|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Kimberly Comeaux
Truly YoursCopyright © 1999 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Patience Primrose was on her way to becoming an old maid. At least, most folks in the small Texas town of Springton thought so. It was true that she didn't have many prospects, as far as potential husbands went. And now there were even less since the Reverend Caleb Stone had just married.
Patience sighed as she watched from her side of the room as Brother Caleb and Rachel Stone greeted the well-wishers attending their wedding reception. Patience had once entertained thoughts about the preacher. Every female in Springton had entertained the same thoughts. But Patience had been so sure that she could catch him. According to Emma Hadley's A Young Lady's Guide to Courtship and Marriage, she should have been the one walking down the aisle in a white dress.
She'd followed everything the book had suggested on getting a young man's attentions: batting her lashes at him, giggling when he said something funny, and always looking at him with adoration. Well, the batting-the-lashes thing was getting tiresome and making her eyes ache, the giggle was getting on her nerves, and she didn't always feel like looking at the guy as if he were the next best thing since chocolate cake. But the book had boasted that one hundred women had procured husbands by following Emma Hadley's advice. There had to be something to it!
Her mother said that she ought not read such nonsense, that the Bible would have all the information that she'd ever need.
Well, while it was true that she loved to read the Bible and prayed diligently to God, all she could think of was how the biblical Esther went to all the trouble to get her husband, entering a contest of beauty! She told her mother this, and Prudence Primrose was not amused, but then, nothing really amused her anyway.
So, here she was. Twenty-one and still unwed. If only she looked like the bride, Rachel. She had beautiful black hair and a lovely peaches-and-cream complexion. Patience knew that she, herself, was no beauty. Her skin was rather pale and her hair was a dull dark blond that she kept pulled back in a tight bun. She longed to wear her hair down like many of the other young women, but her mother told her that dwelling on hair and looks was nothing but vanity, and that was a sin. But even Emma Hadley's book encouraged "making the most of your God-given attributes and features."
Patience let her gaze slide past the groom and latch onto the handsome man standing by the preacher. Sheriff Leander Cutler was a fine-looking man. Tall and broad-shouldered, he stood a good two inches taller than the preacher. He kept his sandy blond hair cropped short, and his eyes were a strange golden color. Around town, the girls called him the golden man because he had a tan from all the time he spent outdoors.
Yes, he would make some woman an excellent husband. Could Patience be the one who could snare him? It didn't seem likely. She'd been trying to get his attention for a month now, and either he was dense or he was ignoring her. Emma Hadley's book said not to get discouraged, that patience and perseverance would bring rewards.
Well, so far it had only brought irritation from the sheriff. What was she doing wrong?
* * *
Lee Cutler shifted from one foot to the other as he stood and tried to concentrate on what Caleb and Rachel were saying to him. He'd started feeling sick just this morning, and his stomach was now cramping so bad, he wasn't sure how much more he could stand. He wondered if he'd picked up a stomach virus.
Except no stomach virus had ever hurt like this.
The pain suddenly intensified, when Caleb nudged him with his elbow. "Lee!" Caleb whispered, getting his attention. "You didn't forget those train tickets, did you? The train leaves in a little over an hour."
Lee blinked and realized that Rachel and Caleb were looking at him curiously. Tickets? Tickets! Chagrined, he reddened, reached inside his coat, and withdrew them from his pocket. "Sorry, Preacher."
Caleb frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Jessie, the little boy that Caleb and his new wife were going to adopt, pulled on his jacket. As always, his attention shifted immediately to them.
The room was looking sort of fuzzy, Lee thought. If he could only focus.
Why couldn't he focus?
* * *
Patience looked at Lee with concern. She watched as the preacher and his new wife left his side and walked over to the door, apparently getting ready to leave.
She looked back at Lee and noticed that he was still standing there. Why wasn't he walking them out? Come to think of it, he didn't look like his usual vibrant self. Patience saw him start to sway. Frantically, she looked around, but no one seemed to notice him. They were all looking at Rachel and Caleb.
Patience did the first thing that she could think of—she scrambled over a row of chairs in front of her, then ran to where Lee stood, or rather, swayed. She reached him just as he began to fall. She threw her arms around him, all his weight leaning on her slim frame. She didn't know how long she could hold him.
"Help!" she whimpered, barely above a whisper. For a second, she couldn't breathe. She couldn't see, either. Her face was buried in his black vest, a button grinding into her cheek.
Abruptly, his body was lifted off of hers and blessed air filled her thirsty lungs.
"Patience Primrose! What are you doing with your arms around that man?" her mother screeched from overhead.
Patience opened her eyes and saw that her mother, Brother Caleb, Rachel, and mercantile proprietress Adelaide Hayes were standing around her.
"He was falling and I ...," Patience tried to explain.
"Land sakes, Patience. You ought to have more sense than to launch yourself over a pew like a hooligan and grab ahold of a man like that! Everybody in the church saw you." Prudence Primrose nagged as she helped Patience straighten her clothes.
But Patience wasn't paying attention to her mother. Her eyes were on Lee, who was conscious now but halfway lying in a chair. Doc Benson was bent over him, and Lee was shaking his head.
Patience shook off her mother's hold and knelt beside the handsome sheriff. He didn't look good. His eyes were clenched and he was gritting his teeth in pain. "How is he, Doc?" she asked fearfully.
"Foolish boy!" Doc said gruffly. He opened up his shirt and pointed to the tiny puncture marks all along his side and wrapping around his back. He ran his hand over the festered skin. "Looks like he got into a fight with a few porcupines. If they get infected, they can make you powerfully sick. It looks like he got into a whole nest of them."
Caleb nodded. "He told me about getting into them a couple of days ago. Said he'd been camping and accidentally rolled over on them. But why would they be making him sick now?"
"It takes days sometimes for an infection to settle in," Doc Benson explained.
Lee moaned and Doc snapped into action. Quickly he called a couple of men over to carry Lee to his office. Patience followed them and tugged on the doctor's shirt. "Doc, can I do anything to help?"
Doc looked beside him and measured her up quickly. "You sure can. Mary is gone to her sister's today and I don't have anyone to assist me. I'm going to have to clean and disinfect these oozing wounds. As far as his apparent stomach cramps are concerned, I'll just have to give him a dose of laudanum."
Patience hesitated for a second. Oozing? A wave of nausea bubbled up within her, but she quickly squelched it. She could do this. For Lee, she could do anything.
"Okay, Doc. Just show me what to do," she told him. Her voice didn't shake, did it?
Doc gave her a knowing look as though he could read her mind. But he accepted her help anyway. "Let's get this man to the clinic, then."
* * *
It wasn't as bad as Patience thought it'd be, once she got past her horror of seeing all the "ooze," as Doc called it. Lee wasn't in any mortal danger, but he was very sick. The doctor said that he would probably run a high fever for a few days because of the infection.
After what seemed hours, Doc finally stepped back. "That's it, or at least all I can do for him right now. Let's just hope that we can get this under control. At least we got all the quills out of him." He walked to his basin and began washing his hands. Weariness was evident in the droop of his shoulders and the slowness of his movements. Patience had no idea how old the man was. With his dark brown hair that was peppered with gray and the crow's feet that fanned the corners of his eyes, she guessed that he was in his fifties. She'd known him all her life. He'd been the one to bring her into the world.
Patience finally got the nerve to ask the most important question. "Doc ... is he going to be all right?"
Doc sighed and continued to dry his hands as he walked back over to her. "Yes, but he's going to feel a might poorly for a few days. And he's not going to be able to take care of himself. Unfortunately, I don't have the space to keep him here. And since that boy hasn't seen fit to find himself a wife, I'm going to have to find someone to care for him."
"I'll do it!" Patience blurted.
Surprised at her outburst, Doc just looked at her with raised eyebrows.
"I ... I mean, he can stay at our house and my mother and I can take care of him," she stammered. Her mind was racing. What an opportunity! He'd be in her house, with her all day for several days! She'd show him what a good wife she'd make. By the end of his stay, he'd be begging her to marry him!
Doc nodded, his relief apparent. "That would be a great help. Of course, it will need to be okay with Prudence."
Ordinarily, she knew Prudence wouldn't agree to this idea at all. But, lately, her mother'd been acting so strange, since her abduction. Patience had a feeling that her mother wouldn't mind.
"Hey, Doc?" Brother Caleb called softly as he stuck his head through the office door. "How's he doing?"
Patience could tell that Caleb was very worried about his friend. Poor man, he should be on his way to his honeymoon, not standing around outside of a doctor's office.
The tall and broad-chested minister sauntered into the room. His black, longish hair had been tossed by the wind; the coldness of it had put color in his high cheekbones. Caleb Stone was unlike any preacher that Patience had ever known. Which was one of the reasons that she'd been drawn to him in the first place.
"He should be fine, Brother Caleb." Doc motioned for him to stand by the examination table. "He's going to be weak for several days, but, if God's willing, he should recover."
Caleb nodded but didn't look convinced. He reached over and put his hand on Lee's still fingers. He said a prayer over him, while Doc and Patience lowered their heads in agreement.
"Maybe Rachel and I should put our trip on hold. We can set him up in Jessie's room so he'd have someone to look after him," Caleb began, referring to his adopted son.
"You don't have to worry about that. The Primroses will be taking him in. Now, you just need to concentrate on taking that pretty little bride of yours and catching that train. We'll watch over him while you're gone. You just keep on praying for him, and he'll be fine."
Patience could tell Caleb was clearly torn. On one hand, he wanted to stay and be the one that looked after his friend. On the other, he had a wife now with whom he needed to spend some time alone.
"All right, Doc," he relented. He looked at Patience, and she couldn't help but cringe at what she knew he must be thinking—she was desperate for a husband, any husband. She'd been a pest around the preacher, always trying to get his attention, flirting. And now she was going to be taking care of his best friend.
Oh, he knew what she was about, all right. She'd made no secret of the fact that she liked the sheriff. But she prayed that he would also see that she was sincere about looking after him and seeing that he got well.
Couldn't they see that she was a good woman, that looks weren't everything? Couldn't they see that she would make a good wife, that she would love and cherish the man who would marry her?
Would she ever get the chance to prove it?
"Miss Patience, I'm much obliged that you're looking after him," he said finally.
Too tired to be coy, Patience merely nodded tiredly. "You're welcome, Brother Caleb. I'll do my best to see that he pulls through."
Caleb nodded, and after one last look at Lee, he left the room.
Patience looked at Doc. "I'd better go tell my mother and then get the house ready. Do you think you can have him brought out before sunset?"
Doc agreed that he would, and Patience went out of the office. There was so much to do. The room needed to be dusted and the linens changed.
Everything had to be perfect!CHAPTER 2
For three days, Lee slept fitfully most of the time, burning with fever.
Patience and her mother were exhausted in their care for him. They took turns dribbling broth and water down his throat and mopping him down with cool water to keep the fever down.
Patience had really been surprised that her mother had agreed to Lee staying in their home. Prudence wasn't normally a kind person. She was usually the first one to pass out judgments and to tell someone what she thought their problem was, but she was not the one to help them. But three months ago, something had happened to Prudence, and she hadn't been the same since.
She'd been kidnapped by a band of outlaws.
Patience was not quite sure how it had all happened, because her mother refused to talk about it.
It all had to do with the fact that Caleb Stone, the minister who'd just married a few days ago, had a past as a gunslinger. The Jenkins gang had tried to kill him once, and when they found out that he was in Springton, they'd tried to get to him again. Only they'd decided to use the woman that he was in love with, Rachel Branigan, to do it.
They'd ridden up to the Primrose ranch and apparently forced Prudence into sending for Rachel. Rachel came and both Prudence and Rachel were tied up for hours while the gang made their plans of revenge on Caleb. Soon after, they were taken into town and they were released when the sheriff and his deputies had taken over the gang. Whatever happened to make her mother so different must have happened while she was tied up with Rachel.
Her mother had never approved of Rachel before that. She especially didn't approve of her as a pastor's wife, because Rachel had a child and was unmarried. It had been the result of a rape, but her mother and the rest of the town had called her an adulterer and had ostracized her.
But when the truth had been made known to everyone about Rachel's circumstances, Patience's mother had been one of the first ones to admit that she'd been wrong. Definitely out of character for her mother!
Although her mother was acting differently, it was a welcome difference.
"Patience," Prudence called, coming out of Lee's temporary bedroom. "He looks like he's coming around. I'm going to go make up some more broth. Why don't you go in there and check on him?"
Patience hopped up from the dining table, where she'd been resting, and ran to the bedroom. For the past three days, she'd been living for this moment, the moment when he'd wake up and thank her profusely for taking care of him and nursing him back to health. Maybe he'd see her in a different light. Maybe he'd realize that she was the woman that he needed in his life. Maybe. . .
"Where am I and what are you doing here?" he growled the moment she entered the room.
Patience's shoulders drooped. Maybe she'd just forget about the man.
Taking a deep breath, she straightened her shoulders and walked over to the bed. "Hello, Lee. You are at my house, and I am here because I live here," she recited calmly, folding her arms about her middle.
Sheepishly, Lee looked at the room, at himself, then back at Patience. He felt more than just a little petty for sounding so mean. It was just that he'd been dreaming about Patience. That was the whole problem. He didn't want to dream about the woman. But now that he understood that he'd been in her house and probably hearing her voice, well, it was a little more understandable. That had to be the reason!
The woman aggravated him. She'd been following him around for weeks and he was getting tired of it. His friends were even starting to tease him about it. Especially the preacher!
He and all the men in town thought that Patience, while a nice girl, was rather plain where looks were concerned. And she had an irritating way of giggling and batting her eyelashes that could get downright annoying!
And besides, he'd sort of decided to court the new schoolteacher in town, Susannah Butler.
"I'm sorry, Miss Patience. Waking up in a strange place made me jumpy." He tried to sit up and then winced.
Quickly Patience went to him and helped him to sit up by putting her arms around him. "Sheriff, please be careful! Your sores are still healing," she scolded like a mother hen.
Lee was so surprised at the pleasant way that she smelled that he didn't protest her fussing over him. She smelled like flowers ... vanilla! That was it. She smelled like vanilla. He was about to take another sniff when he stopped himself.
Excerpted from Courtin' Patience by Kimberly Comeaux. Copyright © 1999 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Truly Yours.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Greatly enjoyed this story. Will look for more from this author.