The cabin was once again covered with snow, the little flakes coming down, sticking to

everything. The tree branches drooped heavy with snow and icicles

threatening to bend beyond their capacity and break. I sighed as I watched the snow fall

outside the tiny window awaiting the return of my husband. It

being winter he was no longer tied down to the responsibility of his cattle drive that would

begin once more in the summer, but had rode into the small

town a few miles away to get needed supplies. I shivered and stepped away from the

window closer to the fading fire. If Rowdy didn't get back soon I'd

have to tramp through the knee deep snow to retrieve firewood. Wyoming got snow

yearly, but a blizzard like this had me worried, especially with Rowdy

out in it. I grimaced. That cowboy had caused me more worry since I'd met him than in

all 18 years of my life, but what could I say? I was a sucker for

those brown eyes of his. I stopped and listened intently. I heard horses hooves pounding

on the snow covered ground, steadily getting closer and closer. I

ran to the window and peered out, my nose pressed against the cold glass. Brown hair

stuck out from under the Stetson that the rider wore and I

recognized him as Rowdy. I swung the door open and stepped on the porch. My teeth

chattered from the frigid weather. Rowdy swung off his horse

grabbing a sack and swinging it over his shoulder as he headed for the house. "Paige?

What are you doing out here? It's freezing." He questioned

wrapping me in a hug and then ushering me inside. "I was waiting for you. Rowdy Yates

don't you ever do that again." His brows furrowed. "I was

worried. The snow is coming down hard you know?" He nodded. "We needed the

supplies." "I suppose" I agreed as I pulled the cabin door closed. He

stamped the snow from his boots before removing both them and his coat. "What's for

supper, darlin'?" He asked as he piled a few of the logs we had left

in the wood box onto the fire, causing sparks to dance around the fireplace. "I have some

stew on the stove. I'll have to reheat it though. It's probably

cold." I replied as I hustled toward the stove my dress skirts swirling. He pulled a chair

away from the table and sat down. "Hope it keeps snowing." I

turned to look at him. "Why?" He smiled reaching out to grab me around the waist and

pull me onto his lap. "Because I get to be snowed in, all alone with

you." His warm moist lips met mine and he kissed me until I thought I was going to feint.

"And that's a good thing?" I whispered against his lips. "Mmm

hmmm." He said as he pulled me tighter and kissed me deeper. The burning smell coming

from the stove brought me back to my senses. "The food!" In

my haste to reach the stove, I tripped and grabbed onto the hot part of it sending pain

shooting through my hand. I screeched as I jerked my hand,

which was already beginning to blister, away. I whimpered softly cradling my aching hand.

Rowdy gently pulled me onto his lap once more. "Here let me

see." He studied the burns for a moment before replying. "It looks pretty bad." I nodded.

"I'll put some butter on it and wrap it up, it'll be alright." I

forced myself to smile through the pain. He nodded. "I'll get the food off the stove." I

grimaced. "Don't tell me you're actually gonna eat that?" He stared

at me for a minute. "That's how I like my food...fully cooked." My husband was truly an

idiot when it came to trying to please me. He'd rather eat burnt

food than give me the extra chore of cooking more, so I had to grin at his remark.

"Besides, darlin' I did have to put up with Wishbone's cooking on the

entire trail drive, and trust me this will taste like Heaven when being compared." I shot

him half a grin before tending to my pain stricken burns. I

couldn't stifle a laugh when I glanced at rowdy and saw the disgusted look on his face

when he took a bite of the stew. "Let me get you some of that ham

we have in the cellar and make you a sandwich. It won't be warm, but at least it'll taste

good." It was difficult to cut off a chunk of ham and two slices

from a loaf of bread with my hand wrapped in cloth, but I managed. Rowdy ate the whole

sandwich in about three bites and shoved his chair away from

the table before standing. We both sat in front of the now roaring fire side by side staring

intently into the flames. "You're quiet. What's wrong?" Rowdy

looked at me and tucked my loos wisps of hair behind my ear. "Nothing's wrong." He shot

me a look that told me he knew I was lying. "Ok well

something, but its nothing." "Paige." He drug my name out to two syllables letting me

know he was being serious. I took a deep breath. "I'm gonna have

a baby." He stared at me for what seemed like years and then his face broke into a smile.

"And that was what was wrong? I thought you wanted a baby."

I smiled. "I do. It's just that you said you wanted to wait a little longer, and I thought you

wouldn't be happy." He pulled me into his arms. "I'm more than

happy." He smiled warmly at me, hugging me tighter. "Do you know when you're due?" I

blushed at the subject although I had no idea why. "I

uh...sometime in June...I think." He frowned. "Something the matter?" I asked as

I gently pulled away and stared up into his eyes. He nodded.

"The cattle drive starts in early spring. March I'd say and I'll be gone up until close to

August." I bit my bottom lip, a habit I had started when I was small

to ward away worry. He noticed and closed his fingers around mine. "Hey it'll be alright.

We'll figure something out. Maybe if I tell the boss..." "Do you

have to tell him?" I interrupted grabbing his arm, a panicked look intensely spread across

my face. "No..." He raised one eyebrow. "It's just

that...my parents still don't know about you...uh us...and you know how word

spreads in a small town like this." He grinned and I wondered what

he found so funny. I didn't find the situation funny at all. "Paige, were both grown. Not

much they can do about it now. Besides...I thought your parents

lived in Missoura." "They do but my sister and her husband just moved here and trust me

Laigha can never keep her mouth shut about anything. And you

don't know my father. If he wants something done everyone does it without question.

That's why I moved away so early. And he always wanted me to

marry a banker or lawyer." My nose crinkled in disgust. City boys weren't what I had been

looking for. "Oh so I'm not good enough?" He raised his

eyebrows in a teasing way. I slugged him, but without any force. "You know what I

mean." He rubbed his arm acting as if it hurt. I played along. "Would

you like me to kiss your boo boo?" I cooed as if I were talking to a hurt child. He shot me

a toothy grin. "So if your sister is here why haven't you talk to

her?" He returned to the conversation. I hesitated upon answering. "Me and her had sort

of a fight a few years ago and we haven't talked since." He

cocked his head to one side in obvious confusion. "Like?" "Like she accused me of

something I didn't do." I paused and rolled my eyes realizing he was

waiting for me to continue. "It was two years ago. She had been secretly seeing some

fella my mother and father didn't know about and she swore me to

secrecy. Somehow daddy found out and threatened the boy. Palaigha never saw him

again..." I stopped. "And she blamed you?" He questioned. I

nodded. "Still that's a pretty silly reason to never talk to you again." I nodded again in

agreement. "She married a lawyer. To get daddy to approve, not

for love." "And so the reason for you not telling your parents about us." I sighed. "Uh

huh." He hugged me tight. "No matter what happened I'd never just

up and leave." I shrugged. "You haven't met my father." "But I've met you." His lips met

mine in a deep kiss. I wrapped my arms around his neck and

melted in his arms.

It wasn't long before spring was beginning to show itself at the cabin. Most of the snow

had melted and what hadn't wouldn't last

much longer. Now at close to 5 months pregnant my once flat belly had a pudge. It had

begun to get in the way, throwing me off balance a lot. I stacked

one dish onto another as I finished drying each one. I lifted them to put them back into

the cabinet and came close to falling backward. Rowdy caught my

waist just in time. I smiled up at him. "It's just gonna get worse." I grinned. "I'll carry

you everywhere if I need to." I nodded. "Funny" I said sarcastically

as he sat back on my feet and took the dishes from me and placed them in the cabinet. A

knock on the door surprised me since we didn't normally have

visitors, living so far away from town and all. I opened it and came close to feinting when

I saw my sister's familiar face. "Palaigha. What are you doing

here?" I asked in shock. "I thought it was time we settled our differences. Heaven knows

we were both just kids when all that happened." I smiled and

hugged her. It felt good. I'd missed my big sister. "I agree." I announced. "So can I come

in? Oh I brought someone." She glanced down at her dress

skirts. "C'mon sweetie, don't be afraid." A small little girl peered out from behind

Palaigha's dress. I gasped. "Is this my niece?" My sister nodded. "She's

beautiful." I exclaimed. Palaigha grabbed her daughter's hand and pulled her out from

behind her dress. "This is Maddy." I smiled at the little girl who

didn't appear to be older than two. "Hello there." She stared at me wide eyed for a

moment before disappearing behind Palaigha again. I laughed. "Won't

you come in?" I opened the door hoping Rowdy had found his way to the barn by now.

We sat on the sofa in front of the fireplace. "Still not married I

see." She scolded me. "You never were one to make hard decisions." I took that as an

insult. Right then the sickness that had come with the baby

decided to hit me. I stood from the couch and ran for the door. I ended up losing my

lunch in the yard before composing myself and returning to the sofa.

"Are you sick?" Big sister looked concerned. "Must've just been something I ate." My

smiled was fake but I was hoping she hadn't noticed. She put her

hand on my belly and smiled. "When are you due?" I blushed. "June...I guess. How'd

you know?" Her smile held as she replied. "I felt your bump when

you hugged me earlier and then the nausea confirmed my suspicions. So who's the lucky

fella? A banker? A lawyer? No wait don't tell me. A handsome

lawman?" She beamed at me. "No. No. And no." I sighed. Oh boy. "Who then?" "Hey

darlin' where'd you put my wire tighteners? The south fence is

sagging." I slapped my forehead as Rowdy entered the room. "Oh I didn't know we had

company. Don't get it much all the way out here." My sisters jaw

dropped open and she blushed when she realized she was staring. "Rowd, this is

my...sister...Palaigha." His eyes grew wide as he sauntered across

the room and sat beside me. "Ah Paige. Mama and Daddy are gonna kill you." I patted

her knee. "Now calm down. They ain't gonna find out." Her eyes

nearly popped out of her head. "Ain't gonna? Paige you even talk different? Yup you're

dead." I groaned and slapped Rowdy on the arm. "Good goin

cowboy." "I didn't know." He stuttered. "Just let me take a wild guess...a rancher?" I

shook my head. "Cattle drover." She rared her head back and

chuckled without a hint of humor. "Oh because that's so much better" she continued to

stare at Rowdy. He leaned down to where his mouth was against

my ear. "we should take a photograph and give it to her for Christmas. Maybe it'd keep

her from staring." He whispered. I stifled my laugh but not my

grin and shoved him away from me. Maddy wondered over to him and begun to tug on

his pant leg. He grin and picked her up sitting her on his knee. He

bounced her and she giggled. "Won't be long for us Pay." I nodded and smiled at the

nickname. He'd called me that since we'd got close enough to be

considered friends and it stuck. He put his free hand on my belly. "We're gonna have a lot

of fun together little one." I smiled lovingly at him. Not many

rough and tumble cowboys who would make such a good father. He looked up and

realized Palaigha was staring again. That girl definitely needed a

picture. He grinned sheepishly realizing he'd been talking to my stomach. Maddy broke

the awkwardness and started playing with the strings on his hat.

He pulled it off his head and put it on her small head covering eyes and all. I laughed and

lifted it where she could see. "Hat" she giggled. "So she can

talk." I teased my sister. She simply smiled, her eyes holding care for her daughter.