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


A soft sigh escaped from Kristin as she reached out in her sleep for her husband.  When her hand encountered an empty sheet, her eyes fluttered open then she propped herself up on her elbows and glanced around the semi-dark room.


She spotted him sitting in the large, overstuffed chair in the corner on the opposite side of the room, staring into the fireplace.  Kristin watched him for several minutes before she slipped out of the large bed, grabbed one of the quilts and wrapped it around her bare shoulders as she padded quietly across the room.




Nathan blinked and looked up at her whispered call of his name.  “Kris… are you all right?”


“That was going to be my question,” Kristin replied as she looked quizzically at him.  “You seemed so far away…”


Nathan shook his head.  “I’m fine.”


“Are you sure?”


“Yes,” Nathan replied as he reached out to grasp her hand and pull her gently into his lap.  “I’m even better now.”


Kristin curled up in his lap and laid her head on his shoulder.  “So…” she began in a quiet voice a few moments later.  “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”


“What makes you think something is wrong?”


“The fact that you are sitting here instead of lying in bed with me,” Kristin began.  “And… we’ve not made love in two days… maybewndwsrht…” her voice trailed off as she buried her face in his neck.


“What was that?”


Kristin shook her head against his shoulder.


“Kris… tell me…”


“Maybe Wendy was right…” Kristin said in soft voice.  “Perhaps you don’t find me attractive anymore…”


Nathan straightened up quickly, his abrupt movement startling Kristin.  He grasped her chin in his hand and lifted her face so that he could meet her eyes.  “First off… that whiny little bitch, who at one time… I actually felt sorry for to have been saddled with a mother like that… has no clue what she was talking about…”


“But, Nathan… look at me…” Kristin smoothed the blanket down over her belly.  “I’m fat… and I am only going to get bigger in the next few months.  I would and can understand why you would no longer want to make love to me.”


“Look at you?”  Nathan repeated then nodded.  “All right…” he grasped the edges of the blanket and pulled it open to reveal her naked torso to his gaze,  “let’s look…” A tender smile crossed his lips as he reached out to caress her gravid belly. 


Nathan looked up at Kristin again.  “I don’t know how other men are with their wives when they are with child… but I find you just as extremely attractive and desirable now as I did the first time I kissed you.”  His hand continued to move over her stomach.  “This is my child… our child… a product of the love we share… never ever doubt that I find this arousing.”


“But Wendy had a point… there is going to come a time, near the end of my pregnancy, where we will no longer be able to make love because I will be too big…” Kristin told him.  “And there is always the possibility that I may not even feel like making love.  What will you do then?  You’re a passionate man, my love…”


“Tell me something,” Nathan said carefully and Kristin nodded.  “When you were pregnant with Cynthia, did you and Oliver have sex?”


“Oh heavens no!”  Kristin exclaimed.  “The moment we realized I was pregnant… he didn’t come near me again until after Cynthia stopped breast feeding.”


“And when Carol was pregnant with Bobby… she wouldn’t let me near her,” Nathan told her.  “So… for all intents and purposes… this is something new for both of us.”


“I suppose…”


“And there is nothing to say that we couldn’t, if we both wanted to, make love right up until the princess is born, is there?”




“As for you being too big…” his hand caressed her stomach.  “That just means we’ll have to be…” Nathan grinned at her and waggled his eyebrows,  “…creative in the bedchamber.  Something we’re getting quite good at.”


Kristin blushed.  “That is true,” she admitted in a quiet voice.  “But what about if I no longer feel like making love?  What then?”


“Then we don’t make love, and I get to hold you all night, or we talk… we can read to each other…” Nathan said.  “Our relationship is built on more than sex, sweetheart.  And as much as I enjoy making love with you… if you decide you don’t want to make love… I will be fine.”  His free hand slipped up to cup her cheek.  “I went six years without…”


“Six!  You mean…”


“Yes,” Nathan nodded.  “Carol was the last woman I made love to until you stumbled into that barrel and into my life.”


“I didn’t realize… I thought…”


Nathan nodded knowingly and shrugged.  “The desire was never there,” he traced her lower lip with his thumb.  “Until you.”


Kristin smiled softly.


“And I will admit, these last few months being separated from you…” Nathan began.  “I craved you.  Craved your body… the merging of our souls when we’re joined together…” he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers,  “The sound of your voice, husky in my ear, moaning my name…”




“I missed that…” Nathan said as he pulled back to meet her eyes.  “But more than that… I missed you.  I missed holding you.  I missed laughing with you, talking with you, and just being with you.  So, my lady… do not worry about me if you decide you do not want to make love.  I will be fine… as long as I can still be with you.”


“Oh, Nathan…” Kristin’s eyes filled with tears as she reached up to cup his cheek.  “If… then why has it been two days since you’ve made love to me… if you still find me attractive… I… I don’t understand…”


“We… I thought it best, and safer for you and the baby if we didn’t…” Nathan answered.  “You’ve been so tired lately, and with all the stress you’ve been under having to deal with Thomas and your father, not to mention all the rumours and gossip… I didn’t want to add to it.”


“We?”  Kristin arched an eyebrow at him then shook her head.  “Bess and Janet?”


Nathan nodded.


“They told you not to make love to me?”


“No!  They just… Bess just suggested, in that wonderfully authoritative tone of hers, that a little moderation was in order,” Nathan told her as he flexed his fingers against her belly.  “And I… thought it was good advice…”


“You did?”


“Yes.  Especially after the trip here.  I know it wasn’t a comfortable one for you…”


“No.  It wasn’t…” Kristin admitted.


“And you were asleep when we arrived,” Nathan told her.  “I didn’t have the heart to wake you up.”


“I woke up when you joined me in bed.”


Nathan chuckled.  “Yes you did.  For all of twenty seconds…”


Kristin’s skin pinked slightly.


“I love you, Kristin,” Nathan said in a voice rife with emotion.  “I love you more than my own life.  There is nothing in this world that gives me more joy than to be with you… whether just holding you… or making love to you,” he told her.  “I know I promised to trust you to know your own limits… and I know you’re trying to be strong…” Nathan caressed her cheek.  “You are strong.  Your strength is part of the reason I fell in love with you…”


“Would you still love me if I told you I was tired of being so strong?”  Kristin asked him in a quiet voice.




“I’ve been strong because I’ve had to be… for Cynthia, for Lucas… the baby…” Kristin began as she traced random patterns over the top of his hand where it rested on her stomach with her fingers,  “…for you…”


Nathan opened his mouth to protest, to say he had never asked her to be strong for him then closed it as the memory of their good-bye on the seaQuest surfaced.



Nathan lowered his lips to hers, pouring all his emotion into the gentle yet passionate kiss.  He slowly broke off the kiss and stepped away from her and onto the top edge of the gangplank.  “Be strong, my love.”


Kristin nodded even as she fought a fresh wave of tears.  “You too, my love.”



Nathan met her eyes, not surprised to see them bright with unshed tears as she continued.


“And then I had to deal with Thomas’ advances… my father not believing me that you existed… and… and I am just so tired of having to put up a brave front.  I just…” Kristin shrugged as the tears slipped from her eyes and trailed down her cheeks.


“And you have done a wonderful job…” he reached up to swipe them gently off her cheeks and from her eyes.  “But I’m here now, my love…” Nathan said in a quiet voice.  “Let me be strong for you now…” he brushed his lips across hers in a feather-light kiss.  “Let me take care of you…”


“…Nathan…” Kristin moaned softly as she slid her hand up into his hair and urged his face closer.  “My rogue… kiss me…” she whispered against his lips.  “Kiss me…”


Nathan moaned and covered her mouth with his in a gentle kiss.  He traced her lips with his tongue, seeking entrance.  Kristin responded to his silent request and opened her mouth, giving a soft mewl of pleasure as his tongue tangled with hers; his familiar taste flooding her senses.


They were both breathless by the time their lips broke apart.


“I love you, my lady,” Nathan whispered.


“And are you willing to show me how much now?”  Kristin giggled, rocking against the bulge pressing into her bottom.


“Traveling down here today was very tiring for you…” Nathan began.


“And I’ve slept most of the evening away in preparation for the night.” Kristin’s palm curled around Nathan’s cheek, her thumb stretching to trace the contours of his lips.


“I want you completely relaxed.  I thought that you might want to wash away some of the travel dust and grime.”


Kristin’s eyes followed Nathan’s gesture and for the first time she noticed the small porcelain bathtub standing near the far side of the fire.  “Nathan…?”


“The water is relatively warm and I have more heating on the stove.  Wouldn’t you like a bath?”


“Will you join me?” Kristin’s fingers deftly worked the buttons of Nathan’s shirt free.


He gave a quick laugh.  “I don’t think we would both fit in that under the best of circumstances, much less with the princess added to the mix.  Hold on.”


Kristin tightened her grasp around Nathan’s neck while he slid his hands beneath her then stood and moved toward the tub, the blanket sliding easily to the floor as he walked.  He lowered her gently, allowing her to dip a toe in to test the temperature of the water.  At her nod he lowered her until she was sitting in the water, relaxing against the slanted back.


“Not quite as comfortable as the bath we have on the island but it works well in a pinch, don’t you think?” Nathan laughed.


“This was very thoughtful of you.  If you would be so good as to hand me some soap…?”


“Patience, my love.  Let me add a little more hot water.  I don’t want the princess getting too cold in there.”  His fingers brushed over the top swell of her stomach where it bobbed above the water.


Kristin sighed in delight as she watched Nathan move back and forth between the tub and the stove, her eyes riveted to his muscles rippling beneath the tight fabric of his trousers, the only garment he wore.


“What are you smiling at?” He grinned as he carefully poured the last container of water over her feet.


“You.  I think you look cute.”


“I think you look gorgeous.”  Nathan moved behind Kristin and gathered up the long sheet of auburn silk that hung behind the back of the tub.  He carefully pinned the tresses up so that they wouldn’t get wet then dropped to his knees.


Kristin tried to turn around.  “What are you doing?”


Nathan’s hands carefully turned her head forward.  “I am helping you bathe.”


“I am perfectly capable of bathing myself… oh… Nathan… that is… oh yes…” 


The bar of lavender soap slid over the swell of one breast then the other as Nathan doused it in the water.  He lathered his hands then let the soap fall into the water as he carefully began to massage Kristin’s shoulders.


“Relax, my love.” Nathan whispered in her ear as his hands slid lower to cup her heavy breasts.  He lifted them carefully, his thumbs circling the rosy centers.  “Let me take care of you.”


“Please… touch me, Nathan.” Kristin pleaded quietly as she arched into his touch, trying to push her berry tipped peaks into his hands. 


“I am,” His teeth caught the lobe of her ear and sucked it into his mouth at the same instant that he finally captured her rigid tips between his thumb and forefinger.


Kristin moaned.  “You are being wicked.”


“Mmhmm…” Nathan murmured against her neck.  He continued to twist and tease her sensitive nipples until she was writhing beneath him, water threatening to wash over the sides of the tub.


When he sensed that Kristin was near her breaking point, Nathan released his hold and slid his hands lower to caress her undulating belly soothingly.


“Someone is very lively tonight.”  The baby responded to its father’s touch, pushing back against the light pressure.


“Someone always reacts that way when their father is near.  Before you returned, even the mention of your name set the baby moving.  He knew that we were talking about his father.”  Kristin’s hands let loose their grip on the tub edges and moved beneath the water to join Nathan’s on her belly.


“Daddy doesn’t intend to go away ever again, my little princess.”  His hand came up as the top of Kristin’s belly bulged out.  “How does she move so fast?”


“She is bouncing around in a cavity filled with fluid and right now she still has plenty of room to maneuver.  Her activity will decrease in a few months as her living quarters grow tighter.”  She turned her face towards Nathan, her lips seeking his.


Nathan kept the kiss short, a brief touch and taste, before pulling away and sliding down to the other end of the tub.  Kristin glanced over the side as he moved, please to note that her sensual bath was having an equally arousing effect on him.


“I think I am ready to get out now.”


Nathan stopped her when she would have stood.  “I’m not through bathing you yet.”  He waved away her protests.  “Just lay back and relax.”


Kristin recognized that Nathan was in his stubborn mode and wouldn’t be cajoled into hastening his plans so she did as he asked.


“I feel at a distinct disadvantage.” She told him as he stood up at the opposite end of the tub and stared, his eyes raking over her nude body.  Firelight darted over the water and her body, the flickering light reflected in her desire filled eyes as she returned his stare.  When Nathan’s gaze reached her face she smiled and carefully lifted her bent leg out of the water and straightened it out, propping her wet foot squarely on top of the straining placard of Nathan’s trousers.


“Naughty, naughty!” Nathan caught her foot and eased it away to reveal a large damp spot.


“That must be terribly uncomfortable.” Kristin responded as she flicked her damp toes at him.


Nathan laughed and moved a hand to tug at the buttons of his trousers.  Kristin licked her lips as the two sides fell apart but Nathan returned his attention to her foot, leaving his pants hanging low on his hips.


Hardened fingers stroked the delicate skin on the sole of her foot as if it were fragile china.  She jerked against his hold as she gasped.


“That tickles!”


“I remember.” Nathan grinned as his hands began a slow massage over Kristin’s ankle and down her calf.


“Monito…” Kristin sighed, her breath growing uneven as Nathan reached a sensitive spot behind her knee.


“I was already so much in love with you there.  I just couldn’t find the words to tell you.  I had been so awful to you…” Nathan lowered her leg back into the water and turned his attention to the other foot.  “…and then I made such a huge mess of our first time together.”


“You didn’t… how can you say that?  It was wonderful.”  Kristin protested.


“For me.  But for you… I wanted you so badly… I was too quick.”


“You made up for it.” Kristin was practically purring with each stroke of Nathan’s hand down her thigh.


“And I am going to continue making up for it for the rest of our lives.  I love being with you, Kristin.  I love making love to you, watching your face… knowing that I am the only man to ever give you that much pleasure.” 


Nathan shifted from the end of the tub to the side, Kristin’s leg still clasped in his hands.  He knelt and carefully dropped her calf over the outer rim of the tub.  One hand plunged into the cloudy water and groped for the bar of soap he had dropped there.  When he had retrieved it Nathan worked up a heavy lather in his hands then let the bar slip away once again.  His hands fell to her belly as he bent over her face.


“Let me pleasure you now, my love.” Nathan whispered as he moved in to capture her lips.  Kristin’s arms wrapped around his neck as she intercepted him, their mouths coming together in a fiery kiss.  Nathan moved one hand to the back of the tub for added support while the other slid over her belly and down.


“Nathan, let’s go to bed.” Kristin mumbled as her head fell against the back rim of the tub.


“We will, love, soon.” Nathan’s lips trailed down the exposed line of her throat.  His fingers slid easily between her legs to cup her mound.  Nathan pressed his palm firmly into the swell as his fingers carefully combed through her curls and teased her lower lips.


Kristin’s arms fell away from Nathan’s neck to grip the sides of the tub tightly, her lower body surging forward into his feather light touch.


“Patience,” he cautioned.


“I have no patience when you touch me.” Kristin’s voice was even huskier than normal.  “Touch me… please!”


Nathan obliged, his index finger slipping between the swollen folds of flesh and tracing up the valley until he reached the pearl of her desire.  He drew light circles around the hood with his fingernail, teasing Kristin until she was writhing so hard that water was sloshing over the sides of the tub.


“Pleaseohpleaseohgodgod…” Nathan could see the white of Kristin’s knuckles as she clutched the side of the tub, her head falling further over the edge as her back arched instinctively.  He stared in awe at her up thrust breasts and the child moving beneath the taut skin of her stomach.


Sweat was pouring off Nathan’s brow from his struggle to control his own desire when he finally gave in to Kristin’s jumbled pleas and let his finger brush across the very heart of her sensation.  He gasped at the thrill that went through his body when she yelped and thrust her hips against him.


As much as he was enjoying watching the play of emotions across Kristin’s face, Nathan found that he couldn’t tease her anymore.  His finger slid back down her cleft and probed lightly at the entrance to her hot sheath.  He slipped one finger smoothly in as his thumb took over caressing her swollen bud. 


Kristin was struggling to draw air into her lungs as she rocked against Nathan’s hand, seeking even more contact.  In response Nathan added a second finger to the first and increased the gentle pulsing of his hand.


A low moan was all the warning Nathan had before Kristin’s body stiffened and rose out of the tub, a low keen rising from her lips.  Nathan thrust fingers and thumb in unison, heavily and quickly, once, twice then a third time.  Kristin came apart, a scream of completion accompanying the thrashing of her body as her warm essence flowed from her body into the bath water and Nathan’s palm.


Kristin’s eyes lids fluttered as she slowly became aware of her surroundings once again.  She opened them to find Nathan holding fast to her shoulders with one arm while his other hand continued to stroke her, soothing aching nerves with his touch.  He stared down at her, dark blue eyes full of love.


“I adore watching you… hearing you scream my name…”


Kristin lifted a hand languidly to his cheek.  “Do you think we could move this to the bed now?  I think the princess might be getting a bit chilly.”


Nathan slowly withdrew his fingers.  “Her daddy will warm her up.”


“And her mummy would like to return the favour for her daddy.”


“Tonight is all for mama.” Nathan told Kristin as he stood up.


Kristin smiled at the crimson male organ standing tall and proud, having pushed its way free of its confines.  She reached out a hand to stroke the tip.


“Once the baby is born and I get my figure back, daddy shall have a night of his own as well.”


Nathan laughed as he stepped back and picked up a towel.  “I will hold you to that, my lady.  Be careful standing.  The tub is slippery now.”


As Kristin rose from the water Nathan’s mind flashed to a painting he had seen once; an artist’s rendition of Aphrodite rising from the sea.  The woman in his mind’s eye immediately became his wife, her lush body rising from white-capped waves as she reached out to greet him. 


His model shivered bringing Nathan quickly back to reality.  He wrapped a length of linen cloth around Kristin’s back the scooped her out of the tub and quickly carried her to the front of the fire.


“Don’t you want a bath as well?” Kristin rested a hand on Nathan’s shoulder and let the towel fall as he dropped to his knees in front of her.  He picked up one end of the cloth and began to dry her calves.


“I had a good wash while you were sleeping.” Nathan continued to work the soft linen cloth over Kristin’s skin, only half realizing what the textured fabric was doing to her already enflamed skin.


When he would have stood to reach the top half of her body Kristin stopped him and carefully lowered herself to her knees in front of him.


“I should get you a nightgown before you take a chill.”  Nathan said as he wiped the last drops of moisture from Kristin’s arms.


“I have another idea about how to keep warm.”  Kristin raised her lips toward him.  Nathan couldn’t resist the allure of such a tasty treat and he attacked her mouth voraciously, not feeling Kristin’s hands on his hips until he tried to shift and found his trousers pooled at his knees.


“You are a minx.” Nathan grabbed the corner of the discarded blanket and yanked it over to them.  He popped it in the air then spread it behind Kristin before lowering her back onto it.


“Stay right there,” he told her as he pulled her arms free from his neck.


Kristin rolled to her side and watched Nathan as he kicked free of his pants then strode around the room completely naked.  He grabbed the pillows from the bed then rummaged through his bag and pulled out a small vial before returning to her.  She licked her lips as she watched his erection bounce as he walked.


“What is that?  Another of Bess’ concoctions?” She nodded at the bottle as Nathan sat it down next to her.


“As a matter of fact it is.” Nathan answered as he lifted Kristin’s head and slid a pillow beneath.  “Are you warm enough?”


Firelight flickered across her milky white skin.  “More than enough.  I’d be even warmer if you would join me.”  She held her arms out to him.


Nathan took one hand and caressed the palm with his lips.  “Soon.  But first…” He picked up the vial and pulled the stopper.


Kristin sniffed the air as he poured thick liquid into his hands.  “Lavender?”


“I picked some up on a port call in France.  I had no idea what Bess did with it but she told me to give this to you.  It is supposed to help your skin stay supple while the princess grows.”  He laid his palms on her belly, the heat of his body having warmed the unguent. 


“That feels nice,” Kristin’s eyes fluttered closed as Nathan’s hands worked the liquid into her skin, his fingers both soothing and arousing at the same time.  She didn’t stir when he shifted over her body until he was straddling her as his hands worked their way slowly up towards her breasts.


A soft sigh escaped Kristin’s lips as Nathan’s hands cupped the swollen globes and her back arched, pushing them more solidly into his grasp.  The silky residue of lotion on Nathan’s hands aided the slide of his fingers around her tight rosy nipples although he avoided the tips.


Kristin whimpered as her desire rose and she twisted her torso from side to side, trying to induce Nathan to fully possess her aching nipples.  He finally gave in, lowering his mouth to circle the nubbin, his tongue occasionally darting out to tease the tip before drawing back.


“Dammit, Nathan!” Kristin’s voice was thick with frustration, her fingers clenching the blanket beneath her tightly as she writhed beneath him.


With a low chuckle Nathan finally pounced on one pink point, pulling it into his mouth and suckling it voraciously.  He felt the skin tighten even more against his tongue, becoming even more textured beneath his assault.


Kristin’s senses whirled as her back bowed, incoherent but obviously pleading sounds rising from her throat.  Nathan’s ministrations were assuaging the ache in the breast he was pleasuring but the agony was increasing in the other breast and between her legs.  She struggled to part them but Nathan’s knees blocked her.


Kristin fought to unclench her fingers and drag one hand to Nathan’s leg.  She pushed softly, then more forcibly when he didn’t move.  At the feel of Kristin’s hand Nathan glanced down to see her trying to pry his legs apart.  With a gentle chuckle he lifted one knee then slid it between Kristin’s legs.  Soon he was kneeling between her thighs, her legs pulled up to wrap around his knees.


Sable eyes reflected the depth of Kristin’s need and at the touch of her hand on his face, Nathan bent back to his task, this time using his mouth to love the other breast while his hand continued to knead the now bare mound.  He levered his lower body down between her hips until his thick length lay trapped between his stomach and the bottom swell of hers, his heavy sacs bumping against her swollen mons.


“More… ohpleasemore!” Kristin demanded as he rocked gently against her.


“Kris?” With one final tug at her breast Nathan raised his head to stare at her.  He had known from the beginning that his wife was an extremely passionate woman but for her to be this amorous at this point in her condition amazed him.


She knew his concern without being told and nodded.  “Yes… please.  Janet… she told me that when she was pregnant with Claire… she couldn’t get enough of Bill either…”


Nathan raised his head from where he was licking her belly.  “That is a mental image I didn’t need.  Who knows?  Perhaps this does have something to do with your condition… not that you aren’t the same way when you aren’t pregnant…”


“Darling… as much as I love your voice… your mouth can be used for better things right now…” Kristin pushed his head back against her stomach.


Nathan chuckled, the laugh rippling through Kristin’s lower body and disturbing the child within.  “Go back to sleep, princess.  Daddy is going to love mama now so you be quiet like a good little girl.”  He kissed the dimpled flesh and the movement subsided.


His body slid lower as his mouth did until his face was even with her nest of fiery curls.  He was pleased to see that her folds were wet and plump, swollen with desire.


“I love touching you here,” he whispered as he slipped a single finger into the honeyed cleft and slid it gently up and down.  “And you love it too, don’t you, darling?”


“Yes… ohyes!” Kristin rocked against his teasing finger.


Nathan lowered his mouth to her inner thighs and nipped at the tender flesh there while his fingers tenderly massaged her mons, each caress pulling her lips further and further apart.  He continued to tease, barely bypassing her most sensitive areas, until Kristin was almost out of control.


In retaliation she brought her bare feet up to the back of Nathan’s calves and caressed them lightly with her toes, pausing at the back of his knees to tickle the sensitive flesh there.


“You don’t play fair,” Nathan murmured against her upper thigh.


“And you do?” Kristin gasped as Nathan finally answered her body’s pleading and lapped his tongue up her wet slit.


“NO!” Kristin screamed in frustration as Nathan returned his mouth to her thigh.


“Be patient, love.  The longer you can hold out the sweeter the pleasure will be.”


“But… I need…”


Nathan watched as the tiny hood protecting the center of Kristin’s desire drew back revealing the swollen nub.  He flicked his tongue lightly across the blood red bud causing a heavy moan to rise from Kristin’s lips.  He sucked the tender flesh into his mouth while slipping one thick finger into her hot sheath.


Kristin cried out with relief as Nathan finally gave her what she needed but all to soon she was demanding more.  Nathan added a second finger to stretch and fill her but when she would have peaked he pulled away again.


Kristin banged her heels against the hearthrug in frustration as Nathan lightened his touch so that it was more soothing than arousing.


“Why?”  She clutched his shoulders, tears springing to her eyes.


“Oh, love,” Nathan reached up to brush away the drops. “I promise I’m not trying to hurt you.”


“I know…” Kristin gasped.  “I just… I need you… please…”


“Yes…” Nathan returned to his task with a vengeance; his tongue returning to tease the pulsing bed of nerves while one, two then three fingers probed and thrust.  His free hand slid sensuously up the side of her body and cupped the top of her left breast. 


Thumb and forefinger moved to tweak the enlarged nipple at the same time that Nathan sucked the tight bud back into the warm recesses of his mouth and closed his teeth over it in a light nip.  The flesh contracted as Kristin’s body went rigid beneath him.


Nathan knew his wife well and quickly swapped his lips and his fingers, his tongue stabbing deep within her to taste the wash of her juices while his thumb and forefinger continued to work her clit. 


“YesohgodohgodnathanyespleasegodYES!”  Kristin screamed loudly as Nathan took her over the edge.  The shout faded away into a moan as another climax began to build through the waves of pleasure already washing over her.


Nathan carried Kristin through three orgasms, each more powerful than the last.  Before she could slip down from her third peak he shifted back up her body and seated his demanding shaft between her thighs in one smooth thrust.


Kristin opened her eyes to find Nathan propped on his elbows above her, his length finally filling her fully.  She didn’t speak but slid her arms around his neck and pulled his mouth down to meet hers as she shifted her hips experimentally against his.


Her breath caught at the feel of Nathan’s silky skin pressing firmly against her highly sensitive flesh.  One hand slid down his back, fingers stroking smoothly over the hard plane of his back until she reached his bottom.  Her nails bit into his firm buttocks as she urged him to move against her.


Nathan held out as long as he was able but soon the pull of her wet tissue on his steely length became too much and he gave into the urge to rock against her.


“Harder!” Kristin demanded, her mouth still pressed firmly against his.  Nathan increased the force behind his thrusts.


“MORE!” His wife demanded again, her other hand sliding down to grasp his cheek.


Nathan leveled his torso up on his elbows again to stare down at her.  “I don’t want to hurt you or…”


“You won’t.  I would tell you… now MOVE!”  Kristin’s knees came up to cradle his hips.


“As you wish, my lady.”  Nathan answered as he ground against her.


Soon they were thrusting together in earnest, the room filled with the sounds of their passion as each fought to send the other over.  The movements inspired the baby and it began to kick low in its mother’s stomach, both of its parents feeling the vibrations as their bellies slapped together.


Kristin’s back arched off the blanket as she fought to increase the contact of their lower bodies.  At the look on her face Nathan plunged into her rapidly, the biting sting of her nails urging him on.


He came with a loud cry, his essence rising up to jet from his body.  The warmth of his seed pounding the entrance to her womb gave Kristin the push she needed and she fell with him, screaming his name again and again.  Their continued movement against each other kept the waves of pleasure cresting over and over, extending their orgasms over several minutes.


Nathan fell on top of Kristin, his arms too weak to support him anymore.  He tried to shift his weight away from her but she wrapped her arms and legs around him and held him in place.


“Stay.”  She whispered.


Nathan snuggled his face into her chest, his back arching slightly in an attempt to keep most of his weight from her stomach.  As Kristin’s hands rubbed his stomach soothingly, Nathan suddenly groaned, his shoulders hunching as his body tightened.  Kristin’s eyes grew wide as she felt his warmth wash into her once again.


“Nathan?” She queried quietly.


“Oh God…” he groaned.  “I’ve never… not twice in one… that was incredible.”  His lips moved against her damp skin in thanks.


When the pressure became too great the baby responded by kicking against Nathan’s stomach.  With a low laugh he rolled them to their sides, their arms and legs still tangled together, their bodies still joined.


“I love you, Mrs. Bridger.” Nathan whispered, his hands tracing the path of firelight in her auburn tresses, the pins holding them up having been lost during their joining.


“I love you, Captain Bridger.” Kristin snuggled into him and lightly bit his collarbone.


Nathan laughed.  “You minx!  I am exhausted after sharing one of the most erotic experiences of my life and you are ready to go again.”


Kristin bit his earlobe in response.


Nathan rolled his eyes teasingly as he gathered her close.  “And we are worried about the time when you don’t feel like making love?  It will be interesting to see if that happens.”


“The baby doesn’t seem to mind.”


“The princess understands that her mommy and daddy love each other.  She is learning early that her parents enjoy touching each other, showing their emotions.  No growing up in a repressed household with no affection for our little one.”


“What if your princess turns out to be a prince?  Will you be disappointed?” Kristin asked.


Nathan’s hands slid down to rub the sides of her abdomen.  “I am praying for a happy healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes, two eyes and ears, one nose and mouth.  Whether the child has a John Thomas or not is completely unimportant.  I love the idea of having a daughter who looks exactly like her beautiful mama but I would be equally happy with a little boy… who looks exactly like his mama.”


“Except in one area.  I hope he takes after his daddy in that.” Kristin rocked her hips, causing Nathan’s John Thomas to leap.


“Oh, my love, you are so naughty.” Nathan moved his mouth to Kristin’s lips, the kiss absorbing her whimper as he untangled their legs and slid from her body.  “And your husband isn’t as young as he once was.”


“I hadn’t noticed.” Kristin’s fingers trailed down Nathan’s side as he rocked to his feet and pulled the blanket over her body.


“I still have my moments,” he waggled his eyebrows at her while he helped her stand and then scooped her into his arms.  “But as wonderful as what we just shared was… I think that I’d prefer the next round in the comfort of a soft warm bed.”


“Anywhere you’d like, my love.” Kristin murmured as her husband carried her back to bed.


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


Nathan swung the ax high into the air, held it there for just a moment then brought it down onto the log sitting on the stump in front of him; smiling at the loud crack that sounded as the log split in two.  He leaned on the ax as he picked up one of the halves from the ground, positioned it on the stump then once again swung the ax above his head.


He’d just split that piece when he heard a sound behind him.  Expecting to find Kristin, he was shocked at the smiling black face that greeted him.


“Raleigh?!”  Nathan said, as his eyes grew wide.  “Is there a problem?”


Raleigh shook his head and held up his hands.  “No!  No!  No problem,” the older man replied. 


“Then what are you doing here?”  Nathan asked.  “No one was supposed to bother us.”


“We arrived at the main house yesterday afternoon,” Raleigh told him,  “and you know me… got to know the lay of the land.  So after everyone was settled I headed out.  I didn’t realize where I was going… you know I wouldn’t have disturbed you…”


Nathan nodded.  “I know…”


“But since I am here… how is Miss Kristin?  Has she been resting?”  Raleigh asked then grinned at Nathan.  “You know those nosy women are going to ask me when I get back.”


“True,” Nathan smiled and shook his head.  “Well… for the last three days, I’ve pampered her, played chess with her and had some very lively and informative discussions with her…”


“And knowing the two of you… there was no doubt some good old-fashioned loving thrown in the mix as well,” Raleigh remarked.


Nathan chuckled and nodded.  “Naturally.  So, you can tell them that she is resting, and feeling much better.”




Raleigh smiled at the sleepy call from the lodge then chucked Nathan on the arm.  “Go on, boy… your woman is calling.”


Nathan grinned at him as he propped the ax up against the woodpile.  “Have a good jaunt, Raleigh,” he told the already departing man then hurried into the cabin to find Kristin still in bed, curled up around his pillow.  He quickly made his way over to the bed, sat down on the edge and reached out to cup her cheek.


Kristin’s eyes fluttered open and she smiled up at him.


“Good morning, beautiful,” Nathan spoke in a soft voice as he leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her mouth.


“Mmm… morning…” Kristin sighed and reached out to trace a finger down the middle of his tan, glistening chest.  “Chopping more wood?”


Nathan nodded.  “It is only right that I replace what we’ve used.”


“Are you all finished?”


“For the moment… why?”


“I thought you might like to come back to bed with me,” Kristin told him with a small smile.  “I missed waking up in your arms.”


Nathan grinned.  “Are you sure?  I’m all sweaty.”


“You’ve held me all sweaty before.”


“Good point,” Nathan said then stood.


“Lose those,” Kristin pointed at his britches.


Nathan chuckled and removed his pants then quickly slipped under the blankets.  He leaned back against the pillows and pulled her into his arms.


Kristin nestled closer and laid her head on his shoulder.  “You realize… the way your son keeps growing… we’re not going to be able to cuddle like this for much longer.”


“Yes… I know…” Nathan replied as he caressed the ever-growing swell then pulled her closer.  “We’re just going to have to get creative with our cuddling, as well as our love-making.”


“So… what did Raleigh want?”


“How did you…?”


“I heard him,” she answered.  “He has a very distinctive voice.”


“That he does,” Nathan agreed.  “The others arrived up at the main house yesterday, and once everyone was settled, Raleigh decided to explore your estate.  He likes to explore new places…”


“Ah yes…” Kristin replied.  “And did you tell him to let the others know that you were indeed taking care of me?”


“Yes I did.”




“So…” Nathan began after a few minutes of silence.  “You’ve got something on your mind you want to talk about… what is it?”


Kristin smiled against his shoulder.  “Oh… I’ve missed that…”


Nathan chuckled.  “I know what you mean, and I have too,” he said and tapped his fingers on her arm.  “So… what is it?”


“I was thinking about Cynthia… I want to give my daughter the wedding of her dreams…”


“Of course you do… and we will,” Nathan told her.  “She will be the most beautiful bride… next to mine of course.”


Kristin’s smile grew.  “Flattery will get you everywhere, sailor.”


“I’m counting on it,” Nathan grinned.  “So… what else is going through that head of yours?”


“I am just wondering when Cynni will want to get married,” she answered.  “I know she and Will are anxious to…”


“Bed each other…”


“Yes,” Kristin nodded.  “I don’t mean to sound selfish… but I am hoping she will want the marriage as soon as possible.  Either that or wait until after Junior here is born.”




Kristin opened her mouth to answer then closed it again.




“I can’t really explain it… but I need to be home to have this baby,” Kristin told him.


“Well… I don’t need to be anywhere for a while, so we’ll still be here when the baby is born.”


“No,” Kristin lifted her head from his shoulder and looked down at him.  “Home… on our island…”


“You don’t want to be here… in England when the baby is born?  Near a doctor?  Near your mother?”  Nathan was shocked.


“No.  I want to be on the island… in our room, in our bed…” Kristin answered.  “Bess can deliver the baby, and I know it’s unconventional but I would like you to be there too, if you would like to be, that is.”


“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Nathan told her as he reached up to cup her cheek.  “Are you certain?  I mean really certain?”


“Yes.  I’m certain,” Kristin replied as she settled her head back onto his shoulder.  “I want to be home.”


“Then home you shall be,” Nathan said as he stroked her hair.


“Thank you, Nathan.” Kristin smiled against his chest. 


“Anything for you, my love,” Nathan replied.  “Can I ask how long you’ve been thinking about this?”


“Not long actually,” Kristin answered.  “I… I had a dream last night.  I don’t remember all that much of it… but what I do remember is that we were home… in our room… I’d just given birth.  You were there with me… holding me and our baby.”


“Boy or girl?”  Nathan asked.


“That was the strange thing,” Kristin said softly.  “It kept changing.  One moment it was our son… the next moment it was our daughter…”


“See… I told you,” Nathan grinned against her temple.  “We’re having twins.”


Kristin shook her head and chuckled.  “You had better hope not…”


“Well then, what do you say we head back to the main house tomorrow, and find out what Cynthia and Will want to do?”  Nathan suggested.  “We can make further plans from there.”


“Sounds good to me,” Kristin replied and ran her hand slowly down his chest.  “So… what are we going to do for the rest of today?”


Before Nathan could answer, Kristin shifted out of his arms and straddled him.  He gazed up at her with an adoring smile.  “Oh…” he trailed his hands up over her swollen belly to cup her full breasts.  “I am sure we’ll think of something.”


Kristin smiled and arched into his hands.  “Mmm… I’m sure we will…”


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


Janet walked into the lounge to find Cynthia sitting on the settee with her feet curled beneath her, staring forlornly out the window.  She smiled to herself.  


“He will be here tomorrow.


Cynthia started and whipped her head around to see Janet moving towards her.  She chuckled and smiled.  “Yes… I know he will,” Cynthia said as she shifted around on the sofa.  “I am counting the minutes until he arrives.”


Janet chuckled and sat in the chair across from her.  “To be honest… I am as well.”


Cynthia glanced down at her hands.  “How did you and mother do it?”


“Do what?”


“Make it these last few months without your husbands,” Cynthia answered.  “I know… have finally seen just how in love mother and Nathan are with each other, and I’ve seen how you and Will’s father are together…” she paused.  “I love Will.  I love him with all my heart.  We’ve only been apart for a little less than a week and already I am missing him terribly.”  Cynthia met Janet’s eyes.  “How did you both do it?  How did you function so well without them?  I’m finding it a chore even to get out of bed in the morning.”


“We do it because we have to,” Janet answered.  “Lord knows Bill and I hate being separated… but that comes part and parcel with being a sailor’s wife.  It has gotten a little easier over the years… but not much.”  A slow grin formed on Janet’s face.  “And the reunions are always worth the separation…”


Cynthia blushed.  “Aunt Janet!”


“Oh, Cynni… you are so much like your mother!”  Janet laughed as the pink hue of Cynthia’s skin deepened.  “Or at least like she was when I first met her.”


“So… it… it gets better after being separated?”  Cynthia asked shyly.


Janet chuckled.  “It can…”


“Can I ask you a question?”


“Of course.”


“Is what Will said true?  Did you and his father… anticipate your vows?  Like mummy and Nathan did?”


Janet looked her future daughter-in-law directly in the eye and nodded.  “Yes, it’s true.”


Cynthia nodded and looked thoughtful.


“But just because we did, does not mean that you and Will should.  The circumstances were completely different.  Bill and I were going to be separated for over a year,” Janet told her then gave Cynthia a questioning look.  “You and Will haven’t… anticipated matters have you?”


Cynthia flushed again.  “You mean mother didn’t tell you?”


Janet shook her head.  “No.”


“We’ve kissed and…” Cynthia paused to search for the right words,  “…touched, and…” she hesitated another moment then continued in a soft voice.  “We’ve loved each other with our hands.”


“But nothing more?”


“No… we want to wait,” Cynthia told her, her face still pink.


“Good,” Janet smiled.  “I’m sorry, dear… I did not mean to embarrass you.”


“I know.”


“But thank you for telling me.”


Cynthia smiled.  “You’re going to be my other mother… and my mother trusts you, so I do as well.”


Janet’s smile grew and her eyes misted with tears.  “I am so glad my son found you.”


“So am I.”


Just then a small knock sounded and both women turned to see the butler enter the room pushing a small trolley.


“It’s tea time, milady,” Godard said as he rolled the cart up beside Cynthia.


“Thank you, Godard.”


The older man smiled at Cynthia then quickly left the room as she reached for the teapot.


“How much longer do you think mother and Nathan will remain at the lodge?”  She asked as she handed Janet the first cup.


“That’s hard to say,” Janet replied as she took a sip of her tea.  “They won’t return until they’ve had a chance to reconnect with one another… to find their peace within one another.  And…” she chuckled softly,  “not until they’ve made up for lost time.”


“That boy just better not be loving her too much!”


Janet and Cynthia turned at the sound of Bess’ voice to see the old black lady making her way over to the couch.


“I told that boy that Miss Kristin needs lovin’ in moderation,” Bess said as she lowered herself onto the sofa.


“What if Kristin decides otherwise, Bess?”  Janet remarked.


“You don’t mean… they’re not…” Cynthia stammered, her eyes wide.  “How?  She’s pregnant!”


Bess and Janet exchanged amused glances.


“Just because your mama is with child does not mean that she and Nathan can’t enjoy each other,” Bess told Cynthia.  “They just better be doing so…”


“In moderation!”  Janet and Cynthia chorused together then collapsed back in their seats giggling at the furious nod of Bess’ head.


“You know as well as I do, Bess, that some women’s libidos increase even more when they are pregnant,” Janet told the older woman.  “When I was carrying Claire…” she laughed softly,  “my poor husband was exhausted.”


Bess chuckled as Cynthia blushed at her future mother-in-law’s admission.  “I was the same way with all but two of my kids.  Raleigh loved it if I remember correctly.  The horny old goat.”


“Talking about me again, old woman?”


The three women turned to see Raleigh standing in the doorway with a large smile on his weathered face.  Cynthia and Janet looked at each other then began to giggle yet again.  Bess just shook her head then gave into her own mirth and nodded.


Raleigh continued to grin as he moved into the room and eased himself down beside his wife.  He leaned over and placed a soft kiss on her cheek.  “Hello, my dear.”


Bess smiled at her husband.  “So…?”


“What?”  Raleigh asked as he helped himself to one of the finger sandwiches on the tea trolley.


“Don’t you be what’ing me, old man!  How did they look?”


Raleigh laughed.  “Well, I didn’t see Miss Kristin, but our boy looks good.  Better than he has in months,” he answered then took a bite of the sandwich.  “And Nathan said to tell you…” Raleigh gestured at each of them,  “all of you… that yes, Kristin has been resting and is doing very well.  They’ve played chess, talked…”




“They’ve definitely done that, if the happy glow around Nathan is any indication,” Raleigh smiled then looked at Bess.  “And before you say anything… he was out chopping wood… burning off excess energy, so I would assume that he took your advice to heart.”


Bess nodded in satisfaction.  “Good.”


“Mister Young,” Cynthia turned to the older man.  “Did Nathan give any indication of when he and mother will be returning?”


“No, Miss Cynthia.  I’m afraid he didn’t.  But I suspect it should be within the next couple of days.”


Cynthia nodded her thanks and took a sip of her tea.


“So,” Janet clapped her hands together.  “Until they do decide to show up… what do you say we get to work on this wedding of yours?”


Cynthia smiled and nodded.


“I know your mother wants to be here for most of the planning… so why don’t you tell me what kind of dress you would like,” Janet said and took a sip of her tea.


“Actually… I am hoping to wear mother’s wedding dress,” Cynthia told Janet then clarified,  “The one she wore when she married my father,” a wry smile touched her lips.  “Of course, it’d have to be taken in a little through the chest… but I have always loved her dress and wanted to wear it.  Would you like to see it?”


“It’s here?”


Cynthia nodded.  “I brought it with me… just in case.”


Janet chuckled.  “I would love to see it.”


Cynthia grinned and put her cup down on the coffee table then quickly got to her feet and rushed out of the room.


Janet and Bess shared amused glances.


“She is definitely her mama’s daughter!”


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


“Are you sure that we are going in the right direction?” Will asked his father for the fourth time in as many minutes.


“Son, I am following the directions to the letter.  I can read a map, you know.”  Bill’s exasperation was obvious.


“But this is land, not water.  If we get lost I have to wait even longer to see Cynthia.”


Bill rolled his eyes at his son’s eagerness to return to his fiancée but after a few moments he began to recall how anxious he had been to see Janet when he was away from her… how anxious he still was.


“We will be there soon, William.  Your bride to be isn’t going anywhere.  She and your mother probably have your entire wedding planned by now.”


Will shook his head.  “Only if Uncle Nathan and Aunt Kristin have joined them.  Cynthia wouldn’t make plans without her mother and somehow I suspect that Uncle Nathan has been keeping his wife very busy lately.”


Bill laughed heartily.  “You may be right about that.  Judging by what I’ve seen those two share if your bride is anything like her mother, you are a very lucky man, my boy.”


Will blushed as he shared a chuckle with his father.  “I wouldn’t know… well… I think Cynthia is…”


Janet had informed her husband of Will’s statement about waiting until after the wedding the night he and Cynthia had admitted their relationship so Bill knew what his son was so bashful about saying.  Fortunately Janet had also shared with him what she suspected had happened in the relationship.  Bill decided to use the last few miles of the ride to have a fatherly chat with his son.


“Will… about your wedding night… do you need any advice?”


“Dad!  I’m not a child.  I know what happens between a man and a woman.”


“But have you ever… I was going to take you down to Miss Flora’s for your sixteenth birthday…” Will’s eyes grew wide when his father mentioned the well known Boston brothel, “but your mother found out about it and… well… let’s just say that I paid for that idea for quite a while…”


Will couldn’t help but chuckle as he imagined his mother’s fury.  “It’s okay, Dad.  I’m not sorry that my first time will be with the woman I am going to spend the rest of my life with.”


“I know that the two of you will find your way together but let me give you a few tips that can make the physical part of your married life more interesting.”


“Dad…” William looked skeptical.  “I’m not really sure that I want to hear…”


“How about if I swear that I never ever did these things to your mother?”


“You’d be lying.”


“Of course I would be lying.  Now shut up and listen…”


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


“Look at those children.  Cynthia looks just as young as Lucas or Clarissa but in a few months time she will be a married woman.” Janet remarked to Bess as they rested beneath the shade of a large oak tree.  The children, along with Ben and Katie, romped across the green lawn in a spirited game of tag.


“And before long she’ll be watching children of her own play.”


Janet arched her eyebrows at the older woman.  “Do you know something that I don’t know?”


Bess laughed, a husky booming sound rising from deep in her chest.  “No babies in the making yet but it won’t be too many summers before you have a young’un pulling at your skirts and calling you Granny.”


Janet smiled.  “I’ve missed having a baby around the house.”


“I’ll remind you that you said that in a few years when our homes are full of them.”


“I am so pleased that Cynthia and Will found their way to each other.  From the moment that I met Kristin I felt that she was my heart sister but to have our children join our families officially… I am so very glad.”


“Kristin feels the same way.  She would have had a horrible time on the island with that horrid family if you hadn’t been there to support her.”


Janet shook her head.  “She has too much backbone.  Lexie Smith might have tried to beat Kristin down but Kristin would have fought back before long.  It isn’t in Kristin’s nature to tolerate people like Lexie Smith.  That afternoon we arrived and watched the two of them in the meadow… her love for Nathan was so obvious… how could I not adore her for the happiness she brought him?”


“Speaking of adoring, I think that someone who adores you is watching.”  Janet followed Bess’ finger as she pointed toward the back of the house and found her husband and her son standing at the railing watching the merriment.


Happiness lit Janet’s face as she pushed to her feet and started to climb the gentle slope as Bill moved down to intercept her.  Cynthia caught Janet’s movement out of the corner of her eye and stopped to look.  Moments later she was tearing past her future mother-in-law, running to the open arms of her fiancée, her skirts pulled high.


Will and Cynthia clung to each other for long moments, oblivious to the people around them as they murmured words of love.  At a hoot from Lucas, Cynthia’s training came to the forefront and she pulled back from Will to glare at her younger brother.  A few feet away Will’s mother and father were still locked together in a heated kiss.


“Just you wait, Lucas!” Bill shouted at the young man who had been teasing he and Janet and not the younger couple.  “I’ll remind you of this one day.”


“Will…” Janet moved to welcome her son, wondering why he turned bright red as she embraced him.


“Are you two coming to play?” Lucas yelled, this time at Cynthia and Will.


“Why don’t the two of you go for a walk in the rose garden?  I will explain to Lucas that you would like to spend some time alone together.”


“Thank you, mother.” Will said as Cynthia slid her arm through his and gently tugged him toward the sheltered garden.


“Couldn’t they do that later?” Lucas yelled after them then laughed and turned back to the chase.


“Will is going to pay that young man back in spades someday,” Bill laughed as he slid his arm around his wife’s waist and strolled slowly across the lawn with her.


“Speaking of Will… what have you been saying to him?  He wouldn’t even return my hug.”


“I just… uh…” Bill hemmed.  “We talked some… on the ride down… I just want him to have an enjoyable experience on his wedding night… gave him a few pointers…”


“What have you been telling that boy, William Noyce?” Janet stopped walking and drew back from her husband to stare at him.


With a wicked grin Bill leaned forward and whispered in Janet’s ear.


“You didn’t!  I can’t believe… Our son is going to know…” The brightness of her blush topped her son’s by three shades.


“I told him that we never did that.”


“But he knew you were lying!”


“I was very restrained, my love.  After all I could have told him about…” Bill leaned close in to Janet’s ear and whispered again.  By the time he finished she was breathing rapidly and a low moan escaped her lips. 


“The children can play by themselves for a while.” She grabbed Bill’s hand and tugged him toward the house.


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


“I wonder where the children are?  It’s tea time.” Janet searched the yard outside of the window she was staring through.


“The children will be here in a few minutes.  Come sit down.” Bill patted the seat next to him on the sofa.


“I hope that they haven’t ridden too near the hunting lodge.  Nathan and Kristin really do need time alone together.”


“The children all understand that.  Cynthia led all of them off in the opposite direction.” Raleigh smiled knowingly from his seat on the sofa across from Bill and Janet, Bess at his side.


At that moment a loud clatter could be heard from the entry hallway.


“I think they are back.”


Lucas burst into the room followed by Clarissa, Ben and Katie.  “Are they here yet?”


“Your parents?  We haven’t seen them.”


“Not mama and dad.” Lucas sighed around the biscuit he was shoving into his mouth.  “Will and Cynni.  We got separated about an hour ago.”


Janet glanced at Bill with a knowing look.  “We’d better plan that wedding quickly.” She muttered for his ears alone.  “You probably just took different forks in the trail.  They will be here in a few minutes.” This statement was said louder for the benefit of the entire group.  The smirks on the faces of the other married couple made it obvious that they had their own ideas what the young lovers were up to as well.


“So, Admiral… how long can you stay in the country?” Ben asked as he accepted the cup Katie offered him.


“I have to head back to the city at the beginning of the new week but I am hopeful that one last trip will tie up all of the loose ends.  Fortunately Thomas left a very easy trail to follow if you know what you are looking for.  We didn’t give him time to destroy any of his personal records and he didn’t conceal them very well.”


“And you figured the man out so quickly.” Ben observed.  “What made you suspect him?”


Bill shrugged.  “The State Department knew that something was happening.  Thomas was clever but the number men found major discrepancies in the accounting.  The General was one of three men who had access and opportunity.  When we arrived and I heard about his plans concerning Kristin he became my number one suspect.  I let him believe that we already had the evidence on him that we needed and after a few hours of interrogation he confessed all.”


“And made your job much easier.” Janet observed.


“I’ve already made my report to the ambassador and he has forwarded it to the Secretary in the latest diplomatic pouch.  The ambassador has also graciously offered me a few months leave once things are completely cleared up.  He seems to feel that I will be asked to assume Thomas’ position at the embassy for the next few years.”  He turned to Janet.  “But my answer will depend on whether or not you want to stay in London or return to Boston.”


Janet nodded and squeezed her husband’s hand.  “I will think about it.”


Any further discussion was ended by Lucas’ whooping as Will and Cynthia strolled casually into the room.


“We are sorry to be late, Mother.  We lost the main group and were trying to find them.  Cynthia was concerned that they might be lost.”  His mother’s sharp eyes picked out the small bits of grass clinging to her son’s clothing and his fiancée’s hair but she said nothing.


“Sit down and have a cup of tea before it gets cold.  You might try some food as well… if Lucas has left anything.”  Janet swatted playfully at the hand of the boy as he reached for his fifth cookie.


“You have to learn how to make these, Bess.  They are almost as good as your tea cakes.”


“Wouldn’t be hard.” Bess said, showing her cooking knowledge.  “A little flour and water… some sweetening… I could do it.”


Lucas flashed her a wide grin.


“But then Lucas would be in your kitchen stealing them all of the time.”


At the sound of Nathan’s voice the group turned in unison toward the French doors leading to the veranda.  Nathan and Kristin stood in the now open entrance, his arm draped around her waist.


“He wouldn’t try more than once.” Bess declared as Lucas and Cynthia rushed to hug their parents.


“She’ll take after you with the meat cleaver, son.” Nathan laughed as he embraced Cynthia.  “But don’t worry.  Bess has never chopped off more than a finger or two.”


“Yet!” The old woman countered.


Bill stood and offered Kristin his seat next to Janet.  She sank into the cushions gratefully, Nathan’s arm remaining at her back to support her until she was settled.


“Thank you, my love.” The smile that Kristin gifted her husband with nearly took Nathan’s breath away.


“So I see that Junior is making his presence even more obvious every day.” Janet’s eyes fell to Kristin’s stomach as she poured tea for the newcomers.


Kristin laughed.  “So much so that my wardrobe is quickly being outgrown.  Perhaps Madame Dussault would like to spend a weekend in the country.  Otherwise I am going to have to start wearing Nathan’s shirts again.  Do we know what cook is preparing for dinner?”


Janet did a double take at Kristin’s sudden change of direction but Nathan simply laughed.  “She is obsessed with food.”


Kristin pointed toward her belly.  “It isn’t me.  I can’t seem to eat enough to satisfy the little one.  I wonder if cook has any lemon curd I could spread on this biscuit.”


“Lucas, go get your mama some lemon stuff.” Bess commanded as she stood and traversed the few feet between the two couches.  When she stood in front of Kristin she stopped and laid her hands lightly over her abdomen.  Bess murmured something unintelligible and the baby kicked so hard that Kristin gasped.


“Don’t hurt your mama, princess.” Nathan commanded, a single finger running between Bess’ hands to stroke the moving flesh.  The baby stilled instantly.


Bess raised her head to stare at Nathan with narrowed eyes.  “And what happened to you?  Did you lose your razor or were you just too… occupied… to clean up for your lady?”


Nathan’s hand flew to his five-day beard growth.  “I am going to shave, Bess.  I simply forgot my razor in the small bag I took to the lodge with me.”


“And I packed it up with all of your other things and brought them down with us.  Your bags are up in the master suite along with Kristin’s.  You look like a scruffy old sea bum.”


“I am a scruffy old sea bum, Bess.  Luckily, this gorgeous woman loves me anyway.”  He leaned over to brush a kiss across Kristin’s raised lips.


“I missed the beard, Bess, although I must admit that I was delighted to see Nathan clean-shaven.  He has a beautiful chin, don’t you think?”  Kristin raised her hand to stroke through the soft stubble on Nathan’s face.


“And if people start dropping by to visit?  You want them to meet your husband with that mess on his face?”  Neither Nathan nor Kristin could miss the underlying meaning in Bess’ pointed stare.  A bearded Nathan was much more recognizable as the Blue Rogue.


“Point taken.  I’ll go and have a shave and change into a clean shirt.”


“I’ll go with you.”  Kristin started to rise but Bess blocked her.


“You stay right here.  He don’t need no distractions while he’s scraping his chin clean.”


Nathan laughed at the slight pout that popped onto Kristin’s lips.  He moved his lips to her ear.  “I’ll grow it back as soon as we get to the island,” he whispered then shifted forward to kiss her deeply.


Bess swatted Nathan across the shoulder.  “You two are back in public now so behave yourself.”


As quick as a flash Nathan moved around the sofa and wrapped Bess in his arms.  “What would I ever do without you, Bess?”


“You’ll never have to find out.  I’m gonna always be here and when it’s my time to go I’m gonna come back and haunt you.  Now go.”


With a roar of laughter and a quick smile at his wife, Nathan dutifully left the room.


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


Nathan quickly descended the stairs, and made his way towards the lounge where he knew his wife would be.  As he neared the front room, the delightful tinkling sound of Kristin’s laughter reached his ears and caused his heart to soar.  A smile lit Nathan’s face at the sound and he found himself slowing down as he reached the door.


Instead of entering the room, Nathan opted to lean against the doorframe and observe his wife for a few moments.


‘Lord, she is beautiful,’ he thought to himself as he watched her lean back against the sofa, her hands immediately smoothing over her swollen belly.  ‘She’s gotten bigger,’ Nathan grinned with pride and adoration.  ‘And even more beautiful.’


Nathan’s smile grew as Kristin slowly turned to look at him, her eyes twinkling with delight as she pushed herself up off the couch and slowly walked towards him.  He straightened up and took a step back into the hall just as she reached him, her hand lifting to cup his freshly shaven cheek.




Kristin looked thoughtful as she stroked her fingers down Nathan’s bare cheek to the neatly trimmed goatee covering his chin then softly ran her thumb over his lips.  She met his eyes and smiled as she inhaled with an appreciative, “Mmm…”


“I take it you approve?”  Nathan inquired in a low voice as he brought his hands up to rest at her waist.


“Oh yes… I most definitely approve…” Kristin murmured as she slid her hand up into Nathan’s hair and pulled his face down to hers.  “Very handsome…” she said in a soft voice then captured his lips in a passionate kiss.


“I love you, my lady,” Nathan whispered softly against her lips as the kiss slowly came to an end.


“And I love you, my rogue…” Kristin replied in a breathless voice.


Nathan rested his forehead against his wife’s.  “Do you know what I would like to do right now?”


“Yes… the same thing I would,” Kristin answered with a soft laugh.  “But we have company.”


“They’d understand,” Nathan told her as his hands tightened on her waist and he took a step backwards, pulling her with him further into the hallway.


“Nathan!”  Kristin laughed outright as Nathan stopped and drew her closer for another kiss.


“That is enough of that you two!”


Nathan and Kristin pulled apart with a laugh at the sound of Bess’ voice ringing from the room.


“I’ve told you both before… the bedroom is the place for lovin…”


Nathan smiled at the blush that crept over Kristin’s face then looked over her shoulder to grin at Bess through the open door.  “I know… where do you think I’m trying to convince her to go!?”


“Just keep your britches buttoned!”  Janet called out.  “We’ve got a wedding to plan.”


Janet laughed as Nathan stuck his tongue out at her then gave Kristin a soft kiss.


“Come, my lady… let’s go plan our daughter’s wedding,” Nathan said as he wrapped his arm around her waist and guided her back into the lounge.


As they disappeared into the room, the front door opened and Millicent Westphalen breezed into the house.  She quickly moved to her husband’s side where he stood in the shadows of the foyer.


“Have you seen Kristin?”  Millicent asked him as she slipped off her cloak and hung it up.  She turned back to Stonevale when he did not answer and saw that his brow was furrowed thoughtfully.  “Lionel?”


The duke shook his head then focused on his wife.  “What?”


“I asked if you had seen Kristin,” Millicent told her husband then placed her hand on his arm.  “Are you all right?”


“Yes… yes, I’m fine,” Lionel said then smiled at his wife.  “No need to worry, Mils.”


“So… have you seen our daughter?”


“Yes.  She and her husband just entered the lounge.”


“Then why are we standing here?”


Lionel shrugged.  “I was waiting for you to fetch the parcel you left in the carriage.”


“Well, I have it now, so let us go see our family,” Millicent said as she slipped her free hand through his arm.


Lionel smiled and patted her hand as he led her towards the lounge where they could hear voices chatting amiably.  They paused in the doorway and let their eyes drift over the occupants of the room until they came to their daughter who was sitting cradled in her husband’s arms.


“I have never seen her look so… happy,” Lionel whispered to his wife.  “She’s simply glowing.”


“She’s in love,” Millicent whispered back.  “For the first time in her life… she is truly in love, and with a man who returns that love,” she paused and watched as Nathan slipped his hand beneath Kristin’s where they rested on her gravid stomach to gently caress her.  “They are soul mates, Lionel.”


Stonevale didn’t comment as in that moment, Kristin looked up and noticed her parents standing in the doorway.


“Father!  Mother!  You’ve made it,” Kristin smiled at them but made no move to leave the haven of Nathan’s arms.  “Please forgive me for not getting up…” she gestured to her stomach where Nathan’s hand was still gently caressing.  “Junior has finally settled down…”


Millicent smiled at her daughter and leaned over to place a quick kiss on her cheek.  “Nothing to forgive.”


“How was your trip, sir?”  Nathan asked his father-in-law as he shook his hand.


“Quite pleasant actually,” Lionel answered with a quick smile at his wife who blushed slightly as she took a seat next to Kristin.


The couples in the room all shared knowing glances as Stonevale moved to his wife’s side and sat on the arm of the couch.


“Where is Lavinia?”  Kristin asked as she looked back towards the lounge entrance.  “I thought she was coming.”


“She is,” Lionel said as he took the cup of tea his wife handed him.  “She just had a few things to take care of… so she decided to come in her own carriage, and shouldn’t be too far behind.”


“Not far at all,” came a voice from the doorway.


All heads turned to see a smiling Dowager slowly making her way into the room. 


“Grandmother…” Cynthia jumped up from her chair and hurried over to the elderly woman to give her a quick hug then led her to the chair she’d just vacated.  “I am very pleased that you made it.”


“So am I, child… so am I,” Lavinia said as she settled into the chair.


“Would you like a cup of tea, Countess?”  Janet asked.


“That would be wonderful, Mrs. Noyce.  Thank you,” Lavinia replied.


“Call me Janet… please.”


“Only if you call me Lavinia.”


Janet smiled and nodded as she handed the older lady a cup.


“So… what has everyone been up to?”  Stonevale asked as he reached for one of the cookies on the table before them.


“Well,” Cynthia spoke up.  “Aunt Janet, Mrs. Young and I have been discussing wedding plans while mom and Nathan have been out at the lodge,” she said then glanced at Will who was seated beside her.  “Will and his father arrived yesterday…”


“And Kristin and I returned from the lodge just a little while ago,” Nathan finished then leaned forward to press a kiss against Kristin’s hair.


“How are you feeling, daughter?”  Stonevale asked Kristin as she shifted in Nathan’s arms.


“Hungry!”  Kristin answered and glanced toward the doorway.  “I… I would really like some raspberry tarts.  Lucas…” she turned towards her son.  “Would you go and ask cook sweetly…”


“Wait a moment,” Millicent spoke up and handed Kristin the small basket sitting in her lap.  “Stephens stopped by the house before we left this morning, and asked me to give this to you.”


Kristin took the package and quickly opened it.  A delighted laugh escaped her lips as she lifted a small pastry out from the box.  “Hand me the lemon curd,” she pointed to the small bowl on the coffee table.


“What is it?”  Janet asked as Lucas grabbed the bowl and handed it to his mother.


“Thank you, Lucas.”  Kristin said as she dipped the tart in the bowl then took a bite.  She moaned softly as she chewed.


Nathan looked over his wife’s shoulder and chuckled as he shook his head in disbelief.  “It appears to be raspberry tarts.  Seriously… how does Stephens do it?”


Kristin just shrugged as she smeared some more lemon on the remaining piece of tart in her hand.  All the men shuddered as she slipped the lemon covered tart into her mouth, while the women just looked on with amusement.


“Have you thought of any names for the baby yet?”  Millicent asked as Kristin reached for a second tart.


“We’ve discussed a few,” Nathan answered as he watched Kristin slather her second tart with a large amount of lemon curd.  “But we’ve yet to settle on two we both like.”


“Nathan Hale Bridger Junior,” Kristin said as she tilted her head back to look at her husband.  “I thought I’d convinced you of that one.”


Nathan grinned and flexed his fingers against her belly.  “Ah yes… you did…”


“Bet it didn’t take much convincing,” Bill whispered in his wife’s ear.


Janet laughed softly and nodded her head in agreement before she asked,  “What about if it is a girl?”


“I like the name Morgan,” Nathan said.


“And I like the name Isabella,” Kristin spoke around a mouthful of tart.


“Isabella Morgan Bridger,” Lavinia said.  “That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”


Kristin nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes… it does,” she said and looked back at Nathan.  “What do you think?”


“I like it,” Nathan said.  “Or even Morgan Isabella…”


Kristin smiled at him.  “Now who gets to try and convince who?”  She whispered with a wink.


“So… Cynthia, William,” Millicent turned to her granddaughter and her fiancée.  “Tell us… what kind of wedding would you two like to have?”


“A small one,” they chorused together then turned to share large smiles.


“How small is small?”  Lionel asked.


“Just close friends and family,” Cynthia answered then reached out to grab Lavinia’s hand.  She gave it a gentle squeeze as she continued.  “After everything that went on before… I think I would just prefer a nice, simple wedding.”


Lavinia met Cynthia’s eyes, relieved to see no recrimination in the young woman’s face, only understanding. She returned the gentle pressure of her granddaughter’s hand.  “I think a small wedding would be lovely.  Are you thinking of having it in the village church or no,” she shook her head,  “the small chapel on the estate.”


“The chapel,” Cynthia smiled.


“And when would you like this wedding to take place?”  Lionel asked.


“As soon as possible,” Cynthia and Will answered together again, causing their parents to chuckle.


“We’re planning on going into the village tomorrow to talk with the vicar about having the banns read, starting this Sunday,” William said.


“Which means that the wedding will be four weeks from now,” Janet said then looked at all the women in the room.  “I think we should be able to put together a wedding in the time allotted, what do you think, ladies?”


Kristin nodded.  “Yes… I don’t see why we can’t.”


“I’ve already begun altering your wedding dress, Miss Kristin, so that it’ll fit the young lass here,” Bess said.  “And if your Agatha has no objections, I’ll gladly help her out in the kitchen.  Between the two of us we should be able to whip up a wedding feast like no other.”


“You most certainly will not!”  Cynthia said.  “You are a guest here, Mrs. Young.  I will not have you slaving away over a hot stove.”


“It’s no trouble, child,” Bess told her but Cynthia shook her head.


“Cynthia is right, Bess.”  Kristin said.  “You’re here as our guest… not to work.”


Bess smiled then nodded in capitulation.  “Very well… I will just be available to provide advice.”


“Are you certain you want to have the wedding so soon, Cynni?”  Lionel asked.  “You and young Noyce only just met…”


“Father…” Kristin began, a note of warning in her voice.


“I’m not speaking out against the wedding, Kriss…tin,” Lionel said.  “Everything is just happening a little fast.  The kids only met a little over a month ago… and would it not be more prudent for them to take a little more time to get to know one another a little better first?”


“It is not any different than an arranged marriage,” Nathan pointed out.  “Except that Cynthia and Will are already in love.”


Will and Cynthia smiled at each other then turned to Lionel.  “I appreciate your concern, Lord Stonevale,” Will said.  “And if it were my daughter or even my granddaughter getting married like this, I too would be speaking up as you are.”  Will grasped Cynthia’s hand.  “I love your granddaughter, and I will devote the rest of my life to making her happy.”


Lionel nodded then fixed Will with a glare, even as a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.  “You’d better, young man.  Cynthia is very dear to all of us…”


“I know that, sir.”  Will said.


“As I was saying…” Cynthia continued as she returned her grandfather’s glare.  “Yes, I’m certain I would like to have the wedding within the month,” she turned to look over at her mother.  “With mummy getting bigger at every turn… I would like her to be comfortable…”


“And not go into labour in the middle of the ceremony,” Janet quipped and everyone laughed.


“Junior does seem to be in a rush, doesn’t he?”  Nathan said as he gently patted Kristin’s stomach.


Kristin smiled and snuggled back against Nathan.  “No worries, Cynni,” she told her daughter as she laid her hand over Nathan’s.  “We will be fine.”


“I know, Mummy,” Cynthia smiled over at her mother.


“What I want to know is why do you eat dinner so late in this country!?”  Lucas said as he snuck another cookie.  “I’m hungry!”


“So am I!”  Kristin remarked as she sat up and smiled at her son.  “What do you say we go raid the kitchen?”


“Sounds good to me, Mama.”


“Give me a hand,” Kristin whispered back to Nathan as she moved to stand up.


“Well,” Millicent began once Kristin was on her feet.  “I don’t know about everyone else, but I could stand to get a bit of fresh air, and to stretch my legs some.  That carriage ride was long.”


“Sounds like a wonderful idea,” Lavinia said.


“Yes… why don’t we all move out onto the veranda?”  Janet remarked and stood.


“Lucas and I will meet you out there,” Kristin said as she grabbed her son’s hand and led him quickly out of the room.


“The princess is hungry again,” Nathan laughed as the others chuckled and slowly began to make their way out onto the veranda.


“Nathan?”  Cynthia called out to her stepfather, her hand holding tightly to William’s.  “Could I have a word with you?”


“Of course,” Nathan hung back.  When everyone was out of the room, he turned to Cynthia.


“First… I would like to thank you for the letter you sent when you sent mother her letters,” Cynthia told him.  “I was touched that you thought of me.”


“You’re welcome,” Nathan replied.  “And second?”


“I… I was wondering…”


Lucas burst back into the room, his hands full of biscuits.


“Where’s your mother?”


“She uh… had to make a stop…” Lucas told him and shoved a handful of the biscuits at his father.  “These are for her.”


“Go on,” Nathan gestured with his head to the veranda.  “I need to talk with your sister.”


“Yes, sir…” Lucas grinned and quickly ducked out the door.


“I’m sorry,” Nathan said as he looked back at Cynthia.  “That boy has the worst sense of timing… you were saying?”


“I was wondering…”


“Where did that boy disappear to with my biscuits!?”  Kristin rushed into the room then stopped.  “Oops… did I interrupt something?”  She asked then her eyes grew wide when she saw the biscuits in Nathan’s hands and she quickly moved to his side.  “I’ll take those.”


Cynthia smiled as Nathan handed her mother the biscuits and chuckled as Kristin bit into one with relish.


“So… what did I interrupt?”  Kristin asked around her mouthful of cookie.


“I was just about to ask my new stepfather if he would do me the honour of walking me down the aisle,” Cynthia answered then turned a questioning look on Nathan.  “Would you?”


“Are you positive that you wouldn’t want your grandfather to give you away?”  Nathan asked.


“I’m certain,” Cynthia said with a smile.  “If you and mother hadn’t married I would be very glad for grandfather to escort me down the aisle but… you are my father now.  I would very much like for you to be at my side.


Nathan glanced at Kristin to see her smiling at him as well.  “You knew about this?”


“Yes,” she nodded.


Nathan looked back to Cynthia.  “You really are certain?”  Cynthia nodded and he smiled.  “Then I would be honoured to walk you down the aisle.”


“Thank you… Nathan,” Cynthia smiled and quickly moved over to him then embraced him, William right behind her.


“Thank you, Uncle Nathan.”  Will said as he shook the older man’s hand.  “This means a lot to both of us.”


“I am happy to do it,” Nathan said and glanced down at Kristin to see her beaming up at him.  He slipped his arm about her shoulders.  “Now, why don’t you two go join the others?”


Cynthia and Will nodded as they wrapped their arms around each other then slipped out the French doors onto the veranda.


“Alone at last,” Nathan said as he turned to face Kristin.


“I know what you’re thinking, and I’m thinking it too…” Kristin began.  “But we can’t and you know that, and you know why.”


Nathan sighed.  “We could always tell them you need to lie down.”


“Yes, we could.  But that wouldn’t explain why you would be coming upstairs with me.”


“We could say that I’m keeping you company,” Nathan said with a grin as he leaned down to nibble on her earlobe.  “I want you…”


“I want you too…” Kristin moaned as his lips dropped down to nuzzle her neck and his hands moved to bracket her breasts.  “But we…”


“Need to get your behinds out on this veranda with the rest of us!”


Nathan groaned and dropped his head to Kristin’s shoulder.  “Why did I bring that woman with me?”


Kristin chuckled.  “I doubt you even had a choice.”


Nathan laughed then lifted his head and turned to look at Bess.  “We’re on our way, Bess.”


Bess merely stood in the doorway with her arms crossed over her large bosom, her foot tapping impatiently on the ground.


“All right… all right!”


“Come on, my rogue… let’s go join our family,” Kristin slipped her arm around Nathan’s waist then smiled up at him.  “I’ll make it up to you tonight.”


Nathan grinned as he led her out onto the veranda.


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


  sail ahead...