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"You had no right, Emma."

"I know," she admitted, "not without your agreement."

"I ain't caring if you agree! My word is what counts!" Josiah enforced the edict by slapping his knee hard. The sharp movement of his shoulder blade caused him to wince in pain.

Wetting a clean handkerchief in the water bucket, Emma gently dabbed the chiseled features on Josiah's face. The cool water calmed him, for his hand reached up and lightly grazed Emma's cheek. He grinned as Emma melted to his touch, her cheek rubbing against his rough hand.

"I sure missed you these past days," he breathed quietly.

Coming back to her senses, Emma returned the handkerchief to the bucket. "Did you trap any beaver?"

"What would it matter if I did?" harrumphed Josiah. "You gave all my pelts away." When Emma opened her mouth to defend herself, Josiah touched her chin to keep her silent. "I ain't blaming you fer trying to save me."

Emma's beautiful brown eyes gazed at him pleadingly.

The man groaned. "You really want to keep her?"

"She's your daughter," reasoned Emma.

With a deep sigh, the mountain man prepared to lay down again. "If you've a mind to look after her, I reckon she can stay fer awhile."

"Thank you, Mr. Brown."

Muttering something Emma couldn't hear, Josiah painfully rolled onto his stomach.

Quietly staring at his back, Emma rebuked herself for not saying anything affectionate; Josiah had said he'd missed her, and Emma yearned to tell him how much she had missed his presence in the cabin.

A log in the fireplace popped, diverting Emma's attention away from her husband. Two faces stared back at her, and Emma suddenly realized Cora and Grandpap had been listening. Embarrassed, Emma smiled weakly. "Is anyone hungry? I think it must be suppertime by now."

Grandpap held up the pemmican Cora had already handed out. "Not hungry," he grinned broadly. "You and Josiah tussle now?"

Jabbing an elbow at her father, Cora gave him a don't-you-dare kind of look, and the old man backed off. Emma figured Grandpap had only been teasing, but even so, the words had made her blush.

After eating her helping of Cora's pemmican, Emma made a bed for her guests. She unfolded Mary's buffalo robe, and then placed it by the fireplace, where Mary's spot had been. Ensuring they had enough blankets to keep warm, Emma bid them goodnight.

The bar was securely over the door, the shutters were tightly closed, and Emma was content that the cabin was ready for the night.
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