Home > Captivated by the Cowgirl(3)

Captivated by the Cowgirl(3)
Author: Jody Hedlund

“She doesn’t want your help.”

“And she wants yours?”


“No.” Felicity had to salvage the situation before the two men started a fistfight. While the attention from men had been flattering when she’d first moved to Fairplay, now at times, it felt stifling.

With the lack of single women in the high country, she knew the best way to stop all the unwanted ardor was to accept Weston’s proposal. If she got married, then she’d no longer be sought after. And nineteen years old wasn’t too young for marriage. Plenty of women were wedded by her age.

So why couldn’t she just accept Weston’s proposal? Even though he’d recently built a nice home on his land, he’d offered to come live at the homestead with her after they got married so that she could continue to open the home to those in need. He’d told her he didn’t care where they lived as long as they were together—said he wouldn’t mind riding out to his property every day for work.

A wavering dizziness clouded her mind, and she pressed a gloved hand against her forehead to keep her balance. “Thank you for your concern, Weston. But I need you to trust me that I’ll be careful about who I hire.”

He opened his mouth as though he wanted to protest. Then he clamped his jaw shut.

She waited for Philip to make another comment, to say something sarcastic or to jest. But he remained silent too.

With a nod at them both, she turned and strode down the boardwalk.

The truth was, she wasn’t ready to settle down. She wanted the freedom to experience life, have adventures, and see more of the world. For a simple woman like her, that was nearly an impossible dream. But she wasn’t ready to give it up yet. Especially not for a man.






Philip couldn’t stop himself from watching Felicity Courtney stride away. With the way her hips swayed and with how the bustle highlighted her backside, his muscles tightened with the need to wrap his hand around her tiny waist and pull her close. She was a fine, fine woman.

But such a fine, fine woman was off-limits to him. Entirely and completely.

“I ain’t a fool.” Weston Oakley hadn’t moved from beside him on the boardwalk. “I can tell you got a big hankering for Felicity.”

Hankering? Philip fumbled to translate the meaning of such a word into his native tongue, but he couldn’t decipher it. Even so, he could read jealousy in every language. And it was clear Weston coveted Felicity all for himself and didn’t want anyone else to pay her any heed.

A sarcastic rebuttal easily formed, one in which he reminded Weston that Felicity had a sharp mind of her own and could easily pick the better man. But Philip bit back his words, something he’d learned to do often over the past months of running and hiding in America.

Ahead, Felicity entered another establishment and disappeared from sight. His last look at her. Ever.

“Just stay away from her.” Weston’s words echoed with a menacing growl. “Do y’hear?”

Philip rubbed his jaw, the thick layer of stubble so different than his usual clean-shaven style. But then again, so many things about his life were different now. Maybe always would be. Or at least until Gustaf decided to stop hunting him down and trying to assassinate him.

As much as he’d enjoyed sparring with Felicity during his weeks living in South Park, he had no business doing so. He’d chastised himself at least a dozen times to cease such flirtations. But there was something about her—her feistiness, her forthright manner, her quick wit—that he liked immensely. And he hadn’t been able to keep from admiring her, the same way he hadn’t been able to stop himself from watching her just now.

Weston rested both hands on the handles of his revolvers, holstered in his gun belt. Even if Weston acted tough, Philip was a good judge of character and knew the fellow wouldn’t harm a bedbug if he could help it.

“I’m aiming to marry Felicity.” Weston spoke as if the deed were almost done.

“I do believe you shall accomplish it.” Philip glanced at his bags packed and sitting outside the livery, awaiting the stagecoach. Declan’s bags were piled next to his, and the young man stood a few feet away from the luggage, speaking with the livery owner.

Weston was studying the bags now too, his brows rising. “You leaving town?”

“Yes.” Philip’s gaze lingered on his camera box and the tripod beside it. He’d photographed many places in and around Fairplay and South Park in an effort to document his travels. But an unfinished feeling nagged him. What had he missed?

Weston cleared his throat. “Well, reckon I oughta let you get to it.”

Philip allowed himself to meet Weston’s gaze. “Take good care of her. She’s a treasure.” A treasure? Where had that thought come from? And why had he spoken it aloud?

“I will.” Weston touched the brim of his hat in farewell and then strode away, dismissing him and forgetting about him all in one move.

And that’s exactly what he wanted, wasn’t it? For people to dismiss and forget about him? It was the safest course of action for him and for everyone he met.

His spine prickled with that familiar feeling he was being followed and watched. He surveyed Main Street with the many businesses that lined both sides. Their false fronts made them appear larger than they really were, a common practice in most of the small Western towns he’d visited.

At midday, a few older men loitered about. Several women had congregated outside a shop. Their children were likely in school, a newer brick building one street over. And most men were at their places of employment.

As far as Philip could tell, no one was specifically paying him any attention—not even Weston, especially now that he’d clarified that he had no designs on Felicity.

He narrowed his gaze on the hotel across the street and studied the windows of the second-floor rooms. Just because he couldn’t see anyone threatening, it didn’t mean an assassin hadn’t caught up to him. Gustaf would have hired only the best to track him down and eliminate him.

Which was why he had to leave the South Park valley. After six weeks of being here, he’d already overstayed. Even if he had moved locations from Healing Springs Inn, southwest of town, to Hotel Windsor in Fairplay, he’d still been in the area too long.

Over the past year, he and Declan had usually only stayed a few weeks, maybe a month if they’d really enjoyed the location. Apparently, they’d liked South Park the best. And of course, there was the tiny fact that he liked Felicity Courtney.

Yes, he’d liked her from the first moment he’d sat across from her at one of Mrs. Bancroft’s parties. But he’d also known since the outset of his travels that he had to stay clear of female companionship, that his situation was too precarious to involve anyone. Even Declan had agreed they shouldn’t spend extended time with any one woman who might later be able to identify Philip.

Thus, they’d kept their dalliances short. Or at least, they’d tried to . . .

Expelling a taut breath, he stepped off the boardwalk and started across the dusty street toward the livery. “When is the stagecoach departing?”

Declan nodded at the livery owner before turning back toward their baggage. “An hour. Long enough to get a last meal at the Hotel Windsor and one more of those delicious hand pies.” With his dashing, boyish aura, Declan looked more like he was eighteen instead of twenty-four. His fair hair was similar to Philip’s, but he had a rounder face and deeper-set eyes.

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