Home > Captivated by the Cowgirl(6)

Captivated by the Cowgirl(6)
Author: Jody Hedlund

“Nothing has developed between Felicity and myself over the past weeks.” He spoke earnestly, needing to reassure himself as much as Declan. “And nothing will happen in a couple of days.”

“I’m sure you’re right.” Declan stood, a knowing glint in his eyes.

Philip rose too. “I’ll make sure she’s taken care of and then be on my way.”

Grinning, Declan started toward the door.

“I’ll be on the first stage out tomorrow morning.”

“Sure you will.” Declan opened the door and stepped out.

“You’ll see.”

His friend gave a mock salute before disappearing outside.

Unsettled, Philip lowered himself back into the chair. The logical, rational part of his brain told him to rush after Declan and leave today.

But with a glance toward the closed door of the examining room, his heartbeat stuttered a protest. If he was perfectly honest with himself, he had to admit he’d already had a difficult time tearing himself away from Felicity and Fairplay when she’d been doing well and managing fine. He’d kept delaying, kept telling himself he needed a few more photos. If not for Declan’s dwindling finances, he might have stayed longer.

How could he possibly leave her now that she wasn’t doing well or managing fine? There was no way. Not until he was certain she would be well looked after during his absence.

His absence? As if his going away would only be temporary. As if he intended to someday return. He almost snorted at the notion. Once he left Fairplay, he’d never be back, and he’d never see Felicity Courtney again. He couldn’t pretend otherwise.

With a mental shake, he forced himself to replay the litany of advice he’d been giving himself all along: Felicity was simply a pretty distraction, one that had helped to take his mind off his troubles for a short while. But that’s all she was. A fleeting encounter.

He would depart—soon—and that was all there was to it.






“I can walk just fine now, Mr. Berg.” Felicity squirmed against Philip as he carried her from the wagon to her house. But the moment she moved, she was all too aware of the hard wall of his body shielding her, the muscular arms holding her up underneath her backside, and the closeness of his chin near her cheek and forehead.

“The physician said you are to stay off your feet today.” His words were as firm now as they’d been in town when he’d carried her to the wagon and helped her onto the bench.

“Dr. Steele’s advice is just that. Advice.” Felicity didn’t want to admit to how tired and dizzy she still was for fear that Philip would go and tell Patience. If Patience found out about another spell, she’d insist on Felicity moving over to the Trout Creek Ranch with her. Or she’d come and stay with Felicity, sacrificing being with her new husband and daughter.

Philip started up the front steps. “Advice is meant to be followed.”

“Only if you agree with the advice. Which I do not.”

“I do. You need to rest today and sleep well tonight.”

“I have too much to do to sit around.” Someone had to take care of the livestock and provide a meal and draw water for the Kellers. And someone had to do the cleaning and laundry and the hundred and one other daily chores. There were still a few last root vegetables that needed to be harvested and stored in the cellar. And more firewood to be chopped in preparation for the winter.

Philip crossed the front porch and somehow managed to open the door and enter without disturbing her in the least. Once inside, he paused and took in the room. Felicity knew she had nothing for which to be embarrassed. She kept the place immaculate. Even so, Philip and Declan were wealthier than she was, probably from a different social class altogether. And though her home was well furnished, nothing was fancy or opulent. The place was actually quite simple and decorated with all of Patience’s many creations.

He started toward a grouping of furniture on one side of the front room, opposite the long dining room table. As he stopped beside the sofa, he hesitated.

She was too mortified by the whole affair to look at his face or into his eyes, unwilling to see the humor that might be lurking there. Even though he’d been serious all throughout the doctor’s visit and the ride back to the boardinghouse, she guessed it was only a matter of time before he found something to tease her about.

“If I deposit you onto the sofa, you must promise to stay there until your help arrives.”

“And if I don’t promise you?”

“Then I shall sit with you and make sure you do.”

“I doubt you have the patience to play nursemaid to me.”

“Test me.” His voice dropped low by her ear. “I dare you.”

Her stomach did a series of strange flips. If there was one thing she’d learned about Philip Berg, it was that he was adventurous and afraid of very little. Including her.

“Very well.” She would simply pretend to rest until he left. Besides, hired help wouldn’t be arriving—at least, not that she anticipated, since she’d had no solid inquiries regarding her advertisement.

Philip started to lower her but then halted. “I can tell you’re only saying what you think I want to hear. But that strategy won’t work with me.”

She expelled an exasperated breath. “Put me down, Philip.” The moment she spoke his Christian name, she mentally slapped herself at the informality. Hopefully, he wouldn’t pick up on it.

His lips quirked into a smirk. “So we are finally calling each other by our given names, Felicity?”

Of course he wouldn’t let the mistake pass him by. Of course he would make a big deal out of it, especially since she’d insisted on calling him by his proper name even after he’d given her leave to use his first name instead after one of their first dinners.

“Put me down, Mr. Berg.”

“Too late. You already called me Philip, and you cannot take it back.”

“I am taking it back.”

He didn’t move but held her poised above the sofa. His breath was warm against her cheek and ear. “Felicity. Felicity. Felicity.”

His words brushed gently across her skin, and each mention of her name—especially with the slight accent that dragged her name out on his tongue—flipped her stomach end over end.

“You must call me Miss Courtney.” Her voice lacked power and conviction. Because she was tired, not because she was falling under his spell.

He finally lowered her to the sofa, placing her on the cushions with as much care as though she were a breakable crystal vase. As he released her, he reached for the quilted blanket on the back of the sofa and began to drape it over her.

She knew she ought to protest such tender ministrations. But as his eyes cut to her, they also seemed to cut right through her, slicing her open, so that every last drop of air escaped, and she had no way to form the words of objection.

He tucked the edges of the quilt around her before straightening and peering down at her, his eyes a shade of blue that was too mesmerizing. The errant blond strand fell across his forehead—the strand that always begged for combing back. His jaw flexed, drawing her attention to the chiseled shape and the scruffiness of his stubble.

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