A Wild Raven

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14 – this is the last chapter 🙂

◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 1 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
It had been three days since I arrived for my stay on Devonshire Ranch. I was getting paid to help with the upkeep of the horses, plus any other odd jobs where they might need an extra hand.
It’s busy and wild, that’s for sure.
It was a massive ranch, with lots of family running amok.
Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean welcomed me to their homestead on the right of the property. The main homestead was a massive mansion run by Ken Wilde, Trish Wilde and their four daughters and two sons.
The four daughters were Annabelle, Izabella, Bella and Bell… the last two who were twins.
I thought naming them all similar was somewhat ridiculous until I met them, and they were all so utterly different that I just didn’t care anymore how their names crisscrossed.
Annabelle was 35 and a vet, usually in town during the day, she was the eldest daughter. Izabella was 17 and always dressed in black, staring out a window reading a book. Bella and Bell were 16, the only twins I had ever met that didn’t enjoy each other’s company. Bell had already dropped out of school and moved out – more like, ‘ran away’ – to live in town with her mysterious boyfriend. Bella hated boys and just wanted to work hard on the ranch.
The two Wilde sons I hadn’t met yet, although I would very soon – since they had gone off searching for missing cows, as the fences at the back of the 10 thousand acre ranch had been sabotaged and the cows had been chased, yes, chased – far, far away. Timothy was the youngest, fourteen and I was told he was quietly happy to be a cowboy, with a girlfriend, Haline, staying out at the ranch from school for the holidays.
Haline and I had become good friends even though I was twenty-three and she was nine years younger. We hung out together since we were both guests this holiday season.
The eldest son was called Coal, he was thirty-six years old.
Apparently he had – had-had –  a wife from a big city, but she divorced and took their three kids to that big city, on the other side of the world. That happened two years ago and they had been married ten years before that. I did not understand how his ex-wife managed to leave with full custody so easily, but apparently she knew people who knew people who knew all the right fuckin’ people – and by the time she managed to take his kids away, Coal was unapproachable.
At least that’s what everyone constantly murmured about, how changed Coal was. From super upbeat and friendly, to… I guess taking a page out of Izabella’s book. Even though I had not met Coal yet, Izabella just looked angry all the time, I hadn’t seen her smile once, so I imagined that’s what he looked like. Even Haline wouldn’t approach her.
Everyone also talked incessantly about Coal’s three kids, all sons, whom everyone adored, who were raised on the Ranch, until they were taken by the mother.
Honestly, his ex-wife sounded like an EF-4 tornado, either that or Coal was actually the nightmare.
I guess I’d make my mind up on that, on my own when I met him. I hadn’t done much with the horses yet but general clean-up around the stables because Coal was meant to teach me how to tame some of the horses. That’s what his parents had promised me. Ken and Trish had welcomed me to the Ranch because I was a wanderer.
I was just moving about from city to city looking for temporary work, because my past was… complicated.
My father died when I was a baby.
My mother died when I was two.
I was adopted after that, then put into foster care, then just constantly shifted between families.
I wasn’t ‘white’ and I wasn’t ‘native’. I was half, half. And I had no idea what to identify with, I just felt like Raven – me, myself and my own personality, separate from everything else including whatever the hell skin color I had.
But every family I was taken into, either wanted to force me to identify as super religious, or tried to convince me I must be from this tribe or that tribe and I should reach out and connect.
But the whole time I just didn’t care, I barely had a family to start with, why would I care where their families family came from? No one had proof of anything. I was a nobody.
Well, maybe others would care about that kind of stuff, but I found the whole idea of me having a past worth acknowledging, way too painful to even think about.
So far, Ken and Trish didn’t make assumptions about my appearance, which was nice.
They were both amazing and I had never fit in anywhere as much as here, even though it had only been three days… and I was only staying two weeks through Christmas. I, myself, was from a big city, so even though my passion was horses, I had random, limited experience from moving here and there.
Sometimes I’d work at a local supermarket if things got desperate, so I had that experience for a resume. My only possession was my leaky sedan. I say leaky because every week something leaked, the engine, the radiator, hell, one day even the ‘blinker fluid’ might leak and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Somehow the thing still managed to run though – probably from all the money I put into constantly fixing it.
It was stupid to keep it but since it was the first thing I ever bought that felt like my property, I was kind of hard-assed about letting it go.
So, anyway, I was staying with Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean in the guest house next to the main ranch house. They had a spare room which was, I’ll admit, kind of sad to be in. They could never have kids so they tended to house temporary people like me, I guess to feel like they had someone to take care of every now and then. So even already, I felt like I was adopted once again, considering how much they fussed over me.
But for once, I didn’t feel resentment or suspicion.
Probably because I was leaving in a week and a half.
“Timothy,” Haline whispers next to me, already looking like she’s going to cry when she sees two cowboys coming in from the left gate to the front of the homestead.
We had been sitting on the front steps of the gigantic porch, watching the sun set and waiting for her boyfriend to come back.
I had been waiting for Coal… and I’ll admit, I wasn’t feeling any particular way about meeting him.
He was just going to be that ‘horsey-person’ who’d teach me more about horses.
Probably a little harshly, I expected some pudgy, unshaven, holes-in-boots, saggy depressed jeans, sorrowful looking dude who’d no doubt bitch about his ex-wife incessantly. My expectations were mean, unfounded, bitchy even – but for some reason that’s just what my brain did, it painted together an image of the divorced dad who lost his kids and hated everyone.
Or maybe I was projecting since I had no parents and often felt resentment for being alone most of my life.
Um, anyway.
So… anyway…
My thoughts scramble.
I breathe a little funny, as I barely focus on Haline yelling out a welcome to her boyfriend. The two teens embrace but my eyes are focused on the horse coming in last.
The big black horse, Galvin – everyone talked about their favorite. He was the biggest horse, the only draft horse they owned, rescued from some abandoned farmstead. The story went that he had become rather wild until Coal brought him in and fixed him up, now everyone loved Galvin.
But I wasn’t really looking at Galvin.
“Coal!” Trish rushes out of the house, eager to see her first son back safe, she runs down the steps to meet him – but her rush isn’t just past me and that’s it, rather, it’s past me with her hand outstretched and then clamping down onto my elbow with a strength I cannot refuse.
I’m laughing awkwardly as she drags me down out onto the grass, pulling me so swiftly to the side to meet Coal as he approaches from the gate, passing Haline and Timothy.
I was not ready for this, and my hands had been stuffed in the pockets of the extra large coat they gave me – which I now feel very awkward about because it was also Coals. I feel like I’ve stolen it as I hold my hands out of the pockets stiffly, standing by his mother’s side as he walks Galvin up to us, Coal is still in the saddle up high.
I keep staring at the horse’s face – and Galvin keeps looking at me like he is reading my mind.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that look. Coal is one of a kind, isn’t he? You really are crushing on my human, aren’t you, you silly girl?
“…Raven,” Trish had been talking about something, she squeezes my arm, “Raven – this is Raven,” she keeps saying my name, and I look at her and then up at Coal, “What?” I ask her again, “Sorry I…”
“You weren’t listening,” Coal tells me.
I stare at his leg.
I had looked him in the eye once and once was enough.
So the stories were true.
He was the eldest but half related to the rest of his siblings, because Coal looked like me. He looked half native, the same long dark hair, tied back the same as mine, with the same darkest brown eyes… and um, he was kind of very, very, very fit.
He didn’t look thiry-six, that’s for sure.
He looked twenty-six.
He looked damn sexy, that’s what I’m tryna’ say, right?!
“So, Raven?” Trish had been talking again, repeating the question again, but I still didn’t hear what she said.
I had just become an instant introvert, thinking so deep in my head, I couldn’t hear.
I’m too embarrassed to say ‘what’ again, so I just say…
“Yes,” I smile.
I have no idea what I said yes to.
Trish smiles with tears in her eyes and when I gulp and look up to Coal again, he is doing that thing that cowboys do naturally, holding his hands on his left thigh, but he is just looking at me, with the same look Galvin is giving me.
We know you didn’t listen to a single word she said.
“You’re going to love it,” Trish nods to the horse, and Coal leans down with one hand, offering me a leg up…
Did I just agree to a horse ride?
I was not ready for this! I was not ready!
Say something normal, Raven, fuck.
“Nice to meet you, Coal,” I force out a nice sentence, talking to his boot.
That boot comes out of the stirrup, so I can put my foot in while I grab his hand.
It happens so fast, when I imagined it happening slow.
The moment his hand clasps mine – he helps me do the rest.
My body just rises, twists and floats down into the saddle in front of him.
He was that strong.
How was anyone that strong.
I don’t have time to be embarrassed while snug in between Coal’s crotch and legs, because I’m still dazzled by how fast he hoisted me up here like nothing.
I look to Trish with my mouth agape and she winks, knowing it was impressive.
“I told you he was strong,” she laughs and Coal sighs in annoyance but also with tons of love.
“We’ll be back in an hour,” Coal says simply.
His voice is like, entering my bloodstream. I can’t even think straight.
I don’t even know what’s happening.
I should have listened.
Galvin elegantly trots around and then we follow a path into the forest behind the homestead.
I try to put two and two together.
They had all talked about Coal building his own wood cabin, so maybe he was taking me there.
I surmise that makes sense.
It was a house tour – of his small house. Right? That sounds right.
Everything that’s happening with the horse and Coal behind me, hahaha… ha… I try very hard not to focus on the movements, especially the way we can’t help our bodies knocking into each other over and over again.
I just focus on the beauty and smells of the forest.
“I’m sorry, for the smell,” Coal is so softly spoken, so polite, not at all cold like I’d thought he’d be, “I haven’t showered in three days.”
That’s odd… because I thought he smelled amazing.
And that’s kind of what I blurt.
“It’s all good. You smell great, amazing! Really!” I make the mistake of looking over my shoulder, to see his eyes rather intensely studying my reaction.
It freaks me out and I immediately look forward again, holding onto the horn of the saddle so I have something to focus my grip on.
At the end of the trail, Galvin comes to a stop in front of his wooden cabin, Coal jumps off and helps me down second.
I do my best to avoid all eye contact.
He was a cowboy from every girl’s fantasy. No, seriously.
I walk with him up to the cabin’s front, nestled in nature, it’s a perfect camping or hunting spot.
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m barely taking in anything around me. I’m just hyper focused on where he stands or walks or moves, or how he reaches around me to open the door, and waits for me to go first – a gentleman.
I mean, what else should I expect from a cowboy?!
Coal ushers me into the cabin.
Everything is quaint.
There’s a little fireplace, one couch/bed – and a tiny kitchen.
I see three little horses hand carved from wood on the table, and I already know who they’re for.
His three sons.
I try not to stare at them too long, as I stand in the cabin and turn to Coal, as he waits for me to take everything in.

“Do you like it?” he asks, “I haven’t shown anyone yet, I finished building this place myself just before the cows got out.”
“I like it,” I answer, kind of robotically. I like you too, but – fuck, why have I reverted to a twelve year old talking to their crush for the first time? I can’t think any thoughts coherently.
“Why are you here?” he asks me.
“The Devonshire Ranch?” I ask. He nods. “Temporary work. Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean.”
“Their last charity case caused them a lot of trouble and stole from them,” he murmurs, seriously, propping his boot on a chest, “Don’t cause them trouble and don’t disrespect my mother again.”
“I was a little dazed before, sorry, I haven’t eaten, not that they haven’t fed me, I was just… nauseous in the morning and waited,” I think of an excuse, any excuse, “And I won’t cause any trouble. I love horses. I love Galvin. What a beautiful draft horse.”
“He’ll like you too, he does well with any kind of person, stupid or intelligent, so he won’t cause you any trouble while you help,” he explains, “Do you mind waiting here, I’m going to swim in the creek to clean off real quick.”
“Can I come see the creek –”
“I’ll be naked,” Coal explains, not even blinking, “No offense, I don’t want to put you in that kind of position… darling?”
I stare at the fireplace like it’s oh-so-interesting when he calls me darling.
“Oh, of course not, I’ll wait here with Galvin.”
“Good,” Coal likes that I just agreed.
I smile as he turns to a rack where he has a new set of clothes. He grabs a set with blue jeans and a white shirt and walks out quite fast, looking like he is desperate to get away from me.
The way he powerwalks is both awesomely strong and insulting.
Was I that revolting to be around?
I look at Galvin who isn’t even tied up outside, but he waits close by, staring at me, you’re a funny girl, then after the look is final and long enough to make me feel inadequate, he turns to follow Coal to the creek.
I stay outside and sit on the small porch.
The whole place might be small enough for one, at most, two, people – but each part of this cabin is made with intricate detail.
I see art in the wood in random places, carvings of more horses and other wildlife. Owls, turtles… ravens… but most carvings are of the horses.
Coal loved horses too. I mean, he was a cowboy, duh…
I wander back into the cabin and look around, and eventually I spy a letter near the kitchen bench and I slyly fold it open and read it.
I shouldn’t read it but here I am.
Dearest Coal,
Jean and I met a gorgeous girl in town, she’s called Raven.
My heart thumps.
I fold it closed for a second, feeling rather nervous about what is to come next in this letter about me.
I open it and speed read.
She was looking for work as a stable hand. We accepted her for this Christmas period, a bit of extra help is always appreciated and she needs somewhere to stay anyway. I’ll send Raven your way.
P.S. Maybe you could try dating again! Raven reminds me of the kind of girl we always pictured you’d end up with. We’re all thinking about you. Be safe. Please stay for dinner more often, Coal, you know we will always be here for you. Don’t go through this alone.
It’s so personal by the end, I feel guilt ridden for going that far. However, the dating thing, and the suggestion about me is embarrassing but also a compliment. I am conflicted and feel weird.
So I wasn’t just hired to help out.
They were trying to set Coal up?
With me.
A complete stranger?
They must be desperate, if they’re going to the lengths of hoping hired help will bring him out of his isolated thoughts.
I stand at the bench for a long time, my fingers on the edge of the letter, feeling deep in thought.
I hear some nearby crunches outside from Galvin’s hooves… but he walked slower… behind Coal… which meant Coal was already here.
I turn around and Coal is leaning on the doorframe, dressed in fresh clothes, still with dripping wet black hair let loose, drying around him.
He looks at me and my guilty expression.
“There’s nothing of value in here to steal,” he murmurs, suspiciously.
“I wasn’t looking for something to steal, I was just reading the…” the letter. I dig my own grave already. I shut my lips, then quickly add, “I’m sorry… I saw my name on the inside and…”
“It was folded shut,” Coal corrects me, still polite as ever.
He doesn’t make a big deal out of me making a total fool of myself. I’m not sure if that’s nice or him just enjoying making me sweat.
“Your mom is a very nice person,” I say anyway, “And I am very grateful to be here for Christmas. I promise to help out any way I can. I won’t be a nuisance. I’m just… I should stop talking, shouldn’t I…” I trail off with an awkward smile, “I’m very sorry for reading that letter.”
“It’s okay, you’re young, I’ll let it slide this time,” Coal looks me up and down very quickly, raises a brow as if to say, congratulations, you’ve been demoted to the bratty-little-sister role.
There was not a chance that he would date me now.
Why was I even thinking like that?!
I walk out with him, already addicted to his voice. It was so quiet, yet so clear, so sure – and so knowing.
He didn’t say anything he didn’t mean.
As we walk back to Galvin, this time I’m helped up first, and then Coal sits behind me.
I look at the back of Galvin’s mane, patting it to distract myself.
We head off back to the homestead, without a word said between us.
I can feel his eyes though, burning through me with finality.
I’d be tolerated while I was here, and then I’d be sent on my way.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 2 ◉●•◦
Coal’s POV
The new girl was pretty. I’d give her that.
But everything else? Hmm… she seemed a little slow, not hearing my mother speak, and going through my stuff in the cabin… maybe she has some mental handicaps.
I’m annoyed, to be honest. Yet again, Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean were convincing my mom and dad to have strangers on the Ranch.
I was not a big fan of it.
I helped take off the saddle and bridle and I set Raven with hosing Galvin down, giving him a carrot and getting to know him. I needed her out of the house so I could talk to my mother.
I come in through the side of the homestead, straight into the kitchen. Before I can take off my boots, my mom rushes over and gives me a big hug, surprised to see me come into the kitchen.
All the family did was talk about how much they missed Willem, Jonas and River, my three sons.
My ex-wife Cat took them, but we made an agreement that I did not discuss with anyone because it was personal. And I didn’t want anyone possibly swaying the outcome.
I learned a long time ago that Cat was self-centered, but when she was pregnant, even though it was an accident, I wanted my son – and she wanted a husband.
It wasn’t surprising to me that we ended up divorced, but I was determined to end up with my sons, who adored me just as much as I adored them, so Cat and I negotiated. Well… rather, the narcissistic bitch laid out her terms.
She would have the boys grow up in her home city, but when they reached high school age, they’d come to me.
Cat always expressed her disdain for teenage boys and their moods through puberty, so she wanted to palm them off to me for that period.
Originally, it was Cat’s plan, I only agreed because there was a benefit to me.
They’d turn 18 with me, and then they could make a decision if they wanted to live on the Ranch or preferred their mother’s lifestyle. I already knew the answer to that.
Even with the plan in place, it was painful talking about my sons.
And everyone in the family wanted to talk to me about the injustice of having my sons ripped away.
Still, I had the plan in writing, on paper, drafted by Cat, approved by my own lawyers, who agreed, if I could wait until they were in high school, I’d have a better chance at the end of the day in convincing them to stay with me.
Cat got what she wanted, three cute boys to show off around the city. She had enough money to provide for them and I gave them as much fatherly instruction as I could before they were gone.
Now I just had to wait a year, and Willem would be sent my way when he turned 12.
I had already made this wooden cabin as a gift for him – it was never for me.
My mind swims with all this now as my mom pulls me toward the kitchen island, filled with all the food she is preparing with Iza, who is sulking as she peels potatoes.
No one else is in the kitchen for the moment, so I just speak straight to my mother right now, “We don’t need anymore strangers on the Ranch.”
“Please, Coal, you know your father and I don’t mind it,” she keeps her eyes down, lying to me, but protecting her sister’s heart.
I add anyway, “This girl is going to be more of a nuisance than a help to me.”
“Raven is very nice,” my mother defends her vehemently, suddenly looking up with a fire in her gaze, “Now tell me how the ride went with Timothy –”
“I’ll tell you about it later, with everyone else, we found a few things of concern. But right now I’m here to talk about the girl, I don’t need her help, and I’d like you to send her on her way – I’m not interested in dating either.”
“Well listen to me first. I met Raven in town with my sister, a thief tried to steal my purse and Raven chased him down and got all my property back to me. She had no reason to help me, we didn’t know each other, and I know in my heart she’s a good girl… that is why she’s here.”
“And I’m not interested,” I repeat, being a bit tough on it, even though my opinion is immediately swayed, I try not to show it.
“Now don’t worry about that, just help set the table,” Mom uses her firm tone.
“There’s a winter storm coming in tonight, we’ll see our first snowfall,” I add, wanting to change subjects.
“You haven’t been home long enough to check the weather on the news,” my mom is already smiling.
“I just know,” I smirk and she winks, reaching into a draw and pulling out my favorite chocolate bar, dark peppermint, tossing it to me.
I take it and I smile, and my mother has to point it out.
“I haven’t seen that handsome smile in months,” my mom raises a brow at me, “Something changed, Coal?”
I lose that smile, as I walk back to the door, “I need to check on Galvin.”
“Ahuh, don’t be rude to Raven, Coal.”
“I’m not rude –”
“You’re always a bit snappy with girls you like, don’t think I haven’t noticed,” my mom chuckles and even gets a laugh out of Iza.
“Oh, jeez,” I quickly get out of the kitchen, blushing, as I stop quickly and look back in to snap a little, “She didn’t even know what she said yes to, mom.”
“Of course she did!” she doesn’t believe me.
“I haven’t even made enough room for two to sleep in the cabin,” I growl out.
“Then sleep next to each other,” Iza snipes in, “Don’t be a pussy, Coal.”
“Iza, I swear to God.”
Don’t you two start,” Mom starts to yell, “Work something out, Coal – Raven already agreed, and you didn’t say there wasn’t enough room in the cabin when I asked, perhaps you were too busy looking at her as she was blushing at you, so don’t put this all on me like it’s now my problem. Besides,it can’t not help for you to have some company for once out there. Especially if there’s to be a storm tonight.”
“I’ll set the table soon, I need to check on her first,” I get a glare from Iza.
“I thought you were checking on Galvin? Not her,” Izabella smirks.
“Shut up, you brat,” I jump outside and slam the door.
“Don’t slam my doors, don’t throw that peeler, Iza, you kids are so disrespectful,” my mother sighs, exasperated, “Can someone put on some music? Not that trash, Iza, some country…”
I try not to laugh as I walk over back to the stables, to see Raven still hosing down Galvin, and Galvin usually doesn’t like it that much – yet he stands tall and relaxed, letting her get close.
It had been a bit of a test to see if Raven could handle Galvin a little nervous, but she does have a talent with horses, that’s clear, so at least she’s not too green.
I like that she’s small. Her black hair is almost longer than her hips. I like that too.
Raven starts toweling him off like I told her too, to dry him quickly before we put him back in the stables.
I walk up from behind, not saying much, just curious why she acts so odd around me when my own mother spoke so highly of her.
I’ll admit, my mom had high standards with women, she wouldn’t like Raven if she wasn’t intelligent, strong and able.
Raven looks over her shoulder and gets a fright when she sees me, “Oh, Coal,” Raven exclaims, stepping closer to Galvin’s shoulder, as her eyes widen and she looks me over a few times, her eye nervous, “You move so quiet. I didn’t hear you.”
I scratch behind my ear and I don’t say anything, I’m just watching to make sure she does a proper job.
Raven gets a bit antsy now, causing Galvin to notice her change in energy.
He swings his head back and looks at me, stop making her nervous.
I’m not doing anything but standing here…?
I am satisfied she knows what she’s doing thus far, so maybe it wouldn’t be such a burden to have her as a helping hand…
When Raven finishes toweling Galvin off, and he is almost dry, I walk with her to lead him back to the stable – he’ll be safer in here with the other horses from the storm.
When Galvin is in and into his feed, Raven looks up at me, holding her hands together, she boldly meets my eye – wanting to ask me something.
“Coal?” Raven asks me, “You’re right. I wasn’t listening to Trish before. I was starstruck by the beauty of Galvin. I’m sorry, can you tell me what she said? I know it’s a little late to ask but… I think we should start over.”
“Pack some extra clothes, because after dinner we’re heading up to the cabin again for one night,” I explain, “You agreed to stay over… but it’s fine if you prefer to stay at the homestead,” I add.
“I already said yes, so it’d be rather rude to change my mind, wouldn’t it,” she quickly says, “Um…”
“I’ve never met someone who is half native like me,” Raven adds.
“Does it matter?” I ask, confused, “I’m Coal and you’re Raven… you’re beautiful, Raven,” I add that, not to be weird, just telling the truth, which she instantly freezes with, her wide eyes not shying away though, instead holding my gaze. I like that newfound confidence. But then I can’t help but joke, “And I’m ugly.”
She smiles and laughs.
It’s like a bird song.
I gulp with how infectious it is and I try not to laugh with her – lest she thinks we’re on friendly terms and not a boss-employee kind of basis. I don’t mind her wearing my coat, either, I guess she can have it, since she looks even smaller with it on.
“You’re not…” Raven starts to refute what I said, “…you’re not ugly, Coal.”
“Oh, I know I’m not ugly,” I try very hard not to laugh at her for that, “I know I said you’re beautiful but… I’m still prettier than you. I’m the only darling here,” now she blushes with my obvious teasing and she turns away.
“Let’s go back inside,” she suggests.
I walk with her, going quiet again.
She wouldn’t know.
But her presence really had made a difference.
I had talked more in the last hour, to my mom, Iza and Raven, than I had in the last two years combined.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 3 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
It’s an unconventional Ranch dinner, no one sits around all together like you’d think, instead everyone grabs food and moves off to their own little corner.
Timothy and Haline are being cute on the couch playing a board game with Bella.
Izabella stares into the fire and tries to sketch the moving flames into her notebook.
The adults are the only ones who stay seated at the dinner table, Trish, Ken, Jean, Grey and Annabelle.
Coal reports to them all as he stands after eating only a little. I sit away from them, feeling strange, as if I can’t intrude on their private matters about the Ranch, but I feel I can sit with the teens as they play and relax by the fire.
I scroll through my phone on the large lilac couch with my feet tucked under me, resting on an oversized pillow while I overhear the drama.
The only one missing tonight is Bell, who is still missing in town with her boyfriend.
I overhear Coal linking the damage to the Ranch’s fence, to Bell’s mysterious boyfriend, “We went tracking – along all their trash from their camp sites, that’s why you can’t find Bell in town, they’re just moving. My guess is she led them to our best camping spots. That’s why they ended up wrecking our fences and letting the cows out. It was some kind of prank.”
“We lost contact with Bell around the same time that that all happened,” Trish murmurs, “How are we ever going to get her back in line, Coal – she’s too young for this. 16 and already this wild.”
“I talked to her earlier on the phone, she’s fine, she’s not dead,” Bella calls out, “I told you, mom – Bell hates it here. She is never coming back.”
“This is about respect, about family, not about her own selfish desire to do whatever the hell she wants,” Coal speaks with a little projection about his ex-wife, is my guess.
“Maybe I can help,” I speak before I think twice, I sit up, putting my phone down as I say it, “I’ve lived a transient lifestyle for 5 years, I can find her. She’s only 16? I can probably convince her to come back home. I’m not family, so maybe she’ll listen to me.”
As I say it, there is a profound and heavy silence from everyone. Oh, crap. Even Coal looks directly at me, also dead quiet. Perhaps I shouldn’t have offered.
I pray I haven’t completely overstepped the mark, but after the weight of what I said truly sinks in, Trish immediately stands up, scrunching up her napkin, “Please,” Trish starts to cry, “Can you help us, Raven? We have no idea what to do with her – every time we bring her back, she runs away for longer!”
“Calm down, love,” Ken was always quiet, but when he spoke, it was final, he holds his wife’s hand, gets her to sit back down and then he looks me dead in the eye, “Yes, Raven, thank you, we’d appreciate any help we can get with our young daughter.”
“Does your sister ever tell you where she is?” I ask Bella.
“Nope,” she shrugs, uncaring, “She just sends a message every now and then to say she’s fine.”
“I’ll go into town and look tomorrow,” I suggest.
“You have to be careful. She is with the ‘Freshies’, Raven, a bunch of hippie transients from the city that are addicted to ice, they chased the cows off with motorbikes – just for the hell of it,” Coal adds, “It took us three days to find all three hundred that got out. Do you have any idea how quickly that would have ended this Ranch – if we didn’t find all of them?” he directs his attention to all the adults, “Or if all of the heifers had been out on the north end of the property? Their joke could have ended this,” Coal is clearly furious, before he also calms down as he glances back to me, “I’ll go with you tomorrow to talk to these idiots, if we can find them. They’re always hiding. Especially when they see my pick-up, they scurry off like cowards.”
“They could be dangerous if they have weapons,” Aunt Jean murmurs, hand over heart, “Maybe we should just call the police?”
“I don’t want a firefight if they pull guns on the police. Bell could get killed. We don’t know how reckless they are with the law. They have her well under their influence, we have to do this with her life and safety in mind, we have to move quietly,” Trish hisses, protectively.
“I know what it’s like to want to run and be ‘so cool’ and enlightened living on the fringe of society, or I understand the reasons behind it – I’ll talk to Bell,” I add, confident I can understand her and convince her to come back, especially if I share some of my own risky stories.
Living free was an ideal, but it was far from ideal.
It all depends on your reason why, who you’re with or if you’re alone – what you know and where you want to be, where you want to go.
Maybe I could help.
“Good luck, Raven,” Bella looks at me, “…my twin doesn’t listen to anyone. She’s the most stubborn one in the family. Second only to Coal. She’ll go wild too if you upset her. So mind her temper.”
“Absolute brat,” Coal growls out, in agreement.
“It’s true, she won’t listen to any authority,” Timothy speaks up too, looking disappointed in her, “Not us. But maybe Raven.”
“She’s running away from something,” I murmur under my breath.
I just have to find out what.
However, I also realise quickly with a heavy heart that what I just offered all of them, will raise their hopes at bringing a daughter and a sister, back home.
I see that expressed clearly when I glance up to see Coal as he leans on the kitchen bench, looking me over, not staring rudely but clearly thinking deeply to himself – can she do it? Or is it all words and bluff? An attempt to extort money? An attempt to get even closer to the family and manipulate them for my own benefit?
I didn’t want to do any of that.
All I wanted was simple, I didn’t want to let any of them down.
Especially not Coal.
In my promise, I was most worried about impressing him, I’ll admit – or perhaps disappointing him.
Coal clearly expected the worst in people when he had once been the optimist and full of heart. He was clearly hurting and did not trust people like me.
Then there was his own young family, taken from him, which really tugged at my heart strings. I saw how Coal walked with three shadows, one for each absent son.
While I had no parents, he had his sons ripped from his life. Somehow, someway, that was intriguing to me, like a magnet, I was drawn to his sorrowful eyes. Maybe it’s because he was older too by 13 years. Maybe I had daddy issues, oh god, I inwardly roll my eyes at myself – I certainly hope not.
Outside the homestead Coal was sweet to me just before as I washed down Galvin, a real attempt at coming out of that darkness, but it was with such vulnerability attached to it, it had made me very shy.
When he called me beautiful… it almost felt like a cry for help.
I felt like I could answer that call if he was open to it.
I wanted to look after his heart.
I had just met Coal, and I already felt like that’s what I was here to do.
Just be.
However I ended up in this situation, it felt like Coal and I met at the right time.
Was I crushing?
Kinda? Ok, yeah.
Very much yeah. I was hard crushing on this lonesome cowboy.
But before tomorrow began and we could search for Bell together – I had to survive the night with him in his tiny wood cabin.
Hopefully it wasn’t… you know… awkward.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 4 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
The rest of the dinner passes by with little more said, and I find myself leaving the area to pack a bag for the sleepover at Coal’s cabin. I assume we are walking up there, but it isn’t far so time shouldn’t be a problem.
I make a quick detour though, namely to the shower to shave… with some weird idea in my head that if there is even a 0.01% chance of seducing this lonesome handsome cowboy, I want to be ready, you know what I mean?
It was fanciful to think so, since we just met… but plenty of people who just met… ended up dancing in sin. So, yah know, why not us?
I might take a little longer than Coal expects because I walk out onto the porch at the front to see him waiting with a frown on his face as twilight turns to layers of grey darkness.
I clutch my backpack straps in both hands as he stares at my clean black hair, which I braided meticulously over my right shoulder, even putting on a tiny bit of strawberry flavored lip gloss. Nothing too crazy, I was hoping he wouldn’t notice, although his perfect eagle eyes narrow and focus on my glittery mouth. I purse my lips and he sighs silently.
“Let’s go quickly before it gets any darker,” Coal turns and heads off down the porch. He salutes his mother, who is hiding in the shadows. I didn’t see Trish there.
I turn around to see her finishing a cigarette, and she smiles.
“Be safe, darling,” Trish waves me off and I smile back.
“We will!” I feel weird saying that, as if his own mother just told us to have safe sex or something. I know that’s not the case, but my mind can’t help but go there. He was too sexy for my own good. Even the way he walked. It was a damn classic cowboy swagger.
Coal follows the dark trail and I run to catch up, walking fast once I am by his side.
We both wait until we are out of hearing range from the homestead and deep into the trail, before we both talk at the exact same time.
“So, it’ll be –” I start.
“Did you enjoy dinner?” Coal awkwardly finishes his short question and we both look at each other quickly and then both stare hard at the trail in front of us.
“Yes,” I answer, “It was beautiful,” weird way to describe dinner, Raven, why the fuck couldn’t I have just said, good? Or tasty?“I was going to ask… you… I mean the cabin fire, it’ll be hot, no, warm, it’ll keep us warm, won’t it,” I completely forget how to structure a sentence, and I have no idea why I even asked a question that has an obvious answer. What I meant to ask, was will the fireplace heat up the cabin enough with the storm coming in?
“Good question. The fireplace might provide warmth, but you know how technology is nowadays, the dry wood I stored in the cabin might not light with the dry matches I also have stored inside, way out of the damp… depends, really, darling, we might just freeze tonight,” Coal speaks so seriously but I know he is teasing the hell out of me.
Oh yes, very funny, I just meant, because there is a storm coming,” I murmur. Coal goes quiet.
We don’t speak the rest of the walk. I guess because I didn’t ask anything.
It is awkward for about thirty seconds, then it tapers off to just both of us looking at the clouds rolling in, and the animals scattering underground for warmth, or into their nests for shelter.
When we finally reach the wood cabin, it looks even smaller at night.
Coal opens the door and jumps in first to light one of the oil lamps hanging by the door.
He immediately throws his own bag down by the fireplace and squats to light the wood.
I sit on the couch, which is to be the bedding tonight.
It is slightly larger than a single bed size. Slightly. Covered in multiple comfortable blankets… and one large pillow.
The little kitchen he has stored in the corner has a gas stove, and I focus my gaze on the tea.
“Can we have some tea?” I ask, “We should tell each other some scary ghost stories.”
Coal actually smiles, amused as he looks back at me, “Sure.”
After a moment, he winks at me, then turns back to stoking the fire.
The wink does it for me. It was too smooth.
I blush so red, I hope he doesn’t turn back to see me die of embarrassment.
I walk to the gas stove. I already know how to use one of these.
Coal is quick about the fire, it ignites across the kindling and spreads to the logs quickly.
I fill a kettle and set it to boil over the blue flames.
I’m glad I can do something and not look totally useless.
Coal walks around to the large chest and opens it up, taking out new candles.
I watch him tear off the packaging and set the candles to burn on the large window sill he installed opposite the bed.
I watch the water impatiently, waiting for it to boil.
In the distance, we can hear low thunder as snow starts to gently touch the window panes.
Coal walks over to the bed, places my bag on the floor near his and kicks off his boots as he lays across the whole couch.
I don’t know what he is playing at, taking up the whole space, I thought we’d sit next to each other or something.
I glance over to see him crossing his arms over his chest and just watching me stand stoically by the kitchen.
“I don’t know how we’re going to sleep tonight,” Coal murmurs, and it’s sexy, but I know he is just exhausted from the riding, too, “There’s not enough room for both of us.”
“Yeah, it’s so awkward now that I came here,” I just state the obvious and it takes the awkwardness right out of the situation by facing our biggest issue directly.
Coal slowly grins, “I feel awkward too for just letting this happen… but what’s life without some spontaneity… so… darling… what’s your story?”
“Orphan. Well, more a foster child,” I change it to that, “Pretty unstable childhood. I found peace in my sedan. I love that car. I love freedom. I’m completely alone in the world, but I like it that way. Besides, it’s not always lonely, I like helping out at farms or ranches – anywhere with horses. I’m a very simple gal’. And I mean no trouble. I mean it. Trish said I could stay for Christmas, then I promise, I’ll be…” before I can say ‘gone’, Coal interrupts.
Well hey, thanks for chasing that thief down, you really impressed my mom,” Coal looks at me intensely as we lock gazes over this.
I focus a bit too much on his timed interruption.
He didn’t want me to go.
Don’t think about it. Shit.
I needed to think straight, not crash and stumble into more ditzy thoughts.
“It was nothing, and I’ve always been a fast runner – the guy was drunk, I grabbed her purse, shoved him off balance and ran back. The thief fell over his own feet and took a nice nap on the concrete,” I explain, not expecting Coal to laugh good-naturedly.
I feel warm inside with pride. I had not thought about the good deed being anything special, anyone would have done it if they saw what happened. But Coal makes me feel like a saint – he seems impressed, too.
“So, you’re not only beautiful but you’re a real cowgirl too, you have the temperament for it,” Coal, at the corner of my eye, is definitely flirting now. His tone changed, it’s deeper and so respectful at the same time.
“You think I’m a cowgirl?” I ask, thinking it’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever received in my life but trying to play it cool, “How do you like your tea, it’s starting to boil.”
“I prefer without milk,” I murmur.
“Woah there, calm down cowgirl, that’s a lie if I ever heard one, who likes black tea, it’s way too bitter,” Coal sits up. So now he wants to playfight about tea? I try not to shake my head.
“The cups? The milk?” I murmur instead, “And the spoons, where–” I trail off as Coal hops out of bed, jumps to the other side of the cabin, out of sight, as he opens a draw and cabinet to retrieve our cups and spoons.
I wait for him to drop the items off next to me, I don’t know how to react as he pops everything down on the bench – life-long milk, two cups and two spoons – only to stay next to me and reach over to turn off the gas. I had forgotten to do so, I had just been staring at it boil while we spoke to one another.
I pass him the tea bags and he opens the milk, my shoulder is literally touching him, and it makes sense, considering how squished we are sharing the space in the corner, but I’m not complaining that he is right next to me… I just hope I don’t shake with nerves when I pour the water.
Coal holds the milk while I pick up the heat proof handle, carefully pouring the water. I fill up his cup first and mine last.
My hand trembles a little bit, but the water doesn’t spill.
I wait for him to move off but he doesn’t. He wants to stay close for a moment longer while I stir my cup and turn a little toward him.
We face each other, and I eye off the couch.
He follows my gaze and then quickly glances back to me, “Oh, no, you’re sitting on the floor, darling,” he says quietly.
“I’m your guest,” I complain, lightly.
“I’m kidding…” Coal whispers and now stands back and holds out a hand to usher me along, wanting me to sit first.
I do, quickly moving past, I sit on the other side, away from the fire, so he can be closer to it, as I cross my legs under me and hold my cup under my nose.
Coal looks slightly disappointed I squished myself into a corner, but he doesn’t press it.
He reclines back on his side, his back to the wall, his legs sprawled out toward me, but he keeps his toes from touching me… not that I’d mind.
“The storm is picking up, I can feel the chill,” I choose small talk, “You just sleep out here every night… why?”
“Mid-life crisis I guess.”
“You’re only… 36, that’s not mid-life…” I don’t think.
“Just wait until you’re near 29, every girl freaks out that they’re getting old by that age,” Coal warns me, “Enjoy your twenties while you have no responsibilities.”
“I’m not that precious,” I roll my eyes.
What are you?” Coal asks so intensely, I feel put on the spot.
“A… girl,” I answer, looking over at him with furrowed brows, “What do you mean, what are you?”
Coal shrugs one shoulder and just keeps looking at me.
His black hair has dried into waves and he looks pretty tired to me.
“You should sleep, maybe we can tell scary stories another time,” I suggest, “You look exhausted. I can sleep sitting up. I’ve done it before.”
“Don’t make it weird… darling, come on over, you can lie down, I was just teasing you before and you look pretty tired as well,” Coal sits up and looks a little more awake as he scoots over and pats the spot next to him. He sips his tea. I move a little quick perhaps. I move close, eager to get closer to the fire. I turn to sit back on the other half of the giant pillow.
Coal’s arm moves down around my shoulders, but he literally has nowhere else to put that arm.
I don’t mind it, and besides, now our sides touch all the way down, and it’s not weird at all.
If anything, besides it being cramped, it’s very cozy.
Pure darkness sweeps over as darker and darker storm clouds roll in, and the flames light the walls, including the two candles adjacent to us, and the oil lamp by the door.
“It’s… so… so… peaceful out here,” I murmur.
“Sometimes being alone isn’t a bad thing,” Coal adds, and we sip our tea at the exact same time, as if drinking to it.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” I murmur back, as I casually place my hand on my stomach, over the oversized coat, to stop it being squished between my leg and his hip.
“My family thinks it is,” Coal drawls, “But I have no trouble being alone.”
Quiet descends us, and it’s comfortable, but I want to vent a bit too.
So I talk, suddenly.
“When I was eight, I ran away from my foster family, across the road, into the graveyard, and I saw a shadow of a big dog following me,” I blurt out, thinking of the scary story I wanted to say, “…but I wasn’t scared by it… I actually sat down next to a random gravestone and it sat down next to me. I never looked at it directly, knowing better. I just sat there and cried because my foster family beat me for eating a second plate of food that night. They were very religious and very strict about their ‘house’ rules. Sorry – I didn’t mean to… I don’t know, I was meant to say the paranormal bit, not the sad bit,” but there, I’ve said it, and I don’t regret it.
“I didn’t grow up particularly religious, but what you just described, I bet it was a spirit guardian of some kind, rather than something evil… when I’ve been… sad… I’ve seen the shadow of an animal too. But I thought it was a coyote. I’m not sure… also, I’m sorry you had a tough childhood… and I’m sorry that saying sorry is pointless… but I do mean it,” the fact Coal takes the paranormal story as fact, wins me over even more.
I can’t finish all the tea. I’m too full.
I set it on the floor, and Coal also passes me his.
He seemed to be done as well, even though his tea was half full too.
I place his down next to mine, then I get comfortable against the pillow again.
I look up at him, however, wanting to see his eyes again.
When I look up, he is looking down at me, and he stares without blinking – yet it’s soft.
I smile as I look down, to see his hand move.
He lifts his hand up to hover over mine, and then he gracefully picks up my hand in his and examines my fingers.
“Look at how clean your hands are, and how dirty mine are,” Coal murmurs, “And we both washed. How is that fair?”
“It’s set in on you,” I laugh lightly, “I bet you never stop working, huh?”
Coal keeps holding up my hand between us, and before he can slip his away, I curl my fingers through his.
Just a small signal to say it’s okay, I like it when you touch me.
I don’t expect much to come of holding hands, but Coal goes rather quiet.
A few seconds later and… fuck.
“I’m sorry,” I chicken out, trying to take my fingers back. It was probably too much, I made it weird by squeezing back, didn’t I –
“No… no,” Coal squeezes my hand back before I can tug away, “It’s fine…”
My heart is racing at our hands being interlocked, forging some kind of fire between us, fire I feel racing up my arm.
Low thunder rumbles right above the cabin, and I am glad we hold hands as my eyes fly to the ceiling.
The wood shakes a little with the sound.
Just a little.
A bit of guilt was on my mind, and I had to bring it up…
“I’m sorry I read your letter,” I whisper.
“I’m not… it’s fine… sweety,” Coal murmurs, quieter and quieter, as he lightly releases my hand. He puts his arm up over his head, getting comfortable, he leans back and closes his eyes.
He keeps his other arm around my shoulders, and even tucks me closer, just a bit.
Coal is keeping me warm, and I’m keeping him warm too, so I don’t mind. We don’t even need a blanket.
I turn a little in toward his chest, carefully putting my cheek to his shirt, and my hand over his ribs. I close my eyes with him.
I feel protected.
Protected and warm.
And even the fact he let my hand go after a bit, sealed the deal.
He was a gentleman. He wasn’t pushing anything.
I really, really liked that.
I didn’t want to rush whatever this was, but right now, we were both exhausted, and both ready to sleep together.
At peace. Total strangers. Total effing strangers.
But I liked this man. I liked his gentle nature, his humor, his random moments of shyness. I liked his confidence too.
Quiet confidence was super, super sexy.
Damn. Coal felt like home to me, I just hoped that maybe he felt something similar in return.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 5 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
I dream of all kinds of peaceful scenarios, swimming with whales, to climbing mountain peaks, at some points I’m flying above it all, just gliding between clouds. I cannot stress how rare this is for me. I never sleep this well, especially being alone most of the time, I’m always on edge.
But not last night.
I’m thinking about this as I’m becoming lucid, closer to waking.
Eventually my eyes peel open and my nostrils flare with the smell of a hot, fresh breakfast.
The cabin is warm, very warm, and presently empty.
I stretch with my arms above my head as I sit up to see a pan sizzling with eggs and bacon, just cooked.
The sound of the door shutting woke me up, I think. I hear Coal’s footsteps crunching around the cabin.
I take a minute to understand how on Earth I just slept so well that the sun is shining over my legs.
Maybe this too, is a perfect dream?
I sit with my head back against the wall and then notice the fluffy blanket.
Coal must have wrapped me up in it when he woke up earlier. I take it off and stand up, yawning as I stumble over to see the food.
It looks so good and smells divine.
Coal must really, really like me, to make me such a generous breakfast.
I need to pee though, and I noticed an outhouse built separately to the cabin yesterday, so I put on my boots and reach for the door, just as Coal opens it back up.
He swoops in, and I twirl to avoid getting barreled over by the spritely cowboy.
“Morning sleepy head,” Coal murmurs to himself as he walks in wearing a fresh patterned shirt and jeans, like he’s been back to the homestead and… well… I hear a horse whiney and I glance outside to see Galvin, too.
I tug on my messy braid as I look at Coal with sleepy eyes.
“How – I mean, when did you get Galvin all saddled up?” I ask, my voice husky, “What time is it?”
“I get up early, sunrise, 6am – it’s now 11am,” Coal answers me, snappy and short, a whole other mood from yesterday – I feel like I’m talking to an irate boss, “And that’s your breakfast,” he points to it, a bit in a rush, “We have to go into town. Remember?”
Oh, shit!
For Bell – we were going to look for her in town. And I just slept like the dead, without meaning to waste half a day where I promised to do something so important for them. Fuck, fuck fuck –
“Oh, I’ll hurry,” I promise him, turning to haul open the heavy door.
Coal asks when I’ve turned my back.
“Did you just wake up?” he asks.
“Y-yes, I was going to pee,” I say over my shoulder. Coal nods, as he kicks back one boot on the wooden chest and crosses his arms over his wide chest, watching me rather seriously, “I don’t usually sleep in this much,” I blurt, “It’s not like me,” I turn from him and exit the cabin to go to the outhouse, too nervous to see what his reaction would be.
He’d probably scoff.
Or say something I didn’t want to hear.
So I scuttle off before it happens.
I do my business quick. Once relieved, I feel slightly more awake, and even more embarrassed. I use a small cracked mirror in the outhouse to take out my braid, which feels too tight and screwed up now. I let my hair free in waves and ringlets as I rush back to the cabin.
I already know, feeling it deep in my gut, this rich cowboy probably resents making me breakfast, a stranger who was taking them all for granted in his mind. I didn’t want to come across as not hard working, but of course I sleep the entire morning away.
I just didn’t expect to sleep in, fuck this!
Freaking out internally, I see Galvin followed me the short walk to the outhouse. He walks along side me as I hurry back to the cabin.
I pat his neck and shoulder at the door, he stays awfully close. Maybe he just wants to see Coal.
I even feel embarrassed that Galvin is giving me so much attention by the time I reach for the cabin door, but Coal opens it to see Galvin’s head over my shoulder.
I smile awkwardly, “Galvin really, really likes me, it seems,” I say, while Coal almost smiles.
“Carrots, he has a thing about carrots, and you fed him one yesterday so he loves you now,” Coal reaches into his coat and pulls out one for me to hand feed Galvin at the door.
I take the carrot off Coal, and turn to Galvin.
It’s gone, only in my hand for a second.
Galvin snatches it, throws his head back and walks off as if he just accepted his trophy.
“Ha, funny horse,” I jump up into the cabin. I turn to see Coal putting the breakfast on a kitchen board.
He stares at the couch-bed, waiting for me to sit where he stares. I obediently strut over and sit, and he places the board on my lap, and a fork in my hand.
“Didn’t think I’d be babysitting you,” Coal murmurs over my head, while I go red in the face.
Hey,” I try to think of a response, but Coal genuinely looks annoyed I slept in, and his brow is rising slowly as if he does not want to hear any excuses, “I’m… thankful, thank you for breakfast,” I grumble, changing my response at the last second. With my thanks given, Coal’s annoyed brow moves back down and he leans back against the center wood pillar in the middle of the cabin, which was more a decorative piece, but also had places for hanging up spare coats and what-not. He leans back on it and watches me take a bite of the food he made me.
“Mm,” I nod at how delicious it is and Coal just waits – impatient, “Very nice… do you have any errands to do in town, or are we just going after Bell?” I ask, “Should I go back to the homestead and change into something fresh?”
“I need to buy a few things,” Coal murmurs, “But we’ll focus on tracking down Bell. I think I know where she will be. You look fine, unless you want to change.”
“Nah, I’m okay like this, it’s still cold even with the sun out,” I finish off the breakfast nice and quick and just as I eat the last bite, Coal takes the board from me and places it up on the bench top.
I stand up and watch as Coal hurries to the door, looking quick and efficient, muttering under his breath, “Let’s go.”
I know he sounds a bit slighted by me, but I try not to comment. He helps me up onto Galvin and sits behind me. The ride back is dead silent between us, and I’m wondering if he is starting to hate me.
We were cute while it lasted with the storm, but truly, we didn’t know each other, and I guess exhaustion just made us too tired last night to keep any defenses up.
I guess somewhat foolishly, I thought we had some kind of connection, but maybe I was wrong.
We borrow Trish’s pick-up truck, since my car is too unreliable and we weren’t going to take Galvin into town.
As Coal drives, I try to explain myself, since it’ll be ten minutes before we arrive, “…I was so at ease, for the first time in so long, that’s why I slept so well – I never sleep well,” as I say it with honesty, Coal is quiet, but only for a few seconds.
“I’m not angry with you, Raven,” Coal speaks clearly, “Thinking about my little sister makes me mad – she brought those pieces of trash to our property and destroyed our fences, my own sibling sabotaging our family business, it’s humiliating – I thought Bell was smarter than that… it’s this new generation, since when is family a bad thing, we’ve always been there for her, and this is how she repays us,” as he growls it, I calm down a bit. Of course it was Bell and her unruly ‘friends’ he was upset with. They destroyed ranch property. I don’t know why I made his mood about me, “Do you know what you’ll say to her?” Coal looks at me now, a bit kinder, calming down now that he had a chance to vent out his frustration.
“I have an idea. Since you’re the big brother, are you always hard on your younger siblings?” I ask it lightly, “Have you ever interfered with Bell going out before?”
“She was never allowed outside past dark,” Coal murmurs, “But that goes for all the kids.”
“Well, getting to know her twin Bella, she seems like a home-body – and everyone always compliments her work and study ethic, is Bell… the opposite?” I ask, “I’m just assuming since some twins are polar opposites.”
“In every way imaginable, Bell is nothing like Bella,” Coal shakes his head, angry just thinking about it, “She just craves to do stupid things.”
“I already think she ran away because she may feel misunderstood, that’s the theory I’m working with, after all, she’s young and every teen is finding what they like by being risky with some things,” I say it quietly, hoping not to jump the gun, or accuse Coal of being an overdemanding big bro, “I could be wrong just… how I see it, she’s trying to say something and no one is listening. So she’s acting out. Pretty simple.”
“It’s also her boyfriend, Brandy,” Coal’s tone goes ice cold when he says his name. He is so protective, it even makes me nervous how his fingers clench on the steering wheel, “He rides a Harley and she likes that. He’s 19 – he can’t even be with her.”
“Another reason she ran out, I assume,” I murmur.
“I’ve threatened him before, but he’s not all there,” Coal leaves it at that.
I think I know what he means.
The whole situation is a cock-tail of shit. The bad boy, probably convincing her to do drugs and run away, be free and ‘independent’ all the while, she was just a kid, at 16, she was trying to find her own path but this was high risk behavior.
I already have a plan on how to approach her.
Coal makes no detours looking for Bell, he already knows where she’ll be.
The sun is still out, the snow is melting, and a group of young adults are hanging out at Oakley Park and a dilapidated playground which is characterized by heaps of peeling paint. One motorbike in the car park shows who I assume to be Brandy. He isn’t talking to Bell. He’s just on the phone talking to someone while smoking alone.
Bell, I notice her right away, as she looks just like Bella.
She’s sitting on the top of the monkey bars, along with a bunch of other girls in skimpy clothes, smoking and laughing, her hair long, straight and bleached blonde. She’s smiling until she sees her mums pickup truck enter the car park.
Coal pulls up right next to Brandy’s Harley.
I feel tense, worried there is going to be an immediate punch up, but Coal stays calm as he cuts the engine and looks to me first.
“Good luck,” he gives me a half smile, but inward, I know he’s thinking of his little sister and how to help without pushing her further away.
“Distract Brandy,” I ask him, “I’ll talk to her. Try to be nice…”
“Nice,” Coal looks at me, shaking his head, “…I’ll do my job, you do yours.”
Heh. No pressure.
I get out of the pick-up first.
I head to the girls on the monkey bars, and Bell is already looking at me suspiciously as I approach.
I notice up close she has all kinds of piercings. None I had heard about from the family so I’m guessing they’re recent. I even see a tattoo on the back of her ankle – and when I see the initials B&B, I know this shit has gone all the way.
“Who are you?” Bell calls out, refusing to come down to speak with me face to face, “Why are you here with my brother?”
I look over my shoulder to see Brandy looking rather pleasant, although he refuses to look at Coal directly, who stays in the pickup and just keeps his arm out the window, holding his cowboy hat in a lazy hand, as he murmurs a few stern words to Brandy.
Brandy just stares up at Bell instead, giving her an obnoxious wink and smirk.
I decide I better be quick – I know how quickly some things could escalate – especially with a douche like that.
“I’m Bella’s friend,” I explain, nonchalant, “What’s up? Your sister misses you.”
“Nothing’s up,” Bell murmurs, seeming already to trust me just a tiny bit more, since I used her sister’s name as proof of being friendly, “Just hanging out, yah know,” she smiles at her friends, who give me typical dirty and judgmental looks for interrupting their gossip session.
I just feel slightly weird for being on the ground, while they’re up so high above, although I don’t acknowledge the height difference.
Here comes the firecracker.
I wanted to test out that temper and see what triggered her.
“So, I heard you dropped out. Are you too stupid for school, or what?” I ask calmly, provoking her on purpose.
Bell immediately takes the bait.
She even swings down off the bars and starts toward me, her cheeks flaming, even as I just keep my hands in my jean pockets and try to show her I’m not going to fight.
“Who. Are. You?” she asks again, this time scowling, “You don’t know who you’re messing with.”
“My name is Raven. I’m here as a friend, I promise,” I change tactics, “I’m not your family – but I see you’re hurt and you don’t want to do whatever everyone is telling you to do. I totally understand.”
“Hang on a second. You called me stupid, and now you wanna be friends?” she looks down her nose at me, “And you’re not worth a cat fight either. Get outta here.”
“I dropped out of school too, I hated it,” I keep talking anyway, not intimidated, “I’m just here to say if you need someone else to talk to, or you need a ride somewhere, at any time, you can call me – I won’t involve family. And Brandy seems… uh, nice?” I’m sarcastic, but I just want to test her loyalty to him too.
Was it young dumb love, or just a free ticket out of the family home?
I find it interesting she doesn’t defend him.
She just stays quiet, slowly shaking her head at me, pretending to be disinterested in what I say.
I pull out my phone number that I wrote down on a piece of paper earlier and I hand it to her folded up.
I’m more surprised she takes it, and I’m not sure if she’ll keep it or burn it, but I don’t wait to find out.
“See you around,” I make our interaction short, “Oh, you should know, your mom was crying last night about you, cause she’s desperately worried and misses you like crazy,” I add that over my shoulder, without too much pressure…
At that, Bell gulps and tries to look tough, but something inside her stony eyes breaks through with deeper emotion.
I think I got through by mentioning Trish.
Fingers crossed.
I know one thing for certain.
Sometimes when family discussed family related issues with each other, the impact just wasn’t the same as an objective view from someone outside that circle. Hopefully my words really struck home how needlessly rebellious she was being and how it was hurting those that loved her the most.
I quickly return to Coal, who is still talking to Brandy.
I consider acknowledging Brandy, but since we lock eyes for a second, and all he does is tilt his head up and look down his nose at me like Bell did, while taking a slow drag, I don’t even bother.
I look to Coal instead, who is staring out at Bell.
“Tell mom I’m FINE!” I hear Bell scream out to Coal, clearly emotional, while I get back in the pickup.
I slam the door and Coal simply yells back to his sister, “Tell her yourself, brat!”
Brandy starts laughing very, very loudly, like an immature idiot, throwing his head back. It’s as if a mother’s love is the funniest thing in the world to him.
Coal had just finished putting up the window and started the engine, but his whole face twitches with rage at Brandy’s laughing fit.
He literally starts reaching for the back of his jeans, where I didn’t even notice Coal had a gun tucked in, concealed and out of view.
I snatch his wrist immediately, clawing my nails into his skin as I pull his arm back to the console.
Drive,” I hiss, “Coal. Brandy is trying to provoke you.”
Coal grits his teeth as he jerks his arm out of my hold but places his hands back on the wheel as he reverses out, way too fast.
The tires screech as he takes off, and when I look through the back window, I see Bell yelling curses at Brandy and already crying, while he just yells something back, then takes off, throwing the cigarette butt toward her and pulling out the opposite way.
I watch the interaction with a grim eye.
“I fucking did it,” I growl to myself, “What a fucking douche bag – she doesn’t even like him. I can tell, Coal. I’m very certain she just used him to get out of home,” I hope me saying that makes Coal happy, to know she isn’t taken advantage of. And maybe even the B&B on her ankle was for her and her twin sister, not her and Brandy.
To my delight, Coal’s rage turns into a sadistic smile.
“She would do something like that,” he whispers.
“Brandy is too stupid for her – and I can tell she misses Trish,” I sigh now, “I think she’ll be back sometime this week.”
“Me too,” Coal drawls in agreement. I immediately notice it’s the first hint at a return of the optimism he was always known for, before his wife left him.
That feeling of triumph settles over both of us, and Coal even turns on the radio and some music, relaxing back and losing some of that built up tension from before.
I notice we’re driving into the middle of town now.
“So, what’s next?” I ask, sitting up straight, interested in where he is taking me.
“I won’t lie,” Coal slowly smirks as he slouches back with a smug tone, “I might be using you, too, for this next bit.”
It sounded so dirty.
Da heck?
“Um, what?” I ask, raising a brow.
“Christmas shopping,” Coal looks at me, suddenly, “You’re going to help me pick presents for everyone. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. But you can help me, cowgirl.”
“Oh, I see how it is, you need my female powers,” I reply dramatically, “Well, well, well, the power dynamic finally shifts in my favor.”
“What power dynamic?” Coal asks, suddenly dead-serious. I lose my smile abruptly. And he can’t keep it in. He bites out a quick laugh, “You’re so easy to tease,” he grins, “You blush at everything I say or do and you look like you’re going to cry if I even talk serious for a moment. So darn cute, darling,” oh, my, oh my.
I purse my lips so hard, I look out the passenger window and press my forehead to it as I try to keep in my reaction, “Look at me,” he asks, quick.
“No,” I growl at the window, feeling so, so –
“Raven,” Coal’s hand caresses my knee, then grasps a hold of it – the top of it, where when you squeeze, ah – it’s sensitive!
“Eek, damn it, don’t do that!” I smack his hand away as I laugh and look directly at him, only to see him staring at my face.
Coal doesn’t say a word, he just eats me up with one handsome all-knowing look at the effect he has on girls.
He just acknowledges how red I am, turns back to the road which he should be focusing on in the first place, and looks quietly smug again. He can barely keep in that young smirk, which I’m sure he grew out of, but it’s there… just hovering under the surface of his maturity.
“Huh, so,” I sigh dramatically, “Can I get a coffee in town too?”
“No,” Coal immediately tells me off. I start to pale as I look at him with grief, and he looks at me, and my stricken face. He just shakes his head, “Yes. I’ll allow you to have a coffee with me, darling.”
I cross my arms over my chest and just sit there with my pursed lips and worried eyes.
Ahaha… allow.
He seemed rather happy to use that word.
And I was rather… turned on… by it.
And I don’t even know why.
The fuck is wrong with me?
Well… at least we’re both having fun… right?
Harmless fun!
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 6 ◉●•◦
Coal’s POV
Raven is smelling her steaming cup of coffee I just bought her, she waits outside the post office, while I check for any mail from Willem, Jonas and River. Their mother, Cat, said she mailed me hand written letters from them.
She said that three weeks ago.
I am checking for the fifth time that week, anxiously waiting for the staff to scourge around for me.
I’ve told them this time I’m certain it’s in but they’ve lost it between the cracks somehow.
“I can’t find it anywhere,” the girl, sighs, while her manager looks with her.
Meanwhile, as my heart aches at the possibility of Cat lying to me about the letters just to get my hopes up, I look out the window at Raven and I can’t help but compare.
Of course Raven wasn’t Cat, but I can’t help but realize how opposite they are.
And I can’t help staring at her.
She’s sitting on a bench, looking down the sidewalk at the Christmas shopping crowd walking by, and the steam of the coffee is warming her up so she keeps it close to her chin.
She’s not doing anything, she’s just waiting for me and even just doing that, she looks like the most beautiful woman in the world right there, with the winter sun shining down her on.
Deep inside I’m a little annoyed at the amount of sway I’m allowing her to have over me.
She’s the exact kind of person, by all measures, that I’d avoid and distrust. I didn’t like aimless people. Not after what the last person had done to my Aunt Jean and Uncle Grey. But then again it wasn’t just transients, I also distrusted anyone like Cat – super materialistic and reputation driven. She hated the ranch.
It was weird seeing Raven enjoy the hard ranch lifestyle.  Ranching wasn’t exactly pretty – it was extraordinarily stressful in most regards. I’m sure it was nice looking in from the outside, but Raven seemed at home on our ranch, I noticed that immediately.
“Coal?” I hear a note of surprise in Darcella’s voice – the manager of the office. I turn back to her with hope written all over my face, “Nothing. We can’t find anything. I’m sorry again, Coal.”
I go into default mode, smiling and tipping my hat as I turn to walk out, even though inside my heart is twisting with grief.
Something was wrong with my boys, I just knew it.
Every time I dared called Cat she snapped they were very happy without me.
Of course, overstating such a stupid statement just made me understand they missed me and talked about me all the time. That would drive Cat insane, for sure. The only thing I ever liked about her was how simple she was to please… at first anyway. Buy her flowers and she’d smile. Buy her a ring and she’d smile. Buy her a car and she’d smile.
Stupid young me at 25 thought that was what all girls wanted. Stuff.
At that age, Cat had been absolutely spellbinding to me as a big city girl, and I to her, as a roughed up country cowboy.
But our connection started with sex and ended with… well, three boys.
Everything else we disagreed on. Literally everything else.
Everyone had been sick of hearing us yell and argue with one another.
Even just thinking about our past toxic relationship makes my stomach turn. I can’t believe I thought that shit was normal too, especially after seeing my own parents have such a loving and respectful marriage for three long decades.
My father took my mother in when I was 2 years old and she was just a single mom. They had never been apart since he gave her a room to stay in at the ranch.
I wonder if Raven knew she was staying in the room my mom and I once had when we first moved to the ranch and never left.
Not that it matters.
I’m just glad she’s here.
Seeing the way she talked to my little sister had sealed it for me.
She was a nice girl.
I wasn’t really sure how to romance a nice girl.
But I sure as hell was going to.
Raven’s POV
Coal asked me to wait outside while he checked for some mail. I happily sat in the winter sun drinking the coffee he bought me. I thought he’d get one too but he didn’t seem to have much of an appetite, his mind focused on the mail.
I find it odd he returns to me outside with nothing.
I stare at his empty hands for a moment and then I choose not to comment about it, not sure what to say.
I just stand up to meet him and we start walking together down the strip of main shops.
Coal takes out his wallet on the street and starts sorting through his bills right in front of me, counting down the hundreds.
I just stare at the corner of my eye, wondering if he is being so open about it, trying to impress me or something.
I try to hide my shy smile with my coffee cup, but the moment I try to hide it, he looks at me.
Coal is showing five bills in his hand, while staring down at me.
“Ten people, fifty each,” he tells me, “You have to help me with every present. For Annabelle, Izabella, Bella, Bell, Timothy, his girlfriend Haline, my parents, my aunt and uncle… that’s ten,” Coal confirms seriously, then afterwards he has this big cheeky smile growing on his face as he looks me over nice and slow, “Don’t worry I’ll get you something too. Just not now.”
I open my mouth to say something but I don’t know what to say.
That one look was way too sexy and said too much.
Like, he was eating me up, literally – and he wasn’t’ even hiding it anymore.
Fuck me! Seriously. I couldn’t’ handle how bold Coal was becoming, from shy cowboy to straight up taking the lasso out to catch me and haul my ass in.
I know on the outside I am trying to appear cool, calm and collected – but my insides were the exact opposite. Oh, God, help me! Oh, God, now I’m praying and I don’t even believe!
My blood is hot and my legs feel like jelly after that one look-over. Lucky for me, he stops staring, puts the darn money away, and turns to walk into the first shop.
Homewares. Not a bad start. A good distraction too. We could knock off half of them with this stuff.
I walk around and he lets me take the lead. My eyes scan through everything quick.
“New wine glasses for Aunt Jean and Uncle Grey,” I point to them, “Your mama wants a new rice cooker, random fact I know, so there’s that,” I keep scanning, “Do you think we should also get new knives? I noticed they’re getting a little blunt in the kitchen.”
Coal just stares at me and stays silent the whole time.
His answers are tilts of the head or nods.
But his dark eyes, man, he keeps staring at me.
I keep turning my shoulder to hide my face but literally every time I try and hide my nerves, he won’t let me escape the look.
Damn it.
Coal is finally distracted though, as he hauls everything to the counter, pays and asks them to gift wrap everything, since they offer that service.
I stand back with my coffee, far away from him handing the money over.
I just feel weird, like I didn’t wanna stand right next to him, my nose right over his money-hand. I didn’t wanna give the impression I cared. I didn’t care. I just… great, I’m overthinking everything for no reason at all. Why did I care so much what he thought about me, anyway!?
Coal and I have to wait for them to gift wrap everything, so we decide to come back a bit later.
Off to the next store.
“I think we should buy a new boardgame for Timothy and Bella, and maybe some other games, and Izabella specifically we should get some new art supplies,” I explain on the street my ideas I’ve been thinking about, “What would Annabelle need? She seems very down to earth and minimalistic, I’m not sure what to get her.”
“New shoes,” Coal suggests, slightly awkwardly but happy to input something, “Great ideas by the way. What about Bell…?”
I stop on the street as I think about Bell.
What would she want for Christmas?
“I think… ohhhh, I know, new headphones, I saw some hanging from her pocket all scuffed and broken,” I mention, “If we focus on that, we’ll be done in no time,” I turn to Coal to see him taking out his damn wallet again. I stare at it and his face, “What are you doing?”
He takes out the rest of the money and hands it to me, in a bit of a rush.
“I’ll be right back. Can you get that stuff on your own in the next store?” he asks me a little dismissively, his mind suddenly focused on something else.
I nod awkwardly as Coal shoves the money in my hand and takes off across the street, calling out to the locals he recognizes with generous waves, handshakes and howdys.
I only watch for a second before I quickly disappear into the biggest department store in town, especially after all the locals stare at me across the street, knowing Coal was with me.
Not with me, but… oh, whatever.
I take a cart and focus on the task at hand.
I also buy some wrapping paper to do these ones myself back at the ranch.
I’m quick, only fifteen minutes, then I join the queue and my fingers feel… numb, with nervous excitement as I clench the front of the cart tight, thinking of the handsome cowboy who was being way too nice to me for it to be just friendly anymore.
I’m already anxious to see Coal again, feeling weird about being alone, too. Why did he leave?
After I pay and I exit onto the street, I wonder why he isn’t out here yet – but then I notice him driving down to pick me up and I feel relief for not having to carry all the heavy bags down the street.
Coal manages to park on the curb right next to me, and he rolls down the tinted windows.
“Stay right there, darling,” Coal commands me to be still, so I wait as he jumps out and heads around to open the back door. Then he turns to me as I just stand there like a garden gnome and he helps take the shopping bags and throws them in the back seats where I notice the homewares are already back there too, all nicely wrapped.
“Where’d you go?” I ask, trying to think of anything to say in this moment of Coal helping me with everything while I hold out my hand awkwardly with the change of a few dollars.
When Coal is finished he turns to me and stares at my hand with the change, he just shakes his head and looks at me funny.
I awkwardly push the three dollars into my jeans pocket, and he opens my passenger door, stands back with a sly smile and I don’t know what’s up until I see what’s on the seat.
Oh, how lovely! A bouquet of fresh red roses for the family! I’ve come close, not even reacting to them at first because why would I?
“Wow! For your mom? They’re gorgeous,” I guess they are for Trish, but not really guessing, just knowing Coal would do something so sweet for his mom.
“They’re for you, sweety.”
Coal says it pretty darn quickly next to my ear, and I guess to everyone else in the universe, like those walking by on the street, this would be obvious.
Yet my brain can’t even comprehend the kindness.
I move the bunch of roses aside carefully as I sit down, putting on my seat belt, I pick them up with one hand.
He’s already shut my door and walks around to the front.
Coal hops in like it’s no big deal, he lazily starts the engine and pulls out onto the road.
He turns on the music again, rolls down his window all the way, and comfortably drives us back toward the ranch.
He says nothing, totally at ease.
And I have also said nothing but now I’m the one just staring at him, and then the roses, then back to him, and back and forth.
Coal… bought… me… roses?
Probably way too late into the drive, I say, “Um. Thank you,” I smell the roses, finally getting them closer to my face as I breathe in the fresh scent, “Soooo. Gorgeous,” I breathe out, “I love roses. No one has ever bought me roses.”
“They’re not as gorgeous as you.”
Coal says it so smoothly, I just place the bouquet down into my lap, gently, staring hard out the windshield.
“Coal – why?” I ask this quietly.
Why? For helping my mom when she got mugged, for chasing down that thief, for helping me just now, for talking to Bell earlier… and for helping around the ranch too, of course,” Coal pauses, and slyly adds, “They’re from me, but they’re really from Galvin.”
“Oh, yes, of course, the horse wanted me to have them,” I laugh, truly delighted at the same time.
“As you said, cowgirl, he really, really likes you,” Coal slyly and slowly looks at me, while I only glance at him for a split second before staring out my window again, “…Raven… darlin’… please look at me,” when he says Raven, when he says darlin’, when he says please, like it’s a command, oh, fuck me, aahh, I have to look at him!
I don’t even try to hide my red cheeks anymore, as I turn boldly back to Coal and ask, “Yes?” and it comes out innocent as fuck too, even though I’m not trying to sound so damn girly – he just brings it out in me.
He blinks slow, as he drawls, “You wanna go on a date tonight?”
All at once, I grin wide, blush hard and tear up – just a little bit.
Why was he so darn perfect!
I am flooded with pure joy in this moment.
Coal, Coal, Coal… you’re too sexy for me, I’m going to burn up and melt before the date even starts – fuck!!!
My answer, however, isn’t hard to think up this time.
“Yes,” I answer him clearly, “I think I’d like that very much.”
I don’t know how I sound so cool and calm when on the inside – everything is burning.
And I even clench my thighs, hard and uncontrollably with the blood rushing low.
And what do you know… that damn cowboy sees everything, he notices every little change.
Coal looks.
I feel his eyes drop down to look at my trembling knees and my tightly clenching thighs – but this time he only stares for a split second, then he is staring at the road again.
And he is silent, although I dare look sideways at him, and I see his quiet, very relaxed expression.
He looks empowered – and in no rush at all.
But he knows I want it. What was he going to do with the new information – oh holy…!
I’m so damn glad the music is on and we’re quiet right now.
I couldn’t take anymore flirting. I’d like very much for both of us to get home alive.
And tonight… I want to live for tonight.
I can’t wait!
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 7 ◉●•◦
Coal’s POV
I had never been so nervous in all my life. I really wanted to impress Raven.
As I shave, my hand even trembles, and I have to stop for a moment, breathing in deep and slow – I regain my composure. No trouble here. I was just sprucing up to take her out on the town.
Part of me felt really child-like for making up my mind to take her to the outdoor cinemas, but I knew age was no barrier… it just suddenly felt like it was. I really shouldn’t stress. I was married at 24. I might be 36 now, and her 23, but if anything, that was more an advantage. I had the experience and maturity, more than her, and I liked that dynamic. I could lead. And she seemed to lean into me. Even better.
I could take her out to a fancy restaurant, but I might save that for another time. I wanted this first date to be casual and fun.
I was very good at savings, quite anal about it, actually. I barely spared money on anything, not too keen on materialism after my experience with… I should really stop thinking about her.
I think my sons will like Raven a lot.
Damn it. I don’t know why I’m hoping already but I do hope Raven stays long enough to meet them… I try to shrug off that thought. I shouldn’t jump that far ahead. That was another year away at least.
I should focus. Date one could mean anything. Her stay was temporary. We might just fling and part ways, too. I had to consider all possibilities.
I finish up in the bathroom, staring too long at my dark eyes, full of worry. I wonder if that’s what she sees. A scared man. I hope not. I wasn’t scared. I was just hoping for more. More what? Anything, to prove to me there was still magic out there. The kind that I believed in as a young man. I might have been a bit wild, might still be, but I am loyal.
I have to decide what to wear now. I don’t like the thought of overdressing and looking a fool. At the same time, I don’t want to seem like I don’t care.
I end up choosing a fresh pair of blue jeans, a crisp white shirt – exactly what I wear most days, but the difference is I brush my hair out… and I really do make a rather big decision now.
This will be the difference.
I hope she gets a surprise. Of the good kind.
Raven’s POV
“This week is Christmas, I don’t want you working anymore,” Trish had pulled me aside when she saw me straightening my hair in the bathroom for the date with Coal. I had been so embarrassed, not sure what she’d make of it, even though she wanted me to date him, I was worried she might take the approval back at any point, especially now that I wanted it so badly.
“What do you mean?” I ask, clasping my hands together.
“You’ve done enough,” Trish is using a scolding tone, looking me over, “No more working. I want you to relax.”
“Oh… but how do I earn my –”
“You’ve earned it,” Trish looks me over, “You hear me?”
“How?” I ask, confused by her sudden emotion.
“For making my first son so happy again,” she mutters, almost tearing up, “I thought we lost him forever, Raven,” Trish is looking down as she turns to hide her tears, “You are welcome here. Now hurry because Coal is driving the truck round to pick you up.”
She is quite emotional about this too, and paces off down the hall, and all her kid’s bedrooms. Our little talk has caught their attention.
As she disappears into the lounge, Timothy and Haline poke their head out of their bedroom, grinning as they look at me.
Timothy has makeup all over his face, while Haline has lipstick and eyeliner in her hand. I try not to giggle, Timothy looks tortured but Haline is loving every second of it.
“Ooo,” Haline whispers, “A date?
“With big bro,” Timothy wriggles his fake monobrow at me.
“Don’t make it weird,” I whisper, grinning and blushing, “Wish me luck… just the kind where I don’t stumble and fall into cow shit.”
Haline laughs and Timothy shakes his head.
“No way, you got this, Raven,” Timothy gives me a thumbs up.
Haline drags her boyfriend back into his room, cackling about what she’ll do next, and I turn as I feel eyes on me.
Izabella is at her door, texting while looking me up and down with futile resolution in her eyes… I don’t think I have her vote of support… although she didn’t seem to give it to anyone.
“You look good,” she forces out a compliment, surprising me, as she walks back into her room.
“Thanks!” I quickly say before she disappears, and I walk back into the bathroom and unplug the straighter, leaning into Bella’s room to thank her for letting me use it.
“No worries,” Bella is reading a book on her bed, enjoying the rapidly descending twilight, “Hope you have fun. Don’t break his heart, please.”
“I won’t! And t-thank you again,” I am surprised by her warning, and I back out to check my outfit in the mirror one more time.
I wear an oversized dress with a metal band logo, that I don’t even listen to, but I think it looks cool.
I didn’t have anything nicer, but I wear my worn in boots with heels and grab my bag, hoping I don’t look like a little sister, and more like a potential girlfriend.
It was the best outfit I had. Shit. It’s not like I had time to go into town and shop. Maybe next time, though. If there was a next time.
I almost forget my jacket – ahem – Coal’s jacket. I still felt weird about always wearing it, so now I drape it over my arm as I walk to the front porch, knowing he’ll be waiting for me in the pick-up truck.
Aunt Jean and Uncle Grey, Trish and Ken are just relaxing on the porch on their favorite chairs, all drinking tea or coffee, as I see headlights moving down the drive.
“See yah soon,” I wave at everyone awkwardly, as I walk down the steps.
Everyone looks sly or smug but waves and nods me on my way.
Trish is hiding her own smile behind a cup of tea.
I stand on the cobbles as the pick-up stops by me, and this time I’m quick to open the door before Coal can, jumping in to stop him getting back out into the cold.
Part of me was scared they’d see him fuss over me and make fun of us, so I wanted to get in quick!
“I was too quick for yah!” I tease Coal as I jump up and sit down, slamming the door and grinning – turning my head to see that Coal looks utterly different.
For a second I wonder if it’s the same man.
Coal cut his beautiful lush hair, short.
I lose my smile. I loved his long, thick hair. It was gorgeous. He was like a movie star.
The problem with his cut hair – is now he looks fine, and fancy – and a completely different kind of smokin’ hot. The other Coal was more casual, this one is more… intimidating, in a very good way, mind you. I just feel like I’m talking to a stranger.
“Wow,” I whisper, feeling my tongue go dry.
“You don’t like it?” Coal wonders, knowing I like it, I’m just shocked, “Belt on,” he snaps that a bit rough, and I quickly put my seat belt on as he drives off. I had forgotten, to be fair.
“I like it, I –” I speak but he cuts me off again.
“Don’t do that again,” Coal looks at me sideways, “The door.”
“Oh, the… it’s just a door…” I trail off, as he looks off the road to look at me.
I’m waiting for him to smile and laugh it off good naturedly, so I awkwardly smile first, waiting for him to join in. He just slowly shakes his head, doesn’t smile and focuses back on the road.
“Sorry,” I murmur now, pressing my hands between my legs anxiously, “I don’t understand what the deal is.”
“Well… I’ll tell you, darlin’. When I’m taking you out on a date, I’m in charge,” Coal drawls clearly and slowly – it’s not mean though… it’s just… mmm… oh, goodness, he was bossing me around. I like it. Setting the rules down. Oh, cowboy.
“I, am, so, um,” I get tongue twisted and confused about what I want to say. Coal cocks an eyebrow once, and waits for me to figure out my sentence, as he turns out onto the main road, “Rusty,” I find the right word, “I haven’t been on a real date before.”
Now Coal looks taken aback by this.
He slowly looks at me, “…really?”
Total shock.
Oh my god, I just admitted I’m a virgin and didn’t even realize it until now. How embarrassing! I was sure older men wanted women with experience.
“Answer me, please,” Coal carrels an answer out of me, asking a bit more gently.
“I… am… um,” I answer, now digging my nails into my knee.
Coal sees my nervous fidgeting, “You’re safe with me.”
“I know,” I immediately answer, “…I’m just shy. So, you like being in charge?” I change the topic back to him. Safer territory.
Coal finally smiles again.
“Yes, ma’am.”
Why did I like that?
“I was just teasing you about the door, I like it when you open the door,” I add.
“Tease me again and I’ll return the favor, darling,” Coal chuckles, keeping that gorgeous smile alight. Good, he’s relaxed again.
“Where are we going, by the way?” I wonder.
I hope it involves walking. Or moving. An activity. Indoor skating. Outdoor skating. Night market. Something like that.
“Outdoor cinema,” he murmurs, anxious I approve.
So stuck in a pickup truck with him for a few hours?
This was going to be… interesting.
“Awesome,” I respond simply, when inside I’m freaking out with excitement. I’m so happy about it, and at the same time, so nervous.
“It’s small and they’re playing classics, so it’s whatever they choose for the night – the crowd is always chilled out,” Coal explains, “It’s a nice place. Our family have good memories there.”
“Plus, a good date spot,” I murmur, “How many girls have you… actually, I shouldn’t ask that.”
“Probably not,” Coal answers awkwardly.
I feel like I’m making this weird.
“Trish said I don’t have to work around the ranch anymore. I’m amazed by her generosity. I really like the Wilde family. It feels like… home,” I say that very quietly, “I hope I have a home like this one day.”
“I’m sorry you’ve never had a home,” Coal murmurs empathetically.
“Don’t be, I’m free anyway,” I murmur.
“What do you mean by that?” Coal asks, immediately.
“Free spirited, I like to be free, wild even, I don’t like to be… tied down,” as I say it, Coal’s eye brow twitches again, and he seems to be holding back amusement, “Did you just… read an inuendo into that?” I ask, “Cowboy. With the ropes, you probably lasso girls in like heifers,” I like teasing him.
I don’t care if he pays it back. I look directly at him, knowing he will have a hundred and one ways to answer me back on this.
Coal chooses a very humored smirk.
He looks happy, turning up the music.
But he lets me sweat in my own silly joke and then roast alive with his chosen silence.
God, he loved being so quiet at the right times. It drives me a little insane how patient he was.
I awkwardly stare out at the paddocks.
He didn’t say anything about what I looked like.
But I had a feeling I ruined that when I jumped in the pickup before he could open the door for me… so conservative. Gee.
I was like, the total opposite of conservative.
I almost feel like a wild mare, just being free – and he is planning to tame me.
Very, very weird comparison, Raven, what the hell.
Great. Now I’m having a mental dialogue with myself in my head.
“Do you think we’ll fuck tonight?”
Out of left center.
Straight through me.
I wonder if I heard that right as I die, I literally just die, on the spot.
I grip the doorframe for support, and immediately snap my gaze to him – he really went there.
Coal is asking the road, it seems, maybe he is too afraid to –
Nope. He stares right at me, simply curious.
Waiting again, so calmly for me to answer.
Did I? I hoped so.
I also didn’t want to say that.
I say nothing.
“Okay,” Coal answers my silent face, “You are definitely a virgin.”
He faces the road again. He was testing me? I should have said something!
“Hey,” I complain, “Even so, so, like, what –” I am beyond flustered.
“You looked like you were going to faint when I asked that, darling,” Coal chuckles to himself, “None of that tonight then. There’s no pressure from me, not ever.”
I think that’s meant to reassure me.
I make a weird noise of complaint but realize what I sound like and quickly squirm on the spot, changing radio stations.
“Yes,” is all I manage to say, fake coughing into my hand, “Thanks. Um. Good.”
“…disappointed?” Coal asks quietly now, immediately reading me so well I now melt. I cannot face him. I turn to the window with my blush. Don’t say it, Coal, “Hey, gorgeous, look at me…” he always notices and hates it when I hide my face. It’s such a turn on.
I turn to him.
He glances at me, as I show him my pink cheeks, “It’s okay.”
“I know.”
“Relax,” Coal adds.
Duh,” I now roll my eyes.
Coal now makes a noise of disappointment… oh my fuck, how could I ruin something like this. He’s annoyed at my attitude again.
I try… I try to be bold. Like him. I close my eyes as I ask it.
“Is it a bad thing that I’m a virgin?” I blurt.
Please, oh lord.
Coal laughs.
A little too loud.
At least I broke the tension.
I look at him with hope, but having no idea why he is laughing like that.
“Nothing on this Earth,” Coal explains, “Is hotter than potentially… being your first.”
Coal says it with such love, I can’t even describe the confidence in it either.
I trust him completely when he says it like that.
“Apparently everyone is bad the first time, no one denies that,” I add, seriously worried.
“It’s not about that,” Coal scolds me, “It’s about why you choose to, not how it happens.”
“Why?” I ask, trying to work out what he means.
“The reason why,” Coal adds, “Anyway. It doesn’t matter.”
We both go quiet at that.
I keep thinking deeply as we drive the rest of the way.
We are both testing each other out. Just trying to understand our perimeters.
That was normal, I bet.
I really, really liked him. I hope I don’t fuck this up.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 8 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
“Oh my god, it’s so adorable,” I hold my fingers to my lips as Coal and I drive into the outdoor cinema.
It’s totally unique. There’s a neon truck selling take out, popcorn and more. There’s a whole queue of locals standing in their thick jackets and scarves, they’re boots squelching through the mud to get to the food.
The snow had all melted and the cold was more mild. The snowy blizzard we experienced in the cabin was rare.
I love the set up of this place.
An employee standing out the front sees Coal and refuses to take his money as he winds down the window to do just that.
“No man, it’s on me,” the young man is grinning up at Coal, “My mother did say she’d happily marry you, by the way, if you’re looking for a new gal’,” the cheek of this young teen, he is laughing so hard as Coal groans and leans back into the drivers seat, looking at my twinkling eyes.
“What is it?” I ask.
“I sold Miss. Denny a horse once, I was at this young man’s house for seven hours over a cup of tea she kept filling up – she wouldn’t let me leave after she heard I was on the market after my divorce,” Coal smirks at the memory, “It’s safe to say she didn’t want the horse, she just set up the buy to have me over. She’s not a bad looker either, for an older woman anyway.”
“She talks about you every day,” the young man gets his eyes flashed by the high beams of the car behind us.
“Tell her I talk about her all day too, Kyle,” Coal has to be cheeky, saluting the young man who goes from thinking it’s a joke to thinking Coal might be serious. He now looks distraught as Coal swings us around across the gravel, and the truck drifts perfectly around the first bend, as he drives us to the back, and I playfully punch his arm.
Don’t do that,” I can’t help but smile though, as he looks at me, coy.
“What, think about that oldie all day?” Coal watches me for signs of jealousy or insecurity.
I just bite back, “I think you should go for it. She’d love a cowboy to ride.”
That’s my girl,” Coal grins that I don’t whine, and he slaps his hand on my knee, squeezing so hard he hits the funny nerve.
I squeal and whack his hand off, as he finally pulls us into some corner backend park, under an overhanding oak tree.
I do note we will have tons of privacy back here.
“I’m not your girl,” my response is a little slow in coming forth, as I cross my arms over my chest and Coal cuts the engine. We unbuckle our seat belts at the same time, and Coal is looking at my face the whole time as I try to feign independence from his allure –
But Coal reaches across the middle, he leans up, he grabs the back of my head and he dives in for a kiss.
It’s a peck, but it’s still full blown his mouth on mine.
I stare with wide eyes as he grins after he pulls back, “Now you are.”
Coal sees my growing blush and reaches into his pocket for his wallet.
“Let’s go for a walk and get some food,” Coal suggests, jumping out of the car, while I’m frozen on this seat, gulping repeatedly and trying to abolish the perpetual redness from my cheeks.
I wasn’t one to blush too often.
I had seen pale skinned girls blush so red at the slightest thing. I had more olive skin, and I rarely went red. But right now, I’m kind of scared that’s all I’m going to look like all night – just a pink cheeked virgin who freaks out at the slightest thing.
My heart is in literal flutters, and I can’t help tapping my trembling fingers to my lips, where Coal’s lips had just been, as he walks around the bonnet for my door.
I quickly lower my fingers from my lips as he opens the door and I jump down.
He takes the coat off my arm, and he swings it around my shoulders. I stick out my arms and he makes sure I put them through the wide sleeves.
Coal stands back to look me over.
“Zip up, it’s cold,” he waits for me to do it, and then I can’t help but notice the father in him.
“I bet your sons miss you like crazy,” I say it with honesty, and Coal actually looks taken aback.
“…thanks, Raven,” he forces himself to talk, and I notice he looks more inward after what I said. I gulp and quickly walk with him as he goes a little quiet, but not for long, just on the walk to the food trucks.
Coal focuses on our treats, he pays as I stand right next to him the whole time as he passes me a cold drink and one for him too.
Then he hands me the popcorn.
“I don’t even like popcorn that much,” I whisper, gritting my teeth in an awkward smile.
“Me neither,” Coal drawls too quick, and I wonder if he is just agreeing with me. But then I realise he’s serious, “You should have told me,” Coal is fake mean as he smiles at me, before turning to a family with little girls, and he offers them to take it.
They grab it in delight and their parents thank us, as we both walk back with cold drinks in hand and no food… I’m guessing neither of us had much of an appetite anyway.
When we get back to the truck, I get in first, and Coal pauses.
Coal looks in at me, and then the seat across from me, and then he looks back.
“What’s the matter?” I ask, confused as he offers me his drink to put in the cup holders with mine.
I take it and do just that, then I look back at Coal suspiciously as he steps up and grabs the side of my chair, using the controls to push mine back to give me extra leg room… oh… for him to climb over me.
But Coal doesn’t climb over my seat.
Looking mischievous as hell, he jumps up and stays on my side, looking at me. I’m pressing back against my chair as he shuts our door and he turns to me, putting a hand on the side of my chair near my shoulder, as he leans down again to the controls once more, shifting my seat to tilt in reverse, and the whole time I’m looking at him hovering over me – with a completely freaked out look, and also breathing manually. I can’t remember how.
I still don’t know what this handsome cowboy is up to either.
When my seat is reclined about halfway, he looks at me, still hovering.
“You goin’ to move, sweetheart?” Coal asks, so kind.
“What?” I am so confused, “Move to where?
Coal smiles, “We’re sharing this seat, I don’t care what it takes.”
I don’t know where to move too. I shuffle a bit left and then toward the door, as he pulls me out of the way, twisting us both.
Coal takes my spot, then pulls me onto his thighs, so my legs kick up over the middle onto his empty driver’s seat.
Coal adjusts the seat one more time, and I try not to laugh.
“This is ridiculous,” I whisper, watching his dark eyes focus on mine.
“You make me nervous,” he admits.
“I make you nervous?” I ask, staring in shock while my lips tug up in the corners, “Really?”
“No, not at all,” Coal laughs, “But I know I make you nervous,” he reaches for my drink, and he offers it to me – literally wanting to hover it near my lips.
“Huh?” I ask.
“I’m seeing how nervous you really are,” Coal’s eyes twinkle, “If you can swallow it or you just end up spitting it out because you want to laugh – ” I’m already laughing and blushing as I look away from the edge of the aluminum can.
“Coal,” I purse my lips before I add, “This… is so dumb.”
“I’ll bet you a hundred you spit it out,” Coal says it seriously.
I glare at him now, “Bet.”
I just have to deal with him death staring me and tipping my can toward my lips, feeding me my own drink. Coal starts to tip it a bit, but he pauses, “You have to look at me while you do it,” Coal adds an instruction. I do as he says. I look up at him.
I feel the cool metal touch my lips as he softly tilts it up.
I thought he might just go for it, but he’s gentle.
I take a drink.
I swallow it and he puts it back in the cupholder.
“Good girl,” Coal smirks as he teases me.
God, he’s so handsome. I could stare at him for hours.
He relaxes back into his chair and I spontaneously lean my side, since I’m literally turned on my side, into his torso, and I rest my cheek on his shoulder as I look out the window.
We can see the screen playing an old black and white movie.
But we hear no sound.
“Well, shit,” Coal murmurs, “We didn’t turn on the radio.”
“Let’s try to lip read what they say,” I put my hand over his before he goes ruining our perfect position. I could tell he didn’t want to move anyway. Neither did I. I watch the actors on screen, speaking across a bar table, the woman is smoking, the man is leaning down, “The woman is saying to the dude, I know what you want.”
I’m genuinely trying to guess, although I know how I sound.
“He’s saying…” Coal watches the man, “…I’m actually looking for… a girl… a wild raven-haired beauty.”
“She’s long gone, she’s always on the move,” I whisper, still watching the screen.
“The thing is. She stole my heart when I first saw her,” Coal’s hand slides over my exposed thigh, skin to skin – the edges of his fingers, slip just below the hem of the short dress.
My heart is beating so fucking fast as I look at his hand, being where it is.
My blood is boiling in this jacket.
“Raven?” Coal prompts me, “You’re turn.”
“I’m too fucking hot,” I mean it, sitting up and shimmying off his jacket as I throw it to the drivers side before settling back onto his shoulder.
I’m avoiding his eyes though.
And every time I do that, Coal has this obsession with making me look at him.
I wait for him to try.
But I’m staring at his hand, still firm on my thigh, possessive as all hell, refusing to move.
I hear Coal gulp as I glance back up to the movie.
The actors are already in a hotel room, ripping their clothes off each other.
The first sex scene.
The man tosses the woman in her lingerie on the bed, and I chuckle when she bounces and her head perfectly hits the pillow.
I feel a hardness against my leg from Coal’s jeans, and I know exactly what that means.
I think about it.
And I… I’m not ready for that.
Gulping myself, now I tentatively lean up and hover over Coal’s face. He’s patient. His dark eyes see everything, and he sees me now.
“Should we turn on the radio?” I whisper.
“Yes, ma’am,” Coal’s voice is husky though, and deeper than usual.
He leans forward and I lean with him as he turns on the right station.
When the noise of the movie finally comes into the truck, we actually watch the movie.
I lean back across his hard chest, and his hard jeans, and I put my hand on his hand, which is still on my thigh. I don’t want him to take it away.
And I also don’t want him to push me too hard.
I am still nervous as hell.
Coal doesn’t push it.
And it’s probably the one thing in the world I remember about the date.
We enjoy watching the movie, but I don’t see the credits roll.
Toward the end, I’ve snuggled into him, closer and closer throughout the movie, and for better or worse, I rest and I close my eyes because Coal feels and smells like home to me – and because stability is so rare in my life – it hits me like a ton of bricks when he’s around.
I fall asleep, and ever the gentlemen, he doesn’t stop it happening.
From this particular moment I know I can trust Coal with my life.
Because he’s a good man.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 9 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
At midday the next day I’m antsy to move around. I know I don’t have to work for a week, but I can only sit and read or watch videos for so long. I decide to stop avoiding Coal and just go to him. I wanted to see if he was still interested in me after last night – when I fell asleep. So, of my own accord, I decide to take their older mare Marmelady for a walk, she didn’t like to be ridden anymore, but she liked to walk. She was so old you didn’t need to put any gear on at all, she just enjoyed being led.
I walk her to Coal’s cabin while the ranch is loud with preparations behind me – because it’s already Christmas eve.
I noticed right away Coal wasn’t in the property though, and I overheard Ken mentioning the cabin.
It worried me a little.
Why was he avoiding everyone today, of all days?
I assume it’s because Coal misses his kids, but I also hope that it’s not because I was a shitty or disappointing date.
Last night I woke up when Coal had driven us back to the homestead, Coal literally carried me to bed, tucked me in and then fell asleep next to me. I think he fell asleep accidentally before he had time to move because when I woke up to go pee around 4am, I saw him lying there next to me on top of the covers. When I came back from the restroom, he had left the bed and snuck off somewhere else.
I don’t know why Coal would start the morning at 4am, so I assumed he was just avoiding me.
I didn’t know why when I originally thought last night went reasonably well, but I also knew I am probably overthinking everything, too.
The best thing to do to calm my racing thoughts, was to just approach and talk to him. I walk Marmelady along the trail as the winter sun shines down on both of us. It’s a beautiful, gorgeous day.
My best friend is up ahead, Marmelady perks her ears back.
“Galvin?” I ask, and she picks up the pace, Yes! “Woah, there!” I try to calm her but she runs off and I run after her.
Over a small incline, I see Coal’s cabin and I watch Galvin also loose, running to meet Maremelady. They play in the clearing.
Galvin is quick to start trotting around, throwing his head back and whinnying loud.
Marmelady looks like she batters her eye lids.
I think it’s beyond cute, but apparently Coal thinks the opposite.
I focus on him now, shirtless in the sun, he had been using an axe to hack through some wood. He finished one more block before hearing Galvin’s excitement, and he quickly dropped the axe.
Hey,” Coal sounds pissed, “Galvin… Marmelady – who let you out here?
Oh, shit.
He’s mad.
I debate hiding behind a tree, but Coal immediately spots me, and he sees immediately I’m the reason they’re interacting.
Shit, don’t be a coward, Raven!
I quickly jog forward, trying to appear like I’m not avoiding a confrontation.
“What’s the matter –?” As I ask, Galvin rears up with his excitement near Marmelady. Oh… I… I think I see the problem, “You didn’t tell me he was a stallion, Coal!” I yell out, putting my hands on my head.
“Oh, you just happened to notice, did you?” Coal is really pissed, oh crap, I fucked up, “They’re obsessed with each other – I don’t want her getting injured, that’s my mother’s horse, Raven.”
“I know, I’ll grab some carrots from the cabin,” I suggest in a panic, running for some.
Coal swears under his breath, while he keeps his distance from the two excited pair.
I grab some carrots and sprint back out, holding some out to Coal, he just takes one.
“You,” Coal puts a hand on the small of my back, “Round off to Marmelady, I’ll take Galvin.”
I nod and scoot off, trying to come from the other side to help separate them.
Coal is bold in taking the opportunity to approach Galvin swiftly, especially when he started side eyeing the carrots.
“Come on, girl,” when I call out to the brown mare, she looks at me and then sees my treat.
Galvin moves to Coal, and Marmelady moves to me at the same time.
Sweet girl, Marmelady likes me, she takes the carrot, while I hear Coal walking Galvin back to the cabin, talking to him too.
Coal ties up Galvin quick smart to a post, and I hear Galvin’s outraged neigh of betrayal as he realizes too late that he got duped.
Coal actually laughs at Galvin’s antics, and I pat Marmelady across her flank as I look past her back to Coal.
I like the way he talks to his horse. Like they’re actually having a conversation. I thought I was crazy when I answered the things I thought animals told me. But he’s the same.
I let Marmelady wander as I walk back to Coal, who is still shirtless and smiling now at Galvin’s irritation, while scratching him behind the ear.
I’m walking with my hands behind my back, biting my lip – but as Coal turns to me the smile immediately wipes from his face.
Shit. He’s still pissed I fucked up? Oh, crud.
“Ask my permission before you take the horses out,” Coal reprimands me as I slow my approach, but he quickens his, as he now strides toward me.
“Sorry, I…” I shut my mouth as Coal slows his approach, but he also steps curiously to my… side? He’s still shirtless and I stare a little too long at his glorious golden abs. And he’s kind of hot when he’s angry too – everything tensed up, veins pulsing –
I watch him as Coal quickly snags me around the waist. He lifts me up off the ground like I weigh nothing, and he tips me forward, spanking me once – hard, on the back of my jeans!
I scream and laugh at the same time, but Coal drops me to my feet so I’m standing again, and he leans down to my cheeky smile. Coal scolds me further, “I’m dead serious, Raven – ask permission. I take caring for these animals very seriously,” he sees me wipe my smile from my face again as I nod with respect back to him. He keeps holding me around the waist though, and he squeezes my waist once before he releases me. The gentle squeeze he just gave to me was love. I don’t know how else to explain it.
He steps to the side, looking back to the cabin.
And the hand on my ass – that spanked me – I can’t believe it’s already over.
Don’t do it.
I look at Coal as he takes a slow step forward, and he slyly looks back at me the moment I lunge at him, trying to shove him off his feet.
My boss dances around me and I go flying forward, skipping and tripping into the grass.
I land on my palms and knees, skidding across mud.
How did Coal know?!
I quickly spin around, to see Coal standing with his arms crossed… still looking pissed.
“What?” I ask, my smile that always wants to grow back, is wiped from my face a third time, “What – I was just being… silly… like duh.”
“And I’m being serious, Raven,” Coal cocks an eyebrow, “Don’t be a child.”
“Don’t spank me like one then,” I hiss, blushing as I sit on my ass and look at him with heaving breaths, “Argh, fuck,” I turn around to get up, and I hear him walking over to me.
He kneels, next to me, on one knee.
I think he’s helping me up, so I just grumble as I put a hand on Coal’s knee, about to pull up.
But Coal stops me gracefully, lacing my pony through his fingers, he twists my hair around like a rope – and then twists his hand – pulling my head back. It doesn’t hurt, but I am controlled.
“Don’t disrespect me, Raven,” Coal speaks so damn on-the-nose, it makes me embarrassed, “You’ll do as you’re told when I’m instructing you. It’s important you listen. Now lean forward.”
“What?” I whisper, but he sees me licking my lips.
Coal narrows his eyes, “You like this,” he realizes, as he bends me over his knee himself and he spanks me again over my jeans, three times, nice and hard, “I’m teaching you a lesson, Raven…” he tugs my hair back, to see my eyes, as he smiles softly now, “You’re not meant to enjoy it…” oh, but he knows, he knows the effect he has.
I’m speechless as Coal spanks me just one more time.
It’s not enough, but he lets me go anyway.
I cry out – it should be a complaint for being spanked – but it’s a an entirely different cry.
As Coal stands up, he snatches my hand and gently but firmly tugs me up with him.
He holds my hand up between us, holding my fingers, as he lowers his lips to the back of my hand.
He looks into my eyes.
He says nothing.
Coal kisses my knuckles, then releases me.
I step into him quickly, seeing him eyeing the work again. I don’t want him to stop paying me attention like this.
I look up at his mouth, as we’re almost flush, but not touching.
“There’s no time,” Coal drawls over me, his eyes reading my expression, “We need more firewood for the homestead, it’s Christmas tomorrow,” he explains further. I hate that he’s so calm and right now I’m so ready to take this further.
“I thought wet wood can’t burn,” I whisper up at him, trying to piss him off.
“Don’t give me cheek,” Coal drawls over me, “Since when are you such a brat, darlin’…” he finally smiles a little when he sees me fire up. He answers my firey stare with a hand to my cheek, “Tonight then.”
“Hmm wait-what?” I ask, airy and kind of breathless.
“I’ll make you mine,” Coal doesn’t kiss me, he just tells me his intention, straight up. He turns back to his work, looks at my face one more time and then moves away.
As he strolls off, he yells back to me, “Walk her back, Raven.”
“Mm,” I murmur under my breath.
“Raven,” Coal looks back at me now.
“Yes,” I add, and he keeps staring at me, annoyed, cocking his other brow, “Yes? Yes, boss – yes, siiirrr.”
Coal shakes his head as he turns back to the firewood.
I stare at his bare back.
His rippling, perfect muscles.
He’s so strong even though he’s lean.
“Raven,” Coal laughs now as he looks back at me, and sees me frozen, “Walk her back.”
Oh, yeah.
I forgot.
“Yes! Sir,” I spin and walk to Marmelady, who is chewing grass in slow motion, staring at me with half closed eyes.
Lucky moon tonight, she says.
“I don’t want to know what you mean by that,” I whisper at her, “Walk with me,” I turn and she follows me close.
I glance to Coal, and he’s watching me, after seeing me talk to the horse.
He then continues with his wood chopping, looking hella focused.
He was going to make me his tonight.
I felt like we weren’t acquaintances anymore.
We were getting to know each other.
And it was getting kind of dicey.
I didn’t expect that at all.
I thought he was pretty chill, I knew he was strict, but he literally spanked me.
I didn’t know Coal had a devil stuck in there.
I shouldn’t be surprised.
He was still divorced – the ex was a nightmare, I knew that, but I’m sure he wasn’t an angel the whole time either.
I can imagine him getting strict on her – and her firing back.
Most women wouldn’t put up with that. I was also the type of woman to not put up with that.
Being treated like a disobedient animal.
But for some reason I understand Coal’s way with me, at least… it’s like… I don’t know, a respect thing.
Like he just wanted respect – and not in a way that was unreasonable. Just… conservative and old school. I always thought that was pretty gross.
Right now, I’m completely turned on by his traditional values and his straight forward need and his determination to see his way through.
I wouldn’t mind being punished again.
Coal’s smoking when he’s angry.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 10 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
When I return Marmelady to the stables, I notice a distinct quiet from the homestead as I walk toward it. The music was turned down and when I walked in through the side door by the kitchen, I saw everyone sitting around the table, discussing in depth a peculiar issue.
I don’t want to eavesdrop and they look rather serious so I quickly move my way back toward the spare room, but too late I realise it’s occupied.
Bell is back, and she’s crying and wiping her nose with a tissue as she paces up and down by the bed.
Before I can spin to give her privacy, she turns and her eyes widen when she sees me.
“Hey, Raven,” she speaks, while I awkwardly scratch behind my ear.
“You came back!” I start, “Why are you crying?”
“I came back because… fucking Brandy, he’s a fucking loser,” she hisses as she turns to her pile of clothes dumped on the floor and she kicks through a familiar leather jacket she must have taken from him, “I had to warn them,” Bell explains, looking back at me, “He’s planning to wreck the fences again. Same exact spot. I overheard him talking to his friends. He didn’t know I was listening, but I caught a ride back up here. I called but I’m guessing you didn’t have your phone on you?”
“I was out with Coal just before, I’m so sorry I missed it,” I apologize and Bell shrugs as she sits on her bed.
“Nah, it’s fine,” she whispers, before patting the spot next to her, asking me to sit with her, “Can you shut the door?”
I nod and give us privacy as I sit next to her, clearly she needed to vent, “Mom speaks so highly of you, and apparently Coal is talking again,” I nod and Bell continues, “I respect that you’ve won my mom’s respect, she’s hard on everyone.”
“Thank you,” I murmur, “But I don’t really see her as hard on anyone, I thought she just said things straight – no bull shit. It can sound harsh. When she told me to not work this week it felt like Trish was telling me off,” I laugh and Bell smirks.
“Yeah, I hated that tone, she’d always use it on me… I don’t know why it pissed me off so much,” Bell asks me, “What’s your mom like?”
“Don’t have one… or a dad… so I’m an orphan… I’ve always had… literally nobody that cared for me, anyways…” I gulp, grabbing my own wrist and just squeezing it, feeling empty every time I think about how I didn’t experience that stability most people experienced. I tried very hard not to think about it.
I tried to live in the moment.
Bell has gone super quiet and I look to see her face is alight with shock.
“I…” she doesn’t know what to say, but she blushes a bit, “I feel so dumb,” she admits, “I’m here complaining about my mom being strict and you don’t have family… I’m so sorry. I love my mom.”
“I understand the need to explore and be crazy sometimes,” I answer her softly, “But don’t take your family for granted. Are you thinking about staying?”
“I will,” Bell nods, “…I’ve been thinking I might even go back to school, honestly. Just to show myself I can finish something. I still feel so dumb for complaining, shit.”
“Please, you’re not dumb, you didn’t even know,” I grin, “I think you’re pretty smart. You figured out a way to live independently, at 16, even for a few months that’s pretty impressive… even if it’s also stupid.”
Bell rolls her eyes now, thinking back to a memory, “…there’s also another reason I came back…” she sounds more shy admitting this, “It’s about… him.”
“Brandy?” I ask, “If he hurt you… we can help.”
“No,” Bell shakes her head, “Nope. I’d kill him if he hurt me. But… he did break up with me last night.”
“Oh, no,” I have to force that out, trying not to fist pump the air.
“Asshole was too… pushy… said he waited long enough – but it was such a turn off having him so desperate trying to get into my pants. I guess Brandy thought I’d cave in a lot quicker. But I’m just not… ready… I guess?”
“Don’t worry,” I smile, “I’m 23 and still a… yeah.”
“…virgin still? Oh…” Bell laughs, then quickly slaps a hand over her mouth, “Sorry… I just… okay, it caught me off guard.”
“I’m just saying it’s not a big deal,” I add, blushing a bit for mentioning it.
“Cat,” Bell suddenly tells me, “Coal’s ex? You heard about what she did?”
“No,” I shake my head.
“Well… I found her fucking the neighbor – I told Coal straight away, and that’s when everything went… south… real fast… and I… kind of didn’t want to be here when my nephews went overseas with Cat… I feel like it’s my fault they’re gone, I loved those boys, we played around all the time,” Bell says this all so quickly, she tries to keep it in as she can’t help letting the tears fall again.
I did not expect that admission – at all.
I pull her in for a hug, hoping she feels better soon.
“You did nothing wrong, Bell. Life can be so fucked up sometimes. Just please stay here with your family. Stay around the people you love.”
Bell cries it out and we talk a bit more. Eventually, when I try to leave to go for a walk, she begs me to stay and keep chatting. I could chill with Bell all day and talk, we hit it off – but I was low key panicking about Coal’s reaction once he returned with the firewood and heard about what Brandy was planning.
I don’t want to worry Bell.
I just want to make sure Coal doesn’t kill anyone.
It might be selfish but I want to experience more with Coal.
I didn’t want some stupid, fucked up idiot and druggie from town, taking away the first stable thing I’d ever found in my life.
It’s ignited a fire for justice within me.
Especially hearing about him pressuring Bell.
I don’t tell anyone where I’m going.
But I take out Jinger, the young mare I was allowed to ride – and I take off toward the end of the property where it was openly discussed the original damage was.
I’d deal with Brandy and his stupid friends myself.
I get about a paddock down the trail when I hear a dirt bike behind me.
I look over my shoulder, expecting Coal or Ken. No doubt asking me what the hell I’m doing.
But I don’t expect to see Bell.
She snuck out to follow me!
Bell has thrown up her bleached hair in a wild pony, wearing open gloves and now wearing Brandy’s jacket that she clearly stole, and some old jeans.
When she rides up beside me, she yells out to me, “You think you were going to face them without me? Bitch, please.”
“I didn’t know you could ride a dirt bike,” I laugh and she laughs louder.
“I’m versatile,” she yells back, “I brought some equipment.”
“Wha –?” I worry now.
“A tazer and a lighter, and some extra gasoline,” she explains, arching a perfect brow, “I’m going to set their car on fucking fire if they trespass onto our property. I know where they’ll be.”
“That’ll be… the last… just… actually, that’s not necessary, Bell,” I try to reason with her, trying not to encourage it, even though it makes me happy inside. However, she just doesn’t listen anyway and takes off ahead, murder on her mind.
I’m pretty sure I can negotiate with the idiot boys.
I’m aiming for that.
A discussion. A talk. I can convince them it’s not worth it.
I just hope I can reel in Bell’s wild nature before she does what she’s possibly planning to follow through with.
Although, having her crazy and as back up might work as well for some persuasion.
We just had to get Brandy and his friends to fuck off.
Then we could all have a perfect Christmas Eve.
Assuming… that Coal wasn’t too angry that I directly disobeyed him immediately after he told me to ask permission first before taking out any horses.
It was obeying… or getting ahead.
I wanted to get ahead of this curve.
I wanted more from life now.
I wanted to help defend this family.
And I would.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 11 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
Talking? Negotiation?
Um… not really necessary.
It took two hours to get to this end of the Devonshire Ranch, and as Bell and I approached from around a hilltop, we could see Brandy and his Freshie band of troublemakers parked with their old rusting BMW by the fence.
It’s apparent right away that Coal and Timothy moved the cows out of this area, and the gates were shut – but the idiots don’t seem to realise this, meaning their attempt to cut through the fence with pliers is stupid and pointless.
Outback at this area is a forest and a field, I’m guessing this is where the Wilde family knew to come to camp – since it’s edging into a beautiful part of nature. It also explains why it took so long to get the cows back in, if some had been lost in the forest – Coal and Timothy had their work cut out for them.
Brandy is leaning down, trying to pull a stump of wood out of the ground unsuccessfully – he falls on his ass when he looks up and sees Bell heading full power to their car with her dirt bike.
I almost push Jinger into a full gallop, worried about the aggressive confrontation as Bell shows off her intention with a small petrol can in her right hand, as she yells out some expletives I can’t hear.
Brandy and his two friends freeze, get up and sprint to their car – immediately fleeing.
They get to their car moments before Bell pulls up, and they take off at full speed, bumping along the rough dirt track and crashing into a raised part of terrain almost immediately.
They have to back up slowly, start the car since it stalled, and pull out again.
Bell keeps chasing them, and they go faster and faster – until she eventually comes back around and rides back to me.
I’ve made it to the fence and I see Brandy left his pliers – which still have a tag on them, so they were stolen from a hardware store.
IQ 1000.
I take pictures and pick up the pliers, placing them in the bag on the saddle.
Jinger calmly watches everything, while I inspect the damage of the fence – which was minimal.
I see Coal used twine to fix it temporarily where they must have crashed through it originally.
Bell slows to a stop by me and jumps off the dirt bike, laughing her ass off, “Did you see them chicken out so fast?” she roars laughing, “I saw a shit stain on the back of Brandys pants when they were running to the car,” she wheezes.
So Brandy literally shit himself when he saw Bell.
I told myself for the two hour journey here, not to encourage her being too much of a bad ass.
But I can’t keep it in, I snort and laugh with her, and she skips toward me to give me a spontaneous hug.
It’s full of such cowgirl love – only country girls were like this. City girls – not so much.
After squeezing the life out of me, she lets me go and falls to her ass, still laughing, before lying back and staring up at the blue sky, sighing.
I go quiet too, “Should we head back?”
Bell’s smile slowly wipes from her face.
“…can you hear that?” she whispers, “That’s my dad’s truck.”
She jumps up and we both look over the ranch toward the road, where Brandy’s small car has stopped with what seems to be two flat tires.
It looks like Ken has come around the back to flank us.
And he’s come with the police trailing him.
“Yes,” Bell hisses, “Yes – they caught them!” The police pull up beside Brandy immediately.
The truck turns onto the dirt track and starts toward us. I’m guessing they’ll want these pliers too, and to inspect the new minor damage.
“Let’s wait here,” I suggest.
“Yeah,” Bell turns to me, gulping, looking nervous, “…Dad is going to be pissed…”
I don’t know what to say.
We did a good thing – but it was still reckless.
And I think Coal is going to have a few words to say to me.
We wait in silence, watching the cops arrest Brandy and his friends.
Ken pulls up to us, and it’s just him and Grey.
“What the hell are you doing out here, without telling someone?” Ken immediately yells, slamming the door shut. Bell tries to look serious, but starts to smirk, “What’s so funny?”
“We scared them off, dad,” Bell tries to explain quickly.
“What’s this?” he asks, picking up the petrol can from beside her bike, “If you start a fire out here it can spread to the forest and start a bushfire, Bell.”
“It’s winter, relax, and it’s been raining,” Bell tries to argue, but he turns to put the can on the back of his truck.
Meanwhile Grey looks kind of impressed and secretly winks at Bell and me, giving us his silent approval.
I have a feeling Ken is proud too, honestly, but he has to be the dad figure first and foremost, and I respect that.
Ken and Grey take the bike and put it on the back of the truck. I hand the pliers to Bell, so she can give it to Ken.
There is not much said toward me, but I also hang back a bit, pretending to inspect the fence a few more times.
Not soon after, I hear a whistle in the distance, and Jinger instantly throws her head back, Coal, she says.
I turn with her and see Coal on Galvin at the top of the hill.
With me, now!” Coal calls down to me, turning Galvin around and starting back.
I quickly mount Jinger and she takes off before I even have to tell her to follow Galvin and Coal.
I wave to Bell, who still looks sheepish but proud of her effort as she hops into the truck with her dad and uncle.
I catch up to Coal in no time, until we’re side by side.
We had a long ride back.
“What did I say about the horses,” Coal asks it rhetorically, his happy drawl is reduced to simple and justified anger. When I don’t answer, he looks at me sideways and I meet his dark eyed glare – which softens a little, when he sees my slightly teary eyes. I was nervous. I didn’t want to ruin this spark between us. I hope what I did wouldn’t break us, “I said to ask my permission first,” he reminds me, pointless now.
“I’m not… sorry,” I admit, “I’m not sorry for my intention to help, but I am sorry for taking Jinger. I wanted to help Bell feel better. That Brandy needed to be taught a lesson. He won’t ever come near Bell again.”
“Did he hurt her?” Coal is suddenly terrified of any affirmative responses. Luckily it isn’t so.
“No,” I quickly answer, “He’s just an idiot. He was…” shit I shouldn’t have started that next sentence.
“He was…?” Coal drawls quietly, “Raven.”
Fuck it, I should tell him. I trusted him to make the right decision when it came to revenge. At the end of the day, Coal was fiery, but he was also sensible.
“Brandy was pressuring her to have sex even though she’s underage,” I say it quickly, “She said no and he broke up with her because of that. However, boss, the silver lining is they’re done for good now – and she’s staying home, and she’s going back to school, no more Brandy, Coal, he’s out of the picture, forever,” I add that all in quick.
Coal increases the speed of Galvin and I push Jinger to keep up.
His hands are tense on the reigns, so I keep quiet.
After half the treck is covered he finally speaks on it, “That lowlife, he’s lucky he’ll be in jail. Safe from me.”
“Um, excuse me?” I use some humor, “You mean safe from Bell, he shit his pants when he saw her – literally – because she had a gasoline can and everything, she was going to set their car on fire,” I laugh.
“Don’t tell me that,” Coal smiles handsomely, “I’m not meant to approve of that kind of behavior.”
“She’s your sister, alright,” I smile too, “Hot headed.”
“You think I’m hot headed?” Coal looks at me, his brow arched wide, “Damn right I am.”
I look him over briefly and I gulp as I look ahead, thinking about how lucky I am.
Coal was so delicious. So sexy. And he wanted me?! I was living a fairy tale.
“About… what I said… for tonight,” Coal changes topic, “After Christmas Eve dinner, we should go to my cabin, and go for a night walk… if you’re up for it. I thought we could do something a bit different,” What happened to making me his? I think about it deeply, “Raven? What do you think?”
“Mmm, yeah,” I answer.
“You sound disappointed,” Coal picks up on that immediately.
No,” I answer too quickly, “I – I’m not.”
Coal slowly smirks, he can’t keep it in, “…fine, we’ll stay in.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to –”
“We’ll stay in,” Coal cuts me off, looking me over, drawling so slow and personal, just for me, he won’t take his gaze off me, “I know what you want, Raven.”
Saying my name in that way, he knows me completely. What I want. What I crave. What I’m thinking.
I let out a shaky breath, “We could bring out a tablet and watch a movie or something?”
“Mmmhmm. We could play chess, we could cook dinner together, we could watch a movie, I could even show you all the ways I can tie a girl up when she’s needing a lesson in how to obey her man… spank you, fuck you, make you scream…” Coal adds those last suggestions on way too casually. He looks at me quickly, to see if I’ll react. It just caught me off guard so bad, I just stare at him wide eyed and look away, feeling faint, my eyes bugging out of my head, “…you’re such a darl’…” he says it with pure meaning and pure love.
Now I do blush beet red as I avoid his gaze.
I don’t know what to say, but I’m glad Coal takes the lead.
He keeps speeding up, wanting to get back faster and faster.
I’m not complaining.
I can’t wait either.
He didn’t want to be riding Galvin right now.
He wanted me.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 12 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
Christmas Eve. Everyone is rowdy – especially after hearing the tale of Bell chasing off Brandy. Trish loves it. Everyone is filling the homestead, including visiting relatives. Everything is getting busy and quick. It’s smiles all around, while the fire is blazing and the food is quickly passed around with the spirits, while the couches and corners are filled. Familial energy is at its peak. Almost.
But amidst the festive dinner, I notice Coal, even through the hugs and smiles – he has a certain look in his eye.
Everyone is together.
But his sons aren’t here.
I’ve never met them and I even feel that pain almost just as deeply. I feel anger too, now stirring in my heart. Coal has an eye on me as I move past everyone to head out to the deck of the wide porch, and he follows me outside for privacy.
Dark clouds are rolling in again, but they don’t look too ominous, just foretelling of rain or snow.
Coal didn’t change from his dirty clothes and I neither did I. We stand with dirty cowboy and cowgirl jeans next to each other, as he puts a hand in his pocket, and his other grabs the rail of the balcony.
“It’s bigger than Christmas sometimes,” Coal explains, “Depends what they decide each year, but we celebrate both days.”
I don’t want to engage in small talk.
I need to say what’s in my heart.
“Why did you let Cat take them – when she was the one found fucking the neighbor,” I ask him forthright. Not because I’m unaware it’s intrusive or rude – but because I feel fucking upset for his sons. I knew what it was like to grow up without either parent but he is not in their lives and I want to know why. I glare at Coal now, as he looks shocked I know the details, but he goes quiet… just for a moment.
“You need to understand those boys love both their parents,” Coal answers me surprisingly firmly, “…Bell told you what she found…?”
“When will you see them,” I demand to know, wanting to know.
“As kids they’re with her, as teens, with me – it’s all a part of the deal we made, unique circumstances, since she lives on the other side of this rock,” Coal tells me straight and I calm down.
“I’m sorry for sounding so… rude,” I immediately back down, “I just can’t imagine the pain you’re feeling.”
“Well life fucks us all differently, doesn’t it,” Coal manages to make a joke, raising a brow and laughing to himself, not even too bothered right now.
“But I really am sorry for being intrusive, I just miss your sons even though I’ve never met them,” I admit it awkwardly, while staring up at the night sky, “If only wishing hard enough had the power to actually work,” I say this to Coal but I really say it to myself.
I had spent my whole childhood in a state of wishing as hard as I could, imagining parents miraculously running in through the foster doors to scoop me up, take me to a real home – and real love.
I had imagined a family of my own a thousand different ways.
Eventually I realized myself being alone was just my reality and I accepted it when I was an adult.
It brought me peace and allowed me to travel without too much bitterness.
“Wish for what?” Coal murmurs.
I wish for it.
But I say nothing.
I blink and I turn around.
Coal… he was my wish granted… a wish I never specifically asked for.
I didn’t believe it was possible for me to find anyone who would fill a void in me so large that I didn’t even know what to do with it myself. But then we met. And he just got me. In his situation, he was a father, without his kids, so he was lost too in an entirely different kind of way. Different. Yet the same.
Somehow, we fit.
“I didn’t eat much,” I tell him quietly.
I was too nervous about his promise tonight.
Coal nods, “Me neither,” he holds out a hand for me.
He doesn’t have to ask.
I take his hand, slipping my fingers into his and he tugs me down the porch to the gravel, and we start toward the cabin.
We don’t bring anything. We just walk and hold hands.
Through the trail, I watch white bunnies hop into and out of the path. A couple of ravens seem to follow us.
I feel like the whole forest is quietly happy for me.
Such a silly thought but it feels real to me.
“Jinger is a great horse,” I start to speak first, as we near the cabin, “Her and I have bonded like we’ve known each other our whole lives. She’s very relaxed with me the way Galvin is with you,” Coal is quiet for awhile and it worries me, but when I glance up to him, he is just thinking deeply, looking ahead, “…did I… say something…?”
“I broke a lot of girl’s hearts when I was younger,” Coal changes the subject, “In ways I shouldn’t have. That’s why I don’t care… in a way… some fucked up part of me feels like I deserved it. What Cat did. It’s fucked. But it was life repaying me for the shit I used to pull. You could say I was… a cocky young lad,” he smirks then.
“Oh shut up, no, really?” I ask, deeply sarcastic.
“When you look as good as me it’s hard to say no,” Coal chuckles when I gasp.
“What was it about her that made you marry her?” I ask, scared for this answer, not even sure why I asked.
Coal sighs but he answers anyway, “I was wild, but she was ‘sophisticated’ in ways I wasn’t…  I got pulled in and she felt the same way about me, since she never knew anyone like me,” he keeps it vague enough, “The only thing we bonded over was sex.”
Okay,” I interject quickly, not sure if I want to hear anymore as I squeeze his hand.
You asked, darling,” Coal smirks back.
“Uhuh. Why did you ignore me when I mentioned Jinger before,” I change the subject back to what I raised.
Ooh,” Coal pretends to sound overly interested, “Because I know you’re trying to remind me.”
“Remind… you?” I whisper, feigning innocence.
“I’ve been around a lot longer than you, sweet cheeks,” Coal teases me, “You want to remind me you took her without permission… so I can give you attention you don’t deserve.”
Don’t deserve?” I bite too quickly. Coal slips his hand from mine and walks ahead of me, chuckling as he unlatches the door and swings it open, hopping into the dark to start the fire quick.
I walk in and get down on my knees beside him, watching him light the kindling on fire, which catches alight and burns toward the fresh dry logs stacked on top.
“We’re both kind of,” I reach over and put my hand on his knee, as he kneels down on one beside me. I pat over the dried mud, “Dirty. And we smell like arse.”
“Should we swim?” Coal dares me, “In the icy river.”
“Rivers freak me out,” I admit.
“I’ll hold you close,” Coal promises, and I look into the fire, as I chew my lip, “Hey,” he puts a hand on my knee next, looking softly at me, he admits, “You do stink like cow shit,” it takes me a second to even understand where that came from.
But I see the look on his cheeky handsome face.
He wants to fight?!
I get up and challenge him by standing and walking toward the door and the hooks for dirty clothes.
Without looking back at him, because I know I’ll chicken out – I start to undress. From everything.
I hang up my jacket, my jeans, my shirt.
I kick aside my boots and wet socks and I finish by taking off my panties and bra.
That’s my response. Totally butt naked.
I hear him stand up and turn from the roaring fire, while I’ve pulled my long black hair, now loose, in front of me to cover my breasts. It falls down to my waist, while I hold my hands in front of me as well.
Coal must have been in deep thought, I thought he realized I was undressing, but when he has turned from the fire to see me, he immediately stumbles after missing a step across the small space between us, having to grab on the wooden pillar in the middle. He hugs an arm around it, looking me over quick – he looks shy. What!!
It makes me feel shy.
“I smell like cow shit?” I ask, as Coal’s eyes are suddenly on the floor, but he now flickers his eyes back up, as if that question gives him permission to really stare at me. He does now, while I stand very still. Coal’s forgotten my question, I can tell, so I ask again, “I smell –?” I stop when Coal clears his throat and steps clear of the pillar to rip his shirt off, his eyes are now laser focused on me with that mischievous twinkle, as he reaches for the button and zip at his jeans – and I chicken out first.
Don’t,” Coal warns me not to run, but I can’t stay and just watch him strip and pull his dick out!
“I’ll race you?!” I ask him, as I open the door and sprint for the river.
It’s just lush grass and mud out here – it’s fucking freezing but fuck it!
I grin when I hear him swearing as he slams open the cabin door to run after me.
I make the mistake of looking back and now I’m screaming and laughing at how he chases me, feeling out of breath as I run as fast as I can.
I just about make it when I look back and see the unthinkable.
Coal has literally run up so fast he has spun in style and skidded with the mud toward me, somehow maintaining perfect balance as he picks me up and throws us both into the river. His velocity is enough to make us both fly in.
I splash into the icy flow, trying not to laugh while under the water.
It’s thigh deep here, and I splash up to Coal beside me.
We both grab onto each other – playfully and because it’s so, so cold.
My teeth chatter as I hold onto his front and he keeps me close as he wades us out a bit more.
“We’re going to die of hypothermia out here,” Coal says seriously.
“Why. We won’t be long,” I remind him.
“Maybe I never want this moment to end,” Coal grins and he looks so handsome and kind all at once, “I’m stubborn, darling – let’s stay out here.”
What he says melts my heart.
Forget washing. I reach up to kiss him but my cowboy decides he’ll dunk me under the water instead.
I kick away and come back up, to feel Coal’s hand now on my wrist, towing me back in.
He holds me this time, an arm iron tight around my waist as my tits press against his front.
“It’s cold so don’t look for my dick, dick,” Coal growls over me. Ha!
“You’re the dick,” I try to pull him under but I can’t, he’s way too strong. I give up and just glare at him, as he holds us in the icy water, “We should…” go back. But I see him looking down, releasing me a little.
I don’t know what Coal is thinking until he’s diving down to kiss my tits.
I lean back and watch as Coal kisses both nipples and I forget how to think.
He then trails kisses up my skin to my neck, my jaw and finally my mouth.
By this stage I’m dying to kiss him. We lock lips at the same time. I worry only briefly that mine might look as blue as his does.
But Coal doesn’t seem to care at all. I love how it’s all about us – and nothing else matters.
I wrap my hands into his hair, and he starts to walk us backwards, pulling me through the water, toward the edge.
I never want this spontaneous kiss in the river to end.
When we reach the banks, Coal lets my lips go, his eyes haunted that he had to end it as well. He spins me around, helping me out of the river, and smacking a hand over my ass, “Go,” he drawls it low, “Quickly.”
I climb out, my limbs numb as I start to jog toward the cabin, but I’m so cold I can’t move fast.
He ‘runs’ with me, and we both stumble into an awaiting towel he haphazardly threw on the floor.
I wipe my feet and shins clean from dirt and mud, and I toss it to him to use next. Then I practically crawl for the fire. I lay down on my back, crossing my knees, reaching for a blanket on the couch/bed. I pull it down and hold it to my front, as the fire warms and dries me.
Coal uses two fresh towels to wipe off, before finally striding around toward me.
Still naked, he looks down at me, hiding underneath the blanket.
“Hi, dick,” I can’t think of anything else witty to say.
Coal looks around the cabin, “It’s pretty… small.”
“Your dick?” I can’t help myself. Coal looks back at me and grabs his not very small dick. I look at it properly, “Sorry. It’s definitely not –”
“I know it’s big – bigger than average,” Coal can’t help himself. We both start laughing, although his is more of a… cowboy drawl and a chuckle. Coal looks… bothered by me, or maybe it’s just an evil thought he has. He places a step over me, and I close my eyes.
“What are you doing?” I ask, as Coal drops down to one knee – and then the other, his dick above my face.
“Look now,” Coal asks.
“It’s not small!” I yell out, smirking. I poke my tongue out, eyes still shut. Then my tongue pops back into my mouth, “That’s all you’re getting,” I tease.
“Mmhm,” Coal rubs the tip of his cock, against my lips.
I open my eyes, to see his cock prodding. My eyes ask the question – what do you want? Me to suck it?! Just having him above me, trapping me beneath him, is enough to scramble my brain – let alone knowing how to response to this advance as well.
Coal reaches back behind him, an arm outstretched. My eyes widen further and his hand slides between my legs, his fingers rubbing across my pussy.
“Open your mouth,” Coal advises, “I’m on top of you because this is your punishment for stealing Jinger. I’m going to fuck this,” Coal rubs his dick along my slowly parting lips, and I gulp.
“My mouth?” I ask quietly beneath him, a small mumble as I squeeze my legs together, wanting to trap his hand against my pussy forever.
“Yes,” Coal shoves my legs back open with his one hand, only to smack my pussy. You can’t spank a pussy! I gasp at his audacity, but as my mouth opens, he pushes his cock in, lowering his hips. His cock slides over my tongue, heavy, and… oh… fuck… I love it.
I suck and taste him, not complaining.
I didn’t think I’d love it so much. It’s turning me on like crazy. Coal pushes in a bit more, then slides his cock back toward my lips, pushing in along my cheek.
He cups the back of my head and helps me suck. I love it and it’s making me so damn wet already, especially since he starts to slowly circle my clit with his finger.
“Hang on a second, I need a better angle,” Coal taps my cheek with his hand, patting me while he takes his cock out and he spins.
I can’t do anything but watch as he tosses the blanket aside and lowers his face between my thighs. I’ve already voluntarily spread open my legs for him.
His cock is now right above me, teasing my lips. I have to do the work this time.
I reach up to suck on him, and he pushes down.
I lay my head back as he fucks my mouth and eats my pussy. Of course, he knows whatever the hell he is doing, because he balances it easy.
But I’m scared I could cum right away. I want to please him better than anyone else.
And I don’t want this to stop. I try to relax, but Coal’s tongue has found my clit and he isn’t leaving it alone.
I can’t keep myself in control. I squeeze my thighs around his head, a little possessive, but I can’t help it.
Coal has to literally wrestle my legs back, “Calm down,” he scolds me, talking into my pussy as he licks into me.
I love his tongue inside me, but I also remember his tone. Since he decided to scold me for no reason, I stop sucking his dick, and I just tease him with my tongue instead, lapping around the shaft.
What are you going to do now, huh boss?
Coal slides down one hand, and sticks a finger into my ass.
And he pushes in, while still licking through me, and now fucking my ass with his finger.
As I squirm, I start sucking around his cock again, and he immediately shoves it deeper, fucking down, pushing to get into my throat. I welcome him in. He keeps me still so he can keep fucking me, riding my damn mouth. It’s exactly what I wanted.
I can’t keep the climax at bay. It floods through me, my hips jerking as he licks up to my sensitive nub.
Coal focuses on my poor clit while his other hand reaches around and he spreads my pussy lips, watching me squeeze and cum on nothing. I feel so turned on by him staring at me down there. Fuck!
I want to cry out but he’s fucking my throat faster and deeper. Just as I choke on him for getting too rough and too deep – he releases his load into the back of my throat, pushing in deep.
I keep swallowing to stop choking and with a cruel finger he circles my clit, while I taste the full brunt of his load in my mouth, pumping into me.
I swallow it all and he slowly takes his cock from my lips, freeing me of the ‘punishment’.
Coal moves to sit back by the fire place, sprawled out as he watches me, “Fuck, Raven,” he just looks at me, admiring me laid out naked on the floor, still heaving from the pleasure he gave me, “…your mouth is mine now,” he slowly smirks “How does it feel – belonging to someone?”
“Oh, I belong to you now?” I ask, teasing Coal, while I’m still recovering from that orgasm. I tentatively pull up and sit back to sit opposite him.
“I’m not going to let you go,” Coal authorizes the challenge, and he says it seriously, while draping an arm around his leg, “You’re mine.”
“Okay, cowboy,” I purse my lips, “I’m yours,” I like saying it, and I want to climb on top of him.
But I pause my thinking, because Coal… he looks different. He looks very serious so I stay still, listening to what he’s about to suggest.
“Let’s test it then, and we’ll see how brave you really are,” Coal drawls, his voice lowering an octave.
“Anything,” I accept the challenge.
“Crawl to me,” Coal asks, “Lick my balls… don’t say a word… and don’t play up.”
“You really want me to crawl?” I ask, seeing a new kind of strength in his eye.
“I’ll be clear with you, darlin’. I will never, ever, fuck a girl again,” Coal explains, slowly and clearly, “Unless I know she agrees first – that you’re mine and no one else’s. You’ll have to prove it to me. But I want you to want it this way. Do you want a boss in bed? That’s all I’m going to be. Dominant. On top of you, doing what I want.”
I see it now.
What the damage from Cat has manifested to. This is his strength. His control. It’s sexual.
A guilty thought… maybe I want that control in my life.
“Isn’t there a safe word or something for that kind of thing?” I ask, still nervous, “Don’t get me wrong, I liked the way you fucked my face, Coal – and the… the end… how you were rough and made me take it…. I… I came hard because of – that –”
“I know, sweety, I was there,” Coal cuts me off, lightly teasing me, but answering me at the same time, “Safe words aren’t needed. You just tell me what you feel, and I’ll aways listen,” Coal promises, “Do you trust me?”
“Of course I do,” and I’m already horny for more, feeling my pussy clench on its own uncontrollably, and I feel how wet I still am because I feel the cream leak out of me. I clasp my ankles with my hands, squeezing them as I rest my chin on my knee, which is raised to my chest, “But I have a question. What do you mean… what do you really mean… when you say I’m yours?
“To be my girl, you’ll obey me when I want you,” Coal answers, tough and true to it, “I get what I want and you understand that I tell you what to do and you do it. That goes for anything and everything. And you’ll get rewarded for it if you’re good. If you behave.”
That’s ultra conservative as hell cowboy.
But fuck.
Just the thought of that treatment is making me even needier. I want to fuck. I want him to take it.
I bite my tongue.
I don’t want to answer him with words.
Words are meaningless.
I unclasp my ankles slow, and I move forward.
I lean onto my palms, making the decision as I look at his balls next.
“Raven, there’s no going back…” Coal murmurs a brief warning under his breath, his dick throbbing back to life as I bend over and crawl exactly as he said. But I move slow. And I say nothing as I focus on his pleasure and nothing else, “…good…” Coal compliments my effort, his drawl becoming a seductive growl, “That’s how you behave. Listen and obey,” I stick my ass up higher, as I place a hand on his thigh and dive down, my tongue licking across his balls, right between them, over and over, tasting him, “Fuck… I should have married you,” Coal chuckles, his hand sliding through my hair as he holds me close to suck his balls.
Still, I say nothing, I just lick and suck.
I’m only doing this. Because I want it. Exactly how he said it’d be.
I’m neck deep into it.
For the first time in my life – I’ve found a place and another person I never want to leave.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 13 ◉●•◦
Raven’s POV
By the time I’ve listened to Coal and by the time I’ve done what he’s asked, I roll my eyes up to see what he’s feeling and thinking. He looks pleased, so I slide my tongue up his balls, over his throbbing shaft to the tip of his cock, I suck down over the top – and Coal’s dark eyes lower.
He didn’t ask me to do that.
I stop sucking to ask quietly, “…what?”
Coal murmurs, “Come here,” I obey right away as I crawl forward and climb over him, as he leans back on one hand, and touches my chin with his fingers, lightly caressing my face, so I look up at him, moving closer and closer toward his mouth, “You’re so cheeky… and beautiful,” I want to dive up and kiss him but I hold myself back, really trying not to make any moves since he wants all the say.
Coal’s eyes watch mine as I struggle in an attempt to hold myself back, as I look from his lips to his eyes, over and over.
Coal gently smiles and moves in to kiss me. He kisses into me though, so I have to lean back – and before I even know it, he’s lifting me up with the kiss, an arm around me as he backs me up to the bed.
I break away from his mouth to breathe hard with heightened nerves;he’s on the prowl for my virginity. As I look up at him, Coal presses his forehead to mine and whispers over my cheek, “Turn around, sweetheart.”
I do so, so quickly that he laughs.
But it’s friendly. Meanwhile I close my fists as I blush.
I feel the fire spread warmth over the both of us, as rain starts to spit against the windows – and a light mist of fog washes in over the forest just outside.
It’s just then that I see Coal in the reflection of the windowpane and he is staring at me with such intense scrutiny, while also looking like he has nothing but love and hope for me… and us.
It’s so much emotion at once, I’ve never received something like that. In just a look.
I quickly close my eyes, pursing my lips as his hands slide across my front, feeling all of me. One hand slides over my breasts, while his second hand dives between my legs again, one finger rubbing against my clit in circles. Coal feels how my body responds, while I rub against him, especially when he teases me with such a light touch.
I start to moan and pant, “Please.”
Coal kisses my ear, “Yes, Raven, I’ll fuck you. Calm down. You’re everything I want – I’m keeping you, don’t worry.”
I bend over voluntarily and stick my ass out, looking back over my shoulder and smiling when he sees me tempting him forward.
I get on the bed and shuffle over, I bend down and grab a pillow, pressing my cheek to it, slowly spreading my legs and raising my ass even higher, “Then take me, cowboy,” I can’t help but tease him, “…please…?” I chew on my lip and he just watches me, all the more amused, “Please, Coal,” I have to ask again, since he just watches as I beg, stroking his own hard cock, “Coal, fuck me. I want to experience –”
“Shh, you little slut, I’ll give it to you,” Coal scolds me and moves fast, he jumps up onto the bed and kneels behind me, gripping my waist. He pulls me right back against his hips, so his cock slides between my legs. I immediately start to rub back and forward, sighing as I love the feel of him against me, a promise of what it might be like inside.
Coal’s hand slides along my back, he twirls my long black hair over his fist, flipping it around and pulling me back so my back arcs and he turns my head to the side a little, “Look at me,” he doesn’t ask nicely. This is a non-negotiable order. I roll my eyes back up to him, and I see him watch me as he holds my eye, rubbing his cock against my opening – I can feel how wet I am. He pushes in a little… a little further… I start to hold my breath, but it doesn’t hurt, because I want him so bad, “…get used to this, darling…” it’s the only warning I get as Coal jerks my hair back tighter as he slams his dick into me, pushing all the way in.
Coal, oh shit,” I can’t help but gasp. I had no idea it would feel this full on. I had imagined this many times, but – Coal starts to fuck me and I can’t remember my own thoughts.
He releases my hair and my face falls against the pillow, as he holds a hand to the back of my head and he lifts a leg to another position to fuck me at a better angle, pushing in deeper… pulling out and then realizing he now has the ideal spot and quick, so he starts to ram his dick into me.
My pussy is getting completely owned – it was wanting this so bad, and now it’s happening.
I feel all his cowboy strength now, I can’t even fuck him back because he fucks me so hard and fast down into my position. I can only submit to this loving, while my body winds up so quick and my eyes roll back into my head.
Whatever angle Coal has achieved, his dick not only stretches me out completely but hits my g-spot every time. Pleasure rushes through me, bringing me higher towards a familiar peak –
“Don’t,” Coal warns me out of nowhere, “Not yet.”
Don’t… what? Don’t cum, isn’t it… t-that’s what he…
“But I –” I cry out.
Raven, be a good girl, come on now,” Coal’s authority can’t be questioned as he fucks me consistently and ruthlessly. How? How can I… stop my own climax?!
I cry with my excruciating pleasure, whimpering at every rougher thrust.
I try my best to withstand the orgasm from crushing my resistance. I try hard, but he fucks me harder.
Then Coal smacks my ass – and almost instantly my feeble resistance is over.
I scream out and quickly muffle it into the pillow as my body contracts, my pussy clenches so damn hard and squeezes him repeatedly as Coal fucks me hard and settles deep, balls deep. I’ve cum so hard, so suddenly, my body milks him dry, and he has to release, I’m way too tight and my pussy is way too demanding, he was unable to withstand my own defeat.
Coal pulls out and I collapse to my side, heaving in deep breaths, my blood warm, my body numb with pleasure.
That was amazing.
Meanwhile he is moving back around the cabin.
Now what is he on the prowl for?
Stalking toward?
I watch him, with half closed eyes, unsure what he intends, until I see him come back with a bit of rope looped around his arm.
I forgot about this – Coal wanted to show me… his talents with rope, didn’t he? I gulp as he slowly walks toward me, watching me, “You enjoyed yourself, didn’t you, darlin’?”
“Mm, yeah,” I whisper, feeling cheeky as, “What… what are you going to do with that, cowboy?”
“You disobeyed me,” Coal leans down on one knee, to get eye level with me, his finger booping my nose. When I smile, he smiles, “Now I’m going to tie your hands behind your back and fuck you all night. No sleep. No aftercare, either. I’m going to use you like a little whore until you know to never disobey me again. You belong to me. So, you’ll obey me.”
Every dirty word Coal says, drives me crazy. I’m so fucking horny for him.
“How long will you keep my hands tied…?” I dare ask.
“All night… or until I think you deserve freedom,” Coal smirks when my eyes widen, “And any position I put you in, you’ll take it, whether it’s on the floor or bent over the chair or up against the wall – no hands for you to touch me, or yourself. I’ll be in charge of your pleasure tonight, Raven.”
“You want to fuck again?” I laugh nervously, “I’m… I’m… spent.”
“You don’t have to do anything but take it, cowgirl – your obedience matters to me,” Coal smirks because he knows I’ll get pleasure from it anyway. I blush a deep red at the thought of being his all night, “…turn around…” he murmurs that, but dangerously so.
I turn around, onto my front, and I hold my hands behind my back.
“Meanie,” I tease him, while biting my lip.
“You have no idea,” Coal stands up and loops the rope, whipping one end across my ass.
Shit, he snapped it and it really made a sharp impact. I immediately roll off the bed and spring to my feet, hair in a mess and hands up, pleading for mercy.
“Holy ouch,” I whisper to Coal, trying not to smile and trying not to cry, “Coal. That hurt.”
“Only a little,” Coal winks at me, “Turn around or you’ll be taught another lesson.”
I turn around, gulping as I give him my hands again.
My heart is racing.
I’m so excited.
I’m a little scared.
But more than anything, I’m high.
Giving him my consent and control in this is fucking exhilarating.
He’s wild and I don’t know what he’ll do, but I do trust him.
I trust him to make this the best night of my fucking life.
I’m already trembling at the thought of what’s to come.
As he ties my hands behind my back, it’s not a difficult process. A few loops, a few tugs and boom, my wrists are in a simple vice. And I can’t remove the rope. I’m well and truly restrained.
I spin to Coal and he appreciates my chest, sticking out more, and I shake my hair forward. Clucking his disapproval, he slides my hair off my shoulders, exposing my tits once again.
“Where do you want me? How do you want me?” I ask, sultry and greedy for more of his dirty words.
“Everywhere,” Coal murmurs while his eyes singe my skin, “And I’ll have you however the fuck I want you. Shut those pretty lips and press yourself against me.”
I walk into Coal’s front, I press myself to him, looking up at him, as I tell him a vulnerable admission of my desire, even after he told me to be quiet, “Please. Never let me go.”
I say it with tears in my eyes, choking up with more held back tears, as pure vulnerability pours out of me in this moment.
Please, never let me go.
“What if I told you, Raven… I am never letting you go,” Coal doesn’t mind I spoke, since it came from the bottom of my always broken heart, “Never. I’ve been waiting my whole life for you, sweetheart,” he admits his own vulnerability, his hand sliding up my neck, to my cheek, over my face, moving any stray hairs out of the way of my eyes.
Coal grabs both my cheeks and he kisses me – and it’s tender as fuck.
My heart doesn’t just melt.
It melts toward him, leaving me, voluntarily latching onto him.
We’re both fucking crying, I notice when I dare look at him, and I see two tears on his cheeks – and he has looked at me at the same time, to see more tears on my cheeks.
We both smile, and I can’t help but tease him, “It’s hot when you cry, Coal.”
“Shut up, bitch,” Coal teases me back, grinning as he kisses me again, quick, “Fuck,” he pulls back, watching my seriously, “Oh, no.”
“Oh, no?” I ask, worried.
“I forgot to buy you a Christmas present,” Coal tries to say it seriously, but he smiles anyway, unable to fake it.
“Oh, okay,” I say anything, and Coal shrugs.
“Doesn’t matter,” he sounds way too smug, eyes sparkling as he spontaneously kisses my cheeks and my tears, even kissing the tops of my eyes as I blink them shut.
I don’t know why he sounds so damn sly and sheepish.
But I don’t really care.
Christmas can wait till morning.
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◦•●◉ A WILD RAVEN Chapter 14 ◉●•◦
Coal’s POV
I had Raven all to myself that Christmas Eve and I enjoyed every moment of her company.
She made me so horny, we fucked all night. Having her tied up was all the more fun for the both of us.
She was so into it, too.
I even fucked her to sleep, pounding into her ass, after fucking her in front of the fire, straight up against the pillar, then over the bed and in front of the window, so she could watch her own reflection as I made her climax over and over for me.
Eventually I lay her down on the couch, spooning her from behind, releasing her hands from their bounds but keeping them held in front of her in the grip of my hand, as I played with her tits and rode her ass to sleep.
I wasn’t going to be done until I had her ass.
So I made sure I had that too.
Since Raven was so new to it all, I was gentle, but I still enjoyed her whimpers of pain mixed with pleasure, as I dug deep and then emptied my load into her.
It was in that moment I realized I always wanted to unload inside of her, not just on her beautiful face or over her tongue.
I already had my intention set.
Next time we fucked – I wanted a baby.
Raven and I slept in the early morning, under the blankets – and we woke up late to my alarm.
We were both quiet as we got ready. She was sore and trying to hide her limp. I may have stretched her a little too far for comfort at times, but she’d get used to my lovin’.
She did kiss me sweetly though, and then we walked back to the homestead, firmly bonded – our relationship no longer a question mark.
She belonged to me.
I’d always protect her.
And she knew in her heart I’d be here forever.
Raven’s POV
I was going to spend Christmas day rather sore after last night.
Coal didn’t just fuck me – he completely owned me and made sure I fucking knew it.
I still remember when he decided to finish it all off with one last fuck – pushing his hard, punishing dick, back into my body, but this time, it was my ass.
I thought it’d be excruciating – I had no idea it could feel so damn good. But it was very tight, so Coal fucked me slow and gentle, helping me stretch to his size – but it also meant he was in my ass for a long time, and he kept thrusting into my hips, holding me so tight, keeping me right back against him as I submitted to it.
I loved every second.
In the morning, from the deepest satisfaction, we didn’t even say a word – too deep in our own thoughts, thinking of how perfect the night had been.
We had both attained levels of pleasure we both probably had no idea we could reach.
Coal and I eventually returned to the homestead for Christmas.
And soon the day was starting in a quick fashion.
Trish that late morning was very forceful in getting me off the Ranch, telling me to take her pick-up truck into town and get some groceries for her. She made some silly excuse about being hung-over, but I knew she was completely sober.
She also couldn’t keep the twinkle out of her eye.
So, I graciously accepted the keys and grocery list, and then I took off on my own.
Coal was busy talking to his parents, and everyone sheepishly waved me off.
I don’t know what the big deal was, but I knew it was about some kind of Christmas present. I seriously had no idea what to expect, though.
I decide I better just let it unfold naturally; yet still I can’t keep the butterflies out of my stomach.
I head into town, expecting to buy milk and some vegetables and head straight home.
What actually happens?
Well, let me just tell you.
30 mins later
I can’t believe what I just picked up in the middle of town.
Not what.
But who.
I had finished the grocery shopping and hopped back in the truck, when I saw a bus pulled up across the side of the street.
I watched as a bunch of travelers coming in from some big city, were clearly getting off at the stop here to visit family in this country town for Christmas.
Everyone was dispersing to their family picking them up.
I just also happen to look long enough that I see three individual children who look lost, confused and familiar.
The three boys hold luggage behind them, while the eldest boy looks across the street and zones in on the truck. They all look to be around the ages of 11, 9 and 7 to me.
The eldest boy points to me and then the three kids run across the road.
There’s no cars at this point, but my heart races anyway as they sprint across recklessly in their excitement. Geez. Where was their mother?!
They seem to be totally alone.
I jump into action and open the door to the sidewalk as the eldest boy rounds the bonnet and looks right at me, pausing when he doesn’t recognize me.
“Willem?” I ask him, hoping for an affirmative response.
He pauses long enough, as the other two boys show up behind him.
Willem nods – oh my fucking god.
It’s really Coal’s kids, visiting for Christmas.
But I don’t think anyone knew they were coming.
“Cat gave you permission?” I ask him, carefully, “Your mom, Cat?”
I definitely didn’t run away, ma’am, if that’s what you’re meaning,” Willem tells me straight, “Who are you? Why are you in grandma’s truck?”
“I work for your grandma and your father,” I explain, “…didn’t you have someone picking you up or…?”
“…not exactly… we were going to walk to the Ranch…” Willem admits.
“Well get in, because I’m driving you back right now. You’re not walking in this winter chill.”
I turn, my hands numb with shock as I open the back doors as they approach and I grab their luggage, throwing in the bags first.
They climb in next, they buckle up, I shut the door, and I return to the driver’s seat.
As I pull off, Willem keeps talking to me.
“Mom said we could go back home whenever we wanted, but that’s after we started pissing her off too much. River kept lassoing her husky all the time, she hated it. And Jonas kept calling Steven dung poop.”
“Mama’s got a new boyfriend, and she’s pregnant,” River, the youngest and shyest, speaks up, then they all go very quiet.
“How did you… get on a plane… by yourselves?” I truly am curious.
“Mom didn’t know what to get me for my 12th birthday,” Willem immediately tells me with pride, “…soooo she just gave me her credit card and said I can buy whatever I want,” Willem shrugs like it’s no big deal at all, “So I booked us all tickets home. Like a bawse.”
Like a boss.
Oh, my good lord.
So a 12 year old plotted this adventure. Without anyone’s permission or knowledge.
Thank goodness I was in town at this very moment.
“She knew you were leaving?” I ask.
“Nah, then yeah… I mean yes, of course,” Willem whispers, looking far too cheeky as he doesn’t explain anything else.
I have a feeling they did run. Across half the globe – to come back to their father.
Wild, wild kids.
“Coal misses you very much – I mean your father does,” I don’t know why I called him Coal to them, so I awkwardly laugh, far too overwhelmed with what I’m bringing back home so unexpectedly.
In the rear view mirror I see all their eyes go wide but they don’t say anything with the mention of their dad. In fact, I see tears brimming on all their lashes so I awkwardly turn on the radio and carefully take the turn back to the Ranch.
What I see in the driveway has my heart pounding.
What the hell –
There is a brand-new silver truck in the driveway, with a big fat red ribbon on the bonnet.
No one is outside, but I have a feeling I know who that new truck is for.
It could explain why it’s replaced the exact spot my leaky sedan had been parked 30 minutes ago.
I don’t have time to react about that, however, as the boys are already taking off their seat belts as they yell out at the sight of the homestead.
“We’re home!” Willem yells, pointing through the window.
Wait till I stop before you jump out,” I have to scold them, they look ready to bolt, “Don’t forget your bags –” I try to keep them calm but they aren’t listening.
I can’t blame them and I can already feel my throat closing up with tears as the kids react immediately to the sight of Coal’s jacket hung out over the railing.
I quickly park and then the three of them are falling over each other to get out first as Jonas opens the door first.
“DAD!” Willem is screaming already, running up the porch.
I’m not even out of the damn truck yet!
I quickly take off my seat belt and jump down, following the three boys up to the front door as they all forget to take their shoes off.
They track fresh snow into the homestead as they run in through the door, and I run in behind them.
River almost gets knocked off his feet by Jonas and Willem as they barge past, so I quickly grab his shoulder before he knocks into the wall.
I steady him and he smiles at me for a second before focusing on being home again.
The ranch is dead silent, and I wonder if anyone is even here or if they all went for a walk around outside somehwere.
I walk down past the first wall to see the living area and kitchen, where Willem and Jonas have sprung out.
Trish and Ken had been talking to Coal in the kitchen, but the three of them are silent and in complete shock at the sudden and unexpected sight.
Izabella has just taken out her headphones and closed her sketch book by the fireplace. Bella, Timothy, Haline and Bell were eating breakfast at the table.
Aunt Jean and Uncle Grey were sitting on a couch together, reading a newspaper each with a cup of coffee in their hands.
But everyone is silent.
I’m afraid they’ve all turned to statues.
Willem holds out his hands, grinning from ear to ear as he immediately becomes the center of attention and the star of the room, “Merry fucking Christmas!” he makes Timothy choke on his corn flakes with laughter, as Willem then barrels head long into the kitchen, toward Coal.
Coal drops everything to embrace Willem, getting down onto one knee.
Jonas and River run forward too, and soon they’re all in one big snuggle.
I can’t even bare to look because it hurts my heart that much. It’s so beautiful it’s killing me.
Coal’s face is buried in Willem’s hair, you can’t see his expression but I know every emotion is just wrenched out of his gut at the sight of his kids – when he thought he wouldn’t see them for years.
“You did this?” Trish speaks into the quiet, looking at me.
“Well, no, well yes, but – I just saw them get off a bus and I could tell they were –” I tattle off and everyone’s combined staring is making me blush harder and harder.
“A bus – is this just a visit or –?” Coal’s voice cracks as he asks this of his sons.
“Dad, we’re staying,” Willem hisses his excitement, “We’re never going back to that shit hole on the other side of this rock!”
Willem,” Trish immediately zones in on the swearing.
“I mean it!” Willem grins and his two younger brothers agree with their smiles.
“We’re staying here,” Jonah adds, confidently, “Forever now.”
“You’re staying,” Coal can’t even believe it, he’s still in shock, “Holy fuck.”
Coal, watch your language,” Trish tries not to facepalm, after her son just swears as carelessly as Willem. Everyone starts to stand up from their positions and move in closer.
Coal then rises up as his sons turn toward the rest of the family and their young aunts and uncle.
Coal looks right over everyone and straight to me.
I stand frozen, my lips pursed, feeling the full brunt of his powerful soul singing out toward me.
He comes for me, lightning fast.
Coal grabs my face with both his hands, rubbing his thumbs under my eyes, looking down at me like I’m some kind of miracle worker. Really, it was just a coincidence!
Coal doesn’t have words, so he kisses me instead.
I blush even harder because of how possessive it is, I feel like it’s expressing that she’s mine and she’s staying.
When he lifts his mouth from mine, I suck in a shaky breath, “I just – saw them – and – I –”
“Thank you, Raven,” Coal says it so seriously, I can’t keep staring at the intensity of his eyes, it’s shattering me in all the right ways.
I embrace him, pulling him to me, holding him tight.
“You deserve this,” I whisper against his chest.
After a few seconds, he pulls me aside and walks me out to the porch for a moment.
Coal holds my hand and reaches into his pocket as he jangles new keys between us and then forces them into the pocket on my jeans.
“No way,” I whisper, “I can’t –”
“You want to live here?” Coal whispers, “You’ll need a truck.”
“But –”
“Are you staying? If you’re staying – they’ll be no complaining about this gift,” Coal orders me. I awkwardly nod.
“Okay, Coal,” I gulp down any need to gush, “Thank you.”
Coal tightens his hand on mine and swings us back around to the door.
He walks us back inside.
He won’t let go of my hand.
“Boys, listen up,” Coal commands the room into silence, and Willem, Jonas and River all swing around and stand to attention, “I want to introduce you to Raven – she’s my girl. You’ll show her the same respect you show me, won’t you?”
You’re his girlfriend? Hmm,” Willem eyes me off, pretending to act suspicious, before grinning, “Nah, you’re cool.”
Jonas shyly smiles and River runs right up to me and gives me a quick hug.
It’s tight and inescapable. It’s only a mini-second and then he pounces back and says, “I like you!”
“Thank you, River,” I whisper back to him, as Coal’s hand snakes around my waist and pulls me into his side.
“You boys must be hungry,” Trish starts to make her way to the fridge, Ken’s already taking out the bacon and eggs to cook more. He’s so emotional he can’t even talk.
“Sunny side up, please,” Willem takes his order and runs to the table, taking a seat next to Timothy and Haline.
“I just want bacon,” Jonas joins them.
River continues to stay near us, but as he looks up at Coal, he starts to cry.
Coal immediately steps around me and picks him up in a big hug, asking him what’s wrong. River whispers back his frustration, that he misses his mom. It breaks my heart, but Coal just holds him close and reassures him while I give them some space.
I walk toward the kitchen and Trish instead.
She puts down everything to turn and hug me. Without a word I embrace her as well.
I am so happy for all of them.
I know the boys being back has healed a huge wound in this family.
“You’re like a good luck charm, girl,” Trish chuckles as she holds me back from her to suddenly get a very serious look in her eye, “Raven.”
“Yes?” I ask, timid under her heavy-handed gaze.
Whatever she is about to say next is going to be very important.
“Do you believe in marriage?” Trish asks, raising a brow.
“You’ll be marrying my boy, that’s an order,” Trish lets me go and turns away, not interested in my answer.
Ken smiles sympathetically at me but doesn’t comment.
I stand back, blushing as I spin – I almost smack right into Coal.
He’s snuck up, still holding River as he clutches onto him.
Coal backs me into a corner, “She wasn’t meant to ask for me,” he murmurs, slightly embarrassed.
“She didn’t exactly ask,” I whisper back, “Reminds me of someone, actually.”
Coal grins, “So?”
“I’ll think about it,” I respond with pretend seriousness, shrugging one shoulder, trying to ignore the fact everyone is listening in to us, “Eh?”
I walk past him as I openly tease him, and I feel his eye on me, darkening with intent.
“Was that a yes, sir, I heard?” Coal calls out.
He asks that a little loudly.
Everyone goes a little quiet.
“Y-yes,” I answer quickly, as I walk to the table where everyone has settled back down to just absorb the moment. I take a sit next to Bell, who still has the leather jacket on as a trophy – although I notice it has distinct stabby holes in it, “I like your new style,” I have to comment.
“Yes, I’ll be your maid of honor,” Bell responds, snarky, and ignoring my attempt to change topics this lovely Christmas day, “Thanks for asking Raven,” she directs her sly glare to Bella and Izabella, “I got in first, bitches.”
Don’t swear, Bell,” Willem makes fun of her, making funny faces as he mimics Trish.
“Hey. I’ll have no attitude from you, young man,” Coal speaks over the table and Willem complies, while River pulls away from Coal and takes a seat right next to me, leaning his hands on the table and thumping the wood for some food.
Dress shopping,” Bell adds, “Shall we go today, in your new truck, hmmm, Raven?” she knows how uncomfortable I am with the attention, and her teasing is making me more comfortable, ironically.
“Okay, okay,” I bite back, “I’ll marry Coal. Is that what you all want to hear?”
Timothy rolls his eyes, “Like you’d say no to Coal,” he rubs it in.
“You’re going to be our new mom?” River asks, wide eyes, growing wider.
“Yes, dummy, that’s how it works,” Willem pretends to be a know it all, “Raven is our mom now.”
“Your mom is still your mom, and always will be,” Coal sits down next to River, advising all of them, “But if Raven and I get married, she’ll be your step-mom.”
“Oh, now it’s ‘if’?” I pretend to sound offended.
Coal shoots me a look, “When. Maybe you’ll even give me some daughters, darlin’,” he changes the topic just the right way to make me very red once again.
“Okay, okay, okay, okay,” I now slap my own hand down onto the table, “I think I’d like some eggs and bacon too,” I call out to Trish.
“Of course, Raven,” Trish gives Ken a knowing look.
Now everyone is giving everyone knowing looks.
I glare at Coal, but it’s hard to feign anger.
He smiles softly – and my heart melts.
I say what I mean with pure love and admiration for his strength as a father to his three sons, and as a pretty hot boyfriend – I mean, fiancé, “Merry Christmas, Coal.”
“Merry Christmas,” Coal smirks, “Mrs. Wilde.”
My lip wobbles and I look to the water jug. Yup. I need some water after that.
I just – I can’t believe it.
I made a wish last night for Coal’s sons to return.
The wish came true. Maybe miracles were real after all.
Or maybe Coal’s love and bond with his kids wasn’t anything but exactly how it appeared.
They were meant to be together – their bond unbreakable as a family.
To be a part of it was the best Christmas gift I had ever had – or will have.
I love Coal with all my heart, and I hope he knows I’ll be here for him, forever.
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I’ve uploaded this book to amazon as a paperback and ebook (but it hasn’t gone live yet), I will send out an update in a few days time when it’s approved!

I made this cover for it:

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