Distant Heart

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman Read Free Book Online

Book: Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tracey Bateman
of acceptance. “I appreciate the confidence.”
    â€œFine. If you’ll excuse me. I’m going back to the fort.”
    â€œNot by yourself, you’re not,” Grant said.
    â€œWho’s going to stop me?”
    â€œI’m not stopping you, but I’m not letting you go alone either.”
    Anger flashed in the woman’s eyes. “You seem to make a habit of following women who’d rather be alone.”
    Sam tried not to grin. It really wasn’t fair to Grant considering he’d only been trying to protect Toni, just as he was bent on protecting this young woman. But he’d never seen a woman put Grant in his place before.
    From the fort, the sound of the bugle announced the end of the day.
    â€œI’m afraid it’s too late for you to return to the fort tonight,” Sam said.
    The young woman frowned. “What do you mean? You’re keeping me here against my will?”
    â€œNo, miss,” Sam replied. “The reveille has sounded. The last of our people will be on their way back and the gate closed and locked for the night. They will not open the gate for you.”
    His words seemed to silence her and she frowned as though in heavy thought. Expelling a breath, she planted her hands on her hips. “First they won’t let me out, now they won’t let me in.” She gave Sam a pointed stare. “Where’s a lady supposed to sleep?”
    Sam made a quick decision. “Grant, will you please escort Miss Ginger to Miss Sadie’s tent and ask if she’d be willing to put this woman up for the night?”
    Sam watched them go, pleased with himself. This solved two problems. It kept the girl from trying to leave camp and got her out of his hair. But he’d be glad to hand her back to the soldiers at the fort first thing in the morning. He had a feeling about this girl and it wasn’t necessarily a good one.
    Sleep eluded Toni. As much as she tried to force herself to relax, she knew it was futile until Fannie returned with news. Was she going to marry Blake at the fort? Her mind wandered back over the events of the night, and back to Sam’s warm arms and rock hard chest. She allowed herself a few moments of weakness and dreamed of gentle caresses and whispered words of love, then pushed them firmly aside as the camp began to fill up with the travelers returning from the fort.
    Finally, a knock outside the wagon alerted her to Fannie’s presence. “Toni? Are you awake?”
    Toni crawled to the opening in the canvas. “What are you knocking for?”
    Fannie pointed to Blake, who held a sleeping child in his arms. “Katie couldn’t hold her head up another minute.” Fannie gave the child a tender smile. “And you know how soundly she sleeps, so Blake carried her home. Can he come in and lay her down?”
    Fingering the top of her nightgown, Toni was suddenly struck with a modesty she hadn’t known she possessed. “Just a minute. Let me grab my shawl.” She draped the shawl over her shoulders and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I suppose he can come in now.” She held back the canvas flap so the wagon master wouldn’t have to struggle to climb up to the canvas and crawl over the back of the wagon. Nevertheless, forced to bend low inside the cramped quarters, he stumbled, but righted himself in time to prevent sending Katie and himself tumbling to the floor.
    â€œThat pallet,” Toni said, feeling the embarrassment of being this close to a man in their very own quarters. It really wasn’t decent. Even she knew that. And she hadn’t been faced with the situation in months. A thrill rose inside of her at the thought that she never again had to entertain a man’s presence.
    Blake kept his gaze averted from Toni and carefully lowered Katie to the pallet and then cleared his throat. “Night, Toni. Sorry to bother you.”

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