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.
Queen Esther Payne arrived at noon on September 14th and proved to be a paragon indeed.
Caesar gawked at the copper-toned Amazon who emerged from the stagecoach like royalty descending from a throne.
Queen. Her name definitely suited. Only Cleopatra could have fit better. Maybe Sheba.
The afternoon sunlight crowned her with rays of gold. Kinky black ringlets covered her head, declaring she had a Nubian pride befitting the woman he’d want to wed. She used her bonnet to fan away dirt dusted up by the stagecoach’s departure. Her twisting and turning revealed an hourglass waist above curvaceous hips.
At his approach, her eyebrow curved over a gaze brimming with criticism.
He removed his hat and extended his hand in greeting. “At your service, Queen.”
She donned her hat and examined him with that regal air.
“Miss Payne, if you please. You may call me Queen after the nuptials.” She finished tying her hat’s long ribbons beneath her chin. “Although, even then, I’d prefer Mrs. King.”
“You don’t say?” He chuckled, taking her measure from head to foot. “Well, Miss Payne it is…for now.”
She filled her face with a frown. “I don’t appreciate being examined like some newly purchased cow, Mr. King.”
He pulled back. Amusement wrestled with annoyance. “I’m making sure you measure up, Miss Payne.”
“Pray to what criteria? I doubt there’s a standard for marriages of convenience.”
She shoved her valise against his chest then crossed her arms, causing her lovely bosom to swell.
He inhaled against the pull of desire throbbing in his privates. “The same criteria as you I suspect: my own self-worth and what I deserve.” He dropped the bag at her feet. “So, by that token, I don’t appreciate being treated like some fetch-and-carry boy.”
She lowered her gaze. But for the set of her jaw he’d have taken the gesture for apology.
He leaned forward and whispered, “If you ask me nicely, I’d gladly carry your bag.”
“A gentleman wouldn’t need to be asked.” Her tone dripped with disdain. “A gentleman would simply take it.”
“I do many things, Miss Payne.” He pushed up the brim of his hat and grinned, fired up by the hazel flame sparking in her eyes. “Pretending to be a gentleman doesn’t number among them.”
She firmed her full lips into a thin angry line. “But you do aspire to establish a legacy—like a gentleman would.”
“If marrying you to leave a legacy makes me a gentlemen, then I must agree. Although, your letter made it clear you weren’t looking for a gentleman. In fact, if you had your way, you wouldn’t be looking for a man at all…gentlemanly or otherwise.”
She responded with a slight rise in her eyebrows.
He thumbed over his shoulder. “Our marriage carriage awaits.”
He sauntered toward his wagon, not surprised to find when he looked back, her highness hadn’t moved. But uncertainty colored her imperiousness and rippled in her frown.
“The stagecoach back East isn’t due until midday tomorrow,” he shouted.
“Hmmpf.” She turned her back on him, presenting a bustle-less skirt that outlined a behind, round and ripe for his inspection.
He huffed out a breath, cupped his hands and shouted again.
“We’ve a minister waiting…if you’re staying.”
Of course she was staying. She’d never have agreed to marry him if she’d had another choice. Philadelphia’s Lombard Street, bastion of black privilege it may be, had only one place for a daughter of Lesbos who wouldn’t marry: the insane asylum. Marriage to him here in the West was her last—and probably only—refuge.
She stalked toward him. Her bag made her lean to the side, forcing her hips to rock in a salacious sway. He enjoyed the sight too much to repeat his offer to carry the satchel for her.
As she neared him, the words of the apostle Paul rang in Caesar’s ears.
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
Burn? Try blaze. Their couplings would be for sexual release, not emotional satisfaction. He closed his eyes and reminded himself of the terms he’d set for their arrangement.
Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.
Images of Queen in his bed, naked, moaning and receptive, set his pulse galloping. “As necessary” suddenly took on a limiting quality he now dreaded. And to his surprise, his heartstrings stirred. While neither required nor sought, love had raised its ugly head.
Queen thumped the bag into the wagon bed then tried to climb onto the wagon bench. He moved to help her, but she pulled back as if he’d offered her a rattlesnake.
“You said you were no gentleman.”
He bowed. “Beg pardon, Miss Payne. I plum forgot.”
After a few tries she finally heaved herself up. Caesar chuckled as he watched, not the least bit tempted to offer assistance. Once settled, she scowled down at him from her perch.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mock me.”
“I thought only the devil had the kind of pride that couldn’t bear mocking?”
She gaped wide-eyed at him. “How does an ex-slave know to quote Sir Thomas More?”
“Same as a freeborn person: I was willing to learn and someone taught me.”
“Touché.” She pressed her lips together and stared before her.
“Yes. Touché or, as the bard wrote, ‘A palpable hit.’”
He laughed when her jaw dropped. “Yes, Miss Payne. I’m familiar with Shakespeare too. Does that make you uncomfortable?”
“Uncomfortable, but pleasantly intrigued, Mr. King,” she answered, her gaze still on the horizon.
Damn the woman. This sparring excited him as much as her body aroused him.
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Better To Marry Than To Burn is the perfect quickie for all of you who love your romance reads short, full of battle of the sexes sexual tension with a bit of kink on the side.
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