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Heiress Aileen Lynch has just lost her mother to cancer, but her spendthrift stepfather insists she must cancel his gambling debts by marrying his disreputable associate. Fleeing Ireland with the help of her mother’s lawyer, she lands in Boston to stay with friends and is attracted to one of their visitors.
Doctor Samuel Walker is in town to attend a medical conference. When he meets the lovely young Irishwoman he is quite taken with her and, at his colleague's entreaty, marries her and takes her home to Texas with him to keep her safe. Sam rationalizes that he doesn’t need a wife but he does need a mother for his son.
While Aileen strives to earn Sam’s affection, he vows never to risk Aileen’s safety or his heart—he’ll not father a child and watch Aileen die in childbirth as his first wife did. And falling in love is not in his plans.
Page Count: 214
Word Count: 53050
Aileen stretched in the large feather bed—a big difference from the pallet kind of cot they’d shared on the train. She turned over and closed her eyes…just a minute longer. At the splash of water, she opened her eyes a slit to see Sam, shirtless, at the washstand, shaving. She could see his muscles move with each motion of his arms. Fascinating. Last night, at Sam’s encouragement, she had run her hands over the hills and valleys of his torso. He seemed to enjoy her touch. Without a doubt, she’d enjoyed his tender exploration of her body, drawing gasping breaths from her and a passion she didn’t know existed. She pulled the cover up over her head to hide the blush. She was grateful he was freer than he had been about kissing her and showing affection without freezing up.
A heavy thump landed on her rear. “Get up, woman. I want a good breakfast before we board the train.” Cold air hit her exposed feet and legs as the covers were yanked off, and Sam walloped her again with the pillow.
Screeching, she leapt from the bed, cushion in hand, ready to swing at Sam’s head. He caught the pillow with one hand and wrapped his other arm around her middle. He tossed the pillow back on the bed and pulled her in for a quick kiss, then swatted her on the behind. “I’m starving. You’ve got fifteen minutes to get ready.”
Aileen peeked out the window and groaned. “It’s not even light yet. Why don’t you go on down to the dining room, and I’ll be down soon.”
“All right. Be sure to put your pistol in your reticule or pocket.”
“Yes, dear. I will, though I don’t think the little bit of practice I had yesterday qualifies me to have it on my person.”
He chuckled and tweaked her nose. “Me either. It’s just for an emergency…and please…make sure I’m behind you when you fire.”
She swatted him on the belly. “I wasn’t that bad.” His stomach growled. “Go on with you, now, and put some food in that stomach of yours.”
They’d packed everything last night, so it didn’t take her long to wash and slip into fresh pantalets and a camisole. Sam told her to forget about even trying to put on a corset, as it was getting hot, and she’d be miserable. Going without one would take some getting used to. She put on the shirtwaist blouse and a russet brown serge skirt. They’d bought a holster for her revolver, and her new coat hid it so that, from the front, folks would think she wore a pretty leather belt.
Oh, she loved the boots. They were so comfortable. She left her hat on the bed and went downstairs to join Sam. He stood as she walked in and held her chair. “You are lovely in your new duds. Your new hat will be perfect with the color of your skirt.”
“You mean my cowboy hat?”
“No. The one with the big feather”—he fluttered his hand by his head—“on the side.”
She giggled. “It’s called a plume.”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“I thought I’d wear my cowboy hat today.”
“Actually, it’s for home—to keep the sun off your face and neck.”
Oh, yes, he’d explained how the sun could be harsh and to prevent burns she needed to stay covered. She did buy several pairs of gloves—one for working in the garden, a pair for horseback riding, and a pair for church. At home in Ireland, they treasured the sunny days, and she didn’t know of anyone burned by the sun’s rays there.
Their waiter brought their food. Sam had ordered eggs, bacon, ham, biscuits, fried potatoes, and gravy. There was no way she could eat everything on her plate. She peeked up at Sam and cocked an eyebrow.
“Don’t worry. What you can’t eat I’ll finish for you.”
He opened his biscuits, slathered gravy all over the tops, and liberally added salt and pepper before taking a bite. She decided to give it a try. Sam surveyed her as she took a bite and waited for a response. “It’s bland, but good.”
“Try a little salt and pepper. It makes a big difference.” She did as he said, and though the flavor was some better, the concoction was definitely an acquired taste.
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