Chapter 7

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Tiny beads of perspiration covered Blake's body but he didn't utter a sound as Ellie cleaned and resewed the wound on his thigh. "Here, drink a little more of this." She handed him the canteen again. Blake turned it up and took several more big swigs of the fiery whiskey. After what seemed like an eternity, Ellie finally ripped the bottom of her pettycoat into thin strips to use as bandages instead of using one of Blake's bandanas.

She looked up to see his eyes closed as he leaned back against the saddle. His thighs were still exposed and his skin glowed golden bronze in the firelight. She took her time leisurely admiring them, drinking in every inch of exposed flesh, committing it to memory. They were toned and powerful from years of riding in the saddle. Gently she slid the hem of his shirt up revealing a taunt stomach with a handful of black hair forming a thin line from his navel to the edge of the blanket. Oh, how she wanted to lift up the blanket. Slowly her hand reached out but before she could touch him something bumped the back wall of the cabin. Blake's eyes shot open but before he could move Ellie was grabbing his pistol.

"What are you doing?" His voice was slightly slurred, probably from the whiskey.

"I'm going to check on Scout, I'll be right back."

"No, I'll go. It's pouring and you don't know what or who that could be."

"If you get up I'll shoot you! I just sewed up your leg for the second time in two days. I said, I'll go check on the horse. I'll be right back." Fat raindrops fell on her face as soon as she opened the door, soaking her almost instantly. The days had been warm but nights were still cool and with the wind and rain it was downright cold, chilling her to the bone.

Lightning flashed and thunder boomed again causing her to jump as she walked around the side of the shack. The wind ripped at her hair sending it flying in every direction, making it difficult to see. For a split second she thought she saw someone in the shadows and was on the verge of screaming when lighting lit the sky as bright as day revealing it was only a bush blowing in the wind. Ellie gathered her courage, making her way to the back of the shack.

Blake had been right, he wasn't happy but he was somewhat protected from the storm by the back of the shack and the small overhang of the roof. A limb the size of her arm had fallen and bumped the wall. She checked to make sure Scout was still tied securely and gave him an affectionate pat on the neck. Satisfied everything was okay, she turned to go back inside.

The wind howled, blowing rain in, turning the dirt floor to mud when Ellie opened the door to go back in. Shivering, she walked over to Blake and gave him back his pistol then moved closer to the fireplace desperate to warm herself. "Well?"

"W-well w-what?" She managed to get out between chattering teeth.

"What hit the back of the shack?"

"O-oh. It w-was a l-limb."

Ellie stretched her cold fingers out toward the fire but she just didn't seem to be getting any warmer. Water dripped from her dress forming little puddles on the stone hearth at her feet. "Ellie, take your clothes off and hang it up on the mantle. You're never going to warm up if you don't."

She wanted to argue but she was too cold. Numb fingers worked on the buttons of her blouse but just could not seem to undo them. Warm calloused fingers brushed her hands aside working each button then he slowly peeled the thin material back and slid it down her arms. "Turn around." Blake's voice was husky and sounded odd even to his own ears.

In just a minute her skirt was lose, she slid it down enough for her to untie the tapes on her petticoat and stepped out of them hanging on the mantle and rocks of the fireplace to dry. Finally the heat of the fire began to warm her chilled skin. She wasn't sure how long she stood before she felt calloused fingers slid her hair over her shoulder and soft warm lips kissed the nape of her neck.

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