Tess concentrated on the music, so much so that she
didn‘t hear the screen door open and her father‘s boss step in and
pause while listening. She was always in a world of her own
when she played the violin.
Ever since she was old enough to walk she‘d had one in
her hands. Her mother was a member of the New York
Philharmonic Orchestra after she attended Julliard. But she gave
it all up when she married her father. Tess smiled thinking of her
mother and her gentleness. No regrets she told Tess one day
when she asked her why she did that I love your father more
than my career and I would be happy if he only picked peas for
the rest of his life. She‘d meant it too, thought Tess
remembering the look of tenderness in her mother‘s beautiful
dark brown eyes.
Tess never made it out of Sulphur Springs Montana after
she graduated high school. Her mother died three years ago
from breast cancer six months prior to her graduation, and she
couldn‘t bring herself to leave her father who was clearly
distraught. So she spent her time helping him out. Not that she
really wanted to leave. She loved the country, her small town and
the people with a passion. Then there was that other reason, who
was standing behind her without her knowledge with his
attention completely riveted on her. If she were to turn around
she would see that his handsome expression didn‘t give anything
away, but his intelligent dark eyes told a different story.
The music flowed from her violin as she let her thoughts
and emotions come through in the music. When she paused to
turn the sheet she suddenly felt like she wasn‘t alone and turned
to see Jacob standing in the doorway just staring at her. He cast
an awesome image with his large frame filling the entrance and
the sunlight at his back creating a glowing outline around him.
Because of that she really couldn‘t see his face. However, just his
presence alone affected her. Suddenly her throat seemed to close
up and she swallowed thickly.
It was hard to admit years ago before he left Sulphur
Springs to go to med school that she was in love with him. Of
course she was just a child barely coming into womanhood and it
was just a silly crush, but when he‘d come home during the
summer over those following seven years, it grew into something
more. Now she was twenty-one and there was no doubt in her
mind how she felt. The things that happened to her body when
he was around have never happened in the presence of another
man and she had absolutely no control over them. The air always
seemed thicker when he walked in a room, her heart would start
pounding faster and she had difficulty catching her breath, like
She watched him shift from one foot to another making
him seem a little uncomfortable which surprised her, because the
man was usually so self assured that could be comfortable at a
hanging. Obviously the intimacy of her playing unsettled him a
little and he must‘ve felt like he was intruding. He shouldn‘t. He
owned the house her father and her lived in and they sort of had
an unspoken rule about not knocking.
As it was, her father worked as a veterinarian for Jacob,
Lance and Colton Hartley who own the Lansdowne Ranch, a
world famous producer of thoroughbred racehorses. Although
Jacob, the oldest brother was the town physician, he still was the
Patriarch of the Hartley boys because their father moved back to
Texas after the death of his wife. All of them were raw, brawny
and masculine, but Jacob was different. He had this air about
him that made him stand out, at least to her. He seemed to have
this current around him that jolted her whenever he settled those
intelligent light brown eyes on her. He didn‘t even have to speak
for her to be affected, yet when he did, she could hardly think on
her own. Even standing there in her house wearing jeans, a blue
chambray shirt and a weathered tan Stetson, he was a force to be
reckoned with. So much for forgetting to think, she could barely
remember to breathe. She thought he looked equally as
handsome in his three piece suits when he went to work in his
clinic in town. She actually worked for him one summer as a
clerk, but being so close to him then affected her too much and it
was a struggle to concentrate on the work. Not only that, the
man was a magnet for women, who would parade in and out of
there all dolled up pretending to have some ailment so they could
try and win him. It literally drove her crazy how brazen women
could be. She would never go so far to gain his attention. She
had more pride than that. Yet, was it in her benefit to not say
anything and pine for him at a distance? Probably not.
No matter how cool and detached he seemed, the man
never had trouble gaining attention from her sex. He was
handsome, rich, and a doctor. She was sure the fourth reason
didn‘t leave anything to complain about either, with that tall
muscular body of his made her think of other things he would be
, she thought feeling her cheeks heat up,
ashamed that her mind suddenly turned to the man‘s sexual
All the brothers had it, but she only had eyes for Jacob.
The second oldest, Lance was a lawyer and Colton, the youngest,
mainly ran the ranch, but all boys took time to share the
responsibility, not that they needed the income. Their father
came from Texas and made money in oil, but sold out before the
price of oil dropped, which, rumour had it, set him for life. Then
he came north to buy the ranch and marry the ranch‘s former
owner‘s daughter who gave him three strapping sons.
Colton wasn‘t without talent either. He had some finance
degree from a fancy university somewhere. His main
responsibility was the ranch while Lance and Jacob worked in
town. However, they made decisions together on how it was run.
It seemed like each one of the boys had brains besides brawn.
I‘m looking for your father. He finally said guiding his
eyes around the room.
She took that opportunity to secretly slide her eyes over
his body. He wasn‘t the only one that was unsettled. The man‘s
presence always made her feel so disturbed, but not in a bad way.
In fact she was beyond elated that he was there, but she couldn‘t
help but also feel vulnerable, especially when the air surrounding
her seemed to heat up a few degrees at his presence. Not only
that, he caught her playing. It was something that she always
kept intimately to herself. She took a deep breath and tried to
steady her voice the best she could. He had to go to town to get
Switching his gaze back to her he nodded, My top mare
is in labour.
Every time his eyes settled on her she felt a twinge in her
chest. Sometimes she wished he wasn‘t so darn handsome,
because that had to be hard on her heart. Either it galloped,
I’ll probably need a
stopped or ached.
, she thought,
pacemaker before I reach twenty-five.
It didn‘t help that he had nice eyes either. They were a light
honey brown with a dark ring around the iris and framed with
really thick black lashes. Those alone made her blood warm
when he landed them on hers. Combine that with his dimpled
smile and she was hopelessly spellbound. Oh? she finally said
understanding his concern about his mare and feeling stupid for
the pause while she admired him. More and more she found
herself feeling silly at the way she acted around him. Thankfully
he didn‘t seem to notice. It was probably because all women
acted like that around him and he honestly thought it was just
part of her gender.
Can you leave a note for your father and come and give
us a hand. I don‘t anticipate a problem, but just in case.
It was no secret that she helped out her father and
probably knew more than her fair share of veterinary medicine,
but she didn‘t quite feel as confident as him and she never did it
alone. Although it thrilled her that he had that much faith in her,
she still felt a little uneasy. What if something were to go wrong?
She could never forgive herself for not being able to help Jacob or
the mare. She was about to protest when he spoke again.
I‘d feel better Tess. He said in that deep timbre he
possessed sensing her uncertainty.
The sound of her name on his tongue made her knees go
weak. How could she possibly refuse that? Slowly she nodded
and set down her violin, Okay then, I‘ll leave him a note like you
said. Her hand went to her stomach for a moment. Bending
over and straightening started that dull ache just below her gut
again. It had started when she got up that morning and it had
been awhile since she had the stomach flu, and she really didn‘t
want it right now.
What‘s wrong? he took a step forward concern etching
his handsome face.
She held up her hand, It‘s nothing. I just have a touch of
the stomach flu. But I‘ll be fine. I don‘t have a fever or anything,
just a bit of mild pain.
When did it start? his dark brows lifted in question.
She shrugged, This morning, but nothing Tylenol can‘t
cure. She straightened and gave him a sly look, Quit being a
doctor for a few minutes Jacob. I‘m fine. Although she had to
admit, his concern made her feel warmth stir in her belly despite
the pain. Even though he was a physician and it was his
profession, it still made her feel good that he was concerned for
He looked doubtful, Maybe we should—
No— she interrupted with a smile trying to squash his
worry knowing that he was going to ask her not to go with him, to
rest instead, but she hadn‘t seen him in what seemed like months
and really wanted to be with him for a few minutes. The man was
like the pied piper with women trailing along after him and he
was always with one woman or another, but this time she could
have him all to herself. The dull ache in her abdomen could be
ignored just to do that.
He stopped, If you feel you can. He said hesitantly
casting her a suspicious look, I really don‘t want to put you out
Put her out? Good lord, what any woman would give just
to spend a few moments alone with such a man. Not a chance
and I feel I can. She forcing another smile hoping he didn‘t
notice. Thankfully he didn‘t seem to.
The ride to the ranch was only a few miles because the
house they lived in was on the land itself. The Hartley‘s paid her
father a healthy wage besides the living arrangement. And it was
by no means a shack. It was a sprawling ranch house with four
bedrooms, five bathrooms and a large study for her father to
work out of. Of course it was no comparison to the southern
style mansion that the Hartley‘s had, but she loved it regardless.
Her father used to work in a fancy vet clinic down south, but
after he married her mother they moved north and settled into a
relaxed life. Tess was born shortly after and had never been out
of Sulphur Springs, but she didn‘t care, she loved it there.
How old are you now?
Tess turned to look at him. Jacob wasn‘t one for
conversation and this question took her by surprise. Personal
questions weren‘t in his vocabulary, she was sure of it. Usually
they talked horses when they were alone and sometimes he‘d
tease her, but his expression usually held a glint of mischief when
he did. However, as he focused on the road she didn‘t see
anything that would indicate her that he was. Twenty one. She
He flicked her a glance as he fished for a cigarette out of
his pocket and lit it. Taking a long draw off it he answered her. I
was just wondering after hearing you play a moment ago why you
never did anything with your life and that talent.
He thought she was talented? She swore her heart
stopped for a moment at that statement. All she could do was try
and shrug indifferently, I‘m really not that good.
That‘s a lie Tess. He gave her a knowing look causing
her to blush. In fact I didn‘t realize how good you were. I knew
you played and your dad told me how good you were, but I just
summed it up to a father‘s prejudice.
This time she managed a shy smile, Thanks. If Jacob
was going to give her a compliment she certainly wasn‘t going to
He pulled the Ranch truck up to one of three long
sprawling stable buildings just as Tom, his lead hand came
It‘s fine boss, Angel wings just had herself a healthy
colt. He grinned, Hi Tess. He said as his eyes guided over the
Hi Tom. Is he up yet? she smiled.
Yes, and suckling like a contented kitten. You look good
honey. He said genuinely.
Tom was handsome and only a few years older than her,
and always flattering her in one way or another, but she honestly
didn‘t think about him that way because she was to o infatuated
with Jacob. He also had some sort of degree in animal
husbandry which is why he was young, but in charge of the best
Jacob narrowed his eyes on him, I don‘t pay you to flirt,
get back and tend to the mare.
Tom snapped his mouth shut and gave Jacob an odd look,
Yes sir. He turned and trotted back into the stables.
After he watched Tom disappear back into the stables, he
turned to Tess, with complete intentions of telling her not to get
too attached to Tom, when there was a look across her face he
instantly recognized. It was the look of someone in pain. Then
she confirmed his thoughts by bending forward clutching her
abdomen, Tess—what is it?
It‘s my side. She inhaled deeply as a shard of pain shot
When did this start? he said with building concern,
I don‘t know. Last night I think? She reluctantly
admitted. She winced as another pain took hold
Did it start near your stomach? he noticed she was
clutching her right side.
No. It was always in my side, but I thought—
Flu, my ass! he said and shifted the truck into gear and
tore up gravel as he swung the truck around.
Where are we going?
The hospital. He said gunning the accelerator.
She let out a groan of pain and bent forward, Why?
That‘s not the flu from the way you‘re clutching your
right flank. It‘s your appendix. I should have been more
insistent. He swore under his breath. As a physician he knew
about that sixth sense when something didn‘t fit right, and it
went off when she first bent over at her house, but he listened to
her downplay it and he knew now he shouldn‘t have ignored it.
Oh God Jacob, It hurts! It felt as if someone started
twisting a hot knife in her side.
, he thought.
Just my luck she probably
ruptured from the look of her
. His eyes flicked over her face.
We‘ll be there soon Tess. Stay strong. He may have sounded
calm but from that quick glance he saw the pale skin, the sweat
now beading on her brow, and the immense pain reflected on her
taut expression, he was beyond worried. This was serious.
That was the last thing she heard before another cramp
hit her, that was so painful she fell over and blacked out.
Jacob swore as she slumped over in the seat beside him,
Hang on honey. He could pull the truck over and tend to her,
but if it had ruptured he could be costing her precious time.
Absently he placed a hand on her cheek, Stay with me. We‘ll be
another ten minutes. Don‘t you dare die on me! He said raising
his voice as if it would penetrate her consciousness.
Tess came around enough to hear Jacob arguing with the
Emergency doctor. It was something about getting her in the OR
without confirming the blood tests and listing her symptoms. It
took her a moment before she recognized his voice because he
sounded furious. She hadn‘t ever heard him take that tone with
anyone before in her life. Finally the doctor relented and told a
nurse to call the OR staff in.
Next time she came to, her father was standing beside her
pale with a worried expression. It took her a moment to realize
that she was lying down in a bed and another few seconds to
remember where she was. Her memories seemed distant and
blurry. An image flashed in her head of Jacob assaulting another
man by gripping him around the throat and shaking him like a
rag doll while yelling at him.
Wow, what crazy dreams
thought. Jacob was a large strong man, but by no means could
he ever do such a thing.
Seeing her eyes flutter open Chuck leaned over and kissed
her forehead, Hey baby, welcome back.
Dad? What happened? she managed in a hoarse
whisper, and winced at the dryness there, My throat hurts.
They had to put a tube in your throat for the surgery.
Surgery? her eyes widened, What? Where‘s Jacob?
she finally remembered that she was talking to him in the truck
and now she was in the hospital. She needed some answers.
One question at a time baby. He chuckled, First, you
had a ruptured appendix. Jacob caught it before it was too late.
The surgeon says that you were very lucky. It could have killed
you. He said trying to hide his fear from his daughter. The
thought of losing Tess was terrifying. He was thankful for Jacob
when he got a hold of Colton and told him to find him to bring
him to the hospital and why, because in his panic there was no
way he could have driven there.
Well that explains the pain in my abdomen. She
murmured thinking that it must‘ve taken Jacob by surprise. She
expected him to show up and give her hell over ignoring her
symptoms any minute. Still she couldn‘t help but think that it
probably worried him.
You have a small incision. The surgeon says you need to
stay here for a few days. Thanks to Jacob they caught it before
you went septic. He took a shaky breath, Honey, you scared me
half to death. If Jacob hadn‘t come to get you, chances are I
would have found you dead on the floor.
Sorry. She managed a smile trying to reassure the older
man whose expression paled further with his confession.
You should be. He managed to tease despite feeling like
his insides being in turmoil at coming close to losing her. He
loved his daughter more than his own life and this was too close
to the feeling of losing his wife. When Colton found him, he had
almost come undone with the news until he reassured him that
according to Jacob she would be fine.
Where‘s Jacob? she asked again and blinked a couple of
times to focus and looked around the room.
He‘s talking to the surgeon. I guess he knows the man.
He‘ll be in later. You frightened him.
I did? Now that was surprising. Jacob was a doctor and
she was sure he had his share of emergencies. She suspected that
he was worried but not frightened. She didn‘t think it was
possible to frighten a man like Jacob.
You passed out on him in the truck.
Is that what happened? I only remember bits and
pieces. She adjusted herself and winced in pain. ouch!
Lay still honey. I don‘t want you hurting yourself.
A nurse came in at that moment, Mr. Taylor, we need
you to sign some papers. She gave Tess a smile.
Of course. He spared the nurse a glance before looking
back at his daughter, Stay in bed. I won‘t be too long.
Okay dad. She gave him another sympathetic smile
after the look of concern he gave her before he left. She knew
this must‘ve hit him hard so she downplayed it quite a bit. She
was actually still in a lot of pain, but her father was worried
enough. Then she shut her eyes for a bit before the sound of the
door opening brought them open again.
Turning her head toward it, she saw Jacob just outside
the door shaking hands with a man in OR scrubs that could only
be her surgeon. He was pushing the door open as he was saying
his thanks. Then he walked in and shut the door behind him
seeing her eyes on him he actually smiled at her. Instantly the
pain was forgotten and her stomach started to flip over. The man
could bring any woman to their knees with such a smile.
If you wanted my attention, you certainly got it. He said
reaching over and rubbing the skin of her forearm affectionately.
Despite how groggy she felt, her senses seemed to come
alive with his touch and that handsome smile. And gosh, he
looked so tall while she lay in the bed. And what did that mean?
Did he know how she felt?
Don‘t look so worried tidbit. He said misunderstanding
her expression and taking the seat that her father occupied only
moments ago. You‘re fine—now.
She breathed a sigh of relief that he misinterpreted her
look of apprehension. She didn‘t think she could bear if he knew
how she felt, because she knew it would never get returned
beyond brotherly affection. Of course. Thanks for saving my
life. I guess that means I owe you.
I‘ll think of payment later. He teased, but she noticed it
didn‘t reach his eyes. He genuinely looked worried. How are
Groggy and my abdomen hurts. She admitted causing
his smile to widen to a grin. There went her heart again.
It‘s nice to know that you‘re being honest this time.
She gave him a mock frown, H ey, I knew you would
make me stay home and rest if I confessed that it hurt more than
I let on and I know this foal meant a lot to you. Not only that
Jacob, if it wasn‘t for that, I‘d be—
He interrupted her by lifting his hand, I‘ll get you
something for the pain. He stood to leave. He couldn‘t bear to
think what would happen if he‘d left her at the house.
No please, can you just sit here for a moment. At least
until Dad comes back? She knew it was bold but she honestly
didn‘t want to be alone.
He nodded and took the seat again, You‘re sure?
I don‘t like hospitals. They seem so sterile. And they
smell funny. She said wrinkling her nose. Tess liked the
openness of the country, the smell of the woods and the rolling
pastures that she was accustomed too. The only other time she‘d
been in a hospital was her birth.
She looked at him and noticed the seriousness of his
expression and he leaned forward in the chair and asked her why
so she told him. After a moment of him just staring at her nearly
causing her heart to pound out of her chest he said something
I could take you home for a few days and look after you
myself Tess. It would be your comfort zone and you would heal
What did he just say? She blinked a couple of times
unable to find the words to answer him.
Don‘t look so surprised. I am a doctor, I think I can
manage a little girl he gave her a heart stopping grin.
Little girl? Whatever hope she felt just got crushed at that
What? he said with a teasing smile when she didn‘t
respond, You don‘t think I can? I assure you, I‘m the best
No, it‘s not that. Whoops, she let it slip before she could
stop it at the slightest degree of giving away her feelings for him.
Staying at his house with him was too intimate for her, even for a
couple of days so she could recover. She had trouble working in
his clinic so how was she going to cope with this, even if the other
two brothers were there?
Then what is it?
She stumbled for an answer to cover her slip, You work
It‘s the weekend. You‘ll be back on your feet by Monday.
I‘m sure I can handle a couple of days looking after one patient.
Oh how she wished he would elaborate on what that
meant, but really she already knew. It was because he had
always seen her as the little girl of his veterinarian and because of
that he had a bit of a soft spot for her, Your mare just foaled—
—quit making excuses Tess. He interrupted and
narrowed his gaze, From the sounds of it you‘d think that you
were afraid of me.
Only if he knew why. No, she quickly defended, I just
know you have other responsibilities.
Tess, you came out to help me out as a friend and ended
up having acute appendicitis—a ruptured appendix I might add.
I feel a little responsible. Now do me a favour and help me ease
my conscience. He stood as the door opened and her father
came back in, I‘ll be back with something for pain. He nodded
to her father as he left.
Friend? She sighed out loud. She should know better.
Jacob would never settle down even if he was hopelessly in love
with her, which he certainly wasn‘t. He was his own person and
didn‘t like to stop and have someone else to set the pace for him.
Her eyes scanned down his backside as he left. He was positively
sinful in jeans too. His legs were long and muscular and there
wasn‘t another man she knew that could fill out denim like that
one. She stared at the closed door that he just went through. It
was obvious to Tess that she irritated him and she felt bad about
that. Although she was grateful for what he‘d done, she really
didn‘t think that she could deal with staying in his house even if
Lance and Colt were about.
He‘s feeling guilty. Said her dad after he left drawing
What on earth for, he saved my life. Besides, She
added, I don‘t think he‘s capable of that.
Chuck grinned, No? she shook her head, Normally no,
but this is you honey.
What does that mean?
He raised his brows, It means, he cares about you Tess.
It‘s quite obvious.
Jacob doesn‘t care about anyone the way you think. He‘s
just feeling responsible as with all of his patients and he‘s doing
what he was trained to do. She said almost absently.
Do you believe that?
I just see how he acts toward people most times.
Does he know how you feel about him Tess?
What? She said wincing in pain because she actually
moved to sit up. When she realized it hurt too much she laid
Take it easy Tess. He scolded right before he gave her
an amused smile at her abrupt denial.
I would if you didn‘t say such things. She flustered.
He reached out and squeezed her shoulder, Honey a
father would have to be stupid and blind not to see when his
daughter is interested in a man. Especially when you have half
the town of single boys chasing you and you‘re not the least bit
interested. He wanted to add that the prolonged stare she gave
the man when he was leaving the room was another indication,
but he already knew she was embarrassed.
That‘s not true! she tried denying but her father just
gave her an amused look. Then she realized she was caught, Oh
for gosh sakes!
He resisted chuckling at her discomfort. He‘d been aware
of this for a few years now. There was no mistaking how she
looked at Jacob despite not seeing Jacob look at Tess the same
way. Even though he wasn‘t sure if he was the best man for his
daughter because of his busy life and abundant of women that
always seemed to be around him, he did admire him because he
was honourable and honest. Also, he always thought he was way
too worldly for a small town gal like Tess. However, he wasn‘t
one to interfere in Tess‘s love life no matter what. He‘d raised
her to be independent and responsible enough to make her own
choices. If she made wrong choices he would support her but he
needed to give her room to grow as hard as it was for him to do
that. It‘s very true. Now, have you told him?
She slumped in defeat, No.
Are you going to?
Her eyes shot wide, No—and Dad, don‘t you either. I‘ll
never live this down.
I won‘t. he said after a pause, But, honey, that man
does care about you. Maybe if you told him things would be
different. He needs some love in his life, and quite frankly,
you‘re perfect. Whether or not he thought that Jacob was good
for Tess, she would certainly be good for him. He‘d been working
for the Hartley‘s for more than twenty years and not once had he
seen Jacob with a steady girlfriend. Maybe it was about time that
he had one. If anyone could get through to Jacob it was Tess.
Whether she realized it or not, she was the closest female to him.
You‘re just saying that because I‘m your daughter. She
offered, He‘s a physician, he‘s supposed to care about people
that way. We already discussed this.
Just then Jacob came back in with a syringe as Chuck was
going to argue with his daughter about her ideas, but maybe this
wasn‘t the time. Tess mouthed the words =don‘t tell‘ and he
grinned down at her.
Then he noticed something different in the man‘s
expression as his eyes settled on his daughter. Jacob did look at
Tess with more than genuine concern, and obviously neither one
of them noticed that—yet. Maybe this scare made him realized
some things. If he let it be, maybe things would fall into place.
Jacob may have been one of the two town doctors who had a
caring profession, but when it came to people outside of his clinic
and involved business, he could be a really hard to deal with.
However, he always treated Tess as if she was special. Not that
she wasn‘t, she was, but this was a father‘s opinion of his
daughter. He hid his smile and excused himself saying he
needed a cup of coffee to calm his nerves. Maybe if he let them
alone more, fate would work its magic.
She released a breath of relief when her father left. He
was never one to pull punches and she wouldn‘t put it past him
to tell Jacob how she felt, but if he didn‘t then, he probably
wouldn‘t say anything at all. Hopefully she was right because
she‘d just die if her father let out her little secret. Then her eyes
guided to the object in Jacob‘s hands, What do you think you‘re
? Tess‘s eyes darted from the large needle then to
Jacob with wide eyes.
He managed a smile of reassurance, It‘s going in the line,
not you. So don‘t worry. He flicked her an amused look before
lifting the I.V. line and after swiping a port with an alcohol swab,
injected the contents. I know you‘re
afraid of a little needle.
That is not
and what is in that? she asked as he
finished injecting the contents.
Morphine. He let his smile get bigger, You should be
feeling it about—
That‘s the last of what she heard before her eyes closed
and she was asleep.
Jacob smiled as the familiar rhythm of deep sleep could
be heard from her. He reached out to push a stray lock of hair off
her face, but paused for a moment. Then slowly and deliberately
he shifted direction and ran two fingers down one of her smooth
cheeks while his eyes roamed over her face. There was no doubt
that Tess was beautiful. Her mother was beautiful, so he
expected as much, but the more she grew into a woman the more
he found himself looking at her. If she was a little older, and
maybe he a little younger, he might consider something with her.
Even so, he was thirty four and she was twenty one and he hadn‘t
ever seen her with a man, which he concluded made her very
inexperienced, maybe even virginal and not the type of woman
he got involved with. His eyes continued to study her knowing
that when she finally gave herself to a man, she would have to be
in love with him. That was the way Tess was. Yet, she was also
painfully naïve and he hoped that she didn‘t fall for the first man
that paid her attention, like Tom. He felt his eyes narrow
remembering the day before when he saw the interest in his lead
hand‘s eyes when he laid them on Tess. It made him feel very
possessive. Something he could never brag about with another
woman, but this was Tess and she was special to them—to him.
His terse response actually surprised him when he barked at
Tom. His men were usually used to his authority, but this was
over something entirely different.
Absently he ran a rough finger across her bottom lip. Her
lips were as if sculpted from velvet stone. They were pouty,
perfectly formed and as soft as warm velvet. It was a perfectly
Abruptly he lifted his hand and placed it on the bedrail
still looking down at her. He shouldn‘t touch her without her
knowledge. First she wasn‘t used to a man‘s attention and he had
no right to take advantage of her sedative state. Second, she
didn‘t belong to him.
Both of his brothers and he were protective of her.
Probably because they watched her grow up, but somewhere
along the way he stopped thinking of her as a little girl and
crossed that invisible line of propriety when he let his thoughts
wander. Hell, anyone would. She had the face of a fashion
model with those thick lashes, high cheekbones and creamy skin.
She was about five four so he stood a full head taller than she did
making her a little shorter than the women he dated but she was
more nicely put together. She had a perfect hourglass figure with
a tiny waist and nicely rounded hips that could turn any pair of
jeans into a man magnet even if her face was hidden from view.
Her breasts were round, pert and he knew from his experience
with women that they would fill his hands nicely. Her waist
length hair was a treat too. He‘d always been partial to blondes
but compared to the women he dated, Tess‘s color was actually
natural and streaked lighter by the sun. After that brief touch a
moment ago, he found out it was as soft as he‘d always thought it
was. Then there was her personality. She was fun to be around,
kind and intelligent. Truth be told, if he fathomed the perfect
woman for him, it would be Tess.
His name on her lips startled him. After a brief moment
he realized she was still sleeping. Here he was memorizing every
inch of her without realizing that she may wake up. At the time
she said it his eyes were on the soft mounds of her breasts
without realizing it. It wouldn‘t have embarrassed him to be
caught admiring her, but she certainly would. He arrogantly
knew how appealing he was to the opposite sex with good reason
so when he admired a woman the way he was admiring Tess it
was always well received. He never had a shortage of women
around him or in his bed when he had certain needs to be
satisfied. However Tess wasn‘t like those women, so he was
more careful around her.
Only if she knew how much time he devoted to studying and
memorizing her exquisite form, he was certain she would be
mortified. Still he couldn‘t help but like the way she said his
name in that sleepy way. Imagine waking up next to that sultry
He ran a hand through his thick black hair and finally
turned away with a curse for even thinking that. Tess wasn‘t his
type. She was sweet and he could easily find himself falling for
her. He dated her exact opposite for a reason, so he wouldn‘t get
emotionally attached. It wasn‘t as if something had happened to
him with a woman, he just didn‘t like complications and getting
emotionally involved was definitely a complication. He liked his
life and he liked being in co ntrol of it. Falling for a woman like
Tess would take his control away.
I like my life
, he thought to
himself as if it was going to convince him.
The next morning a nurse wheeled Tess out to the ranch
truck at the front entrance where Jacob was waiting.
You were serious about this? She said trying not to let
the sight of him leaning lazily against his truck affect her. Then
he grinned when he saw her and straightened himself to open the
passenger door. Her poor heart probably had so much stress
that it was equal to that of an eighty year old woman‘s the way it
kept beating around him and she doubted very much she could
stand after that welcoming grin.
Very. He opened the door, Get in—carefully and
Okay. She didn‘t pro test when he reached down and
helped her out of the chair because of how her knees felt. The
nurse actually moved to help her but he held his hand up to stop
her, I got this. He said and got her settled in the passenger side.
Even though his touch made her nervous, she liked it. She swore
that this tender side of him wasn‘t seen often, but she chalked it
up to him feeling guilty about her condition. He shouldn‘t. He
really did save her life, but no amount of reassurance was going
to change his mind. She knew that much about him.
After he shut the door she noticed the nurse hand him a
piece of paper. Pursing her lips, she released a frustrated breath
through her nose, another fan no less. Obviously that was her
phone number. She couldn‘t help but get irritated because the
woman never even considered that they were together and had
the nerve to do that with her sitting there watching.
When he got in, she just asked him, That was her phone
number wasn‘t it?
He spared her a glance as he crumpled up the piece of
paper and tossed it in the ashtray without a second thought,
She was really pretty. She said looking at the crumpled
paper wondering if that is how he‘d treat hers if she offered
herself like that. No, she thought after a moment, Jacob did
genuinely care about her.
They usually are. He said with an unreadable
expression as he shifted the truck into gear and drove away from
What does that mean? she asked. The nurse was pretty,
but Jacob acted like she was no more than wallpaper.
He gave her a sideways glance, Tess, I‘m sure I don‘t
need to explain that to you. Yet when she still stared at him
with a puzzled look, obviously he was wrong. He resisted smiling
at her refreshing innocence while he explained. Women like
that, chase me because I‘m a doctor. I don‘t date nurses.
She wanted to point out that he was sexy, gorgeous and
gave off the air of a sexual master and maybe that‘s why they
chased him. After all of that, the doctor thing was just a bonus.
Do you have a boyfriend? he asked offhandedly as he
turned off the highway down the country road that led home.
What? she said swinging her head toward him in
He chuckled, You know, a human being that sports a
gender difference from a female.
She blushed furiously, I heard you.
No. I really don‘t date. she answered looking at him.
Then she saw something odd reach his eyes, but it was gone
before she could study it.
Why not? He gave her a curious glance, You‘re awfully
pretty Tess. I know you look after your father, but you need to
find time for yourself too.
I do. She defended trying to ignore the compliment
knowing he was just trying to make her feel better, I have
Dating? he hedged. For some reason he couldn‘t‘ let it
be. She must‘ve had at least one date in her life. It wouldn‘t be
possible that she was never asked out looking the way she did.
No, I haven‘t actually. This conversation was way to
intimate for her and why didn‘t he believe her?
You know after you left the clinic, every single male
patient from four to forty was asking about you.
This time she must‘ve blushed to her toes.
It just didn‘t seem the same after you left. He said as his
eyes studied her face.
I had to go back to school, she defended almost too
Was that it? he said in a tone that sounded like he
She turned to face him, What does that mean? she said
referring to his suspicious tone of voice.
He shrugged, I offered you a job there again the next
summer and you didn‘t take it.
My dad needed me to help him. She lied.
That‘s horseshit Tess and you know it.
Jacob— she never heard him talk like that. Being blunt
wasn‘t the problem, but the undertone of harshness was.
Linda is going on maternity leave next week, so I
wouldn‘t mind if you came back to work for me. His eyes roved
to her mouth, I can trust you not to make a pass at me so it
would be better if I hired you than spend endless hours
interviewing another woman. Not only that, but you know the
job. He was being pushy and couldn‘t help himself. After this
incident he wanted her close to him for the next while so he could
keep an eye on her. At least that‘s what he told himself.
Tess knew he wasn‘t being conceited at all with that
statement. He had hired women in the past and they tried
desperately to come on to him. I don‘t know Jacob. Dad might
Your dad has the help of at least twelve men I employ at
the ranch who all have experience with horses. He cas t her an
annoyed look, Again with the excuses.
She couldn‘t come up with another reason after that
except to blurt out,
I’m in love with you and it hurts too much to
be near you and deny it.
Let me talk to dad and I‘ll get back to
you. She finally said unable to handle him being upset with her.
Good. he said as he pulled down the drive to the ranch
with his spirits picking up at her agreement. It‘s not like he gave
her much of a choice, but he wasn‘t above manipulation to get
what he wanted and having Tess close for the summer was what
Jacob returned his attention to the road. They‘d been on
their land for the last ten minutes. He and his brothers owned
over fifteen thousand acres. I had Marie make up one of the
spare rooms. I‘ll help you get settled before I go and see how
Angel is doing.
I can manage.
I already told you I was going to look after you Tess.
Don‘t argue. He said sternly.
The tone of his voice made her stomach do a little flip.
She wished she could blame it on the drugs they‘d given her for
the uncomfortable ride home on the country road, but it would
have been a lie. It almost seemed possessively affectionate, but
she knew better. Jacob wasn‘t affectionate with anyone. As a
doctor, he did care about people, but on a personal level his
affection was locked up as tight as fort Knox. She knew he was
only being this way because he felt guilty and maybe he did have
bit of a soft spot for her, but she knew better then to read
anything into it.
He pulled the truck up to the front porch of the house, cut
the engine and quickly got out to walk around and open her door
before she tried to do it on her own, Maybe I should carry you.
He furrowed his brow looking at her pale skin.
I can manage. She defended quickly. She wasn‘t quite
sure if she could, but if he took her in his arms she would most
certainly pass out.
Suit yourself. He said taking her arm despite her words,
But if you sway even a little, I‘m doing just that.
I won’t sway
please don’t let me
, she thought to herself,
. It surprised her that she didn‘t. He escorted her carefully
up the stairs and into the bedroom and guided her to the bed
only releasing her to open the curtains to let some light in. She
sat down on the mattress with an inward sigh because she
managed to stay steady even though he‘d had his hand on her the
whole time. It made her wonder if her weakness was from her
recent surgery or his touch.
Your dad brought a bag of your belongings over last
night. Marie put them in the dresser. He nodded toward it. do
you need help getting your clothes off?
Her eyes flew wide, Jacob!
Give me a break Tess. I‘ll get Maria to help you. Then
he let his eyes drop to her mouth again before locking gazes with
hers, But you do remember I am a physician, I have seen a
naked female body before. He said with a glint of amusement in
In more ways than one, she was sure. Even now as he
gave her a lopsided grin she felt her insides quiver and she was
sure he‘d seen more women naked outside of his practice than in
it. He probably learned Anatomy by Braille in med school. Not
mine. She defended, I know you too well. She couldn‘t help
but flush, I don‘t feel comfortable letting you see me that way.
Then something odd came over his expression that she couldn‘t
quite read. It was the same look he gave her moments ago in the
He knew as soon as he opened his mouth that he
shouldn‘t have said that. It was bordering on flirtatio n and Tess
was off limits. How‘s the pain? he said changing the subject
pretending to look at something outside so she couldn‘t‘ see the
desire in his eyes.
It‘s more of an ache than a pain, but I‘ll be fine. She
lied, No more drugs. They make me feel funny. He had thrust
his hands into the pockets of his jeans and it caused that fabric to
be taut across his front. Why she felt the pull to look there, she‘ll
never know, but it was obvious to her why he never had a
shortage of woman after him. Quickly she shot her eyes back up
to his just to see that he had glanced away to something outside
the window. She was silently thanking God that she didn‘t get
caught staring at the male part of him.
As long as you sleep all right, I won‘t. he said after a
moment and nodded to the open door, My room is across the
hall. Just yell if you need anything tonight. I‘ll bring you a liquid
supper but I want you to stay in bed.
His expression suddenly seemed serious and she
wondered if she irritated him again. Liquid?
After surgery, your body goes int o shock and it takes
time for the digestive system to recover. If you handle broth well,
I‘ll let you progress onto something more.
Sure thing Doc. She couldn‘t help but tease.
Before she knew what was happening he bent over and
actually kissed her forehead, Get some rest Tess, I‘ll be back
before supper. He said softly before he stood erect and walked
out of the room without a backwards glance. She brought her
hand to the spot his mouth had touched after he closed the door
to her room. Never had Jacob been so attentive to her. He was
always cordial, but not affectionate. Whatever the reason, she
knew it wouldn‘t last when she began to feel better. Maybe he
was feeling some sort of guilt over not checking her out more
thoroughly like he wanted before she passed out on him like her
father said. Only if he knew how rapid her heart beat thudded in
her chest from that gesture, he would probably rush her back to
the hospital thinking she was getting an infection. Groaning she
stood up and hunched over slightly while walking to the dresser
and holding her side. She lied to him, she was in more pain than
a dull ache, but it wasn‘t as bad as it was the day before. She
didn‘t lie about how the drugs made her feel and she didn‘t like
to feel defenceless for anything. Pulling out her nightgown she
went back to the bed and slowly with careful movements as to
protect her side she changed and crawled under the covers. Soon
after, despite the pain, she fell asleep.
He‘s a beauty, ain‘t he Jacob? said Colt who was leaning
over the stall door admiring the new addition when Jacob
Jacob peered in, yeah. He‘s got great lines. The colt
was magnificent. He was dark chestnut with four white socks
and a white blaze down his face that ended at the soft velvet of
his nose. He was healthy and the future stud to his breeding
program. They had named him Landsdowne‘s Pride. He had
Chuck go over him in great detail the night before after they‘d left
the hospital and Tess sleeping sound from the drug he‘d given
her. It was his excuse to get away from her after he‘d practically
groped her while she was sleeping. He only touched her face, but
the guilt he‘d felt at that was enough.
How‘s Tess? he cast a glance at his older brother.
She‘ll live. He managed a bittersweet smile taking his
eyes from the stall.
Colt pulled out his package of smokes and offered his
older brother one. Here, it looks like you could use one. He said
seeing his expression.
Jacob nodded and took the smoke.
Is she in pain?
Yes, but she denies it. I‘ll let her suffer for a bit before I
give her something. It‘ll serve her right. He said with frustration
while fingering the cigarette between his long fingers.
She was always strong willed and stubborn. Colt said as
he lit his smoke leaving his eyes on his brother. He handed the
lighter to Jacob.
Yes she definitely is. He said taking the offered lighter
to light his own. After he took a long drag he looked back at Colt
with an expression of concern, She scared the shit out of me
when she passed out.
I bet. Can you imagine how Lance or I would‘ve handled
it? He shook his head, We would‘ve pulled over or something
and she would‘ve died. I shudder to think. Then there‘s poor
Chuck. He‘d have lost both women in his life. All I can say is
thank God it was you that went to get her yesterday.
Amen to that. I still felt useless when she passed out. He
admitted guiding his eyes back to the new addition on four shaky
legs inside the stall next to his prize mare.
Well, we‘re all close to her Jacob. Whether or not you‘d
admit it, you saved her life.
Yeah, I know I did. He finally agreed, It just seems
bittersweet in the way I reacted. He actually was almost frantic
over her and it surprised him. It seemed as if I was a fumbling
school boy. I should have diagnosed her sooner.
You are a good doctor Jacob. No one doubts that, but
like I said she‘s close to us and you let your emotions get in the
way. It makes sense that you‘d be worried. Either way she‘s fine
because of you.
I suppose. He answered after mulling over his brother‘s
words. It was true he cared about her. Usually he was abrupt but
professional with his patients, but this one he‘d actually brought
home. Not only that his temper got away from him at the
hospital. Just as he was thinking it Colt brought up that incident.
Is that ER Doc going to press charges after you
No, Lance went and talked to him already. Jacob
grinned arrogantly. The Doctor on call that day didn‘t want to let
her go to surgery until she had all sorts of tests done, but Jacob
knew she was in trouble and actually grabbed the man by the
throat until he agreed to call in the Operating room staff for
emergency surgery. According to the surgeon he‘ d done the right
thing. It helps to have a lawyer in the family.
In more ways than one. Colt actually started a bar fight
the week before last and Lance had to go soothe things over with
the owner and the two men he beat the snot out of. After
remembering that it was over a woman he grinned himself.
He‘s going to tire of defending us soon I‘m sure. Jacob
took a long draw off his cigarette.
Maybe, but for now I‘m making use of it. As for Tess, if
you see her before I do, tell her I‘ll be in to see her after supper.
I will. He said dousing his smoke with his boot as he left
the stable to head back toward the house.
Mr. Hartley, came Maria‘s accented voice as he walked
into the kitchen, I have the little one‘s broth. Did you want me
to take it?
No, I‘ll do it. he offered, I have to check on her anyway.
Just leave the tray on the hall table and I‘ll grab it on the way
All right then. She said as he turned and went to the
study to retrieve his stethoscope and draw up a syringe o f
morphine for her. Although she denied it earlier, he knew she
was hurting. He‘d seen the signs in patients many times before.
She was favouring her side and let a grimace of pain escape every
now and then, which she tried unsuccessfully to hide from him.
Not to mention the pale color of her complexion which was
usually creamy, pink and perfect.
As he thought she was curled up in a fetal position when
he entered after a brief knock, Are you ready for something for
the pain yet? he said with a knowing smile.
I already told you that stuff makes me feel funny. She
said trying to keep her face void of the discomfort she was
I won‘t give you as much. He bent and set the tray on
the bedside table. And from the look on your face you need it.
She really did, she thought and so much for trying to keep
it out of her expression. Obviously he knew. She sighed in defeat
and finally nodded.
Slide over Tess. When she did he sat on the bed beside
her and reached over picked up his stethoscope and unravelled it,
I need to listen to your chest and bowels before I give you
anything to eat. Seeing her worried expression he continued, I
won‘t have you undress, I can listen through your nightgown, it
isn‘t that thick of a material. She gave him an odd look but didn‘t
say anything. He knew what it was about. The nightgown was
made of cotton, but to him, it was thin, very thin and Jacob
couldn‘t help but notice the thrust of her breasts through it.
Swallowing hard he asked her to roll onto her left side and
placing one hand on her hip he used his other to press the
diaphragm of the stethoscope to certain spots along her back
while asking her to breathe deeply.
How‘s the new Colt? she tried distracting her body
from his touch.
Shush, he said softly, roll onto your back.
Wincing from the discomfort she did as he said praying to
God that he didn‘t notice the increased pace of her heart every
time he touched her. The stethoscope would even amplify her
Almost carefully Jacob guided the stethoscope over her
chest, over the healthy mounds of her breasts and under them.
Usually he took a more thorough exam but from what he heard,
her lungs were clear and he actually found himself reacting to
touching her. Without a word he lowered the stethoscope to her
belly and listened for bowel noises.
Tess didn‘t realize that she watched him so closely until
he lifted his eyes and locked them on hers. His expression was
, she thought,
that was it
. Then he
reached up and removed the earpieces.
It looks like you can eat something, but after your shot.
Give me your arm.
I don‘t like needles. She protested.
I‘ll be gentle. He said as he swabbed her arm with an
alcohol swab after feeling for the meaty part of her muscle. It‘s
this or you‘re back in the hospital for pain control. Also, I need
to look at that dressing later.
Oh God, she didn‘t think about that. He inserted the
needle gently and she barely felt it after hearing that. The
incision was quite low on her abdomen and that would mean
partially undressing for him.
But after you eat, and after the drug kicks in.
Hopefully she‘ll be out like last time he gave her a needle.
However it didn‘t turn out that way and she had to admit that he
was really good at giving medication because the pain was all but
gone. She was a little drowsy but not unconscious. She was even
able to finish off the broth without a problem. He came back after
about a half hour and told her to flatten out on the bed and lift
her nightgown so he could see the dressing. She managed to hide
most of her lower half with the blankets but it was obvious that
she was wearing white lacy panties. Then she noticed that he‘d
brought a fresh dressing with him and proceeded to change the
old one while examining the incision.
Jacob didn‘t miss the goose bumps that appeared on her
flat abdomen while his fingers brushed across her soft, warm
skin. Never in all of his life did he have a problem being
professional until that moment. Even seeing the low waistline of
her lacy panties and the flat belly caused him pause with the
desire to lean down and taste the flesh there. In the process, he
could run his hands under her bottom and lift her easily to his
mouth. Tearing his eyes away from that area he tried focusing
back on dressing.
Thankfully he had years of experience in keeping his
expression straight as he gently inspected and replaced the
dressing and it was a good thing he did because the images going
through his mind were definitely not professional.
Again he had thoughts of spanning his hands around that
tiny waist of hers to guide her movements while they made love.
Being as little as she was and as large as he was, he could easily
lift and move her into any position when he took her. She would
probably fit to his body perfectly. Chances were, with a body like
hers she‘d be very pliable and—he clamped his teeth together and
abruptly stopped the image in his head. Then he quickly pulled
her nightgown down and the blankets up to hide the temptation.
Tess wasn‘t sure if it was the drug working on her or the
tenderness that he displayed toward her that made her reach up
and touch his jaw with her fingers, Thanks Jacob. For
everything. His brown eyes darkened and his jaw clenched for a
moment as he just sat there and stared down at her. Slowly he
reached up and took that hand in his and placed it on her chest.
Get some rest Tess. I‘ll check on you later. He said in a
strained voice. With that he stood and abruptly left the room.
Thankfully she didn‘t think much beyond the haze that
she was in and fell asleep soon after.
On the second day, Tess awoke feeling almost as good as
new, and when Jacob stopped in to see her she told him as much.
Come down for breakfast then Tess, and we‘ll see. This
got him the first smile from her in days and he didn‘t realize how
much he missed that from her until she did. Put on some loose
pants and a t-shirt, don‘t wear that flimsy nightgown down to the
She looked down at her nightgown, What‘s wrong with
I can practically see through it and there‘s always half a
dozen employees in and out of the house throughout the day, all
male. he said tersely and left her without noticing the blush on
How could he think that? It was brand new, made of
warm cotton and covered her to her neck. Getting out of bed
carefully she pulled on a pair of stretchy yoga pants and a loose
cotton tank top before slowly making her way downstairs. She
met Colt in the hall to the dining room.
Hey imp! he said with a wide handsome grin, It‘s nice
to see you‘re feeling better. I stopped in last night to see you but
you were sawing logs and Jacob told me to leave you alone and
not to wake you.
Jacob? He did?
Yeah, he was sitting in the chair by the window reading.
He raised his brows at her puzzled expression, You didn‘t
She shook her head. Was he really? She wondered how
long he sat there and how insecure she now felt at him watching
her while she slept. It was then that she knew not to let him give
her any more medication to dull the aching. God, just thinking
about him in her room all night watching her, had her completely
Absently she reached out and touched the wall to steady
herself. It felt weird to be on her feet after a few days. Colt saw
her and quickly stepped forward to take her arm.
Did the Doc say you could get up? He said with concern.
Actually he did. She smiled at him as he led her toward
—And she can have some solid food. Said Jacob from
behind them nearly making her jump. —and let her go Colt. He
He shot his older brother an odd look before he released
If she can‘t walk on her own, she should be back in bed.
Then he contradicted himself by taking her arm and helping her
into the chair.
Is that so? Colt said with a grin flicking his brother an
amused look before taking the seat next to her. I‘m sure that
doesn‘t sit well with you.
Not one bit. She agreed causing him to chuckle.
Hey all. Said Lance as he came through the door and
paused long enough to kiss the top of Tess‘s head affectionately,
How are you feeling?
Thanks to Jacob, almost one hundred percent. She
admitted while grinning at him, I could probably go home
You can stay for a couple more days, Jacob said as he
took his seat at the head of the table not the least bit as happy as
she was. He had a restless night with images of her body under
his. Not only did it knock him completely off balance, he‘d never
had his dreams plagued by a woman before, Colt, say grace. He
added as Lance sat down.
The three boys bowed their heads but Tess just gaped at
Jacob as Colt said Grace. There was no mistaking that he was
moody, but somehow she got the feeling it was toward her. When
he was done she waited until Jacob lifted his head before she
spoke, Jacob, dad‘s at home.
He reached began putting food on his plate, Nothing
heavy like meat Tess, stick to the toast and eggs. He flicked a
glance at her, And to answer your question, its foaling season. If
you break open those sutures or get a secondary infection
chances are your father is going to be here, so I would feel better
if you were here. I have to return to work tomorrow, but Maria is
at least near in case something happens.
He has a good point Tess. Said Lance reaching for a
steak to go with his eggs.
Yeah, I agree. Said Colt.
She glanced around at the three of them, You three
seriously need a puppy to coddle, because I‘m feeling a little
That brought several bouts of laughter except from Jacob.
Regardless Tess, as your physician, I‘m ordering you to
stay here. He said firmly.
She rolled her eyes not the least bit affected by his
authority. She‘d known him too long, We‘ll see how well t hat
goes. She noticed the corner of his mouth twitch before he
removed his eyes from her and started to eat. Maybe he wasn‘t
upset with her as she originally thought and he did seem really
careful about her recovery. She came to the conclusion that it
was something else that irritated him.
Almost back to normal. Chuckled Colt remarking on her
At least let me get my violin. I haven‘t played it in three
It wouldn‘t hurt. I‘ll take you over there later. Said
Jacob, I‘ve got to run into town anyway.
As it turned out he stopped at his clinic to get some files
he needed to review for tomorrow while she waited in the truck,
and as he was coming back out was stopped by a gorgeous
socialite Tess recognized as Lindsay Scott. She couldn‘t hear
what was being said, but when the woman reached up and
smoothed her hands over his chest she wanted to scratch her
eyes out. Twice he glanced at her reflection in the side mirror as
the woman leaned in close to him and said something that got
one of those rare devilish grins she‘d witnessed before. It was a
grin that could melt an iceberg. Then he nodded at her, said
something Tess couldn‘t hear and left the woman standing there
with a sensual smile on her face as he got back in the truck.
Are you dating Lindsay? Tess couldn‘t help but ask.
He shot her a sideways glance as he started the truck,
No, not really. He said pulling out onto the street.
Leave it be Tess. He said curtly without looking at her
this time while making a left turn. He‘d set up some time with
her tonight because he was as horny as hell being around Tess
the last few days. He couldn‘t touch Tess, but he certainly could
take his sexual frustration out on Lindsay. She was experienced
and could satisfy him for awhile.
She knew that tone and had heard it many times. Now
she knew what he meant and felt her heart break. He wasn‘t
dating her, so it was probably something physical. After all, he
was a man in his prime and she was sure he had needs. Not only
that Lindsay Scott was beautiful. However, she didn‘t expect it to
bother her so much. She turned her head to look out the side
window so he couldn‘t see the pained expression on her face.
Regardless, he did and thankfully he misinterpreted it.
You need another shot. He said.
You lie terribly. When I get you home, I‘ll give you
enough to give you a good night‘s sleep.
This time she wouldn‘t argue. She needed to forget what
she‘d just seen and knew that she wouldn‘t sleep a wink.
Nope. She said solemnly.
He flicked a glance at her profile wondering if seeing him
with Lindsay bothered her. A part of him hoped it did and if it
did, he wished she would say something. Although he certainly
couldn‘t have a relationship with Tess, he was curious to know if
she was attracted to him. If she was, she hid it well. She always
seemed comfortable around him and never had a problem telling
him how she felt or asking a question if something bothered her,
but she never mentioned anything about her love life. Maybe
that‘s why he‘d been prodding her about it the past few days after
all, she was old enough to have a relationship of some kind. He
just didn‘t like the feeling that went through him every time he
thought of her with another man. Here he was taking Lindsay
out tonight so he could relieve some of his desire for Tess, yet he
found himself jealous thinking of Tess with a man other than
That word seemed so foreign to him. He didn‘t get
jealous. Well if it wasn‘t jealousy it sure left a sickly feeling in his
He shook his head. Time with Lindsay was sorely needed
or he was going to end up following through on his urges with the
young filly on the seat beside him.
Monday morning she heard him come in her room and
check on her. She was asleep soon after he‘d left on his date with
Lindsay the night before and woke up once in the night to use the
bathroom. Out of curiosity she checked the driveway from her
window to see if his truck was back and it wasn‘t. He did spend
the night with that other woman. She felt sick inside. Who was
she kidding? She couldn‘t compete with that. Lindsay was
striking and probably knew exactly what to do with a man like
Jacob. Obviously it took half the night too, because it was four in
the morning and he wasn‘t home yet.
She pretended to be asleep when he came in her room
because she couldn‘t look at him and not show that she was hurt
until he sat on the side of the bed and she felt his fingers on her
Tess. He said quietly.
Reluctantly she opened her eyes.
How did you sleep?‘
Really good actually. She lied and absently stretched
Jacob swallowed hard, and placed a piece of paper on her
bedside table, that‘s the direct line to my office just in case you
Did she ever need him. Thanks.
Use it okay. Don‘t pretend that nothing‘s wrong if you‘re
hurting. I‘ll tell Rita not to let you wait if you call.
I‘ll be fine Jacob. It only really hurts if I move. She
added with a teasing look to hide the vulnerability she felt.
Well, you have to move so pneumonia doesn‘t set in. I
want you to start taking walks outside during the day, but no
heavy lifting for at least four weeks. That means, He added with
a knowing look, No helping out your dad.
She groaned, I‘ll be useless for a month? then she
noticed a strange look come over his handsome face.
That is something you‘ll never be.
She blinked and just stared at him.
I mean, you always are useful to me in some way. So quit
feeling sorry for yourself. He gave her one of those sinful grins
she seen him give Lindsay the day before as he stood up and left
It wasn‘t until after she left that she felt her mouth
hanging open and she hoped to heaven that she didn‘t‘ gape
openly at him when he said that to her face. She could tell that
his irritation had vanished so obviously he‘d done something to
get rid of that building tension she‘d seen over the past few days.
Is that how it was with men if they went without sex? She really
wished she had a clue on how that operated so she could
understand Jacob more.
Colt was the only one at breakfast that morning because
Lance like Jacob, had eaten earlier and went to their other jobs in
town. She had been twisting her previous thoughts around in her
brain and after a friendly conversation with Colt she finally
decided that she would just ask.
Colt, if a man goes without sex does he get cranky?
Unfortunately Colt was in the middle of swallowing a bite
of toast and started to choke and cough.
Tess watched wide-eyed as he took a large gulp of coffee
hoping that he‘d be okay. Finally he set down his cup and
cleared his throat while setting his eyes on her.
Why on earth would you bring something like that up?
he asked, Tess, that‘s not something you should ask a man.
She shrugged trying to do her best to act casual, It‘s a
Not so simple when you ask a man. He said, Not only
that if I say yes then it makes us look shallow, if I say no, I‘d be
lying through my teeth, but you don‘t need to know these things.
I have no one else to ask. She said with exasperation,
My mother is gone, I have no female friends because they‘ve
mostly gone off to college and my life revolves around my father,
and this ranch. You three practically raised me.
there‘s Maria. He offered causing her to make a face.
Maria‘s so religious she‘d scold me for an hour if I ask
her that question.
Ask your doctor about sex. He suggested.
You‘re kidding right? Jacob has taken over that
responsibility from my regular physician. Knowing him, he‘d
think I was thinking about having sex. Look at the way he‘s been
acting lately. I can‘t hardly breathe without him telling me not to
Colt cleared his throat again knowing that was very true,
He feels guilty Tess. He said knowing it was only the partial
truth, but Jacob seemed to be having some conflicts of his own
over Tess, and neither he nor Lance would interfere.
I know, but he‘s going overboard. She sighed heavily,
and studied him for a moment, He had a date with Lindsay Scott
last night. She didn‘t know why she suddenly felt the need to
discuss what was bothering her, but she really didn‘t have any
close friends and she trusted Colt. She felt bad about putting him
that position, but she had no one else except Jacob, and this was
An expression of understanding came over Colt‘s face, I
She lowered her eyes, I‘m stupid.
He smirked, Now that‘s the most ridiculous thing I‘ve
ever heard. When she didn‘t look up he said her name softly
causing her to finally bring her eyes to his, look honey, we don‘t
choose who we love. God has his reasons for everything.
Don‘t tell him.
I promise. He said sincerely. Now back to your original
question now that I know what it‘s about. Lindsay is the type of
woman—well—she‘s willing—ah hell.
She raised her hand and couldn‘t help but release a laugh
at his embarrassment, Forget I asked.
No, I‘ll just put it a diff erent way. My point is honey, that
she doesn‘t hold a candle to you. Her surprised expression made
him chuckle, See, the fact that you don‘t even know that, just
increases your attractiveness. Now men can be rutting brutes,
I‘m not denying it, but women like you—a woman like you. He
corrected, Should never think that you aren‘t special because
you don‘t behave like Lindsay. He watched her expression
carefully, Tess, you are very intelligent and kind and if I didn‘t
think of you as a little sister, I‘d probably be starting a few bar
fights over you too. That got him a smile, But I do think of you
as a little sister and despite your misgivings, you are very
beautiful. If you knew how to use those gifts God gave you, you
could bring any man to their knees including my hard headed
She blushed, Thanks Colt, I think I really needed to hear
But— he added narrowing his gaze, —if anyone tries to
take advantage of you, I will knock a few of their teeth out.
She gave him a ravishing smile, that‘s so sweet! she said
causing him to burst into laughter.
The day seemed to drag by slowly after that. She did as
Jacob said and walked several times a day. He came home
around six in the afternoon and she was sitting on the porch
swing bored to her teeth.
Jacob set down his briefcase and sat beside her, How
was your day?
I‘m thinking of ways to kill myself. She said causing him
Watching a knitting competition would be more
He studied her for a moment, Did you eat yet?
No. she said bringing her gaze to his. God he looked so
handsome in his navy suit, white shirt and striped tie.
Tell you what. Go put on something pretty and I‘ll take
you out for supper.
She brightened up, Really? Then she narrowed her
gaze, You‘d better not be baiting me Jacob.
Never crossed my mind. He added with a sinful smile,
Let‘s just say it‘s time served for good behaviour.
Does that mean I can eat real food?
Yeah, I‘m starving for a steak.
He chuckled, That‘s what I like about you Tess. Any
other woman I take out to dinner would order salad, but you
want a steak.
A big, juicy grade A steak. She added with a smile then
she changed her expression to a humorous one, On second
thought, maybe a salad sized steak. Causing him to laugh again.
Go get changed. He patted her arm.
I‘m gone. She stood up and went into the house,
unaware that he watched the gentle sway of her backside and
shook his head.
Behave yourself Jacob. He said to himself as he stood,
retrieved his briefcase and went into the house.
Tess couldn‘t be more elated. They went to a popular
steakhouse in town and she felt a sense of pride as he placed the
hand on the small of her back while walking through the
restaurant and noticed that all female eyes lit on him then guided
to her. Who could blame them? Jacob was earth shattering
gorgeous, tall, and even walked with a sense of confident
elegance. He made her feel like she was the only woman on earth
and that she was totally adored by him.
No wonder why he had
his choice of women like Lindsay,
if they all felt this
way around him.
To her surprise, he‘d changed into a dark gray suit and
looked incredibly handsome and deep down she fantasized that it
was a real date even though he was just feeling sorry for her.
He pulled out the chair for her and sat opposite. Do you
want some wine?
Yes. He told the waiter when he came to the table. Then
he turned his attention back to Tess, You look very pretty Tess.
Thanks. She said bashfully.
You certainly don‘t look like the girl I took to the ER four
days ago on death‘s door.
I wasn‘t. she said with a surprised expression, I was
with you. I had no chance on dying.
You do wonders for a man‘s ego. He grinned.
Just then a familiar sight caught her attention and she
looked past him, Oh.
What is it?
Your—er— she didn‘t know how to say it, Lindsay‘s
With that he turned and looked over his shoulder.
Lindsay had spotted them and started toward their table.
Tess felt better seeing that she had another man with her, but it
didn‘t last. She gave Tess a look of distaste that Jacob didn‘t see
before she addressed him.
I called you this evening. She smiled down at him.
Tess felt angry. The woman flipped expressions so
quickly she could give lessons and it was obvious that she wasn‘t
going to let Jacob see her displeasure at being out with another
Did you? he said casually.
Yes, but your cook said you were out.
He cast a glance to Tess, I am.
Tess noticed that he didn‘t seem to be the least bit
bothered by Lindsay‘s appearance or her insinuations, but then
again she was sure he was used to woman throwing themselves at
him and was immune to their tactics. Lindsay then turned her
attention to Tess, I remember you. Didn‘t you work at the clinic
one summer? Theressa—isn‘t it? she said so sweetly that Tess
Tess. She corrected knowing the woman knew her
name. And I did work at the clinic.
She turned back to Jacob, I thought she looked familiar
Tess is a friend. He answered missing Tess‘s sinking
I see. she added looking at the younger woman again
before guiding her eyes back to him, I forgot to thank you for
last night darling. She said while playing with the lapel of his
For the first time Tess noticed a look of disapproval pass
over Jacob‘s expression.
Why don‘t you come by the office next week around noon
and we‘ll have lunch. He finally said.
Lindsay looked delighted and tossed her hair flirtatiously,
Well, I‘d love to.
I‘ll see you then. He said turning back to Tess.
If Tess didn‘t know better his whole demeanour had
changed toward the other woman after her reference of them
being together the night before.
She cast a smile at Tess not seeming to notice, Ta-ta
? Tess wanted to throw something at her. She was
purposely baiting her. Tess waited until she was out of earshot,
What just happened? she said looking at Jacob with a puzzled
Don‘t fret over it Tess. He said in a sobering tone as the
waiter came back with the wine and took their orders.
She waited until he left, Don‘t fret?
I mean, he leaned toward her a bit, Don‘t worry about
what other women think of our friendship.
Friendship? She was sure she heard her heart split in
Unlike Jacob who could conceal his emotions from his
expression, Tess couldn‘t and he didn‘t miss the look of hurt on
her face. Obviously she didn‘t understand what he was trying to
say and maybe he sounded a little abrupt. Tess, Lindsay is the
type of woman that a man— he paused unsure on how to
continue. It wasn‘t often he explained himself, —what I‘m
trying to say is—
You use her for sex. She finished then instead of him
seeming embarrassed a slow smile spread across his face and he
I see you do understand, but it‘s more of a mutual issue.
I understand that you have needs and you‘re a man, but I
don‘t‘ understand her. she nodded toward the woman who was
now being seated by her date. She was feeling better about
herself since Colt had talked to her that morning, but now seeing
how beautiful Lindsay was again just washed it all away. No
matter what Colt had told her, she was sure she wasn‘t half the
woman Lindsay was. She was sexy, sensual, and the way she
wore that green dress hid nothing of her body. Then there was
her confidence. She basically told Jacob right in front of her that
he was good in bed. If she thought she was hurt before suspecting
why he was out so late the night before, knowing for sure just
crushed her. Even if Tess tried to get as sophisticated as Lindsay,
she could never bring her private life out in public.
Jacob sat straight in his seat, interested in what she had
to say, What is it you don‘t understand?
It took her a moment to remember what she told him
because she was busy trying to squash her hurt and anger at the
whole situation. She‘s not your type. She answered finally
Is that so? he smirked, Who do you think better suits
She shrugged, Someone who‘s intelligent— she started
to say, but realized that she sounded jealous and stopped.
Lindsay is. He said with a glint of humour reaching his
Like a rock, she thought but didn‘t say it. No—not like
that—I mean she needs to challenge you. Like some of the things
you do, maybe keep you on your toes and always makes you
think. Someone you can look at and know that your life isn‘t half
as exciting or complete if you should lose her.
He chuckled, It sounds like you‘re talking about a wife.
Well, aren‘t you old enough to be thinking like that?
What the heck was she doing? She didn‘t want him to think of
marriage especially with Lindsay. Then her heart would really
break if he did.
No. I‘m thirty-four.
Don‘t you want kids? she found herself asking.
Apparently she couldn‘t find it in her to shut up.
Actually in the past week he‘d been thinking about it and
she was the first person to actually ask him, I like kids.
However, that would mean marriage, and he wasn‘t ready for
that quite yet.
That‘s not an answer. She said with a smile.
I would like kids. He admitted. Settling his eyes on hers
for a moment he then reciprocated the question, What about
I would love kids. she said without hesitation, Lots of
This time he grinned at the way her face just lit up, Wow,
just when you think you know someone.
She blushed, What? I‘m not that young. I think about
things like that.
Interesting. He said, I never thought of you like that.
You were always the freckled face, knobby-kneed teenager to
I‘m not a teenager anymore. She laughed, Or knobby
No you‘re definitely not. He said huskily taking a drink
from his glass while looking at her over the rim, you‘ve grown
into a beautiful young woman.
Now she lost her tongue somewhere in her mouth. Every
now and then, he‘d throw out something like that and leave her
I‘m still surprised you‘re not dating anyone.
Why couldn‘t he just let that go? I—I haven‘t found
anyone that interested me in that way.
No? he said letting his eyes drop to her mouth, You‘re
out with me.
Oh she was. That‘s different.
Is it? he lifted a single dark brow.
I‘ve known you forever. I grew up with your family. She
almost fumbled the words trying to recover.
You‘ve known the rest of the town too honey. That‘s not
You‘re the only one I‘ve let get close.
Oh God, shut up
Really? He sat back in his seat and stared at her, Why
I don‘t know. She said evading the question.
Still a lousy liar. He mused causing her to blush. Then
he leaned forward and took her hand in his. Tell me Tess.
is that? His eyes guided to hers and held them. He was hoping
she‘d say it even though he knew he couldn‘t have her, it meant a
lot to him that she was attracted to him.
Maybe it‘s because you‘re a doctor and I‘ve always seen
you as trustworthy. It was a partial truth and the feeling of his
warm hand on hers near made her tell him all of it,
Slowly he released her hand, That‘s not all of it Tess.
Like you said I know you.
Just then the waiter came with their dinner and she felt a
sense of relief as they ate.
Unknown to both of them Lindsay narrowed her eyes
when Jacob leaned over and took the young woman‘s hand. This
was something she couldn‘t afford to interfere with her plans. If
Jacob was feeling something for this woman, she would put a
stop to it. She wanted him for herself. Not only was the man a
mind-blowing lover, he was rich, handsome and had a body that
could melt cold steel it was so hot and out of all the women that
constantly chased the man she was able to get him into her bed.
It made her feel arrogantly triumphant. However he did mention
that he didn‘t want to get involved emotionally and although she
was willing to oblige him originally just to keep him as a lover,
things had changed over the past few weeks and now and he
started touching her less and less. Last night he didn‘t stay with
her even though she pleaded with him. All she got was a quick
peck on the mouth. She even offered him oral sex but he had the
gall to refuse. What man turned down a blow job? Now she knew
why. When she saw the tenderness he displayed toward the
young woman, she knew she had to stake her claim. She would
have to move fast because not only was the other woman young,
she was very beautiful and it was obvious that Jacob was
attracted to her after that tender display. At least he asked her to
lunch the following week. Maybe she imagined it all and he was
just overtired lately after all, it was foaling season out at the
ranch and she knew that he pitched in during that time. Satisfied
she‘d worked things out in her mind, Lindsay turned back to her
date. At least she‘d get some release tonight with him. Jacob
may not have been able to give her what she needed but Ed
On the way home, Tess was hoping that he didn‘t press
her for the whole truth about why she didn‘t date and thankfully
he didn‘t. His sudden interest in her love life surprised her. He‘d
never asked questions like that before, and he certainly wasn‘t
showing signs of letting up. It was as if he just noticed that she
was no longer a child and took it upon himself to protect her
I had a good time. He admitted as he led her into the
house and turned her to face him.
Me too. She said thinking that his hand on her arm was
very pleasant even if he was making sure she didn‘t fall.
Neither one of them moved, but Tess could have held her
breath for an eternity at the look that entered his eyes. They
darkened to that hue that she had seen only a few times before
and every time they did her stomach started doing flip-flops.
Suddenly she wished he would kiss her.
Hey Jacob, is that you? Came Lance‘s voice, Dad‘s on
He smiled while still looking down at her, I‘ll see you
tomorrow. Go to bed and get some rest, you‘re looking a little
pale. I need you to fully recover before you come to work next
Jacob? came Lance‘s voice again.
I‘m coming. He answered, Good night Tess.
Good night. She said turning to go up the stairs.
Jacob watched her go before he turned and followed the
sound of his brother‘s voice.
The rest of the week basically crawled by and if she
thought she was bored before, it expounded. Although she did go
down and watch her father pull a foal from a mare, she kept true
to Jacob‘s orders and didn‘t help. He was right; there were
plenty of people around to help him out. It was a busy time and a
couple of nights her father stayed at the house not bothering to
go home. She spent her evening playing her violin in her room.
Then Friday night Jacob came home exhausted from a
long day at work. She remembered that Fridays and Mondays
were always the worst. People trying to get their appointments
in before and after the weekend when there was no clinic
available. A lot of people would rather wait for Jacob and David
Saunders, the other doctor that he shared his practice with
instead of the long hours in emergency.
Maria kept supper warm for you. Tess told him as he
came in the house. Did you want me to go get it?
Not tonight, he paused looking at her, Why don‘t you
go and pour me a glass of scotch. I‘m too damn tired to eat.
Scotch? she made a salute, Right away.
He smiled at her back as she left and set his briefcase on
the hall table. Then he reached up and loosened his tied and
undid the first few buttons on his shirt and made his way into the
family room to watch the late news. After he settled on the couch
Tess returned with a glass of scotch and gave it to him. He
patted the cushion beside him. Sit down, I could use some
company before bed. It felt really nice to have her fetch it for
him and he found himself wanting to visit with her for a bit
before he retired for the night.
Sure. She sat down and watched him take a gulp from
That hits the spot. He sighed, then looked at her, Did
you want a glass?
She shook her head, I‘ve never had scotch. She
Oh? he lifted his glass toward her, try it. It‘s a bit of an
After getting over the initial surprise of him offering her a
drink out of his glass she reached for it, but he didn‘t release it so
her hand ended up covering his as she leaned toward him and
took a sip while keeping her eyes on him and she noticed that he
watched her to. She sat back folding her legs under her while
tasting it on her tongue. Actually she liked it. Yet, somehow she
forgot to let go.
Don‘t get greedy. He teased casting a glance at her hand
Oh sorry. She blushed and released it.
No problem. I like the way you feel. He said as he
settled his glass on his thigh and leaned back in the couch
focussing on the television.
How could he say things like that and act like it‘s
nothing? It practically made her heart pop out of her chest. She
glanced down at her hands then back up at him and her breath
caught in her throat as she noticed that he was no longer
watching the TV but just staring at her.
What? she said softly.
Not sure. He answered, It just seems like I have
trouble thinking right around you sometimes.
All the time,
thought to himself. He couldn‘t believe that he‘d told her that he
liked the way she felt moments ago either. She made him forget
his head so easily. It wasn‘t until he saw the surprised look on
her face that he recalled saying it.
She just stared at him.
Tess, you have such a refreshing edge to you and I
actually admit that having you greet me when I come home is
something I could easily get used to.
Do you mean that? There went her heart again.
I do. His eyes studied her, I‘m not looking forward to
sending you home. A female besides Maria is really nice to have
in the house again.
She smiled, understanding that Maria was around sixty
but quite gruff although she treated the boys as her own. I don‘t
mind staying for a bit until foaling season is over. I like the
company too. Her heart must be drumming a rock band melody
in her chest by now
. It was something
, she thought, however, it
was bittersweet because she already knew he was referring to her
as a friend.
I‘d really like that. He finished the last of his drink, I‘ll
talk to your dad. At least then we can share a ride t o work in the
morning for awhile. That is until he steals you away from me.
He said in an odd tone.
If it‘s female company you need Jacob, I‘m sure there‘s
dozen of women that would oblige you. She teased resting back
on the couch as he did.
He actually laughed, Like I said before Tess, you do
wonders for a male ego.
She was actually hoping that he‘d tell her there wasn‘t
another woman. That Lindsay was just a passing fancy.
Disappointed that she didn‘t get anything near what she hoped
for she just settled and watched the news with him. Soon he said
goodnight and went to bed leaving her there wishing things could
Monday Morning came soon enough and they were the
first ones at the clinic. Jacob had another clerk work for him and
a staff nurse. The day was crazy busy and she could barely keep
up. Thankfully Rita, the other clerk was able to help her despite
her own busy day. Tess couldn‘t thank her enough.
At lunch a familiar voice caught her attention it was
I see you‘re back working here.
Tess looked up at the woman behind the counter and
before she could say anything she basically snubbed her.
Tracy, be a dear and go tell Jacob I‘m here for our lunch
date. She said before she turned her head away and glanced at
the occupants of the waiting room like she was a person of
My name is Tess. She said trying not to ground her
teeth into ashes
Lindsay looked at her watch acting as if she didn‘t hear
her, Hurry up little girl, I know he only gets an hour.
She said with a wide
Little girl? Right away
false grin knowing that it made the woman sound old. It worked
because she shot her an angry glance and tapped her watch
impatiently. Tess wanted to scream but instead turned and went
to his office and knocked on the door. She was working for him,
and although she wanted to leap on the woman and slap her, she
would remain professional even if it meant grounding her teeth
Tess? he said looking up from a patients chart as she
opened the door.
Lindsay‘s here. She said in a voice that didn‘t hide her
Already? he said not noticing her expression and got
out of the chair.
It is noon. She added.
Oh hell. He said and stripped off his white jacket and
pulled on his suit coat, Time flies.
You‘re telling me. She mumbled as he went past her.
She came out into the waiting room just in time to see a
pleasurable smile cross the older woman‘s lovely face and take
Jacob‘s arm before they left tog ether.
Don‘t let her bother you honey. Said Rita from behind
Sure it doesn‘t. Rita said in a tone that didn‘t believe
her, for the past five years I‘ve worked for him, I‘ve seen plenty
of those types come and go, but sooner or later he tires of them.
She settled her eyes on Tess, However, one like you, I‘ve never
Like me? she said puzzled.
Rita smiled at her, Honest, sweet, and genuinely pretty
inside and out, but a little wildcat when backed into a corner.
He‘ll figure it out sooner or later.
Figure what out?
That you‘re in love with him.
Tess groaned, first her father, then Colt, now Rita. She
had to be more careful. Is it that obvious?
From the first moment I met you that summer you
worked here. What Rita didn‘t tell Tess is that when she wasn‘t
looking Jacob watched her. At first she thought it was just
protectiveness because of what her father does and maybe he saw
her as a little sister, but there was no mistaking the hunger in
that handsome man‘s eyes when he looked at her now. Also, the
scowl on his face whenever a young man came in a flirted with
her, couldn‘t be faked.
Just then Tom walked in as if on cue, Hey Tess. I love
the uniform. He said as he ran his eyes over her not trying to
hide his interest in the least.
She gave him a genuine smile, Hi, aren‘t you supposed to
I came in to get so me fencing supplies and thought I‘d
come see how you‘re doing? How‘s the injury? he pushed his
Stetson high on his brow and leaned on the counter.
She laughed, Surgery, not injury and I think I‘ll live.
He gave her a roughish smile, I heard that you collapsed
right after I talked to you. I got so excited because I thought it
was over me.
She laughed harder this time. Don‘t dwell on it too
much. I‘m not a lovesick fool. she added in a teasing tone.
She‘d known him for over a year and he constantly teased her to
go out with him. He was nice to her, but she didn‘t think of him
in the attractive sense even though he was really nice looking.
Well, he sighed dramatically glancing at her, Seeing as
I‘m getting my heart broken, at least you could oblige me with a
movie or dinner, or both?
Tess studied him for a moment. There was no doubt that
Tom was a good looking man and like Jacob, didn‘t have trouble
getting woman. Along with that came the talk of his reputation
with women. In a small town, sometimes rumour spreads faster
than wildfire even if it was only a partial truth, I don‘t know.
I promise I‘ll behave. He added with another grin,
Although, misbehaving around you would be all too easy.
Sure, she said smiling, Like you need an excuse. Then
she began to think about it. She was still angry from the way
Lindsay treated her and Jacob liked women like that. If that‘s
the type he liked, she certainly didn‘t have a hope in hell because
no matter how mad someone made her she could never speak to
them the way she was just spoken to. Not only that, the man
never gave any indication that he was interested in her always
referring to her as a friend. So why shouldn‘t she date other men?
It wasn‘t like she was getting younger waiting for Jacob to notice
her. She shrugged, Okay fine. One date.
I‘ll take it!‘ He leaned over the counter and planted a
kiss on her cheek before she could protest. Then he turned to the
others in the waiting room, She said yes! Then he was gone
followed by a fit of laughter from the waiting room.
Oh my God. She flushed in complete embarrassment.
Then, she could hear Rita laughing her head off behind her.
She turned to Rita, thanks.
Anytime honey. She said with a wink
I‘m going to go straighten the exam rooms while you sit
here and laugh at my expense. She shot over her shoulder as she
walked down the hall.
About that time Jacob came back in and asked Rita what
was so funny.
Tom was in here and made a big deal out of Tess
accepting a date from him. She laughed again and turned away
missing the scowl that appeared on his face.
She said yes? He said with unmasked surprise.
How could she not. He was as charming as all get out. I
probably couldn‘t resist him if he treated me like that and I‘m
almost fifty. She said while sorting files.
That charming huh?
Very. She added grinning to herself.
Jacob frowned while going down the hall to his office. He
really didn‘t like the idea of Tess dating Tom. It was obvious how
the young man had been looking at her over the past year and the
light-hearted teasing between them bothered him.
Jacob‘s scowl grew to a foul mood as the afternoon wore
on. He became quite terse with Tess and finally she told Rita
I don‘t think his lunch date went all that well, from the
way he‘s acting. She said tucking away a file.
Probably not. Said Rita casting her a look, Maybe bring
him a cup of strong coffee. She nodded toward the freshly
brewed coffee pot.
And get my head bit off again? No thanks. Let him
suffer. Besides that, he deserves it for dating that woman and I
might not be able to help myself and dump it on his lap. She
said before taking a file and calling the next patient.
Rita shook her head at the younger girl. She may have
been very smart, but she was incredibly naïve.
An hour later, the last patient left, and so did Rita. Tess
locked the door behind her and tidied up the waiting room while
waiting for Jacob to finish his paper work. He came out around a
half an hour later.
Tess, why are you still here?
She finished fixing the stack of magazines and stood
erect, How do you think I got here? she said incredulous.
Oh hell, I forgot. He tossed his jacket over his shoulder,
Come on then.
Don‘t put yourself out. She mumbled under her breath
and grabbed her handbag following him out the door.
He never said a word until they were pulling up the long
drive to the house which satisfied her just as well, because of his
mood. He had already smoked several cigarettes and she wanted
to remind him that he was a doctor and what those things do to
your lungs, but in his frame of mind, she was sure he would snap
When he finally spoke it wasn‘t what she thought it would
be. Rita said Tom asked you out. He tossed the butt out the
window and cast her an unreadable glance.
Yeah he did.
I told him yes. What you said the other day got me
Well, I‘m twenty-one and maybe I should start dating.
She gaped at him. He sounded quite terse and he really
had no right to tell her how to behave, but he didn‘t back down.
He studied her expression, The m an is young and likes
So? she said bristling.
Tess, you don‘t have that kind of experience. He
You don‘t know that. She said stunned at his
He pulled up in front of the house, cut the engine and
turned to her, The hell I don‘t Tess. I‘ve been around enough
women to know an inexperienced one when I meet her.
He had a point.
Tom has no idea what you are used to—
He promised he‘d behave. So don‘t worry about me so
much, I‘m not a little girl anymore
That‘s for certain. He said dropping his gaze to her
mouth, If he upsets you, I‘ll pound him into the ground.
He won‘t. She meant it, because she didn‘t like the guy
enough to have him hurt her, not like she did Jacob and even
though he didn‘t feel t he same way, the concern he was showing
made her feel like he cared a bit, even if it was in a brotherly
fashion, If you‘re so worried, don‘t be. I don‘t like him the way
you think so nothing will happen. That seemed to relax him.
What do you mean yo u don‘t like him?
She shrugged, Jacob, speaking about the laws of
attraction with my friend slash physician is not a comfortable
subject for me. He‘s just a friend. Nothing more.
No? he said lifting his brows.
Definitely not. She admitted shyly.
Well, how about your friend slash physician asks you
something strictly as a friend. He asked softly.
Okay. She said after a brief hesitation.
What type of man does do something for you?
Oh God, he did have to ask that, Why?
Call it curiosity.
Okay then, she turned away to hide her expression, He
needs to be intelligent.
Fun to be around, she shot him an amused look, Likes
horses, the outdoors—.
—and the violin?
Nodding slowly, he should like classical music.
Like Debussy, Chopin, Bach and my personal favourite
, that song you played the other
You knew? she said softly while staring at him in
Yes. He smiled slowly, It was very beautiful Tess. I
honestly didn‘t know you could play like that. It‘s hard to
imagine through all of these years that I‘ve never heard you
She just couldn‘t get past what he just said, You knew
what I was playing?
I may seem like a rough and tumble horse wrangler , but
I have a few hidden likes too. What he didn‘t tell her was that
he‘d convinced her father to send a recording of her work along
with an application to a prestigious music college in New York.
He did it for two reasons. One was to get her out of the town and
experience life, and of course the other was to get her away from
him before he acted on his desires. They kept the application to
themselves and he was sure that she wouldn‘t be happy at first
when she found out but sooner or later she would realize that he
did this for her.
But I‘ve known you a long time—How—? She hadn‘t
even known he studied or knew classical music but he just
revealed that he had knowledge on the subject. It completely
The first time I heard your mother play the cello. So you
can blame her. I may have been born into money, raised by a
Texan who made sure that we boys were raised earning every
penny we had, but I know beauty when I see it, he paused
staring at her for a moment, And hear it. When your father
came to work for us, she would play sometimes and I thought it
was incredible. So I started listening to all kinds. I‘ve become
quite the fan of the old greats. He studied her astonished
expression, When you played the other day, I remembered your
mother very well.
I was thinking of her. she took a deep breath, When I
It seemed like it came from the heart. I felt a little guilty
intruding. It felt like it was a very intimate moment. He
I don‘t mind Jacob. I‘m glad you heard me.
His brows rose, Really?
She nodded. He was right, it was an intimate moment,
but it was one that she wanted to share with him. She would play
for her mother and father, but she was never really confident to
play in front of an audience. She never thought she could
measure up to how well her mother played.
Then let me ask you something a little more personal.
I don‘t think—
All of those things you mentioned that appeal to you in a
man, he said not letting her continue, Aren‘t present in Tom
Yes, I know.
But because of what I said the other night, you agreed?
Well, it was a few things. The fact that Lindsay Scott
with her gorgeous body and beautiful face was able to be with
him made her want to become a little more experienced so she
would know how to approach him. She‘d spent her teenage life
pining after him and it got her nowhere except heartbreak to
realize what kind of woman he wanted.
I think I‘ve said enough tonight,‘ she said, I‘m really
tired. She opened the door of the vehicle.
Of course. He conceded and followed suit getting out of
They walked into the house together and before she went
up to bed he reached over and grabbed her arm. Do you like
I like yours. She admitted with a grin. Just when a
woman couldn‘t think of a man like him getting any sexier, put
him on a big roaring bike. You could feel his sex appeal all the
way to your back teeth.
Well, how about you and I go for a ride on Saturday?
I‘d really like that. She said unable to hide her
Then to her complete surprise he added, Good, it‘s a
date. Goodnight Tess.
She said goodnight to him unable to keep the astonished
expression off her face as he turned and walked down the hall to
watch the late news no doubt.
Friday night Tom picked her up and they went to a local
movie, but afterward he took her to the towns popular country
and western bar. Regardless, he did stay true to his word about
behaving and then he began drinking and more of his friends
started to arrive. Soon their table was quite crowded and at least
half a dozen women began vying for his attention like she didn‘t
exist. A warm hand covered hers under that table and she turned
to look at him. Sorry babe, I‘m trying not to ignore you. He
It‘s okay. I don‘t mind your friends. In fact she really
didn‘t notice. Also she didn‘t notice that she was on her fourth or
fifth beer. Every time she finished one, Tom would order
They can be a little trying after some time though. He
watched her expression closely, did you want to get out of here?
Did she? No she really didn‘t. Not that Tom wasn‘t
behaving as he said, but he did have a few beers and she was
wondering if he was feeling brave and forgot his promise. Before
she could respond, he stood and tugged her to her feet. Tom—
Look, he said, pulling her close so he could talk to her
so no one could hear him, but her, I just want you to myself for a
bit. I‘ll keep my hands to myself honey, don‘t worry.
I‘m not worried. she said truthfully. Tom never worried
her in that aspect and if he did try something she was sure that
she could handle him.
Good. He gave her a rakish grin while taking her hand
and started leading her toward the door just as Colton stepped in
front of him from out of nowhere.
Not tonight Tom.
Tess was taken back at the menacing look on his face.
She had no idea he was even there either.
Hey boss. He stared up at the taller man.
You‘re not going anywhere with Tess. He said sternly.
We‘re just taking a walk Colt.
Sure you are. He glanced back and forth between the
two, I think it‘s time Tess came home.
Colt— Tom protested but was interrupted.
Tess go get in the truck, I need to have a chat with Tom.
He said without taking his eyes off of the other man.
Colt, I‘m fine. She said with a bewildered expression.
Colt finally settled his dark gaze on her. Regardless
Honey, I would feel better if you came home, it‘s after midnight.
My God—Colt— she started to protest until his
Look Tess, If you don‘t go get in the damn truck, I‘m
going to beat the snot out of Tom in front of you.
What? she burst out, You can‘t—
Just go Tess. Tom finally said, I think I know what this
I‘m not leaving you to him. She defended. Colt, like his
brothers was well over six feet, and Tom was maybe five-eleven if
not six feet. Even though he was as tough as they come, the
Hartleys were tougher. Not only that, Colt had a reputation for
not only being a hot head, but fighting. Although she‘d never
seen him fight, she‘d seen the aftermath of the patchwork his
brother had to do on him when he took on too many opponents.
If you get in the damn truck I won‘t lay a hand on him.
No, it‘s honesty. He answered.
Tess— Tom interrupted, I‘ve got a dozen friends inside,
I‘ll just go back in. he said releasing her hand. He really liked
Tess. She was pretty and sweet, but he also liked his job and
knew Colt‘s reputation. He really wouldn‘t hesitate to beat the
snot out of him like he said. He always knew that the Hartleys
had a soft spot for Tess because of Chuck, but hell, all the men
did on the ranch and Tom really liked her. She was different
from the other women he‘d been with and was shocked to find
out that she was single when he first started there. He‘d teased
and flirted with her but when he finally asked her out she‘d
turned him down, but he still didn‘t give up. He knew she wasn‘t
attracted to him the way he was to her, but he thought if maybe
she accepted one date from him he could convince her of his
feelings. Now, however staring up at the hardened expression of
Colt Hartley, he figured out why she was still single. No one
would dare cross the brothers to get close to her.
That‘s right, Said Colt sarcastically, =Go find a woman
that will make you feel better.
You got it wrong Colt. He said as he turned and went
back into the bar. I‘ll see you tomorrow Tess. He added
solemnly and with a final look at her, he went back to his friends.
You have some nerve! she seethed at him completely
Colt grabbed her arm and practically dragged her across
the parking lot to the truck not the least bit bothered by her
outburst, No, I‘m right on the money. How many drinks did you
A few— she answered pausing briefly because she
honestly didn‘t know, but I‘m fine.
No you‘re not. Get in. He said harshly as he opened the
passenger door and she climbed in too angry to speak.
You may not realize it, but you can barely walk straight.
Tom would have most likely gotten you somewhere and taken
advantage of you.
He promised. She said exasperated.
Colt made a frustrated sound and shut the door, walked
around the front of the truck and got in the driver‘s side. He
turned to her. He would have had an innocent little thing like
you convinced. Trust me.
I‘m not that stupid.
I never thought you were. He started the truck and
pulled out of the parking lot heading toward the ranch, I just
know from experience what it takes to convince a woman that
she‘s desirable. Also I know Tom, I‘ve seen him work his charm.
I already told Jacob that I wasn‘t attracted to him in that
Yeah he told me.
Oh God, If I die tomorrow it wouldn‘t be soon enough.
She fell her face in her hands. Jacob took this a lot better than
you when I told him I was going with Tom tonight. Like I said
before, get a puppy.
Who the hell do you think sent me? Colt shot her a look.
This made her raise her head and look at him, He
He did. Only I went because I knew he
pounded the snot out of Tom.
So I spared Tom a night in the ER and my task of finding
another ranch manager by coming myself. So it made perfect
sense to do so.
Jacob knew I would be fine. I told him.
He glanced her way, That just proves my point on how
naïve you are.
What does that mean?
Ask me tomorrow when you sober up.
I‘m not— just then she felt her stomach heave, —You‘d
better pull over.
Hearing that more than once in his lifetime caused him to
swerve the truck to the road just as she was reaching for the
When she was done losing her supper in the ditch she
stood up and swayed slightly causing Colt to give her a knowing
look, Okay, maybe I didn‘t realize how sloshed I was. I felt fine.
She said sheepishly with her hand pressed against her forehead.
She swallowed thickly and took a deep breath. Things were
wobbling around her a little.
So do most drunk people and everything they think of at
the time they are seem perfectly logical to them. Now get in.
She nodded and climbed back in the truck. Fine. Lets
Soon they were at the house and he got out to help her
out of the truck and into the house.
I can manage. She said grabbing the banister and slowly
climbed the stairs to disappear down the hall.
How bad was it? Said Jacob coming out of the study
after Tess disappeared up the stairs.
Just as you said. He turned to his brother, I‘ll talk to
Tom tomorrow and tell him to stay the hell away from her.
Yeah, you‘d better. I might shoot him. He said
narrowing his gaze.
Sure thing. He eyed his brother intently, Although,
you should know that Tom was serious about her. It wasn‘t like
his other women, he genuinely likes her.
Yeah, what‘s not to like. She‘s perfect. Jacob answered
without hesitation, Beautiful as she is naïve.
Well, I just thought you needed to know that he may not
be through even if I talk to him.
He is, or fire him. Said Jacob with a knowing look, I‘m
going to bed. He said goodnight to his brother and had a shower
before he checked on Tess, who was sound asleep curled under
The shit was going to hit the fan tomorrow when she tore his
hide off, but what he and Colt did was for the best and hopefully
she‘ll realize that. He approached the bed and adjusted the
covers around her tenderly. It was obvious he was lying to
himself. He didn‘t want another man touching her because he
knew what she felt like, smelled like and how she was able to
make him feel around her. He wanted her and he was a coward
to admit it. Everything about the woman was incredible and as
far as he could tell she had no faults. There was too much at stake
for him. He never let anyone close and she was his employee‘s
daughter. Not only that he was a professional and she was
staying with him in their house. He really didn‘t care much for
his reputation, but he certainly did for hers. That‘s why he sent
Colt. It wouldn‘t look good for her if her doctor came barging in
to the bar and beat up his employee because he was dating the
woman he wanted for himself. Thankfully Colt didn‘t even
hesitate when he asked him. He just nodded, turned and went
out of the house to find her and not to soon by the look of her.
The next morning she met him at breakfast and he
pushed two pills at her.
What are these for?
Oh. Thanks. She said shyly and took them, How did
Colt said you‘d had a bit to drink.
I guess I did. She eyed him for a moment, But that
didn‘t mean you couldn‘t trust me not to do anything stupid
He sat back in the seat and crossed his arms under his
chest. I never said I didn‘t. I don‘t trust men around you. He
actually expected her to be a lot angrier but he supposed she was
feeling a little embarrassed about drinking too much.
She did her best to ignore how sexy that pose looked as it
emphasized the size of his biceps and chest muscles Why not?
Don‘t you have a clue? he raised a single dark brow.
I can‘t think with the freight train in my head. She said
placing her fingers at her temples.
Well, you‘d better hope that freight train is gone by this
afternoon. We have a date. With that he got up and headed
toward the door. Meet me out front around two. He said before
he left the room.
When she met him later that afternoon she was feeling
better, especially after seeing him standing next to that big slick
black and chrome machine. He was wearing leather chaps and a
matching jacket and she swore she felt herself salivate.
Here. He said giving her a helmet. Put it on.
Okay, she pulled it over her head and had trouble with
the chin strap.
Let me. He said after he put his on and brushed his
fingers under her chin to adjust the strap, It‘s not easy to do
blind if you haven‘t done it before.
She just stared at him unable to find the words to say
anything. That was the second time he touched her skin and it
felt like warm tingles. Tom was finding ways to touch her last
night, she remembered, and not once did it affect her like that.
Colton was probably right after all. Now that she had it in
perspective, she did drink too much and remembered the man‘s
hand on her bare knee more than once.
What is it? he said locking gazes with hers.
She managed a smile that he knew she couldn‘t see, I
was just thinking.
Well, Colton said some things last night when I was
leaving with Tom. Maybe he was right. I just didn‘t see it at the
time. Jacob made a noise and turned away from her, I feel
stupid about it.
He stopped and turned back to her, It wasn‘t your fault
Tess, don‘t make it out that way. He really couldn‘t blame Tom
and after he‘d thought about it, he had behaved around Tess
which must‘ve been very hard for him. Jacob was having trouble
of his own, and he couldn‘t imagine how Tom dealt with it who
was much younger than he was.
She wished she co uld see his face through his helmet to
find out if that angry tone was aimed at her despite his words.
You did sort of warn me. She shrugged, Regardless, Tom was
really nice, he just obviously thought I was used to more affection
than I am.
Get on. He said not continuing with the subject. He
swung his leg over the bike and started it with a solid kick.
It roared to life and she felt a thrill go through her at the
sound of the powerful machine. She obeyed but felt awkward on
what to do with her hands.
He turned and looked at her over his shoulder, Put your
arms around me Tess. When she didn‘t, he reached back and
grabbed her hand and pulled it around his waist. Her other one
seemed to follow suit and she found herself leaning her chest
against this back as he straightened the big machine and shifted
it into gear with a simple leg movement before he gunned the
motor and tore down the lane
They must‘ve cruised for over two hours and she had to
admit she loved every minute of it. Not just the freedom it gave
her but the fact that she had her hands around Jacob the whole
He cruised down a road that looked like it wasn‘t used
often and brush became thick as it turned into more of a path.
Then it suddenly opened up and he stopped the bike on a cliff
overlooking a large lake.
Tilting the bike to put the kick stand on he cut the engine.
Tess fumbled with the chin strap and pulled off her
helmet, this is gorgeous. She exclaimed looking at the scenery.
I thought so too. He grinned having already removed
How long have you known about this place? she got off
the bike and walked to the edge of the cliff which she discovered
wasn‘t really a cliff. It had a bit of a steep slope down to the
My brother‘s and I used to come swimming here when
we were kids. He said watching her expression, You really like
I do. She cast him a glance. It was inspiring to say the
least. She could see herself playing her violin on that hill
overlooking the lake.
I bought it last year.
You did? she said in astonishment, What are you going
to do with it?
Until recently I didn‘t know. He cast an odd glance at
her before getting off the motorcycle and stepping up next to her
to share the view. I was thinking of building a house up here.
That would be incredible. She said in awe while
watching a family of ducks hop into the calm water.
Then out of the blue, he said something that stunned her.
You should apply to that music school in the city Tess.
All she could do was turn her head slowly and stare at
him, What brought that up?
You‘re better than you think and you shouldn‘t stay here.
You should see if there is more to the world than what‘s offered
in Sulphur Springs.
I know you are, but you need a life of your own too. You
spend your time looking after your father and help him with his
job and me with mine. Yet you have this incredible talent.
How could she tell him that she couldn‘t leave her father,
but him too? She waited years for him to come back to Sulphur
Springs and now he was encouraging her to leave. He would
come home in the summer during between semesters and on
holidays, but it wasn‘t enough. Now that he was here and had his
own practice, she could see him more often. Everything she
wanted was right here.
Tess, staying here isn‘t helping you. He repeated
studying her eyes.
You want me to leave. She managed in barely a whisper.
No. Honestly I don‘t. You‘re a very efficient employee
and a good friend.
Friend? There it was again, that word that made her
heart sink. Only he could say it and make it feel like a curse to
I sent in an application for you several weeks ago. He
confessed as he reached into his jacket and withdrew an
envelope, Your father had a recording of your work—
Dad‘s in on this! she burst out.
Tess, he said while holding up the envelope, This is the
She was sure she paled as she stared down at the
envelope with the familiar insignia on it. did you open it? now
seeing it, she suddenly felt curious.
No. I wanted you to open it, he said tenderly.
I can‘t her eyes guided up to his, I‘m terrified Jacob.
Then let me. He tore open the seal and pulled out the
letter. Taking a moment to read it.
She wasn‘t that good, was she? No, she couldn‘t be. Her
mother taught her well but she didn‘t have any professional
training. Jacob I‘m furious with you, but I‘m dying to know—
she stopped talking when he furrowed his brow.
Well— he glanced up at her, The first word is
=congratulations‘. Is that good?
She couldn‘t help herself and screamed right before she
threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. Then she froze,
Oh—Jacob—I— That‘s all she got out before his embrace
suddenly tightened, his eyes darkened and he took her mouth
Tess swore on the bible that the earth stopped moving at
that moment and all she knew was the heat of his mouth on hers.
She could smell the aroma of his leather jacket along with the
faint smell of expensive cologne mixed with his masculine scent.
Somewhere in there she was sure she heard herself moan, and
when his tongue probed for entrance, she knew she did. Her
hands fisted in the collar of his jacket to pull herself closer to
Suddenly he made a sound, placed his hands on her hips
and pushed her back, Tess—we can‘t. I shouldn‘t have done
that. He breathed harshly and turned away from her.
Why? she said after a pause.
Because it‘s just not right. He still didn‘t turn back to
her. She had no idea of how that affected him and if he turned to
face her she would definitely see the evidence.
Jacob, I was a willing participant. She defended feeling
her eyes water. Did she do this? Entice him to kiss her? As the
moments passed she started to feel humiliated at her behaviour.
Now he would surely know how he felt. All these years she
managed to keep it hidden, but it was too obvious, she couldn‘t
deny it this time.
He took a deep breath and finally turned to face her.
Seeing her expression he shook his head slightly, Do not take
this blame on yourself. It was my fault. I shouldn‘t have touched
I kissed you first, she blushed with that confession.
He smiled down at her, And it was good, but I‘m trying
to be professional here—
Be my friend instead, she said using his words, We‘ve
know each other before you became a doctor. I wanted to kiss
you. I have for a long time Jacob.
Please let me finish. This isn‘t easy. She took a deep
breath, now you‘re looking at sending me away and I know I
won‘t be able to tell you the things I should have years ago. I‘m
sure you know this for sure now because of that kiss. She felt the
heat rising to her cheeks, I‘m crazy about you. I always have
been and if you and Dad insist that I go, I –
Honey, he interrupted, =You have to stop talking. I
don‘t feel that way about you. We‘re friends, and I don‘t want to
cross that line, he lied through his teeth and prayed to God that
his expression didn‘t reveal it. From the crushed look on her face,
he knew he didn‘t, I won‘t be responsible for holding you back
when there‘s nothing between us. You are a beautiful woman and
I responded to the affection. A man would have to be crazy not
to, but I only use women for one purpose and you know what
that is. Don‘t become a statistic to me. I hate hurting you but I
need to be honest. Do you understand?
Perfectly. She managed sorrowfully. After his
statement, there was nothing else that could be said. Can you
please take me home now. Hot tears spilled from her eyes and
rolled down her cheeks. He responded to her because she was a
beautiful woman? Could he possibly hurt her any more? Jacob
was surrounded by beautiful women who threw themselves at
him and he just labelled her in that category. She needed him to
tell her he cared about her more than that.
Don’t give in
, he thought painfully seeing her
this won’t do her any good.
Please don‘t make this any harder on me Jacob, I already
feel like an idiot.
She tossed her hair back off her face and stared up at him,
I should have known that I‘d never measure up to women like
Lindsay Scott. It was stupid of me to think so.
Only if she knew, he thought to himself, the only reason
he dated Lindsay was to take his mind off of her. Truth of it was,
Lindsay couldn‘t hold a candle to Tess‘s beauty or her sweetness
but he could never have a relationship with her.
Three months had gone by and Tess had phoned her
father regularly, but Jacob hadn‘t gotten a word. He‘d hurt her
so he could let her go, and what she didn‘t realize is that it pained
him just as much. He missed her more than he‘d miss a limb,
but he just kept telling himself that it was necessary. Tess
needed more experience with life. Keeping her here wasn‘t right
for a woman of her talent. There was several times he nearly
jumped on a plane with the intent of hauling her home but this
wasn‘t about him.
Chuck was miserable too. He felt guilty about that
because he was the one that convinced him that Tess needed to
expand her mind, but seeing the older man brooding without his
daughter was almost too hard to take.
Also he was stuck with finding a replacement for her at the
clinic. The first woman he hired ended up undressing in his
office after work so he ended up firing her after three days. The
second actually begged him to have her children. Finally he
hired a woman that was in her mid sixties who was showing signs
of early dementia but she was better than the previous two even
though Rita stated that she‘d take the naked one back because at
least she knew how to answer the phone.
Almost as if on cue Rita came bursting into his office with
a frantic look on her face.
What is it?
It‘s a Doctor Samuels in New York on line three. She
choked out, Tess is in the hospital!
Jacob didn‘t hear anything else the woman said as he
practically dove for the phone.
When Tess opened her eyes she thought she was
Hey little girl. I can‘t leave you alone for three months
without you trying to kill yourself.
. Despite the pain in her head, her side and her
abdomen, she managed a small smile, Is this a dream? she said
blinking a couple of times to study the surroundings—familiar
surroundings. She was in a hospital.
No. he bent over and kissed her forehead affectionately
before taking the seat next to the bed, I‘m really here.
Because I‘m your doctor and your friend. He said taking
a cup off the bedside table, Have a drink, you‘re voice is really
Thanks. She said lifting her head and wincing as she
took a drink. I meant, why am I here?
You‘re in the hospital.
Obviously, she smiled, But why?
He set the cup down, Has anyone talked to you about
No, I remember some people talking to me but I don‘t
remember much so I must‘ve been really out of it and from the
look on your face I look pretty bad. She said noting the strain in
It seems you were run over by a delivery truck. He
frowned, several cracked ribs.
My feet are numb. She shot him a worried lo ok after
trying to wiggle her toes.
Some nerve damage, but the surgeon thinks you‘ll
recover one hundred percent. He said quickly seeing her eyes
widen in fear.
Surgeon? she groaned, How bad is it?
He leaned forward and took her hand in his, amo ng the
other bruises you have, you‘re spleen was lacerated, a punctured
Is that why it hurts so much to breath? She said, Wow,
I don‘t remember a thing.
Well, if it makes you feel better, it was his fault and you
don‘t know how lucky you are. Usually when someone gets hit by
a van or any vehicle for that matter, there‘s usually a broken leg
, he shuddered. However, he wasn‘t really going
that fast so you were very lucky.
Yeah, I feel great now. She said drolly,
He chuckled, I‘m taking you back home until you heal.
He didn‘t know how good that made her feel. She rolled
her head on her pillow so she could face him, I really want to
come home Jacob, she said as the hot tears welled up in her eyes
and flowed down her cheeks. I don‘t like it here. I‘m so alone.
miss you so much it hurts,
she added to herself. She agreed to go
to the college after he confessed that he didn‘t care about her
because she was so ashamed she couldn‘t face him after her
confession, but she was miserable from the first day there.
Shhh baby, don‘t cry. He said as he reached over and
tenderly brushed the tears off her cheeks with his thumb, It‘s
not so bad.
I‘m really homesick. She hiccupped and winced. I don‘t
like these New York people. They all seem so closed off. It‘s not
like home. I miss my friends.
, she thought.
I shouldn‘t have insisted that you go. So quit blaming
yourself. He said with an odd edge to his tone.
Tess finally focused on his face. For some reason she
didn‘t notice the worry lines and dark circles present around his
eyes before. It looked like he hadn‘t slept in days, Jacob, when
was the last time you slept? he gave her a reassuring smile.
You had us worried for a few days. He admitted.
A few days? How long have I been here?
Don‘t worry about that. He answered.
After a long pause he slowly nodded, Ten days.
Oh God! she blinked in disbelief, Dad—
I sent him back to the hotel to get some sleep. Colton
and Lance were here too, but someone needs to manage the
ranch, so they went home a few days ago when the prognosis
came through that you were going to make it. Her expression
changed to complete shock, Look Tess, I won‘t lie to you. You
had a head injury, so you were in ICU for a week in a chemical
induced coma. They brought you about twelve hours ago when
the swelling went down.
That‘s why I have this killer headache? she brought her
hand to her head. A sharp intake of breath could be heard in the
room as she felt her face, Oh God, I‘m all swollen!
Yes. It looks worse than it is. Over the last ten days it‘s
gone down significantly. You won‘t have any permanent scars on
your face, just one on your abdomen where they removed your
spleen and the one on your side for the chest tube.
She felt her rib cage and found a bandage. Oh lord, I‘m
going to look like a patchwork quilt if I keep this up.
He smiled at her, They‘ll be hardly noticeable when they
Sure. She groaned.
They pulled out the tube two days ago when your lung
inflated. He glanced down at his hands for a moment, before
bringing his gaze back to hers, You had us all worried pumpkin.
I think your father aged ten years.
Poor Dad. Her eyes went to his face studying it
carefully. This time she managed a slight smile, you look a little
Maybe I was worried a bit, he added with a false smile
to hide his concern, But I know you‘re a tough gal.
I must be to bounce off a grill of a delivery truck and
stopping it with my face.
He chuckled, I can see your humour is returning.
When can I get out of here?
In a few days. He admitted, The sutures come out
tomorrow, then we‘ll see how you do at walking.
If it means I get to go home, I‘ll do it. s he said with
He gave her a grin and stood up, =You need to get some
sleep. He said squeezing her hand, I‘ll be back later. I need to
talk to your doctor here.
Okay. She said feeling the fatigue, you‘ll come back
I will. He bent over and kissed her again, lightly on the
cheek this time, Get some rest. He said just as a nurse walked
in. She waited until Jacob left until she checked the dressings
and the lines.
My name is Tammy. She said with a kind smile, How
are you feeling. You look brighter today, she nodded toward the
closed door, Is that anything to do with doctor Heart-throb.
Tess couldn‘t help but release a laugh, but then groaned
I thought so. Tammy smiled as she adjusted the pillows
around her, I was going to see if he was single, but obviously
he‘s taken, she said giving her a knowing look.
Not by me.
The nurse paused and looked at her, Well, you could
have fooled me. That man didn‘t leave your side until now. She
paused looking at her shocked expression, you didn‘t know?
She shook her head.
Well he made our lives miserable ever since we called
You called him?
You had a piece of paper in your purse with his name
and number on it. We had nothing else on your next of kin so
Doctor Samuels called him.
Tess remembered that she‘d grabbed it from the bedside
table where he‘d left it in her room at his house. She kept it with
her because she actually was going to call him a couple of times
but lost her nerve. He‘s just overprotective. He always has
been, she explained remembering what he told her before she
left for New York.
Your doctor is very nice looking. Tammy said with a
He‘s not mine. I swear.
Tess, think about it. Your physician gave you a private
number and you don‘t think he‘s got some ulterior motive? said
Tammy with a smirk.
I‘ve known him since I was a little girl. He acts like an
over protective brother. Tess explained.
I see. She paused, Speaking of brothers. Does your
doctor‘s brothers have girlfriends, because I‘d take either one of
Tess laughed seeing the teasing glint in the woman‘s eyes,
Thanks. She said.
Tammy shrugged, It‘s okay. Sometimes if feels good to
laugh after such a traumatic event. However, I was serious about
your man. She said. It was actually a good thing we called him
because he knew your allergies and things could have gotten a lot
worse. He came in here barking orders at all of us. She stood
straight and smiled down at her, Actually because of him, you‘ve
got the best care. Of course it doesn‘t help that the man is drop
dead gorgeous and whenever he asked us for a favour, we‘d all
jump at the chance just to see that sinful smile of approval.
I know what you mean
, she thought. However, she
wasn‘t going to try and convince the other woman that Jacob
didn‘t feel about her that way. She seemed determined that he
did. Regardless she was thankful that she was doing her best to
cheer her up. You‘re going to make me bust my stitches, Tess
said trying to withhold another laugh and coughed instead.
Sorry, she said apologetically, But I thought you would
want to know because you don‘t seem to understand how much
that man cares about you.
they all act like big brothers.
No, not him—the other two do, but your doctor is crazy
about you. She said over her shoulder as she left.
Tess just stared at the ceiling thinking about the nurse‘s
words. He‘d told her before she left that he wasn‘t interested in
her that way, but he was a friend. Obviously the nurse didn‘t
understand how close her family was to the Hartley‘s. Sighing
heavily, she adjusted herself on the pillows.
After Jacob talked to the surgeon, Chuck had arrived.
When he was done briefing Tess‘s father, Chuck said he‘d sit with
her so Jacob could at least go home, shower and eat a decent
meal. He actually had a point because he hadn‘t left Tess side
since he‘d gotten there. Chuck hadn‘t either, until several hours
ago just to get cleaned up with Jacob‘s promise on staying with
her in case she was to waken again. Thanks to the staff, he‘d been
using the Doctor‘s lounge and showers over the last week and a
half and hospital food was not appetizing, even at the best of
times. So when Chuck insisted, he finally relented and left the
hospital to get some much needed rest.
Once at the hotel, he ordered room service before he took
a long hot shower. Bracing his hands on the tile and tilting his
head down so the hot water could hit his neck and run down his
back he began thinking about the past few days. He had never
felt such relief before in his life when she woke up this morning
and looked at him even though the surgeon did tell him that she
would have no permanent damage, he needed to see it for
himself. Ever since he got that fateful call ten days ago it felt like
he‘d swallowed nails. Losing Tess was never an option for him
and although he‘d sent her away, every day that she wasn‘t in his
life was torture. It took every bit of willpower he had not to tell
her how he really felt when she opened her eyes and looked at
him letting the fear in her eyes change to relief seeing him there.
Although she had admitted to him how she felt, he couldn‘t allow
her to set aside her life for him. He thought that maybe if she got
out and had some experience with it that she would see that she
was capable of so much more, only it nearly got her killed.
The whole time she was gone he was wondering if she‘d
found someone else and it almost made him crazy. Yet, he had
hurt her to push her away and knew that she wouldn‘t phone him
if she needed help. What she didn‘t know is he wasn‘t as he
seemed. Tess got close even though she didn‘t know it. She got
so close, she was under his skin.
He‘d had numerous physical relationships over the past
seven years after he came back to Sulphur Springs while she grew
up but she was always in the background and he was always
watching her. No woman he‘d been out with could measure up
to Tess. Not only was she stunning, she was as sweet as sin.
With that waist-length fair hair, big green eyes, and a body that
could disturb a man into changing religion, she was beautiful.
Yet, she deserved more than he could offer her. As far as he was
concerned, she had a lot of love to give, and he wasn‘t sure he
could return it. If he could it would definitely be with her, but it
wasn‘t fair to her either. However after that disturbing phone
call ten days ago, he‘d changed his mind.
Nearly losing her had set him straight. Only he knew that
she wouldn‘t trust him enough to reveal her feelings like she did
before because he had hurt her. Even today, he could see the
evidence of hurt in her expression and hear it in her tone.
Already he knew he had some damage to repair and with Tess, it
would take some time, especially in the fragile state she was in.
Turning off the taps, he stepped out just as room service
arrived. He tossed on a robe and went out to answer the door,
still wondering how he was going to win her back. Truth of it
was, he hadn‘t had a woman since she‘d left Sulphur Springs.
None of them appealed to him. The last time he‘d even seen
Lindsay was that day that Tom asked Tess out. He‘d invited her
to lunch to end their affair, only Lindsay didn‘t take it so well. All
along she preached that she didn‘t want a relationship either, but
when he told her he didn‘t want to see her anymore the woman
was furious. He‘d made that decision when she treated Tess like
garbage when he took her out to dinner that night. He didn‘t
condone petty jealousy and it fired his blood even though he
didn‘t let on.
When he was done his meal, he dressed and headed back
to the hospital to relieve Chuck denying himself a much needed
nap. He found him in the hall fussing with the coffee dispenser.
I‘ll relieve you Chuck, go back to the hotel and get
yourself a decent cup. Jacob said as he placed a hand on the
It might be a plan. He slapped the machine and turned
toward Jacob, She‘s awake again and has been asking for you
I‘ll go see her after I check with the staff about her pain
control. He turned to go when Chuck stopped him, Jacob, I
don‘t know what happened between you two before she left, but
whatever it is, I want you to fix it. It‘s like the spark went out of
Jacob nodded, I‘ll work on that.
=That‘s all I ask. He said looking over Jacob‘s expression,
You didn‘t sleep, did you?
He lifted his hand, I‘m fine.
Sure you are, Chuck said suppressing a smile. Obviously
he was wrong about Jacob‘s feelings toward Tess. He reluctantly
agreed to send his daughter away because Jacob gave an amazing
argument, and maybe he was right. Maybe he was stifling Tess
from her full potential. At the time it made him realize that if
Jacob could let her go then he didn‘t care about her like he
thought, but looking at the man now, tired and haggard, made
him realize that Jacob did an amazing job at hiding his feelings.
I‘ll call you if she needs you.
Thanks. He said giving the younger man a scrutinizing
look before he left.
The next day Tess really tried to use the bars and get her
numb legs to move, but it wasn‘t easy. Jacob was there
encouraging her and it did seem to help, but she was also in pain.
For some reason her head seemed to hurt more and especially
her side where the chest tube was. It was distracting her from
her determination even though her feet felt less numb than the
day before. After about twenty minutes of struggling with
staying upright she started to crumble. Her knees began to bend
and her head bowed in defeat.
Jacob approached her quietly and put one of his hands on
the bar in front of hers while leaning down to meet her eyes,
She met his gaze and tried like hell not to let those honeyed
eyes affect her but it was no use, she was caught in his spell. His
face was only inches from hers and the deep timbre of his voice
didn‘t help either, What? she breathed unable to take his eyes
off of his.
If you don‘t try, I swear to God I‘ll leave you here. So get
your ass in gear and go down those bars.
You wouldn‘t. she said in a shaky breath searching his
eyes seeing no sign of sympathy for her. He would.
I would and you know it. he said with a steady look.
Inside it was killing him to see her in pain. He felt a surge of
triumph when her chin lifted slightly, she took a deep breath,
grimaced, and managed an unsteady step and then another. It
continued painstakingly Jacob thought, but he circled around
and embraced her when she finished. The physiotherapist
brought around the wheelchair and he lowered her into it.
Good job Doc, I didn‘t think she‘d do it. said the man.
She‘s got a lot of spunk, he said casting her a sly look.
She rolled her teary eyes, but still managed a smile.
Well I have another two dozen patients to put through.
You should stay. You‘ll make my job easier. He teased.
Thanks, but I only have one priority here. He grinned at
the other man and took the handles of the wheelchair to push her
back to her room. Once there he made her get into bed on her
own before he left to get something for her pain.
He came back with a syringe.
You‘re going to make me an addict. She complained
looking at the needle as he told her to roll over.
Nonsense, studies show that people in pain don‘t get
addicted. Now roll over.
Over? her eyes widened.
I have to put it in the muscle by your hip Tess. You don‘t
have an IV anymore.
Oh. She said, Last time you put it in my arm.
At the house, yes I did, but that was a different dose.
This is too much to put in that area, now roll over or I‘ll have you
restrained. He added with a smile.
You are very bossy. She said with a bit of a shake in her
voice as she rolled away from him, but she was too exhausted to
argue. This wasn‘t going well at all. Again he would be touching
her where no man has touched her before and last time he did
that she could barely breathe.
As he eased apart the edges of her gown to reach the site
on her hip, he couldn‘t help but notice the look of her creamy
flesh in more than a professional way. This time she wore black
bikini briefs and he near groaned as his fingers gently eased
down the hem so he could have access to the area which made
the curve of the upper part of her bottom visible. Even there her
skin was perfect, supple and soft, like warm silk. Even the gentle
slope of her back toward there was exquisite. At that moment he
was thankful that she couldn‘t see his face because it was
showing raw for need for her. He quickly swabbed the area
before he inserted the needle hearing her little gasp at the initial
stick. Almost done. He murmured as he injected the contents.
If he spoke any louder she would have heard the crack of desire
in his voice.
He knew what her ass looked like in jeans and although
he was a fairly good judge of a feminine body, Tess‘s s urpassed
his expectations. It was true that she was shorter than he was
used to but she was perfectly put together. Her waist was tiny,
but it led to well proportioned hips and an equal width upper
When he was done, he gently pulled her panties back up
and the gown back over her and covered her up with the
blankets. Then he got up without a word and disposed of the
needle in the sharps container as she rolled to her back and
watched him intently.
Just a minute honey, he said as he walked into the
bathroom to using an excuse to wash his hands but giving him
time to conceal his emotions. When he was done, he adjusted
the lines of his slacks to hide his erection thinking it was lucky
that he chose black slacks to wear. Never in his life had he so
easily been aroused with such a simple task. As a doctor he had
women parading in and out of his office all day, but none of them
even came close to stirring the response he felt now. He was
always able to separate that line of professionalism with his
patients, but Tess wasn‘t just a patient, he‘d known her all of her
life and somewhere, somehow he‘d crossed that line and got
involved. Although he‘d already made up his mind that he
wanted her, it certainly didn‘t help his self-control when he
reacted so blatantly to a small caress. Several minutes later he
Is something wrong?
Nothing. He gave her one of his lady -killer grins and sat
down on the chair beside her bed, that shot I gave you should
kick in soon. You‘ll feel better.
Are you taking me home tomorrow?
Ask me again after your physiotherapy. If there‘s an
improvement I will.
You‘re a slave driver. She sighed fluttering her eyes to
coincide with the effects of the injection he gave her. I hate the
way that stuff makes me feel.
Yeah, I know that, but people heal better if they‘re not in
Killjoy. She sighed and closed her eyes, don‘t leave
Jacob. I hate waking up alone.
You and me both
, he thought to himself as her breaths
slowed and became rhythmic telling him she was asleep.
Even though he‘d stared at her what seemed to be a
thousand times in the past few days, he still couldn‘t get over
how beautiful she was to him. Even through all of the swelling
and fading bruises it was obvious. Leaning back in the seat, he
placed his chin in his hand and his elbow on the armrest to stare
at her sleeping form. How he let her go in the first place, he‘d
never know, but she was coming back home now and he would
make things right between them. Chuck was right, the spark she
had seemed to diminish since he turned her away and sent her to
Tess felt like she was strangling for air and in the middle
of it, she heard Jacob‘s voice calling her.
Tess, wake up!
She felt strong hands on her shoulders, I‘m awak e. She
gasped out finally popping her eyes open.
He released her, You were having a nightmare.
Don‘t give me anymore of that stuff. She blinked up at
him, I have horrible dreams.
I see that. He smiled reaching for one of her hands, I‘ll
make sure it‘s something other than Morphine next time.
No more Jacob, please. She begged loving the feel of her
small cool hand in his large one.
It does help you honey.
Look, he said leaning over her and taking both of her
hands in his this time while resisting the urge to kiss them, I
know what‘s best for you and how to get you back on your feet
again. Morphine has some side effects and the bad dreams are
one of them. I‘ll get you something different that may not be as
strong, but it‘ll help take the edge off. That way we‘ll both be
happy. I‘ll even stay close by if that‘s what you want.
She nodded slowly, Why are you doing this? she asked
Because we‘re friends.
Not even a friend would go to the lengths you are doing
Obviously you don‘t know how many friends I have. He
teased causing her to actually release a short laugh.
I should have known. She actually teased back, I‘m
Christ, she had no idea how he wanted to use her. Images
flashed in his mind of their bodies naked and entwined. Despite
this, he managed to grin even if it was forced, You are, now go
back to sleep.
Right and have more nightmares about being choked to
death. No thanks.
I can get you a sedative.
Jacob, just visit with me. She said quickly worried that
he‘d get more medication to drug her with.
All right, he said sitting back down, what do you want
to talk about?
She turned her head and looked at him, Well, fill me in
on who‘s covering for you at the clinic?
Oh, isn‘t that a lot for him?
Well, he doesn‘t have to worry about every single woman
parading through there in Sulphur Springs right now, so I
assume his workload is about the same.
She laughed, you are so conceited.‘
His response was a sexy heart stopping grin that told her
She eyed him for a moment, point taken. However, she
continued with a teasing smile David‘s got a nice body, he‘s not
Be quiet little girl. He said sternly dropping his grin.
She chuckled this time and spared him another glance,
At least the Morphine makes me giddy, and maybe a little
I suppose you‘re still pining over Tom. He said coolly
not knowing where that even came from.
Her grin disappeared and she became serious, I told you
I wasn‘t interested in Tom. I went out with him to gain some
His expression darkened, His experience you don‘t need
God, I wasn‘t going to sleep with him. She protested
and equally surprised she had the bravery to say that.
You sure as hell wasn‘t. he added with unconcealed
venom, And you sure as hell aren‘t. That man has more nicks on
his belt then I do.
Oh for heaven‘s sake, you and I know that‘s impossible.
She said giggling again. He could sleep with every single woman
in Sulphur Springs and still not match your conquests. This time
That‘s what you deserve for listening to rumour. He
watched her seriously, I‘m beginning to think that you‘re right
about the Morphine.
If you‘re worried about my opinion of your reputation
Jacob, that will never change. I still think you‘re amazing.
Oh yah, I know still friends. She sighed heavily, Still
the cat is out of the bag so leave a girl her dreams okay?
This time he stood and leaned over her causing her to still
and just look at him. His eyes studied her for a moment before
he spoke. It was done intentionally so she could see that he was
completely serious. I‘ll tell you what honey. Let‘s get you home
and you and I will re-evaluate our friendship.
She stared up at him, I can‘t deal with that again.
We‘ll spend some time together just getting to know one
another. Do you think you can do that?
Her mouth fell open at that statement. Did he really
mean it? After all of these months of pining for him, he wouldn‘t
tease her would he? It would tear apart what was left of her heart
Please don‘t joke about my feelings.
He shook his head slowly not taking his eyes from her, I
would never do that with you Tess. I mean it.
I thoug ht—well, what about Lindsay—
I already explained to you about Lindsay and that day
you saw her in the clinic was the day I broke it off with her.
D–Did you really? she stuttered in disbelief.
But you said that it was the kind of relat ionship that you
I have been known to be wrong honey.
, he thought to himself. The truth of it was when they went
out to dinner together and she brought up the subject of
marriage and children he‘d found himself thinking seriously
about it especially when she left home to go to school and
Lindsay Scott was not part of those thoughts.
But—I thought you didn‘t care. She felt like weeping
and could feel the tears well up in her eyes.
Of course I care. He bent down and brushed his mouth
across hers, I‘ll make it up to you Tess. For now, I‘m letting you
know and your father, that you‘re coming home with me, not him
and I‘ll look after you until your better.
I don‘t know—
Don‘t argue. He said sternly, I‘ll be taking care of you
from now on. So get used to it.
I think this drug has me hallucinating. Was all she said,
but she couldn‘t stop the smile spreading across her face.
Well, we‘ll see how you feel in the morning. Hopefully
you‘ll remember this conversation. He grinned again, I‘ve never
had you speak so boldly around me. However, I like it and I
meant what I said. Let‘s take time to get to know one another
and then we‘ll take our relationship to the next step.
So you‘re really not going to make me go back to school.
No, it was too hard on him, and it took him long enough
to figure that out after the first month of missing her glowing
smile around the ranch. He knew he was being stubborn but pig-
headed probably suited him better to admit defeat and go to the
city to drag her home. His mood had changed too. He became
more irritable and one man actually quit after he launched into
him over something ridiculous. It was Colt who actually pegged
it when he was looking at him over the table one morning at
We miss her too Jacob, but you sent her away and life
does go on. He said with a glint in his eyes before he got up and
Lance, as usual, didn‘t say much but gave his brother‘s
shoulder a squeeze as he left the dining room after Colt. He may
have been a lawyer and a damn good one at that, but he was
quieter than most. However, he didn‘t need to say anything,
Jacob already knew he made a huge mistake.
He was hardly sleeping and he worried about her
endlessly. Was she safe? Did she meet someone? He constantly
hounded Chuck about her, but he only gave him minimal
information and he did it with an amused look on his face as if he
knew exactly what was going on inside his head when he didn‘t
have a clue. He wanted to phone her himself but he wasn‘t sure
how she‘d take it after he‘d hurt her and thought it in her best
interests to leave her alone.
Then he got that dreadful phone call and everything came
into perspective. He cancelled the rest of his afternoon
appointments, called Chuck on the way back to the ranch to pack
and both of them were on the plane less than two hours later. It
was the longest plane ride of his life. He and Chuck hardly said a
word. Then when he first saw her, he just about wept. Chuck
Jacob watched the older man and his chest hurt. He‘d
sent her away. He‘d insisted on it with Chuck until he finally
gave in. He accused him on smothering her and keeping her
close because he was alone. He worked the man‘s guilt until he
agreed. Was he wrong in letting her experience life? Giving her
the chance to explore her talents?
Looking at her in ICU unconscious, bruised and battered
and so small in the hospital bed, made him know he was. It was
shocking because whenever he‘d thought of Tess, she was
laughing, smiling or teasing and vibrant. The person in the bed
looked nothing like her and it actually took him a moment to
realize it was.
He should have kept her home. He could protect her
Unable to look at her anymore, he left Chuck with Tess
and sought out the doctor to find out about her prognosis. It
wasn‘t good, but over the next few days, she started to show signs
of improvement, and he attributed it to her stubbornness. It
caused a great awakening in him also tearing down those barriers
he‘d kept up around her. Jacob became her advocate and Chuck
let him. He was too preoccupied with his grief over Tess. It must
have hit him hard having to deal with the death of his wife just a
few years ago then nearly losing his only child. It certainly didn‘t
do any favours for his own guilt, but Jacob shoved it aside and
assumed the professional role.
Colt and Lance showed up to help after they left the
Ranch well managed under Tom. Colt went and arranged the
hotel rooms and Lance took care of the hospital bills while Jacob
focused entirely on Tess‘s care. It didn‘t take long for the rest of
the staff to realize he meant business, especially with the lawyer
standing behind him with one of those authoritative expressions
on his face that pulled no punches. The staff knew that if there
was so much as one iota of injustice there would be a lawsuit. The
words were never spoken, but Lance made sure he introduced
himself in such a way that people knew.
After things got settled, Lance and Colt went home and
Chuck and Jacob stayed to take turns watching Tess. Jacob
didn‘t realize how tense he was until she actually woke up. A
wave of relief went through him and he knew right then that he
was getting a second chance.
Tess‘s voice brought him back to the present, sorry
honey, it‘s been a long few days. I‘m tired.
Poor Jacob. She said sincerely.
He chuckled, poor me? Poor you. It seems you‘ve had
enough hurt for a lifetime. If you had nine lives, they‘re all
I agree. She said releasing a breath, I‘m tired to.
Tomorrow is another day. So get your sleep. I‘ll stay.
I‘m being selfish. You should go back to the hotel and
get some sleep. I‘ll take that sedative.
I‘ve had many nights like this in my line of work. Don‘t
worry about me. I‘ll let you know when I‘ve had enough. He
said taking the chair beside the bed taking her hand again.
promise? She asked followed by a yawn.
promise. He said softly as her eyes closed.
Jacob held her hand for a long time while thinking of how
to win her back without much damage. He already knew that she
still cared about him, but that wasn‘t the problem. Returning to
Sulphur Springs and enduring the gossip would be hard on her
and his ex relationships would be hard on her. He didn‘t care less
about it, but she wasn‘t used to it. And lastly, the trust. He‘d
taken something beautiful and crushed it. She had thrown
everything into the fire to confess her feelings for him and he
treated her badly. Yet, he had plenty of reasons for doing what
First of all she was too young and too naïve. He was used
to experienced women and had thought that her confession was
that of a crush of an innocent girl, but after she‘d left he couldn‘t
stop thinking about it and began to realize that maybe he
wouldn‘t have responded so heatedly to that kiss if he didn‘t feel
something too. Then there was his jealousy with Tom. He‘d
never been jealous over a woman before in his life so it took him
some time to examine that feeling. At first he thought he was
just being protective, but then why did he send Colton to get her
home. Then there was the way he felt when he was examining
her after her first hospital stay. He‘d shoved that one out of his
mind because he couldn‘t really explain his reaction and felt
guilty over the whole thing, but he knew it now. It was desire.
The next day she was able to walk the length of the bars
and not falter. It wasn‘t easy by any means but she was
determined to go home and get as far away from New York as she
I feel like an invalid. She mumbled as Jacob helped her
into the wheelchair.
Look on the bright side. He said leaning down from
behind and speaking in her ear, No broken bones. Just a few
measly cracked ribs.
She held her breath hearing his husky voice in her ear and
could only nod. It was then that she recalled some of the things
he‘d said to her the night before. Was she dreaming about him
saying that they‘d reconsider their relationship? She felt his
hand squeeze her shoulder before he pushed the wheelchair back
to her room. She closed her eyes against the touch hoping that it
wasn‘t a dream from the night before, but no way in hell was she
going to bring it up. She‘d already had her heart crushed by him
and more than likely she was hallucinating from the drug.
Once back in her room he helped her back into bed and
covered her up just as her nurse, Tammy came in.
Well, I should be looking for another job Doctor
Hartley? She said with a smile nodding to the now neatly tucked
I only have one patient. He said with a smile as his eyes
lit on Tess. So your job is safe.
Promise me. She said laughing before pulling the blood
pressure cuff out of the holder on the wall to put around Tess‘s
arm, Because you do such a good job with her, you make me
look bad. She added with a wink in Tess‘s direction. This time
She liked Tammy and oddly enough she didn‘t act as
though Jacob was the only man on earth when she was in the
room with them like other women did. I know when I‘ve been
beat. She told her one night when Jacob was out of the room
getting a cup of coffee. But Tammy was very pretty. She was tall
and leggy, with auburn hair and dark brown eyes. Not only that,
she had a genuine compassion about her that was very likable.
Just then Jacob‘s phone rang and Tammy gave him a
disproving look. Phones weren‘t allowed to be on in the hospital,
but Doctors never did listen to the rules. He just gave her a smile
and held a finger to his lips in such a handsome gesture that Tess
thought that anyone would have forgiven him. He wasn‘t even
bothered by her expression and pulled it out of his pocket to look
at the caller id.
It‘s Lance, he flipped it open and turned toward the
They never listen. Tammy smiled and finished the rest
of Tess‘s vital signs and cast a glance at Jacob‘s broad back before
settling them back on her, Lance is the lawyer? she asked.
Very. She whispered getting a suspicious look from
Jacob as he resumed his conversation.
Tammy released a purr causing Tess to laugh again.
Don‘t get your hopes up, Tess added, They‘re all
Except that one. She nodded toward Jacob. He‘s only
got eyes for you.
I told you before—
I know you did Tess, but his behaviour tells me
otherwise. She squeezed her hand, and then changed the subject
seeing how this one made her uncomfortable. If she couldn‘t see
how that gorgeous man coveted her, it was not her business to
prove it. She was certain doctor gorgeous would make his plans
known. They way he looked at Tess told her that. It was not a
look of affection, it went way beyond that. She really couldn‘t
blame him. The young lady was absolutely beautiful yet she
never acted like it. She was full of humility and even though she‘d
gone through a terribly traumatic event, she coped with it very
well. Obviously she was a lot of fun to be around by the way she
constantly cracked jokes and took her constant teasing. Not once
did she take anything Tammy said as an insult even when she
called her admirer =Doctor Gorgeous‘. How is your pain by the
way? I know he‘s on top of things, but let me feel useful okay?
I don‘t like morphine. She frowned still trying to sort
out the conversation from the night before not knowing if it was
real or not.
Not many people do who aren‘t used to it, but there are
other things we can give you.
Jacob mentioned that.
Of course he did. That got another smile from her
patient. I‘ll leave your pain control up to him then. Is there
anything else I can do for you?
Pray for a miracle so I can walk normally.
I‘ll do that, and you are a miracle Tess because you are
still here. She said tenderly. With that she left.
Tess wondered if it was as bad as that. Her eyes sought
out Jacob who was still standing in front of the window talking
on the phone. He emitted such striking profile with his erect
posture and one hand shoved into the pocket of his grey slacks.
Despite the expensive suit he wore, he had about two days
worth of stubble on his jaw which made him look like a man who
had been too busy to shave. His tie was slightly crooked too
which was completely unlike him. He always had an immaculate
appearance and she knew why he didn‘t. She began to feel guilty.
Her father would be in later this evening and she would convince
him to go back to the hotel this time and get some much needed
rest. Even when her father came to visit her over the past few
days she suddenly realized that Jacob didn‘t go home. He just
left to get a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. However, this was a
different suit from yesterday, but she bet that he had several here
and like Tammy had said before, that he was just using the
doctor‘s lounge to get cleaned up in.
She waited patiently until he hung up the phone and
shoved it back in his pocket. Jacob?
He turned toward her smiling, Lance needed an update.
I can‘t say I blame him. He said walking back toward
I need to ask you something. She s aid seriously.
Ask away. He said raising his dark brows.
Have you been here the whole time I‘ve been in the
Of course. He‘d been there two hours after that
wretched phone call and he told her so.
She could see that he didn‘t‘ understand what she was
trying to say. No, I meant have you even gone back to the hotel
for some sleep?
His face became masked, I‘m fine.
Jacob, you need rest too.
The hospital staff has been helpful.
It‘s not the same and you know it. She scolded.
Tonight, dad will stay with me and you‘re going to go and get
Tess, I told you before, I‘m used to this.
I don‘t think you are. I know you‘ve worked long hours
Jacob, but this is different—it‘s me this time. She said with
hesitation not too sure if it was because of her or if he devoted
this much time to anyone he cared about.
He leaned over her placing his hands on either side of her
body on the bed and looked down into her eyes, Yes, you are
correct. He said while his eyes searched her face, This is you
Tess, and I‘m not leaving your side until I‘m comfortable that
you‘re safe. I told you that last night.
—last night? she breathed wondering if some of that
was real. In the process she got the scent of his expensive cologne
and wanted to close her eyes and breathe deeper. Could a man
possibly smell as good as he did? He may look tired but he still
He nodded, think hard. I can see by your expression
that you remember something.
I don‘t. she said quickly.
He let a bit of a smile pull at one corner of his mouth
knowing that she wasn‘t telling the truth. I told you that we‘d re-
examine our friendship honey. Don‘t you remember?‘
Bits. She admitted softly.
He lifted a hand and grazed it down her cheek causing her
to hold her breath, Those bits are real.
Hush. He said softly as he lowered his head and
brushed his mouth across hers. Then he lifted it enough that his
eyes could look into hers, I‘m taking you home to look after you
and we‘ll try and get to know one another right this time.
You meant that? She could barely speak. Her mouth
tingled from that brief but gentle gesture.
I did. He said allowing a slow sensual smile to cross his
handsome face, very much.
You feel guilty.
Yes, I do. However, this decision has nothing to do with
it Tess. I don‘t date women out of pity.
Date? Even though he‘d said it in a roundabout way, it
still surprise her when he mentioned that word.
If you‘ll have me. He answered.
You want to date me? she repeated still surprised.
Don‘t act so surprised you‘re far from repulsive. He
teased causing her to smile.
It‘s just—well I thought that you wanted a =no strings‘
Before maybe, but not now.
What changed your mind?
Well, you did. He said still hovering over her, I missed
Really? The wave of emotion that passed through her at
his gentle admission near had her undone.
I missed you too Jacob. She felt tears burn her eyes,
and he lowered his head again and kissed both of them and her
cheek before raising himself up again.
I know I‘ve done some damage to you little one, but give
me a chance to make things right okay?
He meant it. She was sure of it. Jacob never said
anything he didn‘t mean. Slowly she nodded and it got her one of
those heart pounding sexy grins she loved so much. How could
she possibly deny him? She loved him.
She breathed a sigh of relief as the Hartley‘s large house
came into view. She was exhausted from the plane ride alone
even though it was another three days before she was released
from the hospital. The doctor made her walk twenty feet on her
own without help before he would release her with Jacob‘s
promise to keep up her exercises. However he wasn‘t doing such
a good job. The wheelchair was left in the airport gate as he lifted
her out of it and carried her onto the plane not even giving her a
chance to try and walk.
You‘re too tired. He said to her unspoken questions,
You have dark circles under your eyes.
You do to.
Ah, but I can walk fine. He offered with a dimpled
Her father just shook his head and led the way.
Once the plane landed he repeated the gesture to the
waiting wheelchair. She swore she heard one of the stewardesses
sigh. Well she really couldn‘t blame her, Jacob was absolutely
Colton was waiting for them when they landed and gave
Tess a hug before Jacob hoisted her easily out of the chair and
into the waiting ranch truck. He placed her in the middle seat
while her father and Colt took care of the luggage.
After dropping Chuck off at their house they continued on
to the main one.
I‘m surprised dad is fine with this. She said to Jacob
when Colt was helping her father unload his luggage.
I really didn‘t give him much of a choice.
She just stared at him.
I told him— he continued at her surprised expression,
That the only way you got released from the hospital is because I
insisted that I‘d be there to care for you.
Aren‘t you going back to work?
In a few days, when I know you can manage the stairs.
I never thought of that. She‘d forgotten that she
couldn‘t climb up and down stairs yet. Well, she may be able to,
but she hadn‘t tried it. That would mean that he would have to
carry her up to her room all the time. No t that she minded, being
his in strong arms just that day was amazing. She could feel
every hard contour of his body under his clothes as he held her
tight to him. I‘ll give you a back problem. She said trying to
tease her way out of her wandering mind.
He smiled, I doubt it. He bent down and kissed the tip
of her nose. stay put. I need to speak with your father before we
leave. He said getting out of the truck while her laughter
followed him. He knew damn well that she couldn‘t move even if
she wanted to.
She watched in the side mirror as Jacob shook hands with
her father and Colt joined them. She couldn‘t hear what was
being said but several times her father looked toward the truck
before he nodded and spoke back.
A moment later both of the brothers were back in the
truck and Jacob stretched his arm across the back of her seat
allowing his hand to rest on her shoulder. She had to admit that
she cherished his protectiveness. Colt and Jacob began talking
about business but she didn‘t mind as long as he didn‘t move his
hand. He absently caressed the curve with his fingers while he
spoke to Colt, and if anyone asked her what the conversation was
about, she wouldn‘t have had a clue.
Maria must‘ve heard the truck coming up the drive
because she bustled out the front door and waited on the steps.
Colt got out and started to unload the luggage as Jacob reached
You should try and let me walk.
Not today. He said gathering her in his arms, Besides
honey, I like how you feel.
Jacob! she whispered harshly hoping no one else heard.
They‘ll find out sooner or later when we are seen
together around town.
But I‘m staying with your family.
In a very plutonic sense honey. He gave her a hard look,
I wo uld never compromise you under my roof and my family
You poor little miss! Maria said as Jacob carried her up
the stairs to the porch and into the house with her on their heels,
You just have one thing after another happen to you lately. Are
I‘m very tired. She said laying her head against Jacob‘s
Would you like some tea?
Don‘t mother her Maria, she needs to have a nap before
She stopped and placed her hands on her hips, Well then
I‘ll make her some cherry cobbler for desert and I‘ll mother her
as much as I want.
My favourite. She raised her head and grinned at the
woman over Jacob‘s shoulder.
I know. She said winking at her before she turned and
went back to the kitchen.
Jacob took the long staircase easily with her in his arms
and kicked the door shut to her room after he went in.
It took her a moment before she realized that he hadn‘t
set her down yet, but her eyes were closed as she leaned against
him. Finally when she realized that he hadn‘t moved she opened
them to find her just looking at her.
You‘re very pretty Tess.
She felt herself blush realizing that he was watching her
enjoy his embrace, Put me down.
He grinned seeing the color change in her cheeks,
Call me what you like, but you know how I feel about
He turned his head and nuzzled his nose into the hair at
her brow, It‘s very flattering. Then he kissed her forehead
before he bent down and laid her on her bed.
She expected him to leave but he just pulled the coverlet
over her and then sat beside her hip as she rolled on her side
toward him. I can‘t sleep if you‘re here gawking at me.
He chuckled, I just want a minute with you before I
leave. There‘s something I want to ask you.
Her brain was working a hundred miles a minute to
figure out what it could possibly be. Maybe he changed his mind
about them seeing each other.
There‘s a dance next Saturday. I want to take you. I
guess that way we‘ll make ourselves known. You‘ll be back in
your house and your own bed by then. He grew serious. This
isn‘t going to be easy for you Tess. There‘ll be gossip. Then
there‘s the age difference.
You‘ve thought about this haven‘t‘ you?
At great length.
It bothers you?
It did before, not n ow. I know how sweet you are and
my concern is that you‘ll be gossiped about because of this. He
indicated with a finger back and forth between them, meaning
them. I never did care what people thought about me, but I just
want you to be prepared.
Lindsay Scott floated into her mind and she knew why.
That was the type of woman Jacob was seen with and she
would‘ve let anything bother her. She was experienced and a
socialite to boot, whereas Tess had none of those qualities.
Although she had been to dances with the brothers before, they
all had their own dates and she was under no pressure to
perform. This time it would be different. The Hartley brothers
were well sought after bachelors and all female eyes would be on
her at the coming dance. She‘d never had to deal with that kind
of pressure even if she knew just about everyone at those events.
She looked up at him thinking that through all of this he had
thought this out, how she would feel being looked at in a
different light. He must care more than she originally thought.
Was Tammy right about the way he looked at her? She was too
inexperienced to see it, but maybe he did. I‘m a big girl Jacob, it
won‘t bother me.
Brave words. He said with a suspicious look, But— he
stood up, We‘ll find out soon enough. Get some sleep. He
turned and walked out of the room.
Colt was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs with
his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans.
Oh, I know what that look is about. He said stopping a
few steps above.
I hope you know what you‘re doing. This is Tess.
Because Colt was the one who picked them up at the airport and
rode home with them in the truck he didn‘t miss one moment of
affectionate exchanged between Jacob and Tess. Although he
already knew how Tess felt because of her confession a few
months back, Jacob was no monk.
He took a deep breath and released it as he ran a hand
through his dark hair, I hope so to.
Colt nodded and fished in his back pocket to pull out his
pack of smokes, Come on Jake, let‘s go outside and have a
cigarette. Maria will kill us if we smoke in the house.
Sure. He said following his younger brother out the
door. Colt never asked him anymore about it. He wouldn‘t
either. They didn‘t pry into each other‘s lives at all, but Tess was
an exception. He just wanted him to know that Lance and he
were aware of it.
That night at dinner Tess had to admit that she was proud
of herself. She had managed to come down the stairs with Jacob
walking in front of her as she held onto the railing with one hand
and his shoulder with the other. It took her some time but she
did it. It also earned her a nice but brief kiss on the mouth.
Jacob took her arm and led her to the dining room which she was
happy to see her father joining them for dinner.
After he helped her sit down Lance said grace and Jacob
bluntly told the family that he and Tess were seeing each other.
There was a brief hush of silence before Chuck spoke.
Maria makes the best damn roast beef in this country.
He said spearing a slice as if Jacob was just discussing the
Tess whose cheeks pinked up from Jacob‘s
announcement managed to burst into laughter followed by
deeper throaty chuckles.
When dinner was over the men left to go about their
various chores on the ranch but not until Jacob escorted Tess to
the swing on the front porch. Her father joined her about twenty
You seem almost one hundred percent better. He said
taking the seat beside her.
I‘m beginning to feel normal. She said look ing down at
her swinging feet.
Jake says I can take you home in a few days.
She gave her father a genuine smile, You‘d think he was
my father the way he orders me about.
Chuck laughed, Well honey, he does care about you. You
should have seen him at the hospital. I know about animals, not
people, but all I can say is thank God he was there. I was a
I‘m sorry you had to go through that Dad. She said
sincerely. It must‘ve been a nightmare.
He shook his head, Jake was right, you needed t o see if
there was anything out there for you and I was glad he was with
me and there for you. I don‘t know how I could have handled it if
he wasn‘t. I owe him a lot baby.
Chuck smiled at her, Let me shoulder that burden. You
need to relax and enjoy life.
After a moment of contemplating her father‘s words she
nodded, Okay, but I‘m really glad to be home.
Me too. He said standing. I love you baby girl.
Me too. She said trying not to cry.
I‘ll see you tomorrow.
She nodded and watched him get in the suburban and drive
off. Hopefully he wasn‘t that lonely while she recovered here.
Maria came out about ten minutes later and gave her a glass
of ice tea.
Thanks, by the way the cherry cobbler really good!
Of course it was. She said gruffly before she went back in
Tess just smiled. Maria acted gruff but she‘d made her
favourite dessert and brought her a glass of iced tea without
asking her if she wanted it or not.
She sat there for the next hour watching a group of horses
gallop around one of the distant pastures as the sun began to go
down. This land was so beautiful there were times that she could
have wept over it when she was in New York and she would have
given anything to come home, but Jacob said he didn‘t want her.
She really wondered if he didn‘t pity her because he seemed
to have suddenly changed his mind. She knew he felt guilty and
most likely blamed himself for what had happened to her, but
she never thought that once. She was clumsy and not used to the
traffic and ended up stepping off the curb without checking.
Even though she had the right of way, accidents do happen.
Regardless, she wasn‘t going to tell him that she didn‘t want
him, because she did. Not only that, she was hoping that he
might care like Tammy said, but she certainly wasn‘t going to
leap right in with her heart in her hands like before. Also the
affection that he‘d been displaying towards her was no more than
small caresses or a small peck on the mouth, cheek or forehead.
It was nothing compared to what a man and a woman who cared
about one another displayed.
A sinking feeling went through her making her think that
maybe he was just giving her what she thought he wanted which
was to pretend to date her just to please her after what she‘d been
through. She knew he cared about her at least that much. But
would he really do such a thing?
She bit her bottom lip thinking about it wishing she wasn‘t
so darn insecure where he was concerned.
The familiar voice got her out of her downward spiralling
thoughts and she couldn‘t have been more thankful to see Tom
walk up toward the porch. Hi!
He trotted up the steps and sat next to her. How are you
Oh, gee—I feel like I‘ve been run over by a delivery van.
He laughed, Well, it‘s good to see it didn‘t drive off with
your sense of humour.
That‘ll be the last of me to go.
Tom reached over and took her hand before she could stop
We were all worried about you honey.
He grinned, Don‘t worry—I like my job.
Her brows lifted, What does that mean.
Colt laid down the law where you‘re concerned.
It‘s okay, I‘m beginning to think there‘s more than one man
interested in you and Colt‘s right, and you‘re not the type of gal
that I should chase when I‘m not ready to settle down.
Is there anything else you could possibly add to my
He studied her face while giving her a handsome grin, No,
I‘ve done my best I think. He glanced up, Oh-oh.
Here comes Jacob. I‘d better make myself scarce. He
released her hand and stood up. Take care honey.
Tess let her attention go to Jacob who had a scowl on his
face as he approached the house, but she still couldn‘t help but
admire his long legged stride. Wasn‘t there anything about the
man that she didn‘t find appealing? You too. She said before he
left the porch and approached Jacob. It was obvious they were
talking about her when Jacob gestured in her direction even
though she couldn‘t hear what they were saying. Tom just
nodded and cast her a glance. It seemed like there was a lot of
talking about her lately and she wasn‘t included in any of it.
Finally she breathed a sigh of relief as Jacob shook Tom‘s
hand before he left.
I wish people would quit talking about me like I‘m
invisible. She said as he came up the steps.
He paused in front of her but didn‘t sit down. The look on
his face was impossible to read. It was that Doctor-professional
look she‘d seen so many times.
You really don‘t want me to repeat what I said to Tom,
I told you I wasn‘t—
You may not be, but that doesn‘t mean he wasn‘t. he bent
over and placed a hand on either side of her shoulders while
gripping the back of the swing bringing his face inches from hers,
I‘ll not have my employees chasing after my girlfr iend when I
turn my back.
He may not have touched her, but it certainly seemed like he
did from the way her body reacted. Her whole body felt like it
was just electrified, W—What did you just say?
you heard me. He said sternly, Stay away from Tom.
She blinked. He actually sounded jealous! Jacob didn‘t get
jealous. Was it an act? After a brief moment of looking at his
unreadable expression, she knew it wasn‘t. Another thrill went
through her and she couldn‘t help the smile that draped across
her face. He saw it and grunted as he erected himself.
Don‘t wallow too deep in it Tess. I meant what I said. I‘ll
fire him. He said pointing a finger at her in warning.
She pressed her lips together resisting another smile and
nodded trying to look like she was taking him seriously and
He narrowed his eyes, you are encroaching on dangerous
territory honey. I‘ve been behaving myself, but if you keep
taunting me like that, I‘ll turn you over my knee and show you
why you belong to me, and it certainly doesn‘t involve a
Jacob! she burst, don‘t talk like that!
This time he grinned and allowed his gaze to run over her
front scorching everything he paused on.
Tess just realized that he completely turned the tables on her
especially when her cheeks started to heat up and she was sure
they were as scarlet as roses. If it wasn‘t the grin itself which was
downright sinful, it was the glitter of desire he allowed her to see
in the honeyed depths of his eyes.
Then satisfied that he affected her, he shoved his hands in
the pockets of his jeans and walked away whistling.
So much for not jumping in with her heart in her hands, she
just handed it to him after that and he made sure she knew it.
I’m in trouble.
The next few days seemed to fly by and in the process she
hardly saw Jacob. He‘d returned to work the following day after
she showed him that she was able to manage the stairs by herself.
Tess had still been fighting fatigue from her overall
experience and had been going to bed early missing Jacob when
he came home late from the clinic. He was obviously trying to
catch up on the work he missed while he took care of her. It
really wasn‘t fair, he must‘ve been exhausted.
Jacob was exhausted, but there was too much to do. He had
sent Rita home before dinner but as with the previous two days
he stayed late to go through the files of his patients that David
had handled while he was away. He knew he owed the man a
long overdue vacation for covering for him on such short notice.
Lifting his arm he glanced at his watch. It was almost ten
o‘clock and he was tired. Unfortunately he hadn‘t seen Tess in
two days and it was hard to admit that he missed her. He stood
and gathered the files. He‘d leave them on Rita‘s desk to put
away tomorrow but he wasn‘t taking any work home with him
tonight. He needed to see Tess. Hopefully she was still awake. If
not, he had full intentions on checking on her whether she was in
bed or not.
However, when he went out to the front he knew Rita had
forgotten to lock the door behind her because there stood
Lindsay with a long overcoat on. Then to his surprise she
grabbed the edges and opened it revealing her long slender
It was after midnight but Tess was still awake. She stayed up
late to wait for Jacob. It seemed like forever since she‘d seen
him. Everyone else had long since gone to bed and she was
sitting in the family news waiting and the twelve o‘clock news
had just started when she heard the front door open. She got up
and rushed to meet him.
Jacob was just taking off his coat when Tess appeared in the
hall. A wash of guilt hit him looking at her. Unfortunately he
couldn‘t mask his expression in time.
What is it?
He released a heavy sigh, We need to talk.
Lindsay came to see me tonight. He said setting his
briefcase down while looking at her.
Did she hear him right? Then she started putting things
together. The look of guilt and the late hour he was coming
home. A horrible feeling washed through her, Jacob— she said
not being able to stop the crack in her voice.
It took a moment for him to register what could be going
through her mind. Wait a minute—nothing happened!
Her rushed breath of relief was loud in the large hall but she
couldn‘t stop the tremble that ran through her and he saw it.
Oh for Pete‘s sake honey, give me some credit. He said
stepping up to her and gathering her into his arms, I‘m ruined
for other women, don‘t you know that?
She shook her head against his chest causing him to release
a deep throaty chuckle. Then he cupped her head in his large
hands and made him look at her, I said I wanted to talk to you
because I suspect that Lindsay isn‘t done with us yet. I‘m sorry
you got dragged into this, but obviously she had other plans than
what she originally told me. After I sent her away, I just went to
the diner for a cup of coffee so I could think this through. He
needed the time to unwind because Lindsay was clingy and not
easy to dissuade. It took him at least forty-five minutes to get her
out of his clinic. She was determined to have her way with him
and show him that Tess was too young and inexperienced for
him. He realized then that it was something he sorely needed to
remedy. He couldn‘t concentrate at work, or on anything else for
that matter because he was so preoccupied with thoughts of her.
Okay. She managed looking up at him. I trust you Jacob.
He smiled down at her, Of course you do Tess because
that‘s in your sweet nature. He looked over her head for a
minute, Is anyone else up?
No, Lance and Colton went to bed hours ago.
um-hm. He said lowering his head to hers.
Jacob? she murmured seeing that he was about to kiss her.
Honey, I‘m tired of playing the nice guy. I haven‘t had a
decent night‘s sleep since you‘ve been in this house.
He shook his head, So let‘s take some time to get and know
each other a little more intimately.
He didn‘t give her a chance to answer him. The next second
his hard mouth was on hers and she even forgot that he said
anything. She could feel his hand circle around to the small of
her back and the other tangled in her hair to help guide her
mouth under his.
The last time he kissed her like that was before she left for
New York, and for three long months she hadn‘t been able to
shake it from her memory. However, despite his confession the
other day on the porch, she still wondered if he saw her that way.
When she felt his tongue probe for entrance, she knew he did.
Honey you taste wonderful. He murmured before he took
her mouth again.
She thinks that‘s when she moaned, but she wasn‘t sure.
Finally Jacob lifted his head and stared down at her. She
looked so desirable that he groaned, To the TV room. He said
as he started backing her toward the door that she came out of
Tess hardly noticed. Somehow her hands found the buttons
on his shirt and began to undo them.
Just a minute honey. He said releasing her to turn and
shut the door, I don‘t want us to be interrupted. He added
locking it before he turned his heated gaze back on her.
uh-huh. She said absently while stepping up to him and
resuming the task of the buttons on his shirt.
Ah hell. Could you possibly any more desirable? he
gathered her back into his arms and crushed her mouth under
his while backing her toward the sofa. It had been almost four
months since he had a woman which made his desire for her
tenfold. He didn‘t want another woman. He wanted Tess.
As her hands finished undoing the buttons of his shirt she
started pulling it out of the belted waistband of his dark slacks.
Wait. He said softly while placing his hands on her hips
and pushing her away from him so he could reach up and undo
Tossing it on the floor, he grabbed her again, maybe a little
too roughly from the small gasp that escaped her. If you want
me to stop, I will. He said taking her mouth again not giving her
any room to answer.
Lord, if she could speak, that‘s certainly not what she would
have said. She pushed his shirt off of his thick shoulders and he
released her to allow it to fall to the floor joining his tie leaving
his upper half bare. Her hands began to explore the contours of
his body and she was amazed at how well built he was,
Everything about you is hard Jacob. She finally managed to
Tess, you shouldn‘t say that to a man in the state I‘m in
right now. He said huskily
She didn‘t hear him, her hands went to his belt, but he
stilled them with his finally bringing her out of her state and
raising her eyes to his realizing how brazen she was being, Oh
God, Jacob— She was going to apologize for her aggressiveness
when he interrupted her.
no, don‘t you dare feel embarrassed. I want you to, but I
don‘t think it‘s fair that I‘m half naked and you‘re not.
What? she said still recovering from the haze of desire she
was in. She didn‘t know what possessed her but she had this
deep raw need to see all of him.
This— he said reaching over and gently pulling her t -shirt
out of her jeans, —is in the way.
Suddenly she realized what he meant and had an attack of
shyness. She stopped his hands with hers.
No— he said looking down at her, You‘re not backing out
Tess. You‘re a mature woman and I‘m so turned on for you I can
feel it to the back of my teeth.
For some reason she always knew that Jacob was assertive
in this aspect, but it still surprised her, but not in the way she
thought it would. The hot determined look in his eyes made her
whole body feel as if it was on fire. He never said another word
but just looked down at her with those striking eyes of his and
she felt her resistance fold and diminish. a triumphant smile
spread across his face as she released his hands and allowed him
to lift her shirt over her head. He discarded it and paused to
stare down at her.
Nice. He said reaching up and cupping one of her breasts
in his hand. I knew you‘re breasts were going to be beautiful
Tess, but like the rest of you they surpassed my expectations. He
said using his other hand to reach behind her an easily unsnap
Tess lost her voice again especially when his thumb rubbed
over her nipple causing it to instantly tauten. She tilted her head
back and moaned not even realizing that he‘d undid the lacy
material and slid it down her arms.
Jacob bent down and ran his mouth down her arched neck
while he expertly played with her breasts. She was exquisite and
completely helpless under his touch. He loved that about her.
She lit right up when he touched her and reacted with such
wanton desire, that he knew he could easily take her. He guided
her to the sofa, sat down and pulled her on top of his lap so she
was straddling him. It presented those perfect breasts for his
Oh God! Tess choked out as his hot mouth covered one of
her breasts tasting and teasing it. She tangled her hands in his
hair to force him closer to her. Nothing ever felt that good!
Jacob spanned his hands around her waist to move her back
on his lap, enough so he could reach between them and undo the
snap on her jeans. She didn‘t notice. Maybe it had something to
do with his mouth and tongue on her breasts. She certainly liked
that which pleased him. There were other things he was going to
do to her with his mouth that she would like even more.
After he unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans, his hands
unbuckled his own belt and then he gripped her hips and pulled
her close to him, twisted his fingers in her hair, and forced her
mouth to his while his other hand expertly caressed her breast.
He knew he was being aggressive with her, but her reaction to
him just encouraged his behaviour. The more assertive he got,
the more she responded to him.
His hands weren‘t the only busy ones. Hers continued to
explore his body and every now and then she dug her nails into
his flesh and released a throaty exotic moan. If he thought he
had her where he wanted her, his groan of submission just told
him how wrong he was.
They way she was responding to him made him doubt that
she was a virgin, not that she ever said she was, but he came to
that conclusion on his own.
He tightened his arms around her drawing her breasts
against his chest; loving the feel of her soft flesh against his while
he continued to assault her mouth with his own.
Tess was in a different world and was automatically in love
with it. Jacob felt good, smelled good, and every time he touched
her she was pushed further over the edge and deeper into this
new realm he was showing her. She couldn‘t get close enough to
him and knew there was more to this hunger that she felt. It
swelled inside her with some deep primal need that she
desperately needed fulfilled. Somewhere in the back of her mind
she heard her name.
Tess. He said roughly causing her to lift her head and look
at him. I have to know before we go any further if you‘re on the
pill, because I have protection but in my room. Not here.
Pill? she breathed, what pill? Oh lord it was hard pulling
her head out of the clouds.
the pill, he said letting a devilish grin draw across his face.
Was she really caught up so much that it was taking her a
moment to comprehend what he was saying. By the look of her
he would have to say so. Her mouth was swollen from his none to
gentle kisses, and her face was flushed, but most appealing was
the darkened color of her eyes. They looked like two wet
Oh, she said and nodded.
Thank God. He groaned taking her mouth again. Then he
flipped her onto her back and brought his weight down on her so
quickly that she could barely blink.
She nearly said something, until she felt his body against
hers. Tess couldn‘t believe how amazing it felt to have that large
muscular body stretched out on top of hers. She could feel him
pushing her jeans down her hips and found herself lifting them
to help him.
Jacob sat back on his heels and pulled her jeans off followed
by her panties and flung them aside before coming back down on
her again. He didn‘t miss how beautiful her flushed naked body
was and was impatient to feel her under him again. Her nails
dug into his shoulders as he settled in between her legs and
pulled one roughly over his hip. The only thing that separated
them now was his slacks.
Jacob, I‘m dying.
Hell no, not yet you aren‘t. he breathed against her mouth
as he reached down between them to free himself, We‘re just
getting to the good part. I can‘t wait any longer. He said against
If he expected a protest, he certainly didn‘t get one. Instead
she slid her other thigh up over his hip.
He raised himself up on his forearms and adjusted himself
against her. Tess, open your eyes and look at me. He said in a
rough voice unable to contain his desire.
Tess did but she could barely focus. He had her completely
wild for him. Then he started to push into her and the invasion
was completely foreign, then there was pain.
Jacob felt her stiffen then go completely still. She slapped a
hand over her mouth to stop herself from crying out. Somehow
he was so involved in having her, he‘d forgotten that she might
have been a virgin. Not only that, she enveloped him perfectly
and his own groan of pleasure drowned out her muffled cry. He
instantly stopped, Tess? his voice sounded oddly distant.
It hurts so much! she sobbed.
Oh baby, I‘m so sorry. I‘m such a brute. He murmured
kissing the tears that started falling down her cheeks.
She could feel his arms on either side of her head tremble so
much with restraint that the cushion beneath her head shook.
Her eyes sought out his and she could see the strain in his
expression along with the guilt as he was resisting moving within
her. Then to her surpise he started to pull away which caused her
to tighten her legs around his hips, =no —don‘t. she managed
knowing he was about to end it, I‘d much rather have you in me
than away from me.
That statement made him groan and he took her mouth
again. Slowly the stiffness started to drain out of her and at the
first movement of her hips under him, he began a slow and
steady rhythm. About the third or forth time he moved in her she
felt something erupt from their joining.
you feel it don‘t you? he said lifting his head to watch her
after she released a gasp.
Jacob—oh, that‘s— she widened her eyes as the feeling
started to become more intense and start to spread low in her
He knew from experience when to change his rhythm and he
was right on cue as noises started to pour from her parted lips.
Soon he was lifting himself above her so he could get deeper,
faster. He felt her climax but she also marked it with one of the
sexiest sounds of release that he‘d ever from a woman, and it
just heightened his own. Those last few strokes he‘d given her
before his own release were hard and deep. He buried his face in
her shoulder to resist shouting out loud and waking the whole
Tess could feel him pulse within her and besides the act
itself, she found it so amazing. Then he went slack and brought
his full weight down on her with a muffled moan into her
shoulder. Actually she was surprised she noticed he did that
because she swore she lost her own sight for a moment. Also
with his weight on her, she could barely take a breath but loved
the feeling so much, she didn‘t say anything. Finally he lifted his
head and looked down at her. He never said anything, but there
was an odd warmth in his eyes before he bent his head and
kissed her tenderly.
Are you all right? he asked softly.
I think so.
Wait until tomorrow honey. You‘ll be sore. He shifted and
rolled against the back of the sofa pulling her against him, so
you can breathe.
She smiled, Thanks.
He just stared at her for a moment and noticed that her
cheeks started to flush. Don‘t be ashamed. It‘s a natural act
between a man and a woman Tess.
It‘s not that.
Then what is it?
I—well, it just felt so good. She said in complete awe.
He chuckled, As I said before, you do wonders for my ego.
Is it always like that?
No, it gets better. There‘s different positions, different
kinds of foreplay. I would have taught you a little more, but I
was too desperate to get close to you. He said pushing a lock of
hair off her cheek so he could run his fingers down it
affectionately. Tess never looked so beautiful to him as she did at
that moment. Not another woman in his life could measure up to
her and the fact that she just gave herself to him expounded that
feeling. He was her first and it made him feel incredibly
privileged and possessive. He knew right there that if Tom even
looked at her sideways he was going to throttle him. As far as he
was concerned she was his. Making love to her just blew his
mind. Somehow being emotionally involved made the act more
incredible than he‘d ever thought possible. He hadn‘t been that
impatient since he was a lusty teenager and in the process he‘d
hurt her. Hell, he was still wearing his damn pants. They may
have been halfway down his ass cheeks, but he still had them on.
He couldn‘t help but grin.
I think you‘re driving me insane.
Is that right? she said hearing the amusement in his voice,
Well, at least I know now that I‘m not the only one.
He took a deep breath knowing he was going to disappoint
her as much as him with his next words, Okay honey, let‘s go up
to bed, I don‘t‘ think you‘ll be happy to be found by both my
brothers in the morning.
Oh heaven, I didn‘t even think about that. You had me so
Come on. He said getting up with a reluctant groan and
pulling his slacks back up his hips. It must‘ve been one of the
hardest things he ever had to do, leave her warm soft flesh like
Tess was completely embarrassed at getting up and dressing
in front of him, even though he acted as if it were as natural as
breathing. This was something she wasn‘t used to at all.
Reluctantly she sat up and reached for her clothes from the
mound on the floor. As she started to put them on she realized
that it seemed awfully quiet in the room. Glancing up she stilled,
Jacob was just standing there with an arrogant grin on his face
and his hands folded across his bare chest as he watched her.
You have to admit, the view is exquisite. He said huskily
as she blushed scarlet all the way down to her breasts. Maybe
She quickly pulled her shirt over her head doing her best to
ignore him. She finished dressing and was surprised when he
pulled her back into his arms for another long deep kiss.
Now you go first and I‘ll wait twenty minutes before I
Okay. She managed a smile, thanks Jacob.
I should be thanking you. He said deeply.
She flushed as he released her. She gave him a final look
over her shoulder before she left the room.
After she left, Jacob sat down on the sofa that they had made
love on only moments ago and ran his hand through his hair,
what the hell are you doing Jacob. He said to himself. It wasn‘t
that he didn‘t want her, he did. However, he didn‘t mean to take
her on the couch like that. Tess of all people deserved respect
but he was so bloody hot for her that he forgot his head. The last
time he did that, he was sixteen and made love to his high school
girlfriend on her mother‘s couch while she was upstairs asleep.
Problem was the living room had no door and it was in the
middle of the house. He chuckled gathered up his clothes and
headed upstairs to bed pausing outside her door for a moment.
He would give anything to crawl into her bed next to that
luscious body of hers but he couldn‘t embarrass her anymore.
Instead he went to his room and had a shower. That night for the
first time in months, he slept like a newborn babe.
The next morning Tess realized that Jacob was right on the
money. She was very sore. Even her breasts were sore and later
when she looked at herself in the mirror there was an imprint of
a large hand still visible on one. If he was rough with her, she
didn‘t remember it at all. She actually smiled to herself. Nothing
could have prepared her for how amazing that was. Finally she
got to be with him and if it was the only time, it was worth it for
the rest of her life. She was utterly in love with Jacob. Just
thinking about last night caused heat to flush through her pelvis.
She stood up smiling and pushed her long hair over her
shoulders. Maybe a shower would ease her sore muscles. As
soon as she stood up, she moaned. Good lord she was sore
everywhere. It didn‘t seem like she‘d run a mar athon last night,
but it certainly felt like it now. At least she confirmed something.
an amazing lover.
When she made her way downstairs the three men were just
seating themselves for breakfast. Colt jumped up and pulled the
chair out for her and this time Jacob said grace. She was a little
disappointed that he didn‘t say much to her except =good
morning‘ but really, what should she expect. It wasn‘t like he
could bend her over his arm and give her one of those organ
melting kisses that he showed her last night without letting the
other two know what they‘d been up to, so she returned the
polite greeting and tried her best not to blush as images returned
from the previous night.
For the rest of her breakfast she kept her eyes to her plate
and only spoke when one of the men talked.
Jacob tossed his napkin on his plate and stood up taking
Tess‘s hand, Come see me out. He said pulling her out of her
chair not giving her a choice. It was driving him insane not being
able to touch her. All through breakfast he couldn‘t get the
images out of his mind from the night before and if he thought
he‘d finally satisfied himself by making love to her, the erection
he felt now told him something different.
He was glad to see that she followed him without protest.
More and more he found himself a little demanding about her.
Once out at the truck he turned, and pulled her into his
embrace cutting her gasp off with his mouth.
After a full five minutes and his own satisfaction of tasting
those enticing lips of hers he lifted his head loving the dazed look
in her eyes, I couldn‘t wait to touch you. It was driving me
She grinned, Me too.
You should consider getting your own apartment Tess.
That way we could spend more time together at night.
It would still be obvious Jacob.
Maybe but at least we could make all the noise we want.
That got a blush out of her. He chuckled and took her hand
pressing something in it.
A credit card.
She gave him a look of shock before trying to hand it back to
him, I don‘t need a credit card.
I want you to go and buy the sexiest dress you can find for
the dance this weekend and spare no expense.
Jacob, I can‘t do that. She said trying once more to give
him his card back, It looks like I‘m a kept woman.
You‘re my woman, and I want you to look your best for this
I have money of my own. She said getting more and more
offended. Is this what you do for other women?
His gaze narrowed, No. And the type of dress I want you to
wear is beyond your price range. I assure you I can afford it.
She placed her hands on her hips, I‘m not a Lindsay Scott.
I won‘t be bought and can‘t you see how insulting this is?
No Tess, you‘re not Lindsay. I never said you were, but take
the damn card and buy an expensive dress. He said pushing her
hand containing his card back toward her.
She released a frustrated breath, Look, if you can‘t accept
me the way I look in the clothes I can afford—take someone else.
Don‘t temp me. He gritted back.
She snapped her mouth shut and just stared at him. Her
chest clenched at the thought of him with another woman
especially what they shared the night before. It was her fault for
pushing him, Jacob—
Hey— he said softly letting the frustration drain out of him
seeing the hurt enter her expression, —I wouldn‘t. he reached
up and cupped her cheek, I‘m sorry honey.
Tess nodded, I was not very nice myself.
This is new to me also. I find myself unbalanced by the
whole thing so you‘re not alone. Come here. He said gathering
her in his arms. Don‘t think for one moment that last night
meant any less to me. Okay?
You know me so well. She said burying her face in his thick
I just know how‘d I feel if the roles were reversed. He bent
and kissed the top of her head, You‘ve got to let me go, I‘m
She smiled and released him.
Go buy a dress. He said sternly, Something that‘ll make
my toes curl.
She flushed, You certainly have a way with words.
You have no idea. He added with a heated appraisal, but
I‘ll introduce you to that another night.
Oh lord. She flushed further.
Now today, get a dress. He repeated.
She stared down at the card, It just doesn‘t seem right.
You can make it up to me later. I‘ll take payment out of
your body if you like. He said teasingly.
Jacob, behave yourself. She said in wide-eyed shock.
He planted a brief kiss on her mouth and gave her a sinful
smile before he got in the truck and drove away.
Her father took her home after work on the end of the fifth
day home and she was disappointed that she hadn‘t seen Jacob at
all during those last two days. She knew he was playing catch up
at the clinic, but at least he phoned her apologizing for his
absence. It only made her miss him more.
However, she‘d be sleeping in her own bed tonight. She
missed it not that the one at the Hartley‘s wasn‘t comfortable, it
just wasn‘t hers.
At least she hadn‘t had those drugs in a few days. Jacob
gave her pills after that nightmare she had in the hospital. Now
she was down to just plain Tylenol for the discomfort and was
quite happy about that. It still felt a little odd walking but at least
she wasn‘t unsteady. She even insisted on carrying her suitcase
to her room despite her father‘s protests.
Friday afternoon she finally gave in and drove to town to
buy a dress. She‘d been putting it off for the past few days
because she felt guilty about taking Jacob‘s money.
Unfortunately even with the nonexistent spending limit she still
spent all afternoon trying on dresses not satisfied with any of
them. Although she didn‘t mind skirts, like the little tan one she
wore now, she wasn‘t much of a dress person. Thankfully the
sales lady saw that she was in dire need.
I think I have just the thing for you. She said before
disappearing through the back of the shop and reappearing with
a gorgeous silver gown.
Oh that‘s beautiful!
It‘s our fall collection, and I haven‘t tagged them yet, but I
think it‘ll suit you perfectly.
She was right. It was a classy number that showed Tess‘s
finest attributes. Most importantly it was downright sexy and
she never felt sexy before in her life until she tried it on. She
couldn‘t help the smile of discovery that appeared on her face.
It suits you. Said the woman brightening when Tess came
out of the dressing room, the man you‘re doing this for will
propose when he sees you in that.
Tess‘s eyes widened, Not this man.
She smiled, Don‘t be too sure. She said, Now is this cash
Tess placed the dress in the truck and looked at her watch.
The clinic would be closing in the next few minutes and she knew
Jacob probably would be late again and not eat. So she walked
across the street to the deli with the intentions of bringing him
supper. That way she could spend a few moments with him
before she went home.
Rita was delighted to see her and it looked like she was just
getting ready to leave. Tess! she gave her a genuine hug, My
goodness honey, you look terrific. It‘s like you weren‘t even on
death‘s door a few weeks ago.
It wasn‘t that bad.
That‘s not what Jacob said. I think he aged a decade he was
so worried about you. That made her flush. Now don‘t you
worry. You‘re secret is still safe with me.
I brought Jacob supper. Is he with a patient? she said
holding up the paper bag containing a freshly made sandwich.
That‘s so sweet. He needs a little coddling because he‘s
been working himself to death lately. She nodded toward the
hall where his office and the exam rooms were, Doctor Saunders
left an hour ago along with the last patient. He‘ll be glad to see
Thanks Rita. She said giving the older woman a smile.
I‘ll lock the door this time. She said, See you later honey.
Tess went down the hall and saw Jacob bent over a patients
file scribbling away. It was almost a full minute before he
noticed her. Her heart jumped when he grinned at seeing her.
What a delicious surprise! he said standing up and co ming
around the desk as she stepped in his office.
Funny you should say that. I brought you something to
Great. He said taking the offered bag and setting it on his
desk absently, I‘m really hungry. He grabbed her about the
waist. But not for food.
Anywhere. He said crushing her mouth under his.
One thing she could say about Jacob is that he was a master
at getting her clothes off without her knowledge. Not only that,
he already knew her body just from being together once before.
He was skilled in memorizing everything that made her moan
and used it so much that she was practically shouting. He easily
lifted her onto the exam table he had in his office and before she
could say anything his head was between her thighs. At first she
was in shock at the intimacy but then when he started doing
these amazing things with his tongue she gripped his hair and
started making noises that were completely foreign to her.
Before long she was arched off the table sobbing when she felt his
fingers inside her while his mouth continued to pleasure her.
Stars exploded inside her skull when she climaxed, but he
didn‘t let her rest. With a deep growl he stood up, pulled her
toward him and thrust into her with his own shout of pleasure
and within seconds her voice was joining him again. Somehow
he‘d managed to get both of her legs in front of him with her
ankles by his ears as he proved why he was such a masterful
lover. She was so sensitive from her first release that her second
was way more intense. Tears sprang to her eyes as she
shuddered and trembled followed by his own shout of release.
He came down on her with the last drop draining out of him and
kissed her. Then he raised his head and gave her a drop dead
gorgeous grin, Fuck me, I‘m completely spent.
Tess burst into laughter. Not once in her life had she ever
heard him swear like that. Yet for some reason she found it
incredibly sexy. Maybe it was because of the reference it was
used in. Regardless, it didn‘t bother her in the least.
I always knew you were pliable. He added noting where
her limbs were.
This time Tess blushed.
He bent his head and kissed her again while moving enough
to release her legs.
Tess didn‘t have the strength to breathe let alone move so
she didn‘t know where he‘d got it from. However, if his body was
any testament to his stamina, he could probably do this all night.
Is it shameful to have dessert before supper? He asked
while his eyes searched hers.
You‘re shameful Jacob. I had no idea that two people were
capable— she started flushing again unable to finish. He gave
her another sinful grin.
Oh honey you have no idea. He finally stood erect and
pulled her up so he was still standing between her thighs and she
noticed he was still inside her. To make her realize it he pulled
her hips toward his causing her to gasp. I‘m still rock hard for
you and you‘d think that after what we just did, I‘d be laid up for
Oh Gosh. She burst unable to get rid of the blush.
are you sore.
No. she said shyly.
Good. He said adjusting his hips ever so slightly causing
her to gasp and tilt her head back with all evidence of her
bashfulness wiped clean. Maybe he wasn‘t spent after all. He
bent her back over his arm and took one of her breasts in his
mouth while beginning the slow torturous rhythm meant to drive
her wild. And it did.
Jacob already knew he was in love with her. It had taken
him the past few days to reflect heavily on how he had been so
distracted, but finally after having her, all of her, made him
realize it. Only he didn‘t like the vulnerability he felt around her.
He started staying away from the ranch because of it. He made
excuses that he had to work, but it was nothing that couldn‘t be
caught up over the next few weeks. Then she showed up and
something inside him flared. Now, as he watched her climax for
the third time his arms, he knew he was in deep trouble.
She was a wildcat to make love to making her completely
compatible to him because his appetite was just as lusty. He
thought he might have introduced her to some things to early in
their intimate relationship, but she took it with vigour and her
shouts of pleasure let him know that she enjoyed it as much as
him. You‘d never know that she was the shy little virgin only a
few days ago. She acted like she‘d been at it for years with him.
He knew he could try anything with her and she‘d let him. This
just proved it. Her skin was slick with perspiration as was his
and finally when he felt himself come deep within her, he
realized that this wasn‘t enough. It never would be. He could
never get enough of her and quite frankly, it was driving him
insane. Even being in the same room with her and not being able
to touch her was almost painful.
Tess went to bed without supper and slept like a rock until
morning. When she did finally get up, she was so darn sore, her
teeth even hurt. Jacob had sucked the last drop of energy out of
her until she could hardly have enough to drive home. A short
laugh escaped her knowing she didn‘t mind it at all! Who knew
that being with a man, with Jacob, could draw such things out of
her, that she completely forgot herself. Did all couples make love
like that? Was it normal for a man to have the stamina of a
stallion and draw such desire out of a woman? She told him she
wasn‘t sore, but she certainly was now. Her insides flushed warm
thinking of the things he did to her. She read books on the
subject but absolutely nothing she read could have described
that. Then there was the noises she made! Oh lord, she was so
loud. Not that he was quiet, but thank God the Clinic was locked
up tight. Everything he‘d done to her and everything he‘d shown
her so far only made her more curious to what else he would
show her. It actually made her eager to learn more, but only
from Jacob because she loved him.
She glanced at the time. She‘d made a hair appointment in
town yesterday after she‘d bought her dress so she‘d look her best
Pulling on faded jeans and a pink blouse she quickly
brushed her hair before leaving the house.
At the same time Jacob was in town running some errands
before the dance. He had to pick up his suit from the dry
cleaners and ended up running into David so they stood by the
truck and talked when he saw Tess. She was just getting out of
her own truck and going into the salon. He felt himself smile.
Obviously she was getting done up for him. However, David
I swear Jacob, if she wasn‘t my patient, I would have asked
her out. She has this perfect body that any man would love to
take his time and corrupt.
David. Jacob said with barely contained anger drawing the
other man‘s gaze. Once he got it he continued, I‘m going to let
that slide this once because you didn‘t know, but just so you
know Tess and I have been seeing each other.
I thought you were dating Lindsay Scott? the other man
said in complete surprise.
I never really dated Lindsay. He answered while nodding
toward the salon, But I definitely am dating Tess.
Ah hell. David said, I didn‘t mean to offend you. Tess is a
peach and you have to admit its hard being professional around a
woman like that.
Jacob knew all too well what David meant having ravished
her completely on his exam table in his office the day before.
Something he never thought he‘d do because mixing pleasure
with his profession was not in his nature. At least it wasn‘t . Now
he knew he couldn‘t look at the bloody thing without getting an
erection. He never treated patients in his office anyway and
come Monday he‘ll have to have it removed from there or he‘d
never get any work done. Now you know. He added.
So, David said studying his friend‘s expression, Is this
Meaning? he raised his brows in question.
Meaning— he smirked, That if you don‘t see anything
long term with her, I have a chance.
You really want to lose your teeth, don‘t‘ you? he said
That made him laugh, Sorry, Jacob I couldn‘t help it. I‘ve
never seen you so possessive over a woman, but I guess you have
good reason. I probably would have asked her out years ago if
you three weren‘t always hanging in her shadow.
After David left he contemplated the whole event. Besides
Tom, he thought he was the only one that saw her as a desirable,
sexy woman, when he should have known better. Could it be that
he and his brothers did cast a protective shield around her and
that‘s why the woman never dated anyone? After all Colt did
have a reputation for fighting and Lance was a damn good lawyer
so it was possible that men stayed away from her out of fear of
them. He never even considered that. This new awareness
wasn‘t good news at all. Now he had the whole town to be
jealous of, not just Tom and David. What the hell was wrong
with him? He was going to suspect every male at the dance
tonight looking at her like he looked at her.
He got back in the truck and slammed the door to harshly to
match his darkening mood. If he hadn‘t known what she felt and
Hell, this wasn’t jealousy,
tasted like he might not be so jealous.
this was bordering on obsession.
You look beautiful.
Thanks dad. Tess said twirling in front of him.
Jacob‘s going to have his socks knocked off.
That‘s my whole purpose. She admitted with a smile.
Good girl. He chuckled. Then he became serious, Are you
happy—with Jacob I mean?
Of course. She said seeing his concern, Dad don‘t wo rry
about me. I‘m old enough to know that I may get my heart
broken. She kissed his cheek. I need to grow up sometime, but I
wouldn‘t trade this time for anything in the world even if it didn‘t
Okay. He said just as a knock sounded at the front door.
It‘s Jacob. She said.
I‘ll go get the door, you take your time coming out. The
suspense will just add to your image. He said grinning.
Tess did as he said and quickly checked her appearance
before making her way out to the foyer. If she thought that she
would throw him for a loop, he was more handsome than she
though he could possibly be. He wore a black suit with a white
shirt sporting high mandarin collar and black Stetson. Then he
grinned with approval when he saw her and her legs nearly gave
Jacob let out a long slow whistle as Chuck suddenly made
himself scarce not able to hide his smile. Wow. Heaven help
Stop it. She murmured approaching him, you‘re a force to
be reckoned with Jacob. I‘ll be the envy of every woman
Is that right. He said bending to kiss her. You are
She flushed, thanks.
We‘d better go, or I‘m going to haul you back to your room,
father or not.
She slapped her hand over his mouth causintg him to
chuckle through it, Jacob! she whispered harshly.
He reached up and removed it, kissed her palm and
threaded his fingers through hers, You have to be insane honey,
to think that people won‘t know that I haven‘t touched you. Look
at you. A priest would sin.
She felt her cheeks go scarlet. That‘s not true. She
Like hell it isn‘t. I near busted out David‘s teeth today for
what he said about you.
What? she said shocked, He‘s a doctor.
I know that, but it doesn‘t mean he‘s not a man.
Jacob, you shouldn‘t have told me that. I mean—he‘s seen
me—oh gosh I‘m so embarrassed. She said burying her face in
her other hand.
He‘s not your doctor anymore. I am. No one is going to see
you naked except for me from now on. He said tersely, Do you
She lifted her eyes to his. He was deadly serious. Despite
her embarrassment she smiled, reached up and caressed his jaw
with her hand. She loved this side of him. Never in her life had
she ever seen him possessive about a woman and that meant that
she meant something to him. She could just about cry at that
Tess. He said in the same strict tone trying to ignore how
that simple gesture made him feel. Then she smiled and he felt
his chest tighten.
I heard you Jacob. She finally said.
He groaned and kissed her again, You‘re driving me crazy
Good. She said, Because I‘ve been dealing with it for years
on my own.
If this is any indication, I don‘t know how you did it. I
wanted to publically physically attack another man today because
what he said about you. A man, I might add, that I‘ve known
since high school.
This made her laugh.
Yeah honey, you soak it up, because if you as much as
dance with another man tonight, I might tear his limbs off. Now
let‘s go before I change my mind about dragging you to your
The dance hall was packed and when Jacob and Tess walked
in she felt like every pair of eyes were on them. Jacob didn‘t act
as if he noticed so maybe she imagined it. However, as they
made their way to his two brothers who were saving their seats,
she noticed that many eyes followed them.
I feel like I‘m on display. She said to him.
Get used to it Tess, you‘re the most beautiful woman here
tonight. He said bending down to speak into her ear.
That statement nearly made her cry. Jacob had been so
wonderful to her over the past few days that she knew she was in
way over her head. Lance and Colt both stood and complimented
her before Jacob pulled out her chair for her, then sat next to her.
Lance introduced their dates, Lizette was a beautiful ebony
haired blue eyed woman who‘s father had just purchased the
hardware store in town. Colt‘s date actually looked like a
stripper and knowing Colt she probably was. She had bleach
blond hair and a rather unnaturally large bosom. Any minute she
expected her to get on the table and she was sure by the way she
was sitting next to Colt that her hand was on his crotch. From
the way he was grinning she didn‘t doubt it.
he was shameless
. Her thoughts about the woman being
a stripper was confirmed when Colt introduced her. She near
laughed when he said her name, Cherry. However, she was nice
and if that‘s the type of woman Colt wanted who was she to
judge? Besides the thoughts going through her mind about the
gorgeous man sitting next to her were probably more sinful than
They didn‘t stay seated long after the introductions because
Jacob dragged her up onto the dance floor. She‘d danced with
him before at events much like this when she would accompany
the brothers on some occasions but he never held her the way he
did now. His hand pressed against her lower back bringing her
hips in close contact with his and his muscular legs. In all she
found herself heating up over it. She always knew he was a good
dancer, but he was practically seducing her on the dance floor.
Stop it. She murmured causing him to give a deep sexy
You wouldn‘t ask me to do that if you knew how you
I can feel how I affect you. She said with a blush in her
voice causing him to laugh again. In fact she‘d been feeling it
push against her belly for the past five minutes.
Jacob, you‘re driving me crazy. She groaned.
You do know, he said, that we‘re leaving early, so I can
have you to myself for a bit before my family comes home.
Only with you. He said pulling her tight against him again.
Was that true? Jacob was loaded with sex appeal and for
him to say something like that didn‘t seem possible. For some
reason she thought he was always so voracious. She couldn‘t
stop the thrill that went through her over his confession.
After the dance ended she excused herself to go to the ladies
room to freshen up. She was touching up her makeup in the
mirror when no other than Lindsay came out of one of the stalls.
She approached Tess and turned around to lean against the
counter so she could look down at her.
Tess stopped and stared back but never said anything.
Well if it isn‘t the little tart.
Excuse me? Tess said setback by the woman‘s venom.
Lindsay gave her an icy smile, You heard me little girl. If
you think you can hang on to him with that young body of yours,
you‘re out of your mind. I know what Jacob likes. She said with
a toss of her head, I‘ve been all over that man.
Tess‘s mouth fell open.
So have you I see. Lindsay narrowed her gaze, But
remember this. If an experienced woman like me can‘t hold on
to him, what makes you think you can. Sooner or later he‘ll grow
bored of you and come back to me.
You don‘t know him very well. Tess finally heard herself
say but her confidence was failing and Lindsay knew it.
That‘s what you think. I still have a few tricks up my
sleeve. She said giving her a malicious smile before leaving.
Tess took a few more minutes to compose herself. Never
had she run into such a spiteful person. She took time to go over
the things that Jacob had been saying to her over the past week.
Jacob didn‘t say things like that unless he meant them.
Determined that Lindsay wasn‘t going to ruin her night, she took
a deep breath and went back out to the crowd.
It only took her a few seconds to realize that her self-talk
had been in vain. Jacob was dancing with Lindsay and he was
holding her like he held her only moments ago. Only Lindsay
had buried her face in his neck.
Was it physically possible to have her heart fall into her
stomach? She made her way back to their table but it was empty.
Lance and Colt were both on the dance floor with their dates.
She sat down with her back to Lindsay and Jacob. She couldn‘t
bear to watch them. Lindsay seemed to know exactly what she
was doing like she said she did. She had seen the woman‘s hands
playing with Jacob‘s hair as he turned her around on the floor.
Tess knew she couldn‘t measure up to the woman. She was just
as good at seduction as Jacob was. Brushing a stray lock of hair
behind her ear she reached for the glass of wine on the table and
downed in a single gulp.
About fifteen minutes later Lance sat down and gave her an
odd look. Maybe it was because she was on her third glass of
wine and refused to turn around to see Jacob and Lindsay.
Tess. He said in that big brother tone he used often on her
when she was doing something silly and reckless.
It‘s only my third. She said knowing exactly what he was
And how many drinks did you have that night you went out
, she thought. She released a heavy breath
finally getting his point and set the glass down while staring at
him. If it was possible a man could make her feel guilty from just
a look, Lance was that man. No wonder he was good at his job,
I‘m fine and don‘t you brothers keep secrets, geesh.
No you‘re not. He said, And not where you‘re concerned
honey. Now cheer up.
Ladies room—quit changing the subject.
She lifted her chin, I‘ll stop—okay? she said referring to
the wine. Lizette‘s very pretty Lance. She continued.
We‘re just friends. He said still studying her expression. It
was true. Lizette was a sweetheart, but he didn‘t feel an
attraction to her. Maybe it was the fact that she was hung up on
another man and he could take her out without worrying about
her expecting something in return. Unlike his brothers, Lance
kept his love life out of his home town. Colt and Jacob created
most of the entertainment with their escapades around town and
he wasn‘t about to do the same.
Really? Lance had those handsome Hartley looks, but he
was quieter than the other two. He also never seemed to date
women around town although she knew he travelled quite a bit
so he must have women elsewhere.
Honestly. He answered, She‘s got a thing for Dutch
The ex -hockey player? Tess knew of him and she always
thought he was scary. He stood at least six foot five and probably
had a good fifty pounds on Jacob who was no small fry. He was a
nice looking man with dirty blonde hair but his eyes were
unsettling. They were a pale icy blue and when he set them on
you, it sent a shiver up your spine. He‘d lived hard. It was
written all over him. She‘d heard rumours that his father was an
alcoholic and used to beat him when he was younger, but his
father had died last year and Dutch had blown out his knees
playing hockey. He came back home to take over his father‘s
cattle ranch, but it wasn‘t as if he needed to, he had made
millions as a professional NHL player. However, the Hartleys
were wealthy too, yet they still worked very hard. Some people
seem happy doing such things.
The very one. Said Lance.
She sure is pretty and sweet.
Yes, but we
just friends. He repeated with a raised
brow, I swear.
Well, since her family is new to town, it‘s nice to see that
she has a friend. She heard herself say while sinking back into
her chair thinking of Jacob and Lindsay but still refusing to turn
around and look at them. She had proclaimed that she knew her
way around Jacob‘s body, and as if to rub salt in the wound, she
was clinging to him on the dance floor playing with his hair.
Jacob‘s nuts about you Tess. Don‘t let Lindsay bother
you. He said sensing her mood change.
She turned her head away to stop the tears from falling.
Lance ground his teeth together and looked over his head to
see Jaco b talking to Colton while Lindsay clung to him like wet
paint. A moment later he left with the woman still gripping him
like her life depended on it. He had a good mind to go after him,
but he couldn‘t just leave Tess. She was upset. That whole
display must‘ve looked terrible and he couldn‘t blame her.
Hey. He said drawing her attention back, Dance with
She paused for a moment before she nodded and accepted
his hand thinking that Lance was a very nice man.
An hour had passed and Tess swallowed hard. Colt had told
her that Jacob was just taking Lindsay home, but he never came
back. Maybe Lindsay was right and she did know her way
around Jacob. During that time she was thankful Tom had
joined them and he had occupied her attention with constant
flattery. He didn‘t bring a date because he said it left him open to
invitations there which made her laugh. He had barely sat down
when some woman or another would ask him to dance. He told
the last one that he needed a rain check because he was tired.
Tess even danced with him twice after his constant prodding and
she was glad she did, because he made her laugh despite how
horrible she was feeling.
Tom, Colt said, Can you take Tess home? He could see
that she was having a miserable time and several people had
already started talking about her being abandoned by Jacob. He
made a mental note to tear into his brother‘s hide later. This
must‘ve been very hard on her, yet she did her best to keep her
Tess turned and looked at Colt.
You don‘t want to stay, do you?
She shook her head.
I‘d take you but Cherry‘s having too much fun. He
squeezed her hand, And I think you‘ve do ne enough to put on a
Tess managed to smile thinking Cherry could have fun at a
chess match if she wanted to. Thanks Colt.
I don‘t mind. Tom said standing up and taking her hand.
I think I‘m done anyway. I have a pocket full of phone
You‘re a dog. Said Tess, finding her humour again, if only
I know it. He teased.
Colt watched her leave wanting to thrash his older brother.
He‘d speak to him tomorrow. Tonight he had plans. Cherry had
been less than subtle on getting him in bed, and he would oblige
An hour later Tess was crawling into her bed after practically
tearing the expensive dress off of her body knowing it did her no
good where Jacob was concerned. Her father had retired earlier
and she was thankful because she couldn‘t face him. She said she
could handle a broken heart, but she was so wrong. It was
horrible the images going through her mind of Lindsay and
Jacob together. It‘s the only conclusion she could draw with him
being gone that long. It made her think of the first night they
made love when he told her that Lindsay had shown up at his
clinic. What if something happened then? She shook her head, It
couldn‘t have or he couldn‘t have made love to her—could he?
course he could, the man had the stamina of a Greek warrior
she thought remembering their second time together in his
office. It was almost three hours later when she first showed to
when she finally left.
This time Tess did start crying and she couldn‘t stop the
tears. She cried herself to sleep for the first time since her
mother had died.
Jacob hung up the phone after receiving the answering
machine for the tenth time. He shouldn‘t have left Tess, but he
really didn‘t expect to be gone so long. Lindsay was inconsolable
and causing a scene, so he couldn‘t just walk away. Somehow he
did end up walking her to her apartment because she clung to
him when he opened the door and helped her out of the truck.
Once inside she tried to kiss him and actually got the belt of his
slacks undone. He rejected her of course and untangled her arms
from his neck causing her to start sobbing again. He didn‘t
realize that he‘d hurt her. He didn‘t mean to, but they had an
understanding and Lindsay seemed fine with it at the time.
Neither one of them were even monogamous. Part of him felt
guilty which resulted in him staying long enough to make sure
she had calmed down before he left. Unfortunately he‘d lost track
of time and in the process left Tess at the dance for over an hour
and a half without him. It was inexcusable and he knew he
When he got back to the dance, he found out Tess had left
with Tom and he saw red. Then he looked at the time and
discovered he‘d been gone for over an hour and cursed.
Of course it wouldn‘t go across well with her. He‘d taken
Tess to the dance and left with Lindsay. The scowls on both of
his brother‘s expressions let him know that. At the time, he
didn‘t think twice about it. Tess would have understood,
wouldn‘t she? He only had eyes for her. Now, however, running
the events back over in his mind, it looked bad, very bad. Tess
was young and naïve about things like that and he didn‘t give her
any promises or even told her how he felt so she had absolutely
nothing to go by.
Cursing, he turned away and headed to the front door. He‘d
drive over to Chuck‘s and apologize to Tess in person. The guilt
was eating him up. The last thing in the world he wanted to do
was hurt her again. He‘d broken the silent promise he made to
her when she was in the hospital in New York, not to hurt like he
did when he sent her away. Hopefully she would forgive him—
again. He had handled this whole thing with Tess wrong and for
a man who never had a problem dealing with women, it just let
him know ho w much he really cared for her.
Chuck came out of the house just as Jacob was pulling up in
She doesn‘t want to see you Jacob. Chuck said as Jacob
was getting out of the truck.
He stopped, while looking at the older man. He never even
considered that Tess wouldn‘t want to see him, Why not?
He shook his head, Do you have any idea of the damage you
I have an idea—yes. He said honestly, I came to
Chuck studied him for a moment. He seemed sincere.
However, Tess was devastated and he needed to protect her. He
was clueless to what had happened this morning when he saw
her red puffy eyes over breakfast. She wouldn‘t talk to him, but
he found out later what had happened. Let me tell you
something. Imagine my surprise when I went to have coffee this
morning at the diner, and I hear that my daughter was
abandoned at the dance by her current beau because he couldn‘t
resist the wiles of Lindsay Scott.
, he thought wincing and shoving his hands in the
pockets of his jeans, It wasn‘t like that.
It sure as hell seemed like it. Chuck said allowing his ire to
rise, something that never happened, but this was Tess. She was
a spitting image of her mother all the way down to her sweet
disposition and she was hurting, badly. I encouraged her with
you, you know? I realize now I‘ve made a mistake but she loved
you and I thought she‘d be good for you Jacob, however, all she
got was a broken heart and now she‘s the brunt of town gossip.
Jacob hardly heard anything past she loved you. What did
You heard me. Chuck said, Now you stay away from Tess.
This is harder on her than you think it is. If you so much as come
around here without her say so, I‘ll quit and move out of state,
and good luck on finding another Veterinarian on such short
I didn‘t sleep with Lindsay. Jacob felt the need to tell him.
I know you didn‘t. Chuck said without hesitation
surprising Jacob completely, give me a break Jacob, I‘m not
stupid. Lindsay has nothing on my little girl.
You got that right.
However, you listen to what I‘ve told you. Stay away from
her until she figures things out. Chuck never thought he was a
good actor until that moment. He lied straight faced to Jacob
about everything except the rumour mills. Tess was heartbroken
and would have loved to have Jacob apologize because she would
have forgiven him in a heartbeat, however, he was older and
wiser and Jacob needed to realize how he felt about Tess. Some
time apart would do them both good especially Jacob. Tess was
special, and the man who was meant for her should be crawling
on his hands and knees begging for forgiveness. Jacob wasn‘t
there quite yet. He was thankful that Tess was out back in the
garden all morning and hadn‘t heard the phone ring. Chuck had
actually erased the two messages that Jacob left and turned the
ringer off so Tess wouldn‘t know. He sure hoped to hell that
some good would come out of his interference.
Jacob looked past him to the house then after a moment he
nodded. You‘ll tell her to call me when she feels up to it?
Two weeks had passed and Tess wasn‘t feeling any better. If
anything she felt worse and worse as time passed. Obviously
Jacob had gone back to Lindsay or he would have phoned her or
at least come by to see how she was. At least she stopped crying
herself to sleep at night and thankfully she had her father, who
was very supportive. He even offered to shoot Jacob for her,
although, he explained, that would mean he‘d be out of a job and
probably end up in jail leaving her all alone. It actually made her
laugh, something she didn‘t do since that night of the dance. In
fact she hadn‘t even left the house so when her father told her to
get dressed up so they could go for lunch together in town she
decided that would be a good idea.
After lunch she felt better but she noticed that some people
that came into the diner looked at her with sympathy and she
knew exactly what it was about. Obviously it had gotten around
that Jacob left her at the dance for another woman. Can we get
out of here. She asked her father feeling more and more on
He knew why seeing the same looks from the regulars at the
diner and nodded, Okay honey.
She started to get in the truck when she heard her name.
Turning around she saw Colton jog across the street and
immediately her senses pricked up looking around to see if Jacob
was with him. He wasn‘t.
Hey. He said, stepping up onto the curb around the front
of the suburban to talk to her, I haven‘t seen you forever, are
you ignoring us?
No, of course not. She exclaimed surprised he would even
suggest such a thing.
Then where have you been. Usually you pop over a few
times a week. I haven‘t seen you since the dance.
Oh I‘ve been staying at home pulling the veggies out of the
He narrowed his gaze suspiciously, You need to talk to
Jacob Tess. This is getting— he glanced past her for a moment
as chuck was making a gesture to get him to shut up.
Getting what? she asked curious and cast a glance over her
shoulder to her father who seemed to be waving at someone
across the street.
Nothing. Colt said returning his attention to her, We just
you do and maybe Lance does, but Jacob doesn‘t seem to
care at all. Lindsay was right.
Right? this time it was her father.
When did you speak to Lindsay? Colt asked.
Tess. He said in a voice that was a little sterner.
She just said some things to me. I shouldn‘t listen, but—
When was this?
Right before Jacob left with her at the dance. She
He did come back Tess and was looking for you. he said
looking carefully at her. It looked as though she lost weight and
the light that she always seemed to emit when she was around
seemed gone. Are you all right?
Her eyes met his, I‘m fine.
Jacob doesn‘t think of her that way. He sa id finally
getting a picture of what was going on.
I don‘t know that colt. It‘s been two weeks and you‘d think
that if he cared about me he would have at least explained, but he
didn‘t. he didn‘t call, nothing. She felt hot tears well up in her
eyes. I can‘t sleep, think, or do anything without him invading
my thoughts. It‘s horrible! she wretched. So much for not
Whoa honey, he said gathering her in his arms and casting
her father an angry look. Obviously he interfered because Jacob
was just as lovesick and he knew for a fact that he came over to
her place the next day to apologize after not being able to get her
on the phone.
He didn‘t know what occurred that day but when he
returned he looked as if his favourite dog was run over. Since
then Jacob had been keeping his distance from all of them. He
would come home from work and hold up in the study before he
went to bed. Maria started taking trays of food in there because
he wasn‘t eating with the rest of them. He knew if he did that he
and Lance would probe him for information and he was right.
Yet from the look on Chuck‘s face a moment ago, he didn‘t know
what Lindsay had said and how hurt Tess was over the whole
thing. It obviously looked like Jacob had gone back to her, but
what she didn‘t know is Lindsay was dating some banker and
Jacob was beyond miserable. If Tess thought she looked terrible,
Jacob had her beat. don‘t cry okay. Things have a way of
working out. Remember what I said about God not giving us a
choice on who we love?
I hate him. She sobbed.
He actually found himself smiling at that. At least she still
had some spunk despite how she looked. Not only that if she felt
that strongly it meant she still cared about him. Does Jake know
what Lindsay did?
I‘m not telling him— she paused and gave him a firm look,
—and neither are you. I‘ll look like some jealous teenager. It‘s
nothing I can‘t handle.
If he knew, he probably wouldn‘t have taken her home.
She was very convincing. Said Tess remembering the way
she clung to him.
Yeah, I saw that too. He said remembering how the
woman practically threw herself at Jacob while weeping. She
was causing a scene and although she didn‘t seem to care as long
as she got what she wanted, Jacob felt sorry for her. Just so you
know, there was no way he would have touched her.
You don‘t know that Colt.
I do. I know Jacob, and the way he looks at you says a lot.
Don‘t listen to the gossip.
She lifted her eyes to him, =I don‘t care about the gossip. It
had nothing to do with this. If he actually came and told me that
nothing happened, I would believe him. Jacob would never lie to
me. She swallowed heavily, But he didn‘t, so I know something
happened. Something had to have because he couldn‘t face me.
maybe you should talk to Jacob Tess. I don‘t think he‘s as
settled as you think about this whole thing. She rapidly shook
I can‘t possibly talk to him. I can‘t face him at all knowing
that he—with her— she couldn‘t finish, —he would have come
and seen me if I meant something to him—
Tess. Her father finally interrupted, not able to take the
guilt anymore. He did.
She whirled around, What?
Honey, yo u were so hurt. I felt that Jacob needed a bit of a
lesson where you were concerned. Unfortunately I expected him
to fight a little more for you. I told him to stay away until you
contacted him. However I didn‘t know that Lindsay said things
to you and how you would take his whole absence because of it.
Oh dad, you didn‘t!
He called you a dozen times the next morning and came by
the house when you didn‘t answer. I turned the ringer of the
phone off and erased the messages he left.
Oh God! He must think that she didn‘t care at all! There
was no way she could fix this.
Look baby, I‘ll talk to him.
You‘ve done enough! she said full of hurt. She knew he
was trying to help, but she was in her own personal hell over all
of this. It was two weeks of complete heartbreak and most likely
Jacob had moved on. She felt sick to her stomach over her
father‘s and Colt‘s confession and along with the overwhelming
flush of emotion she turned and lost her lunch on the sidewalk
right before she passed out.
Colt caught her before she hit the pavement.
I‘m beginning to think you‘re using these little episodes to
get my attention.
It was the familiar deep voice that brought her around. She
opened her eyes to see Jacob leaning over her and her heart
began to gallop in her chest. She was mad at him, mad at
everyone for deciding how her life should be run without her
consent, but he still managed to affect her like no other. Then the
familiar waft of hospital hit her nostrils and she groaned. A
nurse came over at the sound but Jacob waved her away, She‘s
fine. He said turning his attention back to her. Are you feeling
I hate everyone. She mumbled.
Now you know that‘s not true. There isn‘t a mean bone in
your body. Colt had called him at home and told him that Tess
was in the hospital. Jacob must‘ve set a few speed records
getting there because his brother wouldn‘t tell him why. When
he got there Chuck and Colt were waiting for him. Colt told him
that Tess was fine, but Chuck looked incredibly guilty and after
he confessed what he did, Jacob was too elated to care. He
thought he‘d ruined his chances with Tess after what he did.
Over the past few weeks he realized that it would have been less
painful to lose a limb than lose her. So, maybe Chuck was right
and he needed to figure things out on his own. No woman had
ever turned his world upside down like Tess did and when Colt
told him she was in the hospital again, he thought someone had
pulled the earth from under his feet as all kinds of things were
going through his head.
He‘d spent the next hour trying to find out what was wrong
with her because Tess wasn‘t a fainter. She was a hell of a lot
tougher than that. After all, in the last four months she had a
ruptured appendix and was run over by a delivery truck, not to
mention that she could put up with his sorry hide.
When the blood tests came back he was beside himself
wondering how she was going to take the news this time.
I hate you most of all. She added angrily.
He pursed his lips together, I admit, that I probably deserve
that, but Tess honey, I‘ve suffered because of it.
Not as much as I
, she thought. Where am I exactly? she
said changing the subject. It hurt too much to talk about this
On a stretcher in emergency—again— he grinned,
However, I don‘t need to assault the doctor this time.
I beat the snot out of the last one when you had your
You didn‘t! She remembered that scene where he had
another man by the throat and was shaking him.
He was an idiot. He frowned remembering how close he
came to losing her. Lance was able to calm the man down from
filing a lawsuit.
Jacob, you‘re crazy. She said with wide eyes.
Yes, these past few months I definitely can agree to that.
He reached up and touched her cheek, There‘s some things we
need to discuss.
Not now. She whispered trying to ignore his caress. How
she missed him!
Yes now. And you‘re going to listen because this has gone
on too long and it was completely unnecessary. He said sternly
followed by a pointed stare. first of all, I did not sleep with
Jacob— she started to say feeling the familiar threat of
tears fill up her eyes but he raised a hand and cut her off.
Of course what I did—leaving you, a beautiful woman to
drive that manipulating bitch home was inexcusable. I should
have figured it out. Colt told me that she said some things to you
right before then. I didn‘t know. If I did, I would have made her
She said that she could get you back. He winced at her
Well, she did try, but, he leaned down, Honey no one
could ever measure up to you. You set my blood on fire.
This time her tears did fall.
He raised himself up to stare down at her, secondly, you
have to marry me Tess. I can‘t possibly survive without you. I‘m
miserable to the bottom of my shoes. I love you.
She sucked in a deep breath and released a wretched sob
while reaching for him.
Jacob quickly gathered her in his arms and kissed her all
over her face then buried it in her neck. I‘m the stupidest man
alive. Will you forgive me?
She nodded too choked up to speak.
Now tell me you love me and say yes to my proposal.
I—I love you. She managed, I always have.
Thank god. He moved back and brushed her hair off her
face while studying her expression, Now say yes honey.
Are you sure? she hiccupped.
He gave her one of those sinful Hartley grins, More than
anything in my life and I‘m not giving you much of a choice in the
matter anyway. His hand went down to her abdomen, You‘re
carrying my child.
She could literally feel the blood drain from her face. That‘s
impossible. She said softly, I told you I was on the pill. David
put me on it when I was eighteen to regulate—
Well, he interrupted with a widening arrogant grin,
apparently I‘m really potent. When I discovered that you passed
out and I told them to do a pregnancy screen on a hunch. The
pill isn‘t one hundred percent effective either Tess. Apparently
you fall into that category.
Oh god—a baby. She mouthed as her hand covered his.
A baby. Our baby. The first one of many. He corrected,
She was still fighting the initial shock to say anything else.
Tess honey, you‘re killing me. He said starting to feel
unsure of her feelings for him.
Oh! this time she laughed seeing his expression, Yes -yes,
Her voice was cut off by another strong embrace knocking
the wind out of her.
Jacob I can‘t breathe.
He chuckled and released her. I‘ll get you released, stay
put. He said and kissed her hard before leaving her sitting on
Tess glanced down at her abdomen,
? She was still
letting his news sink in. Not just a baby,
flowed from her eyes, but only because she was happy—very very
When he returned she was still weeping he smirked and told
her she was already hormonal causing her to laugh.
I‘m going to get fat. She heard herself say.
More to love. He answered with a sinful smile right before
he bent over and kissed her.
Tess could have wept at how tender it was and she missed
him so much over the past few weeks.
Someone clearing their throat made him lift away from her.
Tess noticed that it was that same nurse that tried to give him her
phone number when she had her appendix out. She actually
looked a little embarrassed.
Doctor Hartley, did you want me to bring a wheelchair?
No, she‘ll be fine. He said without taking his eyes from
The nurse nodded and left quickly and Tess narrowed her
eyes at the woman‘s back. At least now she‘ll think twice.
Causing Jacob to laugh. It‘s not funny Jacob, women are
constantly throwing themselves at you.
No more than men are you Tess.
That‘s not true! she exclaimed.
It is. Do you know that over the last two weeks about a
dozen men stopped me on the street and asked me if we had split
up so they could ask you out?
Oh dear, what did you say?
=I told them we were getting married and if I saw them
gawking at my future wife I‘d knock their teeth out.
Tess, you have no idea how appealing you are to my sex.
She blushed, Okay, that‘s enough. She said holding up her
hand then suddenly remembering what else he said, You told
people we‘re getting married—I mean before you knew about the
Yes. I wanted to marry you after that first night we had
together. I was just too stupid to tell you how I felt. Actually, he
said, I really didn‘t know how to tell you. I‘ve lived quite
recklessly with women Tess and this whole thing is new to me
too. It just took me some time to figure things out. Your father
was a great help when he wouldn‘t let me see you because it
really did put things into perspective.
You never called me back or came back to tell me.
No, but I was busy on planning our wedding, ho neymoon,
and ordering your engagement ring. Then I had a construction
company break ground for our house at the lake. Everyone
seems to think I was brooding over the past few weeks, but I was
a busy man. I may have looked like hell, but I was putting
everything in order so you couldn‘t possibly refuse me.
Her mouth fell open. Is it possible for her heart to swell in
her chest causing it to hurt?
Jacob reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet
box, It came in this morning. She started weeping again, Tess,
you didn‘t think I was going to give up on you did you? I fully
intended on carrying you off to the church over my shoulder if
you denied me.
Her watery eyes looked up to his, I didn‘t know.
Here, he said opening the box to reveal a stunning emerald
surrounded by a cluster of diamonds. Then he took it out and
slid it on her finger. You‘re father is going to faint when I tell
him that he‘s going to be a grandfather. He grinned as she
examined the ring.
This is possibly the most beautiful thing I‘ve ever seen.
I chose it carefully to match those gorgeous eyes of yours.
She smiled as tears rolled down her cheeks, I love you
Thank God for small miracles. He said kissing her again.
Come on, let‘s go home and celebrate with the family. They‘ll
want to hear the news too. Besides, your father is feeling guilty
thinking he‘s responsible for you fainting. So you need to talk to
If she thought she and Jacob were excited, her father was
beside himself and Lance and Colton already offered to babysit
until the child was in its teens. Tess got hugs from all of them
and an it‘s about time from Colt.
After supper Tess asked Jacob for her job back. They had
gone into his study so she could see what he‘d planned for their
wedding so far. They were going over the invitations when she
brought it up.
Not while you‘re pregnant. He said in that authoritative
tone she knew so well.
Jacob, I‘m not an invalid. You‘re a doctor; you‘ll take care
Granted Tess, I would love to have you close to me until
you‘re ready to have the baby, but I don‘t want to put any strain
on you. Not only that, there‘s the wedding to finish planning and
that‘s stressful in itself.
If I feel to o tired I‘ll let you know. Besides, Rita called me
at home last week and begged me to come back to work. That
woman you have there now has been filing folders under your
patient‘s first names, not the last ones. She didn‘t tell him that
she‘d heard what had happened at the dance and called to see if
she was all right. Jacob had dealt with enough guilt over it.
Is that right? he chuckled looking at her, Maybe you‘re
right, but I just don‘t want you to overwork yourself.
I may have another solution. She said suddenly
He narrowed his eyes suspiciously, I know that look.
do you remember that nurse in New York that gave you
heck about your phone?
He shook his head. The only thing he was focused on at the
time was her.
Her name is Tammy. She‘s very efficient Jacob, and she
was the only woman there who wasn‘t panting after you.
He chuckled, You are exaggerating.
Am I? Rita told me about the first two women you hired
when I left Sulphur Springs.
Oh hell, he‘d forgotten about that.
She gave him a I-told-you-so look as realization crossed over
his handsome face.
What makes you think that‘s she‘d relocate?
. She mentioned something along the lines of finding
a different pace. I‘m sure she‘d love it here.
Jacob narrowed his gaze suspiciously, What is it you‘re not
Oh how well he could read her, Absolutely nothing. She
said with an exaggerated grin.
Uh-huh. He paused studying her expression, Lance or
Oh for heaven‘s sake! she burst causing him to laugh.
I‘ve known you too long Tess. He said reaching for her.
Jacob you‘re family is here!
I don‘t give a shit. I‘ve dreamt about touching you again.
Besides I locked the door and let them think whatever the hell
they want, because I am marrying you and darling, you
pregnant. They‘d have to be blind and stupid to think I didn‘t
touch you. Hell, even if you weren‘t pregnant, they‘d know, just
look at you. You‘re beautiful and a man would have to be dead
not to notice.
She blushed at his compliment. Jacob, last time we were
together I could barely walk for two days! That got her one of
the sexiest growls she‘d ever heard before followed by the
darkening of his eyes as he tossed the book of invitations aside
and flattened her back on the sofa.
Let‘s see if I can beat that record. He said taking her
mouth under his.
If she thought about protesting it was gone when he hauled
up her t-shirt and started suckling her breasts. She had to bite
her tongue from crying out loud at pleasure he was giving her.
Within minutes they were both naked and to Tess‘s
complete surprise he flipped her onto her stomach, then adjusted
her onto her knees bringing upright with her back against his
chest while he cupped her jaw with one hand and snaked his
other around her waist. He turned her head an ran his mouth
over her neck. Tess never expected something to feel so exotic
and within seconds soft noises were pouring from her. She had
no idea what to expect from him and it lent to her desire. Then
he reached down between her legs and really made her moan.
Her head fell back against his shoulder.
I love the way you respond to me. He growled in her ear.
She couldn‘t answer him and if she did, she knew she
couldn‘t possibly form coherent words.
Now for the best part. He said raggedly as he lifted her
slightly and slid into her from behind with a deep groan of
satisfaction that overpowered her own.
Oh this can‘t be normal. She moaned reaching behind her
and tangling her fingers in his hair as he began a sweet torturous
It‘s perfectly normal. He rasped in her ear between
shallow heavy breathing and palmed both of her breasts in his
hands without breaking stride.
It was spring when Jacob and Tess Hartley, along with their
four week old baby girl moved into the log house on the lake. It
wasn‘t small by any means, but Tess loved the view. Jacob had
the house designed so that twenty foot widows overlooked the
lake and she‘d spend hours playing her violin while being a
mother to their daughter Emily Jean Hartley named after both of
their mothers. However that didn‘t mean she was alone often. At
least one of the brothers or her father was there all the time to
One particular evening she‘d laid down for a nap when
Emily was having one because she hadn‘t slept much the night
before. When she woke up she noticed that the baby wasn‘t in
Jacob must’ve come home
, she thought and got up
to search for her family. Often he would go directly to his
daughter when he came home from work after a sweet hello kiss
She found him sitting on the front porch swing with Emily
snuggled on his shoulder while he hummed a melody. The sight
of her large husband holding their small daughter in her fuzzy
pink sleeper was possibly the most beautiful thing she‘d ever
seen. He hadn‘t even changed and was still wearing his dark grey
suit although it looked as though he had time to loosen his tie
before he came and got her.
He hadn‘t noticed her yet, so she so aked up the image
feeling like the luckiest woman alive.