Home > Captivated by the Cowgirl

Captivated by the Cowgirl
Author: Jody Hedlund






Fairplay, Colorado

October 1878

“I would like to hire help.” Felicity Courtney tapped on the advertisement she’d carefully crafted before sliding it across the counter toward the store proprietor.

Stoop-shouldered and arthritic, Captain Jim picked up the sheet and held it out as far as his arms could stretch, peering down his nose and attempting to read the print.

“Hire help?” The older man practically shouted the question, his hearing as diminished as his eyesight.

Throughout Simpkins General Store, the other customers halted their browsing of wares. The two fellows sitting on stools on either side of a barrel topped with a checkerboard paused in their game.

Irritation prickled Felicity. Why did she have to live in a small town where people knew everything about everyone? She wanted to glare around and tell folks to mind their own business, but she stifled the urge. The truth was, she needed everyone to know she was looking for help. In fact, the more people who knew about her advertisement, the better.

She flattened her skirt—a fancy emerald color that made her red hair and brown eyes stand out—then she leaned in and read her own handwriting. “Needed: A man who can come out to the homestead once a day to tend to the livestock, chop wood, haul water, and other labor as needed. Wages: One dollar a day.”

With a whistle of surprise, Captain Jim handed the sheet back to her. “That there’s some good money.”

One dollar a day was above the going rate. But both Charity and Patience had insisted she offer at least that amount. No doubt her older sisters felt guilty that she’d been left bearing all the responsibilities of their homestead and boardinghouse by herself while they enjoyed marital bliss with the loves of their lives.

Regardless, the gold mine they’d inherited from their uncle was producing well, and they could afford to pay a generous wage. The money wasn’t the issue. The issue was that Felicity hadn’t wanted to hire anyone. Had wanted to prove she could get along fine without her sisters.

But after Patience had visited three days ago and found her unconscious on the kitchen floor, Felicity hadn’t been able to say no to a plan to hire help, especially after Doctor Steele had examined her and attributed the episode to exhaustion.

Captain Jim whistled again. “I’d offer to do it myself if I wasn’t so busy here at the store.”

Underneath her chin, she tightened the wide velvet ribbon of her bonnet—which was more of a petite hat set upon the mounds of her fashionably coiled hair. “Thank you, Mr. Simpkins. You’re very kind to say so.”

A man several feet down the counter, reading a newspaper, gave a soft snort. A snort that belonged to only one person: the annoying Philip Berg.

He was leaning against the counter on both elbows, the sheet of newsprint spread out in front of him. His wavy blond hair hung rakishly over his forehead, as it normally did. And his profile was as cocky and handsome as always. Not that she cared how cocky and handsome he was. It was simply a fact that any living creature would acknowledge.

He was browsing an article, a smirk on his lips. Was he reading something that was causing his mirth? Or did he find her predicament humorous?

He tilted his head, giving her full view of his lean features, sharp and perfectly proportioned—slender nose, prominent chin covered in scruff, and well-defined cheekbones. All chiseled out of smooth mountain granite.

His eyes, the color of a hot spring mirroring a blue morning sky, locked with hers. He held her gaze as if he could see straight inside her. Then he winked and dropped his attention back to the article in front of him.

Ugh. How dare he wink at her like she was his little sister. Or a giggly girl who was enthralled with him. She hated when he did that, as though he assumed she was ready to throw herself at him at the least bit of attention he gave her.

She’d tried to make it quite clear over the past month of knowing him that she had no interest in him. But he clearly hadn’t gotten the message. More likely, he was ignoring it.

Even though he was no longer watching her, she tossed a glare at him anyway. Her situation was no winking matter. It was actually quite serious. Via telegrams, Charity had given her only one week to find help. If she didn’t hire someone by the week’s end, Charity intended to close up the boardinghouse for the winter and move Felicity into town.

Felicity wasn’t necessarily attached to their homestead, and she’d move if necessary. But she’d already rented two rooms to the Kellers, and the older couple had no place else to go. Not with how ill Mr. Keller was.

Of course, her sisters hadn’t been pleased to hear about the new boarders. Even though they’d operated the Courtney Boardinghouse for the past year and had rented rooms to plenty of people, Charity and Patience hadn’t wanted her taking in anyone because of all the responsibilities that entailed. In fact, they’d told her not to have boarders until Charity and Hudson returned in the spring and instituted their plans to provide a safe residence for poor, homeless women.

However, when Mrs. Keller had arrived with her sick husband in the back of a wagon a couple of weeks ago, Felicity hadn’t been able to turn them away. And now, after getting to know them, she couldn’t fathom closing up the boardinghouse, not when the Kellers so desperately needed her help.

“Yes, indeed.” Felicity spoke again, this time so that hopefully everyone in the store could hear her. “I expect I’ll need someone to do a couple of hours of work per day. Likely not much more than that.”

She could handle everything else for herself. In fact, the exhaustion of the past week had happened because she hadn’t been sleeping well, not because the workload was too much.

But no amount of arguing with Charity or Patience had convinced them otherwise.

Now here she was—attempting to hire help.

She moved away from the counter and let her gaze sweep over the various people still watching her. “If you know of anyone who might be interested, please have them visit me at the boardinghouse to discuss the matter further.”

“Anyone isn’t very specific.” Philip’s comment was casual and contained a hint of his foreign accent. She didn’t know much about where he was from. He hadn’t spoken about home or his family during the dinners they’d shared together at Mrs. Bancroft’s last month, when she’d been working as the wealthy woman’s companion. In fact, Philip’s English was so good that she sometimes forgot he was a foreigner.

He read his newspaper a moment longer before glancing up. “I guess that means I can apply for the position.”

“I’m only choosing men. Not children.”

His grin kicked up on one side, making him too good-looking. Again, she was only stating the obvious—common knowledge accepted far and near.

She knew she ought to feel ashamed of herself for saying such rude things to Philip, but she couldn’t seem to help herself—hadn’t been able to since the moment she’d met him.

“Maybe you should consider me anyway.” His lopsided grin was almost irresistible.

Thankfully, she’d become proficient at not letting it affect her. “I can’t, Mr. Berg. I really do need someone who is actually interested in working.”

His grin rose higher. “Yes, I can see how that would be a problem, then.”

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)