Celina looked around her at the familiar, seemingly endless expanse of Nebraska prairie as she rode home beside Ethan in his rig later that afternoon. Ethan's lunch rattled in the floorboard, still untouched.

"Thank you for your help back there." Ethan told her.

She smiled at him. "Gladly."

He looked at her sideways. "A proper young lady such as yourself glad to see blood?" There was an air of teasing in the straight-laced doctor's voice.

"Glad that I could be of assistance." Celina corrected.

"Ah, I see."

"Are you hungry?" she asked, changing the subject."I was bringing you your lunch when Parker rode up."

"Were you?" He asked, still teasing her for some reason. "How sweet. Not even married yet and you're all ready taking care of me."

"And just who said I was marrying you?" Celina asked in sharp surprise.

Certainly, she intended to do just that, but it was really nobody's business but hers and Ethan's.

"Well," Ethan considered this, becoming serious. "Your mother and both of your sisters are certain of it. Your brother no longer cringes at the notion. Even your father has agreed. At least he did when I approached him about it."

"You talked to Pa about it?" She was feeling very serious now.

"I did."

She lapsed back into a teasing tone. "It seems I'm the last one in my family to hear about it, Ethan Powell. What do you have to say for yourself about that?"

"I suppose I ought to ask you to agree to it."

"I think you should."

"Well," Ethan paused, staring at the reins in his hands, serious once again. "Celina Gardner, will you marry me?"

Celina pretended to consider, while Ethan shifted, nervously awaiting her answer.

After a few seconds she said, "Yes. Yes, I do believe I will."

Ethan flopped back against the seat, releasing the breath he had been holding. Celina smiled lovingly and rested her head on his shoulder.

"I love you, Miss Gardner."

"And, against all my better judgement, I love you, Dr. Powell."


This is the fourth installment in my "Dalton" series. Please review! I need the motivation to continue this. Thanks! :)