Chapter 4

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Blake left John with Ellie and Lydia about a mile outside of Cranston in a copse of trees near a shallow stream. There was protection in the trees and plenty of clear, sweet water. It hadn't taken him long to find the telegraph office, send the telegram and pick up supplies from the mercantile. He'd never thought anything about telling people he was a U.S. Marshall until today. The kid running the telegraph had been so excited to meet a real live Marshall, Blake was afraid the kid would open his mouth to anyone that would listen.

He replayed the conversation over in his mind. He'd told the boy not to mention Blake's name, or the contents of the telegram to anyone, including the sheriff. The last thing they needed was to have Angel Cooper waiting in Red Valley for them when they got there. He was trying to be as careful as he could, after all, it wasn't just his and John's lives that could be in danger. It was all of his friends and family including Ellie and Lydia. Shoving those thoughts aside, Blake turned all of his attention back to his surroundings. The last thing he needed was to get ambushed.

"We're going to split up from here." Blake told Ellie and Lydia after he and John had divided up the supplies he'd purchased in Cranston.

"What do you mean split up?" Lydia could feel the panic start to rise in her chest and she fought hard to keep her voice steady. "Wouldn't we be safer if we all stated together? You know, safety in numbers."

"No." John answered her before Blake could. He was secretly glad to be alone with Lydia. They had talked a lot over the past couple of days, and she never ceased to amaze him. She wasn't like so many other women he'd known. Her head wasn't empty, she was very intelligent, and he could see a spark in her that was drawing him to her. "In this case, we will be better off to split up. It's harder to track multiple people, especially when those people don't want to be tracked."

"Oh," was all Lydia could say. Her face began to blush when she realized she and John would be completely alone for....

"How long will it take us to get home?" Ellie asked before her cousin could.

"I figure anywhere from one to two weeks, depending." Blake answered.

"Depending on what?" Ellie and Lydia asked in unison.

Blake looked over at John for a second before answering. "It depends on the weather and if they are any good at tracking us." He thought it best to stop his answer there. He was pretty sure that Ellie could handle the entire truth but he really didn't think her cousin, Lydia could.

Ellie reached over and grabbed her cousin, giving her a hug. "It will be alright. John will take care of you and protect you with his life."

Lydia took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "I know he will. I love you Ellie, I'll see you at your parent's house soon." She gave her cousin a quick hug then walked over to John. "I guess we need to get going." He simply nodded, mounted his horse, and pulled her up behind him.

They watched them ride over the ridge, then Blake mounted up and held out his hand for Ellie to grab. He effortlessly pulled her up behind him. His eyes closed for a second when she wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her firm breasts against his back. "Hold on," he said in a tone sharper than he meant to use.

John and Lydia had taken the southern route back to Red Valley while Blake and Ellie had taken the northern route. It was late summer, so the days were still very warm but the nights were quite cool on the northern route making it necessary for Blake to build a fire and sleep next to Ellie. By the end of the third day, dark, ominous clouds began to roll in, hanging low in the sky.

"It's going to rain before long, we better look for shelter tonight, or we're going to get wet." Blake lowered his head, speaking in Ellie's ear. He'd thought it would be a good idea for her to ride in front of him today. He just didn't think he could go another day with her breasts in his back and her thighs cradling his backside. He'd been wrong, that had not been torture, having her ride in front of him was torture. He had to wrap his arms around her to hold the reins of his horse. If they did anything other than walk, her breasts would bounce on his hands and try as he might, there was no other way he could hold his hands.

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