Read Matt (The Cowboys) Online
Authors: Leigh Greenwood
Ellen heard the soft sound of clothes dropping to the floor and had to try very hard not to picture Matt standing naked in the dark. Just the thought of it caused her to swallow hard.
She felt the bed sag under Matt’s weight, and her breath caught. Had he had time to take off his long underwear and put on a nightshirt? The possibility that he had gotten into bed naked was too nerve-wracking to consider.
“Anything you want to tell me about today?” he asked.
“Like what?” She didn’t know where to begin. She was married. She’d promised to help him adopt Orin and protect Toby. She’d committed herself to sleep next to him. She didn’t know if she could survive that. Next to sharing his bed, everything else seemed easy.
“I know you didn’t want to marry me,” Matt said. “I want to make being here easier.”
The sincerity in his voice touched her. She knew he had to be as uncomfortable as she was.
“We’ll get along all right. It’ll just take a little time to adjust,” she answered.
She heard him turn, felt the mattress move as he shifted position. He must have put his back to her. She wanted to reach out and be sure but didn’t dare. If she touched him, he’d probably think she wanted a whole lot more. Still, she had to know. She couldn’t go to sleep if he was facing her, maybe staring at her while she slept. It was hard enough knowing he lay just a few inches away,
series by Leigh Greenwood:
To every child who has suffered abuse and had nowhere to turn.
Copyright © 2000, 2011 Leigh Greenwood
THE FAMILY OF
JAKE MAXWELL AND ISABELLE DAVENPORT
Eden Maxwell b. 1868
Ward Dillon m. Marina Scott 1861
Tanner b. 1862
Mason b. 1869
Lee b. 1872
Conway b. 1874
Webb b. 1875
Buck Hobson (Maxwell) m. Hannah Grossek 1872
Wesley b. 1874
Elsa b. 1877
Drew Townsend m. Cole Benton 1874
Celeste b. 1879
Christine b. 1881
Clair b. 1884
Sean O’Ryan m. Pearl Belladonna (Agnes Satterwaite) 1876
Elise b. 1866 (Pearl’s daughter by previous marriage)
Kevin b. 1877
Flint b. 1878
Jason b. 1880
Chet Attmore (Maxwell) m. Melody Jordan 1880
Jake Maxwell II (Max) b. 1882
Nick b. 1884
Matt Haskins m. Ellen Donovan 1883
Toby b. 1858 (adopted)
Orin b. 1872 (adopted)
Noah b. 1878 (adopted)
Tess b. 1881 (adopted)
Pete Jernigan m. Anne Thompson 1886
Luke Attmore m. Valencia Badenburg 1887
Texas Hill Country, 1883
“You’ve got to get married,” Isabelle Maxwell told Matt Haskins. “If you don’t, they’ll take these boys from you.”
They were seated in Matt’s ranch house kitchen. A household of men didn’t need a parlor. A wide hall separated the kitchen from two bedrooms. He had no curtains at the windows, no fancy tablecloths, no upholstered chairs. Everything was plain, every surface as clear as possible. He and the boys had to keep the house clean. They didn’t want anything to make the job more difficult.
“You can’t get married,” Toby nearly shouted. “Every woman in that town hates me.” The vehemence of his answer, coupled with the anger in his face, told Matt that Toby feared an outsider even more than he disliked the idea of a woman in their all-male household.
“They don’t hate you,” Isabelle said. “They’re just afraid your handsome face will turn their young daughters’ heads.”
“I can’t help it if they like me better than the white boys.”
Toby was only sixteen, but he was already six feet tall, dark, and so handsome young girls fluttered like a covey of doves when he rode into town. His arrival had prompted more than one mother to remember a “pot left on the stove” that required that she and her daughter rush home to tend. The town mothers objected to Toby’s Mexican blood, his lack of prospects, and that his mother had given birth to him without the benefit of marriage.
“I haven’t seen you trying to keep your distance,” Isabelle observed, an edge to her voice.
“You can’t expect me to spend all my time with horses and cows.”
“As much as they don’t like him hanging around their daughters, it’s Orin they’re determined to take,” Isabelle said to Matt, referring to the slight blond boy sitting silently next to Matt.
“They were happy enough for me to take him a year ago,” Matt said.
“His grandfather hadn’t left him a small fortune then,” Isabelle pointed out.
“So money makes him worth the trouble?”
“Don’t be a fool. You know there’s nobody but you interested in these boys for their own sakes.”
Matt had been in the little town of Bandera two years ago when the sheriff was about to put Toby in jail. Instead, Matt hired him to work on his new ranch. Not everybody was happy with that arrangement, but they were glad to get Toby out of town.
Orin was another matter.
Several families had volunteered to take the orphaned nine-year-old after his parents’ tragic death. But when the money from the sale of his parents’ property ran out, the family that had taken him in discovered they really didn’t have room for a boy who was constantly in trouble. Traumatized by the death of his parents, thrust into an unsympathetic foster home, then kicked out, Orin had been volatile and uncooperative when he arrived at the ranch. It had taken Matt close to a year to break through the barriers of his anger and hurt. The past three months had been good. Toby and Orin had begun to treat each other as friends and the ranch as their home.
When Orin’s grandfather died and left the boy a large inheritance, the family that had turned him out started agitating for his return. It was unlikely anyone would have listened if the Reverend Wilbur Sears hadn’t announced that Matt was an unsuitable guardian because he wasn’t married. He claimed that a young boy needed the warm, humanizing care of a mother figure.
“They can have my money,” Orin said. “I just want to stay here.”
Matt put his hand on Orin’s shoulder. The boy’s thin body worried him. An eleven-year-old child should weigh more, but in the last month Orin hadn’t eaten more than a few mouthfuls before he pushed his plate away.
“I’ll run away,” Orin said.
“That’s stupid,” Toby said. “Where would you go?”
“He’s not going anywhere,” Matt said, “and nobody’s taking him away.”
“Then you’ll have to get married,” Isabelle said. “That damned preacher has stirred up everybody from here to San Antonio. Have you thought of anybody you could ask?”
Isabelle had reached her fortieth birthday, but she still looked vibrant and beautiful. It was no wonder Jake still acted like a newlywed after all these years. Maybe her own wedded bliss was the reason she thought marriage was the answer to practically everything. Matt had discarded the possibility of marriage without serious consideration. No woman would marry him once they knew his secret. And he’d have to tell. It wasn’t something he could keep from a wife. “There’s got to be another way.”