He fell asleep with a hand on her hip, warm in the fragrant hay. For once, they were somewhere with some degree of safety.
Maybe it was foolish to sleep now, but they needed to sleep. They needed it, especially if they were out in the wilderness, unsure of what they were facing.
He woke up with his arm around her and a handful of her breast.
His body delighted in her nearness, but he couldn’t take advantage of her. He wouldn’t. When he was her only safety, he couldn’t take advantage of that. He pulled his hand away and inched back from her.
She groaned and rolled over, putting her head on his chest and wrapping her leg over his cock, pulling him closer. Her arm was around his waist and holding him tightly.
She kept inching closer and making soft little snuffles of enjoyment with her eyes closed.
He could just make out her face in the dusk of the stable. Night would be falling soon.
“Judy,” he finally whispered. He shook her shoulder softly, then said, “Judy,” a little louder.
She roused and opened her eyes, looking at their configuration, then pulling away quickly. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Why?” He shook his head. “We’re our only safety.” When he said it, he’d meant that he was her only safety, but once it was out, he realized that she was all he could depend on here too.
She looked at the ladder leading from the loft and said, “I’m hungry. You hungry?”
He nodded. “Let’s get some food.”
They went out from the loft and were nearing the cabin, not holding hands but almost close enough together to feel the others’ presence. He’d do anything to make sure that his family was protected. He didn’t know them, but he felt a strong attachment to them. And, for the first time, another hint of the attachment to the land. Not only was the land a connection to his father, but he saw a slip of the fascination Kit had for the land.
“How are you feeling?” he asked Judy.
She shrugged against him, moving close enough for her shoulder to brush his upper arm. “Out of place, but not unwell if that makes sense. You?”
“I can kind of see what my dad was talking about with the land here.”
Something about the way she looked at him made him feel like it was safe to be open, that it was safe to say what was in his heart because she could have seen it anyway.
“What will you do when we get home?”
“I don’t know.” He couldn’t say he didn’t know what would happen if they didn’t get home. He didn’t know what would happen to the land. He didn’t have any family. Maybe there was a cousin or something tucked away somewhere. He didn’t have a lawyer, he didn’t have anything.
Hopefully the cattle would be okay without him there. They wouldn’t need a veterinarian, no storms would come up. Even if it did, they’d bunch up and keep themselves warm.
He cleared the edge of the stable and saw someone at the door to the cabin. He turned back to Judy with his finger to his lips and pushed her against the stable. She looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes and he pointed around the corner. She stretched and peeked, then was right back against the stable. The fear shivered through her, from her shoulders to her hips, but she reached up to him, a hand on his hip and the other on the side of his face. She stretched on tiptoes and kissed his cheek softly, then moved back to the wall.
He swallowed, then moved toward the cabin, creeping for a minute, then rushing the intruder and jumping on him.
The man under him yelled, then grunted as he hit the ground. The door swung open and the sound of a shotgun being chambered <is that right?> echoed through Stud’s head.
“Get off!” the man yelled.
But Stud didn’t want to move yet. Not until he knew Judy was safe, not until he knew who he was on top of.
The fading daylight was just bright enough to see he was on top of Bill O’Keefe.
“This is him,” Stud said. “This is Bill O’Keefe, Kit.”
“I see,” Kit said. He took a step back, the shotgun still trained on both of them.
“This is how you repay my hospitality?” Bill said. “I feed you and now you jump on me, Jones?”
Kit raised an eyebrow. “I thought you said your name was Steve Marlowe?”
Judy came forward from around the edge of the stable. “It is. But once he said O’Keefe, he knew that he wasn’t blood.”
Kit considered for a moment and O’Keefe said, “You lied to me?”
“You’re on Marlowe land,” Stud said. He still had a forearm to the other man’s neck, holding him down to the packed dirt in front of the door. “Anyone living on Marlowe land who isn’t a Marlowe is going to get more of the same.”
O’Keefe laughed. “Well, it’s a good thing you ran into me earlier and not Butch. Because Butch wouldn’t have fed you or nothin’. And, if you’ve got me, then he’s still out there.”
Stud frowned, then looked at Kit and Sylvia. How would he keep them safe? How could he keep them safe from this unknown? How had he lived with this history and never learned about the claim jumpers?
Stud climbed off O’Keefe carefully, the shotgun still trained on him. Judy’s eyes were wide and he could see the worry all through her.
“Go get the sheriff, Kit,” Stud said. “I’ll stay here and watch him. Do you want to go tonight? Or go in the morning?”