The Cowboy's Reluctant Sweetheart
Two years shy of his medical degree, cowboy Maxwell White is out of money. So, he's back in Bear Creek, wWyoming, working part-time for the local physician. Though he is immediately drawn to the doctor's lovely, whip-smart daughter, she seems to be irritated by Maxwell's very existence.
Hattie Powell can't quash her feelings for the town's new would-be doctor. But that's exactly why she must keep him at a distance. Hattie is closer than ever to fulfilling her lifelong wish of becoming a doctor. Now, the only thing standing in her way is the man of her dreams.
Wyoming Legacy: United by family, destined for love
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Home. After five years away, Maxwell White was finally coming home. Two years too early.
The clack-clack-clack of the train rumbling down the tracks had an entirely different feeling than when he'd left home for college. At eighteen, he'd been excited and anxious, ready to conquer the worldor at least achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. Now the rocking, dusty passenger car bore him home, but he had not completed his education. How long would he have to work to get the funds he needed to attend his last two years of medical school? Could he return in the fallor spring at the latest?
The scenery rushing past outside the train window offered him no solutions, only pushed him toward Bear Creek, and his family. While he'd been gone, he'd missed his adopted brothers and sister, all seven of them, more than he'd ever thought possible. Exchanging letters just wasn't enough.
Next thing he knew, the train had stopped and he disembarked, hauling his small travel case onto the platform. With late springtime in full bloom, he hadn't expected his pa or brothers to greet him. Ranchers needed every hour of the day to get their jobs done. And, according to the last letter from his younger brother and jokester Edgar, his ma couldn't lumber up into the wagon without assistance, being far along with her third baby.
He'd see if he could get the livery owner to let him borrow a horse to get him the rest of the way home.
Before he could leave the platform steps, a voice rang out.
Sam Castlerock, his best friend of eight years, hurried down the boardwalk toward him. Sam's wife, Emily, was on his arm and he was wearing a wide smile.
His friend looked very different from when Maxwell had first known him. Back then, Sam had worn fancy duds more suited to city boys. Now he wore denims and a worn chambray shirt, dusty boots and a Stetson. He looked like the cowboy he was. And he looked confident, happier than Maxwell remembered.
Maxwell accepted a back-slapping hug from Sam and a buss on the cheek from Emily. He'd been sweet on her during his teenage years, but before he'd left for college they'd grown to be simply close friends. Maxwell was glad Sam had found love with the shopkeeper's daughter.
"You look tired," his friend said, stepping back and claiming Emily's hand as if he couldn't bear not to touch her. Maxwell noticed and tried not to feel the twinge of envy in his stomach.
"That's what sixteen-hour days of classes, labs and studying will do to a cowboy like me. Plus, I've been on a train for two days straight."
"Do you have time for lunch before you head out to your pa's place?" Emily asked.
"After forty-eight hours of train fare, I'm more than happy to stop for a quick meal." He nodded his thanks to her and looked away quickly from the small bulge at her waistline. Sam and Emily were starting a family, it seemed. He felt another of those twinges beneath his breastbone.
"Do you have luggage?" Sam asked.
"A trunk full of medical texts."
Sam grinned and motioned toward a wagon alongside the plank boardwalk a ways down. "I guess I'll trust you with my wife. Meet you in a few minutes."
Maxwell knew he should probably have helped his friend wrestle the heavy trunk into the wagon but was just as happy to escort Emily, who had remained a dear friend. She chattered about their homestead Sam had already told him via letter that it was close to his pa's placeand how Sam fussed over her because of the baby. Her expression shone with joy and he had to avert his face.
You 'll never have that came a painful whisper from the past, one he did his best to ignore.
Looking up Main Street, he saw many of the storefronts had changed in five years. Different business names. Some wore a new coat of paint. The street extended farther than he remembered. New stores must've been built, as well.
Everything was the same, and yet everything was different. Or maybe he was the one changed by his time away.
Suddenly, three whooping cowboys thundered down the dirt-packed lane on their horses, and Maxwell shifted Emily toward the nearest storefront, away from the commotion.
"There's a new saloon in town," Emily said, her tone apologetic. "The sheriff claims all the troublemakers are getting their courage there ."
He didn't have time to answer her before a wave of people swept toward them, crowding the boardwalk and stalling their steps.
"Gunfight!" a man in a suit shouted.
"It can't be." Emily frowned. "Not in Bear Creek"
Above the heads in the crowd, Max could just make out two men squaring off in the street.
"Get low." He folded Emily close to the ground and pushed her back. They were still too far from the nearest store to duck inside.
Sam didn't have to be present for Maxwell to know his friend would want his wife as far away from the event as possible. Nearby, a knot of schoolgirls craned their necks, trying to see the action. Maxwell checked twice to ensure his younger sister Breanna wasn't among them and shouted at them to get down.
He hadn't had occasion to see many gunshot wounds in the laboratories he'd observed, but his education had taught him the kind of havoc such an injury could have on the human body.
With the crush of people surrounding them, it was almost impossible to move, but Maxwell persisted, using his shoulders to push forward, keeping one hand on Emily's bent back. They'd almost reached the corner of a nearby alleyway when shots rang out above the crowd's murmurs, silencing everything. Beneath his hand, Emily flinched. A woman screamed.
More hoofbeats sounded, and Maxwell saw a man wearing a silver star on his chest gallop past.
"Bystander's been shot!" The blacksmith, a tall man wearing a thick leather apron, shook his head in disgust.
With Emily tucked safely in the alley, Maxwell looked back. "I've got to help, if I can."
She turned frightened eyes on him but nodded. "I'll wait for Sam."
She'd be safe where she was. With the sheriff present, likely nothing else would happen. Hopefully, Sam would forgive Maxwell for leaving her.
He pushed his way back toward the commotion. The crowd had thinned now that the fight was over.
When Maxwell rushed forward, he saw one body lying prone on the dirt-packed street. The sheriff scuffled with another man farther down the lane, but neither had a gun drawn.
It was the knot of people surrounding a man laid out on the boardwalk and the woman kneeling over him that caught Maxwell's attention. He ran toward them, feet pounding against the ground, adrenaline pumping.
He was over a yard away when he caught sight of the man clutching his stomach, blood seeping through his fingers.
"Ma'am?" The woman who crouched next to the victim was shaking and pale. Probably his wife. Not doing anyone any good just sitting there. Maxwell didn't wait for her answer but knelt beside the man.
"Shot went wild," one of the onlookers grumbled. "It could've been any of us."
A woman in a fancy dress gasped and pressed a hand to her forehead as if she would faint. Maxwell wished the people standing nearby would go awaythey weren't helping.
"Can you get me a towel or some clean rags?" He directed his question to a teenage boy standing wide-eyed not two feet away, frozen with horror. He was thankful to see the lanky kid rush into a nearby store.
"I'll get the doc!" someone else exclaimed and rushed off. That left only three or four gawkers standing over Maxwell's shoulder.
"Should we move him to the doctor's office?" a male voice asked.
"No." A crisp female voice overlapped Maxwell's as a shadow fell across him. A pair of small, neatly kept hands appeared in his vision, followed by a dark blue skirt and the bottom of a wide white apron. The dainty hands didn't hesitate to push a towel against the injured man's abdomen, with enough pressure that the man gasped.
"Not yet," she continued in a clipped voice that brooked no argument. "We'll wait for Papa to make a quick examination. We don't want to make things worse. Take this"
Maxwell followed orders and replaced her hands with his. The man groaned as Maxwell applied the same hard pressureenough to hopefully stem the flow of blood.
"Good." The woman glanced at Maxwell briefly, and the tilt of her head drew his gaze up for the first time. Her blue eyes were straightforward and sharp, and instantly he felt as if he'd stuffed his mouth with cotton pads. She leaned over the man, and wisps of her chestnut hair fell from the bun behind her head, curling gently across her cheek.
She was much younger than he'd supposed from the authority in her voice. Even younger than his twenty-three years.
Maxwell forced his gaze back to the life beneath his hands. To focus on the human body, not the pretty girl. "He's hemorrhaging from the upper left flank. The bullet could've hit his spleen."
She looked up sharply at him. "Are you a doctor?"
It was a struggle to keep his eyes on the patient and not respond to her melodious tones.
He wished he could answer differently. "No. A medical student."
What a waste of a beautiful day. A gunshot wound. Senseless. And it would likely take all afternoon to tend.
Hattie Powell had heard the commotion from inside her papa's medical clinic and rushed out to help. Papa was on a house call and she could only hope someone had been sent to fetch him.
Now Hattie knelt over the injured manshe recognized him as a local farmer, John Spencerand accepted the towels someone had procured from the general store and traded them out from the bloodsoaked towel beneath her helper's hands. She couldn't help but note the strength of his wide, blunt fingers. They were more callused than she would've expected from a medical student. And his dress was that of a cowboytrousers and a woolen shirt. Even a Stetson. Unusual. And surprisingly, he hadn't acted prideful about being a medical student. Other than one comment, he'd been silent.
He towered over her as they both knelt next to the victim. Her hands twitched with the desire to take action.
"But we can't move him until Papa does a quick examination," she muttered to herself. "If the bullet is still inside, moving him could make matters worse."
The medical studentor was it cowboy?nodded once. "Might be better to get him inside, though. Risk of infection "
"Of course there is a risk of infection with any type of internal injury," she said. "But we don't dare move him yet."
The cowboy across from her glanced up with a quick flash of intelligent green eyes. She flushed. Likely he thought she was too bossy, but a man's life was at stake here.
No doubt she'd seen more of this type of wound than he had, in her years of assisting her father in his medical practice. What was taking Papa so long, anyway? Mr. Spencer continued to bleed.
"His pulse is slowing," her companion said. "Pupils are dilating. He's going into shock."
"An excellent observation," said a familiar voice. Relief flooded Hattie as Papa knelt beside her, nudging her aside. With his bristly white mustache and shock of graying hair, he cut a recognizable figure in town.
"You must be Maxwell White. I'm Doctor Powell," Papa said as he probed the victim's neck, then pushed his eyelids back to get a good look at his eyes. "Got to talking to your father a coupla Sundays ago 'bout you, and he said you were coming back into town."
"You did?" The genuine surprise in the man's voice was echoed by the shock in his face.
"Yep. We discussed how you won't want to lose your focus while you're rounding up funding for the rest of your schooling. Thought you might like to chat about helping out in my practice."
Hattie heard the sharp intake of breath but wasn't aware it had come from her until the keen green gaze flickered her way. Abruptly, she lowered her face. Earlier this spring, her papa had promised to consider allowing her to attend medical school. Did the fact that Papa was possibly getting help in the clinic mean he was seriously of a mind to let her go? She could only hope .
Unless there was a chance this Maxwell White's presence could interfere with her plans.
"Bullet's still in there. Let's get him over to the clinic." Papa looked up at the people surrounding them from a few steps back. "Oh, Samuel. Good. Can you help Mr. White lift him? Hattie, take his head."
Sam Castlerock, the husband of one of Hattie's friends, stepped forward as Hattie moved around Mr. Spencer to join Maxwell White on his other side. Her father's command put her immediately next to the medical student's shoulder. He towered over her even more than when they had knelt side by side. He must be well over six feet in his socks.
"Keep him steady, now," Papa murmured. "Don't want to make things worse on the inside. Hattie, keep pressure on that wound."
Hattie cradled the man's head in the crook of her right arm and used her left hand to replace Maxwell White's pressure against the towels. With the location of the wound, the action pressed her arm against her neighbor's surprisingly muscled chest. His height gave the illusion that he was slender, but it wasapparentlynot so. He didn't just appear to be a cowboy. He must actually be one, in addition to being a medical student. How unusual.
The two men lifted Mr. Spencer without even a grunt to show their effort. Hattie rose with them, concentrating on keeping the victim's head stable, trying hard to ignore the way her shoulder pressed into Mr. White's biceps. It was a wasted effort. With each step they took, the contact between her shoulder and his arm seemed to burn fire through her nervous system.
For someone whose nerves occasionally experienced numbness due to a medical condition, the entire process was unsettling.
Intense relief spilled through Hattie as Sam and Mr. White deposited the injured man on her father's operating table in the rear of his clinic. She retained her position at the side of the table, continuing to put pressure on Mr. Spencer's wound as the other two men moved away. Sam went out the door, and Hattie heard the murmur of her father's voice.
Mr. White hesitated. "Do you need"
She ignored him. Kept pressure on the wound with one hand while attempting to unbutton the victim's shirt with the other. Her father would want it removed before he could start the surgery to save this man's life.
"I can help"
She hadn't realized Mr. White had come closer, but then he was beside her and their fingers tangled as he attempted the same button that troubled her. Sparks zinged up her forearm as the warm, callused digits enclosed her fingers momentarily.
"I've got it," she insisted. And then promptly wished her voice hadn't sounded so breathless. What was it about this man that discombobulated her so?
Papa shuffled into the room, moving to pump water from the sink in the back corner and scrub his hands. Many of his colleagues sneered at his penchant for using running water, but her papa believed it helped prevent infection.
"Thank you for your help today, young man," Papa said. With his back turned, he didn't see how Mr. White had ignored her and was quickly removing the man's shirt, gently edging it out from beneath him now while Hattie maintained pressure on the wound. "We'll get together soon to discuss things."
It was an obvious dismissal. With the victim's shirt gone, Maxwell flicked one last glance at Hattie and stepped back. "Thank you, sir."
Papa didn't even seem to hear him as he approached the operating table, he was so intent on the injured man. The same as always. Focused on a patient to the exclusion of everything else. Hattie heard distinctive boot steps retreating out of the sickroom and toward the waiting room out front.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Maxwell White is an unconventional hero. He’s chosen a career as a doctor, where he must interact with people, but he’s terribly shy, especially around women. When his funds for med school dry up, he returns home and takes a job assisting the local doctor. But Dr. Powell’s current helper is his daughter, Hattie, and she sees Maxwell as a threat to her own plans to become a doctor. Before long, Maxwell learns to respect Hattie’s abilities, and his attraction to the pretty woman grows, but his track record with women isn’t good. Will Hattie stomp on his heart and leave him hurting like the others did? I loved Maxwell’s character. He’s a hurting hero, and yet he’s kind and caring. He has a huge family of rowdy adopted brothers who love him, and yet he’s lonely. He suffers emotional wounds his birth mother inflected on him that make him doubt himself. Lacy Williams does an incredible job of pulling Maxwell from his shell and sending him just the right woman to love. Return of the Cowboy Doctor is another fabulous read from talented young author, Lacy Williams.
Another pleasing tale from Lacy Williams. Our heroine, Hattie, wants to be a doctor but no one takes her seriously. Along comes our cowboy doctor, Maxwell, who seems to understand. Hattie wants to protect her heart , but finds herself falling anyway. This book is a great feel good story. I loved Lacy Willams' other books (especially Counterfeit Cowboy) and this did not disappoint.