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Mary stared at the weapon awhile longer before returning it to her belt. With a yawn, the child rested her head on Emma's lap to take a small nap, for there wasn't much else to do but wait and sleep. Resisting the desire to rest her eyes, Emma kept watch, keeping her shotgun close at her side in case of trouble.

Before long, Emma heard Josiah's snowshoes, and then she saw him drop to his knees by the lean-to's entrance.

"I made us a shelter for the night," he said, his eyes traveling to the napping child on Emma's lap. "It's beside some foothills and a mountain spring that ain't froze over. You feel up to moving?"

"I'm ready," said Emma.

Josiah's deep voice stirred Mary, and before long, Emma and Mary were outside, following Josiah to their new temporary quarters.

Beside the recess of a steep foothill, Josiah had made a sturdy dome-shaped framework of branches. It was covered with his buffalo hide to keep out the weather, and boughs of pine needles lined the edges where the skin didn't meet the ground. In the center of the lodge, the skin wrapped around a curious hole. When Emma crawled into the cozy structure, she found a pile of firewood in the center, and understood the hole in the ceiling was for smoke to escape.

Taking flint and steel, Josiah expertly lit a fire. As warmth enveloped Emma, she felt comfortable enough to take off her capote. Following Emma's example, Mary shed her blankets, and then settled on the pine needle floor beside Emma.

"This is very nice, Josiah," Emma said with an admiring smile. "You certainly know how to make yourself at home in this wilderness."

Pleased, Josiah grinned. "I should, I've lived here all my life. Keep the fire going. I'm headed back out to see if I can't find us something fer supper. Reckon fresh meat will sit easier in yer stomach than hard jerky."

"Can I come with you?" Mary looked at Josiah pleadingly.

Hesitant, Josiah turned to Emma for approval. "What do you say, Emma? I want you staying here to rest, so Mary would come alone with me."

Emma looked at Mary. She was mildly surprised when Mary didn't seem discouraged at the prospect of being by herself with Josiah.

"Don't worry, Emma, I'll take good care of her. I'll even treat her like my own daughter." It was a wry attempt at humor, though Josiah didn't smile when he spoke.

The hint of bitterness in his voice reminded Emma he still resented Mary's presence.

"No, I want her to stay," Emma said finally.

"But, Ma--"

"No buts," Emma told the girl. "You're staying here with me. We'll go hunting, tomorrow. I'm sorry, Josiah, but you'll have to go alone for now."

Josiah studied Emma's expression, as if trying to read her thoughts. "I'd never hurt her, Emma."
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