Two hours after dinner, Lily found herself sitting on the steps of Durant's train car. The sun was setting and she could barely see the outline of trees that would soon be cut down to make way for tracks. It was one of the sacrifices of progress, these trees, this beauty that had captivated Robert and his dream. She was determined to see it to the end, no matter what.
Smoothing down her skirts, she tried to stand but the hem of the dress caught on something: a nail. Even in moonlight, it looked like the ones Cullen Bohannon had used to secure the floorboards in the tent she no longer habited. But it wasn't possible. Surely she could find these nails anywhere.
Someone said her name, but she didn't move. Closing her eyes, she could see him walking towards her, every step of his surefooted gate sending sparks up her spine. When he reached the steps of the rail car, he extended a hand. She laid hers in it and let him pull her into his arms. He just held her, his bearded chin gently resting atop her head.
"Are you alright?"
Lily jumped at Durant's voice, nearly falling off the edge of the bottom step. Durant caught her. They stood awkwardly for a moment, the summer heat still permeating about them. Lily was the first to speak. "Yes, I am fine." She said. Her shoulder tensed up at his touch, and he quickly let go.
"What were you doing out here without a light?"
"I wasn't thinking," she said, "Forgive me, Thomas."
He only chuckled. "We've an early start in the morning, my dear. You had best settle in for the night."
"In a moment, "she replied, not moving from the steps. Durant nodded and bid her goodnight. For another hour, Lily stayed outside and listened to the sounds of Hell on Wheels. Somehow, she had come to love this place. Even now, this place was alive with laughter. From the saloon, she could hear fiddle music fluttering softly. In a matter of weeks, it had become a community ready to take on the rigors of this dream her husband had created.
She thought of Bohannon now. The moment was gone, but the sensations she had imagined still lingered. Every part of it seemed real—his smell, the feel of his calloused hands running up her arms. If he were here now, she'd kiss him. And she would smack him for making her feel lonely, an ache she hadn't felt since Robert…
It was Henri, Durant's manservant. He spoke softly from the doorway. "Monsieur Durant asked me to prepare you some hot water. It's ready."
Lily stood up, pulling the stray nail from the stair. "Thank you, Henri." She whispered and stepped inside.
As promised, Henri had prepared a bath in her chamber. She quickly removed her clothes to enjoy the warm water. Not two seconds after stepping out of her skirt, something flashed against the curtained window. She heard several fitful movements and a soft tap at the door that lead to another train car. She decided to ignore it. The tapping began again. Against her better judgment, she donned a heavy robe and approached the door.
"Who is it?"
Cullen. She couldn't open the door fast enough. Every part of her was on fire. Her fingers stalled over the locks and she had to take a breath to calmly her steady her fingers. After prying apart the third latch, she opened the door. It took all she had to not throw herself in his arms. He filled the entranceway, favoring his right leg.
"Why...when?" she said, the words barely coming from her lips.
He was a mess. Dust covered him from head to toe in soot, and wild hair was mussed from wearing his hat.
"Lily." It was all he could say as he fell forward. Something was wrong. She could see a blood stain that was quickly spreading across his pants. He fell against her and she lowered him to the floor, moving to close the door.
"I'm fine," he said, "The blood stain is several days old."
Before she reached the door, he grabbed her hand, tugging her against him. They had never kissed before, but there was no hesitation. She could taste him, could feel the urgency of his lips against hers. This was not the right moment, and yet it was the perfect one. His arms encircled her waits as he sat up. He kissed her neck, nibbled the lobe of her ear and ran his fingers along her back.
"Cullen," she whispered. Her breathing was ragged. Her face was heated and she was falling back.
"Lily!"He shouted, his face blurring into a larger one. Suddenly, he slapped her cheek, and she jolted. She wasn't on the floor with Cullen. It was Thomas that leaned over her. He was talking quickly. "What were you thinking getting in the tub before it cooled? You could have died, Lily!"
She was in the tub. It was empty and her robe was wrapped tightly about her. She tried to move, but couldn't. Thomas was lifting her now. For a large, pudgy man, he carried her easily in his arms and placed her on the bed on the other side of the chamber.
"The doc's coming soon. Just hold on," he said more calmly. He gently brushed back several blond strands of hair that had come loose from the chiffon.
"Henri is coming with some cold cloths." He added, but she could no longer hear him. She closed her eyes and succumbed to sleep.