Del told her only that their cargo needed guards, so he and Clem and some hands would form an armed escort for the wagons. But as the days sped by it became harder to convince her to remain behind. A week before departure she still badgered him, declaring at breakfast, arms crossed, "You haven't given me one good reason why I can't go."
He stirred his coffee. "If there's trouble someone could get hurt, even killed."
Killer eyes, full force. "You know I shoot better than most men. If you’re riding shotgun, why can't I?"
He flashed an equally harsh gaze back. "Because no matter how hard you work at it, you're not a man,. Stop being unreasonable. I'm riding with the shipment. You're staying here." He set down his spoon. "Shouldn't you be out telling the men where to drill the seeds?"
"Stop changing the subject. Why don't you admit you don't want me along?"
Was she testing him? "Diana, I don't want you along."
She dropped the subject but her pique continued to fester. It did not seem unreasonable for her to be with Del when the copper was delivered and payment changed hands. Were they equal partners, or not?
Two mornings later she woke well before dawn to sounds of Del packing saddlebags. She dressed and followed him down the stairs. In the office he selected a pistol, shotgun, and boxes of ammunition from the gun cabinet, stepping around her as if she weren’t there.
She trailed him to the stable, where Clem and four others were mounted and ready to ride. Darkness cloaked the valley, the air was heady with the sweet fragrance of green growing things, underlaid by the ever present smell of thousands of warm-bodied cows. Birds chattered, a lightening sky above the eastern horizon indicated daybreak was imminent.
Del led out his horse and turned to her. "Aren't you going to say good-bye?" He tied back his hair and lowered his hat, rendering his features indistinct.
She linked her hands behind her back, muttered, "Good-bye."
He dropped the reins, strode to her and folded her into a hard embrace, his hands sliding down her arms to her wrists, pinning them to the small of her back. While she wriggled to escape, he bent his head and kissed her half-opened mouth with possessive ferocity. She responded with a dark passion that left her gasping.
One by one the mountain peaks erupted with bright vermilion light. Del's eyes were silver lamps burning beneath the brim of his hat. She pulled back. "Let me go. This is--indecent." Over his shoulder she saw the men gazing at the sky, at the ground, grins on their faces.
Rather than release her, Del tightened his hold. His face now bathed in warm golden light, he winked at her. "How can this be indecent after the things we did last night?"
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