Tags: #romance, #love, #drama, #mystery, #historical, #doctor, #mother, #story, #heroine, #historical romance, #boston, #texas ranger, #hero, #heaven, #scent, #1800s, #physician, #womens rights, #midwifery
“May I?” Patrick asked, offering his
arm with a smile.
Tarin hooked her arm through his. “Your
escort is always a pleasure, Patrick.”
“Enough to consider courtship?” he
asked in a low, seductive voice. His hand curled over hers in the
crook of his arm.
Tarin sighed. The man never gave up.
“You flatter me, Patrick,” she said, glancing up at him as they
entered the dining room last. “But I would not want to lose your
friendship over hard feelings.”
He settled her into the chair opposite
Rafe, leaning over her shoulder to whisper in her ear.
“I hear it is a woman’s prerogative to
change her mind. I did not want to pass up an unknown
He took his seat at the head of the
table, his eyes twinkling.
Tarin glanced across the table to see
if Rafe had overheard his brother’s flirtations. Much to her
disappointment, he was immersed in the attentions of Lillian and
Olivia on either side of him.
Funny, the scars didn’t seem to bother
During the meal, Tarin learned two
things: Lillian and Olivia’s husbands, George and Timothy, who sat
on either side of her, were two of Rafe’s childhood friends. They
regaled her with tales of Rafe’s youth, including his commonplace
scrapes and subsequent punishments from his father. For some
reason, the rambunctious nature of the stories did not surprise her
in the least.
The other thing she learned was that
she appeared no more interesting to Rafe Sutherland than a lamp
post. He made no effort to speak to her. She tried to be witty,
speak intelligently to the table as a whole, just as her tutor had
taught her when she was young. Her training had worked up to this
point and this man.
That was a good thing,
Yes, but this one was so,
. A bit
wild and rugged as the territory he had come from. As though the
suit he wore confined not only his body but his character as
His skin held a deep, golden tan, save
for the scars on his forehead and left cheek that were dark pink in
His physique was different - hard,
. Yes, that was the word. The
obvious tight fit of his coat and vest confirmed her assessment.
And heaven help her if she glanced at his close-fitting trousers
one more time before they left. She had always conducted herself
with utmost ladylike behavior, yet in the parlor she had found her
gaze drawn to the man’s body like a powerful magnet.
His rakish persona obviously brought
out the worst in her. She would be wise to avoid him at all
As if that were a problem,
?’ Good manners dictated that as a host
of this function, Rafe speak to everyone in attendance. Yet, he
avoided her like typhoid. Tarin's fingers curled into her
Her father had always said
her curiosity was
a virtue. She would prove him right once again.
“Mr. Sutherland,” she announced,
silencing all conversation at the table.
Rafe glanced at her, then Patrick, who
also looked at her, before his eyes found hers again.
“Yes, Miss Worthington?” he replied
with a small, crooked smile.
Tarin’s heart raced under his focused
gaze. “I understand you served under General Taylor - ”
“Actually, Miss Worthington,” he cut
in, “I served under Captain Jack Hays of the Texas Rangers. We
worked with the United States military to aid General Taylor in the
defeat of Mexico.”
She raised an eyebrow at the tinge of
sarcasm in his voice. Was he mocking her intelligence?
“Thank you for the clarification,” she
said with a haughty, curt nod. “Some say he will be our next
President. Will you vote for him?”
A gasp escaped the ladies. Tarin knew
her outspoken question was improper for a new acquaintance, but a
part of her did not want him to think she was just one of many
women he would find in Boston. She had intelligence, could discuss
current events with any man, despite what society dictated as
“Rafe…” Patrick said in a low, warning
Rafe held up his hand, his dark eyes on
Tarin. That gaze was most disconcerting, Tarin decided. She did not
like feeling off-balance, but could not make herself look away now
that she finally had his attention.
“I would have to see Taylor’s complete
platform and those of his competitors before I made a decision. But
if I had to make a choice today, knowing he is against slavery, he
would get my vote.”
Well… fine…then. He had a good head for
politics. The knowledge made him even more dangerous to her
“What about you, Miss Worthington?”
Rafe asked. “Would you vote for him?”
Suddenly, the room sounded as though a
swarm of bees had escaped into it. Then, as abruptly as the noise
appeared, it vanished.
Tarin stared at him, trying to gauge
whether he mocked her or waited for a serious reply. Her heart did
a flip in her chest when she saw only sincerity in his dark
“Mr. Sutherland, you know
as well as I that this country, which boasts liberty and
does not allow women to vote.”
“This country, young lady,” her
father’s voice boomed from the other end of the table, “was founded
by men and built by men. Women play their part – just not in
“You’re right, Lady Worthington.” Rafe
frowned at Henry a long moment, before turning his attention back
to Tarin. “Women can’t vote. But they have the ability to influence
the men around them, as I’m sure every U.S. President can attest
with their wives.”
“A real man would not allow
a woman to influence his decisions,” her father announced, earning
him nods from the other men at the table. “A real man makes
Shaking his head, Patrick groaned under
Rafe totally ignored her father. He
leaned towards her, his eyes swirling. She could see him grinding
his back teeth, his jaw tight.
“Again I ask you, Miss Worthington,
would you vote for Taylor?”
She couldn’t believe he persisted
despite her father and the consensus at the table. He made her
“At this point, no,” she replied,
eliciting the buzz all over again. She leaned forward in her chair.
“I am not convinced he is educated enough to lead our country.
While I admit he is a great military leader, his political skills
have yet to be proven. But his stance against slavery is certainly
worthy of further deliberation.”
By the time she finished, Tarin’s
breath came in shallow spurts. Rafe stared at her across the table,
his eyes glittering in admiration. He grinned suddenly, his teeth
stark white against the golden tone of his skin. He had one dimple
hiding within the scar on his cheek, adding a boyish air to his
otherwise purely masculine appearance.
She could not pull her eyes from him,
feeling wonderfully shameless as she basked in the esteem he
directed at her. She did not question why it mattered so much, only
that it did, and it felt heavenly.
“Are you always this
interests, Lady Worthington?”
Isabel gasped. The ladies snatched up
their napkins and fanned themselves, their faces
“That’s enough, Rafe.” Patrick scraped
back his chair and stood.
George and Timothy rounded the table to
see to their wives. Henry sat at the other end, smiling.
I don’t believe I’ve
replied yet, Patrick,” Tarin cut in.
“Tarin!” Patrick cried.
She ignored him and all of the noise
around her. All that existed in that moment was Rafe as he smiled
at her with encouragement.
“Actually, Mr. Sutherland, I am quite
passionate about my interests.”
Utter pandemonium erupted. Rafe’s eyes
glowed a rich ebony as his eyebrows rose. His smile was private,
seductive as he pulled her farther into the web of his scandalous
Nothing about the evening remained
remotely proper any longer. With stiff backs, George and Timothy
escorted their wives from the room, Isabel fast on their tails.
Patrick stared at Rafe with a look that would terrify a lesser man.
Rafe didn’t acknowledge him.
The next thing Tarin knew, her father
pulled her from the chair. Rafe rose abruptly, his eyes narrowing
in on Henry’s hand clamped tightly around Tarin’s arm.
Henry loosened his hold quickly and
placed his hand against Tarin’s back.
“We must go,” he said, glancing back
and forth between the two brothers before his smiling eyes settled
She squinted at her father. Why was her
father smiling? She had disrespected him in front of the entire
group. Word of what happened here tonight would be all over Boston
by this time tomorrow. She had disgraced them all.
“Henry, I hope - ” Patrick began,
rubbing his forehead.
“Do you play whist, Rafe?” Henry cut
“I do,” he said, crossing both arms
over his chest. “Do you play draw poker, sir?”
“Draw poker?” Henry replied with a
frown. “No, I can’t say that I do.” He glanced from Rafe to Patrick
and back. “Be at my house Friday evening at seven and a half. You
can teach me then.”
He rushed passed them, pushing a
stunned Tarin along in front of him.
“So help me, Rafe, if you say one thing
out of line tonight, I’m kicking you back to Texas.”
Rafe laughed as he and Patrick stood
inside Worthington’s parlor, waiting for him to show. With a bottle
of tequila on the table and a deck of cards in his hand, Rafe felt
a sense of familiarity he hadn’t experienced since he left San
After receiving a tongue-lashing that
would make the devil cover his ears, Rafe knew better than to tease
his brother about this evening with Worthington. Patrick had been
spitting mad at Rafe for his behavior the other night and was still
scratching his head on how they had gained this invitation to
Yesterday, Rafe had made a point of
calling on George and Tim to apologize for his behavior the night
before, and to gain their promise that no disrespect would be shown
Tarin. Rafe had made it damned clear he would not tolerate any ill
will against Tarin, and his friends had not argued. They assured
Rafe that no gossip would come from them or their wives.
Rafe still didn’t understand his own
conduct. Within minutes of meeting her, he had broken every major
etiquette rule in the book. Of course, he was out of practice, but
that didn’t excuse his behavior towards Tarin.
No, Rafe was surprised his tongue had
worked at all in her presence. Patrick had grossly understated her
beauty. But it was that damned spirit of hers that had drawn Rafe
like a moth to a flame.
Tarin was independent, yes, but she
also possessed a delicate, innocent air. She spoke boldly while she
blushed and held an intelligence above most men he knew. She had a
way of saying inappropriate things with a grace and class that
fooled the most attentive listener. She was unlike any woman he had
At introductions, Rafe couldn’t take
his eyes off her until forced to do so when his mother led her
away. Tarin had made him forget his scars, made him remember why he
loved women so much.
On the other hand, she also made
regrets and self-pity surface inside of Rafe. Made him wish for
things he couldn’t have.
He wanted no part of that. Rafe was
grateful he still lived.
That had to be enough.
She was coming. He knew it before he
heard her footsteps. The sweet scent of fresh-cut roses gradually
filled the parlor like a cloud of smoke. Stopping at the foyer’s
credenza, she stood before the mirror hooking her cape, her eyes
studying the clasp intently.
If he let her, she would walk out the
door without knowing they were there. However, something in his
male pride wouldn’t allow it.
“Where are you off to?”
Tarin jumped in her shoes and whirled
around. She smiled with a hand to her chest.
“Good evening, gentlemen. You startled
“Tarin,” Patrick said, with a bow.
“Lovely, as always.”
“Patrick,” she returned, with a slight
nod, before her gaze shot to Rafe. “I hope you were not too hard on
your brother after dinner the other night.”
“I’m afraid my wounds are severe, Lady
Worthington.” Rafe rubbed his hand over his heart. “I have the
scars to prove it.”
He and Patrick shared a laugh. Rafe
could see Tarin fighting a smile of her own.
“You are scarred, Mr. Sutherland?” she
asked, with a mock frown.