Title:  A Chance in Time

By: tayryn

Rating: FRAO

Disclaimer: not mine.

Notes:  Challenge response for Challenge #3 - the river scene re-imagined.


Thank you to my betas!  Tis appreciated, my friends.


**special thanks to MissBevCrusher for allowing me to use her idea on Charles’ answer.  (y’all will know when you read it!)**




“Do me a favour… the next time your train stops in Somerville… do me the decency to stay on it!  Laura told him, the pain and anguish of his confession nearly choking her.  She clutched her belongings - hat, apron, shoes and stockings - to her chest then turned and stumbled a few steps before she began to run.


Charles watched her for only a moment before he jumped to his feet and ran after her.  He couldn’t leave things this way… he had to tell her all of it… tell her the truth… even if she didn’t believe him.  He had to tell her.


“Laura!”  He called out to her.  “Laura stop!”


She continued to run, paying him no heed.


Charles put on an extra burst of speed and finally caught up to her.  He grabbed her arm and forced her to stop.


“Let me go!”


“No!  I need to explain.”


“You have said all I care to hear, Mr. Lattimer,” Laura snapped as she tried to pull her arm free of his grasp.  “Now take your hand off of me, or I’ll scream.”




Charles could see that Laura was about to make good on her threat, and did the first thing that came to mind.


He kissed her.


Laura struggled in his arms; a battle raging between her heart and mind.  It felt right being in his arms, and she found herself wanting to be there, but he was married and she knew it was wrong.  After several moments, unable to fight any longer, her heart won and she melted into his embrace.  Her lips parted beneath his and she returned his kiss with equal passion.  The clothes she clutched to her chest fell to their feet as Laura wrapped her arms around Charles’ neck.


They broke apart only when the need to breathe became paramount.  Foreheads resting together, hearts pounding in their chests, they each sought to catch their breath.


“Charles?”  Laura whispered against his lips.


Longing… desire… and confusion were all evident in her voice.


Charles took a deep breath then lifted his head to meet her eyes.  He had to tell her the truth.  It would be difficult for her to hear… and he knew that she would have a hard time believing it, and he told her as much.


“Just tell me.”


“I’m from the future, Laura,” he said, then launched into an explanation of buying the watch and the train and the conductor… and finally her.


“Charles…” Laura began with a skeptical look on her face.


“I know… I know… it sounds outrageous… but I swear to you, Laura, it’s the truth,” he told her emphatically.  “Here… look…” he said suddenly and reached into his pocket.  He pulled out his wallet.  Flipping it open, Charles began to pull out the various cards.  “Credit cards, work ID, my driver’s license,” he held the last one out to her.  “Look at the picture, Laura.  Not only is it in colour, but look at my date of birth.”


With a shaking hand, Laura took the plastic card from his fingers.  She looked down at it and her eyes grew wide.  “Oh my God… Charles…” she lifted her gaze to his.  “You… you really are from the future.”


“Yes, I am,” he nodded; relieved to see, in her pale green eyes, that she believed him.  He watched her run her fingers over the photo on his license.


“I wish I could keep this…”  Laura whispered.  “I’d like to keep a memory of you.”


Charles smiled and reached out to retrieve his license from her, and slipped it back into his wallet.  “You won’t need it.”


She lifted her eyes to meet his.  “I don’t understand.”


“You won’t need to keep the picture, because I’m going to be here with you, Laura.”


“What?  You can’t.  You have to go back to your own time, Charles.  Back to your…” she stopped to swallow back the sob she could feel building, “…back to your wife.”


He put his wallet in his pocket then grasped her hands.  “What I told you earlier about life there not fitting… it’s the truth.  It feels right here… here fits.  You… Mary… this time…” he said.  “I am no longer searching.  I have found what I want… what I need.  You, Laura.  I need and want you.  In every way a man wants a woman, I want you.  I want to make love with you.  I want to make a life with you if you’ll have me… but before that can happen, I have to go back.  I owe Kristen that much.”


“Charles, you can’t end your marriage just…”


“…for you?”  He finished for her.


Laura nodded.


“Yes, I can,” he said.  “YOU are who I am meant to be with, Laura.  Why else would that conductor have sold me that watch?  Why did the train stop here?  We were meant to be together, you and I.  Mine and Kris’ marriage has been over for a long time now.  We’re just going through the motions… too afraid to admit it to ourselves,” Charles paused and brought a hand up to cup her cheek.  “I am in love with you, Laura.  I know we’ve only known each other a few days… but I have fallen in love with you.”


Laura turned her face, nuzzling into his hand.  “I’ve fallen in love with you too, Charles,” she admitted in a quiet voice.  “I can’t explain it.  I can’t explain why this…” she gestured between the two of them, “…being in your arms, being with you, feels more right to me than anything I have ever known, but it does.  You feel right.”


“It is right,” a large smile filled Charles’ face at her words.  “WE are right.”


“We are,” Laura agreed quietly.  She reached up to cover his hand, held it against her cheek.  “What are we going to do?”


Charles pulled his watch out of his front pocket and checked the time.  He still had a few hours before he had to be on the train.  “Let’s go sit down,” he said and, after picking up her things, he took her hand and led her back to the water’s edge.


They sat on the grass.  Close.  Their hands laced together.


Neither one spoke for several minutes.


“I’m going to return to my time,” Charles began in a quiet voice.  “I will work things out with Kris… get as quick of a divorce as we can, then I will come back here.  And if you’ll have me…” his paused and lifted her left hand, pressing his lips to her ring finger, “…we can get married.”


“You make it sound so simple… so easy,” Laura murmured.  “Will, Kr… your wife… give you up so easily?”


“I told you, Laura, my marriage has not been right for a long time.  Kristen and I are going in different directions.  I need to slow down, and she just seems to be moving faster and faster.  I won’t lie to you.  I still care about her.  I even love her still… but I’m no longer in love with her.  And over the last few days, I have realized that I haven’t been for some time.”  Charles squeezed her hands gently.  “I want a life with you, Laura.  I want to spend the rest of my days loving you… living with you… sharing with you.  I want to watch Mary grow up into the strong woman I know she’s going to be, and if it’s still possible, and what you want, I would love to have more children with you.”


“I…” Laura began then looked down at their clasped hands.


Her mind and her heart were racing.  She had been telling him the truth when she’d told him she had fallen in love with him.  It’d happened quickly, and the realization of it had surprised her… but it did not make it any less true or real.  After Will had passed away, she’d convinced herself that she would never love again… had resigned herself to the fact that she would most likely never remarry, and yet now, fate had stepped in and given her a man to love.  A man she could happily marry and spend the rest of her life with.


Laura’s head rose and she regarded Charles as he sat before her.  His story about being from the future certainly explained a lot of what she’d perceived to be strange little quirks, and despite the absurdity of it, she believed him.  She believed he was from another time.  She could see the truth in his eyes, and could feel the truth with her heart.


And it was her heart she was listening to as she met his eyes.  It was her heart that had her smiling brightly at him and nodding her head.  It was her heart that answered him in a breathless voice, “I would like that very much.”


“Which part?”


“All of it,” she told him, a soft smile on her lips.  “I want a life with you too, Charles.  And,” a soft blush came to her cheeks, “I would love to have children with you.”


A brilliant smile filled Charles’ face.  “Are you certain?”


“Yes,” Laura nodded.  “I am.”


He reached up and cupped her cheek in the palm of his hand, rubbing his thumb over her lips.  He felt as if his heart was going to burst, and told her so.


“I feel the same way,” she admitted, almost shyly.


A comfortable silence fell between them as they gazed into each other’s eyes.  Little by little, without conscious thought, they drifted closer until Charles was brushing his lips softly against hers.  Laura gave a soft hum and returned the feathered caress.  She whispered his name as she opened her mouth to him, allowing him to deepen the kiss.


That was all it took.


Within seconds, she was cradled in Charles’ arms, sitting across his lap as he kissed her hungrily.  She wound her arms around his neck, threading her fingers into his hair as she returned his kiss.  His hand glided along her side to her hip and then he shifted, rolling them so that she was lying beneath him. 


Heat spread quickly through her body at the feel of him pressed against her, and she moaned her delight.  Her hands clutched at him, trying to pull him closer.  “Charles…” she gasped when his mouth left hers to pepper little kisses along her jaw and down the smooth column of her throat.


Charles pressed a kiss to her upper chest then raised his head to gaze down at her.  He was pleased to see that her face was flushed, and her green eyes were dark with desire and need.  He wanted nothing more, in that moment, than to make love to her.  To claim her as his… mind, body and soul… but he knew, deep in his heart, that this was not the right moment.


“We can’t do this.  Not yet,” he told her then lowered his head and brushed a soft kiss to Laura’s lips then rolled off of her.  He gathered her into his arms as they sought to catch their breath. 


Laura smiled as she listened to the rapid beating of his heart, knowing hers beat just as fast.  Once she’d calmed, she lifted her head to look down at him.  “I would not have stopped you.”


“I know,” he reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear.  “I want us to wait.  I want to be completely free before we make love.”


“I want that too,” she replied then settled back into his arms.  “How long will it take?”


“I’m not really sure,” Charles admitted.  “However, I do recall that when my sister-in-law divorced, it took at least a month.”


“A month?”




“A month,” she repeated quietly.


Hearing something in her voice, Charles rolled them so that he could look down at her.  The look in her eyes almost broke his heart.  “I will come back, Laura.  A month is not that long, and I will not change my mind.  I WILL be back.”


Laura took a deep shuddering breath, somehow not surprised that he’d been able to discern the sudden fear that had gripped her heart.  She nodded slowly.


He grasped her face in his hands.  “Laura… I WILL be coming back. I love you… I want to marry you.  I WILL be coming back.”


She nodded again, this time with more confidence.  “You will,” Laura reached to grasp his face in mirror of how he held hers and pulled him down to her.  “You WILL.”


“I will,” he repeated against her mouth and kissed her hard with promise.






Laura tugged on Turnip’s reins and brought the wagon to a stop.  She put the brake on then slowly turned to face Charles.  She’d insisted on driving him into town, wanting to prolong their time together before their month long separation.  They’d returned his rented horse to the stable, and then she’d taken him to the train station.


They sat there, his departure imminent.  Laura found herself growing anxious; not wanting him to leave at all.  It would be a long month, and her biggest fear was that once he’d returned to his time, he would decide that he was happier there, and not return to her.  The thought alone made her stomach drop.


“Stop it.  I will be back.”


She smiled in spite of herself.  Once again, it was as if he could read her mind.  “I know.  It’s just…” she gave him an anxious smile.  “I… what if you change your mind?”


Charles reached up, and like he had the day before, he cupped her chin and brushed his thumb against her cheek.  “I won’t.  I will return.  I promise.  The time will fly by, Laura, and I will be back before you know it.”


Laura nodded.


At that moment, the train whistle blew.


“I have to go,” he said and reached for her hand.  He brushed a kiss to her palm.  “I love you, Laura,” Charles whispered against her skin.


He quickly climbed out of the wagon, and with a final smile and a repeat of his promise to return, Charles hurried to the train.


Laura remained, watching the train roll away, until it was out of sight.  “I love you too, Charles,” she said softly into the breeze then closed her eyes and offered a quiet prayer.  “Please, Lord…”




Charles opened the door and walked into his house to find Al on the phone in his dining room, and Kristen pacing on the landing upstairs.


“Where in God’s name have you been?”  Kristen asked from above, her hands on the railing.


Charles tossed his keys into the bowl on the stand in the foyer.


“That was the police,” Al told him, walking over to him.


He’d known that he’d have a lot of explaining to do.  He’d thought about nothing else since leaving Somerville… since leaving Laura.


“Sorry.  I… I got stuck,” he said in a quiet voice, still not quite sure how to explain what had happened, and how to do it without hurting Kristen.  They were growing apart, had truthfully already done so, but he still cared about her.


“You got stuck?  You’ve been gone two days and that’s the best you can come up with?”  Kristen said incredulously then made her way down the stairs to him.


“I’m getting a drink,” Al said then asked.  “Anybody?”  He gave Charles a look that said he, too, wanted an explanation then left the room.


Kristen stood at the bottom of the stairs.  “You couldn’t pick up a phone?  Where were you?  We thought you were lying in a ditch somewhere.”


“I was in the country…” Charles answered as he leaned up against the wall.  It was going to be harder than he thought.


“You had your cell phone, why wouldn’t you use it?”


“I couldn’t dial out.”


Kristen walked over to him, her arms crossed.  “Are you having an affair, Charlie?”


“No,” he replied.  He wasn’t.  Not really.


“I’ve got to go make some calls, tell people you’re all right,” Kristen said as she turned and walked away.  She stopped in the doorway to the kitchen and glanced back over her shoulder.  “Please don’t ever leave like that again.”


Charles watched her disappear then slowly made his way to his office.  He sat down at his work table then opened the book on St. Louis he’d borrowed, from the library, to the page with Laura’s picture.  He ran his finger over her image.  ‘I miss you,’ he thought.


“Okay, Charlie… wanna tell me what’s going on with you?”  Al said as he walked into the room; tossing his jacket into the nearby chair.


With a last look at the picture, Charles closed the book then turned to face his friend.  He took a deep breath then began to speak.


“Tell me you don’t really believe it,” Al said when Charles was finished.


“Al, I know it’s hard to accept.  I… I had trouble, too, at first, but every time I went back…”


“Wait, wait, wait a minute.  You went more than once?”


“Three times,” Charles sighed.  “Last time, the train hit some kind of bump or something and I couldn’t get back.”


Al sat down in a chair next to the book shelves and tapped his steepled fingers against his lips.


“This is her newspaper!”  Charles held it up.  “She’s the editor of the Somerville Gazette,” he pointed to the date on the browned paper, “March seven, eighteen ninety-six.”


Al held up his hand as he got up out of the chair.  “Yeah,” he moved over to a stack of browned papers on one of the shelves.  He pulled one out, “Kansas City, October twelfth, nineteen oh nine.”  He tossed it aside and grabbed another one.  “Dallas, June sixth, nineteen thirty-two.”


Charles got to his feet, still holding up the Gazette.  “This one was new yesterday.  It didn’t age until after I got back.”




He slapped the paper against his leg then reached over to grab his watch off his desk and held it out in the palm of his hand.  “Do you remember this?  Remember when I bought this?”




“I went by the store the next day.  Everything was gone.  It was empty, cleaned out, for lease.”


“You’re scaring me now, buddy.”


“Al… this is my ticket… back in time,” he held the watch up again.


Al gave him a look of disbelief.  “Okay.”


“I’m sorry… but it’s true,” Charles said and curled his hand around the pocket watch and dropped his arm to his side.


“Have you told Kristen any of this?” Al asked.


“No, I haven’t.  I would appreciate it if you didn’t either,” Charles said as he rubbed the back of his neck.  While he had told Al about traveling back in time to Somerville, Charles hadn’t told him that he’d fallen in love with Laura, and was planning on returning.  Kristen deserved to be told first.


“Well, this is nuts!  Do you get that?”


“Have I ever lied to you, Al?  I am telling you as I am standing right here in front of you now.  You are as real to me as Laura Brown.”


“What are you doing, Charlie?  You gotta stop this!”  Al said.  “What are you so unhappy about?”


Charles moved back to his desk and sat down as Al continued his tirade.  He looked at the watch in his hand for a moment longer then reached back to put it on the table.


“You are living in the most exciting time in history.  Science, medicine…” Al said as Charles looked down at the paper still clutched in his hands, “we’re cloning sheep.  Preemie babies… this big,” Al held his hands only inches apart; “we can keep them alive.  The internet is completely transforming the world.  Charlie, you can fly from London to New York and get there before you even left.  And you’re trying to run away.”


Charlie looked up from the Gazette, “At what cost to our humanity?  People used to talk to each other… eye to eye… face to face.”


“Now you listen to me… I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I do know that this is your time.  For better or for worse.  And you have a wife, and friends and family who love you and depend on you.  Here.  Now.  In the twenty-first century.  And, and… if you just took a second to look around, then maybe you would see how incredible it all is.”


Charles looked away as he leaned forward, resting an elbow against his knee; his fingers rubbing over his lips as Al continued to talk.


“Charlie… everything has a price.  What choice do you have?”


Al straightened up and ran his hand through his hair as he walked over to grab his jacket.  “We have an eight-thirty with Marshall, are you going to be ready?”


Charles nodded.


“All right,” Al said then paused.  “Are you going to be okay?”


He nodded again, not looking up.


“Because, Charlie, you’re the only best friend I got,” he told Charles.  When he didn’t get a response, he left the room.


Charles closed his eyes for a moment then blindly reached back for the library book.  Dragging it along the table, he forgot about the watch until he felt the edge of the book hit it.  His eyes popped open just in time to see the timepiece fly off the desk and smash against the fireplace before landing on the floor.


In pieces.


The cover snapped off.  The crystal shattered.


“Son of a…” he dropped to his knees beside the watch.  “No!  No no no no…” he said as he began to pick up the pieces.  “No, please.  You can’t be broken.  You can’t,” Charles held the watch to his ear.  “Dammit!”


Once he’d gathered all the pieces, and cleaned up the shattered crystal, he stood and brought it to his desk.  He sat down and stared at the mess that used to be his watch… his ticket back in time… back to Laura.  Charles reached for the book and opened it, not surprised when it opened right to Laura’s picture.


Charles took a deep shuddering breath and suddenly felt as if there was a brick in the pit of his stomach.



“A month,” she repeated quietly.


“I will come back, Laura!  A month is not that long, and I will not change my mind.  I WILL be back.”



Charles’ eyes widened.


A month!


The brick in his stomach dissolved.


He had time to get the watch fixed.


Charles nodded to himself as he began to gather all the pieces together and put them into an envelope.  He’d bring it in to a repair shop on Saturday, and pray they’d be able to fix it in less than a month.


He looked over at the picture and reached out to trace her image, whispering softly, “I WILL be back, Laura…”




Charles lay in bed, Kristen asleep beside him, and stared up through the darkness at the ceiling.  His mind was working overtime, and he couldn’t sleep.  There was so much he had to do… talk with Kristen, the presentation for the office… and most important… get the watch repaired so that he could return to Laura.




Just the thought of her brought a smile to his face.


He missed her.


Missed her and couldn’t wait to get back to her.


He sighed, and prayed that the watch was repairable.  He didn’t know what he would do if he couldn’t get back to her.


Not wanting to dwell on that possibility, Charles shook his head, and focused his thoughts on the presentation that was due in the morning.  He had done absolutely nothing on it. 


With another sigh, this one of resignation, he pushed the covers aside then slipped out of bed.  He made his way quietly to the bathroom, where he quickly got dressed.


“Where are you going?”


He stopped at the sound of Kristen’s sleepy question as he left the bathroom.


“The office,” he answered quietly.


“It’s four thirty.”


“Yeah, well, I got a presentation at eight and I’m not ready.  Go back to sleep,” Charles told her.  As she nodded and closed her eyes, he turned out the hallway light then left the bedroom.


An hour later, Charles walked into his dark office and made his way to his draft table by rote.  He flipped on the desk light and put down the cup of coffee he’d stopped to buy.  As he rolled up his sleeves, he turned to look at his first sketch of Laura.


He stepped over to it and just stared at the image.  The sight of it… of her… made his heart skip a beat, and calmed him in a way he wasn’t aware he needed at that moment.   A slow smile filled his face and he reached out to brush the backs of his fingers against her cheek.  After several moments, he moved back to his desk and settled down to work on the presentation.




Charles looked up from his gardening to see Kristen walking across the lawn towards him, a pensive look on her face.  “Oh, let me guess… you talked to Al, and I did this without discussing it with you first.  Kris, it was an impulse.  That’s not to say it was the wrong impulse, it was actually a good thing.  I was planning on quitting anyway, and was going to discuss it with you; I just didn’t know that I was going to do it today until that very moment.”


“Charlie, I’ve… I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, too,” Kristen crouched down beside him.  “And uhm, we have to be honest, and face what’s happening, and stop pretending that it’s not.  I don’t think this is working for either of us.”


“Yeah,” Charles said softly.  He dropped his gaze and absently dug at the dirt with the small rake.


“It’s not like we haven’t tried… you’re really the one who’s been trying to say it for a while,” Kristen told him.  “We had a good run, huh, Charlie?”


He grinned and nodded.  “Those are the exact words I used with Marshall, Kris.”


“Well, I guess when you’ve been with someone for fifteen years, that happens.”


“It does,” he put the garden tool down, placed his hands on his thighs and looked up at her.  “We need to talk, Kris.  There are some things I need to tell you.”


“All right,” Kristen nodded warily.


Charles pushed himself up and together they walked back into the house.  He stopped in the kitchen, “Let me clean up, and I’ll meet you in the living room.”




Fifteen minutes later, washed up and in clean clothes; Charles walked into the living room to find Kristen sitting on the couch, her legs tucked up under her, with a glass of wine in hand.  She was staring at her laptop on the coffee table, but wasn’t really seeing it.


Charles approached Kris from behind and opened the book he’d brought with him and handed it to her.  “The woman in the picture is named Laura Brown,” he leaned in from behind and pointed to a spot in the photo.  “See the cartoon in the newspaper she’s holding up?”




“I drew that.”


Kris looked up at him, disbelief in her eyes.


“I did,” he confirmed.  “I gave that to her in that town, in Somerville, in eighteen ninety-six.  She put it in her newspaper and people liked it.  That’s how it ended up in that book.  That’s where I was those two days, Kris.  That’s why I couldn’t call you.”


“Charlie… how?”


He walked around the sofa, sat down beside her and began to tell her the whole story.  He told her about the sketch he drew of Laura two weeks earlier and then about buying the pocket watch.


“Remember the other night when I told you about looking out the train window and seeing an old town?”




“That was Somerville,” Charles told her.  “After that doctor’s appointment, on my way home, it happened again… for the third time, and at the urging of the conductor, I got off the train to look around the town.”


“That’s when you met her?”  Kristin tapped Laura’s photo.


“Yeah,” Charles nodded.  “Her, her daughter…”


“She’s married?”


“Widowed,” he replied then continued with his story.  He told her about having lunch with her family, then spending the afternoon with Laura and Mary by the river.  “That’s when I drew the cartoon for her.”


“That was the night we had that… discussion about us starting to drift apart.”




“And then you went back two days later?”


“Mmhmm.  I hadn’t planned on being gone for two days, but the train hiccoughed or something, and I couldn’t get back…”


Kristen watched a soft smile touch his lips.  She glanced at the book in her lap then over at her husband.  Awareness dawned.  “You fell in love with her.” 


It was a statement, not a question, but Charles answered anyway. 


“Yes I did.”  He met her eyes.  “I didn’t plan for it to happen, Kris.  I swear to you.”


“I believe you, Charlie.”


He gave her a small smile.  “I do still care about you, Kris.  I will always care about you.  I want you to know that.  Just because we’ve…”


“…grown apart, and fallen out of love,” Kristen finished for him with an understanding smile.  “I know.  I care too.”  She reached out to pat his arm.  “You’re going back to her, aren’t you?”


“Yes, I am,” Charles confirmed.  “That time fits me, Kris.  It feels right there.”


“I can see that it would,” she said with a smile.  “You could have just stayed there.”


“I could have, but it wouldn’t have been fair to you.  You deserve better than for me to just disappear on you.”


“Thank you for that.”


“You’re welcome.”


“So…” Kris began.


“So…” he began to answer her unasked question.  “We file for divorce.  Since I don’t want anything, there are no real big details to work out, which means it shouldn’t take any longer than a month,” he paused.  “That will also give me time to get the watch fixed.”


“Fixed?  What happened to it?”


“I accidentally knocked it off the desk last night.  It hit the side of the fireplace and broke.”


“Is it badly broken?”


“I hope not.  The crystal is gone, the cover’s off… and some of the gears are bent…”


“That sounds bad, Charlie.”


“I think it sounds worse than it is,” he replied.


“I hope so for your sake,” Kristen said then looked down at the book still in her lap.  Her eyes moved over the picture before they were drawn to the caption below it.  She traced the words with her finger.  “It’s sad… but I admire you for going back, Charlie, even knowing how she dies.”


“What’s sad?”  Charles asked, not quite sure he heard her correctly.


“Going back in spite of knowing how she dies,” Kris repeated.


He shook his head.  “It doesn’t say how she died.”


“Yes it does.”


No… no it doesn’t.”


It’s right here,” she told him and pointed to the words as she read them.  “Laura Brown, editor of the Somerville gazette killed in a gas line explosion at a presidential rally for William McKinley.”


Charles yanked the book out of Kristen’s hands and stared.  “What?!  What?!  It never said that.”


“It’s right there.”


“No.  No, I’ve read this a hundred times.  It ended with, ‘the first newspaper in Missouri to publish a cartoon March sixth, eighteen ninety-six’, what?!  This wasn’t here before.  Oh my God… Laura…”


Kristen’s heart ached at the pain she could hear in Charles’ voice, and as she reached out to lay a comforting hand on his arm, he suddenly jumped to his feet.


“I gotta go,” he said.




“I’ve got to get the watched fixed… right now.”


“I thought you said that you had a month?”


Charles shook his head.  “That rally is tomorrow, Kris.  She… it’s tomorrow… that means she… she’s there because of me,” he told her, uncharacteristically stumbling over his words.  “It’s my fault.”


She could only watch as he hurried out of the living room, the book clutched in his hand, his eyes locked on the photo it held.


“I’ll be back…” he called out from the foyer.


“Be careful, Charlie.”




Charles carefully fit the gear into place, his eyes darting back and forth between the images of the inner workings of the conductor’s watch and the broken timepiece he held in his hand.


After taking the watch to every watch and clock repair shop in town, and finding no one able to repair it by the end of the day, he’d come home, determined to do it himself with the help of one of his books.


He tapped the gear, making sure it wouldn’t slip out then, after glancing at the book once again, he looked for the next piece.




Charles looked up to see Kris standing in the door with a steaming mug in her hand.


“I brought you a cup of coffee,” she stepped into the room and held out the cup.


“Thanks,” he said, taking the coffee from her hand and taking a sip.


“Any luck?”


“Some, but it’s slow going.”


Kristen nodded in understanding.  “I hope you get it, Charlie.  I really do.”


“I know, Kris.  Thanks.”


“I’m going to bed now,” she patted his shoulder then wandered away, “It’s been a… long day.”


“Okay,” he nodded then called out to her when she reached the doorway.  “Hey, Kris… this is really okay?”


“Yeah, it is.”  Kris said then gave him a small smile.  “Good night, Charlie.”


“Night, Kris,” Charles replied absently, his attention already back on the pocket watch.




The crash of thunder startled Charles awake.


He blinked several times and realized that he’d fallen asleep on his book, tweezers still grasped between his fingers.  Images from his dream continued to swirl about in his mind.  Images of Laura and Mary, as well as the conductor and the train…


Charles sat up and shook his head.  His attention was drawn back to the timepiece.  The dream reminded him of what he needed to do, and gave him focus as he resumed working on trying to repair the watch.


Time was running out.




Charles rummaged through the pile of watch pieces on the desk until he found what he was looking for.  He laid it beside his pocket watch then carefully removed the tiny gear he needed.


He’d just placed it where it needed to go when the door bell sounded, startling him.  He ignored it and reached for a second gear, knowing that Kris would get the door.  Besides, he knew who it was.


Sure enough, Al’s voice filtered into the den moments before he did, followed by Kristen


“Charlie… I checked around, and I made some calls.  I found the name of this place, it’s like a rest place but with counseling, and I want to take you there some time today.”


“No, can’t do it, thanks.”


“You need some help.”


“What I need is a watch maker and a miracle.”


“What are you doing?” Al asked.


“I gotta go back.  Trains run later on Saturday.  Eight forty-five, I have to beat McKinley,” Charles told him.




Charles yanked the library book out from under the watch manual and tossed it at Al.  “Page one thirty-seven.”


“Making me nuts,” Al told him, with a glance to Kristen, as he flipped through the book.  “Okay, I get it,” he said when he found the picture.  “So you think you’re gonna go back and try and change…”


“That’s right.”


“Well, you obviously never made it, ‘cause it happened.  It’s in the book.  It’s part of recorded history.”


“It didn’t use to be in the book, not until I told her to scoop him and meet him outside,” he looked up from the watch.  “Now it’s in the book.  Get it?  One day it wasn’t there, the next day it was.”


“Unh huh… so you can rewrite history?”


“I don’t make the rules, Al; I just try to figure’em out.”


“Charlie, I’m serious,” Al told him as he closed the book.  “I want to take you to get some help.”


“Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!  It’s working!  It’s working!”  Charles grabbed the watch then got to his feet.  He then reached for a magnifying glass and shoved it towards his friend.  “Check out the cartoon in the newspaper she’s holding.  You want to help me out, drive me to the station,” he said and ran from the room.


Al opened the book and flipped, once again, to the picture.  He peered down at the cartoon.  His eyes widened and he looked over his shoulder at a framed picture on the book shelves.  It was the same character Charlie had been drawing for years… with Charlie’s signature.  Al looked over to Kristen.  “Do you really believe this?”


Kristen shrugged and nodded at the same time.  “Why would he make this up, Al?”


“Al!  Are you going to drive me or what?”  Charles yelled out.


“Yeah!”  Al called back and grabbed Kristen’s hand.  “Come on,” he said and pulled her along with him.




The silver mustang pulled into the parking spot outside of the station.  Charles climbed out of the passenger side, Kristen scrambling out behind him, and hurried around the vehicle.


Al met him on the driver’s side and grabbed his arm.  “Whatever this is you’re doing, promise me that you’ll do it and come back.”


Charles hugged his friend.  “Thanks, Al, my friend.”


“Call me when you get back, I’ll pick you up.”


He turned to Kristen.  “We’re really okay with this?”


“Yeah, we are,” she nodded and gave him a big smile.  She reached for him and gave him a big hug.  “Be happy, Charlie.”


“You too, Kris,” he said and brushed a kiss against her cheek then moved out of her arms.


“Here,” Kristen handed an old beat up canvas backpack.


“What’s this?”


“Just a few things that might come in handy,” she told him.  “You just never know.”


Charles flashed her a smile.  “Thanks again.”


“You better go, the train is filling up.”


“Right,” he said then turned and jogged towards the train.  Once he found a seat, he glanced out the window to see Al pull Kristen into a comforting hug.  A small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth as he realized that his friend and Kris would be all right without him.


Charles breathed a sigh of relief when the train began to move, pulling away from the station. 


‘I’m coming, Laura…’ he thought and pulled the watch from his pocket.


His heart jumped into his throat.


It wasn’t working.


He tapped it.  “Come on… don’t do this to me!”  He slapped it against the palm of his hand.  “Come on!”


“Next stop, Wyatt Avenue.”


Charles looked back over his shoulder to see the familiar face of the conductor walking down the aisle.  He scrambled out of his seat and hurried over to him.  “Hey!  Hey, am I glad you’re here… the watch is broken.”


“Relax, son, we’ll be in Saint Louis in twenty minutes.”


“No… I need the eight forty-five to Somerville.”


“Let me see your ticket.”


Charles held up the watch.  “This is my ticket, this watch, you know that.”


“The schedule is out of my hands.”


“No wait!  You tried to help me… and I know that… and I can’t even begin to thank you for what you’ve given me…” Charles told him.  “But before I could accept that life… accept that gift; I had to square things in this life.  And now… if I don’t get back to Somerville… I’m going to lose her… lose that gift.”


“Sometimes the universe makes mistakes.  Sometimes they can’t be righted.  Sometimes they can.  Please take your seat, sir.”


Charles sighed and hung his head as he returned to his seat.  He gripped the watch tightly, enfolding it in his hand and closed his eyes as the train entered the tunnel.  ‘Please, God… please let me get back to her… please,’ he prayed silently over and over.


When he opened his eyes, and saw that he was no longer on the subway train, but on the old steam train, a wave of relief washed over him.  His head fell back against the seat and he released the breath he’d been holding, “Thank God…”


Somerville.  Last stop.”  The conductor’s voice rang out.


Charles jumped out of his seat and hurried down the aisle towards the exit, nearly knocking down one of the passengers in his haste.  He was stopped just before the door by the older man.


“This WILL be the last stop,” the conductor told him.


“I know.  Thank you,” Charles acknowledged and placed the pocket watch in the conductor’s hand.  He curled his fingers over it, and patted the man’s hand.  “Thank you.”


With that, Charles stepped past the conductor and exited the train.  He stopped just outside the car and looked out over the small town.  The small park in the centre of town was crowded; the townspeople having gathered for the rally.  When the train began to move, he quickly hopped off it and made his way towards the park.


As he reached the park and made his way through the crowd, he began to yell at the people to get out of the park; warning them about the imminent explosion even while calling out for Laura.


Spotting Mary sitting with some of her friends, he rushed over to her and picked her up.


“What’s going on?”  Mary asked, clearly frightened as his strange behaviour.


“Run kids, run.  Run!  Go!  Get out of here,” he told them then turned to Mary.  “Where’s your mother?”  He grasped the young girl under the arms and lifted her higher when she didn’t answer him fast enough.  “Where is your mother?”


“Over there,” Mary pointed to a spot over his shoulder.


Charles turned and spotted Laura standing in the gazebo talking to a man he figured was McKinley.  “Clear the park!”  He told the people around him and then took off, Mary still in his arms, towards the gazebo.  “Laura!”


“Laura!”  No longer caring about being polite, Charles pushed his way through the crowd of people.  “Laura!”


Laura turned at the sound of her name being shouted and was surprised to see Charles making his way through the townspeople towards the gazebo with Mary in his arms.


Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him.  He’d only been gone for two days, but she’d missed him terribly, and had secretly feared that he wouldn’t return.  She was delighted to be proven wrong.


At the look on his face though, Laura quickly realized that he wasn’t there simply to visit with her.  Something was wrong.  Something was terribly wrong and he was scared.


She turned back to the gentlemen she was speaking with, “Excuse me.”


At their nods, she hurried across the gazebo to meet Charles.


“Charles?  You’re back so soon… what’s wrong?”


“Laura…” he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close.  “We have to get out of here.”




“There’s going to be a gas main explosion,” Charles told her.




“The gas main is going to explode,” he repeated.  “We need to get out of here.”


His eyes bored into hers.


“Trust me.”


Laura nodded.  She didn’t know how he knew what was going to happen, but she didn’t question it because she trusted him.  Trusted what she could see in his eyes.  “All right,” she whispered.


Charles urged Laura ahead of him then turned back to the band that was still playing.  “Get out of here, there’s going to be an explosion!  Move!  Clear the park!”


As they hurried down the stairs, Charles was pleased to see that everyone was finally starting to listen to him, and were scurrying to leave the park.  He held tight to Mary and kept his hand on Laura’s back as they hurried down the steps and away from the gazebo.


The explosion, when it came moments later, was deafening, and the resulting blast knocked those still in the vicinity off of their feet.


Charles held Mary tight to his chest and turned as they fell so that he took the brunt of the fall.  He reached out for Laura as she fell beside him.  He slid his arm around her waist and pulled her closer, trying to shield both her and Mary from the debris of the gazebo as it rained down on them.


A short while later, Charles lifted his head and glanced around, noticing that many of the other people who’d been caught by the blast were stirring as well.  He looked down at the woman beside him.


“Are you all right?” Charles murmured against her ear as he pulled her closer.


“Yes.  I’m… yes,” Laura nodded then raised her head.  “Mary?!  Where’s Mary?”


“I’m right here, Mama,” came Mary’s muffled voice.  “Mr. Lattimer, you’re squishing me!”


Laura and Charles couldn’t help but chuckle, and he shifted to the side revealing the little girl.


“Oh, my sweet girl,” Laura pulled Mary into her arms and held her tightly.  She pressed a series of kisses into her hair.  “Are you hurt?” 


Mary shook her head.


“Are you sure?”


“Yes, Mama,” Mary answered even as she snuggled deeper into her mother’s embrace.


Laura met Charles’ eyes then nuzzled her cheek into his palm when he cupped the side of her face.  “Thank you,” she whispered.


Without giving thought to where they were, Charles leaned closer and brushed a quick kiss against her lips.  “You’re welcome,” he replied in kind then climbed to his feet.


After helping Laura and Mary to stand, the three looked around at the chaos the explosion had caused.  Smoke billowed from the still burning gazebo, and police officers were urging people to move away, to leave the park.  The people all around them were covered in dust and small pieces of wood from the gazebo.


“You came back just in time,” Laura told him, her arms still wrapped around Mary, holding her close.


“Yeah…” he nodded then trailed off when he saw Laura’s mother walking determinedly towards them, an anxious look on her face.  “Uh, Laura…”


No sooner were the words out of his mouth, then Mrs. Clark was upon them.  She bypassed Laura and Mary and shocked them all by enveloping Charles in a fierce hug.  She held him tightly for several moments then released him and took a step back, tugging her jacket back into place.  “Thank you, Mr. Lattimer,” she said in a voice rough with emotion.  “Thank you for saving my daughter and granddaughter.”


“You’re welcome, Mrs. Clark,” Charles replied quietly, clearly touched.  “It was…” he was about to tell her it was nothing, but he realized that it was.  Instead, he met her eyes, allowing all he felt for Laura to show.  “I had no choice…” Charles turned to look at Laura, “I had to do it.”


Mrs. Clark nodded in understanding.  She could see the obvious connection between her daughter and the man before her.  With another nod, she turned to Laura.  “Are you all right, daughter?”


“Yes, mother,” Laura answered.  “Just a little shaken, that’s all,” she said and glanced around the park; almost empty now, but only minutes before full with so many of the town’s people gathering for the rally.  If Charles hadn’t returned when he had… she shuddered at the thought.


“Laura?”  Charles called her name, shaking her out of her morbid thoughts.


“You truly did come back just in time, Charles,” she repeated her earlier comment.  Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the mayor along with the senator and his advisors approaching them.  She had a feeling they wanted to speak with Charles, and when she met his gaze, she knew that he realized the same thing.  She turned to her mother, “Would you take Mary home with you?  I have some things at the Gazette I need to take care of.”


“Of course,” Mrs. Clark replied then held out a hand to her granddaughter.  “Come along, child.”


Laura bent down and pressed a few gentle kisses into Mary’s dark curls.  “Go with your grandmother.”


Mary nodded and hugged her mother tightly before slipping out of her embrace and turning to Charles.  She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tightly.  “Thank you for saving mama, Mr. Lattimer,” she murmured against his chest then released him and took her grandmother’s hand.


“You’re welcome, Mary.”  Charles smiled at her.


“Will you be late?”  Mrs. Clark asked Laura.


“Most likely,” Laura answered.  “No need to wait up.”


Mrs. Clark gave a brief nod of her head then walked away, Mary’s hand held securely in her own, acknowledging the mayor as she passed him and the men he was with.


“What are you going to tell them?”  Laura asked quietly as she stepped a little closer to him.


“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Charles answered.


In the end, after introductions had been made, and the question was finally asked, Charles told them about spotting some faulty looking valves as he was getting off the train.  The mayor had accepted his explanation and had made note to have them looked at.  He, and then Senator McKinley, thanked Charles for his heroic efforts then left Charles and Laura to themselves.


“Valves?”  Laura asked as she and Charles walked towards the Gazette’s office; somehow knowing that that was not the real reason he’d known about the explosion.


“Seemed like a good answer,” he replied, seeing in her face that she knew there was another, more probable explanation.  “I didn’t think they’d believe the real reason.”


“And the real reason is?”  She inquired as they entered the newspaper and she closed the door behind them.


Charles didn’t answer right away.  Instead, he grabbed Laura’s hand and pulled her along with him as he made his way deeper into the office.  He moved past the printing machine and ducked into the small stock room he’d seen the last time he visited.


Once inside the smaller room, Charles turned to Laura, grasped her face in his hands and captured her mouth in an almost feral kiss.  A kiss that expressed all the emotions of the last several hours… fear, anxiety, relief and, most of all, love.


Laura moaned softly under the passionate assault, and her hands slid up his chest to clutch at his shoulders.  She could taste his emotions as his tongue stroked hers, and returned them with equal measure.


The kiss slowly tapered away into soft breathless touches of lips until they were standing there, foreheads resting together, breaths intermingling.


“The real reason…” Charles began in a breathless whisper, “is that I couldn’t live without you.”


In a soft voice, his hands still framing her face, his thumbs moving back and forth over her cheeks and lips, Charles told her about her picture in the library book… and about the caption and how it had changed after his last visit to Somerville.


“When I’d read that you were killed in that explosion,” he shook his head and slipped his arms down to her waist, pulling her closer.  “My heart stopped.  I’d just found you… I wasn’t prepared to lose you so quickly.  And I couldn’t let Mary lose another parent.”


Laura’s arms slid around him in response.  “Thank you,” was all she whispered and laid her head against his shoulder.


“You’re welcome,” Charles told her quietly as he buried his face in her thick brown hair.




“Are you certain you’ll be all right out here?”  Laura asked as she and Charles stood, arms wrapped around each other, in the shadows of a lantern in the barn.


“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he answered as he nuzzled his lips against her temple before ducking down and pressing a gentle kiss to her mouth.


“…Charles…” she hummed his name, her voice thick with longing.


“I know… but we agreed on the way home to wait until we spoke with Mary and your mother,” Charles replied as he moved his lips in a feather soft caress across her cheek to her ear.  “And then…” he whispered into her ear all that he wanted to do with her.


“Mmm…” Laura moaned and pressed closer to him.  “You expect me to leave you after that?”


He chuckled and lowered his mouth to hers.  In spite of all he’d whispered to her, it was a gentle kiss; his love for her tempering the desire that was present.  Her hands slid up his chest, over his shoulders and up into his hair as the kiss deepened.  When it finally ended, both were breathing heavier.


“You need to go into the house now,” Charles told her in a rough voice, fighting his desire to haul her up to the hayloft and make love to her right then, especially knowing that she would go with him willingly.


Laura sighed and nodded, even though her eyes told him she wanted to do nothing of the sort.


He pressed another quick kiss to her lips then moved out of her arms.  Together they walked to the barn door.  He cupped her cheek, “Sleep well, Laura.”


“You too, Charles,” she replied with a soft smile then stepped out into the night.


Charles watched her make her way across the yard in the moonlight.  When she reached the house, she turned back to look at him one last time before opening the door and slipping into the house.


He moved back into the barn and closed the door behind him.  He grabbed the lantern, and the wooden crate it was sitting on, then climbed the ladder up to the hayloft, hauling both with him.  Wandering over to the pallet he’d fixed up while Laura had been tending to Turnip, Charles set the light down on the wooden crate. 


He dropped down to the blankets serving as his bed, and removed his shoes and socks.  His shirt and t-shirt quickly following, he then got back to his feet, lowered the flame on the lantern and wandered over to the large barn window.


He stared out into the moonlit night and couldn’t help but smile.


Yes, he’d left behind a lot by staying in Somerville, but Charles knew that he’d gained far more than he’d given up, and it was a move he would never regret.


His mind wandered to the events of the day, and not for the first time, he offered a small prayer of thanks for having made it back in time, literally, to save Laura.


After the explosion, and the few moments they’d taken for themselves in the Gazette’s stock room, they’d spent the rest of the day working on the paper for Monday’s edition.  And except for a short break late in the afternoon, they’d worked tirelessly right through into the night.


Charles knew he should get some sleep, but for some reason, he just couldn’t sleep.  He took a deep breath, allowing the clean country air to fill his lungs completely before slowly exhaling.


The smile on his face grew as he leaned against the window and continued to stare out over the field.




Clad in her nightgown, Laura sat at her vanity and brushed out her long brown hair.  With every stroke of the bristles, her thoughts turned to the man currently staying in her barn.




He’d come back in time for her.  Had given up everything he’d known to be with her.




All because he loved her.


And, Laura smiled at herself in the mirror, she loved him too.


She put her brush down and walked over to the window then leaned against the glass and stared out into the night at the barn.


The barn where Charles was sleeping at that very moment.


She took a deep breath and felt her heart begin to beat faster as the words he’d whispered in her ear in the barn came back to her.  Her body heated instantly and Laura was filled with a longing she hadn’t felt in years.  A longing she never thought she’d feel again.


Unable to resist the desire of her heart any longer, Laura moved away from the window and walked over to her vanity where she quickly tied her hair back with a piece of ribbon, then walked over to the wooden chest at the foot of her bed.  She opened it and pulled out one of the quilts inside.


Not bothering with her robe, she wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and slipped, quietly, out of the house and stole across the yard and into the barn.


Laura made her way to the ladder, and with a deep breath, she quickly climbed up to the hayloft.  When she got to the top, she stopped at the sight that greeted her, and swallowed hard.


Charles stood in the open window, his body silhouetted in the moonlight.  He was barefoot and bare-chested.  The fingers of one hand tapped a random pattern against his trouser clad thigh while the other rested high on the window frame, providing a pillow for his head.


It was a glorious sight, and it caused the spark of arousal in the pit of Laura’s stomach to flare into full desire.  She whispered his name, and he slowly turned his head to meet her eyes in the near darkness.


“Laura…” it was a question filled with longing.


She walked towards him, pausing only a moment to pull the quilt from her shoulders and drop it beside makeshift bed then continued until she was standing in front of him.


“I want you,” Laura whispered as she laid her hands on his bare chest and rose up on her toes to cover his mouth with hers.  She kissed him with all the longing and desire in her heart.  “I want you… and I don’t want to wait,” the words were whispered against his lips as she kissed him again, her fingers curling in the soft hair sprinkled over his chest.


Charles pulled out of the kiss, “Are you sure?”


“I am very sure,” she replied and pulled him into another kiss.


As they kissed, Charles lifted his hands to her hair and untied the ribbon securing her long locks.  He broke off the kiss to look at her.  “I’ve wanted to see your hair down like this,” he told her as he ran his fingers through the chestnut tresses.  “So beautiful… promise me you’ll never cut it.”


“I promise,” she replied on a soft hum as he continued to comb her hair with his fingers.


“Thank you,” he smiled at her then framed her face in his hands and drew her closer then lowered his mouth to hers once again.


As they kissed, Charles walked Laura back towards his pallet.  Once there, he released her and stepped over to the lantern and turned the flame back up.  He moved back to her, stopping just inches from her and stood silently, his eyes seeking hers.


Charles could see need and desire pooling in Laura’s green depths and knew that his own blue eyes mirrored the same.  At that moment he knew he could no more deny her than he could deny himself.


“Laura…” he murmured as he grasped her face in his hands and lowered his mouth to hers in a hungry kiss.


She moaned and slid her hands along his waist to wrap her arms around his back as she stepped nearer, closing the distance between their bodies.  She moaned into his mouth at the feel of his arousal growing against her belly.


Charles released her face and dropped his hands to Laura’s shoulders then trailed them down over her back to cup her bottom and pull her even closer.  A low groan sounded deep in his throat when she rocked against him.


Breaking off the kiss, Laura stepped back out of his arms.  With a soft smile and holding his gaze, she gathered up the material of her nightgown and drew it up, and over her head.  She dropped it to the floor of the loft.


Charles’ breath caught in his throat at the sight of her standing naked before him.  She was a feast for his eyes.  Her breasts were firm and full, capped with dusky nipples that drew into tight peaks under his heated gaze.  Letting his gaze drift lower, he took in her still flat stomach, along the flair of her hips to the thatch of dark curls.


“You are so beautiful,” he breathed in a low voice as he brought his eyes back to hers and smiled as he watched her body flush with the praise.


Laura dipped her head then slowly raised it, tilting it to the side to regard him with an almost shy smile on her lips but did not say a word.  The smile on his face changed to a knowing one and he quickly divested himself of his pants.  Only when he’d kicked them aside, and was standing before her as naked as she, did Laura allow her gaze to leave his face.


Her eyes drifted to Charles’ chest, and followed the sprinkling of graying hair as it arrowed down over his firm stomach to his erection.  She unconsciously licked her lips as the ache within her grew at the sight of his manhood standing tall and proud against his belly.


Slowly Laura’s green eyes rose to meet Charles’ blue ones.


Without uttering a word, they closed the distance between them.  Their mouths came together, swallowing moans of pleasure as their bodies met, for the first time, with no barrier between them.  Hands wandered and caressed smooth flesh as they lowered themselves to the pallet in the hay.


“Charles…” Laura broke off the kiss with a gasp as his body pressed fully against hers then cried out softly as he dipped his head and pulled one of her nipples into the hot recesses of his mouth.  Her hands flew to his head, her fingers lacing in his hair, and held him to her.


Charles suckled hard at the rosy tip and smiled around her nipple as Laura arched beneath him, trying to push more of her breast into his mouth.  He swirled his tongue over the hardened peak and nipped it gently with his teeth before kissing his way over to her other breast and repeating the bittersweet torture.


“Laura…” she heard him whisper against her breasts as he continued to feast on them.  She closed her eyes when his hands swept down her body; caressing and stroking her soft skin until Laura thought she would go mad from the unbearable ache she could feel building inside her.


It’d been so long since she’d felt a man’s touch… since she felt need and desire course through her body unchecked.  And she was deliriously happy that it was this man touching her and making her body feel that need… that ache again.


“Charles… I need…” her voice trailed off when she felt his hand slip between their bodies and his fingers comb through the dark curls between her thighs.


“You’re already so wet…” Charles moaned as he nipped and kissed his way back up to her mouth then rained soft kisses all over her face while he stroked his fingers through her folds.  “So wet…” he mumbled against her lips as he gently thrust the long digit into her.  “…so tight…”


Laura arched into his touch, her eyes closed, and her grip on his hair tightened as heat rushed through her at his blatantly erotic words.  Words he continued to murmur as he trailed his lips over her jaw, down along the smooth column of her neck to her chest. 


Charles pressed hot kisses to the soft skin in the valley between her breasts before moving to take her right nipple into his mouth.  He suckled for several moments before releasing the hard tip to bestow the same pleasure on the other.  Once he’d loved both nipples, Charles left her breasts, now aching and swollen, to kiss his way down her torso.  He slid his hands ahead of him, as he moved down her body, to stroke and caress her flesh before following the same path with his mouth.


“Charles?”  Laura lifted her head, her body tensing, when she felt his lips brush against the curls covering her most intimate parts.


Charles looked up at her, his eyes meeting hers.  “Do you trust me?”


“Yes,” she answered without hesitation.


“Then believe me when I tell you that you will enjoy this,” he told her.  He reached up to brush the tips of his fingers against her cheek then spoke in a soft voice.  “It’s been a while for you.  I know this, and I don’t want to hurt you.  This will help, and…” Charles gave her a cheeky little smile, “...it will feel good.”


Laura held his eyes a moment longer then laid her head back against the blankets as Charles’ hands massaged their way down her long, smooth legs.  When he reached her feet, she felt him shift so that he was kneeling between her spread limbs.  She gasped at the first fleeting touch of his fingers in the soft hair covering her centre then moaned when they returned in firmer strokes and slipped between her folds.


“Relax,” Charles told her as he caressed her thighs once again.  “Relax…” he repeated and dropped another light kiss to her curls.  “Relax and enjoy…” he murmured quietly as his fingers found and circled her clit.


Charles…” she murmured breathlessly at the sudden and unexpected rush of pleasure that shot through her body.  Her hands clenched in the blanket beneath her as his fingers continued to tease and fondle her swollen flesh. 


“You are so beautiful,” Laura heard him murmur then inhaled sharply when she felt his fingers pull her open.  Her eyes flew open and she lifted her head in time to see him bend low and close his mouth over her.


“Charles!”  She gasped at the feel of his tongue moving against her and reached down to clutch at his head.  Her fingers gripped his hair tightly at the pleasure that spread throughout her body as Charles kissed her sex with the same passion and thoroughness that he kissed her mouth.


Charles groaned his delight as he licked and kissed her slick folds.  She was so responsive… so passionate.  The scent of her arousal surrounded him, filled his senses and made his head spin.  He circled her clit with his tongue, pleased when she arched beneath him.


“Mmm…” Laura moaned softly as Charles continued to work his lips and tongue against her then cried out when she felt him slide a thick finger inside her.  One hand gripped the blanket while the other clenched in his hair as he slowly began to work the long digit in and out of her before adding a second finger.  “Oh God…”


Charles smiled around her clit as he swirled his tongue over the hard bundle, moaning softly when he felt her inner walls start to quiver around his thrusting fingers.


“I…” Laura rolled her head from side to side as the sensations grew and radiated out from her centre, almost overwhelming her with their severity.  “Charles… I… ooh…”


“That’s it, sweetheart… let go…” Charles urged her in between licks to her folds.


“Charles… I…” the tension in her body coiled tighter.  “Oh god… Charles…”


“Let it happen, Laura…” Charles told her as he began to thrust his fingers faster in and out of her.  “That’s it… just let it happen, Laura…” he hummed against her clit as he angled his fingers just right within her.


“CHARLES!”  Laura muffled her scream of pleasure against the back of her hand and struggled for breath as she came hard; her body writhing as wave after wave of intense sensation rolled over her.


Charles groaned at the surge of moisture that flowed over his hand and pulled his fingers out of her quivering sheath and replaced them with his mouth, his tongue lapping at and consuming her essence as she continued to writhe beneath him.  He was drunk on the taste of her; her flavour intoxicating him as it washed over his taste buds.  His fingers moved up to the swollen bud his mouth had just left and continued to tease it, alternately brushing lightly over and pressing strongly against it. 


Laura barely had a chance to catch her breath before her passion began to spiral upward once again.  She begged him to stop… then she begged him to never stop as he tormented her already overwhelmed senses to a second, powerful, release.


As she rode out the waves of her orgasm, Charles slowly kissed his way up Laura’s body and settled his hips in the cradle of her thighs.  When she finally opened her eyes to stare at him, the gray-green orbs were full of wonder.  Charles stroked her hair as he lowered his mouth down to hers. 


Laura gasped at the taste on his lips; his unique flavour mingled with hers, and pulled her mouth from his.  She licked her lips as she reached up to trace her finger over his damp chin.  Everything in her was telling her that what he’d done… what she’d allowed him to do, was not something proper women with her upbringing would do.  That it was…


“This was not wrong, Laura,” Charles told her in a quiet voice.


She blinked and felt a small smile tug at the corner of her mouth; not surprised that he’d yet again been able to divine her thoughts.


“Nothing that is shared between a man and a woman in love is wrong,” he continued.  “I love you… and I enjoyed giving you that pleasure just now.  And I look forward to doing it again.”


Laura let her smile blossom as her body continued to hum with the pleasure he’d just given her, and once again, her heart won out over her mind.  “No… it’s not wrong,” she whispered.  “And I look forward to you doing it again too,” she admitted as a slight blush warmed her cheeks, then reached up to pull him back down and kissed him ardently.


Charles returned the kiss as his hands stroked Laura from shoulder to cheek then back, over and over, as he memorized the contours of her mouth.  A careful nip to her lower lip saw her nails digging into his shoulder blades.  A series of breathy kisses trailed down her jaw left her gasping.  A hard suck of the sensitive flesh just behind her ear caused Laura to grab Charles’ head and pull his mouth back to hers.


Laura moaned as he rocked against her in a series of small thrusts that had him settled fully between her swollen lower lips; her moisture lubricating him in preparation for their joining.


Charles’ mouth parted from Laura’s and he gazed down at her.  He laid a hand against the side of her face.  “Laura…”


She copied his movement, lifting her hand to cup his cheek and nodded.  “Yes, Charles…”


He smiled as he reached down with his other hand to grasp her thigh, catching the back of her knee and pulling her leg up to reposition her hips.  With a whisper of her name, Charles slowly pressed his length inside her.  He felt Laura tense and pulled back slightly only to thrust gently in and out a few times before giving a final push and seating himself fully inside her.  He groaned and buried his face in her neck at the feel of her tight, hot flesh pulsing around him as her body strove to accommodate his girth.


Laura’s fingers clenched Charles’ shoulders at the pressure and fullness she’d not felt in years and willed her body to relax when she felt him brush a gentle kiss to her neck. 


Charles lifted his head to look down at her.  “You okay?”


“Mmhmm…” Laura hummed and nodded as a beatific smile filled her face.  “Oh, Charles…”


“Are you sure?”  He thumbed away the tears trickling down the side of her face.


“Yes…” she replied and tugged him down to brush her lips against his.  “I love you…”


“I love you,” he told her then said in a soft voice, “Tell me when you’re ready,” before he covered her mouth fully in a loving kiss.  As the kiss grew more passionate, Charles felt Laura begin to rock her hips under him.  He broke off the kiss and met her eyes.




Charles held her gaze as he pushed up onto his elbows, threaded his fingers into her long dark hair.  He withdrew almost completely then sank slowly back into her welcoming warmth.  She gasped his name as he did it again, and again.


It felt so good… he felt so good.  Every plunge of his length into her sending a myriad of sensations coursing through her body; sensations more intense than anything she remembered ever feeling before.


“Laura…” Charles groaned as he moved fluidly in and out of her, “…you feel so good…”


“So do you,” Laura replied as she instinctively wrapped her legs around his waist and gasped as the move allowed him to sink even deeper inside her.  Her hands wandered over his back, reaching down to grasp his rear then sliding back up to clutch at his shoulders as the pleasure grew.


Charles knew he wasn’t going to last much longer.  She felt too good, and he wanted her too much, that being inside her… making love to her… was overwhelming his senses.  Sight, smell, touch, taste… everything… it was all Laura.  She was, in that moment, and every moment to come he knew, his world; his very existence.


“Charles…” Laura called to him in an urgent voice.  It was building again… that delicious feeling between her thighs; building and threatening to explode and engulf her once again.  “I… oh… Charles…”


“I know…” he said as he continued to drive into her wet heat; each thrust becoming shorter and less controlled.


She dug her nails into his shoulders and tightened her legs around him. “…please…”


“Yes…” he groaned and bent to catch her lips in a fierce kiss.  Over and over, in and out; Charles moved into her.  He knew she was close to release.  He could feel it in the grasp and pull of her inner walls around his driving member.  Hear it in the panting of his name as she broke off the kiss to pull in some much needed air.


All of a sudden, Laura buried her face in Charles’ shoulder, stifling the cry of his name as she came.  She clutched at him, arms and legs tightening and holding him to her as liquid fire roared through her veins.


As she clung to him, Charles could feel her quivering around him, the pulsing of her sheath matching the frantic beating of his heart.  He buried his face in her neck and continued to thrust into her, seeking his own release.  It was Laura’s whisper of his name against his ear that broke him.  Charles’ hips jerked, and his orgasm burned through him, his juices leaving him in hot splashes against her womb.


They clung to each other in the aftermath of their releases.


Lowering her legs so that they were wrapped loosely over Charles’ thighs, Laura nuzzled her lips against his ear, whispering his name over and over as he nestled deeper into her embrace.  He was on top of her and inside her, and making love with him just now had such a feeling of rightness about it that it had her heart soaring with joy.


“I love you.”


The twin whispers in the quiet of the night caused them both to chuckle softly.  Charles lifted his head to gaze down at her.  The smile on Laura’s face and the love in her eyes made his heart skip a beat.  “I do love you, Laura,” he told her in a voice that shook with all that he was feeling.


Laura’s smile grew, and her eyes shined brighter.  “I know…”


Charles lowered his head and feathered his lips over hers for long moments before claiming her mouth in a deep, loving kiss that ended the way it began in a series of soft, feathery kisses. 


“We should get some sleep,” Laura said, seeing the exhaustion creeping onto Charles’ face.  Earlier, when they had been working at the Gazette, he had told her how he’d stayed up all night fixing his watch.  She brushed her fingers through the hair at his temple then gave him a coy smile.  “After all, you’re going to need it to face my mother tomorrow.”


“Don’t remind me,” Charles groaned dramatically then slowly withdrew from the warmth of her body and rolled off of her onto his back.


“It won’t be that bad,” Laura laughed as she turned onto her side to face him.  She laid a hand on his chest.  “Give her a little time, and she’ll be as crazy about you as Mary and I are.”


“You think so?”


“I know so,” she told him.  “Besides, after what you did today, I have a feeling mother is already warming up to you.”


“We’ll see,” he replied with a yawn.  “Sorry…”


Laura waved away his apology with an affectionate smile.  “Turn out the lantern.”


Charles did as she asked, and stretched out to douse the light, leaving only the silver light of the moon spilling over them.  When he settled back onto the pallet, Laura covered them with the quilt and moved into his arms.  Their legs entwined as she laid her head on his chest.  She smiled at the steady beating of his heart beneath her ear.


Laura brushed a kiss into the soft hair covering his chest.  “I’m glad you came back,” she whispered and snuggled deeper into his embrace.


“So am I, Laura,” Charles replied and buried his face in her hair.  “So am I.”


Within moments, both were sound asleep, wrapped safely in each other’s arms and love.




At the soft touch on his cheek, Charles’ eyes fluttered open.  A soft smile spread across his face at the vision before him.


“Good morning,” he murmured sleepily.


“Good morning,” Laura replied in a quiet voice as she continued to stroke his cheek.  “Sleep well?”


“Mmhmm,” Charles nodded as he stared at her.


She was sitting beside him with the quilt clutched to her chest.  Her dark brown hair lay in tousled waves about her naked shoulders, and to Charles, in that moment, Laura looked like an angel; the halo of the sunlight pouring in from the open barn window behind her only enforcing that image.


“You are beautiful,” he told her quietly, not surprised when she blushed and ducked her head.  Charles rolled onto his side then grasped her wrist and tugged.  “Come here,” he said and tugged on her wrist again.


With a smile, Laura shifted closer and stretched out beside him, facing him.  She hummed softly when Charles cupped her cheek as he leaned in and caught her mouth in a loving kiss.  The kiss slowly tapered off then ended, and they rested their foreheads together.


“When I woke up in your arms,” Laura whispered as she combed her fingers through the gray hair on his chest, “I thought I was dreaming.”


“I thought the same thing when I opened my eyes and saw you,” he admitted.  “With the sunlight behind you, you looked like an angel.”  His thumb stroked over her lips as he continued to cradle her face.  “This is not a dream, Laura.  This is real.  I am here with you, and will be for the rest of our lives.”


Laura pulled back so that she could meet his eyes.  “I still can’t believe you gave up everything… for… for me,” she finished in a barely audible voice.


“I didn’t give up anything,” Charles told her.  “I found everything I could possibly want or need right here, and I don’t plan on ever letting you go.”


“…Charles…” Laura’s eyes misted over at his confession.  She closed the distance between them and covered his mouth with hers in a gentle kiss meant to convey all the words in her heart.


Within moments, desire flared to life and the kiss became a passionate, frenzied exchange.  Charles rolled, pinning Laura to the pallet and settling his hips in the cradle of her thighs.


“Do we have time?”  He tore his mouth away from hers to ask breathlessly.


“Not really,” Laura answered as she drew her knees up and widened her thighs while reaching down to clutch at his rear.  “But, I… please, don’t stop, Charles.”


“I won’t,” Charles told her as he shifted and, in one smooth stroke, sheathed his erection inside the warm wet heat of her body.


Their moans echoed throughout the hayloft.


“It’s going to be quick…” he warned her as he rose up on his arms.


“I know… it’s okay… I just need to feel you…” she replied and arched beneath him.


Charles established a quick rhythm, thrusting into her hard and fast; pushing them towards that ultimate moment of bliss, knowing that time was against them this time around.


“Charles…” Laura gasped and met every drive of his hips.  Her hands slid down his arms to grasp his on either side of her head as he continued to thrust into her.  A low keening began deep in her throat as she felt her release approaching.  “…oh yes…”


Stroke after stroke, Charles drove himself into Laura’s willing body; deeper, harder, faster… until without warning, the sensations coalesced and with a hoarse cry of her name, he came hard, his hips jerking uncontrollably against hers.


His released triggered hers and with a decidedly feminine moan of pleasure, Laura’s body bowed under his, lifting off the pallet as the pulsating spasms exploded and spread throughout her body.  She released his wrists to grasp his face and pull him down for a hungry kiss.


The ardent kiss slowly gentled and gave way to the soft breathy kisses that had ignited their passion and sparked their early morning lovemaking.  With a last whisper of his lips against hers, Charles lifted his head and smiled down at her.


Laura caressed his cheek and smiled back at him.  “Charles…” she began.


“I know,” he gave her a quick kiss then rolled off of her and got to his feet.  “We need to get dressed and get you back to the house before your mother wakes up,” Charles said as he gave her a hand up.


“And finds out you ravished her daughter in the barn,” her eyes sparkled mischievously and she giggled when he threw her nightgown at her.


She continued to laugh as they quickly dressed.


Fifteen minutes later, they stepped out of the barn and froze.


“Uh oh… I think we’ve been caught.”


“I think so too.”


Charles and Laura glanced at each other then back to the house where Laura’s mother stood on the porch, a veritable statue, glaring across the yard at them.  The disapproval in her gaze hit them in waves, even from that distance.


“So, what do you think will upset her more?  The fact that we spent the night in the barn or,” he reached down to lace the fingers of his right hand with her left one, “that we eloped?”


Laura turned to give Charles a small smile laced with amusement as he lifted her hand and pressed a kiss to the new simple gold band adorning her ring finger.  “I think it will be a tie.”


They both glanced back over at the house to see that Mrs. Clark hadn’t moved except to draw her shawl tighter about her shoulders.


“I think you’re right,” he agreed then gave her hand a gentle squeeze.  “Ready to face the music, Mrs. Lattimer?”


“As long as you’re beside me, Mr. Lattimer.”


Charles couldn’t resist and reached out to caress her cheek with his fingers, all the love he felt for her shining brightly in his eyes.  “For all time, Laura… for all time.”


Laura returned his smile, her eyes just as bright as she nuzzled into his caress and echoed his words, “For all time.”





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