The rain drummed. The wind moaned. The stovepipe clattered. Turning to the window, Nick looked out at the dark. Minutes dragged by until, at last, a tiny speck of light flickered to life in the distance. He imagined Frank stepping into the one-room building that was his home, lighting the lantern, trading his work clothes for his shin-long nightshirt then settling down on his mattress to sleep?a sixty-year-old man, alone.
A raindrop caught Nick on the bridge of his nose. He watched the water-spot on the ceiling grow dark and heavy before dropping its burden on the front of his shirt. Wearily, he searched beneath the sink for a pan large enough to hold an entire night's worth of leakage then dismissed the idea. Until the land feud between the farmers and the Cockatoos was settled, he'd be up and down throughout the night checking out any suspicious noises. He hadn't been hit by Tennyson's pack of marauders yet, but his day was coming.
Deciding the roaster would do, he positioned it beneath the drip. He'd put out the lantern and started for the bedroom when he remembered it was occupied. He moved on to the parlor, only to be brought up short by the sight of Summer sitting on the settee, small shoulders erect, hands folded in her lap, sights set on the fireplace. On the floor at her feet was her valise, beside it her bird-feather hat.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
"I wouldn't think o' displacin' y' from yer bed, Mr. Sabre. I'm sleepin' here."
"Don't be stupid."
"Y've made yerself perfectly clear. My residin' here is temporary?and, besides, considerin' the circumstances, it wouldn't be proper for us t' sleep together."
"I had no intention of sleeping with you."
Her chin came around. "Oh?"
"I'm sleeping here."
"On this?" She looked at the settee.
She shook her head. "I'm the one who is uninvited. I shan't put y' out any more than necessary. Just forget that I'm here."
"That'll be the day," he muttered to himself. Moving around the settee, he swept up her valise and hat. Before she could skewer him with her eyes again, he grabbed her arm and propelled her out of the parlor to the bedroom, where he tossed the case in the vicinity of the bed, plunked the hat on her head, spun on his bootheel and returned to the parlor. There, he stood with his hands on his hips and stared into the empty fireplace and listened to the rain drip into the pan. Minutes ticked by, then:
"What?" When she didn't respond, he looked over his shoulder. She stood in the doorway with her burnished hair falling softly over the white nightgown with its pink ribbons tied in a dainty bow at her throat. The gown pooled over her toes by a good three inches. She was clutching a quilt and his pillow to her stomach. "What?" he repeated.
"I thought y' might need these." She extended the pillow.
He turned to face the hearth again. The pillow, then the quilt, landed with a muffled thud on the settee behind him. Then, the bedroom door closed with a short squeak of its hinges.