Home > Captivated by the Cowgirl(5)

Captivated by the Cowgirl(5)
Author: Jody Hedlund

Something was wrong. Suddenly all mirth fled from him, and he reached out to steady her. When she didn’t resist, unease shot through him.

As she opened her eyes and glanced up at him, her expression filled with vulnerability. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so dizzy. And tired.”

Before he could respond, her eyes rolled back, and she began to collapse.

His reflexes were quick, and he managed to scoop her up so that he was cradling her against his chest. “Felicity?” he called to her gently, urgently.

Around him, men had jumped up from their tables, their faces mirroring the surprise and concern he felt.

Beside him, Declan was already opening the hotel door. “We should take her to the doctor’s office. The sign in the window says the doctor’s in.”

“Quite right. The doctor. That’s what she needs.” Philip hurried outside, carrying her as carefully as he could.

Her head lolled against his shoulder and then tipped back, revealing her pale face and dark circles under her eyes.

What was wrong with her?

With a knot tightening his stomach, he strode down the street toward the small, weathered building with a white sign above the door that said Doctor’s Office. Another sign, this one painted brightly, hung in the window and had the names of the two doctors: Dr. Astrid Steele and Dr. Logan Steele.

Philip found it somewhat unusual that a town as sparsely populated as Fairplay had two doctors, including a female physician. But he wasn’t opposed to women becoming educated and using their God-given talents the same as men. In fact, he’d approved his father’s efforts to open universities to women.

Felicity stirred in Philip’s arms, her lashes rising. “I’m fine,” she whispered. “Just tired. That’s all.”

Fine? Just tired? Philip couldn’t keep a snort from escaping.

“Last time this happened, I was back on my feet in no time.”

He halted in front of the door. “Last time?”

She nodded almost wearily, then closed her eyes again. “I just need to get more sleep.”

“How many people have you known to pass out when they’re tired?”

“Hmmm . . .” Her soft thinking sound drew his attention to her mouth, to her gently rounded lips, to her smooth cheeks, to the elegant curve of her chin and jaw . . .

What was he doing? He couldn’t get distracted by the feel of her body in his arms or the way she smelled faintly of strawberries and cream. “Or maybe there’s another condition you’re suffering from that needs further investigating.”

Her eyes flew open, suddenly wide and filled with worry. “Do you think so?”


She held his gaze, likely needing to know he was serious and not teasing this time. He kept his expression grave. As he carried her through the door and into the empty waiting room, she didn’t protest.

A tall, distinguished doctor guided him into an office. As Philip gently placed Felicity on the examining table, he debated offering to stay by her side. He wanted to hear what the doctor had to say about her condition and why she was fainting. But he had no ties to Felicity that gave him any right to insist, and so he retreated into the waiting room and took a seat.

Declan lowered himself into the chair beside him.

Philip may have once been too spoiled to consider the needs of his friends, but the trials and hardships of the past year had opened his eyes and taught him much. Philip knew Declan would do anything he asked, even if that meant staying in Fairplay and delaying their move to Denver.

But he didn’t want to ask that of Declan. The young man had done so much for him—had followed him each step of the journey, supporting and encouraging him, and hadn’t complained once.

Philip sat straight, his backbone stiff. “I don’t feel right leaving Felicity in her condition, especially without any help at her boardinghouse.”

“Are you planning to stay and help her?”

“Perhaps.” He wasn’t entirely sure what he intended to do. All he knew was that he couldn’t walk away while she was in this condition and in need of help. “Regardless, I want you to go to the hotel and have that last hand pie. Then leave on the stage today.”

Declan shook his head. “No, I couldn’t—”

“I insist. You’ve been looking forward to visiting Denver, and you’ll get the replenishment of funds you’ve been needing.”

“I don’t mind waiting for you.”

“I’ll tarry here another day or two, make sure Felicity is situated, and then I’ll head down to Denver and meet up with you.”

Declan studied his face as though trying to read his emotions, but Philip had learned long ago how to keep his feelings concealed and put up his best front.

“You’re sure?” Declan glanced around the waiting room and then to the street, making sure no one was privy to their conversation.

“A couple more days won’t hurt me.” At least, he prayed it wouldn’t.

Besides, Felicity wouldn’t want him around once she was feeling better. For now, however, while she was weak, he could accompany her back to her boardinghouse and then ride into town to personally hire a fellow to give her a hand with the workload. If he had to, he’d go door to door until he found someone.

He had to assist her in the matter because doing so was decent and right. Not because she was special to him.

Declan dropped his voice. “It’s been obvious you like her since the day you met her, but—”

“Obvious?” Philip released a scoffing laugh that came out too loud. “No, that’s not true.”

“Oh, come on. Your attraction to her has wound so tight I’ve just been waiting for it to snap.”

“We can’t be around each other without sparring.”

“Sparring with plenty of sparks.”

“I’ve engaged in a little harmless flirtation. That’s all.”

Declan clamped a hand on Philip’s shoulder. “Deny it all you want, but that won’t make it go away.”

Philip couldn’t deny he found Felicity attractive. But he had no intentions toward her. None. He wouldn’t allow himself to consider any woman now. Not when he was in so much danger and on the run for his life.

Even if he hadn’t been in such danger, he was a prince with royal obligations and didn’t have the option to pursue a woman of his own choosing. Lapland law stipulated that royal matches had to be made and approved by a majority of members of parliament. Gustaf’s wife had been carefully selected by a committee tasked with the purpose of finding a bride. And the committee had started the process of looking for a wife for Philip. While they would consult him over their final choices, Philip had grown up knowing what would be expected of him and hadn’t questioned it.

Yes, he liked Felicity. The attraction was tight. Declan wasn’t wrong on either score. But Philip had kept his feelings for her under control, had done his best to hold her at arm’s length. For her safety. And because he didn’t want to lead her on only to break her heart.

He’d had one such relationship while at Cambridge, and in the end, when he’d had to sever the ties, the parting of ways had been so hurtful and difficult he’d vowed not to give a woman false hope ever again.

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