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It was a cold evening, one that reminded a body that winter was coming. The two ate in silence, and then it came time for Josiah to make their bed. He was about to fetch two blankets from his packhorse, when he hesitated. Josiah looked at Emma sitting beside the fire, enjoying its warmth. She had her hair braided and pinned back in a knot, just the way he had seen women in the settlements do. Absently feeling the blankets, Josiah thought things over for a moment. Instead of two blankets, he only brought back one.

Josiah spread his heavy buffalo robe on the ground, and dropped the blanket onto the robe. "Reckon it's time to turn in now," he said in a voice loud enough for Emma to hear. It was hard not to sneak a look at Emma's face to see her reaction, but Josiah willed himself not to. Instead, he settled onto the robe and lay down with his face to the sky, as if fully expecting her to follow. In silence he waited, but Emma did not come. At last, he couldn't help himself, and raised his head to see where she was. Emma was still beside the campfire, looking very much as though she intended to stay there the entire night.

"Emma?" he called to her. "You coming?"

"I'm perfectly fine where I'm at, thank you," she politely declined.

"That weren't a question, Emma."

When Emma didn't budge, Josiah jumped to his feet and covered the distance between the buffalo robe and the campfire with just a few steps. Without a single word, he swiftly kicked dirt into the fire until the flames died out, and then marched back to his robe and lay back down.

Emma bit her lip. She could feel the threat of tears and struggled to hold them back, for she didn't want to give Josiah the pleasure of knowing he had made her cry.

Beneath the darkening sky, Josiah's voice sounded with a firm unyielding tone. "Who am I, Emma?"

Emma was silent.

"Who am I?" he repeated, this time his voice more forceful than before.

"My husband," at last came her quiet reply.

Josiah waited. He knew she was cold, and wouldn't last the night without a way to keep warm. All he had to do was wait-- though he wasn't willing to wait for very long. She had better come soon, or he was going to fetch her!

Before long, Josiah felt Emma's cold frame crawl under the blanket beside him. When her arm accidentally brushed his, she quickly scooted away from him.

Amused, Josiah folded his arms behind his head and looked up at the vast sky spread above them. It was teeming with stars, so that a body couldn't find so much as a thumbnail of empty space in all the heavens. A large brilliant moon hung above the Rockies, casting its silvery light onto Emma's golden hair, and making her look more ethereal than usual.

Josiah could hardly believe his good fortune! That he could have such a woman as her, was only the day before an impossibility. But here she was, a real flesh and blood reality, and not just the lonely fancy of a half-breed mountain man.

Before finally settling down to sleep, Emma inched away from Josiah just a little more. At least he was civil enough not to force his attentions on her right now. She should at least be grateful for that small measure of kindness. Emma shivered beneath her half of the blanket. It was such a cold night!

Josiah was still watching the stars when he noticed Emma trying to tuck her legs beneath her to keep warm. Smugly, he knew he wouldn't have much longer to wait.

A small while later, Emma cautiously edged back to Josiah's side of the buffalo robe. When she was as close to him as she could get without touching him, Emma tried to warm herself. She could just feel a little of his body heat, but even that made a welcome difference.

To Emma's surprise, Josiah suddenly pushed her away, and she found herself sliding across the robe back to where she had started. Puzzled, Emma returned to her spot beside him, and once more, Josiah shoved her aside.

Fighting back tears, Emma tried to make do by herself. Very quickly, the cold became too much for her to take, and Emma was forced to lay beside Josiah once more. This time, before his strong arm pushed her away, Emma grabbed Josiah's buckskin shirt with both hands and hugged herself against him so he would have a harder time shoving her aside. When Josiah gave Emma one more nudge, she responded by gripping him tighter. To her relief, he let her stay.

In the darkness, a faint smile flickered across Josiah's face. It was enough that she was holding him, and he decided not to tussle her tonight. Even though she was only trying to keep from freezing to death, it was a start. Josiah had all winter to win the immigrant's daughter, before their marriage would be tested by the white man's world come springtime.

He only hoped one winter would be enough.

"Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense."
~ Song of Solomon 4:6 ~

end of chapter
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