Read Cowboy of Mine Online

Authors: Red L. Jameson

Tags: #Romance, #Time Travel, #Historical

Cowboy of Mine (3 page)

BOOK: Cowboy of Mine
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“Lord, yesterday was a mess,” Mrs. Casper interrupted. “Like I said, Jake, you have excellent timing, as if you were sent by angels.”

Mr. Casper nodded. “Hell, yes, good timing.”

“Honey,” Laura gently smacked her husband for his oath.

He smiled but continued. “Yesterday all hell broke loose.”

“What am I to do with all those swear words coming out of you?”

Tom silently chuckled, wagging his bushy brows at his wife a couple times. Then he glanced back at Jake, cleared his throat, and regained his serious composure. “Yesterday was Christmas. And both the factions have their separate traditions, and the Slavic people have one that has something to do with a man chasing children around with a hatchet—”

“Oh, it’s just playacting, Jake,” Mrs. Casper informed.

“But the Fins took it real bad,” Mr. Casper persisted in telling the story. “So there was a huge fight in the middle of the street. That’s why almost none of the Christmas decorations are still up. They tore ‘em down in their idiotic fighting.”

Jake nodded, taking in all he was told. “They going to continue the fighting today?”

Mr. Casper shrugged. “Sure as hell hope not, but don’t know.”

Mrs. Casper growled, but Jake noticed she was smiling through it all. Then she laughed and leaned more into her husband, glancing at Jake. “Yes, it certainly is good to have a lawman here, Mr. Cameron, especially one as nice as you.”

“Jake, Mrs. Casper, ifnye please, call me Jake.”

Mrs. Casper bobbed her head. “Laura, please call me Laura, Jake.”

“Are you flirting with the new sheriff, wife?” Tom wrapped a meaty arm around Laura.

“Trying, but you’re rather in the way, husband.”

“I have a mind to take you over my shoulder, walk you back to our room, and spank you.”

“Promises, promises.” Laura giggled.

Jake’s heart stuttered. The scene before him was unbearably beautiful and filled with love. He’d thought he had been in love once. One of the lasses from the Yamasee village. He’d looked at her and was smitten with her contagious smile. But she’d chosen another. It had happened two hundred years ago, so long ago it sounded more like an foolish fairy tale than anything else.

“Sorry, Jake, my husband’s barbarian ways, for whatever reason, always bring out the flirt in me. Would you care to join us for breakfast?”

Actually, he didn’t want to. The couple in front of him made him ache, his ribs felt too big in his chest, crushing his breastbone. He wanted to curry Moses, find a place to sleep for two days, and forget he lived in this hellish time. Despite hating this era, Laura and Tom reminded him that there was something pretty, no matter the age. There could be beauty. But he didn’t know if he could shoulder through being around something so lovely.

Still, he had a job now. Money. And he was famished, truth be told.

He swallowed his bitterness and nodded. “I’d be honored to join y’all for breakfast.”

*

F
ried eggs, sausages, and hashed potatoes filled Jake’s plate, and he easily smiled at the food.

“When’s the last time you ate, son?” Tom asked, blue eyes wide, probably amazed Jake had already eaten a plate before this one.

Jake kept grinning, hoping he wasn’t making a pig of himself, but the food was damned good.

“Let him eat, Tom.” Laura sipped from a flowery teacup, yet her eyes were just as wide, watching him shovel in the grub.

Jake swallowed. “Sorry.”

Laura smiled. “I’ll take it as a compliment. My cook is wonderful, isn’t he?”

Jake nodded enthusiastically, while forking in another bite.

Laura looked over her shoulder. “Mr. Wan, won’t you come out here and meet the new sheriff?”

“I’m baking biscuits.” A discarnate voice rang through the large dining room and pub, where one lone man rested his head on the bar.

Actually, the sleeping man, Mr. Matlock, was obviously slumbering through his crapulence from too much booze. However, Laura had said if Mr. Matlock didn’t wake before the lunch rush, he could be Jake’s first arrest. She’d said it with a pinch of sympathy turned into excitement that Jake could make an arrest on his first day.

Jake had nearly laughed at that, but he couldn’t hold back a chuckle at the loud voice without a body that surely belonged to the cook.

“Mr. Wan, you might be making a bad impression upon our new, young sheriff. Come out and meet him.”

There was a laudable sigh, then,
“Nǚrén!”

“What did he just say?” Tom asked, his profuse brows diving down.

Laura smiled. “He’s calling me a woman.” She turned back to Jake. “Mr. Wan is Chinese. His whole family cooks for me, and every Friday he makes these special dumplings with pork, you will gorge on, I’m sure. I do. He’s the best cook—”

“Not as good as my Laura, but he’s decent.”

“Decent?” Suddenly, a man with a long black braid appeared beside the table, as if he were an apparition, manifesting his human form when it suited him. Clad in a white tunic, he folded his arms over his chest. “I’m only a decent cook?”

“Best I’ve had.” Jake said quickly and quietly, but loud enough for the simmering cook to hear and to immediately cool down.

Mr. Wan briefly smiled at him, then looked to Laura. “He’s a good sheriff.”

“I know.” She smiled at Jake.

“He has good taste,” Mr. Wan continued.

Laura nodded.

“Unlike some other men at this table.” Mr. Wan openly glared at Tom, who scowled back.

Laura just giggled and held her husband’s arm again.

“If my biscuits burn, I’m blaming you, Tom.”

Tom’s scowl improved. “Why me? I didn’t ask you out here.”

One more frown was targeted at Tom, then Mr. Wan smiled at Laura. “Mrs. Casper, always a pleasure to meet your friends.” Then he disappeared through a swinging door at the back of the room.

“That’s my cook. Don’t you think he’s wonderful?” Laura said sing-songedly.

Jake glanced at Tom, who still scowled, but Jake thought the glares between the two men were more jests than anything else. So he nodded. And something nudged at him. Mayhap this place wouldn’t be so bad to stay. Not stay for good, of course. He had to get back to his brothers some time. Soon.

Lord, when would the blue-eyed man come back for him?

Scooping the last bits of egg and potato onto his fork, Jake caught the tempting aroma of bread. This wasn’t the scent of Mr. Wan’s biscuits. This was thick, crusty, made from someone’s heart and hearth kind of bread. He nearly cried at the scent, remembering his mother and the taste of wheat and yeast smothered by butter and laughter with his brothers.

“Meredith’s here,” Laura hummed.

Tom grunted, still staring at Jake’s now empty plate in wonder.

Laura stood and walked toward the clatter of tiny heals approaching.

“Meredith, you didn’t.”

“Well, after yesterday, I hoped to do something to help stop the fighting. But all I can do is bake bread, it seems.”

That voice was...surprisingly rough for a woman’s, yet completely feminine nonetheless. Jake glanced up and saw a fae. Or, at least, she looked so much like a wee fairy.

She placed a giant basket of bread on a nearby table while he took her in. A thick pink and black plaid wrapped around her shoulders and head. That blanket almost grazed the floorboards, even though she wore a large hooped gray skirt. She was a tiny thing. But it had been her face that made him think of the fae—heart-shaped with a just a few freckles on a slightly upturned nose, heart-shaped lips, and dainty dark brows graced gigantic eyes. The color, he couldn’t describe. Mayhap violet.

He swallowed and tried to stand but found his knees buckling fast.

“Oh, Meredith, you wise women,” Laura said. “The best way for the groups to get along is by breaking bread together. Still, we’ve hired a sheriff. Come and meet him.” Laura beckoned and trailed her way beside the table, where Jake finally had his body under volition and stood.

“Meredith Peabody, this is Jake Cameron, our new lawman.”

The wee lady floated closer to him. He had to be at least a foot taller than her. Even Laura towered over her. As she got closer, she extended a white-gloved hand while her gaze scrutinized him.

“Nice to meet you.” Her voice again made a deep impact on him—coarse yet unmistakably female.

He caught her fingers and tried to tug her close to kiss her gloved knuckles. But she began shaking his hand, and he glanced again at the way she studied him.

It hit him through his gut then. He’d forgotten once more how ugly he was. How a woman like her might view a monster like him. Of course, she wouldn’t want him to kiss her hand. He was repellent.

“Likewise.” His own voice had gone a bit too deep and rough.

She kept shaking his hand, staring at him. And he let her. He let her soak it in, that he was revolting, but he would still protect her in this land, from the conflict, from anything that might harm her.

After a moment though, he wondered when she would stop holding his hand, her ethereal eyes glimmering deeply into his own.

“Meredith, honey, you have to let the man go,” Laura whispered.

Meredith grimaced and retracted her hand as though he was a beast. However, she did say, “Sorry. I just...I’m sorry.”

He nodded. By now he should have been used to the stares, the odd behavior, but coming from her, it somehow punctured his pride a bit more than usual. He sniffed, trying to act nonchalant.

“So, Meredith, you brought the feuding miners some bread.” Laura was obviously trying to keep Meredith from staring at him, and finally she snapped and turned back to Mrs. Casper.

“Yes. I baked some last night and some this morning.”

“Honey, are you sleeping?”

Meredith glanced back at Jake, her exquisite brows drawn together. Those enormous eyes of hers sparkled with a fleeting anxiety. But she peered back at Laura, one side of her pink, pink lips edging up.

“I made some soap too. I thought Mr. Gerdenson might want it.”

Laura laughed loudly at that. She even held a hand to her slender belly. “Oh, he needs it, that’s for sure. I will pass it on to him and hope to God he’ll accept it.”

Jake had no clue who or what they were talking about, but couldn’t seem to help himself and stare at Meredith. She bowed her head, pursing her lips in an effort not to join in on the laugh, but a minute grin appeared nonetheless. And that smile, although so tiny like the owner, plowed straight through him, through his heart, his innards, then fell into his nether region.

Once again he wished he wasn’t such a demon, such a monster. If only a woman like that would look at him—him, not his skin—and see...Ah, hell, did it matter? He was what he was. His skin seemed to reflect his interior, all his failures, what he’d done wrong. So mayhap, it was for the best she thought him disgusting.

At least that’s what he tried to tell himself as he caught himself staring at the pixie woman. Then Meredith turned to him a perfect brow arched.

“Do you like bread, Mr. Cameron?”

Aye.
But he caught himself and his instant reaction. “Yes, I do. I love bread in fact. Always have. Smells wonderful.”

“Ha!” Tom suddenly joined the conversation from his seat at the table. “I think that’s the most Jake has said this whole time.”

Embarrassment, hot and heady, speared through Jake’s chest and started to lance up his neck.

“Tom,” Laura reprimanded. Then she glanced up at Jake. “Well, I love bread too. Love Meredith’s bread especially. Wait ‘till you eat it, Jake. That will fatten you up some.”

“The man eats more than I do and look at him. No gut.” Tom shook his head and finally stood, a heavy hand landed on Jake’s shoulder. “I envy you, I do.”

Jake tried to smile, but couldn’t help catching Meredith’s stare once more. This time she seemed to take heed of his stomach, making him burn where her eyes flittered. She tucked her chin, then ascended her gaze to his. Looking at him through dark, thick, long lashes, again, Jake felt she pommeled his gut with the way she glanced at him. And it almost seemed as if she could...see past his skin. But that, more than likely, was his fancy running amok.

“Come on, son, I gotta show you to the mine and your job,” Tom said as he stalked close to his wife, then kissed her on the cheek.

“You boys have a good morning. I’ll see you at noon for lunch.” Laura kissed her husband on the lips, and Jake looked down to the floor.

But not for long. He risked it and peeked once more at Meredith. She was still eyeing him. Blinking, she tucked her chin once more, and the most delicious pink color, so like her lips, spread on both cheeks.

“I can make you some special bread, Mr. Cameron. Do you like anything in particular?”

His mouth went dry. His solar plexus exploded with fireworks.

It wasn’t as if she were asking if he’d like to spend the afternoon with her, or asking if he’d walk out with her, or even asking to kiss her. It wasn’t like she asked something taboo. But his body sure thought as much. Wanted as much.

BOOK: Cowboy of Mine
12.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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