Cabot followed as Nicholas turned to a sheer wall. He took her elbow and guided her around a chain link fence.
"Canyon de Chelly is a national monument. We call it Tseyi, which means 'within the rocks. The valley belongs to the Navajo, the ruins the government. They fence them off because people deface them. They've had to do a lot of restoration. It's an ongoing thing. The bricks are made of the canyon's red sandstone, which is soft, so erosion is a problem as well."
Cabot followed as he began to ascend the cliff, using small hand and footholds.
"Just follow me, it's not difficult. Are you nervous about heights?"
"No. I'll be fine. I'll follow you."
It was not a climb of more than twenty feet off the valley floor when they reached the ledge. The light from the moon picked out a small, ancient ruin.
"It's Anasazi. The Ancient Ones lived here approximately a thousand years ago. No one's exactly sure why they left. Drought. Marauding tribes. But they were the ancestors of the Pueblo tribes. This dwelling is a small one. Maybe five families lived here." He indicated a flat stone. "Sit down." He lowered himself beside her and looked around. "I love to come up here, especially on a night like this."
The valley looked ghostly and calm. The sound of the distant drum echoed softly against the walls.
"Should we be here?" she whispered.
His teeth flashed. "No."
Nicholas remained quiet and Cabot knew he wanted her to feel the mystery of the place. Bright moonlight drenched the soft sandstone, creating dark shadows in the rooms and in the stillness of the ruin Cabot began to feel the presence of the ancient families who had descended these walls daily to their farms and orchards on the valley floor. She closed her eyes and, with the pulsing drumbeat in the background, could imagine voices and children's laughter. She opened her eyes and glanced over at Nicholas and saw he was smiling at her reverie.
After awhile, he stood and pulled her up. Wordlessly they retraced the footholds down the cliff face. Nicholas went first. At the bottom he reached up swung her away from the last handholds and set her down gently, his hands lingering only a moment at her waist and when she turned he was already moving away.
They walked along the riverbed and the sound of the drum diminished and the splash of the water and the rustle of the cottonwoods took over.
"I think I'm lost," Cabot said.
"I know this place like the back of my hand, night or day. I was born here. It was my playground."
"Thank you for the ruin."
"I thought you'd like it." After a while he said, "Tell me something."
"If I can," she said.
"Why are you named for your grandfather?"
"It's my middle name, really. I chose to use it because ... because it makes me seem, well, more masculine I guess. I want to be a surgeon. Women aren't very common in the surgical fields. I thought Cabot sounded more, well, authoritative."
Nicholas gave a short laugh. "Masculine. Masculine? You? That's really funny."
"It isn't," she said defensively.
He stopped her with his hand. "Okay. Cabot is more authoritative than what? What really is your name?"
She hesitated. "Lily."
He raised his hand and touched her hair. "I like it. It suits you. You look like a Lily."
Cabot held her breath.
His gaze was penetrating and he finally spoke. "Tell me, Lily Cabot Chase. Why are you here? I don't think you want to be."
"It's too long a story."
She felt herself tense under his scrutiny, wanting to edge away. His eyes swept her face, then his hand moved up and he watched his finger curl around a lock of her hair at her shoulder.
"Do you know something?" he asked.
She cleared her throat. "What?"
"Whenever I step toward you, or reach out to you, you step back. No, that's not exactly it. You ... shy away."
"Oh, I don't."
Abruptly he moved closer. She jumped back. Her heel caught a gopher hole and she slipped to her bottom, her eyes startled and wide, her mouth open.
Nicholas squatted down, his elbows on his knees, grinning. "I rest my case. Close your mouth."
She bit her lip.
The light from the moon made his eyes glitter. "Are you afraid of me, Lily Cabot Chase?"
Her voice sounded hoarse in her ears. "Why, that's absurd. Of course not."
He held out his hand and pulled her to her feet.
She looked into the eyes that slanted so much like his grandmother's.
They stood, not touching, except for the fingers he wound through the curls along her shoulder.
He spoke almost absently. "I have a horse. She's red. Real pretty. But she's spooky. I've got to take her by whatever scares her a dozen times. Maybe more, before she settles down."
"Is this a parable?" she asked dryly.
There was a pause before he answered. "Maybe." His eyes held hers until she looked away.
From a copse perhaps twenty feet away, over the whispers of the river and the cottonwoods, there began to come sounds of lovemaking reaching a heated peak.
Nicholas clenched his fingers in her hair, then laughed shortly. "C'mon. We'd better get back before we step on somebody."