The sun was soon to rise over the tops of the surrounding mountains when Ellen awoke. Beside her slumbered a long masculine form. After the months of close quarters and the weeks of nursing him through his injuries, she was finally free to touch the planes of his face and run her hand the length of his wide chest without reservations.
She giggled as she leaned down to whisper her lips along his jawline. Slade brushed at the tickle but Ellen leaned back quickly enough that his hand encountered nothing. She leaned over and lay her head on his shoulder. Her cloud of wild curls brushed his face and tickled his jaw in earnest.
Startled, Slade sat halfway up, then flopped down with a whoop of laughter. “I couldn’t imagine what that was!” He wrapped his hand in a fistful of curls, letting them tangle through his fingers. “What a wonder. Not only am I married to my beautiful dream, but I am free to twist her hair through my fingers. And she isn’t complaining!”
He pulled her close to kiss her. “Is it all right with you if our wedding night becomes our wedding morning instead?”
“Mmmm.” Ellen answered. “Does that sound like a complaint?”
As the sun made its sedate way above the mountain and spread its beams across the land, Slade made his bride his wife in every slow and beautiful way he could envision.
When the bright sunlight burst through the windows of their bedroom, Slade was awakened for the second time that morning. His wife, he smiled to himself, his wife was rattling amid her boxes and packages.
“What are you doing at this dreadfully early hour?” He asked her.
“Early?! I’m sure you were the one talking about getting an early start!”
“I’ve thought it over and decided noon will do just as well.” Slade pulled the blanket up around his ears.
“No! I cannot believe it. I’ve never known you to laze in bed. Even when you were all broken up, you were fussing to be out of bed!”
“Yes,” Slade returned. “But someone woke me very early this morning. And yesterday they woke me in the middle of the night! I’m exceptionally exhausted.”
Ellen threw one of her packages at him. For such a tired man, Slade caught it neatly before it hit him in the head. He got out of bed and pulled his underpants up. He fumbled for the trousers he had worn the night before and before he bothered to find any other clothes he took a minute to catch Ellen in a giant hug and kiss her thoroughly. After that he was dressed in short order.
“For someone who is so awake and perky, why aren’t you dressed yet?”
“I’ve been sorting through the things in here and trying to get things packed. You were the one who wanted to have things packed this morning!
“I think I have the other room organized, but you will have to look it over. The things remaining have to be used for our trip home and I’m not that familiar with how they must be packed.
“Eli! What are you doing!? I am trying to be serious here!” Ellen giggled. Slade had finished dressing and was tickling her and untying her robe. He kissed her neck and pulled her hair loose from the twist she had bundled it into.
“I like your hair loose like this, but I’m trying to help you get dressed.” Slade pretended hurt and he continued to pull her robe off.
“You are incorrigible! In all those months I lived in your house I never expected you to be so..so forward!” She wiggled around to face him so his kisses landed on her mouth instead of her ticklish neck.
After a brief loving, Slade set her back, holding her upper arms in his hands. “I could stay here with you all day.” He pecked her forehead quickly. “But we have too much to do!
“What are you wearing for our trip?”
“I think I must begin in my red skirt and shirtwaist that Mrs. Coulter made me,” Ellen told him. “She would be so disappointed if she saw me setting out in anything else. I will wear that with the shawl and my beautiful cape. Besides, which, I have to stop and pay her for the work she has done and all these beautiful things.
“When we get a ways out of town, maybe where we camped on our trip in, we can pause a bit and I’ll put on Madeline’s dress with my old work skirt over it. I’ll wear el Viejo’s ugly old coat because it is still the warmest thing I have!”
“I think you will need it for the trip home.” Slade stopped and savored the sound of the word ‘home;’ it was exciting to consider that the little house was not only his home but now it was hers also. “Our supply load is heavy and our team will have to go slowly. It may take a couple extra days to get back.”
He stopped for one more kiss. “I will go and get the things for camping organized and ready to put in the wagon.
“Get dressed.” He turned away to go in the other room.
“Are you sure you don’t want to help me?” Ellen teased.
“I do want to help you!!” Slade returned. “But we haven’t enough time for that.”
Ellen laughed at him and pulled her night dress over her head. Slade stood another second watching and then made himself go in to the sitting room.
Ellen quickly dressed and finished packing the few things into boxes and wrapping them in canvas. She folded Madeline’s green dress with its petticoat and the work skirt and tucked them inside the old coat. She stacked everything close to the door with her little trunk beside them. The little trunk held her comb and personal things with her new underthings and new dresses. It was much fuller now than when she made the journey to
. She planned to
put her pretty clothes and cape in it when she changed into her traveling
clothes. Santa Fe
‘I’m ready.” She announced, going into the sitting room.