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Feeling the sting of his reproach, Emma reminded herself that she had no cause for shame.

"You just remember that yer my wife. You hear me, Emma? My woman is my own, and no one else's."

"I'll remain faithful," Emma said quietly. "You have no need to fear, Josiah."

"I ain't fearful. I'm just reminding."

Emma was quiet.

"What happened while you were gone?" she asked finally. "You're like a wounded animal, striking out at anything that comes near you. First it was Mary, and now you're almost angry with me, and I'm not sure why."

Josiah didn't respond, and Emma could see he was thinking.

After a lengthy period of silence, he sighed heavily. "Reckon I was a fool to try and keep it from you. You know me too well, Emma. Sooner or later, you'd have figured it out, so I might as well tell you now, so you'll stop trying to read my mind."

Emma gently touched his arm. "What happened? Does it have something to do with your Hawken? You can tell me."

Josiah stared at her a moment longer before speaking. "While I was hunting, I come across some Shoshones. One of them was yer admirer from before-- the one who tried to take Mary. He was angry about losing you and Mary, and said he was going to kill me, if I didn't give him my Hawken. I told him to do his worst, but I wasn't handing over my rifle. Then he said that if I didn't, he'd hunt you and Mary down, and take you while I wasn't looking." Emma saw Josiah swallow hard. "So I gave him my Hawken fer his old flintlock."

"Why didn't you tell me this, sooner?" asked Emma.

"I didn't want to frighten you and Mary."

Emma, however, felt anything but frightened. "Why, the terrible man! Threatening you like that! He makes me so angry, I could spit!"

Lightly touching Emma's hand, Josiah sighed in relief. "I'm glad I told you, Emma. I don't like keeping things from you, but I'm sorry you had to find out."

Emma shook her head in disgust. "Just when I thought wickedness couldn't get any lower, I'm proven wrong."

Josiah reached for Emma, and she nestled against him.

"Thank you for telling me, Josiah. I want to share in your burdens, and be a good wife to you." Emma kissed his cheek. "I love you," she said in a tender whisper.

Drawing her even closer, Josiah tightly embraced Emma.

When Josiah awoke the next morning, Emma was still fast asleep. He nuzzled her neck for more affection, but she only stirred long enough to roll onto her side before slipping back to sleep.
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