The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 37)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(37)
Author: Cora Seton

He drifted back into sleep.

The Mathesons would come in two more days, wouldn’t they?

Maybe not. Ned was very independent. The Mathesons knew he was capable. They knew there’d be no cell phone reception at the cabin. They wouldn’t worry about him if he was a day or two late. Would they worry about her? Or would they think the two of them were having so much fun off on their own…

Fila couldn’t trace that thought to its end. If it was only a matter of being rescued because they’d flipped their truck they could wait here for weeks—there was plenty of food and fuel for the woodstove.

Ned wouldn’t last for weeks, though. He wasn’t just hurt—now he was sick, too. What if his fever climbed higher? What if the infection got worse?

Her fears increased as the night drew on and Ned began to shiver. His face shone with sweat but he jerked with violent shudders until she ran her hand up and down his arm and whispered soothing words. His fever was so high she was afraid to pile on any more blankets. Her voice and presence seemed to calm him, however. After a long moment’s hesitation, she slipped under the covers next to him and pressed herself close along his side.

“It’ll be all right,” she whispered near his ear. “You’re okay, Ned. It’ll be okay.”

She wasn’t sure how long she murmured to him. This close to the man, she could feel every muscle in his arm, see every contour of his jaw. Everything about him was so masculine, his features so much more pronounced than her own. She allowed herself to touch him gently. To stroke his arm and run her fingers over the stubble on his jaw. She traced the curve of his ear. And, when she was sure he wouldn’t wake, pressed her lips to his shoulder. Kissed him.

There was something primal about being so close to a man. Exploring his body. The contours of his muscles and the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed fascinated her. As the night wrapped them round in darkness, punctuated only by the light of the fire in the woodstove, Fila felt a kinship to all the women who’d gone before her, fearing for their loved ones, wrapping their arms around them, hoping the hours would hurry along to bring dawn around again.

He had to be all right. He had to get better. She’d give him one day. If his health didn’t improve, she’d walk the eighteen miles back out to the highway. She’d do whatever it took to save his life.

He’d never felt so bad and so good all at the same time. Ned woke to find his entire body shaking with cold. His head still pounded and a sickening throb pulsed in his thigh. At the same time something soft and warm and womanly pressed up against his left side, clinging to his arm, her face snuggled against his bicep.

Fila. Sharing his bed.

He would have laughed at his predicament if his throat didn’t hurt so bad. Hurt, sick, in worse shape than he’d ever been in his life. Incapable of making a pass at the sweet woman at his side. The woman he wanted more than anything.

The woman who had been afraid of him only days before.

Had she been cold during the night, to snuggle in with him? Or had she thought he required her presence? Probably the latter, if he knew Fila. He shifted and she woke, her head lifting, brown eyes widening when she saw him looking back at her. She scrambled up and he immediately missed the comfort she’d given him.

“Are you better?” She pressed a hand to his forehead. Frowned. “You’re still too hot.”

“Can you blame me?” His words came out slurred. His throat was thick and swollen, tender as a newborn’s skin. Did he have strep? That would just be his luck. Poor Fila. He’d meant to keep her warm and snug as a bug while he shoveled the roof of his family’s cabin. Now she’d been put through the wringer to care for him.

She didn’t answer. Instead, she pulled back the blankets and exposed his leg. Her fingers were soft and cool against his skin and she bit her lip as she examined the splint. “I think your leg is set correctly.”

He had a moment’s memory of being tied to the post. “That’s some bedside manner you have. I think I passed out.”

“You did pass out. A good thing, too.” Still, she was frowning as she set his covers back to rights. “I don’t know why you have a fever. Your leg doesn’t look like it’s infected.”

“Maybe I’m just sick.”

She plumped more pillows under his head, brought him some soup—homemade this time, he noted, even though his throat was so sore it burned on the way down. He made himself swallow several spoonfuls then shook his head when she tried to give him another one. “Can’t eat.”

“You have to.”

“Not hungry.”

That made her frown more. She gave him more pain medicine. Pulled his covers up to his chin.

“Read?” he muttered. He needed something to hold on to as the edges of his vision blurred dim again. He wanted to hear her voice.

She disappeared and returned some minutes later. “I found a cowboy book.”

“Western.” His lips barely moved. His eyes were closing as much as he fought against it. He was sick, he realized dimly. Really sick.

“Riders of the Dawn.” She read the title. The author’s name stumped her but she sounded it out. “Loo-is Lah-moor.”

“Louis L’Amour.” Ned opened his eyes again as he pronounced the name. Even he knew that author. A western was good.

Fila started reading, her unusual cadence making L’Amour’s plain spoken characters sound vaguely foreign. The action started right away and he’d be damned if the hero didn’t propose to the heroine on the very first page. Smart man. Although the word propose wasn’t quite right for what the hero did—more like he declared his intentions to have her for a wife and then took off on his horse.

Ned had never thought to do that. As he drifted off again, he wondered if he ought to give it a try.

Chapter 22

Fila was all too aware that Ned was drifting in and out of consciousness as she struggled through the hard-bitten prose of the western. Many of the words were slang and unfamiliar, but she appreciated the fast pace and audacious courting style of the hero. The poor heroine didn’t stand a chance.

She wasn’t sure if it was good or bad for Ned to sleep so much. She heated up soup for him regularly and fed him a few spoonfuls every hour or so, forcing herself to take some nourishment at the same time.

The hours crept by slowly and her worry grew as Ned’s periods of unconsciousness grew longer. He still woke up from time to time, but when he did his movements were restless, his eyes overbright.