Then a question worked its way into the forefront of her mind. She opened one eye, waited for Rod to take a breath, and asked, "Why are you herding cows down to Chester Bates this week? I recall his letter made an offer to trade them for wheat. He won't be harvestin' for a month or more."
"I have a pressing matter to take up in that country, and I reckon it won't wait until then." Rod scratched his chest above the neck of his nightshirt. "I figure I may as well make one trip as two. Chester will bring us the wheat."
She whispered, "If you're goin' after James, that's entirely the wrong direction." Pain at the unexpected loss of her son made her body quiver.
"I know that, woman." Rod's voice had taken on the soft gruff tone he used in tender moments when he felt vulnerable.
Annoyance that he didn't expand his answer drove Julia to shift her weight, rise on her elbow, and open both eyes to stare down at him. "What aren't you tellin' me?"
After a long moment, Rod turned his eyes away and said, "I have an errand."
"Roderick Owen, don't you be speakin' nonsense to me. What errand takes you away from work at this season?"
When his hand flew to his head, she barked at him, "Don't be a-worryin' that scab or it won't never heal. What's the truth?"
"It's a little errand for Marie," he admitted, tucking his hand under the covers.
"Marie?" Surprised, Julia almost missed Rod's failure to explain himself further. When she had gathered her wits sufficiently to notice his silence, she poked him in the ribs. "What business does the girl have in the Cuchara country?"
Rod sighed. "She accused me of neglecting her welfare. She wants a husband."
"No!" Julia sat up.
"She made it plain she's woman-grown and expects me to get her one."
She looked at Rod. "You're not--"
Rod cut her off. "She said young Tom is twenty. I had no notion."
Julia shook her head and sighed in turn. "Your matchmaking has an ill reputation." She sank back onto the bed. "Does she have her cap set for Tom Morgan?"
Rod shifted one of his legs. "I've had him in mind for years."
"I asked does Marie want him?"
He shifted the other leg. "She didn't say me nay." After another long pause, he continued, "I'll know more when I get the two in the same room."
"What?" Julia sat up again, her back stiff.
"You're takin' my daughter down country with a passel of cows?"
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Copyright 2012 Marsha Ward