Courting the Outlaw's Wife - Part Four
Sara Lynn knew the town was talking about her and the sheriff. When she’d walked into town leading his horse with his unconscious, bleeding body hung over the saddle, the tongues and rumors had started flying. It wouldn’t be long and they’d figure out who she was. She wanted to stay in Grass Valley. Wanted to see if the fluttery, warmth she felt when she looked at and touched Shaw was more than an infatuation like it had been with Chet.
If she married again it would be because she loved and respected the man, not just found him a means to escape a dull life.
When she’d expressed the notion of moving on, Shaw had asked her to stay. She hadn’t missed the flare of desire in his eyes. A man like him wouldn’t lead a woman on. If he had notions he wanted to spend time with a woman, he’d tell her straight out.
Sara Lynn nodded to Mr. Franks, her clerk, as she carried a tray with eggs and toast past the registration desk and down the hall to her quarters at the back of the hotel.
The proper thing would have been to put the sheriff in a room upstairs, however, the first couple of days he’d needed constant care, and it was easier for her to do with him sleeping in her bed. She’d had Betsy Watson, the young woman who cleaned the rooms, make a bed for her on the couch in her sitting room.
Sara Lynn opened the door to her rooms and entered. Dr. Smith walked out of her bedroom.
“Mrs. Star, our patient is healing quite well. I think he’ll be ready to move back to his residence tomorrow.”
“That’s wonderful news,” she said, with more enthusiasm than she felt. She’d miss their long conversations. Chet had never taken the time to listen about her childhood or her likes and dislikes. The past four days and nights, she and Shaw had learned everything there was to know about one another as they sat together talking.
“I’ll let the deputy know that Sheriff DeRai will be moving back in tomorrow.”
“Thank you. I’m sure he will appreciate that.” Sara Lynn set the tray down on a side table and walked Dr. Smith to her door.
“You should change the bandage on his shoulder tomorrow before he leaves. I don’t see any reason for me to check on him for a couple days.”
“Thank you, again. I’ll see to the bandage change and that he is moved tomorrow.” Her heart pounded in her chest. She didn’t want him to leave. Even in his incapacitated condition she felt safe with him sleeping in her bed.
“Good day.” Dr. Smith walked out.
She shut the door, leaning her back against it. If only there was a way to keep Shaw here…
“Do I smell breakfast?”
Sara Lynn jumped. Shaw stood in the bedroom doorway. His upper body was bare except for the strip of white sheet wrapped around his torso to hold the bandages in place. His pants weren’t completely buttoned and rode low on his hips.
Drool pooled in her mouth as she stared at the man. The last few days nursing him, he’d been shirtless with a sheet covering his lower limbs, but him standing and looking handsome with an unshaven face, had her heart prancing around like a filly in a field of clover.
“Sara? Sara Lynn? What’s wrong?” He strode toward her, bringing that tantalizing body closer.
Her gaze traveled up his lean stomach, over the bandage on his wide chest, and lingered at his mouth. She couldn’t stop her hands. Her fingers made contact with his bare torso and all good sense flew out of her head. Taking care of him she’d touched him, let her hands linger longer than necessary, but having him on his feet and oozing manliness, she wanted to feel his arms around her and his lips pressed to hers.
Shaw saw the desire in Sara Lynn’s beautiful blue eyes as her hands caressed his chest. He couldn’t have walked away if a gun was held to his head.
He pulled her into his arms and bent his head, capturing her full, pink mouth with his. The last few days, layin’ in her bed, catching whiffs of her scent, having her taking care of him, telling him about her childhood; he wanted her in his life every night and day.
She pressed against him as if she couldn’t get close enough. He wanted all she was willing to give. Deepening the kiss, he opened his mouth, tracing her lips, coaxing for an intimate taste. His hands roamed over her body, wishing she had as few clothes on as he did.
Her lips parted, and he slipped his tongue into her mouth, tasting, savoring. She moaned and her hands gripped his shoulders.
Banging on the door, he pressed her against, broke through the haze of desire he was wrapped in. Shaw withdrew from the kiss and rested his forehead against Sara Lynn’s. He wanted her, but not because they had to marry from his carrying on.
“Mrs. Star! Mrs. Star,” Betsy’s hysterical voice called. “There’s a man out here insisting you come out.” She banged on the door. “Mr. Franks has a gun on him but I don’t like the looks of the man.”
Sara Lynn shoved out of his arms. “Quick! Get dressed and get out the back way. It has to be Boyd,” she hissed in a loud whisper, pushing him toward the bedroom.
She turned to the door. “Betsy, tell him I’ll be right out,” Sara Lynn said loud enough to be heard through the door.
Shaw’s heart stopped at the thought of Sara Lynn standing up to the outlaw. He caught her wrist, keeping her from going out the door. “You said you wanted out of that life. That you were scared of him. Stay here. Let me deal with him.”
Her eyes were wide with fright, but the stubborn set to her jaw and mouth told him she wouldn’t listen to reason.
“No. He wants me. If I go out there, he won’t come storming in here and harm you. You’re in no shape to go up against Boyd and however many men he has with him.” Tears glistened in her eyes. “I’ll remember the days we’ve spent together with fondness.” She placed a hand on his cheek.
He closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her small hand. The next minute he heard the door shut and the lock click.
Damn! He’d let his softness for the woman drop his guard. If she thought locking him in would keep him from going after her, she didn’t know him very well.
He stomped into the bedroom, donned the rest of his clothing, buckled on his holster, shoved his hat on his head, and opened the bedroom window. His shoulder twinged at the activity but there was no way in hell he’d allow the outlaw to ride out of town with the woman he loved.
Sara Lynn’s insides were squirming like she’d eaten a bad meal. She didn’t want to go with Boyd, but she loved Shaw and refused to have her past bring him harm. The only way she knew to do that was to go with Boyd and wait for a chance to get away.
She walked up the hall and saw her ex-brother-in-law glaring at Mr. Franks. She had to give the older man credit the rifle wasn’t wavering under the fierce glare of the notorious outlaw Boyd Star.
“Boyd, back on out and I’ll come with you.” She put a hand on Mr. Franks’ shoulder and lowered the rifle with her other hand. “Mr. Franks why don’t you and Betsy go on into the restaurant and make sure everyone stays put until we leave town. I don’t want anyone getting hurt on my account.”
Mr. Franks studied her a moment then nodded and grasped Betsy by the arm, hauling the girl over to the door leading into the restaurant.
“You always were soft, Sara Lynn,” Boyd said, taking a step toward her.
“No!” She raised her hands. “I told you to back on out and I’d join you. I want to make sure no one in this hotel is harmed. This is the closest I’ve come to having friends and a normal life, I won’t have my past taint any of it.”
The leering smile she loathed, curled Boyd’s lips and he backed to the door, holding it open for her.
Her legs moved like huge tree trunks, stiff and heavy. She didn’t want to leave her hotel, her life, especially now knowing what she felt for Sheriff Shaw DeRai was more than infatuation. It was pure and honest love. She’d realized that before he’d kissed her, but having tasted his kisses, she knew there would never be another stir her heart and soul like him.
“Come on. If you don’t get a move on I’ll have to haul you over my shoulder to the preacher.
She squeaked. “Preacher?”
He leered at her and grabbed her arm when she was within reach. “You and me are going to get married and then you can’t run away.”
Just watch me.
“Boyd, don’t you think this is a bit quick.” She scanned the street. As she’d feared, he’d brought the whole gang with him. That’s why it took him three days to get back here. Seeing the seven other men, she knew there was no way out of this marriage. Not if she didn’t want the townsfolk to die.
“Nope, I’ve wanted you for my wife since the day I laid eyes on you.” He wrapped his arm around her, digging his fingers into her waist.
She squirmed. “Ouch! If you want me to be a willing bride you shouldn’t hurt me.”
He loosened his grip but not much. She noted most of the townsfolk were staying inside. She hoped they all stayed there until the gang rode out of town.
She and Boyd walked down the street with the gang on horseback behind them.
“Where’s that sheriff I hear you been takin’ care of?”
He asked in a nonchalant way, but she knew he was fishing for information. “I don’t know. The Doctor moved him this morning.”
“Billy, go check the hotel for the sheriff!” Boyd hollered over his shoulder.
“There’s no need. I said he was gone.” Sara Lynn dug her heels in and glared at Boyd.
He laughed. “By your actions I say he’s there and you’re hiding him.”
They stopped in front of the only church in town. Reverend Mann stepped out the door.
“How can I help you, Mrs. Star?” His gaze drifted over Boyd and the rest of the men.
“We want to get married,” Boyd said, drawing her forward.
“I see. Mrs. Star, is this true?” His faded blue eyes peered into hers.
She wanted to say no, but knew to disagree she’d unleash Boyd’s nastiness.
“Yes, please, Reverend Mann. The sooner we’re married the sooner we’ll leave.” She hoped he understood, she was trying to avoid trouble for the town.
The reverend nodded. “Very well. But I ask that all guns remain outside the house of the Lord.” His gaze landed on Boyd’s holstered gun.
“Pete, come get my holster.” Boyd unbuckled his holster. “The rest of you stand guard. Don’t let anyone in, you hear?”
They nodded and agreed.
At least he wouldn’t be armed. Maybe she and the reverend could render him helpless…
Shaw stood just inside the church door. He’d hustled to the church as soon as he heard Boyd’s marriage idea. He’d had just enough time to ask the reverend to make sure Boyd was weaponless before he came in the church before the outlaws arrived.
The reverend entered followed by Sara Lynn, looking scared and tense. He wanted to pull her into his arms and tell her everything would be fine, but first he had to take care of Boyd Star.
The man hesitated then walked through the door. Shaw gave him several steps before he walked up behind Boyd and slammed the butt of his pistol down on the outlaw’s head.
He dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Sara Lynn whirled around but covered her mouth, stifling a scream. When she registered who stood in the aisle, she leaped over the outlaw and landed in Shaw’s arms.
He hugged her tight.
“We need to do something with this man and the men outside waiting,” said the reverend.
Shaw released Sara Lynn. “Sit here while I tie up Boyd.” He eased her into a pew and followed the reverend to the back of the church to find rope.
“Is there a way out of here that his men won’t be watching?” Boyd asked as they dug a length of rope out of a broom closet.
“Then I guess I’ll have to take him out through the front door.” Shaw hurried back to Boyd and Sara Lynn. The man might be knocked out, but he could wake up at any time. He dropped down beside the outlaw, tying his hands behind his back good and tight.
He sat down on the pew next to Sara Lynn. “I’m going to take him out the front door and hope the gang will not retaliate worrying they might hit Boyd.”
Tears trickled down her cheeks. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Shh, I’ll be fine. But only if you stay here with Reverend Mann so I don’t have to worry about you.”
She ducked her head.
“Look at me.” He tipped her face up with a finger under her chin. “When I get Boyd locked up, and his gang has either left or been locked up, I’m coming back here and we’re going to get married.”
Her eyes widened, and she sniffed back tears. “Are you asking me to marry you, Sheriff DeRai?”
The love shining in her eyes told him all he needed to know. “Yes, I am. Sara Lynn will you make me a happy man and become my wife?”
She flung her arms around his neck. “Yes!”
He kissed her lips and wiped the tears from her cheeks. Shaw’s chest filled with love and pride that this woman wanted to be his wife. First he had to deal with the one person who could ruin everything for them.
Drawing out of the kiss, he eased away from Sara Lynn. “Stay here. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
She clung to his hand as he stood. Her fear for him would make his decisions more calculated. He didn’t want to make her a widow again before they were even married.
“I’ll be careful.”
He grabbed Boyd by the collar lifting him to his feet.
“Reverend, open the door when I tell you.” Shaw stood the outlaw in front of the door and pressed his pistol to the man’s side. “Now.”
The door opened and Shaw shoved Boyd’s body out the door in front of him. He had to look twice. All the outlaws had their hands in the air. Scanning the rows of horses, he noted his deputy and a dozen other men had rifles aimed at the outlaws.
“Good work, Hollister!” Shaw said, shoving Boyd ahead of him.
“I see you caught the leader,” Hollister said, coming forward and taking hold of Boyd.
“I had some help.” Shaw glanced over his shoulder and winked at Sara Lynn and Reverend Mann standing in the doorway.
Sara Lynn couldn’t stop smiling. They’d waited a day to get married at the request of the town. Everyone wanted to be at the wedding. And everyone wanted to tell her how they had all rallied around to make sure she wasn’t taken away by the outlaws.
“Mrs. DeRai, may I have this dance?” Shaw stood in front of her looking too handsome for any one man to look. Her heart spun in her chest. He was her husband. A good, honest man who loved her even knowing her past.
“I would love to dance with you Mr. DeRai, but,” she leaned forward to whisper in his ear, “I’d prefer dancing alone, in our bedroom.”
His chuckle in her ear and his hand grasping hers, told her he had the same idea.
“We are no longer needed here and it is our wedding night.” Shaw led her out of the hotel restaurant, down the hall, and into their living quarters.
The lock clicked, and she drifted into the arms of the man she loved.