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Authors: Donna Fletcher

Tags: #Historical Romance, #19th century

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BOOK: Rebellious Bride
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Lil dropped her head a fraction, wondering how to save this awkward situation. Her hand instantly flew to her chest. “Good Lord, my blouse is open, and my sleeves are rolled up.”

“Your hair is a bit messed up, too,” Susie pointed out.

Lil moaned, and although her hands itched to reach up and fix her hair, she felt this was not the time or the place to do so. “I better go speak to my father.”

Susie’s brow went up. “You’ve got a bigger problem headed your way.”

“What do you mean?” Lil’s voice trembled.

“Remember that cowhand who calls on you from time to time and fancies himself stuck on you?”

“Doug Tanner?”

Susie nodded and added a smile. “He’s coming up right behind you.”

Lil turned and came face to chest with Doug Tanner. He was a big brute of a young man with hard, weathered features, callused hands, and a rough nature.

“I’ll see you home, Lil, since this isn’t a fit place for you.” Doug’s words were a command, not a suggestion, and didn’t suit Lil at all.

She looked up at him, opened her mouth to speak, thought better of it, closed it, and stepped around him.

Doug followed, stopping behind her when she halted in front of the table where her father and Lord Sherborn sat.

“Dad, I’m sorry,” Lil said and rushed on. “There was an emergency, and I couldn’t wait to see Susie.”

Sam started to speak, but Doug cut him off. “I’ll see that Lil gets home safe, Sheriff Prescott.”

“No, you won’t,” Lil said, turning to face him.

Sam tried again to speak to his daughter, only this time Rolfe beat him to it. “If you didn’t frequent establishments unfit for ladies, in improper attire, apologies wouldn’t be necessary, and neither would dealing with troublesome riffraff.”

Lil swung around. “The places I frequent, my attire, and the people I associate with are none of your concern. I can handle myself, which is more than I can say for you.”

Rolfe was out of his chair with such speed that Lil stepped back, bumping into Doug. “You need to be taught manners.”

“Don’t you go speaking to her like that,” Doug said, attempting to step around Lil.

She soon found herself sandwiched between the two men while they warred verbally. She barely had enough room to lift her hands and deliver a none-too-gentle shove to each man’s chest.

Doug stumbled back, his mouth still battling with Rolfe.

Rolfe remained immovable, his tongue swift in its rapier response.

Sam Prescott’s stout voice cut through the angry exchange. “I’ll see to
my daughter,

Doug acquiesced with a reluctant nod and backed off.

Rolfe didn’t budge. He addressed Sam bluntly. “You should do more than
see to
your daughter. Her unladylike behavior is intolerable. She requires a firm hand and an education in propriety.”

Lil’s chin went up, and her green eyes sparkled. She was prepared for full battle, and her attack was swift. “What would you know about a firm hand? You can’t even handle a horse.”

Rolfe stepped closer, so close that if either of them had taken a breath the other would have felt it. He glared down into her upturned face and spoke with a softness that was anything but tender. “I warn you, Lillian, don’t impugn my character again.”

Lil’s chin jutted even higher. “Or what?”

His fingers grasped her chin. “Or you will discover exactly how
my hand is.”

As difficult as it was, Lil held back her response. A wise decision, she concluded after studying the threatening glare in Rolfe’s vivid blue eyes. She yanked herself free of him and took a step back. She looked to her father, nodded, and quit the room in quick, precise steps.

Once out of view, she collapsed against the first available wall. Her heart beat thunderously, her legs trembled, and her stomach rolled. She had not expected such a manly response from Lord Sherborn. But then, she was a woman, she reasoned, and he did feel women had their place in life. It would be easy for him to act the dominant male to the obedient female. But what if he faced another dominant male? Would his stance be as potent?

She shook her head at the crazy thoughts. Why should she even care? Lord Sherborn did not interest her in the least. His response in any given situation wasn’t her concern.

Lil pushed herself away from the wall. She had work to do. She hurried off, rubbing at her still rolling stomach.

Chapter 5

Rolfe read the letter twice and shook his head. His brother Evan was experiencing financial difficulties. Bad investments and bad management had placed his older brother in dire straits. A small loan would set Evan right, and with his credit already taxed to the limit, he requested Rolfe’s immediate assistance in this most important matter.

“Excuse me, sir,” Jonathan said from the open doorway.

“Sheriff Prescott is here and wishes to speak with you.”

Rolfe set the letter aside. He would arrange with the bank to transfer the money promptly. “Show him in.”

“Nice place you have here,” Sam said, stepping into the room.

“Thank you, Sheriff.” Rolfe was direct in his response when he asked, “Is this a social or business call?”

Sam was just as direct in his answer. “Personal.”

Rolfe liked Sam Prescott. He didn’t mince words, and he was honest. “Let’s discuss this outside where we can get some reprieve from the summer heat.”

Two tall French doors flanked a floor-to-ceiling bookcase behind the large desk where Rolfe had been sitting. Deep green damask curtains were tied back at each window with heavy green cords and tassels. It was through one of these doors that Rolfe led Sam.

A sweeping circular veranda welcomed them. The protective overhang was handsomely supported by intricately designed posts, and the surrounding shade trees provided a cool oasis. Rocking chairs as well as sturdy mountain chairs complemented the scene.

As soon as the men were seated, Jonathan arrived carrying a silver serving tray heavy with crystal decanters and glasses. Sam soon held a glass of fine old whiskey and relaxed in the congenial atmosphere.

“Now, Sheriff, what is this matter you wish to discuss?” Rolfe asked.

“It concerns my daughter, Lil.”

The sheriff’s statement did not surprise Rolfe. Ever since the incident in the saloon two weeks ago, he had been expecting it. Sam Prescott was not one to let things drift past him. By keeping a good eye on the town, he was able to head off problems before they got started. And it was obvious to all in Little that Rolfe and Lillian had a problem with compatibility.

Rolfe relaxed back in his chair. “What about your daughter?”

“You need to understand Lil before you can get along with her.”

“And do you understand your daughter, Sheriff?”

Sam laughed and shook his head. “It isn’t always easy, but I do my best.”

It was obvious to Rolfe that Sam loved his daughter very much. “I suppose no woman is easy to understand.”

“That’s the God’s honest truth, but Lil may be a bit more complex, being she was raised different from most gals.”

“She is different,” Rolfe agreed. And he wasn’t sure if he minded her unusual nature. Sometimes he found it refreshing and sometimes frustrating.

“Lil lost her mother when she was six. She died in childbirth, as did the baby.” Sam paused a moment.

Sam’s faraway look and sorrowful expression hinted at the painful memories that still lingered, and Rolfe recalled his own grief at losing a loved one.

“My job as sheriff was more demanding then. The town was young and rough. Lil was left on her own more often than not. She learned early to care for herself and take care of me. By eight years of age she was cooking, sewing, and tending the house like she had done it for years. She never really had a chance to be a little girl. She was forced to grow up fast.”

“When did her interest in medicine begin?” Rolfe surprised himself by asking the question. He was curious, though he couldn’t fathom why.

“When she was twelve I was injured in a shoot-out. My wound was almost fatal. She stayed by my side throughout the whole ordeal. She watched Doc Talbert work on me, even helped him. After that, she began hanging around the doc, asking questions and pestering the devil out of him. He finally began to take her seriously.”

Rolfe could see the picture more clearly now. Lillian had lost her mother and sibling and then had almost lost her father as well. She had developed an interest in medicine, in essence, to protect those she loved. Rolfe admired her courage and fortitude at such a tender age.

“Sometimes, in her zeal to help, she gets herself into improper situations.”

“Like being in places she has no business being in.”

Sam nodded. “I can’t keep her away from Susie’s place. One of the girls there is ill.”

“Lillian should realize the situation she is placing herself in by frequenting that type establishment. I’ve heard several comments from the ladies of the town concerning Lillian’s behavior.”

Sam raked his hand through his hair. “I know. I’ve been told often enough myself. I keep getting warned that she’s going to ruin her reputation if she isn’t careful.”

“Have you discussed this with Lillian? She’s an intelligent woman and would surely listen to reason.”

“Not likely,” Sam said. “She doesn’t appreciate being told what to do. Growing up so much on her own made her independent. She resents any form of intrusion or authority.”

“Still, ladies are expected to follow certain rules.”

Sam smiled. “I don’t think Lil feels they apply to her.”

Rolfe nodded, his expression concerned. “Then the only answer is to find her a husband with a firm hand.”

Sam’s smile widened and turned into a laugh. “I don’t think a firm hand would suit Lil. The man she marries, if she marries, will need patience and understanding. In other words, he’ll have to love Lil tremendously.”

“A special type of love,” Rolfe said softly almost in envy of such a relationship.

Sam stood up and put on his hat. “I just wanted you to understand Lil a bit better in hopes that you could look more kindly on her. We all like to get along in Little.”

Rolfe smiled at his last statement. “I have found most of the people of Little congenial. And I will gladly try to be patient with your daughter.”

“Appreciated,” Sam said, holding out his hand.

Rolfe took it, his grip firm.

“See you at the dance Saturday night?” Sam asked, walking with Rolfe around the veranda to the front of the house.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

“Everyone looks forward to it, especially since the cold weather will soon arrive and then the snow. People, except those in town, don’t get to see one another as much during the winter. The dance sort of prepares everyone for the isolation. It also allows the ladies to show off their new dresses they’ve been busy working on all summer.”

“Then I’m looking forward to the occasion with even more enthusiasm.”

“See you then,” Sam said and headed down the steps to his horse.

Rolfe watched him ride off. His thoughts weren’t on the sheriff or on the dance itself. They were focused on Lillian and what she would be wearing to the much awaited social function.


“Ow!” Lil complained, feeling another pin prick her skin.

“Well, if you’d stand still, you wouldn’t find yourself being used as a pin cushion,” Holly said, adjusting the pin that had stuck her.

Lil was impatient. “Aren’t you done yet?”

“If you hadn’t waited until the last minute for me to stitch this dress, it would have been finished by now,” Holly scolded in a motherly fashion.

Lil rolled her eyes heavenward. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend the dance. And besides, this dress wasn’t really necessary.”

Holly unfastened the row of buttons down the back of the dress and carefully helped Lil out of it. “It was necessary. You’ve been the talk of the town lately. A new dress will at least show the other women that you’re like them.”

“But I’m not like them,” Lil said and hurried into her white blouse and dark blue skirt.

Holly reprimanded Lil with a quick shake of her finger. “Gossip rules this small town, and you’re on everyone’s tongue lately. It wouldn’t hurt to act more like the other ladies before you find yourself being scorned by them.”

Lil dropped down into the nearest chair and sighed. “I don’t have time for this nonsense. I can’t help it if the women of Little find the girls at Susie’s saloon socially unacceptable. Illness doesn’t distinguish between social classes. When those girls need medical help, I intend to see that they get it.”

“Then be more careful how you go about it. You nearly caused a scandal when you walked into the saloon half undressed.”

“Half undressed?” Lil jumped out of the chair. “I was not half undressed!”

“Regardless, that’s how the women saw it.”

“And you think this dress will improve my standing in the community?”

Holly carefully laid the dress over the back of the chair. “It will show them that you share their interests and took the time, as did they, to make certain your appearance was special.”

Lil plopped down again in the chair. Holly was right. These people were her friends. They truly did care about her. They didn’t really object to her tending to Bibi. They just preferred her to do it with at least a modicum of decorum. “I rush into situations without thinking.”

Holly smiled. “That’s obvious.”

“The dance will begin in a few hours. Will the dress be finished?”

“A stitch here and there and it’ll be all done,” Holly assured her. “I was thinking about your hair.”

Lil raised her hand to her hair. “What about my hair?”

“We should sweep it up,” Holly said, her hands demonstrating her suggestion. “‘And curls would look nice on top. Come upstairs with me and let’s see what we can do.”

Lil obliged Holly, although she would have preferred to return to the doctor’s office to see if she was needed. But she supposed one night of acting the lady wouldn’t hurt.

A thought hit Lil as she followed Holly up the stairs. “Did my father ask you to speak to me about this?”

“He spoke to me of his concern, but never once did he request that I discuss the matter with you. I did so because of all the gossiping tongues, especially Mary Beth Hodges.”

BOOK: Rebellious Bride
11.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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