Loving the lawman, p.1
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       Loving the Lawman, p.1

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Loving the Lawman


  Loving the Lawman

  A Roses of Ridgeway Novella

  Kianna Alexander

  Copyright 2014 by Kianna Alexander

  Loving the Lawman

  The Roses of Ridgeway, Volume Three

  ©Copyright 2014 Kianna Alexander

  This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual places, people, or events is purely coincidental or used in a fictitious manner.

  -Praise For Kianna Alexander-

  "This book kept my interest until the very satisfying end... I would definitely read another book by this author."

  - Jaye Leyel of The Romance Studio, on Skye's the Limit

  *read the full review here*

  "...an endearing novel that captures the era in which it is set."

  -Susan Plummer of Romance in Color, on Freedom's Embrace

  *read the full review here*

  "It was a great read! I plan to read all of the other books by this writer as well and can't wait! "

  -L. Carter on The Preacher's Paramour

  "Alexander's absorbing and gripping stories deserve more than just a brief foray into the past."

  -P.G. Huguley on Freedom's Embrace

  Dedication

  For Mr. Wendell Tabb, long time drama teacher at Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina- the first teacher to recognize and nurture the writer in me.

  PROLOGUE

  Ridgeway, California

  January, 1880

  Under cover of the early morning darkness, Valerie Ridgeway slipped out of the rear door of the apartment above mercantile and headed toward Doc Wilkins' clinic. He never saw patients this early, but for an extra double eagle, he'd made an exception for her. She hated going for her examinations, but after weeks of dealing with cramps so strong they left her weak and breathless, she had no other option.

  In case any of the early risers among the townsfolk might see her, she'd donned a bonnet and wrapped a silk scarf around the lower half of her face. She didn't want to be seen visiting the doctor at this hour, lest she be accused of some scandalous deed by the gossips. The last thing she needed was for folks to think she was trying to conceal an illicit pregnancy, or carrying on a torrid affair with the aged doctor.

  Approaching the clinic's rear door, she rapped on it softly, not wanting to call attention to herself. She waited a few moments, afraid he hadn't heard her. As she raised her hand to knock again, Doc Wilkins opened the door, holding a lantern. Though the hour was early, he was dressed in his fine wool slacks and black medical coat. “Come in.”

  He stepped back to allow her entry, and they went to the examination room, where he took a seat on a chair. He placed the lantern on the small table next to him, turning the light up to its full glow. Gesturing for her to sit on the tall cot in the center of the room, he pulled a small pad and leaded pencil from an inner pocket of his jacket. “Tell me your symptoms in as much detail as you can, Miss Ridgeway.”

  Unwrapping the scarf so he could hear her, she sighed. “Well, I've been having pains in my gut for about three weeks now. Strong, cramping pains. And my courses are very unpredictable. The flow seems to be spotty here and there, and then it increases for an entire week to the point that I can't seem to keep enough cloths on hand.”

  Doc Wilkins scribbled on the pad in the lantern light, nodding his head. “Are you having your courses right now?”

  She shook her head. “Mercifully, the flow has stopped for a few days.”

  He put his pad down and stood. “That's fortunate, because I need to examine you right away.”

  She balked. “Right now? What do you think is wrong with me?”

  “I can't be sure without examining you, but from the symptoms you mentioned, it could really be quite serious.”

  Her breath caught in her throat. She was young, only twenty-four, and considered herself healthy before these blasted pains had begun. Now, there was no telling what was going on inside her body. Resigned, she nodded. “Alright then.”

  Doc Wilkins clasped his hands in front of him. “Good. I'll leave you to undress, and I'll return shortly.” He opened a tall oak wardrobe and brought out a muslin gown for her to put on, then slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

  As she got out of her skirt, blouse, slip, and underthings, she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. She wasn't uncomfortable with Doc Wilkins, as he'd cared for her since she was a child. What bothered her now was the worry of what he might find when he examined her. Slipping into the gown, she sat on the cot and waited for his return.

  He tapped on the door moments later. “Are you ready?”

  “Yes.”

  He entered with two more lamps in hand, which he positioned around the room. Turning each up until the glow lit entire room, he went to the basin to wash his hands. With that done, he handed her a sheet. “Lie down, and cover your lower half with this.”

  She did as he asked as he moved about the room, gathering his supplies. When he was done, he took a seat on a low stool and pulled it up to the end of the cot. “I'm going to examine you now. I'll try to be as gentle as possible.”

  “Thank you.”

  For the next several minutes, the doctor examined her internally and externally, finishing by palpating her abdomen. That sent a shock of pain shooting through her, and she cried out.

  “Oh my.” The doctor's solemn tone made her think the worst. “I'm sorry to have caused you pain, but I'm finished.”

  “So, Doc? What's ailing me?” She braced herself.

  “I'm afraid your womb is full of tumors, my dear. That's the cause of the heavy flow and the pain.”

  The diagnosis was difficult to hear. She exhaled forcefully, letting her eyes slide closed. “Tumors. So will I die?”

  “I don't think so, but to be safe, I need to operate.” He stood, returning the basin to wash his hands again. Drying them on a towel, he came to stand over her. “I'll have to remove the womb. You won't be able to bear children, but I'm afraid it's our best option.”

  His words stung like a hundred angry bees. She knew how much her mother wanted grand-babies. Even though Valerie hadn't yet married, she'd hoped to one day find the right husband and gift her mother with a passel of healthy grandchildren. Hearing that she'd never be able to fulfill her mother's wish hurt immensely. Tears formed in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks before she could stop them.

  Doc Wilkins patted her shoulder. “When Mary comes in, I'll send her around to fetch your mother. Until then, try to rest.”

  As his footsteps retreated, she lay there in the dim light, and wept.

  CHAPTER 1

  Ridgeway, California

  September, 1884

  Valerie smoothed a gloved hand over the surface of her wool jacket, freeing a bit of fluff from it, and descended the stairs from her family's apartment. At the foot of the stairs, townsfolk were already milling about the mercantile even at such an the early hour. Her father, Bernard, stood behind the cash register, greeting folks who passed by and tallying orders. Despite his status in town, he insisted on working in his own store, rather than hire someone to run it. He employed a few youngsters to help with inventory and during busy shopping seasons, but largely did the work himself.

  Bernard completed the tally of the customer he was serving, placed the coins in the cash box, then turned her way. "Good morning, my dear."

  She went around the counter to where he stood and, rising on her toes, placed a kiss on his cheek. Though she wore fashionable high-heeled slippers, he still towered over her by a good six or seven inches. "Good morning, Daddy."

  Bernard looped an arm around her. "What are you about today? Staying around to help me run the store, perhaps?" The last part was said in jest, as she had n
ot worked a day in the store since she was a child, having long since outgrown the novelty of being "daddy's little helper."

  She smiled. "I'm going to the library for a new book, then lunch with Pru and Prissy, then I've a Ladies Society Meeting to attend."

  He released his hold on her. "Alright. Then I'll see you this evening, dear." He glanced at the doorway, as if something drew his attention. "Looks like you have a visitor, Val."

  She turned in the direction of her father's gaze, and saw the familiar, small figure lingering in the doorway of the mercantile. Leaving her father behind the counter, she walked toward the young boy, gesturing for him. "Come on in, Adam."

  The pensive, brown eyed Adam Smart, a boy of five, dashed inside the store and ran to her, grinning widely. Adam, the nephew of the schoolteacher Janice, was a frequent visitor to the store on Saturday mornings. As Valerie crouched and gave him a tight squeeze, she relished the feeling of having him return the gesture. He really was a sweet child, despite the fact he reminded her of the joy that was lost to her forever.

  When she released him, the cherub faced child looked up into her eyes. "You look real pretty today, Miss Valerie."

  She gave his chubby cheek a gentle squeeze. "Thank you, Adam. But there's no need for flattery. You know I'll always have a treat for you." She stepped away briefly to reach into the small glass bowl of hard candy on the counter, and handed a few pieces to the boy. "Here you are, sweetheart."

  His little eyes lit up like a sunrise. "Thank you, Miss Valerie!" He placed the candy in the pocket of his trousers, save for one piece, which he unwrapped and thrust into his mouth. Giggling, he gave her a wave and bounded out into the sunshine.

  She followed him outside onto the walk, and watched him as he skipped away. Adam was a darling child, quiet, well mannered, and loving. If she had a son, she'd want him to be just like Adam. But as she watched him disappear into the crowd at the end of the street, the bittersweet feeling rose again.

  She would never have a son, or a daughter for that matter, despite her desire. She was twenty-nine years old, without a husband, and as barren as a burned out field. Shaking her head to push the feelings away before the tears started, she began walking toward the library.

  As a cool breeze swept by, she was glad of her gray wool jacket, and she buttoned the top button over the frilly neck of her blouse to fend of the chill. She knew that due to the fickle nature of California weather, there was good possibility she'd want to take the jacket off entirely before the day was out.

  As she passed the post office and entered the small building that served as the town's library, she scanned the interior for the face of her good friend, Prissy Parker.

  She found Prissy stationed at the small oak desk, using her rubber stamp to check out a book to a young girl. "It'll be due back in ten days, sugar." As the child walked away with her book, Prissy looked up at Valerie. "Morning, doll! You're late." In her crisp white blouse with the crocheted collar, deep brown skirt, and her black hair tucked in bun low on her neck, Prissy looked every bit the conscientious librarian she was.

  Valerie smiled at her friend's no-nonsense nature. She slid the gold watch from her purse and took a quick look. "Sorry. I know it's nearly eleven, but I slept late this morning."

  Prissy folded her arms over her chest. "Adam's been in the store this morning, hasn't he?"

  "How did you know?"

  "Saw him run by a while ago." Prissy stood, coming around the desk. "Besides, you always get a kind of sad, faraway look in your eyes when you've seen him."

  Valerie dropped her gaze to the floor. "I can't just avoid him, Prissy. For whatever reason, he's taken a liking to me."

  Prissy waved her hand dismissively. "I wouldn't want you to avoid him. He's much too sweet a child for that. Just be aware that the sadness shows on your face after you've been with him." She reached out and gently took hold of her face with both hands, her words a low whisper. "Take heart, Val. One day you'll find a nice widower who already has children, or some other handsome man who won't give two flips that you can't carry."

  She appreciated her friend's encouragement, but felt very wary of the other two women perusing the shelves. "Let's not talk about it now. I don't wish for the whole town to know." She looked around at the faces of the other patrons, and recognized neither of them. Both seemed to be absorbed in choosing a book. A modicum of relief rippled through her. "So, Prissy, have any new books come in this week?"

  Prissy gave her a smile, and guided her over to the shelf along the far wall. "Yesterday, six copies of The Prince and the Pauper finally came in. Now the Ladies Society can read it."

  That brought a smile to Valerie's face. She'd heard much from her cousins and associates back East about Mark Twain's latest, which had been released last year. She was eager to explore what she'd heard was a very entertaining story. "Good. We'll start it this evening, if Miss Stern has no objections."

  Scoffing at the mention of the mayor's wife, Prissy propped her fists on her hips. "Ella Stern objects to just about everything, but we'll read it anyway."

  Valerie giggled. "Honestly, Prissy." She tucked a copy under her arm. "Check me out. Maybe I'll have a few moments to start reading before we meet for lunch."

  She followed Prissy back to the desk, where the librarian stamped her log book.

  Valerie signed her name. “Meet you at Ruby's in an hour.” Ruby Parker, Prissy's mother, owned the town's only real restaurant. Most folks agreed that the little cafe in the lobby of the newly opened Taylor Hotel didn't count, since it only served beverages and fancy pastries. Valerie waved to her friend, and left the library.

  Outside on the walk, she crossed Town Road, intent on getting a seat on one of the benches outside the Taylor Hotel so she could dive into the book. She was halfway across when heard a man's voice.

  “Morning, Miss Valerie.”

  She looked up, and felt her breath leave her body in a rush. Mounted on horseback above her sat the tall, painfully handsome sheriff, Noah Rogers, his blue eyes fixed on her.

  **

  Noah looked down at Valerie, and wondered why she seemed so stricken by his greeting. Her coppery skin glowed in the sunlight, or perhaps he only perceived her that way due to his fascination with her. She looked as lovely as ever, in her soft gray wool skirt and jacket. The lacy collar of her white blouse peeked out above the jacket, embellishing the delicate column of her neck. Her wavy, dark brown hair was pinned into some impossible style, and a pert little gray hat, adorned with white blooms, sat atop the glossy strands. Her brown eyes were as wide as the road they were standing in.

  Behind him, the sound of thundering hooves drew his attention away from Valerie's beautiful, but dumbfounded face. Theodore Stern's fancy carriage was turning left from Founder's Avenue onto Town Road. He swiveled his head just in time to see the coachman make the turn too fast.

  Knowing the coach would soon strike them, he did the only thing he could think of. He leaned down, grasped the shocked Valerie around the waist, and swept her up onto Justice's saddle. Holding fast to her waist as she sat in front of him, he gave the stallion a hard kick. They galloped away seconds before Stern's coach skidded into the space they had been occupying. He let his startled horse calm down a bit, then halted the beast and turned back. He had a distinct feeling his assistance would soon be needed.

  The coachman gave a shout loud enough to be heard over the sound of screeching horses and splintering wood as the carriage tipped over on it's right side, crushing one of the wooden benches on the walk in front of the Taylor Hotel.

  Valerie, breathing heavily, finally found her voice. “My stars. I was about to sit on that bench!”

  He chuckled, unable to stifle his reaction to her words. “Good thing you didn't.” He relished the feeling of having her petite frame pressed so close to him, but he knew the moment would soon end. That was probably for the best, because if she remained this close to him for much longer, he would embarrass them both. “Let's go see
how Mayor Stern fared.”

  Swinging down out of the saddle, he assisted Valerie to the ground next. He hitched his mount to a post outside the hotel. He approached the coach and joined in with the other men who'd come to try and right it. The coachman, who looked to have injured his right arm, sat on the walk, looking quite dazed.

  Doc Wilkins rushed over from his clinic, medical bag in hand. “Hold on, now. Let's get the mayor out before we try to move the coach. He could be badly injured.”

  Noah moved around with the old doctor to the left door of the coach. Peering inside, he couldn't see anything, but he could hear Mayor Stern mumbling inside. Giving the door a hard yank, he opened it, then he and the men assisted the mayor out of the coach.

  Once the mayor was on his feet, he pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his fancy cutaway suit and wiped the blood from his brow. “Thank you, gentleman.”

  Doc Wilkins, adjusting his spectacles, peered into the mayor's eyes. “How are you feeling?”

  Theodore shrugged. “Just a bump on the head. Nothing too serious, Doc.”

  Doc Wilkins nodded, still examining the mayor's face. “I'm going to examine you and your coachman anyway, just to be certain.”

  As the two men were attended to by the doctor and some of the citizens who'd gathered nearby, Noah looked around for Valerie. His eyes scanned the crowd until he saw her, venturing back out into the street.

  He was about to call after her to ask why she was in the middle of the road again, but when she bent over, all thoughts fled his mind. Her skirt clad behind, upturned to his appreciative eyes, rendered him speechless. In that position, the round contours of her hips could not be obscured, even by the layers of fabric she wore. Viewing her from such an angle set his heart to thumping and his blood to flowing to the lower regions of his body. As he watched, she gathered up an object out of the dust, then stood again and walked his way.

 
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