Instead, he just lost it. I told you I can't quit my job. What would we live on? We'd be all right, she said. She told him she'd be around for another week, but he raged about how she should just go now. Why wait?

The woman realized, even at that time, that she'd hurt him. Not just then, but over and over. And he'd reached his limit. She tried to take his hands in hers and he just pushed her away.

The woman realized she was crying, which surprised her, but even that didn't slow him down.

Have fun up there, he said. Have a nice life. The man pulled the cabin door open with such force she felt its wake from the other side of the room. And he never looked at her again as he stepped out into the snow and slammed the door behind him.

What man would ever come back after that? Most would've given up long before he did. And maybe that's what she'd wanted. For him to give up, like all the rest, so she could be alone. And never have to open herself to anyone again. Her father had nearly beat that desire all the way out of her.

But the man from Pueblo had found a handhold. Somehow. And started working his way in. Everything in her life had been replaceable. She preferred it that way. Her rusty knives and old rifles. The cabins she built. The beat up trucks she drove. Everything. Until him. If she was tired of a place she picked up and left. Simple. Her skins. Her tent. Disposable. Even people. She'd never had a problem replacing people, either.

Never. Until him.

She had been sure this trip would be the same. All the other men she forgot so easily. But this time? She'd never been so lonely for as long as she could remember.

A week into the trip he'd entered her dreams. Fuzzy, at first. A shadowy man. But definitely him. His physical features appeared more and more as the nights went on. The man's face came into focus, fading away with the morning light, but as time passed, her dreams lingered with her till noon. Then all day, until every waking hour it was all she could do to squeeze his image from her mind and focus on the task at hand.

Then a recurring dream in which the man always rode up to her from across a field. That warm smile of his. Those kind eyes. She'd be standing by a fence post as he swung down from his horse which, in the dream, was always Pearl, a gnarled old mare she'd owned way before ever meeting him. The man would kiss her deeply, like their first time, then climb back up in the saddle and he'd ride away as the animal grew canines and fur. And now he'd be riding a wolf. Big as a horse. But a wolf no doubt. He'd ride it to the other end of the field and disappear. And then she'd wake up.

As flames licked the logs of her campfire deep in the Brooks Range, she thought of him and the blade sunk deeper. Panic rose inside her as she wondered if she'd truly lost him. Later that night she woke up calling his name in her empty tent, believing she was in his arms.

Still, she headed north. Farther and farther from Colorado. As if accepting a dare. But what kept tempting her out here? And why did she always follow?

Heading for the Divide she was above tree line now, nothing around but those granite peaks. A scrap of wind ruffled the water of a nearby kettle pond. Then absolute still. All she could do was think of him. Unlike the ache in her muscles and joints, her exhaustion, his memory was a pain she couldn't shake, a hunger she couldn't ignore.