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"What do you mean?" asked Emma, struggling to be heard over the wind.

"You can tussle me, 'an hold me, and no one will look down on you fer giving yourself to a half-breed," reasoned Josiah.

"That's not the reason why," Emma shook her head resolutely. "I won't love a man who isn't a Christian!"

"Bah!" Josiah dismissed her argument with a disbelieving wave of his hand. "I'm knowing yer kind better than that! Even white whores don't want it known that they've tumbled with me, 'cause it'd be bad fer business!"

Emma's face paled, and she took a step back from the mountain man. "I'm not a whore," she finally managed to speak. Her words were lost in the wind, but Josiah didn't have to hear to understand what she had said.

Resting his Hawken in the crook of his arm, Josiah looked out over the valley. "Yer a hard one, Emma."

Emma moved forward until she was sure he could hear her over the howling wind. "I beg you not to push me beyond what I can do in good conscience," she pleaded. "Isn't it enough that I share your bed and cook your food?"

"I reckon it'll have to be," groaned Josiah. "I had to try, though."

Breathing a small sigh of relief, Emma shuddered beneath Josiah's capote. She could barely feel her ice cold feet.

"I'm ready to go down now!" she called to Josiah.

Nodding his willingness, Josiah led the way back down. He wasn't sorry he had brought Emma to these mountains, instead of wintering with his white trapper friends. If Emma was this determined while they were truly alone, then he would never had had a chance with her amongst her own people.

Gravity helped Emma descend the steep mountainside, but since her feet were numb, it didn't take long for her to trip over her skirts.

Handing his Hawken to Emma, Josiah lifted Emma into his arms. Without a word, he carried her down the mountain, negotiating the way easier than Emma thought possible for someone with a woman in his arms. Holding onto to his neck with one hand, and the heavy Hawken rifle with her other, Emma waited for the terrain to get easier so she could walk on her own power.

"Can you feel yer feet?" huffed Josiah, his warm breath creating a long trail of vapor in the arctic air.

"Just barely," she answered. "Mr. Brown, put me down. I think I can manage the rest of the way on my own."

"I should've checked yer shoes to make sure they were sturdy," he scolded himself. "A good friend of mine lost half of both feet to frostbite last winter. He walks about on his heels now."

Startled, Emma looked at Josiah as though he had just told a very poor joke.

"I was the one who done the cutting, and I ain't too eager to do it again." Josiah paused a moment to fill his lungs with air. "Wiggle yer toes, Emma."

"They're wiggling," she soberly affirmed.
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