Title: Better To Marry Than To Burn
Author: Michal Scott
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought...
A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs. Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally. In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.
Frightened and defensive wasn’t how Queen imagined she’d start the first day of her new life in Texas. She’d already been denounced, disowned, and dispossessed back East.
For loving women without apology.
For rejecting marriage proposals without regret.
For leaving everything she’d ever known without hesitation.
Too much had happened for her to feel vulnerable…so why did she? Her future groom saw this agreement as a business partnership as did she. His response to her revelation of loving women granted her a sense of security she’d never expected from any man. Yet, nothing about this brute of an ex-slave matched her low expectations.
Caesar—although brutish in manner—didn’t make her feel unsafe. His quick wit and evidence of learning were pleasant revelations. She also hadn’t counted on him being physically attractive. Perhaps his being handsome (and unpleasantly rakish) created the source of her discomfort.
Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.
The pungency of sage had surprised her nostrils. Had he donned the scent to please or manipulate? She pressed her hand over her heart, fearful he had succeeded in both.
During her trip across country, she’d girded herself in contempt for all things dusty, sweaty, and western. But her contempt waned each time the wagon rocked his leg against hers. She wouldn’t have to shut her eyes or grit her teeth when they made love.
They arrived at a plain, white-shingled church at the edge of town. Queen took Caesar’s hand and stepped down, no longer repulsed by her fate. Truth be told, she had to force thoughts of him in the throes of passion from her imaginings. Ecstasy would look good on him.
Wide, wooden planks echoed beneath their feet as Caesar guided her toward a young man and an older woman who stood at the foot of the chancel.
“Afternoon, Caesar,” the young man said.
“Afternoon, Reverend. This is my bride to be, Queen Esther Payne. Miss Payne, this is Reverend Andrew Warren and this,” He laid a hand on the older woman’s shoulder. “This is Mother Maybelle Jenkins.”
“Mother Maybelle tells me she promised to be your witness,” Reverend Warren said.
“And I always keeps my promises.” The old woman chuckled and patted Caesar’s arm.
“That you do,” Caesar said. He smiled back and gave her fingers a squeeze. Queen blinked, surprised by the warmth in Caesar’s tone and the affection the two shared in that brief familial touch.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Payne,” Reverend Warren said. “Well, let’s get started.”
The old woman stepped back, but leaned forward and whispered to Queen, “Mighty glad your new beginning will help Douglass be fruitful and multiply.”
She turned her smile on Queen as the minister did his duty. Welcome shone in her gaze, but her words seeded unease in Queen’s spirit. Help Douglass be fruitful and multiply? She couldn’t know of the arrangement if she thought this marriage would do that. Maybe she and Caesar weren’t as close as they appeared.
A nudge to her left side pulled her from her thoughts into Caesar’s scowl. She glanced into the minister’s expectant gaze.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Please repeat the question.”
A wry smile slipped across the young man’s face. “I asked if you take Caesar King to be your lawfully wedded husband. A simple ‘yes’ will suffice if ‘I do’ is too hard.”
“No. I mean—of course not.” She closed her eyes, shook her head. “I mean, yes, I will take Caesar King to be my lawfully wedded husband.”
“Then by the power vested in me by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I pronounce you man and wife.” He looked to Caesar. “Please take her left hand, place the ring on her third finger and repeat after me. With this ring, I thee wed…”
Caesar grasped Queen’s hand with his calloused fingers. Queen blinked, surprised by the hold’s gentleness. He slid a simple gold band up to the knuckle of her third finger.
“With this ring, I thee wed,” he said.
Queen gaped at the catch in his voice, at the sheen in his eyes.
“And with all my worldly goods, I thee endow,” Reverend Warren continued.
Caesar pushed the ring fully onto her finger and heaved out a breath that to Queen’s amazement sounded like a sob.
“And with all my worldly goods…” Caesar paused, sucked in a slow, deep breath and released it even more slowly. He took another deep breath and closed his eyes. “I thee endow,” he finished.
The minister placed his hand on their joined hands. “Whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Caesar looked at Queen. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. She swallowed hard, unnerved by the sight. Her lips trembled.
Reverend Warren smiled. “Caesar, you may kiss your bride.”
Kiss? Queen flinched. There’d be no kissing in this marriage. She’d promised to be his wife for two years with sex provided at agreed upon intervals. At the end of two years that requirement would end, and she’d be free to live as she chose. She could go anywhere she pleased, especially with the respectability of missus before her name and Caesar’s promised severance. No. This coupling made them business partners. Business partners did not kiss.
She extended her hand to seal their arrangement. He returned the handshake, but instead of releasing her, his too rough fingers imprisoned hers and pulled her to him. With his other hand, he captured the back of her head and secured her mouth to his.
A squeal of surprise parted her lips. His thick tongue swept into the shelter of her mouth. The assault ambushed her with pleasure and vanquished her resistance.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
If you like Mail-Order-Bride, Marriage of Convenience and Opposites Attract tropes, Better To Marry Than To Burn delivers an erotic spin on them all. It’s a short fast-paced tale where its African-American hero and heroine wage a no-holds- barred battle intent on outwitting the other and remaining emotionally unattached only to be overcome by love in the end.
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Michal Scott is the erotic romance pen name of Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Inspired by the love mystics of Begijn, Audre Lourde and Bell Hooks, Rev. Anna writes erotica and erotic romance with a faith arc, hoping to build a bridge between the sacred and secular, spirituality and sexuality, erotica and Christ, you and a well-written spiritually-stimulating and erotically-arousing story. She uses story settings to give insight into the African American experience in the US. Besides erotic romance, she writes inspirational and sweet romance as Anna Taylor and gothic romance and women's fiction as Anna M. Taylor.
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