Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 9

Rusty sat on Peyton’s porch swing, eyes constantly searching the horizon. He hoped her figure would pop over the hill at any moment. He was growing impatient and starting to worry about her, but he resisted the urge to go after her. She needed this time alone.

They both did. It gave him time to digest everything she had confessed to him. His emotions were currently all over the place, and he wanted to get them in order before she returned. She was in an extremely vulnerable state and he knew that it had taken every ounce of her to confide in him something so dark and twisted. Rusty needed to be ready to face her. One wrong move or comment and everything he had been working towards could be over.

He hated the son of a bitch that did it to her, and if he ever ran into him then he would be a dead man. How could any man in his right mind want to hurt her? She was kind and gentle and compassionate. He saw that every time she spoke of her horses. With every tale of rescuing them. She was absolutely stunning and had the most tender heart. Why would someone want to take that for granted? Why would someone want to crush her very being?

The answer was glaringly obvious. Because he was weak. Men like her ex needed to do the things he did to feel strong and powerful. That was the only way they knew to feel any worth. It was always short lived, though. That's why things tended to escalate so rapidly and in frequency.

Rusty's job was to help take down those kinds of men. Hell, even his own father had been one of them. This kind of stuff was something he had grown used to, but it had never effected him like this before. It had never touched someone he cared so much for.

Peyton Nichols was a woman any man would be lucky to have, and he was going to do everything in his power to be the one to get her. She had been through too much because of some coward. Now it was time for someone to show her what being loved really felt like. He wouldn’t push her, ever, but he was in love and he would fight for her until she either loved him back or told him to leave.

Now that he understood her better, he knew how to go about winning her heart. It wasn’t going to be easy. But he would bet every last dollar he owned that she would be more than worth it in the end. If only she would come back home.

Rusty stood and walked to the edge of the porch, debating. It had been 12:30 when she ran off. He looked down at his watch to see that it was 3:30. It had been three hours. He scratched the back of his neck and sighed. If she wasn’t back in another hour then he would go looking for her. He went back to the swing and laid down, letting his long legs hang off the end. The sun felt good as it warmed up his skin. He fell asleep worrying about the blonde haired, blue eyed woman he had fallen for in a matter of seconds.


Rusty awoke two hours later to Peyton gently shaking his shoulder. He bolted upright on the defense until he realized it was her. His time in the Army had taught him to always wake up with every sense ready. He dug the heels of his hands into his eyes, chasing away the blurriness.

“What are you still doing here?” Her eyes were filled with genuine confusion. It was easy to tell that she had been crying. The skin around her blue eyes was red and puffy.

“Waiting for you to come back. I thought about coming after you when you had been gone so long," he grumbled, sleep still clouding his voice.

“I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself," she barked, placing her hands on her hips and narrowing her eyes.

He wasn't sure how to take her irritated tone. Was she mad because he was still here? Or was she upset because she had spilled her biggest secret?

“I know that, Peyton. I’m not here to smother you.” Rusty swung his feet around to plant them back on the porch. She took half a step back, but still stood in front of him, arms crossed. “If you want me to go then I will. I’ll do whatever will make you happy.”

“No, don’t leave me. Please.” Her voice quivered. New tears were starting to form in the corners of her eyes.

Without even thinking about it, Rusty stood and enveloped her in his arms. She clung to him, desperately. He ran his hand down her hair over and over, trying to soothe her the best he could. Her body jerked with silent sobs as he held her close.

After a few minutes she pulled away and looked up at him. “I’m sorry. I’m not usually so emotional.”

“It’s alright," he spoke softly, "I understand.”

“I don’t think you do. I wasn’t crying just now because I was still upset," she explained, leaning back to look into his eyes. "I was just so happy you were still here.”

“Why wouldn’t I still be here?” Rusty asked in surprise.

He pushed the hair from her eyes and cupped her chin. She bit her lip. He leaned down and kissed her, softly. Her lips were hungry as they moved against his. It would be so easy to get carried away, but he had to be even more careful now. There was no way he was going to do anything to make her think he was like her ex. All he wanted to do was love her.

He pulled away and saw her frown. “You didn’t answer me,” he reminded.

“I figured you would run the other way as soon as you found out my past.”

“I lo- care about you, Peyton.” Rusty caught himself before he ended up telling her exactly how deep his feelings ran. The L-bomb would probably scare her away. It was too soon to be feeling like this. This whole thing would probably end up in a heartbreak on his part, but for now he didn’t want to think about that. He just wanted to enjoy the time he had with her.

“I care about you, Rusty,” she paused and bit her lip again before finishing, “more than I should. And that terrifies me.”

“I'm scared, too. I've never done this before," he admitted. "We'll figure it out as we go. And you don’t ever have to be scared with me. I’m not like him. I will never hurt you, Peyton.”

Rusty’s stomach growled, ruining the serious moment. Peyton giggled and reached up to give him one more peck before turning and going into the house. He took that as his invitation to stay and followed after her.

“You can make yourself at home," she offered, gesturing to the couch. I’m going to take a shower and then we can fix something for dinner.”

Rusty watched until Peyton disappeared up the stairs. He smiled and shook his head before turning and taking the house in. It was beautifully decorated, like something out of a magazine. Yet, it wasn’t overdone in ruffles or girly things. The couch and chairs were striped in different shades of brown, red, and gold.

A huge fireplace ran up the wall opposite the staircase. A few feet above the fire pit hung a large portrait of a couple. On first glance, Rusty thought it was Peyton with a man, but on a closer look the woman was older. The couple stood facing one another in a field of wildflowers, smiles stretched across their faces and their arms around one another. The sky was a brilliant blue with fluffy white clouds. Rusty hadn’t ever seen grass so green and flowers so brightly colored. It looked like a little slice of heaven.

“They’re my parents.”

Rusty jumped and turned to see Peyton standing at the bottom of the stairs, her hair fell in damp curls down her back. He hadn’t realized he had been standing there long enough for her to take a shower. She came to stand next to him and looked up at the picture. He saw her eyes fill with both pain and joy as she studied it.

“I took that a week before they died.” Her voice broke a little at the end, but her eyes remained dry. Rusty slipped an arm around her shoulders. “Mom loved that field. It always has the prettiest flowers. Daddy didn’t let any horses or cows in it just for her. They were so in love.”

“You can tell they adored each other.”

Her dad stood straight and tall in his boots and cowboy hat. Smile lines creased the corners of his eyes and mouth. His nose was slightly crooked, and skin weathered from years of hard laboring in the hot sun. Her mother was a good foot shorter with mostly the same color hair. There were streaks of silver running through it. Her eyes were dead on the same shade of blue as Peyton's were.

They made an attractive couple, him in his jeans and button down and her in her sundress and bare feet.

“I hope to find that kind of love someday.” Rusty looked down to find her studying him. A thrill shot through his body. He hoped she was hinting to him, because he sure wanted to be that man. The spell was broken when she took a few steps towards the kitchen, slipping from underneath his arm. “Let’s go fix something to eat. I’m starving.”

Rusty took one last look at the portrait and prayed that one day, his and Peyton's picture could hang next to theirs.

"So, we're pretty serious, huh?" Peyton questioned after sliding the meat loaf in the oven.

Rusty advanced around the island to trap her in the corner of the kitchen. He placed both hands on the counter on either side of her. Leaning down until their faces were level, he cupped her chin and tilted her head to look at him. Her eyes darted around the room before finally meeting his intense gaze.

"We are very serious," he declared. "I'm in this for the long haul, Peyton."

She searched his face, biting her lip as she thought about his answer. Ever so slowly, she leaned forward until their lips brushed. Her hot breath fanned out across his face as she pulled back to lean her forehead against his. Their eyes connected for a second before his gaze flickered to her lips again. She was intoxicating.

"I'm scared," she whispered.

"I am, too," he admitted, pulling his eyes from her plump lips back to her blue orbs, "but I'm right here. I'm yours."

With that statement, she crashed her lips against his with an unseen before ferocity. The sweet, subdued Peyton was no longer present as she locked hands behind his head and pulled him closer. The take charge attitude sent Rusty into a tailspin and he fought to regain control of himself. His fingers tightened on the counter ledge as she deftly slid her tongue between his parted lips. No woman had ever been so bold before.

As if his brain was finally registering, Rusty's body began to awaken. He weaved both hands through her hair, holding her in place as their tongues danced passionately. Instinctively, he ground his steadily growing member into her belly. Instead of recoiling like last time, she surprised him by sliding a hand into his waistband to pull him even closer. His erection immediately popped up to full staff.

Peyton pulled back, gasping for air. Her hips continued to move against his. Their eyes met for a split second before he dove back in for another kiss. Her fingers curled into his shirt and she moaned when his hard on brushed her sweet spot.

"The couch," she exhaled against his mouth.

Not having to be told twice, Rusty slipped his hands underneath her butt and lifted her. Her body wrapped around him as she picked up her assault on his mouth. They shambled through the open doorway, stopping long enough to prop her against the frame and remove her shirt. Collapsing onto the piece of furniture, he leaned back to take in her half naked torso. He gulped in a steadying breath at the sight of her perfect breasts spilling out of a silky yellow bra.

Yellow was slowly becoming his favorite color, too.

Peyton sat up, nipping his chin. Chill bumps raced down his body. She followed the nip with a gentle kiss before tugging at the hem of his shirt. He raised his arms and she slid the article of clothing off. His dog tags tinkled together as they fell back onto his exposed chest. Her long fingers traced down his muscled chest and abdomen before trailing back up. The touch made his member jerk.

He grasped her hand in his and without thinking pinned it above her head while lying over her again. Only after it was done and she squirmed frantically, did he realize his mistake. Immediately, he let loose and bolted upright. He threw both hands in the air in surrender.

Shit, shit, shit!

They both opened their mouths to speak when a piercing alarm sounded. It took a moment to register that it was the fire alarm from the kitchen. Peyton scrambled from beneath him and raced back into the kitchen. Rusty rolled to the floor and followed pursuit, grabbing her shirt in the process.

Smoke was wafting through the doorway as he passed through. He waved a hand, trying to dispel enough to see. A cough sounded to his left and he saw Peyton swinging the french doors open. She started fanning the thick smoke with a dish towel. He through her shirt in her general direction before heading to the stove.

A loud whoosh came from it just as he stopped in front of it. He could see flames dancing behind the closed door. "Fire!" he yelled, grabbing Peyton's attention.

"There's a fire extinguisher under the sink!" she informed, moving from the doors.

Quickly, Rusty pulled out the red can and stepped back to the stove. He gave Peyton a light shove and jerked the hot door down, spraying the creamy substance onto the flames before they had a chance to spread. He swept the nozzle from side to side, emptying the whole thing before setting it down with a clank.

They sank to the floor across from one another. He was the first to start laughing. Peyton gave him a puzzled look, but soon joined in. He dropped his head back against the cabinet, still chuckling some.

"It's never a dull moment with you," he teased.

"Hey, things were never this exciting around here before I met you," she shot back. She ran a hand through her grimy hair and wrinkled her nose. "I'm going to need another shower."

"I second that," he added, picking himself up off the floor. He dusted at himself in futile effort. "I should probably be heading home, anyways."

He reached down to pull her to her feat. She frowned up into his face. "What about dinner?"

Rusty warily eyed the blackened stove. "I'll take a rain check on that."

Her eyes surveyed the mess, too, and she giggled. "I guess you're right," she agreed.

He kissed the top of her head and placed an arm around her shoulders, leading her back to the living room. He stopped next to the couch to retrieve his shirt. Slipping it back on, he noticed Peyton staring.

A smirk tugged his lips. "You see anything you like?"

Her face immediately lit up at being caught gawking, but she didn't back down. "Maybe," she taunted.

Rusty winked and playfully flexed a a bicep, rasing an eyebrow in her direction. The silly gesture achieved his goal of making her laugh. He grinned and dropped his arm before snagging her waist and pulling her to him. He placed several kisses on her mouth before letting go and sliding his hand down into hers.

Once at the front door, he pivoted back to face her. He brushed her hair back and cupped her chin. Her blue eyes were shining as she looked up at him. He placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

"Stay the night?" she offered, her blue eyes pleading.

Rusty inwardly groaned. An internal battle raged inside him. He knew what would most likely happen if he stayed, and he wanted to. God, did he want to, but then the moment of panic came to mind. That alone made the decision for him. She wasn't ready. Even if she said she was, if she thought she was, he knew she wasn't. He knew that he could stay and get exactly what he desired in that moment, but in the end, he knew he would probably lose what he desired more in the long run.

He kissed her again before murmuring against her lips, "I need a shower."

"I have one of those here," she countered.

He sighed and dropped his head, inching a step back. Her eyes were still begging him, trying to persuade him into it, but he stood firm. "I can't, Peyton. Not yet."

Her expression turned into a pout, but as she searched his eyes, she sighed in defeat. He knew that she knew it was the right choice.

"Thank you", she affirmed. She kissed him one last time. "Good night, soldier."

"Good night, horse whisperer." He stepped out the screen door, but stopped and turned at the last moment. "By the way, I think yellow might be my new favorite color."

Her face blanked and then realization dawned on her. A rosy blush swept across her cheeks. She stuck out her tongue when he threw her a parting wink as he let the door swing shut. He waited until he heard the locks turn and before he whistled his way to his truck.

It was a beautiful night.