Taming Eliza Jane
© 2007 Shannon Stacey
Western Historical Romance
Will Martinson, the town doctor, already has a heap of troubles on his plate, what with a pregnant whore, an ailing friend and a sheriff with a bad habit of shooting people. The last thing he needs is a strong hankering for a woman who thinks it’s her duty to turn a man’s life upside-down.
Eliza Jane Carter is a woman on a mission. She’s going to improve the lives of the women in Gardiner, Texas before moving on to the next town. But when her finances take a turn for the worse and her chaperone heads for the hills, Eliza Jane is stranded in a town full of riled up menfolk, a gun-happy sheriff and one handsome doctor who makes her question everything she ever believed about the love between a man and a woman.
Enjoy the following excerpt for Taming Eliza Jane:
Women, in general, were more of a pain in the ass than a lumpy saddle. And whores, in particular, could drive a sober man to go looking for the bottom of a bottle.
The one between whose thighs Will Martinson currently knelt—a particular favorite of his by the name of Sadie—giggled again, causing her ample breasts to shake. It was more of a distraction than any man could withstand. But Sadie liked baring them, even though he’d told her time and time again he had no need to see them.
“It ain’t supposed to tickle, Sadie.”
“I ain’t laughin’ at no tickle. Was laughin’ at your face—so serious and businesslike.”
Will pushed to his feet and flipped Sadie’s skirt down over her splayed thighs. “When were your last courses?”
The amusement drained from the pretty whore’s face. “Do I gotta baby in me, Doc?”
Will sighed and closed up his bag. His monthly health checks at the Chicken Coop were usually uneventful. Miss Adele took good care of her girls, and taught them to care for themselves. But he was especially fond of Sadie—a dirt-poor Southern farm girl who’d probably never make it to California no matter how much time she spent on her back—and her expression damn near broke his heart.
“I think you do, Sadie.” And not the first inkling of which of her numerous customers may have fathered it. Not that it mattered. A whore’s bastard was a child only the mother would love.
“How long can I work?”
His fingers tightened on the straps of his medical bag. “You should get on the next stage and go home, sweetheart. I’ll pay your passage if you don’t have enough money tucked away. Tell your folks you had a husband but he got killed.”
A look of revulsion passed over her face. He saw that look a lot if he mentioned home during his visits to the Coop. What horrors these girls had been born into that made it preferable to spread their legs for an endless stream of strange men, he couldn’t even begin to guess.
“I asked you,” Sadie insisted, some of the sweetness gone from her voice, “how long can I work?”
Looking down into her pretty hazel eyes, framed by a mass of golden curls, he almost offered to marry her. She’d make a right sweet wife and she could be a proper mother to her baby. And if the people of Gardiner took issue with their doctor marrying a whore, why they could deliver their own babies and set their own goddamn broken bones.
He took a deep breath and settled his hat on his head. But, hellfire, he couldn’t save them all.
“I guess until the men ain’t willing to pay for you anymore,” he replied in a voice heavy with regret.
Will walked out of the Chicken Coop with an aching heart and a gut churning with frustration. The last person he expected to see waiting for him was the sheriff, who usually gave the only whorehouse in town a wide berth.
Adam Caldwell was damn near the best friend Will had ever had, but he could be as much a pain in the ass as the whores at times. He wasn’t sure he had the patience for him right now.
The sheriff fell into step beside him on the plank sidewalk. Will knew they made a noticeable pair. Adam was dark and forbidding. Over six feet of sun-darkened muscle, black shirt and a black hat covering long black hair, with unforgiving eyes almost as dark. They all figured there was some Indian in him somewhere, but no man had yet had the balls to ask him outright.
Will himself was as tall, but he was leaner, with an open, friendly air about him. White shirt with cuffs rolled to the elbows tucked into denim pants. His battered, brown Stetson covered sandy hair he kept trimmed off his ears and neck. And the ladies sure did tend to go on about his blue eyes.
The only other things they had in common were the tin stars—Will liked to pin his on his doctoring kit—and the holsters low on their hips. Will Martinson had sworn to preserve life, but he was also the only man Adam trusted to back him up. The sheriff’s reputation went a long way toward keeping the peace, but when there was need for a deputy, Will just told himself there was more than one way to preserve a life.
“Trouble?” Adam finally asked when Will didn’t talk just to fill the silence as he was wont to do.
“Sadie’s with child.”
Adam shrugged. “Can’t help those who don’t wanna be helped, Doc.”
Hell, he knew that. But he wasn’t in the mood to hear it just yet. “Heard at the Coop some woman got off the stage and stayed off.”
It was a rare event for a woman to stay in town, unless her intention was a room at the Chicken Coop. Word of her had spread through Gardiner like wildfire.
“Yup. Ain’t good.”
Will waited for his friend to go on with a growing sense of aggravation. Hellfire, he’d had easier conversations with mules. “Why ain’t it good? She somebody you’ve heard of?”
“Yup. Eliza Jane Carter. Likes to ride into town, get the women all riled up about demanding their rights and shit, then she skedaddles.”
“She stayin’ a while?”
Will knew his friend was mulling over the woman’s unwelcome presence in his town and her potential for troublemaking, but all he could think about was how the woman could maybe talk some sense into Sadie. Tell her there were better ways for her and her child to make it in the world.
Adam sighed and pushed his hat back on his head. “If the women gettin’ riled up gets the men riled up, we could have us some trouble.”
Damnation. He didn’t need spectacles to see where Adam was heading with this. “Dammit, Adam, I’m a doctor, not a nanny.”
“Better job for you than me. I ain’t so good with diplomacy.”
“Diplomacy? You? Shit, they say you shot a man for calling your horse ugly.”
The sheriff shrugged. “He lived. And my horse ain’t ugly.”
Fact was, Sheriff Caldwell’s gelding was the ugliest son of a bitch to ever stand on four legs. A sane man would have shot the creature just to save his own eyesight. But that horse had speed and stamina the likes of which Will had never seen, and he would run until his heart exploded for Adam. He was loyal in a way Will hadn’t come across even in a good dog, and certainly never in another person. Didn’t change the fact the beast was damn ugly, though. Folks had just gotten real quiet about it.
“I ain’t asking you to marry the woman, Doc. Just keep an eye on her.” When Will hesitated, Adam shrugged again. Hell, he hated that—made Will want to shove the sheriff’s head so far down his neck he could never shrug his shoulders again. “I’d hate for her to cause trouble. Seems a mighty shame to shoot a woman.”
Will laughed at the blatant attempt at blackmail, some of the tension easing from his body. “Even you wouldn’t shoot a woman, you ornery son of a bitch.”
He looked up in time to see a damn fine looking woman step out of the hotel. She was tall and thin, but not so thin she didn’t have rounded breasts and hips that like to make a man’s mouth water. “Is that her?”
Will smiled and pushed his own hat back a little further on his head. “It would be a damn shame to have to shoot her.”
She liked to get women all riled up about their rights, did she? “Could be she starts causing too much trouble I’ll have to put her over my knee and spank some sense into her.”
And damned if he didn’t get so riled up himself he had to walk down the sidewalk with his bag held in front of his crotch like a schoolboy.