This time he was careful not to grab her hand for prayers, and in a strange way he kind of missed it. So he laid it there for her to take.
She glanced down at his hand, then up at his face. He scooted his hand closer to her, offering it to her.
She inched her hand toward his until she finally rested her small one in his. They bowed their heads.
With prayers finished, he reached over and grabbed two biscuits, slathered them in butter, placed them on a small plate and set it in front of her. “Eat. That’s an order.”
“I told you, no man will ever tell me what to—”
Nonchalantly, he grabbed a buttery biscuit and shoved it into her mouth. “Hush up and eat.”
Her eyes widened, then narrowed. She glared at him and bit down hard on the soft biscuit and chewed. He watched as she swallowed. “You think that’s gonna shut me up, well you—”
Again, he shoved the biscuit into her mouth, leaving her no choice but to bite into it. “That’s better.” His chair moaned when he settled back into it.
Her eyes bore into him the whole time she chewed. At least the woman was mannerly enough to not talk with her mouth full. He was grateful to God for that much, anyway.
Crumbs stuck to her lips, but this time he wasn’t about to wipe them off. If he did, she’d probably bite his fingers. Those flames shooting from her big brown eyes as she chewed the massive chunk he’d shoved into her mouth sent him a warning. One he was going to heed.
He scooped a spoonful of stew and put it into his mouth. While he chewed the best stew he’d ever tasted, he buttered several fresh-baked biscuits. The aroma of them reached his nose on the waves of steam. It was hard to enjoy it, though, with Selina staring him down while she ate. A keg of gunpowder ready to explode would have looked less dangerous. She tried to look mean, but she looked kind of cute, and he fought not to laugh.
He picked up a biscuit and brought it to his lips.
Quicker than a flash, Selina’s hand shot out, mashing the biscuit against his mouth. She sat back with a smug look on her face, acting as if nothing had happened.
Michael wiped the butter from his face. “So you wanna play, huh?” He grabbed one of the biscuits and headed toward her face with it.
Selina’s chair scraped across the wooden floor as she bolted upward and out the front door.
Michael flew after her, chased her through the woods, dodging pine trees and their prickly needles. Syringa bushes slapped his legs. Pine needles and broken branches crunched under his feet on the uneven ground as he pursued Selina through the woods.
Around the curve, he lost sight of her. It was as if she had disappeared into thin air.
Where could she have gone?
He stopped and panned the area but still caught no sight of her.
Stealthily he made his way through the pine and cottonwood trees and the thick underbrush. He held up the biscuit like a weapon, armed and ready. Each tree he approached with caution, quickly looking behind it before trudging onward.
He leaned forward to look behind another tree.
The next thing he knew, his body slammed on the grassy forest floor, mashing the biscuit he held into the side of his face. Selina’s body straddled his shoulders, then bolted upward.
He shot out his hand, grabbed her pant leg and yanked on it.
She tugged and jerked to free herself, but he tossed his body onto his back and pulled her down on top of him.
Holding her tight with one hand he scraped some of the biscuits and butter from his face, pulled her down closer to him and raised his hand to smear it onto hers.
“No!” She yanked her head from one side to the other, giggling.
Her laugher was melodious, like a running brook.
He pulled her even closer. Their faces inches apart.
Their eyes connected, peering deeply into the other’s.
Neither moved, as if they were frozen in that position.
His attention slid to her mouth. The temptation to kiss her lured him in, but he knew kissing her would be a huge mistake. He blinked, breaking the contact, and slowly released his hold on her shirt. “Yes, well—” he cleared his throat “—I guess we’d better get back to supper before it gets cold.”
She leaned back, sitting on his belly, having no clue of the urges raging inside him. “You give then?”
“I give.” Boy did he ever.
She crossed her arms. “I knew you would.” Her smile spoke of her untamed spirit.
“Oh, yeah?” No way would he let her think he was that easy. He pressed his fingers around her waist and started tickling her.
“Ahh. No, no.” She squirmed, giggling as she tried to get away. But she was no match for his firm grip. He tickled her more insistently, careful to keep his touch from hurting her.
“How’s about we call it even?” she said between bouts of laughter and drawing in breaths.