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Authors: Tami Hoag

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BOOK: Sarah's Sin
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“Let this be a lesson to you, Matt Thorne,” she said. “You had ought to stay in bed. You're not strong enough to be up and around.”

“That's probably true,” he admitted, taking the black terry robe she thrust in his direction without looking at him. He eased his arms into the sleeves, pulled it around him, and tied the belt. “But I'm afraid some things can't wait— like a trip to the bathroom.”

“I'll find you a chamber pot.”

“No thanks. No offense, Amish, but I'll walk on my lips before I stoop to using a chamber pot—no pun intended.”

Sarah lifted her chin to a sanctimonious angle and intoned her father's favorite words. “Pride goeth before a fall.”

“Yeah, well,” Matt said, unchastened. “I goeth to the bathroom. Are you going to help me get there, Nurse Troyer, or do I get Blossom the Wonder Dog to drag me?”

Blossom gave an outraged booming bark and darted away, hind feet chasing her front like a child's pull-toy as she disappeared into the dark hallway.

Sarah heaved a much-put-upon sigh and
planted her hands on her hips. “All right. Ill help you. But youll come back to bed and stay there after?”

“Scout's honor.”

“I don't know anything about no Scouts. It's your honor that worries me.”

“And well it should,' Matt said, doing the best Groucho Marx imitation he could considering he could only waggle one eyebrow.

Sarah just blinked at him, looking mildly bemused.

Matt was crestfallen. His Groucho always won him smiles and giggles. “You don't know the Marx Brothers?”

“I don't think so,” Sarah said, handing him his cane. “Do they farm around here or are they from the Twin Cities?”

“Never mind,” Matt shook his head and chuckled, utterly charmed by her naivete and the effect it had on his own slightly tarnished soul.

She was a gem, this Amish girl, a natural pearl. In spite of the dents she put in his ego, she was exactly the bright spot he needed in his life right now, when everything in his day-to-day world seemed bleak and hopeless, when he'd almost given up hope of ever finding any goodness in the world again.

Maybe he'd have to thank Ingrid after all.

“Ingrid was right. You are a terrible patient.”

Matt froze as he lifted the razor to his cheek. His eyes met Sarah's in the mirror above the sink. She stood in the bathroom doorway, arms crossed over her chest, shoulder braced against the jamb, Blossom sitting on her feet. She wore a dark blue dress identical to what she had on yesterday, a black apron, and a stern look that would have done any head nurse proud.

“Shaving doesn't seem like too strenuous an activity,” he said.

Straightening, Sarah lifted one brow and planted her fists on her hips. “No? Well, dangerous is maybe a better word at that. The way your hand is shaking, you'll likely cut your own throat.”

She was right. His hand was trembling with the effort of lifting the razor toward his cheek. It amazed him how weak he felt. The trip to the bathroom and back the night before had done him in. The instant he had crawled back in bed and let his head touch the pillow he'd
been unconscious, and he'd remained that way until the buttery light of morning had peeked in around the edges of his window shade.

He had expected to feel stronger with the dawn of a new day, and he had managed the walk to the bathroom himself with the aid of his cane. But now he stood leaning heavily against the oak vanity, his heart beating a little too fast, his breathing a little too labored, his hand shaking in a way that made his razor look as safe as a chain saw.

He managed a smile as he met Sarahs eyes in the minror again. “If I did myself in with this thing, would you be sad?”

“You bet,” she said, teasing lights brightening her eyes, her Mona Lisa smile curling up one corner of her mouth. “Think of the mess I'd have to clean up.”

“You're the soul of sympathy.”

“You don't deserve sympathy if you're not going to follow your doctor's orders.”

He shook his razor at her, narrowing his eyes. “You could go far in the nursing profession. Or as a marine. The requirements are similar.”

Sarah sniffed at him, working at looking annoyed. He was teasing her, of course, but she had, in fact, once fantasized about becoming a nurse … or a teacher … or an astronaut. When she was twelve, she had fantasized about becoming a spy because she had been
pretty sure spies got to go all over the world. But at twenty-five she knew it was not likely she would become any of those things no matter how one foolish corner of her heart still wished for it. Because of her ties to her family she would always be just an Amish girl. Overseeing the recuperation of the dashing Dr. Thorne was probably, as exciting as her life was ever going to get.

Matt watched her carefully in the mirror. She did an admirable job of maintaining her stern expression, but she couldn't stop her eyes from looking wide and vulnerable and a little bit sad. He had only been teasing her, as he had teased every female he'd ever known, but he'd struck some hidden chord inside her, and she didn't want him to know it.
Too bad, Sarah
, he thought.
I'm beginning to want to know everything about you.

“I guess I'm not used to being on the other side of the stethoscope,” he admitted, setting his razor down and bracing himself against the sink with both hands as a little more of his strength seeped away. He wasn't used to having anything wrong with him. He had always been athletic and fit, and took his good health for granted. Now his body seemed like a hostile stranger to him, refusing to cooperate with his will. It was frustrating. It was also giving him a new sympathy for his own patients. “As
a rule, doctors don't make very good patients,” he said.

Sarah's brows knitted in confusion at the paradox of a doctor who wouldn't take care of his own health. “What good is all that learning if a person won't make use of it on themself?”

He mustered a wry smile. “Good question. Unfortunately, we doctors tend to think we're immune to pain and suffering. We're too wrapped up in taking care of everyone else. It makes us think we're superhuman.”

“You don't look so super now,” she said dryly.

“Thank you,” Matt said, scowling. “All this encouraging flirtation is doing wonders for my morale.”

Sarah stepped into the bathroom and picked up the razor and a thick terry towel. “Back to bed with you, Matt Thorne. I will do the shav-mg.

She smiled blandly at Matt s skeptical look and handed him his cane. He was ridiculously appealing with his dark eyes scowling at her, and shaving cream lathered over the lower half of his face like a frothy white beard. He wore a rumpled gray T-shirt that clung to his wide shoulders, and navy blue shorts that bared strong-looking hairy legs. High up on his left thigh was a bandage that matched the one around his ribs. Her gaze lingered there a
moment before she jerked it back up to his face.

“Like what you see, Blue Eyes?” he asked in a voice so soft and seductive, it was like a caress on Sarah's senses.

She swallowed hard and gave him what she hoped was a steely glare. “Ill like it better when I see it in bed.”

Matt put a hand to his chest and feigned shock. “Miss Troyer! Such frankness leaves me lightheaded!”

Sarah blushed as she realized just how he had deliberately taken her remark. He was no doubt a master at word games and all the subtleties of flirtation. Ingrid had remarked more than once that her brother was a notorious ladies' man. Sarah could hold her own when teasing, but she knew she was in over her head with Matt Thorne in more ways than one.

“If you took that as an invitation, then you must be delirious,” she said dryly.

“Hopeful,” Matt corrected her, delighted in the way she rose to the challenge of sparring with him. He wouldn't have expected so much spunk from an Amish girl. His mental image of the Amish was one of somber austerity. It had never occurred to him that they might have a sense of humor.

“Hope
less
,” Sarah said with that beguiling little mysterious smile curling her lips. She
pointed to the door that led directly into his room and gave him a meaningful look.

“Give a poor invalid the comfort of believing beautiful women still want him,' Matt said over his shoulder as he thumped away from the sink, leaning heavily on his cane. “A man needs a reason to live, you know.”

As if there was any question women would find him attractive, Sarah thought. Even beat-up Matt Thorne was the most desirable man she'd ever encountered. She gave herself the luxury of studying him as he made his way slowly across the bedroom. The perfect width of his shoulders was emphasized by his T-shirt. His back tapered to trim hips, to— She jerked her gaze upward again and fastened it on the back of his head. His black hair was tousled, reminding her he had just gotten out of bed.

She, on the other hand, had been up for hours. In truth, she could have saved herself the trouble of going to bed at all, she'd gotten so little sleep. No matter what mundane or spiritual matter she had tried to concentrate on, her thoughts had turned again and again to the man sleeping just down the hall from her—his smile, his teasing, the feel of him against her. Thoughts like that would only lead to trouble, she knew, but she had never had much success at squelching her imagination. She had always resented the need to try. It
didn't seem a sin to her to appreciate Gods handiwork. The Almighty had done a fine job with Matt Thorne. What was the point if He hadn't meant for others to notice?

The word temptation crossed her mind, but she dismissed it. If the Lord had not meant for men and women to notice each other, then He wouldn't have made them so different in such interesting ways, she reasoned.

Of course, his maleness wasn't the only thing that made Matt a temptation. Sarah's heart squeezed a little at the thought of what it would do to her family if she gave in to her inner yearnings and became involved with an Englishman like Matt Thorne. They would be so hurt. All her life she had been something of a disappointment to her father because of her insatiable yearnings for things she was not supposed to have. To want Matt Thorne, to succumb to that want would be her ultimate sin in Isaac Maust s eyes. She would be cut off from her family, from her people. Her standing with her father was tenuous at the best of times, so she could easily imagine life without him, but her mother was a different story. And her sister, Ruth, and brothers Daniel and Lucas and Peter and Jacob. Most especially she would miss Jacob; he was more like a son to her than a brother.

It was a moot point, at any rate, she told herself as she watched Matt settle himself
carefully on the bed with his back against the high-carved oak headboard, and his legs stretched out on top of the rumpled covers. What would a worldly man like Matt Thorne want with a little Amish country mouse like her?

“Are you sure you know how to do this?” he asked, eyeing her nervously as she set a bowl of water on the nightstand.

“I used to shave my grandfather after his eyesight failed,” she said by way of an answer as she leaned over him and draped a towel across his chest.

Matt's thoughts wandered for an instant while he appreciated the proximity of Sarahs breasts. Now that he knew the shape of them by touch, the fact that her garb hid them didn't hinder his imagination any. He pictured them as fitting perfectly in his hands, plump and firm like ripe peaches with dusky nipples that would pout for his attention.

“I thought Amish men wore beards,” he said hoarsely as she moved to pick up the razor.

“In our order they do wear beards once they marry.” She settled on the edge of the bed, facing him, and her breath caught as her hip pressed against his thigh. “But they wear no …

The word escaped her as her gaze met Matt s. The awareness in those dark eyes sent her heart racing. To her credit, she tried to
gather her wits and hold on to the thread of the conversation. “They don't wear… urn …” When she lifted a finger and traced the line of his upper lip, electricity sizzled through her, shooting like lightning from her fingertip to all the most feminine parts of her body. “Um, mustache,' she mumbled breathlessly, too rattled to realize she had used the Amish pronunciation.

Matt watched the parade of emotions passing over Sarah's face. She was attracted to him and that attraction frightened her. The chivalrous part of him, the gentleman, wanted to reassure her. But he couldn't quite separate the need to reassure from the need to hold her. She was pretty and sweet and a breath of fresh, air. And his own emotions seemed to be rocking. It was true, he genuinely liked all kinds of” women, but the fact of the matter was he only played with the ones who knew the rules. He doubted Sarah Troyer would even realize it was a game. Still, he didn't see the harm in flirting with her a little.

Her fingertip was still lingering in the foam along the bow of his upper lip, teasing him, tempting him. He caught her delicate wrist and drew her hand downward so that the finger in question skipped over his upper lip and landed firmly on the lower one. He drew his tongue across it, watching with pure male satisfaction as Sarah's eyes widened and
darkened, and her cheeks flushed with the unmistakable color of desire. The look of panic that followed that automatic sexual response hit Matt like a whip and he released her hand.

A teasing light sparkled in his eyes as he said, “When I was a kid, I always thought this stuff would taste like whipped cream. It tastes like Styrofoam.”

Sarah made no comment, but set about the business of shaving him, alternately worrying she might cut him because her hand was less than steady and entertaining thoughts of deliberately doing him in for unleashing such raw desires in her.

Of course, it wasn't his fault she was not content with her life, she reflected as she carefully avoided the stitches on his chin. She couldn't see that it was anyone's fault really; it just was. She hadn't asked to have this yearning to learn or to experience or to want excitement. It was something that had always been in her, something she had had to struggle to subdue her whole life. Matt Thome set it off like a match struck to dry tinder, but that wasn't his fault.

Her father would have something different to say on the matter, she was sure. His opinions of the English and their evil, tempting ways were well-known. But then, she had no intention of telling him about Matt Thorne or
her desires. The less he knew about her job at Thornewood Inn, the better. He was already unhappy about it. Thankfully, the money she was contributing to the farm had diluted his dislike so far.

“Sarah?”

The sound of her name jolted her from her thoughts. She stared at Matt, knowing he had asked her a question that she hadn't heard. “I'm sorry. What?”

“I asked how you came to work here. I admit I don't know much about the Amish, but I wouldn't have thought Amish girls were allowed to work outside their own community.”

“Oh, sure,” she said, making light of what was a very touchy issue among her people. “We can take jobs so long as they don't go against the teachings of the church.”

“But your people don't believe in using electricity or indoor plumbing, do they? You use those things here. Doesn't that go against the church?”

“We don't have those conveniences because we believe they act as corrupting influences on the family, but we don't claim they're evil nor do we begrudge others having them,” she explained. Personally, she had never understood how a toilet could corrupt anybody, but she kept her opinion to herself. “Hold still now or you'll be short a nose.”

BOOK: Sarah's Sin
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