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"Josiah, are you all right?"

"Reckon so."

"I was hoping we could talk," said Emma.

"Ain't we doing that, already?"

"I meant..." Emma checked the small girl who was staring at them, "out of earshot of you-know-who."

Mary giggled.

After managing to get under the blankets he was sitting on, Josiah lay down with a yawn. Because there was no room for him to stretch his legs, he had to remain on his side. Emma, on the other hand, could fit just right, and had enough room to lay on her back without her feet poking through the lodge's entrance.

Even though facing Emma, Josiah didn't look directly at her, but promptly shut his eyes.

Emma was disappointed. "You aren't going to sleep, are you?"

"I'm awake, Emma. Go ahead and speak yer mind. I'll listen."

Lowering her voice, Emma hoped Mary couldn't overhear. "Are you doing all right? You've been quiet all evening."

Josiah didn't respond.

"Please, look at me, Josiah."

Two dark eyes trained on her face, and a faint smile tugged at the corners of Josiah's mouth. "Are you sure you don't want to sleep with Mary? I can wait until yer ready fer me, Emma."

"What are you talking about?"

Josiah sighed heavily. "I bruised yer trust something terrible. I got no right thinking you'll nestle with me like before."

"You made peace with God, Josiah. If He can forgive you, then so can I."

Propping himself up on an elbow, Josiah looked at Emma in earnest. "You don't want time to think it over?"

"I already have."


"I'm here, aren't I?"

"What if it ain't safe fer you to trust me? I don't know, Emma. I ain't so sure. I aim to keep my promise to you, but until I have a chance to prove myself, maybe you should keep to Mary's side of the lodge."

Emma was dumbfounded. "This doesn't sound like the Josiah I know. Why, in the past, he coaxed and cajoled until he got his way."

"I'm knowing that, but a man can change."

"Even you?"

Josiah grinned. "Even me."

"How long do we have to wait, before you've been properly tested?"

"I'm serious, Emma."

"So am I. There aren't a lot of women around, Josiah."

"I know." With a groan, Josiah shook his head. "I still don't think it's right, me going back to the way things were as though nothing happened."

Noticing the ragged edge of his hunting shirt, Emma tried to straighten the few stray tassels of fringe still remaining. "I won't pretend things are the same, because they aren't. Every time you're around another woman, my trust will be tested."

"What should I do?" asked Josiah. The hint of desperation in his voice told Emma he was sincere.

"Choose me, Josiah. When temptation is strongest, actively choose me over anyone else. Do that, and I'll know you're staying faithful."

Caressing Emma's cheek with his finger, Josiah grinned as her skin blushed at his touch. "I knew it when you gave me that there eagle feather; you was claiming all of me fer yerself."

"Please, Josiah, choose me."

Drawing Emma's mouth to his, Josiah kissed her lips until Emma felt his passion weaken and he finally had to stop.

Wearily, Josiah dropped back on his side. "I'm dog-tired, Emma."

"Then we should stop talking, so you can sleep." Emma pulled the covers up under her chin. "Goodnight, Josiah."

"Ain't you going to kiss me goodnight?"

"What do you think we just did?"

"That weren't a goodnight kiss. It was more 'hello,' than 'see you later.'"

Laughing softly, Emma planted a kiss on Josiah's cheek. Then she prepared to go to sleep.



"I ain't too tired to nestle."

Beneath the warm blankets, Emma moved onto her side and then nestled her back against Josiah's chest. Pulling her even closer, Josiah hugged her tightly with a strong arm. A moan of contentment escaped his lips as his tired body slowly relaxed into deep rest.

Dreamily watching the soft firelight as it danced along the walls of the lodge, Emma felt her eyelids grow heavy. She hugged the muscular arm about her shoulders. Josiah had chosen her, and Emma's happiness filled the entire lodge until even little Mary was smiling in her sleep.

"Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left... found grace in the wilderness; even [Josiah], when I went to cause him to rest... Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
~ Jeremiah 31:2, 3 ~

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
~ John 3:16 ~

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