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Winning Jenna's Heart
By Charlene Sands
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwin Oaks Farm Oklahoma Territory, 1869
"You're playing with fire, sugar," the injured man mumbled in a soft, low drawl.
Jenna Duncan snatched her hand away from his chest. Slowly, he eased his eyes open. Relief swamped her immediately, thanking heaven above he was still alive. She'd looked after the wounded man for days, praying for his recovery and hoping she knew enough about doctoring to keep him breathing. She'd found him way up on the road, past Turner's Pond, slumped over, unconscious and bleeding. Nearly dead.
Dragging him to her homestead hadn't been easy, one woman on her own, but she knew she couldn't have left him there to die. He was strong; she'd give him that, surviving her tugging and pulling, hauling him over the terrain, bumps and all.
He'd groaned and grunted but hadn't regained consciousness ... until now.
She dared a glance at his bruised face. His eyes were on her, as intense and blue as a deep river at midnight. Lord above, his eyes were rich with color, even in his weakened condition. They were just as she'd remembered. If there'd been any doubt as to whom he was exactly, seeing those eyes just now, brilliant in hue, indigo with traces of turquoise, as exquisite as they were unusual, left her certain that she was tending Blue Montgomery.
She turned and rinsed the cloth she'd used to bathe his wounds in a bowl beside the bed. When she returned to wipe his face, he'd drifted off again. It was only then that she'd thought about his voice, the deep resonating sound of it, pained yet threatening. Jenna shook her head. The man was not himself, she thought plainly as she proceeded with his care.
With a tentative touch, Jenna continued rubbing his skin clean, washing away the remnants of blood. He'd been shot, the bullet going clear through his shoulder. She'd bandaged the wound, managed to keep the seeping down, but it would take weeks for his body to heal properly. So many patches of skin were discolored. It hurt to look at him, to see the pain and injury that he had suffered.
He was a stranger by all rights, yet not a stranger at all. Blue Montgomery had been due to arrive in town any day. They'd been writing each other since the age of twelve, when they'd met during happier times in their lives, before the war and all the devastation. All throughout, Blue had written; sometimes she'd only received a letter once a year, but more recently he'd been writing regularly. And something amazing happened between the prose, between the words of solace and talk of such inane things - if the weather would hold or the river would flood again. Between all the small talk that made the pages of a letter nearly a living thing, to hold and cherish in her hands when things looked so dreary that Jenna could barely hold on. Yes, something wonderfully amazing had happened. They fell in love.
Between two hearts.
Two lonely people sharing their most intimate yearnings.
Jenna had prayed and prayed for Blue's recovery. Goodwill, Oklahoma had no doctor to call its own. It was a town that had no real preacher or schoolteacher, either. There was no goodwill left in Goodwill. The town was dying except for a few hangers-on, like Jenna at Twin Oaks and others who had crops to raise but not much else.
Blue Montgomery had come to her. It graced her heart to know that. He'd been a man of wealth once, but that didn't matter now. He was here and together they'd planned on making Twin Oaks what it once was.
"Sleep now, Blue. Sleep," she said softly enough to soothe, daring to stroke a dark wisp of hair from his forehead. "There'll be time for us."
Jenna sat in the hollow foyer on the third step of the wooden staircase, the only stair that wasn't in desperate need of repair, and hugged Blue's long coat to her chest. She'd managed to wash out most of the blood and grit that had soaked through the dark wool material.
Dread had taken her voice when she'd spotted him that day, out there in the cool morning air and she'd half-prayed it wasn't Blue that she'd found. But hours later she'd managed him into her bed, with the help of Ben, her family's onetime hired help and now Jenna's most trusted friend. He and his wife Rosalinda tended the fields with a few others, helping Jenna keep Twin Oaks from failure.
Jenna had fumbled with the long coat, feeling something solid in the inside pocket. Stealing her hand inside, she'd pulled out a frayed leather-bound Bible. Blue Montgomery's name was written on the front page.
It was then she suspected she'd rescued the man she'd met only one time before, when he was just a boy.
He'd been shot and badly beaten. He'd been penniless when she found him, robbed clean of all his possessions and left for dead.
Jenna's heart had taken a tumble, but she'd had no time for tears. She had to help him and she would continue to do so, until he was up and around. That he'd awakened once, if only for a short time, had to be a good sign, she mused.
Clinging to his coat, she sent up another prayer to the Lord. "Let him live. Please, let Blue live."
"You say somethin', Miss Jenna?" Ben appeared in the doorway, his gray irises marking his wide-eyed expression.
"I was praying," she replied.
"That man gonna live?"
"That's what I was praying for," she said with a small smile. Blue had to live. Jenna couldn't abide anything else. She couldn't let him die and all of their dreams along with him. They'd shared so much in the span of years, written about their dire wants and needs. They were kindred souls, she believed, and should be together on this earth first before meeting up in the hereafter.
"Rosalinda and me's been sending up that same prayer, for your sake, Miss Jenna. We was praying that man would come and put a big smile on your face again. Just like you used to."
Jenna smiled wide for Ben. "I'm smiling now, aren't I? I have faith in the Lord."
"That's good, Miss Jenna. Faith's always a good thing."
Jenna heard a groan, a low-pitched sound of pain and stood up instantly. "I'd better go check on him now, Ben. He needs me."
Excerpted from Winning Jenna's Heart by Charlene Sands Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.