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The Lawman's Agreement
The McCade Legacy
By Nancy Fraser, Patti Shenberger, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Nancy Fraser & Patti Shenberger
All rights reserved.
"Good evening, Miss Winston." Zack McCade greeted the young school teacher with a nod and a tip of his Stetson before setting his hat squarely back on his head.
"I brought you some cookies," she told him, "as a thank you for stopping those boys from tipping over our privy."
"It was my pleasure." Accepting the proffered plate of cookies, he added, "I'm sure my deputies and I will enjoy these immensely."
About to open the door leading to his office and step inside, Zack was halted by Gloria Winston's next words. "I absolutely love your accent. It's so ... so ... New Orleans."
"Why thank you, ma'am." Zack took another step forward, anxious to extricate himself from the unwanted attention. "If you'll excuse me, Miss Winston, I have reports to complete."
"Please, Marshal, call me Gloria."
He reached for the door handle and nodded. "Good day to you, Gloria."
"Good day, Marshal."
"Another batch of cookies?" Pete Bailey asked when Zack came through the door, a snicker slipping through the deputy's handlebar mustache, the sound of his laughter followed quickly by a broad, tobacco-stained grin.
Zack turned toward Pete and shot him a glare. "I don't hear any complaints from you or Tom when you're enjoying your fill."
"I just wish these young fillies would learn how to cook something substantial, like a stew or a loaf of bread. A man can't live on cookies alone."
Zack sat the plate down on the corner of the desk and took a seat on the other side. It had been the same for the past two months, ever since he'd come to Greenville from New Orleans to take over for the ailing sheriff. He couldn't walk down the street without one of the town's available young women throwing herself at his feet. It had been a novelty at first, but now it was just plain tiring. Zack could almost feel his jaw twitching from the hundreds of smiles he'd forced across his face in the name of civility.
"I wish they'd just give up," Zack muttered. "Surely they can see I'm not interested."
"You McCade boys do tend to attract every available female for miles. It was that way for Matthew, then Jake. It's your turn to wallow in the McCade charm."
"I don't want to wallow in anything. I just want to do my job."
"You know what you need, Zack. You need a wife," Pete said. "Then, this parade of girlies would stop."
"I'm not in the market for a wife. And if I were, there's not one that interests me in all of Greenville."
"What about that doctor lady? You two seem to get along just fine."
"We get along because we're both professionals, out to do a job. And, Suzanne Martindale is the last woman I'd want for a wife."
"She seems fine to me. Sure is a looker."
"She's also opinionated, stubborn, tied to her career and, at her best, infuriating."
"It sounds to me as if you've given the doc some serious thought."
Zack shook his head, dispelling any notion of "thinking" about Suzanne Martindale. "My idea of a good wife is someone who stays home, keeps a neat house, raises the children, and is waiting by the door when her husband gets home from a long, hard day of work."
"That sounds about right, assuming all you want is to make babies and eat a home-cooked meal."
"It doesn't matter anyway," Zack added. "In our line of work, it's not fair to take a wife in the first place. There's no sense having someone love you and then pine for you when you're shot dead by some lowly bank robber or drunken card cheat."
"Oh, I don't know, Zack. I've been married going on twenty-five years, and I'd not change a thing. If your job as a marshal is your excuse for not marrying, you've got a long, lonely life ahead of you."
Zack dismissed Pete's observation with another shake of his head. Then, turning his attention to the paperwork in front of him, he relaxed in his chair and put Gloria Winston and her counterparts out of his mind. However, try as he might, one woman slipped through and, much to his chagrin, it was one who couldn't care less about him or his Cajun accent.
At half-past ten, Zack set his work aside and stood, stretching his back, suddenly aware of how long he'd been sitting at the desk. Pete had left a couple hours earlier. About to call it a night and head over to Miss Purdy's boarding house, Zack's attention was drawn to the sound of an argument coming from the direction of the saloon. He strapped on his gun, grabbed his hat, and in two strides was out the door and into the darkened street, the only illumination the full moon overhead.
A crowd had gathered outside the Cork and Whistle, and Zack wound his way through the men and a couple of the working girls, ignoring their loud shouts of encouragement aimed at the two fellows engaged in a wrestling match in the middle of the dusty road.
Zack grabbed one man by the scruff of the collar and tossed him three feet to the side, then put himself squarely in the middle of the fight. "You two better holster your tempers."
"What's it to you?" the other man yelled, charging forward toward the fellow stretched out a few feet away.
With a quick brush of his hand, Zack knocked the second man to the ground. "I'm the law here in Greenville, and what I say goes."
The man got up slowly, his gaze never wavering from the object of his anger. "How'd you do that?"
"You knocked me on my arse as if I was some lightweight kid."
Zack shook his head. "You were off balance, that's all. You're drunk. Now what's this fight about anyway?"
"He's cheating at cards," the second man argued.
"Was not," the other fellow yelled back.
"You two must be new in town."
"Got in yesterday," the first fellow said. "We came to work at McLeary's lumber mill."
Zack reached out and pulled the first man to his feet. The two scrappers stood less than a few yards apart, yet this time neither made a move to close the gap.
"One day in Greenville, and you're already flirting with a jail cell. If I catch either of you causing trouble again, I'll lock your sorry asses up for a week. See how you like trying to gamble with a short pay packet."
Both men mumbled their understanding and started walking toward the edge of town while the small crowd made their way back into the saloon. Zack turned toward the boarding house, the idea of a good night's sleep first and foremost in his thoughts.
He passed the telegraph office, Miss Prince's millinery shop, and the local lending library, before he came upon the clinic. A light shone from inside, drawing his attention. Despite the warning bells sounding inside his head, he turned the doorknob and stepped inside.
"Doc, you in here?" he called out.
"Back here," Suzanne Martindale responded.
Zack followed the sound of her voice until he'd reached the private office in the rear of the building. "I saw the light and thought I'd make sure everything was all right."
"Everything's fine." Suzanne lifted her head until their gazes met, then added, "I'm just finishing up some paperwork."
"Busy day today?" Zack asked, wanting to extend their conversation.
"Two sprained ankles, one new arrival, and a host of sniffles and sneezes."
"The baby, it wasn't Felicity's, was it?" he asked, thoughts of his cousin's wife prompting the question.
"No, she's still got six weeks to go."
"If you're about done, I'll walk you home. It's late and the usual Friday night rowdies are out in full force."
"I heard the yelling," Suzanne confirmed. "I thought for a moment when the door opened that I was getting a customer."
"No, it was just two half-drunk gamblers fighting. I don't think either of them was sober enough to do any damage, even if they had landed a solid punch."
"Much to the crowd's disappointment, I'd imagine."
He chuckled. "Yeah, something like that. You know how the working ladies and bar patrons love a fight."
"It's been quiet around town lately. Not much for a decorated marshal to defend."
"You trying to get rid of me, Doc?"
"Now why would I do that? If you were to leave, who else would I have to argue with?"
"We don't argue," he said, his gaze meeting hers in challenge. "We discuss ... heatedly."
"It only gets 'heated' when I'm winning."
He shook his head and leaned back against the side of the desk. "If you say so, cher."
"As to your offer of an escort, I can see myself home, Marshal. There's no need to wait."
"I'd feel better if you let me escort you."
She sighed deeply, and Zack waited for her to launch into another of her "independent woman" speeches. Or, at the very least, remind him that he was being over-protective.
"I'll only be a minute or two, if you insist on waiting."
She could have said she needed another hour and Zack would have gladly stayed. Despite what he'd said to Pete Bailey earlier that evening, Suzanne Martindale was a breath of fresh air among the over-zealous horde of ladies hounding his every move. She was beautiful, well-educated, independent, and beautiful. Zack shook his head, trying to shake the repeating thought free. Obviously, no matter what her many assets, her beauty was the one thing tying him up in knots. Or, maybe, it was the fact she didn't use it to her advantage, as some of the other ladies did. Instead, Suzanne relied on her brains and taunting sense of humor to get her where she wanted to go.
"All set," she said, drawing Zack from his mental inventory of what made Suzanne Martindale the most desirable woman he'd ever met. And, at the same time, not at all what he was looking for in a wife.
Once she'd locked the door to the clinic, Zack offered his arm. Nodding toward the hospital next door, he asked, "Do you need to stop?"
"No, the night nurse is there, and our only patients are the new mother and babe. They're in good hands."
They strolled along in comfortable silence until they'd reached the walkway leading to the small stone cottage where Suzanne lived. She stopped just short of the gate.
"Shall I walk you to the door?"
"This is fine, thank you, Marshal."
"Marshal? I thought we'd agreed on Zack?'
She met his gaze, rolling her eyes for exaggerated emphasis, he supposed. When she shook her head, a small lock of blond curls fell free of its pins. Zack's hand itched to take the silky strands in his fingers and tuck them back where they belonged.
"You suggested Zack and Suzanne. I don't remember agreeing. I'd much prefer Dr. Martindale, or just 'doc'."
Her continued attempts at formality amused him and he asked, "Tell me something, cher, do you ever let your hair down and just relax?" Before she could answer, he added, "Have any of your friends ever been tempted to call you Suzie?"
She paused briefly before saying, "Only those who wished to be soundly kicked in the shins."
* * *
Suzanne left Zack standing at the gate while she stepped inside her cozy home. She closed the solid oak door behind her, the echo of Zack's laughter still ringing in her ears.
The man thoroughly exasperated her. She understood that his need to "protect" her was part and parcel of his job. Yet, he refused to acknowledge the fact she was an independent woman who'd traveled the length of the country and back again on her own.
Obviously, his rather chauvinistic attitude didn't bother the other women of Greenville. In the short time since Zack's arrival in town, he'd managed to become the object of desire for every single female within a twenty-mile radius. It was a miracle she'd not had to treat any of the silly young women for a case of the vapors. Suzanne had no idea what they saw in the man anyway, unless of course they were drawn to his scruffy good looks or, perhaps, his seductive Cajun accent.
They were welcome to him. She had more important things to worry about, like the establishment of her medical career and the publication of scholarly articles in all the pertinent medical journals. She didn't need a man, especially one as opinionated as Zack McCade. Not as long as she had her love of medicine.
Yes, but what about your other needs? Surely a man as virile as Zack could rekindle those long dormant desires you keep hidden away behind your career.
Suzanne spared barely a moment's thought for the last time she'd been with a man. Some women went their entire lives without intimacy, surely she could weather another year or so. She pushed herself away from the door and toward the kitchen. It had been a long, yet productive, day, and at the moment she needed food far more than she needed a man.
Lighting a small fire in the wood cook stove, she set the kettle on to boil and took out a pinch of herbal tea. She dropped the loose leaves infused with rosehips into a dainty china cup, looking forward to the herb's calming properties at the end of a long day. Once she'd made herself a sandwich and poured the water for her tea, she took her cup into the parlor, picked up a copy of the latest medical paper on new birthing methods, turned up the wick on the closest lamp, and sat down in the rocker.
This was far more interesting than Marshal Zack McCade and his constant need to call her cher just because he knew it aggravated her. Pushing the handsome lawman out of her head, she began to read.CHAPTER 2
Zack had barely unlocked his office when Beatrice Parker came through the front door less than ten steps behind him.
"Good morning, Marshal," the young shop girl said.
"Good morning, Miss Parker. How can I help you today?"
"I was hoping I could interest you in a ticket to the upcoming box social a week from this Saturday. The tickets are free, of course, but then you bid on a lunch prepared by one of the young women of our community. The money will be used to support one of the church's many causes."
"I'd be happy to take a ticket, Miss Parker. However, I can't guarantee I'll be able to attend."
The young woman handed him the ticket. "My box lunch will include my nana's famous shrimp salad," she said, her tone begging his attention. "I'll include some of my own oatmeal cookies for dessert."
"It sounds delicious. If there's nothing else —"
Zack's attempt to gently remove himself from yet another unwanted show of attention was quickly interrupted when Deputy Stiles came through the door.
"Marshal, come quick," Tom Stiles said. "There's been an accident at the lumber mill. I've already told them at the livery to have your horse ready."
Not bothering to excuse himself from Beatrice Parker's company, Zack bounded out the door and toward the livery. Within minutes he was on his way out of town and headed toward the mill.
When Zack arrived at the mill the first thing he noticed was Suzanne Martindale's buggy. He shook his head and cursed roundly beneath his breath. Didn't the fool woman have enough sense to stay away from such a dangerous location?
He rounded the side of the building and came to a complete stop. There, in the middle of all the confusion, Suzanne had set up a treatment area, each small section occupied by an injured worker. As angry as he was at her for tempting injury herself, Zack set aside his displeasure and rushed to help.
"What can I do?" he asked, as he came to kneel beside where she worked.
"I believe they have everyone out of the danger area," Suzanne confirmed. "I'm going to need you to help hold this man down while I straighten his arm and realign his shoulder."
Zack met her serious gaze. "You're going to do what?"
"He's dislocated his shoulder." Pointing to the unusual shape of the man's collarbone, she said simply, "I'm going to pop it back into place, but I'll need you to keep him still."
"Marshal," the injured man said weakly, "does she know what the hell she's doing?"
"Yes, Seth, she does." Zack forced a chuckle for the man's benefit. "Now you just relax, and Doc Martindale will have you up and moving in no time."
"I'm going to give you a bit of laudanum to ease the pain," Suzanne explained.
"I'd rather a shot of whiskey, Doc."
"I'm sure you would. However, the laudanum will last longer."
She spooned up a portion of the sedative and gave it to the man. When Seth's eyelids began to flutter closed, Zack asked, "Is he ready?"
"Yes, this is as sedated as he'll get on the laudanum, so we should move fast."
"What do you need me to do?" Zack asked.
"Place his good arm to his side so that you can hold pressure on his arm and that side of his body at the same time. Then, use your free hand to hold down against his chest, not too hard, just enough to keep him from jumping up."
Zack placed his hands where Suzanne indicated, and she dropped to the ground beside the man, hiked up her long skirt, placed her foot beneath his armpit, and grasped his wrist in her hands.
Excerpted from The Lawman's Agreement by Nancy Fraser, Patti Shenberger, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2013 Nancy Fraser & Patti Shenberger. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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