When the blazing fires of revolt ravage the countryside, Lauren and Sage McCain are trapped amid the flames of destiny. The Civil War has crumbled a Nation, and the Dakota Sioux uprising has turned southern Minnesota into a violent battlefield. Holding On To Heaven is a story of love between two men and a woman, love between siblings, and love that crosses all boundaries and forges all cultures.
* * * *
An indefinable feeling snaked through Creed’s gut when Brand walked forward with Lauren. Anna pressed her voluptuous breasts into his side and wished him luck, but he scarcely heard her words. Tired of Anna’s continual demands of late, the time had come for them to go their separate ways. He’d known Anna for years, but only in the last several months had he succumbed to her fleshy curves. The woman had tried every wile known to female to rein him in, and all had failed. Although warm and eager, Anna had never held his interest for more than an hour or two. But then no woman had ever intrigued him the way Lauren McCain did.
He’d stifled the jolt of lust pedaling through his veins as she watched him during the meal, and it had taken all his reserve to act detached while she sat beside his brother and flashed her cat-like eyes at him. He didn’t like the feelings she aroused in him. They left him sullen and edgy. Jesus, what in hell was wrong with him? He barely knew the she-cat with a tongue sharper than barbs.
Now, with every step she took toward him, the blood rushed to his groin. He wasn’t prepared for the vision she presented, the snug riding pants and filmy blouse. A dark brown ribbon held her hair back from her face before the wild tumble fell down her back in a veil of burnished copper. The color of those silky tresses reminded him of autumn leaves. Brown eyes slanted upward at the corners, topped by arched brows that rose articulately depending on her expression. How had he missed that nuance when he’d committed to memory every other feature of her face?
Tall for a woman and thinner than smoke, he imagined running his hands down the small of her back, her perfect bottom and...hell, he had to stop thinking about fucking her all the time. He had to beat her in the race, and beat her he would. Smiling to himself, he savored the thought of what it would be like to take her down a notch or two. Only then would that smirk be wiped from her lovely face—the I’m-better-than-you-sneer she flaunted now as she sashayed forward.
“Miss McCain, I hope you haven’t gorged yourself.” Inwardly, he smiled when color stained her cheeks. “I’d hate to see your mount weighted down for the final race.”
“Don’t worry about Adobe or me.” She spat the words and mounted. “We’re more than ready to leave you in our dust.”
The gold flecks in her eyes sparked. For a brief moment he forgot about the crowd and longed to yank her from the saddle and introduce her back to the dust she spoke of.
“To your success.” Creed raised his tankard of ale, downed it and set it on the ground near his feet. He spoke to Mason as he swung a leg over the saddle, his words confident and bold. “Let’s be about it then.”
The crowd broke into rowdy whistles and then fell silent at Mason’s words. “On the count of three. One...two...three!”
The horses bolted at the retort of the pistol. Adobe and Creed’s black mare ran neck and neck to the opposite end of the field. Thick clumps of sod flew through the air from Adobe’s hooves as he sailed over the bundles in perfect sync with Creed’s mount. He dragged his gaze from her expert riding skills and concentrated on the race.
Someone obviously had warned her not to look over her shoulder. She rode low, close to the stallion’s mane her lush body one with the horse. The very air enveloping them groaned with a competitive edge he’d never felt before. The spitfire intended to beat him at any cost.
Although fleet of foot, his mare lacked size against the stallion. When they reached the bales at the far end of the field, his time had come to overtake her. Her stallion navigated the crazy-eight with ease, and so did the mare. His moment was at hand. As the mounts crossed over and headed for opposite sides, she dug her heels into Adobe’s side and drove him into the mare’s withers. His horse stumbled to her stifles, her frightened whinnies echoing through the air. Lauren pressed on without as much as a backward glance.
The mare found her footing and like her rider, rage spurned her onward. She made up for the precious lost seconds the reckless stunt had cost them, but not enough to charge over the finish line before the stallion.
The crowd went wild as the riders swept past them in a swirling haze of dust. Damn, the cheating bitch had won. Halting near the corral, Lauren dismounted and bolted from her mount.
Creed dogged her heels, so close, he saw her knees quake. “You cheated!” He advanced and poked an accusatory finger into her chest. “You could have killed me with that crazy stunt you pulled!”
She backed away, visibly shaken. “Whatever are you talking about? You lost, fair and square.”
He screamed so loud, she jumped. “Liar!”
“Your clumsy mount lost her footing and plowed into Adobe!” Their gazes locked, and in that infinitesimal moment, he lost pace with his breathing. “You, Creed Gatlin,” she said her voice quavering. “Were bested by a mere woman so live with it.”
“You’re no woman.” He didn’t know if he wanted to ring her slender neck or toss her to the ground and slam into her until she admitted that she cheated. “You’re a spoiled little bitch!”
An audible gasp fell from her lips before her brown eyes narrowed. “You could never beat me fair and square and you know it.” He struggled to control his emotions. She’d beaten him in the race, albeit by cheating, but why did he sense she was beating him again now?
Her bottom lip trembled and he became aware of her childlike vulnerability, and his potent desire for her. The cutting remarks, the bold, confident persona were nothing more than a façade on her part. Her nearness sent his senses reeling―the scent of woman, horse and leather adding to the roaring chaos in his head. She stumbled on the words she tried to speak and tears filled her eyes.
“Leave, now,” he said. “Before I do something we’ll both regret.”
She raised her dainty chin and held his eyes for an eternity it seemed. Then her long lashes swept down across her cheeks before she bustled passed him in a cloud of dust.