Chapter Twelve

The very next day Liam took me out on a trail ride while one of his best buddies watched over the children.

Daisy was sure footed and I felt safe on her back, though for some reason my nerves were strung tight just from being alone with Liam.

The sky was mostly clear, with only wispy clouds drifted through that endless expanse of blue. I let my eyes wander over the barren land, it's boring yet somehow beautiful painting of so many different shades of brown and red and olive green.

"Are you starting to like it here?" Liam's voice broke into my thoughts. He must have seen my approving look.

"I'd love it if it's weren't so bloody hot here," I laughed and he laughed with me.

"Well, I grew up here, so the heat is something I'm used to. You'll get used to it, too."

I nodded, and looked at the mountains. "You know, John once told me that I had the heart of a lioness. He said that moments before we were separated. But I don't know why he said that, because truly, I've got the heart of a mouse."

"No, I disagree. Only a woman with the heart of a lion would come out west in a country that she had never lived in before and marry a man she had never met." He gazed at me with something other than lust. Could it be love?

"I only did this for my children. John wasn't there to care for them, so it became my job to keep us from poverty." I pulled Daisy to a stop.

Liam came up beside me. "Even so. What would you have done if you and John had no children?"

"Hmmm. I don't know if I could have gotten into that lifeboat all by myself. Maybe I would have stayed with John while the ship went down. Maybe we could have died in each other's arms." I was surprised by my lack of tears, only a slight ache in my chest.

"Well, I'm certainly glad that you didn't stay on the ship," he murmured as he looked out over his ranch. A herd of cattle gazed a few miles in front of us, lowing loudly at each other. His words rang in my ears, playing over in my head. He loves me.

Later that day, I went to my drawer and pulled out John's letter to me, my letter to him, and his pocket watch. Holding those precious things against my chest, I went out the back door and into the sunlight. There were two pastures behind the house, the ground covered in sharp, course grass. One pasture was filled with cows, the other was empty. I walked along the fence, heading to the other side of the empty pasture. The air was so clean and dry. I found it refreshing, despite how hot it was. Once I reached the last post on the fence, I knelt in the prickly grass and found a sharp rock, using it to turn up the dirt along the fencepost.

I spread the letters over my lap and read them for the last time, letting the words burn into my memory. My throat became thick with tears but I wouldn't let them fall. The cattle lowed loudly and I glanced up, seeing Liam across the pasture, his thumbs hooked in his pockets, watching me.
Again I looked at the letters, and then placed them in the hole I had dug. I lifted the pocket watch to my lips and placed a soft kiss against the cool metal.

"I always love you, John. Forever," I whispered, then placed the watch on top of the letters. The paper fluttered in the slight breeze, and I let a few tears run down my face as I filled the hole with dirt again, putting John to rest. Pressing my hands over the fresh soil, I couldn't stop the sobs, and gave myself over to them. I promised myself that I would never cry for John again after this.

I jumped when two strong arms wrapped around me. Liam's scent filled my nose and I cuddled into his chest, letting him hold me as my body shook with heart wrenching sobs.

"No, stop your crying," he murmured, stroking my hair. "Don't cry, Angel. Don't cry."

My hands fisted in his shirt, my tears soaking into the fabric. In my mind, I saw John standing on the deck of the Titanic, watching me as I was lowered away from him, while he waited for his doom. A yet, his eyes had held a spark of hope, shining with love. Though he hadn't waved in reality, his waved in my mind and I waved back.

"Goodbye, my love." I imagined him calling to me. And now, he was gone. I'd laid him to rest in my heart.

Opening my eyes, I blinked away the rest of my tears and looked up at Liam. He smiled tenderly and stroked my cheek, wiping away the last of my tears. I wrapped my arms around him and placed a kiss on his neck. He sighed and pulled me closer.

"You'll be alright, darling," he whispered, his hands caressing my sides. I pulled away from him a little and gazed into his eyes.

"I'll be alright," I repeated and he nodded, his hand coming up to cup my chin. His warm breath caressed my lips as he brought his mouth close to mine.

Then, in a moment of pure insanity, I reached down between us and rubbed my hand over his groin area. He grabbed my wrist, stopping my movements.

"What are you doing?" He asked, his voice a deep rumble that started a fire in the pit of my belly.

"Why are you stopping me?" I wiggled my hand free and continued what I was doing. He grunted and shifted his hips. I smiled, feeling his body react to my touch. Once again, he grabbed my hand.

"Not out here," he murmured and lifted me off his lap and stood. I sprung to my feet. My courage drifted away from me, and I took a step back, my face turning red from something other than the hot Arizona sun. I allowed my gaze to wander over the empty green pasture. What came over me?

"No need to be ashamed," Liam said and took my hand in his, bringing it to his lips, and placed a soft kiss on the back.

I ducked my head anyway. I'd never tried to start lovemaking with John. I always left it up to him when we would make love. "I was too bold."

Liam laughed, his handsome grin making my heart skip a beat. "Sweetheart, if you want to be my wife, you'll have to learn to be bold."

"When will we..." I started but had to take a deep breath in order to continue. "When will we make love?" There was nothing I wanted more than for this to be over and done with.

"Tonight." His blue eyes seared into mine, and my heart started to pound. "Don't go into our bedroom until I tell you to, okay?"

I nodded, and he took my hand, walking together back to the house.

Charlotte and Andrew were running around the bull pen, playing chase. I hurried inside and heard Dennis crying from his crib, so I ran up the stairs and soon had him in my arms, and he quieted. I didn't nurse him, as I was weaning him. I would only nurse him at night now.

"Mama," he murmured and cuddled into my shoulder, his little arms wrapped around my neck as I carried him back down the stairs. Going to the window, I saw that the children were still playing outside, and Liam was nowhere to be seen.

Sighing, I set Dennis on the ground and he tottered over to his toys.
I played with him until I had to fix dinner, when I called Charlotte in to watch over him.

When dinner was over, Liam went upstairs, and I stayed in the family room with the children, building block towers with them and knocking them down again. Finally, we settled on the couch and I read them a story, and soon their eyelids grew droopy and I herded them upstairs. I dressed them for bed and tucked them each in with a kiss.
When I started to get up from Charlotte's bed, she grabbed my hand.

"Stay," she whispered. I smiled and laid down beside her, sharing her pillow. She rolled over and faced me, placing her hand on my cheek.

"What is it, my darling?" I whispered back, stroking her silky curls.

"Can I call Liam 'Daddy?" Her eyes were hopeful, searching my face.

"If you want to call him Daddy, you may. Though you know who your real daddy is, don't you?"

She nodded. "My Daddy died in the ocean." I could see the glint of tears in her eyes.

My heart twisted into a knot. "Yes. But you have a second Daddy now."

She smiled and nodded. "Sing to me."

I sung a few verses of "It is Well With my Soul" before she drifted off to sleep. I slipped away and closed the door softly, then tip-toed down the hall to our bedroom, knocking lightly on the door. Liam opened the door, and smiled at me. My stomach tightened in a way I hadn't felt since John and I made love our last night together.

"Welcome, my Angel," he murmured and opened the door wider. The room was aglow with at least ten candles lit throughout the room, giving off a romantic feel. The bed covers were turned back, inviting me in. Liam cleared his throat and my gaze zipped back to him.

"Are you gonna come in?" He asked with a smirk. I rolled my eyes and walked to the bed, trying to ignore my shaking legs. He shut the door and locked it, before coming toward me with a tender yet heated look in his eyes.

"You look so beautiful in the candlelight," he whispered, his hand stroking my cheek. "Your parents named you well."

My breath came in little gasps, but I tried not to panic. You're not a virgin, not a virgin! "You're looking pretty good yourself."

He grinned and pulled me against him. "I've been waiting for this."

I lowered my head, resting it on his thick chest. "I know." My hand came up and felt his stomach muscles through his shirt. John was never as firm as him.

Liam's hands moved to the buttons on my dress and my heart beat faster, thrashing against my breastbone. Slowly, he slid the garment off my shoulders, revealing my corset and drawers. So much of my skin was exposed and I wanted to cover myself up again, but I resisted the urge.

"You are the most beautiful woman who has ever lived," he murmured, stroking the curve of my waist and hips. "You're so tiny and perfect."

I was tiny. I was at least seven inches shorter than him, my body was thin, and my hips slender.

He pressed his fingertips into the side of my neck, feeling my pulse. "Your heart is pounding," he said with a grin.

Blushing, I pushed his hand away from my neck and took deep breaths to slow down my heart. Still, I didn't say anything.

His hands left my body as he removed his own shirt, allowing me to gaze upon his toned and tanned chest, covered with dark hair that I longed to run my fingers through. As his hands moved to the clasp on his jeans, my eyes moved away, focusing on one of the candles' flame.

"If I didn't know you had two children, I'd honestly believe you to be a virgin," he chuckled as he pushed his trousers and undershorts down. Swallowing, I kept my eyes on the flame, my heart beating ever faster. I pressed my hip against the side of the bed, trying to steady my trembling.

He let out a long sigh before coming close, causing me to flinch. Gently grasping my chin, he made my eyes meet his. "I need you to talk to me, Angel."

"What do you want me to say?" I whispered, my chest tightening with emotion.

"I thought you wanted this." He released my chin. "You were the one who started this."

I remembered touching his groin and blushed. "I do want this, I'm just scared and a tiny bit sad."

His hands cupped my face, his thumbs stroking my cheeks. "Why are you scared? There's no need to be."

My eyes met his, pleading. "Promise you will be gentle with me."

His lips tilted up into a smile. "Do you need gentleness?"

Right, not a virgin. "This time, yes."

"Then I promise to be gentle." His hands moved to my corset and he unlaced it, slipping it off my torso and tossed it away. His warm hands cupped my breasts, his skin rough from ranch work. He ducked his head and pressed his mouth to the swell of my breast and I gasped, my stomach tightening even more. His tongue caressed my skin and I felt disappointed that his lips wouldn't touch my nipple because I was still breastfeeding. A trickle of milk leaked out and I almost died from embarrassment. Liam noticed, and instead of pulling away, he licked the milk off my skin.

"Liam!" I cried, completely surprised.

"Hmmm. Tastes so different from cow's milk," he murmured against my skin.

"Don't do that again," I said firmly. I was glad that I was weaning Dennis. I was sick and tired of breastfeeding.

"Whatever you say." He continued to caress my breast with his mouth, before moving to the other one. I knew that breast would leak too, and prayed that he wouldn't taste my milk again.

After only moments of Liam's touch, a trickle of milk escaped, and again he licked it up. "Sorry, darling. I don't really have anything else to clean it up with."

He was right. I only had my drawers on and he was completely naked. The only thing he could have used would have been the quilt, but that would have been a bit disgusting.

With a low growl, he pressed his hands onto my shoulders, telling me to lie down on the bed. I did, trying to keep my heart from leaping from my chest. My palms were slick with sweat, my body pink from being overheated.

He hovered over me, and I kept my eyes on his face, not on the more intimate areas of his body. His hands trailed over my breasts and down my stomach, till he slipped one hand underneath my drawers.

I bit my lower lip and closed my eyes as his fingers explored me.

"God, you're so soft and warm," he groaned, slipping a finger inside me. My back arched, but I refused to make a sound. As his finger moved quickly inside me, I held my breath against the sensations. When another finger slipped inside, I had to swallow a moan, my thighs jerking from the pleasure.

When he removed his fingers, I whimpered in protest. His eyes stayed on mine as he lifted his fingers toward his mouth. My eyes widened as he licked his fingers clean.

"Mmmm. You taste so good," he murmured.

"What is it with you and putting things in your mouth?" I choked out, shocked. John had never done anything like this.

He grinned. "Honey, you ain't seen nothing yet."

"No, no. You stick with normal things tonight. If you try any more tricks, I'll get up from this bed and leave."

"Okay, okay." He held up his hands in surrender and leaned down to kiss me. I opened my mouth for him, letting his tongue enter in. His tongue stroked mine and sent fire into my belly. He groaned and gripped my hips, pulling them closer to his. I broke the kiss and gasped for air, my head starting to spin. Taking my hand, he guided it down his belly over his course hair, closer and closer to the area I was trying to avoid. My fingers trembled. Our eyes stayed locked. He released my hand, not forcing me to touch him, but I continued anyway, wrapping my fingers around him.

"Oh, Angel," he breathed, his arms starting to tremble as he held himself up. I knew what to do to bring him pleasure from my hand, and I did it, until finally, he grabbed my wrist and made me stop. I released him.

Then, he lifted my hips with one arm and used the other hand to whip off my drawers and tossed them across the room. I couldn't look away as he looked upon me for the first time.

"Beautiful," he whispered, then spread my legs and settled his hips there. His tip brushed me and again I had to bite my lip to keep from crying out.

"I can see what you're doing. Don't hold yourself back. I want you to moan for me. Let me know what you like," he told me, but I didn't respond. I hadn't even called out for John when we made love. Only sometimes would I let a moan pass my lips, but I never called his name.

Then, holding onto my hips, he thrust himself into me, letting out a loud grunt and pressed his eyes tightly closed. Holding back a groan, my back arched and I buried my fingers in his hair. I was expecting slow, easy lovemaking, but as he began to pound into me, I quickly realized that he had no intention of taking things slow.

"Liam, you promised... to be gentle." I panted, my fingertips digging in his shoulders. His thrusts were so strong that they were pushing me away from him, so he held onto my hips, keeping me against him. I had to admit that faster pace was rather enjoyable. Loud slaps filled the room, the sound of skin against skin.
He didn't respond, only buried his face in my neck, his grunts and groans filling my ears, echoing around in my head. All the pleasure drained from me, and I was left with tears sliding silently down my face. Liam didn't notice. I wondered if he intended to pull out, to keep me from getting pregnant.

He didn't. Rolling off me with a sigh, he closed his eyes and caught his breath. I scowled up at the ceiling, feeling used and unloved. My grandmother was right. Having sex wouldn't fix anything. I felt like there was an ocean between me and Liam.

He pulled me close to his side, and I rested my head on his chest, forcing my tears away.

"You didn't climax," he murmured, his fingertips stroking my side. I didn't respond, just closed my eyes and fought the deep sadness that was descending over me. Would Liam and I ever be happy together?

"Are you upset with me?" His voice broke into my depressing thoughts. I sighed, not knowing how to answer him. There was nothing I wanted more than to be return to my life in London, with my perfect house, my perfect husband, my perfect family. My perfect life.

Liam propped himself up on one elbow and gazed down at me. "What did I do wrong?"

I pressed my lips together and turned my head.

"Baby, talk to me," he said and sat up. I threw back the quilt and hopped out of bed, grabbed my robe and put it on, then rushed out of the bedroom and tiptoed down the stairs. Once on the porch, I took a deep breath to keep the tears away. I gripped the railing, gazing out over the moon washed ranch.

What was wrong with me? It was just sex; it wasn't painful. I should've just pretended to climax.

But I didn't want it to be just sex. I wanted lovemaking, I wanted romantic lovemaking. Instead I

Liam's seed was sticky on the inside of my thighs and I longed to wash it away. With a sigh, I dropped into a rocking chair and buried my face in my hands, my hair twisting around in the slight breeze. My marriage was falling apart already, and it was mostly my fault.

The front door opened with a creak and Liam stepped out on the porch beside me, wearing only his trousers. I turned my face away, my hair draping to hide my face from him. He came to my side and also placed his hands on the railing.

"I'm not sure what I did to make you angry, but for whatever it was, I'm sorry," he murmured.

"You acted like a caveman," I whispered, looking out over the mountains.

"I'm sorry. I guess I just kind of...lost my head."

I tucked my hair behind my ear and looked at him. "You tried to make it romantic with all the candles, but your actions showed otherwise."

"What? What actions?" His eyes met mine, a deep line formed between his eyebrows.

My face heated and I had to look away again. "You were rough." I was surprised when he laughed.

"Angel, that was not rough. That was...normal."

I huffed and wrapped my arms around myself. "I don't think so."

His eyes stayed on my face, and finally I looked at him. "You're used to slow and soft, aren't you?" He asked.

"Yes," I nodded and turned to face him. "But I'll get used to the way you like it. Tonight though, our first time being intimate, I just wanted something familiar. You didn't listen to my wishes."

His lips turned down, and the line between his eyes deepened. "I know, and I'm sorry." Reaching out, the back of his fingers caressed my cheek. "Will you let me try again?"

I placed my hand on his bare chest, his course hair ticking the inside of my fingers. My heart started to pick up speed. "Now?"

"If you'll have me," he whispered, his hand sliding down my neck, over my breast, and down to my waist, pulling me closer.

"I'll have you," I whispered back with a smile. "This is your last chance."

"And if I fail again?" He teased, his blue eyes sparkling.

"Then you'll never again have access into my drawers," I giggled. He grinned then kissed my forehead.

"Then I'll be sure not to fail you again." He kissed my cheek. "Now come with me." Taking my hand, he led me into the house and up the stairs to our bedroom.

"Sit," he pointed to bed. I obeyed, pulling my robe tighter around myself. He went to my dresser and picked up my hairbrush and sat behind me on the bed. Drawing the brush through my hair, his other hand massaged my back. Delightful shivers ran down my spine and my chin dropped against my chest.

"If you keep this up, you'll only put me to sleep," I murmured with a smile.

"You won't be sleeping for a while yet, I assure you," he responded and placed a kiss on my covered shoulder. Suddenly, a memory sprung into my mind and I whispered it aloud.

"Give me a kiss, and to that kiss a score;
Then to that twenty, add a hundred more;
A thousand to that hundred; so kiss on,
To make that thousand up a million;
Threefold that million, and when that is done,
Let's kiss afresh, as when we first begun."

I felt Liam's chuckle throughout my body, vibrating through me.

"John quoted that to me at our wedding. I'm not sure we reached that many kisses, but you and I can pick up where John and I left off."

"Mmmm. Sounds good to me." He tugged at my robe, slipping it down over my shoulders. My skin was milky in the moonlight, glowing in a way that made me so grateful to be a woman.
Liam stopped brushing my hair and put the brush aside, turning me around to face him. He caressed my face with both hands, gentle and loving.

"You're so beautiful."

I smiled and placed my hands on his neck, and leaned in for a kiss. His lips met mine softly, his breath a whisper against my lips. Together we fell back on the bed, our lips never parting. His hands moved over my back as his tongue stroked mine, my hands tangled in his hair.

"I love you, Liam," I whispered when his mouth left mine. I'd never said that to him before. His eyes met mine and he smiled.

"I love you, Angel," he murmured and kissed my forehead. "I'm so lucky to have you as my wife."

"I think blessed is the right word," I smiled and pulled him closer. "I'm glad I'm here with you."

His hand trailed down my leg while the other cradled me close. "You don't want to go back to London?"

"No," I answered and wrapped my legs around his hips. Again he tugged at my robe, opening it to expose my breasts and belly to him. He lowered his head and kissed my breasts.

"You and the children are all I need," I whispered as his mouth moved down my belly, a hot ache growing between my legs. I undid the clasp of his trousers and pushed them down, and reached to touch him. He gently pushed my hand away.

"No, this is about you," he whispered, and slipped his hand between my legs. Closing my eyes, I kept my lips tightly together as he touched me.

"Tell me when you're ready for me," he whispered into my neck, the husky sound of his voice sparking a fire in the pit of my belly. I nodded and kissed his neck, biting him lightly.

"I'm ready, Liam," I whispered and opened myself up to him. With one smooth movement, he joined us together with a tenderness that melted my heart as much has his slow and gentle movements seemed to melt my bones.

Afterward, I cuddled against his side, our legs still intertwined. His fingertips traced circles in my back, and I listened to the thudding of his heart, the sound bringing me comfort.

"Are you happy?" He asked, and brushed my hair away from my forehead. I smiled and kissed his chest, the hair there tickling my lips.

"Very happy." I looked up at him and stroked his stubbled cheek. "Though I'm sure I'll get used to the way you like to do things."

He ran his thumb over my lower lip, and I tasted the slight saltiness of his skin. "I'm sure you will. I've got other things I'd like to teach you about as well."

My eyebrows drew together in a frown. His blue eyes sparkled with mischief.

"What kind of things?" I asked, almost afraid of what he would answer.

He grinned. "Fun, exciting things."

I rolled my eyes and got up from the bed to pull on my nightgown, and tossed Liam his undershorts. I settled back into my pillow. "Goodnight, Liam."

He laughed and kissed me gently on the lips. "Goodnight, my Angel."

The next morning I awoke to someone knocking on our bedroom door. We both sat up and Liam called, "Come in."

The door opened and in stepped Andrew, his thumb in his mouth. "Daddy?"

"Yes, son?" Liam asked and rubbed his eyes. Andrew came over and crawled up onto the bed.

"I wanna cuddle," he said and plopped down beside his father. Liam pulled him against his chest and kissed the top of Andrew's head.

Andrew reached out and took my hand. "Mama."

Joy filled my soul and I met Liam's eyes. He called me Mama!

Liam smiled like he knew just what I was thinking.

After Andrew had fallen asleep, Liam and I got up from the bed and started to get dressed. When I pulled off my nightgown, Liam came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist.

"Let's make love again tonight," he murmured in my ear. My stomach tightened with anticipation and I leaned back into his chest.

"I wish I could have you now," I whispered, and turned around in his arms, trailing my fingertips over his chest and toned belly. He leaned in and placed a soft, but lingering kiss on my lips.

"I have to go. See you soon," he murmured then left the room. I sighed and finished dressing, then fell back onto the bed beside little Andrew, who was still sleeping.

I rubbed his back gently. "Good morning, Andrew. Time to get up, darling."

He groaned and rolled over, blinking up at me. "Can we eat breakfast now?"

I laughed. "Yes. What would you like?"

He smiled. "Fried eggs on toast."

After fixing the children's breakfast, I took them for a walk around the ranch. It was not too hot outside, and there was a beautiful clear blue sky, and a nice breeze blowing.

Charlotte and Andrew soon lost interest in our walk and ran off to ride their horses, so it was just Dennis and I. I held his hand as he toddled along beside me, pointing at birds with a big smile. Watching him giggle and find delight in every simple thing made me wish that John was around to see how much he had grown.

I looked up at the sound of hoof beats, and saw that Liam was riding my way. I smiled and waved. He waved back and brought his horse up alongside us.

"Howdy, pretty lady," he said and winked.

"Hello," I answered.

"I have a gift for you," he said as he dismounted and pulled something out of his pocket. Whatever it was sparkled in the sunlight. He stood before me and held out his hand. A gold necklace rested on his palm, my wedding ring from John hanging on the chain. I gasped and brought my eyes to Liam's.

"Why would you want me to wear this?" I asked softly, lifting Dennis onto my hip.

"Because of them," he said gently and ruffled Dennis's hair, and then turned me around so he could put my necklace on. My old wedding ring rested over my heart.

"Thank you," I whispered, tears filling my eyes as I lifted my face for a kiss.

"My pleasure," he whispered before caressing my lips with his own.

Later that evening, I sat on the couch and watched Liam sit on the floor playing with the children. My heart swelled with love for my family and I reflected on everything I had gone through and how it all seemed to make sense now. If I had not gotten on the Titanic, I would never have become Andrew's mum, for one thing.

I laughed softly as Dennis tried to join in on the fun, but was still too little to enjoy rough play. Liam still paid attention to him by tickling him and making him burst into a fit of giggles. Charlotte and Andrew joined in, and their play turned into a tickle fight. They joined up on Liam, and soon they all fell to the floor in an exhausted heap.

"Alright everybody, time for bed," I said and scooped Dennis up into my arms. He stuck his thumb in his mouth and cuddled into my shoulder. I kissed his head then headed up the stairs, Andrew and Charlotte right behind me.

While Liam helped Charlotte and Andrew brush their teeth, I changed Dennis and rocked him to sleep. I knew I was soiling him by rocking him to bed every night, but I treasured that time with him. When his breathing became deep and even, I laid him in his crib and shut the door to his room. Liam had already gotten the children in their nightclothes and I only went into their room to kiss them goodnight.

I knelt beside Charlotte's bed and took her hands in mine. "Let's say our prayers, darling."

Charlotte nodded and folded her hands and closed her eyes. "Dear Jesus, please watch over me and my brothers when we sleep and forgive us when we disobey. Amen."

I smiled and kissed her forehead. "I love you, sweet one."

She patted my cheek lovingly. "I love you too, Mummy."

I went to Andrew's bedside and saw that he was still awake. "Would you like me to sing to you, Andrew?"

He rolled around to face me and looked up at me. It hit me how much he looked like his father. "I'd like that," he said and reached for my hand.

"Alright, darling," I said and began singing 'Jesus Loves Me.' When I finished, Andrew asked,

"Who's Jesus?"

His words sent a spark of pain through me and I realized that I myself hadn't been in church for months. "Jesus is God's Son."

Andrew frowned. "Okay." He pulled his covers up around his shoulders and turned his back to me.

"Goodnight, love. See you in the morning. I love you." I kissed him on the forehead before leaving the room, shutting the door behind me quietly.

I went to the washroom and brushed my teeth and washed my face and neck before going to me and Liam's bedroom. The room was lighted only by the moonlight coming through window, and I saw that Liam was waited for me on the bed, wearing only his undershorts. My blood heated and my cheeks quickly became flushed. I remembered the honeymoon-like bliss I had felt last night in Liam's arms.

He smiled at me as I approached the bed, fingering my wedding ring necklace.

"Are you ready for a deliriously pleasurable night?" He asked and my blush deepened.

"Before we get to that, I want to speak to you about something," I said and sat on the bed beside my husband. Despite our new-found intimacy and our few months of marriage, I still felt like I hardly knew him.

"What do you want to discuss?" He asked, sounding mildly irritated. I licked my lips and looked down at my hands.

"I need to go to church. Even if you don't go, I need to go. Not just because I need to be nurtured spiritually, but because I need to be around other people." I paused and took Liam's hand in my own. "Liam, I don't have a single friend here. I need another woman's company. How am I supposed to meet other ladies if I'm always here on the ranch?"

He groaned and swiped a hand across his eyes. "Fine. You and your children can go to church. I'll drive you into town on Sundays. But don't expect Andrew and me to attend."

I still wasn't satisfied. "Can't Andrew come? It would make me ever so happy," I purred, running a finger down his bare chest.


I played with the waistband of his undershorts. "Please?"

He released another long sigh and looked at with endearing exasperation. "My God, woman. You just don't give up, do you?" With another sigh, he continued, "I suppose he can go with you if he wants to. I still won't be going."

"Thank you." I leaned closer and placed my lips on his neck, kissing gently. He groaned and pulled me into his lap, lying back on the pillows. I continued my kisses down his chest, nibbling on one of his nipples. His hands ran along my back and bum before tangling in my hair, holding my mouth against him. I trailed my mouth down his belly before working my way back up. Again Liam groaned and took my hand, placing it on his awakened member.

"See what you do to me?" He murmured in my ear before biting me lightly on my earlobe.

"Oh, I know." I slipped my hand under his shorts. "I know exactly what I do."

After a few minutes of my touch, he rolled us over with a growl so he was on top of me. He whipped off his undershorts and grinned when I openly admired him.

"My turn," he said and undoing the buttons off my dress quickly, and threw it over his shoulder. He looked relieved to see that I wasn't wearing a corset, only a chemise. He lifted my chemise over my head and pulled down my drawers, tossing the discarded clothing away. His eyes took in my naked form and I basked in his approving gaze until he moved over me and placed his hand between my legs.

"Somebody's excited," he said with a grin, making me blush. I knew what he meant, as I could feel how slick I was against his fingers.

His mouth went to my neck and he trailed open-mouthed kisses down over my collar bones and to my chest. I clutched him closer and let out a quiet moan. This urged him on, down my belly, getting closer and closer to that mound between my thighs. He spread my knees and just as he started to reach that sensitive area, I stopped him by cupping his chin in my hand and making him look at me.

"What do you think you are doing?" I raised an eyebrow.

He grinned, setting my heart aflutter. "Trust me." With that, he pulled away from my hand and placed a kiss in a most surprising place. I yelped and tried to close my legs, but his head was in the way. He grabbed my thighs, forcing me to stay put as he used his mouth on me. My back arched and I let out a breathy moan.

"Liam, you must stop!" I cried, yanking on his hair. He did not remove his hands from my thighs, neither his mouth from my womanhood. With another sweep of his tongue, I fell back against the pillows and pressed my eyes closed, my hips lifted on their own accord.

My body heated and I panted as I felt myself rising on a wave of pleasure, pushing me closer toward the verge of bliss. With a cry, I finally reached that peak, fell off the edge.
When my breath returned to normal, I saw that Liam was no longer between my legs, but was hovering over me.

"I love the faces you make when you climax," he said with a chuckle, his eyes caressing my face. "I love you so much." He kissed my sweaty cheek sweetly.

I smiled. "I can't believe you did that."

He shrugged before brushing his member against my thigh, as if to remind me that he had not yet found his release.

"Alright, tiger," I giggled and spread my knees, grabbing his bum to invite him between my thighs. He entered me quickly, then with a low growl, he rolled so I was straddling him while he lay on his back. I stilled, pressing my palms to his chest. I did not know what he wanted me to do! I had never been on top while making love when I was married to John.

"Liam, what….?" I trailed off, feeling completely embarrassed.

"Bounce," he said and placed his hands on my hips.

"Can I just go back to being on bottom?" I asked and tried to roll us back over, but Liam stopped me.

"Don't be such a baby. Here, I'll help." He slipped his hands under my bum and lifted me up while pulling me forward, then let me come back down. The whole new sensation made my head swim with delight.

"Again. Show me again."

He gladly obliged, and soon he let me go so I could do it myself. I let my cries and moans flow out freely, not caring if Liam knew how much I was enjoying myself.

When Liam reached his climax, the feel of it sent me into my own, and I collapsed on his chest.

After my breathing had slowed, I placed my lips tenderly on Liam's. He kissed me gently, his hands lovingly caressing my back and sides. I was surprised by how much I had grown to love this man in my arms.

With a contented sigh, I rolled off of him and rested against my pillow.

"Are you sure you won't come to church with me?" I asked, staring up at the ceiling. Liam laughed and intertwined his fingers with mine.

"I'll go once. If I enjoy myself, then I'll go with you again." His voice was deep and I shivered as I relived the past few minutes.

"Thanks, darling." I squeezed his hand. "It means a lot to me."

The next morning I woke up to see thick thunder clouds covering the sky. I made breakfast for the children, and told them to play inside today. When Charlotte and Andrew went upstairs to play, I stayed in the kitchen with Dennis on my lap, drinking some cinnamon tea.

The wind howled outside, and Dennis whimpered, leaning back into my chest.

"It's alright, buddy," I said soothingly, but rose from my chair and went to the window, seeing the trees and shrubs whipping around in the wind, the sky growing ever darker. I frowned and headed for the front door, worried.

I threw open the door and was hit by the warm, moist air and the smell of rain. Dennis buried his face in my neck.

"Mama," he whimpered.

I searched the ranch for a sign of Liam, but didn't see him. I turned around and shouted up the stairs,

"Andrew, Charlotte, I want you to stay inside."

"Yes, ma'am!" They called back and I stepped outside, shutting the door behind me. While I was worried, the fresh smell of oncoming rain and the rumble of thunder brought me a feeling of new life, a feeling hard to explain.

As I hurried toward one of the barns, rain started to fall lightly from the sky, and Dennis started to cry.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," I whispered and pushed open the barn doors, and was greeted with the smell of dung and fresh hay, and animal sweat. I closed the doors behind me and dropped down onto a bale of hay, wiping the wet hair out of my face.

"Liam?" I called, knowing he was probably not in the barn. When no one answered back, I guessed the barn was empty. There were only three horses in the stalls, mine, Andrew's, and Charlotte's.

"Hey Dennis, you want to pet the horses?" I asked and bounced him on my hip and went to my own horse, who stuck her head over the stall door to greet us.

Dennis giggled and patted Daisy's nose, and she nudged him back. The rain outside came down harder, and again my gut tightened. Where was Liam?

Grabbing a horse blanket from the tack room, I draped over Dennis and took off into the rain again, heading back to the house.

Once inside, I changed Dennis into dry clothes and laid him down for a nap, then changed into something dry myself, and went back downstairs to wait for Liam to appear.

The ground in front of the house began to pool with water and my concern increased. I got up from my chair and went to the window, searching again for Liam. Other cowboys rode around, shouting to one another, opening cow pens and herding out the cattle. It was then I spotted Liam on his horse, helping the other cowboys. I rushed out onto the porch into the noise of pounding rain, shouting men, and mooing cattle and, called,

"Liam! Liam!"

He looked up and trotted his horse up along the porch steps.

"What's going on?" I asked, placing my hands on my hips. Water ran off the brim of Liam's hat, and again I noticed how the ground was quickly becoming flooded.

"It's a flash flood, and we're taking the cattle to higher ground," he explained.

"Is the house safe? Do we need to move too?" I asked, fear starting to make my head light.

He shook his head, sending water droplets everywhere. "No, you'll be safe in the house. We're only moving the cattle to be safe, and because if the mud gets too deep, they might break their legs. But you must stay in the house."

I nodded and wrapped my arms around myself. "Be safe, darling."

He tipped his hat with a smile, though I could see the tension in his face. "I will. Stay in the house." With that, he turned his horse around and continued herding the cattle. I sighed and went back inside.

Andrew was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, his elbows resting on his knees, his chin resting in his hands.

"What's wrong, Andrew?" I asked, feeling a headache coming on.

He looked at me with worried eyes and sighed. "I don't know where Charlotte is."

Alarm shot through me like an electric shock. "What do you mean?"

"She went outside after you when you went out into the barn."

Oh God. "I told you two to stay inside!" I grabbed his arm and pulled him up the stairs and to the room that him and Charlotte shared, and shoved him in, and locked the door from the outside. I ran down the stairs and out the front door, and found that the water was up to the middle of my calf. The men and the cattle had already left, and I knew I was on my own. My heart pounded as I sloshed through the muddy water.

"Charlotte! Charlotte, where are you?" I cried, turning in a full circle, hardly even able to see anything through the downpour. Tears mixed with the rain that streamed down my face as I continued to search for my daughter.

"Oh God, Charlotte where are you?" I shouted and splashed forward. I passed the first barn, and the water rose to my knees. I grabbed onto the fence of a cow pen and tried to climb up, but my heavy, soaked skirts pulled me down. I held onto the fence with one arm, then unbuttoned my dress with the other, and slipped it off. The water carried it away and I was able to climb up onto the top rail of the fence.

I realized that since the water was up to my knees, it would be up to Charlotte's waist.

"Charlotte!" I screamed, my eyes darting around the flooded ranch. I saw a flash of dark hair near the empty calf pen and my heart sped up even more. My stomach twisted as I thought the worst. Was she dead? How in the world would I get to her?

"I'm coming, baby!" I called and slid back into the dirty water. It was easier to move through the swift current without my dress, and I reached Charlotte quickly. The flow of the water had pinned her against the fence, and she was unconscious. With a gasp, I lifted her into my arms and checked to see if she was breathing. She wasn't.

"No, no, no!" Energy flowed through me again and I surged toward the house until I finally reached the porch. I laid her down and saw that her face was started to turn blue. Panic made me want to faint, but I forced myself to stay calm as I leaned down and blew air into my daughter's lungs. Nothing happened.

"Come on, Charlotte." I blew again. I held my breath for what seemed like years until suddenly Charlotte coughed and dirty water spilled out of her mouth.

"Oh, thank you, Lord!" I helped her sit up as she gasped for air.

"Mummy!" She flung herself into my arms and I carried her into the house and up to her bedroom, where Andrew was still locked up.

"Is she okay?" he asked as I laid her on the bed. It was then I caught a look at myself in the mirror. In only my chemise and drawers, which were white and wet, I realized how immodest I was in front of Andrew.

"Andrew, go downstairs and play, but do not go outside," I said and he left the room and shut the door behind him. I turned back to Charlotte and stripped her out of her wet clothes and put her into a warm nightgown.

"I told you to stay inside," I scolded gently as I tucked her into bed.

"I know," she said and closed her eyes.

I kissed her forehead. "Rest, baby girl."

After slipping out of her room, I went to my own and collapsed on the bed, overwhelmed with emotion. Sobs escaped before I could stop them as the whole thing played through my mind again. There was no worse feeling then believing that your child was dead or dying.

When no more tears would come, I dropped off into sleep.

I awoke when the door to my bedroom opened and Liam walked in. The silence assured me that the storm had passed. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked sleepily at my husband. He smiled as his eyes traveled over me, and I realized that I was still on my chemise and drawers, which were still damp and see-through.

"What's going on in here?" He approached me and placed his hands on my knees.

"Not what you think. Charlotte nearly drowned," I said and got up from the bed to pull on a dress.

Liam grabbed my arm. "What happened?"

I told him everything, and he pulled me into his arms.

"I'm so sorry, darling. I should've been here to take care of you and the children," he murmured into my hair.

"No, you had to protect the cattle. I took care of it," as I moved out of his arms to dress.

"My family is more important than my cattle."

I smiled as I buttoned my dress, then took Liam's hand and led him to the children's bedroom. Charlotte was still sleeping, so I closed the door. Dennis chose that moment to begin crying, so I went to the nursery and lifted him in my arms.

"Hello, Den Den. Did you have a nice rest?" I cooed to him as I changed his nappy. He giggles and shook his favorite rattle. I looked up and saw Liam watching me from the doorway.

"You're such a good mommy," he said gently. I smiled as I helped Dennis to his feet, and he quickly toddled to Liam, who swept him up into his arms.

I smiled then looked at the clock. It was two in the afternoon.

"Are you hungry, Liam?" I asked as I started down the stairs.

"A little bit. A sandwich would be fine." He followed me down the stairs and into the kitchen.

Thanks for reading! Sorry I have been bad about updating, but since hardly anybody reads this, I'm not too motivated to post new chapters. But I know at least one person is reading this, and I hope you're still enjoying the story. Let me know what you think please! Your feedback is all I have. Thanks and enjoy your summer! xoxo - Em