In the Marshal's Arms

BOOK: In the Marshal's Arms
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In the Marshal’s Arms

by Emma Jay

 

 

 

Kindle Edition

Copyright © 2011 by Emma Jay

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

Dedication

 

 

For Norah Wilson, who is all kinds of awesome

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

U.S. Marshal Rhys Burgess sat on his horse and looked down on the sad little ranch house below. It didn’t look like much, certainly not like the home of one of the most ambitious bank robbers of the past decade.

The man he’d watched die last month.

The yard was barren, with a shriveled garden and unpainted house, barn, outhouse and chicken coop. No one was around, no hands, which made Rhys’s plan easier, but made him wonder about the woman who worked this land on her own.

But the bank robber Edward Colby hadn’t worked alone, and his brother was still at large. Rhys had heard Luke would come here, to the mistress he and his brother shared, to keep a low profile, and possibly bring some of the profits from their last job. And when he did, Rhys would be here waiting. He just had to convince Maddy Colby, the mistress who had taken the brothers’ name.

He nudged his horse forward, down the hill.

A dog started barking frantically. Rhys scanned the yard, but saw nothing until the dog exploded from the house, stopping at the edge of the weathered porch and standing stiff-legged. The woman herself followed, a rifle in one hand, and shaded her eyes as she watched him approach.

Because she stood in the shadows, he didn’t get a good look at her until he pulled Bathsheba up in the yard. When he did, she was nothing like he expected. Her dress was a plain worn calico day dress, and she was younger than he thought, not as tough as he would have thought the mistress of two outlaws would be. It looked like—did she have freckles?

“Help you?” she asked, lifting her hand to the auburn knot at the back of her head.

“I’m looking for work.” He inclined his head toward the house. “Looks like you need some help around here.”

She curved her shoulders forward in a defensive posture. “I don’t have money to pay for help.”

No money. It looked like she was telling the truth, but maybe it was just a plea for privacy. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll work for room and board. I been on the road a long time, ma’am, and I just need a place to stop for a bit.”

She shifted the rifle into both hands. “You in trouble?”

He wondered if she knew how to use the gun. He was fairly certain Edward Colby would make sure of that. “No, ma’am.”

She glanced behind her, but the intelligence he’d gathered in town already told him no one else was here. She was right to be wary, a woman alone out here.

“I’m not looking for help.”

“What about protection?” He nodded at the mongrel. “I doubt he’s a lot of good to you.”

“I haven’t had any trouble so far. All I need is for him to give me the alarm. I’m a fair shot.” She lifted the rifle higher, as if planning to give him a demonstration.

“I believe that you are.” He eased Bathsheba back just a bit, in case he had to bolt.

“My husband will be home soon.”

He knew that wasn’t true, but he decided to play along. Cautiously, he swung out of the saddle, facing her.

“He left you a lot of work here on your own. I could help you get it looking nice for when he returns. He’d appreciate that, don’t you think?”

She lowered the rifle a bit, probably because it was growing heavy, and her eyelashes flicked. “How do I know you’re a good guy?”

He wanted to tell her she should be able to tell a good guy from a bad guy after being involved with Edward and Luke Colby. Instead he said, “You don’t. And I don’t blame you for not taking my word for it. If it makes you feel better, I’ll do some work for a meal and be on my way.”

Her lips turned down and she lowered the rifle to her side. “You could do that. But I’ll be watching you.”

Relief ran through him and he patted his horse’s neck. One day was a beginning. “You mind if I tend to Bathsheba first?”

“Go ahead.” She gestured in the direction of the barn.

As he led his horse away, he wondered if she didn’t get lonely out here, with only a dog for company. Honestly, he’d expected more of a fight.

A team of horses were the only occupants of the barn, which was in a sad state of disrepair. He unsaddled Bathsheba, rubbed her down, then gave her some grain, fed the team as well, and headed toward the house.

At the edge of the porch stood a curtained-off contraption with pipes and wooden posts, surrounded on three sides by muslin curtains. He peered inside to see the ground was moist. Above him hung something that looked like a giant watering can. He stepped back to see that the watering can was attached to a cistern.

“It’s a shower,” Maddy Colby said from the porch.

Rhys used every bit of training not to jump in surprise.

“When you need to cool off, or if you don’t want to haul water for a bath, you bathe here.” She approached warily, reached past him and tugged a rope. Water streamed out of the giant watering can in an even flow and splashed on the earth below.

“Your husband make that for you?”

“No, I did it,” she said with some pride. “I have running water in my house, too.”

He wasn’t sure whether or not that was an invitation. “Sounds like a fine thing.”

She nodded and he took a look at her in the sunlight. Her auburn hair was a myriad of colors—so many he wondered if two strands were the same. Her big brown eyes were long-lashed and her nose had a cute little slope, with a dusting of freckles. Pretty pink lips just begged for a man’s kiss. Her dress was a faded calico, but it hugged her full breasts and nipped in at her narrow waist. He was surprised to see she was barefoot beneath her skirts.

How had an idiot like Colby won such a beauty?

“What would you like me to work on first?”

“I’ve been thinking on that,” she said. “I’ve been trying to repair the roof, but it’s a trick to climb around up there in a skirt.”

He stepped back to look up at the angled roof. “I can see that. Where are the supplies?”

“Up there already, shingles, hammer and nails. The ladder’s around back.”

Indeed it was, already leaning against the edge of the house.  And when he climbed up the steeply pitched roof to see she’d done a great deal of the work herself, he was impressed.

A few hours—and quite a few swear words later and a throbbing thumb later—Maddy Colby stepped out into the yard and shaded her eyes to look up at him.

“Mr. Burgess. Dinner will be ready in just a bit. Will you come down and take a shower?”

He set the hammer down and sat back on his heels. “I beg your pardon?”

“I—I don’t want—just, before you come into the house.”

“Ah.” He did smell pretty bad, with trail dirt and sweat from being up here in the sun. Texas heat, even in November, could be a bitch. He’d thought about a bath, but he wondered about operating the shower. “Now?”

“Please.”

He looked at the work he’d accomplished. Quite a lot but not done. He straightened, his back cricking, his shoulders aching. He hadn’t done manual labor like this since he was a kid. He readjusted his hat and headed toward the ladder. When he looked down, she had gone inside.

 

Maddy stirred the gravy with a shaking hand. She hadn’t had anyone to cook for in months and she enjoyed the process. She hoped Mr. Burgess had an appetite. In her experience, men did. She hadn’t had any interaction with anyone in weeks, and hoped she remembered how without making too much of a fool of herself. She glanced out the front window and her spoon froze.

Mr. Burgess stood at the edge of the porch, close to the shower, and stripped off his undershirt, revealing a muscled chest and shoulders, a vee of black hair covering his chest, tapering down his flat stomach and into his pants. Her mouth went dry at the sight.

Edward Colby, her lover, had been a handsome man, fit, but barrel-chested and hirsute, and his brother Luke, who sometimes shared her bed, was broad-shoulders and heavily muscled. This man was lean, square-shouldered, the muscles in his arms and stomach flexing as he moved. He unbuckled his pants and her womanhood throbbed. It had been too long since she’d had sex. Edward had been killed and Luke hadn’t returned for months. The brothers had taken her from the theater, where she’d had regular lovers between her nights on stage. The past few months were the longest she’d gone without a man, and Mr. Burgess was a fine specimen.

What would he think if she walked outside now? If she ran her hand down over his stomach and into his pants, curled her fingers around his cock?

Ridiculous woman. She knew nothing about this man. She should have just had him move on, but she’d invited him on instinct. She did need help around the place. She needed to focus on that.

But those good intentions went to hell when he stripped off his britches. His cock lay heavy against the length of his thigh, and she could almost feel the weight of it in her mouth, the texture of it along her tongue. Sucking cock was one of her specialties. She enjoyed the act, the power it gave her. In her mind’s eye, she could see Mr. Burgess’s head fall back in pleasure when she knelt before him.

Mr. Burgess turned toward the shower, presenting her with his delicious backside, and fiddled with the rope. He tugged cautiously, then jumped back comically when the water splashed him. He edged toward the water, pulling the rope as he did so. Once he was fully in the shower, he released the rope and picked up the soap she’d left for him. She watched as he lathered his chest, then ran soapy fingers over his scalp, scrubbed his shoulders and thighs and groin. She wished he would allow her to scrub his back, just to feel his hard warm body. Her fingers curled against the window frame as he pulled the rope again and water sluiced over his body, slicking his hair back from his face, revealing strong bones there.

He stepped back onto the porch, picked up the drying sheet she’d left for him, and lifted his head.

She backed away from the window, hoping he hadn’t seen her staring.

 

***

 

Rhys rapped at the door of the cabin, feeling like a new man. A great contraption, that shower, better than sitting in a hip bath in his own filth. And after a day on the roof, he felt cool.

Mrs. Colby opened the door, a soft blush coloring her cheeks. She’d changed her dress, he thought. This one seemed to be darker, brought out her eyes. He looked past her to see two plates set on the table. The room itself was tiny, dominated by her bed. In addition to the two chairs at the table, another chair sat close to the stone fireplace on the opposite end from the kitchen, which was around the corner of the L-shaped house, and was just as small.

“It’s been awhile since I cooked for someone other than myself,” she murmured, opening the door wider. “I hope you’re hungry.”

“Famished.” He stepped inside but felt uneasy about closing the door behind him. He was good at listening to his own instincts, and while he didn’t think she was a danger to him physically, he was aware that an odd kind of energy heated the air.

“I’m a good cook, and I grow most everything myself.” She removed the top from a large pot and steam rose, scented with pork. “I do need to go into town for some supplies. It’s been awhile, but I think you’ll enjoy it.”

She served up green beans with chunks of pork, a chunk of meat that fell apart, it was so tender, and sliced up the lightest, airiest bread he’d ever seen. He slathered his piece with a hunk of butter as she watched, pride making her face glow.

“I’d thought your husband would have married you for your beauty,” he said when he came up for air. “Now I see he married you for your cooking.”

She gave a delighted laugh.

He motioned toward her still-empty plate. “You’re not eating?”

“I wanted to make sure you had enough first. I was sure you’d have a large appetite.”

Shamed at the way he’d plowed through the dinner, he set down his utensils. “I’m only making a glutton of myself, Mrs. Colby. My apologies for my bad manners.”

“Not necessary. There is no greater compliment to a cook than to see a man dig in.”

Though the taste of the food lingered and his mouth begged for more, he left his utensils on his plate and watched as she served herself tiny portions that wouldn’t keep a bird alive. Frustrated, he took the spoon from her and doubled her portions. She laughed and began to eat.

“How long have you lived here?” he asked, cradling the cup of coffee between his hands as he sat back.

BOOK: In the Marshal's Arms
4.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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