge,” he replied. “Are you hurting anywhere?”
She clutched her chest tighter and shook her head. “Where are my clothes?”
“In the dryer. I’ll give you a shirt to put on until they finish. ”
Despite the warmth of the water, chill bumps raced over her body, her nipples tightening against her arms. The man was positively sinful. His dark hair was cut short, and he had shoulders that would barely fit through a doorway. He was built bigger than a linebacker.
He stood, giving her a good look at his long legs encased in tight jeans. She nearly groaned aloud when she saw scuffed cowboy boots sticking out from under his pant legs. She’d always been a sucker for a man in cowboy boots.
She gasped as he bent over and plucked her from the water. Before she could protest, he wrapped a huge towel around her and strode from the bathroom. She stifled her reprimand as he deposited her on a king-size bed. She gathered the ends of the towel and held them tightly around her.
He turned his back to her momentarily and disappeared into the closet. Seconds later, he returned with a flannel shirt and a pair of sweats.
“They’re much too big for you, but they’ll do until your clothes are dry. ”
He held them out to her, his gaze caressing her face. She should be afraid. She was in a strange man’s house. Naked as the day she was born. And yet she didn’t feel threatened by him.
She almost laughed at the absurdity. Most men terrified her. And with good reason. So why wasn’t she screaming the house down? Why was she laying there staring at him like she’d love nothing more than to strip him down to those cowboy boots? She should be making a mad dash out the door.
Instead, she curled her fingers around the shirt he offered, flushing madly when his hand touched hers briefly. Fire lit his eyes and burned a trail down her flesh as his gaze raked up and down her body.
“I’ll leave you to dress,” he said. “When you’re done, come on out to the living room and warm up by the fire. ”
“T-thank you,” she stammered.
As soon as he left the room, she scrambled up, shedding the towel and yanking on the shirt. It hung to her knees, the sleeves dwarfing her arms. She rolled up each one so her hands were free.
She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on the sweats. When she stood, they fell to her ankles. Hiking them back up, she pulled at the drawstring, trying to make the monstrous pants stay up. They promptly fell back down, and she growled in irritation.
Well, he’d seen her in a lot less. At least the shirt covered most of her. Hopefully her clothing would be dry soon.
She snuck a glance in the mirror over the dresser and winced at her appearance. Her hair was a mess, and the dye job was awful. It certainly hadn’t achieved the desired effect of altering her appearance.
Straightening her shirt, she pulled it as far down her legs as she could and hesitantly walked out of the bedroom door. She moved down the hallway, looking left and right. At the end, she stopped and stared in embarrassment into the living room.
Three men, not just one, stared at back at her. Three gorgeous, hulking men. And here she stood in nothing more than a shirt. She started to retreat, but the man who had bathed her crossed the room and caught her elbow.
“Don’t be afraid. I’m Adam, by the way. ” He led her further into the living room despite her reluctance. “These two are my brothers, Ryan and Ethan. ”
She eyed them nervously and hung back, hoping Adam’s body would shield her from view. “You didn’t say anything about brothers. ”
“I told you the name of the ranch,” he said in amusement.
He reached behind him and squeezed her hand in his. “Don’t worry, baby. No one’s going to hurt you. ”
She shivered. Not from fear, but from the sex appeal in his voice. How could a complete stranger make her feel so safe? She licked her lips. “I’m Holly,” she said in just above a whisper.
One of the two brothers rose from the couch and walked over to her, reaching behind Adam and gently pulling her forward. “Come over by the fire and get warm. ” His husky voice filtered over her like fine chocolate.
Oh Lord, she must be dreaming. “Which one are you?” she asked, hesitating for a moment.
“I’m Ethan. ” He smiled broadly at her. He tugged slightly on her hand, and she allowed him to lead her closer to the fire.
Ethan was as large as Adam. The only difference between them was their eyes. Both had dark hair. Almost black. But Adam had green eyes and Ethan’s were a warm brown, while Ryan sported dark blue eyes. Ryan was slightly smaller in build than his brothers and his hair was a lighter brown, but where his brothers’ hair was short, Ryan’s hung below his ears, just brushing the tops of his shoulders. He had a wild, haunted look, the kind of man a woman instinctively wanted to try to tame. He looked to be the youngest, but Holly wasn’t certain. They were all pretty close in age, though Adam had to be the oldest.
Ethan coaxed her into an armchair next to the fire, and she drew her legs underneath her. She stretched her hands to the fire, letting the warmth seep into her body.
She was nervous as a cat in a dog kennel. All of them were staring at her. She could feel them. Had they all seen her naked? Was that why they were looking at her with such intensity?
Adam walked over to stand by the fire. “What happened to you, Holly? Why were you lying in the ditch? You weren’t even dressed for the weather. ”
She tensed, unsure of how to answer. Her mind raced to come up with a plausible excuse. “My car broke down further down the mountain. I got out to find help. I must have fallen. I don’t really remember. ”
Most of it was the truth. Actually, all of it was, but she wasn’t going to go into any more detail than she had to.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Ryan spoke up for the first time. He looked closely at her as if trying to peel her secrets right out of her head. He was quieter than the other two and more serious looking by far.