by Rosemarie Hauer
They didn't quite reach their quarters before the first heavy drops began to
fall. Elizabeth let go of Josiah's hand and started running, although she
felt more like soaring. Josiah's confession had made her giddy with joy. She
didn't want to think of the difficulties and problems ahead. Just for a
little while she was going to allow herself to be insensible, to be simply
When the roof of her home came in sight, Elizabeth stopped, looking about
her in search of Josiah. He had stopped a little before she had, and she
thought he looked beautiful as he stood there in the rain, looking after
her. She threw up her arms and spun around in a silent dance, worshiping
the pure joy of being overwhelmed by feelings of such intensity.
He didn't move, he just stood watching her, and suddenly she felt a pull
stronger than anything she had ever experienced. Dropping her hands to her
side, she walked back toward him, her eyes firmly locked to his. She stopped
before him, looking up at his face that was still dry under the large hat.
Rivulets of rain ran down her forehead and cheeks as she leaned back her
head to study his expression.
"What is it?" she asked with concern.
"I don't want to go back," he confessed huskily, reaching for her face as if
to wipe it dry.
She laughed playfully. "I'm afraid we have no choice, Josiah."
He remained deadly serious, but finally he took her hand and continued
walking. A strong wind was tearing at her skirts, making it almost
impossible for her to walk. Josiah took off his coat and placed it around
her shoulders. By the time they were nearing the church, she clung to his
arm, holding on for dear life. The wind had risen to a storm, and the rain
was drumming relentlessly against their faces as they reached shelter of the church at last.
"You need to change into something dry," Josiah ordered, glancing up at the
ceiling with a concerned frown.
"What is it?" she asked. "What worries you so?"
"The roof," he replied. "I'm not finished fixing it. If the storm gets any
stronger, it won't hold."
"Oh no!" she exclaimed. "The rain would ruin all the work you've done in
here lately. And the school things..."
"Please go get yourself dry clothes," he urged, his eyes still riveted to
"I will," she said, "but I'll be back as quickly as I can."
She ran over to her little house and changed her clothes as fast as she
could, but when she returned to the church, a large raincoat thrown over her
head and shoulders, Josiah was nowhere in sight. Suddenly she heard a noise
from the roof and froze. Surely he wouldn't be so insensible as to...
The hammering continued and she frowned with the realization that Josiah had gone up there despite the pouring rain and the storm to repair the roof. It
was getting dark fast, and she knew that soon he wouldn't have enough light
to see by. She was just about to rush outside when the hammering stopped and she heard him on the ladder outside. A moment later he opened the door.
"Josiah," she exclaimed, unable to keep an accusing undertone from her
voice. "Are you out of your mind? To climb up there when..."
The words got stuck in her throat as she became aware of the soaking wet
shirt tangling from his hand. She couldn't help but stare at the profusion
of grey curls that covered his chest.
Momentarily he froze in his tracks, returning her stare. "It's all right,"
he said at last. "Now it will hold."
With an uncertain glance in her direction he walked by her, bending to
retrieve a small altar cloth from the back of a pew.
"What are you thinking of?" she asked, puzzled by the frown on his face. "Is
there anything that worries you?"
Wrapping the cloth about his shoulders, he turned slowly to face her.
"You," he replied hoarsely.
She shook her head in confusion. "Why should I worry you?"
He lowered his gaze for a moment. "You shouldn't be here...with me...alone. Not like this," indicating his nakedness. "If someone came by..."
She nodded her head in dawning comprehension. "You're right."
A silent look passed between them, and she thought how exquisite it was to
be regarded with that kind of intensity. It was unsettling, too, and finally
she averted her eyes.
"I...should get dressed," he said, turning to the door.
"Take my coat," she offered. "Yours is hopelessly soaked."
He half-turned and gave her a warm smile. "That's all right. And besides,
the storm is getting weaker already. If you wait a few minutes, you'll be
able to reach your house without getting wet at all. "
She saw him shift his weight as he prepared to go and fought back the panic
that struck her at the thought that he was leaving. The thought of parting
with him now was actually painful. Scolding herself mentally for her
irrational reaction, she mustered a smile.
"Thank you for the walk, Josiah. And...for the beautiful story."
He expelled a breath and she couldn't shake off the impression that it was a
"It was a beautiful afternoon," he said quietly. As if by some silent
command they moved toward each other, and Elizabeth had to tilt back her
head in order to look up into Josiah's face. So blue, she thought as she
gazed into his eyes. With effort she kept her hands at her sides, although
her need to touch him had become all but overwhelming. She leaned forward
slightly, her face only inches away from his chest. He smelled of rain and,
inhaling deeply, she lifted her hand to place it lightly on his bare arm.
"This is...a public place," he reminded her softly, and she nodded, willing
back some reason into her dizzy mind. "Elizabeth," he rasped, "this is..."
"Madness," she finished for him.
"Heaven," he corrected her. "I wish...I just wish..."
"That there were a way for us?" she offered. "I'm afraid our case requires
pioneers." She could see the emotions warring inside him clearly mirrored on
"That's what worries me about you," he said. "You're all too ready to take
risks. You seem to be the kind of person who is willing to do what she
thinks right, no matter what common standards dictate. That's dangerous."
"You're right on one count, Josiah," she replied, holding his gaze with
hers. "I'm not afraid of risks."
He took another step towards her, and his hand came up to feather a faint
caress across her cheek. "And you think I'm worth a risk," he murmured, his
breath stirring the wisps of hair framing her face.
"Im certain that you are," she replied quietly. He dropped his hand to his
side, but in his eyes she could see a tenderness that gripped her heart and
brought tears to her eyes.
"Marry me," he whispered, and for a moment she thought her heart would stop
"I can't," she said. "It would mean giving up school, and I've only just
"I know," he replied, his voice hoarse with pent-up emotion. The expression
on his face made him look like a lost little boy, and it required every
ounce of her self-control not to touch him, hold him, comfort him.
"Have there been many women in your life?" she asked suddenly, startled by
her own audacity.
At first his eyes widened in surprise, but then he chuckled softly, shaking
his head. Growing serious, he said, "Those were different times, Elizabeth,
different situations, and different...women."
Although she didn't really understand that statement, she nodded her head.
"I just wish..." she said, interrupting herself by quickly biting her
With a groan he threw back his head, and she watched as the skin of his
throat grew tight across his Adams apple.
"I know," he rasped. "So do I. It's just..."
"Yes?" she prompted, when he fell silent.
"I need to protect you. You must understand that."
"You mean you must protect my honor," she amended, feeling his smile
although she didn't dare look at him.
"Yes," he replied simply, and she wasn't sure how that made her feel.
"You should go dress," she said, "before you catch a cold."
He didn't move, he just stood studying her solemnly. Then he brought up his
hand and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Good night, Elizabeth," he
murmured before turning to leave. She looked after him as he walked through
the door and let it fall close behind him. Involuntarily her own hand went
to her shoulder where he had touched her.
"Good night, Josiah," she whispered, ignoring the tears that pooled in her