Of course it wasn't that impossible life-saving shot that made her love him, no matter what Bob told Buck afterwards. She loved him before that. But undeniably, surviving death by the skin of your teeth did tend to make you feel that there was no time to lose.
"Let's get married," she said to Bob, and grinned at his poleaxed look.
"You heard me," she said, but by then his arms were already around her and he was hugging her tight. She buried her face in his unwashed hair and smiled, tears in her eyes.
"Yes!" he said. "Yes."
"Don't say anything," Bob warned as Caroline sliced through the rope around his wrists. "Don't you dare."
"No?" Caroline said innocently.
"We'll never hear the end of it," Buck said glumly.
Caroline suppressed a snigger.
"See, that's what I mean," Buck said.
"How did you find us, anyway?" Bob said, rubbing his wrists.
Caroline started on Buck's ropes. "I'm pretty sure you could be tracked by the smell."
"Like you would smell of roses after a week on the trail," Buck said.
Caroline smirked. "Do you want out of these ropes? If so, you better act a little more grateful."
Caroline woke from a knock and a voice at the front door.
"Hello? Is Buck here? His team's outside."
"Oh God, my mom," groaned Buck, burying his head under the blankets where he was lying between Bob and her. Bob looked equally horrified.
"Quick, out the window," Caroline said, gathering her wits. "Get in the back entrance to the spare room. I'll go out and distract her."
"Without my boots?" Buck looked dubiously at the high drifts of snow.
"It's that or, well." Caroline glanced at the door.
Buck drew on sweater and pants and manfully jumped out the window.
Caroline was fairly sure she'd never seen Bob look more awkward in her life.
"Rescued in the nick of time," he muttered.
"And what do you mean by that?" she said, stifling a grin.
"Well--" he shrugged, holding little Ben out to her helplessly. There was a certain telling smell.
"Oh, I see. You need rescuing from your own son now?" she said.
"I'll go out and chop wood?" Bob said meekly.
Caroline rolled her eyes and took Ben from him. "You do that," she said, and went to change Ben's diapers while Bob made his escape to the woodshed.
Caroline didn't know how much time had passed since her death, but it must have been long enough for Bob's beard to grow out. He looked haggard, and it cut into her heart.
He stirred, but then shook his head. "No. You're not her."
"Look at me!" She wanted to shake him. "Get up. You can't live your life like this."
He looked up, and his face went pale. "No."
"Yes, it is! Get up and make Ben some food. And then get Muldoon for me."
His face firmed into resolve, and she knew she'd gotten through.