Lilac Temptress
at
her. What he didn’t know, he would not try to guess. He wasn’t
there for that reason, he reminded himself.
    “ Do you plan to sit there
and ogle me for the rest of the night, or do you want to end the
discussion now and take your leave?” Sierra snapped
irritably.
    Do you have to be so
bitter and look so lovely at the same time? Drake thought displeased.
    “ Are you involved with
someone? Is that why you are so upset with me?” he asked
candidly.
    Sierra appeared stricken, offering her
own equally forceful response. “I belong to no man if that is what
you are asking.”
    “ Then what is William to
you besides your employer?” Drake pressed.
    Sierra smiled and
thought— What is it with men that make them
always want to know the intimacies of a woman’s relationship with
other men?
    “ Wil was my father’s
confidant and best friend, and he has cared for Kyle and me since
my mother’s death. I sometimes feel we owe him the very air we
breathe.”
    Drake grimaced, causing lines to
crease his forehead. “You believe this man possesses you
both?”
    Sierra glared at Drake, truly
surprised by his interest in what she had to say. Men in Jadesville
generally didn’t care to hear a woman speak, especially if she
could read and write, and came across as smarter than her
counterpart.
    “ You wouldn’t understand,”
Sierra spoke grimly.
    Drake welled with overblown emotions.
He wanted to convince Sierra that no one could ever own her or her
brother. He wanted to know about the sadness hidden behind her
eyes. He wanted to stop talking and kiss her, but instinct held him
back. And he was certain that he didn’t have a remote chance in
hell of her accepting him at that moment.
    “ I understand that men have
failed miserably at attempting to own other men—or women in your
case.”
    “ And now you are wondering,
Mr. McCalister, aren’t you? About Kyle and me... and about Wil
possessing us.”
    “ More so speculating,”
Drake said. “When you speak of William your voice hardens. You
tense when you say his name, more than you did when you found me
standing outside your bedroom door. I wonder if you resent
him.”
    Sierra quivered and bowed her head.
“You’re reading more into this than I would like,” she
whispered.
    “ It is clearly written on
your face that you don’t like it here. Why won’t you leave this
place behind and start over somewhere else?” Drake
asked.
    “ I’ve saved a little money.
And I suppose I could leave Wil, but never without Kyle. Kyle is my
entire life. He’s all I’ve got, and he’s here, content to ride his
horse and sketch all day.”
    “ Is he any good at
sketching?” Drake asked patiently.
    “ Very good. Maybe even good
enough to make a living out of it,” Sierra said proudly. Some of
her hair began to escape her bun. She twirled a fallen strand
nervously around her finger before catching herself, and stowing it
behind her ear.
    “ If you do that thing with
your hair again—” Drake stopped mid-sentence, realization dawning
that she had no idea of the affect she was having on him, making it
all the crueler.
    Sierra clasped her hands together
placing them into her lap, breaking eye contact. She wouldn’t look
at him, lest the conversation end. She was too frightened to find
out what would happen if she stopped talking, and wondered how long
she could carry on the gutsy girl act.
    Looking at Drake too long made her
feel like she might do anything he asked.
    “ A man once told me that he
loved me. He told me that he was going to take me far away from
here. He was traveling through town when I met him. I fell madly in
love with him in a matter of weeks, and when he left town without
me, without even saying goodbye, I decided I’d never trust feelings
as deceitful as love again.”
    “ You are no more than
nineteen years, I’d guess, and a life lesson you’ve already learned
is to reject love?” Drake arched his brows.
    “ Twenty-one, Mr.
McCalister, and there

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