She’d cried herself to sleep. In his arms. Of course, it might have to do with the fact that he wouldn’t let her go, but Hughes refused to think of it that way. He suspected she’d been up all night, scared and worried for the girls. Reliving old nightmares. Guilt at his part—the largest part—in her suffering hit him.
He didn’t regret getting wives for his sons. Maybe the manner of it. But he’d been angry when he’d gotten back from tracking down his brother-in-law up in New York all these months. And he’d acted first. Maybe the smart thing would have been to talk to Finley and work something out. Trade that old ranch for the woman in his arms instead of the four girls? The two of them could have come to a real agreement, then let his boys court Finley’s girls, if they’d all been so inclined. It could have happened that way. They were the closest neighbors for miles. Proximity would have played a big hand in securing the girls for his sons. All they’d had to do was wait.
Barratt men didn’t wait all that well.
Still, Hughes had been one to not look back in life. What was done, was done. Now they had to move forward. Build the life they had. One day at a time. He thought about carrying the aunt into the house and putting her in a nice soft bed somewhere—his, specifically. But then decided against it. He did grab a saddle blanket from the rail and cover her with it. She turned on her right side and curled up, looking so damned soft and sweet he cursed quietly.
He had to be a dozen years older than the woman. Had six grown sons to her four probably young daughters. He had no business thinking what he was thinking when he looked at her. But he was thinking it, all right.
He was a Barratt man, after all. And they always knew what they wanted from a woman.
No matter what he was going to have to do, he’d have this woman under his roof before the month was out. If he had his way, he’d have her in his bed long before that.
He leaned back on the hay next to her and she shifted closer, seeking his warmth. A honey colored tress of hair fell over her cheek. He brushed it aside, then played with it for a long while as he planned.
Yep, he was going to keep her. She was going to be his.