Tags: #romance, #love, #drama, #mystery, #historical, #doctor, #mother, #story, #heroine, #historical romance, #boston, #texas ranger, #hero, #heaven, #scent, #1800s, #physician, #womens rights, #midwifery
“But, I’ve wanted you for
,” Rafe said against the pulse at her throat, the breeze
lifting a strand of her hair to brush against his cheek.
Pulling himself closer, Rafe breathed
in the sweet scent of gardenia at her ear as his palm closed over
the ripe mound of her breast.
Rosa’s hand clamped down on his arm
like a bear trap.
Blowing out a breath, Rafe
sat up and pulled the top of Rosa’s dress onto her shoulders. He
shut his eyes a moment, mentally forcing the bulge in his
to die with the
Rosa glanced down at her lap as she
straightened her blouse. “The Rangers, they do not need you now
that the war is over.”
Staring up at him through lowered
lashes, she placed her hand on top of his where it rested on his
thigh. “Perhaps it is time for you to settle down.”
Rafe stilled. Damn. He should’ve
listened to his gut. Deep down, he’d known she was getting too
After ten years in this hellhole they
called Texas, his life was his own again. Rosa knew he had plans to
go home now that the war had ended. He’d never promised her more
than he could offer in the moment because he’d spent the last ten
years not knowing if he’d be around longer than that.
But Rosa’s accent was so damned
arousing. She had a body that made his mouth water. And it had been
way too long since he’d last lain with a woman.
Rafe stilled, the clear, cool twilight
unnaturally quiet. The sound of crickets had vanished, the coyotes
gone silent. His horse stood ridged, ears perked.
Hell. Not now.
Rafe reached for the Colt revolvers in
the holster lying beside him. Rosa snatched her hand away, her gaze
darting to his face.
“Rosa,” he said lowly, as he slid one
of the revolvers into the pocket of her skirt. “I want you to act
like you’re mad at me. We’re going to get on Ruthless and ride to
“Why?” she asked beneath her breath as
she got up and brushed off her skirt. She turned her back on
Comanches,” he said
beneath his breath.
She climbed onto Rafe’s black stallion.
It pranced in the dry dirt, sensing danger in the air. She worked
to gain control of the beast, her fists grabbing the reins and
“How do you know?” she asked lowly, as
he climbed on behind her.
“I smell them.”
Rosa’s outward appearance showed only
courage and anger, yet her hands shook where they held the saddle
Rafe shot Ruthless into a full gallop.
The ground felt hard, dry as they kicked up dust over the harsh
terrain. The mission was close, a hundred or so yards away, but the
Indians were closer.
He knew they were after him. Word had
spread throughout the territory that a band of warriors was hunting
down each of the Texas Rangers and killing them one by one. Their
attack was revenge for driving the tribes out of the territory and
into the plains.
If they captured Rosa, she would be
murdered – or worse. Rafe had to get her to the mission. His
friend, Beau, and Rosa’s family were there. If Rafe didn’t make it,
she had his revolver to defend herself until help
Behind them, Comanches sprang from the
brush in a riot of high pitched screams. Rafe counted six headed
towards them on foot -- three on horseback.
He fired off three quick shots as
arrows whistled past his ear. He killed the last of the horsemen
just as two screaming warriors pulled him from the saddle, yelling
and swinging blades. Rosa galloped on, untouched.
Rolling in the dirt, Rafe sprang to his
feet, just missing the swing of a tomahawk. Backhanding one of the
warriors with the butt of his revolver, Rafe gave the second a good
right hook in the follow through. He heard a third come up behind
him a second before a blade ripped through his shoulder. Pain shot
through his back and down his arm, traveling through his body like
a burning fuse.
Whipping around, Rafe stuck the barrel
of his revolver flush against the warrior’s stomach. He fired a
shot, knocking back the brave with the force of his
They kept coming. One appeared for
every one he killed. Rafe was used to the odds.
He’d just thought he was through with
all of this.
He felt the blood trickling down his
back but the pain had disappeared. Only numbness remained in his
shoulder, making his arm heavy and hard to swing.
He pushed through -- until a fresh wave
of Comanches barreled through the brush on horseback, armed with
The first shot hit him above his heart,
the force of the shell knocking him back against a tree. Rafe
staggered, the blood rushing to his head, the warriors blurring
into a gray haze. He felt another blast of searing pain rip through
his thigh before the Indian’s screams faded. He dropped to his
knees, his legs too weak to hold him.
Rafe’s head snapped back against his
shoulders. A blade appeared above him, poised to take his
The last thing he remembered was the
upper cut to his chin before he blacked out.
Pain, sharp and acute, pulled Rafe from
Dammit, he didn’t want to wake up.
Seconds ago, he had been in bed with a beautiful woman under each
arm and good whiskey on the side table.
But the pain would not allow him that
peace. It pulled and pushed, poked at him like a nagging wife until
he had been forced to give into it.
He groaned aloud. Holy God, he hurt. He
had to be in hell because nothing on earth could hurt this much.
His body felt as though it were stretched on an Indian bow, his
arms pulled above his head, his toes skimming the ground. His side,
his face and arm, were caked with something thick and wet. His leg
felt like an anchor had been tied to it.
He smelled fire, could feel the heat of
it on his face, his back.
A warrior appeared before him, his eyes
dark, dilated, and burning with evil. Rafe watched in disbelief as
the brave raised a blade and slowly sliced it down Rafe’s side,
scraping the skin from his body. Rafe howled in pain, his agony
eliciting a roar of screams from the Indians surrounding
Holy Mother of God save
. They were skinning him alive. He knew
the Comanches were merciless and would save their worst punishment
for their greatest enemy.
Rafe never imagined he’d die this way.
He had always thought he would die in battle with an arrow through
the heart, or a bullet from a Mexican rifle. Never this.
A boy of eight or nine approached him
next. He spit in Rafe’s face, the hatred turning his young face
into a mask of bitter disgust. He scraped his knife down Rafe’s
middle, smiling as he did so, enjoying the pain Rafe could not
contain. Rafe gritted his teeth against it, trying to pull his legs
up into his body to ward it off, but he had no strength, no freedom
to move. The air brushed along his raw skin, burning like
That pissed him off. He lashed out,
trying to kick and break free of his ropes, but he was as helpless
as a newborn. Even if he’d had the freedom of movement, he didn’t
have the strength.
His head dropped to his chest. Rafe
reminded himself he now resided in hell – he was supposed to
So he gave into the pain. He took it as
payment for all of the killing he’d done in the name of the
Mexican, Texas, and United States governments. In the name of right
and wrong, of civilized versus savage.
What a damned joke.
Patrick would be pissed when he found
out Rafe was dead. Patrick and his mother were counting on him and
he would let them down.
A squaw about his mother’s age appeared
before Rafe next, her eyes sad as she gazed up at him. The sadness
in her eyes did nothing to detract from her intent as she took the
end of a burning branch and jabbed it into Rafe’s raw
. Rafe wondered how much pain a man could
physically take. Was there a limit when you were in
He wished they’d stop their chanting
and screaming. Why wouldn’t they just let him suffer in
Sutherland, there is no
peace in hell
This was his existence for all of
eternity. He had to accept his fate.
Rafe forced his mind to other things.
Looking back, he should have stayed home after graduating Harvard.
But he’d headed West to see the world beyond New England. He ran
into Jack Hays on a Mississippi riverboat and the next thing he
knew, Rafe served under Hays in the Texas Rangers.
Though it was pitch black, the
firelight surrounding him had faded. Now he wouldn’t see them
coming, only feel the blade as it tore the flesh from his bone. And
they did come, one after the other, relishing the torment he went
If he had one regret, he wished he’d
married. An hour ago, he wouldn’t have admitted that. Yet now, when
it was too late, he wished he’d married and had children. His
mother would have loved grandchildren.
With blood pooling at his feet, sleep
descended on Rafe once again. The sweet smell of roses swirled
around him, lulling him into a blissful slumber.
Thank God. He was so tired.
Gunshots rang out, bringing him from
his lethargic state. The screaming began anew.
Hell, no. He wasn’t going to listen to
that screaming anymore.
Concentrating on the sweet scent, he
fell into a deep sleep.
“You’re going, Tarin, and that’s
Tarin stopped in her tracks, turned and
stared at her father. As usual, his dark brows were drawn into a
deep frown and he was issuing orders like a military
He glared at her over the top of his
glasses, his look meant to intimidate. His entire study was meant
to intimidate, from the massive oak desk sitting atop a two-foot
pedestal, to the medieval suits of armor looming large on either
side of the picture window behind him.
He was the youngest son of an English
duke, living in America where nobility did not receive the respect
it did in the mother land. So her father created it for himself,
demanding it from all who encountered him. And in most cases, he
received it from the Brahmin, the elite of Boston
But for Tarin, Henry Worthington was
simply a man that loved her. After her mother died, he had moved
her to America to give them both a new start. He had given Tarin
everything she ever wanted, and she was certainly grateful for the
good fortune. She had done her best to show him the respect and
love he deserved.
But under no circumstances would she
allow him – or any man – to intimidate her.
“Father,” she said from the gleaming
marble floor in front of his desk, “I cannot make it. I am
collecting petition signatures at the lectures this
Henry ripped the glasses off his face
and pointed a finger at her. “You assured me when you started this
nonsense about helping Gregory with that women’s medical college
that it would not interfere with my business. Yet, here we are,
arguing about it once again.”
“I am not arguing with you, Father,”
she replied with an easy smile. “I am simply notifying you that I
have other plans. That is all.”
“The evening party is at seven
o’clock,” her father said. “Your lecture starts at three and a
half. Surely that gives you ample time to collect your signatures
and do whatever women do to ready themselves for such an
What she wouldn’t tell her father was
the fact that the signature drive was not going well. Tarin would
sit outside the lecture hall until morning if it gained her
Tarin and her friend, Kitty, were
working six days a week to help Dr. Gregory gain legislative
approval for the first female medical college in the country. They
hoped to have legislative approval by summer.
The approval would be a major step in
educating American women in the field of medicine, and put Tarin
one step closer to becoming a physician. It was an uphill battle
against a society that did not approve of female physicians, but
Dr. Samuel Gregory had given her a hope she never thought she’d
see. She would not allow the effort to fail.
Tarin squinted at her father. Why did
he want her at this particular function? He had attended this type
of gathering alone before. A suspicion niggled at her
“Father, is this another of your
Henry’s face reddened as he glanced
down at his desk and shuffled papers.
“No, Tarin, it is not. The Sutherlands
have invited us to a small gathering at their home. I am
considering their business to ship some of my goods. I am at my
wits end with Hunter and his shipping crew. My crates are forever
arriving opened, damaged or missing altogether.”