Forever His Texas Bride (Bachelors of Battle Creek #3)(6)

By: Linda Broday

As the sound of the sheriff’s footsteps faded and the lock turned in the heavy metal door, she took the pointed metal instrument from him. He held a lantern up high. She stared at the open wound and again thought of that hawk. She couldn’t save that bird, but maybe she could save Brett Liberty.

With a trembling hand, she moved the torn, raw flesh aside, trying not to gag. So much blood. Her stomach threatened to revolt. After willing her belly to settle, she took a deep breath and blocked out everything except her task. Repeated tries found no success, however.

Tears of frustration trickled down her cheeks. She wasn’t a failure. She wasn’t. And she wasn’t going to give up.

Minutes ticked by and Brett’s breathing became more and more shallow. She had to do this, not only for him, but for herself. She couldn’t fail again and prove Raymond Harper right, especially when a man’s survival hung in the balance.

Finally, the light glinted off a piece of metal. Grabbing onto the spent bullet with the forceps, she pulled it out and dropped it into a tin pan beside the bed before she could lose it inside him again.

“You did it, child. He may well owe his life to you.”

“Do you think Brett will live?”

“He has a lot better chance now.” He took the stained forceps from her and added them to the pan with the metal fragment. “I’ll wash the wound, and you can help me apply a bandage. Did you know you make a fine nurse?”

It was news to her that she made a fine anything. She was nothing but a picker. Of bones, of pockets, and now of bullet wounds. “I’m glad I could help. He seems nice.”

Doc Perkins dipped a cloth into the water and began cleaning away the blood from Brett’s shoulder. “I agree. He’s not a monster to be locked up like some wild animal.”

“I don’t know why the sheriff wants to hang him.”

“Hate. Pure hate. The Comanche massacred his entire family when he was a boy. Oldham never got over it.”

Rayna rolled Brett onto his side so the doctor could get to the blood that had run down to the thin mattress beneath. Minutes later, she helped wrap the wound with gauze overlaid with strips of muslin they tied together.

Doc stood back. “We’ve done all we can for him. The rest is up to the good Lord.” He began gathering everything and putting it back into his bag. “I’ll check on him again in a few hours.”

“Thank you, Doc. I’ll sit with him as long as Sheriff Oldham will let me.”

“I’ll tell him I’ve ordered you to.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “I’m guessing your life has always been between hay and grass, but you have a big heart. That’s plain to see.”

“I do care, and that’s a fact.”

The room felt empty after he left. She sat on the edge of the bunk and touched Brett’s dark hair, which was tied back with a strip of leather. It was soft, just as the hawk’s feathers had been. “Yes, I care. More’s the pity.”

She sensed a wound much deeper than that left by the bullet. One that had scarred his soul. Her brother had once told her that kisses held magic, healing. They never had for her, but maybe they would for Brett.

Rayna lightly traced his lips with her fingertips. She could steal a kiss and he’d never know. It was too tempting. She’d never kissed anyone before without being forced. Just one time, she wanted to know how it felt because she wanted to. Bending her head, she gently placed her mouth on his.

It felt nice. Real nice.

So much that she tried it again.

* * *

Brett forced his eyes open, then promptly shut them against the glare of the lanterns. Why were there lanterns there? Where was he?

Someone moved beside him, and a cool hand touched his forehead.

“Who?” he murmured.

“Rayna. Don’t you remember?”

Images of his flight from the posse, the bullet slamming into his back, and the jail in Steele’s Hollow came flooding back. “Are you holding a wake? Am I dead?”

“No, silly.”

“What are you doing in my cell?” He tried to joke. “Did you escape so you could steal my moccasins?”

“I thought about it. I do believe they’re the right size if I stuff the toe with newspaper.”