Rose peeked over Dave’s shoulder and found Agnes looking coolly at their reunion. Clearly, she and Dave had no official understanding. Else, he wouldn’t have left her in the dust to kiss Rose, old flame or not. He wasn’t the kind of man to be so inconsiderate.
Instead of stomping off to the kitchen in a huff as Rose would have expected her to do, she gave a bloodcurdling smile that promised wicked intent. Calmly, Agnes sashayed to the kitchen. Rose retreated to the warmth of Dave’s body.
His cheek caressed hers. His heady smell of horse, tack, earth, and sweat whirled her into an eddy of indecision. One moment, she undeniably believed their road would continue until Death came to claim either of them. Another moment, she feared looking into his eyes, feared her unanswered questions would push her into a pit of hate.
Blindly, she reached for his hand. Her voice broke as she said, “We need to talk.” She turned to the three men who rushed to pick up their cup or spoon to seem as if they had been busy eating or drinking. She said, “Please continue. Excuse me.”
Dave firmly linked his hand in hers and led her out the door. They walked hand in hand away from the mile house. When enough distance had been covered, she decided to look him in the eye. In that one look, the past came flooding back. She gave a sad smile as she asked, “What does Agnes mean to you? Are you and she…? The tenderness with which you held her….”
His eyes intimated no defensiveness. There was no edge to his stance. His voice was calm and unassuming; he didn’t talk to her as if she were going to run away. He knew she wouldn’t. “When I came in just now, she jumped into my arms. It’s the first time she’s done that. I’ve been visiting her once or twice a week to see how she’s doing and to teach her about horses.”
“It can’t be the first time she’s touched you.”
He looked to the side and huffed lightly. “No, you’re right, it isn’t. She has touched my arm in the past. I thought those touches were innocent, but when she jumped into my arms just now…well, when you walked in, I was about to tell her I don’t see her that way. I don’t deny she’s really pretty, but she’s not going to turn my head or my heart anytime soon from the only one who’s held them from the start.”
Rose looked down at their intertwined fingers. She could accept what she had seen; for (she had to be honest with herself) if Dave had come upon some of her interactions with Lord Faversham, he would have initiated this same conversation and she would have given him the same reassurances.
She remembered the dances with Lord Faversham and the closeness they had shared when he had privately tutored her in Spanish. Would she have given mercy to herself if she had been Dave stumbling upon those intimate moments? Having trod in his shoes, she decided she would be understanding. And looking into his eyes and seeing all the love in the world only for her, she believed him, simple faith transcending to deeper love.
She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. Nuzzling her nose against his plaid shirt, she smiled and laughed.
He murmured against her hair, “It’s a good look on you.”
“I believe it’s something I might have to get used to.”
“I see you need me around to keep you humble.”
“I do…need you.”
She gave him a quick peck and loosen...