Chapter Ten

Dignity. Despite the circumstances... No, Sarah thought, correcting 'herself, because of the circumstances, she would maintain her dignity. It might be difficult at the speed Jake was driving, and given the state of her own temper, but she would never, never forget she was a lady.

She wished she were a man so she could knock him flat.

Control. Jake kept his eyes focused over the horses' heads as they galloped steadily and wished it was as easy to control himself. It wasn't easy, but he'd used his control as effectively as he had his Colts for most of his life. He wasn't about to lose it now and do something he'd regret.

He thought it was a shame that a man couldn't slug a woman.

In stony silence, they drove under the fat, full moon. Some might consider it a night for romance, Sarah thought with a sniff. Not her. She was certain she'd never see another full moon without becoming furious.

Dragging her off in the middle of a party, she fumed, trying to give her orders on her personal affairs. Threatening to tie her up like-like a horse, she remembered. Of all the high-handed, arrogant, ill-mannered-

Taking a long, cautious breath, she blocked her thoughts.

She'd lose more than her dignity if she allowed herself to dwell on Jake Redman.

The dog sent up a fast, frantic barking as they drove into the yard. He scented Sarah and the tall man who always scratched him between the ears. Tongue lolling, he jumped at the side of the wagon, clearly pleased to have his mistress home. One look had him subsiding and slinking off again. She'd worn that same look when he'd tried to sharpen his teeth on one of her kid slippers.

The moment Jake had pulled the horses up in front of the house, Sarah gathered her skirts to step down. Haste and temper made her careless, and she caught the hem. Before she could remind herself about her dignity, she was tugging it free. She heard the silk rip. "Now see what you've done."

Just as angry, but without the encumbrances, Jake climbed down from the opposite side. "If you'd have held on a minute, I'd have given you a hand."

"Oh, really?" With her chin lifted, she marched around the front of the wagon. "You've never done a gentlemanly thing in your life. You eat with your hat on, swear and ride in and out of here without so much as a good day or a goodbye."

He decided she looked much more likely to bite than her scrawny dog. "Those are powerful faults."

"Faults?" She lifted a brow and stepped closer. "I haven't begun to touch on your faults. If I began, I'd be a year older before I could finish. How dare you toss me in the wagon like a sack of meal and bring me back here against my wishes?"

She was stunning in the moonlight, her cheeks flushed with anger, her eyes glowing with it. "I got my reasons."

"Do you? I'd be fascinated to hear them."

So would he. He wasn't sure what had come over him, unless it was blind jealousy. That wasn't a thought he wanted to entertain. "Go to bed, Duchess." "I have no intention of going anywhere." She grabbed his arm before he could lead the horses away. "And neither will you until you explain yourself. You accosted me, manhandled me and threatened to kill Samuel Carlson."

"It wasn't a threat." He took her hand by the wrist and dragged it away from his arm. "The next time he touches you, I'll kill him."

He meant it, Sarah realized. She stood rooted to the spot. The ways of the West might still be new to her, but she recognized murder when she saw it in a man's eyes. With her shawl flying behind her, she raced after him.

"Are you mad?"

"Maybe."

"What concern is my relationship with Samuel Carlson to you? I assure you that if I didn't wish Samuel, or any man, to touch me, I would not be touched." "So you like it?" The horses shied nervously when he spun around to her. "You like having him hold you, put his hands over you, kiss you."

She would have suffered the tortures of hell rather than admit that Carlson had done no more than kiss her fingers. And that the only man who had done more was standing before her now. She stepped forward until she was toe-to-toe with him.

"I'll risk repeating myself and say that it's none of your business."

The way she lifted that chin, he thought, she was just asking to have it punched. "I figure it is." He dragged the horses inside the shed to unharness them. "You figure incorrectly." Sarah followed him inside.

Dignified or not, she was going to have her say. "What I do is my business, and mine alone. I've done nothing I'm ashamed of, and certainly nothing I feel requires justification to you. If I allow Samuel to court me, you have no say in the matter whatsoever."

"Is that what you call it?" He dragged the first horse into its stall. "Courting?"

She went icily still. "Have you another name for it?"

"Maybe I've been wrong about you." He took the second horse by the bridle as he studied Sarah. "I thought you were a bit choosier. Then again, you didn't pull back when I put my hands on you." He grabbed her wrist before she could have the satisfaction of slapping his face.

"How dare you?" Her breath heaved through her lips. "How dare you speak to me that way?" When she jerked free, her shawl fell to the ground unnoticed.

"No, I didn't object when you touched me. By God, I wish I had. You make me feel-" The words backed up in her throat. Sarah dug her fingers into her palms until she could choke them free. "You made me feel things I still don't understand. You made me trust you, and those feelings, when it was all a lie. You made me want you when you didn't want me back. After you'd done that, you turned away as though it had meant nothing."

Pain clawed through his gut. What she was saying was true. The hurt shining from her eyes was real. "You're better off," he said quietly as he led the horse into a stall.

"I couldn't agree more." She wanted to weep.

"But if you think that gives you any right to interfere in my life, you're wrong. Very wrong."

"You jumped mighty fast from my arms to his."

Bitterness hardened the words even as he cursed himself for saying them.

"I?" It was too much-much more than she could bear. Driven by fury, she grabbed his shirt with both hands. "It wasn't I who jumped, it was you. You left me here without a word, then rode straight to the Silver Star. You kissed me, then rubbed my taste from your mouth so that you could kiss her."

"Who?" He caught her by the shoulder before she could rush back outside. "Who?"

"I have nothing more to say to you."

"You started it. Now finish it. Whose bed do you have me jumping in, Sarah?"

"Carlotta's." She threw the name at him with all the hurt and fury that was bottled up inside of her. "You left me to go to her. If that wasn't enough hurt and humiliation, you told her to hire me."

"Hire you?" Shock had his fingers tightening, bruising her flesh. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You know very well you told her she should hire me to sew dresses for her and her-the others." "Sew?" He didn't know if he should laugh or curse. Slowly he released his grip and let his hands fall to his sides. "Whatever else you think about me, you should know I'm not stupid."

"I don't know what I think about you." She was fighting back tears now, and it infuriated her. It was the gleam of those tears that had him explaining when he would have preferred to keep silent.

"I never told Carlotta to hire you, for anything. And I haven't been with-" He broke off, swearing. Before he could stride out, she snatched his arm again. She'd conquered her tears, but she couldn't stop her heart from pounding.

"Are you telling me that you haven't been to the Silver Star?"

"No. I'm not telling you that."

"I see." With a bitter little laugh, she rubbed her temple. "So you've simply found, and bought, another woman who suits you. Poor Carlotta. She must be devastated." "It would take a hell of a lot more than that. And I haven't bought anything in the Silver Star but whiskey since you-since I got back to town."

"Why?" She had to force even a whisper through her lips.

"That's my business." Cursing himself, he started out again, only to have her rush to stop him.

"I asked you a question."

"I gave you my answer." He scooped up her shawl and pushed it into her hands. "Now go to bed."

She tossed the filmy lace on the ground again. "I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you until you tell me why you haven't been with her, or anyone."

"Because I can't stop thinking about you." Enraged, he shoved her back against the wall with a force that had pins scattering and her hair tumbling wild and free to her waist. He wanted to frighten her, frighten her half as much as she frightened him. "You're not safe with me, Duchess." He leaned close to her, dragging a hand roughly through her hair. "Remember that."

She pressed her damp hands against the wall. It wasn't fear she felt. The emotion was strong and driving, but it wasn't fear. "You don't want me."

"Wanting you's eating holes in me." His free hand slid up to circle her neck. "I'd rather be shot than feel the way you make me feel."

"How do I make you feel?" she murmured.

"Reckless." It was true, but it wasn't everything. "And that's not smart, not for either of us. I'll hurt you." He squeezed lightly, trying to prove it to them both. "And I won't give a damn. So you better run while I still have a mind to let you."

"I'm not running." Even if she had wanted to, it would have been impossible. Her legs were weak and trembling. She was already out of breath. "But you are." Knowing exactly what she was doing, what she was risking, she raised her chin. "Threats come easily to you. If you were the kind of man you say you are, and you wanted me, you'd take me. Right here, right now."

His eyes darkened. They were almost black as they bored into hers. She didn't wince as his fingers tightened painfully in her hair. Instead, she kept her chin up and dared him.

"Damn you." He brought his mouth down hard on hers. To scare her, he told himself as he pressed her back against the wall and took his fill. To make her see once and for all what he was. Ruthless, knowing she would bruise, he dragged his hands over her. He touched her the way he would have touched a girl at the Silver Star. Boldly, carelessly. He wanted to bring her to tears, to make her sob and tremble and beg him to leave her alone.

Maybe then he would be able to.

He heard her muffled cry against his mouth and tried to pull back. Her arms circled him, drawing him in.

She gave, herself totally, unrestrainedly, to the embrace. He was trying to hurt her, she knew. But he couldn't. She would make him see that being in his arms would never cause her pain. She gasped, forced to grip him tighter to keep her balance, when his mouth roamed down her throat, spreading luxuriant heat. The scraping of his teeth against her skin had her moaning. Too aroused to be shocked by her own actions, she tugged at his shirt." She wanted to touch his skin again, wanted to feel the warmth of it. He was losing himself in her. No, he was already lost. Her scent, the fragility of it, had his senses spinning.

Her mouth, the hunger of it, clawed at his control. Then she said his name-it was a sigh, a prayer- and broke the last bonds.

He pulled her down into the hay, desperate for her. The silk of her dress rustled against his hands as he dragged it from her shoulders. A wildness was on him, peeling away right and wrong as he tore the silk away to find her.

Terror rose up to grab her by the throat. But it wasn't terror of him. It was terror of the need that had taken possession of her. It ruled her, drove her beyond what could and could not be. As ruthless as he, she ripped at his shirt.

He was yanking at her laces, cursing them, cursing himself. Impatient with encumbrances, he shrugged out of his shirt, then sucked in his breath when her fingers dug into his flesh to pull him closer.

Hot, quick kisses raced over her face. She couldn't catch her breath, not even when he tore her laces loose. They rolled over on the hay as they fought to free themselves, and each other, of the civilized barrier of clothing. She arched when he filled his hands with her breasts, too steeped in pleasure to be ashamed of her nakedness. Her pulse hammered at dozens of points, making her thoughts spin and whirl and center only on him.

She was willow-slim, soft as the silk he'd torn, delicate as glass. For all her fragility, he couldn't fight her power over him. He could smell the hay, the horses, the night. He could see her eyes, her hair, her skin, as the moonlight pushed through the chinks in the shed to shimmer over them. Once more, just once more, he tried to bring himself to sanity. For her sake.

For his own.

Then she lifted her arms to him and took him back. He was lean and firm and strong. Sarah tossed her common sense aside and gave herself to the need, to the love. His eyes were dark, dangerously dark. His skin gleamed like copper in the shadowed light. She saw the scar that ran down his arm. As his mouth came bruisingly back to hers, she ran a gentle finger over it. There was no turning back for either of them. The horses scraped the ground restlessly in their stalls. In the hills, a coyote sent up a wailing, lonesome song. They didn't hear. She heard her name as he whispered it. But that was all.

The hay scratched her bare skin as he covered her body with his own. She only sighed. He felt the yielding, gloried in it. He tasted the heat and the honey as he drew her breast into his mouth. A breathless moan escaped her at this new intimacy. Then his tongue began to stroke, to tease.

The pleasure built, painful, beautiful, tugging at her center as his teeth tugged at her nipples. It was unbearable. It was glorious. She wanted to tell him, wanted to explain somehow, but she could only say his name over and over.

He felt her thigh tremble when he stroked a hand along it. Then he heard her gasp of surprise, her moan of desire, when he touched what no man had ever dared to touch.

His. He took her as gently as his grinding need would allow toward her first peak. She was his. She cried out, her body curving like a bow as she crested.

The breath burned in his lungs as he crushed his mouth to hers and took her flying again.

She held on, rocked, dazed and desperate. So this was love. This was what a man and woman brought to each other in the privacy of the night. It was more, so much more, than she had ever dreamed. Tears streamed from her eyes to mix with the sweat that slicked her body and his.

"Please," she murmured against his mouth, unsure of what she was asking. "Please."

He didn't want to hurt her. With that part of his mind that still functioned he prayed he could take her painlessly. His breathing harsh and ragged, he entered her slowly, trying to soothe her with his mouth and his hands.

Lights exploded behind her eyes, brilliant white lights that flashed into every color she'd ever seen or imagined. The heat built and built until she was gasping from it, unaware that her nails had scraped down his back and dug in.

Then she was running, racing, speeding, toward something unknown, something urgently desired. Like life. Like breath. Like love. Instinct had her hips moving. Joy had her arms embracing.

She lost her innocence in a wild burst of pleasure that echoed endlessly.

The moonlight slanted across her face as she slept. He watched her. Though his body craved sleep, his mind couldn't rest. She looked almost too beautiful to be real, curled into the hay, her hair spread out, her skin glowing, covered by nothing more than the thin velvet ribbon around her neck.

He'd recognized the passion in her from the beginning. He had suppressed his own for too long not to recognize it when it was suppressed in another. She'd come to him openly, honestly, innocently. And of all the sins he'd ever committed, the greatest had been taking that innocence from her.

He'd had no right. He pressed his fingers against his eyes. He'd had no choice. The kind of need he'd felt for her-still felt, he realized-left no choice. He was in love with her. He nearly laughed out loud. That kind of thinking was dangerous. Dangerous to Sarah. The things he loved always seemed to end up dead, destroyed. His gaze shifted. Her dress was bundled in a heap near her feet. On the pale silk lay his gunbelt.

That said it all, Jake decided. He and Sarah didn't belong together any more than his Colts and her silk dress did. He didn't belong with anyone.

He shifted, started to rise, but Sarah stirred and reached for his hand. "Jake."

"Yeah." Just the way she said his name made desire quicken in him.

Slowly, a smile curving her lips, she opened her eyes. She hadn't been dreaming, she thought. He was here, with her. She could smell the hay, feel it. She could see the glint of his eyes in the shadowed light. Her smile faded.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong." Turning away, he reached for his pants.

"Why are you angry?"

"I'm not angry." He yanked his pants over his hips as he rose. "Why the hell should I be angry?"

"I don't know." She was determined to be calm.

Nothing as beautiful as what had happened between them was going to be spoiled by harsh words. She found her chemise, noted that one shoulder strap was torn and slipped it on. "Are you going somewhere?" He picked up his gunbelt because it troubled him to see it with her things. "I don't think I'd care to walk back to town, and Lucius has my horse."

"I see. Is that the only reason you're staying?" He turned, ready to swear at her. She was standing very straight, her hair drifting like clouds around her face and shoulders. Her chemise skimmed her thighs and dipped erotically low at one breast. Because his mouth had gone dry, he could only shake his head.

She smiled then, and held out a hand. "Come to the house with me. Stay with me."

It seemed he still had no choice. He closed his hand over hers.

Sarah awoke with Lafitte licking her face. "Go away," she muttered, and turned over.

"You asked me to stay." Jake hooked an arm around her waist. He watched her eyes fly open, saw the shock, the remembering and the pleasure.

"I was talking to the dog." She snuggled closer. Surely there was no more wonderful way to wake up than in the arms of the man you loved. "He figured out how to climb up, but he hasn't figured out how to get down."

Jake leaned over to pat Lafitte's head. "Jump," he said, then rolled Sarah on top of him.

"Is it morning?"

"Nope." He slid a hand up to cup her breast as he kissed her.

"But the sun's up-Oh..." It dimmed as his hands moved over her.

Day. Night. Summer. Winter. What did time matter? He was here, with her, taking her back to all those wonderful places he had shown her. She went willingly at dawn, as she had on the blanket of hay and then again and again on the narrow cot as the moon had set.

He taught her everything a woman could know about the pleasures of love, about needs stirred and needs met. He showed her what it was like to love like lightning and thunder. And he showed her what it was to love like soft rain. She learned that desire could be a pain, burning hot through the blood. She learned it could be a joy, rushing sweet under the skin. But, though she was still unaware of it, she taught him much more, taught him that there could be beauty, and comfort, and hope.

They came together with the sun rising higher and the heat of the day chasing behind it.

Later, when she was alone in the cabin, Sarah cooled and bathed her skin. This was how it could be, she thought dreamily. Early every morning she would heat the coffee while he fed the stock and fetched fresh water from the stream. She would cook for him and tend the house. Together they would make something out of the land, out of their lives. Something good and fine.

They would start a family. She pressed a hand lightly against her stomach and wondered if one had already begun. What a beautiful way to make a child, she thought, running her fingers over her damp skin. What a perfect way.

She caught herself blushing and patted her skin dry. It wasn't right to think that way, not when they weren't married. Not when he hadn't even asked her. Would he? Sarah slipped on her shirtwaist and buttoned it quickly. Hadn't she herself said he wasn't the kind of man who thought of marriage?

And yet... Could he love her the way he had loved her and not want to spend his life with her?

What had Mrs. O'Rourke said? Sarah thought back as she finished dressing. It had been something about a smart woman bringing a man around to marriage and making him think it had been his idea all along. With a light laugh, she turned toward the stove. She considered herself a very smart woman.

"Something funny?"

She glanced around as Jake walked in. "No, not really. I guess I'm just happy."

He set a basket of eggs on the table. "I haven't gathered eggs since my mother-for a long time." As casually as she could, she took the eggs and started preparations for breakfast. "Did your mother have chickens when you were a boy?"

"Yeah. Is that coffee hot?"

"Sit down. I'll pour you some."

He didn't want to talk about his past, she decided. Perhaps the time wasn't right. Yet.

"I was able to get a slab of bacon from Mr. Cobb." She sliced it competently while the pan heated. "I've thought about getting a few pigs. Lucius is going to grumble when I ask him to build a sty, but I don't think he'd complain about eating ham. I don't suppose you know anything about raising pigs?"

Would you listen to her? Jake thought as he tilted back in her chair. The duchess from Philadelphia talking about raising pigs. "You deserve better," he heard himself say.

The bacon sizzled as she poured the coffee. "Better than what?"

"Than this place. Why don't you go back east, Sarah, and live like you were meant to?"

She brought the cup to him. "Is that what you want, Jake? You want me to go?"

"It's not a matter of what I want."

She stood beside him, looking down. "I'd like to hear what you want."

Their eyes held. He'd had some time to think, and think clearly. But nothing seemed clear enough when he looked at her. "Coffee," he said, taking the cup. "Your wants are admirably simple. Take your hat off at my table." She snatched it off his head and set it aside.

He just grinned, running a hand through his hair.

"Yes, ma'am. Good coffee, Duchess."

"It's nice to know I do something that pleases you." She let out a yelp when he grabbed her from behind and spun her around.

"You do a lot that pleases me." He kissed her, hard and long. "A whole lot."

"Really?" She tried to keep her tone aloof, but her arms had already wound around his neck. "A pity I can't say the same."

"I guess that was some other woman who had her hands all over me last night." Her laugh was muffled against his lips. "I brought your things over from the shed. Dress is a little worse for wear. Four petticoats." He nipped her earlobe. "I hope you don't pile that many on every day around here."

"I don't intend to discuss-"

"And that contraption you lace yourself into. Lucky you don't pass out. Can't figure you need it. Your waist's no bigger around than my two hands. I ought to know." He proved it by spanning her. "Why do you want to strap yourself into that thing?"

"I have no intention of discussing my undergarments with you."

"I took them off you. Seems I should be able to talk about them."

Blushing to the roots of her hair, she struggled away. "The bacon's burning."

He took his seat again and picked up his coffee.

"How many of those petticoats do you have on now?" After rescuing the bacon, she sent him a quick, flirtatious look over her shoulder. "You'll just have to find out for yourself." Pleased at the way his brows shot up, she went back to her cooking.

He was no longer certain how to handle her. With breakfast on the table, the scents wafting cozily in the air, and Sarah sitting across from him, Jake searched his mind for something to say.

"I saw your pictures on the wall. You draw real nice."

"Thank you. I've always enjoyed it. If I'd known that my father was living here-that is, if I'd known how a few sketches would brighten the house up-I would have sent him some. I did send a small watercolor," She frowned a little. "It was a self-portrait from last Christmas. I thought he might like to know what I looked like since I'd grown up. It's strange. He had all the letters I'd written to him in that little tin box in the loft, but the sketch is nowhere to be found. I've been meaning to ask the sheriff if he might have forgotten to give it to me."

"If Barker had it, he'd have seen you got it back."

He didn't care for the direction his thoughts were taking.

"You sure it got this far? Mail gets lost."

"Oh, yes. He wrote me after he received it. Liza also mentioned that my father had been rather taken with it and had brought it into the store to show around."

"Might turn up."

"I suppose." She shrugged. "I've given this place a thorough cleaning, but I might not have come across it. I'll look again when Lucius puts in the floor." "What floor?"

"The wooden floor. I've ordered boards." She broke off a bite of biscuit. "Actually, I ordered extra. I have my heart set on a real bedroom. Out the west wall, I think. My sewing money's coming in very handy."

"Sarah, last night you said something about Carlotta telling you I'd given her some idea about having you sew for her." He watched her stiffen up immediately. "When did you talk to her?"

"I didn't. I have no intention of talking to that woman."

He rolled his tongue into his cheek. He doubted Sarah would be pleased to know that her tone amused him. "Where did you hear that from?"

"Alice Johnson. She works in...that place. Apparently Carlotta had her drive out here to negotiate for my services."

"Alice?" He cast his mind back, juggling faces with names. "She's the little one-dark hair, big eyes?"

Sarah drew in a quiet, indignant breath. "That's an accurate description. You seem to know the staff of the Silver Star very well."

"I don't know as I'd call them staff, but yeah, I know one from the other."

Rising, she snatched up his empty plate. "And I'm sure they know you quite well." When he just grinned, she had to fight back the urge to knock the look off his face with the cast-iron skillet. "I'll thank you to stop smirking at me."

"Yes, ma'am." But he went right on. "You sure are pretty when you get fired up."

"If that's a compliment," she said, wishing it didn't make her want to smile, "you're wasting your breath."

"I ain't much on compliments. But you're pretty, and that's a fact. I guess you're about the prettiest thing I've ever seen. Especially when you're riled."

"Is that why you continue to go out of your way to annoy me?"

"I expect. Come here."

She smoothed down her skirt. "I will not."

He rose slowly. "You're ornery, too. Can't figure why it appeals to me." He dragged her to him. After a moment's feigned struggle, she laughed up at him. "I'll have to remember to stay ornery and annoyed, then."

He said nothing. The way she'd looked up at him had knocked the breath out of his body. He pulled her closer, holding on, wishing. Content, Sarah nuzzled his shoulder. Before he could draw her back, she framed his face with her hands and brushed her lips over his.

"You're still tying me up in knots," he muttered.

"That's good. I don't intend to stop."

He stepped back, then gripped her hands with his.

"Which one did he kiss?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Carlson." She gave a surprised gasp when his fingers tightened on hers. "Which hand did he kiss?"

Sarah kept her eyes on his. "Both."

She watched the fury come then, and was amazed at how quickly, how completely, he masked it. But it was still there. She could feel it rippling through him.

"Jake-"

He shook his head. Then, in a gesture that left her limp, he brought her hands to his lips. Then he dropped them, obviously uncomfortable, and dug his own hands into his pockets.

"I don't want you to let him do it again."

"I won't."

Her response should have relaxed him, but his tension doubled. "Just like that?"

"Yes, just like that."

He turned away and began to pace. Her brow lifted. She realized she'd never before seen him make an unnecessary movement. If he took a step, it was to go toward or away.

"I've got no right." There was fury in his voice. The same kind she heard outside the tent the night before. In contrast, hers was soft and soothing. "You have every right. The only right. I'm in love with you."

Now he didn't move at all. He froze as a man might when he heard a trigger cocked at the back of his head. She simply waited, her hands folded at her waist, her eyes calm and clear.

"You don't know what you're saying," he managed at last.

"Of course I do, and so do you." With her eyes on his, she walked to him. "Do you think I could have been with you as I was last night, this morning, if I didn't love you?"

He stepped back before she could touch him. It had been so long since he'd been loved that he'd forgotten what it could feel like. It filled him like a river, and its currents were strong.

"I've got nothing for you, Sarah. Nothing."

"Yourself." She reached a hand to his cheek. "I'm not asking for anything."

"You're mixing up what happened last night with-"

"With what?" she challenged. "Do you think because you were the first man that I don't know the difference between love and...lust? Can you tell me it's been like that for you before, with anyone? Can you?"

No, he couldn't. And he couldn't tell her it would never be that way with anyone but her. "Lucius will be back soon," he said instead. "I'll go down and get the water you wanted before I leave."

And that was all? she thought. Damn him for turning his back on her again. He didn't believe her, she thought. He thought she was just being foolish and romantic... But no, no, that wasn't right, she realized. That wasn't it at all.

It came to her abruptly and with crystalline clarity. He did believe her, and that was why he had turned away. He was as frightened and confused by her love as she -had been by the land. It was just as foreign to him. Just as difficult to understand and accept. She could change that. Taking a long, cleansing breath, she turned to her dishes. She could change that in the same way she had changed herself. She embraced the land now, called it her own. One day he would do the same with her.

She heard the door open again, and she turned, smiling.

"Jake-"

But it was Burt Donley who filled the doorway.

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