“I see you removed your shirt, Marshall.”
He gave a slight nod of the head.
“Here, drink some more of this.” She slid her arm around his back and eased him upright, brought the bottle of whiskey to his lips and grimaced as he choked down a swallow. “More,” she instructed.
“You’re going to need it for the pain.” When she was satisfied he’d drank down enough, she withdrew the bottle and pressed a thick piece of leather into his hand. “When I tell you, bite down on it. And keep still.”
“You’re skilled at removing bullets?” His voice was low, raspy.
“No.” She poured a splash of whiskey over her hands. “I helped my uncle last summer. Mostly, I kept his patient comfortable, but I did learn a few things.”
Unease deepened his ashen complexion. “Maybe you should just sew me up.”
Tabitha glared at him. “Need I remind you of your refusal to be taken to the clinic? You insisted I remove the slug?”
“No doctor,” he hissed, curling his fingers around the leather. “And you offered.”
She ignored him and sank to her knees, her fingers splaying across his bare skin to probe the wound above his hip. From the amount of puss trickling down his flesh, one would think the hole would be larger. Its smallness caused her to hesitate. Poking her finger into a horse’s innards didn’t rattle her. But the Marshall… maybe she should fetch her uncle.
“Don’t even think about it,” he warned, clamping his hand over her wrist. Surprisingly, his grip was strong, and prevented her from rising.
Tabitha met his gaze, noted the glint in his tired eyes and released a heavy sigh. “Very well,” she acquiesced and turned her attention to spilling a few drops of whiskey onto a cloth. “How long have you had the slug in you?” she asked, hoping conversation would settle her jitters.
“Less than a day.” He yawned.
“Where were you when you were shot?” She brought the cloth to his skin and wiped away the puss.
He inhaled sharply. Let the breath out slowly. “You always ask this many questions?”
“When I’m nervous.” She swallowed hard, gathered her courage and eased her finger into him.
“Errrr,” he gritted in pain.
“Bite down on the leather,” she instructed, keeping her attention on his wound. Probing as fast and as carefully as she could, she cringed when he groaned again. “I’m sorry, Marshall,” she whimpered. “I don’t mean to hurt you.”
“Chance,” he huffed around another moan of agony.