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Chapter Four

They didn't speak until they reached the gully he had hoped to use to shorten their journey, but just as Adam had predicted, it was flooded.

"You don't want to cross the river here, do you? Surely there's a bridge we could use."

"There aren't any bridges up here," he answered. "And this isn't a river, Emily. It's just a gully."

Her mount obviously didn't like being so close to the water's edge and began to prance about. Travis reached over, grabbed hold of the reins, and forced her horse closer to his side so he couldn't rear up.

"He must think he has to go in the water. He doesn't, does he?"

He could hear the worry in her voice. "No, he doesn't," he assured her. "We can't cross here."

His leg was rubbing against hers. She noticed, of course, but though she could have moved away, she didn't. She liked being close to him. He made her feel safe and yet uneasy too. What in heaven's name was the matter with her? She didn't seem to know her own thoughts anymore.

"We can't cross here." She repeated his words while she patted her horse in what Travis assumed was an attempt to reassure the animal.

"Now what?" she asked him.

"Your journey to Golden Crest has just been lengthened by at least two more days, maybe three."

It took all she had not to shout with relief. God help her, she was actually weak with it. It certainly was a peculiar reaction to hearing she wouldn't have to meet and marry Mr. O'Toole for at least two more days. She should have been disappointed over the news, shouldn't she?

Then why did she feel as though she'd just been given a stay of execution?

"Cold feet," she whispered.

"What did you say?" Travis asked.

She shook her head. "Nothing important," she said.

She wasn't about to tell him the truth. She wouldn't look at him either because she was certain he would be able to see the relief in her eyes. Travis already thought she was out of her mind to want to marry a complete stranger, and, honest to Pete, she was beginning to think he might be right.

Perhaps she was having before-the-wedding jitters. Some brides did, didn't they? Yes, of course they did, and all she needed to do now was read Mr. O'Toole's letters again. She was sure to feel better then. The man she was going to marry had poured his heart out to her and had proven beyond a doubt that he was a sensitive, caring man who would love and cherish her until death did they part. What more could she ever want from a husband?

Love, she admitted with a sinking heart. She wanted to love him as much as he claimed to already love her.

"You aren't getting sick on me, are you, Emily?"

"No, I never get sick. Why do you ask?"

"You're awfully pale."

"I'm just disappointed," she lied. "You must be disappointed too. It seems you're stuck with me for a couple of days. Will you mind?"

"No. Why are you so anxious to get to Golden Crest?"

"I should be, shouldn't I?"

"Did you love Randolph?"

The question jarred her. "What made you think of Randolph?"

He shrugged. "Did you?"

"I might have."

"What kind of answer is that? Did you like the way he kissed you?"

"For heaven's sake, it isn't appropriate for you to ask me such personal questions. It's going to rain soon, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," he agreed. "Answer my question."

She let out a loud sigh to let him know she was becoming irritated with him before she finally acceded to his request.

"I didn't like or dislike them. His kisses were all right, I suppose."

He laughed.

"What did I say that you find so amusing?"

He didn't explain. Her answer had pleased him though. She hadn't liked being touched by good old Randolph if his kisses were just "all right."

"Where will we stay tonight?" she asked, trying to turn his attention so he wouldn't ask her any more personal questions.

"We'll have to backtrack a couple of miles and stay at Henry Billings's way station. The food's bad, but the beds are clean and dry, and if we hurry, we should get there before the rain starts. What are you staring at, Emily?"

"Your eyes," she blurted out, blushing because she'd been caught in the act. "They're very green. Did your brothers tease you when you were a little boy?"

"Tease me because of the color of my eyes?"

"No, because" She realized what she was about to say and felt her face burn with mortification. Lord above, she'd almost asked if he'd been teased because he was so absolutely perfect. There'd be no living with him if she said that, she realized, and the rest of their journey would be filled with one vexing remark after another. She had already noticed he had a tendency toward arrogance.

"Tease me about what?" he asked again.

She stared up at him while she tried to come up with a suitable and impersonal remark.

"Being tall," she said.

He looked exasperated. "I wasn't tall when I was a child. I was short. Most children are."

"If you use that condescending tone in the courtroom, you're going to be a dismal failure. It's just a suggestion," she added when he frowned at her.

"Emily, if you keep looking at me like that, I'm going to get the notion you want me to kiss you."

"I don't."

"Then stop staring at my mouth."

"What would you like me to stare at, Travis?"

"The water," he snapped. "Stare at the water. You sure you don't want me to kiss you?"

The conversation was doing strange things to her. She couldn't seem to catch her breath. She knew she was daring the devil, but she couldn't make herself look away from him. She wasn't at all interested in staring at the water, she wanted to continue to stare at him. What was the matter with her?

"It probably wouldn't be proper for you to kiss me. I'm going to be married soon."

"You have no business marrying a stranger, Emily."

"Why do you care what I do?"

He didn't have a ready answer for the question. "I get bothered when someone does something I consider stupid."

"Are you calling me stupid?"

"If the hat fits"


Chapter Three | One Pink Rose, One White Rose, One Red Rose | Chapter Five