Under the Cowboy's Control

By: Lynda Chance

"Don't ya'll have anything better to do?" Four men in the room took one last look, and then filed out.

Jim and Juan lingered. Juan spoke. "You're going to need me to translate, Boss.

Manuel doesn't speak English."

Travis tipped his hat back to get a better look. The small figure on the bunk stared back at him. Pain etched the features, and dirt was smudged all over the little face looking at him. Dark, violet eyes silently watched him.

Travis felt a kick in the gut as an arrow of arousal slammed his groin.

Shock immediately followed.

Nothing in his thirty-two years on earth had ever made him think he wasn't one-hundred percent heterosexual. Not a secret thought, not a second look, not even a hint of curiosity.

His eyes narrowed and he looked more closely. Beautiful violet eyes stared at him apprehensively. The face was purely feminine, without even a hint of masculine youth. Her eyes were slanted, provocatively so, with delicate eyebrows slashing above them. Her eyelashes were ridiculously long, and reminded him of a fawn's.

She clutched a lightweight, dirty jacket to her chest, hiding the swells he knew would be found there. Her complexion was creamy ivory, except for the sunburn, which looked new. One eye was blackened, and he felt a fierce surge of testosterone boil up inside of him when he thought about someone hurting her.

She looked helpless in the extreme, and his men had been right to come and drag him back here.

But how the hell they had all mistaken her for a boy was beyond him. She was a female, no question about it, and a young adult one at that. She may only be eighteen or nineteen, but she was about to open a whole can of worms for him.

The question was, had all of his men thought she was a boy, or were a couple of them secretly waiting for the right time to pounce on her? All in all, they were good men, good hands, and he wouldn't keep them around if he didn't think he could trust every one of them. But the ranch was secluded, and the men were known to go a bit stir crazy with the lack of women.

This little bit of fluff was going to cause him major problems, he could tell already.

He cleared his throat and tried to bring his lust down a notch. "His name is Manuel?" Travis asked Juan the rhetorical question and turned back to the bunk.

"Can you understand me, Manuel?"

At the small affirmative nod she gave, Travis continued. "You say you are a United States citizen, and for now, I'm going to believe you."

He turned back to Jim and Juan. "He can't stay here with all the rowdiness that goes on at night and expect to heal. We're going to have to move him to the big house. I'm going to do that now. Juan, you come with me, so you can ease his fears a bit. Jim, bring the liniment and something to wrap those ribs with."

Her eyes flared wide at that.

He moved over to the bunk and looked down at the young woman lying there. "I'll be careful. But we have to get you out of here. Comprehende?"

She closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip and nodded, just once.

He leaned down and carefully put one arm below her knees and the other under her back. She was extremely light, and he doubted she weighed a hundred pounds. He gently moved her against his chest, and carried her out the door and across the compound to the big house. Juan followed with her backpack.

Travis carried her through to one of the two spare bedrooms the house held. He shouldered the door wide, and held her next to the bed. "Juan, fold the blanket and sheet back. I want to get him in and settled so we don't have to keep moving him."

Travis wanted to keep the knowledge of her gender to himself for now.

He stood still and held her as Juan did as he had instructed. He looked into her face and saw her eyes shut against the pain.

He lowered her down gently and stepped away from the bed. The soft little body in his arms was beginning to play havoc with his breathing.

Jim walked into the room and set the supplies down on the bedside table. "What now, boss?"

"How about you go heat up a can of soup for our guest? God knows how long it's been since he had a meal." Jim nodded once and went on his mission.

"Juan, explain to our guest that I'm good with fractures and I'm going to look at his ribs. Tell him I know what I'm doing. Make it clear he has no choice in the matter."

Travis watched the girl the whole time he made the speech to Juan.

She obviously understood English. She grasped the situation completely and was now silently panicking.

He stood back while Juan translated his words and she started arguing back immediately. Her voice was soft, a little raspy. She was obviously upset and was letting Juan know it in no uncertain terms.

He let the volley go on for a while before he had enough. The girl understood English enough that he didn't need Juan's help. In fact, he needed Juan out of the room for what was about to happen.

His words were an order. "Enough. Go make sure the men know not to spread this around. We need to keep this under wraps while I figure out what the real situation is here. I'll send Jim for you if I need you to translate anymore."

Juan nodded his understanding and smiled once at the kid in encouragement and then took off.

The door closed behind Juan and Travis was left alone in the room for the first time with the girl. She lay trembling on the bed. "Calm down. I'm not going to hurt you."