The wind picked up, stirring the red and brown leaves already on the trail. Jake pulled his coat collar higher on his neck and glanced at Kat. They’d ridden side by side all day and she’d barely spoken. He’d gotten used to her chatter. The thought of kissing her in the hotel room made him let out a frustrated breath. Kat knew how to kiss. He shifted uncomfortably in the saddle. Sheriff Stewart concluded that Duvall perished on the Scarlett Rose. That should have brought him some peace, but it didn’t. The outlaw’s death only reinforced his need to meet with his contacts in Lawrence and return to Texas.
“Let’s set up camp,” he said.
Jake worked quickly to string a tarp windbreak and by the time Kat had finished seeing to the horses, he had a fire going. Thankful to have long johns, Jake wondered how Kat was faring. Could she survive if there was a storm? The weather would only get worse.
They sat down on their bedrolls and ate in silence.
“Do you still plan to go on to St. Louis?” he asked. They both knew all along they’d eventually go their own ways. He had obligations and none of them included a wife.
“I suppose so.” She threw a branch on the fire and the flames shot higher.
“Since you didn’t collect a reward for Duvall, I’ll make sure you have enough money to take a ferry or a train.”
Kat visibly paled and he was instantly sorry; he always seemed to say the wrong thing where she was concerned. He couldn’t make assurances; his edge as a Ranger was because he made no commitments.
Jake put his tin down. “I should have taken the bullet.” His throat was raw with emotion, but he wanted her to know about Harrison.
“What?” she said softly.
“Duvall was on a rooftop and when he called my name, Harrison stepped in front of me before I could stop him. He was like that. . .” Jake cupped his hand and lit a cigarette, smoking it in silence.
Kat didn’t comment or offer advice, almost as if she understood he wanted neither. She sat quietly for a few minutes before moving. “I think I’ll stretch out. Good night, Jake.”
His low tone carried with ease in the crisp air. “Why don’t you move your blanket over here, and we’ll share it? We’ll be warmer.” Jake detected a sharp intake of breath.
He spoke in a level tone. “We are married. After all we’ve been through there’s no need to be prim and proper.”