Chapter 21

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Sleep eluded Faith as she lay in her bed that night. She was exhausted and should have been asleep hours ago, but all she did was toss and turn. Rolling over onto her back, she stared up at the ceiling. She sighed heavily and flipped the covers back, padded barefoot through the house to her front porch. A cool breeze ruffled through the leaves while crickets chirped. She walked to the edge of the porch and sat down, letting her feet dangle. There was no moon so the velvety black sky was lit up with millions of twinkling stars. It reminded her of the grass just this morning with the sun shining down on the dew.

Winter would be here soon. The leaves had begun to turn earlier in the week. The thought of spending the long winter alone scared the hell out of her. What if she wasn't prepared? No, she had lived out here for several years and she knew what to expect. She breathed deeply, filling her lungs with fresh air and closed her eyes, willing herself to relax.

"Shouldn't you be in bed asleep?"

"Oh John! You scared me to death." Faith brought her hand up to her heart. The organ was pounding painfully beneath her palm. As soon as her heart was somewhat under control she realized her calves were exposed. She snatched her legs up, folding them to her chest and quickly covered them with the hem of her gown. "I didn't expect to see anyone out here."

"I was on my way back from my watch when I saw you. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Yes, I'm fine. I just couldn't sleep. It will probably take me several days before it will feel like my home."

"It's always difficult to sleep in a new place. People are creatures of habit. Do you like the house?"

"Oh yes! I love it, it's beautiful and so much bigger than the old one. I still can't believe it was built so fast and so many people came together to help me. I didn't even know some of the people that came!"

"Folks are like that out here. Is it not that way back in Charleston?"

"No, they're not. People in Charleston, at least the ones I knew were very rude and snobbish. I may have grown up there, but I hated it. No, I take that back, I don't hate the town, I dislike the way society treated women. That's one thing I love so much about living out here. The people are so wonderful."

"John, I'll take over." Cade walked from the darkness. He'd seen her as soon as she opened the front door. Her white night gown was a beacon drawing his attention. It had been impossible to see her features but he could tell that she was staring up at the night sky. He had been content to watch her until John rode up. After that, his feet just seemed to begin making their way over to them. "You're going to need all the rest you can get. Tomorrow we'll start making the final preparations for the cattle drive. Did you find anything?"

The younger man wanted to argue but Cade was right. They would be working from sun up to sundown until they got back from the cattle drive. It was like that every fall. It still chapped him to be talked to like a child though. "Good night Faith, I'll see you in the morning. Try to get some rest." He turned to Cade. "No, everything was quiet." John then turned his horse and headed towards the barn.

"That was very rude." Faith snapped.

"I really don't care. His shift is over and he needs to get as much sleep as he can."

She expected him to turn and walk back to the barn to get his horse but instead he walked the few steps to the porch and sat down on the edge beside her. The two of them sat there in silence for a few minutes, each one lost in their own thoughts but still very aware of the other person. Cade waited until he heard the door to the bunkhouse open then close before he said anything.

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