Title: Fate in Time
Disclaimer: not mine
Summary: what if Charles wasn’t the only one surprised?
Laura woke with a gasp, kicking at the quilts as she struggled to sit up under their weight.
As she fought to catch her breath, she reached out, with a shaky hand, to turn up the bedside lamp. Blinking against the sudden brightness, she pulled open the drawer of her night table and pulled out a worn journal, an inkwell and a pen.
She quickly, but carefully, uncapped the ink, opened the journal to a blank page, then dipped the pen in the ink and began to write; in quick, short sentences.
Striking blue eyes. Easy smile.
Extremely tall… buildings??
Horseless wagons… automobiles??
“Laura… I wanted to talk with you.”
The riverbank… kissing…
Laura tapped the end of the pen against her lips as she contemplated what she’d written in her diary. The remembered bits of her dream… the dream that had had her waking up and gasping for breath.
She flipped back through the previous three entries. They were all identical… written memories of the dreams that had been plaguing her for the last few days… dreams of a tall, silver haired man with incredible blue eyes. He felt familiar somehow.
But tonight’s dream had been a little different.
Tonight, Laura had heard him speak… had heard his voice, and the sound had caressed her ears and sent shivers of delight through her body. And in tonight’s dream… they’d kissed; a sweetly passionate kiss that had woken her up, breathless and gasping.
Turning back to tonight’s entry, she dipped her pen in the ink then wrote one more thing.
She stared at the letters, wondering why they were important, but knowing instinctively that they were.
Laura pondered the entry for several more moments and then with a sigh, she capped the ink and returned all three items to her night table. She turned down the lamp and settled back under her blankets.
“Who are you?” She whispered into the darkness.
“Uhm… I don’t know it, but I can find out. Follow me!” Mary’s voice drifted to her over the hustle and bustle on the street as she wrote the day’s headlines on the chalkboard in front of the Gazette.
“Mama, what’s the date?”
Laura glanced down at her daughter as she appeared at her side. “You know how to look it up, Mary.”
“Oh yeah…” Mary murmured and hurried over to the pile of newspapers Laura kept on the barrel beside the Gazette’s steps. She pulled one loose and looked at it. “It’s the third of March.”
Laura watched out of the corner of her eye as Mary held up the paper and walked towards someone she couldn’t see.
“It costs three cents.”
At the sound of the new voice, Laura stopped writing and slowly turned around.
‘Oh my good lord!’ She thought, her heart suddenly pounding erratically in her chest. ‘It can’t be!’
Laura stared at the silver-haired man standing in the street, looking just as surprised at seeing her as she was him. She brushed back the lock of hair that had fallen into her eyes as she met his gaze. “Did anyone ever tell you, that it’s rude to stare?” Laura asked in an attempt to cover her own shock and surprise, and the strong sense of déjà vu she was feeling.
“I’m sorry. It… it’s just you look exactly like…” he began as he shook his head, his blue eyes wide in bewilderment as they looked directly into hers.
“Aren’t you going to buy the paper?”
Mary’s question pulled his attention away from her. Shaking his head, as if to clear it, she watched him look down at her daughter. “Yes, oh yes,” he nodded as he reached into his pocket.
Laura returned her attention to her chalkboard, her heart still racing at seeing this man from her dreams standing before her talking to her daughter.
“Yeah, right, uh… three cents, huh?”
“Oh, I… I don’t have three cents.”
“Yes, you do. I can make change.”
“No, those are, uh… those are street car tokens.”
Laura turned back. She was curious, and with the images of her dream flashing in her mind’s eye; images of the man before her standing amidst tall, glass buildings, she found herself asking, “I take you’re not from around these parts?”
He looked up from Mary and met her gaze again as he answered. “No… uh,
“The big city,” Laura nodded in acceptance of his answer. It made sense.
“You can owe me,” Mary spoke up.
“Uh, I just needed to take a quick peek,” he gestured to paper Mary held out to him.
“Go ahead and take that one,” Laura told him. “I usually have plenty left over, just have to toss them.”
Laura watched his eyes widen as he looked down at the paper in his hands then turned back to the chalkboard. Before she could really contemplate his reaction, a shout sounded from inside the Gazette, followed by her name.
“I’m comin’!” She yelled in to Fred as she put the chalk down and hurried up the steps. She paused briefly, turning back to look at the strange yet familiar man as she slowly moved inside the building.
Closing the door behind her, she walked over to the printing press to see that, somehow, Fred had managed to get several sheets of paper jammed into the machine. Pushing thoughts of the handsome stranger out of her mind, Laura helped Fred free the sheets, and together they resumed cleaning and preparing the press for the next day’s edition.
As she lined the blank sheets up, and guided them into the press, Laura found her thoughts returning to the man from her dreams. She was still having a hard time believing that he was real.
Laura turned suddenly at the voice, and couldn’t stop her heart from skipping a beat when she realized that he’d followed her inside. She pushed a lever then turned back to Fred, asking him to stop the machine before turning once again to look at the man leaning on the rail looking at her.
“You didn’t ask, but if you want to improve your circulation, why don’t you offer people more than hard news.”
Laura felt her hackles begin to rise. “Hard news?”
“Yeah, yeah, the basic, unadorned facts of the story.”
“See, soft news is more personal. It’s got the human angle. All the successful papers do it. People love it.”
“You work at a newspaper, Mister…?” she asked, feeling truly annoyed now.
“Lattimer. Charles Lattimer.”
She repeated his name to herself.
‘C L…’ she felt a flush rise to her cheeks as images from her dream flashed through her mind of being in his arms, of feeling his lips on hers. She turned back to the press to try and calm herself as he continued to speak.
“I’m, uh, in advertising. I design ads, sell products.”
“I know what advertising is,” she glanced back at him, giving him a look that told him she was not stupid as she cleaned the cylinders on the printing press. “I was just wondering what qualifies you to teach me about the paper business.”
“I was just trying to help,” Charles replied, his tone apologetic.
Accepting his apology in the spirit it was given, she
continued to clean and asked, “Is this your first time in
“And you’re here to…”
“Look around… see what’s here.”
“Well, you have plenty of time. Last train doesn’t leave till five forty-five,” she told him then, once again, resumed cleaning, bending over the machine to reach further in.
“Well… got the whole afternoon then. Can I maybe take you to lunch, Miss…”
She suddenly straightened up, surprised, both at his invitation and at the realization that she did want to have lunch with him.
“I wanted you to… very much…”
Once again, her dream flashed through her mind; lying beside him on the riverbank, her lips warm and swollen from his kiss.
“Brown. Mrs. Laura Brown,” Laura answered, hoping that by giving him the impression she was married, not a widow and available, that he would be put off; even as she prayed that he wouldn’t be. “No, thank you, no. We take lunch at home.”
“Invite him to lunch, mama.”
She and Charles turned to see Mary hanging over the rail, smiling at them. It was obvious to Laura that her daughter was already enamoured of Mister Lattimer.
“Why don’t you go outside and play, Mary.” Laura told her.
“All right,” Mary said with an exaggerated sigh.
Laura chuckled at her daughter. She glanced at Charles to see him smile and shrug. She licked her lips and looked away at the sudden shy feeling that came over her. When she turned back to him, she surprised herself as the words fell from her lips, “Would you care to lunch with us, Mister Lattimer?”
The smile that lit his face and his quick acceptance made her breath catch, and made her realize that she’d been hoping he would say yes… that she wanted to spend more time in his company.
“May I have this one?” Laura asked Charles, pointing to the cartoon he’d finished drawing on the back of the newspaper he’d folded up.
After what had proved to be an interesting lunch where Laura
had discovered that Charles did not think like the other men, and women, of
His idea for the cartoon intrigued her, and what he’d drawn had amused her, prompting her to ask him for it.
“Sure. My gift to you,” he said and handed her the drawing, “for an unbelievable afternoon.”
She giggled softly as she looked down at the sketch.
“I envy you,” Charles told her suddenly.
“Me?” Laura dropped the cartoon to her lap and met his eyes.
Charles nodded. “Your life. It’s so rich,” his gaze moved from hers to look out over the river, “so full, so warm. A very different thing… from where I come from.”
“It’s colder… somehow harder to touch.”
“Hmm…” she nodded as she followed his gaze to the water before dropping it to where her daughter was playing happily in the tall grass.
“It’s fast… instant…” Charles continued and returned his gaze to hers, “the faster the better.” He sighed, “Very different.”
“But perhaps, richness of life comes more from inside of a person,” Laura told him as she reached out to pluck a wild daisy from the grass beside her.
“You know, if I could pick a time to live… any time… I would pick right here, right now. The brink of a whole new century with so much promise ahead.”
“Then you must be quite content,” Laura said with a smile then held out the flower to him. His fingers brushed hers as he took it, and she suddenly looked away and down, blushing softly. She looked back up, almost shyly, to find his eyes on her.
The feeling that she was safe, that her heart was safe, with him, returned. She’d felt it when she’d invited him to join her family for lunch. Felt it when they’d driven to the house. There was just something about this man that put her at ease… that made her feel comfortable with him. She’d only just met him, and yet she felt drawn to him. She’d never felt that with another man.
It had been different with her husband. She and Will had been childhood friends, and then sweethearts; their friendship a solid basis from which a sweet, simple love had grown. She’d just always felt safe and comfortable with Will. After his death, Laura had shied away from the advances of other men; feeling ill at ease and uncomfortable around them.
But with Charles it was different. She did not know what it was about him… or if it was because of her dreams of him that gave her this feeling, but she decided to trust it... to trust Charles.
“Look, mama, a praying mantis!” Mary’s sudden exclamation broke the spell.
Laura blinked and looked away from Charles towards her daughter. “Oh, Mary…” she chuckled as she climbed to her feet and hurried over to her daughter, very aware of Charles’ eyes on her as she played with Mary; tickling and laughing with her.
On the drive back to town to deliver Charles to the train, they continued to toss ideas for the Gazette back and forth. Laura found him to be a very intelligent, very engaging man and she enjoyed her conversation with him immensely. He challenged her without making her feel inferior, and treated her like the intelligent woman she was… like she was an equal.
As they pulled up to the train, Laura chuckled at his comment in regards to her mother.
“Say good-bye to your husband too,” Charles continued.
Laura glanced over at him. “My husband?”
“Whoa!” She called to Turnip as she pulled back on the reigns, bringing him to a stop. She turned to meet Charles’ eyes. “He’s not my husband, he’s a hired hand.”
“Oh, I just assumed because…”
“No, we grew up together. He’s more like a brother to me. I’m widowed,” Laura told him.
“It’s all right. It was some time ago,” she said in a quiet voice, holding his steady gaze. While she’d purposely given him the impression that she was married earlier that afternoon, she now wanted him to know, for certain, that she was available… and most definitely interested. She glanced down, wanting to say something more, but was unsure of what to say in the face of the sudden and strange feelings she was experiencing, then met his eyes again.
As if understanding her, Charles climbed down off of the buggy then looked up at her. She smiled at him.
“Have a wonderful life, Mrs. Brown.” Charles told her.
“I hope you won’t wait that long to come back,” Laura replied, smiling broadly at him. “You have a safe trip home,” she placed her hand in his extended one, and shook it gently, “Mister Lattimer.”
He smiled up at her then slowly released her hand.
Laura sat back against the seat of the wagon and watched as he grabbed his briefcase then walked to the train. She tilted her head thoughtfully, continuing to watch him until he disappeared inside the car. With a flick of the reigns, she urged Turnip on his way, wondering if she’d ever see Charles Lattimer again while deep in her heart, praying that she would.
Laura woke with a soft cry, fighting to free herself from the quilts that seemed intent on trapping her in her bed. When she was finally free, she sat up and reached out for the lamp; her shaking hand making it difficult to turn up the flame. After several attempts, she gave up.
With a softly muttered “Damnation!” she slipped out of her bed and walked over to the window. She wrapped her arms around her chest, suddenly aware that her whole body was shaking, not just her hands.
Images from her dream raced through her mind. “More like a nightmare,” she corrected herself quietly shuddering anew as the memory of the explosion washed over her.
“Charles…” it was a whisper filled with anguish.
While most of the nightmare had faded along with the haze of sleep, the image of Charles and the explosion were still very vivid… along with the heartbreaking sense of dread that had had her waking up crying out his name.
Laura shook her head. She’d only just met Mister Lattimer the day before, and while she had never been one of those silly school girls who believed in love at first sight, Laura knew her heart. She knew that, in just those few hours spent with him, she’d fallen in love with him.
A deep sigh worked its way out of her and she leaned closer to the window and pressed her forehead against the cool glass.
Laura sighed again, wondering what she was going to do. She’d woken up that morning, giddy with the hope that he would show up, and as the day wore on, it became apparent that he wasn’t going to. Laura had found herself feeling disappointed. Her mother had sensed her mood during dinner, and while she hadn’t said anything, Laura had been able to read the disapproval in her mother’s eyes.
She pushed herself away from the window and shook her head as she made her way back to the bed. Slipping under the blankets, Laura laid her head on the pillow and gazed out through the window at the stars. Seeing a bright light suddenly streak across the sky, she couldn’t resist making a wish.
With a soft chuckle she closed her eyes and willed herself to go to back to sleep, as she had to get up earlier than normal to go into the Gazette. Fred had taken ill, and would not be in, so she would be doing everything by herself.
Even still… just as sleep began to claim her once more, Laura found herself whispering Charles’ name to the stars peeking into her room; giving voice to her heart’s desire.
The printing press chugged along as Laura sat before it, typing away at the keyboard, working on the day’s paper.
“Oh!” Laura’s finger missed the key she was aiming for, hitting the one next to it by mistake. “Damnation!”
“You certainly do have a mouth on you, Mrs. Brown.”
Laura turned around to see Charles leaning on the railing behind her, his hat in hand and a smile on his face. She looked away and down, a slight flush creeping up her cheeks as she felt her heart quicken its beat.
He’d come back.
“I have a temper too, and if I drop any more type, you just might see it,” she turned once again to look at him. “I’m sorry, I can’t visit. I’m behind.”
“Where’s your typesetter?”
“Fred came down with The Croup,” Laura answered her eyes focused on the keyboard.
“I have time,” she turned at his words and watched as he walked around the railing towards her, unbuttoning his jacket. “How about I typeset?”
“You typeset?” Laura asked with both hope and surprise.
Charles dropped his hat on the railing post. “Sure. If you show me how,” he said and reached inside his jacket to pull out his glasses and put them on.
Laura smiled at him then turned back to the printing press. “You read the copy, you type it in,” she touched each part of the machine as she told him what to do. “When you hear the bell, you lift the elevator; you send it on its way and start the next line.”
Charles nodded. “Piece of cake.”
“No, those are crackers,” she gestured to the tin sitting in the window, “but help yourself.”
Laura vacated the chair, allowing him to sit at the typeset keyboard.
“Where’d you leave off?” Charles asked.
She told him as she settled on the stool at the nearby desk where her typewriter sat, shifting the machine closer.
“Yep, got it. Go ahead, right,” he muttered and began to slowly type.
Laura began to type as well then stopped, and glanced over at him. “That’s a fine suit you’re wearing.”
Charles swiveled to meet her gaze. “Thank you,” he replied then returned his attention back to the press.
“Oh! I ran your cartoon.”
“Oh, yes?” Charles turned once again to look at her. “How’d it go?”
“Everyone is asking for the next one. It was an excellent idea, thank you,” she smiled at him. “And if you feel inspired, there’s some blank paper right here.” Laura patted the pile of white sheets beside her then returned to her typing. “I’m surprised to see you, Mister Lattimer,” she stopped typing again, resting her fingers on the keys as she looked over at him. “I didn’t think you would be returning so soon.”
“No… I didn’t either, Mrs. Brown.” He said absently as he focused his attention on the keys.
Laura stared at him a moment longer, watching as he typed out the column, then turned back to her typewriter, smiling and rocking a little on the stool. She felt extremely giddy with the thought that he’d been unable to stay away, and had come back to see her.
Conversation was scarce as they worked, but the silence, when it was upon them, was not uncomfortable. Before either of them knew it, it was noon, and time for lunch. In fact, it took her stomach’s low rumble to make her look up at the clock.
“I think a break for lunch would be good,” she said, spinning around on her stool to face Charles.
Charles stopped the press, straightened up and looked over at her. He laid his hand on his stomach and nodded. “Yeah, I’m feeling a little hungry,” he said then stood, reaching for his jacket which he’d removed earlier. “But today, I’m taking you to lunch. No arguments.”
Laura smiled and nodded.
Pulling the door shut behind her, Laura locked it then hurried down the steps and into the street. It was very late, and the town was quiet as she made her way down the darkened street towards the stable to fetch Turnip and begin the long journey home.
Before too long, she was in the wagon with Turnip clopping his way steadily home. Trusting the horse to make his way, Laura allowed her mind to wander back to the afternoon she’d spent with Mister Lattimer… with Charles.
They’d had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, causing a stir with the businessmen of the town, something Charles had encouraged her to change. He’d then continued to encourage her throughout their meal… advising her to seek an interview with Governor McKinley to… “Scoop’em all, get an exclusive.” and get the story she wanted for the Gazette.
“Smile at him. That will get his attention,” he’d told her. “It got mine.”
Laura felt herself flush at the memory. She’d blushed slightly then too, as she had been thinking the same thing about him. His smile, the first time she’d seen it, had taken her breath away.
A rock in the road jostled the wagon, shaking Laura out of her thoughts. She glanced around, and realizing that she was still a ways from the house, allowed her thoughts to wander back to Charles.
She hadn’t wanted him to leave, and had found herself trying to convince him to stay.
“I have to get back… commitments,” he’d told her.
Commitments… responsibilities… Laura understood the weight of them herself. It was not easy being a widow working to provide for her family, especially in a world dominated by men.
As he’d made some other comment about wishing to be younger, she’d found herself looking up at him with longing in her eyes, her bottom lip caught between her teeth as she’s ventured a hopeful question.
“When will you be back?”
“Hard to say,” Charles had answered. He’d stopped then, and had turned to face her. “I’m, uh, I’m not what you’re looking for.”
“I wouldn’t be so completely sure of that, Mister Lattimer,” she’d told him in a breathless voice. She’d wanted him to know that he was, indeed, what she was looking for.
Laura inhaled a shaky breath and looked up at the stars as his response came back to her on the night breeze.
“What I’m trying to say, is that I might not be back.”
Even as he’d said it, Laura had seen in his eyes that he wished differently. That the idea of staying appealed to him.
Laura reached up to wipe away the tear that had fallen, unbidden, down her cheek. The same cheek he’d brushed his fingers over as he’d guided her eyes back to his.
“Good bye, Mrs. Brown.”
His voice had been so soft when he’d said it. Soft and as apologetic as his eyes… eyes that had also been filled with want. The caress of his thumb against her cheek relayed that want to her and had made her breath hitch.
“I wish we had kissed…” Laura whispered to the stars, thinking back to that moment in the Gazette’s office. She’d been able to feel the heat of his body as she leaned over him to try and find the ampersand stamp. That, combined with the scent of his cologne, had had her turning her face towards his… wanting, more than anything in that moment, to feel his lips on hers, and have his taste flood her senses.
Her mother had horrendous timing.
“I wanted you to… very much…”
Her dream came back to her.
She and Charles had kissed on the river’s edge. She’d felt the weight of his body on hers.
Arousal suddenly flared to life in the pit of her belly, and she moaned softly at the feeling. It’d been too long since she’d felt it… since she’d wanted to feel it… since she’d had a reason to feel it… and she really wanted the feeling to continue, and specifically, she wanted it to continue with Charles.
Taking a deep breath, Laura slowly released it and lifted her eyes to the heavens. “Oh, I do hope you will be back, Charles…”
Laura’s eyes flew open as a low moan filled her bedroom.
It took her several moments to realize that she had been the one to moan. She felt her already heated skin flush deeper, accompanied by the telltale throbbing between her thighs as her dream came back to her in vivid detail.
She’d been making love with Charles.
Laura licked her lips and released an unsteady breath, willing her body to calm down… as she remembered more and more of her dream. The images running through her mind were intense, and Laura found herself moaning softly at the sensations they invoked.
She’d been wanton in her dream.
Following Charles to the river, shedding her clothes and joining him in water that, even cool, could not quell the heat generating between them.
It had felt so real. So real, that she could still feel the insistent touch of his hands against her skin as he mapped every inch of her body… could feel the pressure of his mouth on hers… taste his ravenous kisses. His name was a low murmur of pleasure as she unconsciously arched beneath the blankets, still feeling the smooth glide of his body over and inside hers.
Her body pulsed with the lingering strains of the orgasm that had woken her. She wanted him.
“What I’m trying to say, is that I might not be back.”
His words from the day before echoed through her mind, and her heart latched on to one word in particular.
Charles hadn’t said “will not be back” but “might not be
back” and it was that word, “might” that gave her hope that he would, indeed,
Hearing her mother move past her bedroom door, Laura reached for the clock on the bedside table. Seeing the time, her eyes widened as she realized that she’d slept in and she quickly scrambled out of bed.
Fifteen minutes later, she entered the dining room to find her mother and Mary at the table eating their breakfast.
“Mornin’, mama!” Mary called out with a smile on her face, before stuffing forkful of pancake into her mouth.
“Good morning, sweet girl,” Laura replied, dropping a kiss to the top of her daughter’s head before taking her seat at the table and fixing her plate.
“Are you okay, mama?” Mary asked.
“Of course I am,” Laura answered. “Why do you ask?”
“You were moaning in your sleep,” her daughter answered.
“I was?” Laura asked, and avoided the pointed look she could feel her mother giving her.
“Yeah…” Mary nodded as she took another bite.
“Oh… I…” Laura began. “My stomach was a little upset, that’s all.”
“Are you all right, daughter?” Mrs. Clark asked.
“Yes, mother.” Laura answered, finally meeting her mother’s gaze. “It was probably just something I ate yesterday, that’s all.”
“Hmm…” her mother hummed, and cocked her head slightly as she continued to regard her speculatively. “If you’re sure that’s all it is.”
“I am,” Laura replied as she began to eat.
When she was finished her meal, she stood and turned to Mary. “After all your chores are finished to your grandmother’s satisfaction, you may go visit with Rebecca.”
“All right, mama.”
“I am going to work in the garden,” Laura told her mother, and at her acknowledging nod, she turned to head outside, fully aware of her mother’s eyes on her the entire time.
Stepping outside, she leaned back against the closed door and closed her eyes.
“You need some help, ma’am”
Laura looked up at the familiar voice, her heart quickening its beat at the sound. She left the plow where it was, and turned to see Charles, sitting rather uncomfortably on a horse, coming closer.
“Did I misunderstand, that you wouldn’t be coming back to
Charles shook his head and brought the horse to a stop. “No. There were train problems.”
“You rode out here all by yourself?” Laura said, wiping her hands on her apron as she walked out of the garden towards him.
“Yes, I did,” he answered as the horse shifted under him. “Whoa… whoa…” he told the animal.
“Well, I am duly impressed,” she couldn’t help but smile up at him. He’d told her yesterday, as they’d worked away on the paper, that not only did he not own a horse, but that he was not overly comfortable riding one.
“I am, too, Mrs. Brown.”
Laura did not want to be just Mrs. Brown to him any longer. Not after hearing him whisper her name into her ear in a hot, husky, desire filled voice… in her dreams last night.
Laura wanted to hear him say her name, wondering if it would sound as good… if it would thrill her, send her pulse racing and her heart to skipping a beat as it had in her dreams.
“Laura,” she told him in a soft voice as she moved to stand beside the horse. She lifted a hand to rub it along the horse’s neck as she looked up at Charles.
His voice was pitched low, almost intimate, and the sound caressed her ears, sending a shiver of delight down her spine.
“I wanted to talk to you,” he finished, his voice still soft.
“Laura… I wanted to talk with you.”
“You gonna talk to me from up there, or are you going to
come down here?” She asked him, her
heart suddenly beating erratically as she realized that they were the same
words he’d spoken to her in her first dreams of him. The dreams she’d had before he’d first come
“Whoa…” Charles told the horse in a calming voice then slowly and somewhat nervously, climbed down off of the animal. Once he was on the ground, he leaned against the horse, groaning softly as he looked over at Laura. “What do we do with Jimbo here?”
Laura smiled as she continued to rub the animal’s neck. “Let’s give Jimbo some water,” she told him as she grabbed the reins and walked the horse around, leading him towards the trough.
Charles followed, shifting his body as he walked beside her.
She looked him up and down then asked with a smile. “Where does it hurt?”
“I think everywhere,” he answered, his gait a little stiff.
Laura gave him a sympathetic smile.
“I’m uh… glad about the train,” Charles said. “I wanted to explain a few things.”
She did not respond as she released the reins as the horse bent his head to drink.
“The water looks good.” Charles said, looking down at the water in the trough.
“I’d recommend it from the pump,” Laura told him, as they left the horse to drink its fill.
Charles removed his jacket, folded it and laid it across Jimbo’s saddle as he followed along towards the pump. He took a few steps ahead of her, turning and walking backwards and ventured a question. “Could we uh… could we take a walk?”
Her laughter rang out through the trees as she stepped up onto the riverbank and walked over to where they’d left their shoes. Her stockings, apron and hat had been abandoned as well, along with his socks and hat.
“Oh…” Laura gasped breathlessly as she moved ahead of him, still chuckling, even as she sought to catch her breath.
She could not believe that they’d just spent the last twenty minutes splashing around in the stream like a couple of children. And all because she’d stumbled and fallen into the cool water after they’d waded in, talking as they went.
Images from her dreams, of Charles surrounded by tall glass buildings, had flashed through her mind yesterday evening when he’d made comments she did not understand. That, coupled with the images she did not understand, had left her feeling very confused… as the images had seemed both right and wrong for him.
Seeking those answers to why he’d said he might not ever be
He’d stood over her, laughing; the sight warming her heart and sending a thrill of delight through her. His smile was breathtaking, reaching his eyes, and making them shine an even more brilliant blue. When she’d called him on it, he’d only laughed harder, but had reached down to help her up.
Feeling mischievous, she’d pulled him down into the water beside her, and things had escalated from there.
Laura could hear him breathing heavily behind her as he followed her along the bank to their waiting belongings.
“…that was fun,” she murmured, still trying to catch her breath. She swayed as she glanced over her shoulder at him, her body almost brushing up against his.
Charles stepped around her then dropped to the grass, sitting with his elbows resting on his drawn up knees, he combed his fingers through his damp hair as he continued to grin as Laura sat beside him.
“That was fun,” he said echoed her words softly, glancing over at her.
A feeling of déjà-vous came over Laura, and she realized that she’d been in this moment with him before… in her dreams.
Charles was so achingly close… the mingled scents of his cologne and the crisp outdoors on his skin filled her head, stirred her senses and made her blood race. She leant towards him, bowing her head almost shyly, and felt his breath whisper across her lips. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to feel his lips against hers.
Laura shifted and angled her body closer. She could feel the heat from his body all along hers, intoxicating her further, and increasing her desire to know his kiss. Closing her eyes, she rested her temple against his forehead; telling him without words what she was seeking… what she wanted.
Hearing her silent request, Charles brushed a soft kiss against her cheek. Laura inclined her head even more, bringing her lips closer to his, as Charles cupped her cheek. “Yes…” it was barely a whisper before his mouth covered hers, and he kissed her.
Charles’ mouth moved against hers, again and again, in a series of ever deepening kisses. She laid her hand on his arm as he turned fully towards her, his hand sliding from her cheek to cup the back of her head as he kissed her fully.
Laura moaned and clutched his head with both hands, keeping his mouth against hers, as he lowered them to the grass; his body partially covering hers. Soft hums escaped her as she opened her mouth to him, allowing him to deepen the kiss even more, flooding her senses with his taste as his tongue moved with and against hers.
Her hands moved over his back then back up to grasp his head as Charles shifted, and covered her body completely with his. She could feel his arousal pressing against her through their clothes, and she moaned low in her throat.
She wanted him.
Laura wanted Charles with a depth of passion that defied logic.
She barely knew him. And yet, here she was, lying under him and kissing him fervently and wanting to never stop. Wanting to be rid of the barriers of their clothing, and to give herself to him fully. To know him, and have him know her in the most intimate way a man and woman can know each other.
Suddenly he was pulling away, and Laura found herself feeling bereft at the loss of his kiss and the warmth of his body.
“Sorry…” Charles said as he rolled away, and onto his back. Laura followed him, laying her hand on his chest as she sought to catch her breath. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t do that… shouldn’t…”
“I wanted you to,” Laura told him, breathlessly.
“I am so lost.”
Laura shook her head in confusion. “How do you mean?”
“I don’t know where I belong,” he said, his eyes focusing on the sky above. “I don’t know… where I’m supposed to be. God…”
“Why can’t you be here?”
“Come on,” Charles sat up, bringing her with him. “We should go.”
“No, wait, no. No,” she stopped him with gentle hands. “You’re doing it again.”
Charles had shifted so that he was, once again, sitting with his arms resting on his bent knees, hanging his head.
Laura looked intently at him. “Why are you always leaving me,” she laid her hand on his arm, rubbing gently, “only to come back?”
When he did not answer right away, she reached out to cup his cheek. His eyes closed, in what she could only describe as pain, as he turned and nuzzled his face into her hand before kissing her palm.
“I’m married,” Charles told her then finally met her eyes.
Laura pulled her hand away as she digested his words.
No. No, he couldn’t be. This had to be a bad dream. Any moment now, she was going to wake up, and find herself lying in his arms on the riverbank, having drifted off to sleep with the steady trickling of the water.
“I am, Laura.”
His words cut through her, and she shifted away from him and closed her eyes. Oh god… this couldn’t be happening. Not after all the dreams… not after… “No…” she gasped and fought against a sudden wave of nausea. “No…”
“It is so much more complicated than you can even imagine.”
“That’s what you’ve been trying to tell me. Oh…” she looked away as she felt her heart begin to break.
“I… I didn’t mean for it to go this far.”
“How far did you mean for it to go?” Laura asked, turning back to him. “You came here with such purity and goodness, and I opened my heart…” she pulled in a gasping breath, “to you, and so did Mary…” A small cry escaped her.
“Listen to me.”
Laura lifted her eyes and met his gaze.
“My life is not right there. It doesn’t fit. I was searching, and… and… and, somehow I found this place, and I found you,” Charles told her. “For the first time in my life, I felt at peace inside… like I belonged.”
She found herself drifting closer to him, the pull to him still so very strong, as her eyes pleaded with him to tell her that this had been a mistake. That he had not just ripped her heart out of her chest.
“Laura… I… I knew you…” his hands came up and cradled her face, “before I even met you.”
“No!” She pulled his hands away. “No no no…” she repeated as she climbed to her feet and looked down at him. “Stop! No!” Laura said as she gathered up her belongings. “Don’t!” She spun around to look down at where he was still seated on the ground. “Go back home,” she cried, and felt her heart break even more as she told him, “Go back to your wife.”
She took several steps away before stopping and turning back
to him. “Do me a favour… the next time
your train stops in
The words echoed in Laura’s mind. She took a shuddering breath in an attempt to stem the tears that had yet to stop since Charles had uttered them to her just over an hour ago.
She’d run away from him. From the pain his words had caused her and the unbearable ache that had seized her heart. She had run, blind from tears, the entire way back to the homestead, slipping unnoticed into the barn, for which she’d been thankful. She had not wanted to talk with her mother… to have her mother tell her she’d told her so.
She’d climbed up to the hayloft, and had curled up in the far corner, nestled in the hay as she gave free reign to the grief and pain caused by his words and actions.
“My life is not right there. It doesn’t fit. I was searching, and… and… and, somehow I found this place, and I found you. For the first time in my life, I felt at peace inside… like I belonged.”
Laura had been searching, too. She just hadn’t realized it until that first day she’d seen Charles in the street outside of the Gazette, making friends with her daughter. He’d been an answer to an unrealized prayer… literally stepping out of her dreams to sweep her off of her feet.
Her eyes opened, and she blinked away the tears on her lashes at her unintentional whisper of his name.
The words were like a knife in her heart, the pain almost more than she could take. She’d lost her first husband, and had been crushed with the loss. Will had been a good man, and she’d loved him dearly. But this with Charles… this pain... it seemed more intense somehow… more raw… almost devastating in its intensity.
“I’m married. I am, Laura.”
She’d seen the same pain in Charles’ eyes when he’d spoken those words. Hadn’t wanted to see it, too hurt by his confession to care that he was hurting too, but she had seen it, and could not deny that the same pain… the same heartache… had been present in him as well.
“Laura… I… I knew you… before I even met you.”
That had startled her. Had had her pulling away from him as her heart began to race with the implications of his words.
Even now, as the words echoed through her mind and as her heart continued to break, she wondered what Charles had meant. Had he been having the same dreams she’d been having?
Laura shook her head.
It was all so confusing.
And yet… and yet… she found herself wanting to believe him, to believe that he hadn’t set out to hurt her. The anguish on his face, in his eyes, as he admitted to having a wife, had been real. She knew that much. Even as she ached with the pain of it all, Laura knew in her heart that this was hurting Charles as well.
A sudden noise outside of the barn startled her, and had her creeping towards the window to peek out.
It was Charles.
Laura gripped the ledge tightly, her knuckles turning white, as she forced herself to remain where she was. To not run out to him, throw herself in his arms and beg him to tell her that it was all a mistake… a horrible, horrible mistake.
She wanted him to tell her that he was not married.
Tell her that he COULD be hers… that she COULD be his… that they COULD belong to each other.
Her body shook with the longing, but she held firm, her mind refusing to allow her heart to go through the pain… the agony… again.
Laura’s eyes tracked his movements as he walked slowly, his head down; shoulders slumped dejectedly, to where Jimbo was grazing near the water trough. She watched him bend over to pick up his jacket and hat from the ground where’d they’d obviously fallen from the horse’s back, slip them on before moving over to the horse.
“Whoa…” she heard him say to the horse as he took the reigns in hand then carefully climbed into the saddle. “Come on, Jimbo… let’s go…” Laura could hear the despair in Charles’ voice as he urged the horse to turn around.
When he’d gotten the horse turned, Charles stopped and looked up and back towards the barn.
Laura’s breath caught in her throat when his eyes unerringly found hers.
Time stopped, and lost all meaning, when their gazes locked and held. So much passed between them… emotions too strong for words… too tangible to be shuttered away so quickly… love, hope, desire… regret…
“I’m sorry, Laura…” Charles whispered across the distance then broke their connection and urged Jimbo into a trot away from the homestead.
Laura’s heart cried out his name, even as she bit her lips against the urge.
Her eyes stayed on his retreating form until he was no longer visible… and then, Laura sank back down into the hay and once more gave herself over to the anguish and heartbreak that consumed her.
Laura walked barefoot along the riverbank, her nightgown flowing about her legs with every step she took in the cool, dewy grass.
She glanced up at the man beside her. “So that is why…”
“Will he… will he be back?”
The older black man tilted his head thoughtfully. “Who can say?”
“The universe is a complex place,” he continued. “Take the element of time for instance, it’s a continuum… no beginning no end… how do we land where we do? Is it by chance, random selection or simply one’s destiny?”
“Charles being here was not just chance,” Laura told him, feeling the truth of her words in her heart.
The conductor gave her an enigmatic smile, and then with a tip of his cap, he walked away.
Laura moved as if to follow him but found she could not move her feet. Strangely, she was not alarmed. Even when she felt another presence approaching.
His fingers brushed against hers.
Laura laced her fingers with his, and returned the gentle pressure of his hand.
“Sometimes the universe makes mistakes. Sometimes it can’t be righted, sometimes it can.”
The words floated through the air to them.
Laura turned, a smile softening her features as she looked up at the man who held her heart. “I…”
Laura shot up in her bed, a scream dying on her lips. She fought her way out from under the scrambled mass of blankets, getting onto her feet just as her bedroom door flew open.
“Laura! What’s wrong? Are you all right?”
Her mother hurried into the room with a lit lantern, followed by Mary; both of their faces masks of concern and confusion.
“I’m fine,” Laura replied breathlessly. “It was just a nightmare, that’s all. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure, daughter?”
“Yes, mother,” Laura nodded. “I’m sorry I woke you,” she turned to Mary and pulled her into her arms. She hugged her daughter tightly then dropped a kiss to her downy curls. “Go back to bed, Mary.”
“You sure you’re okay, mama?” Mary asked.
“Yes, sweet girl. I’m okay.”
“All right,” Mary said reluctantly then gave her mother another squeeze before she slowly walked out of the bedroom.
Georgiana Clark regarded her daughter with a steady, piercing gaze. One Laura returned without flinching.
“It was just a nightmare, mother. Honestly, I am fine.”
“This is the second night in a row that you’ve woken up screaming,” Georgiana told her. “Ever since that Mister Lattimer came by the house. What happened between the two of you?”
Laura shook her head. “Nothing happened,” she answered. “Now, mother please… I’m tired, and would like to go back to bed. Today is going to be a busy day with the rally and I am hoping to catch Governor McKinley for an interview before he heads into the bar with the others.” She held up her hand to forestall the protest she knew would be coming. “Please don’t say it.”
Her mother merely frowned but did not say anything.
“Thank you for coming to check on me,” Laura said as she stepped closer and gave her mother a brief hug.
Mrs. Clark returned the embrace then turned and left Laura’s bedroom, closing the door behind her, and leaving her daughter alone in the dark.
Laura wandered over to the window, and gazed out at the stars, her mind going back to the dream… and then the nightmare that had had her waking up screaming.
When her dreams had started, she’d found herself reliving that first afternoon with Charles by the river’s edge. Watching him smile at her as he gave her his cartoon… his eyes bright with amusement at how giddy she’d been with the gift. She’d seen Mary running around behind them, chasing the various bugs and butterflies. She’d also dreamt about their kiss.
Laura drew in a shuddering breath then licked her lips, almost swearing that she could still feel his lips on hers… that she could still taste him on her tongue…
She shook her head, and focused back on the twinkling lights in the night sky as the rest of her dream floated through her mind… images of the train running constantly, faded, behind all the other images.
And then there was the conductor. A black man she did not recognize, and yet there was something about him that seemed strangely and newly familiar to her. Something she could not quite place.
But then suddenly, the dream had changed.
It had gone from pleasant and peaceful to dark and anxious.
It had become a nightmare.
One she’d had before.
Laura placed her hand on the cool glass to steady herself as she felt her heart begin to race.
She’d dreamt about the rally. Charles had been in the gazebo in the centre of the park, talking with McKinley, and she’d been trying to reach him. She hadn’t known why… only that she HAD to get to him… that something was horribly wrong, and that he was in terrible danger.
She remembered pushing through the crowd of townsfolk while shouting his name, until finally she’d reached him.
Laura couldn’t remember what she’d said to him, only that she’d pleaded with him to trust her… to come with her right then… that he had to get out of there.
He’d held her eyes for a moment before nodding.
And then suddenly, she was back in the park, trying frantically to get to him when it happened… the explosion.
The gazebo had suddenly exploded… killing Charles as she watched, too stunned to even cry.
Laura shuddered, even as she felt the heat and the blast from the dream buffet her body once again.
She laid her free hand against her chest, willing her heart to stop its racing as she blinked back the tears that had gathered in her eyes.
“It was only a dream,” she whispered to the moon. “Only a dream. Charles is all right… he’s back in
A heaviness enveloped her heart once again.
“Oh, Charles…” Laura sighed as she slowly made her way back to her bed and slipped under the blankets. It had been two days since she’d seen him. Two days since he’d broken her heart. And yet… “I miss you…” she admitted in a quiet voice as a tear escaped, sliding down her face to soak into her pillow.
She pulled the blankets tighter around her shoulders and closed her eyes, willing her body to relax so that she could fall asleep. After a time, Laura slowly began to drift off, as an image of Charles, surrounded by an infinite number of clocks with wildly spinning hands, filled her mind.
“Laura, I have something I need to tell you…” his image reached out to caress her cheek as she fell into a deeper sleep, “but it’s not going to be easy to accept…”
Laura climbed to her feet as she sought to catch her breath.
“Are you all right?” Charles asked as he steadied her with a hand on her waist while helping Mary to her feet with the other.
She nodded absently then her eyes grew wide as she got a good look at what was left of the gazebo. “Oh my god…” Laura gasped and unconsciously reached out to lay her hand on his chest. “Charles…”
Mary wrapped her arms around her waist and laid her head on Laura’s chest. “What happened, Mama?”
“I don’t know, Mary,” Laura answered, still trying to sort it all out for herself.
Her eyes moved around the park, taking in everything with the practiced eye of a reporter. Timbers from the gazebo lay scattered around the grounds, some merely smoking, others still burning, much like the gazebo itself continued to do. Thick, black smoke billowed from the now broken structure, giving the summer sky a hazy appearance.
She watched as the townspeople that had been caught in the blast picked themselves up from the ground and dusted themselves off. She could see the shock on their faces. Shock mingled with relief at the realization of what had happened… and more importantly, what had almost happened.
“Charles…” Laura said in a quiet voice as she slowly turned to look at him. “If you hadn’t… you saved all these people…”
“And you saved, Mama!” Mary spoke up and suddenly moved out of her mother’s arms to envelope Charles in a tight hug, knocking her mother’s hand away from his chest. “You’re a hero, Mister Lattimer.”
“No, I’m not,” Charles said and returned Mary’s embrace, reluctantly removing his hand from Laura’s waist.
“But you are,” Laura replied. “How did you know?”
Charles frowned. “That’s going to take some explaining,” he told her as he pulled his gaze away to look around the park.
After several moments, Charles finally brought his eyes back to hers. He took a deep breath. “Laura, I have something I need to tell you…” he reached out to caress her cheek with the back of his fingers, “but it’s not going to be easy to accept…”
Laura’s eyes widened slightly. He’d just spoken the same words he’d spoken to her last night in her dreams as she’d fallen asleep. Much of that dream was a mystery to her, but she had woken feeling better and more light-hearted than she had in days, and she knew it was because of what he had to tell her.
“We can talk at the Gazette,” she said, and watched as he nodded, his shoulders sagging in obvious relief that she was going to give him a chance to explain. As she turned to lead the way, Laura noticed that her mother was approaching, followed closely by the mayor and several other men. “However, I think that may have to wait,” she told him, gesturing to the approaching men.
Charles released a deep sigh then straightened to his full height just as her mother and the mayor reached them.
“Mister Lattimer,” the older man held his hand out to
Charles. “My name is Saul Williams; I’m
the mayor of
“Yes, sir, I am,” Charles replied, shaking the man’s hand.
“So, tell me, Mister Lattimer, how did you know this,” he gestured absently around the park, “was going to happen?”
Laura watched Charles’ face as he answered the question. “I noticed that the valves by the station looked a little faulty,” he said. “And as I moved into the park, I could smell the gas.”
The Mayor regarded him thoughtfully then slowly nodded his head, accepting Charles’ answer. At that moment, a young man ran over and whispered in Williams’ ear. “Are you certain?” He asked.
The aide nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“See, I told you you’re a hero, Mister Lattimer!” Mary exclaimed throwing herself at him and wrapping her arms around him once again.
Charles shook his head as he patted Mary’s shoulders.
“Young Mary is correct,” the Mayor told Charles, smiling down at the little girl who refused to release him. “You are a hero.”
“I just did what needed to be done,” Charles insisted with a glance over at Laura. “What any decent person would have done in the same situation.”
“Be that as it may, Mister Lattimer, it was you who sounded
the alarm and for that, I and all of the people of
Laura could see that Charles was about to protest again, but after glancing her way yet again, he merely nodded, accepting the mayor’s words with a softly spoken, “Thank you.”
“We will have to find some way to repay you,” Williams told him.
This time, Charles did shake his head. “No, please. It’s really not necessary. I assure you. I would really prefer it if you didn’t do anything.”
Laura looked from Charles to the mayor, and watched as the older man slowly nodded after several moments.
“All right, son.” The mayor said then reached out to clap Charles on the shoulder. “But should you ever need anything, you come see me, and if it’s within my abilities, I will see that you get it.”
Charles smiled. “Thank you, Mayor.”
Williams patted Charles’ shoulder then with a tip of his hat to Laura and her mother, he walked away; his advisors following behind him.
“Mother,” Laura turned to the older woman. “Can you keep Mary with you, please? I need to speak with with Mister Lattimer.”
Mrs. Clark looked between her daughter and the man beside her before reluctantly nodding. She reached for her granddaughter’s hand, “Come along, child… let’s go help out where we can.”
“All right, Gramma,” Mary replied and walked away with her grandmother.
Laura looked at Charles and motioned towards the Gazette. “Shall we?”
“Mmhmm,” Charles nodded.
Together they made their way through the park. The normally short walk hampered by the various townspeople stopping them to thank Charles. Laura watched with interest as Charles flushed slightly every time someone would call him a hero then deflected their thanks, telling them that he'd merely done what had to be done.
“Look, we have
company. Mister Lattimer from
The comment her daughter made from that first day suddenly
echoed through Laura’s mind. She blinked
and found her eyes moving over Charles’ form, taking in what he was wearing. The trousers he wore were of a style and
material she was not familiar with, as were his shoes. Even the shirts he was wearing were different
than what she was used to seeing on the men around
Laura’s eyes widened at the thought that suddenly entered her mind.
“You know, if I could pick a time to live… any time… I would pick right here, right now. The brink of a whole new century with so much promise ahead.”
“If only I were a hundred years younger.”
Suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place.
Her confusing dreams… the way Charles seemed to appear and disappear… the way he talked… his more liberal views on women… everything about him.
Laura shook her head. It made perfect sense, and yet seemed just too unbelievable to be true.
When they finally made it to the Gazette, they quickly moved inside. Laura locked the door behind them then led him through to the back office.
“Laura…” Charles began and gestured to the nearby chair. “You might want to sit down. What I’m about to tell you, is going to be a little difficult for you to believe.”
“You’re from the future,” Laura whispered the conclusion she had come to only minutes before in the park as she held his eyes.
“I’m from the future,” Charles confirmed with a nod of his head, his eyes showing only a little surprise at her words.
Laura exhaled a shaky breath as she lowered herself down into the chair. “Tell me…” she said softly.
Charles ran a hand through his hair then met her eyes. “Several days before I came to
“The following day, when I was riding home on the train… we
went through this tunnel… and everything outside the train changed, and I saw
Charles leaned back against the wall in front of her. “And then, that fateful day, the train stopped here again, and the conductor… convinced me to get off the train and look around.”
“What did he say that convinced you?” Laura asked, genuinely curious about what the man had said to Charles that had prompted him to step off that train… out of her dreams… and into her life. ‘And into my heart,’ she thought to herself.
Charles cocked his head to the side thoughtfully as he spoke. “Basically, he told me that in order to know what I want, that I needed to get out and look around…” he smiled then. “I am glad that I listened to him.”
A soft smile touched Laura’s lips. “I am glad you did, too.”
“So you believe me?” Charles asked, surprise clearly written on his face. “Wait a minute,” he said suddenly and shook his head. “You said… you said you knew that I was from the future… how?”
“I’ve been dreaming about you,” she admitted quietly.
“You’ve been… dreaming?” Charles asked, his voice sounding as if he didn’t quite believe what he was hearing. “About me?”
Laura nodded. “They
started several days before you came to
“Automobiles,” he supplied the word.
“That’s it! However they were nothing like the pictures I’ve seen,” Laura said. “I dreamt about our time at the river… our kiss,” her voice grew soft, almost breathless at the mention of that moment they shared, “and more...” Laura felt her cheeks flush at the memory of the more amorous dreams she’d had and her voice trailed off.
Charles gave her a knowing smile but did not say anything, for which she was grateful.
“But last night… last night’s dream was different,” she stood suddenly and walked over to the shelf where she normally kept a pitcher of water; keeping her back to him. “It had started out pleasant enough… I think… I don’t really remember all the details, and then it suddenly changed. It was like what had happened here today… except… you were the one in the gazebo, and I was trying to reach you. And, at one point, I’d finally reached you… only to suddenly find myself at the edge of the park again, watching the gazebo explode… and killing you…”
The last three words were spoken on a whisper as Laura fought against the tears that had suddenly filled her eyes. The emotions from the nightmare were still present, and coupled with everything that had happened that morning… Charles’ sudden appearance… his saving her life… Laura was suddenly feeling overwhelmed with it all.
She began to shake at the realization of how close she’d come to dying… that if Charles had not returned…
“Ssh… it’s okay,” Charles was suddenly speaking softly from behind her; his hands gently gripping her upper arms to steady her. “It’s all right, Laura… you’re all right.”
He did nothing else. Said nothing else, just simply stood behind her with his hands on her arms, but it was enough to calm her… to steady the frantic beating of her heart.
“What do we do now, Charles?” Laura whispered the question after a few minutes of silence.
“I don’t know.”
“I assume that you will be returning to your time, and to your… your wife.”
“No. I can’t go back.”
“I don’t understand,” she said quietly, battling against the sudden hope she could feel welling within her heart.
“I can’t go back, Laura,” Charles told her.
“Before I got off that train, I gave the watch back to the conductor. I can’t go back to my time,” Charles answered. “I don’t want to go back, Laura. I want to stay here…” he leaned closer, burying his face in her hair as he whispered, “with you.”
Laura shivered at his admission. “I want that, too…” she admitted, her voice as soft as his. She reached up to cover his hands on her arms. “But what about your wife, Charles?”
“Yesterday, Kris and I came to the conclusion that our marriage was over… we separated,” he replied. “And since I can’t return to my time, technically, I am no longer married. I am free to be with you… if that’s what you want. I don’t want to pressure you.”
If that was what she wanted? IF?
She turned to face him, and laid her hands on his chest. Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears, and she gave him a gentle smile. “I would like that, Charles. Very much.”
A large smile grew on his face as his hands resettled on her upper arms.
“But are YOU certain this is what you want? Living here, in this time?” Laura asked him.
“Yes,” Charles nodded. “As I told you that day by the river, my life in that time doesn’t fit. I’ve always felt out of place somehow. That’s why I was searching. I didn’t really know what I was searching for… I just… I knew for certain that the life I was living was not the life I wanted. Kris and I wanted different things. She was happy with the fast pace, in fact, she thrives on it. But I wanted to slow down, find a home out in the country, and maybe have a couple of children.”
“You want to have children?” Laura looked away as she voiced the question.
Charles slipped his fingers under her chin and drew her gaze back to his. “Yes, I would love to have children, and I would love nothing more than to have them with you,” he told her, his hand moving to stroke the backs of his fingers against her cheek.
“I… I don’t know that I… it took Will and I several years to conceive Mary…” she told him quietly. “I don’t know if… I may not be able to…”
Charles placed his finger over her lips to silence her. “It’s not always the woman’s fault, you know, when children aren’t conceived. It could very well be the man’s,” he said then cupped her cheek as he gave her a tender smile. “If it’s not meant to be, if we’re not meant to have any more children, then that just means I get to spoil Mary,” his smile slowly grew into a grin, “and her mother even more than I plan to.”
A tear slipped down Laura’s cheek, which Charles caught with his thumb. She gave him a watery smile. “Oh, Charles…” she whispered and nuzzled her cheek against his palm.
Their eyes locked, and much like it had happened at the river, they slowly drew closer and closer together until their lips touched. Laura sighed and parted her lips under his.
Charles’ hand on her cheek slid into her hair, while the other found purchase on her waist and drew her closer; deepening their kiss. His tongue met and danced with hers, and both of them moaned at the contact.
Laura slid her hands up Charles’ chest, to his shoulders then around his neck, pressing her body against his… wanting to be closer to him… wanting more.
Eventually, the kiss tapered off and Laura rested her head on Charles’ chest.
“I love you, Laura,” Charles told her in a quiet voice, and
pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “I
know this has all happened so fast, but it doesn’t make it any less real… any
less true. I love you, and I want to
spend the rest of my life with you… here… in
“I love you, too…” Laura said in a breathless voice, and lifted her head to meet his gaze; her eyes bright with that very emotion. “And I would love to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“So…” he began, his voice ripe with hope. “Can I safely assume that you have agreed to marry me?”
She laughed suddenly and nodded. “Yes, Charles.”
Charles pulled her back into his arms and held her tightly. Laura hummed happily and nestled deeper into his embrace.
Laura woke with a gasp.
Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest, and her body was humming with barely contained desire as she sought to catch her breath.
She’d been dreaming about being with Charles at the river. Again.
Pushing the blankets, aside, Laura climbed out of bed, and walked over to the window. She gazed out to see the sun’s rays just beginning to peek over the horizon.
It’d been a month since Charles had saved her from the gas line explosion. A month since they’d confessed to wanting a life together. Since that day, Charles had begun working at the Gazette, learning the paper trade under her tutelage.
‘And he’s a quick learner,’ Laura thought with a smile, remembering how he’d tackled every job she’d given him with a smile and enthusiasm. He’d even made more suggestions for ways to improve the paper’s circulation, which she’d happily implemented.
Laura sighed; the sound a mixture of joy and frustration.
Working with Charles every day had been… “Delightful,” Laura told the rising sun with a smile. She loved seeing him everyday, spending so much time with him as they worked side by side at the paper. “But it’s also been very frustrating,” she finished with another sigh. All the time spent with him, in the confines of the Gazette’s office, had only increased the physical awareness between them.
The little touches as they reached for the same paper…
Brushing up against each other as they moved back and forth along the printing press…
‘Oh god, the looks,’ Laura thought, her eyes falling shut at the memory of the way Charles had looked at her yesterday evening as they finished up for the day.
His blue eyes had been dark, the desire in them warming her in ways that were getting harder and harder to resist. He’d held her gaze for several moments, telling her without words how very much he wanted her… how he, too, was struggling with staying within the bounds of propriety.
And then he’d said her name. His soft utterance had been laced with every emotion his eyes held, and had only increased her want of him.
It’d taken every ounce of self control both of them possessed to not close the distance between them… to leave the newspaper office and go their separate ways; Laura home and Charles to the hotel.
‘These dreams every night aren’t helping much either,’ she thought with a smile, remembering how she’d wanted to simply follow Charles to the hotel… to lock herself in the room with him and finally give in to the need both felt.
She’d never felt this level of want before… this level of need and desire. She’d loved her husband, had enjoyed being with him, and had desired him… but what she felt for Charles was so much stronger… more intense; and it was getting harder and harder to resist.
Images from her dreams filled her mind again.
She and Charles… in the water… naked… wrapped in each other’s arms and kissing hungrily.
Laura exhaled a shaky breath, and suddenly felt the urge to get some air; knowing there was no way she would be able to get back to sleep. Grabbing her robe from the end of the bed, she pulled it on, left her bedroom then quietly slipped from the house.
Without consciously deciding to, Laura found herself walking along the riverbank; her feet carrying her further and further away from the house. Her thoughts wandered, once again, to Charles and the plans they’d been making for their future.
She was looking forward to being his wife. ‘In every way,’ she thought, her skin flushing as she thought back to the dream that had woken her.
Laura stopped suddenly, when over the splashing of the river, she heard a deep male voice singing loudly. Glancing around, Laura realized that she had wandered quite a way from the house to where the river was deepest.
The voice was familiar, and Laura smiled to herself at the unfamiliar tune, knowing it was one from Charles’ time. She wondered if it was another song by that Hermits group he told her about. The one song he favoured, Laura was convinced he only knew the one verse and chorus, and it amused her when he would sing it over and over throughout the day.
Biting her bottom lip, Laura crept silently along the brush until she could see clearly to the water, and more importantly… see Charles in the water.
She swallowed hard at the sight.
He was standing in the waist deep water, his skin wet and glistening in the dawning rays of the sun. As she watched, Charles suddenly dove into the water.
“Oh my…” she gasped, catching sight of his naked rear as he slipped beneath the surface.
Laura felt the arousal she’d woken up with flare back to life, and as images from her dream floated through her mind yet again, she made her decision.
Stepping through the brush, she walked purposely toward the water, pulling at the ties of her robe. When Charles finally came back up, Laura’s robe was already on the ground next to his pile of clothes and her fingers were already working on the buttons of her nightgown.
Her eyes met his across the water.
She heard Charles’ soft utterance of her name… heard the surprise and wonder in his voice as her nightgown slipped from her shoulders to pool around her feet, leaving her completely bare to his gaze. The air was cool, but she did not feel chilled. Quite the opposite, in fact. She felt hot… her body flushing under Charles’ heated gaze as she walked slowly toward him.
Laura gasped slightly when she stepped into the cool water, but paid it little heed as she continued to make her way toward the man now moving slowly in her direction; closing the distance between them.
They met as the water reached her hips, and without speaking a word, Laura wrapped her arms around Charles’ neck, pressed body against his and kissed him passionately.
“Charles…” Laura moaned into his mouth as his hands moved over her body; one hand sliding down to rest at the small of her back, the other threading in her hair.
“Laura…” Charles pulled his mouth from hers. “Laura, are you sure?”
“Yes,” she nodded, rising up to kiss him again. “I am VERY sure. I want to be with you… now…” she lowered her head and nipped his collarbone. “I need you, Charles…”
Charles groaned and caught her mouth in a hungry kiss as he grasped her hips and lifted her. Laura wrapped her legs around him, locking her ankles across his rear.
He wasn’t hard… the cool water of the river working against him, but he wasn’t soft either, and she could feel the tension in his body… his want of her rolling off of him in waves. She circled her hips, rubbing her sex against his.
“We need to get out of this water,” Charles murmured against her lips as he held her close then began to make his way out of the river. When he reached the pile of their clothes, he let her down. “Hold on a moment…” he whispered against her lips then stepped out of her arms.
Laura watched as Charles reached for her robe, knelt down then spread it out over the grass. She placed her hand in his when he held it out to her, and allowed him to guide her to her knees beside him.
Charles reached up to cup her cheek and smiled at her. “You are so beautiful,” he told her, his voice soft and full of emotion. “I love you so much, Laura…”
“I love you…” Laura replied as she nuzzled his palm. Her voice dropped to a whisper, “Make love with me, Charles.”
Charles leaned in and brushed his lips over hers, again and again, until finally, he was kissing her fully and deeply. As they kissed, he slowly and carefully lowered Laura down onto her robe, covering her body with his.
Laura trailed her hands over his back, enjoying the play of his muscles under her fingers, and pulled him closer; needing to feel more of his skin against hers. A soft moan sounded deep in her throat at the feel of his now hard member against her sex; his chest pressed against hers, the soft hairs teasing her nipples.
She gasped for breath when Charles pulled his mouth from hers to rain soft kisses over her face, anointing her eyelids, nose and cheeks with the feather-light touch of his lips. “Charles…” she slid a hand into his hair, and tried to direct his mouth back to hers. “Kiss me…”
Charles smiled at her then lowered his lips to hers in a brief kiss before he shifted his body off hers, propping himself up on his elbow beside her. “I want to kiss every inch of you,” he told her as he trailed a finger up and down between her breasts in a barely there caress, “to taste you…” Charles dipped his head and placed a soft kiss on the swell of her left breast.
Laura moaned at the feel of his tongue flicking against the top of her breast then whimpered when he stopped suddenly and just gazed at her. “Charles?” She reached out to pull him back.
“Trust me…” Charles told her as he caught her wrist and brought it to his lips, brushing a kiss against the soft skin. “Let me love you…”
Laura smiled up at him, and pulled her wrist out of his grasp. She took his hand in hers and brought it to her breast then curled her arm under her head. She licked her lips and gazed up at him… her eyes filled with nothing but trust, love and desire.
Charles groaned softly and swooped down to give her a quick but ardent kiss before trailing his lips down along the smooth column of her neck to her breasts. “You are so beautiful,” Charles said in a reverent voice as he let his eyes caressed Laura’s nude body. “So very beautiful.”
Laura felt her body flush and her nipples pebble beneath the heat of his gaze as he continued to just stare at her. “Charles…” she called his name softly then moaned as he finally reached out and traced his finger around her breasts, touching her everywhere but where she wanted his touch.
“I would love to have a picture of you like this,” Charles told her, his fingers circling her swollen, aching breasts. “Your skin flushed, your nipples hard, begging for my touch,” he finally pulled gently at the rigid peaks. He then trailed his hand down over her flat stomach, stopping when the tips his fingers encountered the first soft curls covering her sex. Charles looked up then and met her eyes. “You are the perfect picture… wanton, and yet still so proper… so graceful.”
Laura smiled at his words and felt the blush over her body deepen as he walked his fingers back up her stomach to once again circle her breasts. She found herself biting her lower lip when he brought his hands up to cup the full mounds, gently kneading them.
“One day… I want to paint you… like this… will you let me do that?”
Laura flushed at the thought. “…yes…” she whispered.
Charles grinned then, holding her eyes, leaned down and pulled a dusky, rose nipple into his mouth.
“Cha... les!” Laura gasped and arched into him as he swirled his tongue around the taut peak.
Charles suckled hard on the tender flesh. “So sweet,” he murmured around her nipple, drawing as much of her breast into his mouth as he could before he kissed his way over to her other breast and wrapped his lips around the puckered centre.
Laura closed her eyes as she allowed the incredible sensations of Charles’ mouth on her breasts to flow through her. “Ooh…” she gasped and her eyes flew open when Charles lightly bit her then soothed her with his tongue. Her hands flew to his head to hold his mouth on her as she arched beneath him. “Charles…”
With one last loving pull on the hardened nipple, Charles released her breast and pushed back onto his elbow, pleased to see Laura’s chest rising and falling rapidly with each breath she took; the taut peaks glistening in the growing sunlight.
Laura watched him as his eyes caressed her body. “You are exquisite… I will never tire of seeing you like this…”
Laura smiled softly when his eyes, after raking up her body met hers and unconsciously licked her lips at the blatant desire she saw blazing in his sapphire depths. She pushed gently at his shoulder and urged him onto his back, then rolled onto her side, propping herself up on her elbow just as Charles had done.
“My turn…” she told him softly as she let her gaze drift down his body. She leaned down and placed a kiss to the centre of his chest. “I’ve wanted to do that for some time now,” she whispered. “And this…” her tongue darted out to lave his nipple.
Charles moaned and reached out to tuck an errant lock of chestnut hair behind her ear as Laura continued to lick and nip at his chest. Her hand wandered lower, her lips trailing behind, following the soft hair as it arrowed down his chest… down his belly to where his erection lay, full and hard against his belly.
Her fingers stopped just before contact, and she clenched her hand, wanting to touch him… to know the feel of him in her hand. To know that part of him that would soon be inside her, giving her pleasure, and bringing them even closer… both physically and emotionally.
As if reading her thoughts, Charles grasped her hand and drew it down, curling her fingers around his shaft.
Both of them inhaled sharply at the contact.
Laura began to explore the hot, hard flesh in her hand. She stroked his length at the gentle urging of his fingers, marveling at the silky strength of him.
“So soft…” she murmured, circling her thumb over the broad head. “So hard, Charles…”
“And all for you…” Charles replied in a low voice, thrusting gently into her grasp.
Laura hummed, his words touching her, as she continued to stroke his erection. She watched as, at her ministrations, the first pearly drops appeared. She caught them with her fingers and smoothed them down his length.
She licked her lips… a sudden and surprising desire welling within her.
She wanted to taste him. To know his flavour on her tongue.
She had never done anything like this with Will… truthfully, had never wanted to. But with Charles… touching him like this… it was different. Charles was different. He was so open about his desire for her… his need… and it only served to fuel her desire… her need… for him.
Without really thinking about what she was doing, only knowing what she wanted… what she needed and desired… Laura shifted her body, moving a little lower and lifted his manhood up. She leaned over him and flicked her tongue out; catching his emissions on the tip with every flick.
“Mmm…” she moaned at the brief taste and lowered her head. Laura licked him again and again, taking more of his essence into her mouth with every swipe of her tongue until finally, without even thinking about it, she slipped her lips around the head.
“Oh god… Laura…” Charles groaned and reached out to thread his fingers in her hair as she took more of him into her mouth.
She’d only just managed to take all of him in when Charles grasped her head with both hands and drew her off of him. He pulled her up over him then rolled them, pinning her to the ground beneath him. He rose up on his elbows and sought out her eyes as he asked, “What made you do that?”
Laura shook her head. “I just wanted to taste you,” she answered honestly, then her brow furrowed. “Did I… was it wrong?”
Charles smiled down at her as he cupped her face in his hands. “No… no it wasn’t wrong at all. In fact… it felt very good.”
“Then why did you stop me?” She asked, truly curious.
Charles’ grin grew. “Because it felt too good.”
A soft laugh bubbled up out of her and she reached up to frame his face in her hands, mirroring the way he held her. “Will you… will you let me do that again later?”
“Oh yeah…” Charles nodded then lowered his mouth to hers. He kissed her slowly before whispering against her lips, “And I am looking forward to doing the same to you.”
Laura felt herself flush at the image that came to mind… of Charles… his head between her thighs… his mouth on her…kissing her intimately. “Oh god…” she moaned softly and lifted her head to kiss him fully, passionately…hungrily.
Charles shifted against her, settling his lower body in the cradle of her thighs. His hands stroked her body. They fondled her breasts… pulling, teasing, pinching her nipples before moving lower, and trailing over her sides… her hips… reaching lower to grasp behind her right knee and draw her leg up.
Laura moaned as he settled closer, feeling his erection nestle against her swollen sex, and her arousal grew. She arched beneath him, and her arousal grew when he began to rock gently against her. Laura pulled her mouth from his. “Charles…” she bit at his shoulder. “Charles… I need you…now… please…”
Charles lifted his head and met her eyes.
“Please…” she drew her other leg up and hooked it over his hip in obvious invitation. “I want to feel you inside me…”
“Yes…” Charles nodded then shifted, reaching down between their bodies to grasp his erection. He positioned himself at her entrance and slowly began to ease inside her.
“Oooh… mmm… Charles…” Laura gasped as Charles slowly sank deep inside her, feeling every inch of his silky steel length as he stretched and filled her. Her hands gripped tightly to his shoulders, her nails biting into his flesh at the almost unbearable pressure of Charles’ possession of her body.
Charles pressed himself steadily into Laura’s warmth until he was sheathed completely inside her. “Laura…” he groaned at the feel of her tight walls surrounding him, quivering as her body stretched to accommodate his girth. He buried his face in her neck as he fought the urge to simply start driving into her.
Several moments later, Laura shifted beneath Charles and wrapped both of her legs around his waist in a subtle hint for him start moving. Charles rose up on his arms, smiled down at her and began to slowly circle his hips against hers.
“Charles…” she lifted her head to kiss his shoulder. “Love me…”
“Always…” Charles replied in a low voice as he slowly withdrew, leaving just the head of his erection within her heated core and then, holding her eyes, Charles pushed back inside her.
“Mmm…” Laura moaned, staring into Charles’ incredibly blue eyes as she concentrated on the feel of him moving inside her. She felt every inch of his hard flesh gliding in and out of her, the pleasure growing within her at every thrust. “Oh, Charles… you feel so good…”
“So do you…”
With Laura’s husky voice urging him on, Charles began to move faster, driving his hard length into her over and over; bringing them closer and closer to the edge of the release both craved.
Charles lowered himself down onto his elbows then slid a hand between the close press of their bodies. Laura cried out as his fingers expertly found her pearl and began to circle the swollen flesh in time with the thrusts of his shaft into her.
“I… oh…Charles…” Laura’s body writhed under his as the beginnings of her orgasm took hold. Her eyes closed and her head rolled back and forth. “Charles… I…”
“That’s it…” Charles urged her as he increased the pressure of his fingers and thrusts.
“Come for me, Laura…”
“CHARLES!” Laura screamed his name as her body stilled then suddenly began to convulse beneath him, waves of ecstasy throbbing through her.
At the warm flow of moisture around his shaft, Charles slowed the motion of his hips but continued to rock into her, his fingers still moving over her clit in relentless circles as he worked to prolong her orgasm. He bit his lip in an effort to hold back his own release, wanting to prolong their joining so that they could go over the edge together.
“…Charles… oh, Charles…” she panted beneath him, her body continuing to shudder with pleasure.
Charles pulled his hand out from between their bodies, and torn between wanting to taste her, and kiss her… he traced her lips with his glistening fingers.
Laura’s eyes opened at the feel of his wet fingers on her lips and she looked up to see his dark cobalt eyes staring intently down at her. She inhaled sharply at the hungry look in the blue depths, and darted her tongue out to lick her lips. She gasped at the strange flavour then moaned when Charles lowered his head; his mouth covering hers. His tongue laved her lips before slipping into the warmth of her mouth to mate with hers.
“I love how you taste,” Charles murmured against her lips then lifted his head to; once again, trace her lips with his still damp fingers, covering them with her juices. He darted his tongue out to lick at her moist mouth. “So sweet…”
“Mmm…” Laura moaned as Charles’ mouth once again covered hers and she tasted even more of herself on his tongue. She could feel him still moving gently within her and felt her arousal flare to life once again. Laura broke off the kiss and grasped his face in her hands. “Charles…”
Charles smiled and nodded, her whisper of his name telling him all he needed to know. With another quick brush of his lips against hers, Charles pushed himself up onto his arms once again, and began to thrust heavily into her.
“Oh… yes…” Laura groaned in approval and tightened her legs around him; meeting each thrust of his hips. “Char… les…” she called his name as the sensations grew steadily from the point of their joining and spread throughout her body. “Mmm…”
Charles groaned as Laura’s legs tightened even more around his driving hips and began to drive himself harder and faster into her. He could feel her inner walls once again beginning to clench around his driving member and knew she was very close to release.
“Charles… ” Laura moaned as she trailed her hands down his back to clutch at his rear, loving the feel of the firm flesh flexing beneath her fingers. “Oh yes… love… more…”
At her husky urgings, Charles lowered his mouth to her breasts and captured a rosy tip between his lips, suckling hard as he drove himself deeper and faster into her; his length sliding in and out of her moist cleft. “Laura… love…” he murmured around the nipple in his mouth. “I’m goi…”
“I know…” Laura replied breathlessly as she continued to move her hips in counterpoint to his. “I am, too… oh…” she began to shake her head. “No… no… no…”
Charles released her nipple and raised his head to look down at her. “Laura?”
“Together… I want us…” Laura gasped as she felt the tendrils of her orgasm begin to stretch out within her body.
“We will be…” Charles nodded, grinding his hips against hers. “We… oh shit…” he groaned as her nails bit into the skin of his ass. “Laura…”
Their voices rang out with simultaneous cries of each other’s names as they reached the pinnacle of their releases together.
“Charles… oh, Charles…” Laura sobbed his name over and over as she came hard, her orgasm rushing over her in a torrent of sensations. She clung tightly to him, her arms and legs wrapped securely around his body as she writhed beneath him.
Charles buried his face in Laura’s neck, panting her name as he pumped his hips against hers, emptying himself deep inside her; his essence leaving his body in long, jetting ropes to splash against her womb until he had no more to give and he sank heavily against her.
Laura panted softly as Charles burrowed further into her embrace, her arms tightening as a residual orgasmic tremor shook both their bodies. She eased her legs down from around his waist and loosely entwined them with his as she turned her head to nuzzle his temple, smiling when she felt his lips moving against the damp skin of her neck.
Several minutes later, Charles lifted his head and smiled at the satiated look on Laura’s face. He cradled her head in his hands, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs as he gazed into her eyes.
“Thank you…” she whispered, reaching up to cup his cheek, her thumb moving in time with his. “That was…” she paused to run her fingers over his lips, “…everything I dreamed it would be.”
Charles’ smile grew tender. “For me, too…” he told her in a quiet voice then lowered his head to place a soft, loving kiss on her mouth. As they kissed, he rolled them so that they were lying on their sides, still tangled in each other’s embrace.
The kiss slowly tapered off… ending in a series of breathy, barely there touches of their lips that left them smiling happily at each other. Charles reached out for her discarded nightgown and pulled it over them, covering their lower bodies.
“I don’t want to wait another month to marry you.”
The words were spoken quietly between the two lovers.
“I don’t want to wait either,” he admitted. “I want you to be my wife now, Laura. I want to be able to make love with you whenever we want. I want to fall asleep with you in my arms every night, and wake up to your beautiful face every morning,” Charles rubbed her back.
“Oh, I want that, too!” Laura told him. “So very much.”
“Is there any reason why we have to wait?”
Laura slowly shook her head. “No, not really. I’m a widow, so I do have a little more… leeway I suppose. The real problem, however, is not what everyone else thinks, or the dictates of society. By running the Gazette, I’m already flying in the face of all that. No, the problem is…”
“My mother,” she nodded.
Charles sighed. “I guess we wait then,” he said as he slipped out of her and rolled onto his back beside her. “It’s not going to be easy now though. Not knowing how it feels to make love to you.”
“No… it won’t be easy,” Laura agreed thoughtfully, then after several minutes of quiet thought, she shifted and slid her body on top of his. She pressed her hands to the ground on either side of his head and smiled down at him. “So, we’re not going to wait.”
Charles grinned up at her as he wrapped his arms around her. “We’re not?”
“No,” Laura shook her head. “I love you, Charles… and I don’t want to wait any longer to be your wife.”
“So, we’re going to elope?”
“Pretty much… yes,” Laura smiled.
Charles chuckled and slid his hands up to her shoulders and drew her down to him. He brushed his lips against hers. “I guess I can wait THAT long,” his grin was irrepressible. “Just one question?”
“What’s that?” Laura asked, her eyes dancing with mirth.
“Who’s going to tell your mother?”