Once Upon A Time…Has Never Been This Hot.
Emma paced the length of the room, pausing every few passes to stare out the window—scanning the dusty street for any sign of Clint. The sun sat low on the horizon, burning the sky into a dusky purple as it faded behind the distant hills, casting long shadows across the floor. She’d followed his wishes—more accurately, his orders—and had curled up on the cot, giving in to the fatigue straining her muscles and blurring her vision. She’d thought she’d lay there, her mind whirling with thoughts of the lawman and the stolen kisses from Clint. But the room had washed into black, the sounds melding into the echo of Clint’s soft accent in her head mixed with the low rasp of the marshal unconscious in the other bed.
Images of the two men loving her had filled her dreams—their hands caressing her body, their mouths peppering kisses along her flesh. She’d just gotten them stripped down when she’d jolted awake, Clint’s hand on her shoulder. He’d mumbled an apology, muttering something about checking out a hunch before he’d dropped a kiss on her forehead then bolted from the clinic, the door slamming shut behind him. She’d stared after him, chest heaving, a strange tightening in her core as she’d struggled to push the lingering pictures from her mind. Rid her body of the tingling sensation that had taken root in her groin. Made her pulse thrum in her head and heat flush her skin.
She didn’t have much experience with men. Though she’d been courted a few times before leaving her family’s homestead, the men had stopped looking her way once she’d set her mind on becoming a doctor. Hell, her parents had asked her not to return after she’d gained entry into medical school. That was why she’d headed west after receiving her license. Railway camps, small towns—places so removed from traditional avenues, there weren’t many options for medical care. Not that her abilities had been readily accepted there, either. Even after serving the Pacific Railroad for several months, she knew the men in the camp were just waiting for her to fail—looking for an excuse to replace her. Everyone—except for Clinton.
She stopped pacing and leaned against the wall. She’d been instantly attracted to the man the moment he’d ambled into town and had given her a smile that had weakened her knees. It was as if he’d seen through the facade she cloaked around her and straight to her heart—the one that quickened with his smile, his deep voice with just a hint of English inflection. He’d been supportive of her skills since that first day, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand being so close to him without taking it further. Without begging him to touch her—love her.
She brushed her fingers over her lips. She could still feel the soft play of his mouth against hers, the spicy taste of his tongue. If her patient hadn’t woken and interrupted them, she might have shamelessly welcomed Clinton into her bed.
The dim memory of the marshal’s gravelly voice played inside her head, causing similar reactions within her body. Her nipples tightened into hard buds that pressed against her shortened corset, and moisture pooled along her cleft, leaving an ache no amount of self-resolve could lessen.
She squeezed shut her eyes, pressing a hand against her temple in an attempt to ease the sudden pounding. She didn’t understand her feelings for the lawman. How in the span of a couple of days she could long for his touch. Want to hear her name torn from his lips as he filled her in the most primal way. Hell, she didn’t even know his name. Yet, just the thought of him walking out of her door sent shivers racing along her spine—dread curdling deep in her gut. She wanted him as much as she wanted Clint, and she had absolutely no idea what to do about it.
A soft scuffing sound drew her attention, and she turned, gasping as the marshal stumbled to his feet, his large form swaying back and forth as he took a shaky step toward her. His skin gleamed bronze in the sunlight, the bandages bright white against his tanned flesh, nothing but half shredded underwear covering his lower body—his legs just as deeply colored. For a fleeting moment, she wondered if he spent time naked in the sun before reaching for him as he tripped sideways. She caught his weight, somehow managing to stay upright as she wrapped her arms around him, doing her best to avoid his injuries. He groaned as she straightened, shaking his head as he pulled against her hold.
She stayed firm, shifting her grip to his arms but not releasing him. “Easy.”
He stilled, his gaze dropping to her hands as he inhaled, a rough breath hissing free. He furrowed his brow, swaying again as he finally made eye contact. “I need to go.”
She shuffled with him when he tried to move to his right. “What you need is to lie back down before you fall on your face, and I have another laceration to stitch up.”
He shook his head, tugging against her before leaning into her, head drooping slightly. “Have…to go.” He panted out a few breaths. “Danger.”
She snugged her arm around his waist, trying to spin him around. “You’re not well enough to go anywhere but back to bed.” She shushed his grunt of apparent disapproval. “This isn’t up for discussion, Marshal. Either help me get your ass back in the bed, or I’ll drag you there.”
He snorted. “You? You’re…half my size.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t do as I claim. Besides, you’re barely conscious.”
A grin lifted one corner of his mouth as he gazed at her, tilting his head to the side as he inhaled again, a strange expression crossing his face.
“Trust me, mate. She’s much tougher than her size suggests, especially when she’s mad.”
Emma jumped as Clinton’s voice sounded behind her followed by the soft press of feet across the floor. She glanced over her shoulder, admiring the way he commanded the room, striding smoothly across the space toward them.
She stared up at him, drawn to the golden flecks in his eyes. “How did you get in here without making any noise?” She motioned to the entrance. “The door squeaks as do the wooden slats.”
“Guess you were too preoccupied with our friend here to notice.” He moved to the marshal’s other side, shouldering the man’s weight as he wrapped an arm around his waist. “Let’s get you back to bed, like the good doctor here asked.”
The lawman’s frown deepened as he blinked a few times, swaying within Clint’s grip before glancing at Emma. “Doctor?”
“You’ve had quite the adventure. And yeah, she’s a doctor. One that’s going to kick your arse if you don’t do as she says.”
The guy shook his head. “No, I…” He trailed off, focusing again on Clint. “You. Who are you?”
Clint smiled. “Name’s Clint. And the pretty lady is Emma.”