"Who could be out in this kind of weather?" Tara indicated the rain pelting against the window in the dining room. Willow shrugged and went to the door. She opened it and found a woman and her small child standing on the porch. They were soaked to the skin and a sight for sore eyes. The woman, a small blonde close to Willow and Tara's age, spoke in a trembling voice.
"My name is Elizabeth and this is my daughter Anne. We were wondering if you could give us quarter for the night."
Willow nodded and stepped aside, "Of course. What are you doing out in a storm like this?" She added as the two strangers stepped inside.
"Our carriage wheel broke down the road there. The driver saw the light from your window and sent us on the way. He said he had to stay with his horse and carriage. I think he feared theives." The short blonde finished. About that time, Tara and Dawn came up behind Willow in the foyer.
"Willow, what's going on?"Dawn asked as she eyed the two newcomers.
"Their carriage wheel broke and they need a place to stay for the night out of the storm. I'm going to go help the driver and see if we can't get his carriage back here." Willow donned her heavy coat. "You two stay here and help these two get warm and comfortable. This is Elizabeth and her daughter Anne." Willow put her floppy field hat on her long red hair and kissed Dawn on the cheek.
"I'll be back soon. I love you." She said to Dawn. She turned to Tara and gave her a smile.
"Be careful." Tara said in a soft tone, her blue eyes showing that she really meant it. She slid her hand into Willow's and squeezed lightly.
"I will." Willow squeezed back.
'She touched me. And told me to be careful.' Willow's heart leapt into her throat and no one saw the big smile on her face as she turned and walked out the front door and into the rain. She could've been walking into a hurricane and she wouldn't have cared. Tara had touched her and that was all that mattered. The walk was a short one, and when she approached the carriage, she called out.
A tall blonde man stepped out of the coach. He was already soaked to the skin and his breath steamed in front of him.
"Hello! I'm Will. You sent your passengers up the way to my house. I'm here to help." Willow told him. He didn't object that a woman had been sent to help him although he looked like he wanted to.
"I'm William. The pin came out of the axle and the wheel came off. I couldn't get it back on myself." He yelled over the rumble of thunder.
"Do you have an extra pin?" Willow called. William nodded and reached into the cab and under the seat. He pulled out a spare parts box and opened it, pulling out a pin.
"Let's get to work. We can put the wheel back on and you can bring it back to our plantation and put your horse up for the night. We've got an extra bedroom for you."
William nodded and they set to work.
Back at the plantation, Tara helped Dawn gather extra blankets and sheets for their guests.She put a kettle of coffee on the fire and poured the two soaked blondes a cup. The woman and her child gratefully took it and sat at the table drinking it. Dawn stoaked the fire to a roaring blaze, then sat at the table and made conversation until they were reasonably dry. Tara stood at the front door and stared out into the downpour. She jumped slightly when Dawn touched her arm.
"We're headed to bed. I'm going to put them in my room and their driver in the downstairs guestroom. I'll sleep with Willow tonight."
"No please, put them in my room. I'm going to stay up and wait for Will. I want to make sure they get back okay."
A smile formed on Dawn's face as she nodded. If it meant putting Willow and Tara in the same bed, she would gladly put the guests in Tara's room. What she didn't know was that Tara had already set up blankets on the floor of the sitting room. She didn't want Willow to think anything bad about her. Dawn hugged Tara.
"I'll say goodnight then. Don't stay up too late."
"Goodnight Dawn. Sweet dreams." Tara kissed the young woman on top of the head. Dawn retreated upstairs and Tara turned back to the door. Two hours later Tara spotted Willow and the carriage coming up the road. Instead of coming to the house, Willow headed to the stables at the side of the house. An hour later, Willow and a man, presummably the carriage driver, dragged themselves up onto the porch. To say they were both soaked would've been an understatement. Tara opened the door for them and they hurried inside, into the warmth. Tara handed them both towels and led them to the dining room. The large fire was still blazing thanks to Tara, and both Wills sat down in front of it. Tara gave them a hotmug of coffee and they sat in silence, shivering with cold. The driver introduced himself to Tara and Tara pointed out where he would spend the night.
"There is an extra s-set of clothes on the b-bed and you can put your wet things in h-here by the fire to dry."
"Thank you both very much for your kindness. Goodnight." Willam said with a wave as he wandered off down the hall to his room.
"Dawn and the others are already in b-bed. I had Dawn put them in my room. I'll sleep in the s-sitting room on the floor tonight."
"You most certainly will not," Willow argued sternly. "Your kindness will not be rewarded by sleeping on that cold, hard floor. You will sleep in my bed. I'll sleep on the floor in the sitting room. I've done it many times before."
"W-Willow, you showed more kindness than I've ever s-seen by doing what you've done t-tonight. Remember your own r-rules." Tara gently pointed out. She used Willow's full name to show that she was serious. Willow was a little taken aback.
"Well, I'm the exception to the rule. They are my rules after all."
"Fine but if you're sleeping in the floor, so am I."
"No you'll sleep in the bed and that's final."
"If I sleep in the bed then you have to sleep there too and that's f-final."
"Fine." Willow was pleased that she got to sleep in the same bed as Tara, but she was used to getting her way all the time and she pouted at not getting it this time.
"B-Besides, you c-could use another person in there to w-warm the bed up. You look like you're f-freezing." Tara said with a blush.
"I am pretty cold." Willow said absently. She smiled at the thought of having the beautiful blonde in bed with her. Of course she wouldn't do anything, she wasn't sure if Tara liked her or if she was just being nice. Still, it was entirely possible for Willow's body to 'accidentally' snuggle up to Tara's in the middle of the night. For warmth, that's all.
"Will?" The blonde called for the second time.
"Huh? What?" Willow shook her head a few times and blinked.
"Are you okay? You're not c-coming down with a f-fever are you?" Tara put her hand on Willow's forehead gently. Willow's eyes involuntarily closed at the feel of the warmth radiating from Tara's hand.
"You f-feel all right to m-me." Tara said softly as she begrudgingly removed her hand from the damp skin on Willow's forehead. She had seen Willow's reaction to her touch and she blushed profusely. Willow opened her eyes and tried to stifle a yawn as fatigue overtook her.
"Well I'm just going to change out of these wet clothes then." Willow mumbled as she covered her yawn with her hand.
"O-okay. I'll just wait down here."
Willow nodded and trudged up the stairs wearily. She really was cold and if that meant being near the striking blonde, she would spend every night helping carriage drivers in the rain. She smiled as she pulled off her clothing and slipped on clean long johns. She ran a brush through her still damp red hair and pulled the covers back before going back down to fetch Tara. She went back to the sitting room, but no Tara was to be found. She started to search back upstairs and ran into Tara coming out of her room. The blonde held her nightshift in her hands and looked shyly at Willow.
"I j-just n-needed my gown." Tara stuttered. She inwardly chastised herself for the impediment and blushed as she looked down. A flash of lightning illuminated the hallway and lit up their faces, allowing Willow to see the other girl's insecurities. She placed a calloused hand under Tara's chin and lifted it slowly.
"Hey, look here at me."Willow pleaded softly, missing the warm blue of Tara's gaze. Tara allowed Willow to lift her face and look in her eyes. A kind smile graced Willow's thin lips.
"That's better." Willow said soothingly. "Come on, you can change in my room."
She took Tara by the hand and pulled her easily down the hall. Willow stood near the window with her back to the blonde as she changed.Tara neatly laid her dress over the wooden chair in Willow's bedroom.
"O-Okay I'm done."
Willow turned and didn't know if Tara could look more beautiful than she did at that very moment. The white shift came down to her shapely calves and she had the cutest feet Willow had ever seen. Willow rubbed her rough hands over her face and went to the bed.
'I gotta stop this. She doesn't even feel the same way I do.'
"Goodnight Will," Came a soft voice from the other side of the bed.
"Goodnight Tara. Sweet dreams."
Both women lay stiffly and awkwardly until fatigue finally overtook them and they both relaxed into sleep, the rain beating on the windows and their hearts beating for each other.