Truth be told, she probably had overreacted. So had Jolene, who admitted being freaked out by seeing the shock of crimson spreading from his jeans. But Valerie assured her sister she’d done the right thing by coming to get her. There was no way to know how bad Mason had been hurt, and like a lot of ranching men, Mason would have tried to brush her off no matter how bad the injury was.
They all thought they were impervious to serious injury.
And okay, he was fine. More than fine. Every spare moment he had, they spent together, alone, making out or making love. Valerie doubted they were fooling anyone—at least no one at the house. The curious and knowing glances they got from her sisters, Lila and the hands told her everyone was aware of what was going on between her and Mason, but no one had said a word. And as long as no one asked, she didn’t have to explain their relationship. Since there wasn’t a relationship. They were having sex as long as she was on the ranch. And when it was time to leave the ranch . . .
She didn’t want to think that far ahead. For now, it was fun. She’d finally given up feeling so tense around Mason and everyone else in the house, which she was certain made everyone happy as hell, since she realized what a total bitch she’d been since she arrived. Maybe getting laid had helped. She giggled, glad she was alone in the kitchen after having insisted to Lila that she was perfectly capable of putting the breakfast dishes away. Poor Lila did everything around here. Valerie had already talked to Jolene about bringing in someone to help Lila, though she suspected Lila would pitch a fit about it, claiming she could manage just fine without someone underfoot getting in her way. But Valerie had noticed that Lila didn’t bend as easily as she used to; her ankles were swollen, and she rubbed her back a lot. It was time for her to start taking it easy.
Valerie had just gotten the last of the dishes put away in the cupboard when she heard the front door. She hung up the dish towel and saw Brea swoop in, her cheeks pink from the strong spring wind.
“We’ve got company,” Brea said, pulling off her jacket and tossing it over one of the kitchen chairs.
Valerie stepped around the corner and smiled at the older couple in the entryway. It was Bob and Margaret Stenner from one of the neighboring ranches. “Bob, Margaret, come on in.”
Bob nodded and took off his cowboy hat, but he wouldn’t step off the front door rug. “Don’t mean to bother you, Miss Valerie, but Margaret has been complaining about this pain in her neck for about a month now.”
“You’re a doctor, Valerie,” Brea whispered over her shoulder.
“I know I’m a doctor,” Valerie snapped back in a hushed whisper, then turned and smiled at the couple. “Um, I’m sorry about your neck, Margaret. Have you been to see Doc Parmalee?”
“Doc Parmalee retired three years ago, Miss Valerie.”
“He did?” She scratched her nose. “I didn’t know that. Who’s the doctor in town now?”
“Isn’t one,” Margaret said.
“There isn’t? So who treats everyone?”
“No one.” Bob shook his head. “Gotta drive all the way into Tulsa now if we wanna see a doc.”
Valerie was stunned. “Really? That’s too far.”
Margaret nodded, then winced and reached her hand up to her neck.
“Let me take a look at that, Margaret. Brea, will you take Bob and Margaret into the kitchen while I get my medical bag?”
“Sure. Come on, you two. I’ll put some coffee on.”
“Sounds great,” Bob said. “Much obliged, Miss Brea.”
While Brea got Bob and Margaret settled, Valerie went upstairs and grabbed her medical bag, then hurried downstairs and met Mason in the entryway.
“Someone else stab themselves?” he asked, looking down at her bag.
“No. Bob and Margaret Stenner are here. Margaret has a sore neck.”
“Ah,” he said, nodding as he followed her into the kitchen. “Hey, Bob, Margaret.”
They all said hellos, and while Valerie washed her hands, Mason helped himself to the coffee Brea had made. Valerie realized that examining Margaret in the kitchen while everyone sat around sipping coffee and gaping at them just wasn’t going to work. She needed to undress Margaret to get a good look at her muscles.
“What’s wrong?” Margaret asked, concern lacing her voice after Valerie took a step back.
Valerie laid her hands back on Margaret’s shoulders “Nothing. You and I just need some privacy so I can conduct a thorough examination.”
“What about the old kitchen?” Brea suggested. “No one uses that anymore. It’s got plenty of room, plus a sink to wash up. And God knows Lila keeps every room clean in this place, so you don’t have to worry about whether it’s a sterile enough environment.”
“That’s a good idea.”
They relocated Margaret to the old kitchen. It was a little sparse, but after they dragged a couple chairs in, Valerie had plenty of light—and privacy—for what she needed to do.
“I can’t really tell for sure without X-rays, Margaret,” she said, after finishing her examination and pulling off her latex gloves. “But it feels to me like a muscle strain. It seems to be most tender back here.” She gently placed two fingers at the C-spine area of Margaret’s neck. “But I don’t think it’s spinal in any way.”
Margaret pursed her lips. “Bob’s snoring is driving me crazy, so I’ve spent a couple nights on the sofa.” She tilted her head back to look at Valerie. “It’s not the most comfortable piece of furniture. I bought it more for looks than comfort. That was a mistake.”
Valerie laughed, pulled up a chair in front of Margaret and sat down, then took out her prescription paid, grateful she’d gotten her medical license—and malpractice insurance—in Oklahoma as well as Texas. Not that she’d intended to let her family know that. But she wanted to be able to practice medicine in this state, just in case. “I’m going to write you a prescription for some muscle relaxers. They should help. And while you’re at the drugstore in town, get some earplugs. Those should help with Bob’s snoring.”
Margaret laughed and laid her hands over Valerie’s. “Thank you, dear. Your parents would be so proud of you. You make a fine doctor for our town.”
“Oh, I’m not—”
But Margaret had already taken the prescription and headed out the door.
Valerie sighed, put away her stuff and closed her bag. Brea popped her head in the door.
“Might as well leave that bag open.”
Valerie frowned. “Why?”
“Better come look.”
She came out of the kitchen and rounded the corner, then rocked back on the heels of her tennis shoes.
There were half a dozen people in the main kitchen, all sipping coffee and visiting with Lila, who was grinning and offering up cinnamon rolls while happily chatting away as if she’d invited them all.
“Who are all these people?”
Brea’s lips lifted. “Your next patients. Word’s out that you’re the only doctor within a hundred miles, Val. Might as well hang a shingle on the front door.”
before he walked in, mason waited until leonard
Russell ambled his way out of the old kitchen, tipping his hat to Mason as he did. Valerie was cleaning up medical instruments and washing up the counter. He shut the door behind him and turned the lock.
She turned and offered up a tired smile. “You have no idea. I must have seen forty patients today.” She tossed the paper towels into the wastebasket and pulled up a chair, then collapsed into it.
He had two bottles of beer in his hand. He handed her one.
“Lila left a plate of meat loaf and mashed potatoes in the fridge for you.”
She took the beer he offered. “Thank you. This is just what I need. I might be too tired to eat.”
She took a couple long swallows of beer and sighed, then set the bottle on the table and smoothed her hair away from her face. She lifted her shoulders up and down.
He moved behind her and started rubbing the kinks out of her shoulders, digging in when he found hard knots. Valerie let her head fall forward.
“God, that feels good.”
He continued to work at her muscles, from her shoulders up to her neck, sliding his fingers into her hair. He pulled the ponytail holder out so he could spread his fingers into her scalp and massage there.
“You keep that up, I’ll be your slave.”
He smiled. “I like the sound of that. Never had a slave before. What would you do for me?”
“Rub my temples and I’ll show you.”
He came around front and slid his fingers along the side of her head, smoothing lightly along her temples.
His cock hardened.
“I’d forgotten how good this felt, how talented you are with your fingers.”
“I like using my fingers on you.”
She lifted her head, her hair falling across her face. She swept it away. “Yes, you do. I remember that, too.”
His balls throbbed and he laid his hand across the hard ridge of his shaft. Her gaze drifted down, then back up again, her eyes taking on that glassy look that he knew meant desire.
“Step closer, Mason.”
“I didn’t come in here for you to take care of me, Val.”
“I know you didn’t. Come on.”
He did, and she reached for his hips. Just Valerie laying her hands on him got him hot and bothered. Hell, it didn’t take much. He loved the woman, had never stopped. That hadn’t been a secret to anyone, including himself. He’d wanted her from the first moment he’d met her, when he was a cocksure sixteen-year-old. He still wanted her. Every time with her was like the first time. Their lovemaking had matured, but the fire still burned hot between them.
Maybe he shouldn’t want her.
If wishes were horses, as his mama always used to say. And you couldn’t help who you loved. She was going to leave again, and he knew it, couldn’t stop her if that’s what she wanted to do. But while she was here, he was damn well going to have her.
She unzipped his jeans, slid her hand inside and cupped his balls.
She tilted her head back and smiled at him. A devil’s smile. His balls tightened.
She peeled back the denim, tugged his jeans over his hips, then his briefs, and wrapped her sweet, hot hand around his shaft. He sucked in a breath when she stroked him, sliding her hand to the base, then drawing it slow and easy to the tip.
The tip of her tongue slid out to coat her lips. He watched the action intently, wanting her tongue on his cock head. But Valerie was in the mood to tease, instead winding her hands around his shaft, smoothing her thumb over the crest, skimming around the pearly fluid that spilled from the slit.
“Woman, you’re playing with fire.”
She tilted her head back so he could watch her slide her thumb in her mouth. Then she sucked, and he damn near dropped to his knees. She popped her thumb out of her mouth. “Tell me what you want, Mason.”
He cupped the back of her neck. “Suck me.”
He caught the slight lift of her lips before she took his cock between them, then curled her tongue around the crest and licked him.
If a man could die that way, he’d go damn happy. Valerie’s hot mouth wrapped around his cock made his balls tighten. Watching her suck him deep made him want to shoot off right then. But he had to wait, because this was a sight meant to be savored.
He wrapped his hand in her hair, wound it around and clenched hard when she brought the roof of her mouth and her tongue together, creating suction, squeezing him until he tilted his head back and groaned.
Then she hummed, and his head shot back. “Damn, darlin’. Are you trying to get me to come in your mouth?”
She smiled around his cock, and he knew then that’s exactly what she wanted. And if that’s what she wanted, he’d let her have it.
He leaned back, then thrust forward, fucking her mouth with gentle strokes. She grabbed his ass with both hands and pulled him tighter against her, taking his cock deep—all the way in. When she swallowed, squeezing his cock head, he nearly lost it right then, tightened his hold on her hair and began to thrust faster.
Sweat poured from his face, but he refused to swipe it away. He could only look at Valerie’s sweet mouth as she gripped his ass and licked him, the sucking sounds driving him to the brink of sanity.
He was panting now, leaning back, no doubt pulling her hair, but he was past the point of reason. And she wasn’t complaining, she was—goddammit—she was humming against his cock again, like she was encouraging him to come.
And oh, hell yes, he was going to. He let out a groan and jettisoned into her mouth. She dug her nails into his ass, which only sent his pleasure higher as wave after wave ripped from him. Valerie kept her mouth around him, letting go of the pressure, until he had nothing left to give, until he was spent and weak. Hell, his legs were shaking.
She pulled her mouth away, licked her lips and sat back in the chair with a satisfied smile.
Still fighting for breath, Mason jerked his pants up, then pulled her up, his fingers fumbling with the zipper of her jeans. She helped him and they managed to get her pants off. He didn’t even bother with her top, just lifted her and placed her on the counter.
He felt like a teenager eager to get in a girl’s pants. Hell, when
he been eager to get inside Valerie? And after what she’d done to him, he was more than ready to return the favor.
“Lean back, darlin’.”
She did, bracing herself on her hands. He pulled her legs apart, and damn if that wasn’t the sexiest thing seeing her half-naked, her legs spread on the counter. It made his dick harden all over again seeing her like that. He grabbed a chair and pulled it over, then sat and drew her butt to the edge of the counter, heard her soft gasp as he laid his hands on her thighs and moved his head in between them.