Public. But public what? Public speaking? Not hardly considering what I write. How about a scene that should have been very private but became public with disastrous consequences?
Sarah McLeod has overheard a plan by her stepfather and half-brother to rob the men who have just purchased her horses. She’s snuck out to the barn to warn them, only to discover them in a very private moment. Not a big deal — these days. But this was 1887 Texas — and hot on her heels is Sarah’s stepfather who is only happy to seize the opportunity to get rid of the living proof of his wife’s infidelity…
Sarah didn’t think she’d moved or made a sound, but Jackson jumped up from the bedroll and stared at her as if she’d shot a pistol. She whirled and raced for the door. He grabbed her before she could get out of the barn.
“How long have you been here? What did you see?” His words cracked through the air like a whip.
She opened her mouth but didn’t know what to say. For a woman, she was tall, but he topped her by half a foot. A sliver of moonlight slanted across his face, accentuating the sharp planes of his cheekbones while hiding his eyes in shadows. The light also highlighted his lack of clothes, the broad expanse of chest, and flat belly, a body finely honed by hard work. Her gaze lowered, drawn to his still-rampant arousal. It suddenly occurred to her how stupid she’d been, walking into the barn, alone with two men who could do whatever they wanted to her with no one to stop them.
“Damn it, what did you see?” He shook her, not so it hurt, but hard enough that her cloak fell to the ground.
“Nothing. I swear.” She closed her eyes, reminding herself that it wasn’t her he lusted after, but another man.
Footsteps crunched outside, headed toward the barn. He released her as he ducked his head around the door. His expression was grim when he returned; he grabbed her forearm and dragged her into the stall, swinging the door shut with his foot.
“Stay quiet,” he commanded in a furious whisper, yet she instinctively knew the fury wasn’t directed at her. He was angry that she’d caught them, true, but more likely he was angry at himself, she realized, possibly even afraid she’d denounce them.
Light. Whoever was coming must be carrying a lantern. They’d find her. Here. In a stall with Jackson. Who was most decidedly naked though his arousal had softened. It wouldn’t matter that she was still untouched by a man when they found them together. Josiah had been looking for a way to get rid of her, and here she’d handed him the means on a platter. She could tell the McLeods that these men weren’t interested in her but knowing her father’s sense of justice, these men would end up strung up by their necks, and she’d still be abandoned at a brothel as soiled dove.
“I saw her go into the barn, I swear.” Walt’s voice floated through the crisp night air.
She cast about, searching for somewhere to hide.
“Ha! Here’s her cloak!” Triumph filled Walt’s voice. “See? I told you Jed was telling the truth about her sneaking into the barn.”
Jackson cursed under his breath; he shoved her into the darkest corner and trapped her against the wall. She shrank into the corner and made herself as small as possible. Despite her efforts to make no trouble, was she about to find herself abandoned, forced to work as a streetwalker to earn her next meal?
The stall door swung open and her father stood there, lantern in hand. “I know Sarah’s with you, Kellar. I can see her nightdress behind you.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Jackson stepped aside. Josiah’s eyes narrowed, their blue cold and assessing. “Walt, fetch the preacher. Now.”
Don’t forget to visit the other Snippet Saturday participants: