A Lady in Defiance

A Lady in Defiance by Heather Blanton

Book: A Lady in Defiance by Heather Blanton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Heather Blanton
her, Naomi suggested they cook dinner outside over a
fire one last time. The marshal excused himself, citing important duties, and
Emilio started to slink away as well, but the girls weren’t about to let him go
without showing their appreciation for his help.
    “Emilio, you must eat dinner with us,” Rebecca coaxed, taking
a box of groceries from him and setting them on the kitchen floor. “We’d love
to have you stay if you don’t have a better offer.”
    Naomi could see that the boy was waffling and pushed him over
the edge. “We insist. If you wouldn’t care to chop a few pieces of firewood,
I’ll get some rocks to ring a pit.”
    “Ok,” he acquiesced, bobbing his head. “Eef you’re sure ees
OK?”
    The warm smiles of his hostesses pretty much answered that
question. Rebecca stayed inside to put some things away and check on Hannah
while Naomi and Emilio hunted around for the ax. Whicker had left a fairly
impressive pile of unsplit logs, but Naomi knew just from Southern winters, it
wouldn’t be enough.
    Once their new helper was on task, she appraised the
backyard. The former tenant had also slapped up a small corral and a rickety
lean-to, both of which she had initially categorized as an eyesore. Now she was
grateful for them. The chickens, in cages tucked under the lean-to, squawked
and clucked when they saw her, eager for some corn. Sampson and the mules
trotted over to the fence, neighing expectantly for their evening meal. She let
her eyes roam back to the wagon, sitting alone and unhitched. It plucked a
string of sadness in her.
    Fighting a melancholy mood that threatened to drown her, she
meandered down to the stream and watched the sun balance precariously for a
moment on the ridge of the distant mountains before its final descent. The mountains
glowed a radiant purple in the retreating light and the disappearing sun
colored the snowy peaks a pale shade of orange. The peaceful landscape gave her
spirit rest. In spite of everything that had brought them here, everything
they’d seen, she couldn’t help but feel these mountains ministered to her soul.
If only John could be sitting here with her now…
     
     
    Night had descended by the time they were all sitting down to
supper. Naomi had gone to the extra work of finding unsplit logs to drag up and
set around the fire, creating a cozy little oasis of sorts. She couldn’t
believe after months of camping, that she still had a desire to experience
these mountains by starlight. Cool and clear, summer nights in the Rockies
suited her perfectly. She didn’t care if she ever sweated through the
suffocating humidity of the South again.
    They ate hungrily−especially Emilio−and the girls
couldn’t help but notice. Hannah slowly swirled a biscuit around in her gravy
as she studied him. “Emilio, do you have family in town?”
    “ Si ,” he nodded, popping a piece of ham in to his
mouth. “My seester ees here too.”
    “Oh, that’s nice. What does she do?”
    He stopped chewing abruptly, then slowly shrugged and
swallowed. “She work for Meester McIntyre, too.”
    They knew enough by his reaction not to follow that line of
questioning, but Naomi couldn’t help but wonder why he was so hungry. “Where do
the two of you stay? Who cooks for you?”
    “I have a cot in the back room at the Iron Horse and Rose has
a nice room upstairs. She bring me food from Martha’s Kitchen or sometimes
leftovers when she cooks for Meester McIntyre.”
    Naomi had noticed Martha’s Kitchen on their way in. It was a
dirty, slapped-together, open-air “restaurant” just a few buildings up the
street. Men ate on long tables out in front of it while a woman walked around
with a pot dropping unappetizing mush onto the customers’ plates. No wonder the
child was half-starved. And he slept in the back of a saloon. Pitiful. Naomi
watched shock and compassion over Emilio’s situation dawn on her sisters’
faces. She knew they were losing their hearts.
    “I don’t

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