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Arrest My Heart

Chapter Text

The day started out like any other Friday. It had been a long week and I was looking forward to the weekend. I had it all planned out, dinner out tonight, after all who feels like cooking on a Friday night right, and then home. Catch up on some shows I hadn’t had time to watch during the week and then bed.

Saturday morning a quick stop off at the supermarket, getting in supplies for the week, then maybe I would get around to going to the nursery and picking up that ceramic pot that would be just perfect for the orchid I had been so lovingly nurturing back from the brink of death – I didn’t have a green thumb, it was more luck that I didn’t kill everything that I bought really, but I did try. A quick tidy up of the house and a long walk down the beach with Tyrion, my beloved German shepherd, before getting ready to go to the movies with Charlene and that would round off Saturday nicely.

There was a Marx Brothers double playing at the old movie house down on Raglan Street. Charlene and I both loved old movies, plus it was such a pleasure to watch a movie in a theatre that had been fully restored to perfection and still retained the ambience of old Hollywood that I couldn’t wait.

Sunday I was thinking I might go for a drive, there was a market being held in the next town and I love pottering around and seeing what I can pick up. I generally never come back empty handed and I’ve scored some great pieces to add to my ever expanding collection of what I termed artistic, but others would call junk I am sure, knickknacks and the like.

What a totally boring and banal life I led I mused as I stood there off in a day dream. Little did I know that was all about to change.

I came out of my daydream with a thud when I realised the radio announcer had called a time check and hell, I was going to be late for work. In a rush I stuck my coffee cup in the sink, grabbed my handbag and jacket, and with a final quick look at myself in the mirror on my hall stand by the front door, I smoothed my hair down, grabbed my shades and keys, and was gone.

I parked the car in my parking bay in the lane behind the shop and opened the back door and was just about to step in when I just knew there was something wrong.

My shop was called “My Gift to You” and it was a speciality shop, you know one of those one of a kind that everyone loved to come into and browse around in. I was told by customers that they loved the feel of the place, it made them feel happy and that suited me fine. I loved what I was doing and even if it didn’t make buckets of money, it didn’t matter, it made enough for me to live comfortably and to employ Charlene during the week and Roger on Friday nights and at the weekend when we thought we might pick up a bit of extra trade. I figured in a small town like Silverflint Cove giving back to the community was something that everyone should be doing and I enjoyed doing it.

Whether you lived in my town or were just passing through it didn’t really matter, for some reason my little establishment was like a beacon with its tastefully arranged displays of everything from quality French toiletries to some clothes and giftware, we even made hampers of items to order for special occasions that were really popular and in demand. Then there was the section of home ware, new and collectable. There were pieces of furniture too, some new, some original that I had lovingly restored as it was a passion of mine and gave me something to do in my spare time and let’s face it, I had plenty of spare time these days. There were floor rugs and cushions and aromatherapy essentials and well, just about everything that you could want or need to make a house a home and more. It was quite simply lovely to have created something that was a bit unique in the area and that was appreciated. I loved it.

When I first arrived in the village people were so friendly and embraced me as one of their own but at the same time, they respected that if I didn’t want to live in their pockets, well then it was okay too. It had been a welcome change from the grunge and hectic pace I had lived for the past eight years or so.

I had climbed the corporate ladder and found the view banal and empty – I love the word banal, have you noticed, says it all at times. Hard work didn’t necessarily have its own rewards and a career most definitely depended on who you sucked up to the hardest and what you were prepared to put up with. I found that I wasn’t prepared to put up with any of it anymore so here I was, living the dream and not regretting it one bit – well that was until this moment.

I didn’t keep a lot of cash in the place, not that there was a high crime rate in the area but I had lived in big cities long enough before giving it the fling and following my dream for a sea change. Moving to somewhere where life and kindness was more appreciated and anonymity didn’t automatically mark you down as a loner and this place had been perfect, so I thought right up until now. So I knew that it was plain dumb not to do the banking on a regular basis. Why tempt fate had been my motto, leaving a lot of money in the till over night was not something that was worth the risk.

I stood looking down the short hallway at the rear of the building from the outside doorway, my keys were still in my hand, my handbag slung over my shoulder and with my foot poised on the step but I immediately knew that something wasn’t quite right. At the end of the passage into the actual shop I had a beaded curtain hanging across the doorway to separate the small back kitchen, toilet and office from the retail area, obstructing a clear view of the shop floor, but I could see that the door to my office was open and a beam of light seemed to be streaming across the tiles of the normally dimly lit passage. As I always closed the blind on the window that looked out into the lane at the side of the building each night before locking up, and I turned off all the lights in the rear of the premises, my heart sank.

I don’t know why but I tiptoed my way cautiously along the hallway to my office. I’m not sure what I was thinking, maybe I wasn’t really and that’s pretty much the norm for me really, I wouldn’t say I was scatty but I am the first to admit I am not the sharpest tool in the bunch. If there was someone in the place god only knows what I would have done, what hit them with my handbag? I wasn’t thinking clearly really but at the time I didn’t really know what else to do and I guess I thought that being rather quiet was the best option. Silly really when I think about it now but at the time it made sense.

I think I must have been holding my breath until I got to my office door and peered around the corner of the door way only to find it empty. I sighed with relief and warily walked in.

I had a small safe in the corner of the office and it was the first thing that I checked, carefully, making sure I didn’t touch anything or disturb the “crime scene.” I had watched enough TV cop shows to know that it was best not to. The safe was still intact but even if it hadn’t been it wouldn’t have really mattered as I’d done the banking the day before so there was not much in it. In fact everything looked okay except my desk was a mess, papers thrown down of the floor and an old picture of my family lay broken next to the window that was smashed in. The blind was a mess too where broken glass had cut it up and it looked like someone had forced their way through the aluminium Venetian slats leaving them bent with a gaping hole and hanging askew from the top of the wooden window frame. Plus, and here was the big one, there was blood on the glass.

I felt a little sick.

I retreated hastily and checked the kitchen but that all looked okay. Taking a deep breath I prepared myself for the worst and walked into the shop. There was nothing missing! Nothing appeared to be smashed up or disturbed as so often is the case with burglaries that you read about. There didn’t seem to be any damage anywhere but still, I had the creepiest of feelings. There had been someone here and I had no idea…

‘George! Georgina where are you? Are you alright,’ Charlene’s frightened voice calling out from the office broke my train of thought.
‘Don’t touch anything,’ I yelled back, ‘I am fine.’

‘Oh my god what happened?’ she asked as she stood in the doorway with a horrified expression on her face when I reached her. ‘It’s okay, nothing’s been taken,’ I reassured her calmly, ‘just don’t touch anything.’ ‘I am calling the police,’ her voice was shrill with fright, and she fished her mobile out of her bag and dialled as I stood looking around more thoroughly inspecting the damage. ‘You know I really don’t think that calling the police will be necessary,’ Charlene was on hold as I said this, ‘it was probably some just some teenager that…’ ‘Georgina, look,’ Charlene pointed to the side of my desk where a photo that I had of my mum and dad with me, was lying on the floor. The glass was smashed to pieces and the photo torn, the part of the photo that had me in it was missing, torn out of the frame.

I began to tremble.

My name is Georgina Collins but everyone calls me George for short, and this is my story

Chapter Text

‘Morning ladies,’ the uniformed policeman greeted us as he walked in the door. The sun shining in from behind him cast him in shadow so that I couldn’t see anything other than his silhouette but he looked to be around five ten, muscular and his voice sounded… reassuring just from the tone of it. As he walked towards us and into the light from the lamp on the counter in the corner where we served customers, I managed to get a better view, and what a view.

I can remember seeing a movie once where the tough masculine hero was reduced to a babbling puddle of inarticulate mess upon the sight of a women, his friends finding it the ultimate of amusement to see him hit by what they assured him was “the Thunderbolt.” At the time I had thought it was such a load of tosh but in a flash I totally understood and empathised, for right at that moment I was hit by the very same thing. I was already feeling shaky enough from the break in and now I felt like my legs had turned to jelly and I my heart was racing so much it was going to break a rib.

‘My name is Lieutenant Calvert. I got a call that you have had some trouble.’

Charlene stood there like a dumb thing unable to utter a syllable and I was no better. I told myself to get a grip but that was easier said than done. I coughed a little and cleared my throat. ‘Umm….’ dam it woman get a hold of yourself. Okay try again. ‘Umm…’

He stood there looking at me patiently, his eyes – have I mentioned his eyes? There were blue. Oh hell they were more than blue; they were the bluest most beautiful eyes I have ever seen in my entire life. I wanted to dive into them and wallow around in their blueness, to swim in the depths of … well you get the picture. His eyes scanned my face apprising me I thought. God what an idiot I must look.

Deep breath, okay you can do this. ‘Come this way if you would Lieutenant,’ I managed to squeak out, ‘I hope we aren’t wasting your valuable time.’ ‘I’ll be the judge of that ma’am,’ his silky voiced drawled out like coffee coloured silk over hopefully my naked flesh. Oh god, what am I thinking. Just stop it I kept telling my head but I am not sure it was listening. ‘In here,’ I pointed with a slightly shaking hand as I led him into the office.

‘Have you touched anything?’ ‘No, nothing,’ I told him as he moved gracefully around the room taking care not to disturb anything.

‘They took part of a photo, the part that George was in. They are after her,’ Charlene blurted out dramatically, suddenly finding her voice. He turned and looked at her quizzically.
‘George?’ he asked and looked from her to me, ‘who’s George, is err… he the owner?’

‘I am sorry, I haven’t introduced myself.’ I stepped towards him. ‘My name is Georgina but everyone calls me George and this is Charlene. I own the store and Charlene works for me.’ ‘Oh I see,’ he smiled a little and dropped to his knees, peering beneath the desk.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a glove and then stretched out and pulled something out from beneath the desk. Standing up he turned to me and held out the missing part of the photo.

‘No need to worry ma’am, looks to me that it got torn when the glass of the frame broke and it slid out.’

I was dying of embarrassment at the thought of my stupidity and at the overreaction both Charlene and I had had. I am sure I turned beet root red as he held it out but then I noticed his hands, or I should say his ungloved hand. ‘You’re bleeding!’ ‘Dam it,’ he cursed and he was just about to reach up and suck his palm when I stretched over and grabbed his wrist to stop him.

‘You must have lent on a sliver of glass on the floor when you were leaning down at the desk. I’ve got a first aid kit, best to put some antiseptic on it and check it for splinters. Give me a second. Actually you better come into the kitchen so I can wash it.’ Without realising it I was still holding his wrist and I half dragged him along in my wake as I slipped into the kitchen and reached up to where I had a fully stocked first aid kit on its own special place on a shelf.

‘Really ma’am there’s no need to fuss,’ he declared half amused. ‘Please call me George,’ I insisted, ‘it’s no problem, and any way you can’t be too careful. I did a first aid course and have wanted to practise on someone for ages.’

I could feel him almost laugh at the thought of me practising my first aid on him and I died of embarrassment again, so much so I couldn’t really look at him. I must have sounded so stupid saying something like that but I was so flustered by the nearness of him that I wasn’t really thinking. Up close in the confined space of the small kitchen, he seemed a lot bigger and somehow had such a masculine presence in his uniform that it rendered me quite nonsensical.

Still holding onto his wrist I somehow managed to get the kit open and an antiseptic wipe out. I let go of his wrist and held his hand cupped in mine for support while I gently wiped away the blood and peered closely at the cut. I grabbed the small magnifying glass in the kit and searched the wound as he stood there so patiently while I fluffed around.

‘Ah,’ I said satisfied, then grabbed the tweezers and as gently as possible lifted out a tiny sliver of glass. ‘Success,’ I exclaimed rather pleased with myself and beamed up at him as I brandished the tweezers around with their discovery.

His face was bent forward as he looked at the tweezers. He was so close I could feel his breath on my face and it smelt of coffee and maybe a hint of garlic and toothpaste. It was manly in some odd kind of way and I liked it. I could smell his aftershave too, a mix of spice and something else a touch exotic, I wasn’t sure what but it sure smelt good, he smelt great and looked great.

I stood there like a mad woman still cupping his hand and gazing at him, exultant with my prize. God what am I doing waiting for a medal. Stupid woman my brain taunted me.

His eyes shifted from the tweezers to my face and he smiled. I thought I would almost faint. I don’t think I have ever seen a smile so beautiful or more sincere in my life.
‘Umm… umm the good news is that you don’t need stitches. I can patch it up. Hold still,’ I continued to babble under his gaze while I stuck a small pad of gauze over the cut and then an adhesive bandage. ‘There you go, all safe and sound,’ and god knows why I did it but I gave his hand a small reassuring squeeze as if he had been on the brink of amputation and I had given him the news that I had saved his life. I cringed at my own stupidity but I nearly died when he squeezed back.

‘Thank you ma’am … George,’ he corrected himself, ‘it’s very kind of you.’ ‘You are welcome Lieutenant … Calvert.’ ‘Breeland, my name is Breelend.’ ‘You are welcome Breeland.’ He squeezed my hand gently at the same time looking into my eyes. I thought I would swoon and hoped like hell he didn’t feel the shiver that went through me. Guess he must have cause his lips creased into a tiny curve that he looked like he was trying to hide.

‘When you two have finished…’ Charlene broke into the moment, ‘do you think a call to the insurance company might be a good idea,’ she suggested adding, ‘Breeland,’ in a very pointed manner, attempting to get some attention focused on her by Officer Dreamboat.

The moment was broken and it was back to the business of the break in.

‘If you can just hold fire for a moment while I have a bit of a look around,’ he told her then he went back to the office and looked at the blind and very carefully he stuck his head out the gaping hole giving the view into the lane a quick scan. As he was pulling his head back in he stopped and closely inspected a jagged piece of what was left of the glass in the window frame.

‘There’s blood here and here,’ he pointed to the stains I had seen, ‘and….’ he put his glove back on his uninjured hand and pried off a piece of torn fabric, ‘looks to me like a piece of shirt.’ He dropped it into a plastic evidence bag that he took out of his pocket. ‘Would you ladies give me another moment; I just want to take a look around outside.’

The minute he was gone Charlene nearly pounced on me.

‘Oh my god,’ she started, ‘he’s gorgeous. Did you see his eyes and that body, heaven on a stick? He was sure giving you the once over too.’ ‘Shh,’ I hissed at her, hoping like hell that he didn’t hear her through the open window as he walked up and down the lane way outside. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I whispered,’ as I pulled her into the kitchen, ‘and keep your voice down or he’ll hear you. Besides, you are talking rubbish. He was just doing his duty and being nice. I am sure you are imagining it.’ ‘I was not; if he looked at me the way he was looking at you I would be on the floor. Come on admit it, you like him don’t you? I’ve never seen you flustered in the whole time I have known you and from the minute he walked in the door you couldn’t put two words together.’

‘Ahem,’ Breeland gave a discreet cough breaking into our conversation. Neither of us had noticed he’d walked back inside and was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Oh my god, I prayed he hadn’t heard the conversation between Charlene and I. His face was a blank mask but his eyes never left mine and there was a hint of amusement and something else in them.

I just had to figure out what it was.

Chapter Text

‘There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of who may have done this,’ he was saying, ‘and whoever it was doesn’t seem to have taken anything. It’s obvious that they came off second best judging by the blood on the window. I would say that they got a pretty nasty cut that would need stitches so I will run a check and put out an alert with the local doctors. The insurance will cover the cost of the broken window. There’s a glazier on the other side of town. You might want to give them a call or at least get the window boarded up securely for over the weekend if you can’t get it fixed today. I don’t think it was a deliberate attack on you personally,’ he assured me as he made his way through the shop and out onto the street, ‘but you have the number of the police department and if you have any trouble just call, here’s my number too if you need me. I will let you know if I find out anything,’ he handed me his card and smiled.

‘Thank you,’ I said and I meant it. ‘You are welcome. You know where to find me if you need me ladies,’ he smiled and gave a nod, got into his squad car and was gone.

I let out a sigh as I watched him drive down the block and turn right at the T intersection and disappear around the corner. ‘Come on,’ I said to Charlene who was still gazing at the empty space in the street with a silly grin on her face, ‘we had better start making a few phone calls and get that mess cleaned up. I’ll call Benny over at the glazier’s shop. I know his wife, remember she bought those curtains and the matching cushions for her living room, I am sure he’ll do the job.’

Benny showed up half an hour later and had the window fixed by lunch time. I didn’t bother closing the shop as it didn’t take all that long to get everything straightened up and as nothing had been disturbed out the front then it was business as usual.

Charlene seemed in a bit of a fog all day after the visit from Officer Dreamboat and even though I didn’t like to admit it to her, I did give Breeland more than one or two thoughts as the day wore on despite trying to remain focused on what I was doing. The day seemed to go by in a surreal kind of state and it was with some surprise that I looked up to see Roger walking in ready to take over from us.

I suddenly realised that I was a lot tireder than I thought and hungry too. I suppose the excitement of the morning had caught up with me so I said my good nights to Roger and reminded Charlene that we had a date for the movies tomorrow night. Honestly, I loved her to pieces but she had a mind like a sieve and after today she was even worse. She didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything but a pair of astonishingly blue eyes and men in uniforms that fit disgustingly well.

I climbed into my car and took off deciding what I would order for dinner as I drove to the local seafood restaurant that I just adored. My mouth was watering as I mentally went through the menu and my stomach gave a growl. I had been so absorbed during the day with everything that I had forgotten to even eat lunch. I had just turned into the road that ran along the foreshore and up the hill to the cliff top eatery I was headed to when I nearly jumped out of my skin. The blast of a police siren and flashing lights scared the hell out of me and as I glanced in the review mirror I saw Breeland motioning me to pull over.

I parked and didn’t know whether to get out of my car but before I even had the chance he was standing by my door.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,’ he lent down into the window after noticing the expression on my face and he drawled in a voice that left me shivery. ‘I was on my way to your store before going home when I saw you.’ ‘Is anything wrong?’ I asked rather breathlessly. My heart was still pounding but now it wasn’t because of being pulled over, as I looked in to those eyes of his and had to grip the steering wheel tightly to stop myself from shaking, it was the nearness of him that was sending me into a spin.

‘I have a bit of news for you,’ he told me, ‘do you know…’ he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. My eyes followed his hand as he did this and my mouth went dry. I was glad that he hadn’t caught me giving him the once over and didn’t have any idea why I was even more flustered. ‘Do you know a Robbie Jenkins and Kyle McNamara?’ he asked.

I tried to think, not an easy task right at the moment with his blue eyes fixed on my face but I gave it my best shot. The names sounded familiar. ‘I know Cathy Jenkins, she sometimes comes in and buys towels from me but I don’t know her that well. Her husband Rich runs the hardware and I think they have something to do with the school council.’ He nodded. ‘Well they have a son Robbie and it seems like Robbie, Kyle and a few of their mates were out last night after baseball practice – they are mad Cubs fans apparently, anyway they were mucking around in the lane next to your shop, taking a short cut home it seems, when they decided to have an impromptu game and accidentally hit their ball through your window.’

‘Robbie got pretty cut up climbing in to get the ball back. He’s okay now, they stitched him up and he’s fessed up to what happened when I showed up this afternoon after a call I received from the surgery. He’d apparently spun his mum some tale that had sounded convincing about how he got cut up but I think he was quaking in his boots when I confronted him. The poor kid was in tears and promised that he would pay for the damage out of his pocket money. If I were you I would be expecting a call from his parents on Monday to apologise and make restitution,’ he said.

‘Poor kids, I bet that it scared the hell out of them,’ I sympathised now that I knew what had really happened. ‘Oh yes I would say that it did and he seemed like a nice sort of kid. There wasn’t anything malicious in it, just one of those silly accidents that happen when you are a kid. His family seem decent and down to earth people. They were upset that he had lied to them and will probably ground him for the lie but I convinced them not to punish the kid for the accident. These things happen and boys will be boys,’ he smiled, ‘hell I got into more trouble than that myself when I was his age.’

‘I bet you were a little devil but looked like an angel,’ I laughed. I don’t know why I thought that but a vision of him looking so angelic and sweet with a tinge of impishness thrown in crossed my mind. He laughed out right at that and his laughter was musical. ‘You have got it to a tee. I was a right terror to be honest but …’ he lent in closer, ‘promise me that you won’t tell anyone.’ ‘I promise,’ I laughed, ‘your secret is safe with me.’

We both went silent for a moment, smiling like a couple of people that seemed to have known each other for ages and not just met. It was a comfortable silence.

‘By the way,’ I broke the silence, ‘how is your hand?’ He looked down at his palm. ‘It’s fine thanks to you.’ ‘No problems, any time. Nurse George is always available to administer first aid to the sick and needy.’ Oh god, I sounded like an idiot but he laughed. ‘I’ll keep that in mind.’

‘Well… I suppose I had better let you get on with your night. I just wanted to let you know the outcome of my investigation.’ ‘Thank you, I really appreciate it,’ and I meant it. I would have worried all weekend really.

‘I suppose you are off home now?’ he casually asked. ‘Well as a matter of fact I was going to grab some dinner.’ For a moment his face became thoughtful, as if he was mulling something over in his mind then he focussed again. ‘Look,’ he hesitated a little unsure of himself, ‘I am new in town, I only arrived here two weeks ago and don’t really know my way around,’ he explained, ‘and I don’t really know anyone here so I was wondering…’ he coughed, ‘where would be a good place to eat? I have been so busy setting up my place that I have been just grabbing any old thing to tide me over but I don’t feel like cooking for just me tonight and I am hankering for a decent meal.’

I smiled at him. ‘We have a heap of great places here. If you like seafood I was just going to the Seafood and Eat It, it’s the best seafood restaurant around and the view is really something.’ ‘I love seafood,’ he enthused. ‘Umm… I could show you where it is, maybe… if you would like to … well if you wanted to …’ Oh hell I didn’t want to sound like I was trying to pick him up or anything but it would kind of seem impolite and a bit ridiculous if we both went to the same place at the same time and sat at separate tables.

‘Would you care to join me,’ he asked hurriedly before I could ask the same thing, ‘that’s if you aren’t going there with your husband or boyfriend, or have something planned?’ ‘I’m not married,’ I quickly replied, ‘and I don’t have a boyfriend and I would love to join you.’

He looked at his watch and checked the time. ‘I have to get back to the office and get changed, how about we meet in about an hour. I could pick you up if you’d like to have a drink and that way you wouldn’t have to drive.’ ‘I don’t really drink, well not that much and I never drink and drive but it has been an eventful day,’ I explained, ‘yes sure, why not. That would be great.’

I scribbled out my address on a piece of paper I found in my glove box. ‘Okay, I’ll see you in about an hour,’ he smiled ‘and thanks, I really appreciate this.’

I smiled back. ‘It’s a date and you are very welcome.’

Chapter Text

I was home in five minutes and had enough time up my sleeve to quickly change out of the skirt and top I was wearing and into a little black dress that was more casual than formal, after all I didn’t want to overdo it, and I slipped on some sandals.

Tyrion went mad with happiness when I let him in. During the day, when I was at work, he stayed out in the garden. When I had bought the place one of the first things that I had done was had a gazebo constructed in the back yard that doubled as a shelter for him. He had a bed in it and large stone sink with a fresh water supply. He had toys out there to play with and because it was built under a large tree that protected it from the sun in summer and the cold winds in winter, he was as happy as a lark but mostly he was the happiest when I got home and let him in. He was a house dog and we adored each other.

‘Now listen carefully,’ I said to him as I stood in front of my dressing table brushing my hair. ‘I have had one hell of a day, I’ll explain it all later,’ I told him, ‘and I’m going out to dinner but I am getting picked up and I want you to be on your best behaviour.’ He sat there listening to me, his head cocked to one side intent on each word I said to him as I watched his reflection in the mirror. ‘So you know what that means, no nasty surprise smells right!’ He smiled, or so I kidded myself. ‘I mean it,’ I said as I put on some lipstick, smoothed out my dress and gave myself a misting of my favourite perfume. ‘So how do I look?’ I asked him and spun around. He stood up and walked over to me and sniffed then wagged his tail. I had the seal of approval.

The doorbell rang and I looked at him. ‘Come on, and remember – no crutch sniffing or you might be arrested for indecent assault. I did tell you he is a policeman didn’t I?’ I laughed as I ran down the stairs closely followed by my trusty confident woofing loudly at the sound of the doorbell ringing. ‘Now you just sit there and no growling please,’ I added then opened the door.

‘Hi,’ I smiled as Breeland stood in the doorway. ‘Hi, I hope I didn’t keep you waiting,’ he smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. ‘No not at all. Come in, I’m ready I just need to grab my purse and then we can get going.’ ‘Hello boy,’ he said to Tyrion as he sat there obediently, waiting to be noticed. Breeland made a bee line for him. ‘Who’s a good boy then? Shake hands…’ and he held out his hand to him, first with his right hand and then with his bandaged left hand. ‘Good boy, now high five,’ and much to my astonishment Tyrion obliged.

He had never done that with anyone that he’d never met before and I was speechless.

‘He’s a beauty,’ Breeland was saying over his shoulder to me as I picked up my bag and stood there watching. ‘You’ve trained him well. What’s his name?’ ‘I can assure you I never trained him to high five. His name is Tyrion.’ ‘You’re a good boy aren’t you Tyrion. I bet you look after your mistress well.’ He was patting him and fussing over him and Tyrion was putty in his hands. ‘Now you look after the house and I promise you I will bring her back safely.’

He patted him on the head and turned to me. ‘Ready?’ he asked. I nodded. ‘Be a good boy,’ I said to Tyrion, ‘I won’t be late and I’ve left you your treats in your bowl.’

I locked up and Breeland took my arm and escorted me out to his car. It was black, shiny, expensive and well cared for. He opened the door for me and handed me in and I sat watching him move around and get in to the driver’s side. He had a way of walking that reminded me of a dancer, light on his feet and with a carefree sort of movement, it was a treat to see and sexy as hell. So was he. He looked delicious plus he was courteous and had the manners of a gentleman. He impressed the socks off me.

I had thought he looked delectable in his uniform but in plain clothes he was just as hot, if not more. He was wearing a pair of deep navy pants that fitted him in all the right places and a matching navy shirt. The colour suited his complexion and with his dark hair with its auburn and silvery highlights at his temples, he looked good. He looked really good.

‘He’s a fine dog,’ he mentioned again as I gave him directions to the restaurant. ‘You know I am pretty gobsmacked. I have never seen him take to anyone like he did to you.’ ‘I love dogs. I always had one as a kid.’ ‘It shows,’ I replied, ‘I always think that dogs are a great judge of character. If Tyrion doesn’t like someone then …’ ‘So if he hadn’t liked me we wouldn’t be going to dinner?’ ‘Well…’ ‘You know something, I totally agree. That’s the way I feel too about dogs, they have a sixth sense don’t they.’

He smiled and so did I. ‘Love me love my dog?’ I asked. ‘Pretty much so,’ he smiled again. I could get to like this guy, I thought to myself.

The Seafood and Eat It was crowded but not overly so. They knew me there so luckily they found us a table by the window that looked out over the sea and afforded views that kind of took your breath away. The sea came right up to the cliffs edge below the rocky shoreline before sweeping away to the left into the shallow bay with its sandy beach. The lights of the town nestled around the shoreline began to twinkle as the sun disappeared and an apricot, pink and purple curtain descended on the night’s sky.

‘It’s beautiful,’ Breeland said looking out at the view. ‘I told you,’ I smiled as we sat at the table and looked through the menu. ‘Are you ready to order?’ Darlene the waitress asked, coming over after giving us some time. ‘What would you recommend?’ Breeland asked me, ‘I am in your hands.’

I squashed the thought that his words conjured up from my mind and tried to focus on what I thought would best show off just how good the food here was.

‘How about we share the speciality of the house?’ I suggested. ‘Sounds good to me.’ ‘Okay, Darlene can we have a seafood platter for two?’ ‘Coming right up George, Marcel is out doing himself tonight with his special sauce, it’s a gem.’ ‘Marcel?’ Breeland queried. ‘He’s the chef here and quite a character,’ I told him. ‘He’s Darlene’s adopted cousin and evacuated here when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and he loved it here so much he’s stayed here ever since.’

He seemed to go a bit quiet and changed the subject quickly. ‘Tell me about you, how long have you lived here?’ ‘Not much to tell really. Lived in the city, got burnt out – for more reasons than one,’ I added under my breath, ‘decided on a sea change and ended up here a couple of years ago. I love the sea so much. There’s nothing better than taking Tyrion down to the beach and going for a long walk. There’s something so very hypnotic about it. It makes me feel small and insignificant compared to the natural beauty of the ocean and yet I kind of feel connected.’

I stopped, embarrassed at my ramblings. ‘I’m sorry, I am babbling. I do that when I am nervous,’ I explained. ‘I know what you mean about being by the ocean, I love it too. That was one of the reasons that I was drawn here,’ he smiled, ‘and George; there is no need to be nervous. I don’t bite. But please, if you feel uncomfortable with me…’ Oh hell, I felt like I had put my foot in it now and made him feel bad.

‘Look I’ll be honest, I don’t really go out on dates that is, I haven’t been on a date for a long time.’ I fumbled on, ‘I was in a relationship for a long time that ended badly and since then I have given dating a miss so … you are the first person that I have trusted enough to even go out to dinner with,’ I ended lamely.
His face seemed to soften as he sat listening to me. Suddenly he reached across the table and took my hand.

‘I understand how you feel. I have to confess you are the first person I have taken to dinner in a long time too. You mentioned New Orleans before,’ he went on, ‘I come from Louisiana, lived in a small back water town then left and went to New Orleans and joined the police force. Got married and Paula, my wife, was expecting when Hurricane Katrina rolled in,’ he almost whispered.

‘She had been out of town, up along the coast and was driving back when it hit. A tree came down and hit the car. She didn’t stand a chance and of course the baby didn’t either.’

My heart nearly broke and it must have shown on my face for he gave my hand a small comforting squeeze.

‘I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you. How did you cope?’

‘At the time, with everything that was going on down there, in a way it was good for me. It didn’t give me time to think. I didn’t want to think. There was so much suffering and destruction and so many sad stories happening that mine was … just one of many.’

Without really realising it I was patting his hand trying to convey some sympathy and comfort in my empathy for him.

‘I stuck around,’ he went on, ‘until things settled down. I wanted to be part of the rebuilding of the community so I stayed for as long as I could but once things were back on their feet I started looking around for somewhere that I could find some peace and settle into, and that’s how I came to be here.’
‘And,’ he added smiling into my eyes, ‘I am sure glad that I did.’

‘For what it’s worth,’ I smiled back, ‘I am glad that you did too.’

Chapter Text

‘I don’t think that I can eat another bite,’ Breeland moaned and held his stomach, ‘I’ve eaten far too much but it’s your fault, you were so right saying this is the best seafood place around. That sauce on the lobster medallions was sure something. It reminds me of home,’ he told me. ‘It’s Marcel’s Cajun spices, he can’t resist and they are absolutely delicious. I am so glad that you liked it.’ ‘Liked it, hell I could drink it. It reminds me of the food I used to have in a little bar in my home town. It wasn’t much to look at but everyone went there and they served food, basic stuff but it was mighty fine. And you are right; it’s all in the spices.’

‘Hah, if you think the main course is good that’s nothing compared to the desserts that Marcel whips up. They are heaven.’ ‘Red velvet cake, just don’t tell me he makes it. No matter how full I am I will just have to try some, it’s my favourite.’ ‘Hell yes, it’s my favourite too but you wait, you haven’t seen the size of the portions. I swear to god I don’t think I could get through a whole one tonight, I have eaten that much already.’ ‘How about we go halves?’ ‘Sounds like a plan.’

We smiled at each other, a warm and comfortable smile, easy with each other’s company. All my previous nerves had vanished and I was really enjoying being out with a man for the first time is so very long. He had a way of making me feel at ease with him and with myself.

When Darlene bought the dessert over his eyes nearly popped out of his head. I laughed. ‘See I told you,’ as we both looked at the delicious concoction sitting before us. It was a huge masterpiece and looked almost too good to eat.

‘Hmm, well I’m game if you are,’ he chuckled. We picked up our spoons and plunged in. I watched his face as he put the spoon in his mouth and waited for the taste sensation to hit him, and then I did the same.

He closed his eyes and a rapturous expression flooded his face at the same time as the flavours hit my mouth.

‘Oh god, it’s like an orgasm for you taste buds isn’t it,’ I blurted out without thinking as I liked my spoon with my tongue savouring every crumb.

His eyebrows shot up his forehead and he looked at me with his spoon halfway to his mouth, the corners of his lips curling up into one of the sexiest smiles I have ever seen. I went bright red and suddenly felt the power of his magnetism flooding my body.

‘I couldn’t have put it better if I tried,’ he drawled at me, his lips twitching at my obvious embarrassment but I kind of had the feeling he was enjoying it and even maybe a little pleased, ‘you are going to be the death of me girl,’ he added. ‘I sure hope not,’ I commented in between another mouthful of dessert.

Our eyes met and I had the feeling he was searching my face looking for something. I looked back at him and couldn’t help feeling that here was a guy that had been through hell but had come out the other side wanting to find something out of life that would take away the pain and bad memories. I understood that, even though I hadn’t been through the loss that he had in that sense, I had been through a relationship that I had kind of kidded myself may be the one at the time, only to find myself very sadly mistaken.
My heart went out to him and I hope that it showed.

‘So apart from eating orgasmic desserts and taking long walks, which I might add, sounds perfect to me,’ he said as his eyes looked into mine with a genuine interest, ‘what else do to keep yourself busy?’

We lingered over the cake, talking of this and that, our loves and dislikes, discovering how many things that we remarkably had in common. I was just about to ask him whether he was working or not in the morning and what he had planned for his weekend when my voicemail alert went off. Charlene messaged me cancelling our night at the movies. She had to baby sit her sister’s kids unexpectedly and was sorry but insisted that I go anyway.

‘Dam it,’ I muttered under my breath. ‘Sorry about that,’ I apologised for being so rude and checking my phone during dinner, ‘I thought I had turned it off.’ ‘No problems, I have to leave mine on for work so it’s okay. Is anything wrong?’ he asked me concerned. ‘It’s nothing really, it’s just that Charlene and I were going to go to the movies tomorrow night and she’s had to cancel.’

‘I love the movies, haven’t been in ages, just never had the time much back in New Orleans. I love the old movies, I even consider myself a bit of a movie buff.’ ‘You are kidding right?’ I asked incredulously, ‘you really are into old movies?’ ‘Sure am, as a matter of fact I have quite a DVD collection. You are welcome to come over and watch some any time you are up for it or borrow them.’ ‘Thanks that’s so kind of you.’

A sudden thought hit me. ‘We had been going to see a Marx Brother’s double, it’s the last night tomorrow night and I know it’s booked out, would you like to …’ ‘Love to,’ he jumped in before I could finish, ‘they are one of my favourites. I still laugh every time I see their movies, even though they are so very old. Classic comedy, no matter how old they or the viewer is, is still funny and to be appreciated.’

‘Okay, that’s great.’ I grinned at him. ‘It’s a date then,’ he smiled back and I sat there melting into his eyes and nearly jumped when Darlene put the bill down on the table. I hadn’t even noticed her through my little happiness bubble that I was wallowing in.

We came out to his car and he drove to the car park entrance then he stopped at the T intersection, a right turn led back into town or there was a left turn out of the car park. ‘Where does that lead to?’ he asked. ‘The road goes on up to the very top of the bluff. It’s got a spectacular view over the whole coast line for miles on a clear day but at night it’s kind of like a lover’s lane for all the locals,’ I told him attempting to keep my voice even.

I glanced at his profile as he hesitated a moment, taking in what I had just said, and my heart gave a bit of beat when I saw that small curving of his lips and an infinitesimal nod to himself as if he had made some kind of decision that he kept to himself. I am not sure that I wasn’t just that tiny disappointed when he turned to the right and he drove back down the hill but I had to look at it sensibly. I had only met him this morning and really, even though it appeared that we had a lot in common, I was being really stupid thinking or hoping for anything more.

‘Thanks for a nice night,’ I said as I stood by my front door fumbling in my bag for my keys when we got to my place. ‘Thank you for sharing dinner with me. It’s been a while since I enjoyed myself so much.’ ‘Me too,’ I assured him, ‘it was a real change.’ ‘For me too,’ he smiled.

I opened the door and Tyrion’s face appeared looking sleeping. ‘Sleeping on the job?’ Breeland kneeled down and patted him, scuffing his fur up and shaking his offered paw. ‘See I told you I would get your mum home in one piece.’ Tyrion promptly sat down and held up his paw in a high five gesture. My mouth dropped open.

‘I think you have bewitched him,’ I said astonished. ‘It’s just my stunning nature,’ he laughed. ‘I am sure it is,’ I agreed. Oh hell I definitely agreed; he had me more than stunned.

‘Well good night boy, time you and your mum got some sleep,’ he told him. Hah that would be easier said than done I thought to myself, I had a lot to think about. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow; say around seven if that is okay.’ ‘Well if you are sure it’s not too much trouble to come and pick me up?’ ‘No trouble at all. See you then and … thanks, I really needed tonight, more than you will ever know.’ ‘I was thinking the same thing too. Drive carefully, sleep well.’

He was gone and I closed the door, gave Tyrion a high five and went to sleep with a smile on my face for the first time in two years.

Chapter Text

I woke up the next morning after having a really good night’s sleep. I couldn’t remember the details but I was sure that I had dreamt of Breeland. I just had a vague idea that he’d come to the door and I had opened it and fallen into his arms. If only. Get a grip girl you are being so totally ridiculous. The poor guy was just being nice to you and he’s probably just lonely and wants to make some new friends. Nothing more, my head was telling me to be rational but my heart, well that was telling me something totally different and despite my head sounding warning bells not to get carried away well, the heart wants what the heart wants and right now it wanted to live in this tiny little bubble of happiness for the moment.

So what if we had just met. So what if I didn’t really know all that much about him, I knew enough from what he’d told me about himself and the way he’d been so comfortable to be with that I liked him, I liked him a lot. I’d never really had that happen to me before, meeting a guy and feeling like there was an instant connection and that hopefully it was reciprocated. It was a new sensation and I revelled in it.

Slow down my head warned me. Shut up my heart told me back, just enjoy it and see where it goes. If nothing happens then that’s the way it goes but if something does… I smiled to myself at the thought. What was the saying – nothing ventured nothing gained and let’s face it, I had not been doing a lot of venturing in a long time. Maybe it was time that I did.

I bounced out of bed and gave Tyrion a big hug. He had his own bed in the corner of my bedroom that he slept in if he chose to but sometimes, when it was really cold, I would wake up in the morning to find him asleep snuggled up to me. In the really hot weather he loved sleeping in the en suite on the cool tiled floor or downstairs in another bed I had for him where it was cooler than upstairs. It was fine by me, like I had said to Breeland, love me love my dog was my motto and Tyrion was my family so my casa his casa or however the saying went.

‘Good morning, isn’t it a beautiful morning?’ I said to him. ‘So tell me, what did you think of Breeland?’ I asked him. At the mention of his name Tyrion wagged his tail. ‘You like him don’t you?’ Vigorous wagging of tail ensued. ‘Ha, I thought you did. Well I will tell you a little secret, I like him too.’ Woof. Well it certainly seemed like he agreed with me and was happy about it.

‘Come on, let’s get some breakfast then I have to go to the supermarket and when I come back, how about a long walkies down the beach. Oh and by the way, did I tell you that Breeland and I are going to the movies?’ He walked over to me and held up his paw. ‘Yep, high five!’

I left Tyrion playing out in the back yard while I went to the supermarket and then the pet store for his supplies for the week. On my way back I swung by the nursery and picked up the ceramic pot that I have had my eye on for ages. It was green and had a small Chinese type dragon in four places on it. The glazing had been cunningly crafted and dribbled down it to give it an old worn feeling. I really loved it and it was perfect for the orchid that I had rescued and nurtured along for the last six months and that was now rewarding me with exquisite deep blood red flowers on the hallway table by the front door.

The owner told me that the dragons would bring good fortune to those worthy of it. I laughed. I wasn’t normally one for being superstitious and didn’t believe him for a second privately thinking that the pot was probably made on some production line in a factory and scarcely had any remote possible chance of magical powers but secretly I had to smile and I crossed my fingers hoping he was right.

When I came home I unpacked the groceries, put them away and then potted up my orchid. I grabbed a bite to eat and was just thinking about going to the beach when an idea struck me. Fishing Breeland’s card out of my handbag I punched in his number. He answered straight away.

‘Hi, it’s me George,’ I said a little shyly. Now that I was speaking to him I was kind of kicking myself for ringing him. I didn’t want him to think I was pestering him or even worse, stalking him. ‘I know I have your number in my address book notifier. How are you? Is anything wrong?’ he asked, a touch of concern in his voice, ‘are we still on for tonight?’

I burst out into a grin at the thought that he had put my number in his phone, wow that was awesome.

‘There’s nothing wrong,’ I assured him, ‘and yes we’re still on, that’s if you still feel like it that would be great, I am looking forward to it.’ ‘So am I,’ he told me. There was a slight pause while I took a deep breath. ‘I was just wondering, well the movie doesn’t start until eight o’clock so I was wondering if you weren’t doing anything beforehand would like to come over for dinner? Nothing fancy, I have some wings marinating and was just going to throw them on the barbecue and make some potato salad? But if you have other plans…’ I held my breath waiting for him to answer but without hesitation he agreed. ‘I would love to and no, I am not doing anything. I am still unpacking and kind of getting everything sorted. Actually I’ve been looking for a DVD that I thought you might like.’

I smiled to myself again. ‘Wow that’s awesome. Thank you for thinking of me.’ ‘You’re welcome. How about I bring some coleslaw with me too, I make a mean one and could bring some over.’ ‘Cool, I love slaw with wings.’ ‘Okay,’ he paused, ‘say I come over about five, that way we won’t have to rush.’ ‘Sounds perfect to me too.’ ‘See you then.’ ‘See you.’

He hung up and I did a little dance that Tyrion joined in, sensing my excitement.

I looked at the time, it was going on for two so I still had enough time to go for a walk and get back, make the potato salad and have a shower. ‘Come on then, walkies!’

My house sat about three quarters of the way up the opposite bluff to the one the seafood restaurant we had been to the night before was on. It was nestled into the side of the hill that formed the other end of the cove the town was named for. The way that the geography was laid out it was only a walk of some three or four blocks down the streets to the sandy beach that was a draw card for the whole town so it took us no time to get to the shore.

I stopped and surveyed the scene at the top of the path that led down some stairs cut into the sandy beach front. It really was such a pretty spot.

Unlike the nearest big town Hermanville some ten miles inland, my little village was picturesque, quiet, and had a homely feel. It didn’t have the slightly industrial feel of the larger town and I was glad of that, it was exactly what I had been looking for.

Besides, just lately I had heard rumours that there was some kind of trouble in the larger town. I couldn’t remember what Rex down at the garage had been saying, hadn’t really been paying that much attention as I didn’t get over there much and wasn’t really all that interested to be honest. I preferred the more rural Spring Falls some fifteen miles south west of Silverflint Cove if I was going to be driving anywhere. They had a great farmer’s market that sold fresh produce and lots of handy craft work whereas Hermanville had an edge to it that reminded me a little of what I had left behind when I moved out of the big smoke and I didn’t like it all that much. Well except for the Green Room Bar and Grill that is. That was an awesome place to spend an occasional Saturday night and Charlene and I had been over there more than a few times and had a ball.

The weather had turned a little cooler with a blustery wind whipping up the surf so that there weren’t as many people as there normally would be on the beach on a Saturday afternoon.

I was kind of glad in a way that we had the place to ourselves more or less. I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone, I had other things on my mind, namely Breeland and I wanted time to think. It had suddenly struck me as I walked along the sand, throwing Tyrion’s tennis ball to him to fetch and return, a game he never ever got tired of playing; I remembered what Breeland had said last night when he mentioned having a collection of DVDs. He had said I was welcome to come over any time.

I gave a little shiver of anticipation at the thought. Okay he was probably just being polite but he had offered and he did seem sincere – the argument between my head and heart raged on.

It seemed ludicrously presumptuous of me to think that he was being anything more than just friendly, after all he had people skills, he had to in the job that he did but at the same time I felt, or wanted to feel that he was kind of lost and maybe, just maybe, he was seeking companionship.

Like I said to him last night, and I really meant it, I hadn’t been out with anyone since – well since I split up with Ramsay. I hadn’t gone into details with him but the relationship I’d been in that had taken its toll and that had burnt me out. I didn’t trust any more, and I didn’t have too much faith left. But somehow I knew, or wanted to think that I knew that Breeland wasn’t like that, that he was the kind of guy that would take a relationship seriously and had it not been for the unfortunate events that befell him, he would still be happily married and with a heap of kids.

I was probably being silly but I really liked him and that was something that I hadn’t been prepared for, or looked for, it had just happened.

A million thoughts ran through my mind as we walked back home, flushed from the effort and a bit wind burnt from the sun, salt and breeze.

He’s just being nice, that’s his nature I told myself, nothing more to it I kept saying to myself in the shower after I had made the salad and laid out the table on the patio. I dressed in my favourite jeans and a white top that made my flushed skin and the colour of my eyes pop I kidded myself. Hey a girl’s got to have some confidence in herself doesn’t she, even if she really didn’t believe it I smiled to myself.

‘Not bad,’ I said to Tyrion as I surveyed myself in the mirror. He wagged his tail obligingly. ‘Ha, flatterer,’ I laughed.

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang right on five o’clock sharp. I opened the door to find Breeland juggling a bunch of flowers, a large covered bowl, a pie plate, a DVD and dog toy. ‘Here let me give you a hand,’ I laughed. ‘God I thought I was going to drop the pie and I went to a lot of trouble to make it.’ ‘You made it?’ I was gobsmacked. ‘Sure did.’ ‘I am totally impressed.’ ‘Don’t be,’ he laughed, ‘you haven’t tasted it yet.’ ‘Well you know what they say; it’s the thought that counts and besides, I am sure that it will be sensational.’

I took the pie plate and bowl out of his hands and closed the door. ‘These are for you and …’ he nodded to the flowers and, flourished a large toy bone with a squeaker in it, ‘this is for you Tyrion.’

Tyrion sniffed it then looked at me. ‘It’s okay you can take it. That’s so kind of you,’ I said to him, ‘you really shouldn’t have, you will spoil him … and,’ I looked at the bouquet of flowers he was holding, they were absolutely beautiful and I knew they must have cost a bit, ‘and me too. Breeland they are beautiful.’ ‘I hope you like them; I didn’t know what your favourites are but it’s just a kind of a thank you for dinner last night and inviting me over today too.’ ‘Thank you and you are welcome to come over any time, I know it’s hard when you move to somewhere new for a fresh start and you don’t know anyone.’

I took him through to the kitchen and put the flowers in a vase as he put the DVD on the kitchen bench. ‘Do you need a hand with anything?’ he asked as I arranged the flowers. ‘Well you can put these on the table outside; I thought that we could eat out there by the barbecue. It’s such a nice evening.’ The wind had dropped down to nothing now and the late afternoon held one of those glorious promises of a beautiful sunset. ‘Got it, how about I fire up the grill while I’m at it so it can be heating up.’ ‘Great, you’ll find everything that you need out there on the patio,’ I told him while I got the salad out and spoons for the potato salad and the coleslaw.

‘This smells delicious,’ I called out to him as I took the lid off the bowl. ‘Hope you like it,’ he yelled back. ‘If it tastes as good as it smells I am betting I sure will.’ I got the ribs out of the fridge and juggling the two bowls of salads I joined him outside.

Tyrion came out too carrying his new pride and joy, the squeak, squeak, squeak he was making as he chewed on it a testament to how much he adored it. We both laughed. ‘Sorry,’ Breeland said ruefully, ‘that noise is probably going to drive you nuts.’ ‘Don’t worry about it, he loves it and that makes me happy. Besides, I have a huge bone for him to chomp on while we eat so I will take it off him and explain he is only allowed to play with it whenever you are here. It’s a special gift from you and is to be kept for special occasions.’

He seemed genuinely touched when I said that. For a moment I thought that I caught his eyes misting over and again I was struck by the tinge of sadness that he must have been living with since the death of his wife. My eyes watered up a little too and I hoped that he hadn’t noticed but as I learnt over time, there was not much that he missed, he was that kind of deep and caring guy.

I put my hand on his arm. ‘Thank you again. It really was special of you to do that for him.’ ‘You’re welcome. He’s a special kind of dog.’ He smiled.

We grilled up the ribs together, taking it in turns to brush marinade on them and by the time that we both agreed they were ready we were salivating over the smell.
We took our time over eating, the evening was lovely and the food was so good plus we both enjoyed being with each other talking or just sitting quietly taking in the view in the changing light of dusk.

‘You have a nice place here,’ he said as he pushed his plate back and stretched, ‘the view is really something.’

The way that my house sat on the block on an angle afforded a view from the patio across the valley, the town, and down along the beach leading up to the other headland. Behind me was sparsely built up due to the ruggedness of the cliff so there were no houses that could be built at a later stage to overlook my garden.

‘The view from upstairs is even more incredible, at night when the lights are on it’s so pretty. Just like a tiny patch of fairy land. I love the way it just stops in a curve of darkness as it reaches the shore. I never get sick of looking at it. I have a telescope and watch the boats out at sea and at night the stars are just awesome. I sometimes sit out on the little bedroom balcony in summer for hours. I’ll show you when it gets dark later if you like?’ ‘Sounds beautiful really,’ he enthused, ‘and you know you’d be able to see right into my place from here, I am only a few blocks down and one block away from the esplanade. We are practically neighbours,’ he laughed.

I started collecting the dishes and stacking them in the sink but he insisted on helping out. ‘You wash I’ll dry.’ ‘Okay then maybe we can have some pie, I can’t wait. It smells heavenly.’ ‘Like I warned you before, you haven’t tasted it yet.’ ‘Well if it is half as good as your slaw then it’s sure going to be something,’ I smiled.

When we finally got around to the pie I declared him to be far too humble about his cooking. It was unreal. From the very first bite I was in heaven. ‘Oh my god, did you really make this?’ ‘Uh huh,’ he mumbled with a modest look and a mouthful of food. ‘God you have to give me the recipe. It’s to die for.’ ‘Not as good as last night and your orgasm to my taste buds?’ he grinned cocking one eye brow and giving me a cheeky grin.

‘Oh hell yes every bit as good, I don’t know what you have in it but is fantastic. Where did you learn to cook like this?’ ‘It’s my wife’s…it was my wife’s recipe, it’s been handed down from mother to daughter for years in her family.’ ‘She must have been some cook,’ I said gently to him. He gave a reserved smile. ‘She was and so was her mother. It ran in the family,’ he said quietly. ‘Well if you don’t mind sharing family secrets then I would love to have the recipe.’

He gave me an odd kind of look, I couldn’t quite fathom it. He looked like he was about to say something but hesitated and changed the subject. It left me wondering but given his circumstances I guessed it was pretty hard for him to think of anything relating to his wife. The pain was still too raw even though it had been some years since her passing, so I thought at the time.

After a quick coffee we had just enough time to get to the theatre and get comfortably seated before the show began.

‘My face hurts from laughing,’ he complained as we walked back to his car after the movies were over. ‘I swear it doesn’t matter how much I see those movies I still laugh just as much,’ I giggled. ‘Well in that case I think you will love the DVD I bought over for you, it’s got my favourite Laurel and Hardy piece on it.’ ‘That’s so cool I love them, they were brilliant. Thanks so much for thinking of it. It’s totally cool of you.’ I smiled and he smiled back. ‘My pleasure,’ he replied.

We were just about to get into his car when he looked down the street. People were making their way home or going on to whatever they had planned for the rest of the night. It was just another typical Saturday night that you would find in most small towns throughout the country. The street was lit with shop front lights blazing out and the more flashy displays coming from the small bar that was a local haunt – The Drinks Are On Me and from - The Chat and Chew coffee shop, the local hamburger bar - Steer Crazy, and further down the block Mama Loves Big Rooster and Dumplings Chicken Stop, all popular spots with everyone that had a mind to simply sit and enjoy supper or a quiet chat or listen to the music on the old jukeboxes they had. They were homely and beloved by all in town.

‘Do you fancy a nightcap?’ he asked, ‘Barney at the office told me they make a great hot chocolate at the …’ ‘At the Chat and Chew?’ I finished. He nodded. ‘I’d love to,’ I smiled at him, ‘but I do have to warn you, they make the best baked cheese cake and Danishes out. They are known for it.’ ‘I have a confession to make,’ he laughed, ‘Barney told me about them too. He’s the only guy I have ever seen that can fit a whole muffin in his mouth all at once. He has a sweet tooth so when he said they are the best well… I have had a hankering to go there ever since then,’ he laughed.

We sat and enjoyed our hot chocolate and yes, despite being full from dinner and pie we still manage to fit in a Blueberry Danish. Seems we had another thing in common; namely a sweet tooth when it came to desserts.

‘God I am going to be even fatter than I am now if we keep going out and doing this,’ I laughed as we walked back to the car.

He stopped and looked at me, his eyes running down my body then he purred, ‘You sure look mighty fine to me,’ and smiled.

Officer Dreamboat strikes again. I could barely breathe and I was weak at the knees from the look on his face and his comment.

‘It’s me that should be watching what I eat,’ he added. It was my turn to stop and give him the once over. ‘I wouldn’t change a thing,’ my voice sounded husky and I hoped he didn’t notice but that small little smirk on his face gave him away and I just melted a little bit more.

‘Thanks for a great night,’ he said as we stood on my doorstep when we got home, ‘I really enjoyed it. It’s been a long time since I had a good laugh. And thanks for dinner. I don’t often get home cooked meals these days; that I haven’t had to cook myself that is.’ ‘Breeland you are more than welcome. Thank you for coming over, you are more than welcome any time, I mean it, and thanks for coming with me, the flowers, the toy and the DVD. Thanks for everything, I totally enjoyed myself too.’

We were silent, not uncomfortably silent but the silence that happens when you don’t want the night to end but aren’t sure how to proceed from there on wards.

‘So… do you have any plans for tomorrow?’ he casually asked, his eyes on me, calculating my response. ‘I had planned to go over to Spring Falls with Tyrion. They have a few antique shops that I wanted to browse through and it’s the farmer’s market day tomorrow too.’ ‘I see,’ he nodded, ‘actually I have been meaning to ask you if you might know anywhere that I could pick up a hall stand. I love that one that you have and I rather fancy getting one.’ ‘Simpson’s would have one. I am going there tomorrow… would you like to come with me? They know me and if you find something you like I am sure they would do a good deal for me. Mine was pretty battered around when I got it but I can help you restore it if you like.’

‘Are you sure, I won’t be putting you to any trouble will I?’ ‘Pick me up at eight, they open early,’ I laughed.

‘Thank you, see you then.’

Impulsively, I leant in and quickly brushed his cheek ever so lightly. Without hesitation he gently placed his beautiful hands on my shoulders and reciprocated, kissing my cheek gently.

‘I better go,’ he said. ‘Okay,’ was all I managed to get out.

I could still feel his warm skin on my cheek and smell his aftershave lingering on my face as I closed the door and let out a squeal of delight.

Chapter Text

We had an absolutely fantastic day on the Sunday. The drive to Spring Falls didn’t take long and we had a hall stand for Breeland bought and sitting firmly ensconced on the roof racks he had fitted to his car before picking me up, all within half an hour of arriving.

With Tyrion on his best behaviour we spent the morning browsing through the market, buying up bags of oranges for me because I simply loved making fresh orange juice and a pair of jeans that I got for a bargain at less than half price. We got some vegetables and fresh eggs for Breeland and a couple of T shirts too, and sampled lots of homemade goodies. We bought some brie, a stick of crusty bread, some home cured triple smoked ham, and jars of marinated olives stuffed with tuna and peppers stuffed with mozzarella.
We took all of the food to a picnic spot just near the waterfalls the town was named after and sat amongst the shade of the tree ferns at the base of the falls. It was beautiful. We hadn’t forgotten Tyrion either as we had bought him a large brisket bone and some dried pig ear treats that he happily sat and crunched on.

After lunch we took the track that went up to the top of the falls. ‘It’s a rugged climb and by the time you get up there you are pretty exhausted,’ I warned him, ‘but it’s a magnificent sight and worth the aching muscles the next day.’ He was puffed out as much as Tyrion and I were when we finally made it to the top but he was staggered by the beauty of the view.

Getting down was just as exhausting so we took a break for a while and sat down to catch our breath.

‘That water looks mighty inviting,’ he commented as we sat lying propped up against a tree next to the pool at the foot of the falls. I laughed. ‘It’s the local haunt for the kids around here in summer. I have heard that it is perfect for skinny dipping in the warmer weather.’ ‘Hmm skinny dipping?’ he queried. ‘Not that I have done any, well not here,’ I laughed. ‘But you have skinny dipped?’ ‘Well yes, but it was a long time ago and … I hardly think that I would ever again.’ ‘Never say never,’ he laughed, ‘you just never know what the future holds,’ he told me.

It gave me plenty to think about.

‘We had a local lake at home and we were always down there during the school holidays, we loved it,’ he reminisced. ‘Oh yes, and did you go skinny dipping?’ I laughed. He coughed and mumbled, ‘Well actually yes I did. Got caught too by the local sheriff, I was a bit of a hell raiser as a kid and always seemed to be getting into some kind of harmless mischief, never anything serious though.’

We lingered on at the falls, lazing in the comfortable space we were both feeling, enjoying being out side in the fresh clean air and amongst the sights and sounds of the water fall pouring noisily down over the rocks.

‘I could stay here for hours,’ he said, stretching out his legs and arms, his muscles rippling beneath his well-fitting Tee shirt. I looked at my watch and laughed. ‘You know we have, it’s going on for five.’ ‘Hell, I had better get the two of you home. I didn’t realise it was that late. I was enjoying myself so much. This is the most relaxed I have been in a long time and it’s due to you two.’ ‘I feel the same way, tired but so relaxed.’

I stretched too and caught him watching me out the corner of my eye. As tired as I was I couldn’t stop myself from imagining what it would be like to strip off, go for a swim and then have him take me, there and then, on the spot. I felt hot at the thought. Oh god, don’t do it, don’t think about it or you will only get yourself into a whole mess of trouble my head told me. But heh, under the circumstances would you have listened to your head any more than I was listening to mine, I doubt it.

I wondered if he was thinking the same thing because he suddenly got up and walked over to the edge of the pool for a few minutes then walked back to me a little self-consciously I thought, his hands balled in his pockets. I didn’t mean to but couldn’t help running my eyes down him and then looked away not wanting to embarrass him but hiding a bit of a smile at the sight I thought I saw. I was stoked. Oh god I was so bad.

‘I had better get you home,’ he stammered, ‘we both have to work tomorrow.’ I nodded and stood up still hot and bothered at the thoughts I had going through my head. Brushing bark off my jeans and straightening my T shirt I looked down and realised that he wasn’t the only one with bodily reactions. Oh god, calm down girl I kept telling myself but no matter what I did the clingy T shirt and soft cupped bra I was wearing was a dead giveaway.

I was lucky that at that moment Tyrion decided to take off after a rabbit with me attached to him by the lead so it saved me any further embarrassment. By the time I got him under control I was under control too.

Breeland asked me for advice about how to restore his hall stand on the drive back home and by the time we got back to his place we had agreed that I would give him a hand getting it into his house and then come over at the weekends and strip it back before deciding if the wood was in a good enough condition to wax or even stain and polish. If not, we could always paint it and lacquer it, a black Chinese lacquer always looked awesome.

He agreed to me helping him out but on one condition, that he cooked dinner for me that night. ‘Nothing fancy,’ he assured me, just a pasta dish he enjoyed making and that he hoped that I liked. He knew I was tired and so was he but he made it never the less, so his offer was gratefully accepted.

We got the hall stand off his car roof racks and into his garage that he had sectioned off into part garage part work shop. ‘Wow I am so jealous,’ I commented as I looked at the array of power tools he had, all top of the range and well cared for. ‘You are welcome to borrow any of them any time you need them.’ ‘Really? Thank you so much that would be great. I could have used them when I was doing a makeover on the little wash stand that I have in my bedroom. The wood work is quite intricate and those attachments would have been perfect. They will come in handy for our hall stand project.’

By the time that we’d eaten and done the dishes, only fair that I helped washing up seeing he had helped out the night before, we were both pretty dog tired, even Tyrion was looking sleepy. It had been a long day and the climb up the waterfall had left us both bushed and aching. I stretched and commented that I needed a long hot shower to ease the tension in my muscles and I thought I heard him mumble something about needing a cold one but I couldn’t be sure and put it down to wishful thinking.

He drove me home and I insisted he stay in the car as he was just as beat as I was and I had Tyrion with me so there was no need to walk me to my door. I thanked him again for coming and for the impromptu picnic and wonderful dinner. ‘It’s me that should be thanking you for the whole weekend. I don’t know when I have enjoyed myself this much… well not in a long time that’s for sure.’

I pecked him on the cheek and he reciprocated. ‘Don’t forget, next weekend – the hall stand project,’ he reminded me as if I needed any reminding. ‘Trust me, I won’t.’

As his car tail lights faded into the night the world seemed a bit emptier without him around. It seemed to me that I could get very used to being with Breeland. He was that kind of guy and I was sure glad that I had met him.

‘Come on mister,’ I said to Tyrion as I walked up the path to the front door, ‘time to have that shower and then get to bed.’ My thoughts were still on Breeland and the scene at the waterfall. ‘Hmm, maybe I had better make it a cold one at that.’

Tyrion wagged his tail and grinned.

Chapter Text

‘I’m so sorry about Saturday night,’ Charlene said the minute she walked in the door the next day. ‘Hope it didn’t ruin your weekend for you. Deidre had to go to a dinner and her sitter cancelled out so she was stuck. I had the kids for hours and they drove me nuts. They are good kids really but…’ she was on a rant and the only thing that saved me from a long winded description of every single minute of her night was the phone ringing.

It was Cathy Jenkins ringing to apologise for the broken window and insisting on paying for the repairs. I told her the insurance had it all sorted and not to worry. I was more concerned that Robbie had done some damage to himself but she reassured me that he had only needed a few stitches and luckily there was no major hurt to him. So that was that.

‘What was all that about,’ Charlene asked. I was just starting to explain to her what had happened but hadn’t gotten two words out when a courier arrived with a shipment of goods I had bought on line and the next hour was taken up with unloading and checking them and then putting them on display. As they were a new line of luxury toiletries that I had rather fancied it took a while to make room for them on one of the shelves I had designated for it so by the time I had finished it was well into the morning.

The door to the shop opened and Charlene, who happened to be standing next to me at the time helping arrange things, gave me a hard nudge in the ribs. ‘OMG,’ she said rather loudly – a favourite saying of hers, ‘it’s Officer Dreamboat.’

I hadn’t had time to tell her about my weekend and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to. She was a terrific friend but she was totally over the top at times and I didn’t want her to make a big deal out of me spending some time with Breeland, it was hard enough for me to keep a lid on my own feelings without dealing with what she would come up with on the subject, so she had no idea when he came in about dinner or the movies or anything I had been up to.

‘Morning ladies,’ he drawled as he walked over to where we were standing. ‘Good morning officer,’ Charlene said in what I took to be her most seductive voice. He just smiled but I noticed his eyes weren’t on Charlene; they were totally crinkling at the edges looking at me. I then noticed he was carrying something with him.

‘You left these in my car and I thought you might need them,’ he handed me the jeans I’d bought the day before at the market. The expression on Charlene’s face was a pure picture. She looked at him, then at the jeans then looked at me, a million questions passing over her face all at once.

‘Thanks so much, I did forget them. That’s really kind of you to bring them by.’ ‘No trouble, I was just about to take a coffee break. Would you like to join me? I thought we could talk about what we will do when you come over on Saturday.’ ‘That would be great. You don’t mind holding the fort for a while do you Charlene,’ I asked as I turned to her knowing full well that she would be in a state of god knows what by now with her mind running riot over him bringing in my pair of jeans or anything else I may or may not have gotten up to with him. I had no doubt that she would be imagining all sorts of stuff having gone on in his car if I had left my pants in it. And the fact that I had even been out with a guy, let alone Officer Dreamboat, well that would be blowing her mind.

‘Won’t be long,’ I smiled and off we went leaving Charlene in a fog of wonder.

As we walked down the street to the Chat and Chew I couldn’t help but giggle at the thought of what would be going through her mind.

‘So, what’s so funny?’ Breeland asked. ‘I think that Charlene has rather jumped to the wrong conclusion.’ He thought for a moment then grinned. ‘Hell I am sorry, I guess I wasn’t thinking. I can explain to her if you like.’ ‘No it’s okay I’ll explain it all. I think too, the fact that I have gone out with anyone has come as rather a shock to her. She knows that I haven’t been interested in anyone despite how often she has tried to set me up with guys, mainly friends of her boyfriend Chuck,’ I rolled my eyes, ‘and I have always refused. She knows me well and knows that it would take someone really …’ ‘Someone really what?’ he interrupted, giving me the impression he was totally interested. ‘Someone pretty special,’ I replied, my voice barely above a whisper kicking myself for being such a dork blurting out something that sounded so … god knows what it sounded like to him.

I felt myself go red.

His face grew serious as he looked at me. ‘Do you think that I am someone special,’ he asked his voice soft and more than just curious or looking for compliments. There was a timbre to his voice as he asked me this that was … I don’t know, eager, hopeful, interested? Was I making a total fool of myself? Did he even care? What the hell was I thinking of even saying something so cheesy, stupid, stalkerish? Oh god that’s just it, I wasn’t thinking as usual and had opened my mouth without thinking at all. I could kick myself. It’s a wonder he didn’t run a mile.

I had never in a million years thought that I would be sitting in a booth at the Chat and Chew, only a few days after meeting someone and talking about this kind of thing.
It had never entered my mind that I would ever date let alone really have any kind of relationship again. I wasn’t looking for it and I didn’t really have any confidence or trust any more in men so why was Breeland so different. What was it about him that was pushing all the right buttons for me, turning me into even more of an idiot that I already was. And then I suddenly realised what it was; I trusted him.

I didn’t know why. It was more than the fact that he was a policeman and naively more than likely, deep down I did respect the profession. It was more than the fact that I felt a dreadful sadness about him and loneliness too that stuck a core deep within me because even though I gave off the impression that I was totally satisfied with my life and where I was at, I was human and missed having an emotional relationship with another person. Tyrion was my guy now and I loved him to pieces but that hardly made up for someone to hold you and comfort you when you needed it or to talk to and they talk back. And it wasn’t just that he was drop dead blue eyed gorgeousness on a stick either.

It was … hmm, it was everything, the whole package; that was all I could come up with in my own mind.

I bit my lip and thought about how I would answer him. I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression but at the same time I wanted him to know that I really did think he was great. I threw caution to the wind and thought stuff it, after all what had I got to lose really, a potential friendship that could all very well be just in my mind?
‘I think you might be,’ I answered looking him full in the face.

I wasn’t sure if I imagined it but it seemed to me that his eyes lit up and he sat up a little straighter, looked a little more confident and sure of himself then he lent forward a little drawling, ‘I happen to think that you might be too.’

Bang! Head spin time. Heart thumping and in a whirl of high fiving myself. Keep a grip girl, settle down, don’t blow it I told myself. Shots fired, officer dreamboat was hitting a bull’s eye right through the centre of my heart.

We were sitting there staring at each other when the waitress came over. Talk about bad timing. ‘I’ve got this,’ Breeland had his wallet out before I could move. Total gentleman.

He walked me back to work and then hit the road and was gone just like that.

The minute I walked back in the door I had half expected a barrage of questions from Charlene but instead she just stared at me and pointed to the register desk where an exquisite floral arrangement was sitting with a small gift card attached to it that read, ‘Thanks for your kindness and a great weekend Breeland xx’
Charlene’s eyes bore into me. ‘Well? Are you going to tell me what the hell has been going on?’

So in between customers I filled her in but not before going in to my office and closing the door for some privacy then ringing Breeland to thank him for the floral arrangement. ‘You have to stop spoiling me with flowers,’ I told him. ‘Well okay, maybe. How about dinner on Friday night then, the Seafood and Eat It? I have a hankering to try their Étouffée, I bet it’s to die for.’ I laughed, ‘It is and,’ I assured him, ‘you’ve got a date.’

‘Details girl, give me details. I want to know every single minute of everything that happened and ….your jeans in his car?’ Charlene asked when I had steadied myself and walked back out into the shop. ‘It’s not what you think,’ I tried to reassure her but I wasn’t entirely satisfied that she believed me.

I told her everything, well not everything, just the basics. I didn’t tell her how he made me feel interesting or relaxed or just someone okay to be around. I hadn’t had much of that in my relationship with my loser ex for a long time, if ever really when I thought about it, and I enjoyed feeling like someone worthwhile again.

‘So….’ Charlene asked when I had finished. ‘What?’ I asked. ‘So when are you seeing him again?’ ‘Well if you must know we are going to dinner again on Friday night but Charlene, you have to promise me no funny business. I don’t want you turning up and turning it into something more than it is and please, keep all this to yourself. Breeland’s a nice guy and I am sure he’s just being nice and getting to know people in town. There’s nothing more to it.’

She laughed. ‘Okay have it your way,’ she said, ‘if you say so but….’ ‘But what?’ I asked. ‘I’m telling you now; the way he looks at you is a hell of a lot than more than a friend would. Mark my words girl,’ she said giving me an excited squeeze.

‘Does Tyrion like him?’ she asked as an afterthought. I laughed. ‘As a matter of fact he has Tyrion eating out of his hands.’

‘You are gone a million girl, gone a million,’ she giggled.

Chapter Text

I was amazed how quickly, before I even realised it was happening in fact, that Breeland and I settled into a kind of routine. At the time we were both working the same kind of hours. He’d explained to me that he worked nine to five hours at the moment and it suited him fine. He’d had enough of working shift work in New Orleans, leave it all to the rookies trying to get ahead and make their careers; he’d been there and done that all before. He’d worked in a number of different fields within the job so right now all he had wanted, when he had taken up the position in our little village, was a pretty normal routine life and that included his job. Of course they had agreed to his terms and jumped at the chance of taking on board someone with his experience, who wouldn’t.

We had a regular date night set for Friday nights, going out to dinner to wherever the mood took us. We both loved the variety of the various places the village had to offer and I was determined to take him to all of them but in truth we couldn’t stay away from each other so we pretty much managed to catch up one way or another just about every day, doing the rounds of the eating places like the Mama Loves Big Rooster & Dumplings Chicken Stop on Tuesday nights and cooking up different dishes to tempt each other at either his place or mine when we didn’t feel like going out.

I had promised him that it would be something special and the first time we went to Mama’s it didn’t let me down. They did a sensational fried chicken with my favourite – hot sauce and a side of bacon and potato fritters. ‘God I can’t get enough of hot sauce, it’s …’ I said with my mouthful of spiciness the first time we were there together. He had raised his eyebrows and looked at me, a small smile forming at the corner of his lips. ‘Orgasmic?’ he had a smirk on his face as he went on, ‘so you like hot sauce do you?’ Me, being so naive, I fell for it hook line and sinker. ‘Hell yes that first taste when it explodes in your mouth; to die for. I just can’t get enough of it. I could drink it.’ ‘Well I make a pretty mean hot sauce so perhaps one day you would let me give you some.’ ‘I’d love you to, that would be so awesome but only if it’s not too much trouble.’ ‘It would be no trouble at all, trust me it would be my pleasure to make it for you.’

I remember suddenly feeling very flushed as it sunk in that the hot sauce I was talking about may not have been exactly what he was thinking of but I couldn’t be sure. He had a habit of looking so very innocent and yet underneath I sometimes thought that he was a boiling pool of hot and sticky sex waiting to bubble over. He turned me upside down and inside out with his desirability. I was a goner and I knew it as he sat there smouldering with innocence, his eyes sparkling at me transfixing me. I was hopelessly falling for him.

Was he just teasing me? I had no idea; if he was then I was falling for it hook line and sinker but deep down in my heart I didn’t think he was that kind of guy, just a flirt that is. I believed that in his own way he was just as unsure of himself as I was and was trying to cover it. If I am being totally honest, I’m sure not the greatest judge of character going on my past experience but I took the attitude only time would tell. What else could I do.

On Saturdays we worked on his hall stand. If there was something good on at the movies we would make some dinner and then go out or if there was nothing on that interested us we would either have dinner at my place or at his and watch old DVDs.

We kind of tried to stay away from each other on Sundays, I think that neither of us was willing to admit that our relationship was anything more than friendship but somehow we both seemed to turn up at the same places at the same time, whether it was having a late brunch at the Chat and Chew or walking along the beach or the cliff top paths that wandered along the coast line for miles, we “accidentally” ran into each other and neither of us minded.

In the end we both silently gave up and simply went with the flow, not voicing anything to the other about it really, an undeclared declaration that we both enjoyed being with each other so much that we didn’t want to be apart. Unspoken but taken for granted really when I thought about it, and I did think about it a lot.
I thought about him at night when I went to bed and sleep evaded me because of it. My mind wouldn’t turn off easily until I forced myself to stop but then it played the ultimate trick on me by permeating my dreams with him.

There had been a Saturday afternoon when we were working on his hallstand stripping it back. It was a hot day and it was hot work. He had stripped off his T shirt and was working in just his jeans and a grey singlet. As I stood back out of his way and watched him, the rippling of his muscles glistened with sweat and the soft down of his chest peeping over the top of the scooped neckline looked matted and soaked through. I could smell his scent and the pheromones nearly sent me reeling.

The sight became a recurring theme through my dreams and sometimes in the mornings when I woke up I would remember it all too clearly. My body hurt with the growing want and need I had for him. All too palpable was the ache in the pit of my stomach. Each time we saw each other when parting I would give him a kiss on the cheek and he would reciprocate in turn, leaving me with the scent of his warm skin engulfing me and that would fill my dreams too, so much so that just the smell of him close by would trigger a desire for him that nothing would quench.

Other times I had only to remember glimpses of his face or snatches of his voice and it would leave me smiling all day and in a happy mood counting down the minutes until I talked to him or saw him.

He came in nearly every morning, or as often as he could and we would go and grab a coffee together, sharing Danish or some other thing that we both fancied and catching up on our time spent apart. I began to live for the moments we were together and hoped that he did too.

He always seemed happy to see me and Charlene commented how his eyes always crinkled up at the corners when he smiled at me. It was on a Friday and we had been going out for exactly one month when we were having this conversation. ‘He always looks like he wants to eat you with a spoon when he sees you,’ she smirked. ‘Don’t be silly,’ I told her, ‘he does nothing of the sort.’ ‘Oh come off it George, he must give you the same look when you do it.’ Charlene was so out there with her comments and just said what she thought regardless of how personal to the other person it might be.

I felt myself going red. I didn’t want to admit that we hadn’t even kissed other than our modest peck on the cheek so I didn’t really know what to say.

She was staring at me. ‘Don’t tell me, you haven’t done it yet?’ she asked incredulously as she scanned my face. ‘OMG you haven’t have you,’ she declared, rather startled at the prospect. Charlene wasn’t the kind to hold back and pulled no punches when it came to sex. She loved it and she loved her boyfriend Chuck so for her she just assumed that everyone else in a relationship would be doing it like rabbits as she used to put it to me when talking about it. ‘You’ve been going out for a month George, what the hell?’ ‘Charlene, please knock it off,’ I responded rather desperately to get her to stop it.

She went quiet but I could see that she was thinking plenty.

That afternoon when we were getting ready for Roger to take over from us Breeland came by to pick me up for our usual dinner date. I was running a bit late and left him talking to Charlene while I went to grab my handbag and when I came back out I found them deep in conversation about plans for Saturday night. There was a bar, The Green Room Bar and Grill in Hermanville that we sometimes went to for a night out. It was always a hoot and Charlene and Chuck were going over there the next night so she had suggested that Breeland and I go too and the four of us make a night of it. He had thought it sounded like a great idea and was just agreeing to it when I walked over to his side.

‘I was just telling Breeland how much fun we’ve had when we’ve been to the Green Room before and I know you two would have a blast. Say you’ll come with us?’ she almost begged me; ‘we would really love it if you did. Chuck was only saying the other night that we should do something with the two of you, now that you are such an item.’ She winked indiscreetly then went on with her speech like a used car salesman giving their best spiel. ‘They have sensational music that you can dance to, fast and slow,’ she somehow managed to emphasise the slow bit; ‘I really think you would have a ball.’ She looked from me to Breeland and gave him a really huge wink again and a nudge.

I could have killed her. I knew what she was trying to do and she certainly wasn’t being subtle about it.

‘Say you’ll come,’ she said again smiling innocently at him, deliberately ignoring the look on my face.

‘We’ll I’m up for it if George is, it sounds like fun.’

Put under that kind of pressure I didn’t have much of a choice, not that I minded really, the thought of dancing with him was pretty enticing.
‘Sure, love to,’ I smiled. ‘Cool, see you there around seven.’

We said good night to Charlene then went to dinner. Nonna Rosa’s Italiano Trattoria on the esplanade opposite the beach served great spaghetti marinara, the seafood in the sauce was freshly bought each day from the co-op on the little pier at the foot of the bluff, serviced by our small but lucrative local fishermen. We both loved the checked red and white table cloths, wine bottles with candles and massive strings of garlic hanging around the place. It was as old school Italian family as you could get and did the most amazing wood fired pizzas around as well as freshly made pasta.

We’d been there before and had waffled on about how good the gelato we’d had for dessert had been but tonight we decided on sharing a serving of Tiramisu. One mouthful each and we were in seventh heaven.

I licked my spoon and rolled my eyes and moaned at the taste sensation as he watched me.

‘I have to say, this is giving your red velvet cake orgasm a run for its money,’ his eyes never left me as he too licked his spoon, ‘this is every bit as… orgasmic,’ he drawled seductively, his tongue and lips wrapping around his spoon.

Oh god, what I would give for just one kiss of those lips I kept thinking.

‘You are never going to let me forget saying that are you?’ I laughed.

We lingered a little over the coffee and it was late by the time he drove me home and walked me to my door.

‘Good night, I’ll see you in the morning and we can give the hall stand a coat of primer then get stuck into polishing the brass coat hooks if you like,’ I told him. ‘Sounds like a plan,’ he smiled at me.

‘Well goodnight, thanks again for a nice night.’ I gave him my usual peck on the cheek but maybe delayed breaking away a fraction of a second longer than usual.
He bent his head and kissed my cheek, pulled back a little before leaning in closer and brushed my lips.

My heart felt like it was going to break a rib and the hair on the top of my head was tingling from the electricity coming off the two of us.
He stepped back and his eyes were on me.
‘I think I had better go home.’ His voice sounded husky in my ears.

I nodded; I couldn’t have spoken if I tried with all the emotion going through me.

‘Good night, I’ll see you tomorrow at my place,’ he whispered and was gone.

Chapter Text

The next day was like some kind of surreal dream. From the moment I had woken up all I could think about was Breeland’s lips on mine. I don’t know what effect it had had on him but I was sure feeling the physical tension within my body whenever he came near me when I went over to his place. The only way I could describe it was like a lightning storm of electric current bouncing off me and through me and all around me.

Okay so we had only been going out for a month and I didn’t really know how he felt about me. I know we got on like a house of fire and when we weren’t together I missed him terribly. When we were together we were always talking, sharing stuff about our day or things we were interested in or just happy and comfortable with each other enough to share comfortable silences.

We seemed to laugh a lot and kid each other, teasing each other over stupid little stuff that only we kind of understood and no one else would get. When we weren’t together all I could think about was him, wondering what he was doing and counting down the minutes till we were together. Lord my phone bill was going to be sky high with the number of texts we sent each other.

I knew all that and I knew that when he looked at me I felt like a million bucks. The way his eyes crinkled at the corners and his face lit up when he saw me made me want to throw myself into his arms and kiss his beautiful face. What I didn’t know was if he felt the same way about me. Was I over thinking things and wanting something that wasn’t real, in the meantime missing out on the best friendship a girl could have. I didn’t know and it was driving me nuts. Just as nuts as the feeling of having his lips on mine every time I thought about it that morning while I watched him working on the hall stand.

We got the primer coat done and then set to the task of polishing up the brass coat hooks. It took a while because they had been neglected for so long but we were both really pleased with the result.

‘You know once we get the coats of paint on and then polish up the brass lattice work key holder plaque it’s sure going to look good,’ he said, ‘you were right, painting it was the best option and the new mirror you found will fit into place above the shelf. I will have to find something really special to put on it though.’

‘It needs something special and unique and I think I might have seen something on line the other day that you might like. Leave it with me and I will let you know.’ ‘You’re a marvel. You really have flair for these kinds of thing don’t you.’

I preened under his words as he stood there. ‘Well you are no slouch either you know,’ I said, ‘it takes vision and passion to take a piece of old furniture that many would consider junk and then turn it around into a quality piece. Did you always have an interest in this kind of thing?’ He shook his head. ‘I never really had much time back in New Orleans and Paula wasn’t into period pieces. She liked the minimalist look, I think it was because of her job but…’ he shrugged, ‘neither one of us were home really that much to care.’

It was the first time that he had said much about her and their life together since that first night confession of losing her. I hadn’t wanted to open up any hurts but I was curious.
‘Was she into interior design?’ I cautiously ventured.

‘She was a real estate agent for a prestigious firm down there. Part of her job was arranging the properties for display before they went on the market. Most of the places she was involved in were up market, high end kind of stuff. Her job kept her busy to the point where it was … a … a passion,’ he frowned.

Once again I thought that I detected something in the timbre of his voice when he spoke of her that was a little odd but I just couldn’t figure it out and I put it down to how hard it must still be for him to speak of her given what had happened. I can only imagine what he must have gone through and how tough it had been. It really got to me.

He got to me. He got under my skin. I wanted to take away the hurt and sadness for him, if only he would let me but who was I kidding. As close as I felt our friendship was I wasn’t that confident that he wanted anything more from me and every time we saw each other and he made no attempt to take it further, I died a little with doubt eating away at me. Who was I kidding, as if he’d want me I argued with myself, just enjoy what you have girl I told myself and I was getting mighty sick of hearing it too. My body just didn’t want to listen to what my head, and his lips on mine last night, kept telling me. I was a mass of confusion and slowly driving myself potty, going around and around in circles.

It didn’t help that there was a song I’d heard on the radio when I got up that kept going through my head, I think it was called something like How Can I Be Sure and the lyrics just about summed up how I was feeling. Oh Breeland I am a mess.

When I got home in the afternoon and had my shower before getting ready to go out again, I found my hands shaking that much I smudged my mascara and had to wash it off. By the time he picked me up and we drove over to Hermanville and met up with Charlene and Chuck, my whole body was pinging with the energy rolling off me.

We took a booth and sat down. Merely sitting so closely next to him, his leg brushing mine in the confines of the small booth, it was enough to drive me to distraction.

When the dance music started and Charlene and Chuck got up to dance, he asked me if I wanted to dance too. I wasn’t even confident that my legs would hold me up but I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss an opportunity like that, so up we got and made our way to the dance floor.

Wouldn’t you know it; I discovered that he was an incredible dancer. He had it, he had rhythm and he knew how to use it. Boy could he sure move. The song, I can still remember it, every single moment of it, it was Gimme Some Loving and it was upbeat and was really pounding out. The way he was moving to it my whole body was screaming out hell yeh, I want to give you some every day.

We got back to the table at the same time as the others and sat down again just as the DJ was announcing the beginning of the karaoke session. He explained how it worked for those that had never been there before and also explained that if you didn’t want to sing to the machine, those in the audience that preferred singing to a guitar one would be provided for them if they were willing and able to play it.

We sat through a couple of people getting up and singing when Breeland excused himself and before I realised what was happening he was up on stage with the guitar in his hand.
If that wasn’t a big enough surprise then my total astonishment was complete when he began to sing an old song called Baby It’s You, and for the whole time he didn’t take his eyes off me, each word he sang shooting through me like an explosion.

He had an absolutely amazing voice and his guitar playing was equally brilliant.

Charlene and Chuck were dumbfounded and I was totally gobsmacked but not just by his singing, added to that the lyrics of the song and way he was singing it to me, and I was electrified.

There was a huge round of applause when he finished and quite a few comments to him as he made his way back to where we were sitting. He sat back down next to me without saying a word; he merely gave a grin and winked at me.

I looked at the sparkle in his eyes and something in me just soared.

Getting up I went over and had a word with the DJ who nodded then I climbed up on the stage. I didn’t have a sensational voice but it was passable enough even though I had never done this before in my life, with the exception that is of a short stint in the local choir back home where I always felt that sooner or later they would wake up to the fact that I sounded like a demented half strangled cat, so I figured if there was ever a time to throw caution to the wind then this was it and I started singing.

I don’t know what I had looked like when Breeland had been singing to me but I sure as hell remember exactly what he looked like when I started singing I Put A Spell On You to him. I had a kind of husky, sultry singing voice and the song seemed to fit it. His eyes were transfixed on mine, blazing across the space between us like two sapphires glowing with an incandescent blue light. His mouth was slightly open as if sucking in his breath as he sat as still as a statue, mesmerised but my words.

I didn’t notice one single other person in the place as I stood up there and belted it out, as far as I was concerned it was just the two of us.

I must have done pretty okay because when I finished there was a lot of whistling from the guys in the audience and calls for more. The DJ came over to me and asked me if I would sing something else, just to placate the crowd. I don’t know why but I guess the devil on my shoulder made me do it and I agreed, asking the guy if he had a certain song. He nodded and laughed as he walked back to his console to find the music in question and quieten down the crowd so he could announce my encore.

I sat down on a bar stool in the corner of the small stage and took a deep breath then launched into “I Want to Kiss You All Over.”

When I finally sat down again at our table I was glad that the lighting was dim because I was red faced and totally embarrassed. Breeland was speechless. For the rest of the night I noticed that every time I moved or spoke to him he couldn’t take his eyes off me.

Charlene and Chuck sat there observing us and whispered to each other and giggled a lot.

It got to the end of the night and the last dance and they insisted that we all get up for one last time. As is typical, the last dance was a slow one and so for the first time since we had met Breeland took me in his arms as we danced to the music.

I could feel his strong arms holding me, his hard flat muscles pressed against me and I fairly floated around that dance floor, locked together in an all-encompassing embrace.
When saying goodnight to Charlene and Chuck, Charlene staged one of her whispers in my ear telling me that “I was so going to get it when he got me home,” which half the town could have heard and I prayed Breeland hadn’t. I caught a look on his face out of the corner of my eye that told me maybe he had and was pretty agreeable to the thought but put it down to wishful thinking.

After this comment we drove back to my place making small chat on the way.

I couldn’t help remarking about his singing voice, telling him how beautiful it was. ‘You’ve been keeping that quiet,’ I said, ‘you missed your vocation, it’s so wonderful. Where did it come from?’ ‘Nah,’ he looked modest but pleased, ‘actually I’ve been singing since I was a kid in the choir at church but I’ve never thought that I was any good. You know you’ve got a great voice.’

I laughed, ‘I sound like a strangled cat. I can’t sing for peanuts and I don’t know what possessed me to get up. I sort of used to muck around in a choir back home too but I felt like such a fraud. I think we all did more laughing and larking about than taking it seriously and with my voice, I never ever took it seriously at all I can assure you. But it was fun and we did raise some money for various charities. It was actually a very good friend and lovely person that I am pen pals with in England that inspired me to even join. I would love you to meet her one day; she’s such a fantastic person. But I still say that I sound more like a camel in heat that’s getting strangled.’

Taking his eyes off the road for a second and glancing at me with another one of those looks that smouldered into my eyes and soul, he drawled at me in his smoking hot voice that would melt the panties off an eighty year old virgin, ‘Trust me you don’t and …’ his mouth curved up to one side in a smile that nearly did me in and left me shaking, ‘I’ll never forget either of those songs… ever,’ he emphasised.

I turned into a quivering jelly.

When we got to my front door I fumbled for my keys in my bag. I dithered around while he stood there watching me, his face was a mask. I had no idea what he was thinking other than perhaps a touch of amusement as there was the tiniest of creases at the corner of his lips.

I felt that he was watching every move I made, waiting patiently … but I wasn’t sure for what.

‘Goodnight, thank you for coming,’ I said almost lamely when I finally fished them out and in my flustered state I kissed him on the cheek like I always did, trying vainly to pretend there was nothing wrong, and unconsciously I hung my head. In truth I was totally in turmoil.

‘George,’ he whispered. I looked up at him.

He lent towards me, so close I could feel his warm breath on my face.

‘George,’ he whispered looking into my eyes and scanning my face as I stared at him, my mouth a little open and my heart racing so much that I could barely hear him through the pounding in my ears.

‘Oh my sweet George,’ he inched closer and he brushed my mouth. His lips were soft, full of tenderness, sensual, and sent a flame through me with their touch.
‘I think that I had better go,’ his was face only inches away from me.

‘Yes,’ I whispered as I looked into his eyes then at his lips. I didn’t want the night to end, not like this. Impulsively I stepped even closer and brushed his mouth with mine.
‘I most definitely had better go,’ his voice was husky and he pulled me into him and this time his lips were on fire with passion. They were hot and demanding and full of desire and sent messages sweeping over my body like an avalanche.

‘I am going,’ he whispered into my mouth. ‘Yes,’ I whispered back wrapping my arms around his neck and finding his mouth again in a kiss that seemed to last forever, the taste of his mouth and tongue, sweet and spicy and delicious.

When we finally broke apart we were both panting.

‘I think that this time I had most definitely…’ he rasped but got no further.

‘I think,’ I said, taking his hand from my shoulder and placing it in mine, my voice cracking with emotion, ‘I think that you most definitely had better come in.’

‘I think I had better too,’ and he smiled the most serious and seductive smile I have ever seen in my life.

Chapter Text

Tyrion’s sleepy face greeted us with overwhelming enthusiasm when I finally got the door open and we walked in. He was over joyed to see me and even happier to see Breeland with me at this time of night. It was as if he knew because he immediately sat down, high fived him then unlike he had ever done before, embarrassingly he made a bee line for his crutch and sniffed. I nearly died but Breeland thought it was hilarious commenting with good humour that he must have a sixth sense.

My face was burning.

It only took a few minutes to let Tyrion out to stretch his legs, make sure he had some food, water and some toys to play with, then very obligingly he came in and made straight for his bed in the living room and the last we saw of him as we went upstairs was him climbing into his basket and pulling the rug over himself. Breeland winked at him and he wagged his tail then curled up and settled down. I swear he was smiling to himself.

At the top of the stairs I took his hand and led him into my bedroom, turned and closed the door then found myself wrapped in his arms, his mouth hungrily searching for mine, his lips and tongue commanding and demanding a response to his urgency that I was more than happy to oblige with.

His sensuous hands ran down my back hugging me to him, pressing my body against his, and then he reached for the zipper of the little black and gold dress I was wearing.

It was a Georgette creation with a silk underlay that I had bought on a whim some time ago. A piece of nonsense that had cost me a fortune but I had fallen in love with and didn’t care less about the extravagance. I had to have it even though I never really had expected to wear it, after all at the time I had bought it I had nowhere to go to but I had loved the way the gold beading on the bodice had trailed down the front in a sort of Egyptian motif and the matching beading along the hem line was heavy enough to make the flimsy fabric swing out and sort of swirl around when I walked. The three little beaded straps on either side of the bodice were just enough to hold the whole thing up and it made me feel like a million dollars wearing it so bugger the cost.

At the same time as he undid my zip I began to quickly undo his shirt buttons and ease the silky fabric out of his pants before undoing his belt buckle and waistband button. My hands shook as I reached for the zip of his pants and he felt me trembling as I stood there and he ran his long fingers under the straps of my dress and smoothly slid them down my arms to leave it lying in a pool at my feet.

I wasn’t wearing a bra as the dress was the kind that had one built into the bodice so I felt him suck his breath in as he gazed at me standing there in nothing but a pair of black lace panties and when I undid the zip of his pants and they too joined my dress on the floor, he too gave a shiver of anticipation as he watched me skimming my eyes over him.

Even in his underwear he looked perfect.

There was a moment where we stood there just staring at each other, neither one of us moving, simply taking in the moment then slowly he stepped up to me and ran his fingers down my hips and under the lace, easing my panties down my legs. Not to be left behind I did the same to him.

He pulled me into him again and slid his hands down my back, cupping my buttocks, and then he lifted me. My legs wrapped around his hips, my arms wrapping around his neck and he crushed me to his mouth.

Carrying me gently over to the bed he laid us down, taking his weight on his muscular arms.

He looked down at me and his eyes were tender and soft and yet lit with a passion and desire that I had never experienced before. Making love to him was something that I had been dreaming about for days and weeks and now here I was, and here he was; and it was wonderful, more than wonderful… it was the best experience I had ever had. He was gentle and caring and considerate but needy and ardent and so … hell he was just so above and beyond satisfying.

How do you describe what it feels like to have an Adonis in your arms? To have your flesh devoured by a passion that turns you into a puddle of need and makes you soar to heights that explode every notion you have ever had before, making any previous relationship feel empty and a waste. How can I even begin to put into words how tender and loving he was with every movement, every kiss and every caress? I can’t.

He made me feel like a woman, not a sex toy, a loved and cared for woman that had finally met a man, and what a man.

He stayed the night with me, holding me in his arms until we fell asleep. In the morning I awoke and stretched, still half asleep in my fuddled state and feeling the warm glow of the previous night lingering into the morning. I couldn’t help smiling. He stirred and I snuggled closer.

‘I had the most wonderful dream,’ I murmured, ‘I dreamt that we made love over and over again and it was orgasmic.’ He nuzzled my neck with soft kisses and stroked my hair as it fell in a tangled mess down my back. His hand was warm against my skin as he held me gently stroking me.

‘From the minute we met this is what I have been dreaming about, right here and now,’ he was whispering into my ear. ‘Picturing your face in the morning after we’ve made love, I must have pictured it a thousand times in my mind and every time I closed my eyes and tried to sleep there it would be. I have imagined your face, your hair, your body lying next to mine and I have wanted you so much.’

I rolled onto my side to face him; I wanted to drink in his face as he said that. I wanted to see for myself how very genuine his expression was and to see the light in his eyes as he looked into mine. I felt like a teenager again in the throes of my very first love. Engulfed in his words as he talked to me in his soft drawl, the words flowing over me and through me like one of those sonnets that you were forced to read in English literature but meant nothing to you at the time but, well now they did. Oh god, was I falling in love with him, really in love and not just lust?

‘You are the best thing to have happened to me for a long time George.’

I searched his face and it was so still and serious. I suddenly had a premonition that he was thinking of his past and I wanted to reassure him.

‘Breeland I am not trying to replace your wife, you know that I would never do that don’t you and anyway, I am sure that I never could?’ He looked at me and his eyes opened wide at my words. ‘Replace Paula?’ he stared at me and his face hardened. ‘All I can say is that I hope to god you do.’

I was stunned and it must have shown because he went on. ‘All this time you have thought that I was mourning for her?’ ‘Well yes, I mean, well… her death was so tragic and you losing your baby…’ ‘Oh god, Georgina the baby… the baby wasn’t mine.’

‘What do you mean the baby wasn’t yours? I thought…’ ‘God I know I should have told you but,’ he hesitated, ‘I wanted a clean break. I wanted to forget when I came here and wipe out the past but I should have told you. That first night I felt so comfortable with you at the restaurant and so I just blurted out what happened when Katrina hit but the whole story wasn’t something that I wanted to share with anyone. I guess that when I met you I had no intentions of falling … I wasn’t looking for … hell, George the last thing on earth I thought I was looking for or would find was a relationship, so I’ve never told you what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I love that we have found each other. I’ve… I can honestly say that I have never been so happy in my whole life since I met you.’

‘I’ve never been this happy in my whole life either,’ I told him and I meant it.

This wasn’t like any relationship that I have had before. For starters I didn’t feel like a second class person, like I was doing all the giving and making all the sacrifices. I didn’t feel second best; I felt that we were equals, both respecting each other on so many levels. I didn’t have to cow tow to someone else’s ego and pander to their every desire. We did things as a couple, always consulting each other and never demanding more of the other than we were willing to give.

We were courteous and considerate of each other and caring and loving and that was something that I hadn’t had in the long term relationship that I had thought would be the one. This couldn’t be furtherer from that if you tried. We were friends, the best of friends and now we were more.

‘I should have told you before,’ he went on admonishing himself, ‘my marriage if you could call it that, was a total joke.’

Chapter Text

We laid in each other’s arms and Breeland talked. He began with when he had first arrived in New Orleans, fresh from his small village, all eager and full of dreams of making it up the ranks in the police force; and he did. He worked hard and put in the time and after a few years of hard graft he became a detective. ‘It was when I was called to the burglary of a condo that was up for sale that I met Paula. She was the agent handling the sale and like I told you, part of her job was to dress and furnish properties. The place had been ransacked and all the expensive furnishings and electrical gear had been taken. It wasn’t the first time something of this nature had happened, we figured it was a gang targeting vacant upmarket units and houses so when it happened again at another location and it was one of Paula’s clients too, well we met up again and we started dating.’

‘She was just as ambitious in her career as I was. Really looking back that was about all that we had in common at the time. I think that I always knew it but just went along with it; it just became a habit really. Anyway, we sort of drifted into marriage… not something that I would advise mind you,’ he looked at me with a sad smirk and raised eye brow, ‘let that be a warning to you. If you ever marry make sure it’s for love and it’s for all the right reasons.’

I was about to say something but he continued on. ‘For the first couple of months it seemed okay. She’d cook, not a lot just mainly if we had friends over… that’s how I know she was a good cook, but more often than not she couldn’t be bothered claiming she was too busy or tired and seeing I’d lived on my own for quite a while and had to learn to cook for myself I would end up cooking for both of us, if she was home that is.’

‘We both worked odd hours, with my job at the time it was par for the course as I was involved in some pretty heavy stuff back then, and she always seemed to have things on too so it didn’t seem that all that strange. It was later as things became apparent to me that there was something most definitely wrong that it clicked. Call me slow or maybe I was just so distracted with work that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should but it got to a point where we rarely saw each other, we were truly ships in the night both living in our own worlds.’

‘To the outside world we seemed perfect. We had everything that money could buy, we had successful careers and we were each respectively going places. Perfect right? But that wasn’t how it really was; at home it was a totally different story.’

‘We’d been married about fourteen months when I came home one night and she was home too. It surprised me at the time but what surprised me more was that she’d been drinking and was in an extra friendly mood. That hadn’t happened for a long time, a long, long time,’ he emphasised. ‘We hadn’t … well we hadn’t been to bed together since a couple of months after we got married really,’ he said embarrassed, ‘but this night she was all over me. I suppose I let myself fall for it, it had been a long time and even though the sex between us had never really been that great, well….’ His voice trailed off.

I was pretty startled by this because from what I had experienced the night before he was a sensational lover in every score.

‘Three weeks later she came to me and told me she was pregnant. That was when I knew it was all over. Did she take me for a fool? It explained why over the past year she’d get calls at odd hours and she’d disappear into another room to take them, sighting business of course but I realised it wasn’t. Maybe if I had cared a little more than I did it wouldn’t have gone on for so long but I’ve never had that high opinion of myself and I guess that was why I drifted into marrying her. I’d wanted kids and she’d told me that she did too but it was obvious right from after the wedding that she didn’t … well in the end it turned out that what she really didn’t want was my kids.’

What woman in their right mind wouldn’t want his kids I asked myself, wouldn’t want a tribe of his kids for that matter. He would make a sensational father; I just knew it in my bones.

‘When the warnings started to escalate about Katrina, though by that time I knew that everything was over between us even if she didn’t yet realise it, she thought she’d gotten away with the seduction and claim of being pregnant to me and all that. She had no idea that I hadn’t fallen for her game. I still felt an obligation for her welfare and tried to convince her to get out of town. She agreed, she jumped at the chance, and told me she was going and would be back when the storm was over.’

He lay there silent for a moment just thinking. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t want to intrude in his thoughts. I was content to let him talk, to get it off his chest hopefully and to have a clearer understanding of what his life had been like before we met. I was grateful that he thought enough of me to share his pain; it couldn’t be easy as I knew only too well.

Pitifully I had not suspected in the least what he’d been through before he started telling me. He had kept his secret so very well that it was all rather a shock and now I realised that I had gone through my own dramas and moved on battle weary and scarred too; just as he was. We had so much in common it was kind of freaky.

‘When they found her she wasn’t alone. The body of a partner in the firm she worked for was found in what was left of the car. It turned out from what we gathered from his wife that he had told her he was going out of town on a business trip and would be back in time to help her and their three kids evacuate. She had no idea he’d been having an affair. I felt so sorry for her. The shock of finding out he’d been unfaithful to her on top of becoming a widow, plus the home they had lived in was destroyed… it was no wonder she took the kids and left Louisiana.’

‘At the funeral Paula’s mother told me how happy she’d been when we married. She had hoped that meeting me would change Paula and make her a better person. She told me things about her when she was younger that I didn’t know, about the many guys she’d had in her life that she’d used to get her own way with and when they were of no further use she would simply move on but Lois, her mum, had thought that meeting someone like me that was decent would bring about the changes that she had dreamt of for her all her life. Her father was the same, a user and a liar. He’d had countless affairs and stolen money from her mother before finally and thankfully by the sounds of it, drinking himself into an early grave.’

‘Lois died a few months ago. I was one of only a handful that went to her funeral. She’d been battling cancer on and off for years and hadn’t told anyone, not even Paula. She was a lovely lady and deserved better than the daughter that she had.’
He sighed.

‘So you can see why I wanted to get away, to start a fresh. I’m a simple person really George. I don’t want much out of life, I’m not ambitious anymore and don’t live to work rather than work to live … I’ve been there and done that back in Louisiana and found it shallow and empty but in so many ways I am grateful for what I went through.’

‘You are grateful? I queried.

‘I know me better now. I know what I want and what I don’t want and what I am prepared to give. Life is so very random, I have come to realise. None of us know what’s in store for us. We have to take pleasure where we find it and treasure every single moment of those times that make us happy.’

I nodded.

‘I know exactly what I want from my life now.’

I don’t know why but I held my breath waiting for him to go on. More than anything I wanted to hear what it was that would make him happy. I wanted it to happen for him so much and if there was any way I could help make that happen I would move heaven and earth to do so, I felt so very protective of him.
‘I want to love and to be loved. I want someone that will love me with as much heart and soul as I love them…’

He looked into my eyes and I let myself fall in love as much as he wanted me to fall for him.

Chapter Text

I think that I can honestly say that right at that moment I had never wanted to love or be loved as much as I did by him while we lay there holding each other. The depth of the feelings I had didn’t me surprised and but it did scare me. I’d never wanted to protect anyone as much as I did, nor had I ever wanted to make anyone as happy as this before. I wanted to show him a world that wasn’t full of lies and hurt and deceit despite my past and what I had been through too.

I realised at that moment that this was no one night stand for me nor was it just some sort of casual relationship that had merely been consummated as par for the course. I wanted this to be more, to be sustaining but not just for purely selfish reasons, but for him too. He needed it and I hoped like hell that he felt the same way and that it was me that he wanted to love and be loved by.

‘I never realised until right this minute that is exactly what I want too. That’s what’s been missing in my life too.’

‘I thought that when I graduated from college that I wanted to take the world by storm so I moved to New York, worked like crazy for a while and then landed the job of my dreams working for a top advertising agency and yes, think Mad Men and you’ve got it ... well sort of,’ I told him. He had bared his soul to me, trusting me enough with his truths so it was only fair that I did the same. I didn’t want anything coming between us. No more surprise revelations from the past popping up to make us wonder why we’d never revealed them before. We’d moved past that last night when we took each other and filled each other with whatever it was that we had experienced. In one short night we had changed.

This was moment of truth stuff lying there holding each other, turning point was right here and now.
So I told him my story.

When I first started at the agency I was told I got the job because of my portfolio and the promise I had shown. They said I was innovative and imaginative and that was exactly what they were looking for. There was already a position at the agency filled by someone they were very happy with so I was to work with him but also independently. They were doing so well they needed two of us.

I met Ramsay the first day I went to work and we seemed to hit it off straight away. We had similar techniques all though his were a little less structured and more hap hazard than mine but on the whole it looked like we could work well as a team. Boy was I wrong.

Ramsay’s parents were wealthy, not stinking filthy rich or anything like that but they had bought him everything throughout his life, including an education and an apartment. They had also bought his way into the firm as they knew the director and were close friends and put money into it as a personal favour when the firm had been in a tight spot a few years previously. So when Ramsay had flunked out of just about everything else he had tried his hand at, he was handed the role on a plate. I will give him his due though, he did have flair … but it was mainly in bull shit and whizz bang crap ideas that went nowhere with a lot of showmanship and his parents money behind him.

All of that I didn’t know at the time of course as I was so very green and naïve. I had thought that if you worked hard, gave your all and put your heart and soul into something you were bound to make it. What an idiot I was.

About two months after starting there I had to find a new place to live. I had been sharing with a girlfriend and she had to suddenly move home when her father had a stroke so I was left high and dry. I couldn’t get someone to share the place we were living in and had to find somewhere to live in a hurry. Ramsay came to my rescue. His place was big enough for both of us and he offered for me to move in and share expenses. He even threw me a house warming party. Boy was that ever another mistake.

The apartment was absolutely awesome compared to what I had been living in, my bedroom was nearly as big as the whole flat I was leaving so it was a no brainer that I was ecstatic and jumped at the chance.

On the night of the housewarming that Ramsay threw for me, the place was packed with all of his friends, and he had a lot. He seemed to know a really odd assortment of people, some interesting and some distinctly bizarre but to me at the time it was all new and almost adventurous.

‘I am not a big drinker, I’ve already told you that,’ I said to Breeland, ‘but I did have a couple that night. By the time that everyone finally left I was feeling tired and pretty merry and a bit out of it to be honest, and so I don’t know how really, but I ended up in bed with Ramsay.’

I look back now and wonder if he hadn’t put something in my drink to relax me even more than normal, I wouldn’t put it past him really but any way it happened and from then on we were an item. Hell it made sense really seeing we worked together and were living together; the only difference was I moved out of my bedroom and into his.

There was never any talk of marriage, that just didn’t enter the equation and as the years drifted by so did we. I wouldn’t say that we were in love, he didn’t have a romantic bone in his body unless there was something in it for him that is, then he could turn it on, but I settled for what I had. I guess it was more the old ‘friends with benefits’ when I think about it now and even that wasn’t that great. He was a selfish lover and at times… there were times that he got – he got a bit rough and more demanding of me. Mainly when he’d been drinking too much but as the years went on that was becoming a lot more frequent and … weird.

I didn’t like it and wasn’t prepared to put up with it, it wasn’t full on assault, more that it was rougher handling in bed that made me feel used and just a living blow up doll. My self-esteem plummeted and I began to think I really needed to get out of the relationship and get out sooner rather than later. I’ve never really believed in myself but at the same time I felt that I was worth more than this demeaning treatment. I wanted to be loved for me and not just for the convenience of having a sex partner whenever someone felt like it.

The final crunch came ironically for two reasons, neither of them having anything to do with our home life really.

On several occasions I had come up with ideas that I had put a lot of work into which Ramsay took and presented as his own. I put up with it and didn’t say anything but as things deteriorated and I had my doubts about us, I was dam sure I wasn’t going to put up with it again. It wasn’t that he was getting the kudos for the work and I wasn’t that irked me the most; it was what it was doing to my career. It’s a dog eat dog kind of environment so if I didn’t start looking like I was pulling my weight I knew that it would be the end of me sooner or later and that was something I wasn’t willing to sacrifice.

The agency was in the running to pick up a new big client and it was really important that we come up with a campaign that would nail it. Ramsay’s work had been going down the drain for quite a while, he started going to long lunches, coming back drunk and instead of working at night at home on ideas like I did, he’d stay out supposedly with clients but would come home drunk and stinking of cheap perfume. When I had an idea that I had spent a lot of long hours after work putting it together and I showed him, he took it and made the presentation himself telling all and sundry how hard he’d worked on it. We landed the client and they threw a big celebratory bash after work at the office.
I walked in on him at the party in a room where he had one of the client’s wives on a desk with his pants around his ankles.

He’d gotten a rise and a bonus and I gotten a dressing down for not pulling my weight.

When we got home I confronted him and asked him how he could do all that to me and he got nasty, really nasty and threatened me. He was drunk, really drunk but that was no excuse, it never is. He pinned me to the wall by my throat and said that if I told anyone at work that it hadn’t been him that had come up with the idea he could make things very unpleasant for me, that I would never work again. With the money that his family had I totally believed it.

I packed my bags that night and left. I had been on good money right from the start and had savings, and luckily for me I had made connections with other agencies that had put out feelers in the past so I wasn’t exactly left high and dry. I got a job the very next week after handing in my notice and worked my butt off for the next eighteen months while I looked for something better out of life than what I had been going through for what had seemed like an eternity.

It was on a long needed holiday that I found this place and decided that enough was enough of city living and being part of the rat race, it just wasn’t worth it and it was soul destroying. Besides, this felt like I’d finally come home.

‘I went back, packed up, sold up and moved here and I haven’t looked back. It took a while to realise that there are still some people that have values that aren’t measured by money or greed or ambition. That did help me with the healing process but it’s taken a lot longer to… to trust again. That was something that I didn’t think that I would be able to do ever again, trust once lost is a precious commodity and it’s hard to get that back.’

He nodded. I knew that he understood exactly what I meant, hadn’t he gone through almost exactly the same thing, trusting another person with your heart and soul, despite both of us making light of our reasons for our previous relationships, the hurt of losing that trust was a heavy burden to carry around.

‘And so here I am,’ I said. ‘You most definitely are, and here I am too,’ he observed.

He pulled me into him and kissed me tenderly.

‘I promise you, I will never hurt you my love,’ he whispered. ‘And I’ll never hurt you either,’ I whispered back.

I meant it and I truly believed he did too.

Chapter Text

We were laying in each other’s arms wallowing in the first security I am sure either of us had felt in a long time and enjoying the tenderness of the moment. Last night had been all about the physicality of our needs for each other, this morning had been about our emotional needs but even so, lying there with our bodies entwined together, it was not surprising that both of us felt the need to show the other that the trust we had now encompassed all levels of our relationship.

Our kisses became more passionate and so did our desires, our bodies giving us both away to an urgent need to consummate this newly discovered understanding of how we felt – that was until a scratching at the bedroom door and a loud woof broke the moment.
We both laughed.

‘It’s almost like having a kid,’ Breeland commented as we broke away and I laughed, ‘he needs to go out, and I need a shower.’ ‘I need some breakfast,’ I remarked, ‘so how about you grab a shower while I let him out and get breakfast started and I’ll have one when we’ve eaten.’ ‘Sounds like a plan,’ he agreed hopping out of bed and heading to the ensuite but not before I noticed his hands attempting to cover the substantial erection he had.

The moment he closed the door I flew out of bed and ran down the stairs, headless of the fact I was naked, Tyrion following closely on my trail. I let him out into the back garden knowing he would be perfectly happy out there for a while, stretching his legs and snuffling around, then I flew back up the stairs.

I opened the door of the ensuite and walked in. He was standing in the shower, the water glistening off his skin in the sunlight pouring in from the window. He had a shampoo bottle in his hand but when he saw me his mouth opened and he inhaled.

I stood for a moment taking in the picture that he made in the light of day. He truly was perfect, every single inch of him flawless.

He looked over at me as I walked in and then down at his still engorged state. My own body was reacting to the sight I was seeing and having a field day with my growing desires.

I stepped into the shower, took the shampoo out of his hand and put it back on the tiled shelf then I dropped to my knees, all the time watching his face.

His breath quickened and his mouth formed an O shape as he looked down at me.

‘You don’t have to do this,’ his voice rasped, ‘I know it’s not something that some women are too thrilled about doing.’ ‘I know I don’t, if I did I wouldn’t be here and neither would you,’ I told him, ‘but I want to… and I am not one of those women. I want to give you everything.’ ‘Oh,’ was all he could manage to say then he groaned as I began to administer to his very obvious needs all the while trying to keep my own needs under control.

I looked up at him, watching his face as he bit his lips trying to control himself too, his hands placed gently on my shoulders – not in a demanding forceful way but gently and tenderly. Just when I thought that he would not be able to restrain himself for much longer he slid his hands under my arms and lifted me to my feet. ‘I want you,’ he told me, ‘I… want… you,’ he said in between kisses that were driving me insane with their intensity.

Who was I to argue, not me and he quickly turned me around and raised my arms, placing my hands on the tiled wall so that I would keep my balance then he was running his hands lightly down my hips searching for me and urging me to arch my body back as I felt him fill me.

I closed my eyes and let his incredible hands work their magic to the rhythm of his body and was lost to the world under the spell he cast over me.
When we stood there panting after our excursions, the hot water flowing over the two of us warming our already hot but spent bodies, I knew that I had never felt more cared for or needed in my life on so many different levels.

We took our time to finish bathing, each of us soaping up the other with my sponge and washing each other’s body with as much care as a mother would take with her new born child.

In a surreal way that was how I was feeling; newly born and like a virgin the morning after the first time. He made me feel soft and feminine and adored and I could tell by the way he moved and his mannerisms that he felt a sense of manly pride and protectiveness towards me and it showed in his demeanour. This was no cocky conquest to him, this was real and meaningful.

We sat outside in the sun on the terrace eating our breakfast of fluffy scrambled eggs with lashings of bacon and grilled tomatoes, devouring everything on our plates like two people that hadn’t eaten for days. Our hands touching at every moment we could and our bodies never far apart, Tyrion gambolling about the garden or sitting quietly next to us seemingly recognising and enjoying the shift in our relationship too, making everything just perfect.

After cleaning up the kitchen we decided to take a walk down to the beach stopping off at his place so he could get changed into some jeans and a tee shirt, tying an Aron jumper around his waist in case it got colder later. Tyrion needed a good run and spending some time together walking along the beach seemed like heaven to us. We must have strolled for hours, arm in arm, stopping constantly to kiss and just look at each other’s face or to watch Tyrion running at incoming waves barking at the elusive foam he tried to catch but never could. We threw endless amounts of sticks to him to retrieve and sat and gazed out to sea, arm in arm nestling against each other.

We climbed the cliff at the end of the beach closest to my house and gazed out across the valley below us then on out to sea, watching a storm rolling in from far out on the horizon as it got closer and closer. The wind picked up and blew harder, whipping my hair around my face like some crazy tentacles reaching out into the sky. He turned to look at me and brushed it out of my face.

‘This is the happiest I have ever felt in my life,’ he said quietly, ‘if I could capture this feeling and hold on to it forever I would die a happy man.’

My eyes filled with tears at his words and then spilt silently down my cheeks. I knew what he meant. I felt the same way. I pulled out my phone and held it away from me as I turned and reached over and kissed him, the sound of the shutter in our ears.

‘There,’ I said as I showed him the snap, ‘now we will have this moment captured forever not just in our minds or our hearts.’ I pushed the send button and his phone notification went off. I gasped as I heard the ringtone. It was “Baby It’s You”, the song he had sung to me last night. ‘See,’ he said, ‘I was trying to tell you last night at the club that it was you but you didn’t believe me did you?’ ‘I wanted to, I wanted to so much. I have wanted to since the moment that you walked into my life but I didn’t want to let myself hope that you would feel the same way.’

‘You don’t have to hope any more George, you just have to believe.’

I can still feel the touch of his lips on mine as we sat there with the wind blowing around us, taste the salt on his skin and the sharp cold feeling that was negated by the warmth radiating off us as we clung together. I can smell the woolly fragrance of his jumper he’d now put on to keep out the chill and feel the texture of it as I pulled him tightly to me, his masculinity mixed with the heady ozone smell coming from the churning sea below us smothering me in a cacophony of scents I would never forget.

He played with his phone for a moment before holding it out to me to show me. He had set the picture as his wall paper and screen saver.

‘Every time my phone goes off I will have an excuse now to relive this moment over and over, not that I need an excuse,’ he added.

‘Would you do something for me,’ I asked and suddenly stood up, handed him Tyrion’s leash and told him to sit next to Breeland. ‘Here,’ I wrapped his arm around Tyrion, who had no objections and just like his mum he instantly snuggled up close to him. I stood back and took a shot then sat down and fiddled around before holding my phone out for him to see.

‘My two men,’ I said proudly as he looked at the phone, ‘the loves of my life,’ I blurted as I sat down again.

His head snapped up sharply and his eyes blazed into mine.

‘Do you mean that?’

I hadn’t been prepared for this moment. Can anything really prepare you for what your heart wants and feels?

I teared up again and looked into his eyes and nodded unable to speak lest my voice give away just how much I truly did mean it and how very much he meant to me.
His eyes fairly shone back at me with emotion and his voice cracked with the depth of feeling he was committing himself to.

‘I love you Georgina, my sweet George. I love you so much.’

Chapter Text

Tyrion, still sitting next to Breeland and in between the two of us, promptly gave us both a huge lick as much as to say that he loved us both too. We laughed and he wagged his tail furiously then looked out to sea and whined a bit. He wasn’t stupid, he could see and smell the storm getting close so we called it a day and by the time we made it to Breeland’s place the heavens had already opened and it had begun to rain furiously. It was dark too and had become really cold.

‘I’ll light the fire and let’s get you out of those wet clothes,’ he was saying as he rushed into the living room and turned on a lamp. ‘Oh I love the sound of that,’ I teased him.
He gave me one of those, what I termed as seductive smirks over his shoulder and merely teased, ‘Later,’ as he bent down and put a match to the paper in the grate. ‘First things first, I am starving. How about something to eat, all the exercise we have been doing lately,’ he winked at me as he said this smirking, ‘has made me ravenous. Besides,’ he gave me another of his looks, ‘you need to keep up your strength.’ ‘Oh I do, do I?’ ‘Yes indeed, you most definitely do.’

He grabbed me around the waist and pulled me down so that I was kneeling in front of him. ‘Here,’ he said running his hands up under my wet wind cheater, ‘let me give you a hand.’
Now never let it be said that I was one to knock back any help.

He stripped off all my clothes but before I could make a move to assist him he was up and out of the room yelling out, ‘Give me a sec I’ll be right back.’

He came back with a thick towelling dressing gown that was his and wrapped me up in it. ‘You stay right there, I have an idea,’ and he was gone again.

The heat of the fire and the cosy atmosphere of the room added to all the extra physical activity of the previous night and day lulled me into a really relaxing place, so much so that I nearly dozed off lying on the floor heaped up with a nest of cushions I had made.

‘Ta da…’ he said with a flourish, as he came back into the room dressed in pair of track suit pants and matching navy coloured top and carrying a tray with what smelt like a large dish of something extraordinarily tasty, my stomach immediately giving out a growl of anticipation. ‘Here take this,’ he handed me the tray as I sat up and then he disappeared again. When he came back he was carrying a small little Persian patterned floor rug and a huge marrow bone that he placed over to the side of the fireplace where it was warm and cosy but out of the way.

Tyrion got up and went over and then looked at us as much as to say, ‘May I?’ then settled down to chomp away to his heart’s content.

Breeland then sat down on the cushions next to me and lifted the lid of the tureen on the tray. ‘Chilli, nothing beats chilli on a cold night in front of the fire. And there’s some warmed rolls to go with that.’ He began ladling scoops into the two bowls on the tray and handed me one. I took a spoon full and tasted it then began to eat hungrily. ‘Oh my god this is good. Did you make it?’ ‘Well yeh, I generally make a huge batch of it and stick it in the freezer in portions so I just took out an extra one and voila,’ he spread his hands out at the meal and laughed. ‘It’s so good, you will have to give me the …’

I hesitated; I had been going ask for the recipe then stopped short, not wanting to spoil the moment if it was one of Paula’s. He must have read my mind. ‘It’s okay,’ he lent over and kissed me, smudging my lips with the taste of hot chilli that was on his own mouth, ‘it’s my own recipe. I had to pretty much learn to fend for myself when Paula was no longer bothered with cooking remember, so I am what you might consider a culinary expert in quick and easy meals.’

Unlike our other conversations the mention of her name no longer bought a strained look to his face and his whole countenance remained happy and good humoured.

We sat eating until I thought I would burst I was so chock full of the hot spicy goodness and when I finally pushed my bowl back on to the tray I moaned. ‘I am so full that I am sure I look like a beached whale.’

He leant over and with his finger wiped a smudge of the sauce from the corner of my mouth. ‘You look adorable,’ he insisted.

‘You know you look pretty adorable too. You,’ I poked him gently in the chest, ‘are going to have to stop spoiling me Officer Dreamboat.’
At my words his eyebrows rose up his forehead. ‘Officer Dreamboat?’ he laughed. ‘That’s what Charlene called you the first day we met and she was right. You’re my dreamboat.’
He got that look again, that small smirk that I found irresistibly alluring.

‘Oh god you are doing it again,’ I said. ‘I’m doing what?’ he asked innocently, his eyes twinkling. ‘You know what,’ I retorted, ‘you are seducing me with that smile and you know it.’ He cocked his eyebrow, ‘Do you want to be seduced again George?’ ‘If it’s you doing the seducing then that’s a silly question isn’t it.’ ‘And just how do you want me to seduce you?’

He moved the tray over onto the table at the side of the couch out of the way. ‘Do you want me to seduce you like this?’ His hands began to undo the belt around my wrap, slowly undoing the bow then gradually loosening the sash until it was completely undone.

‘Or would you prefer me to seduce you like this?’ His fingers ran up the edge of the gown and slipped under the fabric until they found their mark and he began to delicately stroke my breasts.

‘Perhaps you would prefer this?’ His voice was silky soft and smooth as he moved his hands up under the fabric, shrugged it off my shoulders and pulled it down my arms until he managed to slip it entirely off me, leaving me sitting there in nothing but my panties.

I once read an interview with an actor who was bemoaning that just before a big scene that involved him getting undressed they had shot another scene where he was required to eat a lot. He had made the comment that he’d ended up feeling like he looked fat because he was so full and all the dieting and workouts he’d done for weeks in preparation for the big scene had gone down the drain.

I could relate to that. I had a body image issue and felt so terribly self-conscious after eating so much that I was reluctant to let Breeland see me looking like what I felt was a blimp and I attempted to cover my stomach with my hands.

Sensing my embarrassment he took my hands in his, kissed them, and rested them at my sides and then began kissing his way down my body starting at the base of my throat and trailing downwards, taking his time to gently soothe and relax me. I could feel the tenderness in his lips as he lingered over each action, heightening the sensations travelling through me. When he got to the band of my panties he stopped and looked up at me, those lips that were sending a fire through me curving into a sex on a stick smirk as he very deliberately skimmed over them and continued down first one leg then worked his way back up the other and stopped at the top of my thigh.

I could feel his warm breath through the lace of my panties as his face lingered over me. I was on fire.

‘Or I could seduce you like this,’ he whispered huskily as he buried his face in the lace.

It took all my self-control not to arch my body up to meet him but I wanted more, I wanted him, so I took his face in my hands and gently lifted it, then just as he had done earlier in the morning in the shower I whispered, ‘I want you,’ to him.

His eyes were glowing when he stopped and looked up at me. Quickly moving onto his knees he shed his top and glanced down at the very obvious mound in his pants, the soft fabric stretched tightly across him.

I licked my lips and drew a breath in. He had teased me enough and the sight in front of me was nearly the finish of me.

Very deliberately, not taking his eyes off me for one moment he pulled down his pants. ‘Or I could seduce you like this…’

Yes please any way you want, my body was screaming out for him but my voice was barely a whisper when I huskily murmured, ‘Yes, like that.’

And he did.

Chapter Text

‘I’ve never been seduced before,’ I stated bluntly once I could finally get my breath back and speak. We were lying in each other’s arms basking in the afterglow of our passion and the warmth of the fire, propped up by cushions and feeling the love. ‘I’ve never seduced anyone before.’
We looked at each other and giggled like a couple of naughty kids.

‘I’ve had sex before,’ he winked and went on, ‘but I have never cared for anyone enough to want to … err seduce anyone, and I don’t think that I have ever really had enough ..,’ ‘Enough what?’ I asked interested, ‘enough confidence.’

I stared at him amazed. ‘You really don’t know the effect that you have on woman?’ He looked at me sceptically. ‘Okay,’ I went on, ‘you only have to bat your eyelids at Charlene and she will be a puddle on the floor at your feet.’

He laughed uproariously. ‘Really?’ he asked incredulously. ‘Yes really. Hell I was in a puddle just now. Don’t you know you are sex on a stick Officer Dreamboat?’
His chest puffed out and he tried to look modest and failed. It was my turn to laugh.

‘So what was it that gave you the confidence now, even though I still can’t believe that you have thought yourself unworthy before?’ I asked him curiously. ‘It was you and well, that song that you sang. You have no idea the effect that it had on me. I’ve wanted you since the minute I saw you but that song…’ he rolled his eyes, ‘coming on top of that day at the waterfall.’ He shivered a little.

‘The day at the waterfall, what do you mean about that day at the waterfall?’ I asked. ‘Don’t play coy with me, god I wanted you so much. You talk about sex on a stick, that day with you lying there and that Tee shirt and the way it clung to your body. I was …’ ‘You were what?’ I couldn’t resist, I wanted to hear him say it. I had the picture of him in my head and it still got me hot and bothered just thinking about it.

He looked at me. ‘You little minx, you know exactly what I am talking about don’t you.’ ‘Who moi?’ I feigned innocence. ‘I was very embarrassed at the state I was in,’ he confided. ‘So was I but well… it did give me hope,’ I laughed, ‘now look at us.’

He lent in and kissed me. ‘Yes now look at us,’ his eyes ran down my body and my pulse quickened. He could do that to me with just a look and it must have shown on my face for he got what I thought of as his “needy look” when his face went all serious and kind of ardent. I had seen that same look on his face before and now when I thought about it I realised that he was telling the truth when he’d said that he’d wanted me right from when we first met.

My eyes ran over him too and I saw that he was beginning to stir to life again and it thrilled me to think that a man as beautiful and sexy as he was could be turned on by me. I had to do a lot of imaginary pinching of myself at the luck of it really.

‘You know you really are going to be the death of me,’ he whispered huskily into my ear after studying my face as I looked at him. Those stirrings he was having were very obviously a lot more than just stirrings and had indeed grown into a palpable need that I was sharing along with him.

With a suddenly movement he had rolled onto his back pulling me on top of him as he looked up at me. His body began to move in a rhythm that left nothing to the imagination and when he lifted me ever so slightly with one hand and with his other he … well I will leave it up to your imagination but needless to say I made the most of the situation before finally collapsing on top of his heaving chest while I too was panting my heart out.

‘And you said I was going to be the death of you?’ I was barely able to gasp as I lay there with his hands still running down my back hugging me to him. ‘I’ll never get enough of you,’ he murmured, ‘never. My god, if I thought that I wanted you badly before we’d done it that’s nothing to now. I want you every moment of every hour. In the last twenty four hours I have had sex more than in the last … I don’t know how long,’ he admitted, ‘and I still can’t get enough of you,’ he chortled.
I leant forward and kissed him. ‘The feeling is totally mutual.’

When I finally had the strength to roll onto the floor I nestled into his arms again and sighed contentedly. We didn’t need to speak; we were both in a happy and in comfortable place and satisfied with where we were at, my hand on his chest delicately curling his soft down in my fingers while he gently stroked my shoulder as he held me. Eventually he broke the silence.

‘I talked about what I want from life this morning, what I had found to be my home truths, what do you want from life?’ ‘I suppose I want to sit in front of a fireplace in a comfortable silence. I want to love and know I am loved without having to say it. I want to trust and be trusted and never feel that I come second or third or nowhere at all in a relationship and that am I cherished as much as I cherish, and to be respected for my beliefs. I don’t want much do I?’

‘I know that this is going to sound so corny, and you might not believe me but until I met you I didn’t really let myself think or believe that this,’ I waved my arm randomly around, ‘that this would ever even be possible. I couldn’t let myself entertain the idea after what I’d been through that I was worthwhile enough to ever really be in this situation. I just figured that I would go on with life and enjoy doing what I was doing and eventually I would be one of those women that years later are found eaten by their dog after concerned neighbours hadn’t seen me for weeks.’

He gave a bit of a laugh at the description I had given of my demise and shook his head. ‘You my love,’ he replied as he kissed my hand, ‘would never be alone for long unless you chose it.’ ‘Ah but that’s just it I did choose it, chose to be alone that is. I guess that I had kidded myself that I was over everything and had coped really rather well on my own but in truth I hadn’t, all I’d done was shut myself away and told myself I was healed from the hurts and I didn’t even have scars anymore. But meeting you made me have a hard look at myself. Did I want to open my heart to new and possibly fresh wounds? Could I let myself believe that if, in the unlikely event something did happen, could I ever really trust again is what I continually asked myself.’

He was nodding. I knew that he understood and suspected he had gone through something similar.

‘What about you?’ I asked, ‘I know what you want,’ his hand slid down the slope of my breast and he teased my nipple, ‘apart from that,’ I groaned a little at his touch. ‘What made you change your mind? You said that you weren’t looking for a relationship and yet I hope you agree that we have found one?’

‘It was your generosity of spirit that gave me hope. Hope that there was something good still left in the world,’ he went on, ‘when on that first night you offered to go to dinner with me and took me under your wing so to speak, you did more for me in those first few hours than anyone else had bothered to do since I’d left home. I was so very touched. I suppose too that it was your innocence and compassion as well. That first night when we were at dinner and I told you a little about why I had come here, I could see you were genuinely upset and cared. You didn’t know me from a bar of soap and yet you showed empathy and understanding and it was touching and I was touched. For the first time in such a long time I suddenly felt something in the emptiness that I had let my life become.’

I rested my head on his chest and listened to his heart beating. I had not felt this connected to anyone before and felt like I would burst with the love that I had for this gentle soul.

‘Stay with me, stay the night?’ he whispered.

I nodded. I would stay with him for a life time if he asked me to.

Chapter Text

‘Well?’ Charlene demanded the minute she walked in the door of the shop the next day. I raised my eyebrows inquiringly. ‘Yes I am very well thank you, how are you?’ I replied trying to avoid what I knew was coming. ‘That’s not what I meant and you know it. So, did you do the deed?’ ‘I have no idea what you are talking about,’ I turned around and began fiddling with some stock on the counter. ‘Stop trying to avoid the question,’ she went on, ‘and just tell me.’

I felt my cheeks begin to burn with the thoughts of what her question bought up in my mind. The touch of his hands on my body, the smell of him permeating my skin and drowning me in his sex, his lips on mine … the thoughts setting me on fire all over again. Hell, stop it girl and pull yourself together.

Charlene walked around the counter to stand in front of me. There was no getting away from her. She sure had a determined one track mind.

‘Oh my god,’ she exclaimed seeing how red I was, ‘you did. You did didn’t you? I can tell. There’s something different about you. You look,’ she stopped and thought, something that I often suspected she didn’t do all that often, ‘you look like you are glowing. Way to go girl.’ She immediately hurried back around the counter and gave me an enormous bear hug, pulled back and looked into my face with a huge grin and tears in her eyes. ‘I am so happy for you.’ She squeezed me hard again then sniffed and smiled. ‘I can smell his after shave all over you; you’ve really had a good weekend haven’t you!’

I couldn’t ignore her genuine pleasure and enthusiasm and my resistance caved. I smiled as modestly back at her as I could and I teared up too.

‘In all this time that I have known you I have never ever seen you look this happy. He must be one hell of a guy.’ ‘He is, he’s …’ I was a bit lost for words. ‘Come on, out with all the details,’ she began to push it. ‘Umm… just exactly what do you want to know? I’m not going to share a blow by blow description,’ I laughed. ‘No .. no, not that. I mean I know that he cares about you, anyone can see it in his face the minute he looks at you, but do you care about him? Like, well I’ve never seen you remotely even interested in a guy and I know that whoever it was that you were with before must have done well, one hell of a job on you to make you feel this way. Honey, you haven’t been getting any loving for a long time so what made you decide that Officer Dreamboat is different?’

I didn’t need to think that one over, it was simple really. ‘I trust him.’

She nodded. ‘Girl that is one mighty fine feeling, you hold onto it and never let it go.’ ‘Trust me,’ I assured her, ‘I intend to.’
An hour later flowers arrived for me with a note simply saying, ‘I miss you.’ I melted.

We were a bit busier than usual that morning so I hadn’t had time to call and thank him yet but I didn’t need to because he showed up to take me for a coffee about an hour later. Charlene spotted him walking in before I did and gave me an exaggerated nudge and one of her louder than loud whispers that I am sure half the people in the shop heard. ‘Look out, here comes ODB,’ that was now what she considered her official code for Officer Dream Boat.

I looked up and he gave me a very mischievous smile and made bee line for Charlene pretending he hadn’t seen me. This was going to be interesting I thought as I stood watching.

‘Morning Charlene, you are looking mighty sensational today,’ he drawled, giving her a smile that lit up the room, ‘but then you are always looking mighty fine,’ and he winked at her.

Charlene giggled and simpered and practically disintegrated in front of him as he laid on the charm. ‘Well Officer Dre… Lt Calvert,’ she’d nearly called him Officer Dream Boat then caught herself mid-sentence, ‘you are looking pretty good yourself.’ She batted her eyes at him and cozied on up to him a bit closer.

I was laughing to myself as I watched them. Now maybe he would believe me that he could make anyone woman like putty in his hands.

‘That Chuck of yours is sure one mighty lucky guy. I bet that he had to fight off half the town to get anywhere near you.’ Hah that did it, Charlene was finally lost for words. ‘He sure is one very lucky guy,’ he repeated himself. Bulls eye, if she could have been she would have been in a puddle of simpering adoration at his feet. There goes getting any sense from her for the rest of the day I laughed to myself before walking over to them.

‘Is this a private conversation or can anyone join in?’ I asked as I walked over to them.

The minute we were out the door and on our way to grab a coffee I laughed. ‘See, I told you,’ I blurted out noticing the slightly cocky way he was waking. ‘Okay, I didn’t believe you and I humbly apologise. I guess that I just have to face facts,’ he declared. ‘Oh yes and what are those?’ ‘Well that I am god’s gift to women and I have to live with the burden.’ I laughed and he did too. That was just another thing I loved about him, his sense of humour. He didn’t mind taking the mickey out of himself.

I looked at him and gave him a mock frown. ‘What, what’s the matter?’ ‘Well I don’t mind you being god’s gift to women as long as I am the only woman you give god’s gift to,’ I burst out laughing again. ‘Trust me, any god given gift that I have is purely for you and you only. I mean it George.’ This time he was serious and he meant every word of it. ‘I know you do,’ I told him sincerely. ‘And… if we weren’t out here in public I would show you just how very much I do mean it. I’ve missed you so much and we’ve only been apart for a couple of hours.’

When we had gotten up in the morning there had been a bit of a mad rush to have some breakfast together before Breeland dropped me off home so that I could get ready for work. He had already showered and dressed in his uniform before we left his place and as I watched him put the finishing touches to his outfit I had to admit that he was one hot looking cop.

‘How does dinner at my place tonight sound?’ I asked as he kissed me goodbye, ‘I was going to make schnitzel and noodles.’ ‘They are a few of my favourite things,’ he smiled. ‘Oh yes and what are some of your other favourite things?’ I inquired. ‘This,’ he said crushing my mouth to his, his tongue dancing around mine, ‘and this,’ his hands ran up under my top and caressed me gently. ‘Oh god,’ I whispered into his mouth. ‘And this,’ he held my face in the palm of his hand. It was some farewell I can tell you but we had jobs to do so I waved him goodbye, rushed in and had a shower and got ready for work and counted the minutes until I would see him again.

‘I’ve missed you too but you have to promise me something,’ I said as we continued walking down the street to the “Chat And Chew”. ‘Anything, anything that you want I promise.’ ‘You have to stop sending me flowers or the town will run out,’ I laughed.

I’d only been back at the shop for about fifteen minutes when my phone alert went off. I picked it up to check it and his photo came up with a text message: “Okay I surrender,” it read. “Flowers once a week from now on but you can’t stop me from sending you these. Still missing you.”

He’d attached a picture of the most glorious bunch of Lilies. He knew now that they were my favourite flower.

I texted back: “Well okay, if you insist” laughing emoji “I guess that’s okay then. Missing you so much too.”

Within a couple of minutes my alert went off again.

His message: “Can’t wait for dinner!”

I replied back: “Wait till you see the dessert” smiley face with tongue out emoji.

His response: “Like what?”

Lately I had thought of diversifying and adding a few new ranges to the shop. I figured that the local inhabitants could do with some spicing up to their love life so I had been searching the net and found an upstate supplier that had some really beautiful knock down dead gorgeously sexy lingerie and had some samples sent to me which I had earmarked for a special occasion. I had placed an order for the shop accordingly and was awaiting shipment. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive and to set it up in the alcove near the back of the shop with a small fitting room I was going to arrange to install.

So with that in mind I sent my next response: A picture of red and black lace cut away bra and panties
Immediate response: “OMG Five o’clock sharp. Don’t be late!”

My response: “Don’t worry I won’t be. Trust me”

That night as we held each other, bra and panties lying on the floor of my bedroom having been a huge success, he told me to add something new to his list of favourite things, namely sexy lingerie.

I made a mental note to place another order with the supplier first thing in the morning.

Chapter Text

We had met just as the last lingering heat of summer was kissing our part of the world goodbye and Autumn was splashing its russet colours through the myriad of flora surrounding our village. The weather turned a little colder as the mornings welcomed crisp white frosts sparkling in the paler sunlight and the clear nights afforded a pristine view of the countless stars that twinkled throughout the midnight blue skies.

The days were growing shorter and the nights longer and that suited us both. Our longing for each other when we were apart had grown to be unbearable as time went on and we lived for the moments that we shared, Friday night dinners, the weekends spent together and week nights whenever we could which was most nights thank god. It was heaven and we basked in it.

It didn’t take long for it to become common knowledge around town that the new Lieutenant was dating me. We had hoped to keep it private but in a small town that wasn’t easy and eventually we became used to people stopping us in the street for a chat or asking after the other if we were apart.

In a way it wasn’t a bad thing as it helped Breeland to become accepted although I suspected that to be really considered to one of the town’s folk you would have to have lived there for at least twenty years, and to have had a least one generation of kids to show for it, but for the main part everyone was happy that I had found someone and that the new cop seemed like a hell of a nice guy, he must be if she’s going out with him was what Charlene confided to me the locals were saying. I was flattered and so was he when I told him.

I was even accepted into the hallowed status of girlfriend down at Breeland’s office, he said one night with a laugh when we were sitting watching an old cops and robbers gangster type movie at his place and, I was invited to join the little social club the other wives and girlfriends had organised. They met a couple of times a month at one or another’s homes for a catch up and for support if it was needed because being a policeman’s wife or girlfriend could sometimes be tough, they told me when I went to my first meeting.

I was lucky that Breeland was working civilised hours, they assured me, as a couple of them had husband’s that had worked in other towns or in the city when they had first met them where the hours were punishing and the crime rate a lot higher than our little community. Cindy, Barney’s wife had told me how his whole family had been cops going back to his great grandfather and that his brother had been shot and killed several years before.

I shivered at the thought and was glad that Breeland didn’t talk that much about work and I respected his silence. After all if there was something he needed to tell me I was sure he would but in our neck of the woods we had a pretty quiet life I thanked heavens.

When Halloween rolled around we spent the night at Sheriff Bobby Calthorne’s home. Bobby and his wife Rosemary were notorious for their parties, Halloween being no exception. They had both been born and raised in the town, gone to the same schools and had been together ever since first grade so they told me. He was an institution around the place and Rosemary was on just about every town committee for good works that you could name. They were good folks and much respected by all.

When Breeland had said to me we had both been invited to the party I did have a bit of a panic attack wondering what the hell I would wear as it was mandatory to go in a costume but he solved it on the spot; we were going to go as Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton, two characters from a popular vampire TV show. I had a pair of black shorts already so I got on line and ordered an apron and T shirt with the logo of the bar that Sookie worked in and for Breeland it was easy, I picked up a white Henley and he had a pair of jeans and leather jacket that he could throw on if the was cold. A pair of false fangs was duly bought too and I got a length of fake silver chain to add to my costume warning Breeland that if he got out of hand on the night I would “silver him” and we both laughed.

‘You may need to,’ he drawled at me eyeing me in the shorts I was trying on to make sure they looked right for the outfit, ‘in those shorts I am going to have a hard time keeping my hands off and my fangs off you, a very hard time,’ he emphasised. I smirked and deliberately bent over in front of him. He sucked in his breath and groaned. ‘A very very hard time,’ he insisted. My heart fluttered at the thought.

We had a great night as did anyone that was there and everyone got into the spirit of the evening. Bobby and Rosemary excelled themselves with their costumes coming as Mulder and Scully from the X files, Barney and Larry and some of the other guys from Breeland’s work decided it would be appropriate to come as zombies from The Walking Dead and by the end of the night a few of them really looked they fitted the part.

We mingled all night talking to everyone there but trying to stay within sight of each other, we couldn’t bare being apart that much. We had it bad.

The night drew on and at one point when a couple of the ladies that were regular customers cornered me to have a chat about the new lingerie line I’d introduced into the shop, inquiring discretely if I could possibly arrange for private fittings out of store hours as they were too embarrassed to come in during normal hours in case people saw them and talked. I assured them it could be arranged, smiling inwardly thinking that you just never could tell from outward appearances what people were really like in the privacy of their own homes but good for them lord knows with some of the things that my babes and I were getting up to these days who was I to judge I was smiling to myself.

I looked across the room to find Breeland watching me.

He ran his eyes down me with the look that he knew would drive me crazy but in company I could do nothing about so I decided to have a bit of fun with him. Without being too obvious about it I breathed in and thrust my chest out a bit. No one else noticed but he did. His eyes smouldered and between how god dammed good he looked in his Henley and jeans and his fake fangs, he knew that he was getting to me just as much as I was getting to him and by the looks of things, I was really getting to him as I had noticed he’d balled his fist and shoved his hand in his pocket.

Unintentionally I bit my lip, something that he always said was a turn on for him, then I realised he was still watching me like a hawk so I licked my lips for good measure. He rolled his eyes, closed them for a moment giving an air of attempting to gain self-control, and then he mock bared his fangs but not in an intimidating way, more in a drop dead sexy I’m going to have you way, if you know what I mean.

I tilted my head and with one hand pushed the scarf that matched the little apron I was wearing, I pushed it down a little to show off the mock fang bite I had drawn onto my neck resembling a vampire bite and with my other hand I played with the silver chain I had loosely draped over my shoulder, running my hand subtly up and down it.
Without a word to each other we said our good nights to all and were out the door and gone within fifteen minutes after that.

Bobby and Rosemary’s home was on the exact opposite side of the town to mine so that when Breeland drove to the T intersection at the bottom of the street I was surprised when instead of turning left to go home he turned right and headed up to the top of the bluff and the “lover’s lane” car park at a great rate of knots. He pulled in and parked the car in the empty area, most of those who would normally frequent the place having better things to do on a cold Halloween night seemingly, so we had the place to ourselves.

Before I’d even asked him what the hell was going on he had my seat belt undone and my seat lowered down so that I was lying flat on my back and he’d jumped over to my side of the car and was kneeling between my legs murmuring in his best Bill Compton voice, ‘Sookie.’ ‘Oh Bill,’ I simpered happy to play along, ‘you’re not going to have your way with me are you? After all I am a lady! Please don’t bite my neck.’

He ran his eyes down me and his hands ran up my legs. ‘You know you have other tasty places that I am more interested in,’ he smirked. ‘Oh Bill no, you don’t mean my …’ dramatic emphasised pause, ‘not my … femoral artery?’

‘You are the love of my life, I have never loved as I love you,’ he drawled again as he kissed his way up my leg, ‘trick or… if you prefer I have a really big treat in store for you?’ he asked looking up into my eyes.

‘Oh Bill,’ I sighed, ‘oh… Bill!’

It was the best Halloween I had ever had in my life.

Chapter Text

November and December, Thanksgiving and Christmas, descended upon us bringing really cold weather and it kept Charlene and I busy in the shop with stock orders piling in plus all the decorating to do.

For Thanksgiving Breeland decided to cook turkey with all the trimmings. We invited Charlene with Chuck, Barney and Cindy and their twins Emery and Suzy, and Bobby and Rosemary too. After dinner he surprised me when he called for everyone’s attention and explained that it had been a family tradition in his home for each guest to turn to the person on the right of them and give a few words of thanks for their friendship. As we went around the table listening to each person give their thoughts, I was struck by how lucky I was to be surrounded by friends that cared and were caring for each other.

Because Breeland was sitting on my left and I had been the first person to speak – telling Chuck sitting on my right, what a great guy he was and a valued friend to not just myself but to Charlene too, when it came to Breeland’s turn to speak I had no idea what he might say to me. I was moved to tears when he declared that his life had been blessed and was all the richer for knowing me and that he so very grateful to me and all his new friends for welcoming him into their hearts.

I couldn’t speak I was so moved and I reached for his hand under the table and held it tightly. Even hardened Bobby with his normally laconic attitude to sentiment was touched by his heartfelt words and looked a little emotional for him. It was quite a night.

Thanksgiving was done and dusted and suddenly it was the Season of Christmas. I love Christmas, have I told you that already? It is a passion and always has been since I was a kid and much to my delight, I discovered the Breeland was just as crazy as I was over it. We were as bad as each other buying things and smuggling them away like excited kids that couldn’t wait for Christmas day.

Tyrion was excited too, sensing our happiness when we would come in carrying mysterious parcels that he immediately had to inspect at close range, snuffling through bags and pawing at contents. It was a chaotically busy time but so very much fun.

Charlene and I spent hours decorating the shop and turning it into a festive wonderland and it looked wonderful if I do say so myself. We frosted the multiple colonial style front windows and decked the displays out with every conceivable type of Christmassy décor we could get our hands on. We chose the typical “old English” type of theme, hoping that those passing by would look in and feel like they had stepped back in time to a Dickensian world. With Christmas in mind I had diversified a lot with stock purchases and had bought in a line of toys that had included Teddy Bears, porcelain dolls, some really beautiful children’s books and a range of wooden carved toys which we displayed in the left hand window, all very nostalgic in feel and popular with parents and the very little children of the town.

The right hand window display we devoted to the adults and had some really sensational beautifully made and decorated replica Victorian and Edwardian toiletries, dressing table and bathroom sets and the softest lace cashmere pashminas that I had ever come across. We draped some truly beautifully embroidered silk night gowns covered in exquisitely worked hand sewn patterns, dripping with ribbons and lace over a couple of old tailors dummies I had found one day when Breeland and I had been on one of our excursions in an antique shop and I had picked them up for a song due to their deteriorated condition. A bit of restoration on my part and they looked perfect.

Despite the trend for all things electronic and society’s mad passion for high tech gadgets, inherently we hoped that the old world charm of the bye gone era we had tried to create would lure those of a more nostalgic bent into the shop. Sure we had filled the windows with luxury items that normally not that many would buy on a daily basis, but I took the attitude that Christmas was the one time of the year that people let their hair down and wanted to give a gift that would spoil those they loved and cared for and to hell with the practicality of the gift. These were unique pieces and something to be treasured and loved along with the memories of the happy times and spirit they were given in. After all, wasn’t that what Christmas was all about.

We had deliberately kept everything in that window display white and had piled strings of imitation pearls, sparkling hand decorated Christmas tree baubles, gloriously decorated silky wraps trimmed and decorated with exquisite lace and then scattered silver, gold and mother of pearl glitter and shimmering imitation snowflakes strategically here and there to catch the twinkling strands of fairy lights we had placed randomly throughout the whole display. It looked beautiful and was such a success that mums and dads bought their kids along just to look at both the windows.

My little discreet lingerie section hadn’t been forgotten either and I laughed to myself at the thought of more than one husband getting a big surprise when their normally unassuming wives donned the little sets of red silk and fur trimmed Mrs Claus shortie nighties or Santa’s little helpers aprons with a matching G string and jaunty hat included, for a Christmas surprise they would not be likely to forget in a hurry.

Breeland was such a big help too taking me out to gather winter greenery to be strung up around the place in garlands that we tied together with red tartan and gold wired ribbon to add to the festive touch. But the crowning glory that topped everything off was all thanks to Breeland really on two scores.

When I had first moved into the shop I had noticed that a corner of the store was blocked up and I had always suspected there may be a fireplace behind it with a bit of luck. I had mentioned it to him one day back in November when we were lying in front of my fireplace at home making lists of things that needed doing for the Christmas season. He offered to take a look at it and see if my suspicions were correct and much to my joy, with a lot of muscle provided by my man, we found that it was exactly as I had thought. At some time in the past a previous tenant had decided the old fashioned tiled fireplace and over mantel were not to their taste and had created a false wall over the whole lot, even laying a sheet of ply wood over the beautiful hearth tiles that matched the ornate art-deco ones embedded in the cast iron fire surround.

It only took Breeland a couple of hours to get the whole thing uncovered one night and check that all was in safe working order including the chimney. I was ecstatic. It just made the room perfect and I set about decorating it accordingly. Of course that meant weekend excursions out into the country to get firewood but once again that led to the other crowning glory that was to make the shop totally perfect and ready for the festive season. Breeland found the perfect Christmas tree.

We set up the tree in pride of place in the corner of the store next to the newly unveiled fire place and Breeland, Charlene, Chuck and I spent a fun few hours one night decorating it. When we all stood back and surveyed the tree standing so prettily decorated next to the glowing fire, we gave a cheer. It looked wonderful.

In the true spirit of Christmas, the season all about giving, we even had presents under the tree for customers who came and purchased a lucky dip ticket, funds raised going to the various charities over in Hermanville that provided a free Christmas meal for the needy and homeless. It was such a success that we had to replenish the gifts several times over and after Christmas we received thank you letters which we framed and put up near the cash register in the hopes of reminding our customers to give at all times of the year when they could, and not just at Christmas.

Our mood must have been contagious as the week before Christmas while Breeland and I were out on our now ritual morning coffee break, we returned only to find a bunches of mistletoe hanging here and there around the store, above the place where customers stood at the counter to be served, and in the kitchen and office, all having been put up by Charlene. The customers loved it, even those that were caught unaware by their partners and friends in an unexpected quick smooch were good humoured about it and there were many a laughs to be had by all including myself. Breeland made it a habit of lingering under the mistletoe every chance he got.

It was promising to be a very merry Christmas for all.

Chapter Text

The countdown to Christmas was underway and looking back now I can honestly say it was one of the happiest of times in my life both on a work level and personal level. Yes sure Charlene and I were flat out but it was such fun and then after work there was Breeland and Tyrion to go home to. Everything seemed to be falling into a happy place and I was ridiculously happy, beyond my wildest dreams happy on every level.

Much to our surprise and delight the shop got a write up in the Hermanville Hound – the local newspaper for the area, and the interest in the store generated from the article became even greater than before. We were kept frantically busy with the extra trade but loved every minute of it. Other shop owners in the street soon followed suit, some of them coming to us and asking for advice about their own displays which we were more than happy to give, so that by the time it came to the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas count down the whole town was buzzing with the spirit.

That, added to the fact that I had always been a huge fan of decorating my house inside and out, and with Breeland to help me out this year, I put on a bit of a light display of my own in the front garden. Nothing too spectacular, just a tree in the bay window with lights and decorations and then solar decorative lights strung up around the veranda and through the trees and along the path leading to the front porch so that it gave the impression of a welcoming road into fairy land.

I helped Breeland put his up too and for a while both our houses shone out in the village like little oasis’s of twinkling lights in the night. Then after about a week we noticed a couple more houses had followed suit. By the last week before Christmas just about every street in the town had house after house with their own interpretation of a light show happening.

Rich Jenkins, Robby’s father that has the hardware store, called in on me one morning at the shop bearing with him a huge gift hamper to thank us for starting a trend, he said. He’d never sold so many solar light sets before and had even had to place extra orders. He said his business was booming with all the extra bits and pieces everyone was buying to decorate their houses and make things out of for their own decorations, and he couldn’t thank us enough as normally this time of the year was a quiet time in the trade for him but not this year, business was booming and they were going to have an extra merry Christmas indeed.

Even with everything going on I still managed to work my way through my list of presents that I had planned to buy, the majority being for Breeland and Tyrion. Some I had planned well ahead of time and purchased on line but others that I required I picked up when we were out and about at weekends. They were the ones that needed a bit of sneaking around as it was hard to buy a surprise present when the person you were buying for was with you.

I was up for the challenge though and was pretty pleased with myself the day we were at one of the markets we frequented and were both attracted to a stall selling leather work. We got talking to the young guy there who told us he was an aspiring actor and to supplement his income he made deliciously gorgeous belts and wallets and key chains that he cunningly fashioned out of leather.

I had already decided that one of the gifts I was going to give Breeland was a house key so I came up with the idea that a personalised key ring would be something a bit special. It had been a big commitment on my part to truly trust anyone that much but my feelings for him was so strong that I felt that the time was right and I hoped that he would love the gesture and spirit it was made in.

I had to do a bit of finagling to cover my tracks so that I could go back to the stall without Breeland knowing, but I thought that I was pretty inventive saying that I needed to go to the loo and I would meet him at the car. I doubled back and arranged for a key ring with his initials on it in a shade of blue leather to be made and posted to me by Cillian the would be aspiring actor, and after giving all my details and getting his card I made it back to the car with Breeland none the wiser but totally pleased with myself for being so sneaky.

Ironically it was that same day that I found another present for him that I just knew he was going to love. We had eventually finished restoring his hall stand after putting many hours at the weekends into it and it was now safely ensconced in his hallway on the left of the entrance. It looked wonderful but a little bare. He had put a small bowl on it to keep his keys in, not wanting to use the brass hooks we had so lovingly polished in case they got scratched, but we had both agreed that the bowl was a bit plain and the stand needed something special to show it off. This particular day we had been a bit later than usual getting to the market and had to park several blocks away so we had a walk through the main shopping street on our way there and that was when I saw a lamp in a shop we were passing that I knew was perfect and that I had to have for him.

The lamp base itself was a dark bronze and was shaped like the petals of a lily pad tapering up into one stalk before opening out into a lotus shape that supported the square lamp shade, and what a shade. Brass framed in the shape of a cut off pyramid three quarters of the way up holding the various shades of deep cream frosted glass in place, the lower part of the frame having a border of palm trees, camels and with pyramids in the distance so that when lit it cast a light show of sorts and was really spectacular to look at. It would sit perfectly in the corner of the centre table top section of the stand as a hall lamp so all I needed to do now was get some other piece that would suit the opposite side and I found that on line.

I picked the lamp up on the way back to the car and put the mysterious box in the boot of the car much to Breeland’s curiosity. It was all so much fun, the best fun I’d had in years.

There was only one more thing that I had bought that I was still waiting on delivery of as it was coming from New York and was taking a little longer than the other less expensive bits and pieces that had already arrived. When I had been living in the big city one of the things that I liked to do to escape from the apartment and get away from Ramsay was to hunt around antique shops and little out of the way places and had found a quirky little shop that seemed to get really beautiful sculptures and vases and all kinds of stuff. I had remembered it one day when I was trying to think of something that would be perfect for the hall stand and had searched their online website. That was when I found the perfect piece.

It was an art deco creation depicting a naked man and a woman, very obviously lovers, reclining and entwined in each other’s arms kissing. It was erotic and classy and beautifully sculptured out of bronze and I had to admit that it instantly reminded me of the two of us. There was just something about it that held a resonance for me and I was sure it would for Breeland too. It was perfect and when it finally arrived the Monday before Christmas I was ecstatic.

Now all that was left to do was finishing all my wrapping. Breeland and I had already wrapped up presents for our friends and safely stowed them away. We had done it weeks before and it was while we were sitting on the floor of his living room in front of the fire one night with presents, paper and ribbons strewn everywhere as we were wrapping them up that we had been reminiscing about childhood Christmas memories and he had been moved almost to tears.

He told me how he recalled one Christmas, when he was only a kid, that his mum had told him to go watch TV and not disturb her for a couple of hours because she was very busy doing something important for Santa and she was not to be disturbed – she had needed time to wrap up his presents and wanted him out of her hair he had realised later when he was a little older. This was fine with him because he had wanted the chance to wrap up some presents he had saved up for months to buy her out of his pocket money.

He had carefully carried some wrapping paper and his parcels into the living room and turned on the TV and there was an old movie on. He couldn’t remember the name of it but he remembered it was set somewhere at a ski resort and what stood out for him was the music in the movie. He said he still remembers to this day the smell of the fancy soap and the little bottles of perfume and hand lotion in the gift set he had bought her every time he hears songs from the movie playing. I had casually asked him what the songs were and made a mental note to try to find the movie. When I managed to find it and was one hundred percent sure it was the one that he had described, I ordered it and made some plans.

It had been very obvious from what he said that it was a moment of his life that was really special so I wanted to give him another special memory too and couldn’t wait to see his face when he unwrapped his present.

Christmas, I sighed to myself, and Breeland to boot. How much happier could life be.

Chapter Text

The week leading up to Christmas flew by in a blur of work, shopping for food – we were going to cook up a storm at my place for a traditional Christmas dinner so we needed to get all our supplies in, and then there was all the socialising associated with visiting friends and gift giving. As Christmas day fell on a Saturday that year both of us were counting down the days till Friday night Christmas Eve when finally we could be alone and celebrate our first Christmas together.

The weather forecast had advised that heavy snow was expected and right on time it began to fall early on Friday morning so just about everyone had been prepared and finished up all their shopping before it started coming down by mid-afternoon. By four o’clock it was really heavy so we shut up shop and I wished Charlene a Merry Christmas and exchanged presents promising not to open them until the next morning.

Breeland came by to pick me up and we went back to my place to let Tyrion out and get changed. If the weather let up enough we were going carol singing. One of the ideas we wives and girlfriends had come up with at one of the get together had been to form a little choir to raise some money for a youth club we had decided the village needed. When Rosemary had told Bobby about it he had seconded some of the guys from the Sheriff’s office to participate, including Breeland, and we had been rehearsing every other week when time permitted for the last couple of months and I had to admit we weren’t bad. We weren’t that good either but I had heard worse.

We grabbed a bite to eat and kept a concerned eye on the weather but luckily for us the snow eased off and then stopped and the night cleared up.

It turned into a beautiful night as we made our way from door to door under the clear dark sky lit with shining diamonds that were the stars twinkling out so close in the crisp cold air you felt that you could reach up and pluck them from their inky cradle.

With smiles on our faces we wished everyone a Merry Christmas and finally made our way home to my place, cold but exhilarated by the good wishes and Christmas cheer in the air.
We lit the fire in my living room and while Breeland got it blazing I whipped up some egg nog and carried it in on a tray with some shortbread I had made and a present wrapped up in brightly shining pink and gold paper and cascading with ribbons.

‘What’s this?’ he inquired when I handed him his drink and the present. ‘It’s just a little something that I wanted to give you now and share with you tonight,’ I beamed at him as he carefully opened the delicious wrapping paper. We recycle so we both take care not to tear anything up and waste it.

I watched his face as he took the paper off and looked down at the DVD, at first puzzled then as he read the cover his eyes lit up and he looked up at me. ‘Is this what I think it is?’ but he didn’t give me time to answer, he was off, putting it into the DVD player and switching on the TV before I could get a word out then back at my side as we sat stretched out snuggling up together on the couch.

For the next hour and a half we sat like two little kids entranced by a movie made so long ago but it still left us smiling and relating to the happy ever after ending. The music may have been written during the Second World War but it was catchy and memorable and I could understand why hearing it would bring back such happy memories of something as special as the ones that it did for him.

When the credits finally finished rolling he turned to me, his eyes shining with tears and whispered, ‘Thank you, up until now that was the happiest Christmas that I can ever remember. I adored my mum and just like you she made Christmas special so that was why I had wanted to make it special for her. Now you have made this Christmas even more special for me than I have dreamt it would be.’

He looked over to the mantel piece above my fireplace and checked the time on the Ormolu clock I had sitting there in all its splendour. ‘Merry Christmas babes,’ it was literally just turning twelve o’clock on the dot. ‘Merry Christmas babes,’ I whispered back to him, ‘I hope this is the happiest of all Christmases and the start of many more.’
We went to bed and held each other wrapped in more than just the Christmas cheer of the evening, we were cocooned in the love that we both felt for each other and blessed the day we had met.

It seems to me that I can remember when I was very little my Mum and Dad putting me to bed as early as they dared on Christmas eve in the hopes that my over excitement in the lead up to the “big day” would exhaust me and I would sleep for hours. Well I didn’t. At the crack of dawn I remember waking up and with the utmost of expectations and creeping out to the lounge room to see if Santa had been and left any presents under the tree.

This particular Christmas morning I did wake earlier than usual and I was thankful because while Breeland was soundly asleep next to me it gave me the chance to quickly get all his presents from where I had safely hidden them and place them lovingly alongside Tyrion’s under the tree. By the time I had finished I was chilled so I went back to bed and snuggled up to my guy and fell into a deep sleep.

The next thing I knew it was well and truly daylight and I awoke to an empty bed. Glancing over I noticed the door of the ensuite closed and assumed he was in there. Perfect… I jumped out of bed and rushed to my wardrobe where I had hung up a sexy little Santa’s helper outfit I had bought on line. It was virtually just a tube of some kind of red stretchy satiny fabric with white fake fur around the top and bottom of it and it was so short I am sure you could almost use it as a belt. I was laughing as I pulled it on and added two little furry wristband bracelets and matching Santa hat then pulled on my drop dead killer black patent pumps and my ensemble was complete.

I snuck down stairs thinking that I would have enough time to poke up the fire and turn on the Christmas tree lights but when I got to the bottom I looked down on the polished wood of the hallway floor and stopped dead in my tracks and started giggling. Outlined in talcum powder to resemble snow were footprints leading into the living room. I followed them in and found firstly the fire in the fireplace blazing away, secondly the Christmas tree lights on with presents galore under it and thirdly….there was Breeland sitting waiting patiently for me to wake up, resplendent in a pair of red silk Santa pants trimmed with white fur around the cuffs and nothing else other than a Santa hat.

I am not sure who got the biggest surprise, him or me at the outfits we were both wearing but obviously we both had the same idea.

As I stopped in the doorway to take in the scene his eyes ran over me from top to toe and he got that look … that drop dead smoulder that he gets when I know what he is thinking and I just melt.

‘Santa,’ I rasped as my own eyes ran over his body and I noticed the substantial erection he wasn’t bothering to make any attempt at hiding. ‘Hello there,’ he smirked, ‘have you come to help Santa celebrate Christmas?’ Oh boy, had I ever. I nodded. ‘Well why don’t you come and sit on Santa’s knee and tell me all about what you would like good old Santa to give you.’ Oh hell, I sure will.

I was over and straddling “Santa” before you could blink.

‘My Santa, what a big package you have. Is that for me?’ I asked suggestively as I looked down at the fabric of his outfit straining across him. ‘Well that depends now doesn’t it. Have you been a good girl this year?’ ‘Oh yes Santa, don’t you think that I have been a very very good girl this year and that I deserve a present?’

‘Hmm… well let me think,’ he looked hard at the band of fur that was the bodice of my outfit then looked up at me. ‘I think that you might be a little too overdressed for Santa to answer that.’ His hands began to stroke the fur gently then with a sudden movement his delicious fingers slipped under the fabric and pulled it down leaving my breasts totally exposed. ‘Oh Santa,’ I simpered.

Next he placed his hands on my thighs and pushed up the fur around the hem of my outfit, not that he had to push it up much as it was so short that it was already near the top of my thighs as it was.

He let out a bit of a gasp as he looked down. ‘Well well well what have we here,’ he whispered a little breathlessly when he discovered that I had no underwear on, ‘it looks to me like you have been a very very ….good girl so I guess you had better unwrap your present.’ ‘Oh Santa,’ I giggled, ‘I am just so excited to see what you have for me.’

‘Trust me,’ he whispered huskily, ‘you are nowhere near as excited as I am to give it to you.’
And he did, and I just loved his present, you could even say it left me breathless.

Chapter Text

‘Merry Christmas my pet,’ Breeland hugged me to him before gently lifting me up and cradling me in his arms after our merry making so to speak. ‘Merry Christmas babes,’ I snuggled into his embrace and wallowed in the love I was feeling. ‘I hate to break into the moment but I think that we had better get dressed or we will be here like this all day.’ ‘Spoil sport,’ I laughed as I got up and scooped up my outfit. ‘Stay there,’ I told him and ran over to the pile of presents under the tree and reached for one. ‘Here,’ I handed it to him, ‘I want you to open this one first as it’s kind of appropriate for right now.’

I handed him some scissors that I had placed on the coffee table so that we could use them without tearing the wrapping paper as we opened presents, then I sat down at his feet in front of the fire and watched him unwrap the gift. ‘It’s beautiful,’ he said holding up the deep red and gold velvet brocade dressing gown I had bought him. He immediately jumped up, shedding his Santa pants that were down around his ankles anyway and put it on. ‘God it feels wonderful and it’s so warm.’ ‘I wanted you to have something to keep you warm for times when I am not around and besides, I knew you would look sensational in it babes.’

He reached down and lovingly stroked my face. ‘Thank you. I will always think of you and this moment whenever I wear it. Now how about you put something warm on too and we get started on this lot,’ he nodded towards the piles of presents under the tree. ‘Be right back,’ I said over my shoulder as I bolted upstairs and grabbed the matching wrap I bought for myself.

‘Okay seeing you have already given me something it’s your turn to open a present,’ he told me handing me a brightly wrapped package. ‘Sounds like a plan but before we do …’ I reached over and picked up my phone, ‘I want to take a shot in front of the tree with all the pressies.’ I took one with just the two of us then called Tyrion over and had a group shot.

We spent the next hour or so taking turn and turn about opening up packages that we had both spent a lot of time and effort wrapping to perfection, each new gift bringing with it laughter, love and amazement.

Tyrion wasn’t forgotten either as he had his own piles of gifts which we had both bought him. He scored exceedingly well I might add. Breeland must have been just as sneaky as I was because amongst Tyrion’s gifts was a beautifully worked leather collar with his name emblazoned on it flanked on either side by a depiction of two Direwolves. He confessed that he had snuck back to Cillian. It must have been while I had been in the shop buying his lamp and he had thought that I was in the loo so that was why I didn’t see him. Goes to show how much we thought alike.

When we put it on him we knew that he loved it by the way he pranced around, and he high fived us both.

He scored well with loads of treats and toys and Breeland had bought him a new bed to replace the make shift one that he had made for him at his place.

I had bought him a new coat too, it was water proof and lined in a thick but ever so soft sheep skin like fabric and had his name written on it. He loved that too.

It had always been a habit of mine to keep what I considered the best presents till last so when eventually the pile dwindled down to only a few left for Breeland I handed him the wrapped box the lamp was in and held my breath as he unwrapped it. His eyes lit up as he carefully managed to take off all the packaging. ‘It’s perfect,’ he smiled, ‘totally perfect.’ I was beaming. ‘Here, this kind of goes with it too,’ I told him giving him the wrapped up sculpture.

He held it in his hands and ran his delicate fingers over the bodies of the two lovers. ‘That’s us, entwined in our love,’ he whispered gently, his face bathed in unadulterated and all-consuming love, ‘it’s beautiful.’ I had never had anyone say anything so beautiful or kind of poetic to me and certainly none that summed up exactly how I felt too. I couldn’t speak but merely nodded. I was in such emotional overload.

He carefully placed it on the side table then picked up a small package I hadn’t noticed before and handed it to me. I unwrapped it carefully to find a small much worn, battered and scarred rather ancient looking little leather box. Its old worn latch looked like it had seen far better days and although intact, some of the bright polish had worn off leaving a shabby appearance to it and making it stiff to open with its obvious age. Despite this, I managed to get the catch undone and gasped when I saw the contents, for resting inside on a piece of aged crushed navy velvet were the most exquisite pair of diamond and sapphire drop earrings that I had ever seen.

The sapphires were of an oblong cut and were surrounded by tiny diamonds in a rectangular pattern that trailed up a delicate thread to the clasp.

Even if they had not come in the ancient looking case I would have recognised anywhere from the style of the settings that they were old, very old, and very valuable. I was staggered. ‘Oh my god babes, these are stunning,’ was all I could get out as I looked from them to him and back.

‘Do you like them?’ ‘Are you kidding me? But really you shouldn’t have, I mean I love them but you can’t afford something like these,’ I said rather in awe at the thought of how much something as precious as the stones would have cost let alone the value of something that was obviously very old and of consequently more value because of the age and quality of the cut and setting.

‘Babes I didn’t buy them,’ he said gently. I looked at him puzzled. ‘What do you mean you didn’t buy them?’ ‘They’ve been in my family for generations on my Daddy’s side. When my Daddy and Mama were married she wore them on her wedding day. They were given to her to be handed on to her daughter, should she have one. But she didn’t, I was an only child and when my Daddy died trying to save my neighbours in a flood, well… Mama never remarried. He was the love of her life and she stayed true to him until she died too.’

‘She gave them to me when I married, she said that they should go to my wife but I never gave them to Paula, I never really thought her deserving of them. Perhaps if things had been different or if we had a daughter then I might have but it didn’t turn out like that and I am so glad that I hung on to them.’
I sat there with my mouth open still in shock at the gift, attempting to process it all, listening to him as he went on.

‘There is a family legend that during the Civil war when there was a possibility of the Yankees coming through our area, the ladies of my family decided to hide the family’s treasures just in case of invasion. Mind you, they never came all that close to our part of the state but it didn’t stop the ladies from worrying. There wasn’t all that much to hide really apart from the set of jewellery that these,’ he pointed to the earrings, ‘come from. They considered these to be precious because of the history attached to them. My folks had originally come from England then went to France and on to Nova Scotia but had then been chased out and moved on down to Louisiana back some time in the mid seventeen hundreds we think. I don’t know the history of the jewels; I would sure love to find out though.’

‘Wait what did you say, your Daddy died in a flood?’ I was trying to take everything in that he was telling me but my mind was popping with all his family history.
He nodded. ‘There was a flash flood and he’d gone over to check on the neighbours but on his way over when he got to the small bridge over the stream that divided part of our place and theirs, he found it in flood and their car washed into the torrent. He managed to save their boy and girl but when he tried to get their parents out of the car it shifted, rolled and the three of them were drowned. Their grandma raised the two kids and my Mama raised me.’

‘I am so sorry, I had no idea. When you said you came from a small town I thought you meant you lived in the town, I didn’t know you meant on a farm.’ ‘It wasn’t a farm anymore like in the old days when the village was founded. Mama and Daddy worked in the town. The house had been in the family for a long time but over the years the family had sold off most of the land so what was left was more like a big garden that now sits in the outskirts of town because its grown over the years since it was built. It’s still a small village in comparison to most places though. But it sure is pretty.’

Breeland had never talked that much about his family’s past and I had never asked but I felt oddly drawn to the history he was regaling me with and I had always been fascinated with genealogy. I promised myself that I would do some research and see what I could come up with. It would be fun and a surprise for Breeland if I could discover anything about his family and who knows what I might find.

I was pretty much staggered when he finished. I looked down at the earrings sitting daintily in their little box and thought of all the history they had been through. I pictured the belles that may have worn them, dancing and flirting with their beaus at barbecues and socials with their wide hooped skirts and too tightly laced stays. Then back further to empire dress clad ladies of Jane Austin times with their elaborate hair styles and the ultimate goal of securing a suitable match with a man of considerable income.

Then my thoughts went even further back to the days of the French aristocracy before Madame Guillotine had taken her ghastly toll on the blue blood of high society; to those that dressed in highly exaggerated panniers under the volumes of elaborately decorated yards and yards of fabric, powdered wigs up swept in a concoction of riotous curls and ringlets showing off dainty necks and rouged cheeks. So much history, so many lives and loves and hopes and dreams, passions and despair and all accompanied by the two sparkling pieces of craftsmanship sitting in their velvet cocoon.

‘I can’t accept them, they are your family heirlooms and it wouldn’t be right.’ His face looked crestfallen. ‘Don’t you like them?’ ‘Like them, I love them but babes they belong in your family,’ I gently replied.

He shook his head. ‘You don’t understand do you?’

I was puzzled, what didn’t I understand?

‘George you are my family.’

Chapter Text

Picking up the remaining present I had for him I handed it to Breeland without saying a word. I hoped the that gift would say what I was feeling right now after his speech but doubted that anything could have been as precious as what he had said to me. I only hoped that he knew that to me, my present to him represented the ultimate gift of trust that I could give him.

He quickly unwrapped the small parcel and peeled away the tissue paper. He looked down at a set of duplicate house keys with the beautiful leather key ring inscribed with his initials that I had Cillian make for him attached to the chunky ring.

I had the feeling that the look on his face was a mirror reflection of my own a moment ago when he had told me that I was now his family but when he sat still as stone staring at the keys in his hands and not saying a word I began to fret.

Had I been wrong, had I misconstrued his feelings? I couldn’t have could I, given what he’d just said to me but then why didn’t he say anything?

Finally he looked up at me. His lips quivering when he tried to speak, tears glistening before one couldn’t be held back and slowly rolled down his cheek.

‘You are my family too,’ I croaked, choked with emotion, ‘mine and Tyrion’s.’ I laughed a little and he laughed too rubbing away his wet face on the sleeve of his dressing gown and sniffing in an attempt to regain control of his emotions. ‘Mi casa su casa,’ I said gently.
He sniffed again and cleared his throat. ‘I …. I don’t know what to say.’

‘You don’t need to say anything babes. You are right,’ my voice cracked, ‘we are … family. Even if you hadn’t said that, it’s how I feel too. You make me feel happy and alive and wanted and loved. I’ve never felt like that from anyone apart from my own family. You make me feel how life is supposed to be, full of hope and as though there’s a future. I haven’t felt like this since I was a kid.

He was nodding. ‘That’s how I feel too. When we’re not together all I think about is being with you and how much I miss you and want to be with you. You make me feel worthwhile.’

He got up. ‘Stay here,’ he said over his shoulder as he crossed over the lounge room heading in the direction of the dining room. ‘Where are you going?’ I called out without an answer but he was back in a moment carrying a large present.

‘One last present,’ he assured me, squatting down and sitting on the floor next to me.

I unwrapped it and gasped. It was a huge canvas with the picture I had taken of the two of us kissing on the cliffs but it had been turned into an art piece with the edges softened and blurry so that the head shot of the two of us stood out on the white canvas. It was beautiful.

‘Here,’ he took it from my hands and walked over to the fireplace; lifting down a print I had above the mantel then hanging the portrait in its place. I got up and stood next to him gazing at the two of us and smiled. ‘It’s perfect.’

He threw his arms around me and hugged me to him and we kissed.

‘Merry Christmas babes,’ he hugged me tighter. ‘Merry Christmas dream boat,’ I squeezed him back.

Once we had finally dressed we tidied up and grabbed a light breakfast we took Tyrion for a walk then headed off to a retirement home where we had promised to help serve Christmas lunch to the inhabitants. Tyrion came with us as he was a certified doggie and was a big hit with his Christmas bandanna and tinsel around his neck.

It was a great way to help others that didn’t necessarily have any loved ones to visit them and we both felt more than amply rewarded by the genuine gratitude showered on the three of us.

We got home with plenty of time to cook up our own feast and by the time we had finished eating and cleaned up the kitchen we were more than ready to settle down in front of the fire and relax. It had been a long day but a memorable one.

‘Did you have a good day?’ Breeland asked me sleepily as we stretched out on our cushions. ‘I had the best Christmas I can ever remember.’ ‘Me too, what was your favourite part?’ He asked curiously. ‘Well, the present Santa gave me would be pretty hard to go past,’ I giggled. ‘You know it’s funny you should mention that.’ ‘Why?’ I asked him. ‘Well you see Santa has something big still left in his sack that he’s wanted to give you all day,’ he said crudely as he rolled over onto his side and looped his leg over me.

‘Gee Santa I simply don’t know what I have done to deserve this.’ I reached my hand down and rubbed his hardness through his jeans.
I felt his hot breath on my face as he groaned at my touch.

‘If you keep that up you will know sooner than you think,’ he whispered to me. ‘Santa is that a threat or a promise?’ I purred back at him. ‘Oh it’s a promise trust me.’

And true to his word he kept his promise.

‘Wake up sleepy, we have things to do.’ Breeland murmured into my ear the next morning. I stretched and smiled then lent over and kissed him.

‘Oh yes, what kind of things do you have in mind?’ I asked hoping that it was something substantially as satisfying as the night before.

‘Well seeing as I have the week off and I don’t have to go back to work until Monday week I was thinking how about a bit of a road trip?’

‘A road trip?’ I queried, ‘where to?’ He smiled enigmatically. ‘It’s a surprise. Now come on up and them as the saying goes, we have a lot of travelling to get done.’

‘Hang on, how long will this road trip take, don’t forget we have the New Year ’s Eve fancy dress party at the Seafood and Eat It. You know that half the town will be there and everyone is expecting us to be there too?’ ‘Don’t worry we’ll be back in time, now get dressed before I change my mind and keep you here in bed for the whole week.’

I smiled at the thought and raised my eyebrows. ‘And that would be a bad thing?’ ‘You my love,’ he said throwing back the covers and kissing my bare back as he got up, ‘are going to be the death of me, now get dressed.’

We’d been tired the night before so by the time we got up late, had a shower and some breakfast, taken Tyrion on a long walk and packed the car it was well into the afternoon before we hit the road.

It was lucky that I was as much as a petrol head as Breeland was as we were on the road for nearly fifteen hours. We took turns in driving so that neither of us would get too tired and stopped along the way to stretch ours and Tyrion’s legs and to get food and coffee when we felt like a break.

Tyrion loved the car too and was a good back seat passenger; he never complained or whined and sat in his harness looking out the window or sleeping quietly only getting a bit restless when he needed a toilet break.

Breeland drove the last five hours of the journey as he said he knew the roads well. The sun was up when he turned off the highway and onto a lesser road that wound its way through cleared farmland and thickets of forest until we finally came to a pretty little town.

He drove down the main street then took a couple of turns passing a motel, a police station, church, a small school and an area of what looked like uncleared forest with a sign with an arrow pointing to “The Bar and Grill” before the buildings became residential in nature.

It could have been anywhere in the country and was typical of all small towns but I was struck by how very pretty it was and the homely atmosphere; kids playing safely in their front yards with newly bought toys, adults out in their gardens making the most of the unseasonably warm weather we had noticed as we got a bit further south and west away from the coast, chatting to their neighbours or pottering around in their gardens or people walking their dogs and stopping to say good morning and pass the time of day.
It was lovely.

As the street curved around the type of houses changed I noticed, from the few blocks of units dotted here and there to usual family homes with their patches of neatly tended garden then finally to a stately manor of some consequence on a large plot of land.

Breeland turned off the street and took a narrow lane surrounded by a forest, drove on for little and he then turned into a drive. I thought that I had seen a small bridge further up the lane, past what looked like the town cemetery and the glimpse of another house but wasn’t sure as I was too busy taking in the sight before me.

The driveway curved around through forest before widening out and finishing in a gravelled area next to a big beautiful old double story house.

‘We’re here,’ he smiled at me. ‘Okay we’re here but where’s here?’ I couldn’t help but ask.

‘Home. We’re home, my home.’

Chapter Text

‘This is my family home. I wanted you to see it.’ I looked from him to the house and back again. ‘This is where I grew up.’

I was a little stunned. The house was a big double story structure, what I always earmarked in my imagination as a sort of plantation type of building. Not on the scale of huge but substantial, well it was in comparison to the average house to my way of thinking.

Wide stairs led up to the huge double front doors under an inviting front porch that ran around the entire house and extended up to the same on the floor above. I could picture sitting out here on a hot night enjoying cooled breezes or as a child playing under the vast expanse out of the rain. It would be heaven.

The house looked well maintained. The garden neat and tidy and the place wore a mantle of being cared for and much loved.

‘It’s beautiful. Do you know who lives here now?’ ‘Sure do, I will introduce you to them. They are a great couple and the best of tenants. They love the place just as much as I do.’

I must have been a bit thick as I didn’t understand what he meant.

‘What do mean tenants?’

‘When Mama died she left the place to me and I didn’t have the heart to sell it. Over the years that I was in New Orleans I made regular trips back here while she was alive to keep it maintained so that she wouldn’t have to worry and then when she passed on and I came back to clear up her things …. I just couldn’t bring myself to put it on the market. Like I told you, this place and what’s left of the land has been in the family for generations. Even if I am not living here, part of me and my blood will always be here. So I found a good real estate agent and told him I wanted him to look for some good tenants, someone that will love the place as much as I do and care for it just as much too, and I didn’t care how long it took to find them.’

‘Luckily enough I struck gold. William and Caroline love the place as much as I do and take care of it as if it was their own. They’d been flooded out and lost everything during Katrina just as they were trying to establish their careers, William is a writer and Caroline a photographic artist, and they were looking for their own escape to the country and here it is. A perfect match you could say.’

While we had been talking Breeland had let Tyrion out of the car and after much running around and the watering of trees had taken place, he picked that particular moment to bolt up the front stairs, sniff at the double doors and let out a woof with much wagging of his tail.

The doors opened and a stunning looking couple came out smiling and greeted us.

‘Breeland,’ the handsome dark haired man exclaimed with obvious joy in his voice as they walked arm in arm down the stairs. ‘And this must be George,’ the sweet looking woman on his arm greeted me as she hugged me to her, ‘we’ve heard so much about you and Tyrion of course too,’ she smiled. ‘Come on in,’ they said simultaneously, ‘the kids will be so excited to see you Breeland. You are looking so much better.’

She walked us up the stairs, her arm looped through ours making me feel totally at home.

‘I’ve got breakfast on the table but please feel free to freshen up first; you’ve had a long drive.’

We walked into the roomy hallway and I looked around. To the right was a sitting room with a large fireplace, a Christmas tree standing proudly in the corner next to it. It looked comfortable and welcoming with its two double couches sitting opposite each other, a large screen TV in the other corner and I thought I caught sight of the end of a piano against the hallway side of the wall.

To the left of the entrance was a large dining room resplendent with an enormous dining table and chairs and a matching side board. On the wall directly opposite the entrance was an old formal portrait of a man in confederate uniform and I stopped in my tracks and stared. Other than the fact that man had a moustache and long side burns, he could have been Breeland’s twin they were so alike.

He noticed my look and grinned. ‘Quite a family resemblance wouldn’t you say?’

‘Come on you two, you have all day to show George around Breeland, coffee, ham, eggs and hot cakes are waiting and you must be famished,’ William drawled.
Caroline led me to the downstairs powder room and I washed up then joined them in the kitchen. When I walked in Breeland was sitting there with a gorgeous little blonde girl on his knee and an older boy sitting next to him proudly showing him the small camera he’d been given for Christmas.

‘Sarah and Billy I want you to meet Georgina, but you can call her George.’

The little girl climbed down off his knee and came running over and took my hand while Billy stood up and pulled a chair out next to Breeland for me. ‘Please to meet you George,’ they both responded politely. They were adorable.

Tyrion hadn’t been forgotten either, he had a place set for him in a corner and was sitting smacking his lips and drooling over a large bone when a smaller sandy coloured dog quietly rounded the corner of the hallway door and daintily made her way over to meet him. He had just picked up his bone when he looked up, took one look at her and dropped it again.

‘Snookie meet Tyrion, she’s our doggie,’ Caroline explained to me.

Tyrion, ever a gentleman just like his Daddy, picked up the bone again and took a few steps towards her before dropping it at her feet and holding his paw up. She took a few timid steps towards him and held up her own paw before pushing the bone into the middle of the space between them then settled down on the floor to nibble at one end, leaving the other for Tyrion to chew on.

‘Oh my stars,’ Caroline exclaimed, ‘did you see that. What a charmer Tyrion is. Snookie hasn’t been near another dog for months, not since we nearly lost her last April.’

‘What happened, snake bite?’ Breeland asked as he tucked into the stack of hot cakes, syrup and butter he’d slathered all over them then dipped a fork full into some gravy covered ham before scoffing it.

‘No, it was that mongrel dog from….’ ‘William, mind the children,’ Caroline interrupted him fearful of what he may say but Billy had no qualms in telling us the story.

‘It was that doggie from the spooky lady’s place, it came through the cemetery and bit our Snookie for no reason Uncle Breeland,’ he told us.

‘She’s still there then?’ Breeland asked William quietly. I had no idea of course what they were talking about but from the looks that Breeland gave the other two adults and the odd tone in his voice, I sure as hell knew that something was up. Caroline rolled her eyes and nodded and William looked like he was about to speak but looked at me then back at Breeland and thought better of it.

Hmm… something was definitely up and I wondered what it was but I knew that sooner or later Breeland would tell me if he felt I should know.

When we finished breakfast I insisted on giving Caroline a hand with the clearing up while William showed Breeland some improvements he made to the studio in the garden where they both worked. It was fine with me as it gave Caroline and I a chance to get to know each other better with the men gone and the kids out on the front lawn playing fetch with the dogs.

‘I know that we have only just met and we don’t really know each other but I have to say Breeland is looking so much better than he was the last time we saw him,’ Caroline said the minute we were alone as she washed and dried the dishes. ‘I don’t know what you have done to him but whatever it is, keep doing it. We’ve been quite worried about him for a long while.’

I didn’t really know what to say so I let her talk on, it was obvious that they both knew about me but I knew absolutely nothing about them and how long they had known him so I was kind of interested in filling in the blank spaces.

‘He’s a really special guy and we are both so fond of him. When we lost everything and wanted to get out and away from the bad memories of Katrina and all, he was a godsend. He let us come here and insisted on not charging us rent until we got our insurance payout and payments for some articles that William had written were published and we were back on our feet. When the kids were born he was so happy for us. He never forgets their birthdays or Christmas. He sent us the money for that camera that Billy was showing him and I’m sure that sooner or later Sarah will show him the tablet that came from him too. They love him to pieces. If you don’t mind me saying, I can see that he loves you very much and we are so glad. He deserves to find some happiness. He is one in a million and the most loyal and faithful guy I have ever met.’

A girl could sure feel herself filling with pride when her boyfriend is talked about in that manner.

It was obvious from what Caroline had said that Breeland sure was a stunning guy all round but I kind of knew that already. Still, it was pretty overwhelming to hear from an almost complete stranger.

‘He’s a keeper,’ Caroline had gone on to remark.

I was beginning to agree with her more and more every day and that was something that I thought I would never say about any man.

Chapter Text

‘You know she’ll probably be there, Joe said she’s back in town,’ William was saying to Breeland as Caroline and I joined them in the garden, ‘are you sure you want to go there?’ They had their backs to us and didn’t notice us coming. ‘Why shouldn’t I?’ Breeland asked, ‘She can go to hell for all I care and anyway I am sure that Joe will keep her under control, after all she can’t afford to lose her job. And besides, I want to show George around and introduce her to Joe and Sissy and any of the old gang that are there.’ ‘Well you know I can’t blame you for that,’ William went on, ‘just be careful, you know how irrational she is. Watch her around George, I am sure the minute she sees the two of you together… well hell, blind Freddy could tell that the two of you are in love and Edie sure isn’t going to like that. She may not be the sharpest tool in the bunch but she’ll pick up on it straight away and…’

William’s word trailed off as we stopped next to them.

‘When you two have finished catching up it’s about time we got a move on,’ Caroline remarked. ‘The car’s all packed and we just have to get the kids and Snookie and we will be off and leave you in peace. I’m sure you could do with a rest after the long drive you’ve had and we’ve been promising my mum and dad a visit for a while so this works out perfectly for us all. I’ve aired out the big bedroom and it’s all ready for you, clean sheets on the bed and you’ll find fresh towels in the ensuite.’ ‘Thanks Caroline,’ Breeland gave her a hug, ‘I don’t know about George but I sure could use a bit of a nap.’

He winked at me and I felt myself go red. I knew his mind and it wasn’t napping that was on it.

‘Come on kids,’ William called to Billy and Sarah, ‘Snookie here girl.’ We turned to watch them running over to us and had to laugh. Tyrion and Snookie came bounding over both carrying an end of a stick the kids had been throwing to them. ‘Well will you look at that,’ William commented as they laid it on the grass then lay down too and snuggled up to each other. ‘I think they are in love.’

As if to prove a point Snookie nuzzled Tyrion and licked his face. Tyrion reciprocated with a big grin as he looked up at us as much as to say isn’t love wonderful.
‘You know it almost seems like a shame to separate them, how about you leave Snookie with us and she can keep Tyrion company while we are out tonight?’ Breeland asked. ‘Sounds fine to me,’ William agreed.

‘Are Tyrion and Snookie going to get married and have puppies?’ Sarah asked hopefully, ‘just like you and Aunty George will,’ she added looking innocently at Breeland. ‘Would you like them to?’ he knelt down to her level and asked her seriously. ‘Uh huh, I sure would. Would you like that too?’ ‘You know I think I sure would too,’ he told her.

Even though he wasn’t looking at me I felt myself melt. I could feel William and Caroline’s eyes on me, watching my reaction and I tried to look as nonchalant as I could but I wasn’t sure that I did a very good job if it. My heart had nearly jumped out of my chest and I felt my pulse racing. It gave me a shock to realise what an effect this simple conversation with Sarah had on me and it made me think about possibilities I had never before seriously considered.

‘What do you think George?’ he suddenly turned to me and looked up, his eyes fixed on my face.

My mouth was dry and I felt a little giddy.

‘I think that it was a case of love at first sight and they are very much in love and it would be a shame that they didn’t get to spend as much time together as they could.’
‘So what do you think Sarah, all settled?’ he asked her. She nodded and giggled. ‘Good, everyone that’s in love should be together.’ ‘Amen to that,’ Breeland muttered softly under his breath.

‘Okay, let’s get going then. We’ll see you tomorrow afternoon. Have fun kids,’ William winked and Caroline and the kids hugged us then left as we stood on the lawn waving them good bye.

As we walked back towards the house arm in arm with the two dogs gambolling around us I tried to stifle a yawn but it escaped me.

‘You’re tired,’ Breeland he squeezed my shoulder. I nodded. ‘Me too, how about we grab a nap for a few hours then I’ll show you around properly.’ ‘Sounds like a plan.’
He stopped at the foot of the front steps and turned and faced me. Bending down he brushed my lips before pulling away and staring into my eyes. ‘Thank you for sharing this with me. It means a lot to me.’

I hugged him to me and kissed him again.

‘Thank you for wanting to share this with me, that means a lot to me too.’

Once inside he led me up the beautiful stair case and down a hallway leading off to the right until we came to the end room. When I walked in it was as though I had been transported back to another time in history it was so very beautifully restored.

‘This was always considered the main bedroom,’ Breeland told me, ‘even when Mama and Daddy were alive they kept this room as a special room and it wasn’t until I was an adult that she confessed the only time her and Daddy used it was when they were trying to conceive. She said it had been lucky for all the previous generations so why not them.’
I looked around at the huge old carved wooden bed and the matching washstand, dressing table and wardrobe. The ornate fireplace was nearly as big as the one in the living room and just as beautiful. The only concession that had been made to modernity was a door leading into a small room with a shower, toilet and basin but otherwise the room would have been unchanged through generation after generation.

I could almost feel the love and affection that had been experienced throughout the years, and I imagined some of the tears that may have been shed too. Tears of joy and of loss as is always a part of life. I pictured the pain of childbirth too that may have been undergone when women lay in at home and the only help was from a local midwife or other woman in the house or neighbourhood.

‘It’s beautiful, there’s something about this room.’ Breeland turned quickly to look at me. ‘You feel it too? As a kid I used to come in here and sit in that old chair by the fireplace and I could feel the history that had gone before me. The lives and loves, joy and heartbreak...’ ‘Yes, I feel it too. I can almost smell the candles burning softly in the night and the scent of lavender, magnolias and gardenias that would have been picked and placed in that little crystal vase on the dressing table,’ I said as I wandered over to the immaculately polished piece of furniture and picked up a crystal scent bottle that was part of the dressing table set, then I gently took the stopper out and sniffed. ‘You can still smell it,’ I exclaimed in surprise as I held it out to him.

He laughed when he’d put his nose to it. ‘My mama used to wear that on a special occasion, I can still smell it on her. I guess she kept in here instead of in their own bedroom because coming in here would be a special occasion,’ he smiled ruefully.

He took the bottle from my hand and carefully placed it back on the dresser then turned and scooped me into his arms. ‘Suddenly I am not feeling very tired,’ he whispered into my mouth as he kissed me. ‘Suddenly I’m not feeling very tired either.’

He took my hand and led me over to the bed and we got undressed but in my haste I beat him to it so I climbed up onto the bed and stretch out snuggling into the pillows but he would have none of that.

He stood at the foot of the bed with a seductive smile on his face, his hard body enticing me with every single inch of his glorious skin, then he lent forward and gently but firmly his hands wrapped around my ankles and he pulled me towards him until I was on the edge of the bed.

With a quick movement he reached behind my back and sat me up and lifted me, wrapping my legs around his hips and my arms around his neck. I gasped as the swift thrust of his hips found its target and he let out a groan of his own at the pleasure of the moment. It was so sensual and erotic and combined with the surroundings, I was finding the need to have my fill of him almost too much to bear.

‘Don’t move,’ he rasped, shaking with the same excitement I was feeling.

‘Breeland,’ I whispered my voice full of desire. ‘Oh god how I love you George,’ he managed to whisper as he climbed onto the bed still holding our joined bodies together and we both fell into a mad frenzy of passion.

Chapter Text

We woke up at the same time wrapped around each other. I could tell by the sunlight coming through the richly patterned lace curtains that it was some time in the afternoon, we must have slept for a while and we both really needed it.

‘I’m starving,’ he said as he kissed my back then jumped out of bed.

Despite having eaten and enormous breakfast I was too.

‘Come on, get dressed we’re going to town and I am going to treat you to the best key lime pie you will ever eat in your life and then show you around my sleepy little backwater village. You are going to love it.’

He was right about the pie, it was to die for and the meringue nest sprinkled with candied lime shavings on the side was the icing on the cake. It really hit the spot but wasn’t too filling as he’d told me I was in for a treat that night when he said we were going to dinner and he didn’t want to spoil our appetites.

After the pie we walked down the main street and stopped here and there to look at some of the small shops. Our walk took a bit longer than it would have normally as we were stopped countless times by passers-by greeting him and welcoming me and fussing over the two dogs we’d taken with us. Everyone seemed to know him and the genuine affection they felt for him was heart-warming.

The afternoon was really warm and sunny compared to back home and the wintery blast we’d been going through. It felt so good to get some sun as we strolled along the street feeling the love from each other and those that we came across.

When we got back to the car Breeland started to head back towards the homestead but took a turn off to the left. He was just slowing down to turn into what looked like a park when a police siren blasted out from behind us. Glancing in the rear view mirror he smiled and pulled over, jumped out and let out a laugh. I turned around and watched as the officer in the squad car jumped out too and ran towards him.

‘Son of a bitch Breeland Calvert, what are you doing in town?’ ‘Jase mate, it’s good to see you. How goes it buddy? Come here,’ he started walking towards the car, ‘I want you to meet someone.’

I got out of the car and watched as a sandy colour haired officer in full uniform followed behind Breeland. He looked a similar age and had a smiling face.

‘Babes I want you to meet Jase my oldest friend, Jase this is my girlfriend Georgina but everyone calls her George.’ ‘Mighty pleased to meet you George,’ he grinned.

His eyes ran over me in an appreciative manner and I had the feeling that he was a woman’s man in every sense of the word. I bet that women just fell for his cheeky grin, blue eyes and tight body. Not that I was looking, well not all that much.

Breeland moved a little closer to me and wrapped his arm firmly around my shoulder. They might be friends but he sure wasn’t being too subtle about marking his territory I laughed to myself.

Woof, woof… Tyrion and Snookie both barked, their heads hanging out the car window wanting to get some attention.

‘Well look at you fella,’ Jase fussed over him, ‘that’s a mighty fine looking dog you’ve got there. You staying up with William and Caroline then?’ he asked Breeland immediately recognising Snookie. ‘Yes we are, we only got in this morning for a flying visit. I wanted to show George my home town.’

Jase nodded. ‘You seen her yet?’ he drawled, ‘you let me know if you have any problems won’t you?’

Here we go again I thought, feeling a bit left out of what obviously everyone knew about except me. I had meant to ask Breeland what it was all about earlier but well, we got kind of side tracked. This time I knew that I just had to find out what the hell they were all going on about so as soon as we had gotten back into the car and had said our farewells to Jase after promising with a laugh that if Tyrion and Snookie had puppies he would be sure to get one, I thought the time was right.
‘Okay so when are you going to tell me what that hell is going on?’ I asked him.

He didn’t answer but turned into the park I’d seen and drove on for a little until we came to a small lake. He grabbed the travel blanket on the back seat, let the dogs out and took my hand and walked me through a bit of the woods to a little clearing.

We sat down and I curled my legs under me and got comfortable while he began to talk.

‘I told you that my father drowned trying to rescue the neighbours but only managed to help their two kids out of the car before he and their parents were swept away, well Jase and his sister Edie were those kids. Their grandma looked after them from then on and bought them up as best she could. She was a wonderful woman, loving and caring and pretty brave to take on two kids at her age as it was pretty much a handful for her. She did the best that she could, I know how hard it must have been for her on her own because I know how hard it was for my mum.’

He went on, ‘Jase and I bonded. We were friends before it happened but when the kids moved in next door it was only natural that we become pretty tight. Edie, being younger, followed the two of us around where ever we went. At the time I felt sorry for her. She was a loner without any friends at school, preferring to hang around with Jase and I and that didn’t win her too many girlfriends but at the time although I was just a kid, I knew some of the pain she must have been feeling losing her folks so I suppose I tried to go out of my way to be nice to her or at least not be unpleasant. I was raised that way by my mama and that was just the way I was.’

‘It was annoying for us boys having her always tagging after us and not giving us any time together, you know what boys are like at that age, but she pretty soon learnt to become a tom boy and we sort of put up with it. Then as we got a little older it started becoming a nuisance. When we got to an age where both Jase and I became interested in girls Edie started to cramp our style and worse than that, she’d come over to my place on her own looking for me and even following me around if I was on a date.’

‘I’d laughed it off at first as a crush but then she started threatening girls at school to stay away from me and that just made her even more unpopular and a loner. She never let up any either, it just went on all the way through school. The night of the high school graduation my date was the prom queen and Edie showed up on her own of course and caused a scene then ran off. When I got home after taking my date home there was Edie sitting in the front garden waiting for me. She told me that she loved me and had always loved me and wanted me to be her first. I didn’t feel like that about her, not in the way that she seemed to feel about me. I tried to talk to her and be as gentle as I could with her but she simply didn’t believe me and said I was lying and that I had been leading her on. In the end my mama had to call her grandma to come and get her. It was all downhill after that.’

‘Edie totally changed. She started hanging around over in a little place a few miles away and got involved with a guy called Mack in a bikie gang over there. She’d done really poorly with her studies and flunked out so she started working in the local bar and that’s where she’d met Mack when the gang had come in. She took him home one night much to her grandma’s horror and he stayed the night then was gone. A few nights after that, she was working late and when she finally got in she found the house ransacked and her grandma dead, knifed while trying to defend herself, but it was to no avail and she bled out on the kitchen floor.’

‘It didn’t take the police long to find who’d done it, there were bloody fingerprints found at the crime scene and they arrested Mack but that didn’t help Edie and it didn’t help Jase either. He’s never outright blamed her to her face but pretty much the whole town knows if she hadn’t gone off the rails then it wouldn’t have happened. I felt pretty bad. I kept thinking that if I had only given in to her then it wouldn’t have happened but it was too late for that now. So that was when I decided to leave, become a cop and move to New Orleans and it was also a turning point for Jase too. He’d been impressed with the help the local sheriff had offered to both him and Edie just as much as I was and so he applied and joined up too.’

‘From what I heard she only got worse, if that was possible, after I left. She started hanging out at a pretty low life bar in Shreveport with known gang connections on nights that she wasn’t working and got in with a crowd that was way over her head. They were suspected of dealing drugs and other crimes, hell we’d even heard of them down in New Orleans, that’s how messed up the place was that she hung around in but it wasn’t my place to do anything, it was under investigation by a special unit because they suspected it was the centre of a major operation for the whole of the south west of the states.’

‘Jase has tried his best and he keeps an eye on her even after he finally settled down, got married and moved out. Now she lives there on her own although I had heard that she had been away on and off for quite a bit this year but no one was certain where, they only suspected that she had a boyfriend who might hang around the club at the centre of all the trouble and assumed that she was with him in Shreveport.’

‘William and Caroline have told me that they see her sometimes at night, coming through the cemetery and sitting over in the little clearing just by the side of my place. She just sits there for hours staring off into space but at least she doesn’t bother them or cause them any trouble but still, I don’t really trust her even though I feel bad for her. I still feel responsible.’

‘But Breeland, how can you? I know that it must have been horrible for her losing her parents like that but it’s not your fault how she acted. We all grow up and have to make choices in our lives. Yes it’s sad that as an adult she couldn’t put the past behind her but that’s not your fault, you aren’t her keeper. No one can make another person love them and no one has the right to try to force it. I do feel sorry for her but we all have to grow up sooner or later and live with the life we’ve been handed. I mean look at you, with everything that’s happened in your life it would have been easy for you to turn as bitter as Edie has and go off the rails but you didn’t did you? You’ve moved on and started a new life after what you went through.’

‘No, it’s different,’ he asserted, there is one huge difference. I’ve been blessed…. I found you.’

Chapter Text

‘I’m not a religious person George but by god I bless the day that I met you.’

He wrapped his arm around me and we sat holding each other watching the dogs running around playing then when thoroughly tired out they too came and laid down beside us snuggling up to each other as the sun sank slowly into the horizon casting a myriad of pastel colours across the reflection in the still water of the small lake.
‘It’s beautiful,’ I heard myself say in hushed tones not wanting to break the silence of the stillness. ‘Thank you for bringing me and for sharing it with me.’

‘I’ve always loved this spot, it’s so tranquil. Well it is now but in summer this is where Jase and I used to come skinny dipping. If only it was summer now,’ he grinned. ‘Hah, well that explains it really.’ ‘Explains what?’ ‘You said Edie used to follow you two everywhere so if that’s the case she has probably seen you in the buff with all your worldly goods and is totally besotted,’ I laughed.

He looked startled. ‘You think so?’ ‘Well you never know do you?’ I asked half-jokingly. ‘I can tell you one thing though big boy,’ I assured him, ‘she’s never going to get you, you are mine.’

I rolled over and pinned him down and kissed him with a passion that even surprised me. Underneath it all hell would freeze over before I would ever let my guy go.
‘Now come on, how about that dinner you promised me, by the time we get back and get changed it will be late if we don’t get a move on.’

We drove back to the homestead and fed the dogs, making sure they had snacks, water and toys to keep them amused before leaving.

I took a little more care than I normally would with my choice of clothes and make up after all; these were his friends he was taking me to meet and I wanted to do him proud.
‘You look lovely,’ he said as he handed me out of the car and kissed me lightly on the cheek, ‘in fact you look good enough to eat.’

He wrapped his arm around my waist as we walked through the gravelled car park towards the neon sign of the “Bar and Grill” when we arrived. It was the place I had seen the turning to when we had first got into town. Set back off the road in a dense cluster of trees and undergrowth, the building seemed to be a friendly beacon with is roughly hewed log cabin look and separate little dwelling at the side. It had a homely look to it and felt good despite my trepidation that the dreaded Edie may be there.

I was trying to keep a lid on that one, no need to panic, she was nothing to him and if she caused a scene we would just simply leave.
We walked in to a chorus of welcomes and before I could catch my breath Breeland was being hugged by a girl with the most beautiful melted caramel coloured skin and long dark hair I had ever seen and a grin a mile wide.

‘Satan in a Sunday school hat, look what the cat dragged in,’ she shrieked. ‘Joe, lookee here will ya?’ ‘Sissy,’ Breeland answered, picking her up and swinging her around, ‘it’s so good to see you. And where’s that man of yours, left you to do all the work no doubt?’ ‘Still as smooth as silk I see,’ remarked a man in a check shirt and jeans as he sauntered towards us wiping his hands on a tea towel, smirking and grinning at us.

He stopped short and looked at me. ‘Well now, who have we got here?’ His eyes drifted back to Breeland and the grin on his face was pure delight. After being introduced and welcomed we were escorted over to the bar and given drinks on the house. ‘Nothing but the finest for our Breeland,’ Joe, the owner insisted with a smile. ‘There’ll be a table ready in no time but I am assuming you’ll order the regular?’ ‘Hell yes, that is unless you’ve changed cooks,’ Breeland answered.

Joe was just about to say something when he was interrupted by the most exotic looking guy I had ever seen who came bounding up fluttering his long false eye lashes and licking his lips.

‘Now honey you know that there ain’t no one better in the whole county at cooking up a mess of cheeseburgers and chilli fries than your lil ol Renee and if Joe here was ever likely to fire me, well I just wouldn’t go and that’s all there is to it. No sir sugar and my my, don’t you just look fine. I am sure going to be bringing you two love birds the best feast you have ever had since the last time you was here and that’s a fact. Now you two honeypots just sit yourselves nice and comfy until we can get you a table and I will get cooking my little melons off for you.’

I looked around the room as Renee walked off and noticed there was a booth free on one side of bar.

‘Breeland, there’s a booth over there free.’

He turned around to look and I noticed he went a little stiff. ‘No it’s fine, we’ll just wait here.’ ‘But there’s a table….’ I looked again and saw a dark haired woman serving someone pitchers of beer further down in the corner of that side of the bar just as she happened to look up and across to where we were, and I saw her face change when she spotted us.
‘That’s Edie,’ I whispered to him. I didn’t even need to question him, I just knew. ‘Yes,’ his voice was flat and without emotion.

I knew without his even telling me. I had seen the look on her face and for a brief moment seen a glimpse of pure hatred flicker in her eyes but she had to pay attention to what she was doing at that moment as she wrestled with the heavy tray she was carrying so it gave me the chance to have a good look at her.

She looked, I tried to be non-judgemental in my appraisement of her and not be influenced by what I knew of her but there was no getting away from it, she looked a little tired and weather beaten in her appearance. Her skin was pale, as if she didn’t get enough sun and her dark hair cut into a sort of bob gave her a rather Goth look. I noticed she seemed to have a lot of heavy rather dramatic looking make up on and that added to the somewhat cheap, rough and unsophisticated look about her.

Her face too wore an expression that I found hard to fathom until she turned again and came towards us. She wore a perpetual look of displeasure etched into her skin, as though it was the norm to be pissed off at the world, and her dissatisfaction with her lot was etched permanently as a part of her psyche within her soul.

In short, she was not a happy looking person to be around.

‘What brings you back to town Breeland?’ she addressed him as she walked up and stood there in front of us, all the time her eyes never leaving me.

Joe and Sissy hovered closely behind the bar; I could feel the tension rolling off them and I felt the eyes of all those who were present and that knew Breeland were upon us, anticipating god knew what.

‘Hello Edie, how are you?’ Breeland’s voice was calm and controlled. ‘I just came back for a short visit.’

I studied her face closely, waiting with bated breath for her response, expecting the worst and preparing myself for whatever she threw at us.

‘That’s nice. Hope you enjoy yourself,’ she smiled a smile that didn’t quite reach the corners of her eyes. ‘See you around,’ she nodded and walked off in the direction of the kitchen and the room seemed to let out a sigh of relief.

I noticed Breeland’s eyes met those of Joe’s and he gave a slight shrug as much as to say beats me.

‘Are you okay,’ I said under my breath to him. He squeezed my hand. ‘Yeh sure, are you all right?’ I squeezed his hand back. ‘I am if you are.’ ‘Good,’ he winked and gave me a small smile but I knew him well enough by now to know that underneath it all he was, apart from being a little relieved, he was concerned and maybe a bit puzzled. He seemed to shrug it off though and after having the best cheese burgers and chilli fries I had ever tasted, we sat and chatted to the multitude of friends that came over and, surprisingly we both enjoyed ourselves so much that it was closing time before we left and Edie hadn’t bothered us at all during the evening.

When we left we found the night was balmy. There was warmth in the evening air that made it quite sticky and oppressive compared to the air conditioned comfort of the bar and I was glad that I had worn a light top over my jeans.

‘Does it always get this hot down here in winter?’ I asked as we walked back to the car. ‘No not really but like everywhere the weather here is going just as crazy as the rest of the world. Normally it would be chilly with crisp cold clear nights but tonight is like a summer night.’ He smiled and it suddenly hit me that he’d been struck by an idea. Just what I didn’t know but he looked very mischievous and a bit like a naughty little school boy that was up to something.

When we drove out of the car park instead of going home he turned off the main road and down a darkened street. I had lost my bearings in the darkness and was trying to work out where we were when it suddenly dawned on me as he turned right into the park that had the lake in it.

‘Fancy a midnight swim?’ he grinned and was out of the car and by the side of the door in a blink. ‘But we don’t have any swim suits with us,’ I remarked.

‘That my pet, is the whole idea!’

Chapter Text

When we got up in the morning the weather had turned chilly and I was glad that I had packed a warm jumper and jacket. I was also really glad that Breeland had taken me to the lake the night before. The water had been wonderful and so had the whole experience.

There was something so very erotic about seeing him in the moonlight. The water glistening off his skin under the silvery light of the midnight sky, the tiny droplets sprinkled over his nakedness as we waded out of the water and onto the bank then to lie on the blanket he’d spread out on the sandy shore and to make love under the stars. Sigh, what more could a girl dream of I ask you.

He’d told me it had always been an adolescent fantasy of his to take a beautiful blonde there and make love to her but he’d never dreamt it would happen in reality and now he’d fulfilled every boy’s dream. Not that I thought of myself as a beautiful blonde but he assured me he did and that thrilled me. Everything he did thrilled me to be honest; I was living a dream and revelling in it.

I still get shivers thinking about the husky tone of his voice as he said this to me and the look on his face, as Charlene would say; pure sex on a stick. I was the luckiest girl alive.
We were pottering around getting breakfast and had the local radio station on in the back ground when the eight o’clock news came on with a report that there had been a raid on a club in Shreveport which led to shots fired at police. It was unclear how many were involved; police were not disclosing that information but there was an alert out for locals to take care as some of those involved were at large and dangerous. Police were calling for any witnesses to come forward, so the report said.

I gave an involuntary shiver at the news and was glad that nothing like that ever happened in our own sleepy little part of the world.

Breeland never talked much about his job and I didn’t really ask as I figured there wasn’t really all that much to talk about plus even though I never said anything, I am sure he knew that like every policeman’s wife or girlfriend or partner, there was an unspoken fear of something happening to them. Ever since Cindy had told me about her brother in law being killed in the line of duty I had been living with a fear in the pit of my stomach that I pushed down and tried to ignore for the most part, but hearing something like this being so close to where we were bought it all home.

I couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to Breeland, I just couldn’t.

I put down the bowl of eggs I was beating to make an omelette with and walked over to where he was standing at the stove frying bacon and wrapped my arms around him.
‘I love you,’ I said attempting to hold back the quiver in my voice. ‘I love you too.’ I hugged him even tighter.
He pulled the pan off the heat and put it to one side and turned to me.

‘Heh what’s this,’ he asked tilting my face up to him and seeing tears in my eyes. ‘It’s nothing,’ I lied, ‘I just… I love you so much.’

He pulled me into him and wiped away the tears with his fingers. ‘I love you too, every inch of you and your beautiful heart and soul.’ He lent down and kissed me smiling. ‘The bacon is nearly done, how about we just scramble the eggs while I do the toast?’ I nodded and the moment was forgotten but deep down inside there was a small spark of anguish within me that I didn’t want to acknowledge. I shoved it to the back of my mind, after all nothing ever really happened in our town, I hoped.

We were just finishing up the dishes and I was about to ask Breeland what our plans for today were when his mobile rang and I was surprised to hear him saying hi to Bobby Calthorne. I could only hear his side of the conversation and he’d walked out into the hall while I finished washing up the last of the dishes so I had no idea what they were talking about until he hung up and came back in.

‘Is everything okay?’ I asked trying to read his face but as it looked its normal sexy self I was relieved, I had half feared that for some reason or other his leave may have to be cut short and we’d have to head on home early.

‘Yep sure, everything is fine,’ he reassured me. ‘Just Bobby checking up to see if we’d be back for the party on New Year’s Eve and such.’ ‘Oh okay, how’s Rosemary and everyone?’ ‘They’re all fine.’ ‘Cool, so what are we doing today?’

‘I was wondering if you’d mind if I disappeared for an hour or so, there’s a couple of people that I need to catch up with and it would be boring for you just hanging around. I thought that you might like to have a look around William and Caroline’s studio in the garden. I know that they wouldn’t mind and I know that you love your photography and Caroline has got some great artwork out there.’

‘Oh okay, sounds like a plan,’ I nodded. ‘I promise you I won’t be gone long,’ he hugged me to him. ‘Take your time; I know it’s been such a while since you were home. Enjoy yourself. Tyrion and Snookie and I will amuse ourselves, won’t we kids?’

The two dogs got up from where they were lying on the pet bed in the corner in the kitchen and came running over as though they had been listening and thoroughly agreed with the idea.

After he left I wandered out into the garden and over to the studio. There were completed works and pieces on the walls and others that were ready for shipment to various clients of Caroline from what I could tell. Cuttings of articles from magazines bearing William’s name were proudly pinned to a cork board too. They were both building up quite a following and I could see why. Enthralled with the work Caroline was doing and text William had added to some of the artwork, I was lost to the creativity of the pieces. It was beautiful and touching and I marvelled at how talented they both were.
I was standing looking an image of the family in front of the house when the dogs started barking and I went out to see what was wrong.

As soon as I came out they ran over to me then back to a small gate over to the side of the garden that I hadn’t noticed before and started pawing at it. When I got to the gate I saw there was a path beyond that looked like it led into the cemetery. Suddenly I got the idea that perhaps there would be a family plot and I really wanted to see it before I left. I don’t know why but the picture of Breeland’s ancestor in his Civil war uniform sprang to mind right then and I wondered if he was buried there. It wouldn’t do any harm to have a poke around and it would give the two dogs a good walk.

‘Come on you two, let’s go walkies but don’t you go too far away and get lost on me.’

The path was clear but not all that well tended, weeds and undergrowth thickly bordered each side but I had no trouble following it or the dogs as they ran ahead of me. I strolled down it for some time until rounding a bend I stepped out and blinked at the expanse before me. Unlike the thickly wooded area I had just come through I was now faced with neatly manicured lawns and further off what looked to be a well-tended grave yard studded about with plaques, statues and memorials to those former inhabitants of the little town.

Dotted here and there were benches for those that needed to sit and rest or simply contemplate life and death and their past loved ones. Mounds or bunches of flowers placed on graves added splashes of colours around as did the well clipped borders of forget me knots planted to give added structure to the garden beds.

It had a beautiful and peaceful feel to it, not a sad place but a place that clearly celebrated the lives of those that had gone before us as was evidenced by the well-kept condition the place was in.

I wandered down the gravelled path watching the dogs playing on the manicured lawn and then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a small sign and walked over to it and stood reading it. “Old cemetery this way” with an arrow pointing to a path that led off in another direction through a different part of the forest, it read and was fairly newly painted in ornate lettering. Underneath was an official notice advising that as of a date in the new year just coming, the older part of the cemetery would be closed for restoration work to commence courtesy of Breeland Calvert, William and Caroline’s names were there too as well as something called the Committee for the Descendants of the Glorious Dead, whatever that was.

So Breeland was funding the restoration of the original part of the cemetery. I figured I had been right then assuming that his family would have a large plot and I also assumed from what he’d told me of the sale of his family’s land over the years, I guessed that a large part of the cemetery would have originally been part of their farm so it would make sense that he’d want to restore it to its former glory and pay tribute to those that had gone before him.

I heard an impatient woof in the distance along the path where the arrow was pointing and I plunged along it in search of the two dogs, my interest in this old section now piqued. As I walked along I could see why it needed renovating. I stopped here and there to read some of the grave stones but some were so old and weather beaten they were impossible to make out.

I caught a few names here and there, Tolliver someone who appeared to have given his life for the cause had a rather ornate but badly weathered memorial stone and a Norris family who seemed to have had a large plot. Weathered angels and crosses dotted here and there amongst the overgrown foliage, all marking someone’s loved ones that had long gone in times that were so very different to today.

Snookie appeared on the path ahead of me as I wandered along in the gloom of the trees dressed in their Spanish moss, cutting out the scurrying storm clouds in the sky above. She stopped, wagged her tail then turned and looked back as if she was waiting for me to follow her. I quickened my pace and caught up with her in a clearing where I found Tyrion lying down next to a low wrought iron and much rusted ornate Victorian fence that bordered a large sectioned off area of overgrown grave markers.

On a rusted plaque half fallen off the border was written one name: Calvert.

Chapter Text

Stepping over the small border I knelt down and pushed back a strand of ivy covering the largest of the tomb stones to read the inscription. William Thomas Breeland Calvert, it read. I couldn’t quite make out the birth date as the sky had darkened with gathering rain clouds and the thick canopy of trees turned the light into a gloomy shadowy world but I could make out the date of the year of his death, eighteen sixty five, the year the war ended.

Beneath the dates a line of heartfelt inscription was carved that I could just about as I ran my finger over it:

“Weep not for me oh tender heart but speak my name and know that I am always near”

I gave a small involuntary sob, I was so moved. I don’t know why, maybe it was because I loved Breeland so very much that it was like finding a relative gone. So here lay that handsome and dashing uniformed gallant in the portrait in the dining room.

I glanced at the smaller but rather ornately carved stone next to his and was able to just make out the name of Caroline wife of William Thomas Breeland Calvert but couldn’t read the date at all. “United at last, two hearts beating as one” Caroline’s epitaph read through my tears.

There were other markers too, smaller and less elaborate, some seeming much older but the one that really nearly broke my heart was a smaller one at the foot of William and Caroline’s with a small carved angel on top of the plinth that simply read: William Thomas Breeland Calvert Junior:

“We had you but one day but will love you forever more.” It too was dated sometime in 1865.

Tears coursed down my face for not just the loss of a beloved baby taken so soon, but also because I realised that more than likely he was a son born to a father that never would have seen him, conceived more than likely as a war baby on a leave furlough and destined not to survive, just as his father hadn’t. How very sad and devastating for his mother, losing a baby and a husband too. There must have been other children that lived or Breeland wouldn’t be around today but that didn’t lessen the pain that I could only imagine Caroline Calvert would have suffered at the time.

I was kneeling there sniffling and lost to my emotional state when suddenly Tyrion let out a loud snarl and Snookie growled.

‘So, does he love you?’ I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of the voice, stood up quickly and spun around to find Edie standing at the edge of the clearing.
Before I could answer she went on. ‘My guess is that he loves you very much by the way he was looking at you.’ She was keeping her voice sweet as honey but her eyes were betraying her as they ran over me, taking in my tear stained face and dirty jeans from where I had been sitting on the ground.

Tyrion edged closer to me as if to protect me, sensing that there was something wrong and that I was on my guard. Instinctively I put my hand on his collar, if needs be I could then urge him to go for her and wherever Tyrion went Snookie came too, so she stood at his side obediently waiting and watching and ready to follow his lead.

‘It’s all right; I am not going to hurt you if that is what you think.’ She smiled but again just as I did last night, I noticed how the smile didn’t reach her eyes, they remained dark pools of shadowy dislike. Then before she could say anything else two things happened.

Firstly I heard Breeland’s voice calling me. It sounded like it was coming from further along the path in the opposite direction to that which I had come and then the dogs let out another growl at something off the path to the left of where I was standing was there and I glimpsed a shadowy figure of what looked like a tall blonde man disappearing further into the forest at the sound of Breeland’s voice.

‘He’s looking for you, you had better go,’ she said, her eyes on me like two burning coals. ‘If you follow the path that way,’ she gestured towards where the track continued on up a slight incline; ‘you will find a small gate in the clearing that will bring you back to Breeland’s garden. You better get a move on before he sends out a search party. He always was over protective of his… women.’ She sniggered; her mouth twisted her face into an oddly cruel mask of malcontent.

Without another word she turned and was gone down the path towards the other part of the cemetery in search of her shadowy companion I assumed.

I didn’t have much time to think as at the sound of Breeland’s voice calling me again Tyrion was straining to be let loose to go to him and Snookie was whining to go too. Besides, I sure as hell didn’t want to hang around with Edie and whoever it was that I had the feeling she may have been with, so I high tailed it out of there as quick as I could.

When I got to the gate and back into the garden I was breathless, disorientated and panting nearly as much as the two dogs and found I was in a small clearing, the one that Breeland had mentioned that Edie was spotted frequenting by William and Caroline.

Breeland was up on the front porch with his mobile in one hand as he scanned the grounds looking for me. The minute he saw me he took off and ran towards me and so did I, running full pelt into his arms.

‘I missed you,’ he said smothering me in kisses, ‘where were you? I looked all over the garden then I saw one of the gates to the forest open but where on earth did you get to?’
I was still a bit shaky from my encounter with Edie and even though nothing had happened I couldn’t shake off her eyes, nor could I rid myself of the feeling of dread that had come over me. There was something not quite right with her let alone the fact that whoever I assumed was with her, disappeared at the sound of Breeland’s voice. I debated whether to tell him or not after all, nothing had really happened and as we were leaving that afternoon, did it really matter.

He looked at me and my slightly dishevelled appearance. ‘Are you okay, you look like you have seen a ghost.’

I shivered and he put his arm around me. The wind had turned really cold now and the sky was dark with the threat of rain.

‘Come on, how about we make a hot chocolate and you can tell me what you have been up to. I don’t know,’ he laughed, ‘I leave you alone for an hour and come home to find you and the dogs gone, I assume you went for a long walk?’ ‘Yes, a hot drink would be great,’ I managed to say, anything to calm me down and distract him while I composed myself would be good. As we walked back inside with the dogs we passed the dining room and I stopped and glanced over to the portrait on the wall.

‘I met your ancestors,’ I blurted out then burst into to tears.

I’m not normally an over emotional person, honestly I’m not, but the last hour had really gotten to me and I felt all in pieces.

‘Aww babes,’ his eyes softened as I stood there crying and then suddenly I was in his arms and he was cradling me. ‘I’d meant to take you to the family plot today, together, it was one of the things that I had planned to do. I shouldn’t have left you dam it,’ he cursed. ‘It’s okay,’ my voice was muffled against his chest as he held me, ‘I am just being silly really, it was just so….’ I broke away and went and stood looking up at the portrait, ‘it’s just that I can see so much of him in you and to think that he didn’t make it back from the war did he?’ My voice quivered with sadness.

‘No, he didn’t,’ Breeland came and stood next to me looking up at the painting. ‘Then to lose a son that he didn’t even have the chance to see and for Caroline to have to go on without out him, it’s so very sad.’ ‘There were stories like that all over the South,’ Breeland murmured. ‘Sons that never knew their fathers, wives that were widowed far too soon, sweethearts never fulfilled, torn away from each other through death. Nothing’s ever really going to change that even now as long as there are wars. But,’ he hugged me reassuringly, ‘he had an older son and a daughter too and they grew up helping their mama through her dark times. Without them I wouldn’t be here now would I?’

‘Here,’ he fished into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out a tissue he knew that I would be carrying in case I had to wipe Tyrion’s muddy paws. I always carried one with me, he knew me so well. ‘Dry your tears and we’ll get you that drink, you look quite done in, then how about I light the fire in the parlour and we warm the place up a bit. William and Caroline and the kids will be home soon and will be cold. The weather has really turned now. I’ll just fetch some wood from the shed; you go put the kettle on. Won’t be long,’ and he disappeared out the back door.

Half an hour later I sat sipping my drink while listening to the sound of the rain pelting down accompanied by the crackling of the fire as I stared out the window at the dark clouds scurrying through the sky and I wondered…

I wondered if Edie was out there with her shadowy companion in the rain and darkness that had descended on the place or had she made it home.

Somehow I kind of felt that even if she was caught in the storm it would make no difference to the darkness in her heart or her soul.

Chapter Text

The weather had really set in and I was relieved when William, Caroline and the kids arrived back in one piece. I didn’t really relish the thought of driving for hours in it so when William suggested that we stay on for an extra night I was more than happy that Breeland took up the offer. ‘We can cook up a feast, light up the Christmas tree and if you would grace us with your repertoire, we could have a really old fashioned sing along,’ he said to Breeland.

‘Please say you will,’ Sarah begged, ‘I love that song you played the last time you were here, the one about the flower.’

I was puzzled and didn’t have the foggiest idea what song she could mean that Breeland would have sung but I didn’t have time to think about it as Caroline and I had cooking on our minds and spent the next couple of hours knocking up dinner.

When we had finally eating and cleared up the mess we’d made we went into the parlour and sat down in front of the fire.

Billy had been showing Breeland pictures he’d taken at his Grandparents and Sarah had been drawing in a colouring book that she’d been given for Christmas while William had been sprawled out on the couch looking very comfortable as he read a book on his kindle.

I stood in the doorway for a moment before entering the room and looked on at the scene. It was so homely with the fire blazing, the two dogs stretched out in front of the fireplace, the Christmas tree lights blinking on and off and the feeling of a loving and much loved family doing their thing. It was everything that I had never realised I wanted before but knew would make me happier than anything that I could ever have imagined right now.

Breeland looked over and smiled at me as I stood there watching the scene and some of what I had been feeling must have been written on my face for he smiled and winked, contentment written all over his very beautiful face too.

‘Please Uncle Breeland,’ Sarah said looking up as we walked in and sat down, ‘now will you play and sing for us?’

Billy put his camera down and went over to the ancient piano at the side of the room and carefully lifted the lid as Breeland got up and sat down on the stool in front of it. I watched fascinated as his beautiful hands began to stroke each key of the old instrument and his voice filled the room with the beauty of a song from an old movie that was a family favourite, The Sound of Music. To Sarah the song he was singing was merely about a flower but to us adults the words were symbolic of so very much more and Breeland’s voice singing so softly, but with such conviction and passion, was so very stirring that it bought tears to my eyes.

From where I was sitting in the room I could see across the hallway and into the dining room where another soldier from a different era was represented in portraiture and I thought that the song was just as true and fitting for him as it was for the character in the musical as far as the sentiments went.

‘Are you sad Aunty George,’ a small voice beside me asked and I looked down at Sarah sitting on the floor at my feet. ‘No precious, I am just enjoying the beautiful music.’ ‘Good, I don’t want you ever to be sad, you and Uncle Breeland should always be happy forever,’ and she hugged my legs.

When Breeland finished playing the song the kids begged him for another one and then another and he couldn’t refuse their enthusiastic pleas, finally ending with Do Re Mi, which we all joined in.

‘Please Uncle Breeland just one more,’ they begged. ‘Okay but then it’s off to bed with you both before your mummy and daddy decide I can’t come again because I’ve kept you up too late,’ he laughed.

Sarah whispered something into his ear and he nodded then she whispered something to Billy and he laughed as they suddenly ran out the door.

‘Ready please Mr Music,’ her little voice called from the hallway and Breeland burst into the opening bars of So Long Farewell while the kids sang all the parts word perfect.

‘Okay now it really is time for bed,’ Breeland told them. Caroline and William got up and took them upstairs as I joined Breeland at the piano and wrapped my arms around him.

‘That was so beautiful, what you did for the kids,’ I told him. ‘They’re great kids aren’t they, so very much like their parents really.’ I agreed with him, they were really something special; the whole family was in fact. ‘And they are talented too with so much potential. William and Caroline are truly blessed.’

He began to tinker with the keys, softly playing a few bars of a song that sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite remember. ‘What’s that you are playing?’ I asked him as I still held him to me from behind.

He didn’t answer but began quietly singing the words to the song Maybe This Time from the musical Cabaret, changing the lyrics from the female perspective to the male where needed. When he finished he turned and looked up at me and I lent down and kissed his soft lips.

‘Your turn now, you told me that you played so let’s hear it.’ ‘Oh god babes I haven’t played for a million years, umm what do you want me to play?’ ‘It’s up to you.’ ‘Hmm, well you do love your musicals so … give me a second I’m not sure if I remember it so I’m going to be really rusty.’

I sat down at the piano and for a moment tried to think of how the song started then found that once I’d put my fingers on the keys the music just seemed to flow out of me. I played Some Enchanted Evening. I knew that Breeland was familiar with it as he’d told me he loved the song one night when we’d binge watched a whole load of classic old musical DVDs so it didn’t surprise me that he started singing along to my playing even though I made a bit of a mess of the tune in a couple of parts.

‘Scoot over,’ and he sat down on the stool next to me when I had finished. ‘Do you know this one, we could play it together?’ and he began playing All I Want Is You from Phantom of the Opera.

‘Heh you,’ William addressed Breeland as he and Caroline walked back into the room, the kids now safely tucked away in bed, ‘how about something written in this century, the way you are stuck in a time warp with your old musicals is entertaining but what about a touch of Tyler Swift or Lady Gaga? Anyone would think you are thousand years old. You are so old fashioned.’ ‘I am not old fashioned, just conservative,’ Breeland protested, ‘and besides I can’t very well rock out on the piano now can I?’ he threw back at him. ‘No but you can on this,’ he walked over to the corner of the room and picked up a guitar and handed it to Breeland. ‘God where did you find this?’ he asked.

He looked lovingly at the battered old acoustic instrument that had seen better days and was obviously much loved. ‘It was up in the attic. I had to get up there a few weeks ago to check the roof, I thought a shingle might have come loose and spotted it behind some boxes.’ ‘God I haven’t seen this since I left home.’

He began strumming it and was surprised it was in tune. ‘Don’t worry, I tuned it up when I bought it down the minute you messaged me to say you were coming. I’d half hoped to surprise you with it.’ ‘Well you sure have. Hell I learnt to play on this old thing.’ He stroked the wooden base of the guitar lovingly. ‘Here you need this too,’ William handed him a small box and Breeland’s eyes lit up. ‘Oh god, my picks,’ he exclaimed. ‘I found it next to the guitar on the shelf.’

Breeland opened the small container and looked through it till he found his favourite pick and began to play the Artic Monkeys song Do I Want To Know then a couple of other songs, blues numbers mainly, and finished with a song that I remembered from a movie called August Rush and the song was called This Time. I recalled the opening bars of the guitar work in it and how the actor in the movie had really had a great voice and it had surprised me, the song had really touched me at the time and I had always meant to see if I could find it as it had kind of haunted me and touched me so deeply at the time and now here was my guy singing it.

I sat mesmerised by the lyrics and the delicate way he played the guitar as he sang softly, his eyes never leaving my face. It was beautiful and hmm, there seemed to be a theme going on here, Maybe This Time from Cabaret and now another song titled This Time. Was I reading too much into it, carried away by the loving atmosphere we were surrounded by? I wanted to keep a lid on my feelings and not dream up something that was so far off the mark as to leave me in a vulnerable place open to hurt, my head kept warning me, but my heart kept right on at it telling me that maybe this time, just maybe … if I was lucky, this time ….

‘We’re off to bed,’ William stood up and so did Caroline breaking the spell. ‘Goodnight you two love birds, sleep well… if you intend on getting any sleep that is,’ he added.
Breeland grinned and I blushed modestly at the look on his face.

‘Just one thing,’ William called out as he got to the door, ‘keep it down will you, the kids are asleep.’ We could hear him laughing as he climbed the stairs.

Chapter Text

‘Babes, George wake up you are having a nightmare.’ Breeland’s voice was whispering urgently in my ear as I woke up with a jerk. It was dark and I was disorientated and didn’t immediately recognise where I was.

I was cold and trembling from the dream I had been having of running through a forest in the pouring rain, dark shadows all around me and without a clue of where I was going but I could feel something behind me chasing me and I knew that if it caught up with me it was going to kill me. I fell with a sickening thud, tripping over something lying in the gloom and when I looked down I screamed. It was Breeland’s body lying there cold and white like some ghastly ghostly apparition. Then I felt it and heard it, cold hands reaching around my ankles with a vice like grip pulling me backwards into the darkness of the trees and all the time a hideous laughter ringing in my ears loud enough to drown the sound of the thunder rumbling above.

‘It’s all right, I’m here,’ Breeland whispered and held me to him, ‘I’m not going to let anything hurt you.’ He rocked me in his arms like he would a child and I calmed down and fell asleep like that but in the morning, despite the sun streaming into the room and the noise of the kids playing outside I was permeated with a feeling of dread I couldn’t shake off and I began to wish that we had never come on the trip.

I didn’t say anything to Breeland and he seemed to have brushed it off as just a bad dream and nothing more. Likewise I didn’t mention running into the Edie the day before. Why open old wounds again. We were leaving today anyway and wouldn’t have to see her again, hopefully never if I had my way, so what was the point. But I wouldn’t forget her in a long time, that was a given. I just hoped that I didn’t have any more nightmares as I was pretty sure that she had caused the one the night before.

We had breakfast again with the family just as we did the day we arrived then Breeland took me off with the dogs tagging along to see the rest of the property. Thankfully we didn’t go anywhere near the cemetery but instead he showed me around the garden then took me out along the road walking to where the boundary of the original property was and back again.

The weather had cleared up and the sun was shining, nowhere near as hot as the day we’d driven into town but a hell of a lot warmer than what we would be going home to.

When it came time to say goodbye there were hugs all around and I thanked William and Caroline for being such gracious hosts. The kids were bereft that we were leaving but we promised to send lots of photos, particularly of Tyrion whom they had fallen as much in love with as much as Snookie had, and we agreed that we would skype with them whenever they wanted to catch up with him and with us.

When we left instead of turning to the left along the road we turned right and drove past the cemetery and then crossed over a little bridge straddling a narrow but deep stream. I looked over and noticed what I thought to be the entrance to what must be Edie’s place. The gate was locked and the little of the house that I saw through the trees wore a deserted and neglected look then the road curved around skirting the village before leading back to the main highway. I shrugged it off and gave a sigh of relief as we put some miles between us and her, there was something about her that rather scared me and as much as I had loved seeing where Breeland had come from, the sooner we got home the sooner I could shake off the dread of my encounter with her I hoped.

As the miles flew by the weather grew colder and by the time we got back it was evident that there had been a considerable amount of snow while we had gone. We were both tired from the drive and after taking Tyrion for a quick walk to stretch his and our legs; we lit the fire and snuggled up on the couch in front of it. Not surprisingly we both dozed off and didn’t wake up until a few hours later. It was good to be home.

The rest of the week leading up to New Year’s Eve flew by with walks along the beach, a trip over to Spring Falls to check out a shipment of antiques that had come in at Springfield’s which they had emailed an alert to me, thinking that there might be a couple of pieces I would be interested in and while over there, a visit to the waterfall now frozen into an myriad of mind blowing shapes all sparkling in the weak sunlight that randomly peeped out in between scurrying snow filled clouds.

‘No skinny dipping for us today then,’ Breeland joked as he gazed at the frozen spectacle, ‘maybe a hot bath and a soak when we get home to warm us up would be more fitting. What do you think?’

‘I can think of other things to warm us up too,’ I purred.

‘You are so bad!’ he laughed.

The rest of the time we seemed to spend cooking up a storm and eating, binge watching movies and a couple of shows we were totally besotted with, Peaky Blinders and Black Sails being our favourites of the moment, and being thoroughly wrapped up in each other. We kept to ourselves and didn’t see anyone else. We both wanted to be together so much and in our own little world while we had the chance. It was heaven but before we knew it the end of the week arrived and with it New Year’s Eve and the party at the Sea Food and Eat It was upon us.

It was to be the social event of the year in our neck of the woods and anyone who was anyone was invited. It was fancy dress and I was sure glad that I had taken the time to organise our costumes well in advance so that all we needed to do was get changed and then we were off.

I had asked Breeland a while back if he had any preference or ideas as to what he might like to come as and he agreed to leave it totally up to me. I had thought of a million ideas but it wasn’t until one night we were binge watching a show that had taken both our fancies that I settled for our outfits. I had watched the first season of the show the previous year when it had come out and had loved it but Breeland had never seen it until I persuaded him to give it a go. From the very first episode he’d been hooked and it didn’t take more than a couple of days of binging on every episode of all the seasons to bring him up to date.

The story was about a woman at the end of Second World War on a trip to Scotland who somehow manages to go back in time to the time of the Jacobite uprising and meets the love of her life. In the second series the two lovers find themselves in France and that was where I got the inspiration for our outfits.

For Breeland I had acquired a silken suit consisting of a jacket, finely embroidered waistcoat and knee britches, powdered wig and all the trimmings whilst for me I had a dress that I was praying I could get into without doing myself damage as the corset that went with it to push up my breasts looked like total torture to be honest. But when I finally managed to squeeze myself into and added the voluminous skirt with its caged petticoat underneath and put the sky high powered wig on I stood back and gazed in total awe at the effect. Adding the earrings that Breeland had given me for Christmas and the elaborately adorned carnival type mask to the ensemble transported me to Venice in the seventeen hundreds.

I felt exotic and mysterious and altogether unbelievably sexy.

When I walked down the stairs to find Breeland waiting patiently for me to be ready and I saw the look on his face, I knew that the costume was a winner.
‘Oh god,’ he breathed as I walked over to him and curtsied, my breasts nearly spilling out of the low cut bodice. ‘We can’t go,’ he exclaimed.

I was startled. ‘Why, what do you mean?’ I asked anxiously.

‘Well look,’ his eyes ran down me then he bent his head and looked at himself. In his tight silk pantaloons it was more than obvious that he definitely loved my outfit. I giggled uncontrollably and had to fan myself with the silk and feathered fan I had added to the outfit. It wasn’t only Breeland that was hot and bother I can tell you.

The night was a total hoot and anyone that was there would talk about it in later years as being the best New Year’s Eve party they had ever been to.

Marcel had exceeded himself with the food and the buffet that he had put on for supper was beyond superb, it was memorable. So was his outfit. He had come as Carmen Miranda complete with an enormous concoction of towering fruit on his head and six inch platform glittering shoes to show off his shapely legs peeping out from under and red satin skirt with a split up the front to the top of his thigh and a little cropped bolero jacket that showed off his abs.

Everyone had gotten into the spirit of the masquerade and there were various assortments of costumes and characters to be found amongst the guests. Bobby Calthorne had come as a gun toting Wild West sheriff and Rosemary as a saloon dance hall girl. Charlene had settled for a Superwoman outfit to match Chuck’s Superman. There were Tarzans and Janes, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Bonnie and Clyde … you name it and they were represented.

When twelve o’clock rang out there was a fireworks display on the top of the bluff and we all stood watching the shimmering spectacle to many ohhs and ahhs.

‘Happy New Year my pet may it be the best one ever. I love you so much,’ Breeland took me in his arms as we watched and kissed me. ‘Happy New Year babes, it’s going to best one every I just know it. I love you so much too.’

Chapter Text

Breeland’s phone ringing at eight the next morning woke us and as he fumbled to find it in his fuddled state mine rang too. What the hell, who on earth would be ringing us both at that hour and after such a late night as everyone had continued on dancing and enjoying themselves until way passed two in the morning. Plus by the time we got home and Breeland had shown me exactly how much he’d loved my outfit, it was going on for four o’clock before we had fallen asleep totally exhausted.

‘Bobby, what is it?’ I’d heard him say before I looked at the number calling my phone and recognised Rosemary’s number. ‘Hello Rosemary? Is something wrong?’

I have often wondered what it is in our nature to want to share bad news when it comes. I admit that I am guilty of it myself at times. Is it that we are so shocked or traumatised that we have a need to reach out to others in the hope of taking some of the grief or pain or bewilderment away from ourselves, or is it simply we have some kind of perverse need to be the bearers of bad tidings and take satisfaction in the thought of someone else now sharing the burden we feel weighted under by. Perhaps that is over thinking it and it’s merely a case of wanting to be assured that life isn’t all as bad as it seems at times and we just need to have someone that cares confirming it for us. Who knows, I sure didn’t.

On this particular occasion I suspected that it was none of the above reasons.

In Bobby’s case he needed to bring Breeland up to speed on what had occurred in Hermanville the night before for purely police reasons. Breeland was his senior Lieutenant with the most experience other than his own in the job, so it was natural that he had to communicate to him the shocking events of the night before.

In Rosemary’s case she was grieving for the loss of one of our own and also wanted my help to begin to organise support for the now widow of one of our family.
We both got off the phone at the same time, Bobby and Rosemary having yet more calls to make and keeping things as brief as possible in their conversations with us.

I must have looked white, and I know I was shaking because Breeland wrapped his arm around my shoulder and nestled me into him and pulled the covers up tightly around us as he held me.

‘What did Bobby say? What happened? Rosemary didn’t give me any details except to say there had been a shooting over at Hermanville last night and Kit Snark was killed.’
I knew Kit, not well but well enough to know that he was married to Lyanna and they had a new baby.

Our support club had held a baby shower a couple of months ago and with the help of some of the guys in the area, we’d all gone over to their place and had done a makeover of the nursery for them as she’d had a pretty rough pregnancy and had been quite ill. They’d both been so very grateful for the help at the time and it had been a huge relief when we got news that despite the baby coming way too early, she’d been a battler and had finally been given the all clear and had been home in time for their first Christmas with her.
Now he was dead and Lyanna was left as a soul parent with their little girl to bring up and without ever really knowing her father.

‘From what Bobby said,’ Breeland told me, ‘seems like Kit and Lyanna had gone out for the night to her parents, their first real outing since the baby had come home and on their way back they were nearly run off the road by a car driving erratically. After slightly colliding they pulled over and Kit got out to talk to the driver. He walked up to the car door and flashed his badge at the driver. He was shot point blank range in the head and the car took off before Lyanna could ring for help.’

I was stunned. She’d witnessed her own husband gunned down in cold blood. Poor Lyanna.

‘Lyanna’s in shock and hasn’t really been able to help much with any details except that the car was new looking, black and high powered and she didn’t think that she’d seen it around town before or she would have remembered it as it kind of stuck out for being a bit more upmarket than they are used to over there. That’s all that she’s been capable of remembering. Her parents are with her looking after her and the baby.’
I felt sick in the stomach.

‘Don’t worry,’ Breeland assured me, ‘we’ll get them.’

Cold comfort for Lyanna and the fatherless child I thought to myself. They had been such a happy couple. Young, full of life and hopes for the future and now… I couldn’t bear to think of it.

Tears rolled down my cheeks and he held me even closer.

‘I love you so much I couldn’t bear it if something ever happened to you,’ I mumbled into his chest as he stroked my head pressed against him.

‘Babes nothing is going to happen to me,’ he murmured.

‘Promise me Breeland,’ I pulled away and gazed into his eyes, my tears stained face a mess, my voice almost pleading with him.

‘I promise you babes.’

The funeral for Kit Snark was held on the Wednesday of the following week. There was a police guard of honour and the cortege wound its way through the streets of Hermanville as a mark of respect for their young officer so brutally sleighed.

Lyanna looked like a pale waif dressed in full black and lost in a world of stunned shock, surrounded by family and friends, a small ghostly figure amongst a sea of grieving and bewildered supporters.

At the wake I heard snippets of grim determination from those of Kit’s colleagues, snatches of conversations declaring that they would not let his death go without just punishment but it was all too much for Lyanna who was obviously close to breaking point, collapsing with fatigue and grief and having to be taken to the local hospital to be checked out.

We heard later that she was being monitored for exhaustion and her doctor was keeping an eye on her as she rested at her parents place. The thought of going home to her empty house now too much for her to cope with as well as with the baby, so it was for the best that she move back to her family home for the time being.

Rosemary and I had gotten together with some of the others and had put together a plan of our own for support when we thought that it would be appropriate and I had made up a gift basket for Lyanna and for the baby of items that would at least bring some comfort when she felt a little better, if that was ever possible. But I had to be realistic and believe that one day the tears would ease and she would be able to smile again. It was all too soon now but with time, I hoped, the heart break would not be forgotten but would ease.
Our holidays had ended of course and we were both back at work but the immediate shock and sadness of the loss of Kit had bought us all down.

Breeland didn’t say much about it, about the investigation that is, as it had happened in Hermanville and out of our small town’s jurisdiction, even though it was still technically in our district, but I knew that it was on everyone’s minds down at the sheriff’s office and if possible there wasn’t one single person there that didn’t want to help get whoever it was that had done this and would do just about anything to do so.

There was a sombre mood hanging over everyone for days but as with everything in life the world didn’t stop and time moved on.

I didn’t have time to dwell on what had happened. I pushed it to the back of my mind as much as I could or the fear of something happening to Breeland would have paralysed me. I was glad that Charlene and I had so much to do in the shop that it didn’t give me much time to think. We had a lot of work to keep us busy taking down all the Christmas decorations and packing them away carefully so that when next Christmas came around there wouldn’t be any tangled mess a la National Lampoon Christmas Vacation with strings of lights in a tangled ball of tedious sorting out to do.

It took us the rest of the week to get things dealt with and stored away and then came our great January sale that we held each year to get organised.

Everyone in town told me that they looked forward to it each year since I had opened. It was a chance to reduce stock down to prices that still generated a profit but reduced the margin making it affordable for those that normally wouldn’t splurge as much as they did during the sale.

It took hours to set up the displays and get all the marked down prices and tickets in place but it was worth it so that by Friday afternoon we were ready to launch the sale first thing on the next Monday morning.

I was just getting ready to leave when I got a call from Breeland cancelling our regular Friday night dinner. It seemed that Bobby was holding some kind of get together with some of the boys to sort out something to do with looking after Lyanna.

I was disappointed but totally understood and we agreed that he’d come over when finished no matter what time it was.

Charlene had been standing next to me when I took Breeland’s call and had heard my part of the conversation but not the details.

‘What was all that about,’ she asked curiously when I hung up. ‘Breeland can’t make it for our usual dinner tonight.’ ‘Yes!’ she yelled out excited, ‘you know what that means?’ ‘Uh no, I have no idea,’ I told her truthfully. ‘Chuck’s off with his mates at a poker game so…’ ‘So?’ ‘Girls night out,’ Charlene laughed. I rolled my eyes. ‘Oh come on George, we haven’t had a girl’s night out for forever. You’ve been glued to Breeland for months and months now and we need a night out, just the two of us. Plus I know exactly where we are going to go.’

I looked at her face flushed with excitement. ‘If… and I am only saying if and not yes, if I agree to go where are we going to go?’

I was curious now. ‘Well, there’s a new club that opened up last year over in Hermanville and I’ve heard it really rocks. It hasn’t been open all that long but I’ve wanted to give it ago and Chuck won’t take me so this is the perfect chance. Come on, what do you say? It would give us a chance to have a really good talk. We haven’t even had time to catch up about how Christmas went. The two of you seemed to drop off the face of the planet and we’ve been so busy with everything and, well it’s been such a horrible time. Say you’ll come, please George.’

With an argument like that how could I say no and besides it would fill in time till Breeland got in?

‘All right, girl’s night out it is but not late okay, I want to be home before Breeland,’ I insisted. ‘Okay, I promise you will be home before Breeland.

Little did I know at the time just how true that would be.

Chapter Text

‘So what kind of place is this?’ I asked Charlene as I drove us over to Hermanville after we’d both gone home and gotten changed then I’d swung by her place and picked her up. ‘You didn’t say so I had no idea what to put on.’ ‘I have no idea really but you look fine, you always do.’ ‘Well if you say so,’ I sighed.

I’d had rather a crisis of confidence when I got home and was regretting agreeing to go out now that push came to shove. I felt lost without Breeland by my side and uncomfortable at the thought of going out without him. I had been going to text him and let him know of our plans but I looked at the time and realised I was running late so I didn’t bother, after all I wasn’t going to be late and I could fill him in when he got home.

Not wanting to draw too much attention to myself I’d slipped on a pair of jeans and a nice black top that had a sort of bronze shimmer through it, lace around the scooped neckline and matching cut away panels with more lace inserted into the circular shapes in a really cunning design on the sleeves. I threw a little black bolero jacket over the top of it and thought that I looked quite presentable without being over flashy. Charlene on the other hand had gone the whole hog in a bright pink top over skin tight black leggings and killer black suede pumps.

‘All I know about the place is what Tracy over at Hair Today Gone Tomorrow told me last week when I was getting my hair cut. She said The Wolves Den, that’s the name of the place by the way, she said it was hot and had some great music. I’m not even sure if its live bands or a DJ but who cares, as long as it’s fun and there aren’t too many deadbeats then all’s cool right!’

When I pulled into the car park it was nearly full, a good sign of the popularity of the venue judging by the look of it. The flashy neon sign had a sneering wolf’s head blinking on and off with its name in red to match the glowing eyes in the face.

A burly looking bouncer covered in tattoos stood guard at the door, his muscles bulging thicker than my thighs and looking like he could handle a whole football team if they thought to cause trouble, ushered us in through the roped off door that led into the darkened club.

The first thing to hit me once we were inside was the noise, it was a mixture of music and voices shouting to each other to be heard over the heavy rock beat of whatever it was the DJ was playing. The second thing that hit me was the variety of those amongst the crowd.

It seemed like the place was a draw card for all sorts of people from the area judging by the way patrons were dressed.

There were those that looked like they had just knocked off for the day from the local road gang and not bothered to change out of their somewhat worn and dirty jeans and flannelette work shirts. They were rather scruffy looking and like the bouncer outside, they seemed to have a lot of cheap tattoos and plenty of ear piercings, wore a lot of spikey looking watchbands and tacky looking jewellery on their arms and seemed to have a penchant for rather nasty looking steel capped boots. They also seemed to prefer cut off denim jackets with club mottos on the back of them and shaved or either extremely cropped hair cuts or long greasy locks.

At odds with the aforementioned were those that had made an obvious effort to dress up in their finery, designer brand tee shirts being de rigueur and par for the course with the smart on trend set, worn over jeans that would have cost a pay packet I noticed and all attempting to give the appearance that they were thrown together without a thought. They stood out in the crowd like bright shining peacocks of colour and added a bit of glamour to the place.

Despite the diversity of the patrons one thing was for sure, everyone seemed to be having a good time it appeared as we made our way through the crowd and over to the bar where a couple had just vacated some stools. We sat down and ordered drinks, an orange juice for me because I was driving and didn’t drink and drive, and a brandy and coke for Charlene because that was one of her favourite drinks, then we sat there and looked around.

I was just about to say something when Charlene suddenly turned to me. ‘I think that we had better go.’

I looked at her and thought that I must have misheard her.

‘What was that?’ ‘I think we’d better leave.’ ‘What’s wrong are?’ I asked her. ‘George we need to leave.’ ‘What are you on about, we just got here?’

I looked at her and wondered what the hell had gotten in to her. ‘Seriously George, we really need to get out of here,’ her eyes shifted and I followed them peering through the darkness. ‘Come on George,’ she was sounding really desperate now but I was determined that I would find what it was that had got her so upset and then I saw why for sitting over towards the back of the room in a booth along the far wall was Breeland and he wasn’t alone.

If you have ever been in a position where you’ve been hit in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of you then that was how I imagined the effect of seeing Breeland there had on me. A punch in the stomach would have been far preferable to what I saw right at that moment. It knocked the breath out of me and for a brief moment I went dizzy but managed to pull myself together and focus.

Charlene’s urgent voice in my ear begging me to leave went unheeded. Nothing could have made any difference to me at that moment, nor would it have stopped me from climbing off my bar stool and walking through the crowd with as much self-control as I could muster towards where he was sitting.

It’s funny how when in the midst of what seems to be a life changing crisis little things stand out in your mind. I remember passing a couple laughing at something they had found funny and the look of happiness on their faces. Just a couple out for the night having a good time and here was I with my world falling apart in front of me. Then there was the poor guy who picked that exact time to stop me and ask me to dance to which I practically spat venom at with an abrupt, ‘Fuck off.’ I don’t remember his face but I sure wish now that I could have gone back and found him and apologised but heh, who was thinking clearly at the time, not me that’s for sure.

I remember how my heart was pounding in my ears, blocking out the sound of the music. I remember too how cold I felt, a delicious icy chill running through my veins and the steely gaze of my eyes fixated on one thing only; Breeland, as I willed him to look my way and see me. Just look at me my mind pleaded. But he didn’t, he didn’t even look my way because he was too engrossed in the conversation he was having at the time with some guys he was sitting with and with the girl sitting in his lap nuzzling up to him.

He looked different. Even though the light wasn’t exactly great I knew straight away that he didn’t look like his normal self. It wasn’t just the fact that he was dressed differently to the way he normally would. I’d never seen him wearing the outfit that he had on before but also he hadn’t shaved like he normally would if we were going out at night. He was the first to admit that he was a hairy kind of guy and his thick thatch of fur gave testament to that so that he generally had a five o’clock shadow by night time which he took care to shave off before we went on a date because he claimed he didn’t want to ruin my skin with his thick bristles.

Combine that with something that he’d done to his hair, sort of mussed it up and it had a kind of spikey rough look to it that wasn’t exactly unappealing, if anything he looked even more smouldering and just a bit rough and dangerous I thought, despite being so very hurt and pissed off at the time. Dam him, dam him to hell.

This wasn’t supposed to be happening. He was the one person that I had felt safe in the world with, that I trusted implicitly and there he was breaking my heart into pieces I seethed as I came to a grinding halt next to the booth and stood there staring down at him, hands on my hips, my demeanour demanding an explanation.
He was in the middle of speaking to the others when he caught their gaze shifting to me and he looked up.

I don’t know what I had been expecting but I sure wasn’t expecting the smirk he gave me as he ran his eyes up and down me like I was a piece of inconsequential meat.
The other guys in the booth gave a snigger and nudged each other obviously enjoying what they thought was some tart there to have a bitch fight over him.
‘Aren’t you going to introduce us to the little lady,’ the guy with the snake tattoo covering half his face said laughing.

‘Yeh, who’s the fox?’ the other one asked, ‘honey my name’s Jake and you are more than welcome to come on over here and sit on my knee or anything else that you feel like.’ He grinned and displayed a copious amount of gold where his rotting teeth had been.

‘I would fellas,’ Breeland replied with a smile and a shrug before I could utter a single word, ‘but you know how it goes … you can’t be expected to remember the names of every one night stand I have can you?’

The others laughed and nudged each other again winking at him. ‘Darn right,’ they agreed apparently impressed with his disregard for women.

‘Now honey why don’t you just run along,’ he drawled at me, butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth, ‘can’t you see that I am already busy for the night unless that is, you want to join … what did you say your name was,’ he asked the cheap looking girl sitting on his knee, ‘well whatever her name is.’ He went on not giving her time to answer, ‘You are welcome to join the two of us. The seat in my pick-up truck is roomy enough for us all.’
A knife to my heart could not have done more damage than his speech.

With as much dignity as I could I turned around without saying a word, their uproarious laughter ringing in my ears, and walked over to Charlene and somehow made it out the door without throwing up – which I did once I got out of the place and reached the shadow of some bushes in the car park.

‘What the fuck…’ Charlene was about to start at me but one look at my face and for once in her life tact prevailed and she clammed up tighter than an oyster.
I don’t remember much of the drive back home.

The darkness that had descended on my heart blocked it out.

Chapter Text

I think that I can honestly say that had it not been for my love of Tyrion I would have lost my mind during the next terrible days and week that followed. I stayed in bed for what seemed like days, curled up in a foetal position cradling my broken heart and rocking myself to sleep only to dream fitful nightmarish dreams that didn’t diminish when I awoke to a world without Breeland in it.

I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t answer my phone or reply to the copious amounts of text messages that Charlene sent. I didn’t answer the door. I existed, that was more than enough for me to cope with at the time, and I know I didn’t do a very good job of even that.

My body literally ached for the loss of Breeland, for the betrayal he’d subjected me to. Why, I kept asking myself, why would he do it? He’d said he’d never hurt me, he promised me that and I’d believed him.

Hadn’t my love been enough I questioned. I questioned everything without any answers.

Did it get down to sex; did he want to have sex with others? He was a sexual animal, his stamina had been a shock and a pure delight and I had always reciprocated and loved and craved every minute of it, but wasn’t it enough for him?

And from the one person that could give the answers, the one person that could put me out of my misery and end my endless questioning, from Breeland I heard nothing.
I tried to rationalise it in my mind but instead I found myself driving myself nuts.

I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t sleep for fear of more nightmares. I didn’t shower, there was no point. I didn’t dress but stayed in my dressing gown, the one that matched the brocade wrap I had bought for him, yet another self-inflicted reminder of the torment I was going through.

I lived on coffee and misery and I didn’t care.

Then one day, I don’t know which particular day or how long it was after the Friday night that my world had crashed down around me, through my numbness, I had a wake up call.
As I sat wallowing in the gloom of my sitting room Tyrion sat next to me and pawed at me, nuzzling me and he laid his head on my knee.

Of course I had been feeding him and making sure he went out and he had plenty of water and toys, but it was the first time I had noticed how forlorn he was looking. He’d lost weight too and his coat didn’t have the glistening sheen that it normally had. In short he looked miserable and worried.

It was the kick that I needed to get my act together. I loved Tyrion and we were all that each of us had, I couldn’t go on like this for his sake. Tyrion saved me from myself.
After having a shower and forcing myself to eat something, I finally got dressed and took him down to the beach for a long walk.

It was painful, dreadfully painful walking along the same places that I had walked with Breeland in happier times, remembering snatches of conversations we’d had and favourite spots where we would stop to admire the view or to share a kiss and a hug. But it had to be done, I told myself. I had to face life again without him or go under.

I walked for miles that day hoping against hope that it would exhaust me enough to get a decent night’s sleep. I think that if it hadn’t have been for the fact that it was starting to get dark I would have walked for longer but I knew that I had to face going home to an empty house sooner or later so I turned back. As I drew near the car park I looked up and for a moment I thought that I saw him standing there watching me but in the fading light I couldn’t be sure and anyway what did it matter.
I turned away and headed on up the path that led home.

When I showed up at work the next day Charlene’s obvious relief was touching.

‘I’ve been so worried about you. How are you? I know, silly question. If it’s any consolation Chuck wants to punch Breeland’s lights out. It took me three days to convince him that he should stay out of it,’ she told me.

I was extraordinarily touched by it and had to retreat to the office to hide my outburst of tears. I felt bad too that I had left Charlene in the lurch with the shop and our sale. I hadn’t been fair to her and had been totally selfish, that’s not what true friends are for and I planned to try to make it up to her and to Chuck for their care and concern.
I didn’t know how but I promised myself that one day I would.

The rest of the week was a blur really until Friday and I had to face a Friday night alone let alone a weekend without him. I was amazed that I had survived the week to be honest. Was it really only one week, it felt like I had been living in a life of darkness for an eternity but somehow I had gotten through it, well so far.

Charlene must have known how much I was dreading the coming night and the weekend too for that matter because Chuck swung by as we were saying out goodbyes to Roger when he came in to take over from us and before I could say anything they both insisted that I go grab a burger with them at the Steer Crazy. They whisked me out the door and had me in Chuck’s SUV before I could even protest.

They were amazingly kind and I loved them all the more for it.

We ended up the night at The Drinks Are On Me and despite myself I actually managed to get through the evening somehow.

They dropped me off at my car and took off but not before Charlene handed me a ticket to the movies for the following night. She had pre booked seats to a Stanley Kubrick double the following night for the three of us and wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I got home I went to bed thanking my lucky stars for friends like Charlene and Chuck and I had the best sleep that I had in days.

I spent the next day trying to keep busy so that I wouldn’t have time to think. My trip to the supermarket was well over due and it was time to start looking after myself a bit more than I had. I desperately needed some fresh vegetables and fruit and other essentials. I decided I was going to go on a health kick and give myself a detox in every sense of the word including a detox of my feelings for Breeland. It was time to reclaim my life.

When I got the groceries unpacked the next thing I did was clean the house from top to bottom. I’d let everything go for far too long, what with our trip to Louisiana and then with the way I had let things go when we got back and after the last week, the house needed a polish up just as much as I did.

After I’d finished I took Tyrion for a long walk, not along the beach though, too painful. Instead we headed along the track that ran behind my house following the crest of the hill and into the forest that ran between here and Hermanville. The smell of the pine trees and moist earth was beautiful and by the time we got back I felt cleansed.

After a dinner of a tossed salad and some fruit I went upstairs to shower and get changed but was side tracked as I stood on the balcony for a moment watching the sunset. I was just about to turn back into my bedroom when I randomly glanced down the hill and made the mistake of looking towards Breelands back yard. I froze. It seemed that right at that particular moment I had chosen to look that way he had been coming out of his patio door and had looked up in my direction. He saw me. I know he saw me for even from that distance I saw him stop and stare in my direction for a moment before looking down and continuing to walk over to his favourite chair and sit down.
I turned away and went inside and closed the curtains, closing him out of my life like he had closed me out of his.

Face facts girl, I told myself; it’s really over.

The movies were long and I was grateful for it, they took my mind off the sadness I was feeling. I’d never really been a Tom Cruise fan but l really liked the first movie and of course was impressed with Kubrick’s creative take on lust and infidelity. It somehow struck a core with me. The second movie of the double was just as impressive and visionary and way ahead of the time that it was originally made.

We grabbed a night cap at The Drinks Are On Us and then said goodnight, me thanking both Charlene and Chuck for their kindness and assuring both of them that I was going to be okay.

I went to bed snuggled up to Tyrion sure hoping that I had been right.

It seemed like I had only just fallen asleep when Tyrion’s loud barking and the doorbell ringing woke me. I switched on the bedside light and glanced at my clock. I knew it must have been early as it was still dark outside and I wondered what the hell was going on. Who would be ringing the doorbell so early in the morning? Grabbing my wrap I followed the still barking Tyrion down the stairs, switching on lights and picking up a screw driver I kept near the door in case of intruders, slipping it into the pocket of my brocade dressing gown.

I glanced through my peep hole and was surprised to find Bobby Calthorne standing there. For a moment I stupidly thought that maybe Breeland had sent him but then dismissed the thought as being totally ridiculous and so stupid to even to have even thought it. So then, what the hell was he doing here?

‘Bobby?’ I looked at him when I opened the door. ‘Morning Georgina, I am so sorry to wake you up this early. May I come in?’ ‘Sure, come in. Don’t worry about Tyrion,’ I had my hand on his collar just in case I had needed him to attack, I had trained him well enough to hopefully defend me if the occasion ever arose. ‘Good boy Tyrion, it’s all right.’ He backed off and sniffed at Bobby and then gave a small wag of his tail.

‘Can I get you a coffee Bobby,’ I said as I walked him into the lounge room, stifling a yawn unsuccessfully, ‘and please won’t you sit down.’ ‘No coffee for me thanks. Look Georgina I think you had better sit down.’ I stared at him. ‘What’s wrong Bobby?’ He glanced over at the fireplace and to the portrait of Breeland and I hanging there. I had made up my mind when I had seen him on his terrace the night before that I was going to take it down. It was really over and I didn’t want any reminders but I hadn’t done it yet.
‘There’s no easy way for me to tell you this so I am just going to come right out and say it,’ Bobby said looking me square in the eyes.

‘Breeland’s been shot.

Chapter Text

Breeland’s been shot.

For one sickening moment my heart stood still. As much as I had told myself it was over, finished between us, I knew that I had only been kidding myself. If I lived to be one hundred it would never be over. I would never really stop loving him.

‘Breeland’s been shot?’ I repeated like some demented parrot. My eyes strayed to our portrait then back to Bobby sitting there looking totally miserable. ‘I don’t understand Bobby, how could he have been shot?’ I swallowed. ‘Is he …’

‘He’s alive George. He’s in hospital. The bullet went through his shoulder and it should heal but …’ There was a “but”. ‘When he went down he hit his head and he’s unconscious. The doctors are keeping him sedated. There’s some swelling…’ His voice trailed off.

‘Where is he?’ ‘He’s in Hermanville. I can take you to him right now.’

I swallowed again. ‘Will they let me see him?’ ‘Yes, the doctors encouraged it.’

They encouraged it. What did that mean? Did it mean they didn’t think he was going to make it? My mind was running riot. Why would they encourage it, didn’t they encourage it when things were bad, when they thought that patients weren’t going to make it. Oh god, I had to get to him, I had to be with him. I just had to.

‘I’ll get dressed. Can you let Tyrion out and make sure he has food and water and some toys for me. He won’t understand why I am going out this early,’ I said absentmindedly as I got up and walked up stairs like a zombie, the shock hitting me like a sledge hammer.

‘What happened?’ I asked as we drove to the hospital.

Bobby took his eyes off the road for a moment to glance at me. I could see he was debating how much to say.

‘Tell me,’ I almost commanded then felt bad, he was only doing his job and it couldn’t have been easy. ‘Please, tell me what you can.’ My voice sounded strained to my ears. It wasn’t me talking, it was a frightened persona that had taken over me and it scared the shit out of me.
‘He was going after the person responsible for the death of Kit Snark.’

I was startled. It had never crossed my mind that he would be involved in the investigation. I mean I knew he was upset, we all were but what was he doing involved in it more than the others at the sheriff’s office? I didn’t understand and given what I had been through in the last week or so, on top of it all I would be the first to admit that I wasn’t really thinking too clearly and getting a grasp on things.

‘Did he get him?’ I asked randomly.

‘Yes, he’s dead.’

‘Good.’

‘George there’s something else that I need to tell you, he wasn’t the only one killed.’

‘What, was there some kind of a shootout or something?’

‘Yes, something like that you could say.’

He broke off the conversation as we were pulling into the hospital car park and Bobby parked the patrol car near the front in an emergency service zone then ushered me in.
Hospitals are full of people, patients, doctors, nurses and visitors but in the early morning hours they can be eerie places, or perhaps it was just my heightened anticipation and fear that was making it seem that way as he led me through the corridors and to the room that Breeland was in. He opened the door for me and stepped aside but I stood there for a moment, scared and shaking, staring at Breeland’s body lying in bed, pale and still.

A nurse was passing and must have seen the apprehension on my face for she walked over and said it was okay to go in as long as we were quiet, he was heavily sedated. The doctor would be around in a couple of hours but she promised she would look in on him regularly to check all his vitals.

I walked over to the bed and looked down at him. His face was pale and drawn but restful, no sign of pain. His right arm was in a sling and his shoulder bandaged underneath his gown. His other hand rested on the thin coverlet over him. I sat and took his hand in mine and waited. I didn’t care how long it took, I was determined that I would wait forever if needs be until he came back to me and I could tell him that I loved him despite everything, and even if he didn’t want me anymore I would still be there for him, just as a friend if that was all that he wanted from me now but one thing was for sure, I wasn’t going to leave him all alone in that hospital room through the dark hours.

Bobby stayed with me until he was yawning so much that I insisted he go home to Rosemary and get some sleep. I asked him if he could make sure that Charlene could pick up Tyrion and take him to her place until I was able to get home. Tyrion loved Charlene and enjoyed playing with Chuck so I knew that he’d be okay to go with them without a fuss. That would be one less thing to worry about and a great weight off my mind.

After Bobby left I must have sat there for hours just watching Breeland breath, his chest rising and falling to a rhythm that matched his heartbeat so I imagined. I’m not a religious person but I am what I consider spiritual. I believe in a universal energy, it was the only way that I could explain to myself how one minute a person could be alive then the next minute they were nothing more than an empty vessel. I truly believed that when a person dies their energy or soul, if you want to put it that way, leaves the body and becomes at one with the cosmos.

I also truly believed that it was not Breeland’s time to go yet. He had too much life still to live, too much to give to others and for other’s to give back to him in return, even if he didn’t want me to be one of them.

I hoped like hell that I was right. The world had been such a sad place in recent times and we couldn’t afford to lose someone with as much care and compassion as he had. I know that is contradictory to all that I should be feeling after what had happened between us but that was how I felt, what I had to believe even now, even after the heart break of the last week.

When the nurse came in to check on him and she opened the blinds, I realised that I must have been sitting there for hours for daylight streamed into the room. She took pity on me and got me a coffee. Being a smaller hospital than the big city ones, it was homelier and the staff there weren’t as pushed to the limit as the medical systems were in the major cities. Besides, she was a local and respected a fellow emergency service officer. She must have heard some of the details of the shooting and perhaps even known Kit. She was nothing but kind to me and I was grateful for it.

The doctor did his rounds later in the morning and he explained that Breeland was lucky. The gun shot had gone through his shoulder and missed any bones. They had patched him up and although shoulders could be very long and slow to heal, he was hoping for a steady recovery but he did warn that there was a chance of adhesive capsulitis, a condition that can be painful and affect mobility in the limb and incapacity. It was a standard precaution to warn of the condition and besides, there were other concerns of greater importance to be worried about. He didn’t say that but I knew it.

Scans had shown that there was no permanent damage or skull fracture so as far as that went all was good. After a trauma to the head it was simply a matter of waiting for Breeland to regain consciousness then further assessments would be made at the time. They were monitoring him and he was in good hands. There was nothing else they could do but wait now.

I thanked him and felt a little more positive. At least there appeared to be no danger to his life and for that I was thankful.

Lack of sleep finally took its toll on me and I must have drifted off, my head resting on the bed beside Breeland’s hand. I remember I had a really weird dream. I dreamt that I was standing on the front porch of Breeland’s homestead but not as it is today, back in some other time. I was dressed in a long full dress and had a corset on that was pinching into my skin as I stood there, my breathe heaving with emotion as I looked out across the lawn at a figure coming towards me.

At first I couldn’t quite make out who it was, all I could see was a man dressed in grey wearily plodding along and then the man looked up and saw me and quickened his pace and burst out running. He got closer and my heart began to beat faster as his face became clearer then I too began to run towards him, my feet fairly flying over the ground until I found myself in his arms hugging him to me and sobbing with happiness. It was my Breeland come home to me, come home from the war.
‘My love, my precious love,’ his voice whispered in my ear as he kissed me and gently patted my head.

‘I’m sorry, I am so very sorry. I did it to protect you.’

I woke with a start at the sound of his voice, Breeland’s voice and his hand softly caressing my head before lying still again.

Chapter Text

Was I dreaming? Even in my confused state I remembered the dream I had been having of Breeland coming home to me dressed in a tattered Confederate uniform but looking just as he was today and not as his ancestor looked during the war. That was a dream; I knew it was a dream but the other, his words, his soft voice and the touch of his hand on my sleeping head; that was real. I couldn’t have been dreaming it.

I raised my head and looked at him. His eyes were closed but his colour was better, the sickly grey tinge so pale and foreign had gone. His face didn’t have the pinched and drawn look of earlier in the morning when I have first gotten there either and there was the tiniest of smiles on his face as if he had awoken and been satisfied with something before falling back asleep. He was asleep now, not unconscious but definitely asleep. I don’t know how I knew that, I wasn’t an expert on such matters, my first aid certificate hadn’t gone to such depth as far as medical training went but I just knew in my heart of hearts that somehow he was over the worst of it.

“I did it to protect you.” His words echoed in my mind. What did he mean? I didn’t know and I didn’t care. He was going to be okay I was sure of it. I suddenly had hope that for whatever reason he’d lied to me, and what I saw as cheating on me on that dreadful night; for that’s how I saw it, I had hope that there was a reason that I was yet to find out. My knees went weak with relief at the thought of it and I was glad that I was sitting down.

I reached over for the buzzer to call the nurse in and when she arrived I told her he’d spoken. She did her routine checks and when finished she smiled. ‘Looking good,’ she told me, ‘he’s resting and it’s just a matter of time before he wakes up fully. I’ll let the doctor know.’

Bobby and Barney came by in the afternoon to check on Breeland and see how things were going. They insisted on taking me down to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat and a coffee. I was thankful and found that for the first time all day I was truly hungry. They stayed for over an hour and came back to the room with me to check on him again before leaving.

Bobby guaranteed me that Tyrion was in good hands with Charlene and Chuck and that he had gone with them without out causing a ruckus. He’d also bought a bag in for me that Charlene had packed with a change of clothes and fresh underwear, tooth brush, deodorant and my makeup bag in it in case I was allowed to stay the night. Leave it to Charlene to think of everything including makeup I laughed to myself but terribly grateful for her thoughtfulness.

When he handed back the house key I had given him to give to Charlene that morning, quite unexpectedly Bobby put his arm around my shoulder. ‘He’s going to be okay you know. He’s made of tough stuff is your Breeland.’ That was sure some endorsement coming from the normally crusty hard bitten sheriff and it did me a power of good to hear it.

After they had left there was a change of shifts for the nurses. Nurse Helen who had been on through the morning looked in before she left and introduced me to Luke, a former army medic who had taken up nursing after his second tour of duty had ended and he left the service. ‘I’ll leave him in his capable hands and see you tomorrow.’ After thanking her and watching Luke go through all the routine checks, he disappeared into the adjoining small bathroom and returned with a large metal bowl of warm water, soap and a towel.

‘There’s nothing worse than waking up feeling crusty when you aren’t feeling so good,’ he commented to me while he moved the covers a little, ‘let’s get our boy cleaned up and a bit more comfortable that is…’ he looked at me like he was struck by a thought. ‘Would you like to do it? Just give him a bit of a wash, if you want to that is. Some family find comfort in the personal touch of their loved ones,’ he confided. I nodded. ‘I have other patients I have to tend to so I will give you some privacy and come back in a bit.’

He left the room quietly leaving the dish on the bedside cabinet. I tested the water and it felt warm but not too hot. I began by dipping the wash cloth in the water and wringing it out then soaping it up so that I could make a start with Breeland’s uninjured arm, taking care not to disturb the drip they had inserted. The hospital gown they’d dressed him in was large and roomy enough for me to slip my hand into it and take care of his armpit then move onto his chest carefully avoiding his right shoulder. I moved the covers a little so that I could lift his gown and work my way down his body.

It was so strange seeing his nakedness under these circumstances. How many times over the months together had we showered or bathed and washed each other, performing the same loving ritual that I was doing right now but under such very different conditions I wondered. It is one thing to bath with a lover embracing the interaction in a warm and at times erotic situation but who ever really considers that the same position may arise under very different and trying times. Never the less my actions were just as loving and caring had we been at home instead of in a hospital room with him lying there shot and helpless, even more so if that was possible.

I was thinking all of this as I gently washed his stomach and moved down his body, delicately administering to his most precious of parts, patting him dry as I went, and despite his present condition his body responded to my touch just as it always did, much to my surprise.

‘If you keep that up I expect you to finish the job,’ a horse whisper broke the silence.

I looked over to his face resting there on the pillows to be greeted by a small wry smile and his partially opened blue eyes attempting to focus on me.
‘I thought I’d lost you,’ I whispered.

‘I’m fine. I’m not going anywhere.’ His voice was tired but a little stronger than it had been.

‘That’s not what I meant,’ I replied.

‘I couldn’t tell you, I had to protect you,’ he sighed.

I came to my senses. There would be time enough for explanations later. ‘Stay there, don’t move,’ I blurted out rather stupidly as I pulled up the covers and threw the face washer into the bowl slopping the soapy water all over the top of the stand in my haste. ‘I’ll be right back.’ ‘You’d better be, you can’t leave me like this,’ he laughed weakly but I was in too much of a hurry to go get Luke to respond to his comment.

I found Luke at the nurse’s station and told him that Breeland was awake. He paged the on call doctor and I waited patiently while they checked him out.

‘If all things remain as they are and providing there are no setbacks, you will be out of here in a couple of days,’ the doctor told him. ‘We’ll just keep you in and monitor you for a while just to make sure and to give your shoulder some time too. You know you won’t be able to use your arm like you normally would for some time. Do you have anyone that can come in and stay with you and help you out?’

Breeland’s eyes glanced across at me and before he could say anything I’d blurted out that he would come home with me and I would take care of him.

‘That’s fine then. I’ll check back later before I finish for the day and we’ll monitor your progress but all in all officer, you have had a very lucky escape.’

Once we were on our own Breeland motioned me over and patted the bed beside him.

‘Kiss me.’ I lent down and brushed his lips gently. ‘That’s better.’ He looked at my face and gently stroked it with his left hand. ‘I’m so sorry George. I couldn’t tell you what was going on. I had to protect you. Will you ever forgive me?’

‘There’s nothing to forgive,’ I replied tears rolling down my face now, tears of relief and tears of happiness.

‘You know nothing happened with her don’t you. I didn’t even kiss her.’

‘Shh, don’t talk, just rest.’

‘No I want to tell you everything, you deserve to know. I am okay, I promise. It all started that day Bobby rang me when we were standing in the kitchen cooking breakfast back in Louisiana,’ he began.

I sat on the edge of the bed holding his left hand, stroking it gently for hours as he filled me in on everything that I had been totally unaware of over the past few weeks.

It seemed to me as I sat there listening that his colour got even better and he drew strength from unburdening himself of what must have been just as hard a time for him as it was for me.

If I had ever doubted his love for me, I no longer felt that way by the time he had finished and I would never ever doubt him again.

Thinking about it later when I had more time to contemplate what actually happened, I was staggered by the strength and resolve that it must have taken to do what he did. I would like to think that my love for him would have been enough to go through the pain that he must have felt at the time but one thing was for sure, I knew that no matter what the future held for us both, right at that moment as he told me everything, I knew that I would never be as loved by another as Breeland loved me.

Nor would anyone ever sacrifice themselves to the extent that he had to keep me safe.

Chapter Text

‘It all started that day Bobby rang me when we were standing in the kitchen making breakfast back in Louisiana,’ Breeland had begun to tell me. ‘If you remember we had been cooking and the news had come on the radio and mentioned a raid in Shreveport and just then Bobby had rung me?’ I nodded remembering standing there listening and being thankful that we never had any of that kind of trouble in our own sleepy little village and I remember being teary at the thought of something ever happening to him in the line of duty.

I was struck by how it seemed like a life time ago now so much had happened since then as Breeland went on with his story.

‘Bobby told me he’d had a call from an old partner of mine, a guy I’d worked with in the drug squad when I was in New Orleans. He was trying to track me down but didn’t have my new number. I’d changed it when I left there; I’d wanted a clean start. Well it seemed Gus was now part of the special unit that was investigating a big drug ring that had moved into the South and was linked to Shreveport and the club that there’d been the trouble at the night before. He knew that I was from the area and thought that I might have a better understanding of anywhere it would have been likely for those that had escaped to be concealed, so he’d wanted to catch up with me. I promised Bobby I would give Gus a call.’

‘I know I lied to you when I said that I had to go and see some mates but it wasn’t entirely a lie. After leaving you at home pottering around with Tyrion and Snookie I gave Gus a call and had him fill me in on details about the case. I promised him I would make some enquiries around the area and do a bit of hunting around myself. Then just as I was about to hang up he told me that a witness had come forward describing a car that the ring leader had taken off in and that he hadn’t been alone, there was a woman with him. The witness said he hadn’t gotten the registration number but gave a good description of the vehicle. It was a pretty distinctive model however when Gus had run checks on all cars fitting that description there was only one that couldn’t be accounted for and it was found to have been reported stolen interstate six months ago and not sighted since so we drew a blank. But it was a lead of sorts.’

‘The witness had also given a description of the man that had fled, going through mug shots of known criminals thought to be possible drug lords on the run both here and overseas. He identified one particular person, a guy by the name of Frederick Vanderstrom. He was known to have fled Europe a year ago and hadn’t been sighted since but it was a big breakthrough in Gus’s investigations.’

‘I went and saw Jase and asked him to keep an eye out for the getaway car and he promised me that he would. Then something clicked … something that Gus had said that the witness had told them; the ringleader wasn’t alone. The raid on the club had taken place at around two thirty in the morning and I did a quick calculation. Acting on my hunch I came back and parked my car down off the road on a track that leads to part of the land at the back of the cemetery where no one goes. I slipped through the forest until I got as close as I could to Edie’s place that I thought safe and out of sight. I couldn’t see the whole area clearly but I could see enough into her yard to confirm that there was a black car concealed at the side of her house. It confirmed my suspicions that she’d had enough time to leave the bar and get over to Shreveport after work to meet up with her “boyfriend” – the ringleader that I suspected we were after.’

‘I don’t know what made me think that Edie was involved with him. Maybe it was her nonchalant attitude when we were at the bar, like she had better fish to fry, or perhaps it’s because I know her so very well and I knew from Jase and Joe that she’d been hanging around over there a lot. Add to that it seemed she was be drawn to that particular kind of low life, Mack for one, and would have had contacts from what was left over of his gang. They were known to still be living in that little shanty place I mentioned to you that he came from and it was thought there was a connection between them and Shreveport and bikie gang violence and drug running.’

‘It would be just like her to go for someone like Frederick. His type would appeal to her and so would the lifestyle. I suppose that I was hoping against hope that there was something redeemable about her and that I would be wrong but when I saw the car there I knew that I hadn’t been. I also knew that if she was with him, who it now seemed clear that she was, then she was even more of a danger than I had thought. It put the fear of god into me. I’d left you on your own not only with Edie practically next door but with a boyfriend that was a dangerous criminal who was wanted not just here in the States but also in Europe. He was a very ruthless and dangerous man. Frederick Vanderstrom was not a man to cross and here he was barely five minutes away and I’d left you on your own.’

‘I high tailed it out of there and back home to you but couldn’t find you. When I called out for you and saw you coming through the gate I was never so relieved in my life. While I was out getting wood for the fire I rang Gus and told him what I’d found and explained briefly about Edie and my suspicions then I called Jase and asked him to get over there as quick as he could but to be extremely careful. Edie may not have harmed Jase but Frederick was known for his ruthlessness and he’d killed before so Jase needed to be on his guard. But it turned out to be too late. By the time he got there the place was empty and Edie and Frederick had gone. I don’t know what had tipped them off. I was sure that I hadn’t been spotted but Jase said the place was deserted and there was no sign of where they’d gone.’

‘I saw him, I saw Frederick or at least it must have been him … I didn’t know at the time who he was.’ I confessed.

‘What, you saw him? Where?’ Breeland asked me. ‘That day in the cemetery or at least I suppose it was him. It was only a fleeting glimpse of someone tall and blonde. He was skulking around while I was talking to Edie.’ ‘You were talking to Edie?’ ‘I should have told you but I didn’t want you to worry and I didn’t want it to bring up more bad memories. Plus, I didn’t want to think about her, she scared me. I just wanted to get away from her and whoever it was that was with her. It sounds stupid but there was such a feeling of menace coming off the two of them and she was so very horrid, then when I heard you calling I couldn’t wait to get out of there. She heard you too so I guess he would have heard you as well and that was why he disappeared so quickly. I suppose she’d told him all about you and knew you were a cop.’

‘I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what, you looked like you’d seen a ghost when you came through the gate. I was so glad to see you in one piece and I was kicking myself for leaving you.’ I squeezed his hand. ‘It’s over now.’ He sighed. ‘I know but you can begin to understand why I had to protect you no matter what.’ ‘I understand but you haven’t told me everything have you?’ ‘No, there’s more. A lot more.’

‘When the news came through that Kit had been killed and the description of the car had been circulated I contacted Gus again. There had been a long held belief that although Shreveport appeared to be the centre of the drug ring, it wasn’t the only area to have been part of the operation. It would make sense to have a backup place that should something go wrong and flight be required, they would have somewhere to go to that was as yet flying under our radar and Hermanville made a perfect choice. It was big enough to warrant a new club without arousing suspicions but also unobtrusive enough to be the perfect place to set up a new headquarters should the need warrant it.’

‘So The Wolf’s Den was born out of necessity and seemed like a perfect cover but you are only as good as those that you have working for you and Frederick must have known that. There’d been a few slip ups with a bit of trouble over the last twelve months while they were establishing things. It had bought the area under our scrutiny even before Kit’s death. You’d heard the local gossip that things were changing over there, you told me that yourself and then when Kit was killed in cold blood, it confirmed that things had escalated but we needed concrete proof of Frederick’s involvement.’

‘I knew Edie well enough to know that while she might be a lot of things the one thing that she wasn’t was neglectful of her animals. When her parents had died she had a cat that she adored. It was only about a year old and she took the cat with her to live at her Grandmother’s. She adored it. Sometimes I think it’s the only thing that she really knew how to love but the night her Gran was attacked it must have tried to defend her and that son of a bitch Mack slit its throat.’

‘Edie was just as cut up about it as she was about the death of her Grandmother at the time so when William and Caroline mentioned that Edie’s dog had attacked Snookie, in a way I was kind of glad that she had at least gotten another pet. On a hunch I ran credit card checks on the local pet food stores over in Hermanville and sure enough found a match at the Bow Wow Bone Factory & Pet Store for dog food purchased two days after they must have fled there. It was confirmation that she was in the area and if she was then the assumption was that Frederick would be there too.’

‘With that in mind, and knowing my past experience undercover, Gus asked and I agreed to attempt to infiltrate the operation by putting out feelers with some of the crew we knew were running the Wolf’s Den. If I could win their trust just enough for them to let slip confirmation that Frederick was there or even his whereabouts, then we could get him. That’s what I was doing on the Friday night that you showed up there. I’d been on my way over there when I rang you. I couldn’t tell you because one; I didn’t want you to worry about me and I knew that you would if I had told you and two; I didn’t want you to know anything purely for your own good. When you walked over and were standing there that night at the club I had to think quickly and it was all I could think of in front of Frederick’s associates.’

I must have gone pale at the thought of how I nearly blew his cover for him because he reached over with his good hand and patted my face again.

‘You have no idea how much it killed me to treat you like that and to have to go on treating you like that without being able to tell you what was going on but I had to win their trust in order to try to make things safe for you, for all of us, and to get the bastard that killed Kit and destroyed endless other lives,’ he sighed.

‘In some ways I have a lot to thank you for actually, as that little incident with you did more to win them over than anything that I could have said. Oh and by the way, I have something else to confess that I don’t think you are going to like.’

My stomach muscles tightened. I clenched my teeth. I felt the blood drain out of my face as my heart began to race and the blood in my ears thumped in rhythm to it.

Here it comes, he’s going to tell me that he fucked that slut he was with and it’s going to kill me.

I steeled myself and looked at him.

Chapter Text

I think I was dying a little inside at the thought of Breeland with another woman, and in particular the cheap looking piece of trash that had been perched on his knee at the Wolf’s Den. Even though it was in the line of duty I kept telling myself, I honestly don’t know how I would be able to take it. I gritted my teeth even harder as he paused, ready for the blow.

‘I had to make a show of taking the err…’

‘Slut?’ I suggested with biting sarcasm aimed at her not him.

‘Girl,’ he went on, ever a gentleman even under these circumstances. ‘I took the girl I was using I am ashamed to say, out to the pickup truck that was on loan to me as part of my cover,’ he continued, ‘but when I got her out there I told her not to worry about the fact that I had …’ he coughed, went slightly red, looked extremely uncomfortable and couldn’t look me in the eye.

My heart rate cranked up a notch waiting for his next words.

‘That I had gotten the clap from you as the doctor had given me medication for it. She ran a mile and I didn’t see her again. I am sorry I had to besmirch your reputation amongst the trailer park set at the time but I am betting that she’s long gone by now anyway, particularly after last night’s events.’

I think that my mouth must have hit the floor. I didn’t know whether to be angry or laugh or just so endlessly grateful that he had come up with such a sure fire excuse to keep himself safe, in more ways than one, and to stay loyal.

‘I thought that you should know that no matter what the situation was, there is no way that I could be unfaithful to you, not even if my own life was at stake; which I might add it turned out it was,’ he muttered under his breath.

I raised his hand and kissed it. Tears of relief splashed down on his hand. I don’t think that I had the words in me at that moment to tell him how much that meant to me.
‘You could have been killed,’ my voice was strangled when I could talk, ‘you silly bastard.’

‘If it meant keeping you safe it would have been worth it but George I wasn’t, I wasn’t killed. I am here, we are together. That’s all that counts.’

‘I spent most of last week over in Hermanville,’ he went on, ‘garnering as much information as I could. They were looking for new potential markets now that they had lost their Shreveport distribution and connections and I was a perfect candidate, my cover being that I was an ex con from Atlanta where I’d been busted for possession and trafficking and done time. I’d won them over enough with my bullshit and impressed them enough for them to have set up a meeting with the big boss after the club closed last night but then fate stepped in and things didn’t exactly go to plan.’

‘I was outside the rear entrance waiting for him in the parking lot when he came out but he wasn’t alone. Edie was with him and she saw me.’
‘Oh god,’ was all I could say, my mouth dry at the thought.

‘Things happened pretty quickly after that. Luck was on my side because it was only the two of them and he didn’t have his henchmen there with him. Even so, when Edie saw me she got the shock of her life and blurted out, ‘Breeland what the fuck are you doing here?’ When Frederick heard her I knew by the look on his face that he knew my name and who I was. She must have told him about me back in Louisiana when they nearly ran into me that day while they were with you or maybe she’d told him about me before that. It wouldn’t surprise me if she had vented to him, blaming me for her life’s miseries, it would have been just like her. In hind sight I could see her doing that. I didn’t know that they’d been with you of course. I only knew that it was evident he knew I was just as dangerous as he was and he wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way or threaten his freedom.’

‘He moved quickly just off to the left of her and we both reached for our guns at the same time. I dodged around to the right of where Edie was standing to try to get a clean shot at him without hitting her that’s why I only copped it in the shoulder. He’d anticipated having a clean target but didn’t expect me to be so quick or that I would go in the opposite direction. Guess he’d under estimated me entirely. It could have gone either way really. If I’d gone the other way it would be a different story. I was very lucky.’

‘It took a few seconds for the full impact to really sink in. My head was trying to stay in control of the situation but I could feel my body caving. As I went down I remember seeing Edie turning and screaming at him not to shoot, she was running towards him to block his next shot. In that split second he must have realised that she was trying to protect me and to stop him so … he turned the gun on her to get rid of her, just like that, no questions asked that’s how ruthless he was. She meant nothing to him.’

‘I tried to yell at her to move. I think she heard me, I am not sure everything was beginning to swim in my brain as the pain kicked in but she must have known that even if she did try to get out of the way it would be futile anyway against his wrath and that now she was pretty much dead regardless of what she did. After all she knew him probably better than anyone and knew how callous and merciless he was. She’d been with him the night that he killed Kit and had seen him kill him in cold blood so if that was the case she probably realised that he’d be seething with anger at her betrayal and would never forgive her. She was no fool and would have known that any love in their relationship would have been one sided with her giving her all and him doing all the taking. Given that, she must have figured that she may as well try distracting him away from me even if she didn’t think there was much hope for herself.’

‘She stood her ground and tried to block him from taking another shot at me.’

‘He didn’t hesitate. He turned the gun on her and fired point blank in the face.’

‘It gave me just enough time for me to get what I hoped was a clear shot at him as I fell. That was the last thing that I remember until I woke up but I know that I got a head shot in.’

‘I know that Kurt is dead and that Edie is too.’

He was silent for a moment.

I let him have that silence.

Despite whatever Edie had become or what she had done, in the end she had saved him and for that I was grateful, not just for my sake but for hers too.
What a sad life she had led. My fear and dislike of her faded away and I felt nothing but regret for the life that she must have led. Yes, I know that that she had choices and had made bad ones but in the end she died sacrificing herself for Breeland. That Frederick would have seen her action right at that moment as a betrayal of whatever their relationship was would have been was a no brainer. A man like him would not have hesitated in his hate and rage at her actions. She died still loving Breeland and that was perhaps the saddest part of her life, knowing that she would never share something as precious as he is in her future.

‘I like to think that she’s with her parents and her Grandmother now, a child again before life and circumstances did things to her that changed her. I hope that she is finally at peace.’

A tear rolled down his cheek and I looked at his face. He looked tired now that he’d told me and I knew that reliving it all had taken its toll on him.

‘You need to get some rest, you need to sleep.’

I scooted up the bed and carefully slipped my arm under his neck, cradling him as he nestled into my shoulder until he fell asleep. I did too. The events of the day combined with lack of sleep the night before had left me as spent as he was and we both slept through until early the next morning when Luke came in with a smile on his face and woke us up as he moved around the room opening the blinds and bringing in the breakfast trolley.

‘I’m hungry,’ Breeland sniffed at the aroma of food coming from under the covers of the plates and my stomach let out a hungry growl. ‘Is it okay for him to eat?’ I asked Luke. ‘Sure is,’ he winked and pushed the over bed table up to where we could both reach it and placed plates of bacon and scrambled eggs, toast, juice and coffee in front of us. Whoever said that hospital food lacks taste has never been to the Hermanville General Hospital. It was delicious or maybe it was merely because I was so relieved that Breeland was looking and feeling so very much better that it tasted so good.

When the doctor did his rounds later in the morning he was happy with the way Breeland was improving and assured us that apart from the pain and discomfit from his shoulder wound, all things being well he would release him into my care on the follow day.

With Luke’s initial help supporting him on one side and with me on the other, just in case he went dizzy, we got Breeland out of bed and he managed to have a shower resting in one of those shower chairs with our assistance. Afterwards, although he was a bit weak and tired, he assured us that he felt well enough to sit in the chair by his bedside and read the local papers.

The reports in the media gave no specific details of who had been killed in what they were terming a drug syndicate bust – the police were keeping specific details regarding the cartel to themselves for the time being, but they did make a hero out of Breeland, taking down a drug kingpin. We were still going through the articles when Bobby and Barney and some of the other guys showed up bringing with them someone very special who was over the moon to see us both.

Bobby had cleared it with the hospital and accompanied by the pitter-patter of paws on the linoleum Tyrion rushed in and straight over to Breeland, gently sniffing the shoulder sling on his right arm before sitting down and high fiving him with his left paw, his tail wagging furiously. I don’t know who was happier to see the other, Breeland or Tyrion but I was sure grateful to Bobby for thinking of it.

The guys stayed for a while until Nurse Helen, who had come back on duty, decided that Breeland needed some rest and ordered them to leave. Bobby had offered to give me a lift back home with Tyrion so I could get changed and pick up my car as I would need it to take Breeland home the next day, and seeing that I too thought that he could do with some uninterrupted sleep I agreed, promising him that I would come back later in the afternoon.

As we were leaving Breeland called Bobby back into the room and spoke to him. I didn’t hear what he said as he lowered his voice so I assumed it was police business but I half suspected that it may have had something to do with Edie as I caught Bobby assuring him it would be taken care of.

It did worry me that he would have Edie on his conscious for the rest of his life, yet another sad event amongst many he’d experienced but I hoped that it wouldn’t weigh him down.

On the way back home Bobby actually bought the topic up with me. He was such an astute judge of character that he must have known I would be fretting and he reassured me that Breeland would take it in his stride.

‘In our line of work George we come can come across the best and the worst in human nature. We see things that are enough to make you want to give up any kind of belief in mankind but then sometimes, not often but more often than you would think really, sometimes something happens and your faith is restored and you carry on. From what I know of her, Edie made some bad choices but in the end she made the right one. Breeland knows that and is at peace with it if that puts your mind at ease.’

‘Thanks Bobby, I really needed to hear that and I really need to believe it.’ ‘Trust me, believe it,’ he reassured me, ‘he has the rest of his life to look forward to and I am guessing that he can’t wait.’

Neither could I, I thought to myself and I couldn’t wait to share it with him if he wanted me to.

Chapter Text

Breeland was released from hospital the next day. The staff had warned us there was a media contingent waiting outside to interview him. He was quite a celebrity it seemed but not wanting to draw attention we managed to slip out the back way.

‘Would you mind stopping off at the sheriff’s office before we go home?’ he asked, ‘there’s something I have to pick up if it’s okay with you.’ ‘Sure anything you want,’ I assured him. I was so happy that he was coming home with me it wouldn’t have mattered what he’d asked I would have done it.

When we got there we went in and Roy Wilson, the Hermanville sheriff, greeted us. ‘I’ll just get him, he’s in the lock up for safe keeping,’ he said.

I had no idea what was going on and the look on my face must have been one of total shock not knowing what to expect but Breeland smiled at me. ‘Do you trust me?’ he asked. ‘You know that I do, I will trust you implicitly for the rest of my life.’ ‘Well then, trust me right now.’

I heard a bit of a racket then watched as Roy came down the corridor with what looked like a schnauzer crossed with a German shepherd and a few other breeds thrown in there to boot. Its coat was in a hell of a mess and it obviously hadn’t been groomed for a while but all in all he wasn’t a bad looking dog. He wore a collar with his name in studs around his neck.

Warlow it said.

I looked at Breeland and he looked at me, his eyes questioning me as if to say did I mind? ‘It’s Edie’s dog isn’t it, the one that had attacked Snookie?’ He nodded.
I bent down and was about to pat it when Roy gave me a quick warning. ‘This dog is mad; I wouldn’t get too close if I were you.’

I held out my hand and he sniffed it then gave a timid wag of its tail. Breeland did the same with his good hand and Warlow licked it.

‘Well if that don’t beat everything,’ Roy commented, ‘none of the guys here could even get close enough to take the lead off him when we got word from Bobby to bring him in from the pound. They picked him up over at the place we found Vanderstrom had been hiding out in. You two must be dog whisperers.’

We smiled at each other, thanked Roy for looking after him and had no problems getting him in the car and driving home.

The first thing I did when we got in after I had gotten Breeland settled and sitting comfortably with plenty of cushions propping up his shoulder, was to give Warlow a bath as he stank to high heaven. Breeland sat out in the sun on my patio fussing over Tyrion who it seemed had decided immediately to take Warlow under his paw, and in no time I had him looking like a new dog. A thorough bushing of his fur and a bit of a trim and he was hard to recognise as the same dog.

‘It’s so good go be home,’ Breeland said that night when we were lying in bed together, ‘I missed you so much.’ ‘I missed you so much too,’ I replied, tears beginning to sting my eyes at the thought of how very close I had come to losing him in more ways than one. ‘Can you ever forgive me?’ he asked. ‘Oh my god,’ I turned and looked at him, ‘after what you have been through, what could have happened to you, do you think that I …’ I couldn’t articulate all the emotions that were spinning around in my head.

‘Look honey, yes I was gutted,’ I said truthfully. ‘When I thought that you had brushed me off and cheated on me I didn’t know how I could get over it but when Bobby said that you had been shot I realised something. It didn’t matter to me that I had thought that we had broken up and weren’t together anymore, all that mattered to me was that you were hurt and nearly killed. When the doctor said that you were going to be all right it wouldn’t have mattered if we had never seen each other again, you pulling through and being alive was all that was important. And then when you told me what had happened and why …’ tears were pouring down my cheeks now, ‘I knew that if I lived to be a hundred no one would ever love me as much as you loved me. Forgive you? There is nothing to forgive. It’s me that should ask for your forgiveness. I should have known better. I should have trusted you.’

‘There’s nothing to forgive,’ he stroked away my tears and cupped my face in his hand.

‘I do love you George. I love you more than I ever thought possible. The time that we were apart was hell. I was lost without the other half of me. It was unbearable.’ ‘It was for me too. I have to admit that I didn’t think that I could get through it. I thought that I’d experienced the pain of losing a relationship but that was nothing to not being with you.’ ‘That’s exactly how I felt too. But somehow we made it and here we are together like it should be and I thank god that we are but…’ he hesitated. ‘But what?’ I asked wondering what he was going to say. ‘But you do know, it is only my shoulder that I can’t use don’t you,’ he asked with the same drop dead sex on a stick smirk that I had missed so much.
He reached for my hand and moved it down his body to prove his point.

‘I’m not made of glass you know. I won’t break,’ he urged me and he gently pulled me over on top of him with his left hand, careful not to jiggle his right shoulder too much.
‘Oh god I’ve missed you,’ he whispered into my mouth as I lent into him kissed him deeply.

‘I’ve missed you too.’

The coroner released Edie’s body after two and half weeks and Jase made arrangements for her funeral to be held as soon as possible after that. Because Breelend couldn’t drive and I didn’t fancy fifteen hours of solid driving, he pulled in a favour that a friend with a small plane owed him and along with both the dogs we flew down, landing in Shreveport and hiring a car to take us to Breeland’s homestead where we were greeted with much excitement by the kids and William and Caroline.

At the first sight of Warlow, Snookie cowered and began to shake but as soon as Tyrion greeted her and stood next to her Warlow slowly walked over to her as if not wanting to frighten her any more than she was and he lay down at her feet as though asking for forgiveness.

‘You’ve done wonders with that dog,’ William commented as we stood out in the front garden watching the three of them romping around together now that Snookie’s initial fear had subsided.

The funeral for Edie was held the next day. It was a small affair, just Breeland and I, William and Caroline and the children, and Jase with his wife Jessica and their children. Edie was buried in a plot between her Grandmother and her mother and father. Jase had asked that no one else attend and the townsfolk had respected his wishes. It was a simple ceremony but somehow that made it feel all the more peaceful after the turmoil her life had been. As we walked through the cemetery and on over to her house, the house where she and Jase and her Grandma had lived, I couldn’t help feel that she was finally at rest with those that she’d really loved and been loved by.

Caroline, Jessica and I bustled around setting some food out in the small dining room while Breeland, Jase and William sat on the porch talking and watching the kids playing in the front yard. Breeland told me later that Jase had assured him that he’d never held him responsible in any way for what had happened and I know that would have gone a long way to helping him heal, mind, body and spirit.

Jase also mentioned that as Edie’s nearest of kin he was her sole benefactor and would be putting the place up for sale as soon as probate had been granted and he’d set about bringing the house back up to scratch. He’d planned to redecorate throughout the whole house, inside and out and do some landscaping as since the death of his Grandma and Edie had been living there on her own, there hadn’t been much maintenance done for the upkeep of the place and it really was showing. Both William and Breeland offered to give him a hand, Breeland laughing saying that Jase would have to wait a while before he could offer two hands. Jase had been touched.

We only stayed there one night, it was a sad trip and neither of us wanted to prolong it, once again having the use of the special bedroom for the night that we were there. Caroline had thoughtfully lit the fire in the room as it had turned unexpectedly cold in the late afternoon and the crackling fire warmed our bodies and hearts as we sat sipping a brandy and staring into the fire.

‘I love this room,’ Breeland said quietly as he stared off into the flames. ‘I do too. It’s almost like you can feel your family here within these four walls. There’s something comforting about it.’ ‘You feel it too don’t you? You said that last time we were here too.’ He smiled, his eyes shining in the firelight. ‘Yes. I know this will sound stupid but it’s almost like I can feel all the love that has gone before us surrounding us here and not just in this room but in the house and in the gardens.’ ‘I’m so glad you feel like that, that’s how I feel too and have always felt. Don’t get me wrong, I love our seaside village but this place is special. It’s almost …’ ‘Magical,’ I offered.

‘Yes, but then everything is magic isn’t it,’ he whispered reaching out and taking my hand and kissing it.

Chapter Text

When it came time to leave the next morning we were surprised when the kids came to us looking very serious and telling us that they had a special request to ask of us. It seemed that Warlow and Snookie had become more than just friends, they had bonded. Under Tyrion’s supervision we were sure, Snookie had taken pity on Warlow and had taken him under her paw so the kids begged us to let him stay. We agreed but only under the condition that William and Caroline gave their permission, which they did, so it was just the three of us that drove back to Shreveport airport and made our way home.

Over the next six months or so Breeland underwent a rehabilitation program with physiotherapy, specially designed exercises, and Pilates to strengthen his shoulder and help with the healing of his shoulder. It was a long slow process and although the actual wound healed, I knew that he was in constant discomfort. Shoulders were a bugger to heal apparently according to what he told me his physio said.

As the weeks and months slipped by so did the seasons and before we knew it summer was coming to an end and the first anniversary of our meeting was upon us. We celebrated by going to the Seafood And Eat It and sharing a fisherman’s platter followed by red velvet cake just as we had done that first night we’d met. It was a beautiful night and both us were sloppy sentimentalists over it.

The next day we went for a walk taking the same path we had eleven months before after we’d consummated our passion for each other for the first time and I’d taken our favourite pictures. We sat on the cliff top looking out at the view and reminisced.

‘It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we met isn’t it?’ I asked him.

‘You know babes, I can’t imagine life without you now,’ he said.

‘I can’t either imagine my life without you in it either.’

‘Well in that case,’ he turned to me and dug his hand into his pocket pulling out a small weathered leather box that looked ancient and vaguely familiar. ‘Georgina, I mean it when I say that I can’t imagine life without you. I don’t want to imagine life without you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I hope that you want to spend it with me. Will you marry me?’

He handed me the box and after a bit of a struggle opening the old catch I finally managed to undo it and lift the lid to reveal a square cut large sapphire surrounded by exquisitely cut baguette diamonds. The ring matched the earrings he’d given me at Christmas and were obviously part of a set. They were his heritage and he was offering it to me.

I looked at the priceless ring and looked at him. It never ceased to amaze me how full of surprises he was. I was gob smacked by his proposal. I honestly had never dared to really dream that he would want to get married again after what he’d been through let alone to me. As much as I knew in my heart that he was the only person in the world that I ever wanted to be with, and that I knew he loved me, I just didn’t think that he would ever consider marriage again.

My heart was pounding and bursting with love for him, I think that I’d fallen in love with him from the very first minute that I saw him if that was possible but to think that he would feel remotely the same way about me had not been something that I had ever thought was an option. Pinch me I am dreaming.

‘Breeland I will marry you … if you will have me,’ I whispered, woof woof, ‘have us,’ I corrected myself as Tyrion clearly reminded me that it was a partnership; love me love my dog.

He slipped the ancient ring on my finger and held my hand, his eyes blazing into mine and kissed me.

‘I love you so very much, more than I ever thought I had it in me to love and I can’t wait for us to be married. I told you once that you need to be sure, that you need to do it for the right reasons, are you sure?’ he asked.

‘I’ve never been surer about anything in my whole life. You are my life, you and Tyrion. I never want to be without you again, I couldn’t bear it for one minute.’

‘Neither could I.’

We didn’t want to wait any longer than we needed. I told him I didn’t want to spend precious time organising a huge wedding, I just wanted to be with him, to be his wife, so we kept it simple and were married as soon as we could be.

The only thing that I did really want to splash out on for the wedding was my dress. Well after all, can you blame me? It’s not every day a girl gets married and I didn’t intend it to be more than once in my life, this was for keeps so okay, I kind of did want it to be something special, something that would knock Breeland’s socks off. You can’t blame me for that now, can you? Even though I wasn’t one of those kind of chicks that pour over wedding magazines and sit around day dreaming about big frothy dresses or looking like a Disney wanna be princesses, I did want something unique that made me feel good and no, I was determined I was not going to become a bridezilla about it either.

I found the perfect dress one day online. Well I thought it was and was hoping that Breeland thought it was too. The main thing is that I felt wonderful in it when it arrived and I tried it on. It was a vintage design and terribly elegant. The multiple panels of various designs of soft lace tiered over the sheath underlay were encrusted with tiny diamantes and seed pearls and had fluted panels below the knee so that when I walked it flowed out behind me. I kept the veil simple and in keeping with the lace patterns of the dress and wore a cunningly designed headpiece in the shape of lace leaves stitched together to form one single shaped leaf trailing down to one side of my forehead. I had decided to wear my hair up, loosely woven into a loose braid with softly curled tendrils falling randomly here and there. I had done it that way the night that Breeland and I celebrated our first anniversary of being together and I remembered how much he’d loved it. Like he really, really had loved it and couldn’t stop telling me how much or how beautiful he thought I looked. I was sold. So that was me all sorted.

Breeland was easy, we found the most delicious black dinner suit online when I did a search of tailors that made vintage suits to order so all I had to do was send his measurements and voila, it arrived without a hitch, watered silk black bow tie and crisp white dickie shirt included and he looked divine. Like something straight out of the Great Gatsby, completely delicious. And okay yes, we did have a lot of fun when I had to measure his inside leg for the measurements. In fact, I am still blushing at the thought of just how much fun we did have.

I arranged all our flowers with our favourite florist in town, the one that Breeland was practically keeping in business with the amount of flowers he’d bought me since we’d been going out. Janelle, the owner of Scents and Sensibility, couldn’t stop grinning when I went in to place my order for the wedding flowers. ‘Don’t tell me I know exactly what you want. Your bouquet will be Lilies and you need Lilies for the groom and best man’s button holes and all the bridal party,’ she laughed. ‘I’ve done enough orders for Breeland to know they are your favourite flowers. Leave it all to me,’ so I did and the flowers were spectacular, stunningly arranged, and with so much love.

On the eve of our wedding, before leaving to go home and yes - call it superstitious or even old fashioned, we did decide not to see each other on our wedding day before we were married so we did spend the night before apart, Breeland insisted on giving me a wedding gift. He told me that he wanted me to have it for our wedding day and he wanted me to wear it. Intrigued I opened the package and nearly keeled over. Nestled into the velvet folds of the worn case was a pendant matching my earrings and engagement ring. It was stunning. Beautifully crafted, the square cut sapphire gleamed in its surroundings of emerald and baguette cut diamonds, the fiery blue matched only by the depth of love in his blue eyes gazing at me as I held it to the light and caught the myriad of shimmering loveliness that shone from it.

‘Seems like I’ve waited a million years to see you wearing this, just like my momma did and all the Calvert woman have done before you.’

‘I’ll try to do you and them proud babes, I’ll try my hardest.’

Chapter Text

The day we were married above the cliffs in what we referred to as our special place, the sun shone and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We were surrounded by all those that we loved and were loved by. Jase and Jessica along with William and Caroline and all their kids were there, with Jase and William being best man and groomsman, and Charlene as my bridesmaid and Caroline was my matron of honour. Billy was our page boy and Sarah was my flower girl and we had a very special ring bearer in Tyrion. Resplendent in a bow tie around his neck and pattering along bearing our wedding rings attached to his collar, it was perfect.

The guys from the sheriff’s office formed a guard of honour and Bobby Calthorne walked me down the makeshift aisle and gave me away.

We had our reception at the Seafood And Eat It and Marcel excelled himself with a red velvet wedding cake complete with Breeland and I as the bride and groom and a very life like Tyrion atop the cake.

We had a total ball mingling with all those that we cared about and had been gracious enough to come and celebrate our happiness with us. We laughed and danced and talked with every single person there.

Breeland was a marvel as I watched him moving around the room from this person to that and when he found Billy and Sarah dressed in all their wedding finery and sitting eating cake as they watched the adults dance, I thought what a great parent he would make when I overheard their conversation.

‘Excuse me Sir and young lady,’ he’d said to the two of them, ‘I was wondering if you’d seen a couple of little kids around anywhere, their names are Billy and Sarah. I can’t seem to find them around.’ He pretended to be looking around the room for them. ‘Uncle Breeland,’ Billy said, ‘it’s us. Didn’t you know?’ ‘We’re here,’ Sarah giggled. ‘No it can’t be; why they are only little kids. This young man can’t be little Billy,’ he said to Sarah and then turned to Billy saying, ‘and this beautiful young lady can’t be little Sarah.’ The kids just loved it and I swear they grew a foot with pride and delight at his words to them. He was going to be an absolutely amazing Daddy one day I hoped.

As the evening drew on it came time for the bridal waltz. It was an old fashioned custom and one that we both knew we couldn’t get out of however I thought that I was being really clever and I had arranged a surprise for Breeland but it seemed he beat me to it for the MC and DJ Michael, who Darlene had arranged for us for the night, called for everyone’s attention. I looked around for Breeland wondering what on earth was going on when Michael called for me to come forward.

Everyone’s eyes were on me and I tried to compose myself thinking that I had absolutely no idea of what I was in for. ‘Georgina, Breeland has something that he would like to say to you but he’d like to do it in his own special way on this your special day.’ He then led me onto the small stage and sat me down as I nervously waited for god knew what.

I think you could have heard a pin drop in the silence of the room as the all those there held their breath just like I was doing until Breeland strolled over to the stage from the corner in darkness where he’d been hiding in. Carrying his old guitar in his hands he walked over to me then got down on one knee and sang “Something Good” to me.
When he finished I found myself in his arms, his tears mingling with my own in a tidal wave of emotion to the cheers of everyone there.

‘Stay right there,’ I told Breeland, ‘don’t you dare move.’ I had managed to compose myself enough by then to go and have a quick word with Michael.

‘Well wasn’t that quite something,’ Michael said to everyone and got more applause before he quietened down the room again. ‘Now Georgina has something that she would like to say to Breeland and would like you all to share. Over to you Georgina,’ he handed me the microphone.

‘Hah, it’s my turn now so you had better sit down,’ I laughed speaking to my new husband. He sat down obediently, his eyes fixed on me with probably the same look of apprehension I’d had some ten minutes before. ‘See ladies,’ I joked, ‘it didn’t take me long to train him well now did it?’ Laughter broke out throughout the room.

‘Okay,’ I cleared my throat, ‘here goes. Wish me luck everyone. Deep breath!’ I walked over to Breeland sitting there and picked up his hand and held it as I cued Michael to hit the music then I launched into the INXS song “Never Tear Us Apart”.

I managed to get through the whole song before dissolving into puddles of tears in his arms. ‘I love you,’ I told him not caring that the microphone was still on. ‘Nothing will ever tear us apart,’ he whispered back and the room erupted once again in thunderous applause.

Finally, after our surprises for each other, we got on with a little something we’d been planning and rehearsing for weeks, namely our “bridal waltz.” ‘Ready when you are Michael, if you could announce us,’ Breeland said handing back the microphone.

‘Dear friends of Georgina and Breeland, it is my total pleasure to now introduce the bride and groom and ask you to enjoy a little something they have prepared for your amusement, at the end of which they ask you to join them on the dance floor to celebrate their marriage,’ he said with a flourish as the opening bars to an upbeat remix of the old Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows” commenced playing.

I have said before that Breeland was an amazing dancer and with his encouragement we had been practising a routine for weeks. We actually ended up quite impressing ourselves with our performance, starting off with a techno routine before the change of tempo and the song dissolved into the beautiful refrain of the original piece taking each other in our arms and waltzing around the floor. God only knows what I would do without my Breeland.

After the wedding reception finally drew to a close and we said our goodbyes to everyone. As a wedding present to us both Breeland’s pilot friend Tex flew us, including Tyrion too, down to New Orleans for our honeymoon. I’d never been there and he wanted to show me the place that had been so much a part of his life.

We stayed at a rather unique house called Le Mur Rouge, named for the beautiful wall of ancient red bougainvillea growing up the outside of the building. It wasn’t really a hotel Breeland had explained to me when making the honeymoon arrangements and I had asked what we were going to do with Tyrion and he’d explained he was coming with us. He had told me about the wonderful woman who owned the house and that Tyrion would be more than welcomed. He said rather vaguely that she was a distant relative going way back, but he was rather unclear about the family connection and just smiled assuring me I would love her to pieces as much as he did.
Her name, he told me was Piper Humphries and she was a true gem of a woman.

She was an extraordinary person, he’d explained, taking in dogs and cats too that were not wanted and fostering them until she could find a home for them. She kept some that she had fallen in love with and had trained them up so well that they had accreditation to visit hospices and with ex vets. She was kindness itself and unbelievably brave having been through many trials in her personal life but she was always so willing to give of herself to others for worthy causes. He had come to know her very well, particularly over the last five years and admired her enormously, more than words could say he assured me. I couldn’t wait to meet her.

Despite the lateness of the hour when we arrived our hostess was there to greet us warmly and show us to our suite of rooms. I already knew I was going to love the place when we drove up in the hired convertible Breeland had arranged and I had my first glimpse of the outside of the house. What a house it was too. Tucked away in the old quarter it had been spared the ravages of Katrina and stood stately behind its high brick wall with its ornate ironwork gate and secluded exotic looking garden.

After leading us into a truly majestic room that she told us was our own private sitting room, she said breakfast would be served whenever we preferred and were up for it, all we had to do was pull the bell pull and she would come. She insisted we make ourselves at home, including Tyrion who she had eating out of her hand from first sight, and she showed us an enormous doggie bed near the living room fireplace just for him should he choose to use it. She then bid us good night adding there was a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us in the bedroom and some extras to tempt us should we feel like them.

The sitting room was a cacophony of riotous colours, not overtly so but in keeping with the period of the establishment. Comfortable heavily brocaded couches dripping with silken cushions sat invitingly waiting for those inclined to lounge around. A separate area with a richly French polished dining table and chairs and matching sideboard dripping with elegant, and what to my eye were very old matching Gardiner’s brimming with flowers sitting stately at each end embodied the picture of old world charm.

There were several ornately framed oil paintings of French and English nobility on the walls as well as ancient looking tapestries.

One could imagine the room had not changed all that much over the years; the ambience was so very full to brimming with a charm of by gone days.

I turned and found Breeland watching me and my reaction. ‘It’s so…’ I was quite lost for words. ‘It is isn’t it,’ he smiled then looked towards the bedroom door.

I know that it was silly of me but I suddenly felt nervous. It was hardly a case of the blushing bride syndrome but maybe I was so caught up in the day and the moment of this glorious room or the city or I don’t know what but I had a rush of excitement envelope me and I smiled shyly as I looked at him.

He walked over to where I was standing and gently took my hand in his and led me to the bedroom, opening the double doors and we stood on the threshold looking in.

Chapter Text

I don’t think that I could have dreamt up a more romantic room to spend my honey moon night in if I could have tried. We stood still and simply gaped at the beauty of it all. It was white, white and gold and it glowed in the copious amount of candles that were lit and placed all over the place.

The walls had the most beautiful white and gold wall paper with cherubs mingling amongst flowers and delicately drawn hearts all in a Victorian style of artwork.

Drapes covering the massive French doors that led out onto a balcony were closed and formed a delicate space of white and gold brocade that matched the wall paper.

A heady intoxicating perfume from vases full of Lilies greeted us, the exotic fragrance adding to the sheer romance of the room.

There was a chiffoniere over to one side angled into a corner with mirrored doors that reflected a view of the bed. A dressing table stood nearby, its mirror giving an uninterrupted view of the bed too. In fact, looking around the room you couldn’t help but notice the extraordinary amount of mirrors that all seemed to have been strategically arranged to reflect the bed as a central focal point. Even the cheval mirror in one of the corners, normally used to assist when dressing was standing angled to give a view of the bed. Let alone the huge guilt mirror on the wall behind the actual bed that had been hung on a chain in a way that it dropped forward in an angle so that when you were lying in bed you could actually see yourself in repose.

I bit my lip at the thoughts that were going through my head and noticed what I thought might be a similar way of thinking going through Breeland’s mind judging by the look on his face.

Opposite the windows was a massive marble fireplace unlike anything that I had ever seen other than in magazines of stately homes. The white marble with its patterns of pale silver running through it and its stately carved columns supporting its over mantle, gleamed in the firelight burning away in the grate.

There was a chaise lounge in a brocade to match the drapes, silken velvety cushions piled comfortably at one end and a love seat near the entrance to a bathroom.

The bed was … enormous and dripping with silken covers over the thick feathered doona and huge down filled pillows, and yet more cushions gave the impression you would sink into sheer comfort and never want to leave it.

There was a table near the window with a champagne bucket and some dishes of the most delectable looking handmade chocolates that I had ever seen. Underneath a silver cloche was a plate with smoked oysters, salmon and caviar canapés and under yet another was a dish brimming with strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, figs and whipped cream.

My eyes met Breeland’s as we walked around the room quite gob smacked then we both ventured to the door leading into the bathroom wondering what more could be in store for us from this magnificent place. I guess we should have known that it was going to be something totally wonderful, and it was for once again the room was decorated all in white, including the enormous claw footed bathtub that sat in the middle of the room. The basin was a triumph in Victorian plumbing ware as was the toilet and the tiles, oh my lord they were stunningly crafted with yet more cherubs shooting their arrows into lovers hearts.

In a corner of the room stood a cabinet with a mind boggling array of bath oils and toiletries, some of which I recognised as upmarket and very expensive brands from online browsing. Luxury, it seemed, was the word and no expense was spared.

A smaller but more elaborately carved chaise lounge resplendent in a cream plush velvet covering sat to one side of the room and the biggest mirror I have ever seen set in a guilt frame lent against one wall completed the compliment of furnishings.

We walked out of the bathroom and looked around again. I hadn’t noticed it before because of being so overwhelmed I suppose by the whole room but above the fireplace there was a portrait hung of two lovers wrapped in each other’s arms and in the throes of what was very obviously a passionate embrace. It was erotic rather than pornographic and it was absolutely totally hot, leaving nothing to the imagination what so ever.

If I had to describe the room and put a style label on it I suppose I would say it was French Provençale but that wouldn’t really be doing it justice. It was so very much more and I suspected that it was all due to the meticulous attention to detail and obvious care of our hostess. The room was erotic and yet virginal in the extreme and I can’t describe the ambience it imbued. Sumptuous, elaborate, rich and luxuriant were all fitting words but even so it still would not have conveyed the feelings I was experiencing right at that moment.

Breeland had been standing next to me looking up at the portrait above the fireplace but had now wandered over to the table with the champagne on it as I stood there lost in my thoughts. When I joined him he was holding an envelope of thickly crafted paper addressed to us – Mr and Mrs Breeland and Georgina Calvert.

It was the first time that I had seen our married names written in black and white and I was thrilled. Mrs Georgina Calvert, I was Mrs Georgina Calvert I kept pinching myself.

‘What is it?’ I asked him picking up one of the chocolates on the little silver dish that was probably worth more than my whole house by the look of it. I popped it in my mouth and was hit by a mixture of violets and of all things chilli pepper. I know that the combination may have sounded odd but the effect was not. It was delectable and I was engulfed in a wave of serotonin, the feel good chemical that is released into our brains from chocolate. I could have eaten a plateful and not blinked an eye they were so very good.

‘Oh my god you have to try one of these,’ I told Breeland and I picked one up and held it up to his mouth. He moved closer to me and he held my wrist as he bit into the chocolate, his eyes never leaving me as he did so. Then he took the other half of the chocolate, his lips wrapping around the tips of my fingers and he ran his tongue out to lick the smudge of residual chocolate, sucking delicately on them before dropping my wrist gently to my side.

I was mesmerised.

Putting the envelope down for a moment he picked up the bottle of champagne and deftly opened it and poured us each a glass.

‘To my beautiful wife,’ he toasted. ‘No, to us,’ I corrected him and raised my glass. ‘To us,’ he agreed and clinked my glass with his, ‘and to love.’ ‘Yes, to love.’

He then lifted the cloche covering the plate of canapés deliberately picking one with smoked oysters and held it out to me, his face wearing that look that he got when I knew exactly what he was thinking and I swear the hair on my head stood on end as I gazed at his expression. A hot wave of excitement spread through me and I am sure I was blushing while we helped ourselves to the morsels on offer.

‘Aren’t you going to open the envelope,’ my voice sounded a bit quivery which I can assure you was nothing to how I was actually feeling.

I stood next to him as he slipped his finger under the flap of the envelope, opened it and pulled out some sheets of paper. The first one was thick and matched the paper of the envelope as did the elaborate handwriting in its dark ink. It read:

Breeland and Georgina, on your wedding night I give to you a family treasure. May you find the words of your ancestor inspiring and may you always carry them with you for the rest of your days together.

It was signed Piper with a flourish and enclosed were several pages of delicate looking faded paper with copperplate writing elegantly written in a fine hand.

Holding the pages out with the utmost of care in his hands so that I could read them too, we both began reading.

My dearest darling,
Forgive me for sleep escapes me, too enraptured am I this humble and wretched being watching you in your slumbers, peacefully at rest from the first night of our wedded bliss and unable am I to find some respite of my eternal love for you in the nocturnal charms of dreams.

Nor do I want to miss one single moment of your being in this world. I cannot bear to think I may let pass a chance to glance upon your sleeping form in all its glorious naked repose.

You have captured me my love, my body, my heart, my soul and even now, after being spent time and time again, I am emboldened to tell you of my excitement and desire for you. I cannot say this to your beautiful sweet innocent face, it would not be proper or fitting for such a thing to be spoken of aloud, or would it my pet for I am so very ignorant of what is propriety when it comes to a man and wife; I know not.

So I have put pen to paper as I reflect on the first night of our wedding bed and the many nights here after to come – forgive my boldness, my inappropriate behaviour, I am the very devil himself in my need for you.

This night my beloved, I drink from your blossoming bud and plant my seed in thy fertile ground;

Your velvet petals envelope me with warmth and shower upon my stem thy rain of honey nectar.

My bliss complete, I am spent, a wretched soul with withering vine.

Lo, behold the look upon your face as you gaze at me enraptured, the miracle of your renewed want for me awakens me yet again,

Stirring the primeval passion held so long and painfully at bay,

Regenerating my now majestic plough, to once again plunge into your delicate folds;

We are both lost, the madness of shameless ecstasy colouring our every thought, consuming all that we know or have known.

For this, and every other night hereafter, I am…

Your lover, your love, and your soul mate.

Forever more your loving husband William Thomas Breeland Calvert

Chapter Text

From the moment we had first walked into the bedroom I had been overwhelmed by the ambience permeating the atmosphere. I was no virgin certainly but the romance of the décor coupled with the soft candle light, the champagne, chocolates, nibbles and now this, a letter from the past, written by the very man in the portrait at Breeland’s homestead so similar in looks to Breeland. A heart felt outpouring of his adoration for his beloved Caroline. His simple words to his newly married wife on his wedding night were passionate, so very private and to my eyes, absolutely erotic.

I was spell bound. It all set my heart beating erratically.

Maybe it was the champagne gone to my head, I don’t know but I had a mental picture of my Confederate William, as I liked to think of him, and his dearest beloved Caroline lying together and sharing the ultimate act of their first physical connection on their wedding night. I can’t lie; it turned me on as the image melded into Breeland and I sharing the same passion and discovery.

Okay so we had already “done it” and like rabbits too since we had first consummated our relationship but tonight… tonight was different. It was pure and chaste, innocent and as stupid as it may sound, virtuous. Unbelievable as that may sound that was how I felt.

I was filled with desire for the man, my own husband standing beside me; so much so that I felt myself trembling with virginal anticipation at what was to come.
He let his breath out as he carefully replaced the precious letter into its envelope, turning to me with a flushed face and a slightly amazed look. I noticed that his hands were trembling slightly too as he placed the envelope safely on the table.

‘That was …’ he stopped mid speech searching for the right words then shook his head as if words failed him. ‘Mesmerising,’ I whispered. He nodded. ‘He was quite a guy,’ I went on, ‘the love and passion he had, they both had by the sounds of it,’ I shook my head too, unable to finish. ‘I see so much of him in you,’ I said softly, ‘so much of his ardour, his qualities. He was some man and so are you. I love you so very much. I want you so very much,’ I heard myself whisper.

I looked up into his eyes fixed on me as I spoke.

‘I have loved you and wanted you from the first moment I saw you. Nothing will ever change that. No matter how many years go by I will always be your lover, your love and your soul mate; my beautiful darling wife.’

His delicate hand caressed my cheek before wrapping around the back of my neck and gently pulling me forward until our lips met softly in a kiss as light as the wings of a butterfly.

I trembled at the touch and a small spark of desire smouldered then burst into a wildfire of passion as he parted my mouth and our tongues met in a wild tango of craving. We broke apart panting, unsteady in the midst of the need we had for fulfilment but Breeland steadied his emotions, gaining control of the pent up need we were both feeling.

‘Slowly,’ he almost crooned to me as he took my hand and led me over to the bed and began to undress me.

When he slipped me out of the dress that I had especially bought for my “going away outfit” he sucked his breath in and closed his eyes as if under enormous pressure to stop himself from ripping off the delicate transparent lace of the bustier and matching panties and stockings I had chosen for my wedding night lingerie.

‘God help me,’ he murmured as he stood taking every inch of me in, his eyes bluer than I had ever seen them and shining with the emotions he was clearly feeling.

With shaking hands I reached out and undid the buttons of the purple silk shirt he had chosen to wear with his charcoal silk suit pants. In my excitement my hands fumbled with his belt buckle for a moment but nothing would deter me. When at last his clothes and mine were laying in a pool at our feet our eyes met.

 

I felt like a virgin and just like the song, it felt like it was the very first time.

For a moment my eyes glanced over his shoulder and I caught a glimpse of the two of us standing there in our underwear reflected in the mirror behind the bed. I turned my head slightly and found that all the multitude of mirrors in the room seemed to catch us at different angles, offering up a prism like version of the two of us. I moved closer to Breeland and wrapped my arms around him running my hands down his skin all the time watching my movements reflected in the mirrors. Breeland followed my gaze and I felt the intake of his breath as he too became entranced by the sight.

He reached behind me and undid the ribboned bow at the top of my bustier as we both watched ourselves like voyeurs peeping into a private moment between two lovers, adding a surreal element to the heightened emotions we were both feeling. I watched fascinated by the way his long and sensual fingers delicately untied the bow then slipped underneath the lacing to pull it loose and let it fall at my feet.

He reached down and lightly traced the indentations the boning had left in my skin after being on for so long. I held my breath as I watched his reflection bend down to trail ever so soft kisses along the marks. I shivered at the touch of his hot lips and the reflections of his taught muscles rippling down his back as he moved.

I ran my hands over him, feeling each contour with every movement that he made as I worked my way down until I reached the band of his underwear. Why stop here my brain urged me caught up in the moment, my senses inundated with need and yet unbelievably I felt hesitant. I wanted to prolong the moment, to hold onto this night and for it never to end. Plus, I felt shy. I know that sounds so stupid but I just did.

Here I was with the love of my life, my officer dreamboat and on our wedding night. I had married the man of my dreams and I couldn’t believe that I could be so very lucky. Stuff like that didn’t happen to me. How could I ever live up to being married to someone so totally beautiful on the inside and out? When it came down to it I just didn’t believe that I was good enough for him, attractive enough for him let alone anything else.

‘What is it?’ he asked softly, drawing me out of my musings. I looked up into his eyes searching my face. ‘I … I … I don’t think that I am good enough for you,’ I blurted out.
His face changed to one of shock and surprise.

‘You’re so beautiful and you could have anyone that you wanted,’ I stumbled on.

‘You are so wrong you little idiot,’ he laughed softly, ‘I’m not and besides, there is only one person that I want and she is standing right here with me and I am the luckiest man in the world because she happens to be my wife. Do you think that I would be in this state,’ he looked down at himself and his erection almost peeping out of the band of his jockey shorts with his need. ‘Trust me, this is all your doing and only for you my pet and no one else.’
He pulled me into him and thrust himself against me. I melted into his arms.

Unconsciously and in unison, our eyes drifted once again to our reflections as firstly I worked my hands down the back of his underwear and slipped them down over his hard buttocks, at the same time as Breeland matched my moves.

‘How can you think that you aren’t beautiful?’ he whispered into my neck as he kissed it then trailed his kisses over my cheeks until finding my mouth hungrily devouring me.
‘I love you,’ he said into my mouth, his tongue probing in rhythm to his body held tightly to me. ‘I love you Breeland,’ my voice sounded quivery in my ears, ‘I love you so very much.’

He picked me up, turned and laid me on the bed; lying down beside me and pulling me into nestle into his arms.

‘I want you Georgina; I want you so very badly.’ ‘I am yours to take my love, always.’

There are moments in your life that no matter how many years go by you know that you will remember with absolute clarity for the rest of your life. I remember every single moment of that night, our wedding night. Every flicker of every candle, every scent, and every mirrored image of our passion remain clear as crystal to me to this day.

Locked away in my mind too is the intensity of the passion with which we shared ourselves, opened ourselves to each other and gave a part of our souls to each other. A marriage certificate may only be a piece of paper but to us it was so much more. It was a commitment to each other and a testament of our unconditional love for each other, the love that we pledged to each other mind body and spirit that night.

When we woke in the morning holding each other, I felt like a newly born person lying in the arms of the man that had given me life.

I have never been a poetic or romantic person, all of which is a contradiction should anyone be reading this, but from the moment that I met Breeland my whole life was turned on its head and I became someone I would not have recognised only a few short years ago. He made me whole; he gave me back a life that I had only dreamt of.

He was my life.

Chapter Text

‘Good morning Mrs Calvert,’ Breeland grinned at me. ‘Good morning Mr Calvert. Did you sleep well?’ I grinned back at him as I stretched out my somewhat tired but totally relaxed body. It had been one hell of a night I can assure you. ‘Well actually no I didn’t,’ he grumbled. ‘Some pesky woman kept insisting on having sex with me over and over again so I barely slept a wink,’ he smirked at me. ‘Oh no, what a hardship for you, it’s a pity really.’ ‘Oh yes and why is that?’ he asked. ‘Well it means that you must be exhausted and aren’t up for another helping.’

He looked at me bemused.

‘As a matter of fact,’ he said lifting the sheet, ‘as you can see I am always up for something.’ My eyes rolled over him and down his body to find that indeed he was very up for it. ‘I am always up for something but only if it involves you wife,’ he added huskily.

‘Just as well we got married then isn’t it,’ I purred back.

He rolled me onto my back and straddled me; the love shining out of his eyes as he looked down at me took my breath away. ‘Good morning Mrs Calvert again,’ he whispered softly to me, his voice husky with emotion. ‘Good morning Mr Calvert,’ I whispered back, my own voice soft and tender with the overwhelming feelings of complete adoration I had for him.

And for the next hour or so he proved just what a very good morning it was.

When we finally came back down to earth I looked over at the mantel piece to the beautiful day clock residing there and gasped. ‘Oh my stars Breeland it’s nearly eleven, Tyrion will be busting to go out.’ He just laughed. ‘Don’t worry, Piper will have taken care of him, as you can see,’ he swept his arm around looking at the room, ‘she thinks of everything and is very diplomatic. She would have been up to let him out earlier without disturbing us,’ he assured me. ‘How about some breakfast, I don’t know about you but I am starving.’ He reached up to the side of the bed and gave the brocaded sash hang a tug. ‘Is that a real bell pull?’ I asked. ‘Uh huh, isn’t it sensational?’ ‘Don’t you think that we are being a tad bit over indulgent and totally lazy ringing for breakfast? I mean hadn’t we at least put some clothes on?’

He gave a chuckle and looked at me then looked around the room.

‘Babes we are on our honeymoon and besides, have a look at the room. It is the epitome of old world decadence not to mention dripping with erotica. I am sure that Piper would not bat an eyelid at any state that she found us in. And quite frankly, I suspect she may even be disappointed if all her efforts didn’t produce the affect she put so much trouble into achieving.’

I giggled. ‘Remind me to thank her and her cook, if she has one.’ He looked startled. ‘Her cook?’ he questioned. ‘Why yes, I want the recipe for those smoked oysters because every single one of them definitely worked.’

We were lying there laughing when there was a discreet knock on the door and Breeland shouted out to come in.

‘Good morning my darlings,’ Piper said as she wheeled in a tea trolley absolutely dripping with food. ‘I hope you slept well,’ she gave us a knowing smile, her eyes twinkling taking in the pile of discarded clothes at the foot of the bed and I imagined that judging by the glowing look on my face she presumed there had not been too much sleep going on, and she was more than pleased by it.

‘Shall I open the curtains and let some light in? Perhaps you would like to have breakfast on the balcony; it’s such a beautiful day outside. Or would you prefer to stay in bed? I could set the table for you once I have cleared it if you would prefer?’

Before we could answer we heard the patter of paws on the floor and saw Tyrion’s head peeping around the corner of the doorway.

‘It’s all right Tyrion, you may come in.’ Piper said over her shoulder as she fussed around with cups and poured us some much needed coffee.

Tyrion obediently pattered over to the bed and gave us both a big lick and an even bigger grin.

‘He’s been out and getting acquainted with my zoo and is more than happy so there’s no need for you to worry about him,’ she assured us.

We decided to settle for the extreme luxury of breakfast in bed and Piper pulled out two breakfast trays from the bottom of her little trolley then set them up with divinely embroidered lace and cut work linens. We begged her not to go to too much trouble assuring her we could manage ourselves but she insisted, telling us that it was a special time for us and she was more than pleased to make it as memorable as it deserved to be.

When she left us to ourselves I couldn’t help but remark to Breeland how right he had been about her, she was a very special lady and such a romantic.

‘How ever did you come to know her, you said she’s a distant relative?’ I asked with my mouthful of to die for creamy scrambled eggs and bacon. He took a sip of coffee before answering.

‘It was purely by chance really. After Katrina there were a lot of abandoned strays around, they were going to be put down and I couldn’t bear to hear of their plight so I did a bit of volunteering with an animal shelter whenever I could and helped to find foster carers for as many as I could. It was nothing much but it all helped. I kept it up, volunteering on and off for a few years but it was only one day I was there dropping off a stray that I’d found wandering the streets that I met her and we got talking. One thing led to another and she asked me where I was from and the minute I mentioned my home town the name just clicked and she told me of our possible kinship. Over the years, as she’s delved more into the family history she’s kept me up to date on her findings, or so I thought,’ clearly alluding to William’s letter and his lack of knowledge of its existence. ‘You had no idea about it did you?’

He shook his head. ‘No she kept that one up her sleeve. Many are the times we’ve spent enjoyable nights talking history and about animals and life in general. She was a haven for me after things fell apart and I was lost, throwing myself into my work and just existing really,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘she’s a very intelligent, caring and special person. You should talk to her, I am sure you would find her as interesting as I do. She’s full of surprises.’ ‘I’d like that, and if I didn’t know any better I would say you are smitten and I should be jealous.’ ‘Piper is most definitely one in a million Mrs Calvert but I am a married man and my loyalty is with my wife,’ he grinned.

We wallowed in bed and took our time to soak up every moment of what was left of the morning delighting in the sheer decadence of being treated to such comfort and luxury.
I sighed with contentment and pushed back my tray when I finally couldn’t eat another bite. The food had been unbelievable delicious and so tempting that I had eaten every single thing on my plate.

‘How about a soak in that beautiful bath tub before we finally get up and face the world Mrs Calvert?’ Breeland suggested. ‘Sounds like heaven to me.’ ‘Right,’ he laughed throwing off the covers and scooping me into his arms then carrying me into the bathroom and laying me on the chaise lounge while he ran the bath.

I lay there and watched him in all his glorious nakedness while he searched through the bottles of bath oils on the corner dresser then after reading one particular label he opened the stopper, sniffed and nodded to himself and walked over and poured some into the running water. The room was immediately filled with the most wonderful aroma, a heady mixture of lilies and peony roses mixed with patchouli and a hint of musk emanating from the rich foam forming in the tub.

After testing the water and deciding it was just the right temperature he picked me up again and gently lowered me in then climbed in himself handing me one of two sponges and a cake of soap in the same fragrance as the oil he’d used.

The ritual of bathing each other combined with the heady aroma and atmosphere of the setting and circumstances. No matter how many times we had done this, and would do it in the future, I can still remember how the water played off his body and the taste of his skin as I lightly kissed his scarred shoulder with the tenderest of touches.

We washed the spent passion of our wedding night off, renewing and reinvigorating our bodies and minds and preparing to go out and face the world on our first full day of married life and I was in heaven.

When we finally emerged downstairs dressed and ready to go out sightseeing Piper assured us not to worry about Tyrion as he was busy playing with her own brood of beloved fur babies and was perfectly happy. Besides, she told us matter of factually, she had explained that it was our honeymoon and mummy and daddy needed a bit of time to themselves.

She was a treasure.

With those assurances we hit the streets and my husband – I could never get enough of saying it to myself and having it said to me by him and others, my husband Breeland showed me some of the places that had been part of his previous life.

We got back late in the afternoon to a tired looking Tyrion with a big smile on his face. ‘He’s been playing with the guys,’ Piper laughed, ‘and they have been having a ball but he is looking a wee bit exhausted. He’ll sleep well tonight.’ She winked at us. ‘So why don’t you two get dressed for dinner and go out on the town and not give him a thought. He loves having some company and will be just fine. After all, I am sure that he knows that his Mama and Poppa need some alone time and he doesn’t mind one single bit.’
‘She’s a marvel,’ I remarked to Breeland as we went upstairs to get changed. ‘She is indeed, just like you are,’ he winked.

Breeland was taking me to dinner at what he told me was the finest of restaurants in the whole of New Orleans and I couldn’t wait.

True to his promise he was right. The place and the food were spectacular. The cuisine was French, creole and Cajun influences were obvious in all the dishes that we sampled and there were many of them. Breeland knew the owners from his days there and we were treated with the utmost of attention but as I sat looking around I noticed that everyone present in the place were getting just as much attention as we were. It was just that kind of place.

Because we had a late breakfast we had skipped lunch and with all the extra exercise, bedroom wise that is that we had been doing, we were both ravenous. It was just as well for apart from the copious amounts of choices in dishes that were put before us; the portion sizes were more than enough to satisfy even the greediest of connoisseurs.

‘Okay, I admit it, this Blackened Catfish with Shrimp Etoufee Pistolette would give Marcel’s a run for its money,’ I told Breeland. ‘It’s pretty good isn’t it?’ ‘That my love is the understatement of the year. Coming on top of the entrée sampler plate, I didn’t think that anything could top it but boy, this is sure good. I am stuffed full.’ ‘Not too stuffed full to have room for dessert I hope,’ he grinned, ‘they do a Red Velvet cake with quenelles of black forest mousse and topped with tempered rum chocolate and pecan nut crunch.’ My mouth dropped open and I rolled my eyes. ‘Oh my stars,’ I laughed, ‘I am going to have to go clothes shopping tomorrow cause I’m sure not going to fit into anything I bought with me after this.’

When the dessert arrived and I took a spoonful he was watching my face like a hawk. ‘OMG, it’s…’ ‘Orgasmic?’ he smiled. ‘Uh huh, mm. Stop it,’ I laughed at his banter, he would never let me forget that remark of mine and it had become a pet saying of his. ‘I’ll give you orgasmic!’ I chided him. ‘Oh but my pet,’ he purred, ‘you certainly do… constantly.’ ‘So do you, every single time.’

I throbbed deep down inside of me despite how weary I should be feeling after our love making the night before and this morning. I went red and he noticed and gave me one of his drop dead sex on a stick smirks, rather pleased with himself by the looks of things but I did notice that my reply had an effect on him too because he’d gone a little red himself.

‘Why Mrs Calvert, I do believe you are blushing.’ ‘And you Mr Calvert, are blushing too.’ ‘Well let’s put it this way, I am glad I am sitting down and the lighting is a bit dim in here or I would be in rather an embarrassing situation.’ I rolled my eyes, shivered and hurried up finishing my dessert.

Needless to say we didn’t linger for coffee that night.

Chapter Text

We spent the most glorious five days in New Orleans, Breeland showing me everything that was important to him and that he thought I would be interested in. We had a ball. Tyrion did too thanks to his new fur buddies and their mistress. Piper was extraordinarily kind to both him and to us.

On the second last day that we were there we had decided to take a nap in the afternoon, we were rather short on sleep for obvious reasons. Breeland fell asleep but I just couldn’t no matter how hard I tried so I wandered out into the garden and found Piper sitting there playing with the dogs. It was the first time that I had the chance to really thank her for her hospitality and in particular the effort she’d put into our suite for our wedding night. I was happy to get the chance to get to know her better too.

As we talked one thing led to another and I asked her about the letter she had left for us from William Calvert, how she came to have it and any other family information she could give me. She was thrilled by my interest and began to tell me some of the history she knew of.

‘Ah the letter,’ she smiled, ‘it was quite something wasn’t it. I found it in a book that was amongst some of my family treasures. I am sure that it wasn’t meant for prying eyes and that Caroline must have secreted it away thinking it was safe after all, who would think to find something as … private and err… racy as it was in a copy of Mr Dicken’s Bleak House?’

I gave a little laugh at the thought of it. The tale of Jarndyce v Jarndyce and the unhappy outcome for the family with which Mr Dickens tale revolved around could hardly be thought of as romantic in the least and rather lived up to its name, being bleak that is, so I guessed Caroline had been very astute hiding William’s letter within.

‘You have to forgive me but I still don’t quite understand how you came to have it and what your connection is,’ I said.

She seemed surprised by this. ‘Breeland didn’t tell you? I thought that he may have when you were helping with the restoration of the cemetery back home.’

My mind flew back to when he was still off work from his gunshot wound and we had used part of the time to undertake the upgrade to the cemetery just as the plans had announced on the sign I had seen that day I’d run into Edie. I suddenly gasped. ‘Humphries, your last name is Humphries.’ I remembered the name from the plot in the graveyard and how Breeland had seemed to take particular care restoring it. She smiled at me. ‘Humphries is my maiden name. I reverted back to it after I lost my husband. The Humphries and the Calverts go way back, even further back than the Civil War.’ ‘Tell me,’ I begged her, my interest peaked.

‘Well from the research I have done, it seems that there has been a relationship between the two families all the way back to the sixteen hundreds as far as I can tell, and even further back than that. I suspect that they had all come out to the new colonies together, but I haven’t been able to confirm it yet. It’s complicated with many branches of both family trees but one thing is for sure, some time after the Civil war there was a marriage between William’s daughter Sarah and one of Tolliver Humphries sons by the name of Robert, and I am descended from that union. It seems that at some point Robert had a falling out with his older brother and came here to New Orleans under the patronage of his Great Uncle Beauregard Humphries and he became his soul heir as all of Beauregard’s off spring, legitimate and errr… born on the other side of the blanket too, had not survived. Disease and war had claimed everyone one of them. It was a hard life back then even for those with money and better living circumstances,’ she sighed.

‘When Caroline eventually passed on, Robert’s wife Sarah nee Calvert being the only daughter, inherited the personal belongings of Caroline’s and amongst them were some much treasured books that I believe William had given Caroline. They shared a passion for reading and William was an avid writer before his demise during the war. So that his how I came to have his letter, I found it one day years ago in one of the books that I have in my safe keeping. Apart from the letter the actual book is a first addition, written in 1853 and very valuable in its own right. William must have indeed been a keen reader to have it in his possession. I am assuming that it held a special place in his favour and that was why Caroline treasured it all the more and consequently hid his letter to her in it.’

‘Of course Thomas, Sarah’s older brother,’ she went on, ‘inherited the house and all that went with it as was only fitting as he’d been helping to work the land since William died. He’d lost his beloved Papa at such a young age but grew up to be a fine man from what I have gathered. It was sad that he too died young and rather tragically in a hunting accident it would seem. He left a young widow to raise three fine boys though, that I am sure of and it is Thomas we have to thank for our Breeland as he is descended directly down through the lines from him and therefore from William.’

‘I have other letters William wrote to Caroline too, written from his time in the army before his death, and her letters to him in response. She kept everything of William’s and in turn so did Sarah. She adored her Mama and Papa. Perhaps if you are interested you may like to read them one day. They would make a great story if one ever had the time to put them together, theirs is a love story that deserves to be told,’ she suggested adding, ‘their passion for each other was unquenchable and quite torrid from both their accounts. You know I see a lot of William in Breeland.’ Her eyes twinkled as she said this with the hint of a smile.

‘I’d love to read them. I have to admit that even though I knew nothing of him, I quite fell in love with the portrait of William hanging in the dining room at the homestead from the moment I saw it.’ ‘There is certainly a strong resemblance to our Breeland isn’t there,’ she observed, ‘and it’s rather ironical in a way, you saying that you fell in love with him that is. It’s in the blood in more ways than one.’

I looked at her a little puzzled. Yes of course it was in the blood, Breeland is after all a descendant. I didn’t understand what she meant.

She noticed my quizzical look.

‘The moment I saw you I had to smile to myself. Have you ever seen a portrait of Caroline when she was young, about the time that she and William would have been courting or married?’ ‘No I don’t think so; actually I’ve never seen a picture of her at all when I come to think of it.’ ‘Come my dear, I will show you. William’s books and personal effects that Caroline had kept weren’t all that Sarah inherited and bought here to New Orleans.’

She got up and led me inside and upstairs to her bedroom. It was a room that I hadn’t been in of course and when I entered I was just as struck by the lavishness and the old world charm of the chamber as I was for everything else in the place. She walked over to the fireplace and stopped, staring up at a large portrait of a woman in period dress. I gaped. I think my mouth must have nearly hit the floor – seems I had been doing a lot of that lately for one reason or another. She turned to me and smiled.
‘You see it too don’t you? It could be you standing there couldn’t it.’

I was gobsmacked. Apart from the fact that the woman was dressed in the fashion of the day and her hair was done likewise, I could be looking at a painting of me. Aquamarine coloured eyes gazed down at me with an almost welcoming look, her lips curved into a secret smile, her cheeks washed with a pale blush as though she had a hidden thought of her lover’s reaction when he too would look upon her likeness and be tempted by the memories of private moments between them. I had caught that look on my own face at times when thinking of Breeland and I had glimpsed my reflection in a mirror or bouncing off a shiny surface.

I felt a deep kindred spirit with this woman, this wife, mother and lover.

But that was not all that left me speechless for there was Caroline in all her glory and to top it off she was wearing the earrings and ring that Breeland had given me. I looked down at my hand and automatically touched the ring on my finger. Caroline was wearing that ring; she’d worn it as a token of William’s love, just as I wear it now, as well as another ring that I had never seen. Around her neck was the pendant I had worn on my wedding day. Breeland’s gift to me and I noticed Caroline was also wearing a broach clasped on her almost indecently low bodice and an exquisite matching bracelet was wrapped delicately around her wrist.

Just as Breeland had told me, the jewellery had passed down through to the eldest son of William’s line and now here was I wearing it. I made a silent commitment to Caroline as I stood there looking up her sweet gentle face to always treasure it and wear it in the spirit to which she obviously did, and to treasure and nurture the love I had for the man that had bestowed it upon me.

‘The universe unfolds as it should,’ she said to me rather enigmatically, ‘it was yours and Breeland’s fate or destiny to meet.’ Piper smiled and patted my hand.

She reached up to the portrait and delicately patted it, frowning a little when she noticed the dust on her fingers. ‘I really must get around to having a bit of clean up one of these days,’ she admonished herself. I could see by the reverence in which she held the painting that she was under the spell of Caroline just as much as William and I were, and Breeland for that matter too. ‘Thank you so much for sharing.’ ‘Oh my dear George, you are a treasure not just to Breeland but to me too. Welcome to our family Mrs Calvert, you have come home to us.’

I smiled to myself. Yes, that was how I felt, I felt that I had a family I had never known but little by little as I learnt their history, I began to love them all dearly, Piper not the least.’
‘I have another surprise for you,’ Breeland smiled as we sat drinking our morning coffee and eating croissants on the bedroom balcony the morning of the fifth day in New Orleans. ‘You are just full of surprises aren’t you?’ I laughed. ‘Pack your gear we are off on a little adventure.’ I raised my eyebrows and looked at him wondering what on earth that meant and what he had in store for me this time.

After saying our goodbyes and with many thanks and hugs, we left Piper and her little zoo and headed off in the convertible Breeland had rented and that we had both totally fallen in love with. We headed roughly south east towards the coast until we came to a small place with a landing with various boats tied up.

‘Breeland, how are you? Right on time as usual,’ a rather nice looking guy in cargo pants and a tee shirt greeted him as he walked over from where he’d been sitting in the sun waiting for our arrival. ‘Clay how are you, is everything ready?’ ‘You betcha, supplies are in, boat’s fully fuelled and a stack of wood chopped so you won’t have to bother with anything except sun tan lotion,’ he chuckled at his own witticism. ‘Thanks so much mate, you’re a legend. You’ll be heading back home now?’ ‘Sure will, the fur babies sure miss me when I’m gone too long and so does Piper.’ He winked and laughed. ‘Can’t thank you enough,’ Breeland shook his hand. ‘Pleasures all mine. I kinda like getting away from the rat race and being on my own every now and then.’

Breeland carried our bags over to the boat that Clay had indicated and helped me and Tyrion climb in, not that he needed that much help as he just took a head long jump straight into the boat and landed on his big paws, steady as a rock. He even put up with being strapped securely into a flotation jacket, better to be safe than sorry, then we finally got underway even though I had no idea of where we were headed.

The sun was shining and the water was as blue as Breeland’s eyes. It was a glorious day and the smell of the sea was heaven.

‘Happy?’ he turned to me smiling and wrapped one arm around me as he steered the boat with the other. ‘Couldn’t be happier,’ I smiled back, ‘I couldn’t be happier if I tried.’

Chapter Text

‘Okay captain, would you like to fill me in on where we are going or do I have to mutiny and force it out of you.’ ‘Patience dear heart, patience, it’s not far.’ He was right. We were only on the water for about half an hour, firstly speeding down a wide calm channel between the main land and what looked like a large island then veering off to the left and following the coast line of the island with its many bays and tributaries until we turned off into a secluded shallow bay. In the middle of the bay was a smaller island and as we got closer to the tiny landing jetty jutting out into the calm aquamarine water, I read a sign saying St Guillaume Island Private Property.

He tied the boat securely to the mooring, helped me out and grabbed our bags. Tyrion made a flying leap at the dock and nearly fell in the water but just managed to scramble safely onto the wooden structure and then patiently let us take off his life vest before attaching his lead to his collar, just until he got used to his surroundings.

Breeland led the way through the lush forest that seemed to spring up from the very edge of the sandy shore, affording welcome shade from the hot sun. The path was well cared for and marked with stones carefully white washed so that at night in the darkness they would be easy to see. It seemed to meander through the undergrowth twisting and turning until finally we came to a clearing that afforded a view of a wooden beach house, old but well maintained, and the beach that it sat by looking out to the other side of the bay with the opposite shoreline in the distance and to the ocean where the ocean met the inlet into the bay. The scene was postcard perfect.

He looked at me and grinned. ‘Pretty cool huh?’ ‘Oh my stars that’s an understatement, its paradise.’ ‘Come on, let’s get unpacked then go for a swim and I’ll tell you all about the place.’ ‘Sounds like a plan.’

He unlocked the place and walking in I looked around. The beach house wasn’t big but it had everything that we needed. It was built on stilts. It had a veranda wrapping around it with comfy looking seats and a table, a barbecue, a porch swing big enough for two and down one end a double hammock. The interior was painted all in white and shades of a pale blue. Pieces of coral and driftwood decorated the shelves and were placed randomly here and there. There was a life preserver on one wall above the thick cane couch piled high with navy and white striped cushions with matching deep chairs. The room was open plan and looked straight into the serviceable kitchen.

It had two bedrooms, one a master with a huge bed and another smaller one. The bathroom was off the main hallway and was modern too, Breeland explaining that the whole place had been refitted out after Katrina had gone through. While the structure had survived the storm because of the protection from the forest surrounding it, there had been damage to the interior when part of the roof had been blown off and rain had seeped into the plaster work and wooden panelling so at the time it had been given a complete overhaul. It was lovely.

‘Come on time to hit the beach,’ he said as he started to peel off his clothes. ‘Cool, hang on while I get my bikini.’ He laughed. ‘You don’t need that.’ He’d stripped off his t shirt, shoes, socks and jeans and was pulling down his jocks as he said that and he turned to me, completely in the buff. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked him. ‘Babes there’s no one here for miles around, we have the place completely to ourselves and the shore opposite is a national park with that particular part of the coastline out of bonds to the public so …’ he spread out his arms, ‘for the next two days we can make the most of it. Come on, it will be awesome.’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Babes, trust me I am sure.’ When in Rome, to hell with it, he convinced me.

Once stripped off he took my hand and along with Tyrion we ran down to the beach. The water was sensational on our bare skin. It was warm and shallow and there were no undercurrents or rips to worry about, just gentle soothing sea caressing our bodies as we splashed around for a while before lying in the shallows with the sea lapping over our bodies. I sighed with contentment and he turned and smiled, his white teeth gleaming in his already tanning face, the blue of the water reflected in his eyes.

‘You said you were going to tell me about the island?’ ‘It belongs to the Humphries family. Piper inherited it and from what she’s told me in the past it came into their family by way of a poker game. It seems that one of her ancestors won it so now when it gets too unbearably hot they use it as a sort of get away place for her, Clay and the animals. They’ve always kept it pretty well maintained and since the refurbishment they’ve used it a bit more. There’s no electricity on the island but there’s a generator for cooking and so forth and the fireplace with plenty of wood if it gets cold. Pretty neat huh?’

‘Speaking of cooking are you hungry yet?’ I asked. His eyes skimmed over my body and he got that look. ‘Oh yes, I am plenty hungry but not for food. I could eat you with a spoon. Come here.’ ‘Are you sure there is no one around?’ ‘Well if there is then they are going to be copping an eyeful of this aren’t they?’ He looked down at himself and the state he was in. God give me strength, he looked so very … well I am sure you get the picture. ‘I don’t know about anyone else,’ I replied scanning his body and giving a shiver at the thoughts going through my head, ‘but I am sure copping an eyeful and loving every single inch that I see.’ ‘Well how about you come over here and give me some of that loving.’ And I did.

After we finally got around to having some lunch and lazing around, the three of us walked along the entire coastline. Breeland was right when he said it wasn’t a big island but it was sure a pretty one. The sand was almost a pure white and apart from the very eastern shore closest to the mouth of the inlet where it was a bit rougher, the sea calmly lapped the beach. Our walk had taken us over an hour and by the time we got back to the house we were hot so another swim was called for before it was time for dinner.

Clay had left the generator running and the fridge well and truly stocked up with supplies including lobsters and prawns so we decided to barbecue them on the veranda as we watched the sun put on a glorious display of apricot, peach and lilac colours as it sank into the west across the horizon towards New Orleans. Tyrion wasn’t forgotten either and he sat at our feet chewing on a huge marrow bone after he’d wolfed down his regular dinner.

After cleaning up we sat on the porch swing and watched the night sky with its inky darkness and thousands of brightly twinkling stars unfold. It was pitch black other than the small table lamp we left on in the lounge room so we truly were surrounded by the blackness that one can only get away from the big cities. Rendering the nightfall so much deeper and the stars so very much brighter we were like two little kids sitting in awe of the light display Mother Nature had created for us. It was a spectacular way to finish off a perfect day.

With all the exercise from the day’s excursions we slept like logs. Even Tyrion seemed too pooped to be bothered with the nightly noises of the forest to raise a woof out of him. The sun streaming in to the bedroom woke us to a brand new day of honeymoon bliss.

There is something about being away from home and in a natural environment with clean air, sun, sea and sand that whets your appetite and makes you continually hungry and we were no exceptions. We cooked up an enormous breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast and we must have drunk a gallon of coffee before we wandered down to the beach for a dip.

Breeland had packed a Frisbee he’d bought in a pet store we’d found in New Orleans and we spent well over an hour playing with Tyrion, throwing it and watching him leap into the air to catch it. By the time we were finished the three of us were spent but we’d had so much fun. ‘Time for a nap,’ Breeland laughed as we headed back to the house. ‘Oh god we are getting so lazy.’ I laughed back at him. ‘And loving it don’t you think?’

‘Hell yeh.’

Chapter Text

Instead of going inside we decided to give the double hammock a go and duly climbed into it and settled down into a comfortable zone in the shade with a view across the beach that was to die for. It seemed like I had only just fallen asleep when Breeland’s hands running up my leg woke me up. We must have slept for a while as the sun had moved across the sky and was peeping down under the lip of the veranda bathing us in its warmth. I stretched and smiled.

‘Umm, just exactly what do you think you are doing?’ ‘Well something woke me up,’ he looked down at himself, ‘and you were lying there looking so seductive that I thought that maybe something should wake you up too. Besides, it’s always been a kind of fantasy of mine to be marooned on a deserted island with a goddess and to do it in a hammock.’ I laughed. ‘Well I don’t know about the goddess bit but I sure like the sound of the hammock.’

‘I sure like your fantasies,’ I panted as we untangled ourselves from our love making, ‘you don’t happen to have any more that you have a hankering to try do you?’ He coughed. ‘Well… now that you mention it.’ I laughed. ‘Can we at least get our breath back first?’ ‘Well okay if you must.’ He laughed. ‘But I have to say I think that you are going to like what I have in mind.’ ‘I always love what you have in your inventive mind,’ I purred back. He rolled his eyes and swallowed hard. ‘Have you got your breath back yet?’ ‘Maybe … what did you have in mind or shouldn’t I ask.’

He didn’t answer me. Instead he climbed out of the hammock and helped me up and took my hand leading me down the steps of the house and around to the side where there was a small path that we hadn’t explored yet leading off into the bush. We walked through the forest for a few minutes until we came to a clearing and stopped. In front of us was a small pond. It was like a natural indentation in the sand, no more than fifteen to twenty feet across and just as long and only about four feet in depth at the most. It was almost like a naturally formed swimming pool and the water was crystal clear, kept that way by the sandy filtration of the formation.

‘Its rainwater and you are not going to believe how good it feels.’ He smiled that smile of his and I couldn’t wait to give it a try. I had taken Breeland at his word when he had said there was no one around and apart from putting on an apron when cooking because neither of us wanted to chance getting burnt, I had embraced his idea of going au natural as much as he had so there was no need to strip off, I just scuffed off my sandals and plunged straight into the water. He was right, it felt sensational.
He dove in after me and playfully dunked me. When I surfaced he was laughing his head off.

‘Oh you are so going to get it,’ I laughed as I splashed him and attempted to grab him but his strong arms held me at bay. ‘Is that a threat or a promise,’ he asked as he tried to pull me into him. ‘You are insatiable aren’t you?’ ‘Well it’s your fault, prancing around with nothing on.’ ‘Hah I like that, it was your idea and besides, what do you think it’s like for me seeing you looking …’ ‘Looking what?’ he pretended to look all innocent but his eyes held that interested hungry look. ‘Looking like a thinking woman’s idea of Viagra, you are the perfect turn on. Well, you sure push my buttons.’ ‘Oh, I think I can push more than just your button,’ he purred as he swam up to me and held me to him then floated me backwards until we were on the shallow lip of the pool and he laid me down, his hard body pressing against me gently undulating.

I defy any woman to resist, I know I sure didn’t.

I make no apologies for the amount of sex in my narrative. I have no excuses. We were on our honeymoon after all but it was more than just that. From the moment we had met we had both felt an overwhelming attraction both physically and on so many other levels. An unquenchable thirst that neither of us could control nor wanted to temper, the only way I can attempt to explain it in my own mind would be comparing it to someone who had been lost in the desert of life for years then sudden come across an oasis of love, if you get my meaning. We fulfilled and sustained each other pure and simple.

We dried off lying in the sun for a while then Breeland insisted that we had been lazy enough for one day and it was time we should think about getting some dinner. Considering it was only mid-afternoon by my reckoning I was rather surprised but was even more surprised when he took me back to the house and grabbed some fishing rods from the small store room underneath the veranda. ‘We’d better put some clothes on just in case there are any passing boats,’ he told me, ‘the best spot to fish from is the little jetty, the water is deeper there near the channel into the inlet.’

It only took an hour or so to have a great catch of trevally but it took a while to clean and fillet them. Tyrion was fascinated and sat watching us the whole time, sticking his nose in and snuffling the fishy smell then chasing the seagulls that had gathered around as we threw the guts and unwanted parts out for the scavengers of the sea to feast on. We barbecued the fish up and I made potato salad and Breeland made his wonderful coleslaw. It was all delicious and a perfect end to a perfect day, our last day on the island. Sitting arm in arm on the porch swing watching the stars and living in the moment topped it all off. We were both tired but wanted to make the most of it so we lingered on into the night watching the dusk fade to inky darkness and the stars pop out in the sky. It was heaven on a stick.

The next morning we took our time packing up and making sure that everything was clean and tidy. We went for one last swim at the beach and played Frisbee with Tyrion then reluctantly left our little piece of paradise and headed back to New Orleans, staying once again at Piper’s for our last night before beginning our journey back home. As a way of thanking both Piper and Clay we took them out to dinner and we all enjoyed it immensely. They were good folks and great company. I was sad to be leaving them and there were not enough words to thank them for their hospitality.

On the way back we stopped off at Shreveport and hired a car and headed to Breeland’s homestead for the night. William and Caroline were expecting us and the kids were ecstatic that we were paying them a visit. Snookie and Warlow were over the moon to see Tyrion too and there was much snuffling and sniffing to be had.

They threw us a barbecue and had invited Jase and Jessica and Joe and Sissy and some of Breeland’s other hometown friends over that couldn’t make it to our wedding. It was quite a night and it was great to be back in Breeland’s ancestral home. It gave us a chance to catch up with everyone, hear all the news that we hadn’t had time to catch up on at our wedding, and to check on the progress of the cemetery restoration project. I was just as passionate about it as Breeland and now more so than ever knowing so much more about the family background.

It was great catching up with Caroline too, we had become such good friends and over the dishes we had a long heart to heart conversation in which she admitted that as much as they loved and were totally devoted to living in Breeland’s ancestral home, with both their careers taking off and with the kids and all, they were finding it harder to manage the up keep of the place but they didn’t want to let Breeland down. ‘Don’t get me wrong George, we are absolutely in love with the place but with the way things are picking up for William’s writing and my artwork and photography both being in more demand, plus the kids are getting older and need help with their school homework and after school activities, I guess we feel we’ve been letting things go a little bit around here.’

I assured her not to worry and that Breeland looked on them as almost family and was totally grateful for everything that they managed to do. He loved William like a brother and looked on her as almost a sister and the kids were, after all, his god children. But the conversation did give me food for thought. Added to that I had heard Jase talking to Breeland when he’d asked about how the renovation to Edie’s place was going. Jase had shaken his head and gone on to explain that with the help of William and Caroline they had transformed it into a totally new home.

He’d laughed when he said that neither he nor Jessica had a clue about decorating and that it was Caroline that planned all the interior redesign right down to the colour schemes for each room. The place was looking sensational and would make a wonderful family home but it was all to no avail as he had not had one single offer for it. He’d even put it up for rent in the hope of luring some interest but apparently no one wanted to live in the “spooky lady’s house” he’d been told by the same real estate agent that had handled Breeland’s home when he was looking for a tenant. It set me thinking.

‘Babes, I’ve been thinking,’ I said to Breeland that night as we lay in bed in the master bedroom cocooned in the comfortable and familiar homeliness of the room. ‘Uh oh, here’s trouble,’ he laughed. ‘No hear me out okay?’ He nodded and I snuggled a little closer to him as I relayed the conversation I’d had with Caroline and the snippets of his conversation with Jase. ‘So I was thinking …’ ‘That Edie’s place would be perfect for William, Caroline and the kids? And considering they practically renovated it to their taste and it’s more than roomy enough for the four of them but not too big to manage, you were thinking that it would be perfect for them?’ I laughed. ‘Babes you can read me like a book can’t you?’ I kissed him. ‘I just hope that we are on the same page,’ he said, his hand sliding down and cupping my breast. ‘You are so bad I,’ I purred and snuggled in all that much closer to him.

‘I’ll call Jase in the morning before we leave,’ he said sleepily an hour later. ‘Can we afford it?’ ‘We’ll work something out,’ he assured me. ‘I love you Breeland Calvert.’ ‘I love you too Georgina Calvert.’

Chapter Text

Chapter 49
Before we left in the morning, true to his word Breeland had contacted Jase. It took a few hours of haggling to get him to accept what we thought was a reasonable offer, Breeland insisting that Jase take market value and not a penny less, even if the latter did think that Breeland was doing him a favour and getting him out of a tough spot. The only proviso that Breeland did make was to keep it quiet and not tell William and Caroline of our future plans until we had worked out what we were going to do about the homestead.

But ironically Jase came to our rescue on that score telling us about two local brothers, Andy and Terry who had just gone into the home maintenance business and would jump at the chance to keep an eye on the place and do any chores around the home that were needed for its upkeep. It was a winner of a situation all round as he assured us that their rates were very reasonable because they were just establishing themselves and Breeland’s patronage would be a huge boost to their business locally.

After his phone call to Jase, which had taken a lot longer than we both thought it would, there was one last thing that we both wanted to do before we finally headed to Shreveport and our waiting ride back home.

Hand in hand we walked through the cemetery to visit William and Caroline. The restoration of the older part was nearly finished and the place looked beautiful. So much love and care had been put into it. The whole community had joined in after all and it did you proud to see what had been achieved.

As I knelt down and touched their headstones I pulled out three small pieces of Perspex and placed one each on William, Caroline and the baby’s grave. ‘What is that?’ Breeland asked as he too knelt down and picked one up to have a closer look. Tears sprang to my eyes and my voice broke a little when I told him before leaving I had asked Charlene to take three of the lilies from my wedding bouquet and dry them then have them mounted into a casing for each one and send them to me via the homestead address. Breeland’s breath caught in his throat and his eyes misted over.

‘They will always be a part of us. Theirs is a love that endured and endures in our love,’ I told him.

He nodded and his lip quivered as he tried to speak but couldn’t find the words.

We visited Thomas and his beloved wife Portia’s graves too, their own separate plot lying adjacent to the original family plot with their tombstones now polished and carefully and lovingly restored.

On our way back to the homestead we took the long way round and without saying anything, we both walked in the direction of Edie’s grave. We were silent as I laid a bunch of flowers I’d picked at the base of her tombstone. Her grave looked well-tended and I was glad for her sake and for Breeland’s. I owed his life and my happiness to her and so did he. Although she’d had so much unhappiness in hers, I was at peace that she wasn’t forgotten but was remembered for an act of self-sacrifice that had given us both so very much.

I wasn’t religious but I did say a silent pray for Edie, hoping that she had found the peace that her sad life had never really given her before we walked home silently hand in hand.

‘There’s a package arrived for you Georgina,’ Caroline announced when we got back to the house, ‘I left it in the lounge room.’ Mystified as I hadn’t ordered anything else we went into the lounge to find a large rather flat crate marked “Fragile Handle with care” all over it. Breeland had to hunt up a screw driver from William to tackle opening it, carefully prising off the panelling so as not to damage whatever it was inside. After a considerable amount of effort he got the last of the packaging off then took off the layers of bubble wrap that were carefully cocooning the mysterious object. We both gasped as the final layer fell to the floor and the contents were revealed. It was the portrait of Caroline Calvert that Piper had shown me.

There was a letter enclosed and we immediately recognised her elaborate handwriting on the envelope.

My dearest Breeland and Georgina, it read, they say there is no such thing as coincidence so I feel that fate has intervened when I tell you that quite by chance I happened to be giving Caroline’s portrait a well-deserved dusting after you left us. As far as I am aware it is years since it’s been taken down, the last time being when I had the room redecorated when I was married, so it was some time ago.

Upon taking it down I noticed the corner of an envelope sticking out of the backing where it had warped a little with age and found this. Once you have read it I am sure that you will agree, who are we to stand in the way of such ardent and heartfelt sentiments, so it is only fitting that just as the two of you are joined together as one heart, so must William and Caroline be whole again. I do hope you both agree.

With all my love and blessings, your most ardent supporter, P.

Breeland opened the faded envelope and we sat down on the comfy old couch next to each other and began to read the now familiar handwriting that I had immediately recognised to be William Calvert’s.

Most beloved,
I know with what a heavy heart you are burdened with at my parting from you, so forgive me my ego when you gaze upon the likeness I have had commissioned for you and laugh at my rashness joining a cause that neither one of us believes in nor endorses, for after all peace in our own little world is what we truly crave. When you behold me in all my Confederate splendour think of me not as you see me gazing before you in this poor likeness but as you would when I hold you in my arms, caressing your velvet skin setting me aflame with a passion unquenchable.

Think too my love of those quiet moments upon the porch at days end when daily toil is done, children safely abed, and I read to you from our beloved Mr Dickens or the sonnets of Mr Shakespeare that do little justice to the love I have, and will always have for you in my heart. Know too that wherever I am you, and only you, know my very soul. You have touched me and awoken a passion that no other mortal in this world has ever come close to unleashing.

Think of the times we have stood together holding each other’s hands silently saying prays of thanks to the almighty God for blessing us as we watched our beloved Thomas and Sarah saying their nightly prayers. Thankful for the bounty that the Lord has showered upon us with his merciful love and abundance of the gift of a most beloved family, for the roof over our heads, the strength of limb to toil in the precious life giving soil and precious dear heart wife, for the most bountiful gift of all, the blessing of us finding each other.

Do not fear my love, if God wills it and we are to be torn asunder and I am never to return to your loving bosom, I will go to my rest in peace knowing that you may look upon my likeness, just as I have gazed upon the beauty of your wedding gift to me – your portrait so lovingly painted, capturing the beauty that leaves me speechless and so very undeserving of one so exquisite, I the most humble and undeserving of all men, and smile then with the memories we have created.

Consider me the luckiest of all men to have found you. To have loved you and been loved by you. To know that part of me will live on in your heart and in our blessed children as they grow and thrive under your loving tutelage. To know you will not face this world alone but with part of me living on, is but a small comfort to me.

Look upon me with love in your heart and fear not for our parting; for I know that we will never be separated by location or circumstances. For we shall hang together side by side in our loving home and nothing will tear us apart. We will love for all eternity you and I, know that my most precious of dear hearts, and we will be together reunited until the stars fade and life as we know it no longer holds forth.

I go now not saying farewell, no goodbyes or sad adieus, for this is not a parting but merely a blink in time that will pass until we can be together again just as the Lord fashioned when he blessed us with our meeting, and we can once again be whole and one loving heart again.

Remember always you are every breath that I take, your nurturing embrace food for my soul, our love my every heart beat.

Goodnight my love, my precious heart, my wife, my lover and my life.

Yours in eternity, your loving William

I was sobbing by the time we finished reading William’s letter.

I turned my tear stained face to Breeland and found that he too had tears pouring down his face.

Chapter Text

We had intended on leaving before lunch time but what with one thing and another; Jase’s phone call, lingering in the cemetery and Piper’s surprise, it was well into the afternoon before Breeland had finally hung the two portraits side by side were they belonged and we stood looking at them. Caught up in their presence as we always were, we stood there holding hands mesmerised at what could be said to be a reflection of the two of us captured in some far off time and the love that we shared for both William and Caroline Calvert, and with each other.

‘Why don’t you stay the night,’ our modern day Caroline asked breaking into our revelry, ‘the kids would love it and it would give us a chance to spend some more time with you both. Besides, there are enough left over salads and what not from yesterday to feed an army and I already have chicken steaks marinating with more than enough for everyone. You could change your flight time with your friend couldn’t you?’ she asked hopefully.

We were both tired and emotional and it didn’t take much of an argument to agree, so we stayed on for the night and were even persuaded by the kids to have another sing along, Breeland sitting at the piano playing songs the children requested. After they had gone to bed he sat strumming on a guitar that William had bought and begun to learn to play after being inspired by Breeland’s playing when we’d been there before.

My husband had quite an impressive repertoire belting out rock songs, some old blues songs and even some traditional Stephen Foster songs giving them a country twang. He never ceased to amaze me with his musical tastes. As the night drew on he became more sentimental and dare I say romantic in his playing, strumming out some of what we considered to be our songs. When William and Caroline both yawned, stretched and declared they were tired and were going to bed, we both sat on with Breeland quietly singing a rendition of Hallelujah to me before turning and finishing off with God Only Knows.

‘God only knows what I’d do without you,’ he said as he laid the guitar down and hugged me to him.

It had turned out to be a great night after a long and emotional day and we were both glad we’d agreed to stay on.

We went upstairs to our room and made love with a tenderness that nearly broke my heart. He was everything to me, was my Breeland. Just as William had written to Caroline so very long ago I shared his sentiments. Breeland was every breath I breathed, the food for my soul and his love every beat of my heart.

Just before we climbed into the car to leave the next day, William and Caroline came forward with a large beautifully wrapped present and insisted that we didn’t open it until we got home. Making us promise them to let us know what we thought of it when we had the time. With many thanks and much hugging and kissing, and woofing and snuffling from the four legged critters, we got into the car and drove the short distance to the Shreveport airport, loaded up our luggage and the present, and the three of us were finally on our way back to our own little village.

Breeland carried me over the threshold when we arrived home and after unpacking we decided to go out for dinner at the Seafood and Eat It. We were welcomed back by everyone and there were plenty of honeymoon jokes flying around, most of them very blue in nature. Marcel excelled himself as usual with his cooking and Darlene filled us in on how much everyone had enjoyed our wedding. By the time we left it was late and although tired, we lit the fire and then finally got around to opening the present that William and Caroline had given us.

The moment the wrapping paper was off the package we both realised why Caroline had suggested we stay on for an extra night. Very sneakily it had given her enough time to take a shot of the portraits of William and Caroline hanging together on the wall and add her own special magic to it before printing it out on canvas and mounting it. It was stunningly beautiful.

We hung it side by side over the fireplace next to the artwork she’d created of our favourite picture of us. The resemblance between the four of us was uncanny and not lost on either one of us. It was like a mirrored reflection of us seeping through the ages to be born again in modern times. Maybe I was being fanciful but I felt the love they had for each other intertwined with the love that Breeland and I had for each other. It was something greater, deeper and more profound than I had ever imagined love, real true love, to be. I couldn’t put it into words, all I knew was that for as long as Breeland and I lived, so too would William and Caroline.

The week after we returned from our honeymoon Halloween was upon us and Bobby’s party was another chance to catch up with all our friends. This year we went as Gomez and Morticia Addams from the Addams Family. I donned a long black wig and with the skin tight long black dress and Goth make up, I was more than pleased with the affect. Breeland however was less than impressed when after the party, being the sentimentalist that he is, we drove up to lover’s lane just as we had done the year before and he complained that even though the dress was disgustingly clingy and showed off my figure to perfection, it made it extra hard for him to pull it up and ravish me. But he did manage and much to our pleasure, exceedingly well. Where there’s a will there’s a way I told him rather breathlessly!

Just as it had been the year before, the next few weeks and months flew by in a whirlwind of preparation for firstly Thanksgiving and then Christmas. We held a Thanksgiving dinner and invited Bobby and Rosemary along with Charlene and Chuck, both Breeland and I getting rather emotional when thanking them all for their love and support over the past year.

Before we knew it, it was Christmas again and there we were sitting in front of the fireplace on Christmas morning unwrapping gifts and basking in the love we had for each other. I had told Breeland during the lead up to Christmas that this year I didn’t want anything, as long as we were together with Tyrion that was all that would make me happy and he had said the same thing but of course neither of us had paid any attention and had gone a little nuts with showering each other with gifts.

On Christmas Eve we had gone carolling and then come home and watched the DVD I had bought him the year before. It was a lovely night and we agreed that it was now going to be our very own Christmas tradition. Likewise were our outfits for Christmas morning, Breeland’s Santa pants and my little Santa’s helper outfit getting their annual run for the money as well as our matching comfy dressing gowns while we unwrapped our gifts keeping us warm but this year there was one particular gift that I had up my sleeve as a surprise for him that couldn’t be gift wrapped. It was something that I was excited about and was sure hoping that he would be just as excited over and would love to pieces too but I wasn’t sure so with nervous trepidation, after unwrapping everything, I climbed up onto his knee and held my breath.
‘I have something that I want to give you but it’s not something that I can wrap up,’ my heart pounded as I spoke.

‘Oh yes,’ he smirked and moved his hips seductively, ‘I am always grateful for any… gifts that you give me.’

‘Stop it,’ I laughed nervously, swallowing hard and trembling a little.

‘Heh, what’s wrong?’ his eyes searched my face.

‘I’m not sure you are going to like my present.’

‘You know that I will love anything that you give me,’ he assured me.

‘Well it’s sort of more like something that you have given me,’ I felt myself going red.

He gazed at me puzzled, not comprehending my meaning at all and I was too tongue tied to tell him so I gently took his hand and guided it to my stomach.

‘I told you those oysters of Piper’s were pretty darned amazing,’ I blushed.

It took a moment for my meaning to sink in. His eyes stared at where I had placed his hand then met mine. He looked shocked and stunned, his face a mask of incomprehension before his eyes lit up.

 

‘You’re … we’re .. we’re pregnant?’ he gasped.

I nodded my head, tears in my eyes still unsure how he was feeling about it.

‘We’re pregnant!’ he almost yelled it, ‘oh my god, we’re going to have a baby!’

He hugged me to him and smothered me in kisses.

‘You clever, clever girl. We’re pregnant,’ he shook his head trying to take it in as his grin lit up the room and relief flooded through me.

‘When, how … I mean well I know how,’ he blushed a little himself at that comment but I could see that he was totally pleased with himself now as it sunk in, ‘when are you due? How long have you known?’ He was bubbling with questions now.

‘I’ve only known a little while,’ telling him what the doctor had told me, ‘and well you can do the maths, our honeymoon night,’ I smiled at the thought. ‘I told you those oysters had worked didn’t I? In all the excitement of planning the wedding and everything I … well I kind of forget to pack my pill on the honeymoon and I’d kind of forgotten to take it for a few days before and well… my period hasn’t been all that regular anyway …’ I stumbled to a halt rather embarrassed.

He smirked and puffed out his chest a bit looking very smug and pleased with himself then his face clouded over.

‘Are you alright, how are you feeling, do you need anything, should I be getting you anything? Do you want some milk? You should be drinking milk and eating plenty and getting rest.’

He picked me up delicately and stretched me out on the couch grabbing the decorative throw rug resting on the back of the chair we had in the corner of the room and he gently covered me up then put a cushion behind my head and began to raise my feet to put a cushion under them.
I started laughing.

‘Babes I am pregnant not an invalid. You are such a honey to be concerned but I am fine.’

‘But we’re having a baby,’ he beamed at me, ‘we are having a baby,’ he whispered again as he sat on the floor next to the couch and stroked my hair gently.
‘Yes we are.’ I grinned, taking in the glow of happiness on his face.

‘Merry Christmas Officer Dreamboat,’ I whispered into his mouth as he reached over and took me in his arms and kissed me. ‘Merry Christmas my darling girl,’ he whispered back, ‘you make every day we are together like Christmas day.’

My heart melted as it had always done from the moment that I had met him and it still does, to this very day, and every day we are together.

And it always will.

Finis

Chapter Text

So we finally have come to the end of this little tale. Thank you for reading and for those who are wondering what happened to Breeland, Georgina and Tyrion in the years to come, read on.

Georgina did read all the letters written between William and Caroline Calvert which Piper held so lovingly in trust in the family archives. She spent months of her first pregnancy, at night after work, going through them all. Scanning the precious documents on to her laptop and backing up all the files so that they would never be lost - a legacy to be handed down to her future family, to hers and Breeland’s children; a heritage they could be proud of.

Over the months, the more that she read them the greater the feeling of connection she had with her William and Caroline. She shared an empathy with the great love that they had for each other but it was more than just that. She admired both of them, each of them in their own right; William for the man that he was, born of humble farming stock, doing his best to provide for his family but at the same time cultured and well read. Caroline for her stoic support of her man, her love of her children and the land that was their heritage. And also for the intimacy that they shared with one another, the bravery of bearing their true feelings to each other in a time when such thinking and feelings would have been considered scandalous and improper, even immoral. She loved that in them.

The urge to share their story formulated into a passion that became unquenchable until finally, during the first months of nightly feeds after her new beloved baby had been safely born, a story formed in her mind that would not leave her alone until she put it down on paper so to speak.

She wrote a book based on them with the help of the modern day William’s expertise as a writer and now her beta, and with Caroline’s beautiful illustrations to compliment the tale of the lives and love of two bygone lovers during a time of chivalry, upheaval and the rule of king cotton. Georgina gained an emotional satisfaction in her homage to the past let alone the total delight she had when her story went to print both in book form and online.

Within weeks of the release of the book it struck a chord with the public becoming such an immediate success that she had offers for a movie. But instead of jumping at the huge amount of money she’d been offered, she opted for a TV show deal when she was told that the part of William Calvert would be offered to her very favourite actor, a brilliant Englishman with the bluest of blue eyes and bearing an uncanny resemblance to both William and her Breeland.

The show became a huge ratings winner and the actor in question won a much deserved Emmy for his portrayal of a Southern soldier and family man. Georgina couldn’t have been more thrilled. It ran for seven seasons and won critical acclaim within the industry and with the public, spawning fan sites, merchandise and even a CD release of the unique sound track which had been so very popular – the intermingling of modern day songs with an original score had proved to be another winner for the show and for the lead actor who had sung the theme song and made it his own.

On a personal note, even more thrilling was the consultancy role she was offered and the nominations she received for the scripts she wrote for the show, the producer and director insisting on keeping the tone of the show as meticulously true to the story as possible with her help. They even convinced her to make several cameo appearances which once she had overcome her nervousness she thoroughly enjoyed.

Upon the instant success of the first book and the royalties earned by their involvement with it, William and Caroline insisted on paying Breeland and Georgina back for the purchase of Edie’s home. When Breeland and Georgina had presented the deed to the home to them they had been overwhelmed at the kindness of their friends and had only accepted their more than generous offer on the condition that they would pay them back as soon as they could so it was a happy day for them all when the debt was paid in full. They are still living there with Billy, Sarah, Snookie and Warlow, bringing life to the house and turning it into the happy family home that it had always been back through the years.

Even with her new found success Georgina never sold My Gift To You. With the money she made and continues to make from her first book, she gave the running of the store over to Charlene and opened a string of gift stores around the country starting off with one in Breeland’s home town. It was a perfect scenario as they then divided their time between their coastal home and his Louisiana village when not in Hollywood.

Breeland’s shoulder had never fully recovered from the gunshot wound he’d sustained at the hands of Frederick Vanderstrom and after a period of time he left the police force to concentrate on overseeing the management of the chain of stores enabling Georgina to spend more time writing a sequel and then a third book in what was to become a trilogy of a great Southern family. It also gave them more time to look after their precious children that they had welcomed into their lives.

At the time of their first wedding anniversary Breeland gave Georgina the broach she had seen Caroline Calvert wearing in the portrait of her at Piper’s, now hanging at the homestead, the broach belonging to the prized jewellery set of family treasure.

On the occasion of the birth of their first child, a son - William Breeland Calvert, he had presented her with the eternity ring in the portrait.

When their daughter Caroline Georgina Edie Calvert was born, he handed down the final piece of family history, the matching bracelet.

They were deliriously happy with their life, adoring each other and their children, successful in their business ventures and creatively satisfied with Georgina’s writing.

Just as his predecessor William before him, Breeland became a well-respected community leader in both his own home town and in Silverflint Cove, both Breeland and Georgina giving freely of their time and money to support worthy causes in both parishes whenever their business and creative interests allowed them time. Amongst many of the worthy causes they were involved in was one close to both their hearts, so it was with great pleasure the day they opened an animal rescue centre in Breeland’s home town and then another in Silverflint Cove and eventually one in Hermanville too. Their love of animals and dogs in particular never diminished.

Tyrion is alive and well and much to everyone’s surprise, roughly three months after their honeymoon visit to William and Caroline’s, Snookie gave birth to a litter of puppies that looked distinctly like him. When Billy and Sarah were skyping with Breeland and Georgina they showed Tyrion the puppies and Tyrion merely sat there grinning from ear to ear and wagging his tail furiously before holding up his paw at the screen to the two of them.

High five Tyrion, high five.