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Innocence and the Outlaw

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"Take my hand now and I'm ready to begin. Though it makes me crazy when your fingers touch my skin. And I know what you want and you know what I need. There's no reason to pretend that we don't know what this means.  When the night closes in., I'm gonna pull you so close, hold you so tight. Gonna let it all go. You can do what you want, you can take me right here. Cuz i knew from the start, I was gonna love you with all my heart."  Sara Evans "Love you With all My Heart"

Leah was angry and hurt. She had thought that things between she and Chase were changing. As a matter of fact she had been certain they were. She had been sure that he saw her as more than a possession. She had thought that he was falling in love with her just as she had him but now she wondered if maybe she had been wrong.

The kiss they had shared had rocked her to her core but then the instant they were back in camp he was ordering her around and pushing her away once again. She had no doubt that he had been able to hear her jealousy over Louisa and instead of reassuring her or letting her know where she stood with him, Chase had simply shrugged her off and told her to cook supper.

She would show him supper! She smoothed out the skirt that Chase had given her a few days before, spooned some stew into a bowl and strode from the tent.

She saw Chase sitting by the fire with Boss and several other men. The men were all laughing and talking as Chase simply sat there and stared into the fire. Leah paused, her resolve faltering but then her resolve became stronger than ever when Louisa came out of the woods and headed straight toward Chase.

Leah would be damned before she would let that woman get to him first. She strode straight to Chase and then walked around him to stand in front of him. He looked up at her and she saw the surprise in his eyes.

“Here’s your supper.” she hissed as she tossed the bowl at him. She heard his sharp intake of breath as the hot stew spilled on his legs. Chase and the surrounding men all jumped to their feet.

“You need to tighten the reins on that filly!” Boss exclaimed with a laugh.

“The stews good.” Tig added as he grabbed a piece of carrot off of Chase’s shoulder and popped it in his mouth. Leah looked up into Chase’s eyes and felt her knees start shaking at the anger she saw there. She was suddenly certain that she had just made the biggest mistake of her life. Damn her temper and her rashness! She had gotten too comfortable with Chase and forgotten that underneath it all he was a dangerous and deadly man.

She bent quickly, picked up the fallen bowl and spoon and fled back to the tent.

“You gonna let that bitch get away with that?” Yancy demanded with a chuckle.

“You ain’t getting soft on that filly are you?” Boss added as he rocked back on his heels and looked more than a little amused. Chase noticed Petey off in the distance watching and he knew he had to put on a good show.

“I will deal with her.” he ground out as he stormed toward the tent and grabbed a large stick off the ground on his way. He saw Louisa looking smug out of the corner of his eye just before he slipped inside the tent.

Leah was sitting on the cot with her knees pulled into her chest and she was trembling with fear as she stared at him. Her green eyes widened when she saw the stick in his hands.

“A…Are you going to hit me?” she whispered and Chase felt a rock drop into the pit of his stomach. She was afraid of him…. Somehow he had failed his mate if she truly thought he was going to strike her.

“You should not have done what you did.” he scolded gently. “They expect a certain reaction from me and I have to make them believe that is the reaction I had.” Leah looked confused.

“Yell.” he said sternly and then he swung the stick and it whipped through the air before landing with a sharp thwack across his own thigh. Leah cried out in shock and Chase nodded just before smacking himself again. Again Leah cried out and she rushed to him.

“Don’t do it anymore!” she pleaded as hot tears filled her eyes. Chase kissed her hard and quick, pushed her back toward the cot and then left the tent.

Leah watched the tent fall closed and collapsed down on the cot with her fingertips on her lips. What had just happened? What had she just caused? She was smart enough to know that everyone in camp would think that Chase has beaten her when in truth he had just beaten himself and the leg that was still healing from the mountain lion attack that had also been her fault.

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