Debby K's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Fan Fiction

The Grand Tour


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
The Grand Tour
by Debby K

************
Chapter 1
************

"Hold your fishin' pole still, Kates," Sully gently guided his daughter's hands as she sat on his lap. "See how Brian's doin'?"

"Bran catch fish?" the child asked.

"Not yet, Katie," her brother responded. "But sometime's we do more than just catch fish when we're out here."

"What we do?" Katie wondered.

"Brian means we talk an' enjoy the outdoors," Sully touched Katie's nose. Pointing to a butterfly, he whispered in the child's ear. "See? Look there."

"Butterfwy," Katie was delighted. "I fish good, Papa?"

"You fish terrific," he kissed her cheek.

Brian sat up, "I got one! Look Katie."

He pulled the fish in and held it before his little sister.

"Bran!" her eyes widened. "Put back now."

"But, Katie," he replied. "It's for dinner."

Katie's eyes saddened, "Papa, tell Bran to put back."

"We're gonna eat the fish for dinner," Sully explained.

"But huwt fish," the little girl did not understand.

Tears began to form in her eyes, and soon she was crying.

Sully pulled her fishing line from the water and turned her around to face him, "Don't cry, Kates."

"Home, Papa," the child's sobs continued.

"Brian," Sully began.

The boy smiled, "I'll catch what I can, Pa. You go ahead an' take her home."

Sully lifted Katie and they started back toward the homestead.

************

Michaela sat perplexed at the kitchen table, reading the letter from Colleen. Then she heard someone climbing the front steps. She raised her head to see her husband and daughter enter.

"I didn't expect you back so soon," she stood up and went to greet them.

"Didn't quite turn out like I expected," Sully removed Katie's jacket.

Michaela lifted her daughter into her arms, "Why is this little one looking so sad?"

Katie did not respond.

Sully took off his coat and gently caressed Katie's head, "'Fraid she don't like fishin'."

"Didn't you catch anything, Sweetheart?" Michaela sat down with the little girl.

Again Katie offered no response other than a glum expression.

"Brian caught one, but Katie wanted him t' throw it back," he explained to his wife. "She didn't wanna hurt the fish."

Sensing the little girl's sullen mood, Wolf came over to her. He rested his head on Michaela's lap next to Katie and began to whine.

"It appears someone wants a little girl's attention," Michaela lifted Katie's chin.

The child reached out to the animal and stroked his head. Wolf wagged his tail and nudged her to pet him further. Katie slid from her mother's lap and began to hug Wolf. Soon the sound of her giggles filled the room

"I reckon she's all right now," Sully smiled.

Michaela took Sully's hand and led him to the kitchen. She lifted the letter from the table and handed it to him.

"It's from Colleen," Michaela told him.

"Everythin' all right?" he began to read.

Michaela kept an eye on Katie as Sully completed the letter.

"She an' Andrew are havin' some problems?" he folded the note and put it in its envelope.

"What are we going to do, Sully?" she looked at him in concern.

Sully leaned over and clapped his hands for Katie.

The child ran to him and jumped into his arms, "Nothin' we can do, Michaela. Just let the two of 'em work it out."

"But Sully," her brow wrinkled.

Sully leaned over to kiss her forehead. "Nothin'," he repeated.

"Why would she write us if she wanted us to do nothing?" Michaela argued.

"Just t' let her feelin's out," Sully reasoned. "She don't want us meddlin'."

************

Brian and Matthew dominated dinner conversation, as Michaela sat in pensive silence. Katie picked at her bread and vegetables, not the fish that her brother had caught.

Finally, Michaela broached the subject with her sons, "We received a letter from Colleen today."

Sully looked up from his plate, suggesting with his glance that the topic might not be appropriate.

"Can I see it, Ma?" Brian asked.

"May I see it, Brian," she corrected him, immediately regretted the subject. Looking toward Sully, she replied, "I'll show it to you tomorrow. After dinner, I want you to get to bed. Tomorrow's a big day."

Brian looked at his plate in silence.

Sully poked his shoulder, "Tomorrow's the first day o' school. Ya lookin' forward to it?"

"I guess so," Brian still pouted.

"I made ya somethin'," Sully stood up and went to his jacket.

Brian quickly forgot his upset, "Ya did?"

Sully pulled a wrapped package from his jacket and handed it to the boy.

"Pwesent!" Katie exclaimed. "Open, Bran."

The boy quickly unwrapped it. It was a beautifully carved box with the emblem of an eagle and the initials B.C. embossed on the top.

"Pa!" Brian hugged him. "Thanks. It's great."

"You're welcome," Sully smiled. "Figured a fine writer deserved somethin' special t' keep his pens an' pencils in."

Katie clapped for his joy.

Michaela lifted her from her high chair, "Come now, little one. Time for your bath."

"I'll do the' dishes for ya, Ma," Brian offered.

"Thank you, Brian," she put her hand on his shoulder.

Matthew and Sully helped carry the dishes to the kitchen, then retreated to the living room fireplace to chat.

"Somethin' wrong with Colleen?" the older brother perceptively wondered.

Sully nodded. "She an' Andrew ain't gettin' along right now. Just newlyweds tryin' t' adjust t' things. Nothin' t' worry about."

"But Dr. Mike don't see it that way," Matthew knew his mother.

Sully smiled. "Knowin' your Ma, she'll have us on the first train t' Philadelphia."

************
Chapter 2
************

Sully stoked the bedroom fireplace logs as Michaela completed the task of brushing her hair. She had not spoken much since dinner, and he knew that she was still upset over Colleen's letter. Quietly, he went to his wife and placed his hands on her shoulders.

"Remember what it was like 'fore we got married?" he massaged her shoulders.

"Of course I do, Sully," she closed her eyes and felt the tension lessen at his touches.

"Arguin' about money?" he reminded her.

"Among other things," she smiled and leaned back against him.

"We had a whole year's engagement t' work out a lot o' things," he spoke softly. "Colleen an' Andrew didn't."

"So you think they should have waited to marry?" she turned and looked up at him.

"I ain't sayin' that," he took her hands, encouraging her to stand. "I'm sayin' that they love each other, an' they'll find a way t' work through their differences. It just takes time."

Michaela put her arms around his waist, "You seem awfully sure."

"Ain't never been two people more different than you an' me," he outlined her chin with his finger. "An' look how we turned out."

"That's different," she leaned against his chest.

"How's it different?" he hugged her.

"It just is," she had no answer.

"Different 'cause we were older?" he suggested. "'Cause we knew each other longer or 'cause..."

"Sully," she looked up at him. "I know that they love each other, but what if that's not enough?"

He smiled slightly, "Love's a powerful thing, Michaela. We know that."

"I don't know how to explain it," she was unchanging. "I just don't have a good feeling about them, and I think that Colleen might need our help."

"Michaela," he leaned over to kiss her ear.

"What?" she tried to not sound affected by the nearness of him.

"Let's worry 'bout this tomorrow?" he gently moved his hands up and down her back.

"I can't help it if I worry about the children," her body began to respond to his affectionate overtures.

"I know ya can't," he kissed her neck and chin.

"I love you, Sully," she lifted on her toes to reach his mouth.

"See?" he pulled back slightly.

"See what?" she guided him back to her.

"That's another thing ya worried about 'fore we got married," he returned to kissing her neck.

Sliding her nightgown straps lower, he began to caress her shoulders.

"What?" she reached to unbutton his buckskins.

"Ya worried 'bout this," he kissed her shoulders, and maneuvered the nightgown so that it fell to the floor.

He stepped back from her to complete the removal of his buckskins. Their physical reactions were obvious. Sully pulled her into his arms and they fell back onto the bed. With his arms engulfing her, Michaela felt warm.

Sully cupped her face in his hands, "Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life, the evening beam that smiles the clouds away and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray."

She shivered, "Byron?"

"What?" he only allowed her to call him that.

"No, was that Lord Byron?" she guessed.

"Yep," he smiled. He planted his kisses on her neck and face. Then he rolled her over onto her back. Feeling her shivers, he softly asked, "Are ya cold?"

"No, actually," she ran her hands up and down his sides. "I'm quite warm."

"But you're shakin'," he teased.

"I think you know why," she blushed.

He repositioned himself, "Does that help?"

"Sully!" she caught her breath. "That..."

"Yes?" he smiled.

"That helps," her lips met his.

Their banter concluded. The loving movement of their bodies commenced in a steady, rhythmic wave. They reached the culmination of their physical desire in a rush of uncontrollable pleasure. Sully tenderly kissed her and lightly stroked her cheek.

"You're right," she confided.

"I am?" he smiled. "'bout what?

"This," she ran her finger up and down his arm. "I did worry about... this. And whether or not I'd be able to..."

"Yes?" he encouraged her to overcome her shyness.

"To... you know. Please you," she whispered.

"I worried 'bout pleasin' you, too," he kissed the tip of her nose.

"You did?" she was surprised.

"Um-hum," he nodded. "An' I worried 'bout hurtin' ya."

"Oh, Sully," Michaela sighed, "You were so gentle." She felt a tear in her eye, "How can we be so lucky?"

"We love each other," he whispered. "The rest just comes."

"I never dreamed this aspect of marriage could be so..." she hesitated.

"Enjoyable?" he offered.

She rubbed his arm and shyly replied, "Yes... and preoccupying."

"Preoccupyin'?" Sully gazed into her eyes.

"Um-hum," she returned his intense look. "I'm afraid I think about us... like this... quite a bit." Then she returned to her concern, "Do you think Colleen and Andrew might not be getting along in... this way?"

"Hard t' say," he kissed her forehead. "Michaela, it's been almost two weeks since she mailed the letter. She didn't say exactly what their problem is. They may have even worked it out by now."

"But..." she began.

"But... you're gonna worry anyway," he teased.

"Well, I could be persuaded to sleep on it," she grinned.

"Oh?" he laughed. "What do I have t' do?"

"Another poem," she ran her fingers through his hair.

He paused to think. Then he cleared his throat, gazed intently into her eyes, and began. "To his eye, there was but one beloved face on earth, and that," he kissed her softly, "was shining on him."

She sighed, "Well done, Mr. Byron."

"Nope," he pulled her closer. "That was Mrs. Browning."

"Good night, my poet," she spooned.

"Good night, my inspiration," he closed his eyes.

************

Michaela wakened to the sound of the rooster. With the morning sun casting a shaft of light into the bedroom, she felt the warmth of her husband's body next to her and smiled. Then her thoughts turned to Colleen. She hoped that Sully was right, that their daughter would work through the problems of being of a newlywed. She heard Sully yawn. He pulled her closer.

"Mornin'" he greeted her with a kiss to the back of her neck.

She pulled his arm around her waist, "Good morning. Did you sleep well?"

"Yep," he started to sit up. "You?"

She raised up beside him, "I slept fine."

"Just fine?" he kissed her cheek and went to the basin to wash up.

She changed the subject, "I'll go check to see that Brian's up."

Michaela left the room and softly knocked on her sons' bedroom door.

"Come in," Brian called. He was ready for school.

"Already dressed?" she smiled.

Matthew looked up from his bed, "He's been up since before dawn tryin' t' decide what shirt t' wear."

"Maybe I can help. Wait right here," Michaela smiled. "I have something for your first day back to school."

She exited their room.

"Matthew, is Colleen okay?" Brian asked. "Ma didn't want me t' see her letter."

"She's fine, little brother," he replied. "You know our sister can handle anything. She's just gettin' used t' bein' married. Remember when Dr. Mike an' Sully first..." He stopped when Michaela returned.

She handed her younger son a package, "For you, Brian."

"What is it, Ma?" he queried.

"Open it and see," she grinned.

Katie's voice interrupted from her room, "Mama, Papa, up!"

Sully called, "I'll get her."

Brian completed the task of opening his gift. It was a new white shirt.

"Ma!" Brian was touched. "Thanks!"

"You're welcome," she hugged him. "Do you think that might help with your shirt dilemma?"

"Sure does," Brian kissed her cheek. Quickly, he put it on.

Sully brought Katie to the doorway, "What's all the excitement in here?"

"Pa!" Brian felt important. "Look at the new shirt Ma gave me."

"Ya look mighty handsome in that," Sully grinned. "I imagine the girls will have a hard time concentratin' on their school work."

Brian smiled, "I don't know about that. I better go do my chores now."

Matthew interrupted, "I'll help ya, little brother. Don't want ya t' get that new shirt dirty."

"Thanks, Matthew," Brian smiled.

The young man walked over to his little sister and tickled her. "Mornin', Katie."

"Bran goin' away?" her little voice was sad.

"I'm not goin' away, Katie," he touched her cheek. "Just goin' t' school. I'll be home this afternoon."

A loud pounding at their front door interrupted the family confluence.

"Wonder who's come out here at this hour?" Sully turned. "Come on, Kates. Let's go see who's at the door."

Sully descended the steps and opened the front door. There stood Horace.

Removing his hat, he handed Sully a note, "Telegram from Andrew," the telegrapher offered. "Thought it might be important, so I brought it right out, Sully."

"Thanks," the mountain man acknowledged. Horace tipped his hat and departed.

Michaela joined her husband, "What is it, Sully?"

************
Chapter 3
************

Sully handed the telegram to Michaela, who nervously opened it and read.

"Michaela and Sully. Colleen hurt in carriage accident. Possible broken arm and contusions. Recuperating in hospital. Will keep you informed. Andrew."

"Sully, I must go to her at once," she folded the paper.

"She's in good hands, Michaela," he tried to calm her. "Andrew can take care o' her."

"Andrew has his own patients to care for," she argued. "He can't be at home with her all day. What would they do for money?"

"Let's think about this," Sully put Katie in her high chair. "She might not be hurt that bad."

"Sully," her voice raised. "She might have internal injuries. She might not be able to do anything if it's her right arm. My daughter needs me!"

Brian and Matthew descended the stairs in time to overhear Michaela's last remark.

"What's wrong, Ma?" the younger brother worried.

Michaela went to the sink and looked out at the garden.

Sully put his hand on Brian's shoulder, "We got a telegram from Andrew. Colleen's been hurt in a carriage accident."

"How bad is she hurt?" Matthew sat down at the table.

Michaela turned to face her sons, "Andrew says she may have a broken arm and some contusions. She's in a hospital."

"Is she gonna be okay, Ma?" Brian feared.

"I... I don't know," she was losing control.

"Your Ma wants t' go t' her, Brian," Sully told him. "We gotta talk about it first."

"I see no need to talk about it," Michaela was becoming angry.

"We better go take care o' the chores," Matthew sensed his parents' needed to be alone. "Ya wanna help, little sister?"

Katie grinned, "Yep!"

Matthew lifted her and carried her to the door, "Come on, Brian, let's get the horse saddled and wagon hitched."

Brian picked up on the tension between his parents and quickly joined his siblings.

With the children out of the house, Michaela let loose, "Sully, call it a mother's intuition, but I must go to Colleen!"

"I call it just plain crazy," he shook his head. "Ya got three other children here t' take care of. Not t' mention your patients an'..."

She slammed a pan on the stove to start breakfast, "And?"

"Nothin'," he held his counsel.

"And what, Sully?" she broke eggs into the pan.

"An' me," he blurted it out. "I need ya here."

An uncomfortable silence fell on the room. Sully looked out the window to watch his sons at work on their chores. Katie tagged along behind one brother, then the other. He could not help but smile at the sight of her.

Then he turned to his wife, "I know it wouldn't do any good t' forbid ya from goin' cause ya don't take orders, but I want ya t' think about other folks that need ya here. By the time you'd get t' Philadelphia, Colleen could be better."

"Sully," her eyes watered. "I would feel the same way if it were you or one of the other children. I must go where I'm needed most."

"Fine," he walked to the door. "Do what ya want. I'm leavin'."

"Where are you going?" she turned to look at him.

"It don't matter," he put on his jacket.

"Fine," she turned back to preparing breakfast. "Go!"

He slammed the door behind him. Brian opened it almost as quickly.

"I came t' say goodbye, Ma," the boy kissed her cheek. "Matthew an' me are gonna eat at Miss Grace's. Thanks for the shirt. I'll see ya at the Clinic later?

Michaela wiped a tear from her cheek, "Have a good day at school, Brian."

Matthew entered the house carrying Katie, "I'm ridin' with Brian int' town, Ma. Gonna help Loren draw up some legal papers then ride out t' the Malloy homestead. I'll be home by dark."

Michaela reached for her daughter, "Thank you, Matthew. I'll see you this evening."

"Pa said you're goin' t' Philadelphia," Brian could not help mentioning.

"I'm worried about Colleen, but... I'm not sure if I'll be going," her voice softened.

"Well, if ya wanna go, we can watch things here at the homestead," Brian kissed her cheek.

The boys turned and departed. Katie entertained herself with breakfast as Michaela went to the window to watch her sons depart. She thought about how grown up they were. To her surprise, Sully was sitting on the front step of the house.

Walking to the door, she opened it, "I thought you were leaving."

He looked over his shoulder at her, "I can't yet."

Michaela put her hands on her hips, "Why not?"

Sully stood and walked up the steps to her, "Don't ya remember what I told ya in Yankee Hill?"

A slight grin passed her lips, "What in particular?"

He looked down at his feet, "I said I never wanted us t' part again in anger."

"So you've been sitting on the steps?" she reached out her hands to hold his.

"I'm still angry," he did not really sound like it.

She laughed and put her arms around his neck, "Oh, Sully, I'm sorry."

He exhaled the weight of the world and lifted her into his arms, "Me, too."

"I can't help how I feel," she kissed him. "I know you and the children need me, and my patients need me, but..."

"But when one o' us is hurt, that's where you're needed most," he understood. "I guess I'm just bein' selfish."

She put her hand on his lips to silence him, "No, you're not. You're the most unselfish man I've ever known. If you truly don't want me to go, I won't mention it again."

"But you'd be pinin' and frettin' every minute," he shook his head.

"I may not be able to control my worrying," she leaned against his chest. "But I can control where I do it. I'll stay."

He pulled back to look at her face, "Things'll work out, Michaela. I gotta leave now. Be back by dark."

He released her from his embrace and descended the first step.

"Sully," she walked to him, now eye level on the step above him. "I love you."

He put his arms around her, "I love you, too. Bye."

She watched as he mounted his horse and took off. Then she went back into the house, only to discover that Katie had thrown her breakfast onto the floor in pieces.

"Katherine Elizabeth Sully!" the mother looked at the mess.

"I not like eatin' alone, Mama," the child innocently answered.

Michaela felt a pang of guilt, "I'm sorry, Sweetheart. Let me clean up this mess, and we'll have breakfast together. How does that sound?"

"I need Mama," Katie spoke sweetly.

"I know you do," Michaela smiled. "And I need you, too."

She began the cleanup task.

************

Sully rode out to the Red Rocks to contemplate what to do. He looked up to the Spirits for guidance and to listen to the voice within himself.

************
Chapter 4
************

Michaela finished treating the burn on Robert E's forearm and began to wrap it with a bandage.

"Ya sure ya need all that wrappin', Dr. Mike?" the blacksmith observed how much cloth she had put over the injury.

"What?" she was distracted. "Oh, ah... No, Robert E, that is a bit much. Let me trim off some of it."

Michaela quickly made things right and smiled.

"Ya thinkin' 'bout somethin' other than doctorin'?" he observed.

"Yes, I've been thinking about Colleen," she replied. "I'm very concerned about her health. She recently was involved in a carriage accident." She began to clean her instruments, "How is Grace feeling?"

"Tired," he grinned. "But I make sure she gets plenty o' rest. Okay if I pay ya, next week, Dr. Mike?"

"That's fine," Michaela trailed off.

Sully's entrance into the Clinic brought her back to reality.

"Robert E," Sully nodded. "Hurt your arm?" he noticed the bandage.

"Nothin' serious," his friend replied. "I best be gettin' back t' the livery. I'll see ya later, Sully. Dr. Mike."

"Oh, keep that area clean, Robert E," she instructed.

Sully closed the door behind him. He walked to his wife and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"Afternoon, Michaela," he whispered in her ear.

She smiled and kissed him, "What brings you here? I thought you wouldn't be back until evening."

Sully went to Katie who was napping in her crib.

Softly running his hand over her hair, he smiled, "I rode out t' the Red Rocks t' think."

"To think?" she wondered.

"Mm-hum," he leaned over to kiss his daughter. "I'll tell ya 'bout it later."

Michaela did not respond to his comments, and had a far away look in her eyes.

He walked back to her, "Thinkin' 'bout Colleen?"

"What?" she returned. "Oh, I'm sorry, Sully. What did you say?"

"I said..." he stopped to see if she was listening.

She was.

"I said I love you," he pulled her closer.

She raised her hands to caress the hair around his ears. Pulling back, Sully went to the windows and pulled the shades down.

She was shocked, "What are you doing?"

"Just makin' it darker," he went to the door and locked it.

"Now?" she smiled coyly. "Katie's right there, Brian will be finished with school shortly, and what if a patient comes?"

"How much time ya think we got?" he sat at her chair and pulled her onto his lap.

"I'm... I'm not sure," she began straightening papers on her desk. "Perhaps half an hour until Brian arrives, and Katie... I don't know. She's been napping for about 20 minutes."

"Then we got a little time," he unbuttoned the top of her blouse and kissed her neck.

"Yes, but..." she responded to his kisses and turned to more fully face him. "Is this supposed to distract me?" she tried not to sound flustered.

"Maybe," his hand began to work magic beneath her blouse. "Is it workin'?"

"Oh, it's working," her heart raced.

"Good," he smiled. "Everythin's gonna work out, Michaela."

"Sully," she leaned back in his arms. "What if..."

A knock at the door interrupted their intimacy. Quickly, Michaela buttoned her blouse and stood up. Sully swiftly raised the shades.

"Hold that thought," he whispered. "I got a few more things t' tend to 'fore I get home," he kissed her cheek. "See ya later."

He opened the door to allow a patient in. Michaela made sure her hair was in place, blushing at the thought that someone might have suspected what she and her husband had been doing. Then she turned her attention to her patient.

************

After dinner, the family lounged in the living room. Brian and Matthew had their heads buried in books. Katie sat on her mother's lap, quietly drawing a picture. Sully carved a piece of wood.

Looking up from his book, Brian asked, "Ever hear of a Grand Tour?"

"I believe that is considered part of a well-to-do person's education," Michaela answered. "To travel throughout Europe learning about art, literature, music, culture from the places one visits. France, Italy..." she trailed off.

"Why don't Americans take a grand tour, Ma?" Brian wondered.

"Well, in a way, I suppose we do," she smiled at Katie. "We go to colleges to further our education. Or we travel to different cities to learn new things or take advantage of greater economic opportunities."

"I been t' Boston an' Washington, D.C.," the boy reflected.

"And you learned a great deal there," she nodded. "And look at what you've seen in Colorado. You've learned about nature and the Cheyenne. That's part of a well rounded education, too."

Sully smiled, "We learn from books, from people, an' from places."

Brian continued to read from his book, "Says here that sometimes folks made the Grand Tour t' have fun, too, goin' t' balls an' parties, seein' the sights."

He closed the book.

"Think I'll turn in now." The young man stood up, nearly as tall as Matthew now. "Night everyone."

They conveyed their good night wishes to him. Soon Matthew headed for bed, as well.

"Michaela," Sully noticed her staring into the fire. "She's asleep," he motioned to Katie.

"Oh, my," she whispered. "So she is."

"I'll take her up," he lifted the little girl to his chest and left his wife sitting by the fireplace.

************

Colleen could feel another wave of pain. Then she felt the warm taste of blood in her mouth.

"Andrew!" she felt faint.

"Colleen!" he ran to her bedside. "There's... blood everywhere!"

"I need Ma," she called out. "Please, please tell her I need her."

************

"Michaela," Sully's voice whispered. "Michaela, wake up."

"Wha..." she opened her eyes. Looking around, she realized she had fallen asleep in the wing back chair. "Sully! I just had a terrible dream about Colleen. There was blood..."

"Shhh," he rubbed her arm. "Everythin's okay. Come on up t' bed."

"It was so vivid," she stood up.

He put his arm around her shoulders and led her to the steps.

************

Michaela changed into her nightgown and turned to Sully, "So what did you do after you left the Clinic today?"

"Made some inquiries," he removed his shoes.

She began to brush her hair, "About what?"

"Well, now that Colleen's married, we don't have the expense o' her medical school," Sully slipped under the cool sheets. "An' I just got paid well for my last job with the Department of Interior. So I was thinkin' o' somethin' we could do with that money."

Michaela joined him under the covers, "We could save it."

"True," he grinned. "But I was thinkin' 'bout another use for it, an' Brian gave it a name tonight, a grand tour."

"Grand tour?" she was puzzled.

"I don't think Miss Teresa would mind if Brian went back East for a few weeks t' be exposed t' history, museums, culture," he slid closer to his wife.

"Send Brian back East?" she still did not understand. "Do you mean send him to school?"

"No, Michaela," he smiled. "It occurred to me tonight when Brian was talkin' 'bout a grand tour. What if we took one... Brian, Matthew, Katie, you an' me?"

"Have you gone mad?" she gently patted his side.

"Nope," he grinned. "I think it would be a good idea. You could check on Colleen, Brian could learn a lot in Philadelphia. We all could, and Katie..."

"Katie could find some mischief, I'm certain," she hugged him. "Sully, are you sure?"

He nodded, "Yep."

"Oh, thank you!" her eyes grew moist.

He kissed her forehead, "Thought that might make ya happy. But there's more."

"More?" she was surprised.

"Sure," he added. "Can't just go t' one place on a grand tour. As long as we're back that way, I figure we oughta head up t' Boston t' see your family."

She pulled back, "Sully, how wonderful! You're not just doing this for me, are you? I told you that if you didn't want me to go..."

He shook his head, "Doin' somethin' just for you? Never."

"Good," she nodded.

"Let's leave day after tomorrow," he added nonchalantly.

She started to rise from the bed, "I couldn't possibly be ready! I have packing to do, lists to make, arrangements for my patients."

He gently pulled her back, "That'll wait."

"We should tell Brian and Matthew," she said.

"Calm down, now. We'll tell the children tomorrow mornin' at breakfast," he caressed her arm.

"Oh, Sully," she sighed. "How do you put up with me?"

"Put up with you?" he chuckled. "Well, it's a constant struggle, but I manage."

She slid her hand up to his neck and whispered, "I wish I knew how to thank you."

"Humm," he looked up at the ceiling. "How to thank me..."

"I know," she gave him a sultry glance. Snuggling closer, she began to kiss him.

"Mmm," he pulled back for a moment. "That's one way..."

************
Chapter 5
************

The next twenty-four hours were filled with planning and arranging, but finally the time of departure arrived. As the Cooper-Sully family boarded the train, there were plenty of tears shed by their friends. Robert E had offered to care for Wolf and the animals at the homestead. Eventually, they settled into the long journey.

************

Michaela pointed out various features of the landscape to Katie as the child bounced on her father's knee. Matthew and Brian, seated across from their parents, chose to read while daylight lasted.

"Katie, do you know whom we're going to see?" Michaela asked.

"Colween," the little girl responded.

"That's right, Sweetheart," she smiled. "Isn't Papa wonderful for arranging our trip?

"Papa?" Katie looked up at him.

"Mmm?" Sully grinned.

"You wondwaful," the toddler told him.

Sully kissed his daughter, "Thanks, Kates. So are you. Know who else we're gonna see?"

"Who?" the little girl could hardly contain her excitement.

"Grandma an' Aunt Rebecca, and even some aunts and cousins ya haven't met before," Sully's eyes widened.

"Oh, Papa," she replied. "You wondwaful!"

Sully laughed, "Looks like she's got a new word, Michaela."

Michaela leaned her head against his shoulder, "It's a word very appropriate to describe her Papa."

Katie looked up at them, "What's cuzwins?"

Michaela explained, "Your cousins are the children of my sisters. Almost like a brother or sister for you."

"Like Bran an' Mattew?" she wondered.

"Sort of, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled.

In all seriousness, Katie then instructed her parents, "Ya know, I need more bwothers an' sisters."

Brian and Matthew stifled a laugh, as Sully reached for her bunny rabbit, "Uh, here, Kates, look what I found."

Katie was distracted by her favorite toy and dropped the interrogation of her parents. Michaela sighed.

************

A change of trains in Denver, and they were on their way east. The family marveled at the accommodations on this larger train. The carbody had a clerestory roof which allowed warm air to rise. Ventilation was supported by a series of vents. The windows could be kept shut and air was drawn through these vents. There were leather and horse hair padded seats, ornate lamps and fittings, and even restroom facilities. The larger train included something called a Pullman sleeper car, which contained upper berths that could be opened up at night. And the train even had a separate dining car.

Mile after mile of the plains prompted them to reflect on how much the railroad had changed the nature of travel in America. Now the journey could be traversed entirely by train and with a level of comfort unheard of before the War.

At one point, the train ground to a halt, and gunfire was heard. Sully started to investigate, but Michaela pulled his arm.

"Sully, please don't," she begged.

He placed his hand over hers and decided to see if he could get a view of events from the window of their car. He quickly turned away in revulsion.

"What is it?" Michaela asked.

He gulped, "They're shootin' a herd o' buffalo blockin' the track. Even some o' the passengers are helpin' 'em. They're just slaugherin' 'em."

He sat down and tried to settle his stomach.

Michaela reached out to him, "Would you like for me to give you something?"

"No," Sully shook his head.

"Brian," she turned to her younger son. "Don't let Katie see."

The boy made certain his sister's view of the window was blocked, "I won't, Ma."

************

The next day left an even more disgusting image . The train had stopped for a few hours on its scheduled route. Sully and the boys decided to get off to stretch their legs, but any hopes of a relaxing recess were soon ended. It was the stench which was first noticed.

"Eww, Sully," Matthew held his nose. "What's that smell?"

"Smells like rotten animal carcasses," the mountain man was repulsed.

Then Brian pointed, "Look, Pa, Matthew. Over there."

There were mounds of buffalo hides near the tracks waiting to be shipped out. And then as they turned, they saw thousands of buffalo heads stacked on top of one another higher than the train .

"Pa," Brian wanted to understand. "Why are they doin' this?"

"Money," was Sully's solitary response. "Come on, let's get back on the train."

It was several miles before any of them felt like conversing again.

************

That night in the sleeping car, Michaela said good night to her sons. Brian was noting something in a journal.

"What are you writing?" Michaela asked.

"Miss Teresa wants me t' write down everythin' I see and hear," he replied.

She nodded, "That's a wonderful idea. Is there anything you want to talk about?"

She sensed he might be still upset by the buffalo images of earlier in the day.

"Nah," he continued to write.

"Well, good night then," she kissed the boys.

************

She and Sully crowded into their sleeping berth with Katie. The child was fast asleep between her parents. Sully looked down at the little girl and gently swept some of her blond locks from her forehead.

"She's so beautiful," he marveled.

Michaela turned onto her side to watch, "She certainly is. Our little angel."

Sully smiled thinking about some of his daughter's antics, "Don't know how much of an angel she is now. Bein' two seems t' have brought out a little devil in her."

Michaela grinned, "Mother once told me that I was the most mischievous two year old she had ever seen."

"You?" he took Katie's little hand in his own.

"Um-hum," she spoke low. "I used to get into all of Father's medical instruments and supplies. They hired a nanny just to keep watch over me until I was old enough to start school. I think I wore Mother out."

"Can't believe you were hard t' manage," he teased.

"What about you?" she hoped he might speak of his childhood. "What were you like as a child?"

A sadness came over him, "Don't remember much about it."

She reached for his face, "Is it still too painful to talk about, Sully?"

"I just don't have much t' say," he looked back at Katie.

"I love you," his wife whispered.

"I love you, too," he smiled faintly and leaned over to kiss her good night.

With Katie sandwiched between them, the loving parents soon fell asleep, lulled by the rhythmic movement of the rail car.

************

The train crossed the newly built railroad bridge between Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa, a completion of the all-rail connection between East and West. Through Iowa, anticipation began to grow that they were nearly halfway there. Until a town called Adair, that is. There, the lives of some on the train would be forever changed, and a legend would be born.

************
Chapter 6
************

After breakfast in the dining car, the family prepared to settle in for the continuing monotony of travel. Michaela and Sully attempted to clean up Katie who by now was wearing much of her morning repast.

The train had reached the halfway point between Council Bluffs and Des Moines, Iowa--a town called Adair. Suddenly, engineer John Rafferty noticed something suspicious ahead, but he could not act quickly enough. A rail had been loosened, pulled out of line by a gang of men. When the engine reached that mark, it overturned.

The sound of metal twisting and the sudden jarring of the train cars threw the passengers into a panic. Michaela, Sully and the children all ended up on the floor of the car.

Sully helped them up, "Everyone all right?

Michaela cuddled a crying Katie. The concerned mother made a quick assessment that, other than a few bumps, all was well with her family.

"Matthew, Brian, could you look after Katie?" the doctor took over. "I want to check to see that no one has been seriously hurt." Sully kissed his daughter and pulled her stuffed rabbit from their travel bag. Reaching for it, the child's tears stopped.

Sully quickly joined his wife, going through the train to determine the extent of injuries. When they reached the door, five masked men boarded the train pointing their guns. Sully moved to protect his wife.

"You," one of the men called to him. "Raise your hands."

Sully obeyed the outlaw, a man in his mid twenties with sky blue eyes.

"Jesse!" a voice called from off the train to the gunman. "The engineer's dead!"

Jesse exhaled, "Damn!" Then he shouted to the passengers, "Let me have your attention, folks. This here's a holdup!"

A few women began to scream. Jesse shot his gun into the air to quiet things. It worked.

"That's better," he announced. "Now, my men an' me are gonna pay a little visit t' each one o' ya t' liberate ya from your possessions. Give us all your jewelry an' money, an' no one will get hurt."

He turned first to Michaela and Sully. Michaela handed him over what little money she was carrying.

The outlaw pointed to her hand.

"Please, not my rings," she begged.

The sudden sound of dynamite exploding distracted Jesse. Forgetting about Michaela, he looked up at Sully. The mountain man shook his head to indicate he had nothing. The gunman felt his pockets and went swiftly to the next passenger.

"Sully," Michaela whispered. "Can you see the children? Are they all right?"

He nodded, "They're fine. The robbers are movin' on real quick, not makin' any trouble."

Two more outlaws boarded the train.

Jesse turned, "Frank! How much did ya get?"

Frank replied, "Looks like about $3,000 from the safe."

"Good," he said. "Now, let's get outa here."

The outlaws swiftly departed. Throughout the train, the volume of conversation increased as each person relived the experience. Michaela and Sully worked their way to their family.

Katie reached for her mother, "Mama! Bad men."

"I know, Sweetheart," Michaela hugged her.

"Everyone okay?" Sully asked.

"Sully, where did you put our money?" she wondered.

He grinned, "A safe place."

"Who ya think they were, Pa?" Brian inquired.

A passenger standing nearby answered, "That was Jesse James and his gang. Up until now, they only robbed banks. I was in one once. I'd know that voice anywhere."

"Jesse James?" Brian opened his journal to write.

************

Other than the dead engineer, human life on board the train had suffered remarkably few injuries. The passengers had to be transferred to stagecoaches to catch another train in the town of Casey.

************

Within two days, the family arrived in Chicago, a city of 300,000. While waiting to board their connecting train east, they decided to see some of the sights. What they saw shocked them, however. Nearly two years ago, Chicago had been devastated by a terrible fire, and the remnants of that disaster could still be seen and felt.

They stopped to eat at a restaurant not far from the train depot.

Brian asked the waiter, "Was your place burned by the fire?"

The waiter, a tall man with a handlebar mustache shook his head, "That is was, lad."

Michaela observed, "It looks like the rebuilding is well underway, but how much damage did the city sustain?"

"Oh, ma'am," he began, "You wouldn't believe it. It was on the night of October 8, in '71 that it started. Rumor has it that a Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lamp, and the fire spread. The summer had been unusually dry. In all, an area of three and a half square miles, containing 17,000 buildings, was destroyed. They say there was $200 million in property damages."

Brian's eyes grew large, "$200 million!"

He opened his journal and began to write.

Sully turned to his wife, "Same thing happened in Boston last year while your Ma and sisters were in Colorado Springs."

"I remember," her voice choked slightly recalling the loss of her sister Marjorie in the diphtheria epidemic during their visit.

Sully saw her reaction, and put his hand atop hers, "I'm sorry, Michaela."

She put on a brave face, "It's all right."

Brian continued to ask questions of the waiter until Matthew finally chuckled, "Think maybe we can order somethin' t' eat, and then ask your questions, Brian?"

"Sorry," the boy grinned.

The waiter quickly took their orders, then brought some photographs of the fire's destruction. The topic dominated their dining conversation. Once the meal was completed, they returned to the depot.

************

The Pennsylvania Railroad's train to Philadelphia was much larger and more spacious than they had ever experienced. Mile after mile, the cities and towns fascinated them. Gary, Valpariso, Ft. Wayne, Lima, Mansfield, Canton, Alliance, and Pittsburgh. They marveled at the steel mills of Carnegie's Pittsburgh and the smoke-filled skies that were a painful byproduct of our nation's industrialization. Brian was kept quite busy with his journal, logging all that he observed.

************

Finally, they arrived in the City of Brotherly Love. Barely checked into their rooms at the hotel, Michaela insisted on seeing Colleen at once. The family traveled to the modest boarding house occupied by Colleen and Andrew.

Colleen opened the door, "Ma!" She hugged her mother, father, brothers and sister. "I was so happy when I got the telegram you were coming!"

Colleen's left arm was in a sling, and Michaela insisted on looking at it.

The doctor examined her daughter's arm, "Where's Andrew? He should be here taking care of you."

"Michaela," Sully shook his head.

"I just want her to have proper attention," Michaela felt defensive.

"I'm getting along fine, Ma. Turns out my arm is badly sprained," Colleen smiled. "Andrew went to the hospital to check on some patients."

************

After a pleasant time spent getting reacquainted, Michaela steered her daughter toward the bedroom for some private conversation.

"How are... things?" the concerned mother began.

"Well," Colleen sat on the edge of the bed, " I guess it's a little bit better."

Michaela approached gently, "Can you tell me what's wrong?"

"I don't know," the young woman looked down.

"Don't know?" Michaela was confused. "Do you argue?"

"Not really," Colleen replied. "It's just..."

"Yes?" Michaela patted her hand.

"We're so different, Ma," Colleen finally confessed. "Andrew's from a big city. He enjoys the life here. He spends an awful lot of time at work, too."

"And you're lonely," Michaela felt sympathy for her daughter.

"Sometimes," she confessed. Then pausing, added, "A lot of the time. And I spend a lot of my time studying. We just don't see each other all that much."

Michaela smiled, "Well, you know how much time I spend at work. That's the life of a doctor. I've been blessed with a very understanding husband and family, but one thing that Sully's ordeal as a fugitive taught me is that a husband and wife must communicate. They have to find time, make time, for each other, even if it's just to take a walk, go on a picnic. Find the time."

"I try to tell Andrew, but..." the daughter stopped.

Sully appeared at the door, "Everythin' all right?"

Colleen stood up and looked to him, "Come in."

He entered the room and sat beside his wife on the bed.

Colleen turned to face them, "Pa, do you think... you could have a talk with Andrew?"

"'Bout what?" Sully put his hand on Michaela's.

Colleen did not quite know how to express herself.

Michaela chimed in, "Perhaps about spending more time with his wife."

Sully exhaled and chose his words carefully, "Colleen, I'll speak t' him if you're sure ya want me to, but maybe ya should try talk to him yourself first."

"I have, Pa," she sounded frustrated. "He's just so busy. I'm so busy. We never have time for each other."

"Then ya gotta figure out what's important to ya," he told her. He lifted Michaela's hand, "Your Ma an' me got busy lives, too, and we gotta be apart a lot o' the time. But we promised each other that we'd always make time for each other, and then make the time count."

Voices from the next room brought their conversation to an end as Andrew arrived home.

Michaela stood and went to her daughter, "Things will work out, Colleen. I have a plan..."

************
Chapter 7
************

Back at the hotel that evening, the boys retired to their room. Brian and Matthew planned to see the sights of Philadelphia the next day, and were excitedly discussing their itinerary. Sully took Katie to their room while Michaela spoke to her sons.

"Colleen looked good, don't ya think, Ma?" Brian smiled.

"Yes," Michaela nodded. "And her arm is healing nicely."

"That all that needs t' be healin'?" Matthew wondered.

"What do you mean?" Michaela was unsure.

"I just mean that she an' Andrew don't act like newlyweds," the older brother stated.

"Well, there are many adjustments," Michaela explained. "Not only must they adapt to each other, but they have a new home in a new place and with new jobs."

"I know I'd be nervous 'bout all that," Brian opened his journal. Changing the subject, he added, "Ma, ya think the library here might have anythin' on Jesse James?"

"Perhaps," she told him. "But why on earth would you want to devote any time researching that criminal?"

Brian looked at his journal, "Just for tellin' folks back home."

She patted his arm, "I see."

"We'll check it out tomorrow, little brother," Matthew grinned. "We wanna do some lookin' around, too. There's lots t' see... Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell... What are we doin' with Colleen an' Andrew, Ma?"

"Let's discuss that in the morning," Michaela kissed them both. "See you at breakfast."

She closed the door and walked next door to join her husband and daughter.

************

Sully had bathed and diapered Katie. He sat down with her in a chair to tell her a bedtime story.

"Papa," the child's little voice inquired. "Where we are?"

"We're in Philadelphia," he smiled.

"Pill-DEL-pee-ah," she tried.

He stroked the back of her fine, blonde hair.

"When we go home?" she glanced around the beautifully decorated room with curiosity.

Michaela entered and went to them, "What are you two talking about?"

Katie looked up and yawned, "Pill-DEL-pee-ah."

The mother grinned, "Very impressive, young lady. Did you enjoy your visit with Colleen today?"

Katie nodded and yawned again.

"Gettin' sleepy, Kates?" the father looked at her face.

"Nope," Katie yawned a third time.

"It certainly appears to me that you are," Michaela bent down to kiss her forehead.

The child continued to fight her fatigue, "Mama, Colween come home?"

"No, Sweetheart," Michaela took her hand. "She and Andrew live here in Philadelphia now. We live in Colorado Springs."

"We not stay with Colween?" the little girl asked.

"No," Sully rocked her gently. "When we're done visitin', we'll be goin' home."

"I like Colwado," Katie's eyes were becoming heavy. "But not fishin'."

Sully chuckled, "My sweet girl don't like fishin' with her Pa?"

"Like Papa, not fish," Katie explained.

"Well, you don't have to go fishing," Michaela winked.

Sully stood up with the little girl in his arms. He carried her to small room adjoining their bedroom. Michaela followed behind them and watched her husband gently lay their daughter on the bed. Katie was asleep before they could even say good night. Both parents made certain that she was warm enough, kissed her and left the room with the door ajar in case she wakened.

"Think she'll sleep through the night in a new room?" he wondered.

"As tired as she is, I believe so," Michaela nodded.

"How 'bout you?" he put his arms around her waist and drew her near. Leaning down to whisper, he asked, "You tired?"

"Not a bit," she kissed him.

They exchanged soft, sweet kisses.

Pulling back, Sully asked, "What's this plan o' yours?"

"Plan?" she unbuttoned her blouse.

They undressed, climbed into bed and slid closer for warmth.

"Don't go pretendin' ya don't know," he laughed. "I heard ya mentionin' t' Colleen that ya have a plan."

"Can't we ladies have a few secrets?" she smiled coyly.

"I got ways o' findin' out," he ran his hand up and down her arm.

"Oh?" Michaela leaned in closer to him.

"Um-hum," he replied.

There was comfortable silence between them. Then Sully felt his wife's hand on his chest, lovingly running across the hair.

"I've missed this," she kissed his neck.

"Me, too," his eyes began to gleam. "The ride here wasn't like our honeymoon train."

She grinned, "No privacy for us, and it's been over a week since we..."

"I know," he turned to look into her eyes. "But, my heart is ever at your service."

She closed her eyes and guessed, "Keats?"

"Just when I thought ya were gettin' good at guessin'..." he teased.

"Browning?" she guessed again.

"Which one?" he asked.

"Elizabeth?" she tried.

"Nope," he replied.

"Robert?" she stated the obvious.

"Nope," he smiled.

"Sully!" she poked his side. "I give up. What poet?"

"Shakespeare," he said it close to her ear in a manner that caused her to tingle.

She sighed contentedly, then reached up to caress his face. "I love you, Sully. It means so much to me that you brought us here. Thank you."

He lightly stroked her cheek, "You're welcome."

She began to kiss his chest. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feelings awakening in him. Her tender touches inflamed his passion as she began to immerse herself in him.

He spoke low, "Michaela."

It was as if his voice triggered her soul to rise to great heights, she thought. The mere mention of her name by him with that voice encouraged her to give herself completely to him. They maneuvered their bodies to allow free access to one another. The loving joining of their physical beings completed the spiritual connection which they already shared. The mutual satisfaction which each derived from the other was completed in a burst of energy.

Afterwards, Sully gently pulled away and kissed her, "So when ya gonna tell me 'bout your plan?"

"What about you? You never told me where you hid the money when the train was robbed," she reciprocated.

"How 'bout I tell ya tomorrow?" he spoke low.

"Tomorrow it is," she agreed. "And then I'll tell you about my plan."

She rested her head on his shoulder and smiled.

************
Chapter 8
************

Michaela awoke the next morning before her husband. She quietly rose from the bed to let him sleep a bit longer. Donning her robe, she crept into Katie's room to check on the little girl. But the bed was empty.

"Katie?" Michaela called softly.

There was no response.

"Katie!" her voice reflected concern.

Still no answer.

"Sully!" she called.

He came running into the room, "What's the matter, Michaela?"

"Katie's gone!" her anxiety mounted.

"Just stay calm," he embraced her. "She couldn't have left without comin' through our room, an' we'd have heard her. Now, you go check in there, an' I'll look in here."

She quickly ran into the other room. Sully's initial fear was that the toddler might have gone to a window to look out. If she managed to open it... Then he spotted an unusual bulge behind the curtain. There was the definite outline of his daughter, and he could hear the muffled sounds of Katie's giggles emanating from it.

"Michaela," he summoned his wife.

She appeared in a flash, "Did you find..."

He put his index finger to his lips to quiet her and pointed to the curtain.

She closed her eyes and silently thanked God that their little girl was safe.

Sully went to the curtain and spoke so Katie could hear, "Don't cry, Mama. Katie didn't mean t' hurt our feelin's by leavin' us."

Michaela played along in a tearful voice, "Oh, Papa, what shall we do without our little girl? I'm so sad."

The curtain moved as Katie looked out from behind it.

"Mama?" the little voice spoke in concern.

"Katie!" Michaela called to her. "Oh, Katie, we found you!"

Sully lifted his daughter high into the air and lavished her with kisses. Michaela held out her arms, and the child gladly embraced her mother's neck.

The parents sat down on the edge of the bed with her.

"Kates," Sully took a serious tone. "Mama an' Papa were real scared when we didn't know where ya were."

The toddler looked at the sincerity of their faces.

"That's right, Sweetheart," Michaela took her hand.

Sully continued, "It's one thing when we're playin' a game an' ya hide. But when ya don't tell us it's a game, it's not fun."

"I sorry," Katie apologized. "Not fun."

"So you won't hide from us again?" Michaela urged.

Katie nodded contritely.

"That's my sweet girl," Sully tickled her side.

The little girl laughed.

Then Michaela stood up, "Let's get ready to go see Colleen. How does that sound?"

"Good," Katie grinned.

************

Andrew had left for rounds at the hospital before Colleen even woke up. She dressed as best she could, given the state of her arm. Her professors had sent work home for her, and she seriously intended to pour over the books while waiting for her family's arrival, but she could not concentrate. She kept thinking of her mother's words. A plan. What kind of plan?

************

"What kind o' plan do ya have, Ma?" Brian asked at breakfast.

The family was gathered in the hotel dining room.

Michaela explained, "Well, I think that what Colleen and Andrew need is a little instruction in... romance."

Brian rolled his eyes, "Romance? Why does the plan have t' involve mushy stuff?"

Matthew kicked his brother gently under the table, "Cause folks in love like mushy stuff, little brother."

"Sounds fishy t' me," Brian did not appreciate the plan.

"Fishy?" Katie looked up from her cereal. "Not fishy!"

They laughed, and the little girl looked around trying to understand how her remark could be considered amusing.

"So, go on with your plan, Ma," Matthew was interested.

"Well, if you boys don't mind watching Katie this evening," she smiled, "I thought perhaps Sully and I could take Colleen and Andrew out on the town to give them some coaching, so to speak."

"Just like we did for Sully when he came t' Boston," Brian chimed in.

"You coached Sully?" she was surprised.

Matthew kicked Brian under the table again, "Ah, it wasn't exactly coachin', Ma. It was more like we encouraged him."

Michaela raised an eyebrow and looked toward her husband. He merely smiled and continued to eat.

"What ya gonna do t'... coach 'em, Ma?" Brian returned to the subject.

Michaela looked to Sully again, "What do you think?"

"'Bout coachin' in romance?" he grinned.

His wife nodded.

Sully wiped his mouth with his napkin, "I reckon we should start 'em out with dinner an' dancin'. Then go t' the opera. That worked on your Ma."

"Very nicely," she recalled fondly.

"Dinner, dancin', an' opera," Brian rolled his eyes. "I'll never understand grown ups."

Sully patted his shoulder, "Yes ya will, Brian. Give it time."

"I think it's a good plan, Ma," Matthew told her. "We'll watch Katie tonight."

"Yea," Brian agreed. "We'll help."

Katie had no idea what they were talking about, "Me, too!"

Michaela nodded, "Right, then. The next step is to convince Colleen and Andrew to free their schedules to come with us."

Sully leaned back, "How 'bout you work on Colleen, and I'll talk t' Andrew?"

"Fine," Michaela agreed. "You boys give me some time to arrange things with her, then stop by and we can spend the day with her. In the meantime, you can enjoy the sights of Philadelphia. Let's meet back here at 4 p.m. Agreed?"

They stood and began to go their separate ways.

Katie looked around the room, then shouted, "Mama! Papa!"

Suddenly, Michaela and Sully returned to the table.

"I wasn't gonna leave without her," he told his wife.

"Nor was I," she replied to her husband.

Katie looked back and forth at her parents as they apologized to her.

Then the child spoke up, "Not fun."

They laughed and kissed her cheek, then Michaela carried her to the door. They boarded a carriage for the ride to see Colleen.

************

Alone, as he neared the hospital, Sully had the uncomfortable feeling that he was being followed. In deference to being in the city, he had not worn his tomahawk or knife, and now he was starting to regret that decision. Looking up at the tall structures on both sides of the deserted street, Sully realized that he had taken a wrong turn. Not only was he lost, but a sense of imminent danger fell upon him. Turning to face his fear, he saw a man holding a knife.

************
Chapter 9
************

Michaela watched Colleen with Katie and smiled.

"She misses you so," she told her older daughter.

"I miss her, too, Ma," Colleen replied. "Here, Katie," she told the little girl. "Would you like to see what I got for your visit?"

Katie's eyes widened, "Yep!"

Colleen stood and walked into her bedroom. Returning, she handed her little sister a small drawstring purse. "This is for you to keep things in, just like Ma carries."

Katie opened it, "Nothin' in it, Colween."

Michaela corrected her daughter, "What do you say when you receive a gift?"

"Tank you," the child sounded disappointed.

Colleen laughed, "Katie, you're supposed to put things you like in it. Let's see, what can you carry in your purse?

Michaela reached into hers and pulled out a nickel, "How about money?"

Katie held open the purse and deposited the nickel, "Yep. 12 dollars."

The child went around the room looking for other things to put in the purse as Michaela broached the subject of her plan.

************

Sully swallowed hard. Standing before him was a man nearly a foot and a half taller than he. The mountain man saw that they were in a dead-end alley, from which there was no escape. He waited and watched for the man to make a move.

"Gimme your money," the thug told him.

"Don't have any," he lied.

"Then I'm gonna have t' search ya," the man replied.

"Don't think that would be such a good idea," Sully made his move.

He leapt into the air and using the momentum of his jump, kicked the robber back onto the ground. The knife fell loose, and Sully shoved it aside. The tall assailant stood up and lunged for Sully. At the last second, Sully stepped out of his path like a bullfighter, and the man ran head first into the brick side of a building. He was out cold.

Sully dusted himself off, and said, "So much for the City o' Brotherly Love." He quickly returned to the main street and found his way to the hospital.

************

As he entered the large facility, he was in awe at its size. He had never seen a clinic this big before.

A receptionist greeted him, "Are you here to have your hand treated?"

"My hand?" Sully was confused.

The woman pointed to the blood oozing from a cut on his hand. He looked at it. Must have hurt it in the fight, he thought.

Then he replied to the receptionist, "Ah, yes, Ma'am. I'm here t' see Dr. Cook."

"You'll have to wait. I'll send word to him. I'm afraid it will be awhile. You can have a seat there," she motioned to a crowded waiting area.

"Thanks," Sully pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around his injury.

************

"Colleen," Michaela began. "Sully and I would like to take you and Andrew out to dinner tonight."

"I... I don't know, Ma," the young woman replied. "Andrew, he's real tired when he gets home from the hospital. And I... I don't think I should."

"It's part of my plan," Michaela winked. "We would like to help Andrew and you have a romantic evening."

"Romantic evening? How?" Colleen wondered.

"Dinner, dancing, opera," Michaela explained. "It worked for Sully and me."

"You mean back in Boston?" Colleen smiled.

"Yes," Michaela grinned. "Apparently you and your brothers were more than bystanders in that plot. And I am forever in your debt."

"And you think this will work for Andrew and me?" the young woman laughed.

"Indeed I do," Michaela nodded.

They turned to see Katie. The child's new purse was bulging with contents.

"Sweetheart," Michaela called to her. "What do you have in there?"

Katie ran to her sister, "Look, Colween!"

Colleen opened the purse and chuckled. She began pulling out small knickknacks from the room.

Michaela was mortified, "Katherine Elizabeth Sully! Those things do not belong to you!"

Katie's lower lip began to quiver, "Colween said put in things I like."

"Oh, dear," the doctor shook her head. "So she did. Well, she meant things that are given to you, Sweetheart."

A knock at the door indicated the arrival of Brian and Matthew. Colleen went to greet them.

"Remember," Michaela told her before the boys walked in. "Dress is formal. We'll pick you up at 5."

************

Andrew was finally able to see Sully.

"What did you do to your hand?" the doctor examined it.

"Got int' a little scrape with a man in an alley after I took a wrong turn," Sully responded.

"Well, it's not too bad," Andrew began to treat the cut. "I'll put a couple of stitches in it for good measure."

"Thanks," Sully cleared his throat. "T' tell ya the truth, Andrew, I came here for a different reason."

"You did?" the young doctor looked up.

"Yep," Sully wasted no time in getting to the point. "Michaela an' me wanna take you an' Colleen out t' dinner t'night."

"Oh, I don't think that would be possible, Sully," Andrew replied. "But we certainly appreciate the invitation."

Sully sighed, "You'd be doin' me a big favor if ya came."

"How so?" Andrew finished bandaging Sully's hand.

"Well, Michaela's been worried 'bout Colleen since her accident. She wants t' make sure you an Colleen are... ah..." Sully stammered.

"Happy?" Andrew sensed the problem.

"Are ya?" the mountain man cut to the matter.

"I believe so," Andrew began to clean his instruments.

"Believe so?" Sully looked him in the eye. "Don't ya KNOW so?"

"Well, we don't seem to see very much of one another," Andrew confessed. "I guess that has put somewhat of a strain on our marriage."

"Guess? Andrew, this is the woman ya love. Ya gotta MAKE the time," Sully advised. "When you're together, ya gotta let her know that she's the most important person in the world t' ya."

"Oh, she is," Andrew sounded defensive.

"But a woman's gotta be reminded," Sully grinned.

"I see," the doctor put his hands on his hips. "Dinner tonight?"

"T' begin with," Sully smiled. "Then we'll see what comes next. We'll be by t' get ya at 5."

************
Chapter 10
************

The family arrived back at the hotel, minus Sully. Michaela quickly bathed and readied Katie for dinner. Her sons joined her at 4 to await Sully's return.

When he walked in, Michaela was relieved, "Where have you been? We missed spending the day with you."

"Sorry," he shook his head. "It took a long time 'fore I could get in t' see Andrew. I figured you'd already be out enjoyin' the city."

Brian was excited, "Pa! Ya wouldn't believe what all we saw!"

Sully took off his jacket and smiled, "Well, tell me about it."

Matthew spoke first, "Their library had more books than I ever saw in my life! Shelf after shelf o' law books, and from other countries, too."

Sully stepped into the adjoining washroom, "I'm listenin'."

Brian continued, "We learned about the Centennial celebration they're plannin' here in 1876. We saw plans for it an' everythin'."

Katie slipped from her mother's lap and went to get her new purse.

Brian went on enthusiastically, "They got this big area called Fairmount Park. That's where they're plannin' on havin' the Exhibition. They set aside over 400 acres for it, right by the Schuykill River. It's close t' the railroad, too, so folks can come from all over real easy."

Matthew joined in, "They're gonna have exhibits from other countries, too. An' buildings for machines, horticulture, agriculture... an' a Women's Hall."

Brian added, "The main buildin's gonna cover 20 acres, made o' wrought iron an' glass. Oh, do ya think we can come back t' Philadelphia t' see it all?"

Michaela whispered, "I'll speak to Sully about it."

Sully stepped back into the bedroom.

"Speak t' me about what?" he had heard her whisper.

"About comin' back t' Philadelphia for the Centennial, Pa," Brian ran to him.

Michaela noticed his hand, "What happened to you?"

"Nothin' serious," he did not want to worry his wife. "Andrew put a couple stitches in it. Where's Katie?"

They all looked around and did not see the child.

"Kates!" Sully clapped his hands and called to her.

Running to her father from her little bedroom, Katie jumped into his arms.

"Papa, Papa!" she held out her purse. "Look what I got!"

He kissed her cheek, "That's a real nice purse. What's in it?"

Michaela joined them, "Colleen gave it to her, and she's started collecting things... even if they don't belong to her."

Sully frowned, "That's stealin', Kates."

"But I like things, Papa," the child did not quite understand.

Sully looked at the clock and knew he would have to hurry to be ready on time, "We're gonna have a talk 'bout this in the mornin'."

"Ya mad?" the little girl worried.

"No," he touched her nose and grinned. "Just need t' explain a few things to ya."

Matthew stepped forward to take his little sister, "Come on, Katie. We're gonna go t' dinner an' have lots o' fun tonight."

"We are?" she grinned.

Brian came over and tickled her side, "We are!"

The boys departed with their sister.

************

Michaela was nearly finished dressing but could not quite reach some of the buttons on the back of her gown. She walked over to her husband.

"Sully," she turned her back to him. "Could you help, please?"

He smiled, and lifting his hands, placed them on the sides of her arms. Then he leaned down and began to kiss her neck and back.

She squirmed, "Sully!"

"What?" he pretended innocence. "I thought you said to help please. Don't this please ya?"

She looked over her shoulder at him, "I meant help button me up."

"Oh," he grinned. He completed the task of buttoning her gown. "I must've misunderstood."

She turned to show off her dress, "What do you think?"

"Beautiful," he put his arms on her waist. "Are ya sure ya want us t' have company t'night?"

"Finish getting dressed before I forget all about my plan," she replied.

"Okay," he started to put on his shirt. "The things I do for you..."

She reached up to caress his face, "And I know I don't thank you enough."

Lifting up on her toes, she kissed him.

"Well," he looked up at the ceiling. "I guess you're worth it."

************

Soon they were ready. Boarding an enclosed carriage, they set off to pick up Colleen and Andrew.

Michaela slipped her arm though his, "Sully, doesn't this feel a bit strange?"

He teased, "Sittin' next t' my beautiful wife, ridin' in a carriage t' a romantic dinner?"

"No," she chuckled. "I mean... coaching our daughter and her husband on romance."

He kissed her cheek, "Can't think o' two better coaches."

She turned slightly to see his face, "Andrew can certainly learn a lot from you on that subject."

"Well," he slid his hand up to her neck. "I ain't givin' away all my secrets."

"Good," she felt her face warm at his touch.

He began to move his hand lower.

"Sully," she whispered.

Oh, how he loved when she spoke his name low.

"Mmm?" he kissed her neck and shoulders.

"We can't right now," she did not want him to stop.

"I know," he continued.

"We're in a carriage," she reminded him.

"I know," he repeated.

"We have to stop," she did not sound convincing as her breathing quickened.

"I know," he finally pulled back.

She straightened her dress and tried to settle herself. Leaning closer, she whispered in his ear, "Did I mention that I love you?"

He turned up the side of his mouth, "Can't remember."

She smiled, "Well, I do, you know."

He nodded, "I know. I love you, too."

She held his hand, "I know."

************

Dinner was at one of the city's most elegant restaurants. A string quartet played dance music as the patrons enjoyed the ambiance.

Sully and Michaela sat side by side and were positioned to keep an eye on their younger counterparts. Colleen and Andrew could not miss how Michaela and Sully often touched one another through the meal. Andrew imitated with an occasional affectionate placing of his hand on Colleen's.

When the meal was completed, Sully stood and asked his wife to dance. They went to the dance floor and became lost in each other.

Back at the table, the young couple watched.

"Look at them, Andrew," Colleen smiled. "They're so much in love."

"So are we," he noted.

"I know," she blushed. "But look how they can't take their eyes off of each other."

"Hey," he cleared his throat. "In case you haven't noticed, I only have eyes for my wife."

"I'm sorry," she looked down. "I didn't mean..."

Andrew stood and reached out his hand, "Would you care to dance?"

"What about my arm?" she nodded at her sling.

"I think we can work around that," the young doctor replied.

Andrew escorted Colleen to the dance floor. She lifted her good arm to his shoulder, and he placed his hands on her waist. They began to move around the dance floor.

Michaela gently squeezed Sully's hand, "They're dancing. I think it's working."

"Good," he pulled her closer. "I don't know how much longer I can wait."

"Wait?" she did not understand.

"Ever since the carriage ride," he grinned. "I sort o' wanted t' be alone with ya."

"We still have the opera, you know," she pulled his hand to her lips.

"I know," he sighed.

"Sully," she saw Colleen and Andrew. "Look, they're kissing."

"So, we can skip the opera?" he joked.

"No," she laughed. "This is just the beginning of the plan."

************
Chapter 11
************

By an incredible coincidence, Verdi's "La Traviata" was playing in Philadelphia. The opera began shortly after they took their seats, side by side in a private box.

Michaela tapped Sully's arm when she noticed that Andrew was holding Colleen's hand.

"Look," she whispered.

"Seems like a good idea," he grinned and reached out for her hand.

She gladly clasped it.

"Do you remember the story of this opera?" she whispered.

He slid his chair closer, and began to speak low in her ear, "Want me t' tell ya?"

"That would be lovely," she smiled.

Michaela turned from the stage to watch only the face of her husband. Her heart was so full of love for him. She was transported back to that moment with him at the performance of "La Traviata" in Boston when she knew she loved him but could not admit it.

He instinctively knew what she was thinking, "I couldn't take my eyes off o' ya. But I listened t' every word ya said."

She sighed, "Oh, Sully, I'll never forget that evening."

He glanced at the singers on the stage and began his oration to her,

"Violetta's got consumption...
Alfredo's in love with her."

His lips were so near, Michaela felt the heat of his breath. She was embarrassed at the reaction that he was stirring in her. Making sure no one noticed, Sully placed his hand on Michaela's thigh and continued to speak low as the story unfolded,

"Alfredo confesses he loves her...

She tells him she only feels friendship for him."

Michaela put her hand atop his and squeezed it slightly, "Friendship can lead to love."

"That's what Violetta starts t' think," he adds in a raspy voice.

************

At the end of Act 1, Michaela looked over at her daughter. She was yawning.

"Sully," she whispered. "I think Colleen is bored."

Sully leaned over, "She an' Andrew ain't even talkin'."

Michaela sighed, "Do you think we should take them home?"

"Not yet," he smiled.

During the intermission, Sully pulled Andrew aside to speak with him, and Michaela took the opportunity to check on Colleen.

"Are you enjoying the opera?" Michaela wondered.

The young woman smiled, "I don't understand what they're singing, but I try to figure it out from their actions."

"Surely Andrew has seen it before," Michaela hinted. "Why don't you ask him to tell you what's happening?"

************

"I don't even know what's happening," Andrew confessed. "I've never been to an opera. And I'm not sure if Colleen is enjoying it."

"I'll tell ya what the story's about," Sully offered. "Durin' the opera, just tell her what's happenin', an' that'll help."

"I don't know, Sully," Andrew shook his head.

"Look, ya gotta start payin' attention t' your wife. Speak t' her about how ya feel. Don't be shy like some tongue-tied schoolboy," Sully asserted. "A woman needs t' know that she can count on her husband for strength an' support."

"Do you think that's how Colleen sees me?" the young man was uncertain. "A schoolboy?"

Sully was becoming frustrated, "Colleen's always been a strong person, but ya gotta understand that she left everythin' t' be with you. Not be with ya when your schedules happen t' match. She needs you!"

"She came here to go to medical school," Andrew corrected. "We could have just as easily been together in Colorado Springs. Why didn't she say something to me if she's unhappy?"

"You're missin' my point, Andrew," Sully put his hand on his shoulder. "Start treatin' your wife like ya know she exists!"

************

The audience quieted as Act 2 began. Sully sat down beside his wife.

"What were you and Andrew discussing?" she inquired.

"Man t' man stuff," Sully grinned.

Throughout the second part of the opera, Michaela felt surges of powerful and inexplicable emotion at the sound of her husband's voice during his soft narration,

"Now Violetta's happy with Alfredo, but she's goin' broke...

She sells a lot o' her belongin's...

Alfredo buys 'em back."

Sully deliberately brushed his hand against Michaela, further heightening her senses. As he continued to speak so near, the scent of him was increasingly hindering her concentration,

"Alfredo's Pa thinks that she's ruinin' his son an' his reputation...

He convinces her t' separate from his son...

Violetta writes Alfredo a letter sayin' it's over, and she leaves him."

************

At the conclusion of the second act, Michaela noticed Colleen was teary eyed, and Andrew was comforting her.

"Sully," she turned to her husband. "Colleen's crying."

"Maybe she's reactin' t' the story," he observed.

"Should I ask?" she was unsure.

"Let Andrew handle things," he answered.

"By the way," she smiled. "Your narration is superb."

He grinned, "Thanks. Had a good teacher."

"Sully," her face was slightly flushed. "I'm having some difficulty concentrating."

"Don't ya think the singers are doin' a good job?" he asked.

"No, it's not that," she confessed.

"Worried 'bout Colleen?" he guessed.

"No, I... I'm just thinking about... us... being together," she whispered.

"Gives us somethin' t' look forward to later," his smile suggested.

************

As Act 3 began, Michaela turned slightly to allow Sully to put his arm around her. She could not believe she was doing this, feeling this way. While he moved his hand provocatively, he picked up on his plot explanations,

"They're havin' a big costume party, an' Violetta shows up with another man...

T' get him t' leave, she tells Alfredo she loves this other man...

He gets real mad, an' she faints."

Sully's hand movements were having their intended reaction, and his voice further provoked her appetite for him,

"His Pa gets upset with him...

The other man challenges him t' a duel."

By this point, Michaela had been driven to total distraction by her desire for her husband. Never in her life had she experienced such longings in public. Her expectations for a return to their hotel grew stronger. She knew that she should feel embarrassed at her ardor, but her inhibitions were quickly abandoning her.

With concerted effort, she turned her thoughts to her daughter. Michaela tried to gauge how the young couple was getting on. She observed Andrew and Colleen snuggled together in quiet conversation.

"Things seem to be working," Michaela whispered to Sully.

"She'll be cryin' at the endin' for sure," he acknowledged.

"It is a tragic love story, like 'Romeo and Juliet," she told him.

His eyes lit up, "She doth teach the torches to burn bright..."

Michaela raised her finger to his lips, "Not now, Romeo. Let's save the poetry for later."

He playfully held her finger briefly between his lips, then sighed, "Hope I ain't too tired by then."

"I know you," she turned up the corner of her mouth in a grin. "You'll find the energy."

He moved closer for only her ears, "Well, ya do inspire me."

"Thank you," she blushed. "I must confess, I've never experienced an opera in quite this way before."

"What way?" he pretended not to know.

************

The final act began.

Sully asked, "How 'bout you explain Act 4?"

"Have you forgotten?" she joked.

"Nope," he answered. "I just love hearin' you tell it."

"All right," she stroked the side of his face.

Michaela recounted the story in the same voice that Sully remembered from Boston,

"Violetta is dying...

She reads a letter from Alfredo's father...

His son has injured the man in their duel, but now knows the truth about her sacrifice and is hurrying back to her."

Boldly, she turned the tables on her husband and slid her hand to his thigh. Sully gulped, and Michaela continued,

"When Alfredo arrives, he takes her in his arms...

He swears they will never be parted."

Michaela maneuvered her hand on her husband's leg to the point that he was most certainly not attentive to the opera,

"She gives him a locket with a portrait of her as a memento...

Violetta falls to the floor and... dies."

The audience rose to its feet in appreciation of the performance. Shouts of "Bravo!" emanated from the crowd as the stars took their bows.

Michaela held Sully's hand and felt tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Hey," he turned her to face him, "Does it every time."

Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he gently dabbed her tears.

"Thank you," she could not help the emotions stirred by the performance.

Sully smiled and glanced over her shoulder.

Leaning closer he told her, "Take a look."

Colleen was a mirror of her mother with tears overflowing from her eyes. Andrew, too, was wiping the moist cheeks of his wife.

Michaela finally composed herself enough to ask them, "Well, you two, what did you think?"

"I'm glad Sully told me the story so I could explain it to Colleen," Andrew noted. "Then again, I am at a loss at her reaction."

Sully quickly hinted, "Looks like she's gonna need a lot o' holdin' and comfortin' t'night."

************

After dropping Colleen and Andrew at their boarding house, Michaela and Sully sat close on the ride back to the hotel.

"So, you told Andrew the story?" she raised her eyebrow.

"Um-hum," he responded. "Thought it might move things along."

"It did," she pulled closer to him. "I think that this has helped them. Perhaps they'll realize that they need to make time for one another." Then pausing, she added, "The opera brought back so many memories, Sully."

"I know," he kissed the palm of her hand.

"But this time," she brushed her lips across his ear and whispered, "I have no fear about sharing my emotions with you when we return to the hotel."

He raised her chin to kiss her lips more fully, "Care t' prove it?"

"Oh, I do," she pulled back. "Can you wait?"

"I can," he pressed her hand to his cheek. "Back in Boston, when we got back from the opera, I stood at the bottom of the staircase, not knowin' how ya felt or if ya even wanted to go out with me again."

She felt a tear, "Oh, Sully, I didn't know what to do with my heart. But I'm glad I came to my senses. I'm glad you waited."

"See?" he grinned. "I'm good at waitin' for ya... 'cause I know it's always worth it in the end."

************
Chapter 12
************

Their bedroom was dimly lit when Michaela and Sully returned to the hotel. Sully helped Michaela remove her wrap, then taking her hand, led her into the smaller room to check on Katie. Beside their sleeping child sat Matthew, his eyes shut and his hand resting on hers.

"Matthew," whispered Michaela. She lightly touched his shoulder.

The young man awoke and yawned, "How'd everythin' go?"

Sully answered, "We got the ball rollin'. Now we just gotta let nature take its course."

"How was Katie?" Michaela leaned down to adjust the little girl's quilt.

"She's so funny, Ma," he replied. "She had Brian an' me in stitches all evenin'. Had a million questions for us. She's startin' t' wonder why her brothers an' sister are so much older than her, too."

"Oh, my," the mother chuckled.

"I better be gettin' t' bed," Matthew stretched his arms. "What time does our train leave tomorrow?"

"Noon," Sully answered. "Still some time t' see a few sights here."

"And to see how Colleen and Andrew are doing," Michaela added.

"G'night," Matthew kissed his mother. "See ya at breakfast."

"Thanks, Matthew," Sully showed him to the door.

************

When he returned to Katie's room, he observed Michaela sitting on the edge of their daughter's bed softly running her hand across the child's blonde hair.

"What ya thinkin' about?" Sully walked over and lovingly rested his hand on her arm.

"How quickly she's growing," Michaela responded.

"All part o' life," he bent down and kissed Katie's cheek.

"And how someday we might have to help her with her husband," she winked.

"I ain't ready for that, yet!" he shook his head.

"Nor am I," she stood up.

Wrapping his arms around her waist, Sully leaned down to give his wife a tender kiss, "Sleepy?"

"Nope," she imitated his dialect.

"Tired?" he inquired.

"Nope," she answered.

"Think maybe we oughta go to our room?" he grinned.

"Yep," she led the way to their adjoining bedroom.

Michaela reached up to undo Sully's tie, "This is one of the ways I know how much you love me."

"How's that?" he unbuttoned the top of his shirt to the relief of his neck.

"Because you got so dressed up tonight," she was amused.

"I like chokin' for ya," he teased.

He turned her around to help her out of her dress, "'Course, that ain't nothin' compared t' what all you gotta go through... buttons, hooks, corsets."

He completed the task of undoing her gown and unlaced her corset, "Don't know why ya gotta wear all this when ya got such a beautiful figure."

"It's fashion," she smiled. Finally able to breathe freely, she sighed and turned to him, "So you like my figure?"

He ran his hands down her sides, "Sure do. You're the most beautiful woman I ever saw."

"Really?" she melted at his touch.

"Yep," he backed away and pulled his shirt up to complete its unbuttoning. "I tell ya that all the time."

"Well," she smiled. "Feel free to tell me any time you like."

He extended his hand, and she grasped it. Pulling her arms up to embrace his neck, Sully began to lightly run his hands up and down her sides again. Then he softly caressed her back and recited:

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases;
It will never pass into nothingness."

"Oh, Sully," she felt a charge of emotion and began to kiss him passionately.

"Aren't ya gonna guess who the poet was?" he pulled back for air.

"Later," her voice spoke of an urgent need to be with him. "You drove me to such distraction during the opera, I could hardly concentrate," she guided him toward the bed. Then gently she pushed him back onto the mattress, "All I could think about was... this... loving you."

He smiled, "Michaela, I'm shocked."

Her repressed passion was ignited, and Sully was the delighted cause. He laid back and enjoyed her complete attention. Her kisses, her touches, the sweet scent of her aroused every fiber of his body. He accepted each offering of her love until he could not wait idly any longer.

He rolled his wife onto her back and began to kiss her deeply, all of the areas that he knew would stir her. When he was certain that she was ready for him, his desire was loosened. Their bodies joined in total surrender. Michaela closed her eyes in unquestioning acceptance and joy.

Sully softly kissed her chin and mouth, "It was Keats."

"Pardon me?" she did not know what he was talking about.

"The poet, Keats, on a thing of beauty," he grinned. Then he spoke low, "How I do love you, Michaela."

She held the sides of his face between her hands, "And I love you."

They closed their eyes as peaceful sleep claimed them.

************

Sully and Michaela felt a sudden jolt of their bed the next morning. With their bodies spooned together, the couple parted and sat up with a start. There was Katie jumping on the bed, a wide grin on her face.

"Wise an' shine," the little girl announced.

Sully buried his head in his pillow to stifle his laugh. Michaela reached out to their daughter to have her sit, rather than jump, on the bed.

From his pillow, Sully's muffled voice was heard, "What time is it?"

Michaela tried to make out the time through blurred eyes, "It's nearly 6."

Sully punched his pillow, "Kates, why'd ya have t' wake up so early?"

"Don't know, Papa," she raised her hands. "Don't wanna be up by self."

"Of course you don't, Sweetheart," Michaela pulled her into her lap. "Now, tell me why you were jumping on the bed."

"Jus' playin'," she grinned.

"Well," Michaela instructed, "you should not jump on the bed."

Sully sat up, "That's right. There's other fun stuff t' do in bed."

"Sully!" Michaela was shocked.

He looked at her in all innocence, "I mean like..." he grabbed his pillow and began to gently poke it at them, "pillow fights!"

"Yeah!" Katie began to jump again. Sully pulled her over to him and lifted her high in the air. Then, in a swooping move, he brought her close to Michaela's face. The frustrated mother simply laughed and kissed the child's cheek.

When their laughter subsided, Sully positioned Katie on his lap and held her little hands in his, "'Member yesterday when I said we had t' have a talk, Kates?"

The toddler knew from the sound of her father's voice that he was being serious now, and their play time was over.

"I member," she nodded.

"Do ya know what stealin' is?" he turned her to look at her face.

The child nodded, "Takin' somethin' that ain't yours."

"Isn't yours," Michaela corrected.

"Istnot yours," Katie tried to say it properly.

Sully smiled, "When ya take things that don't belong to ya an' put 'em in your purse, that's stealin'. Stealin's wrong, Kates. It's bad."

"I bad?" her expression saddened.

"No," he kissed her hand. "Stealin's bad. An' ya gotta not do it again. Understand?"

Katie nodded.

Michaela added, "Only put things in your purse that belong to you or that people give to you."

"How's that sound, sweet girl?" he touched her nose.

"Sounds good," she grinned.

"Good," Sully lifted her high in the air once more.

"Papa?" Katie wanted to sit again.

He set her down on the bed, "What is it?"

"Why my bwothers an' sister so old?" she seemed perplexed.

Michaela and Sully had never explained to her about the adoption of the Coopers and were not sure if she was ready to understand. They looked at one another for a signal.

Michaela broached the subject, "Papa and I have taken care of Matthew, Colleen and Brian since their real Mama died."

"Their weal Mama?" Katie was confused.

"Her name was Charlotte Cooper," Michaela explained. "She was a wonderful woman who helped me when I first came to Colorado Springs from Boston."

"She die?" Katie tried to understand.

Sully stroked his daughter's hair, "She got bit by a snake. Ya know how we always tell ya t' stay away from snakes?"

Katie nodded, "You help my bwothers an' sister?"

Michaela answered, "Yes, Sweetheart. And we love them."

By the child's silence, they knew she was pondering all that she had heard.

Then Katie asked, "Cawlot Cooper my weal Mama, too?"

Michaela reached for her, and Katie leaned forward to her mother's arms, "No, I'm your real Mama."

The toddler looked at her father, "You my weal Papa?"

He smiled, "Yep, I'm your real Pa, but Matthew, Colleen an' Brian are our family, too."

Katie looked up at her parents with wide eyes, "I glad you my Mama an' Papa."

Michaela kissed the top of her head and enfolded the little girl in her arms, "We are, too."

Then Katie thought about whom she would meet in Boston, "I have weal cuzwins?"

Sully tickled her side, "Yep, more than ya can count."

"I count t' ten," she sounded offended.

"You're going to need almost all of those numbers," Michaela smiled.

Katie sighed, "I gotta pwactice numbers now for my cuzwins."

"Come now," Michaela lifted her. "Let's get dressed. We have a busy day ahead of us."

************
Chapter 13
************

Michaela and Sully stood with Katie at the door of Colleen and Andrew's rooms at the boarding house.

"Perhaps you should knock a little harder," Michaela told him.

"I pounded loud enough t' wake the whole street," he shook his head. "They ain't home, Michaela."

"Istnot home," Katie recalled how her mother reacted when she used "ain't."

He looked at his child with amazement and corrected, "They AREN'T home."

"Istnot," Katie repeated.

"Not now, Kates," Sully told her.

"They knew we would be stopping by to see them before catching our train, Sully," Michaela was concerned.

"Maybe they forgot," he turned. "No use stayin' here any longer."

Then they heard the knob jiggle and the door open slightly. Andrew, his hair disheveled, peeked through the opening.

"Andrew!" Michaela was surprised. "Weren't you expecting us?"

"Ah, Michaela," Sully tapped her arm.

Andrew cleared his throat and stammered, "We... ah, that is... we overslept."

"Overslept?" she was astounded. "It's nearly 9 am!"

Sully tapped his wife again, "Michaela, could you step over here, please?" He walked a few feet from the entrance, and she followed.

"What is it, Sully?" she was clueless.

"Andrew ain't... isn't... dressed yet," he gestured with his head.

"Yes, I saw that," she stated. "But they should be up and dressed by now."

"Exactly," he winked. "They're still... in bed."

"What are you trying to..." When it dawned on her, she blushed. "Oh, my, ah... what should we do?"

"How 'bout we take a little walk, an' come back in about 15 minutes or so," he said loud enough for Andrew to hear.

Andrew spoke through the crack in the door, "Oh, that would be good. Thank you."

************

Michaela and Sully began their little stroll to give Colleen and Andrew the opportunity to dress. Katie insisted on walking by herself, but she positioned herself between her parents.

Michaela laughed, "I can't believe I didn't realize."

"Sometimes, ya need t' be told the obvious," he grinned.

"I'm afraid I'm not accustomed to thinking of Colleen as a wife with..." she hesitated.

"Desires?" he was blunt.

"Well," she sighed. "Do you think the opera... inspired them?"

"T' tell ya the truth, I think it was somethin' else," he smiled.

"Really?" she questioned. "What?"

They stopped so that Katie could examine a caterpillar on the walkway.

Sully took his wife's hand and brought it to his lips, "I think it was seein' us."

"Us?" she was surprised. "You mean at the opera? Sully, do you think they could see us when we..."

"No, no," he calmed her. "They were only watchin' each other at the' opera. I mean seein' us reminded 'em o' how married folks are supposed t' act. They been so tied up with work an' school here, they had no one t' show 'em there's more t' marriage than just sharin' a house."

They kissed sweetly.

Katie chose that moment to tug at her father's leg, "Papa, fuzz worm!"

Michaela smiled, "That's a caterpillar, Sweetheart."

Katie repeated, "Cat-or-pillow?"

"Do you suppose they've had sufficient time now?" Michaela wondered.

Sully picked up Katie, "I think so. Let's head on back."

They resumed their walk in the return direction.

Katie patted Sully's shoulder, "Was cat or pillow, Papa?"

"Kates," Sully was confused. "What are ya talkin' about?"

"Fuzz worm," the child thought she was being perfectly clear.

"Do you know what she's talkin' about, Michaela?" he shook his head.

She giggled, "Caterpillar, Katie. Caterpillar."

"Oh!" Sully got it.

"Now who needs to be told the obvious?" Michaela laughed.

************

Michaela spoke privately with Colleen in the bedroom while Sully and Andrew chatted in the sitting room. Katie managed to go back and forth between both rooms entertaining herself.

Michaela felt awkward, "So, how was... I mean did you and Andrew have... Oh, Colleen..."

The young woman took her mother's hand, "It's all right, Ma." She looked down, "We had a wonderful time last night."

Michaela smiled uncomfortably and cleared her throat, "That's... good."

"I'm glad you came here," Colleen went on. "An' I'm real glad you took us to the opera."

Michaela relaxed a bit, "This is rather awkward for me, Colleen. I mean, thinking of you as... a wife."

"I know," Colleen patted her hand. "But seeing you an' Pa reminded me what being in love is all about. Sharing whatever moments we have with each other. And last night..."

"Yes?" Michaela raised her eyebrow.

Colleen blushed, "Last night was really somethin' special with Andrew, Ma."

Michaela smiled, "When there are times like that with the man you love, it is an incredible experience. You know, before Sully's accident and exile, I don't think I fully appreciate how precious our time together is. I took for granted that we would always be together. But... now, our relationship has taken on a whole new intensity that I never imagined. Don't ever take your husband or his love for granted, Colleen."

Colleen grinned, "I won't." Hugging Michaela, she said, "Thanks, Ma. For everything."

************

Sully cleared his throat, "So, you an' Colleen had a good evenin' then?"

"Oh, yes," Andrew looked down shyly.

Sully paused for a few uncomfortable moments, "Ah, anythin' ya wanna ask me?"

"Ask you?" Andrew folded arms tightly against his chest nervously.

Sully took the direct approach, "Anythin' about... bein' a husband?"

"Oh," the young man's face reddened. "No... ah, thank you. We get along just fine. Especially..."

"Yes?" Sully encouraged.

"Well," Andrew blushed further. "Last night was particularly... special. Perhaps the most special for us."

"That's good," Sully smiled. "Ya know, bein' a doctor means ya gotta be away from home a lot."

"Oh, yes," the physician exhaled tensely. "I'm well aware of that."

"When you're both doctors, it'll be even harder," Sully continued. "Times like that, ya gotta let her know ya love her an' support her. Don't be afraid t' show her your feelin's... and don't take each other for granted."

"Thank you, Sully," the young man extended his arm for a handshake.

"You're welcome," Sully smiled. Then lifting his daughter, he asked, "Got anythin' t' say t' Andrew, Kates?"

"Don't steal!" the child answered immediately.

Sully and Andrew laughed. A knock at the door signaled the arrival of Matthew and Brian. The brothers entered and greeted their family.

Brian showed Colleen his journal and spoke of all the things he and Matthew had seen in their morning tour, including a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary.

"I wish we could stay longer," Brian saddened at the thought of leaving his sister.

"I do, too, Brian," Colleen hugged him. "But think of all the other things out there just waiting to see and do on your grand tour."

Matthew embraced his sister, "Think you and Andrew might get out t' Colorado Springs soon?"

Colleen looked at her husband, "I'd like for us to all be together for the holidays."

Andrew nodded, "Let's plan for that."

************

At the depot, the tearful goodbyes and hugs went on for some time before Sully reminded them that the train would not wait for them. Colleen and Andrew left them, and the family prepared for boarding.

Suddenly Matthew spotted a tall man, who looked familiar, lurking near the train gates, "Brian, look!"

"Hey, we saw a photograph of him at the Eastern State Penitentiary!" Brian pointed.

Sully glanced in that direction. A chill went through him, "That's the man who attacked me in the alley."

Michaela was surprised, "Who attacked you? What alley?"

Sully turned and quickly instructed his sons, "Matthew, go get a policeman. Brian, watch your Ma an' sister." Then he headed for the man.

Michaela could not believe what was happening, "Sully, where are you going?"

************
Chapter 14
************

Michaela watched in anguish as Sully warily approached the man. Matthew pulled away from them. "Stay here."

"Hurry, Matthew," Michaela spoke up.

Before the thug knew what hit him, Sully had apprehended the man. Quickly, Matthew arrived with an officer of the law.

"Congratulations," the policeman smiled at Sully. "We've been after this one for some time. His name's Samuel Hung. He's a tricky one. He escaped from Eastern Penn last year."

Matthew was interested, "What was he in jail for?"

"Stealing," the policeman stated simply. "What makes some people think they can just take what doesn't belong to them? Taking what others have worked so hard to earn?"

With that, he carted the man off to jail. Sully and Matthew returned to their concerned family.

************

"Why didn't you tell me about this man in an alley?" Michaela sounded hurt.

"Didn't wanna worry ya," Sully was sincere. "That's how I cut my hand."

He knew by her silence that she was upset with him for not informing her of the altercation.

"I'm sorry, Michaela," he apologized. "It happened so fast when I was goin' t' the hospital to see Andrew."

She remained silent.

"I didn't wanna worry ya 'cause ya were already concerned about Colleen," he added.

"What if he had seriously injured you or killed you?" her eyes moistened.

"But that didn't happen," Sully stated. "It was just a little cut. The man's goin' back t' jail now."

"And why didn't you simply report him to a policeman here and let him arrest the man?" she was more exasperated.

"Michaela," he tried to explain. "I didn't wanna risk him gettin' away."

She looked down. He touched her shoulder, but she turned quickly from him.

Speaking to the children, she sounded cold, "Come on, let's get our things. They're calling for our train."

Sully looked to Matthew, who shrugged as if to say he could not figure out women either.

************

Soon the buildings of Philadelphia were a memory as their train headed for New York. The six hour journey was brief compared to the length of time it had taken to come from Colorado.

"Pa," Brian jotted some notes in his journal. "Do ya think we'll have much time to look around in New York?"

Sully informed him, "Yep. We'll get there around 6 tonight, an' we leave for Boston at noon t'morrow. That oughta give ya plenty o' time for a look around."

Turning to Michaela, he whispered, "Got somethin' I wanna do there, too."

She was still giving him the silent treatment, but he could tell that she was intrigued.

He added, "Somethin' with you an' Katie if you'll go with me."

She immediately forgot her upset, "Of course we'll go with you, Sully. But what is that you want to do?"

"You'll see," he sounded mysterious.

************

They arrived at the newly constructed Grand Central Station on East 42nd Street. The sight was magnificent. Built by Commodore Vanderbuilt, it even had direct connections by horse drawn street car lines. Wide-eyed, the family tried to absorb all of the sights of New York City. There were even elevated trains powered by steam locomotions to carry people around the city. They decided to have their luggage sent ahead to the hotel while they took a carriage tour.

There was the new Lord and Taylor's department store on Broadway and 20th Street. Five stories high! Michaela looked in the window display. There was a lady's suit in two shades of wool-brown, with trimmings of narrow silk ruffles. She could not believe the price. $275!

There was the new City Hall Park with horse drawn rail cars and horse drawn carriages transporting people to and fro. On 9th Street stood the largest retail establishment in New York, owned by A.T. Stewart.

Incredibly, the streets were alive with activity in the early evening. They saw the fish market near Fulton Street where a man had stopped one of the horse pulled rail cars to inspect that the animal was not overworked. They overheard his telling the driver that his name was Henry Bergh, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

There was Central Park. Placards indicated that concerts were held there on Saturday afternoons. They saw a disabled Civil War veteran grinding music in a box for coins.

Sully stopped their carriage to buy a balloon for Katie. The child had never seen such a thing. When she tried to put it in her purse, it burst. Tears began streaming down her little cheeks. Sully had the driver return so that he could purchase another, which received much better care than the first. They marveled at the museums. There was one for Natural History and one for Art.

"Matthew," Brian could hardly control his exuberance. "Can we go there tomorrow?

"Sure, little brother," he smiled.

"And I'm certain there are many more things to see and do," Michaela indicated.

"It's gettin' late," Sully tapped the carriage driver. "We best be gettin' t' the hotel."

************

After dinner, the family retired, anxious to pack in as much activity and sightseeing as possible before their train departed for Boston.

Finally with Katie asleep, Sully softly spoke to Michaela, uncertain if she was awake, "Ya still upset with me?"

"No," she sighed and opened her eyes. "I'm not upset with you."

He was not quite sure of that, "I'm sorry I didn't tell ya 'bout my fight in the alley. I guess I didn't think about how ya might feel. I know now, I was wrong."

"Sully," she turned on her side to look at him. "Since everything that happened last year, I..." she began to cry. "I need to know about you. How you are. I almost lost you, and I cannot help but worry that you exercise caution. I don't know what I'd do if...." She could not go on.

"I know," he ran his hand up and down her arm. "Hey," he lifted her chin. "From now on, I'll tell ya everywhere I go, everythin' I do, everyone I meet." He paused to see her reaction.

She was smiling slightly, "That's not what I mean."

He leaned over to kiss her, "I'll exercise caution, an' I'll tell ya if somethin' bad happens t' me, 'cause I know I'd want ya t' tell me if somethin' ever happened t' you."

"Thank you," she appreciated his sensitivity. "Now, where is it you want to take Katie and me tomorrow?"

"Do ya mind if I surprise ya?" he sounded more serious than she understood.

"No," Michaela tried to read his mood. "I don't mind."

"Good," he gave her a final kiss good night and lowered the lamp. Then he pulled her close to him. So close she could feel the beat of his heart. With that rhythmic and steady pulse against her chest, she closed her eyes and fell asleep in his arms.

************
Chapter 15
************

Sully, Michaela, and the children completed an early breakfast and prepared to take in the sights and sounds of the city. Last minute instructions were given in the lobby.

Michaela straightened a stray lock of Brian's hair, "Now remember to be very careful. This is a large city with many..."

"We will, Ma," Brian interrupted. "An' we know that we gotta be at the train station by 11. Ya told us five times already."

She sighed, "All right, then. We'll see you later."

The boys departed for their adventure.

Michaela turned to her husband, "I suppose I'm being overprotective."

He made certain that Katie's hat was tied securely, "That's okay."

She noticed that he had not been very talkative since they got up. "Sully, are you all right?"

He nodded, "Yep. Ya ready t' go?"

"I'm ready," she slid her arm through his. "Are we walking or riding?"

"Walkin'," he replied. "Not far."

************

Along the way, Sully purchased a single red rose. Michaela was somewhat surprised, but given his solemn mood, she chose not to ask why. They reached their destination twenty minutes later. Amid the hustle and bustle of the city of New York, he had brought them to a quiet spot on the bank of the river.

He helped Michaela sit down on the grassy edge and joined her with Katie on his lap.

"Papa," Katie sounded disappointed. "We not fish."

"No," he smiled at her. "This is where it happened," his voice was almost a whisper.

"Where what happened?" Michaela touched his arm.

"This is the Hudson River," he swallowed hard.

"Oh, Sully," she realized. "This is where your mother died."

He nodded and rested his lips softly on the top of Katie's head. Gazing into the dark water, he spoke, "Hello, Ma. It's me... Byron."

He felt Michaela lay her hand on his arm and continued, "I know I been away a long time, but there's two people I want ya t' meet." Putting his hand on Michaela's, he went on, "This here's my wife, Michaela."

He paused and looked down at his daughter, "And this is your granddaughter Katherine... Katie."

He found it difficult to go on, as his mind flashed back to the memory of his childhood, hearing that his mother had drowned at this very spot.

Katie looked up at her father with her brown eyes, "Papa? Who ya talk to?"

Finally composing himself, Sully answered, "I'm talkin' t' my Ma, your grandma. Her name was Katherine, just like yours."

Katie immediately turned her attention to the water, "I no see her."

Michaela took Katie's hand, "She's in heaven, Sweetheart. Papa brought us here because this is where she died. He wanted us to feel close to her."

The little girl looked up at her father, "I feel close t' her."

Sully kissed the top of her head, "Me, too."

They sat in silence a while longer. Then Sully began to break off petals from the flower.

"Here, Kates," he handed her the rose petals. "Throw these int' the water, an' tell Grandma goodbye."

The toddler obeyed, then with the sweetness of her youth called out, "I love you, Gwan'ma. Bye."

Closing his eyes, Sully embraced Katie. Michaela leaned her head against his and hugged her family.

************

Michaela, Sully, and Katie met up with Brian and Matthew at the train depot. Brian was a nonstop fountain of information about what they had observed.

"They're makin' more an' more o' their streets smooth with concrete," Brian told them. "It's not bumpy t' ride here. An' we went t' the newspaper office. Ma, Miss Dorothy oughta see what all they got."

"Have, Brian," she attempted to correct him.

"Have what?" he was confused.

"Never mind," she gave up. "What did they have at the newspaper?"

"Typewriters," he smiled.

"What's that?" Sully asked.

Matthew contributed, "Machines that put letters on paper when ya press a key. Made by Remington."

"Remington?" Sully was confused. "I thought they make guns."

"They do," Brian nodded. "An' now they make typewriters, too." Then the boy handed his parents a copy of the latest newspaper, "I brought this t' show ya an article 'bout Indians."

Sully took the paper and began to read parts of it to his family, "There was a family named Germaine goin' out west by wagon t' Colorado. They were attacked by Indians in Kansas. The father, mother and boys were killed, while four girls rangin' in age from five up, were taken captive."

Michaela's eyes saddened, "That poor family."

Sully continued, "Seems a few weeks later, a Lieutenant Baldwin of the Army came upon the camp of Chief Grey Beard in Texas. He charged the encampment an' rescued the two younger Germaine girls. Baldwin received his second Congressional Medal of Honor for it."

They were silent for a moment until Katie spoke up, "When we wide twain?"

Sully turned her around to face her, "Ya wanna go on the train again?"

"Yep," the little girl responded.

"Then let's go," he stood up with her.

************

They boarded the New Haven Railroad line for Boston and were soon on their way. As her hometown neared, Michaela's excitement grew. She was anxious to see the familiar sights of the historic city of her birth. The Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere's house, and her beloved Beacon Hill.

************

They were met at the depot by Michaela's mother Elizabeth and sister Rebecca.

"Oh, Michaela," Elizabeth beamed. "It's so good to have you home!"

"It's good to be back," Michaela embraced her.

Sully leaned over to kiss his mother-in-law, "Good t' see ya, Elizabeth."

She flashed him a smile, "And you, too, Sully." Then the grandmother reached for the child in his arms. "Can this be little Katie?"

Katie shyly put her finger in her mouth.

"Say hello to your grandmother, Katie," Michaela instructed her daughter.

Katie's soft voice spoke, "Hello, Gwan'ma."

Elizabeth hugged her again. More embraces for Brian and Matthew followed, and eventually they were on their way to Beacon Hill.

As they rode along, Michaela observed, "We heard about the fire last fall, but..."

Rebecca interrupted, "It was ghastly. When we returned from Colorado Springs, we were in disbelief. 65 acres of charred crater, Boston's financial district. It started on Summer Street, consumed almost all of Franklin, Congress and Federal streets. It came to the door of the Old South Meeting House, and a group of people were able to spare the Old State House."

Brian told them, "They had a big fire in Chicago a couple o' years ago, too."

Rebecca continued, "I know. Our fire chief, John Damrell, went there to observe its causes. He predicted one in Boston if changes were not made."

"I imagine that having the houses so close together with stables and factories was a problem," Michaela thought.

"Yes, it was," Rebecca agreed. "The City Council rejected Damrell's request for a steam engine in the vulnerable district, saying it was too expensive. The water board also dismissed the need for new pipes."

Elizabeth attempted to change the subject, "But the rebuilding is well underway. So, how are Colleen and Andrew?"

Michaela smiled and put her hand on Sully's, "They're doing well. She's recuperating nicely from her carriage accident. They're both working hard."

************

They arrived at the Quinn home. The servants were lined up to greet them and take the luggage up to their rooms. In a desire to spend more time with her youngest grandchild, Elizabeth insisted that Katie share her room. Brian and Matthew each got their own rooms, and Michaela and Sully were assigned her girlhood bedroom.

************

As they unpacked, Sully looked around the room with its beautiful four-poster bed, fine Victorian furniture, fresh flowers and elegant decor.

"So this was your room," he sat down on the bed to test it.

"Yes," she smiled. "It seems very strange having a man in it with me."

"Would ya rather I sleep somewhere else?" he winked.

"Absolutely not," she sat down beside him. Lifting her hand to run her fingers across the hair above his ear, she spoke softly, "Thank you for bringing us back here to see my family. Since Marjorie's death, I...." She stopped, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the memory.

"You're welcome," he leaned down to kiss her.

Composing herself, Michaela grinned, "I want us to stay in here."

"Okay," he smiled. "What time's dinner?"

"Mother always has dinner promptly at 7 p.m.," she replied.

He reached up to unbutton the top of her dress, "That gives us a little time."

"Sully!" she was caught off guard. "What if Mother...."

He kissed her neck and chin, "Mmm?"

She was losing her willpower and forgot what she was protesting. They laid back on the bed and continued their tender kisses and touches until a knock at the door interrupted.

************
Chapter 16
************

Quickly, a startled Michaela sat up. She rebuttoned her blouse and cleared her throat. Then, standing, she said, "Yes?"

The door opened. It was the family maid Martha, "Beggin' your pardon, Miss Michaela, but your mother has asked me to see if you and Mr. Sully need anything."

Sully stood and positioned himself behind his wife. His hand touched her waist sending shivers up her spine.

"Ah," she tried not to sound affected. "No. Thank you, Martha. We're fine."

Sully slid his hand even lower, causing Michaela to jump slightly.

Martha noticed, "Are you all right? Your face is flushed."

Sully smirked, and Michaela reached behind her back to swat his hand away. She missed.

"I'm just a bit warm from the unpacking, Martha," she tried to sound calmer. "Ah, Mr. Sully and I need no further assistance, thank you. Please tell my mother that we shall be down for dinner at 7."

Martha curtsied, "Yes, Ma'am."

She shut the door.

"Sully!" Michaela turned to her husband. "What were you trying to do!"

He laughed, "After all this time, I gotta explain things to ya?"

She rolled her eyes, "What must that poor woman have thought!"

"Nothin'," he pulled her into his arms. "She didn't know what was happenin'."

"I wonder," her face was still red.

"Now, where were we?" he knew perfectly well the effect that he was having on his wife.

"We were unpacking," she knew perfectly well that was not what they were doing.

He lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bed. Then he walked to the door.

"Where are you going?" she wanted him by her side.

"T' lock the door," he latched it. "Wouldn't want Martha t' see ya 'flushed' again."

He returned to her and ran his hands across the front of her dress. Her reaction was immediate and noticeable. Then his hands slid down to her legs. Taking his time, he removed her stockings and massaged her feet. His light touches enticed her.

"Sully," she breathlessly reached for him.

He sat back and removed his shirt.

"I love you so much," she closed her eyes as he began to undo her dress. Her senses soared at his kisses.

Then he paused, "Ya sure ya don't mind?"

"Mind?" she was lost in his touches.

"In this room," he wanted to be sure.

"In this room, I hoped that I would someday find and love the man of my dreams," she caressed his face. "In this room, I envisioned that I would share my life with someone who would understand me. In this room, I prayed that I would one day have a family." She looked deeply into his eyes and locked onto his soul, "You have given me all of that and more, Sully. You belong here, in this room, with me."

He smiled and returned to his kisses. Michaela then took the initiative. Rolling him onto his back, she unbuttoned his buckskins and slid them down his thighs. She kissed his chest, then caressed his bronze body. Soon their slight movements became more intense, and they closed their eyes in total submission to their love. Afterwards, Michaela ran her fingers through his hair, as he lay his head lightly on her chest.

"I love you more and more each day," she smiled.

He grinned, "We're so lucky, Michaela. But promise me that you'll always remember, no matter what, you alone own my heart. No one ever could or ever would sway me from you."

"I promise," she thought his request odd. "What makes you say that, Sully?"

"'Cause we're back in Boston," he recalled his first visit. "There's a lot here t' remind ya of what ya gave up t' come to Colorado. I can't give ya this kind o' life back there. All I can give ya is my heart."

"Oh, Sully," she sighed. "Don't you know how very much that is? It's all I want."

He peered into her eyes, "I read somethin' by Keats that I wanna share with ya."

"Please do," she adored his poetry.

Sully spoke the words sweetly:

"I cannot exist without you.
I am forgetful of everything but seeing you...
My life seems to stop there.
I see no further.
You have absorbed me."

With the last word, he tenderly kissed her.

She felt tears, "You have absorbed me, too."

He kissed the tears on her cheeks as he cupped her face in his hands. Then he grinned, "I reckon we oughta get cleaned up for dinner. Wouldn't wanna shock anyone by bein' late."

"Mother said that my sisters and their families will be joining us this evening," she laughed. "I hope Katie is ready to count her cousins."

************

The assembly of Quinn family members required every square inch of the dining room. Katie sat on her father's lap with Michaela to their left. At the head of the table sat Elizabeth, who led the grace.

All bowed their heads as she spoke, "Dear Father in Heaven. Thank you for bringing Michaela and her family safely to us again. Thank you for the joy of having Rebecca, Maureen, Claudette and their families here, as well. Dear Lord, watch over our beloved Marjorie. And for this bountiful meal, we are grateful. Amen."

Katie, who was holding her hands together in prayer, spoke loudly, "Amen!"
There was laughter at the table. Between bites of their meals, Sully and Michaela made efforts to tempt their daughter to eat, too. The child was highly selective in her eating habits, however, and merely picked at what they offered.

The dinner conversation was light and pleasant. At its conclusion, they broke into smaller groups. Matthew and Brian went off to talk to their cousins. Elizabeth asked Sully and Katie to join her in the parlor, and Michaela stayed with her sisters, dreading the inquisition she knew awaited her.

************

"Michaela," Claudette spoke, "Why do you let your husband take care of your child?"

"Claudette!" Rebecca admonished.

Michaela remained calm, "If you mean why does my husband hold and feed our daughter, I can only say that he enjoys doing so. But to say I 'let' him implies that he needs my permission. He does not. Sully certainly is free to do what he wants. He even changes her diaper." The last sentence was deliberately meant to shock her sister.

"But," Claudette continued, "don't you believe that sort of behavior improper for a man?"

Michaela spoke curtly, "Sully is a man who believes in expressing his love. We enjoy sharing the responsibilities of parenthood. Some may think it unconventional. I think of it as one of his many endearing qualities."

"So do I," Rebecca spoke up.

Maureen began her cross examination next, "You've been married for over three years now, Michaela. Aren't you planning to have more children? What about your wifely duty to give your husband a son?"

"Maureen!" Rebecca was becoming more embarrassed for their youngest sister.

Again, Michaela remained composed, "Yes, we hope to have more children, but we lost a baby less than a year ago in the midst of a very difficult time for Sully and me..." Her composure began to weaken.

Rebecca put her hand on Michaela's, "Maureen, how can you be so insensitive?"

Maureen looked embarrassed, "I meant no offense. It's just that after three years of marriage, I had already had two children and another on the way."

"And you were considerably younger than I when you had your children," Michaela was feeling more uncomfortable. "As for giving my husband a son, we already have two wonderful sons."

There was silence among the sisters as they sipped tea.

Then Maureen spoke again, "Oh, I saw your old friend Dr. William Burke the other day.

Michaela smiled, "And how is he?"

"He's opened a clinic for the poor," Maureen sounded condescending. "And he married a year ago."

"Did he?" Michaela was pleased.

"Yes," Maureen continued. "After you returned to Colorado, he went to stay with his family for a time. That's where he met his wife."

"I'm happy for him," Michaela took another sip of tea.

************

Katie had become quite comfortable with her grandmother, and she sat happily on Elizabeth's lap. Sully smiled at the sight.

"You and Michaela have a beautiful daughter," Elizabeth kissed the little girl's cheek.

"Thanks," he proudly replied. "Fortunately, she's got her Ma's looks."

"Oh, I don't know," Elizabeth turned Katie to look at her more closely. "I believe I see some of you in her."

Out of the blue Katie looked at Elizabeth, "I tought you die Gwan'ma."

"What?" Michaela's mother was surprised.

"I trow flower in wiver for ya," the child responded.

Sully explained, "That was for MY Ma, Kates. This here's your other Grandma, Grandma Quinn. She's Mama's mother."

"I get two Gwan'mas?" the little girl counted.

"Yep," Sully laughed.

"Oh," the toddler seemed relieved. Then Katie spoke up, "I sing, Gwan'ma?"

"Not now, Kates," Sully grinned.

"No, I'd be delighted to hear you sing, Katie," Elizabeth smiled.

The child burst into a version of "Home, Sweet Home." As she concluded the final refrain, Elizabeth clapped.

"That was beautiful," she applauded the child. "I'll have to teach you a new song that everyone's singing called 'Home on the Range.'"

Katie slid from her grandmother's lap and reached up for her father's approval.

"Good job," he kissed her.

Elizabeth was impressed by his tenderness with his daughter, "You make a good father, Sully. You seem quite comfortable with her."

He was speechless at the rare compliment, "Thanks." Kissing the little girl, he added, "I missed so much last fall. I can't seem t' get enough o' watchin' her grow an' wonder at things."

"She obviously adores you," she went on. "How have things been since your... since last year?"

"We're fine," he answered truthfully. "Happy."

"That's good," Elizabeth looked down.

Sully asked, "How 'bout you, Elizabeth. Are you all right?"

She put on a brave face, "I miss Marjorie. A parent should not have to bury a child."

"I know," he empathized. "It's real hard."

"And," she sighed. "I miss Michaela. I truly appreciate your bringing her back for this visit."

He grinned, "She misses you, too."

"Thank you for making her so happy, Sully," Elizabeth displayed uncommon emotion.

Katie got down from her father's lap and walked to her grandmother.

Placing her hand on the woman's knee, the little girl asked, "Ya sad, Gwan'ma?"

Elizabeth broke into a smile, "Not with you here! I love seeing my Katie!"

The butler interrupted their conversation to announce, "Mrs. Quinn, the photographer is here."

"Splendid, Harrison, show him in," she said.

************
Chapter 17
************

For the first portrait, Elizabeth sat in the center of the parlor sofa. She had Michaela and Rebecca sit on either side and Maureen and Claudette behind her. Next came portraits of each daughter and their families with Elizabeth. Finally, the entire clan was assembled for a large group photograph.

************

Before retiring, Elizabeth invited all to return for dinner the next evening, as well. Her daughters departed for their respective homes, and Brian and Matthew headed up for bed, leaving Michaela and Sully alone with Katie in the parlor.

Martha approached, "Is there anything I can get for you?"

"No thank you, Martha," Michaela held a sleepy Katie against her breast and gently rocked her.

The maid departed. Sully loosened his tie and sat down on the floor below his wife and daughter. Michaela reached down to run her fingers through his hair.

"How'd your visit go with your sisters?" Sully knew it could not have been easy.

"Why can't all of my sisters be like Rebecca?" she smiled. "I felt like a witness being interrogated."

"What did they wanna know?" he was curious.

"Oh... How I could let my husband take care of my child? Why don't I have more children? What about my wifely duty to give you a son?" she sounded tired.

"They just don't understand what we got," he patted her knee.

"What about Mother and you?" she shifted Katie's weight.

"We got on fine," he looked up at her.

Katie began to whimper, wanting to go to bed.

"I'll carry her up," Sully stood and lifted the little girl.

"Mother would like her in with her tonight," she rose from the sofa. "Do you think that will be all right?"

"Sure," he turned to ascend the steps.

"Let's get her changed for bed first," she followed them up.

************

Softly, Michaela knocked on her mother's door.

"Come in," Elizabeth called from her bed.

Michaela opened the door and entered first, "We brought Katie."

Elizabeth's eyes shone with joy, "I'm delighted!" She pointed to the corner, "Look what Harrison found."

It was Michaela's crib.

"Okay if we come in?" a voice whispered from the hallway.

"Oh, Sully," Michaela went to the door. "Yes, come in. You can put her in my crib," she pointed.

Sully gently laid Katie in the bed and kissed her fair hair.

Caressing his child's cheek, he smiled, "Looks like she belongs."

"If she wakens in the night, please bring her to us, Mother," Michaela kissed the little girl.

"I shall, but I have a feeling we'll get along wonderfully," Elizabeth motioned for them to leave. "Good night."

************

Back in Michaela's bedroom, Sully undressed and got into bed. His wife opened up the armoire to hang up her dress. By the time she completed the tasks of washing up, slipping into her nightgown and brushing her hair, Sully was asleep. Michaela crawled into bed and snuggled next to him. She had wanted to tell him about William, but it would wait until tomorrow.

************

Michaela awoke the next morning to the sensation of her husband's kisses behind her ear. She looked over her shoulder at him.

"Is there something that you wanted?" she yawned.

"Mmm," he voice was deep. "Just t' say good mornin'."

She turned over on her side to face him, "Good morning."

He kissed the sides of her mouth, "Sorry I fell asleep last night."

She caressed the side of his stubbled face, "That's quite all right. I like a well rested husband."

"How 'bout you?" he whispered. "How'd you sleep?"

"Very well, thank you," she ran her finger across his lips. "I did want to tell you something last night that Maureen mentioned after dinner."

"Oh?" he propped his head on his arm.

"She ran into William Burke," she informed him.

Sully felt a twinge of anxiety, "William?"

She slid closer to her husband. "He's married now."

"That's good," he was not quite relieved.

"You're not jealous are you?" she teased.

"'Course I am," Sully rubbed his chin. "He almost took ya from me."

"I was flattered by his attention," she grinned. "But no one could ever take me from you."

"Still," he smiled. "I'm glad he's married. Hope he's happy now."

"Me, too," she kissed him again.

************

Brian and Matthew decided to spend the day exploring the city. Michaela and Sully opted for a picnic along the Charles River. Michaela was delighted that her mother agreed to accompany them.

After Sully unfolded the blanket for them, he helped his mother-in-law sit upon it.

"Ya sure you're comfortable, Elizabeth?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you," she replied.

Then he took Katie from his wife and assisted her in sitting on the blanket.

"I fly, Papa?" the little girl held her arms out.

"We're gonna eat now, sweet girl," he said.

"Go ahead, Sully," Michaela told him. "Mother and I shall unpack the lunch and prepare everything. That should take us a few minutes."

Sully's eyes widened, "Mama says we can fly!"

He carried his daughter a few feet from them, then lifted her high into the air. She spread her arms and pretended to soar as he ran around with her. Her laughter brought smiles to her mother and grandmother.

"I never thought I would say this, Michaela," Elizabeth patted her daughter's hand. "But your husband is a gem."

"Thank you mother," she was nearly speechless. "I'm very blessed."

"I mean it," her mother smiled at the pair. "I have five, well now, four sons-in-law. I have observed Sully the least. Of all of them, I know that he truly makes my daughter happy. I never thought that a man should have a hand in child rearing until I saw him with Katie. He helped to bring her into this world, and it is obvious that he loves her dearly."

"He is an extraordinary man, Mother," Michaela was overwhelmed by her mother's praise.

Elizabeth squeezed her hand, "I know I did not initially approve of him, and I was quite perturbed at what he did last fall to merit his exile, but he has certainly proven me wrong." Pausing, the older woman changed the subject, and in a serious tone said, "There's something else I'd like to speak about, Michaela."

"What is it?" the doctor was concerned.

Her mother came right out with it, "The baby you lost. Your miscarriage."

"It's very difficult to talk about," she looked down.

"I know it, my dear," Elizabeth noticed the change in her daughter's demeanor. "I never told you how sorry I was. I've always thought something like that was too private to discuss. But... since your sister died, I have come to realize the emptiness, the sense of loss that is indescribable."

Michaela reached out to hug her mother, "I know losing Marjorie has been very difficult for you."

"And the loss of your baby came when your husband was away. Perhaps if I would have been there..." Elizabeth shook her head.

"Oh, Mother, no," Michaela choked back her emotions. "You could not have prevented it. No one could."

"You and Sully are all right now?" the mother was concerned.

"We're fine," the daughter assured. "Really."

Searching Michaela's eyes, Elizabeth asked softly, "Can... Will you be able to have more children?"

Michaela smiled faintly, "We think so, Mother." Feeling uncomfortable, she added shyly, "We're trying."

Pausing to watch her son-in-law and granddaughter, Elizabeth confided, "Katie is more special than any of my other grandchildren, you know."

"What makes you say that?" Michaela was surprised.

"There is something about her," her mother replied. "A spark, an innocent wonder, a loving spirit that I have never seen in the others." Patting her daughter's hand, she said, "You put that there, Michaela. You and Sully."

An out-of-breath Sully carried a giggling Katie over to the blanket. Sitting down beside his wife, he drew the child onto his lap.

"Well, you two, how was the flying?" Michaela wiped Katie's face with a damp cloth.

"Wondraful!" the toddler exclaimed. "Papa help me touch sky."

Sully laughed, "What color's the sky, Kates?"

"Blue!" she responded.

"That's right, Sweetheart," Michaela kissed her.

"May I ask you two something?" Elizabeth began to eat her lunch.

"Of course, Mother," Michaela replied.

"What is all of this business about Katie and fishing?" the woman inquired.

Sully and Michaela laughed.

"I tried t' teach her t' fish, Elizabeth," he hugged his daughter. "But she didn't wanna see the fish get hurt. She's been talkin' 'bout it ever since."

"I know," the older woman smiled. "That's all I heard about this morning. She has made me promise that we shall not dine on fish during her visit. And this is New England!"

************

The quartet ate their lunch in pleasant conversation. Just as they rose and began to prepare for their return to Beacon Hill, a man approached.

"Michaela?" It was William Burke.

"William!" she extended her hand. "What a pleasant surprise."

"Indeed it is," his dimpled smile spoke of his delight.

Michaela turned, "I believe you remember Sully, my husband and my mother, Elizabeth Quinn."

Sully nodded and shook his hand.

William's eyes did not betray his disappointment, "Congratulations, Mr. Sully."

Michaela reached down to pick up her child, "And this is our daughter, Katie."

He touched the little girl's cheek, "She's beautiful. I'm so happy for you."

"Maureen told me that she ran into you not long ago," Michaela said. "I understand that you are married now. Congratulations."

"Thank you," he grinned. "My wife will be joining me shortly. I do hope that you can stay for a few minutes to meet her."

"Of course," Michaela nodded. "And you've opened a clinic for the poor? That's wonderful."

"Thank you, yes," he sounded humble. "I think it's so important to improve their lives and living conditions. Perhaps you could stop by during your visit to inspect my facilities." Looking over Michaela's shoulder, he spied a woman's approach, "Here comes my wife now."

The woman approached, but William's introduction was obscured by the shock that went through Michaela and Sully.

************
Chapter 18
************

Sully and Michaela spoke simultaneously in recognition, "Catherine!"

William was surprised, "You know her?"

"Yes," Michaela was still in shock. "We met in Colorado Springs a few years ago."

Catherine, her blonde hair swept up in a fashionable design, hugged Michaela, "I cannot believe I am seeing you again." Then turning to Sully, she moved closer, "And you, Sully, it is very good to see you again."

"You, too, Catherine," he looked at his wife.

"How did you meet Michaela and Sully, my dear?" William wondered.

"You know that I lived for a time with the Indians," Catherine looked up at him. "My tribe was massacred, and I was brought to Colorado Springs. Dr. Mike and Sully took care of me."

"Then I owe them a tremendous debt," William put his arm around her.

"Tell us how you two met," Michaela was curious.

"We met in Baltimore, where I had gone to join my family," William explained. "Catherine was hosting a hospital charity event that I attended."

Elizabeth cleared her throat, "Please, William and Catherine, won't you join us for dinner tonight? I'm sure we can make room for two more, and I know that Michaela and Sully would enjoy catching up with old times."

"We'd love to, Mrs. Quinn," William smiled. "7 p.m. if I recall correctly."

"That's right," she grinned. "See you this evening then."

************

Sully and Michaela found their first opportunity to speak in private after they arrived back at the Quinn home. They were in the washroom bathing Katie.

Michaela spoke in disbelief, "What an unbelievable coincidence."

"I know," Sully nodded.

Michaela observed, "Catherine certainly looked radiant."

"Um-hum," he could only think about how William had stared at Michaela.

Katie began to splash water when she noticed that her parents' undivided attention was not on her.

"Katherine Elizabeth Sully," Michaela was not amused. "This is not your house, young lady. Do not get water all over the floor."

Katie's lower lip curled under, and her face indicated a crying spell was imminent.

"Michaela," Sully was surprised. "It ain't that bad. We can wipe it up."

"I'm sorry," she lifted the crying toddler from the water. "I don't know why I reacted like that." Kissing Katie's cheek, she said, "There, there, Sweetheart. Mama's not angry with you. We'll clean up the water."

Soon Katie was calm and content to let her mother shower her with kisses.

"You okay?" Sully asked as he began to lather his face for a shave.

"Of course I am. Why do you ask?" she brushed Katie's hair.

"Ya seem nervous or somethin'." he tried to gauge her reaction.

"Nervous? Why would I be nervous?" she sounded unsure.

"From seein' William an' Catherine?" he continued to shave.

"Of course not," she steadied her hands to put a ribbon in Katie's hair.

"Michaela," he stopped and took her hands. "What's this about?"

"I don't know what you mean, Sully," her voice trembled nervously.

"Hey, it's me, remember?" he gently ran his hand across her cheek.

"It's just the last time I saw her...." she confessed. "Well, it brought back so many memories."

"So did seein' William for me," he replied.

She did not see the connection, "That's different, Sully."

"How's it different?" he tilted his head quizzically. "He asked you to marry him. I thought you were gonna stay in Boston with him."

"But I came back to you," her voice raised.

"An' I told Catherine that my heart is yours," he spoke louder.

Katie looked up at her parents.

"Mama, Papa mad?" she sensed from the tone of their voices.

The parents realized that they had caused their daughter concern.

Sully lifted her up an gave her a kiss, "Course not, Kates."

Michaela rubbed her back, "Are you ready for dinner, Sweetheart?"

"Yep," she grinned. "I show Gwan'ma new wibbon."

"Ya look beautiful," Sully smiled. "Just like your Ma."

Michaela blushed slightly, "I don't feel very beautiful just now."

"Why not?" Sully tried to understand.

"Never mind," she shook her head. "Let's not be late."

************

When they descended the stairs, they saw Matthew and Brian in eager conversation with Elizabeth.

"Ma! Pa!" Brian ran to them. "Guess who we met today!"

Michaela hugged him, "Who, Brian?"

They entered the parlor and sat down.

Brian took center stage, "We went to the Boston Public Library. An' we met a young man named Thomas Watson. He was doin' some research there. He talked about a Mr. Bell, that he's been workin' with."

"I'm afraid I've never heard of a Mr. Bell or Mr. Watson," Michaela tried to recall.

"I bet ya will some day, Ma," the boy could not contain his excitement. "Mr. Bell's a professor an' teacher of the deaf here in Boston. At night, he's been workin' on an invention that'll help deaf people see sound."

"See sound?" Sully found it hard to believe.

"I suppose it could be possible," Michaela speculated.

"They call this thing an ear phonautograph," Matthew contributed.

Elizabeth shook her head, "The next thing you know, people will be able to speak over wires."

"I believe that, Grandma," Brian nodded. "An' I bet Mr. Bell makes it happen."

Harrison entered the room to announce the arrival of Dr. and Mrs. Burke. He escorted them into the parlor.

"Good evening, all," William smiled.

In a midnight blue gown, Catherine looked stunning on his arm, "I hope we are not late."

Elizabeth instructed the butler, "Harrison, make sure everyone is in the dining room, and then begin dinner."

"Yes, Madam," he bowed. "Ladies and gentlemen," he announced. "Dinner is served." The words were completed just as the clock in the parlor struck 7.

************

The seating arrangement was similar to the night before, but this time William sat opposite Michaela and Catherine across from Sully. Michaela's discomfort was obvious to her husband, and she could tell that he was not at ease with William in the room. Following grace, the volume of conversation rose as dinner was served.

Elizabeth requested, "William, tell us what you have been doing."

He beamed, "I've been consulting with the Massachusetts Sanitation Commission and the newly formed National Public Health Association. We are endeavoring to improve living conditions, particularly for the poor. Why, just this year alone there has been an increase in the number of public health boards from 4 to 123."

"Quite impressive," Michaela raised her eyebrows.

Sully felt uncomfortable at his wife's interest in William's work.

Casting a sultry gaze at Sully, Catherine changed the subject, "So, you named your daughter Katherine?"

"I like the choice," William added.

"After my husband's mother," Michaela sounded defensive.

"I see," Catherine smiled.

Realizing his wife was uncomfortable, Sully leaned over to assure her in a whisper, "I love you, Michaela."

She placed her hand atop his, "Sully, I..."

Katie had heard the exchange and announced, "Papa love Mama!"

Everyone laughed as Michaela's face reddened.

"How long have you been married?" Catherine asked.

"Three years," Sully tried to get Katie to eat her vegetables.

"And you?" Michaela was curious.

"Just over a year," William responded.

************

More polite conversation followed until dinner was concluded. The thought of breaking into small discussion groups with her sisters and Catherine caused Michaela more anxiety than she could bear. She excused herself from the table, saying that she did not feel well.

"Matthew, Brian," Sully put his hand on their shoulders and spoke low. "Watch your sister for a spell while I go check on your Ma."

"Sure thing," Matthew took the toddler into his arms.

"Mattew!" Katie was happy. "We play?"

"Let's go see our cousins so ya can count 'em," he motioned into the conservatory.

************

Sully quietly opened the bedroom door. Michaela was sitting on a chair by the fireplace.

He went to her and knelt down, "Feelin' okay?"

She was startled, "Oh, Sully. I'm somewhat better."

He turned her face to look at him, "What's wrong?"

"I'm not at all sure," she shook her head. "It's just, I saw how Catherine looked at you all through dinner and...."

"Michaela," his blue eyes reached to her. "Ya know I love you. Only you. Catherine can look at me any way she wants, it don't matter."

"I know that, Sully," she felt a tear. "It's she that I'm worried about. And William."

"Why?" he hoped to understand her concerns.

Michaela let out her feelings, "Because she looked at you as if she's still in love with you. That's not fair to William."

"He's still in love with you," he stood up and walked to the fireplace. Turning, he added, "I couldn't stand the way he looked at ya all through dinner."

"Well, I certainly didn't notice. And what was Catherine implying about the name of our daughter?" she felt her temper rise.

"I don't think she was implyin' anythin'. Just makin' polite conversation," he felt frustrated.

Sully walked to the door.

"Where are you going?" she was not finished with their discussion.

"T' get Katie," he stopped. "It's past her bedtime."

"Are William and Catherine still here?" she asked.

"I don't know," he left her.

************

Sully returned shortly with a chatty Katie. Michaela was where he had left her by the fireplace.

While Sully changed the little girl's diaper and readied her for bed, Katie called to her mother, "Mama, I count six cuzwins!"

"Six! That's quite a lot," Michaela was lured from her seat by the sweet sound of her baby's voice. She pulled Katie to stand on the bed so that she could remove the ribbon from her blond locks.

"Your Ma's waitin' for Katie in her room," he informed his wife. "William an' Catherine left as I was bringin' her up. He said he'd contact you 'bout seein' his clinic."

Katie began to jump up and down on the bed, not the least bit interested in their conversation.

"Stop that!" Michaela reproved her loudly.

Katie plopped down and began to cry. Sully picked her up and rubbed her back.

Michaela felt as if her heart would break, "I'm sorry Katie. I didn't mean to yell."

Katie's reddened face was not consoled.

"Please, Sweetheart," Michaela reached for her. "Mama loves you."

"I'll take her down for some milk," he walked toward the door with their daughter in his arms. "When she's settled, I'll put her in your Ma's room."

Michaela went to them and kissed Katie's cheek, "Good night, little one."

With her husband and child gone, Michaela returned to her seat by the fireplace and began to weep.

************
Chapter 19
************

"Michaela," Sully gently shook her. "Come on t' bed."

She awoke, "Mmm?"

"Ya fell asleep while I was puttin' Katie t' bed," he removed his shirt. "Ya can't sleep in your gown in the chair."

She stood up and began to undress somewhat slowly, "Is Katie all right?"

Sully walked to her, "She's fine." He lightly touched her skin, "Want me t' help ya?"

"No thank you," she became more alert. "Katie must wonder what's wrong with me. I'll go speak to her." She started for the door.

"She's sleepin'," he gently pulled her back. "I told her Mama was just havin' a bad day."

"She's too young to understand," Michaela shook her head. "You're positive she's all right?"

"I'm positive," his voice was comforting.

Quickly slipping in her nightgown, Michaela climbed into bed. She pulled up the covers high.

"Ya cold?" Sully undressed and eased into the bed beside her.

"No," she moved away from him.

"Michaela, look at me," his voice was strong.

She turned over in compliance.

"Are you gonna act like this for the rest of our trip?" he said in frustration.

"I don't know why I feel like this, Sully. I can't explain it to you or even to myself," she became weepy.

"You're worryin' me," he struggled to understand. "Ya know I love ya. I know ya love me. We're together. Nothin' else matters."

Finally, her feelings poured forth, "What if Catherine steals you away from me again? I would die if that happened."

"Michaela," he pulled her into his arms. "She never stole me away an' couldn't if she tried. This all goes back t' you bein' hurt when Catherine kissed me all those years ago, don't it?."

"You implied then that you turned to her because I was so... cold," she wiped a tear away. "What if she stirs those feelings in you again? I could not stand to be hurt like that again. Oh, Sully, I saw how she looked at you. I can't compete with her youth or her beauty."

"You don't have t' compete. Michaela, I didn't mean t' hurt ya back then, but ya know nothin' happened. Please don't go shuttin' yourself away from me 'cause ya think you'll be hurt again," his eyes begged.

"I don't know what's happening to me," she shook her head.

"Stop your frettin'," he assured her. "You're stuck with me, for better or worse. Remember?"

"It's not that simple," she felt so tired.

"Oh, yes it is," Sully asserted. "It's that simple. You an' me been through so much. We can't give int' our fears, Michaela."

"My greatest fear is losing you," her voice quivered.

"Well, that ain't gonna happen," he was certain. "Now, close your eyes, and get some rest. I'm right here, an' I'll be here for you always."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Finally, they drifted off to sleep.

************

When Michaela awoke the next morning, she reached for Sully, but he was not there. She called for him. At that moment, he came into the bedroom, cleanly shaven and dressed.

Hearing her frantic call, Sully quickly crossed to the bed, "I'm here, Michaela."

He pulled her into his embrace and kissed the top of her head.

"When you weren't here, I...." she felt weepy again.

"Shhh," he stroked her hair. "I told ya last night, I'll always be here for ya."

She pulled back to look in his eyes, "Is Katie awake?"

"Yep," he grinned. "Your Ma's takin' her down t' breakfast. I think she needs her Mama though."

Michaela pulled him closer, "And her Mama needs her."

"I know what else ya need," he kissed the tip of her nose.

"What?" she looked into his eyes.

"A little time alone with your husband," he whispered. "So he can remind ya what ya mean t' him."

She leaned against his chest, "Oh, Sully. I've been so foolish."

"I know," he teased. "But I love ya anyway."

"I really think I should spend as much time with Mother as I can," she felt guilty. "This is our last day with her since we depart for home tomorrow."

"That's true," he understood.

************

There was a soft knock at the door.

"Come in," Sully answered.

It was Martha, "Beggin' your pardon, Miss Michaela, but this message was just delivered to you from Dr. Burke."

"Thank you, Martha," Michaela took the note off the tray, and the maid departed.

"What's it say?" Sully gave her a moment to read.

"He wants me to stop by his clinic today at 3. He's invited you, too," she scanned the note.

"What do ya wanna do?" he tried to gauge her reaction.

"I suppose I should pay a courtesy visit. Mother will be taking her afternoon nap then," she replied. "Will you come, too?"

"Sure, if ya want me to," he said.

"Of course, I want you to," she smiled. "But we should leave Katie here. I prefer that she not be exposed to any diseases at his clinic. What about the boys?"

"They're doin' some more sightseein' t'day. Your nephews are takin' 'em," he informed her.

"Then, I suppose I should get ready," she swung her legs around to the floor.

Sully stopped her from rising, "Before ya get up, I got somethin' for ya."

"What?" she wondered.

"This," he leaned forward and kissed her.

She raised her hands to caress the sides of his face, and their kiss deepened.

Then he pulled back to prevent himself from going further, "Think ya can remember that?"

She was breathless, "I know I can."

"Good," he raised his eyebrows. "Just remember there's more where that came from. Now, let's get you up."

************

In the poorest section of the city, Michaela and Sully arrived at The Burke Clinic. They entered the modest building and were greeted by Catherine in the overcrowded waiting room. Sully held her medical bag as Michaela removed her gloves.

"Sully! Dr. Mike," she beamed. "Thank you for coming. William is waiting for you in his examining room, Dr. Mike. I'll speak to Sully while you go in."

Before Michaela could say another word, William walked in.

"Michaela!" he extended his hand. "Thank you for coming." Noticing her husband, he added, "And you, too, Sully. Please," he pointed to the examining room. "Won't you join me?"

Sully took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

Michaela took a deep breath, "Of course." She went with William. "I am anxious to see what you have been doing here."

William closed the door behind them. Sully found an empty chair as Catherine came over to him.

"Please, Sully," she motioned to another door. "Let us go in there so we may talk privately."

He felt uncomfortable, but did not want to seem impolite, "Sure."

She led him into a small office, closed the door, and turned to speak, "Oh, Sully, I cannot tell you what seeing you again has done to me."

"Catherine," his uneasiness increased. "Michaela an' me are real glad that ya found happiness...."

"Happiness?" she shook her head. "Happiness here? No, Sully. I am not happy."

"You're not?" he was concerned. "Why?"

"Please do not misunderstand," she smiled. "William is a wonderful man. But...." she looked around the room. "I feel nothing more than friendship for him."

"Then why'd ya marry him?" Sully was uncertain.

"I felt obligated to him," Catherine replied. "William tells people that we met at a charity event, but that is not true. When I returned from Colorado Springs, I became very ill. The white man's diseases were unknown to me. I nearly died, and he saved my life."

"An' that's why ya married him?" Sully shook his head.

"Yes," she looked down. "I... I know I should not say this, but my feelings for you are still here," she pointed to her heart. "I love you."

Sully realized that Michaela had been right about her, "I'm real flattered, Catherine, but I love my wife very much."

"Yes," she stopped resisting her emotions. Coming closer to him, she reached out to touch his chest, "But could you not give me just one kiss to treasure?"

"No," Sully tried to be gentle. "I can't do that."

"Please, Sully," she tried to pull his arms around her, but he raised his wife's medical bag between them.

"Catherine," he moved back. "Don't do this."

In desperation, she wrapped her arms around him, "I know I can make you change your mind."

At that instant, the door opened. Michaela's heart sank at what she saw. Catherine's arms around her husband. Before Sully could explain, she had slammed the door.


"Did you get your medical bag? Weren't they in my office?" William looked up from his desk.

"Ah," Michaela felt nauseous. "William, if you'll excuse me, I really must be going."

"Certainly, Michaela," he noticed her pale complexion. Escorting her into the waiting room, he added, "Let me get you a carriage."

"Thank you," she felt the blood draining from her. "I didn't eat much today, and I'm afraid it is a bit warm in here."

Her legs began to buckle, and he reached to steady her. Just as William held her, Sully opened the door to return to the waiting room. Seeing his wife in William's arms enraged him.

"Michaela!" Sully felt his heart sink.

"She's not feeling well," William informed him with a concerned voice.

"Take your hands off her!" Sully commanded, not even hearing what the man had said.

"Certainly," William was embarrassed. "I was only trying to...."

"I'll take care o' my wife," Sully's eyes were fierce.

Sully took Michaela's hand and opened the door. He led her outside into the crowded street. Quickly, he hailed a carriage, and they got in.

In silence, they rode back to Beacon Hill. Each was too hurt to speak to the other. When they arrived at the Quinn home, they walked in, saying not a word to the other. Michaela went up to her room, and Sully walked into the parlor. In anger, he pulled off his suit jacket, and threw it onto the sofa.

Harrison entered the room, "May I get you anything, sir?"

"No thanks," Sully exhaled heavily. "I'll be goin' out again shortly."

************

At 7, dinner was served to a much smaller contingent of the Quinn household.

Elizabeth was disturbed, "Where is Sully?

"Papa!" Katie sat on her mother's lap.

"I'm afraid I don't know, Mother," Michaela felt uncomfortable. Then turning to her sons, she inquired, "What did you two do with your cousins today?"

"We went t' a baseball game, Ma!" Brian was thrilled. "They missed school t' take us."

"Played hooky?" Michaela sounded upset. "Their parents will certainly not be happy with that."

"I don't think their parents care," Matthew contributed.

"Matthew!" Michaela was incredulous. "Of course they care."

"No, Ma," Brian agreed. "Their parents don't keep track of 'em like you and Pa do with us."

"He's right, Michaela," Elizabeth agreed. "My other daughters have taken a hands off approach with their children. The rearing of their offspring has been left to nannies."

"I... I feel sorry for them then," Michaela kissed the top of Katie's soft hair. "They don't know what they're missing."

"Speaking of missing," Elizabeth looked at the empty chair. "I am becoming quite concerned at your husband's whereabouts."

"He'll be fine, Mother," Michaela was uncertain herself. "Sometimes he simply needs to go off by himself."

"Comes from living all alone for so long," Matthew explained.

"Well, if you say so," Elizabeth answered. "But I am disappointed that he would miss our last meal together."

************

By 11 p.m., all but Michaela retired for the evening. She paced in the parlor becoming increasingly concerned. Her mind flashed back to when she first met Sully, how he would disappear for long periods of time. Then she he heard Harrison opening the door. Fully expecting to see her husband, her heart sank when she saw who it was.

************
Chapter 20
************

"William!" Michaela was surprised.

"I'm sorry to disturb you at this late hour. I was hoping you might still be awake," he approached her slowly. "How are you feeling?"

"I... I'm much better, thank you," she sat down. "Please," she indicated a chair, "Won't you sit down."

Harrison cleared his throat, "May I get you anything Miss Michaela? Dr. Burke?"

"No thank you," she shook her head. "William?"

"No. Nothing for me. Thank you," he played with the rim of his hat.

"Is there something wrong?" she noticed.

"Actually, there is, Michaela," he stood and walked to her. Sitting on the sofa beside her, he sighed, "I... I came to see if perhaps Catherine might be here."

"Catherine?" she attempted to sound calm. "No. Why would you think she would be here?"

"She left me a note that she's returning to Baltimore. She also told me about Sully and her," he related. "I thought she might have come here to see him."

"What do you mean, Sully and her?" her voice faltered slightly.

"She told me how she fell in love with him in Colorado Springs and that seeing him again has renewed those feelings," he replied. Unexpectedly, his eyes brightened, "Oh, Michaela, it's a feeling I know well. I find that I still love you."

"William, please," she was now very uncomfortable. "Don't. I love my husband."

He reached for her hands, "Are you sure that you're happy with Sully?"

She pulled away, "Of course! We're very happy."

"Where is he then? Harrison said he was out. Why isn't he here with you?" Burke wondered.

"He... He'll be back any moment," she grew more anxious.

He searched for any sign of hope, "You did not appear to be very happy today at my clinic. The way he spoke in anger... Has he ever... struck you?"

"William!" she was shocked. "Of course not! Sully is not that kind of man! How dare you even suggest such a thing!"

He asked, "What if he's with Catherine?"

"He's not!" she stood up and walked to the fireplace, certain deep in her heart of her answer. Gazing into the flames, she pictured in her mind that Sully had gone to the river to think and calm himself after their argument.

The soft amber light that the flames cast on her face aroused William's admiration further. He went to her.

He spoke adoringly, "Michaela, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever met."

"Your wife is a very beautiful woman," Michaela reminded him.

"Yes," he looked down. "But we do not share what you and I shared."

Michaela tried to be tactful, "William, we shared a fond friendship. I admire your work, your sensitivity, your commitment to helping people, but...."

"That's exactly what I admire in you," he tried to take her hands again. "Please, Michaela, we could be so happy together." He put his arms around her, "It's not too late."

As she attempted to pull away, Sully's voice was heard, "Take your hands off my wife!"

"Sully!" Michaela was relieved.

Her husband's eyes indicated the intensity of his anger toward William. Grabbing the lapels of Burke's coat, Sully snapped, "Get out o' here, right now."

"I am truly sorry if I said or did anything inappropriate," William apologized. "I'll leave."

Sully released him. He quickly picked up his hat and departed.

Michaela turned to her husband, "Where have you been?" Her relief turned to disapproval. "You missed dinner."

"Walkin'," he was sullen.

"Walking? Where?" she was growing impatient.

"Around the block," he replied.

"All of this time? You could have walked back to Colorado Springs! I think you owe me a little more explanation than that! Were you with Catherine?" she regretted the question the moment it left her lips.

"Catherine? 'Course not! I was angry an' needed t' cool off. I'm STILL angry, seein' that cad with you. You're the one who owes me an explanation o' why I had t' tell him t' take his hands off ya twice today," he shot back.

"If you must know, he was merely steadying me in his office today because I felt faint," she retorted. "And this evening, he was...."

"Ya felt faint?" he reached for her.

"Don't try to change the subject!" her voice raised. "What about what I saw at the clinic? You in the arms of Catherine!"

"You were right about her," he walked to the fireplace. "She's still got feelin's for me. But I set her straight."

"It certainly did not appear to me that you were setting her straight," she countered.

"Well, ya came in at the wrong moment," he explained. "when she was makin' advances t' me." He returned to William's visit, "What about t'night by this fireplace? You an' William?"

"If you must know, you were right about him, too," she sat on the sofa. "He still has feelings for me, and he was, as you say, making advances."

Sully started for the door, "I'll wipe that smirk off o' his face!"

Michaela jumped up to stop him, "Sully! Don't. William really is a gentleman. He would not have tried anything. Please, let's just go upstairs. The servants must surely be gossiping."

Sully managed to control his temper, "All right. We got a long trip ahead."

She turned to ascend the steps with him.

************

In silence, Michaela prepared for bed. She climbed in and pulled up the covers. Unbuttoning his vest, Sully sat down on the floor in front of the fireplace.

"Nothin' happened with Catherine," he finally spoke.

"Nothing happened with William," she replied. Then her thoughts turned to the young woman whom she had once befriended, "Catherine told William that she still loves you. She's left him."

"I don't wanna talk about her anymore," he did not look up.

Softening, she asked, "Are you coming to bed?"

"No," he said quietly. "I'm sleepin' here."

"On the floor?" she was taken aback. "Why?"

"'Cause I don't think I oughta share your bed," he sounded like a hurt little boy.

"I thought we've been over that," she stood up and walked to him.

"You doubted me, Michaela," he lamented.

Stopping abruptly, she said in defense, "You doubted me!"

He looked up with a pained expression. A part of her wanted to throw herself into his arms at that moment to assure him of her trust, but she was too angry. He saw how his words stung her. A part of him wanted to scoop her into his arms at that instant, but he was too angry.

"So, I'll sleep here," he spread out on the rug.

"Suit yourself," she returned to the bed and threw a pillow and blanket at him.

************

In the middle of the night, there was a soft knock at the door, and the muffled sound of Katie's cries could be heard. Sully sat up with a start. Michaela reached to open the door before he could.

There stood Elizabeth holding a sobbing Katie.

Michaela lifted the little girl into her arms, "What's wrong, Sweetheart?"

Elizabeth shook her head, "She woke up crying for you, insisting that something was wrong." Then the mother noticed that Sully was still fully dressed. She also saw the blanket and pillow on the floor where he had been sleeping. "I'll leave her with you two," Elizabeth gave Katie a kiss and departed.

The child's tears would not ebb.

Sully ran his hand lightly along the back of her head, "Kates, did ya have a bad dream?"

"I scared, Papa," her reddened face was moist from the tears.

Michaela carried her to the edge of the bed and sat down, "Why are you scared?"

Hiccups ensued for the toddler as she tried to speak, "I scared ya fight."

Michaela looked at Sully. Then, in a soothing voice, she told her daughter, "Papa and I are fine, Sweetheart. Everything's all right. Let's get you back to sleep."

Sully sat down beside them until Katie began to calm. Soon the child was asleep, and Michaela laid her on the bed. Sliding down beside her, she pulled the little girl close to her heart. Sully leaned over his daughter and gave her a loving kiss. He paused to look at Michaela, then sighed and returned to his spot on the rug by the fireplace.

************

That night, their last in Boston, neither of them slept much. He could hear Michaela's soft weeping late into the night. A couple of times, she glanced at him on the rug, tempted to go to him.

************

When Michaela awoke the next morning, Katie was not beside her. She sat up and looked toward the fireplace. Sully was gone, too. Rising, she began to wash and dress.


************

Sully and Katie sat in the parlor with Elizabeth.

The mother-in-law spoke, "You were out quite late." Noticing his reaction, she explained, "Harrison informed me."

Neither of them heard Michaela reach the top of the steps. She paused to not interrupt their conversation.

"Just needed t' take a walk t' clear my head," he said.

"Clear your head, Mr. Sully?" she sounded like a mother.

"Why are ya callin' me Mr.?" he noticed.

"For the same reason Michaela calls her daughter Katherine when she's upset," she replied.

"Ya upset with me?" he felt bad.

"I am upset that you did not have the courtesy to be here for dinner on your last night in Boston. Add to that the fact that you worried your wife and children by gallivanting off somewhere to 'clear your head.' And I hardly believe that Michaela approved either, given the fact that you slept on the floor," she reproached him. "Just when I had come to consider you a good husband and father, you do this."

"Mother!" Michaela descended the staircase. "Sully IS a good husband and father."

"He certainly did not demonstrate that last night!" Elizabeth defended her position.

Katie began to whimper at the raised voices. Sully stooped down to pick up his daughter, "I was wrong, Elizabeth. An' I apologize. I don't always feel like talkin' when I get upset. When that happens, I just gotta get away from folks. Michaela knows that."

Elizabeth turned to her daughter.

"That's true, Mother," she nodded.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, "I don't understand, but I suppose it's none of my business."

She exited the room.

Michaela reached for Katie, "Good morning, Sweetheart. How are you this morning?"

The little girl went into her mother's arms, "Okay." Sensing the tension between her parents, Katie looked at her father. "Papa okay?"

He grinned and touched her cheek, "I'm fine, sweet girl."

"Mama okay?" the child leaned closer to her mother.

"Yes," Michaela smiled at her.

"Mama kiss Papa," Katie instructed.

Michaela stepped toward her husband and paused. There were those blue eyes she adored. She lifted up and kissed his cheek, lingering for a moment to inhale his scent.

"Better?" Michaela pulled back and noticed Katie's shoe was untied.

"Yep," Katie swung her leg up and down to make the strings bounce.

"Let me fix that," Michaela sat down with her to tie the shoe.

"I'm gonna go talk to your Ma," he turned to leave them.

"I would like to speak to you, Sully," she called to him, but he did not hear.

************

Matthew and Brian descended the steps, dressed in their travel clothes.

"Is Pa back?" Brian wondered.

"Yes," Michaela replied curtly.

"Everythin' okay?" Matthew knew there had been an argument.

"Everthing okay!" Katie assured him. "I check."

"So, have you filled your journal, Brian?" Michaela smiled at her younger son.

"Almost," he grinned. "I figure I oughta leave a little space for the trip back."

"I hope we won't have to contend with any train robbers this time," Michaela shook her head.

"Is Grandma comin' to the train station with us?" Brian hoped.

"Yes, Brian, and so is Aunt Rebecca," Michaela answered him.

************

At the depot, the tears flowed. Hugging her grandchildren, Elizabeth put on a brave face.

"Dear, Michaela," her voice choked with emotion. "Thank you for sharing this time with us."

"I love you, Mother," her youngest daughter replied. "Please come to see us when you can."

Then Elizabeth approached Sully. Speaking in a whisper, she pulled him closer and handed him an envelope, "It's all arranged."

"Thank you, Elizabeth," he kissed her cheek. "For everythin."

************

The train left the depot, and the family settled in for their long journey home. Sully and Michaela were congenial to one another, but their sons could not help but notice the subdued atmosphere. Shortly after their departure, Sully left the compartment, claiming he needed to stretch his legs.

Michaela still felt guilty for having snapped at Katie the day before and for causing her to have a bad dream last night. Holding the little girl on her lap, she kissed her forehead.

In a whisper to her daughter, she sighed, "Oh, Katie, I love you so much."

Katie smiled her father's grin and looked up at her adoringly, "I love Mama."

"Did you have a nice visit with Grandma?" Michaela held her little hand.

"Yep," the child smiled. "Bunny did, too." She held the stuffed toy up to her mother.

"Did he?" she laughed. Noticing a tear in the back of the stuffed animal's seam, she said, "It appears that your bunny needs Mama to stitch him up."

"You good doctor," she nodded. "He be okay."

All seemed right with Katie, but what of Sully, she thought. How could she make things right with him?

************

At dusk, a porter approached their compartment and asked to speak with Sully. In whispered tones, their communication ended.

"Is anything wrong?" Michaela asked.

Sully tapped his older son on the shoulder, "Matthew, could I see ya?"

The young man stepped out with his father and listened.

Returning, Matthew reached for Katie, "Here, Ma, let me take her."

Michaela was becoming more anxious, "Will someone please tell me what this is all about?

Sully held his hand out to her. "I need ya t' come with me right now. The porter says there's a lady at the other end o' the train who's about t' deliver a baby."

"Baby?" Michaela grabbed her medical bag.

As the train swayed back and forth, they made their way to the woman.

************
Chapter 21
************

Finally, Michaela and Sully reached the vestibule at the end of the train. He opened the door, and Michaela rushed in.

"What?" she stopped suddenly.

There was no pregnant woman. In fact, there was no one there at all. It was a sleeping berth that had been pulled down and prepared for bed. Lacquered cherry wood composed the walls, and the upholstery was in rich red and gold brocades. There was carpeting on the floor, and a Gothic window of leaded glass. A shaded lamp was attached to the wall.

"Sully!" she was surprised. "This is the wrong place."

"Nope," he closed the door behind them, "It's the executive compartment for the man who owns this railroad. Sometimes he travels this route and likes t' go in comfort."

"Comfort?" she felt the upholstery. "It's magnificent."

"Good," he grinned. "It's ours for the night."

"Ours?" she could not believe it. "How?"

"Your Ma arranged it," he raised it to his lips.

"Mother?" she could not imagine.

"We had a little talk 'bout what happened last night," he confessed.

"You spoke to Mother about us?" she was shocked.

"Not everythin'," he smiled. "Just told her we needed t' do a little sparkin'."

"Sully!" she blushed. "You told Mother that?"

"Yep," he sat down on the bed.

She paced nervously.

"Ain't ya interested?" he patted the mattress.

"In sparking with you?" she stopped.

"Michaela," he stood up. Cupping her face between his hands, he told her, "I just want us t' make up."

"Oh, Sully," she released her reserve. "I'm so sorry. I was childish and immature. I never doubted you for an instant."

"I didn't exactly act like a grown up myself," he comforted her. "Almost punched William. An' I said some awful things t' ya."

"We were feeling angry and hurt for no reason. Neither of us betrayed the other," she wrapped her arms around his waist.

"I know," he gently held the back of her head. "It's William an' Catherine that have the problem. Not us."

"Can you forgive me?" she peered into his eyes.

"For bein' a desirable woman who's impossible to forget?" he smiled. "Can you forgive me?"

"For being the man that Catherine still thinks about?" she turned it around. "You're all that I think about, too. I allowed my old jealousies and insecurities to get the better of me."

"Me, too," he sat on the bed and pulled her on to his lap. "William and Catherine didn't marry for love, Michaela. Maybe someday they'll find happiness, but they gotta let go o' the past first."

She ran her hand across his chest, "Are you sure we won't be interrupted?"

"Yep," he leaned back as she began to kiss his neck. "An' Matthew an' Brian are takin' care o' Katie."

"You seem to have thought of everything," she felt his hand slide down her skirt.

"Almost," he grinned. "I didn't know if you'd be willin' t spark with me in a train."

"Have you forgotten what I first did on a train?" she felt emboldened.

"Came t' Colorado?" he guessed.

"You know what I mean," she tapped his shoulder.

Their kiss deepened. The rhythmic movement of the train stirred familiar and delightful memories of their honeymoon. He reached up and pulled down the window shade.

"Thought I'd make it darker," he grinned.

"And darker?" she lowered the lamp.

Slowly, sensuously, they undressed each other and lay back on the bed.

He ran his finger across her lips. "You are so beautiful. So desirable."

"I have a couple of questions," she kissed his finger.

"Ya mean ya forget what t' do next?" he joked.

"Sully!" she laughed. "No, I have some questions about your behavior."

"What?" he raised his eyebrow.

"Why did you keep walking around the block last night? I thought you'd gone to the river or a park," she wondered.

"I figured if I was walkin' around the block, it wouldn't be like leavin' ya in anger 'cause I was still nearby," he reasoned.

She smiled, recalling their vow in Yankee Hill.

"I got t' know every inch o' the sidewalk. Wanna know how many steps it takes t' go around the block?" he chuckled. "What's your next question?"

"You never did tell me where you hid our money during the train robbery," she thought back to their ride east.

"Here I am wantin' t' make love t' my wife, an' she's wonderin' where I hid our money?" he pretended to sound disappointed.

"It has puzzled me all of this time," she said.

"If you must know," he sighed. "I hid it in Katie's stuffed bunny."

"You what?" she laughed again.

"After the train wrecked, I thought the commotion might be a diversion t' rob the train," he explained. "So before I handed Katie her bunny, I slipped the money int' the torn seam in the back. When the robbers were gone, I removed it."

"You used our baby like that?" she playfully patted his chest.

"Not our baby. Her toy," he corrected. "I figured that would be the last place robbers would look for money."

"It was rather clever. I noticed that rip tonight," she told him. Then she resumed her tender touches across his chest and up his neck.

A sudden and sharp sway of the train caused Sully to tumble from the berth. Michaela reached for him, but as he rose up from the floor, he bumped his head.

"Ouch!" he rubbed his scalp.

She stifled a laugh, "Are you all right?"

"Don't laugh," he pulled himself up to sit on the edge of the bed. "I think I'm bleedin'."

Michaela stood up and got her medical bag. She came back and stood before him, scanning his head to examine the affected area, "I don't see any blood."

So near to her creamy skin, Sully soon forgot his discomfort. While she rubbed the bump on his scalp, he began to kiss her stomach.

"Sully!" she shivered. "I thought you were hurt."

"I heal real quick," his kisses moved higher.

Suddenly, he lifted her onto his lap, maneuvering her legs to straddle his hips.

"Thought ya might be able t' see my injury better from this position," he explained.

"I thought you said you were healed," she could feel his rising passion.

"So I did," he stroked her back. "Truth is, I'm feelin' pretty energized by your treatment."

She looked down, "I am getting that impression."

He laid back, gently pulling her with him.

"Do you think this is safe?" she pretended to be quite serious.

"Safe?" he inquired.

"I wouldn't want you to roll out of bed again," she answered.

"Oh," he kissed her chin and the sides of her mouth. "I'll make sure we're safe."

"Good," she began to melt. "Sully," she whispered.

Abandoning all other thoughts, they gave in to the call of their hearts. Sully tenderly took his time awakening every pore of her body. She reciprocated until he could no longer hold back his desire. In a flash of marvelously vigorous ardor, they joined as one. Afterwards, he pulled the sheet up over them and softly stroked her arm.

"Beats sleepin' on the floor," he brushed his lips across hers.

"Please don't ever do that again," she curled her finger around the hair on his chest. "Not without me, at least."

"You wanted to sleep on the floor, too?" he grinned.

"You don't know how many times I almost came to you last night," she admitted.

"Why didn't ya?" he asked.

"Stubbornness," she acknowledged.

"An' you don't know how many times I almost got up and came to ya when ya were cryin'," he said.

"You heard me?" she found it unexpected. "Why didn't you?"

"Stubbornness," he repeated. "Ya know what it does t' me when ya cry."

"I tried to keep you from hearing," she kissed his chest.

"I heard ya," his voice choked slightly. "It was like a knife in me."

"I'm so ashamed of how I behaved," her voice cracked as she lowered her head.

"Shhh," he lifted her chin to gaze into her eyes. "Know how I can always tell what you're thinkin'?"

"How?" she was curious.

"Your eyes. Did I ever tell ya how much I love 'em?" he hugged her tighter.

"I've always been rather self-conscious about them," she became uncomfortable. "When I was a child, my sisters would make fun of their different colors."

"Oh, Michaela. They're so beautiful, an' they tell me just what you're feelin'." He lightly touched her right temple, "This one shows me your fire, your passion, your desire." After kissing her right temple, he turned his attention to the left eye and said, "An' this one shows me your love, your tenderness, your sensitivity." He kissed her left temple, then recited:

"The light of love
The purity of grace
The mind, the music breathing from her face
The heart whose softness harmonized the whole--
And oh, that eye was in itself a soul!"

"It must be Byron," she turned up the corner of her mouth.

"Right," his voice was soothing. "Oh, 'fore I forget," he reached for his jacket to pull out an envelope. "Your Ma gave me this."

Michaela pulled a photograph from it. Holding it so that the faint light could illuminate it, she smiled, "Sully! It's beautiful... Mother, the children, you and I. And look at Katie's expression. It's priceless."

"Yep," he felt a rush of pride. "Elizabeth said she'll send the other photographs by mail, but she wanted ya t' have this one t' take home."

"Something to remind me of the more pleasant aspects of our grand tour," she said wistfully.

He encouraged her, "Michaela, let's not be upset over William an' Catherine anymore. We weren't thinkin' clearly. Now we are. Let's just leave it there."

"But I acted abominably," she felt terrible.

"An' I could've torn a man limb from limb," he brushed back a strand of her hair. "We acted that way out o' fear. It makes folks behave in strange ways. In truth, we never doubt each other for a moment."

"You're right," she was starting to feel better.

"Every time we make love," he spoke low into her ear. "There's a deeper connection between us, Michaela. Nothin' and no one'll ever take that away."

"You are quite extraordinary," she smiled. "And I absolutely adore you."

"Glad of it," he whispered. "Are ya tired?"

"Not very," she replied. "Why?"

"Wanna look out the window at the sunset?" he sat up and scooted her back toward him.

"Yes. Let's," she felt so warm against his chest.

Sully pulled the sheet up around them and raised the window shade.

"Beautiful sight," he observed.

"It is," she agreed, pulling his arms more snugly around her.

She leaned back, turned to look over her shoulder, and kissed him.

"We don't have t' sleep yet," his hands caressed her.

"Perhaps not," she rotated around to face him. Pushing him back onto the mattress, she grinned, "But I do think I owe you another apology."

"What for?" he was quickly aroused by her attention.

"Because I love to make up with you," she began to kiss him more deeply.

"Well, apologize away," he sighed. "It's a long trip home."

THE END



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