Why, Josh Brimley not only expressed doubt about Megan Bailey's medical abilities but the handsome sheriff actually accused her family of having buried a skeleton in the backyardeighteen years ago! Megan knew she'd have her work cut out for her, convincing the townsfolk of Elk Creek to buy into her nontraditional treatments, but Josh's theoriesand sex appealthrew an unexpected wrench into things.
Skeptical Sheriff Josh Brimley found it tough enough to seek treatment from beautiful Megan before he knew her relatives were the prime suspects in a years-old murder. Afterward, he found it downright impossiblebecause he believed only in things he could get his hands on. Although his hands sure seemed to be moving more in Megan's direction .
About the Author
Victoria Pade is the bestselling author of numerous contemporary romances, six historical romances and two mystery novels. She began her writing career after leaving college to have her first daughter. That daughter was seven years old and there was a second daughter, before Victoria had her first book accepted for publication.
That novel and the three that followed it were historical romances. But the exit of her husband and the urge to do more contemporary writing that explored the kinds of problems she was facing inspired a switch.
Contemporary romances are still where her main interest lies, although she's enjoyed veering off the path into two more historical romances, as well as into mystery writing.
Victoria lives in Colorado where she shares a home with her parents, her younger daughter, who is a computer whiz and a college student studying psychology, and Lucy the Schnauzer--resident prima donna and boss of the house. Her eldest daughter is now in Michigan attending medical school.
Read an Excerpt
Megan Bailey double-checked her treatment room to make sure everything was ready. Her muscle testing vials were in order and all accounted for. The Soft Sounds Of Nature CD was in the CD player. There was a crisp sheet over her treatment table and she fluffed the pillow at the head of it just for good measure. Her needles were in the drawer of the corner cupboard where cotton balls and alcohol were also amply stocked. The dimmer on the light switch was working.
She was all set. All set for her first client in her new office. Hopefully the first of many.
Not that she was expecting a sudden surge of business, because she wasn't. She was realistic. She knew she was only breaking the ice in the small town and that it would take a while to build any kind of practice here.
After all, Elk Creek, Wyoming, was about as old-fashioned, traditional, and conservative a small town as anyone could find anywhere. Which probably didn't make it the wisest choice for a place to open an office for Megan to practice acupuncture and her sister Annissa to do massage therapy.
But Elk Creek was the site of the sole piece of property that the Bailey family ownedthe twenty acres on which sat the old farmhouse Megan's and Annissa's maternal grandfather had built. It was also the place Megan and Annissa had lived for the longest amount of timefrom birth until Megan was twelve and Annissa was eleven.
That made it seem like home. Like the place to come to when she and Annissa decided they wanted to finally put down roots.
So that's what they'd done. They'd moved back to Elk Creek, into the old farm house that was costing them a fortune to get into livable condition, and they'd set up shop in this store front on Center Street.
But the office had been open for two weeks now and so far Annissa hadn't had a single call for her services as a massage therapist and herbalist, and Megan's days had been filled only with putting up posters and a single meeting with the town doctor to introduce herself, lay out her credentials and talk about the uses and success rates of acupuncture and how it might be applied in conjunction with Western medicine or when Western medicine failed. Particularly her specialtyallergy elimination acupuncture.
We knew it wouldn't be easy, she reminded herself as she checked the clock on the wall and realized she had less than fifteen minutes until her appointment.
She and Annissa realized that introducing non-traditional forms of health care was bound to meet some resistance. But after being raised by two eternal hippie-flower children, neither Megan nor Nissa were unfamiliar with being considered out-of-the-norm weirdos and they were determined to make a go of it here no matter what.
And today could be the start of that, Megan thought. The start of establishing themselves in their old hometown. Especially since Megan's appointment was with Josh Brimley.
She had only the vaguest memory of who he was. All she really recalled was that the Brimley family lived on a small ranch down the road from her family's place and that there had been a lot of them. Six brothers, if she wasn't mistaken.
She wasn't sure in what order they came but she did know that Josh had not been in her grade in elementary school or in Nissa's class one year behind hers. Nissa had known a Devon Brimley and Megan thought it was Scott Brimley who had been her age, but beyond that neither of them was sure where in the pecking order Josh Brimley fell. Or anything about him. Except that he was now Elk Creek's sheriff.
Their paths hadn't crossed in the three weeks Megan and Annissa had been in town but they were hoping that the very fact that he was the sheriff would carry some weight. Getting a man who held a respected public position to come in for acupuncture seemed like a good way to get word out that she and Nissa could provide valid services to the community.
At least that was what they were counting on and why Megan felt as if there was a lot riding on this single appointment, and why she'd accepted it for five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.
When she was satisfied that she was prepared for her client, she left the treatment room and went into the bathroom to check her appearance. She wanted to make a good first impression so she'd opted for a loose cotton jumper that went nearly to her ankles and covered the white crew necked T-shirt she wore underneath it. She also had on her best clogs and her lucky braceletsten thin copper bracelets she wore on her left wrist.
A quick check in the mirror told her she looked all right but still she ran a brush through her hair until the pale-blond straight strands lay smoothly all the way to the blunt-cut ends that fell about six inches below her shoulders.
She didn't wear makeup but she had used a henna mascara to darken her eyelashes so her blue eyes didn't seem too washed out and she decided it didn't need any freshening. She was also grateful that her skin had always been goodsomething she attributed to a healthy dietand that her cheeks had a natural rosiness to them. It helped boost her confidence to see that she appeared fresh-faced even though she hadn't really done anything since early that morning.
She did apply an organic moisturizing lip balm to add some gloss to her lips, and she blotted a bit of shine from her thin, straight nose before she judged herself presentable and went out to the desk she and Annissa shared in the waiting room of the office.
Not that they were sharing it at that exact moment. Nissa was doing free chair massages at a Ladies' League meeting and potluck dinneragain in an effort to spark some interest in their services.
Two huge windows made up the waiting room's front wall, leaving it exposed to the street and the street exposed to Megan as she sat behind her desk to gather together the packet of papers she would give the sheriff on his way out after their initial appointment. There were two articlesone explaining acupuncture in general and the other outlining the merits of allergy elimination acupuncture. There was also a brief biography that listed her education and experience, a pay schedule, and another sheet that touted Annissa's services, along with coupons for a ten-percent discount on either an acupuncture treatment or a massage.
Megan tapped all the pages into line, added one of her cards and one of Annissa's to the top left hand corner and stapled the whole packet together just as a rotund man who looked about her age paused outside.
She smiled at him through the window and he inclined his head, clad in a cowboy hat.
Was he Josh Brimley?
There wasn't a badge of any kind in sight and he wasn't wearing a uniform. At least not an officer-of-the-law uniform. Instead the man had on what seemed to be the uniform of Elk Creekcowboy hat and boots, blue jeans and a Western shirt.
But that didn't mean he wasn't the sheriff. And since he was lingering outside the door, Megan thought it was possible he might indeed be Josh Brimley. And that maybe he was having second thoughts. That maybe he wouldn't come in at all without some encouragement.
But if that was the case, she wasn't going to let him get away. So she got up and went to the door, opening it to smile again at the man with the hooked nose and the very small eyes as he took a flyer out of the basket she and Annissa had set out when they'd opened for business two weeks ago.
"Hi," she greeted him warmly.
"'Lo," came the gruff reply.
She held out her hand. "I'm Megan Bailey."
The man looked from her out stretched hand to her face and back to her hand again before he accepted it. But he didn't offer his name.
So Megan said, "You wouldn't happen to be Josh Brimley, would you?"
The man gave her a look that said it was a dumb question. "No, I wouldn't be. Name's Burns," he finally informed her.
"Ah. Well, I'm happy to meet you, Mr. Burns. Can I help you with anything or answer any questions you might have?"
"Wife's curious about this hooey. Wanted me to bring 'er home somethin' about it."
Not a warm welcome or a hearty endorsement but Megan didn't let it daunt her.
"You lookin' fer the sheriff?" the man asked then. "'Cuz he's down on the corner there, keepin' an eye on this place."
Mr. Burns's tone was suspicious but it was the news that Josh Brimley was standing off in the distance, watching the office as if he were on a stakeout that really dismayed Megan. It didn't seem like a good sign.
She glanced in the direction Mr. Burns had indicated with a pointing of his nearly nonexistent chin and discovered that there was, indeed, another man three doors down, leaning a shoulder against one of the many Victorian lamp posts that lined either side of Center Street, his hands in the pockets of a pair of tight blue jeans, one ankle crossed over the other.
But before she could decide how she should handle what appeared to be the sheriff's reluctance to come any closer, Mr. Burns piped up in a louder voice and called, "Lady's askin' after ya, Josh."
That news did not seem to please the other man.
In fact, even though his face was mostly lost in the shadow cast by the brim of his own cowboy hat, his jaw seemed to clench.
An even worse sign.
"That so? " he called back as if he didn't have the foggiest idea why Megan might be inquiring about him.
That was when it occurred to her that he might have been waiting to come in for his appointment until the disparaging Mr. Burns moved on so that no one would see him.
So much for hopes of word getting around and having a man who held a respected public position as a client breaking the ice around here and helping to get her started. At that point, Mrs. Burns's curiosity seemed more promising.
But as Megan stood there she thought that she had two choices. She could say something that would give Josh Brimley away and get the word out herself that he had an appointment with her, or she could respect what seemed to be his desire not to have that known and just hope that when her treatments were successful, he'd admit to having had them.
She opted for the second scenario and in a voice loud enough for him to hear, she said, "I was just hoping to have the sheriff check our locks for us at some point, for safety's sake." Then, only to Mr. Burns, she added, "I hope your wife will come in and see us."
And with that, Megan turned on her heels and returned to her office, keeping her fingers crossed that Mr. Burns would finally be on his way and Josh Brimley would feel free to keep his appointment under the auspices of giving his stamp of approval to her office security.
Although she was beginning to worry that he might not keep the appointment at all. That he might just go the other way and be a no-show.
But her fears were un founded. After Mr. Burns had disappeared in the opposite direction and the coast was presumably clear, in came Josh Brimley.
Megan was nonchalantly watering the fern in the corner of the waiting room when he did and it struck her almost instantly that even though the space was large, the sheriff seemed to fill it.
He was a big man, she realized as she set the watering can down and turned to face him. He was probably three inches over six feet tall, with shoulders so broad it was a wonder they'd fit through the door. He wore a pale-gray Western shirt tucked into his jeans and there didn't seem to be an ounce of fat on him. Instead he was a tower of lean muscle in long legs, narrow hips and a waist that V'd sharply up to those massive shoulders.
But it wasn't sheer size that was responsible for his command of the room. He had a kind of intangible presence that she thought would cause the phenomenon no matter what room he entered.
Then he took off his hat and Megan's gaze went naturally to his face.
He was no pretty boy but he had rugged good looks in a face of perfect sharp angles and planes. Perfect enough to cause a little catch in Megan's breathing as she took it all in.
His brow was square, his nose was straight, and his lips had an intriguing suppleness to them that made her want to see them slide into a smile. His well-defined jawline was shaded by the hint of a thick beard, and to top it all off, he had the most incredible midnight-blue eyes she'd ever seen.
With his hat in one large, adept hand he ran the other over the short bristles of hair the color of antique oak, leaving it slightly spiky on top before he leveled those amazing eyes on her.
And the oddest thing happened. Megan felt a buzzing intensity ripple through her almost as if he'd actually touched her.
Of course she ignored it, held out her hand the same way she had to Mr. Burns, and said, "In case you didn't know, I'm Megan Bailey."
But unlike Mr. Burns, Josh Brimley didn't take his eyes off her face even as he accepted her hand.
"Josh Brimley," he said unnecessarily in a voice as deep and rich as aged bourbon.
His hand was strong, callused and warm to the touch, and having it wrapped around hers did wild and wicked things to the pit of her stomach. But she ignored that, too, clearing her throat so that when she spoke again her own voice didn't ring with the effects he was having on her.