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The Hours #16

As the day progressed, the stream was joined by two others and might have been better called a river when we came to what I judged to be a good place to camp. The water ran wide and shallow between two high cliffs. There was a small overhang that left an indentation tall enough for me to stand in. We were close to the edge of the cliff and I believed we could run out if anything came at us in the night.

I found a few small fish in a slight pool and was able to net them with my shirt. We roasted them and ate before full dark had come upon us.

“You seem to have missed your calling as a fisherman,” Samantha said. “Those were very good.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I believe the secret to the recipe is the soiled shirt.”

She smiled widely, and I grinned. Staring at her until her smile faded.

“Why do you look at me like that?”

“I was thinking of everything you have told me about your relationship with Carl.”

She stiffened. “Oh?”

I lifted my palm to her. “You have been a good companion. Without you, I would not still be alive. I think Carl misjudged you when he said that the marriage was not favorable.”

Samantha’s mouth fell open.

“He and I spoke about you and I must admit that I judged you poorly. I gave to much import to the conditions of your birth and status. Carl did as well. You would make any man an excellent wife.”

Samantha sat there in silence for a long time. “Those are kind words,” she said. “But after my tale, we both know that no gentleman will ever be willing to have me.”

“You ladies put far too much weight into the value of your virtue to a nobleman.” I shook my head. “There are many ladies who do things before their wedding night. There are many who have known more men than their husbands, both before and after. You will not have issue and I will carry your secret to my grave.”

She chuckled before leaning over and placing a small kiss on my cheek. The impression of her lips burned on my skin while Samantha rested her head upon my shoulder. “You are very kind.”

“My father would have skinned me for being anything other.”

The night wore on in silence for a while and I felt the visit of Morpheus approaching. I wondered about keeping watch, and was about to ask when Samantha spoke. “You saved my life today.”

“As you would have mine.”

“Thank you.”

I meant to tell her that she was welcome, but Samantha leaned up and interrupted me with a kiss. Not on the cheek, but a full kiss, slow and soft.

When our lips parted, I swallowed and regretted being able to hear it.

Samantha moved, taking a seat on my lap and wrapping her arms around my neck. “You are a fine man,” she said. “You have been kind and brave without asking a thing of me. That is more than any other man I have known.” She rested her palms on my chest, her dark skin standing out in stark contrast to my inner shirt’s almost white fabric. “I do not attempt to replace your Mary, but if you want me, I would be yours.”

I answered her with a kiss and forgot all about taking turns keeping watch.

 

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