The Founding Fathers 3)
Raised in a bordello, Sarah Smith knew it was only a matter of time before she’d have to earn her keep on her back, the way her mother did, instead of doing the washing and cleaning. When one of the bordello’s meanest customers—an outlaw—noticed her, she knew her time had run out. She rushed to pack her things, only to discover that she’d accidentally stolen the outlaw’s gold. Running away, she finds herself on a train, headed for Desire, Oklahoma.
Met by the tall, dark Indian, she finds herself drawn to him, and before she knew it, found herself married to him—and his two brothers. She knew, though, that Willy would come after her—and his gold. Realizing the danger she’d brought to her new home, she runs away, determined to keep her new husbands safe. But Hawke, Blade, and Phoenix Royal aren’t intimidated by Willy, and will do anything to protect her.
Sarah woke slowly, wondering where she was. A strange lethargy made her feel as if she floated, and she thought back to the time she’d spent with Hawke, Blade and Phoenix in the spring.
Hearing the unmistakable sounds of low voices, she tried to turn toward them, but her body wouldn’t obey her.
She felt dizzy. Weak.
The only thing she seemed able to move was her right hand, and when she did, she encountered what felt like cool grass instead of warm water.
Pain in her side, shoulder and thigh slowly let itself be known, and grew stronger with every passing second.
God, it hurt, throbbing with every beat of her heart.
She never knew something could hurt this much.
She kept moving her hand, loving the feel of coolness against her heated skin.
She tried to open her eyes—the feeling that something was very wrong taking hold of her and not letting go.
A wave of terror washed over her at the mental image of Hawke and Blade running toward her.
An ear piercing scream of rage.
Shouts and gunshots.
Oh, God. Were they dead?
A sob escaped, and then another, the pain in her side and shoulder nothing compared to the agony in her heart.
“We’re here, love. We’re here.” Blade’s voice came to her as if from a great distance, low and gentle, but with a desperation she’d never heard in it before. “Don’t thrash around. Easy, love. You’ll open up those wounds again.”
Had she been shot?
A hand pressed against her forehead, so cool and wonderful against her heated skin. “She’s even warmer than before.”
Struggling to fight her way through the fog surrounding her, she hung onto Blade’s voice like a lifeline. “Blade?”
“Yes, love. It’s me. Hawke and Phoenix are here with you, too.”
The sound of water, followed by a cooler cloth being placed on her forehead drew another moan from her. “Are we dead?” She saw no other way of explaining the strange feeling that made her hurt while floating.
“No, little one. We’re not dead. Open your eyes for me, Sarah.”
The command in Hawke’s voice had her fighting to open them, the need to see him again giving her the strength she hadn’t known she possessed. “Can’t.”
“Yes, you can. Open your eyes right now, Sarah.” The underlying fear in his harsh tone made her stomach clench, and using every ounce of willpower she possessed, she forced her eyes open to find herself staring into Hawke’s dark ones.
Only inches from hers, his eyes, narrowed, swirling with an emotion her brain struggled to identify.
He smiled tenderly, but his body remained tight with tension. “That’s my girl. See? I knew you could do it.”
Sarah tried to reach for him, but she couldn’t quite drum up the energy. “You’re not dead.” The memory of the looks on their faces when they’d ridden out and the anger in their eyes came back in a rush.
He took the cloth from her forehead and she heard the sound of splashing water again. “No, little one. We’re all alright.”
Another hand touched her leg. “You’re the only one of us that got hurt. I’m sorry I didn’t shoot a second earlier. Willy and his men shot at you the same time we shot at them. I’m so sorry, honey.” The self-disgust in Phoenix’s voice had her turning her head to look at him, the effort taking the last of her strength.
Phoenix’s jaw clenched. “He and his men are all dead. Pity. I had some serious plans for them.” His expression softened. “Honey, your momma’s here.”
Suddenly, she remembered seeing her mother and the evidence of her mistreatment. Another moan escaped, the pain in her side intensifying. “Why?”
Hawke rinsed the cloth again and ran it down her neck to her chest. “That sick bastard thought he could have both of you, and use each of you to intimidate the other. She’s safe now. She wouldn’t go to sleep until she saw that you were all right.”
“You’re gonna be fine.” Blade slid a hand under her neck, lifting her head, and cursing when she moaned at the sharp pain in her shoulder. “I’m sorry, love. I want you to drink some more water. You in a lot of pain?”
Hawke rinsed the cloth out again. “That’s the laudanum. It’s wearing off. We’re gonna need to give you a little more. We need for you to sleep and stop moving around. Will and Doc Stanton sewed you up real good and we don’t want you ripping out their work.”
She didn’t care for the idea of being sewn up, but was thankful that she hadn’t known about it at the time. “Wanna leave.”
Phoenix touched his lips to a spot close to where pain radiated from her thigh. “Just sleep, honey. Eb’s coming out with the buckboard in the morning. We’ll go back to the cabin nice and slow so we don’t rip anything open. We’ll take care of everything.”
The darkness couldn’t be held at bay much longer, and she had to make sure they understood her before it took over again.
“No. Leave. Goin’ to Cal-calforna. Made a mess of everythin’. Don’t blame you for hatin’ me.”
The sudden silence that fell heavily around her spoke volumes.
The pain in her heart grew, a pain no amount of laudanum could take away.
A tear leaked from the corner of each eye, but she knew she didn’t have the energy to brush them away.
She didn’t even have the chance as darkness closed in on her once again.