Into The Wilderness Page 296

’’Nathaniel,’’ she said, frowning.

He slid his arm around her and drew her down to lie beside him. The expression in his eyes stole her breath away.

’’You want me to speak my mind. So then listen, listen to me.’’ He paused to pull her closer.

’’I'm happy with you here, Boots. Sometimes when I'm coming up the trail and I see the light in the window, I can't hardly move for fear that it's all been a dream, having you here in this place with me. I'm scairt of being without you. I never was easy to scare, even as a boy, but I've learned it now.’’ His hand moved to the bulk of her belly and rested there. ’’All I want is to keep you safe, and to please you. So you'll stay with me. Tell me you'll stay with me.’’

’’Oh, Nathaniel.’’ She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, held his face between her hands. ’’I am not going anywhere unless I go with you. I wouldn't be whole without you.’’

He let out a small sound from the back of his throat, and she saw the muscles in his cheek tremble. ’’You think you can be happy here, on the mountain?’’

’’I know I can,’’ she said, and realized, suddenly, that it was the truth.

’’Good,’’ he said, the grip of his hands on her shoulders suddenly turning to a caress. ’’Good.’’

She held his gaze. ’’This is our place, Nathaniel, and Hannah's, and it will be our children's place. And I hope it will be your father's place, too. But first he must hear what Moncrieff has to say. If Hawkeye decides he needs to go to Scotland, then he will go. If he asks you to come along, and you decide to join him, then I will be there, too. But he deserves to know about his family.’’

Nathaniel pushed out his breath between his teeth. ’’I already told Moncrieff where to look for him in Montreal. He'll be off in the morning.’’

’’Ah,’’ she said, smiling.

On the table the candle sputtered, casting shadows over the ceiling. It was near dawn, and snow had begun to fall. For a long moment they were quiet together, listening to the muffled sounds of the waterfall. Elizabeth could have slept, but she fought it, not wanting to be drawn away from him now, even in sleep.

’’Our first Christmas at Lake in the Clouds,’’ she murmured. ’’But not the last.’’

His head came up, damp eyes glistening in the dim light. He looked at her hard. ’’Are you sure, Boots?’’

’’Yes,’’ she said, lifting her face for his kiss. ’’There is nowhere else I want to be.’’

Sometime later he said, ’’You might be curious about that castle, in the end, or Montreal.’’ A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. ’’You may change your mind.’’

’’Not about some things,’’ Elizabeth said, spreading a hand on his cheek. ’’Not about this, not about you. Not the why or the wherefore, not the who.’’

’’But the where, maybe. Someday.’’

His hands on her breasts, and a luxuriant stirring deep inside: the certainty of this, of his love and his desire, his protection and the life they shared. Elizabeth turned in his embrace and slid a leg over his hip, drew him closer. She let out a sound of welcome, and they came together gently, small movements that still drew from him a sigh of absolute surrender.

’’Perhaps someday,’’ she murmured against his mouth as she rose to meet him. ’’But for right now, Paradise is enough.’’

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