*** Tater reports to Logan...
*** Arnie and Rosella try another scheme to get Rachel and Logan to commit to each other...
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~ From Tomfoolery to Arniefoolery ~
Logan propped his boot on a rail of the corral and smoked his pipe. He thought it far enough from the ears of the bunkhouse for his talk with Tater. When the old man approached, he asked, "What's the word about Max? Have you learned anything from him, Tater?"
"Sure-nuf, boss, I was lookin' for a time to git you alone. Max hasn't come in from workin' today. I 'spect he's up to no good. He keeps tellin' me how he thinks of me as a good friend. And that he hates seein' me bein' taken advantage of the way you and Mrs. Danvers does. Max keeps referrin' to his friend what has some money and how I'd fit right in with some plan they got goin'. That's about it for now, boss."
"That's real good, Tater. Just stay friends with Max and keep me posted."
Rachel approached the men. "I want to add my thanks, too, Tater, for all your doing for the Dangling W."
Out of respect, Tater removed his hat. "Mrs. Danvers, it's no trouble, by jeepers. I just hope we catch this varmint afore any bad happens. I feel it in my bones that Max ain't up to nothin' good. Well, I'm a gonna take my leave. No use in drawin' any snoopy eyes."
Once Tater was out of hearing range, Logan and Rachel stood staring at each other. She said, "I-"
"I-", he said. They both laughed. "You go first, he said."
"I wanted to tell you that Daddy wants to join us for supper tonight. In fact, Rosella is ready to dish it up now. He has some ideas about the ranch he would like to discuss with both of us."
"Does he now?" Logan smiled.
"I'm just as curious as you are about what his plan is." She held her palm up, "I've already told him to behave as far as we're concerned."
Logan felt a little deflated. Her tone sounded definite. She turned and began to walk away from him, but he could not stop himself, "And what about our concern?"
She looked over her shoulder and smiled, "That, I believe will have to be delved into, don't you think?" Then she turned toward the house with a smile on her face, and Logan fast on her heels. "I do hope you enjoy your supper, Logan."
He grinned. "Oh, believe me. I'm looking forward to this supper, Mrs. Danvers." His spirits suddenly lifted.
"Are they coming, Rosella?"
"Let me see. Oh, hurry Mr. Arnie. They're walking toward the house now. Are you ready?"
"Should I lie on my back or on my side? Which will have more effect do you think?"
"I think you should lie on your side." She chuckled as she watched out the door. "And don't forget to groan when Logan picks you up to carry you to your bed."
Arnie laughed right along with his partner in crime. "Attention to detail, Rosella. I have taught you well."
"Get ready, Mr. Arnie," said Rosella and then she pushed open the door and hurried through it, her arms flailing, "Mr. Logan! Miss Rachel! You must come quickly - it's Mr. Arnie!"
Logan sped past Rachel. "What's the matter, Rosella?" he asked when he rushed inside with Rachel on his heels, only to find Arnie on the floor, unmoving, his eyes closed.
Rachel knelt by her father and checked for a heartbeat. Thankfully, it was strong. "Daddy, are you okay?"
He let out a frail moan. "Oh, I don't feel so well. I hurt all over."
"Arnie, it's me, Logan," he said worried. Did you hit your head? Are you hurt anywhere? Do you think you've broken anything?"
"Don't think so . . . weak . . . just weak," he gasped. "I got up and before I . . . I knew it, I ended up on the floor."
"Rosella, what happened?" Rachel was almost hysterical.
"Here we go, old man," said Logan as he picked him up.
"Awwwe!" Arie moaned.
"I'm sorry, I'll take it as easy as I can," and then Logan took Arnie upstairs and laid him in his bed.
"Oh, Miss Rachel, your father promised to sit in his chair while I dished up supper. The next thing I know, I heard a thump, and when I looked in on him, he was laying on the floor. I feel so bad I didn't watch him closer. This is all my fault!"
"Nonsense, Rosella, you give Daddy the best of care. Come on, let's go check on him."
The women walked upstairs and into the room. "Whooee, thank you, boy, I thought I was a real goner."
"You gave us all a good scare, old man."
"Daddy," said Rachel, rushing her his side, "are you okay?"
Arnie winced in pain, "Ahhhh . . . my head is set to burst wide open like a split pumpkin. Rosella, get me some remedy."
Logan took Rachel's arm and together they stepped back while Rosella took care of Arnie by pouring his nightly remedy. "Okay, Mr. Arnie, you drink this down, and you'll be sleeping like a baby before you know it."
"Rachel," Arnie said faintly. "Come here, daughter."
"Yes Daddy, what can I do to make you comfortable?"
"Just hold my hand til I go to sleep, little one. I'm afraid I'll miss supper. And, I want to talk -"
Logan patted Arnie on the shoulder. "We'll talk later, old man. You just get some rest now."
A pathetic look matched Arnie's response. "Good idea, boy, I'm feeling damn weak."
"Go to sleep, Daddy. Everything will be just fine."
Arnie patted Rachel's hand. "It always is when you're here, little one."
Rosella turned down the lamp, and then followed Logan out the door while Rachel stayed by her father's side.
Maybe Daddy is sicker than I thought," Rachel pondered while noticing the lines around her father's eyes and slack jaw as he tried to fall asleep. She stood by his side until his breathing became more relaxed.
Logan walked into the study, took a decanter of brandy from the liquor cart, and then poured a healthy snifter. It upset him to see the man who raised him lying helpless and vulnerable on the floor. He would admit it shook him to the core. He heard Rachel walk down the stairs and enter the study. "Is he quiet now?"
"Yes, sound asleep, thankfully. I'm worried about what he did that caused him to fall," she said, exhausted, and then sat down on the dark-brown leather settee.
"Let's just hope he felt a little faint, and that's all there is to it," she said, though she wasn't convinced it was so simple an explanation.
"Here, sip on this. It'll help relax you," he said handing her his brandy. He sat beside Rachel on the settee and began to massage her shoulders, her neck, "You're so tensed up. Take another sip. It'll help soothe the weariness."
"Excuse me, Miss Rachel, Mr. Logan," called Rosella from the doorway. "I have food warming on the stove. Now that Mr. Arnie is asleep, I'll rest too. He may need me later. You both will help me watch over him tonight, won't you?"
"Yes, of course," said Rachel, "we'll help. Have a nice rest, Rosella."
"Thanks for supper, too," said Logan. "Good night, sweet lady."
"Good night, children," she said smiling, and then closed the door to the study.
Logan welcomed the darkening room, the quietness of the night now that it was just he and Rachel. The only light in the room came from the lamp on the table at the window.
He refreshed her brandy and then poured himself another snifter, and then sat down beside her where they both sipped the elixir. "Come here, you're still wound tight."
Rachel sat up and turned her back to Logan. He began to massage her neck and shoulders again. "Mmmm, that feels heavenly. I've been going on excess energy for so long that I've almost forgotten what it feels like to unwind." Rachel's body began to react to Logan's touch. It should have scared her, but instead she welcomed the thrill of it.
The more Logan touched her silky flesh the more aroused he became. He knew he should stop, but he also knew if Rachel wanted him to stop, she would tell him. He felt her relax, and he needed more. Without thinking of the consequences, he threw caution to the wind and whispered butterfly kisses on her neck and shoulder. "If you want me to stop, tell me now, honey." Rachel let out a sigh, and he was lost. He brought the palm of his hand up to caress her breast. Electricity charged through them.
"I need, oh how I need, Logan," she said thrilled by his touch. "I need you as the earth craves rain. I don't want to waste anymore time analyzing, worrying about right or wrong. I love you, sweetheart."
Logan groaned. "I live to be your rain. I love you, too, honey." He brought her to her feet as he rose. They stood gazing into each other's eyes as he unbuttoned her bodice. Her intake of breath when he shoved the sleeves of her dress down her arms sent chills through them both.
Rachel unbuttoned his shirt, pulled on the sleeves and let it float to the floor. She walked around him slowly, feathered a trail of kisses on his back, his shoulders until she came full circle. She caressed his bare chest. They craved long denied satisfaction as their gazes met.
Logan gently framed her face with his hands. "If we make love, Rachel, you're my woman. You'll become my wife and the mother of my children. Otherwise, I get dressed, and I will walk out that door and out of your life. We'll go back to the way it was before our feelings changed. I can't live in limbo any longer - understood?"
"One thing I'm sure about more than anything else right now is that I want to be your wife." She closed her eyes, "And oh, how I want to have your children." She wrapped her arms around him. "If you walk out that door, I'll cease to exist, sweetheart.
Logan took Rachel by the hand, and led her to the opened, oversized roll-top desk and sat her atop it while he stood between her legs. "I've had very vivid dreams about you, me, and this massive desk. Tonight, honey, those dreams end," he said, and then bent to kiss her lips and let the inferno build within as he lowered her bodice and tasted her breasts.
She closed her eyes, tilted her head back and savored the touch of his lips on her body. "Make me yours, Logan."
Their journey began as they explored each other with kisses and spoke words of love, and then their world exploded into a million pieces of splendor.