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Authors: Donna Fletcher

Tags: #Historical Romance, #19th century

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BOOK: Rebellious Bride
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“Jonathan, if you will change the towels again, I’ll get right to it.”

While Jonathan went about his assigned task, Rolfe sat up and took note of the small, skillful stitches closing the wound so perfectly that he would barely be left with a scar. And though the leg hurt like hell, the pain wasn’t unbearable.

Lil made quick work of mixing a comfrey salve and spreading it on a clean linen cloth. She placed the salve-coated linen over the wound and then expertly wrapped the clean white strips of cloth around his leg. Rolfe made her job easier by bending his knee to allow her access beneath.

He noticed, as she worked, how slim her hands were and how clean. Her nails were trimmed close in consideration of those she worked on. Her skin wasn’t pale. It reflected a healthy glow, and it appeared to be smooth and flawless. He wondered if she used a cream to keep it soft or if nature had endowed her with a perfect complexion. He also wondered if that smooth flawlessness extended to other parts of her body.

Her words jolted him out of his reverie. “Your tolerance for pain is admirable and not often found.”

“A compliment, Lillian?”

“Is that what that was, Rolfe? My, I should watch myself shouldn’t I? Can’t fall into bad habits,” she said and finished tying off the bandage with a teasing smile.

For the first time since meeting her, Rolfe felt relaxed in her company. Not that he was interested in her as more than a friend, but with her knowledge of medicine she would be handy to call on, when necessary.

“You did an excellent job, and I am grateful. Thank you,” he offered by way of admitting he had wrongly assumed she was incapable of handling the situation.

Lil, not feeling the least bit antagonistic, simply answered, “I was glad I could help.”

Jonathan gathered up all the soiled towels. “Are there any instructions that I should follow, madam?”

Lil liked the stuffy manservant, although she didn’t understand why. “The salve bandage must be changed every three hours. Make certain he stays off his feet for the remainder of this day. Tomorrow he can get up, but no strenuous activities. I’ll have Doc Talbert stop by the next day, and he can instruct you from there. I have something for fever. You should prepare the mixture and use it if necessary, and if a high fever should develop overnight, summon me immediately.”

Lil wrote out the directions for preparing sallow bark tea to help in case of fever and handed it to Jonathan. “That should cover everything.”

“Thank you, madam. Now may I offer you a spot of tea and some biscuits?”

Lil sighed with a grateful smile. “That sounds terribly tempting, but unfortunately I must return to Doc Talbert’s office to see to afternoon patients.”

“And you have missed the noonday meal, haven’t you?” Jonathan asked in that no-nonsense voice of his.

Lil nodded. “Yes, but I’ll get something to eat. I’m used to looking after myself.”

Jonathan held up his hand in protest. “I shall prepare something special for you to take along.”

“It really isn’t—”

“Don’t bother arguing with him,” Rolfe advised. “He rules this home with an iron fist.”

Jonathan smiled in appreciation of his lordship’s compliment and left the room, promising to return shortly with a satisfying meal for Lil to take along with her.

Lil slipped out of her apron, folded it, and tucked it away in the outside compartment of her satchel. “How did you really come by that wound?”

Rolfe didn’t bother with the details. He was angry enough that one of the cowhands he had hired was incompetent and had caused him to receive the injury while saving the kid’s scrawny neck. “An unfortunate fall from my horse while tending to ranch business, just as Jonathan told you.”

Lil shook her head. “Being new to this land and unskilled in certain techniques, you should leave the ranch business to experienced cowhands.”

Rolfe folded his arms across his chest, fearful that he would reach out and strangle her if he didn’t keep his hands tucked away. “So, Lillian, are you finished handing out compliments?”

Lil’s guard went up when she heard the irritation in his voice. “Replaced by friendly advice.”

“Do you care to elaborate on that advice?”

Lil snapped the satchel closed. “Since you asked, you should have learned our ways before moving here. Life would have been easier for you, and you’d be less dependent on others.”

“Dependent?” he repeated.

“Yes, you will be dependent on other people for everything, from running your ranch to defending your life, if necessary.”

“You think me incapable of defending myself?” he asked in a raised voice.

“You carry no gun. You probably don’t even know how to use one. You dress as though you’re still in England, and you dictate to people.”

“Some people need it.”

“Not everyone.”

“You certainly do,” he yelled.

“I beg your pardon.”

“It’s the first time you have. You don’t behave at all like a lady. You say what you please with no regard to proper manners, and you work at a man’s job.”

“Need I remind you that this is the West?”

“West or not, a lady is a lady and she behaves like one. You, Lillian, obviously prefer to act like a man.”

Lil grabbed her satchel. “And you, Lord Sherborn, have no idea how a man should act, since you’re far from one!”

Rolfe boiled with anger and made a move to jump from the bed.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Lil warned from the doorway. “I’d only have to stitch you up again.”

“There is no way I’d allow you to touch me again,” Rolfe said with contempt.

“Good. The first time was trying enough. I don’t think I could bring myself to do it again. Good day, Lord Sherborn.”

Lil quickly left the room.

Rolfe found his mouth open, but no words spewed forth. The little hellion had left him speechless. He gripped the white towel spread across his lap. She found it trying, did she? Well, what did she think he found it—passionate?

Why, she probably didn’t have an ounce of passion in her. “Bloody hell, she had probably never been kissed.”

Who would want to kiss her? He certainly wouldn’t. He’d keep his distance. The less time spent in her company the better. He wanted nothing to do with her.
Nothing.

“Sir,” Jonathan called from the doorway. “Miss Prescott left some rather strange instructions.”

Rolfe didn’t respond, he just glared at Jonathan.

“She instructed that when I saw to your bath I should check to make certain you had all the right parts.”

The cowhands in the corral had their hands full calming the horses down. They even shook in their boots themselves upon hearing the murderous yell that came from the ranch house.

“The doc must have slipped and nicked his private parts,” Jake said to the young cowhand next to him.

The young cowhand laughed.

Jake poked him in the ribs. “What the hell are you laughing at? The man is suffering.”

The young cowhand stifled his laugh long enough to speak. “Doc ain’t tending him. Gal named Lil is.”

Jake shook his head and joined in the laughter. “In that case I bet the nick wasn’t an accident.”

Chapter 4

Doc Talbert nodded his head, pressed the area around the on Rolfe’s thigh, and smiled. “Damn good job she did. Stitches are mighty good too. Don’t think you’ll have much of a scar. Let me get my scissors and I’ll snip them right out of you.”

Rolfe sat straight and stiff on the examining table in Doc Talbert’s office. The old doctor possessed a straightforward manner that Rolfe admired. Though short in stature, Doc stood out like a giant among the townsfolk of Little, according to all the tales—mighty tall ones, at that—that Rolfe had heard over the last few days.

Doc Talbert lifted Rolfe’s leg and slipped a clean cloth beneath it. He wiped the area with alcohol and snipped at the first stitch. “So how do you like Little, Lord Sherborn?”

Lillian’s gentleness this man did not possess. “Please call me Rolfe.”

The doc yanked the first stitch free, and Rolfe stopped himself from jumping off the table as a hot stinging sensation shot through his thigh. Doc snipped another stitch. “Call me Doc. Everybody does. Been calling me that for so long I don’t even remember my own name.” He laughed and yanked at the stitch.

Rolfe looked down at the remaining four stitches and wondered how the bloody hell he had felt less pain having them put in than having them removed.

“Do you like Little?” Doc asked again and snipped the next one.

“Yes. How do you like our town, Rolfe?”

Rolfe’s eyes widened at the sight of Lillian standing in the doorway. It amazed him how such simple attire—a blue skirt and white blouse—could appear so appealing. He chased away the sudden thought that it was the woman filling the clothes who appealed to him. He smiled, relieved to see her, irritating as the thought might be. Even more irritating was the fact that he much preferred her gentle hands to the doc’s. “The town suits me fine.”

The doc yanked another stitch. Rolfe’s hands gripped the sides of the examining table. “That’s what I like to hear, a nice simple statement that says it all. Did you hear that, Lil? Little suits him fine. What more can you ask of a town?”

Lil walked over and looked down at Rolfe’s thigh. Of course, she couldn’t help admiring the strength of it. The muscles were so thick and firm. She hadn’t expected that when she first viewed him almost naked in his bed. Tender and flabby were more to her expectations. Tight, hard muscles were a sign of physical labor, an activity she did not find consistent with Lord Sherborn’s way of life.

“You did a good job here, Lil,” Doc complimented. “Doubt he’ll have a scar. Yup, mighty good job, girl.”

Lil winced when doc yanked another stitch out. She looked at Rolfe and saw no pain distorting his features, though she felt his discomfort. She convinced herself it was Doc’s rough manner that made her aware of Rolfe’s suffering. Doc never could remove stitches without extracting more than a few yelps from his patients. So naturally she felt his pain as she would have with anyone she tended.

Doc made ready to snip another stitch. Rolfe’s eyes focused on Lil’s. She felt him tense and brace for what was to come. Her own body tightened in reaction.

“Doc,” she said, her breath coming out in a rush with her words, “why don’t you let me finish up here? After all, I put them in, so I should have the task of removing them. You don’t mind, do you, Lord Sherborn?”

Rolfe caught the shiver of relief that ran through her at the same moment it ran through him. It set him on edge, this strange connection of emotions. He convinced himself it was because she tended to him in his time of need. “I have no objections. Your care of me has been more than adequate.”

Lil smiled and proceeded to snip the stitch.

Rolfe felt nothing. Not the snip. Not the removal of the stitch, only the coolness of her fingers brushing his flesh. He closed his eyes against the intimate sensation. It did little good, since a picture formed in his mind. It wasn’t the image of her fingers fanning his thigh. It was a vision of her lips. Whisper-close, they drifted over his leg. His musing caused a most embarrassing reaction. He was grateful for the cloth that covered his lower parts, and he was annoyed with himself for not having seen to his basic needs before this. He had been without a woman too long. His reaction was natural for a man who had not satisfied his primal needs recently. He would rectify the situation at once. Susie was a tender morsel, sure to prove both adequate and entertaining.

“All finished,” Lil announced.

Rolfe looked down. The scar was paper-thin and would fade with time.

“It may be a bit tender for the remainder of the day. If you’d like, I could bandage it for you.”

Rolfe shook his head. “That won’t be necessary.”

“So have you got yourself used to our climate?” Doc asked, looking down at Rolfe’s leg. “Damn, I wish I could stitch like that.”

Lil held back a laugh, and Rolfe grinned.

“I’m adjusting and learning,” Rolfe answered.

Lil was impressed that Rolfe understood that Doc’s reference was to the ways of the West and not to the weather. “Now that the stitches are out, you can return to learning how to ride and handle a horse,” Lil said.

Rolfe raised his head a fraction, but his brow rose by inches.

“Horse threw you, did it?” Doc laughed. “Ain’t a man around that hasn’t been thrown once in his life. Don’t give up. You’ll get the hang of it.”

Rolfe wanted to inform both Wild West experts that he had the hang of it. He’d had the hang of it for some time, and he was an excellent horseman. But he held his tongue. It was best they thought him incompetent, at least for a while yet. He was beginning to learn the ways of the locals. When he was certain of his surroundings, and of the people, then he would demonstrate his talents.

“I learn quickly,” Rolfe said. “I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon.”

“That’s the spirit,” Doc said. “Never give up or give in.”

Lil added her own encouragement. “Doc’s right. Don’t give up and practice lots, and in no time you’ll sit a horse just fine.”

Bloody hell.
She was speaking to him as if he were a small child. He’d show her how to properly sit a horse. Again a mental picture intruded on his thoughts. He wasn’t riding a horse; he was riding Lillian. And it felt good. Damn good.

“I’m grateful for the advice,” he said, his response snappish.

“Anytime,” Lil responded and walked to the washbasin to clean her hands.

Taking advantage of her back being to him, Rolfe hastily slipped into his trousers. “Glad to have you here in Little, Rolfe,” Doc said and held out his hand.

Lil turned, busy drying her hands, to offer her good-bye. Her mouth remained slightly open, and her words caught in her throat. Rolfe looked like a giant next to Doc. The width of his shoulders, the scope of his chest, and the majesty of his stance were eye-catching. He looked as powerful as a mammoth grizzly, dominating those he came in contact with. It was a shame he didn’t actually possess such strength. He could be a man to reckon with in the West, where strength and power were a necessity to survival.

BOOK: Rebellious Bride
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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