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Tears formed in Emma's brown eyes and she struggled to get them under control.

"I wasn't trying to hurt you, Emma."

"Then will you promise to be faithful?"

"I can't."

"Why not? What's stopping you?"

"I know what I am. Even if I promised to be true, I'd only go whoring after other women again; it ain't no use pretending differently." Josiah wanted to dry Emma's tears, but was afraid of making them worse. "Can't you accept it?"

Emma shook her head. "I refuse to be treated like one of your whores. I'm your wife, and I won't share you with anyone else."

Sniffing back another sob, Emma sat up to look him straight in the eye. Josiah felt his insides quiver as she raised her hand to touch his cheek. He wondered if he was blushing the way she sometimes did, when he caressed her.

"You belong to me, Josiah."

He swallowed hard. "I reckon that's true enough."

"Then promise me."

"I can't, Emma."

Her bottom lip trembled, and her hand slipped from his face. This time, Emma's tears would not be stopped, and she fell back to the buffalo robes to drown her sorrow against the heavy fur.

Despair closed in around Josiah. He never felt more hopeless than he did at that very moment. In full retreat, he went to bed without eating any of the meat Mary and Emma had saved for him. Though his stomach hungered, there was a far greater hunger in his soul that no amount of meat could ever satisfy.

Josiah loathed himself. He couldn't even promise his own dear wife that he would be faithful. His sins came up before him in a long, seemingly never-ending succession of past misdeeds.

Throwing back the blankets, Josiah grabbed his rifle and coat, and then hurried from the shelter. He had often joked with friends of how he was going to be in hell before the rest of them, for he was the biggest hell-raiser in all the Rocky Mountains. He could sweet-talk a woman into anything, and his laughing brag had always been that there was no greater scoundrel than Josiah Brown.

Feeling himself slipping into the gaping mouth of hell, Josiah was no longer laughing.

A silvery moon shone through the thick clouds, giving Josiah just enough light to find a nearby cleft of rocks. Knocking off the snow, he seated himself on a cold boulder.

The question proposed itself to Josiah's mind: "Will you surrender?"

"No!" came his quick response. "Never!"
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