A willing spirit a ghost.., p.14
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       A Willing Spirit, A Ghostly Romance, p.14

           Cynthia Sterling
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  Work on the chapel progressed slowly at first, largely due to the difficulty Reverend Deering had in recruiting workers. The majority of his congregation expressed little interest in his project to minister to the heathens on the reservation. The few that did show up to work refused to take orders from a half-breed.

  Reverend Deering sent them back and recruited help from an unlikely source. Emmett Hardy persuaded a half dozen of his clientele to work for the preacher as a way of paying off their bar tabs. Gabe Emerson was the first to show up. Micah supposed that, owing to his predilection for breaking mirrors, he had the largest tab. Like the others before him, he adamantly refused to labor at the direction of Micah. "I'll be damned if I take orders from the likes of him," he declared, folding his arms across his chest.

  "Now, Mr. Emerson, think of it as working for the church, not Mr. Fox.” Reverend Deering tried to smooth things over.

  "Either he goes, or I go," Emerson said.

  "Fine, I'll just quit.” Micah turned to leave.

  "Now, gentlemen, this arguing isn't accomplishing anything.” Reverend Deering gave Micah a stern look. "You agreed to oversee this project, Mr. Fox. Do you intend to keep your word?"

  Micah nodded grudgingly. "I won't go back on my word."

  "And you agreed to work as well, Mr. Emerson.” He turned to the older man.

  Emerson grunted. "But I never said I'd work with him.”

  What do you have to be so proud of? Micah thought as he stared at the older man. Besides the color of your skin?. But then, that pride was the only thing some men had to cling to. Perhaps he could use Emerson's vanity to his own benefit. "Maybe you ought to be the one in charge, then," he said. "Why don't we just let the preacher here decide who's the better carpenter? You can pay off your debt and have the chance to get the better of me in public."

  Emerson eyed him warily, like an animal who knows he's been trapped, but can't figure out how. "I don't have anything to prove to you," he growled.

  Micah shrugged. "Then our little competition should be easy for you."

  "I don't know --" Deering began.

  "I'll do it!” Emerson snatched up a hammer and a sack of nails. "I'll run this redskin into the ground if he tries to keep up with me."

  After that, recruiting workers was easy. Jackie Babcock took time off from his forge to help. Woody Monroe lent a hand, along with Bryan Ritter. Even Old Man Thornton and Milo Adamson deserted the whittler's bench in favor of a front row seat at the competition between Micah Fox and Gabe Emerson.

  The women did their part by providing a midday meal for the workers. Two volunteered each day to bring food to the work site. As luck would have it, Tessa was assigned the same day as Trudy Babcock. Trudy arrived first, the scent of Jasmine Nights heralding her arrival. She bore a plate of deviled eggs and cheese and crackers and greeted each worker with a thin smile that never quite reached her eyes. The men were polite to her, deferential even. But as soon as Tessa rolled up in her wagon, the workers deserted both Trudy and her deviled eggs, in favor of beans and potatoes simmered with fat bacon, and Tessa's genuine friendliness.

  The doctor had cut the cast from her arm the day before, and she moved with more grace than ever. She no longer needed him to hitch up the wagon for her, or to saddle a horse. His promise to stay until she'd healed no longer bound him, though he lingered. He told himself he stayed to fulfill his agreement with Reverend Deering, but that was only half the truth.

  He watched the two woman move around the work site and hoped Tessa couldn't see the looks Trudy directed her way. Even Jackie Babcock had left his wife standing alone while he feasted on Tessa's cooking. "Now there's a woman who knows how to feed a working man," Jackie declared as Tessa ladled dinner onto his plate.

  Micah waited until the other men had been served before he approached Tessa. "Any left?" he asked casually.

  A warm look flashed briefly into her eyes before she demurely looked away. "I made plenty," she said, reaching for a plate to serve him.

  "That's good.” He helped himself to cornbread from a basket on the wagon's tailgate. "Some of the women always seem to run out before they get to me."

  Her expression clouded and she looked directly at him, eyes filled with sympathy. "Oh, Micah."

  "Shhh. It's all right.” He took the plate and hesitated. He wanted to eat with her, to sit and get his fill of looking at her. He didn't dare with so many unfriendly eyes watching them, but he couldn't resist the urge to linger and talk with her a moment. "What do you have planned this afternoon?" he asked.

  "Margery is coming over to help make pies for the Library Society Bake Sale.” She put the lid on the kettle and shoved it back into the wagon. "What about you?"

  "I'm working on the roof today. We ought to be ready to start putting on the shingles by tomorrow."

  She folded her arms under her breasts and studied the almost completed framing of the chapel. "It's coming along well, isn't it?"

  "Everyone is working hard."

  "How's your 'competition' with Mr. Emerson going?""

  He followed her gaze to where the older man sat slumped against a corner post. Emerson's face sagged with weariness. "He hasn't slowed down for a minute. He won't risk being bested by the likes of me."

  Tessa nodded. "Did you know Indians killed his wife?"

  "I'd heard. Who were they?"

  "Comanche raiders. He was away from home at the time. His sister moved in to look after his children, but he was never the same afterwards. I don't think he drank nearly as much before then."

  "He isn't drinking here.” Micah scooped potatoes and beans onto cornbread and shoveled it into his mouth. "At least, I don't think so," he added when he'd swallowed.

  She hesitated then said. "I think what you've done, proposing this absurd contest in order to prevent a fight . . . well, I just think it's very wise. And generous. You didn't have to. . . to humble yourself that way."

  He shrugged off her praise. "Maybe this hard work, doing something constructive for a change, will do him some good.” He shook his head. "Then again, he might sweat the alcohol out of his system here, but I doubt he'll let go of a grudge that easily."

  "I think I'll go talk to him.” She picked up a water pail and carried it to Emerson. Micah leaned against the wagon and ate the rest of his dinner, watching Tessa with the older man. Emerson greeted her with a look of suspicion, but he accepted the cup of water she offered. Micah had to admit that, except for a look of weariness, Emerson did appear to be in better health. The pastiness was gone from his skin, and he'd lost some of the flab around his waist.

  Micah had expected more trouble from the man -- sabotage perhaps, or general mischief. But despite a definite animosity towards Micah, Emerson had caused no problems. Micah had to admit, the work he'd done was some of the best on the job.

  He wiped the last of the bacon-flavored juice from the bottom of his plate with the last of the cornbread and popped it into his mouth. Jackie Babcock was right; Tessa knew how to satisfy a man's appetite. In more ways than one.

  He stretched lazily, and indulged himself with watching her now as she knelt and talked to Gabe Emerson. The posture emphasized her smoothly rounded backside, shaped just right for a man's hand to cup. . .

  A woman's scream jerked him from his fantasies. Knife in hand, he scanned the area for some sign of danger. Gabe Emerson had shot to his feet and stood with his pistol drawn and aimed out across the prairie. Micah followed his gaze to a pair of Indians riding toward them.

  "Put your weapons away," Reverend Deering ordered. "They mean no harm."

  As they rode closer, Micah recognized Sun Bear and Drinking Wolf. He relaxed and slid the knife back into its scabbard. Emerson was slower to comply, and he kept his hand on the butt of the pistol, his eyes trained on the two Comanche.

  "Hello.” Deering raised his hand in greeting. "It's good to see you again."

  Micah could feel the stares of everyone around them. Even
Trudy Babcock, half-hidden behind her husband, had her attention riveted on the visitors. Deering motioned to Micah, and he walked over to translate.

  "We came to see what you are building," Sun Bear said. He nodded toward the chapel frame.

  "This will be our chapel," Deering said, beaming. "The house of the Great Spirit."

  The chief looked doubtful. "If the Great Spirit lived in a house, I think he'd choose a better one than that," he said. "It doesn't look very strong. Big wind, knock it down.” He pantomimed the fragile structure blowing over. "Fire, burn it up.” He eyed the frame of the church critically. "It looks like the bones of the house vultures have picked clean of the skin."

  Micah admitted the chapel did not look very sturdy right now. "Once the walls and roof are on, it'll be sound enough," he said.

  Reverend Deering was more effusive in his praise. "Isn't it grand?" he declared.

  Sun Bear and Micah exchanged doubtful glances.

  "I'm so glad you came out to see it, Chief," Deering said. "I hope you'll come to services when it's completed."

  The chief nodded. "You said there would be food and presents. We will come."

  "Of course. And food for your souls, too. Bring everyone. I plan to hold a joint service with my congregation from town to dedicate the chapel.”

  Sun Bear looked over the assembled workers. "What is everybody eating?” He spied Trudy, who was still holding a plate of deviled eggs, and started toward her. Trudy's eyes widened, and she looked ready to let loose another scream.

  "Don't be such a ninny.” Tessa snatched the plate from Trudy's trembling hands and turned to Sun Bear with a smile.

  Sun Bear returned the look. "How is my favorite white woman today?"

  No one said anything while Tessa served the Indians the rest of the food, though Micah thought some of the men looked impressed with her calm handling of the situation. When there was nothing left to eat, Sun Bear and Drinking Wolf said goodbye and rode away. The women packed up their belongings and prepared to depart also, although Trudy insisted Jackie come with her. "I'm not riding all that way by myself when there are savages running around loose," she protested.

  Micah breathed a sigh of relief when she was gone. Even Reverend Deering didn't seem disappointed. Tessa left soon after. Micah knew his weren't the only admiring eyes that followed her slight figure as she guided the wagon across the prairie. He had no doubt that once he was gone, she'd have no shortage of suitors. In fact, the sooner he left her, the better off she'd be. Suddenly, the dinner he'd eaten felt like a rock in his stomach.

  "How much longer do you think it will be before we're ready?" Reverend Deering interrupted his musings.

  Micah studied the growing structure. "Maybe a couple of weeks."

  Deering looked dejected. "I never realized it would take so long."

  "We'll get it finished soon enough, Reverend. Don't you worry.” He walked over and picked up his hammer once more. He climbed a ladder and crawled out onto the rafters and began to hammer in the crosspieces. It was awkward work, straddling the ridgebeam and stretching out to drive in the nails. One wrong move and a man would fall a long way down.

  Micah didn't mind. He wasn't afraid of heights, and he was just as glad to spend all his spare time working on the chapel. It kept him occupied and away from Tessa. As it was, his feelings for her were stronger than ever. He woke at night, half-remembered dreams of her filling his mind, torturing his body.

  He scooted down to the next crosspiece, indulging himself with the memory of how she'd looked, sitting across the supper table from him last night. He hadn't been able to stop watching her mouth, remembering how it felt to kiss her.

  When she'd leaned forward to pass the potatoes, the swell of her breast had caught his eye. He'd had to clench his hands into fists, fighting the urge to reach for her. It was a sickness, really, this longing for something he could never have. But a sickness he was reluctant to seek a cure for.


  Tessa added another stick of wood to the stove and slammed the door shut. She leaned back, red faced and panting in the heat. "Why didn't the Library Society decide to hold an ice cream social instead of a bake sale?” Margery asked, looking up from the basket of peaches she was peeling.

  Tessa glanced at the row of pie shells lined up on the table in front of her, waiting to be filled. "Where would we get ice in the middle of summer?” She took a seat at the table and picked up a knife and a peach. She still felt awkward, now that Doc Richards had cut the cast off her arm, though it was good to have use of both hands again.

  "If I had the money, I'd freight in a whole lake full of ice.” Margery fanned herself furiously.

  "If you had that kind of money, you could just donate it to the Library Society and we wouldn't have to be holding fund raisers at all."

  Margery laughed and held up the peach she was peeling. "Think I've scalped this one enough?"

  Tessa considered the wounded fruit with a critical eye. "I'd say you've taken off more peach than peel."

  Margery added the peach to the bowl in front of her. "I told you I couldn't cook. We always had a striker to do the cooking when I was growing up. Besides, I knew a man would never marry me for my cooking."

  Tessa smiled. "No, I don't imagine most men who see you care whether you can make a nice cream gravy or not."

  "Maybe it's time I learned, though. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, after all.” Her voice caught on the last words.

  "Alan hasn't softened up any?"

  She looked dejected. "No. The only thing that gives me hope is that he looks as miserable as I am.” She shook her head. "Never hurt a man's pride, Tessa. They can't bear it."

  Tessa thought of Will. Had she hurt his pride when she rejected his attempts to 'look after' her? She hadn't seen or heard from him since that morning in Micah's room. He'd never been so quiet for so long. Was he plotting some revenge? Or had he merely left for good?

  The thought grieved her. Surely after all this time, he wouldn't leave without saying goodbye.

  "What about you and Micah?"

  She looked up at her friend, startled by the question. "What about us?"

  "Neither of you look very happy these days."

  Tessa assumed a blank expression. "I don't know what you're referring to."

  Margery shook her head. "I'm not blind, you know. I've seen you making calf eyes at each other.” She dropped another peach in the bowl and wiped her hands on a cup towel. "Why don't you admit you love him?"

  "I can't do that.” She concentrated on carving an even curl of peeling from the peach, avoiding her friend's gaze.

  "Why not?"

  "People will talk."

  Margery dismissed this excuse with a wave of her hand. "People will always talk, Honey. You just learn to ignore them."

  Tessa sighed and laid aside the peach. "That's easy for you to say. You're the center of attention wherever you go. You don't know what it's like to be the outcast."

  Margery leaned forward. "Don't you believe it. There's no bigger caste system in the world than in the military. Rank and money are the only things that matter. That and conforming to the rules the person at the top of the pecking order sets down. I never conformed.” She sat back. "The only reason anyone will have anything to do with me now is because I'm married to Alan. Don't let somebody else decide your happiness for you. Tell 'them' to go to hell."

  Margery's words both thrilled and frightened her. "I'm not like you, Margery. I'm not that brave. Maybe when I was younger. . . "

  "Liar!” The word exploded from Margery's mouth. "You run a ranch in the middle of nowhere, practically by yourself. You make friends with Indian chiefs. You volunteer to make six peach pies for the high and mighty Pony Springs Library Society and have the gumption to ask me to help you. Don't tell me you're not brave."

  Tessa had been close to tears, but now she found herself laughing. "Oh, Margery, I'm so glad I met you."

bsp; "I'm glad I met you too, Hon.” She leaned forward and patted her hand. "Now I've got to get out of this kitchen for a minute. It's hot enough in here to peel paint. I think I'll catch my breath out on the porch."

  Tessa picked up the bowl of peeled peaches. "I'll just finish slicing these. Then we'll be ready to make the pie filling."

  Margery glanced into the bowl. "Maybe I'd just better watch you. I'd probably do something awful like put in salt instead of sugar."

  Tessa laughed again, and sent her friend onto the porch while she pitted and sliced the peaches.

  Only a few minutes passed before Margery called to her. "Tessa, you'd better come out here a minute."

  The note of caution in Margery's voice made Tessa hurry outside. Margery nodded toward the horizon. "Who do you think is headed this way in such a hurry?"

  The wagon bounced toward them across the east pasture, dust boiling up around its wheels. Gabe Emerson sat in the driver's seat, shouting oaths and cracking a whip over the horses, who were white-eyed and flecked with foam. Another man huddled in the wagon box, hanging on for dear life. Tessa and Margery ran to meet them. "Mr. Emerson, what's wrong?" Tessa asked, as he stood and hauled back on the reins.

  "It's that damn half-breed," Emerson growled. "He about got hisself killed."

  "Micah?” Tessa's steps faltered, and she grabbed Margery's arm to steady herself. As Emerson's words echoed around her, the edges of her vision went gray, and she swayed.

  "What happened?" Margery asked, clinging to Tessa, patting her shoulder.

  "He f. . . fell off the r. . . ridge beam, ma'am.” Bryan Ritter scrambled out of the wagon and jerked off his hat, nodding to the two women. "S. . . some b. . . bushes broke his f. . fall, but he hit his . . . his head on a r. . . rock."

  Tessa's head cleared, and she pushed forward, hardly feeling Mr. Ritter's hands as he helped her into the wagon. Micah lay on his back, his head cushioned on a folded burlap sack, the brown sacking stained dark red with blood. "He bled like a stuck pig," Emerson observed. "It was a mighty long fall."

  "Did he fall, or was he pushed?” Tessa whispered. A memory of Micah up on the roof of the house, Will seated beside him, flashed through her mind. How easy it would be for an invisible Will to make a fall look like an accident. . .

  "Now wait just a minute.” Emerson squared his shoulders like an angry bull. "Fox was up on that ridge beam by hisself. None of us would have pushed him."

  "Oh really, Mr. Emerson.” Margery gave him a cutting look. "I understand you threatened to shoot Mr. Fox, one night in the saloon."

  Emerson's face reddened. "Aww, that was the whisky talkin'.” He glanced over his shoulder into the wagon bed. "He's one hard-workin' bastard, I'll give you that."

  "We'd better get him into the house," Tessa said. "Margery, fetch a blanket from my bed. We'll make a sling to carry him."

  Within minutes, the men had transferred Micah's still form to the blanket and carried him up the stairs. Tessa followed, fighting the dizzying sensation that she had gone back in time, to the horrible day when Will had been thrown from a horse and landed wrong.

  A man and his son had stopped by that day to buy a horse. They had carried an unconscious Will up these same stairs, to the same bed, then gone to fetch the doctor. "One of you, ride into town and fetch Dr. Richards," she said, the very words she had used that day. "You can take a fresh horse from the corral."

  "I'll go," Emerson said, and headed from the room.

  "I. . . I. . . I'll go with you.” Ritter followed him down the stairs.

  "Cowards.” Margery cast a scornful look after them, then turned back to Micah. He hadn't made a sound all the way up the stairs, and his face was the color of undercooked biscuit dough.

  She put out a hand, as if to stroke his forehead, then drew it back. "What can I do to help?" she asked.

  Tessa forced herself to think, to act. "Fetch some hot water from the stove boiler. And some clean towels."

  Margery left the room and Tessa eased onto the side of the bed. With trembling hands, she stroked the hair back from Micah's forehead. The black locks were damp and sticky with blood. It soaked into the blanket beneath him, the metallic smell of it sharp in the air.

  Sick with fear, she forced herself to probe his scalp, until she located the sharp jagged cut, a few inches back on the left side of his part.

  "The water's good and hot, at least.” Margery appeared in the doorway, a stack of towels folded over one shoulder, a basin of steaming water in her hands.

  Tessa pulled a chair out from the wall and arranged it by the bed. "I'll need the scissors from my sewing kit," she said. "It's over there by the window."

  Margery fetched the scissors and watched as Tessa cut through the thong that tied Micah's hair. "You aren't going to cut his hair, are you?" she asked.

  "I have to cut it away from the wound.” She clenched her teeth, concentrating on keeping her hands steady, and snipped the first lock of hair, close to the scalp. When the cut was laid bare, she sat back, exhausted. But her work had only begun.

  "Where is that doctor?" Margery wrung her hands and peered out the window.

  Tessa soaked a cloth in water and began to clean around the wound. Blood still seeped from the cut, but she thought it flowed more slowly now. Because it was finally clotting, or because there was less in him to bleed? Gently, she washed his forehead, passing the damp cloth over his eyes, sunken above the taut skin of his cheekbones. Her hand trembled as she brushed his lips, remembering the kisses they'd shared.

  "Why won't he wake up?” Margery stood at her shoulder, staring down at the bed with tear-filled eyes.

  "He will," Tessa said. Surely he will.


  Micah dreamed he was falling. A long, long, way down. He kept reaching for the crossbeam of the roof, and it wasn't there. And then he was lying on his back, eyes open, a gray haze closing in. Gabe Emerson was leaning down in his face, shouting words he could barely hear. Something about not giving up that easy.

  Then Emerson was picking him up, carrying him. And the grayness was closing in.


  Horses' hooves clattered on the hard dirt of the drive. "Finally!” Margery exclaimed and ran to the window. Moments later, Doctor Richards and Reverend Deering raced up the stairs.

  The doctor glanced over his patient and opened his bag. "The wound's ready to suture. I'll take care of that first."

  Tessa retreated to the end of the bed. Reverend Deering came and took her hand. "We must pray," he said.

  She nodded, but words failed her. Only an unspeaking sorrow in her heart cried out for relief. She had watched one man she loved die in this very bed, in this very way. How could she bear to lose another?

  While the doctor worked, Reverend Deering persuaded Tessa and Margery to come downstairs to the kitchen, where he made tea and offered soothing words of comfort. At last, they heard the doctor's footsteps on the stairs. "Now all we can do is wait," he said.

  "I'll send word to the fort that I'm spending the night here," Margery said as the doctor prepared to go.

  "I'll stay also," Reverend Deering said.

  "No.” Tessa fended off their concerned looks with a flood of words. "It'll be all right, really. You've been so much help already. Go home and rest. You can come back in the morning."

  They offered up protests, but in the end, they agreed to go, promising to return at dawn.

  When they departed and the house was empty once more, Tessa climbed the stairs to watch at Micah's bedside, and wait. She moved a chair close beside the bed and stared at his still form, unconsciously matching the rhythm of her breathing to his own shallow respirations. The whole scene had the surreal quality of a bad dream. Only an hour before, her main concern had been preparing pies for the Library Society Bake Sale. Her world had been full of people and activity, all of it seemingly important. In an instant, her vision had narrowed to this one room, this one man. Nothing else, large or small, mattered to her anym

  She reached for Micah's hand and squeezed it, trying to summon up a prayer. But the only words she could speak were more threat than plea: "Dammit, Micah Fox, don't you dare die on me!"


  A pounding reverberated off the inside of Micah's skull, as if someone were beating a drum close by his ear. He shuddered, and tried to move away from the painful noise, but his limbs felt as if they were encased in sand.

  Opening his eyes, he stared into unfamiliar dimness. As he strained to see, his surroundings swam into focus: A embroidered sampler on the wall, rows of alphabet letters picked out in blue cross stitching; a square of light, framed with lace-edged curtains; a bowl of beaded flowers atop a dresser. Where had he seen these things before?

  The fog began to recede from his brain. He concentrated, trying to remember. Last he knew, he'd been atop the ridgepole of the chapel, nailing crosspieces to the rafters. How had he gotten here, flat on his back in a bed?

  Something soft brushed his arm. He turned his head, though his skull throbbed with the effort, and saw a woman's brown hair spread out on the mattress beside him. Tessa sat in a chair next to the bed, slumped forward in sleep.

  He raised his hand, to touch the downy softness of her hair. She stirred, then drew back with a start. "Micah.” The word came out as a sigh, and she closed her eyes, as if in silent prayer. "How are you feeling?" she asked when she looked at him once more.

  "Like someone took a hammer to my head.” He gingerly touched the place from where the pain seemed to radiate, and felt a lump of bandages. "What happened?"

  "They said you fell from the roof of the chapel.” She smoothed the blankets along the side of the bed. "I wondered if you were pushed."

  "Pushed? Who would have pushed me?"

  She looked down. "I thought maybe. . . Will."

  He frowned, trying to think. But he had no recollection of anything after climbing to the ridgebeam and reaching for a hammer. "I don't remember.” He felt the knot of bandages again. "Who cut my hair?"

  "I did. I had to.” She smoothed the remaining hair away from his forehead. "It will grow back."

  He captured her hand in his and kissed her fingers, feeling them tremble beneath his lips. "Thank you.” Then he pushed himself up on his elbows, wincing with the effort.

  "You should lie down and rest.” She stood and leaned over him, alarmed.

  He shook his head. "I won't lie here like an invalid. Help me sit up."

  The worried look did not leave her face, but she helped him sit, propping pillows at his back. He fought dizziness and gave her a weak smile. "That's better.” He looked toward the window, at the gray light outside. "How long was I out?"

  "Most of the night. Are you hungry?"

  He shook his head. Food did not interest him at the moment. "Sit down again and keep me company."

  She settled in the chair again, and took the hand he held out to her. He thought of her, sitting through the night, unsure if he would wake again. "I'm sorry to put you through this," he said softly.

  "Shhh. It doesn't matter now.” She squeezed his hand.

  He wished he had the strength to gather her in his arms and comfort her, to hold her until the haunted look left her eyes. "You said you thought Will pushed me. Why?"

  She looked away. "Because he didn't want us to be together."

  "He was your husband; do you really think he'd resort to murder?"

  "I don't know.” Her voice was anguished. "Wouldn't you kill to protect the woman you loved?"

  He nodded. "But. . . I don't think he would do something like this.” He said the words to comfort her, but instinct told him they were true after all. Will Bright was not the sort of man -- or ghost -- to ambush his enemy. He had thrown a flowerpot in a moment of anger, but even that had been an act of passion, not premeditation, like throwing a man from a rooftop. Still, they couldn't be certain Will was no behind this.

  "Promise me you'll be careful," she said.

  "I promise.” The tenderness he saw in her eyes made his stomach twist. The time had come to speak the truth. "You know I still want you," he said.

  "I still want you," she whispered.

  He slipped his hand from beneath hers and looked away. "But we can't always have what we want, can we?"

  He waited for some protest, and prayed she wouldn't make this more difficult than it already was. But after a moment of silence, she stood and walked out of the room.

  He turned his face to the wall, knowing the wound to his heart would take far longer to heal than the one to his head.

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