Somewhere in a Wild West that never was…
It was still full dark when Cuchilo reined Hombre in. “We’re right about there, but I’m thinking we need to pull back a ways so we can see without being seen. And we need to cover our tracks.”
“We do. I hadn’t thought it through, but we surely do.”
Cuchilo threw back his head and howled. He was answered almost immediately and he threw Hombre’s reins to Mir before slipping to the ground. In the fitful moonlight she saw him crouch down just as the wolf sprung. They wrestled and played for a moment before Cuchilo bent to the wolf’s ear. Whatever passed between them, the rest of the pack emerged from wherever they were hiding and rubbed around Cuchilo as if they were tame dogs. When he had communicated with each one he got back into the saddle and kneed Hombre forward.
“There’s a cave. It’s dry and overlooks the draw. We will be able to stable the horses and watch without being seen.”
Mir spotted the deer before anyone else, she touched Cuchilo on the thigh and he followed her eyes. In a second he had an arrow nocked. The buck had just lifted his head when an arrow ended life. Cuchilo roped the carcass and dragged it behind his horse.
Mir managed a smile, although being with Cuchilo after nearly four years alone was coming close to killing her. “I remember how much this lot like deer meat.”
The cave was exactly what they needed. Even so, by the time everyone was fed and sorted dawn was just pinking the sky. Mir yawned and Cuchilo motioned to the pile of branches and horse blankets.
“Sleep. I’ll watch.”
She needed no second telling and with wolves huddled around her for warmth drifted into a refreshing sleep. Waking who knew how much later, the warmth of the wolves’ bodies had been replaced by the feeling of hard muscle at her back and a long arm draped over her waist. She knew the feel of him as intimately as she knew her own hands and the craving that had never subsided lifted its head. Without conscious thought she turned into his embrace, rubbing her face against the soft flannel of his shirt. His response was as swift as it was flattering and the seduction of his hands and mouth were as potent as ever.
When it was over and she lay in his arms, Mir made no attempt to hide the tears that ran almost unheeded from her eyes. He was instantly contrite.
“Miri. What is it? Did I hurt you?”
“No. But you will. When you discard me again.”
He pinned her to the makeshift bed and stared into her eyes.
“What do you mean, discard you?”
Anger was Mir’s only defence, and she wriggled and fought in his hands. “You know what I mean. Don’t pretend you don’t.”
“Miri. No. It wasn’t me…”
There was a second of fraught silence, before they spoke in unison – both having the same thought and both finding the same difficult words.
“Why didn’t you at least tell me yourself?”
Cuchilo stared down into her face. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I guess I am. But who?”
“Your sister.” Mir felt that like a slap. She had always known that Yael didn’t love her, but to actively try and ruin her life… She looked into Cuchilo’s eyes and saw the truth in him. He cupped her cheek in one hand. “Who came to you?”
“A shaman called White Eagle. I didn’t want to believe him, but he had your wedding ring.”
“Yael had yours too.”
“Only she didn’t.” Mir put her hand to the neck of the undershirt that was all she currently wore and drew out a chain on which there hung two rings.
“White Eagle neither.” The rings around Cuchilo’s neck were on a leather thong.
Mir buried her face in the strong brown column of his throat. “Oh, love,” she murmured. “Oh my love.” And then she really started to cry. He was wise enough, and tender enough, to let her cry it out before drying her cheeks with his shirt sleeve and offering her a rag on which to blow her nose. She complied and leaned into his warmth. He wrapped her in a hug.
“Better now?” he asked.
“Better than I’ve been for a goodish while.”