Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Will slept in Diana's room and in the morning she sat up in bed and tried to think. It was nice to have him near again. She hadn't realized how much she had missed him. But marry him? Something wasn’t right about that, but what were her options? The baby would start to show before long, and she was ashamed to ask Unitas or even Amalia for help. Will offered a solution. He would look out for her, just as he always had.

At breakfast, Diana put on a show of being eager to leave. Rebecca was unconvinced, but didn't press the matter. "I'll need to send a message," she said. "What would you like me to say?"

Diana toyed with her food. She felt sick and wasn't sure if it was because of the baby or the whole crazy situation. She wondered again why Robert hadn't written. He must have suspected why she lingered so long. It was just as well that Will had come, because who else would have her? "Say that I left with Will and we're headed back to camp. That will be enough."

After breakfast Rebecca packed some food for them. When he saw it, Will smiled. "That looks like enough to get us to New York City."

"Perhaps you'll want to go on a honeymoon."

Diana blushed. "I think we're going straight back to camp to start training, not make a holiday of this."

They got the food loaded onto the horses and Rebecca followed them to the gate. Diana sniffled and the older woman patted her and murmured comforting words. "You'll always be welcome, dear. Come back anytime."

Diana mounted her horse and took one final look at the cozy house with its front yard in full bloom of spring, birds flitting at the feeders, and chimes making music in the breeze. "I miss this place already."

They waved good-bye to Rebecca and headed down the mountain path.

Diana was silent at first, slumped in her saddle and occasionally dabbing at her eyes, but by mid-morning, she started to look around, taking in the rocks, evergreens, hawks and squirrels as they traveled down cool forest trails and across meadows of pink and white flowers. "It's a nice day to be out riding," she said. "I'd forgotten how much I missed it."

At noon they had lunch by a brook of burbling snowmelt. Diana tossed crumbs to a chipmunk and smiled when a jay swooped down and stole them. "Too slow," she said, tossing the chipmunk a few more.

She watched him stuff his cheek pockets, then turned to Will. "Isn't that a funny way to carry your food around? What if we did that?" She made a face, puffing out her cheeks.

This was so much like the Diana that Will was used to that his shoulders slumped in relief. "I think our dinner would be pretty soggy by the time we made it to our next camp."

"Not to mention there's not enough room." She turned back to the chipmunk. "You poor dumb thing. You need a saddlebag. And a horse." The chipmunk looked at her with bright black eyes, flicked his tail and was gone.

When they got back on their horses, Will took a different fork in the path.

"Is this a new shortcut you've learned?" Diana asked. "I don't remember this being the way we came."

"There's a village near here called Adelaide. I thought we'd go there first. We'll spend the night and continue on tomorrow or the next day."

"Oh." After a few moments she added, "Are you going to tell me why?"

"We're going to get married."

"Out here? Right now?" Diana fought down a sudden sense of panic. "Don't we want Auntie to be at our wedding? And our friends?"

"I don't want us to get married in Ferrous Springs. Things are too negative there."

"We'll make arrangements to marry someplace else. We're breaking camp soon anyway, aren't we? We could get married at the next place we camp."

"We're getting married tomorrow in Adelaide. If you want to have a party when we get back, go ahead."

"But why—"

"Either you're marrying me or you're not. Which is it?"

"What difference does it make whether it's tomorrow, next week or next month?"

"Exactly. It'll be tomorrow, then."


"Are you afraid?"

Diana tossed her head. "Of course not."

Will pulled his horse closer, his knee almost touching hers. "I know it hasn't been very long. I'll understand if you don't want to sleep with me right away."

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Diana had been clinging to the hope that this would be a marriage of convenience. Now she tightened her hands on the reins. "I can't believe we're having this conversation. I've spent half my life calling you my brother. How am I supposed to. . ." She shook her head. Was it too late to change her mind? Would he hate her if she did? Where else would she turn if Will abandoned her? Needing time to sort out her thoughts, she kicked her horse into a canter and moved down the path ahead of him.


Alice Audrey said...

I knew it. He's railroading her into it. I really, really hope she doesn't let him.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Although I don't think Will knows this at a conscious level, there's a deeper level at which he knows if he doesn't get her to marry him before they get back to camp, she'll never do it.

Alice Audrey said...

I figured as much.