Authors: Lynda Chance
When Becky Hamilton is orphaned at the tender age of fourteen, she comes to live with her aunt in Waco and begins work cooking and cleaning for the town’s brooding young sheriff. Mesmerized immediately with his raw masculinity and sinewy strength, her fascination turns to love as the years pass and his honest integrity is revealed.
Jake Cooper manages to ignore his pretty, little orphaned housekeeper for three long years. But when she begins a subtle metamorphosis from girl to woman, he can’t control his consuming need for her any longer. It has been his job to protect the town all these years, but who will protect her from him?
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses, characters and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events or locales is purely coincidental.
The Sheriff and the Innocent Housekeeper
Copyright © 2011 by Lynda Chance
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author or publisher except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Thanks for not caring about my housekeeping skills. Or the lack thereof.
Waco, Texas 1872
Becky Hamilton clutched the package of white linen to her chest as she hurried away from her aunt's boardinghouse and tried to get back to her job at the sheriff's house before the rainstorm came. She could smell the hint of it in the air, and the grumble coming up from the south sounded fierce. She was running late today, because her aunt was feeling poorly this morning and Becky had helped her prepare breakfast for the five paying guests they had this week.
As she hurried along the boardwalk, the things she needed to do today were paramount in her mind. The sheriff loved roast and potatoes, and Becky knew exactly how long it would take to get the meat as tender as he liked it. She also needed to find the time to apply the intricate stitching to the white linen she was protecting against her chest from the rain. Mrs. Sloan was impressed with Becky's needlework, and had begun paying her to help with the finishing touches to the fine blouses that would be put up for sale at the mercantile.
Becky desperately needed the extra money. The amount she earned housekeeping for the sheriff was only pin money really, and she needed a new avenue of income. It seemed that she worried about money constantly these days, ever since finding out that her Aunt Beth was having financial problems. Oh, it was true that her aunt would never tell her what was going on, but she knew that Aunt Beth needed Becky's bedroom to let to customers. The missed income from that room had put a strain on the older woman's already meager earnings. Becky had used the bedroom for three full years now, ever since she had moved to Texas from Boston. When her parents had died, her aunt had rescued her from God only knew what, and brought her to live with her in Texas. She was thankful to the sweet woman every day.
But now, at seventeen, Becky was old enough to start thinking about taking the burden from her aunt.
And she had a way
. It wasn't ideal, far from it, but she did have an option for moving out of her aunt's boardinghouse. Many girls her age were already married, and Becky knew it would be expected of her, too. The problem was that the wrong man kept asking her to marry him. Not that he wasn't a good catch, because truly, he was. Kyle Bolton was from a good family, he was nice and kind and even good-looking. But Becky felt a slight nauseous feeling every time he picked up her hand and focused his attention on her. Oh God, there had to be another way. She couldn't marry him. She really couldn't.
The idea of moving back to Boston had come slowly to her. There were no jobs for girls her age in Waco. But there were plenty of jobs back East. Her mind worked on an alternative to a bleak life spent with a man she didn't love. As scary as moving away from Waco was, it seemed infinitely more preferable than marrying someone that made her skin crawl. And all because her friend Miranda Cox broke down and told her what happened after marriage. Miranda's father owned the dry goods store in town, and she had gotten married the year before. She had described to Becky in detail what happened when a man and woman shared the same bed. And that was precisely why Becky could never, ever marry Kyle. Why, oh why, had she pestered Miranda so much about it? Now apprehension and uneasiness dominated her every waking thought.
Before, Kyle never really bothered her much. She saw him as a friend, and never really thought about him with an eye toward romance. But finding out the truth about the marital bed had been so shocking that she knew she was hearing the truth. At about the same time Kyle started becoming amorous, she started becoming nauseous.
Suddenly, the world around her tipped with the new knowledge she held. She began to see things differently, with a new eye. It was like holding the key to a door. Before, she hadn't even realized the door was there. But the last few months, she began noticing all kinds of things. She began observing the guests at the boardinghouse. Some married couples slept in the same room. They were the same guests that ate their breakfast together, smiled at each other, and strolled down the boardwalk hand in hand. Other married guests stayed in separate rooms. She never saw those couples smile at each other or even accidentally touch. Coincidence? She thought not. Her brain began putting two and two together.
She also noticed the saloon girls, when they were out and about town.
And she noticed the way the men looked at them
. A shiver ran down her spine.
A mortified feeling of unease went through her. She also began to notice how certain men looked
. Were they thinking about that? Did they look at her and think of the things that people did in the marriage bed? Anxiety rose within her at an alarming rate.
It all seemed perfectly uncivilized to her, and the thought of having to take part in any of it seemed awkward at the least and downright petrifying at the worst.
And then a pair of dark, velvet brown eyes rose up in her mind.
Her knees weakened, and the enticing image of him rising over her in bed infiltrated her mind. A quivery feeling snaked through her, and she pushed the sinful thought away.
She absolutely had to stop worrying about this! It was going to drive her crazy.
As she rounded the corner in front of the drugstore the bane of her existence, Kyle Bolton, stepped in front of her. Had he been waiting for her? The coincidence of running into him at this time of day was small, and a harassed feeling tightened the soft lines of her face.
His hands landed on her upper arms in a move that apparently was meant to steady her. The feel of his smooth white skin touching her through the cotton of her dress inspired nothing but irritation and a small queasiness in the pit of her stomach.
She tried to put her feelings aside and attempted for a congenial tone of politeness. She wouldn't be rude to him, but she mustn't encourage him, either.
Her face was blank and composed when she lifted it to his.
"Hi, Becky. Where are you off to in such a hurry?"
Becky pulled back but he didn't let go. She could feel a mental wall rise inside of her to block him out. Her body stiffened. "I've got to go, Kyle. I need to get to the sheriff's. I haven't started his supper yet."
"You're always running around town, shopping for him, doing his errands. Isn't it enough that you have to clean his house and cook for him? I don't like you working there." His voice was belligerent.
"Kyle, it's really not your concern where I choose to work. It's a good job, and the sheriff is easy to take care of." She tried to keep the anger from her voice, but her patience was wearing thin.
, don't you Becky? You take care of his house, you don't take care of the sheriff. When we're married, you won't have to do that anymore."
Becky thought about never being in the sheriff's house again and panic infiltrated her system. She loved his house. She loved working for him. It was the best part of her day. She couldn't imagine not getting to go there. "I can't marry you, Kyle."
It was as if she hadn't spoken. Kyle kept talking as if her acceptance was imminent. "You won't work there. In fact, you'll never have to work again. You'll have maids to do anything that needs to be done. All the cleaning and the cooking will be done for you, all you'll have to do is point to what needs doing."
Becky clenched her teeth. She had heard all this before. He constantly told her how easy her life would be.
Sure it would
. Especially the part where she had to crawl into his bed every night. She suppressed a shudder. Why was it like this? He was nice enough. In fact, if it weren't for his persistent pursuit of her hand, he was a true young gentleman. He was the most eligible bachelor in Waco, and all the girls were after him. Why couldn't she feel anything for him? Why couldn't she have womanly feelings for him? Feelings like---she ruthlessly suppressed the emotions that she always kept hidden. Very deep, where even she wasn't allowed to go.
Kyle continued at her silence. "Becky, are you listening to me?" His voice became soft and cajoling, his hands running up and down her arms. "I want you to marry me. You know that. I've asked you often enough. I know you're young and shy, but it will be okay, you'll see." His hands gripped her wrists while she held the white linen material like a shield in front of her. "You're the prettiest girl in Waco. Every man in town will be jealous of me. You'll make the perfect wife. I'll buy you whatever you want, and we’ll have the house decorated the way that will please you. I'll send back East for everything we can't find in Texas. Everything you might want. The best china. The highest quality silver. Linens, laces."
Becky thought of the huge brick house the Bolton's had been building on the river. It was beautiful, no doubt, but she prayed in her heart she would never live there. She didn't want to. It didn't seem like a home to her, it was a prison in her mind.
She jerked away from him and took a step back. "I have to go before it starts pouring. I'm sorry, I just can't marry you. You're a good friend, but--"
He cut her off with a snort. "I've got plenty of friends, Becky. Everyone in this damn town wants to be friends with me. Or with my parent's money. I want to marry you."
The emotion in his voice wrenched at her heart. He truly felt something for her, and she couldn't even summon up the first drop of romantic feelings in return. "I'm sorry, Kyle."
She rushed around him and hurried off to the sheriff's house.
Four hours later, Becky primed the pump and filled the pitcher of water to the top. She set it aside, and began to cut the brownies that were still cooling. She glanced under her lashes and grabbed a quick, secretive peak at the man who made her head buzz and her pulse quicken.