DARK TRAIL HOME

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CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

Sunday Morning was quiet. He’d laid in the loft listening while men saddled up horses to go to town. Going to spend their pay, have a drink, blow off a bit of steam. He wasn’t interested in any of that. He’d done plenty of that when he was too young to be doing it. Now he just wanted to breathe free air and enjoy laying back in the hay and feel the breeze come through the loft doors.

He had given considerable thought to the things that Malone had said. The more he listened to the man more he realized how intelligent he was. Granted, he was annoying, but it was usually because he was right. He said as much to Mark.

Mark had looked at him like he had two heads. “Don’t you never – ever say that to Joel Malone.” He had sounded very serious and Tyree had chuckled.

He studied the spider webs on the ceiling. A cool breeze wafted through and the loft doors creaked slightly. He searched the shadows in the loft, letting his thoughts drift. After the air warmed up, he heard someone coming up the ladder, and he wished them away. He was enjoying doing nothing, thinking about where he’d been and the possibilities. They didn’t go away, and when he saw it was Marcie, he was glad.

She didn’t say a word. He lay there with his arms folded under his head, his legs crossed over his ankles. She pulled his blanket up and slipped in beside him, snuggled up to his side. She laid her head on his shoulder. Her warmth and the smell of her made his heart race.

“Now don’t go getting thoughts in your head. It’s cold as a witch’s heart is the only reason I am borrowing your blanket.”

He didn’t move, afraid to break the spell her presence was weaving around him. Her hand slid up his chest, sliding to each button. When his shirt lay open, she snuggled closer, her lips touching his skin. Warm, soft. His heart pounded against his ribs. He sighed, feeling more at peace than he thought it was possible to feel.

Her hand moved inside his shirt, down to his belly, her fingers tickling as they caressed him.

“Careful there.”

“You’re right. I will be careful.”

He rolled up on his side and studied her face in the shadows. He let his fingers trace the outline of her face, then ran his finger across her lips. He felt things he had only imagined. He was almost embarrassed by his body’s reactions to her lying there.

“Kiss me, Tyree,” she whispered.

“A real kiss? One I don’t have to steal?”

“Yes.” She smiled and leaned close to him.

“No.”

Her smile faded when she saw he was serious. He sat up slid over to the loft door. He carefully rolled a smoke and her eyes darkened as she watched him.

“First I have to say… what I have to say.” He lit the cigarette and offered to share it with her.

“Tyree.”

“Shh hush. Let me talk. Please.”

She took a drag and handed the cigarette back. “Talk.”

“I have to say this, please, please just let me say it.”

“Okay.”

“I done a lot of wrong. None of it am I proud of. None of it can I take back either. If you was to hear it elsewhere it would make you think less of me. You know about the horse stealing and rustling cattle. I stole money from people. Cheated at cards. That’s all little stuff. All of it. I been in gunfights, saloon brawls, knifed somebody, all self-defense.”

She cocked her head and huffed at him, he held up his hand and narrowed his eyes at her. “Marcie, Donny was hanged. He was my brother, or close enough. He didn’t do a damn thing I haven’t done. I should have hung too. Several times.”

She was quiet. She took the cigarette from him and sucked it in deep. “Murder?”

There it is, Tyree. Let her think. He watched her eyes, her lips pressed together. “Maybe I should give you a couple of days to think about it, Marcie. I don’t want you to just jump into something and regret it later.” He started to get up and she caught his arm.

“Tyree.” She shook her head. “Stay.”

He sat back down, pulling his coat tight around him. She’s about to tell me goodbye. That didn’t take long.

“I already talked to Joel about this before I left for Denver.”

“What do you mean?”

“We talked about all the possibilities. I wanted to know the things I should be asking you, before I considered marrying you. If that were to come up.”

“But you didn’t ask me.”

“I decided that if you were willing to tell me… I didn’t need to ask.”

What did that mean?

“I love you. I hate that you have lived the life you have. I love that you were willing to tell me the truth.”

“I love you Marcie. I don’t think I deserve you. No, I know I don’t deserve you.”

“You are so different from the other boys who try to court me. They are – childish almost, even if they are more sophisticated. Does that make sense?”

“I don’t know what that means, sofisc – ”

“Highfalutin,” She giggled, “and you did too know. I know now what makes you so different. It scares me a little. I’m not going to lie. I don’t want you to be what you were. I like who you are now.”

“Marcie.”

“Yes?”

“I want more than anything to be the kind of man a girl like you can respect. I don’t want to fail at that.”

“You’re doing just fine,” she smiled.

“Marcie. I love you. I don’t deserve you. But I love you more than anything or anyone I’ve ever known.”

“I love you too, Tyree. Now will you please kiss me?”

A trip hammer pounded in his chest. So many times he had imagined a genuine kiss, not stolen but freely given, and now his palms broke out in sweat. Stepping closer he slid a hand behind her waist, pulling her against his chest. His other hand slipped up to her neck and under her hair, feeling its softness on his knuckles. She tilted her head, staring into his eyes. Leaning down he brushed his lips against hers, the softness melted him, burned him like a brand through his whole being. His blood flashed into flame as he pressed against her. She embraced him. He could feel her pulse under his thumb, her heart beat against his chest.

“Oh, god, Marcie. I want you so bad. I want to hold you forever.”

Her hand reached for his face and wiped at the edge of his eyes. “Tyree. I’ll be here long as you want me.”

“Till the day I die. That’s how long.”

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