I laughed and laughed while Josiah calmly washed Vin's face with snow. The pouting look on my former sharpshooter's face was priceless and I wished I'd thought to bring along the digital camera Ezra had given me for Christmas. It wasn't a habit yet but it would be.
"Now, young man, are you going to cease hitting your poor aging lover with snowballs?" The burly ex-profiler asked.
"It was just two, 'Siah."
Vin was this close to a whine, I thought with a snicker.
"But they were well packed balls with that uncanny aim of yours." Josiah replied and I missed Vin's answer but I most certainly didn't miss the slow blush that began at our profiler's ears and spread all the way down into his muffler. "Ahem, I believe it's time for us to have some of Ezra's cocoa and then we need to go home."
Vin's smile was just this side of angelic and I pretended not to see Josiah's warm pat to his behind. Taking up the slack on the sled, I got the load of wood headed towards the house. Every Saturday since winter started in earnest, some of the guys would come over and help me cut wood. Whoever helped got half the cut logs so it was a rare weekend when we didn't have company.
Just thinking of the warm welcome waiting for us made me hurry up a bit. Some of the load lightened when Josiah joined me in pulling the long sled we used to haul the logs. We didn't say a word, just smiled and headed for the house. I was hoping Ezra was feeling better and needing to see for myself that he was all right. He'd assured me it was just his sinuses but I wasn't so sure.
Smoke curled up from the chimney and lights twinkled in the kitchen windows. If I squinted just a little, I could see a dark head moving from the sink to the stove and back again. That made me pick up the pace a bit and Josiah chuckled at my side.
Vin bounded ahead of us, making for the back door with a cheery call over his shoulder. "I get cocoa first."
"He can be such a child sometimes." Josiah said with the same indulgent smile on his face that Ezra so often had on his. Our eyes met and we both grinned. "How about we leave stacking this wood for later?"
"You got it, 'Siah." I steered it to the woodshed and pulled it just inside the old wooden door with my friend pushing it a little harder to get it over the sill hump. Brushing off my gloves, I followed Josiah down the path to the backdoor and the warm kitchen just beyond.
We both stamped our boots and brushed snow off each other before we opened the door. Ezra purely hated the extra mess of country snows and I was more than willing to stay on his good side, if only for the hot chocolate he made so well. Not to mention the rest of the current story he was spinning for me.
"Gentlemen, your chocolate awaits." His husky voice greeted us from the stove and I crossed to his side to hug him close. "Unhand the cook, Sir, or you shall get none."
I kissed his cheek, not liking the warmth I found there. "That blush better be from cooking over a hot stove and not from the sniffles, Ezra P."
His look was rueful. "I fear I may have underestimated this little bug, Chris. I do indeed have a slight fever. But nothing a little Thera-Flu can't take care of."
I kissed his temple and felt the slight sheen of sweat. "Un-uh, Ez', it's my turn to take care of you. Hot baths, warm massages, ice cream in a couple of days," I wiggled my eyebrows at him and he chuckled.
"What was I thinkin', Chris? Of course, ya'll have ta pamper me until I shake this loathsome bug." He gestured to the warming drawer where he kept mugs warm for our cocoa. "Josiah, the overgrown child has your hot chocolate in front of the fire."
"Thank you kindly, Ezra." He saluted the cook and sauntered speedily to the living room where Vin was singing un-tunefully along with the Christmas carols on the CD player.
"Half an hour and I'll run you a hot bath before calling Buck to let him know he'll have to come over and help Vin with the horses tomorrow." I laid a finger over protesting lips. "I'm serious, Ezra. It's my turn to return the great good care you take of me every day. Please?"
The big puppy eyes haven't failed me yet and Ezra chuckled before sneezing twice into his sleeve. "I think I will let you, Chris. I'm feeling a little achy."
Which meant he was feeling a little more than achy, I translated and got our mugs from the warming drawer. Now, we'd see just how bad a patient he was and how well I'd learned the art of pampering from him. Slipping an arm around him contentedly, I drew him into the front room and our friends. I was definitely looking forward to a snuggle in front of the fire.
Maybe I could come up with a story to keep him occupied? We hadn't done Cinderella yet. Wrapping a quilt around Ezra's shoulders, I mentally started the old tale spinning in my head. Once upon a time there was a young man named Ezra . . .
The end for now