Heath took off his robe and eased his aching bones into the tub. "Sure seemed to be getting harder to bust broncs these days," he reflected as he lit up a cigar, remembering each bruise inflicted on his body that afternoon and the moment of impact. He rear was particularly tender and then there was that spot at the base of his spine, and then his shoulder didn't feel too good either, and then there was....." Heath held his cigar aloft and submerged his head under the soapy water deciding all of a suddent to stop feeling sorry for himself. Meg would be in soon to scrub his back and the thought quickly rejuvenated his flagging spirits.
Boy this water felt good. Hot running water was a luxury many houses did not have and Heath appreciated his family's good fortune. He put the cigar down and dunked his head, pausing to wash his slightly greying hair with some soap. Dunking it again to rinse it, he wasn't surprised to find a warm, fluffy towel pushed into his hands. "About time," he said huskily, anticipating spending some intimate time with his wife. "My back's been crying out for attention."
"Mind if I get undressed first," came back the deep, manly reply.
"Nick! What the Hell are you doing here? Geez, you're the only man I know who never knocks. Where's Meg?"
"Downstairs, talking to Jenny. Jarrod's down there too with Felicity. Horse get the better of you, huh?"
"For a while, but I won out eventually."
"Not before picking up a few bruises along the way, I see?" Nick observed, locating a few angry marks on his brother's back. His concern for his brother was never very far away, though he disguised it with annoyance and bluster.
"A few. They don't bother me any."
"Liar! You and me both - We just don't like to admit we're getting older."
"Speak for yourself." Heath protested. "See that?" he said raising his upper body out of the water, "Like a washboard, not an ounce of fat."
"Great if you want to scrub clothes on it, but what does Meg say," Nick joked at his brother's expense.
"She doesn't have any complaints."
The door turned and in walked Jarrod.
"Geez! What is this? Open house?" Heath bemoaned. "Any body else want to come and watch me take my bath?"
"Quit complaining," Nick censured him, placing a wooden boat in the water that belonged to one of the children. Frustrated, Heath shoved it away, sending the water flying and the boat bobbing down to the bottom end of the bath where it promptly sank, just like his plans.
"Perhaps this will improve your temper, little brother," Jarrod offered, handing both his brothers a brandy each.
"Ya see, Nick." Heath approved. "This is the way to visit your brother in his bath."
"Yeah, well it goes with the territory of being eldest brother to us both. He's lived longer, so he knows these kind of things. Anyway, Heath... Quit dawdling in that bath of yours and come downstairs. I'm famished and Silas has cooked us up a feast. I feel like the prodigal son and the fatted calf has been killed."
"Nick! You have to leave home in order to come back as the prodigal son," Heath observed cynically. "By my reckoning you never really left."
"You'd miss me if I wasn't around. Now come on. Jarrod and I are wilting in this heat."
Heath grabbing the sides of the bath stood up, letting the water cascade off his lean and fit frame. He waited for Jarrod to hand him a fresh towel. Just at that moment, Jenny Barkley opened the door in search of her husband and let out a scream, quickly covering her eyes, though leaving a slight gap in between her fingers through which to continue viewing.
"Ah heck Jenny!" complained Heath, standing stark naked, his temper not improved from having his bath ruined by his brothers. "It's not like it's anything you haven't seen before. You being a married woman an all?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Jenny taking a second appreciative look.
"Woman! Get out of here!" Nick remonstrated not liking her lingering look on Heath's appendages or her aspersions on his own. "Can't a man take a bath in peace around here!"