Rainn awakened to warmth, solid and comforting—the feel of hip to thigh, her nose buried in a thick ebony-dark mass of fragrant hair and her arm encircling his softly furred chest. Sleeping like spoons definitely had its advantages she discovered as she shifted slightly to press herself closer against the broad muscular back. A voice still gritty from sleep rumbled gently, "Are you cold?”

She smiled into his neck as a large hand clasped hers and hugged it against the slow beating of his heart. Refusing to rouse herself into full waking status, she sent him a drowsy wave of contentment and allowed herself the extra twenty minutes of rest before the alarm went off and demanded attention.

Gerran crawled out from beneath the quilts first, casting her a loving look as he pulled on a thick patched sweater and a pair of well-worn breeches. He went to light the small brazier in the corner of the room to help warm the place. The January cold had seeped through the cabin’s tightly packed and mortared logs as it brought its bitter chill to the woods, if not its fourteen inches of snow and ice. As he prepared to brew them a pot of coffee and a bite of breakfast from the kitchen area, Rainn watched his back, giving herself five more minutes to snuggle in the cocoon of body heat before reluctantly leaving the bed to face another day.

“How’d you sleep last night? You stayed up pretty late.” He glanced over his shoulder, knowing she was looking at him. The pale gray light coming through the windows cast a sheen over his shoulder-length hair.

Rainn flashed him a tired smile. “Fricking deadline, but I got it done and emailed.” She started to yawn, when a shiver went through her.

“Let’s hope that was the last big storm of the season,” Gerran commented with a chuckle. “Having any regrets yet about leaving the city? It can get pretty hairy up here in the Alleghanys until spring arrives. And once the snow starts to melt, the bears start coming out of hibernation and all.”

She chuckled at the mention of bears. “No, thanks. That’s one of the perks of my job that I love and plan to put to full use.”

The clatter of coffee mugs and the sound of something sizzling on the propane stove were comforting sounds. Familiar and homey. Taking a deep breath, Rainn caught a whiff of bacon frying. Her stomach responded with a low growl. Sitting up, she glanced out the glazed front window, then at her husband. “What about you? Any regrets having to settle here?”

His answering smile filled her with a heat no fire could match. “No. Never. You know how much I love this part of the country. As long as I’m amid my beloved forest, I’m content.” He paused, his gaze softening as he stared at her. “And having you with me has completed my life,” he added with undisguised love.

With some reluctance, she finally crawled out from under the covers and hurried into the bathroom. When she returned, he was zipping up his knee boots when he came over to the bed, bearing a tray, and placed it on the mattress between them. “If I’m not here when you get home, I may still be at Benton’s,” he said. He handed her a mug of coffee as she grabbed a slice of bacon.

“Claude Benton? From the general store?”

He uncovered the last of last night’s biscuits, now warmed from their brief freshening by the fire. They both sat on the edge of the bed to enjoy their repast. She warmed her hands around her cup as he spread honey on one biscuit before handing it to her.

“He’s giving us some potatoes from the crop he’s grown in an abandoned lot. I thought I’d finish cleaning out that storage cellar and put them down there. I don’t know how long it’ll take for me to go over there and get them, but I’ll try to be back before too late.”

“Why is he giving us his potatoes?”

“He says my good word on his behalf garnered him some extra clients. He’s offering the potatoes as a way of saying thanks.”

“Are you taking the ATV?”

“Since I don’t know how many pounds he’s giving us, I thought I would, rather than trying to carry them on foot.”

“Mmm. Well, that’s nice of him. The potatoes will be welcomed, now that the berries are long gone. I don’t suppose you’ll take your bow with you when you leave.”

Gerran gave her a lopsided grin. “I’d planned to. Hopefully I’ll be able to return with a little meat to go with your wonderful potato soup.” He drained his mug and got to his feet. “I don’t know how long it’ll take but I’ll try to be back before long. With a little luck, I should return late tonight.”

“Take care, my love,” she replied. Getting to her feet, she shrugged on her coat. “I’ll go by the market to see if I can wrangle a loaf of bread from Mr. Haymar. Then, when I get back, I’m going to check out that grove of maple trees. If we’re lucky, I’ll be able to milk enough sap from them to boil down into a couple bottles of syrup. If we’re really lucky, I’ll be able to make enough to sell a few extra bottles to Talbot’s market.”

“Thus sayeth the transplanted farm girl from Vermont,” he teased.

Standing on tiptoe, she gave her husband a tender kiss. “Please be careful.”

“No, you be careful. Even in the middle of winter, the woods have all sorts of creatures crawling around.”

“I promise, if I see anything bigger than a breadbox, I’m hightailing it in the opposite direction.”

He cupped her cheek in his hand and gave her a loving smile before she placed her empty mug back on the tray, grabbed another slice of bacon, and scooted out the door.