Even through the coat and uniform underneath, she could feel the hard wall of muscle. Daniel’s good hand moved inside her cloak, up to her breasts and cupped them gently.
Papa was still occupied over at the wagon while the slave catchers slept on, still snoring loudly. The wind whistled through the trees, sounding cold and lonely.
“Charlie.” Daniel’s quiet voice rumbled in her ear. “I need to ask you…what are you doing out here…you and your father…in the middle of the night? Were you helping runaway slaves like they said? Did you hide them in the coffins?”
How would he react when she told him the truth? Would he keep their secret, or did he believe the black people should be kept as property, as slaves? This was a subject she had never discussed with him.
Reaching up a hand, she pulled his head down so she could speak to him without being over heard. “In all truthfulness,” she whispered, “yes, Papa and I were assisting our guests to move to their next destination.”
“What does that mean? You are speaking in riddles.”
“It means, yes. The answer to your question is ‘yes.’” His ear was so close to her lips she couldn’t help but take a little nibble of his lobe. He chuckled softly and then fell silent.
“Charlie.” Daniel’s breath created a fog in the cold, crisp air. He faced her, his face serious in the flickering light of the fire. Reaching out with his right hand, he grasped her upper arm and gave her a tiny shake. “You can’t do that anymore. It is far too dangerous, and it is illegal. You’ve seen what can happen. The slave hunters don’t treat abolitionists kindly. They don’t hesitate to use force, even against women. You and your father are very lucky they didn’t hang you on the spot!”
“Shhh,” she warned, “you’ll wake them up!”
He shook his head, “I understand, but you and your father can’t change the Southern way of life. The plantation owners depend on slave labor. Although I can’t abide the idea of enslaving other human beings, I can’t tolerate the idea that y-you…” His voice broke and he stopped, taking a steadying breath. “That you could be in danger.”
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