They dined on fried chicken, cheese and buttermilk biscuits and washed it all down with apple cider.
“Did you make this tasty chicken and these delicious biscuits?”
Amelia smiled. “Yes, I did.”
“What about your Ma?”
Amelia’s gaze dropped to her lap. “My mama died of cholera when I was six years old.”
“How about you? Do your Ma and Pa approve of you running with the Brody gang?” Both Amelia’s head and body tilted toward Cade.
“My ma died when I was fifteen and Pa took it real hard. He sought relief in the bottle and he’s nothin’ but a drunk.”
“I’m sorry. Seems like we’ve both seen some hard times. Why do you ride with the Brody gang?”
Cade sighed and raked a hand through his hair. His eyes met and held hers. “I ain’t like the Brodys. I ain’t never killed no one.”
Amelia’s relief was visible when her entire body relaxed.
“I have been known to rustle cattle and steal horses, but that’s the extent of it. I ride with the Brody gang because
when things got bad at home, Luke Brody took me under his wing. He promised me I’d never have to do nothin’ I didn’t want to do and that I’m free to leave them whenever I want. He’s kept his promise.” Cade’s eyes searched hers while he awaited her response.
Amelia didn’t know what to say. Relief had flooded her entire being to learn that Cade had never killed anyone. She wondered what it would take for him to want to leave the Brody gang.
As the silence stretched between them, Cade leaned toward her, cupped her face in his hand, and kissed her. His kiss was soft, sweet and short.
Amelia was disappointed that it hadn’t lasted longer, and she reached her own hand up to the side of his face, and place her lips to his.
Cade’s response was a deep kiss, filled with passion and hunger. When it ended, Amelia was trembling. They leaned their foreheads together.
“I never met anyone like you before.” Cade kissed her temple and trailed little kisses down the side of her face to claim her mouth again.
This time when the kiss ended, both Cade and Amelia were breathing heavily. Amelia drew back and began to pack up the picnic things.
“I guess we should be getting back.”
Cade didn’t say anything. He watched as she finished packing up her basket. When she stood, he stood and reached for her hand.
“Could we walk along this creek for a little while?”
Amelia smiled up at him. “I think that would be nice.” She set the basket on the blanket and took his hand.
They walked a while in silence, then Cade stopped, faced her and took both her hands in his. “I think I’m in love with you, Amelia. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before but I don’t want to leave you. Ever since I met you, you’re all I think about.”
“That’s how it’s been for me since I met you too.”
“So what am I supposed to do next?” He grimaced and put a hand on the back of his neck.
The corners of Amelia’s mouth twitched but she refused to smile. She didn’t want him to think she was laughing at him, but it was amusing to see a tough outlaw so unsure of himself.
“Well, the normal thing would be for you to ask my Daddy’s permission to court me, but I don’t think that’s going to work.”