Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3) (5 page)

BOOK: Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3)
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“I feel a mite hot.” He still had his shirt on and wanted to laugh.  “You do know the best way to get a fever down is to bathe the patient with cool water.”

“Yes, in fact I do know that, and I’ve been doing that very thing for hours.”

“But my shirt is still on.”

“Of course it is, but it’s unbuttoned.  They brought you to me with your shirt on, and I didn’t want to take a chance of opening your wound by pulling it off.  Plus I wasn’t sure if it was proper.” She turned her head away but not before he saw the bloom of redness in her cheeks.

“Well, I’m awake now so why don’t we get the shirt off? Here, help me sit up.” He waited until she was beside him before he moved.  Her hands felt good on his back.  Taking his uninjured arm out of the sleeve was easy.  As she walked to the other side of the bed to help with the other sleeve there was a knock on the door.

Heaving a sigh, she gave him a smile and left to go answer.

Attempts to get the sleeve off himself became too painful.  Besides, it’d be more fun to have Cecily’s help.  Listening hard, he tried to distinguish who was at the door.  He heard Dr.  Martin’s voice, then Edith’s voice, and he smiled when he recognized Shannon’s voice.  He watched as they trooped inside, one by one, with Cecily trailing far behind.  Somehow her being at the end of the line didn’t seem right.

“What are you trying to do? Why are you taking off your shirt?” Edith arched her eyebrow as she stared at Cecily then she hurried to his side and tried to put his shirt back on him.

“Ouch, Edith, you’re hurting me.  Let go,” he said.

Dr.  Martin put his hand on Shane’s forehead and nodded.  “You’ve got a fever all right.  Nothing to worry about though.  You’ll pull through.” He retrieved a bottle out of his bag and handed it to Cecily.  “This is laudanum for his pain I’ll write the instructions down for you before I leave.”

Cecily reached for the bottle and held it to her chest, nodding.  “I’d appreciate that.”

Shannon smiled at him.  “You had us worried, my friend.  We got word you were shot but no details.” She walked to his left side and helped him take the rest of his shirt off.  “Here, this will make it easier for Cecily to keep you cool.” She held her hand up in Edith’s direction.  “I don’t want to hear it, so just save your judgments for yourself.”

Edith gasped and sputtered then she snatched the shirt from Shannon.  She grabbed a clean shirt off the wall peg and marched around the bed to Shane’s right side and tried to catch his arm so she could put it in the sleeve.

“Oh, for heaven sake, leave Shane alone.  Dr.  Martin, what do you think? Shirt on or shirt off?” Cecily asked as she thumped the laudanum down on the bed side table.

“Off.  If he gets hot enough she’ll have to bathe his back too.” He gazed at Edith and shrugged his shoulders.  “Sometimes it’s not about what’s proper, it’s about caring for the patient.  The important goal here is to make Shane well again.” Dr.  Martin glared at Edith then gave Shane a much friendlier look.  “Now, Shane, I didn’t have a chance to ask you how you feel.”

“Truthfully I feel a mite better now that my shirt is off.” He sighed.  “Thanks for coming to my rescue, doc.  I’m sure Cecily can handle it.  I have complete faith in her.”

“Good, good I can see you are in capable hands so I will be back later this afternoon to check on you.” He closed his bag, shook Shane’s hand and nodded to the women before he left.

Shannon moved closer to the bed.  “I’m glad it’s not too serious.  I’m also glad you have Cecily here to take care of you.  Do you need anything? Cecily, I could cook up a few meals or do laundry, whatever you need.”

Cecily smiled.  “You are a dear, sweet woman, Shannon, and I appreciate your offer, but I think for now Shane just needs rest.”

Shannon took Cecily’s hand giving it a quick squeeze then leaned down and kissed Shane on the cheek.  “You get better now you hear?”

Shane nodded. 

Shannon looked at Edith.  “We’d best get going don’t you think?”

Edith put her hands on her hips and shook her head.  “In my day we’d never even think of seeing a man without a shirt on.  You two women are two of a kind.  Neither of you have any respect for propriety.  I feel sorry for you both.  You’ll never have the respect of the right people.”

Shannon laughed.  “Fine by me.  We’ll be going, now.” She pulled a protesting Edith toward the bedroom door.  “Take care, Shane, and it was nice to see you, Cecily,” she called over her shoulder.

Shane laughed and shook his head his smile dimmed as his gaze met Cecily’s unhappy one.  “Don’t let Edith ruin your day.  She is in no way a reflection of how the rest of the town thinks.  I’ve always thought of her as a mere nuisance, but I can see she’s hurting you.  I’ll talk to her—”

“No please don’t.  It’ll only make things worse, and I’m fine actually really I am.” She picked up the cloth, wet it again, and carefully wrung it out before placing it on Shane’s forehead.  The cloth felt like heaven on his hot face.

He moaned in pleasure and closed his eyes, waiting for her to continue, but when she didn’t, he opened his eyes again.  She sat in her chair with her hand in midair staring at his chest.  There was no way to tell from her expression what she was thinking.  Did she think him ugly with his many scars? Or was it something else? Something deeper? After all she’d been through, a man’s chest probably scared her.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.  The sight of a near naked man must bring back bad memories.  I know they’re memories best forgotten, if possible.  Give me the cloth I can wipe down my own chest.”

Her gaze met his and she almost laughed.  “Wipe down your own chest? You are amusing when you want to be,” she said as she shook her head.

“I’m not trying to be funny I’m just trying to make things easier for you.”

Squirming in her chair she sighed.  “Your chest is nothing like Long Nose’s chest.  His was a darker color and hairless.  You both have well-muscled chests, but yours has a sprinkling of dark hair across it.  And of course with your fever and gunshot wound, I don’t find you particularly threatening.”

He wanted to tell her how pretty she looked in her dress, but he knew his opinion wouldn’t be welcome.  “You’ve been getting enough rest, haven’t you?”

She stood and stretched her back by arching backwards.  “It’s only been a day, not even a whole day and yes I got enough rest.  Don’t worry about me just worry about getting yourself well.  I’m going to get fresh water and a cup coffee.  Would you like a cup?”

“Water will do for now, thank you.” He watched her leave his room.  Somehow she took all the sunshine and happiness along with her.

 

 

****

 

 

Cecily fanned her face with a piece of paper.  If only he knew.  She smiled at his concern for her.  She didn’t feel in the least bit threatened.  In fact, he fascinated her a bit too much.  Many times when she’d stroked the cloth over him she’d been tempted to touch him with her bare hands.  What a hussy she was.  She began to laugh but her humor died as she thought of Edith.  That woman had become the bane of her existence, and she couldn’t allow it.  She’d have to try her best to not take Edith’s cruel words and actions to heart.

The world was full of crosses to bear, and she’d had more than her share, but she’d get through it.  Right now her main concern was Shane.  She still hadn’t found out how he had been shot.  She’d just finished pouring herself a cup of coffee when another knock on the door startled her.  After she caught her breath, her shoulders sagged.  Now what?

She cracked open the door and smiled when she recognized Poor Boy, who stood hat in hand on the front porch.  She opened the door wider.  “Come on in, Poor Boy.”

He took a step back and shook his head.  “Miss.  Cecily, I’m here to ask a favor.  Now don’t feel you have to say yes or anything like that.  I knows it’s hard for people to get by these days and all but Eats’ restaurant just done burn down.”

Cecily clapped a hand to her chest.  “Did anyone get hurt in the fire?”

“No, no one.  Eats was out, and I was asleep on the kitchen floor but I got out.”

“What are you going to do now?” Her eyes widened in understanding.  “Do you need a place to stay? What about Eats? Where is he staying?”

Poor Boy’s face turned beet red.  “Eats him got himself a woman, and there’s no room for me.” He stared at the wooden porch floor, shifting his weight from one leg to the other.  “You probably know this already, but most people don’t take to me, but you and Sheriff O’Connor have always shown me kindness.  You have a nice barn and only one horse.  I was thinking, I was asking, can I sleep in your barn? I can hunt for food, and I know how to take care of myself.  I know the sheriff got himself all shot up, and maybe I could help.”  He peeked up at her and then quickly looked down at the floor again.  “You know, now that I thunk it all out, I’ll be going.” He turned to walk away.

“Poor Boy, hold up a minute.”

He stopped and faced her. 

She tilted her head and studied him.  What was his real story? Not that it was any of her business.  “There’s no room in the barn, but we have plenty of room in the house.  Come on in.” She opened the door wider and gestured with her hand for him to enter. 

Poor Boy hesitated then he stepped inside.  “I don’t want to make more work for you or be of no trouble.”

“Come on let’s get you into the kitchen and warmed up and don’t worry, you won’t be any trouble.  In fact, you can help me take care of the sheriff.”

Poor Boy’s smile beamed.  “I’d be awfully proud to help out the sheriff.”

“What’s going on out there?” The sheriff yelled.

Eyes wide, Poor Boy jumped.  His breaths came short and quick, and he looked as though he wanted to run.  “Come on, Poor Boy, let’s go talk to the Sheriff.” Cecily led the way into Shane’s room as Poor Boy shuffled right behind her.  She glanced over her shoulder as they entered the room, and Poor Boy quickly lowered his head.

“Good to see you, Poor Boy,” Shane said as he flashed a questioning gaze at her.

She waited for Poor Boy to speak, but he didn’t.  “Eats burned down and Poor Boy needs a place to stay.  I told him it was fine, but since it’s your house, I suppose we should ask you.”

“Poor Boy, you are more than welcome to stay as long as you need.  Now tell me, was anyone hurt?” Shane started to push himself up into a sitting position and she was right there pushing him back down on the bed.  He gave her a look of annoyance then stayed put.

“No sir, no one was hurt.  Eats, he was with his lady friend, and I was asleep on the kitchen floor.  I smelled smoke and saw it wasn’t coming from the kitchen so I got up.  The front of the building was on fire.  I lit out the back way and got Eats.  I never seen Eats cry before, and I’ve been with him a long time.”

“Did you see who set the fire?”

“No, sheriff, I ain’t seen nothing.  Eats told me to find a place to stay until he had time and the gumption to rebuild.  I thought I could stay in your barn for a while, but Miss Cecily invited me in the house.  I’ll go if you want.” Poor Boy finally looked Shane in the eye as he bit his lip and swallowed hard.

“Of course you’re welcome to stay in the house.  We’ll get it all figured out once I’m on my feet.  I could probably help Eats rebuild.”

Poor Boy grinned from ear to ear.  His clothes were tattered and torn and covered in dirt.  On top of the dirt was a layer of soot that covered him from head to toe. 

Cecily stared at him wondering just how old he really was.  “Well, good I’m glad that’s settled,” Cecily said.  “I do think the first thing we need to do is get you washed up and into some clean clothes.”

Poor Boy grimaced and shook his head.  “Ma’am my own clothes is just fine.  I don’t want to be a bother, and I’ll not take charity from no one.”

She admired Poor Boy’s pride.  “It’s not charity I’m offering.  In fact, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done around here.  Isn’t that right, Shane? Why we need to get the farm started and that takes a lot of work.”

Poor Boy nodded.  “I lived on a farm once a long, long time ago.  I still remember how to milk a cow, gather eggs and plant for the harvest.” He sighed as though he missed living on the farm.

“Come with me, Poor Boy, I’ll show you where the tub is, and get you a set of clean clothes.  Mind, Shane’s things may be a bit big on you but I think they’ll do for now.  If that’s fine with you, Shane?” She waited for him to nod.  “First, we need to get the water heated and then I’ll stay with Shane while you take a bath.” She frowned at the scowl on Poor Boy’s face, and when she glanced at Shane his lips were twitching as though he was trying to suppress a laugh.  Her face heated as Shane winked at her.  She turned on her heel and headed out the door with Poor Boy right behind her.

 

 

****

 

 

Shane couldn’t contain his laughter a minute more.  If he was a betting man, he’d say that Poor Boy hadn’t had a bath in at least a year.  Perhaps under all that dirt he would finally be able to see just how old the boy was.  Eats was probably having fits about now.  The important thing was no one got hurt, of course.  But how had the fire started? Once he was out of bed he’d have to find out if the town had a plan for fires.

BOOK: Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3)
13.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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