“I love her.” Determination carried on Jackson’s voice.
Luke stared into Jackson’s eyes, his stomach sinking. Not his baby sister. She wasn’t old enough to be loved by a city slicker like Jackson Wells. She was just a girl at heart, a beautiful girl caught in a woman’s body. Not big enough to be kissed that way, touched that way. “If you loved her, then you wouldn’t take advantage of her.”
“I wasn’t taking advantage. It was merely a kiss.”
“It was more than a kiss.”
“Luke, I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to. We just...got caught up.” Samantha tucked herself beneath Jackson’s arm.
Did she fancy herself in love with Jackson, too? Luke closed his eyes as tiredness flooded him. Please, Father, no. How will I ever get her to come home if she’s moonstruck? “Say goodbye and get to the carriage.” His voice, soft but firm, carried through the air. “You’ll not be seeing him again.”
“No, wait. You can’t do that. I said I was sorry.” Samantha wound her arms about Jackson’s waist, and Jackson settled his hands around Samantha’s back in return.
Luke raked a hand through his hair. How had he gotten into this mess?
“Jackson, obey Mr. Hayes. You were wrong in kissing Samantha like that. Even if you do love her,” Elizabeth stated from beside him.
But Jackson didn’t obey, and why should he? The way he and Sam had wrapped themselves around each other, nothing short of an army could pry them apart.
Luke could still hear Samantha’s gasp echo between the buildings, still see the way her hands dove into Jackson’s hair. She had no business kissing a man like that until after she was married. “Jackson, we’ll discuss this further on Monday. How convenient we already have an appointment scheduled. And, Samantha, if seeing him meant so much to you, you’d not have kissed him.”
“Oh, like you’ve never kissed a woman before,” Sam shot back. “Or maybe you’ve forgotten about the time I found you and Mary Baker behind the barn.”
“Jackson was devouring you.” Luke thrust his hand toward the spot where he’d found them against the wall. “That was a heap more than some stolen kiss behind a barn.”
“You’ve still got no right to keep us apart.”
“Watch me.” Luke rubbed the back of his neck. Where was his sister’s guilt? Or Jackson’s? Oh, Sam had apologized, but more because she’d been caught than because she felt she’d done wrong, and now she stood defending herself. Had Samantha and Jackson done this before? Exactly how familiar were they with each other?
“Samantha, go to the carriage.” Miss Wells’s firm voice stole over them.
“Tell my brother, Miss Wells, tell him he’s being unreasonable.”
Miss Wells edged forward and laid a gentle hand on Samantha’s upper arm. “It’s best you and your brother discuss this tomorrow, when you’ve both calmed down.”
“But what about Jackson?” Sam’s words tumbled out, caught somewhere between a sob and a whine.
“Jackson’s a grown man, accountable for his own actions. You, on the other hand, are still under your brother’s protection.”
Sam glared at Miss Wells, but the look mellowed into calculation as she swept her eyes over the teacher’s hair. “And what, dear brother, were you doing between these buildings with Miss Wells?”
“I’m wondering the same thing.” Jackson scowled at Miss Wells.
“That’s not your business.” Luke crossed his arms. No need for Samantha and Jackson to know what type of evening Miss Wells had.
“No?” Jackson asked in a deceptively quiet tone. “It appears Samantha and I are getting into trouble for the very thing you were doing with my sister.”
“I didn’t...” Touch her. Except he had. Not in the way Samantha and Jackson implied, but he’d held her hand, stroked behind her ear, almost kissed her. Almost. “...do anything inappropriate.” The words sounded pathetic even to him.
“Elizabeth?” Jackson watched his sister like a wolf watching a deer before it pounces.
“She looks as though you mauled her.” Samantha slapped her hands on her hips and tapped her shoe impatiently on the ground.
Luke rolled his eyes. Where had his sweet, innocent sister gone? The woman who stood before him couldn’t possibly be the same girl he’d taken to the train station three years ago. “Get to the carriage, Sam. Jackson, hire a hansom cab to take you home. I’ll see your sister back to Valley Falls.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Samantha declared. “And I won’t let you stand there and berate me for kissing the man I love while you were trysting with a woman you haven’t known for more than a day.”