Home > Captivated by the Cowgirl(8)

Captivated by the Cowgirl(8)
Author: Jody Hedlund

“You will definitely surprise me.” Oh, the magnetic pull of those blue eyes. They were like lassos wrapping around her every time, cinching hard and dragging her toward him.

“Good.” His voice took on a mirthful ring. “Now give me your list and let me try it.”

She sighed, too tired to fight him. “We need at least two buckets of water. The stove needs to be fueled and water set to heat. The horse needs tending. The wood needs chopping. And I should get something simmering for supper soon, perhaps make some bread.”

“That sounds easy enough.”

“Easy?” She released a half laugh. “Only in your dreams.”

“So you’re dreaming about me now, are you?” He flashed a smile at her—one that definitely would have her dreaming about him. Not that she’d admit anything of the sort to him.

“I’m dreaming about how I can get you to go away.” That wasn’t true.

And as his smile widened, it was clear he knew she was bluffing.

Mrs. Keller hadn’t moved from her spot on the step and had been watching their interaction with ever-widening eyes. As though recognizing the same, Philip gave her one of his charming smiles. “If you make sure Felicity doesn’t get up from the sofa while I’m working, I promise I’ll get the water for your husband ready first.”

She nodded and glanced at Felicity. “I’ll do my best.”

“At the very least, you can let me know if she arises from the sofa while I’m outside. Then I can administer my own special form of discipline later.”

Special form of discipline? Tingles raced over Felicity’s skin. Maybe she’d get up at least once just to see what he had in mind.

As his gaze locked with hers, he seemed to read the rebellion within her, and his eyes lit. “Don’t you dare lift a finger from the sofa.”

He was taunting her. But she couldn’t keep from loving it. She lifted her fingers one at a time and taunted him right back.

With mock sternness, he folded his arms. “Guess you’re asking for it, aren’t you?”

“I’m actually really scared and trembling in fear of what you’ll do to me.”

He chuckled and then crossed to the door. With his hand on the knob, he paused and tossed another comment to Mrs. Keller. “Also, keep track of how many times she refers to me as Philip, will you?”

With that, he winked at Felicity and exited the house.

As his footsteps faded, she couldn’t stop herself from grinning like a silly old maid. Her body relaxed into the sofa, and her eyelids suddenly felt weighted by boulders. How long had it been since someone had taken care of her? Had helped carry her burdens?

It had been too long.

Now finally, with Philip there, somehow she sensed she was alright, that she wasn’t alone anymore. And that was all she needed to know to fall into a deep sleep.






Philip brought the wagon to a stop near the barn. From the corner of his eye, he waited for the front door to open and for Felicity to storm out, demanding to know why he’d returned.

The evening was growing dark, and the low glow in a window told him a lantern had been lit. But the boardinghouse was as quiet now as it had been a couple of hours ago when he’d ridden into town.

Was she still asleep? He hoped so.

All afternoon, he’d hauled water, chopped wood, fed the livestock, and tended to other needs around the place. Every time he’d come inside, he’d expected her to be bustling about and order him to leave. But every time, she’d remained asleep on the sofa right where he’d left her.

Finally, when the afternoon had grown late and he’d had no more reason to stay, he’d made a list of items that she needed—feed for the chickens, grain for the horse, kerosene for lanterns, a new bucket for hauling water, and several other essentials he’d noticed were low. He’d told himself he’d ride into town, purchase the things for her, and then do his best to locate the help she needed.

But as he’d stood outside the store and started loading the wagon with all the supplies, his gut had cinched with protest at the thought of approaching any one of the dozens of men now arriving in town after the day spent mining or ranching.

He didn’t want to hire a strange fellow to ride out to the boardinghouse and work for Felicity. Instead, he’d rather find someone reputable, reliable, and preferably someone who wouldn’t drop down on one knee and propose marriage to Felicity the first time he saw her.

He’d made a few half-hearted inquiries but then had gone to Hotel Windsor and located his bags and belongings in the lobby where Declan had stowed them, likely assuming he’d stay there another night. But instead of taking the bags up to a room, Philip had carried them to the wagon bed and promptly driven back to the boardinghouse.

As he descended from the wagon seat, he watched the house again.

Still no sign of Felicity.

He rounded the wagon and pulled out his camera case and the tripod. What was she going to say when she saw his bags and belongings? Her lush brown eyes would flash, and her pert lips would purse together, then she’d release her fury upon him.

She wouldn’t want him there.

It had been one thing for him to deliver her back to her house after her fainting episode. And she’d only protested a little when he’d insisted on helping her so that she could rest.

But she hadn’t agreed to letting him stay there for the night. And he doubted she ever would.

So then, what, exactly, was he doing at the boardinghouse instead of taking a room in the hotel?

He still hadn’t been able to make sense of his actions. Not even after the quiet mile back. The only thing that came to mind was that he was worried about her and wanted to make sure she got enough sleep overnight.

Whatever she’d been doing to help her boarders had been noble and kind. Mrs. Keller looked frazzled and worn and in desperate need of assistance. But Felicity couldn’t miss so much sleep night after night and still function.

That had become obvious. At least to him.

As he lifted out the rest of his bags and set them on the ground, his gaze caught upon the aspen leaves in their gold finery, showcased by the fiery reds and oranges that hovered over the western range, causing the sky to glow and reminding him of the majestic mountains of his homeland.

His heart gave a thud of longing for the land of his birth, the country he loved, and the many people he’d left behind—including his mother, younger sister Estelle, many cousins, and friends. After close to twelve months of being gone, the ache of missing them hadn’t gone away. At times it only stung a little. But sometimes—like now—his chest reverberated with the pain of all he’d lost. And it hurt with the reality that his brother—his own flesh and blood—had wanted to murder him.

Although only two years apart in age, he and Gustaf had never been close. They’d been sent to different boarding schools and later to different universities. Even so, they were brothers, and that had to count for something, didn’t it?

Of course he could understand Gustaf feeling betrayed, undermined, and rejected by so many countrymen asking for him to resign so that Philip could be king in his stead.

Even so, Philip had never imagined his brother would attempt an assassination.

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