~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

The bedroom was dark and appeared to be empty when Nathan entered but he had an idea where he might find Kristin and he was right.  He moved silently to the side veranda where he had found her earlier and there she was, silhouetted against the sky as she stared up at the silver moon.

 

As Nathan watched, he saw Kristin’s shoulders straighten as her back tensed and knew that she had sensed his presence.  He immediately moved in behind her and pressed her back against him, his arms wrapping around her waist as he dropped a series of breathy kisses along the line of her neck.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I was wrong… I wasn’t thinking… I don’t want to fight with you ever.”

 

A soft titter escaped Kristin’s lips.  “Can you really imagine us not fighting?  We are both quite set in our ways.”

 

“That’s true,” he ceded as his lips caressed her jaw.  “And we will probably always fight… but think of the fun we can have making up.” 

 

Kristin relaxed back into him and turned her head to meet his mouth for a gentle kiss.  When their lips parted she settled her head against his neck and they stood there in silence, listening to the sounds of the night for long moments.

 

“So…” Nathan broke the silence, in part to distract Kristin from noticing that his hands were beginning a slow but sensuous caress of the length of her body from breast to thigh.  “What do you think of Bill and Janet?”

 

“They are lovely,” Kristin smirked, not falling for Nathan’s ploy for one instant.  “The love and concern that they have for their son is obvious and admirable.  Their affection for each other is also obvious.”  Her body began to move of its own volition; her firm rear teasing Nathan’s growing erection as she undulated against his hands.

 

“And admirable?”  Nathan asked as he slowly began to work one hand between the close press of their bodies.

 

“Very admirable.  I guess it just caught me off guard at first… Janet and I had a very nice talk down at the grotto earlier.  She’s very understanding… I like her very much.”

 

“Janet likes you very much as well… and so does Bill.  Kris… I won’t ever let anyone hurt you… I swear.”

 

Nathan felt her head nod against his chin.  “I know that you will always do your best… but sometimes life has a way of hurting, no matter how you try to prevent it from doing so.”

 

“You will never suffer for choosing to love me.  I won’t allow it.  Other people might not understand our relationship… please don’t let them come between us.”

 

“Somehow… someway… you’ve become so much a part of me that I don’t feel complete unless you are near… I am yours for as long as you want me, Nathan,” Kristin responded simply.

 

Tears came to Nathan’s eyes at this simple yet potent declaration, at last understanding the depth of the love the woman in his arms had for him.  Janet’s words came rushing back to him like a tidal wave, with Bess’ pointed questions interspersed.  ‘Gator, you had better get your ass back here as soon as humanly possible!’  Nathan wanted nothing more at this moment than to formalize the commitment to Kristin that he had already made in his heart.

 

Nathan’s chin nudged at Kristin’s cheek and she turned her head back to him, their lips meeting once again in a tender kiss that quickly turned passionate.  Kristin lifted her arm toward Nathan’s neck but he quickly caught her hand and pulled it back down.

 

Kristin gasped within the kiss as her loosened dress slipped to her waist then, with a careless tug from Nathan, on to pool at her feet.

 

“When did you…” she murmured as Nathan’s fingers tugged at the drawstring holding her petticoat in place.

 

“I am nothing if not determined,” Nathan replied as the underskirt joined the gown on the balcony floor.  “I’ve been going crazy wanting you ever since our friends interrupted us in the meadow this afternoon.”

 

“Nath… but… we can’t…” Kristin attempted to squirm out of his touch but he held on to her tightly.

 

“What’s wrong now?”  He asked indulgently, his eyes telling her that her protests weren’t working.

 

Kristin glanced out over the moonlit lawn around them.  “We are standing on the balcony… anyone on the island could walk up and see us… see me like this…” she gasped as the lacings of her chemise fell loose and Nathan’s hands closed around her breasts as they spilled out.

 

“Don’t you want me, darling?”  Nathan’s thumbs and forefingers encircled her already distended nipples, teasing them even more.

 

“Yes… of course…” Kristin groaned as Nathan bent his head and turned her body in so that her right breast was available to his seeking mouth.  He lifted her right arm as he locked on to the dusky center, wrapping the limb around his neck then slipping his arms beneath her knees and pulling her clear of the dress.

 

“One day I am going to make love to you on that balcony,” Nathan murmured around the rosy tip in his mouth as he carried Kristin back into the bedroom.  With one last hard pull he freed her breast and kissed his way back up her neck as he moved closer to the bed.

 

Kristin saw the evil glint in Nathan’s eye a single second before she felt her body flying through the air, landing with a loud whoosh in the center of the large feather bed, her arms and legs askew.

 

Pure unadulterated lust blossomed in Nathan’s eyes as he stared at the chemise that had worked its way up past Kristin’s hips, leaving her completely open to his gaze.  Kristin made no effort to cover herself, simply propping her torso on her elbows and returning his stare with a challenge of her own.

 

Nathan stripped his shirt away, pleased to see an answering lust in Kristin’s face as his hands fell to his britches.  He made short work of the fastener and pushed them down then swore loudly as his boots halted their removal.

 

One foot came up, Nathan tugging vigorously at the supple leather, but it refused to budge.  His body shifted slightly and he moved to compensate, ending up hopping on one foot while he struggled to remove the boot from the other.  A miscalculated hop pitched him forward to the floor, swearing all the way.

 

He looked up from the bed to find Kristin’s head hanging over the edge, a worried expression on her face.

 

“I’m okay.  I didn’t break anything important.”  He waggled his eyebrows at Kristin as he thrust his hips up, his erection bouncing off a nest of dark curls to wave at her.

 

The muffled giggles that Kristin was trying to hide quickly grew into full-fledged laughter as the boots finally gave way.  Nathan threw them across the room in disgust then crawled the few feet to the bed and raised his head.  Kristin was expecting a kiss but Nathan feinted down, his teeth closing lightly over an exposed breast.

 

Kristin pulled back in a play sulk.  “That hurt!”  She told him as she sat back and scooted up the bed.

 

“You shouldn’t have laughed at me,” Nathan told her as he climbed onto the bed after her.

 

Kristin squealed as Nathan crawled up her body, his mouth trailing lightly over satin skin as he moved.  “Nathan… oh God… we can’t do this, Nathan!  What if someone hears us?”

 

“What if they do?”  Nathan lay down on top of her, his tongue laving the light teeth marks he had left while his arousal pressed into Kristin’s thigh.

 

“But… Bill and Janet are right next door… and the windows are open… they might hear us…”

 

At that moment a loud and distinctly feminine moan filled the air.  “Ohgodohgodohgod… OH, BILL!  YES!”, followed by a masculine shout of completion, then Bill Noyce’s voice moaning his wife’s name over and over.

 

Nathan lifted his head to stare at Kristin, one eyebrow raised.  “Any more objections?”

 

“No… non…mmm…” Kristin’s head fell back against the pillows as Nathan returned to his task.  “…ohgod… oh… ohgodohgod… NO!”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Good morning!”  Janet swept into the breakfast room with a huge smile of contentment on her face, her hands trailing across the backs of the chairs as she moved to sit beside Kristin.

 

“Good morning to you.”  Kristin’s smile was equally big as she poured a cup of tea from the service on the cart next to her chair.  “Where is Bill?”

 

“Nathan intercepted us on the way down the stairs and asked Bill if he wanted to go with him to see the repairs on the boat.”

 

Kristin rolled her eyes.  “I told Nathan to give Bill a chance to eat breakfast before he dragged him away.”

 

“There was mention made of a stop in the kitchen on their way out… something about Bess’ biscuits and a generous slice of cured ham, I believe.  So… sleep well?”  Janet asked with an impish grin on her face.

 

Kristin blushed.  “Like a baby… once I finally got to sleep.”

 

“So you and Nathan made up?”  Janet’s eyes gleamed over the rim of her teacup.

 

“He was very understanding when he came upstairs last night.  I suspect that someone might have had a little talk with him… hmm?”

 

“I simply suggested that Nathan attempt to consider your position from other people’s point of view to try and understand how you might feel.  He really loves you, Kristin.  Trust Nathan to make things right… to protect you always.”

 

“I do trust him,” Kristin observed quietly.  “It is so strange.  Two months ago I was out for a test run on my yard’s new ship never thinking about pirates… never thinking about finding love again until my ship was boarded and I found myself staring into the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.  Nathan made me furious at him but I think that the attraction must have been building even then.”

 

“Then he swept you up into his arms, carried you to his cabin and made mad passionate love to you?”

 

“No.  I was unconscious at the time.  He had Katherine strip me out of my bloody dress and Crocker tied me up.”

 

Janet’s eyes sparked.  “Oooh… restraints can be fun too, can’t they?”

 

Kristin’s eyes grew wide.  “Restraints… you mean… you actually make… while tied up?”

 

“I guess you didn’t… you should try it sometime.  Then when did you and Nathan get together?  How long…”

 

“We fought like cats and dogs for days.  He was such a mystery.  Nathan seemed to enjoy goading me… making me mad… but then he could be so kind… so charming.  When he realized that the ropes had cut into my wrists he treated them gently and bandaged them.  But when I locked the door on him he was furious, so furious that he…” Kristin’s voice trailed off but Janet could tell from the look on her friend’s face that the memory was a pleasant one.

 

“What?  Nathan got so furious that he what?”  Janet finally demanded.

 

“Oh… he kissed me… that was the first time…”

 

‘Mmhmm… I bet he did a hell of a lot more than kiss you judging from that look on your face,’ Janet smirked.  “Then what happened?”

 

“We fought… we reached an uneasy truce… we fought again… Nathan sentenced me to five lashes but Crocker, Kreig and O’Neill stood up for me… Lucas got sick…”

 

“Whoa whoa whoa…” Janet interrupted.  “Nathan took a whip to you?  He wouldn’t!  He couldn’t…”

 

‘You do know your friend well,’ Kristin thought and nodded.  “He didn’t.  He commuted my punishment to repairing the sails.  After that Lucas caught a fever and we cared for him together.  I think perhaps that was when we finally achieved some sort of lasting peace.  I became ill with the same fever and Nathan cared for me then he got sick.  He wasn’t well enough to go into port without alerting the authorities to the illness so he and I stayed on this lovely island while Crocker took the ship in… or at least attempted to.  Once the ship returned for us, Nathan was much improved so we went to port with them.  While we were there we got word about Will’s ship.  The seaQuest put out immediately and engaged the British ship, and recovered your son.”

 

“And then came all of the conflict with that dreadful pirate,” Janet and Bill had heard the story of their time on Zellar’s ship the previous evening.  “And once you returned you saved my Will’s life.”

 

“I did what I could.  Will’s own desire to live and to save his leg is what made the difference.”

 

Janet didn’t reply, knowing in her heart that although her son’s determination had been important, her new friend’s attentive care had been what made the difference.

 

“Do you have anyone in England who will be worrying about you?  You mentioned a daughter yesterday and I know the heartache that comes with believing that a loved one is lost to you.”

 

“Nathan kindly allowed me to post a note to Cynthia while we were in Port San Luis.  She probably has it by now.  Cynni would have shared it with my parents.  The only other person who my absence might impact is my mother-in-law, but I don’t really think that she will care.”

 

“No love lost between you and the old girl?”  Janet asked.

 

“Lavinia Carruthers never forgave me for marrying her son.  She tried her best to control Oliver’s every move until the day he died and then she tried to control mine… or at least Cynthia’s.  We fight constantly over what is best for my grown daughter.  Lavinia thinks that she should be allowed to arrange a marriage for Cynthia, control her wardrobe, her friends… I certainly don’t miss the old harridan in the least.”

 

“Bill’s mother was exactly the opposite.  My own mother was cold… the perfect Boston matron but Evelyn Noyce is one of the loveliest women I’ve ever known.  She embraced me from the beginning.  From the moment that Bill told her he was marrying me I became her daughter as well.  Both of my children adore their grandmother.”

 

“Both… you have another child?”  Kristin was surprised at this information.

 

“I guess in all the excitement over Will we haven’t mentioned Clarissa.  Evelyn is recovering from a bad fall so Claire volunteered to stay with her grandmother while we came to get Will.  She’s a wonderful girl but at sixteen she definitely has a mind of her own.  She’s very stubborn and after spending her entire life around sailors she has no qualms about telling you exactly what she thinks in the most colorful terms.”

 

“I’ve noticed that you do a bit of that yourself,” Kristin admitted.

 

Janet was immediately contrite.  “I’m sorry, Kristin.  I’ve been around rough language so much that it sometimes creeps into my vocabulary.  Normally I control it well but I just feel so much more relaxed here on Nathan’s island… and I feel very comfortable with you.  I know that I’ve shocked your very proper British sensibilities with some of my questions and observations but I feel like I can talk with you… be myself.”  Janet reached over and gripped Kristin’s hand.

 

Kristin returned the squeeze whole-heartedly.  “I know… I feel it too.  And I don’t mind your questions.  I’m learning quite a lot about this man that I’ve fallen in love with.  You have really gone out of your way to be nice to me and that means so much.”

 

“So you didn’t mind the moaning last night?”  Janet reached over to pat Kristin’s back as she sputtered into her teacup.  “I was sure that you would feel uncomfortable about being… close to Nathan while Bill and I were upstairs but regardless of your feelings we weren’t about to hold back.”

 

Kristin’s cup clattered to the table as she flushed lobster red.

 

“It certainly seemed to work.  I don’t believe that Bill and I were the only ones giving voice to our feelings last night.  I was glad to hear it.  Embarrassing you wasn’t our intent… We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We haven’t… it had been months…”

 

Surprise showed on Kristin’s face.  “But you and Bill… I can’t believe…”

 

“When Will was taken we were devastated.  That first night… we drowned our sorrows in each other but after that… it seemed wrong for us to find even a little peace together when our boy was suffering God knows what.  When word came that Nathan had found William, that he was here… we were in such a hurry to get to him that we didn’t take any time for ourselves… but now that we are reunited with our son we’ve found our way back to each other as well.”

 

“I was a bit shocked to hear you… at least in the beginning.  I never knew couples could… well… My intimate life with Oliver was so different from what Nathan and I share… We slept in separate rooms and he visited my bed two or three times a month.”

 

“It sounds very sterile… utilitarian even.  I don’t think I could have a marriage like that.  Waking up with Bill’s arms around me… listening to him snore… having to steal the blankets back from him… I love that.”

 

“I don’t think that Oliver and I ever slept together.  Once he finished he immediately returned to his room.  He didn’t like for me to… wives aren’t supposed to enjoy intimacy.  A wife suffers her husband’s touch for the sake of conception and at his pleasure.”

 

Janet shuddered as she heard Kristin spouting off the teachings of her youth.  “You were just supposed to lay there like a log?  Didn’t you ever touch him back?”

 

Kristin shook her head.  “I would embrace his shoulders sometimes but…”

 

“You weren’t supposed to make a sound!  You never initiated intimacy with your husband!”  Janet was aghast as she began to understand.  “No wonder Nathan’s openness takes you by surprise sometimes.  But doesn’t it feel nice to know that he wants to touch you so badly that he doesn’t care who sees?  Do you enjoy sleeping next to him every night?”

 

“More than I would have ever imagined…  Having Nathan hold me after we’ve loved is such an incredible feeling…” A loud clatter at the doorway alerted the ladies to approaching company and they fell silent.

 

Will and Lucas burst into the room loudly debating the merits of the horses in Nathan’s stable.  Will placed a kiss on his mother’s cheek and Lucas wrapped his arms carelessly around Kristin’s shoulders in a loose embrace.  Kristin lifted her head and placed a kiss on the boy’s cheek as she tousled his hair.

 

“You must be hungry.  Have some breakfast,” she told him and Lucas grinned widely as he moved to the sideboard.

 

A worried mother look crossed Janet’s face as she watched Will gazing at the exchange, his infatuation for her new friend written clearly across his face.

 

“Go eat, Will,” she prodded gently.

 

“Yes, Mother,” Will replied then smiled at Kristin.  “Good morning, Kristin.”

 

“Good morning, William.  How is your leg this morning?  Any pain?”

 

“It’s much better, thank you.  A little twinge here and there, but much better.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it.”

 

“William, go eat,” his mother repeated.

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

Janet watched her son slowly walk over and join Lucas at the sideboard as she sipped her tea.  Finishing the cup, she placed it on the table and turned to Kristin.  “Fancy a walk down to the harbour?  We could pack a basket and surprise our men with a picnic lunch.”

 

“That sounds lovely,” Kristin nodded.  “I have a few things I need to do upstairs but I should be done in about an hour.  By the time we get a basket ready and make our way there, I think they will be ready to eat.”

 

“They’ll be ready for food too,” Janet whispered with a wicked grin.

 

“Janet!”  Kristin hissed, turning a bright red.

 

Janet laughed and stood.  “You boys behave yourselves,” she called out.

 

“Yes, ma’am!”  Will and Lucas replied simultaneously.

 

“Come along, Kristin,” Janet said to the still blushing woman.  “We don’t want to keep Bill and Nathan waiting.”

 

Kristin nodded as she stood and followed a still laughing Janet out of the room.

 

Lucas and Will watched them leave and turned to face each other, shrugged then continued to pile food on their plates.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Several hours later, carrying a large basket between them, the two women walked slowly down the path that would take them to the harbour and their men.

 

“You realize,” Janet spoke up after a brief silence,  “that my son has a crush on you?”

 

“Yes,” Kristin nodded then looked over at Janet.  “I want you to know that I’ve not encouraged him.  I…”

 

“I know that, Kristin,” Janet smiled at her.  “You have eyes only for one man.  I think… that more than anything; William sees you as his angel, the one who took care of him when he was ill… you saved his leg.”

 

“Any humane person would have done the same… Nathan for instance, if he’d known how,” Kristin said.

 

“True,” Janet agreed.  “But in this instance… it wasn’t any other person, it was you.  A very beautiful, very intelligent… and very loving woman who took care of him; eased his pain and nursed him back to health.”

 

Kristin frowned.

 

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Kristin,” Janet said.  “From what I can see, my son is very aware that you are hopelessly in love with his uncle,” she smiled at Kristin.  “Don’t read too much into it… all boys go through this… having a crush on an older woman.  Once he is out and about with people… women his own age, what he feels for you will be relegated to a fond memory.”

 

“Do you really think so?”

 

“Yes,” Janet answered.  “To this day, all I have to do is say the name, Constance around my husband and he’ll break out in a big dopey smile.”

 

“Constance?”

 

“My husband’s first real crush,” Janet told her.  “She was his younger sister’s governess and he was just mad about her.”

 

Kristin grinned.  “Really?”

 

“Mmhmm… and he would moon about her for hours,” Janet laughed.  “I can remember going over to the house with my older brother, George and watching the two of them make fools of themselves.”

 

“So what happened?”

 

“Constance left to marry and they never saw her again,” Janet answered.  “My poor Bill was heart-broken…”

 

“But not for long I’d wager,” Kristin retorted with smirk.

 

“Oh no…  During the time that Bill was fascinated with Constance, George’s little sister Janet was growing up.  After the governess left it wasn’t long before he realized that all the picking on me he’d been doing wasn’t necessarily just because I was a yucky girl,” Janet smiled.

 

Kristin laughed and was about to say more when she realized that they’d arrived at the harbour.  “Oh my…”

 

“Kristin, what is…” Janet followed Kristin’s gaze to the ship.  “Oh.”

 

High up in the air next to the main mast of the ship, clinging to the rigging was a man dressed only in a pair of black britches, his tan skin glistening in the sunlight as he worked.

 

“That could be any…”

 

“No… that is Nathan,” Kristin said in a low voice.

 

“Are you certain?”

 

“Oh yes… I’ve spent a lot of time lately memorizing his body.”

 

Janet laughed softly.  “I’ll bet you have.”

 

Kristin blushed as she realized what she’d said and pulled her gaze from her lover’s body and turned to Janet.  “What I meant…”

 

“Save it,” Janet held her hand up to stop Kristin.  “This is me you’re talking to, remember.  There isn’t much you can say that’ll shock me.”

 

Kristin smiled.

 

“So…” Janet began, noting the desire written all over her friend’s face as she once again turned her gaze upward.  “Are you sure you don’t want to be alone with Nathan?”

 

“Of course I want to be alone with him, but I didn’t bring a pair of britches with me.”

 

“Britches?”  Janet exclaimed.

 

Kristin laughed softly but didn’t divert her gaze as she explained about Nathan ‘forcing’ her to dress in the men’s clothes and then told Janet about the first time Nathan brought her up to the crow’s nest and his promise about what would one day happen up there.

 

“And did you?”

 

“Did we what?”

 

“Don’t be coy with me, Kristin.”

 

Kristin laughed again and nodded as a blush rose up her neck to colour her face.  “Yes… we did.”

 

“And…?”

 

“It was incredible.”

 

“I bet it was,” Janet replied as she once again looked up.  Her eyes widened as she watched Nathan suddenly turn his head and look down, his eyes meeting Kristin’s immediately without having to search for her; a large smile apparent on his face, even from this distance.  ‘Oh yes… you two were definitely meant to be together,’ she thought.

 

“Come on,” Janet laughed and began to walk towards the gangplank, pulling Kristin behind her.  “Our men await.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Now that is what I call timing!”

 

Janet turned to see her husband standing in the doorway of Nathan’s shipboard office.

 

“I was just thinking about you,” Bill said with a smile as he slowly walked towards her.  “And you brought food too.  Wonderful.”

 

Janet smiled.  “Want to help me carry it into the office for now…” she gestured with her head towards Kristin whose eyes were still focused on Nathan.  “Someone is a little distracted.”

 

Bill chuckled as he eased the basket’s handle from Kristin’s fingers without her even realizing it and led his wife to Nathan’s office.  He placed the basket on the desk then turned back to his wife to find her standing in the doorway looking out onto the deck.

 

“Jan…”

 

“Ssh… come here,” Janet said quietly.  “Watch,” she said as he stepped up behind her, slipped his arms about her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder.

 

“What am I… oh…”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Kristin kept her eyes on Nathan as he finished doing whatever it was that had him high up on the rigging and began to descend.  She watched and admired the rippling of his thigh muscles beneath his britches, the way the black cotton stretched tight across the firm cheeks of his rear and the way his damp skin shone in the bright sun… and felt herself becoming extremely aroused.

 

Nathan’s feet hit the deck and he turned to see Kristin slowly gliding towards him, the desire in her sable eyes more than evident.  She stopped within arms reach of him and Nathan felt his groin tighten at the sight of her nipples tenting the front of her dress.

 

“Kris…” he shook his head as she closed the difference between them.  “Your dress… I’m all sweaty… oh god…”

 

Kristin smiled at his low groan and moved her tongue over his collarbone again.  She moaned at the clean… heady male scent and taste of him and pressed her body against his as she moved her lips up along Nathan’s throat to catch his mouth in a hungry kiss.

 

Nathan responded immediately and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her body flush with his as his tongue mated with hers.  He slid his hands down Kristin’s back, cupped her bottom and pressed his more than obvious erection against her center.

 

“Hello, my love,” Nathan breathed against her lips as the kiss ended.

 

“Mmm… hi,” Kristin replied breathlessly and smiled at him.  “Janet and I brought some lunch.  We thought you and Bill would like some lunch.”

 

“I can honestly say that at this moment, food is the last thing on my mind.”

 

“I know,” Kristin laughed softly as she gently rocked her hips against him.  “But that will have to wait until later.  Bill and Janet are waiting.”  Then as if suddenly remembering where they were, Kristin stepped out of Nathan’s arms… or at least tried to.

 

“It’s okay, Kristin,” Nathan told her as he pulled her back into his embrace.  “Except for Bill and Janet, we’re all alone.  I gave the men the rest of the day off.”

 

“That was nice of you,” she said then moaned as his lips found a sensitive spot on her neck.  “Nath… Nathan… our friends are waiting…”

 

Nathan sighed against her skin then lifted his head to meet her eyes.  “And that is the only thing saving you right now…”

 

The heat from Nathan’s gaze sent an anticipatory shiver though Kristin’s body.

 

“But tonight…”

 

“Tonight?”

 

“I think I’m going to surprise you,” Nathan told her with a devilish gleam.

 

“Mmm… I look forward to it,” Kristin replied as she turned in Nathan’s arms, caught his hands and pulled him toward his office. 

 

“So… what are we lunching on this afternoon?”  Nathan asked as he walked behind her.

 

“Some sandwiches… ham and chicken,” she answered.

 

“Sounds good,” he replied in a distracted voice.

 

“And we also brought a bottle of… oh my…” her voice trailed off and she stopped dead in her tracks.

 

Nathan, his eyes locked firmly on the sway of her hips, didn’t realize she’d stopped until he nearly knocked her over.  “Kris… what is… oh…”

 

Pressed up against the far wall of Nathan’s office, her bare legs wrapped around her husband’s waist, Janet Noyce moaned loudly as Bill’s lips moved slowly down her neck.

 

“And you thought we were the only ones who gave in to our passion in the middle of the day,” Nathan whispered in her ear.

 

Kristin couldn’t speak and her eyes refused to close, even though she kept telling them to do so.  She took in the scene before her… the bodice to Janet’s dress open and pushed off her shoulders to reveal a thin strap of red lace against creamy skin… Bill’s head moving lower and lower with each passing second.

 

When another low moan issued from Janet’s lips, Nathan slipped his arm around Kristin’s waist and quietly pulled her out of the doorway and over to the railing.

 

“I…” Kristin blushed furiously and shook her head.

 

“It’s all right, Kris…” Nathan told her softly, his arms wrapped tightly around her.  “It’s all right to feel exactly what you’re feeling… both the embarrassment and the arousal…”

 

Kristin shook her head again.  “No… it’s…”

 

“It’s not wrong… it’s perfectly normal and human,” Nathan said firmly.  “Besides… how much would you like to wager that seeing us is what sparked that little episode we just witnessed?”

 

Kristin turned in his arms.  “You don’t think…” her voice trailed off and the red hue of her skin darkened.

 

Nathan grinned.  “Oh, sweetheart… I pray you never completely lose your naiveté…” he chuckled as Kristin swatted his chest.  He leaned back then, turning his head towards his office and yelled.  “You two wanna knock it off and get out here?  I’d like to eat lunch some time today!”

 

“Nathan!”  Kristin slapped his chest again.

 

“What?!”

 

“Bill would do the same thing to us in a heartbeat,” Nathan told her.  “And if I don’t stop them, they’d end up having sex on my desk.  And if anyone is having sex on that desk, it’s going to be us.”

 

Kristin arched an eyebrow.  “Intriguing idea,” she said in a quiet voice, even as the blush on her face persisted.

 

“God, I love you,” Nathan stated emphatically as he swooped down and covered her mouth with his in a passionate kiss.

 

“Hey hey hey… none of that now!”

 

Nathan pulled his mouth away from Kristin’s and turned to see Janet and Bill slowly walking towards them, both with large smiles on their flushed faces.

 

“Save it for later,” Bill said then held up the picnic basket.  “Food first.  Fun later.”

 

“So, where would you like to have this picnic?”  Nathan asked.

 

“We thought it would be nice to spread the blanket out on the deck, near the bow…” Kristin answered Nathan as she grabbed his hand and led him in that direction.  “This way we can enjoy the breeze off the water and the view.”

 

“Sounds good to me.”

 

“Me too,” Bill said.

 

Janet and Kristin glanced at each other and smiled. 

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“That was… a wonderful idea.”

 

“Yes it was rather brilliant, wasn’t it!?”

 

Kristin laughed at her friend and nodded.  “So…” she began several minutes later.  “Red lace?”

 

“What?!  Oh…” Janet blushed when Kristin gestured to her shoulder.

 

“Is that one of the…”

 

“Teddies.  It’s called a teddy, and yes it is.”

 

“Red?  Isn’t that kind of…”

 

“Risqué?”  Janet finished then nodded.  “That’s the point of lingerie… to entice your man.”

 

“And you… you enjoy wearing it?”

 

“For the most part, yes.  Most of the pieces I own are very comfortable… but more than that, I enjoy the look in Bill’s eyes when he sees me in one of the teddies.”

 

“You don’t get embarrassed parading around in the… teddy?”

 

“Not really,” Janet answered as a slow smile formed on her lips.  “Mainly because it never stays on long enough for me to get embarrassed.”

 

Kristin looked thoughtful.

 

“You could always try one of the more sedate pieces first…” Janet suggested.  “Because to be honest… I don’t think it will be on you all that long either.”

 

Kristin flushed slightly even as she chuckled.  “True.”

 

“More than anything, Kristin,” Janet looked at her friend.  “You do what you’re comfortable with and nothing more.  We both know Nathan wouldn’t push you into trying anything that you’re not ready for.”

 

“You’re right, Nathan wouldn’t,” Kristin nodded.  “It’s just…”

 

“A lot of this is still new to you,” Janet smiled.

 

“Yes.”

 

Janet’s smile grew and she gave a gentle tug on the basket between them as she spoke in a conspiratorial whisper,  “Well then, you stick with Auntie Janet… she’ll teach all you need to know.”

 

Kristin laughed.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“I could get used to riding like this.”

 

Nathan chuckled and patted Kristin’s hands where they rested on his chest.  “I guess there are no complaints about not bringing a second horse?”

 

“None,” Kristin shook her head and tightened her arms around him.  “So, what did you tell Bill?”

 

“Only that we most likely wouldn’t be back tonight,” Nathan answered,  “and to not wait up because I was taking the woman I love out to our special place so that I could make love to her all night long.”

 

“Nathan, you didn’t!”

 

Nathan laughed.  “Of course I didn’t.  I just told him we wouldn’t be back tonight.  The rest he figured out for himself.”  Even with her behind him, Nathan could feel the warmth of Kristin’s blush and patted her hands lovingly.  “To be honest, Bill has known since this afternoon that I was planning on bringing you here tonight.”

 

Kristin merely nodded against him and they fell into a comfortable silence as the horse trotted steadily along the shore.  She closed her eyes and concentrated on the feel of Nathan’s body, hard and hot in front of her.  Her hands began a slow journey over his stomach and down his thighs to gently massage the strong muscles hidden beneath the tight, black cotton, muscles that only a few hours earlier she’d watched flexing as he hung in the rigging above her.

 

Nathan held his breath as Kristin trailed her hands back up to his chest and slowly released the buttons on his shirt then slipped her hands inside.  He exhaled with a soft moan as her fingers found and teased his nipples then combed through the soft curly hair all the way down to the waist of his britches.

 

“Kris…?” Nathan gasped when he felt his shirt being pulled free of his waistband then her hands stroking the firm skin of his abdomen.  “What are you… doing?”

 

“What does it feel like I’m doing?”  Kristin answered.  “I’m touching you…  I’ve… wanted to do this since this afternoon… especially after seeing the way these pants,” her hands slipped back down to his thighs,  “fit you so well…”

 

“Kris…” Nathan groaned when her fingers brushed up against his growing erection.

 

“Do you want me to stop?”  She asked as she deliberately traced the shape of his arousal through his pants.

 

“…no…” he barely managed to grind out as he felt his member swell beneath her touch.  His next breath caught in his throat as he felt her remove the placard then slowly undo the buttons of his pants.  Nathan moaned her name as Kristin slipped her hand inside his pants and wrapped her cool fingers around his now rock hard shaft.

 

“I love…”

 

“What?”  Nathan asked, not hearing her quickly mumbled words through the haze of sensations her touch was sending through his body.

 

“I… love the way you feel…” Kristin admitted in a voice mixed with arousal and embarrassment.  “Like silk covered steel… I… never knew, never imagined…” her hand began to slowly stroke his hardened length, smiling at the low groan that reverberated through his body and into hers.  “You’re so… so hot… so hard…”

 

Nathan groaned again, unconsciously lifting his hips into her touch while trying to keep his attention on where the horse was going and not on the delicious sensations of Kristin’s hand stroking him… her lips nibbling his neck… her taut nipples drilling into his back…

 

Kristin felt Nathan’s body tense and stopped the movement of her hand.  “Am I doing this right?”  She asked in a husky voice against his shoulder.

 

Unable to speak, Nathan simply nodded.

 

Kristin smiled and resumed her gentle caress while the fingers of her other hand slowly combed through the dark nest of curls as they instinctively reached down to cup and massage his sacs.  She inhaled sharply when she felt him lengthen and harden even more in her palm.

 

Nathan groaned when he felt his juices begin to rise up his shaft, Kristin’s soft, inexperienced touch coaxing him closer to his release with every stroke and swirl of her hand.  “Kris… I…”

 

His sentence remained unfinished as he suddenly cried out her name, his body shuddering violently as he erupted; his essence spilling out over her hand in a wet, warm blanket.  “Oh… sweet Jesus… Kristin…” Nathan moaned breathlessly as she released him.

 

Kristin lifted her hand to see it glistening in the waning sunlight and remembering her desire of earlier in the week, she brought her fingers to her mouth then flicked her tongue out taste the sticky fluid covering her hand.  “Oh my… I like the way you taste…”

 

Nathan groaned as the image of Kristin licking his juices from her hand entered his mind then feeling a slight breeze, he glanced down to see that his britches were still open and he was exposed to the cool evening air.  He quickly, with one hand, tucked his now flaccid member back into his britches and buttoned them up.

 

“So…” Kristin once again wrapped her arms around Nathan’s waist and laid her head against his back.  “Did I… was that… okay?”

 

“Oh, sweetheart… that was more than okay,” Nathan told her and reached back slightly to grasp and rub her thigh.  “That was very very okay.”

 

They rode the rest of the way in a comfortable silence; neither one needing words to communicate the feelings flowing through them.

 

“Oh, Nathan…” Kristin whispered at the sight that greeted her as he brought the horse to a stop beside the grotto just as the last tendrils of sunlight brushed across the surface of the water.  “It’s… beautiful…”

 

Nathan dismounted and smiled up at her as he helped her down off the horse.  “I’m glad you like it…”

 

“Oh… this is lovely,” she told him in a quiet voice as she slowly walked towards the pallet he’d laid out on the grass beside the pond, which in turn was surrounded by a half dozen oil lamps burning brightly.  Kristin turned to see Nathan still standing next to the horse… his gaze riveted on her.  She smiled.  “Are you going to sleep with the horse… or with me?”

 

Nathan chuckled as he tethered the horse then slowly began to walk towards her.  “I was watching you… and thanking the good Lord for bringing you into my life.”

 

Kristin’s smile grew.

 

“I was also thinking,” Nathan stopped right in front of her and reached out to tuck an errant lock of auburn hair behind her ear,  “about how beautiful you are.  How sweet… funny, kind, generous, witty,” he smiled as she began to blush.  “…loving, intelligent… passionate.  And how very much in love with you I am.”

 

“I love you too… very much.”

 

Nathan grinned then reached out to pull Kristin into his arms and brushed his lips softly over hers as his fingers began to unbutton her dress.  “I want to make love to you in the water…”

 

“Won’t it be cold?”  Kristin asked as Nathan finished with the buttons then lifted his hands to her shoulders to push the dress down over her arms.

 

“No… it will be a little cool at first…” Nathan told her as he pushed the dress below her waist and hips to pool on the ground.  “But the water is surprisingly warm,” he finished in a low, husky voice as he took a step back and let his eyes drift down then back up her body.  “God, you are so beautiful!”

 

Kristin shivered at the heat in his gaze as he lifted his eyes to hers and watched as he slowly removed his own clothes.  Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips at the sight of Nathan’s naked form and she felt heat rush up through her in anticipation of having him once again moving in and above her.

 

Nathan smiled at the look in her eyes.  “I know what you’re thinking,” he told her as he stepped closer and scooped her up into his arms.

 

“Oh really?”

 

“Mmhmm…”

 

“And what am I thinking?”

 

“You’re thinking about the two of us… making love…” he stepped into the water and slowly sank into the warm liquid,  “…the feel of me being inside of you, the feel of me moving in and over you…” 

 

The flushed look on her face confirmed Nathan’s words and he grinned as he settled down on the natural ledge in the pond and cradled Kristin in his embrace.

 

“How… oooh… oh this feels nice,” Kristin moaned softly as the water enveloped her.  She shifted in Nathan’s arms and turned to look at him.  “How did you…”

 

“Know what you were thinking?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Just by the look on your face,” Nathan told her.  “You have the most expressive face,” he said and reached up to circle his fingers around her eyes.  “Your eyes… you have very expressive eyes, my lady.  They give away what you’re feeling.”

 

“They do?”

 

“Well… at least with me they do,” Nathan replied as he reached out for the bar of soap he’d placed next to the edge of the pond when he’d arranged everything.  He lathered it up and slowly began to move his hands over her body, beginning with her arms. 

 

“That easy to read, am I?”

 

“Actually, no…” Nathan answered as he slipped his hands beneath the water to soap her upper thighs.  “But more times than not… I can tell what you’re thinking simply by looking into your eyes.”

 

Kristin shook her head.  “Oliver used to tell me that I was one of the most insufferably difficult women he’d ever had to deal with… that he could never tell what was going on inside my head.”

 

“Well, we already know I can’t always tell,” Nathan told her quietly, reaching out for the soap again,  “but then, a lot of that is probably my own stubbornness coming out.”

 

Kristin laughed softly.  “Oh, most definitely.”

 

“You don’t have to agree so quickly,” Nathan replied and attacked her sides with his fingers.  Kristin squealed as he tickled her and tried to squirm out of his arms but he held her tight and refused to let her go.  “Turn around and lie back,” he told her when she’d stopped squirming.

 

Kristin did as he bade and shifted in his arms, sighing in content as Nathan carefully wet the top of her hair then reached for the soap.

 

“I do so love your hair,” Nathan murmured as he worked his fingers through the long auburn tresses, building up a good thick lather.

 

“Mmm,” Kristin moaned softly, the feel of his fingers moving through her hair both relaxing and arousing her.

 

Nathan smiled as he rinsed her fiery locks then pulled her back into his arms.  “There you go…” he spoke against her ear.  “All nice and clean.”

 

Kristin slipped out of his arms then turned to face him and reached for the soap.  “Your turn.”

 

Nathan grinned and leaned back against the edge of the pond as Kristin dipped the soap into the water then began to rub it over his chest until a thick lather formed. 

 

Kristin slid her soapy hands up over his shoulders then down his arms, smiling as his hands encircled her waist and drew her closer so that she was straddling his lap.  She could feel Nathan’s arousal bobbing against her curls as she reached down behind him to wash his back.

 

“You need to get your hair wet,” Kristin told him in a quiet voice, trying to concentrate on what she was doing and not on his hands which were slowly working their way down to cup her bottom.  “I need to… mmm… wash your hair…”

 

Nathan smiled and maintaining his grip on her waist, he slipped down between her legs to dip below the water.

 

“Ooh…” Kristin gasped as Nathan exhaled a stream of bubbles that rose and broke against her sex just before he surfaced.

 

Nathan flashed her a lustful smile as the water streamed down his face.  “Enjoyed that did you?”  He asked at the desire he saw swimming in her sable depths.

 

Kristin flushed as she lathered the soap in his hair.  “Yes,” she whispered.

 

Nathan chuckled and as she washed his hair, he let his hands once again wander over the smooth skin of her rear; his fingers dipping between her thighs to tease and play in the curls covering the swollen flesh he sought to caress.

 

Kristin bit her lip when Nathan’s fingers slipped between her folds and began to circle her clit, sending a wave of sensations up through her body.  “You can… rinse now…” she told him in a shaky voice as he continued to manipulate the sensitive bundle of nerves.

 

“Yes, ma’am…” Nathan quipped then dropped down under the water, his hand still between her legs while Kristin’s fingers worked to help remove the soap from his hair.  At her gentle tug, he surfaced with a flourish and immediately caught her lips in a passionate kiss.

 

Kristin moaned into his mouth and wrapped her arms around him as Nathan slid first one then another long digit into her.  “Nath… an…” she gasped out of the kiss and ground herself against his hand as he thrust his fingers in and out of her, his thumb circling her clit.  “Mmm… please…”

 

“What do you want, Kris?”  Nathan asked as he trailed his lips down the wet column of her neck, his fingers still moving steadily inside her.

 

“You…” Kristin moaned.  “You… inside me… please…” And to emphasize her meaning, she reached down between them to wrap her fingers around his hard flesh.  “Nathan…”

 

Nathan nodded.  “Come here,” he said as he withdrew his fingers from within her.

 

Kristin floated into position around him, her hand releasing him to grip his shoulders and hold herself steady as Nathan guided his throbbing member to her waiting entrance.  She cried out his name as Nathan thrust his hips up and sheathed himself within her in one stroke.

 

Nathan groaned then tightened his grip on Kristin’s hips as he planted his feet firmly on the bottom of the pond and began to drive himself up into her, over and over.  “Kris…” Nathan gasped as she began to move with him, sinking down on him with each of his upward thrusts.  “Oh yes… just like that, sweetheart…”

 

“…Nathan…” Kristin moaned, the pleasurable sensations warring within her as Nathan drove into her, sending her breath hurtling from her with every heartrending thrust of his shaft into her willing body.  “Oh… yes…” she ground herself against him, instinctively seeking to increase the pressure on her swollen flesh.  “I… oh… yes…”

 

“That’s it, Kris…” Nathan groaned as he pistoned in and out of her; the frantic quivering of her inner muscles telling him that her release was upon her.  “Come for me, love…”

 

Kristin shook her head as the fabulous spiral of excitement twisted and condensed within her then exploded in a torrent of white-hot sensations.  “…Na… Na… oh god… NATHAN!!” 

 

Nathan groaned as he felt her hot juices flow over him then gripped her hips tighter and thrust hard up into her, once… twice… and then with a loud, hoarse cry of her name, Nathan came; his seed leaving his shaft in long, hot ropes to splash against her womb.

 

“Oh… god…” he groaned as he sank back against the edge of the pond, his arms sliding up around Kristin as she slumped bonelessly on top of him.

 

“I will never look at this pond the same way again,” Kristin mumbled against Nathan’s throat, her voice replete with satisfaction.

 

Nathan chuckled.  “Me either.”

 

They soaked like that for several minutes; their bodies still locked intimately together, both enjoying the residual tremors that continued to pass through them.

 

“Wrap your legs around me,” Nathan told Kristin in a quiet voice as he shifted to the edge of the ledge.

 

“Why?”  Kristin asked even as she slipped her legs around him.

 

“Because we’re going for a little walk,” he answered and slid his hands down to cup her bottom as he slowly stood.  “And I’m not quite ready to leave you yet.”

 

“You won’t hear me… oooh…” Kristin moaned softly as Nathan began to glide through the water, his movement sending small sparks of sensations shooting up through her still sensitive body,  “complaining.”

 

Nathan chuckled softly and steadily walked towards the small waterfall.  He stopped within arms reach of it then gently bobbed in the water.

 

“You’re not taking us under it?”  Kristin asked, lifting her head from his shoulder.

 

“No,” Nathan answered and gestured to the falling water with his head.  “The water’s too cool right now.”

 

Kristin reached out a hand to the waterfall then quickly pulled it back.  “Yes… that is a little cold,” she suddenly looked thoughtful.  “If it’s cold… how come the whole pond isn’t?”

 

“It’s fed by an underground hot spring,” Nathan answered.  “So, what little water flows from the mountain balances it out and keeps the temperature just right.”

 

“That is amazing.”

 

“I thought so too when I discovered it.”

 

“So,” Kristin smiled at him as she clenched her inner muscles around him.  “Now what?”

 

“Now,” Nathan turned and slowly moved towards the edge of the pond where the pallet lay.  “I thought I’d carry you out of the water, dry you off, lay you down on the pallet and make love to you again.”

 

“Sounds good to me.”

 

“I am also going to brush your hair until it shines then make love to you yet again…” Nathan said as he stopped at the edge of the pond.  “After that, I plan to hold you close and fall asleep with you.”

 

Kristin smiled.  “Mmm… that sounds like a perfect evening to me.”

 

Nathan grinned and brushed a gentle kiss against her lips.  He held her gaze as he slid his hands to her hips and at Kristin’s slight nod; Nathan withdrew from her body and gathered her close, nuzzling her temple with his lips as he led her out of the water and over to the pallet.

 

“First… let’s…” Nathan grabbed one of the towels and wrapped it around her hair then reached for a second towel,  “and now the fun part…”

 

Kristin laughed softly as he waggled his eyebrows at her and moved behind her and began to move the cloth over her back.

 

“Nathan!”  She giggled when he squeezed the cheeks of her rear with towel-covered hands.

 

Nathan chuckled and dropped a kiss to her shoulder then stepped back in front of her.  “I couldn’t resist.”

 

“Mmm…” Kristin smiled at the innocent look on his face as he began to towel the front of her body. She moaned softly when his fingers slipped past the edge of the towel to tease and circle her nipples before tracing lines of fire across the skin of her torso.

 

Nathan smiled at the quiet moan and dropped to his knees before her to dry her legs.  He started with her feet and slowly moved the towel up the long limbs.

 

Kristin held her breath as he gently ran his towel-covered hand between her legs.  “…Nathan…”

 

Nathan looked up at the husky whisper and with a heated smile he dropped the towel and cupped her sex in his bare hand; the moisture he encountered having nothing to do with the water from the pond.  Nathan slipped his fingers between her folds and ran the rough pad of his thumb over her clitoris.

 

Kristin gasped at the sudden spark of sensation that shot up through her body and watched as Nathan leaned closer, inhaled deeply then buried his face in her curls.  She moaned and reached down to fist her hand in his hair when she felt his tongue dart out to flick against her clit.

 

“Nathan…”

 

Nathan pulled his head back and reached up to grasp her hips.  “Come down here,” he told her in a low voice.  Kristin nodded and with his hands guiding her, sank down onto her knees before him.  “I love you,” Nathan whispered as he cupped her cheek.

 

“I love you too,” Kristin replied as she leaned closer and met his lips in a gentle kiss.  It didn’t take long before the kiss grew into a wild mating of tongues and before she knew what was happening, Kristin found herself on her back on the pallet with Nathan’s hard body pressing against hers.  “Aaagh!”  She cried out and pushed at his shoulders.

 

“What?”  Nathan asked breathlessly.

 

“You’re still wet!”

 

“Sorry…” Nathan rolled off of her and reached out for the towel.

 

“Let me,” Kristin said as she rolled up on her side next to him and pulled the towel from his hands.  “Tis only fair I repay the kindness,” she told him as she moved the cloth over his damp chest.

 

“I’m not arguing,” Nathan replied, his voice still breathless as Kristin pushed the towel lower.  Nathan’s breath caught in his throat when her towel-clad hands wrapped around his hardening member.  “…Kris…”

 

Kristin smiled at his low groan of disappointment when she released him and continued drying him off.  When she was finished, she tossed the towel aside and then once again found herself on her back with Nathan on top of her.

 

“You are a minx…” he growled as he settled himself in the cradle of her thighs.

 

“Only because you’ve brought it out in me,” she responded and slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders.

 

“But it was always there, my lady… beneath the surface.”

 

“The only thing beneath the surface right now… and really, not all that deep is the need to feel you inside me.”  For emphasis, Kristin arched under him.  “Make love to me, Nathan…”

 

Nathan nodded as he reached between them, grasped his rigid length and brought it to her waiting entrance.  Without speaking and with their eyes locked, Nathan slowly sank into her; burying himself completely in her hot sheath.

 

They groaned at their union and their mouths met in a hungry kiss as their bodies instinctively began to move together; beginning a second round of lovemaking.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“I wish I could paint.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

A low moan of contented pleasure sounded through the small glen.

 

“Because then I would lay you out… wearing nothing and covered only with this gorgeous mane of fiery hair and paint your portrait.”

 

“And just where do you think you would hang such a painting?”

 

“Where only I could see it and be reminded of how utterly in love with you and your tresses I am.”

 

Kristin laughed softly then moaned again in pleasure as Nathan continued to run the brush through her hair.  “I am so glad you’ve kept your promise.  This is heavenly.”

 

Nathan smiled and leaned forward to drop a kiss to her bare shoulder.  “It is my pleasure, my lady.”

 

A comfortable silence fell between them as Nathan dropped the brush beside them and began to comb his fingers through her silky hair.

 

“So… do you think Bill and Janet are having as good of an evening as we are?”  Nathan asked her then smiled as he watched the blush creep up her neck.

 

“From what I’ve learned about Janet,” Kristin replied,  “I would say yes.”

 

Nathan laughed.  “They are quite a pair, aren’t they?”

 

“Yes they are,” Kristin nodded.  “It’s… it’s still so different for me…seeing such an openly affectionate couple…”

 

“Especially as affectionate as they are!”  Nathan pointed out.

 

Kristin chuckled.  “They certainly are that,” Kristin agreed.  “And I admit, I do still get a little embarrassed seeing them and with some of the topics Janet tends to discuss,” she paused, a slight blush colouring her cheeks just at the thought of her conversations with Janet.  “But to be honest, I actually find her openness to be… quite… refreshing.”

 

“I’m glad you two have become such good friends,” Nathan told her and dropped another kiss to her shoulder as he shifted closer then pulled her back into the cradle of his legs.  He wrapped his arms around her waist and held her close as he began to slowly move his lips over the back of her neck.

 

“So am I,” Kristin murmured distractedly as Nathan nibbled his way to her ear and pulled her lobe between his lips.

 

“I knew Janet would love you,” Nathan said matter-of-factly.  “Just like I knew Bess would love you too.”

 

“Sure you did,” Kristin replied with a touch of humour in her voice as she tilted her head, exposing more of her neck for his wandering mouth.

 

“I did!”  He stated emphatically as he nipped her shoulder and urged her to turn around so that she was facing him and sitting in his lap with her legs wrapped around him.  “I fell in love you, didn’t I?  A man sworn to hate any and all things British.  I’ve fallen so… madly in love with you that I can’t see straight.  It only stands to reason that everyone else would too.”

 

Kristin shook her head as she cupped his cheek.

 

“What?  You don’t agree?”

 

“No,” she replied softly.  “I think your logic is messed up.”

 

Nathan chuckled.  “Makes perfect sense to me,” he told her and leaned in to catch her lips in a gentle kiss.

 

“You love me,” Kristin spoke in a quiet voice as she rubbed her thumb over his lower lip.  “That… more than anything else, is all that really matters to me.”

 

Nathan tightened his arms around her then shifted them so that they were once again lying on the pallet; his hard body stretched out over hers.  “I will always love you,” he told her as he lowered his mouth to hers.  “Always…”

 

Kristin moaned and her lips parted immediately to his questing tongue.  She rocked her hips beneath him then wrapped her legs around his waist in a silent request that he quickly answered.  Kristin gasped into Nathan’s mouth at the wonderful feeling of his hard shaft stretching and filling her once again.

 

“Yes…” Kristin breathed against his lips as Nathan began to rock against her, setting a slow but satisfying pace.

 

In direct contrast to their earlier, frenzied joinings, Nathan and Kristin’s lovemaking this time around was leisurely and gentle; both content to let the feelings and sensations gradually grow and consume them.

 

Their release when it happened; came in gentle waves that washed over them simultaneously; leaving them both breathless, and extremely satisfied as the intense feelings buffeted through their bodies.

 

Rolling onto their sides with their bodies still intimately joined, arms and legs wrapped together; Nathan and Kristin fell into a deep, peaceful slumber as a warm evening breeze caressed their damp bodies.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“You’re watching me again.”

 

“Yes I am.”

 

A gentle smile formed on Kristin’s face as she slowly opened her eyes to find Nathan propped up on his elbow, smiling down at her; something he’d been doing every morning since they’d arrived on the island.

 

“Good morning, my lady,” he said as he leaned down and brushed a soft kiss against her lips.

 

“Mmm… morning,” she replied and returned the gentle kiss.  “And just what were you thinking about while you were watching me sleep?”  Kristin asked as he straightened back up.

 

“I was thinking of that evening on the ship and the way that you looked in that sarong,” Nathan told her, his eyes bright with the memory.  “Promise me I’ll get to see you in that again soon.”

 

Kristin’s smile grew and seeing the same heat in his eyes now that she’d seen that night, she nodded.  “Soon.”

 

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Nathan said.

 

Kristin laughed.  “So,” she began as she snuggled up against him.  “Do we have time for a quick swim before we have to head back to reality?”

 

“Of course we do,” Nathan answered.

 

“Oh good.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“I should have known better.”

 

“Hmm?”

 

Kristin lifted her head from Nathan’s chest to give him an amused smile.  “I said I should have known better.”

 

“About what?”

 

“That we would simply have a quick swim,” Kristin told him.

 

Nathan laughed.  “Yes, you should have.  That’s not a complaint I’m hearing though is it?”

 

“Oh no,” Kristin shook her head.  “Not at all.”

 

“Good.”

 

Kristin smiled and settled back into Nathan’s arms as he guided the horse back along the beach towards the house.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Well… look who’s finally decided to join us.”

 

At Janet’s statement, Bill looked up from his plate and grinned at the sight of Kristin cradled in Nathan’s arms as they rode in on the black stallion.

 

“Good morning you two,” Janet called out as Nathan brought the horse to a stop beside the porch.  “You’re just in time for breakfast.”

 

“None for me, I’m afraid,” Nathan said.  “Too much work to do and I’m afraid I’ve gotten off to a late start.”

 

“I didn’t hear you complaining earlier,” Janet and Bill heard Kristin whisper to him and exchanged amused, knowing smiles.

 

“And I’m not complaining now,” Nathan replied as he nuzzled her temple.  “But I really do have a lot of work I need to take care of.  The ship isn’t going to repair itself.”

 

“At least take a couple of biscuits with you,” Kristin told him.  “You do have to keep your strength up.”

 

Nathan laughed.  “Don’t I know it!  I have an insatiable woman to take care of.”

 

Kristin blushed, much to the amusement of the couple sitting on the porch watching them.

 

“Okay, Captain Rogue… let me down,” Kristin told Nathan as she leaned in and gave him a quick kiss.  “Go take care of your business.”

 

“Yes, my lady,” Nathan replied as he returned her kiss then carefully eased her out of his embrace and lowered her to the porch step.

 

“I think I’ll join you, Nathan,” Bill said as he pushed back his chair and stood.

 

Nathan smiled and nodded at his friend as he backed the horse up closer to the railing so that he could take the napkin wrapped biscuits Kristin held out for him.  “Thank you, my lady.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Kristin smiled.

 

“I’ll see you later, dear.”  Bill said as he leaned over and gave Janet a quick kiss.

 

“Have fun.”

 

Bill grinned and hurried off the porch.

 

“Come on, Bill… let’s get you a horse,” Nathan said and gave his friend a hand up onto the horse behind him.  “Ladies,” he inclined his head at Kristin and Janet then galloped off toward the barn.

 

“So… how was your evening?”  Janet asked Kristin as she sat down beside her and began helping herself to some food.

 

“Wonderful,” Kristin answered as she lifted a forkful of grits to her mouth.  “Mmm… this is good,” she said as she took another bite.  “Lord, I’m hungry.”

 

“I’ll bet you are,” Janet grinned.  “Worked up an appetite did we?”

 

Blushing slightly, Kristin swallowed and glanced at Janet.  “Judging by the amount of food on your plate, I’d say I wasn’t the only one.”

 

A peal of laughter erupted from Janet’s lips.  “Touché!”  She lifted her coffee in salute then took a sip.  “So… do I get any details?”

 

“Janet!”

 

“What?!”

 

“I…” Kristin shook her head as her face reddened.

 

Janet’s laughter quieted and she reached out to lay a hand on Kristin’s.  “I’m sorry,” she said.

 

Kristin shook her head again.  “No… you’ve nothing to be sorry about.  Really.  It’s just…” she paused.  “I’m not used to…” Kristin gestured generally between them,  “I’ve never really had reason to talk about these sorts of things… or had anyone I could ever trust or wanted to talk to about them… until now.”

 

Janet smiled and reached out to grasp Kristin’s hand.  “I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that you trust me and are comfortable enough to talk with me.”

 

Kristin returned Janet’s smile and squeezed her hand.  “Well, I’ve always wanted a sister.”

 

“Me too!”

 

Just then a loud whoop off in the distant caught their attention.  They turned to see Nathan and Bill tear out of the stable on their horses, obviously racing towards the harbour.

 

Janet and Kristin shared amused smiles.

 

“Hard to believe they’re grown men sometimes, isn’t it?”  Janet laughed.

 

“Yes it is,” Kristin agreed as she let her gaze drift out across the large yard, following the two men on the horses until they disappeared from view.

 

“What are you thinking about?”  Janet asked after several moments of silence, noticing that Kristin’s gaze was still focused on the horizon.

 

“Oh…” Kristin sighed softly as she turned back to Janet with a small smile on her face.  “I was just thinking…”

 

A knowing smile formed on Janet’s lips.  “About Nathan no doubt.”

 

“I was just imagining what it would’ve been like to have been married to him for all these years.”

 

“Really?”

 

Kristin nodded.  “Don’t get me wrong… I did love my husband,” she hurried to point out.  “And I know that in his own way, Oliver cared about me as well…”

 

“But?”

 

“But I can’t help feeling just the tiniest bit jealous of what Nathan and Carol had together for all those years,” Kristin admitted in a quiet voice.

 

“I wouldn’t be,” Janet told her.

 

Kristin gave her a questioning look.  “What do you mean?”

 

“Nathan and Carol’s relationship was nothing like what he has with you,” Janet answered.

 

“I… what do you mean, Janet?  Nathan loved Carol.”

 

“I never said he didn’t,” she said.  “How can I…?” Janet bit her lower lip in thought.  “You do know that theirs was an arranged marriage, right?”

 

Kristin nodded.  “Yes.  Nathan told me.”

 

“Did he tell you anything about Carol?”

 

“He’s told me some things.”

 

“Then you know that he married her out of obligation to his family?”

 

“Yes,” Kristin nodded.  “He said as much… but he did tell me that he eventually fell in love with her.”

 

“Are you sure he said that?”

 

Kristin gave Janet a confused look.

 

“Nathan grew to love Carol.  Of that, I have no doubt,” Janet told her.  “But I don’t think that Nathan was ever ‘in’ love with Carol.  They were just too different.”  She paused and took a sip of her coffee.  “Carol was raised to be a dutiful wife…”

 

“Like I was…” Kristin said quietly.  “To keep the house, provide heirs and submit to our husbands at their leisure.”

 

“Exactly,” Janet nodded.  “I was raised the same way…”

 

Kristin raised an eyebrow.

 

Janet laughed.  “I know, you wouldn’t think so now, but it’s true.  It was Evelyn who told me that I was my own person… that I could be a part of society without having to conform to every rule,” she paused.  “Anyway… where was I?  Oh yes… Much like you used to, Carol believed that a wife shouldn’t enjoy sexual congress.  It was simply her duty to lay with her husband in order to procure an heir.”

 

“But surely Nathan was able to… convince her otherwise…” Kristin’s voice trailed off and her skin flushed as she realized what she’d said, knowing he’d done just that with her.

 

Janet smiled and shook her head.  “No.  Although, from what I’ve been told, he did try.”

 

Kristin nodded.  “He would.  He’s told me that he derives pleasure from giving me pleasure, so I would imagine the same held true for Carol.”

 

“The one time I managed to get her to talk to me about this, she admitted to me that she felt shame whenever Nathan would… make her climax,” Janet said sadly.  “That she was upset at her body for betraying her and enjoying his attentions.”

 

“The one time?  You mean you and she didn’t…?”

 

“Oh no,” Janet shook her head then started to laugh.  “I can’t imagine ever having a conversation like the ones we’ve had with Carol.  She was much too…” she searched for the right word,  “proper, I guess would be the word.”

 

“But you two were friends weren’t you?”

 

Janet nodded.  “Oh yes.  We were indeed,” she answered.  “It took a of couple years, but eventually, Carol and I became good friends.”

 

“A couple of years?”

 

Janet nodded then a large smile formed.  “I shocked her Bostonian sensibilities.”

 

“I’ll wager you did,” Kristin laughed.  “I know you’ve shocked me, but I love that you’re able to be so… free and outspoken.”

 

“And that is the difference right there,” Janet said.  “Carol, despite our friendship, was never able to accept that I enjoyed sex with my husband, that I actually slept in the same bed as my husband… and that I have a bawdy sense of humour sometimes.”

 

“Bawdy?  You?  Say it isn’t so,” Kristin replied with a twinkle in her eyes.

 

Janet laughed.  “Yes, who would have believed it?”

 

The two women laughed together softly before Kristin turned to Janet.  “Wait a moment… what you just said… are you saying that Nathan and Carol never slept in the same bed?”

 

Janet nodded.  “That’s exactly what I’m saying.  Although, I do know that Nathan tried, told her it was his right to sleep with his wife anytime he wished but Carol would have none of it.  Whenever Nathan would try to stay in the bed, Carol would get up and go sleep in her dressing room.”

 

“How could she not have wanted to sleep in his arms?  I can’t imagine a more wonderful place to be… locked in his embrace, hearing his heart beat beneath my ear…” Kristin’s voice trailed off as she saw Janet giving her a knowing look.  “And yet, I never once questioned the separate bedrooms between me and Oliver.”

 

“And yet with Nathan…”

 

“I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if he wasn’t holding me.”

 

Janet smiled.  “I think the only night Carol willingly slept in the same bed with Nathan was their wedding night.  After that, it was as I told you.”

 

“I didn’t even get that,” Kristin said with a small laugh.  “Oliver came in, pushed up my nightgown, told me it was going to hurt a little but that he would try his best to make it as painless as possible… and then when it was over, he went back to his room.”

 

“And if he’d told you he was expecting you to share his bed… would you have?”

 

Kristin looked thoughtful then after a couple moments shook her head.  “No… I don’t think I would have.  It wouldn’t have been right.”

 

“And yet you share Nathan’s bed without hesitation.”

 

“I… yes,” Kristin nodded blushing slightly.

 

“That is because, and I truly believe, you two are soul-mates,” Janet told her.  “I grew to love Carol and considered her a dear friend, but I don’t think she and Nathan were meant… to be.  They were too different.”

 

“But I was raised the same way as Carol…”

 

“Yes, you were… but your very nature is more outgoing, more personable than Carol’s.  I can tell just by looking at you that you have a frightful temper.  Am I right?”  At Kristin’s nod, Janet smiled and continued.  “And from what you’ve told me, I’ll bet that Nathan’s felt the sting of your tongue numerous times.”

 

Kristin smiled as she remembered the first few weeks that she had spent in Nathan’s company.  “Oh yes.”

 

“Carol would never raise her voice to Nathan.  Not once in their twenty-five years of marriage did she talk back to him, give him a piece of her mind…”

 

“Nathan told me Carol got quite upset when he would take Bobby into the water.”

 

“Oh she did… but even still, she wouldn’t raise her voice to him.  No matter how angry or upset Carol got… she always held back.”

 

“I can’t imagine doing that,” Kristin said then gave Janet a sardonic smile.  “That is one thing I never learned to do… hold my temper,” she laughed softly.  “Oh the fights Oliver and I would have.”

 

“I can imagine,” Janet smiled.  “You have a very passionate nature, Kristin… that is why you and Nathan are well matched and I suspect that is one of the many things he loves about you.”

 

Kristin smiled over the rim of her cup.

 

“And that is why you shouldn’t feel any jealousy about Carol,” Janet said.  “Nathan’s relationship with Carol was nothing like his relationship with you.  In the last few weeks, I’ve seen the Nathan I knew from the days when I first met him come back to life.  He laughs more, smiles more…” she paused and reached out to take Kristin’s hand.  “He’s happy again.  And that is because of you.”

 

Kristin blushed.

 

“And I suspect that Nathan has brought you to life as well,” Janet told her quietly.  “Awakened the passions asleep within you.”

 

“Yes,” Kristin whispered.  “He has indeed…”

 

Janet grinned as she watched Kristin’s eyes darken then laughed softly as the slightly younger woman gazed out across the yard towards the harbour with a look of longing.  “Perhaps we should favour our men with another picnic lunch?”

 

Kristin laughed despite the red staining her cheeks.  “As wonderful as that sounds, I do believe that we promised Bess that we would help her shell pecans for storage.”

 

“Quite right, we did,” Janet replied as she began to gather up the breakfast dishes from the table and loaded them onto the trays Bess had left.

 

“And there is always tonight…” Kristin tossed out as she lifted one of the trays then turned to enter the house.

 

Janet laughed loudly.  “There most certainly is,” she replied as she followed Kristin.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“So,” Janet began as she and Kristin settled down on the sofa with their evening tea,  “tell me more about Cynthia.”

 

Nathan watched from his spot across the room as Kristin’s face lit up at Janet’s question.

 

“Hey… you want to pay attention here?”

 

Nathan turned at the sound of Bill’s voice.  “Sorry,” he replied with a sheepish smile then shrugged at the knowing look on his friend’s face.  “What can I say?”

 

“Not a thing,” Bill grinned and made his move.  “But only because I understand totally.  Even after thirty years, I am still completely enamoured with my wife.”

 

“I know you are,” Nathan nodded as he contemplated the chessboard in front of him.  “And you have no idea how much that alone has helped Kristin relax over the last few days.”

 

“I’ve noticed that she seems more at ease with us being here now,” Bill said then his grin grew.  “And I’ve noticed that she’s actually letting you touch her in front of us.”

 

Nathan made his move and chuckled softly.  “Thank God.  I hate not being able to touch her.”

 

“I noticed that too,” Bill stated then lowered his voice a little.  “I am very happy for you my friend.”

 

“Thanks, Bill.”

 

At that moment, Bess entered the room.  “Nathan…”

 

“Yes, Bess?”  Nathan turned.

 

“You’ve got company,” Bess said.

 

From the look on Bess’ face, Nathan could tell she wasn’t overly pleased at who the company was.  And there was really only one family that had that effect on Bess.  ‘Please… not them, God.  Anyone but the Smi…”

 

“Nathan!”  A deep voice rang through the room, followed seconds later by the entrance of its owner, a tall man with broad shoulders and long graying hair.

 

“Wendell,” Nathan said as he stood and met the man halfway, clasping his hand in greeting.  “What brings you here?”

 

“Ah, rumour had it you were finally home from your ocean trip,” Wendell Smith answered.  “As for our being here…”

 

“Our?”

 

“We were making our six month trip for supplies…”

 

“And I told Wendell that it would only be right and neighbourly of us to stop by and see if you needed anything.”

 

Over Wendell’s shoulder, Nathan watched as Smith’s wife, Alexandra swept into the room, followed by their daughter, Gwendolyn and fought the urge to wince.

 

“I tried to tell her that you would have brought supplies back with you,” Wendell told Nathan then shrugged.  “But you know Lexie.  When she gets an idea in her head there is no stopping her.”

 

Nathan nodded absently and glanced over at the sofa where Kristin and Janet were still seated.  He noted the tension in Kristin’s shoulders and now that he knew what to look for, Nathan also saw the hint of apprehension in her eyes.  He gave her a quick smile and was pleased when she gave him a slight nod and small smile in return.

 

“Lexie,” Nathan pasted a smile on his face as he stepped around Wendell to greet the woman.  “That was very thoughtful of you, however, Wendell is correct. I made a stop in Port San Luis and brought back everything we need.”

 

Kristin felt Janet reach out and squeeze her hand as Nathan looked over Lexie’s shoulder to meet her gaze.

 

“Wendell, good to see you again,” Bill stood and made his way over to shake the man’s hand.  “How are things?”

 

“Oh goodness,” Lexie said as she glanced around the room, her eyes lighting on Kristin and Janet sitting on the sofa.  “You have company,” she turned apologetic eyes to Nathan.  “How rude of us to simply barge in like this.”

 

A softly uttered ‘hmpff’ was heard and Kristin watched Bess shake her head as she left the room.  She turned her attention back to the people in the room just as Nathan led the Smiths over to the sofa.

 

“And of course you already know Janet,” Nathan said.  Kristin tensed when she realized that Nathan was about to introduce her.

 

“Of course,” Lexie smiled.  “Janet, dear, it is so good to see you again.”

 

“Likewise, Lexie,” Janet replied then before Nathan could continue the introductions, she indicated the woman beside her.  “I would like you to meet my dear friend, Kristin Westphalen.  Kristin, this is Alexandra Smith.”

 

“A pleasure to meet you,” Kristin smiled at the older woman, chancing a quick glance at Nathan.  She was relieved to see a genuine smile on his face when she met his eyes along with a look of understanding.

 

“A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Westphalen,” Lexie replied.  “And this is my daughter, Gwendolyn… but we call her Wendy.”

 

Wendy stepped forward and the women exchanged pleasantries while the men moved over to the table and sat down.

 

“So, Kristin… it is Kristin, right?”  Lexie asked as she seated herself in the chair next to the sofa.

 

Kristin nodded.

 

“From your accent, I would say that you’re English.  Am I right?”

 

“Yes,” Kristin answered.

 

“Oh, I adore England,” Alexandra sighed dramatically.  “Wendell doesn’t like it there, too damp for his liking.  And Nathan doesn’t either of course, what with all that nasty business with his son but then they are male and what do they know about such things?  They can’t appreciate the art, the music, the fashion…”

 

Janet and Kristin exchanged glances as the two Smith women laughed softly.

 

“So, what part of England do you call home, Kristin?”  Lexie asked.

 

“Cornwall.”

 

“Is that near London?  We’ve only been to London,” Alexandra said.

 

“No,” Kristin answered.  “It’s an area nearer to the ocean on the southwestern coast.”

 

“I see,” Lexie said exchanging looks with her daughter.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Quite a beautiful woman,” Wendell Smith observed with an appreciative gleam in his eyes.  “Very beautiful indeed.  How did she and your wife become friends, Noyce?”

 

“They were introduced by a mutual friend.  Within a few hours they were as close as sisters.”

 

“Damn fine looking… Is there a Mister Westphalen?”

 

Nathan didn’t like the look in Smith’s eye.  Although he considered the man a friend he knew about Wendell’s roving eye.  Not that he could really blame the man considering how annoying his wife was.

 

“There was a Mister Westphalen.  However the lady is now a widow,” he volunteered grudgingly.

 

“A widow.”  Wendell nodded as he sipped the drink Nathan pressed into his hand.  “Very good.”

 

Bill saw Nathan’s hand clench and quickly drew Smith’s attention away from the women with a question about sailing conditions.  Nathan spared a glance back at Kristin and was rewarded with a secretive smile as she listened politely to Alexandra Smith extol the virtues of a certain dressmaker in London.  As badly as he wanted to walk to the back of the sofa, caress Kristin’s shoulder reassuringly, he refrained, knowing that Lexie and Wendy Smith were the type of women that Janet had warned him about.

 

A rattle at the door heralded the arrival of Bess pushing a loaded teacart. 

 

“I thought your guests might like some tea and a bite to eat since you’ve already had dinner,” she told Nathan with a pointed look as she pushed the cart around the sofa and brought it to a halt beside Kristin.

 

“Thank you, Bess.  That was very thoughtful.  Would you mind having the upstairs rooms prepared before you retire for the evening?”

 

“Already taken care of,” Bess mumbled as she shuffled back toward the exit.  “Goodnight.”

 

“Such familiarity, Nathan,” Alexandra chastised him as the door closed.  “You shouldn’t allow it.  You are the master here.  You must not let your servants speak to you that way.”

 

Nathan laughed away the rebuke.  “Bess changed my diapers.  She still regularly threatens to tan my hide and I have no doubt that she would do it if I really needed it.”

 

Kristin reached for the teapot to pour at the same moment that Lexie Smith did.  The older woman stared pointedly as Kristin pulled her hand back with a muttered, “I’m sorry.”

 

Lexie smile patronizingly.  “You are company, dear.  I guess that we’ve spent so much time in Nathan’s home that we consider ourselves part of the family.”

 

Janet returned the patronizing smile, her hand creeping beneath their overlapping full skirts to grasp Kristin’s clenched fist.  “We don’t stand on ceremony very much, I’m afraid.  Kristin and I usually take turns playing mother depending on who is nearer to the tray.”

 

Bill and Nathan attempted to resume their chess game as Wendell wandered over to the tea trolley and picked up a sandwich but Nathan’s attention was clearly elsewhere.  His fist clenched repeatedly as he watched Wendell position himself so that he could stare down Kristin’s generous cleavage.

 

“I’m going to have to hit him,” Nathan muttered as his eyes narrowed to slits of blue fire.

 

“Nathan, keep your cool.  He’s harmless enough and after everything Kristin has been through the last number of weeks I’d lay odds she can defend herself.”

 

The next hour passed very slowly, the assembled company patiently enduring the incessant prattle of both Lexie and her daughter.  Finally Bill couldn’t hold back a yawn any longer and it reverberated through the room.

 

“Heavens, look at the time.  We should all be turning in.”  Lexie stood and fluffed her skirts.  “I presume that Mr. and Mrs. Noyce are in the front room so that leaves the two back rooms free.  Wendell and I will take one and Wendy can share the other with Mrs. Westphalen.  You don’t mind sharing, do you, Kristin?”

 

“Oh… no…” Kristin wasn’t quite sure how to respond except in the affirmative but once again Janet came to her rescue. 

 

“Kristin has been in charge of our son’s care.  He suffered a nasty saber wound while in service but her knowledge saved Will’s leg.  She’s sleeping in the small downstairs room near the boys in case Will should need her during the night.”

 

“Very good.”  Lexie’s disdain at Kristin’s nursing skills was obvious.  “Then Wendy doesn’t have to share after all.  You take the room behind Nathan’s, dear and we will take the opposite one.”

 

“Yes, Mother.”  Wendy replied as she slowly stood.

 

“Then it’s all settled,” Lexie smiled at her daughter then turned to her husband but found him speaking to Kristin.

 

“You’ve been caring for William?”

 

“Yes, I have been.”  Kristin answered.

 

“And doing an incredible job,” Nathan spoke up, pride more than evident in his voice.  “The wound was quite infected when we found Will, and it was feared that the lad might lose his leg but Kristin was able to stop the infection from spreading and saved the limb.”

 

“Oh, let’s not talk about such things as losing limbs before going to sleep,” Alexandra piped up, waving her hand about as if to wipe away the subject.  “Wendell, you know better.  You’ll give Wendy nightmares.”

 

“Nightmares?  She’s thirty years old, she’s not a baby anymo…” Wendell replied then stopped at the glare his wife was giving him.  “Yes, dear,” he said in a placating tone then turned to his daughter.  “Forgive me, child.”

 

“Of course, Father.”

 

“Well, that’s settled, let us retire,” Lexie said and without a further glance, swept out of the room with her daughter following.

 

Wendell muttered a hasty goodnight then left to join his wife.

 

Bill moved to Janet’s side and slipped his arm about her waist.  “I don’t know how Wendell puts up with that harridan…”

 

“You very well know how he does it,” Janet responded with a knowing look.

 

“I just hope they don’t plan on staying long,” Nathan said as he moved to stand beside Kristin and slipped his hand in hers.  “That woman and her daughter both make me shudder.”

 

“Nathan!”  Kristin admonished then in a quiet voice,  “I hate to admit it, but they make me rather uncomfortable too.”

 

“Well, we’ll give them a little time to settle in,” Nathan told Kristin,  “then we’ll slip upstairs to our room.”

 

Kristin shook her head.  “No, Nathan.”

 

“Kristin… don’t argue,” Nathan turned to face her and grasped both her hands.

 

“I don’t want to argue with you, Nathan,” Kristin told him.  “But I… what if they’re not settled when we go up?  What if they happen to wake and leave their rooms at the same time we do?  I can’t… I…” she shook her head again, pleading with her eyes for him to understand.

 

Bill and Janet moved off towards the door to give the two lovers a little privacy as Nathan sighed and pulled her into his arms.

 

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” Nathan whispered against Kristin’s hair.  “I understand.  I don’t like it, but I understand.”

 

“I don’t like it either, Nathan,” Kristin murmured against his chest.  “I would much prefer to sleep in our bed, wrapped safely in your arms… but…”

 

“I know.  I know,” Nathan nodded and tightened his arms around her.  “I told you the other night, you will not suffer for choosing to love me, and I meant it.”

 

Kristin lifted her head from his shoulder and met his eyes, smiling softly up at him as she recognized that he was acceding to her wishes.  “Thank you, Captain Rogue.”

 

“I can deny you nothing, my lady,” Nathan replied and lowered his lips to hers in a gentle loving kiss.  “Come, I’ll walk you to your room.”

 

Kristin nodded, knowing she should protest but wanting to stretch these last few minutes with Nathan out a little longer.

 

Nathan wrapped his arm around her waist and led her out of the room.

 

“We’ll wait for you at the bottom of the stairs,” Janet told Nathan quietly.

 

Nathan nodded absently as he and Kristin moved to the back of the house where the room she was going to stay in was located.  Once they reached the small room, Nathan pressed Kristin up against the wall next to the door.

 

“I don’t want… how am I supposed to sleep without you in my arms?”  Nathan murmured as he covered her mouth in a passionate kiss.

 

Kristin responded to Nathan’s hungry kiss and wrapped her arms around him as she pulled his body closer to hers, moaning softly at the feel of his very prominent erection pressing against her through her dress.

 

“I want you…” Nathan groaned into her mouth.

 

“I want you too…” Kristin replied.  “They won’t be here long will they?”

 

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Nathan told her as he slid his hands between her body and the wall to grasp her rear and pull her tighter against him.

 

“Oh good…” Kristin moaned and pulled his mouth back to hers.

 

Their bodies undulated against each other as the kiss deepened; their hands roved, caressed and cupped aroused bodies until a softly cleared throat sounded from the stairs stopped them.  They pulled out of the kiss but not out of each other’s arms and rested their foreheads together.

 

“I love you,” Nathan whispered against her lips.

 

“I love you too.”

 

Nathan brushed a soft kiss over her lips then reluctantly pulled himself out of her arms.  “Sleep well, my lady.”

 

“You too, my captain,” Kristin told him quietly.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

Kristin nodded.

 

“I should…” Nathan gestured down the dark hall where Janet and Bill were waiting at the stairs.

 

“Go… yes.”  Kristin nodded again as she moved to the open door.  “Good night, Nathan,” she said quietly then stepped into the room and shut the door behind her.

 

Nathan sighed then swore quietly as he made his way back to Janet and Bill.  “Those people had better not be thinking about staying long,” he groused as he moved past them.

 

Soft chuckles followed him up the stairs.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan rolled over onto his side, punching his pillow as he went then groaned and turned onto his back seconds later.

 

“This is ridiculous,” he said to the empty room as he slipped out of bed and moved to the open window.  He looked out onto the ocean and willed his body to relax as he let the sound of the waves crashing on the shore wash over him.

 

After what felt like forever, his body no less tense, Nathan turned away from the window and with a determined look on his face; he strode across the room to the closet.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Kristin’s fist hit the lumpy pillow yet again as she shifted beneath the blankets to try and get comfortable.  She curled up on her side on the small cot then groaned as her body refused to relax.

 

‘This is ridiculous,’ Kristin thought as she rolled onto her back and gazed at the ceiling; her thoughts on the man in whose arms she should be wrapped in.

 

“Oh, Nathan…” she sighed with longing.

 

“I’m here, sweetheart.”

 

Kristin rose up on her elbows at the softly whispered words to see a figure standing in the open door of her room.  And despite the low light of the moon, Kristin knew immediately that it was Nathan.  She sat up, letting the blanket covering her fall to her lap as Nathan closed the door and quickly made his way over to her.

 

“What are you doing here?”  Kristin asked him as he sat on the edge of the cot.

 

“I couldn’t sleep…” Nathan told her as he reached up to cup her cheek, pleased when she turned her face into his caress.  “The bed was too big… too empty without you.”

 

Kristin couldn’t help but smile.

 

“I can’t sleep without you, Kris… I need to hold you.  To hear you breathing… feel you in my arms…” Nathan ran his thumb over her bottom lip.  “Will you let me, Kris?  Will you let me stay here with you?”

 

“Oh, Nathan… I… I want to be in your arms too…” Kristin told him then shook her head.  “But we can’t… you know that.  What about the Smiths?  What happens if one of them wakes up in the middle of the night…?”

 

“That doesn’t matter… the door to our room upstairs is closed as is the one here,” Nathan answered.  “I brought us each a change of clothes for the morning… and we both know I wake with the dawn, which means we’ll be up before everyone save Bess.  So no one will know.”

 

“You really brought a change of clothes for us?”

 

Nathan nodded.  “I’ve laid them on the chair there by the door.”

 

Kristin glanced over and in the moonlight just made out the bulky material of her dress.

 

“So you see… everything is taken care of.”

 

Kristin bit her lower lip.

 

“Please, my lady…” Nathan leaned close and brushed his lips over hers,  “let me hold you.”

 

Nathan’s face fell and he closed his eyes as Kristin moved out of his arms.  He felt her shift back on the cot and opened his eyes to see Kristin propped up on one elbow, her other hand holding up the edge of the blanket in invitation.

 

A large smile filled Nathan’s face as he stood and quickly pulled off his shirt, leaving his britches on then climbed into the cot beside her.

 

“Thank you,” he whispered as Kristin curled up in his arms.

 

“Thank you… for knowing that I needed you here with me,” Kristin replied as she entwined her legs with his.

 

“Love you…” they whispered in unison as their bodies finally relaxed and they fell into a peaceful slumber.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Bess hummed softly to herself as she pushed the trolley back towards the kitchen wishing that she’d stayed up the night before to gather the dirty things in spite of Nathan telling her to go to bed.  Raleigh had tried to calm her anger over the Smith’s unexpected and unwanted visit but had quickly realized that he was fighting a losing battle.  Bess did not like the Smith’s and nothing the old fool she was married to said was going to change her opinion. 

 

‘That woman is just bad and that old maid daughter is cut from the same cloth.’  Bess stomped down the hall as she glared at the floor above.  ‘They probably be wanting Bess’ special maple pecan pancakes for breakfast too.  Well, they ain’t getting them.’

 

Her heavy tread slowed then stopped as Bess surveyed the hallway around her.  ‘Something ain’t right here… but what?’  Her eyes fell on the door to the smallest bedroom in the house... a door that was kept open.  ‘I bet them boys are up to some mischief.’

 

Bess stepped to the door and threw it open.  “WHAT ARE YOU…” her voice trailed off as her eyes focused on the figures lying in the bed.  Nathan lay on his side, one arm wrapped around Kristin’s waist, his free hand lifted to his mouth in a plea for quiet.  Kristin was cuddled against Nathan’s bare torso sleeping soundly, her arms wrapped around him as well.  Although a blanket covered the pair to their waist Bess could tell that their legs were also entangled.  She lifted an accusing finger at Nathan.

 

“I’m wearing britches, I swear!”  He whispered, knowing what Bess was about to say.

 

“Humpf!”  Bess wrapped her arms around her more than ample chest and stared at Nathan as if he were a small boy.  “And why aren’t you upstairs in that big old bed?  If you are gonna take advantage of the woman you could at least have her be comfortable!  Now I got another room to clean.”

 

Nathan sighed.  “Could we talk about this in a little while?  I don’t want to wake Kristin up just yet.  What time is it anyway?  The sun comes in from a different angle in this room so I can’t really tell.”

 

“Time enough for you to be gettin’ up and sending them people on their way.  Sun’s been up about a half hour now.  I heard some stirrings from upstairs a few minutes ago.”

 

“Damn!”  Nathan swore loudly enough that Kristin stirred in his arms.  He stroked her shoulder soothingly in an attempt to reassure her and Kristin rubbed her cheek against his chest in reply, her hips moving against his.  The response in Nathan’s groin was instantaneous, his already hard morning erection stiffening to painful proportions.

 

“You gone let them people find you in here?  Ruin your lady’s good name?  She don’t deserve that.”

 

“And it isn’t going to happen.  If you will leave the room so that I can get up…” Bess’ eyebrows popped skyward as she glared,  “and get dressed.  I will be in the kitchen in a few minutes.”

 

“If you ain’t there in five minutes I’m coming back with a switch and blister your bottom.”  Bess threw back at him as she departed, closing the door firmly behind her.

 

“Nosy woman,” Nathan muttered.  “When is she gonna realize that I am a grown man?”

 

“If she could feel what I feel there wouldn’t be any doubt.” Kristin whispered against his chest.  “Although I would pay good money to watch her… blister your bottom.” Her hand fell to the cheeks in question, rubbing them sensuously.

 

“You minx.  Why didn’t you let on that you were awake?”

 

Kristin lifted her head to stare at Nathan.  “And have Bess turn on me as well?  Are you crazy?”

 

“Crazy about you,” Nathan rolled quickly, pressing Kristin back into the mattress as he settled between her legs.  “Besides, Bess wouldn’t turn on you.  I’m the villain in this, not you.”

 

His lips closed over hers in a hungry kiss that quickly threatened to get out of hand.  Nathan pulled back first, Bess’ threat ringing in his ears.

 

“As much as I want to continue this, I don’t want to risk being seen leaving here and Wendell is an early riser as well.”  Nathan’s body registered a vehement protest as he levered himself away from the cradle of Kristin’s warm body.  “You try and get a little more sleep.”

 

Kristin snickered.  “Yes… someone wakes me up… evokes the most delicious feelings… then tells me to go back to sleep.”

 

Nathan tucked the tails of his clean shirt into his britches.  “At least you don’t have to go face Bess.”

 

“I’ll get dressed once you leave.”  Kristin pulled the blanket up around her chest.  “I don’t think getting out of bed in just my chemise would be a very good idea right now.”

 

“Very wise of you.  I can guarantee that it wouldn’t be a good idea in my present state…” Nathan flopped down on the foot of the bed to tug on his boots.  “Unless you wanted to go to the kitchen…”

 

“How long will they stay, Nathan?  I miss being with you already… I don’t know if I can hold out for a very long time.”  Kristin asked seriously.

 

Nathan sighed.  “If Wendell were alone he would probably be gone today.  I don’t allow him any ‘fun’ with my female staff.  But with Alexandra and Wendy along… that woman certainly knows how to wear out a welcome.  If it looks like they are going to stay more than a day or two at most I will have a word with Wendell.”

 

“Do you think it will work?”

 

“I’ll make sure it does.  Don’t worry, Kristin.  There is no way that I’m staying away from you either.”  He saw her protest rise and quickly waved it away.  “Trust me, sweetheart, we’ll be discrete.  Now, by my calculations I have about forty-five seconds left so I will see you at breakfast.”  Nathan bent and brushed a quick kiss over Kristin’s lips before exiting.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

 

sail ahead...