Authors: Alice Addy
Copyright 2011 by Alice Addy
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce
this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.
Jimmy, David, Katie, Michelle, Mom and Bill
Thanks for all you do, each and every day. I love you
Hays City, Kansas 1882
It was business as usual at the famous Birdsong Hotel, Hays
City’s finest. Many of their guests would say it was the best place to stay
west of the Missouri River, and Dr. Blake Donovan shared that assessment. It
was indeed a fact that the food served there was beyond compare. In addition
to the superb meals, the rooms were clean and comfortable, with just a touch of
European elegance to please your senses and ensure your pleasure. Guests knew
they were staying somewhere special. However, the handsome young doctor stayed
there simply for the scenery.
Dr. Donovan couldn’t get enough of it . . . all five foot,
six inches of magnificent brunette, gracefully tending her bountiful gardens.
He could watch her for hours. In his eyes, Miss Emily Falkenwrath, part owner
of the hotel, had been heavenly endowed with womanly perfection, and was
lovelier than any of the blooms growing in her garden. He regarded it as
providential that she, too, resided at the hotel, thereby providing him with
the opportunity to steal a glance her way, every now and then. He laughingly
admitted he was fooling no one, as his intentions toward the sultry beauty were
as transparent as window glass. Dr. Donovan was completely captivated by the
lovely Miss Emily.
One afternoon, while Patty Franklin—another
co-owner—was attending the front desk, the doctor stomped into the hotel
lobby, pulling a very pretty, but quite reluctant young lady, behind him.
“Cassie? What on earth is going on?” Patty demanded to know.
“Doc, what’s this all about?” She had never seen the mild-mannered Blake in
such a temper.
Overhearing the commotion in the lobby, Dora—cook and
part owner—came running out from the kitchen with an enormous wooden
spoon held tightly in her hands. She practically skidded to a halt when she
saw the furious look on the doctor’s face. Resting her hands squarely on her
broad hips, she stared into the enormous lavender eyes of the blonde culprit.
Being the eldest, and Cassie being the youngest at sixteen, Dora had been
appointed the unofficial housemother. All of the women, at the Birdsong,
shared equally in the business, but privately, they were more like sisters and
“For heaven’s sake, child. What’s goin’ on? Where have you
been all this time and why is Dr. Donovan draggin’ you home?” The older
woman’s voice was strong and held not a note of humor.
The little silver-blonde spitfire glared up at the equally
annoyed and scowling doctor. He nudged her forward, none too gently, and
demanded, “Tell her, Cassie. Tell them both what I saw.”
The girl was not easily intimidated. She raised her
delicate chin defiantly and stuck out her bottom lip in a delicious pout.
Instead of providing her with the decidedly haughty look, she desired, her actions
were more of a petulant child “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” she
Blake firmly placed his large hands upon her small
shoulders. “Oh, I think you know
what I’m referring to, young lady, but if you’d rather I tell them . . .”
“No! I mean . . . I have no problem with telling them.”
She thought for a moment and then grinned. “I’ll tell them how
over reacted! I’ll tell them how I
was just walking to the post office to get our mail, when a very
boy offered to see me home.” Her
eyes darted toward Patty, in search of some understanding. “Honestly! What
was the harm in that?” She crossed her arms and looked away.
“Cassie,” he growled, quickly losing his patience.
Cassie noticed the muscles in the handsome doctor’s jaw tensing
and the heightened color in his face. He was not playing. She swallowed.
“Okay. Maybe he tried to kiss me . . . once.”
“That’s it! I’ve heard enough of your fabrications,” Dr.
Donovan gritted his teeth and tightened his hold on her.
“All right! He did kiss me. He kissed me more than once,”
she shouted. “He said he thought I was pretty and he was falling in love with
me. So there! That’s all there is to it. And it was very nice—til you
came along,” she grumbled.
Dora looked shocked and shook her head sadly. “I am so
disappointed in you, child. I trusted you. We all did. You’ve been through a
lot in your short life, that’s true, but I simply thought you were smarter than
that. From now on, Whiskey can go fetch the mail . . . and anything else we
need. You’ll be stayin’ here, so I can keep my eye on you.” The older woman
slowly turned and retreated back to the kitchen, leaving Cassie dumbstruck and
feeling guilty for causing the dear heart to worry.
She glared up at the infuriating doctor. “I don’t like you
very much, right now, Dr. Donovan. You’re a rat!” she yelled, as she ran up
the stairs, taking refuge in her room.
Patty giggled. “That went well, Blake. What did you do to
that poor boy?”
He grinned, ducking his head. “I guess I roughed him up a
mite. It’ll be a while before he puts his lips on another girl,” he chuckled.
“Seriously though, you might want to know that there’s been some talk about our
‘little’ Cassie. The boys smell fresh fruit. She’s quite a looker with those
lavender eyes of hers, and she’s as innocent as they come. That’s a potent
combination. You’ll want to keep an eye on her.”
Patty smiled and nodded in agreement. “I know. It was only
yesterday that Dora found Cassie lounging on the front stoop with her glorious
hair hanging down around her shoulders and blowing freely in the wind. Not
only that, but her bare toes were peeking out from under her skirts. The girl
was giggling and rolling about with those new kittens she adopted. She was
quite a pretty sight, actually, and every boy in town was slowing down to take
a gander at her. I don’t know what we’ll do. She doesn’t seem to know how
beautiful she has become.”
“Cheer up. I’ll help you. I intend to stay on here, at the
Birdsong, for quite a spell. I’ll keep the fear in those young rascals.”
Patty scoffed and rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t be staying
here to be closer to someone we both know, would you?” she grinned.
Blake tried to look mystified, as if he didn’t know to what
the pretty redhead was referring. He had no ulterior motive. “I assure you,
Patty, I haven’t given it a thought. I simply have some personal business that
needs attending. I’m looking into moving to Hays City, permanently. There’s
need for another doctor, and I like this town. I like the people living here.”
Blake knew he’d been found out. “And yeah, you know me well, Patty.” He
actually blushed. “I can’t seem to stay away from her. I dream about her all
night long, and I think of her several times a day . . . every time my stomach
Patty’s brow wrinkled with confusion.
Blake closed his eyes and seemed to swoon. He placed his
hands over his heart and sighed. “After all . . .
is the best cook in the state.” He laughed loudly, rubbing
his stomach and pointing to the kitchen, then to his heart. He made cow eyes
and pursed his lips in a little kiss.
Patty smiled. “Go ahead and make jokes, Blake, but you and
I both know who it is that you think about and dream about. Every time she
enters the room, your eyes light up and you grin from ear to ear. Every time
she leaves, that same light goes out and you depart soon after. The only one
that doesn’t know the true feelings of your heart is the lady in question. You
and Emily really should talk.”
There was a time when Patty had hoped that Blake would look
at her the same way he now stares at Emily. He had the warmest brown eyes, but
it just wasn’t to be. Maybe he didn’t prefer red heads with green eyes, she
“You could do a lot worse than our Emily. Just be careful
you don’t hurt her or make her cry. We, women, at the Birdsong, are a fiercely
loyal group and wouldn’t take kindly to that. I can promise you’d never have a
place to stay here.
smiled her warning.
Blake reached out, taking Patty’s soft hand in his, turning
it over and marveling at its smallness. He had always thought she was so
dainty, with her gorgeous, curly mop of fiery hair. She was lovely . . . much
too lovely and too sophisticated for a Kansas cow-town like Hays. He liked
her. In fact, if it had not been for the fact that he fell instantly, head
over heals in love with Emily, he would have courted the witty and elegant
“I promise you, Patty, I will never intentionally hurt her.
She’s the most magnificent woman I’ve ever known. Beautiful, yes, but it’s her
inner beauty, her passion, her innate sense of goodness that brings me to my
knees. I’ve been sweet on her since five minutes after I first set eyes on
her. Unfortunately, she shows absolutely no interest in me.” He looked
“Give her time. She’s been hurt,” Patty said, reassuringly.
“I figured as much. She had a rough childhood, did she?”
Patty laughed. “We all did, Doc. We’re just a collection
of misfits here, at the Birdsong.” Then she laughed some more. “Maybe you
really do belong here, Doc. You’re a bit of a misfit, yourself.” She smiled
and walked away.
“If you only knew,” Blake whispered.
Suddenly his attention was drawn to the kitchen door. A
beautiful, but furious Emily stomped in. “I’ve had all I can stand! I can’t
be expected to tend my gardens in this dress with all its petticoats and
things!” She grabbed up her skirts and bunched them tightly in her dirty
fists. As usual, she took no notice of the good doctor standing there, while
she stomped around the room, in a very unladylike manner, spreading soil and
garden debris over the once immaculate rugs.
Dora and Patty rushed in to see what had Emily so upset. It
seemed this was going to be one of those days for solving problems.
“It’s too hot and I get all tangled up,” she tried to
explain. “I’m going to buy me some pants and a boy’s shirt. I’m going to get
me a Stetson, too.” Her brilliant blue eyes were shooting sparks and her lips
thinned determinedly, as she angrily threw her totally inadequate bonnet across
“Don’t stop there,” a deep voice interjected. “I’m enjoying
All the ladies turned and noticed Dr. Donovan standing in
the middle of the room, smiling as he watched the show.
Emily was a ravishing brunette, tall and graceful, with eyes
that sparkled with passion and intelligence. Her mouth was full and well
shaped, just perfect for tasting, he thought. She was the kind of woman that
made a man’s internal temperature rise.
“Excuse me? Did you say something?” she asked, slightly put
off by his intrusion.
“I said, don’t stop there. You should have real boots, too.
I would be more than happy to help outfit you, ma’am.” He grinned.
Dora stiffened, coming to the aide of one of her chicks. “I
should say not, doctor. That would be most improper, and besides, Emily ain’t
really serious. She’s just hot and tired. Lettin’ off a little steam. Ain’t
“Well . . . actually . . . I am serious, Dora. It’s just
too difficult to tend to all the work outside, dressed like a woman. If I were
on my own farm, I could dress as I pleased. Would it be so awful if I wore
pants just when I’m digging and hoeing? Would the stars fall from the sky or
“Humpf! I don’t approve, but you’re old enough to decide
Emily gave her friend a hug. “Thank you, Dora. I don’t
want to offend anyone, but I simply can’t do it all trussed up like a Christmas
goose,” she lamented, with her hands splayed open at her side.
Dora noticed the young woman’s delicate face was sunburned,
her dress was wet with perspiration, and her little boots were caked in mud . .
. as well as the Persian rug in the hall.
“Well . . . make sure you only wear them pants when you’re
workin’ in the yard. I don’t want to have two girls showin’ themselves off to
the men in this town. That ain’t the kind of publicity we’re a wantin’.”
“I second that,” Blake whispered to himself. The last thing
he wanted was for half the men in town to get a good look at Emily’s rounded
Emily and Patty both laughed. “I’ll be very careful, Dora,”
she promised. “Now, I need to get cleaned up and go to the mercantile.” She
rushed from the room, excitedly, looking forward to her new wardrobe.
“You still here, Doc?” Patty grinned.
“Well, I guess I’ll be on my way—after all—
she has left the room
.” They both
Cassie had just finished dusting the lobby and fluffing the
ruffled curtains, when she spied a very angry Emily cursing and stomping across
the street, heading straight for the hotel. “Uh-oh. Something tells me it
didn’t go so well at the mercantile,” she muttered.
Patty looked up just in time to see Emily storm through the
doors. “You do have a way of entering a room, Em. What on earth is the
Emily looked around the lobby, making certain no guests were
about, before she vented to her friends.
“I don’t believe it! They looked at me like I wanted to
walk around town in my birthday suit! I calmly explained my need to wear the
britches for working in the dirt, but they clucked their tongues and wagged
their fingers in my face. Can you imagine that? They wagged their fingers at
!” Emily was furious. “Mrs. Rockham
said I would bring a bad element into the hotel if I strutted around the yard
exposing myself. Do you believe that? The old biddy. How dare she lecture
Patty was having some difficulty controlling her laughter.
Emily was making quite a scene.
“When I insisted on trying the pants on before purchasing
them, I was told that no man would buy pants if he knew that a woman had dared
to put them on first. Thunderation! He’d probably pay twice their price,” she
grinned. “I was forced to guess at the proper sizes and I have no idea if
anything will fit. Sometimes this town makes me so mad, I could spit.”