Under the hot Texas sun, on a dirt dusty road, five miles from their destination, Nolan changed into a black wool, serge suit. He would probably boil in this outfit and he could only hope he wouldn't be wearing it for long. When he finished, he stuffed his everyday clothes into his saddlebags. Straightening up, he ran a finger around the tight white collar at his throat with aggravation, hell and damnations it was nearly strangling him. He dropped his hand and shot his partner, Jake, a cantankerous glare. "Damn it, I swear to hell you somehow cheated."
Still chuckling, Jake eyed Nolan with amusement. "You know darn well I didn't. You lost the toss fair and square. And besides you'll make a better reverend than I would. With your pretty face no one would ever question that you're a man of God." Hearing his friend curse, he laughed louder."
"Hells bells, Jake you're not the one that has to pretend to be perfect. Give sermons and deal with a lot of blasted gossipy women." Nolan once more tried to loosen the collar nearly cutting off his breath, and grumbled in disgust.
"Thank God for that small mercy Reverend. But you don't have to mingle with all the low life, and spend your time drinking in the saloons." Jake teased and knew he scored another hit when his friend speared him with a glare of contempt.
A snort of derision, Nolan scooped up his saddlebags and tied them to the back of his horse. "This assignment better not take too long. I don't know how I'm going to keep up this pretense if it does."
"Well we know that a woman's involved, and if we can find out who she is, I'm sure it won't take much effort to catch the rest of the robbers." Jake frowned, thinking it very odd that a woman was the leader of a vicious gang of murderers, and stagecoach robbers.
"Don't worry we'll find her. Now though I suppose I had better go and meet the good people of Dalhart. We'll catch up at the rectory tomorrow night." Nolan shook his friend and partner's hand and mounted his stallion, adjusting the hat on his head and slowly rode away.
He wasn't looking forward to playing the part of a reverend to catch the leader of the gang they were after, but the captain of the rangers told them to do whatever was necessary. It was something he knew would probably be impossible for him to keep up the pretense. He could only hope that all the women in Dalhart were ugly, fat and not a tempting one amongst them.
Slowly, he entered the outskirts of town, he once more ran his finger around the collar, and let his horse amble down the busy street.
He noticed that the town was quite hectic with cowboys, working men, women and children going about their business. He and Jake decided that they would make contact with the sheriff to let him know that he was the new reverend. However, they'd tell him nothing else until they knew what type of man he was and if he could be trusted.
When he reached the jail, halfway down the main street, he pulled up his horse, dismounted in one fluid motion and tied the reins to the hitching post. For a few brief seconds, he closed his eyes fighting the temptation to run his fingers around the collar. Lord help him, he'd already had enough of wearing the infernal thing. A growl rumbling in his chest, he opened his eyes and stepped up on the boardwalk. The second he was alone in his new house, he intended to remove the damn thing.
Striding towards the door, he opened it and went in. His eyes narrowed and his heart started to thump erratically against his ribs when he spied the stunning black haired beauty talking to the elderly sheriff. Holly hell, she was exquisite, and he wanted to curse out loud knowing that he couldn't have anything to do with her. More than annoyed over the situation, he cleared his throat, and waited for the two occupants in the room to acknowledge him.
Sheriff Williams stopped speaking when he heard the cough, spinning his head around saw the tall, well-built stranger. His eyes widened when he realized that the good-looking fella was a man of God. Glancing out the corner of his eye, he grinned when he noticed that Justin was just realizing they were no longer alone.
A frown on her brow, Justin wondered why Don suddenly stopped talking, turning slightly she followed his gaze and gasped softly when she became aware of the tall, devastating handsome stranger. Stunning blue-green eyes, a head of thick light brown hair and the most perfect features a man could ever possess. This particular man would give a woman all types of naughty and delicious thoughts.
What she wouldn't give to let her fingers trail over his glorious face and along his sensual mouth. She swallowed when her body started to stir to life, something that it has never done before. For some reason beyond her, she wanted to see this superb hunk of male perfection naked; to be able to touch and discover every inch of his hard massive frame.
However, when her eyes dropped lower and fell on the pristine collar around his neck, she blushed hotly in mortification. Quickly, she shifted her attention to the blank wall behind him. Oh my heavens, how in the tarnations could I be having such depraved thought about a man who does the Lords work? No matter how beautiful he was.
Don grinned when he caught Justin staring at the pretty man. "Can I help ya Preacher?"
Nolan nearly groaned aloud when he caught a full view of the woman's face, and his insides curled with desire. It wasn't hard to miss the carnal thoughts in her large gray eyes. And hell, those red soft lips were a temptation that no God fearing man could resist. With an effort, he forced his attention back to the sheriff. "It's Reverend not Preacher, and yes I've been sent here to take over from Reverend Thomas. I was hoping you could point me in the right direction of the church and house."
Don eyed the fella curiously, and took a swift peek at Justin who rolled her eyes. He couldn't help chuckle knowing exactly what she was thinking, and she was probably right. This good-looking young man would likely turn every single and married woman's head. "Well now young fella, ah, I mean Reverend. We have a bit of a problem. The house is rented out at the moment to a family that lost everything in a fire a few weeks ago, and they ain't got nowhere else to go."
"Ah, I see, well we can't turn the poor family out, wouldn't be Christian. However, it does leave me in a bit of a predicament." Nolan answered with concern, and wondered just where he would stay now.
Don nodded his head thoughtfully. "Well the boarding house is full, so that only leaves the saloons that have rooms to rent."
Justin stiffened, and glared mutinously at her friend. Her eyes narrowed knowing exactly where this conversation was heading. Darn it, I don't want that gorgeous hunk of pure temptation staying with me, even if he is a reverend.
"Mmm, saloons you say? Well now being a man of God, I don't know if that would be at all appropriate." Yet, Nolan was definitely pleased with the idea.
Thoughtful for a few moments before gazing at Justin, Don grinned when he saw the defiance sparkling in her eyes. "Now Justin you know it's the only place decent enough for a man of God. Hell, he can't stay at Frank or Otto's place, so that only leaves the Nightingale."
"Darn it Don, my customers will think I have gone mad or religious." Justin knew though that her saloon was the only place respectable enough for the reverend. Nevertheless, she didn't like it. No, she didn't like it one little bit.
"Oh come on Justin, it won't be for long. I'm sure once the good ladies in town catch sight of the reverend. He'll have so many offers of places stay that he will probably shift out in a day or two." Still grinning, Don knew that just by observing the new reverend that within, in all probability it would only be a matter of hours, that every door in town would be open to the young man.
Nolan's eyes widened slightly when he heard that the beautiful well-dressed woman owned a saloon. Ah hell, it was going to damn near unbearable staying under her roof, and trying to keep his hands of her. When he heard her deep husky voice, it was impossible to prevent the heat gathering in his groin. The woman named Justin was having a very strange effect on him. However, he would have to put the raw hunger that was starting to eat him alive, aside. He needed to concentrate on why he was here, and nothing else, no matter how badly he wanted to bed her.
Perhaps staying at her saloon would be ideal after all. Who knew what he could learn at such a place? And besides there was no reason why he couldn't enjoy himself a little, he thought just as long as he kept his pants buttoned, he didn't think it would be a problem. "I promise Miss that I will cause you and your customers no trouble. However, I would appreciate it very much if you would be kind enough to rent me a room."
Justin grimaced and sighed heavily, what choice did she have? Throwing Don a hard glare, she rose to her feet and faced the reverend. She willed herself not to react to his beautiful face. "Since there doesn't seem to be much choice at the moment, I will rent you a room. Let me warn you though Reverend, I don't have women working in my saloon, and I don't have men bringing them upstairs to their bedrooms. Is that clear?"
It was hard to keep a pleasant expression on his face, he found her warning amusing and he didn't want her to notice just how much she stirred his blood. "I commend you on your conviction Ma'am, and being a man of God, I can assure you I would never indulge in such wickedness. I most certainly deplore men that do." Lord help him, he was probably doomed to hell for mouthing those particular damning words.
"Well now that's settled. I'm Sheriff Don Williams and this is Justin Kingsly." Don cut in and shook the reverend's hand.
Irritated that he had to shift his attention from the lovely lady, Nolan smiled. Once the introduction was over, he waited for the lovely Miss Justin to take his hand; his lips quirked when he noticed her reluctance. When she did, he didn't expect and was unprepared for the sizzle of fire that ran up his arm, through his body and settled in his groin. Hiding his reaction, he noticed that she experienced it as well and wasn't surprised when she snatched her hand away.
He swallowed and kept what he hoped was a friendly smile on his face. "I am pleased to meet you both. I am the Reverend Nolan Miller."
"Well now Reverend Miller, why don't you run along with Justin here and get yourself settled? And if you need anything else just let me know." Don watched couple leave, and chuckled. Now wouldn't that be something if Justin and the reverend got together. He wasn't blind. He didn't miss the instant attraction between the two of them. Yes sir. That sure would be just fine if something developed between them.