Chapter 7

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Ana stared at Colt, digesting the information he'd dumped on her. He had killed someone. Besides confirming her suspicions that he was a thief and bank robber he'd revealed the worst: he was a murderer.

But all she concentrated on was how his hands burned through her sleeves, setting her skin on fire. How his misery-laden eyes were a beautiful, deep brown, with little gold flecks around the pupils. And his firm lips, those lips that had crushed her own with delicious pressure, were within kissing distance.

He'd killed someone, you ninny! Her conscience screamed the reminder. She'd been right to send him away. In so many words, he was telling her the same thing. He was a bad apple that had no business tangling her up in his problems. He wouldn't fight her decision.

And yet.

He'd returned to her home even though she'd banished him. He told her she was the most beautiful person he'd ever seen, that he couldn't stay away from her. He'd rescued a dog from being tortured. He'd spoken to her, a half-breed woman as he would with any woman he was attracted to. What murdering evil person would do even one of those things, let alone all of them?

He'd also admitted his crimes. If he was truly evil, truly intent on causing mayhem, wouldn't he have kept silent? Revealing his crimes was more the act of a man who knew right from wrong, one who realized his actions were against the law. Otherwise, why announce his faults? It served no purpose, except if he wanted to clear the air between them.

He said it more as a challenge, a dare for her to react. But his words, his description of his crimes, spoke more that he was worried about her reaction to him. That he held no shame for being attracted to her, a disfigured half breed bastard woman. Only shame for himself.

She pulled from his grasp, raised her hands to cup his face. At that moment it didn't matter if he'd killed one man or a hundred. She couldn't stop the flood of emotion coursing through her system, the relief, the caring. Or the attraction.

She held his head steady in her hands, their faces bare inches apart. Her heart, heavy a moment ago, floated in her chest like a feather on the summer breeze. Her gaze committed his features to memory. She couldn't stop her reaction to him even if she wanted to. This man had wiggled past the fortifications surrounding her heart, her emotions, with his actions and his words. And shown his vulnerabilities in the process. Now that he was here, she didn't want him to leave. Ever.

"Shsh," she whispered, her lips hovering over his. "I'm not a judge. Not a priest. There's no need for confession here. What you've done is in the past. It belongs in the past. We are here, now. In the present."

His larger, gloved hands came up to cover hers as they cupped his jaw. Maintaining their eye contact, he replied, "Didn't you hear me? I said I've killed people. Not simply stole some chewing tobacco. Doesn't that make you afraid? Disgusted?" His eyes searched hers.

She shook her head while her fingers caressed his stubbly skin, traced the strong line of his jaw. "A man who will save a dog and befriend an unsightly Indian woman is not a killer by instinct, but by circumstance. I'm sure there is more to the story than you are telling." She paused her tactile exploration, eyes searching his. His hands tightened over hers. She gave her own confession under his continued scrutiny.

"Besides, I haven't been able to stop thinking about you, either," she admitted, and succumbed to her daydreams by closing the distance between them, clumsily taking his lips with her own.

Oh, my, it was better than the first time, perhaps because she'd taken the initiative. She knew she had no finesse, that he was years ahead of her in experience. But her mouth on his, his lips responding beneath hers? Sheer heaven. He grunted as she deepened the kiss, pulling her closer. She sighed. His lips were warm, pliable, and he tasted like the peppermint stick her mother would let her buy her once in a while at the mercantile. Just like that child, she wanted more.

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