The Obligation –Strange Empire PART 2

Rebecca finished cleaning the scraped knee of one of the children. She offered a smile that seemed to scare the child who ran off without even a thank you. Rebecca sighed, wondering why she always drove people away.

Almost immediately, her thoughts went to the new Sherriff of their little community. She had thought that Kat Loving was someone she could call friend. Kat never seemed afraid of her or disgusted by her mental abilities. The night she had gone to save Kat from the brothel…Rebecca shivered as the unusual tingles wracked her body once more. She had never considered physical pleasure to be a necessity for her existence. There always seemed so many more important things to concentrate on but what she had experienced with Kat, the feelings were so overwhelming that she still wasn't sure how to process them. She'd been studying the effects of electricity on and in the body but never had she believed that the touch of a hand on one's breast, or the press of lips against one's pulse point could generate elicit such responses. Every sensation had fascinated her and had felt so very…good, though that word barely scratched the surface of what she'd experienced. And for the first time in her life she had felt…cherished.

Then, when both had achieved what Rebecca had only could describe as completion, Kat had looked at her for a long moment, kissed her once more and then slid out of bed. Rebecca had watched in confusion as she dressed and left the room without another word. She hadn't seen the other woman since and that was two weeks ago and inexplicably it hurt and she found herself wondering who had actually been the whore in that situation after all.

Then she had met Morgan Finn. He was as quiet as she but he had been one of the few people who befriended her. He was attentive and he flattered her at first and she found herself succumbing to the attention and then one night he kissed her. It had been pleasant but she hadn't felt the strange spark she had felt when Kat had kissed her. Still it felt nice and she had felt wanted once more so she accepted his attentions, even after he began condemning her for her research. She supposed she should simply accept that she would forever be judged as less for what she was.

Sighing, Rebecca gathered her things and then went to tend her husband.

"It's fine, Rebecca," Thomas said shortly, even though he winced as she prodded his injured leg.

"It isn't fine," she said, unusually curt. "It's infected and unless you let me…"

"You are not a doctor, no matter how much you pretend you are," he snapped. "I am a doctor and I say my leg is fine. We are in the backwoods of nowhere which is why it is taking a little longer to heal, so leave me be."

For once Rebecca wasn't hurt by his dismissal. Instead she found herself growing angry. "Fine, suit yourself. Than you can remove the limb yourself when it gets to that." She stormed away, not noticing the surprised look on her husband's face.

Rebecca stalked through the trees and headed for the swimming hole, longing for the days when she never felt anything and had no interests outside of scientific research. These emotions swirling inside of her threatened to take what was left of her sanity and she fully blamed Kat Loving for that.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

Kat dismounted her horse and for one moment she wearily rested her forehead against his neck. It had been an exhausting two weeks, mentally and physically. After she had fled the Slotter's house, she'd been approached by the Marshal Caleb Mecredi about a rumor of someone smuggling opium into the miner's camp.

She had gratefully turned her attention to poking around the camp, looking for any sign of addiction to anything other than whores and alcohol and though she knew that her best source of information would come from either of the Blithely's, she simply couldn't bring herself to face the woman she'd just been so intimate with.

So she had investigated on her own and after nearly two weeks of sneaking around the mines, carefully poking around the Chinese camp and the railroads and doing everything she could to avoid the hurt brown eyes of Rebecca Blithely and finally found the lowlife who was selling the drug to men and women who sorely didn't need the added burden of addiction. She had hauled him to the Marshal's and then in one moment of insanity had fallen into bed with Caleb. She surrendered to the touch of a strong male, feeling the stubble against her cheek and large hands on her body. It was nothing like the tender loving she'd had with Rebecca, but it was what she knew, and if she felt guilty and a little ill throughout, well it didn't really matter.

After two days, Kat knew she couldn't stay away any longer, if for no other reason than her girls were probably worried about her so she said a curt goodbye to Caleb and headed back to the makeshift little town. She went directly to the tent she shared with her kids. The heaviness in her heart was lifted considerably when Robin and Kelly rushed to hug her.

"Are you okay?"

"We missed you," the girls exclaimed at once.

"We thought you'd run off," Neill added morosely.

Kat went to her adopted son and placed a hand on his shoulder. "That won't ever happen Neill. I know you don't have any reason to trust me, but I don't go anywhere without you. We have a ranch to set up, remember?"

"Well when is that going to be? Ain't nothing good going to happen stickin' around here."

"I know," Kat said and her heart ached. She had vowed to wait until Jeremiah returned, but she had been forced to accept that her husband was never coming back and with the way she had left things with the only friend she had in this God forsaken place, moving on was on the top of her list of things to do.

"Rest up," she said abruptly. "We head out first thing in the morning."

"Really?"" Neill said with an excitement Kat hadn't seen in months and she couldn't help but smile. The boy had nothing but bad memories of this place and these people and it would do him a world of good to get far away. She looked at Robin and Kelly, surprised to see less excited expressions.

"Girls? You don't look so happy."

"We'll go where ever you want us to," Robin said quickly, "but…"

"But?"

"There won't be any other folks around," Kelly added.

"Not at first, but I'd a thought you had enough of people for now," she said glumly, reminding them about everything they'd been subjected to.

"Well yeah, but we like the doc well enough," Robin said.

Kat was surprised. "That old man? He's barely said two words to anyone."

"No, the lady doc. His wife? She's been real good to us."

Kat sighed. Rebecca. "She's been good to all of us," she agreed sadly, shame at how she'd treated the woman in return washing through her.

"She don't have a good life here," Kelly said. "That man of hers don't treat her right."

"I know, but look. Rebecca…Mrs. Blithely is strong. Stronger than anyone thinks. Stronger than she thinks. She'll be alright."

"Well maybe. At least she's got that new fella paying her attention."

Kat frowned. "New fella?" She didn't understand the strange anger she was suddenly feeling.

"Yeah, Morgan Finn. You know, that small quiet young guy? They've been walking out at night together some time."

"Is that right," Kat questioned with a dangerous quiet. She didn't like it. No she didn't like it at all. Rebecca Blithely may be strong, but she was far too trusting for her own good and Kat was well aware there were sleazy men like Slotter just waiting to take advantage of such an innocent.

"Yeah, but I heard him the other day. He don't seem to like her doing what she does. Says it 'ain't natural' and offends God,' Robin snorted. "Like anything that happens here don't," Neill snorted.

Kat's eyes narrowed. Rebecca already had enough doubts about herself and some wet behind the ears brat had no right to add to her vulnerability, but she shook her head. It wasn't her business.

"She knows better," she lied and the look on the girl's faces told her she knew she was lying too.

"Can we at least say goodbye to her?"

Kat swallowed as she realized the time had come. "Sure, but uh, I need to speak to her first about something. Okay?"

She left the tent and paused and gathered her nerve and tried desperately to think of something…anything to say to the woman who'd drummed up courage she didn't know she had to threaten that vindictive bitch Isabelle, who used every last cent she had and even her body, to secure Kat's freedom and that of Kat's girls, and the woman she'd spent one of the most amazing nights of her life with.

Sighing, she braced herself and headed toward the cabin where the Blithely's were staying. She froze when she heard Rebecca's voice. She couldn't help but smile when she heard the animated musings of the usually stoic woman, explaining some new theory Kat had no hope of understanding with an excitement she'd only heard one other time that still sent chills up her back.

"You are not god!"

The loud shout of Rebecca's husband was followed by a sound that Kat recognized all too well and she pushed through the door, to find Thomas glaring and Rebecca holding her cheek. Instantly her gun was in her hand and she was between the large man and his wife.

"You touch her again and you'll have a hole in your gut to match the one in your leg," she swore.

"This is none of your concern Mrs. Loving," Thomas retorted.

"Yeah. Yeah it is. I get your leg is hurting you but your wife doesn't deserve to have anyone, especially her man, laying hands on her. Understand?" she said dangerously.

Thomas finally understood the very real threat facing him and he held up his hands.

"You're right of course," Mrs. Loving. "I have never laid a hand on Rebecca before and I shouldn't have now. I'm just…"

"No excuses," Kat interrupted. "Don't do it again. Are you alright?" she finally turned and addressed the woman who'd haunted her thoughts for two weeks. Fury warred with concern and a rare bout of tenderness as she saw the red welt on the cheek she knew to be soft as satin and tears in the gentle brown eyes.

"Come on," she said gruffly, nodding toward the door.

"Where are we going?"

"Nowhere," Thomas interrupted. "It's unseemly for women to…" he stopped when he saw the glare on the dangerous woman's face.

"We're going for a walk Mrs. Blithely," Kat said gently, not wanting to frighten the woman more than she already was.

Rebecca didn't move. She was still in shock that her kindly husband had struck her and for the first time she was afraid of him, but then there was Kat. She rubbed her sore cheek as she warily looked at the woman who had completely shaken her familiar safe world.

"We need to talk Rebecca," she said quietly, not giving a damn if Thomas Blithely heard or not.

Rebecca desperately wanted to refuse, but the thought of being in the same room as her husband frightened her more than walking with the woman who had hurt her.

"Very well," Rebecca sighed and followed the black clad woman out the door. They walked for several minutes, neither saying anything even though Rebecca wanted to demand the woman at least slow down so she could catch up.

Finally, they stopped and Rebecca was curious to discover it was in the spot they had first spoken, when she had nervously revealed all of her weaknesses to Kat whose only response was to place a gun in her hand.

"Why are we here?" She asked warily. Kat Loving had disappeared for two weeks without even a goodbye and now she had come and dragged her into the woods alone.

"It's like I said. We need to talk."

Suddenly Rebecca was angry. She had always been taught that anger, like all other emotion was unproductive and served no purpose, but all she could think of was how wonderful Kat had made her feel, the gentle touches and kisses and whispered compliments had made Rebecca feel normal and wanted and then…as if she'd regretted every moment, Kat had run from the room and hadn't looked back and Rebecca had felt shame and she had believed that she once more had not been good enough.

"I might have agreed, two weeks ago," she said coldly.

The anger in Rebecca's voice was a surprise to Kat and only added to her guilt and remorse for what this woman had been forced to sacrifice on her behalf.

"I'm sorry that I haven't talked to you before now," she muttered. "I was helping the Marshal with…"

"You're lying," Rebecca interrupted tonelessly.

Kat stiffened. "I don't much like being called a liar," she said angrily. "I was helping him."

"Maybe, but that's an excuse. You were ashamed. I embarrass you."

Kat flinched. She surely should have known that Rebecca would fault herself. She turned to face the woman who had grown so important to her. "God no, Rebecca, that's not it at all," she said urgently.

"I don't believe you."

Kat lifted a hand to touch Rebecca and she couldn't help but feel a little hurt when the woman backed away.

"I know I'm not the worldliest woman. I don't have experience in…in carnal matters. Not even with my husband," Rebecca admitted quietly. "You were the first person I've ever kissed."

Kat swallowed, not understanding why that was such an arousing statement. "I know Rebecca and I can't even begin to tell you how much that means to me, but the fact is, everything that happened, well, you were forced into it, because of me. How can I not feel shame over that?"

"I wasn't forced into anything," Rebecca argued. "I was given a choice and I made it."

"You didn't understand…"

"I am not as incompetent as people think," Rebecca came close to shouting, causing Kat to draw back in surprise.

"I know that," Kat assured her. "Rebecca, you are by far the smartest woman, the smartest person I've ever known, but you don't have experience with the likes of Isabelle Slotter."

"It may have taken a few minutes to fully understand what she was asking from me but when I did, I still agreed."

"And I don't get it," Kat retorted. "Why the hell would you agree to lay with me, a woman you barely know, a woman who ain't nothin' but…"

"Because you traded yourself to save your girls, even though they aren't your blood. Because I think…" she paused, worried she was going to say the wrong thing again and Kat would either leave, laugh or hit her.

Kat saw the fear on Rebecca's face and she cursed every single bastard that had ever made this woman afraid to speak her mind. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear what Rebecca thought, but she'd be damned if she forced her to stay silent.

"Because why?" she prodded gently.

Rebecca looked away. "Because I think that you haven't had anyone willing to sacrifice for you."

Kat's eyes stung at the whispered admission even though she was still confused. "But why?" she asked again. "Why you?"

"Because, you are all I have!" Rebecca cried, her emotions threatening to overwhelm her. "I've lost the woman who raised me and coming here…I would have lost myself so many times, if it weren't for you."

Kat's heart nearly broke at the look on Rebecca's face. "No Rebecca, you are far stronger than you give yourself credit for. You have saved me and my girls so many times that I'll never be able to repay you. Especially the thousand dollars you paid."

"I don't want your money," Rebecca insisted. "I just want to know why you don't like me anymore."

Kat threw her head back and fought back a groan at the almost childlike question. She met Rebecca's eyes and stepped into her personal space, relieved when she didn't back away.

"Rebecca, I do like you," she countered. "More than I expected to and that's why I ran away."

"I don't understand."

Kat sighed. "Jeremiah was the only person I've ever kissed, much less lay with and I had never even considered being with a woman in such a way."

"I hadn't either, though I can appreciate why such a thing could be satisfying, given the way that…"

Kat's lips twitched at Rebecca's predictable rambling and she reached out to place her finger on the very soft lips she remembered.

"Maybe we can talk to about that later," she said fondly. "I'll listen to your theories I promise, but right now, there's something more important that I need you to understand."

Rebecca was used to being cut off when she began talking about her ideas, but only Kat promised to listen to her. "Alright," she said.

Kat took off her hat and ran a hand through her hair, trying to gather her thoughts. She wasn't much for talking about her feelings but if anyone deserved to hear them it was the woman looking at her so innocently.

"Rebecca…God. You have no idea how sweet, how beautiful you are, do you?"

Rebecca frowned, even though her heart seemed to inexplicably increase the speed of its beating. "You told me so before, but…"

"I meant it," Kat interrupted. "And I know looks don't matter to you. They don't matter much to me either. Like you said, it's just the way you're born, but you aren't just pretty. You're like nobody else I've ever met. You're so smart and the way your face lights up when you're talkin' about some new thing you've learned is about the prettiest thing I ever saw."

"Mrs. Loving…Kat, I am grateful for your kind words but…"

"They aren't kind," Kat interrupted, afraid that if Rebecca didn't let her finish, she'd never have the courage to get it out. "They are the truth. And you are one of the strongest people I know, even if you don't know it. You stand up for anyone who needs it, despite your fear and you don't back down until you get what you want, but you never stand up for yourself."

And like that Rebecca's eyes stung, feeling embarrassed to once again be lectured for her failings

"I'm sorry," she said quietly.

Kat was instantly in front of Rebecca and placed her hands on the sweet face. "Stop," she ordered gently. "Rebecca, you never have to say sorry to me for anything. I owe you my life several times over but that's not..." she paused and took a step back, needing the space between them.

"What happened between us at Slotter's'…"

"It was a business transaction," Rebecca stated, repeating Isabelle's words.

"I know, but…did you feel anything?" She wanted to bite her own tongue off for the stupid question.

"I…" Rebecca wasn't sure how to answer. She had felt so many things but didn't have any idea of how to express them.

"Never mind," Kat muttered.

"No," Rebecca replied firmly. "I did feel something. I felt…I just, I don't know how to express it. I felt hot and light headed and even I knew it wasn't from lack of oxygen or elevated blood pressure."

Kat's lips twitched at that, but she stayed silent as Rebecca worked through her thoughts even as she forced herself to not get so lost in the memories she stopped listening.

"When your hands touched my body, it was…" she shivered as if she could feel those warm calloused hands on her skin as she spoke. "I have often suspected the body held electricity, but when you touched me I could feel it. Your hands sent sparks across my skin and I never knew anything could feel so wonderful and your kisses…I never understood why the press of lips together could invoke such strong feelings but when I felt your mouth on mine, I understood what addiction was, I was filled with this craving for more and my chest ached in an oddly pleasant fashion. I don't know exactly what all of that means, but that is what I felt."

Kat bit back a groan. This woman's honest way of speaking could be the death of her, but she couldn't be any less honest.

"I loved my husband," she said softly as a pang of loss hit her. "Layin' with him was…wonderful. He was gentle but he had a fire in him that I …" she stopped, not feeling at all comfortable talking about her private moments with her husband.

"What I felt with you," she continued, and this time she closed her eyes as she allowed herself to relive their time together, "it was so different than with what I had with Jeremiah but the feelings were no less powerful. You…," she stepped closer to the wide-eyed woman staring at her.

"God. You are so soft, Rebecca," almost unable to help herself, she carefully reached out and trailed a finger down Rebecca's cheek. "The way you responded, the way you kissed me with such innocent passion made me crazy. I found myself wantin' to stay in bed with you for days and that scared me."

Rebecca was surprised as she didn't think much, if anything, could scare the woman in front of her, but the ache had returned to her chest as Kat stood so close to her and touched her so gently.

"I know what it is to be scared," she said quietly. "I'm scared all the time, except for when you're around."

Kat's heart flipped at the genuine statement, thinking it was almost frightening to realize that she would never be in doubt of this woman's true feelings on anything, but she didn't mind. She'd never had much use for liars anyway. Still, she was troubled by something else.

"What about Morgan Finn?"

Rebecca didn't understand the guilt she felt as if she had somehow betrayed Kat. It was illogical. For one thing guilt was pointless. What was done was done and couldn't be undone. For another, if anything she should feel some guilt for laying with someone not her husband. She did in truth betray her husband, but that didn't bother her at all. She did it to save a woman who had saved her and she simply couldn't find it in herself to feel any regret over something that had made her feel more complete than she ever had.

"What about him?"

Kat was surprised by the rare attempt at stalling. "I heard he's been payin' you a lot of attention. More than that man of yours."

Only briefly did Rebecca wonder at the heat she felt in her face. "He has been quite helpful in my work," she found herself lying.

"Yeah, that's not the way I hear it. I hear he's been moonin' after you like you were the last woman in the world."

Rebecca stiffened in anger and instead of repressing it as she had become used to, it wouldn't be held back.

"And what if he is?" she said coldly. "Is it so bad that someone is interested in me? Not what he can show off to others, not as some experiment, but interested in me as a person?" She felt her emotions starting to unravel but she couldn't seem to help it.

"Rebecca…"

"No," Rebecca interrupted. "I know that I'm not normal. I know that I scare people with the things I study and the things I do. People don't talk to me unless they have to and even Morgan…" she paused as she remembered their last conversation. Unconsciously she rubbed the spot over her heart as if to sooth away the ache that had lived inside since Kat disappeared and was only made worse by Morgan Finn's last words to her.

"Morgan?" Kat scowled.

"He told me that I offend God. That I'm unnatural."

"The hell he did," Kat nearly shouted, but instantly calmed when she saw the way Rebecca jumped at the tone of voice.

"He only spoke the truth."

"No Rebecca, he didn't," Kat said firmly but more calmly.

"No? Is not removing organs from bodies unnatural? Is a woman's interest in science and anatomy not natural? And what we did? Does two women having carnal relations not go against God?"

Kat sighed. "I don't claim to be as religious as Mrs. Briggs," she admitted, "but it seems to me that a person ain't born wanting to learn about bodies and such. Someone gave you your interest in science and someone must be the one that gave you the smarts to understand it."

Rebecca opened her mouth to argue but then closed it when she realized she had no argument.

"As for what happened with us, you were helpin' out someone in need, but what we felt...that was natural Rebecca. It was true feelings. At least it was for me and I can't think that the God I may look to, would be against something when true feelings are involved."

"Then why did you run away from me?" Rebecca asked quietly. "What did I do wrong?"

And there it was, Kat thought, shame of her own cowardice nearly choking her. "Oh Rebecca, you didn't do anything wrong," she insisted. "I swear it. I was…what I felt when I was with you, I never expected to feel that again and it was just too much. And I was afraid that I had taken advantage of you, that you didn't…"

"That I didn't what?" Rebecca asked coldly. "That I didn't know what was going on? That I am too mentally damaged to understand what…"

Hearing Rebecca call herself mentally damaged was the last straw for Kat and she wasn't about to let her finish that statement. She quickly took Rebecca's face in her hands and covered the still moving lips. Rebecca stiffened but immediately her lips softened and parted for Kat's and the kiss turned from one of frustration to one of desire.

Rebecca lifted trembling hands to Kat's hips, her resistance to touch once again forgotten in the storm of feelings stirred up by Kat Loving. As she lost herself in the feel of Kat's lips moving against hers, her hands almost instinctively slid up Kat's back. She needed to be closer. She needed more of Kat's mouth, more of her body against hers, more everything.

Kat heard the little whimpers coming from Rebecca and it made her crazy and when Rebecca's arms pulled her tighter, she nearly forgot herself all together. She groaned softly and flicked her tongue out to lick at Rebecca's lips and immediately was drawn inside and for a long intense moment she savored the sweet passionate mouth kissing her back so deeply she could almost feel Rebecca's heartbeat. She reluctantly pulled her lips away, thrilling at the small sound of protest but then kissed along Rebecca's strong jaw and down her throat until she could feel that strong heart beneath her lips. The taste was as sweet as it was the first time and Kat licked and sucked hotly at her neck until she felt the hard tugging of her hair. She pulled back enough to look up and her knees nearly gave out as she saw Rebecca's head thrown back and her eyes clenched tightly in what could only be desire. All she wanted to do was lower the strange, wonderful woman to the ground but she wouldn't do that to her. Rebecca deserved so much better than a quick tumble in the dirt, especially given what she had to tell her.

She cupped Rebecca's cheek. "Rebecca," she whispered, and she almost forgot her intentions when she saw glazed eyes focus on her, lips swollen and almost demanding to be kissed once more.

"Kat?"

Swallowing hard, Kat took a deep breath. "Me and my kids, we're leaving in the morning."

It took an oddly long moment for the words to penetrate the fog in Rebecca's mind. "What?"

"It's time," Kat explained carefully. "I've been putting off going to the land Jeremiah and I were going to build our ranch on, but I can't anymore." She could see the tears spring into Rebecca's eyes and she rushed to explain her decision before the woman fled from her. "My boy and the girls need some stability," she said quickly, "and so do I. We need to get away from Slotter and all the bullshit that keeps dragging us down."

Rebecca felt as if she might be ill and she didn't like it but she refused to show any weakness to this woman, and she would not beg her to stay. "Well I guess I should thank you for at least telling me this time," she replied dully. "Good luck to you Mrs. Loving," she added and then started to walk away but a hand grabbed her wrist, stopping her.

"Come with us," Kat blurted, surprising herself as well as the other woman, but she knew she meant it.

"I...what?"

"Come with us. You don't belong here either. You belong with people who can see how amazing you really are. How smart and brave and beautiful. Someone who won't judge you for being who you are and learning anything you want to learn. Someone who won't hurt you," she finished, fury rising once more as she remembered Thomas Blithely so easily striking his wife.

"You hurt me," Rebecca accused bluntly.

"I know," Kat admitted. "And I'm sorry, but I mean it. Please, come with us. We won't have much at first and you won't have much doctorin' to be done, though I'm sure between me and my kids trying to build a house, there will be some," she offered a smile.

"No," Rebecca answered softly.

Kat didn't particularly care for the disappointment that filled her. "Why? I said I was sorry."

"I know," Rebecca replied and studied strange woman who'd been the one person to ever take her seriously and she could see the sincerity on her face. "I believe you, but I…I am married and my husband needs me."

"No he doesn't," Kat snapped. "He uses you and…and I'm sorry for speakin' so plainly but lookin' at him, It's clear he doesn't have much time left."

"It's true," Rebecca admitted, wondering why she wasn't unhappier at the thought. "He will not let me amputate and the gangrene will only get worse."

Kat wanted to push her until she agreed, but Rebecca Blithely was a surprisingly stubborn woman. Still she would not leave her here alone where people shunned her, beat her and condemned her for everything that made her so special.

"Then we will stay too," she announced.

"But…but you can't," Rebeca stammered.

Kat grinned. "You should know me well enough to know, I never let anyone tell me what I can or can't do."

"You need to go," Rebecca repeated firmly. "You and your children need to build your home. I will be fine."

"Rebecca…"

"No, please. I must stay and tend my husband and I fear that you may…" she paused, confused to find herself embarrassed.

Kat saw the rare blush on her face and her lips lifted in a smile that Rebecca could only describe as arrogant.

"You think I'd be distractin' you?" she smirked, feeling a bit smug at the reluctant admission.

"Yes," Rebecca answered with predictable honesty.

Kat laughed, wondering if she would ever be able to fluster Rebecca the way she did to Kat. "If you're sure, we'll leave as planned, but I'll be back to make sure you're alright."

"If you must," Rebecca tried to sound indifferent, but she failed miserably, causing Kat to laugh softly, and then unable to help herself, she reached out and took Rebecca's face in her hands and kissed her once more.

"I will be back," she promised, "and once your husband has passed, you will come back with us. Right?"

"If I am not needed here."

Kat heard the sad, underlying acceptance that she most likely wouldn't be needed and it broke her heart a little. "Oh Rebecca, you are needed," she said sincerely and then cursed her own loose tongue, afraid she'd said too much, she took Rebecca's hand and led her back to the house.

"I will see you again Rebecca Blithely," she said firmly, before walking away.