Authors: Maggie Osborne
Tags: #General, #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction, #Western, #Adult
Overcome by impatience, Fox shoved Tanner down on the blanket and climbed on top of him.
"I don't mean to sound bossy, or maybe I do, but it's time to stop this blathering and start, well, you know."
His eyes sparkled and he wore the expression that came over him when he was trying not to laugh.
She narrowed her eyes and tried to find the anger that helped her through her vulnerable moments. "I mean, that's why we came here, isn't it?"
"Are we running behind schedule?"
Her cheeks heated. Sitting up, he leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose. "I like the way you're wearing your hair tonight. Piled on top of your head. You have beautiful hair." After kissing her lightly on the mouth, a tease, he removed her hairpins and waves of red hair tumbled to her shoulder then spilled down her back almost to her waist.
"Like silk," he murmured.
The heated look in his eyes stifled Fox's laugh. Her throat went dry and hot and she felt the first tremor of what she suspected would soon erupt into an earthquake deep inside. Fox felt his hand cupping the back of her head, buried in her hair. She had never felt a man's tongue before but did so now and a jolt of lightning scorched through her body. He tasted of smoke and coffee and something sweet, and she wanted more of him
Also by Maggie Osborne
THE BRIDE OF WILLOW CREEK
I DO, I DO, I DO
Foxfire Bride is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An Ivy Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 2004 by Maggie Osborne
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ivy Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Ivy Books and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition: December 2004
They've all been love letters to you, cowboy.
The names Norwood and Barbara Robb were generously offered by their auction-winning owners.
Excelsior and I are grateful to the Robbs for their charity and their good humor.
The ice wasn't good this year. Ordinarily the lake froze to a depth of eight or ten inches, but this winter had been unusually warm. Frustrated and worried, Fox sat on a rock, smoking and scowling at the fringe of thin ice circling the lakeshore. She had some decisions to make.
"We haven't cut enough ice to fill half the shed and winter is almost over," she said to Peaches. Peaches wore a thick flannel shirt beneath his overalls. This time last year they had both worn heavy coats, scarves, and hats with fur earflaps.
"We'll get by."
Sometimes Peaches's relentless optimism was exactly what Fox needed. Other times optimism made her want to bash him over the head with a block of ice. This was one of the bashing times.
"Once summer comes, it'll take us about three weeks to sell the ice." She jerked a thumb over her shoulder toward the ice shed. "And then what?"
"We ain't the only cutters with no ice. Nobody going to have ice this year. That ice is going to fetch a pretty price."
That was true. Fox smoked and watched the sun sparkling on the water in the center of a lake that should have been frozen solid. Raising the price on the ice they had already cut might see one person through the season, but not both of them.
She had a feeling that fate was gathering force, getting ready to kick her in the fanny. That the ice wouldn't be profitable this year was a nudge.
"You could go back to doing what you're good at doing. Me? I can always pick up work," Peaches said.
Fox swiveled to study his brown face. Deep lines scored a grid on his cheeks. His hair was more white than dark. "How old are you? Seventy?"
"I don't know how old I am," he said with a shrug. "Doesn't matter as long as I can work."
He had a point there. And unless his rhumitiz was acting up, Peaches could work rings around anyone else Fox knew, including herself. But a seventy-year-old man shouldn't be looking for work. A seventy-year-old man should be able to sit on the porch if he had a mind to, and do nothing at all.
"I've been thinking about a lot of things," she said, fixing her gaze on a distant peak.
"I know it, and I don't like it when you start thinking deep." Standing, Peaches examined a line of clouds building to the north. "Looks like a storm coming in," he said hopefully. "I swear it feels colder already."
"I'm thinking how I just gave up on everything when DeBeck shot me and put me out of business. And I'm thinking about Hobbs Jennings and how he stole my whole life and I haven't done a fricking thing about it. Mostly I'm thinking about revenge. DeBeck died before I could kill him and there's a lesson in that. So I'm thinking about killing Jennings before he up and dies on his own." Thinking was too mild a word. Brooding and obsessing were closer to the truth.
"You can't change the past, Missy." Peaches's voice softened like it always did when he was worried about her. His big hand came down on her shoulder and squeezed. "You can only change the future."
"I'm thinking about taking my half of the ice money, whatever it is, and going to Denver. Hobbs Jennings's future is the one I want to change." She had almost made up her mind. All she needed was a sign that she was thinking right.
Over supper, Peaches brought the subject around again. "We might as well talk about it. So, let's say you go to Denver."
"All right, let's say that." Tilting her biscuit toward the lantern, she buttered the surface. She didn't like a blob of butter in the middle like some people she could name. The butter should be neatly spread to the rim.
"And let's say you find Mr. Jennings and you shoot the bastard and kill him. Then what?" He put a scoop of butter in the center of his biscuit just like she knew he would. "The law will arrest you and hang your butt. So what did you achieve?"
"Jennings would be dead. He would have paid for what he did."
"But you'd be dead, too."
"Now why can't you butter your biscuit right? You end up with a couple of dry bites and one bite that's pure grease!"
"If you want to talk manners, Missy, I done told you a hundred times that refined folks don't hold the handle of their fork in their fist. Here's how you're supposed to hold it."
"And I done told you a hundred times that me and refinement don't fall within spitting distance." It could have been different. That she wasn't refined was the fault of Hobbs Jennings. And that thought circled her back to brooding about fulfilling her vow, to find Jennings and put a bullet in his thieving heart.
After they washed up the supper dishes, Fox stepped outside for a smoke. The cabin was small, and they had agreed not to stink it up with cigar smoke. While she waited for Peaches to set up the chessboard, she thought about walking away from the cabin, the lake, the ice business, and Peaches. Peaches was the sticking point.
Fox had known him since she was six or seven. They had run away from her mother's cousin when Fox was twelve. There'd been some gaps, but by and large they'd been together for almost twenty years. Peaches had taught her pretty near everything she knew that was worth knowing. What he couldn't teach her, like reading and woman things, he'd made sure she learned from someone else. And some things she'd learned herself.
Her biggest learning experience had come when she'd run off again when she was seventeen, leaving Peaches behind. At the time she hadn't known that seventeen-year-olds, particularly women, didn't set off alone to find the goldfields in the mountains west of what was now Denver. That had been some trip, all right. The memory curved her lips in a smile. She'd gotten half frozen, half broiled, half starved, and was hopelessly lost about a hundred times. She had talked her way in and then out of Indian camps, had shot a mountain man with rape on his mind, had killed two bears and enough deer and rabbits to keep her alive.