Of all the crazy things he had done in his life, this one was probably at the top. He had survived the war, his wife and son's deaths, killed many men, but this by far, had to take the crazy cake.
Cullen glanced out of the corner of his eye at Lily, her golden hair practically glowing in the light of the moon. When she had asked him to dig up her dead husband's body so she could look for letters that might explain issues that had to do with Durant, his first thought was hell no.
But one look into those deep, sea blue eyes, and he was a goner. Whether she knew it or not, Ms. Lily Bell had Cullen's will in her hands. He would do anything she asked and he would give it his best shot. Not because of her beauty or her kindness, although both were very nice, no, she was slowly repairing the hole in his heart that had been ripped open when Mary and his boy had been killed.
Her caring words and angry tantrums were a soothing balm on his weary soul. And because of her power of him, here he was, digging up her dead husband in the middle of the night.
Cullen let his shovel drop from his shoulder to the edge of Robert Bell's grave, before he spoke. "Are you sure about this Ms. Bell? Once we start, there ain't no goin' back."
Her eyes fluttered closed and even from a few feet away, Cullen could see the pulse racing in her throat.
"Yes. I need to see those letters."
Cullen stared deep into those blue eyes and nodded. "All right then."
The ground was soft from the day's rain and the fledgling grass parted easily under Cullen's shovel. Flashbacks of digging Mary's grave played before his eyes, his mind insisting this was no different.
Instead of his wife, here he was, digging up Lily's husband. At least it wasn't Durant. Things would be a lot easier if Durant was dead. Or gone. Lily wouldn't be sharing his bed and wouldn't be shuttered and resigned towards him as she was now.
Cullen's eyes shot toward Lily's, stormy gray clashing with sapphire blue. Her hand was over her mouth, her eyes shining with unshed tears, and her entire body was visibly shaking.
Cullen slowly crouched over the expensive boots just peeking out of the ground, and began to brush away the soil covering Lily's husband.
"Stop, please stop."
He had gotten to Robert's chin before Lily could no longer handle the sight of her dead husband.
"Do you see a satchel in his hand?" Lily's voice shook, either in anticipation or fear, Cullen wasn't sure.
"No. There ain't no bag of any kind in here."
"There has to be. It was there. I know it was there!" Her voice had begun to rise, hysteria creeping into her voice. "Look harder!"
Having seen his own wife dead, Cullen knew how hard it was for Lily to see Robert like this, but something else had begun to bother her.
"Ms. Bell, there ain't nothing else but your husband's body in this grave. His pockets are empty. Unless there have been grave robbin', your husband don't have the letters."
Cullen's words seemed to break a dam in Lily. She rushed to the edge of the grave and began to climb down into it with Cullen.
Cullen grabbed Lily's arms and hoisted her back onto the ground above the grave.
"Ms. Bell, you can't come down here. It ain't good for you to see him like this."
Beyond logic and reason, Lily pushed his hands away and tried to shove her way past Cullen's body. Tears were streaming freely down her face and sobs were racking her body.
"They have to be here. They have to be."
Cullen climbed out of the grave, put his arms around Lily's waist and yanked her out of sight from Robert's body. He sat her down, her back against her chest, her head on his shoulder, and her hands holding his in a death grip.
He didn't know how long they sat there, but he would have sat there all night if that's what it took to get Lily to calm down. Eventually her sobs subsided, and quiet hiccups took their place. Instead of strangling his hands, hers were stroking his. Quietly they sat, Cullen's warmth seeping into Lily's cold body.
Lily turned her head upward to stare into Cullen's eyes, and sighed at what she saw. The emotion was nothing compared to what had been in Robert's eyes when he had looked at her, but Cullen's eyes reflected a whole new world.
A world of wild adventure and tumultuous emotions, raging passion and wonderful care. Cullen saw the hesitation in Lily's eyes and made the decision for her.
A small gasp, and Cullen's lips were sealed over hers.