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Swallowing hard, Emma struggled to push aside the intimidation she felt welling in her breast. "I won't let you hurt that little girl's feelings. I simply won't let you do it."

"Bold words fer a woman!"

"I'm not just a woman," Emma said bravely, "I'm your wife. You told me I was to be the one to look after Mary, and that's just what I'm doing."

In spite of himself, Josiah's features lost some of their fierceness. "You ain't no ordinary woman, that's fer sure. And it ain't because yer my wife." He gazed at her with a small grin, though he still didn't look very happy. "All right, I'll back off when it comes to Mary."

"Despite what you're thinking, I'm not trying to defy you," said Emma.

Josiah smiled grimly. "If you ain't, yer doing a mighty good imitation of it. Let it slide, Emma. I ain't angry anymore." Josiah held her close, until she relaxed against him. "You gave that runt a goodnight kiss, and you never give me one."

"It was Ma's tradition to kiss my cheek before I went to sleep," Emma said quietly. "It was to give me sweet dreams."

Josiah squeezed Emma. "I want a kiss, too." When she kissed his cheek, he scowled. "I want a real one."

"I'll give you a real kiss, but only if you'll stop squeezing the stuffing out of me."

Immediately, Josiah's arms were tender. To Emma's surprise, she saw him tremble as she raised her mouth to his. He quickly dominated the kiss, and all traces of vulnerability disappeared, leaving Emma to doubt her eyes.

"We should stop," she said finally. "Your back needs a chance to heal."

With a loud moan, Josiah pushed away from Emma. "I hope this won't git to be a habit with you. There you go, telling me what to do again."

"If you want to tussle, I won't stop you, but it probably won't help your scars."

On his side, Josiah looked across the buffalo robe at his wife. "Yer probably right, but it pains me to admit it."

"You'll be in worse pain if you don't," smiled Emma. "If you still want me to, I'll cuddle you."

Josiah harrumphed. "Yer getting mighty sure of yerself."

Emma couldn't help her confident smile. "I admit, after all these days, I know you a little better than I did before."

"Don't git too cocky, Emma. If you try to rein in my heart, I'll fight you. Just try me, and see if I won't."

Emma yawned. "If you don't want to cuddle, I'm going to sleep. I have a busy day tomorrow."

"I never said I didn't!" Josiah gently gathered Emma in his arms, and was rewarded with a kiss on his cheek.

"Goodnight, Mr. Brown."

"Goodnight, Emma."

The next morning, Emma started the day early by getting her chores done as quickly as possible. Mary followed her about the small lodge, getting under foot, and hiding from the man watching them on the buffalo robe. Emma knew Josiah had little else to do while he was getting better, but she felt if he would only take a nap or turn his eyes elsewhere, little Mary might not cling to her dress quite as much.
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