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Just then, two small feet made their way to the buffalo robes. "I am hungry," said Mary.

"You know where the jerky's at," said Josiah.

Mary blinked at him, and then turned to go find breakfast.

Stirring from Josiah's comforting arms, Emma sat up in bed. "I'll be with you in a moment, Mary."

Emma pinned up her braids, while Josiah watched her with a decided frown. Before getting out of bed, Emma paused. She turned to Josiah and gave him a heartfelt smile, and right before her eyes, Josiah's rain clouds evaporated, leaving a grinning man.

As Emma began to prepare breakfast, Josiah grabbed her empty water bucket and announced that he and Mary would go to the creek this morning, so Emma wouldn't have to.

"I can do it, myself," said Emma. She saw Mary's stoic face, and then realized he was taking Mary without her-- even though it was only to the creek. "I don't think this is a good idea, Josiah."

Ignoring Emma, Josiah waited as Mary slowly wrapped herself in a warm blanket, to brave the outside cold. She didn't look very eager, but quietly obeyed Josiah.

Emma was about to bundle up, so she could go with Josiah and Mary, when Josiah put out his hand and stopped Emma.

"This ain't nothing to get concerned about, Emma. We're just going to the creek."

"But--" Emma was interrupted by Josiah's firm gaze. It amazed Emma how he could still her with just one look.

After Mary was ready, Josiah, his Hawken, and two new snowshoes disappeared out the door. Behind him trailed a little girl, toting an empty bucket.

Josiah glanced behind his back to check Mary. She was still following, though he detected a little hesitation on her part to come with him. Shouldering his rifle, Josiah took a large tree branch, and then crashed it through the frozen surface of the creek. The bucket filled, Josiah waited before turning to go back to the cabin.

Mary looked up at him expectantly.

"You ain't even half a human yet, seeing yer just five years old," said Josiah, "but I'm expecting you to understand something important, so perk up yer ears and listen carefully."

Using the sleeve of her blanket wrap, Mary dried her runny nose.

"Emma is mine," Josiah said firmly, "and I ain't too eager to share her with anyone." The Hawken shifted to his hands, and for a moment, Mary looked frightened. Her dark eyes blinked at him questioningly, before he realized he was scaring her, and lowered the weapon. "Even though I don't have to, I'm willing to share Emma with you. But not when my arm is about her. You understand my drift?"

Mary sniffed, most likely to keep her nose from running.
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