Well, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life keeps getting in the way. Here’s another chapter from Jude! I’m really starting to relate to her. I don’t have any children, of course, but how she deals with the physical challenges…I can’t imagine what it was like back then!
I hope you enjoy reading,
He liked the feel of her warm little body in his arms. Hughes would admit that easily. What he didn’t like was the reason she was in his arms was because she couldn’t walk between the wagon and the house. “How often does this happen?”
“Not often. Just whenever I do something stupid. Maybe once a month or so. The walk—last night…I fell on the steps when…you came. When I heard my brother yell.”
He remembered one of the women yelling out. Falling down. But he hadn’t looked at her too closely. He should have. He might have changed everything right then, if he’d gotten a good look at this one. “I’m sorry. Will you ever fully recover?”
“I don’t know. The bullet hit close to my spine. When the pain comes, it hurts all the way up in to my neck. My head.”
“What does the doctor say?”
“What doctor? The butcher who sewed me up? He was drunk every time we saw him. And Wharton bruised him up good the week after he helped us. He took off after that. Jami gave the girls instructions and they took care of the three of us. Even the night Jessi’s infection almost took her.”
His arms tightened around her. “He’s not going to hurt you, spitfire. I can swear to that.”
“For how long? Until you lose interest in getting me in your bed? You’re not the first man to try. Even Wharton wasn’t. My husband hadn’t been in the grave seven months, my baby was less than a month old when the first one came around. To make me an offer.” Sarcasm was clear in her words. “I accept no man’s offer.”
“Not even an honorable one?” He didn’t know why he pressed it so soon.
“You proposing?” She tilted her head and looked at him.
“Maybe I am. So what’s your answer? Be advised, a Barratt man meets his woman and he knows what he wants from her immediately. I wouldn’t be askin’ if I wasn’t serious. I mean to have you in my bed. Your young’uns raised up in that empty old house of mine. Damned sons insist on moving out. Place needs children. Lots of them. I’d like to be a daddy to girls this time around.”
“I don’t want another husband.”
“Why not? You’re a young, beautiful woman.”
“Who can’t walk all the time. Who has four young daughters to worry about. Nieces who need raising. When would I fit in time for a husband?”
“A husband can help you with those four of yours. At least one who can afford to. Like I can. Hell and damnation, woman, I’ve thought of nothing else since I had you beneath me in the barn. I’ve not felt that way about a female in fifteen years. And I’ve had plenty offer.”
“I’m sure you have.”
“Answer the question, if you want. You had any proposals? Or just offers?”
She was quiet for a moment. “I think you’re insane.”
He carried her up the steps and into the house his own grandfather had built all those years ago. “You got the room by the back door?”
“I figured. It is the only one on this floor.”
“My brother insisted. Thought it might be easier for me that way.”
“He’s a good man.”
“He is. He and his wife raised me from the time I was eleven. Our parents were lost in a fire.”
“You can sit me down by the fireplace. Jacob will get one going soon. I need to deal with my children. I’ve been away from them all day. And I don’t like that.”
“Don’t figure you would. But they’re fine for tonight, I’m sure.” He settled her gently in the rocker by the fire. “Does the cold make it worse?”
“Sometimes. And worry.”
“I’m sorry for my part in this, spitfire.”
She leaned back against the chair and closed her eyes as one of her nieces lit a lamp nearby for her. Hughes grabbed a blanket and covered her with it. She hummed. “Thank you. I just can’t figure you out. How can you go from being the enemy to being…in just one day? It doesn’t make any sense.”
She hadn’t opened her eyes again. What the girls had told him earlier sank in. When she was hurting, she slept it away. “I’ll get a fire going.”
He wanted to take care of her. Provide for her all that he could. She’d spit and hiss at him when needed, but she was so achingly vulnerable.
She needed a strong man—not just a brother—to take care of her. He was going to be that man. He got the fire going then stood by her while she slept.
Until the feistier of her nieces shooed him away. “We’ll take care of her, Mr. Barratt. It’s time for you to go home. She needs to rest now.”
“Yes, ma’am. Young missy, you have any trouble keeping that boy of mine in line, you have my permission to box him upside the ears. Don’t let that preacher exterior full you. Mick can be a wild one when he wants to.”
“Somehow I doubt that. Your son was kind today, especially to the children. Thank you for the help you provided. Of course, we wouldn’t have needed it if you hadn’t stolen my sisters…”
He laughed. “Honey, had I known you’d have captured Mick’s attention so fast, or your aunt’s mine—or even that sister of yours and my Jackson—I would have scooped the three of you up as well. We’re Barratt men. And Barratt men know what women they want almost the instant they see them. Get their hands on them for the first time. Something for you to keep in mind with that son of mine. Because I can guarantee you that if you catch Mick’s attention, his intentions will be honorable from the very get go.”
She snorted delicately. “Sure they will. Good night, Mr. Barratt. My family…thanks you for dinner. Tell my kidnapped sisters they did a great job preparing it.”
He laughed quietly.
Spirit definitely ran in in the family.