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

You Are Cordially Invited


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
You Are Cordially Invited
by Debby K

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Chapter 1
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Michaela sat down at the kitchen table, opened the official looking envelope addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Byron Sully and read:

"You are cordially invited, at the request of President and Mrs. Ulysses Grant, to attend the wedding of their daughter Nellie to Mr. Algernon Sartoris, on the twenty-first day of May, eighteen-hundred and seventy-four in the East Room of the Executive Mansion at eleven o'clock in the morning. RSVP"

"Sully!" she called upstairs. "Sully, come here!"

Her husband bounded down the steps, "What's wrong, Michaela?"

"Nothing's wrong!" she exclaimed. "Look," she handed him the invitation.

Sully opened it and read, "Sounds real nice."

"But they've invited us!" she was excited. "A White House wedding! Sully, it must be nearly impossible to get an invitation, and this is surely the biggest event in Washington!"

"An' you wanna go?" he was skeptical.

"If we can arrange it. What do you think?" her voice reflected her desire to attend.

"I... I can tell that ya really wanna go," he grinned.

"Please, may we? Can you get away?" she threw her arms around his neck.

"I reckon," he smiled. "What about the boys?"

She looked at the invitation envelope again, "It just says Mr. and Mrs. Byron Sully, but I'm certain we could bring the children."

"I'm thinkin' the day before this weddin' is kind o' special t' us," he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"Perhaps we could consider this a second honeymoon?" she raised her eyebrows.

"That was in Denver last April," he slid his arms around her back.

"Then our third honeymoon," she reasoned.

"I guess we can't have too many honeymoons," he teased.

"Thank you, Sully," she kissed him. "This is going to be a wonderful trip. I just know it."

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

At the dinner table, Michaela eagerly told her sons of the planned trip.

"I'm afraid I can't get away, Ma," Matthew informed her. "I'm workin' on three cases in Denver over the next few weeks."

"Brian?" Michaela turned to the younger brother.

"I'd love t' see Jesse again," he recalled. "But... I'd really rather not go, Ma."

"But why not?" she was surprised.

"Well..." he hesitated.

Matthew tousled his brother's hair, "'Cause he's sweet on a new girl at school."

"Matthew!" Brian was embarrassed.

"A new girl at school?" Michaela smiled. "Why didn't you tell me about her."

"It's nothin' t' tell, Ma," Brian shot an icy stare at his brother. "It's just that we're havin' a dance at school then an'..."

"And you'd prefer go to that," Michaela sounded understanding.

"Ya don't mind?" he asked.

"Well, I'd much rather you go with us, but..." she hesitated.

Sully chimed in, "But we reckon you're old enough t' decide on your own."

"I dance?" Katie had been absorbing the conversation.

"You're coming with your father and me to the wedding, Sweetheart," Michaela touched her daughter's hand.

"Not Bran an' Mattew?" she frowned.

"We're stayin' in Colorado Springs, little sister," Matthew grinned.

Katie's lower lip began to quiver, and a crying spell was near, "Wanna dance."

Sully intervened, "Would ya dance with me?"

The child's tears stopped abruptly, "We dance?"

"Yep," Sully winked. "I promise I'll dance with ya at the weddin'."

"Okay," she smiled.

"There are dozens of details to arrange before we leave," Michaela began to make lists in her mind. "I'll order a new suit for you, Brian. You'll need one for the dance."

"Can I pick it out this time, Ma?" the young man requested.

Michaela glanced at her husband, "I suppose that would be appropriate."

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

Michaela attempted to rock Katie to sleep in the nursery. The child had lately become extremely clinging to her mother. Michaela assumed it was a phase that she was going through, but it made for difficulties when her full attention was needed at the Clinic. She was grateful for Sully's patience and understanding.

Michaela began humming softly. Rather than lull Katie to sleep, the song had just the reverse effect on her daughter. The little girl's eyes widened.

"Sing song, Mama," Katie lifted her head from her mother's shoulder.

Michaela sweetly sang, "Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird..."

Katie interrupted her, "What mockingbird?"

"Shhh," Michaela gently touched Katie's lips and continued, "And if that mockingbird don't sing, Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring."

Katie again jumped in, "Dimon wing?"

Michaela continued, "And if that diamond ring turns to brass, Mama's going to buy you a looking glass."

Katie leaned her head against her mother, realizing that she should not interrupt.

Michaela went on, "And if that looking glass gets broke, Mama's going to buy you a billy goat."

Katie suddenly bolted up again, "Not goat, Mama!"

Michaela was undaunted, "And if that billy goat won't pull, Mama's going to buy you a cart and a bull."

"A bull!" the child's eyes widened.

"And if that cart and bull turn over, Mama's going to buy you a dog named Rover," Michaela gently pulled Katie against her again.

Katie sighed, "Mama, we got Wolf!"

Michaela wondered what the toddler's next reaction would be, "And if that dog named Rover won't bark, Mama's going to buy you a horse and a cart."

"Already got 'em," the little girl was now fighting sleep.

Finally, Michaela kissed her forehead and completed the song, "And if that horse and cart fall down, you'll still be the sweetest little baby in town."

Katie was silent. Michaela looked down at her, hoping to see her daughter sound asleep. Instead, Katie had her finger in her mouth and was tightly clutching the material of Michaela's blouse with her other hand.

"Are you sleepy?" Michaela whispered.

Katie was still quiet.

When Michaela tried to stand up with her, her daughter whined, "No, Mama!"

"Is something wrong, Katie?" the mother sat back down in the rocker.

"Don't go," the toddler requested.

"I'm right here, Sweetheart," she answered. "Are you frightened about something?"

Sully appeared at the door and walked to them, "Sleepy yet, Kates?"

"No, Papa," she buried her face in Michaela's chest.

Sully rubbed his daughter's back and looked up at his wife in concern, "Is she mad at me?"

"No," Michaela shook her head. "I think it's just a possessive phase."

"Kates," Sully lightly tickled her side.

"No, Papa!" she waved her hand.

"I love you, sweet girl," he tried to reach her.

"Won't you look at Papa, Sweetheart?" Michaela tried to turn Katie around.

There was no reply.

"What if I tell ya a story?" he offered.

That seemed to do the trick. She slowly turned to face her father.

"Mama gonna buy me a bull," she told him.

Sully laughed, "A bull?"

"Yep," Katie started to become her old self. "An' a cart, an' a goat, an' a wing."

"That's a lot for one little girl," he smiled. "Mama must love ya a lot."

"Yep," the child nodded. "You love me, too, Papa."

"I sure do," he extended his arms to her.

Katie cast aside all earlier hesitation and slid into her father's lap. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Sully caressed the back of her head and kissed her cheek.

"That's my sweet girl," he looked up at Michaela with relief.

"Tell story, Papa," she commanded.

"Okay, let's see," he turned to lean his back against Michaela's knees.

Katie could see both of her parents now. While placing her head against Sully's chest, she rested a hand in Michaela's lap. The mother held the little hand in hers.

Sully began, "This story's about us, Kates."

"Us?" she sweetly spoke.

"Yep," he answered. "It's about a trip that you, your Ma, an' me are takin'."

"Where?" Katie began her litany of questions.

"T' Washington, D.C.," he explained. "We're gonna see a weddin' there."

"Weddin'?" she wondered.

"When a man and woman get married, Katie," Michaela said. "They promise to love each other and stay with each other forever."

"Like you an' Papa?" she asked.

"Yes," she ran her hand across Sully's back. "Go ahead with the story, Papa."

Sully continued, "Well, we're gonna see the weddin' and have lots o' fun there. Your Ma an' me are gonna celebrate our fourth anniversary..."

"What annivesay?" she stopped him.

"Every year on the day of our wedding, we call it an anniversary," Michaela told her.

"Oh," Katie seemed to understand.

"An' we're gonna celebrate your birthday, too," he tickled her side.

"My birday?" the child was not sure.

"You're going to be three years old while we're on the trip, Sweetheart," Michaela touched her nose.

"I twee?" Katie's eyes widened.

"Yep," Sully kissed her. "An' I can't believe how much you're growin'."

"Don't wanna grow," Katie informed them.

"Well, ya have to, Kates," Sully patted her back. "All children do."

"I gettin' sleepy now," Katie yawned.

Sully lifted her up and placed her in the crib. He leaned over to kiss her cheek, followed by Michaela. Before they left the nursery, the exhausted little girl was asleep.

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

Michaela was working on a list of things to pack when Sully came upstairs from locking the house.

"How long do you think we'll be gone?" she looked up.

"I figure at least two weeks," he calculated.

"We're going to need the trunks from the attic tomorrow morning," she returned to her list.

"I'll bring 'em down then," he undressed.

Michaela looked up, "How serious do you think Brian is about this new girl? He didn't even mention her name."

"He must have his reasons," Sully slid in beside her and cuddled closer.

"Sully! Your feet are freezing!" she jumped.

"Thought ya might be able t' warm 'em for me," he grinned.

She returned to the subject of their younger son, "So, how serious do you think he is?"

"Don't ya remember your first sweetheart?" he raised an eyebrow.

"That was different," she blushed. "What about you? Who was the first girl you were sweet on?"

He rubbed the back of his hand across his chin, "Her name was Mary Beth. She was twelve, an' I was ten."

"Ten?" she could not believe it. "Wasn't that rather young?"

"I sure was sweet on her," he cast his wife a glance to see her reaction. "I bought her candy an' even gave her a ribbon for her hair."

"I see," Michaela said curtly.

"So who was your first beau?" Sully touched her cheek.

"I didn't have time for such things," she replied.

"Too busy with books?" he took the list from her hands and put it on the nightstand.

"Yes," she nodded.

Sully leaned closer and kissed her ear.

"Not a lot o' experience with likin' boys when ya were younger," his voice was low.

"You know perfectly well that I...." she lost her concentration with his wayward hand.

Sully touched her leg and began to work his way beneath the material of her nightgown. His other hand unbuttoned the top of her gown and slid it from her shoulder.

"T' tell ya the truth," he spoke low. "I'm glad ya didn't have any beaus when ya were younger."

"Really?" she was becoming immersed in his touches.

"I'd be awful jealous," his kisses worked their way down from her neck.

Michaela cupped his head in her hands as he maneuvered to consummate their longing.

"I'm already jealous of this Mary Beth," she was captured by his blue eyes.

"No need t' be," he grinned. "Only one woman on this earth owns my heart."

Sully initiated a rhythmic movement that brought Michaela's pulse to a dizzying speed. Finally, all desire within their bodies culminated in an explosively gratifying conclusion.

As he wrapped her body in his arms, his words wrapped her soul in his:

"Day by day, he gazed upon her.
Day by day, he sighed with passion.
Day by day, his heart within him
Grew more hot with love and longing."

Michaela was too breathless to speak. He touched her cheek and then ran his finger across her lips.

"Longfellow," he tenderly kissed her temple.

"Day by day," she repeated. "I love you more."

"Can't believe it's been almost four years," he rubbed her arm.

"Four years of warming your cold feet," she smiled.

Soon they were asleep, dreaming of the trip that awaited.

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

When they stepped from the train in the nation's capital, Michaela, Sully and Katie were amazed at how busy the depot was. Sully protectively cushioned his daughter from the hustle and bustle of the crowd. Michaela directed the porter to load their trunks into a carriage, and soon they arrived at the Willard Hotel, near the White House.

They settled into a suite of beautifully furnished rooms, exhausted from the journey. During the trip, Katie seemed to get over her possessiveness of Michaela, as both of her parents lavished her with attention. The little girl delighted them with her never ending flood of questions and inquisitive spirit.

Sully went to the lobby to pick up a newspaper, while Michaela tried to put the restless toddler down for a nap.

Michaela struggled to take off the little dress, "Katie, you need to get some rest."

"Why?" she held still as Michaela put a nightgown on her.

"Because little girls need to sleep," her mother explained.

"Why?" Katie picked up her bunny.

"Because if you don't get some rest, you'll be cranky," Michaela kissed her.

"What cranky?" she wanted a definition.

"Cranky means that you'll be in a bad mood, and you'll cry," the doctor lowered her daughter to the bed and covered her.

"I sleep then," Katie turned on her side. "Not be cwanky."

"That's my sweetheart," Michaela sighed. "You'll feel much better when you waken."

Michaela left the door slightly ajar to hear if Katie became restless. Then she began to unpack their trunks. Looking at the clock on the mantle, she began to wonder what was keeping Sully so long. No sooner had the question arisen in her mind, he opened the door.

"Didn't you find a newspaper?" she saw his hands behind his back.

"I didn't really look for one," he had an impish grin on his face.

Michaela put her hands on her hips, wondering what he was up to. The sight of Sully so handsome in his blue suit, made her heart skip a beat.

"I saw somethin' else I bought instead," he approached her.

"What?" she smiled.

He pulled two boxes from behind his back, "These. For you."

"Sully, you didn't have to," her heart filled anew with love for him. "Besides, our anniversary is not for three more days, remember?"

"I remember," he handed her the boxes. "These aren't for our anniversary. They're for somethin' else."

"Something else?" she sat on the edge of the bed and began to unwrap the larger box.

Inside was an assortment of chocolate candy.

"Candy?" she was curious.

"Uh... sweets for my sweet?" he winked.

She opened the smaller box, "A ribbon?"

"For your hair," he sat down beside her. "When I told ya about the first girl I was ever sweet on...."

"Mary Beth?" she recalled vividly.

"Yep," he touched her cheek. "I didn't want ya t' feel slighted. Now, you have what I gave her and more."

"More?" she loved the touch of his hand.

"You have my heart," he slowly neared her face.

"I love my gifts," she brushed her lips lightly across his.

"I'm glad," his voice mesmerized her.

"May I thank you properly?" she undid his tie.

"Um, you mean write me a note?" he slid his arms around to unbutton her dress.

"That would take too long," setting aside the gifts, she started to slowly unbutton his vest.

"Right," he nodded. "Wouldn't want ya t' take too long."

Sully pulled her dress down and kissed the soft skin of her shoulders. While focusing on this pleasurable activity, he quickly removed his jacket, vest and shirt. Then he guided Michaela down onto the bed. He pulled her to his chest so that flesh against flesh, their warm contact elicited excitement in each.

Michaela cupped his face and held him still to look at his features, "I love your eyes, Byron Sully."

"The better t' see you with," he smiled.

"And I love your lips," she knew what would follow.

"The better to...." before he could finish the line, she covered his lips with hers.

Sully rolled over, carrying her with him so that now she was atop him. He reached around to the back of her dress to slide it lower. As he did so, Michaela unbuttoned his trousers. Soon they lay against one another the length of their bodies, fitting together as if two parts of a whole had at last joined.

"I do love nothing in the world so well as you," he whispered.

"Is that Byron?" she guessed.

"Shakespeare," his breathing racing.

"Then let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments," she quoted the same.

"I feel no impediments," he teased.

"I feel...." she suddenly became aware of his need.

"You feel?" he raised his eyebrows.

She closed her eyes and moved to welcome his initiative, "I feel the need to...."

"Yes?" he grinned.

She swallowed hard, "I feel the need to talk no more."

"That's a first," he joked.

"Will you stop teasing me?" she tapped his sides.

"Tease you?" he played innocent.

Then he made his enthusiastic desire more apparent to her.

"Better?" he smiled.

"Oh, much better," she felt herself slipping away.

The banter concluded, and the sharing of their passions began. The total enjoyment of their intimacy came to them in a blinding release of energy. The kisses which followed only bought greater love and tenderness to their encounter.

"You understand me better than any person I've ever known, Sully," she rested her cheek on his chest.

"I do?" he chuckled.

"Yes," she ran her finger in lazy circles through the hair on his chest. "You know who I really am."

"No one else knows ya?" he rubbed her back.

"They see me as the town doctor, the crusader who always has to be right, the opinionated woman who never acts like she knows her place," she spoke with certainty. "But from the beginning, you knew who I really was. I would sometimes push you away because I was so frightened of your knowing my weaknesses, my frailties."

Sully lifted her chin to observe her face, "You ARE the doctor, the crusader, the defender of right, an' you're definitely a woman. As for pushin' me away, ya couldn't've pushed me away if ya used a team o' horses."

"But all of those things were a facade," she shook her head. "That was all before I gave in to my love for you."

"What do ya mean, Michaela?" he was confused. "You're still all those things."

"Deep down, you know who I really am," she whispered. "I'm the woman who melts every time I'm in your arms. I'm the wife who loves you more with each breath that I take. I'm the lover who needs you so much."

"But what's wrong with that side o' you?" he stroked her arm.

"It seems such a contradiction," she confessed.

"You're bein' awful hard on yourself," he kissed her forehead. "I always knew, beyond what ya showed the world, there was something else simmerin' under the surface."

Pausing, he chose his words carefully, "You're an incredible woman, Michaela. No facade about ya--ya save lives, ya care about folks, an' ya don't let convention stop ya from doin' what ya believe in. I admire that." He continued, "T' me, ya make my heart complete. Ya fill me with such joy an' pleasure, it takes my breath away. An' ya made me a Pa by givin' me the most beautiful baby girl I ever saw. It ain't a contradiction; it's a miracle."

"I love you so much, Sully," she touched his cheek.

"I know ya do," he hugged her. "An' I wanna keep showin' ya an' tellin' ya how much I love you, too."

"That sounds wonderful," she smiled.

"That's the smile I love," he ran his fingers across her lips. "How 'bout you an' me take a little nap so we can keep up with Miss Katie later this afternoon?"

She quickly rose from the bed and ran to the trunk. Pulling some under apparel for each of them, she returned to the bed.

"What's this for?" he looked at the clothing.

"In case little Miss Katie decides to make her appearance before we get up," she blushed.

They put on the undergarments, and then warmed by the nearness of each other, fell asleep.

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

Michaela felt a little hand on her cheek and a soft voice speak, "Mama, wake up."

"Mmm?" Michaela pulled the covers higher and rolled over to see her daughter. "Well, hello there."

"I not cwanky," Katie grinned.

"I'm glad to hear that," Michaela whispered, seeing that Sully was still sleeping. "Would you like to join Papa and me until he wakes up?"

"I wake him," she started for the other side of the bed.

"No, wait," Michaela gently took her hand. "Climb up here with us."

The child obeyed. Michaela pulled her under the covers beside her and tucked her next to her heart.

"You not cwanky, Mama?" the little girl whispered.

"No, ma'am," Michaela smiled. "Papa and I had a nice nap, too."

Katie sat up in bed to observe her father, "He look so cute."

Michaela stifled a laugh, "I think so, too."

"Mama, hold," Katie snuggled next to Michaela.

"Of course, Sweetheart," she replied. "I love to hold you." Then Michaela whispered, "Tomorrow is your birthday, and Papa and I are going to do something special with you."

"Ya are?" Katie's eyes widened.

"Yes," Michaela kissed her hand. "You mean so much to us, Katie."

"I know," the child innocently nodded.

"You do?" the mother smiled.

"Yep," the little girl held her mother's hand.

Michaela spoke softly, "This afternoon, I have an appointment, and I want you to be a good little girl for your father."

"You goin' away?" Katie's brow wrinkled.

"Not for long," Michaela pulled back her daughter's hair.

"I come, too?" the toddler was becoming anxious.

"Katie," Michaela tried to reason. "I will be back in about an hour. Meanwhile, you and Papa can go to the park across the street and even feed the squirrels."

"An' you be back?" Katie pulled herself into Michaela's arms.

"I promise," Michaela kissed her.

Sully stirred.

"Uh-oh," Katie raised up again. "We wake Papa."

"I don't think he'll mind," Michaela winked.

Sully lifted up slightly and rested on his elbow, "Who's this little girl in our bed?"

"Me, Papa!" Katie stood up.

"That's what I thought," he lifted her over Michaela and raised her into the air above them.

Katie's laughter filled the room and her parents' hearts. Michaela rose from the bed and began to dress.

"Where ya goin'?" Sully continued to enjoy Katie's laughter.

"I have an errand to run," she smiled.

"Want us t' come?" he kissed his daughter.

"Mama be back, Papa," Katie patted his hands. "We feed swirls?"

"Feed what?" he couldn't make out her word.

"Squirrels," Michaela clarified. "In the park across the street."

She finished dressing and went to the mirror. Quickly, she did up her hair and pinned a hat on top.

Sully left Katie on the bed and went to his wife, "What's the secret?"

She smiled mischievously, "I'll return in about an hour. Then we can go to dinner."

He pulled her into his arms for a kiss, only to be interrupted by their daughter.

"Papa," Katie reminded. "Swirls."

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

Michaela turned the corner and saw the office ahead. The sign outside read "Dr. Noah Abbott." Michaela took at deep breath and went up the steps.

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

Sully kept a close eye on his daughter as she ran after one squirrel, then another, not remotely close to catching any.

"Kates, why don't ya throw some o' these bread crumbs, and they'll come an' eat 'em?" Sully suggested.

"No, I catch one for Mama," Katie continued her chase.

He laughed at her antics and figured the squirrels must be doing the same. Then an idea occurred to him. An anniversary idea for Michaela. He had Katie conclude her chase, and soon they were on their way to put his plan into action.

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

When Sully and Katie returned to the hotel, Michaela was not back yet. He looked at the clock. It had been over two hours since she left. He washed up Katie from her outdoor excursion of squirrel chasing. Still no Michaela. He sat down with his daughter on his lap and tried not to worry, but he was getting a feeling that something might be wrong.

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

Michaela left Abbott's office and hurried down the street. She knew that she was going to be late for dinner. Suddenly she stopped cold. In an alley beside the street, she caught a glimpse out of the corner of her eye of a knife blade. An arm was raising the glistening blade and descending quickly on a victim below.

"No!" Michaela shouted.

The knife plunged into the figure of a man in the alley, and the assailant was gone. Michaela ran into the narrow passageway. When she arrived at the crime scene, she knelt down and screamed.

"Help!" she called. "Someone please call a police officer!"

A crowd gathered as Michaela felt for a pulse. There was none. The nameless man was dead,.

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

Sully began pacing and looking at the clock.

"Papa," Katie's sensed his concern. "Where Mama?"

"She'll be back soon, Kates," he was not sure of the truth of his words.

Finally, he heard the door. A pale Michaela silently entered the room.

"Michaela!" Sully hurried to her. "Where were ya all this time?"

Then he noticed her drained appearance.

"What happened?" he guided her to sit down.

Katie jumped into her mother's lap, but Michaela was too shaken to speak.

"Get down off your Ma," Sully lifted their little girl. "Go get your bunny an' tell him about the squirrels ya saw t'day."

Katie started to leave them, then turned back, "Mama?"

"Let me talk to her, Kates," he pointed for her to go into her room. "Michaela," Sully took her cold hands in his. "What happened?"

"I...." her lips were parched. "I witnessed a murder."

"A murder?" Sully's heart skipped a beat. "Are ya all right?"

"I'm fine," she shook her head. "I saw a man with a knife stab another man in an alley, Sully." For the first time since the ordeal, she allowed herself to cry, "There was nothing I could do for him. I've been at the police station giving a statement."

"Here," he put his arms around her. "Ya musta been scared t' death. Ya should've sent for me."

"You would have to have brought Katie along, and I didn't want her to be exposed to all of that," Michaela's lower lip quivered.

She buried her face in his neck and released her tears. Katie heard her mother's crying and quietly reentered the room. She ran to her parents and crawled into Michaela's lap.

"Mama, don't cwy," the little girl circled her arms around her mother's neck.

"Katie," Michaela kissed her. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart."

The loving arms of her family brought Michaela back to her safe and secure world. She was able to calm herself and eventually prepare for dinner.

They decided to dine at the hotel, given Michaela's reluctance to venture out again. The Willard's cuisine offered fried oysters, steak and onions, pate de foie gras in copious quantities, but none of the Sullys had much appetite on this night.

Katie prattled on about their afternoon in the park with the squirrels, and Michaela smiled, but she was still not quite herself. With the meal concluded, they returned to their suite and decided on an early evening. Katie was cooperative in going to bed, and soon the child was asleep.

Sully helped his wife prepare for bed. Cuddling next to her, he allowed her the time she needed to reach out for him. Soon it came.

"Sully," she swallowed hard. "The man who did this got away."

"He's prob'ly long gone by now," he assured her. Where'd it happen anyway?"

"Near Dr... Near D street and 6th," she answered.

"What were ya doin' there t' begin with?" he gently stroked her back.

"I had an appointment with... a dressmaker," she did not tell him the truth.

"Try not t' worry, Michaela," he knew she would. "Ya done all ya could for the man, an' ya helped the police."

"I was not much help," she shook her head. "I did not see him very clearly, only his hand and the knife."

He kissed her temple and pulled her nearer, "Close your eyes now."

He ran his palm up and down her arm.

"Don't let go of me tonight, Sully," she implored.

"I won't," his strong arms vowed.

She closed her eyes and finally drifted off to sleep.

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

The dark shadow was lurking in the alley. Michaela was trapped. She had no way out of the narrow street. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. She tried again. Then she saw Sully running toward her. She finally found her voice, "No, Sully!" she screamed. "He'll stab you!" She threw herself between the attacker and her husband. The cold blade plunged into her abdomen. Blood was everywhere. "I love you, Sully," her voice faded, and darkness descended.

Suddenly Michaela awoke from her nightmare. Sully was safe, lying beside her. His arms engulfed her. He's still holding me, she thought. It was only a dream. Michaela was thirsty. She rose quietly from her husband's arms and went to pour a glass of water. Sipping on the cool liquid, she peeked out the window of the hotel.

The hour was late, and the cloudy night brought no illumination to the streets below. Only... what is that figure on the street corner? Her eyes tried to focus. Is it a man? Yes, it's... she blinked and focused again. It was the murderer down there on the street below her hotel room!

Her body froze in terror. "Sully!" she whispered in urgency.

He awoke with a start, "Michaela, what're ya doin' outa bed?"

"Come here," she beckoned.

He rose and went to her, rubbing his eyes, "What is it?"

"Down there," she pointed. "I saw him. The murderer."

Sully pulled back the curtain, but saw no one, "Where?"

She looked again, "He's... he's gone."

She began to tremble, and Sully swiftly brought her into his embrace.

"Shhh," he kissed her. "I'm here. No one's gonna hurt ya."

"I saw him, Sully," she closed her eyes and began to weep.

"I'll protect ya," his voice was calming.

He guided her back to the bed. Tenderly positioning her on the soft downy mattress, he joined her and drew her close.

Sully pulled up the covers and spoke low, "I'm here, Michaela. I'll watch over ya. Try t' get some sleep."

She heard his words. She closed her eyes, but the pounding of her heart signaled there would be no sleep for her.

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

Michaela felt a little hand on her cheek.

"Mama, birday!" Katie's voice whispered.

"Wha-?" Michaela jumped.

Sully awoke at her movement. Then he saw Katie.

"Come here, sweet girl," he held out his arms for his daughter.

Katie ran to the other side of the bed and jumped up for her father to lift her into bed.

"Happy birthday," he kissed her cheek.

Michaela sat up and smiled, "Three years old today."

"I twee!" the little girl clapped her hands.

Michaela took her little hand in hers, "Papa and I will always remember the day you were born."

"Tell me!" Katie's eyes lit up.

"Papa?" Michaela hoped he would begin.

He took the initiative, "Well, Kates, I was hurt an' far from home. Your Ma was expectin' ya any day."

"Expectin' me?" she did not comprehend.

"You were inside of me, ready to make your entrance right outside in a meadow," Michaela tried to clarify.

Sully continued, "Cloud Dancin' came t' get your Ma so she could help make me better."

"You huwt bad?" she patted his hand.

"Pretty bad," he smiled. "Anyway, they found me, an' your Ma patched me up."

"As best I could," Michaela recalled that he had a badly broken leg and injured shoulder.

"Just as we were gettin' ready t' head home, your Ma started havin' you," Sully touched her nose.

"Have me outside?" she looked at her mother.

"Yes," Michaela replied. "By a big tree."

"It cold?" Katie was worried.

"Nope," Sully continued. "So there we were in the middle of nowhere, an' I didn't know what t' do. But your Ma talked me through it an'...."

"And your Papa brought you into this world," Michaela finished his explanation. "When he held you up for the first time, we both began to cry."

"Cwy?" their daughter's brow wrinkled. "Ya sad?"

"No, Sweetheart," Michaela hugged her. "We were happy. We wanted a little girl so much, and there you were."

"When we held ya in our arms, it was the happiest day of our lives, Kates," he kissed her cheek.

"And I cannot believe it's been three years ago," Michaela added.

Their conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. Michaela had nearly forgotten the events of the previous afternoon until that sound. She jumped and pulled Katie protectively into her arms. Sully placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and rose to see who was there.

When he opened the door, a bellboy handed him some telegrams. Sully reached for a coin and tipped the young man. Then he closed the door.

"Well, look here," Sully's blue eyes gleamed. "These are addressed to Miss Katie Sully."

"For me?" the toddler sat up straighter.

"Yep," Sully sat down beside them.

"Papa, I can't wead," Katie shrugged.

"That's too bad, Kates," he teased.

"Sully!" Michaela tapped his arm. "Read them to her."

"I reckon I could do that," he grinned. Opening the first one, he said, "This one's from your brothers sayin', 'Happy Birthday Katie. We miss ya and love ya a lot. Matthew and Brian.'"

"That was sweet of them," Michaela smiled.

"Next one, Papa," Katie handed him another note.

"This one's from Colleen an' Andrew," he unfolded the paper. "Says 'To the prettiest an' smartest little girl we know, have a wonderful birthday.'"

"Good one," Katie nodded. Then she held up the third message.

"This is from your Grandma," Sully opened it. "She writes, 'I hope my beautiful granddaughter has a birthday full o' joy an' happiness. Love, Grandmother Quinn.'"

"My, Katie, everyone remembered your special day," Michaela leaned closer to her child.

"I like birday," she smiled.

"It's just beginnin'," Sully lifted her high above them and then dropped her into his arms.

At that instant, his mind flashed back to the moment he had first held her. The daughter he had wanted so much. The tears that filled his eyes on that unforgettable day.

Michaela noticed his expression and caressed his hand, "It was an unforgettable day."

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

Katie insisted that they go to the park again so that Michaela could watch her chase the squirrels. Holding Sully's hand, Michaela sat beside her husband on a bench and observed the tireless little girl attempt to corral one of the animals. Both parents laughed and periodically warned their daughter to be careful. Finally, Katie came to them and collapsed in her mother's lap.

The out-of-breath child told them, "I tired."

"I don't doubt it, young lady," Michaela noticed the beads of perspiration on Katie's forehead.

Taking a handkerchief from her purse, Michaela wiped Katie's face.

"For dinner," Sully spoke up. "We're havin' whatever ya want, Kates."

"Want candy," she quickly replied.

"Candy?" Michaela was surprised.

"Yep," the child nodded.

"Kates, candy's a treat for after ya eat dinner," he tried to convince her.

"I want candy!" Katie put her face in Michaela's lap.

"I think maybe a nap is needed before we discuss dinner," Michaela lifted her.

"Not want nap," Katie insisted.

"Do you remember what I told you about being cranky?" Michaela leaned down to speak.

"Yep," Katie was teetering toward a crying spell.

"A nap will keep you from becoming cranky," she told her daughter.

"All wight," Katie sighed and walked to her father. Extending her arms upward, she beckoned, "Papa?"

"Sure," Sully lifted her and patted her back.

As Michaela stood to accompany them, she spotted someone by a tree near the street. The instant she looked in that direction, the man turned and swiftly walked away.

"Sully," she touched his arm and stopped. "That man!"

"What man?" he looked at her.

"The one walking up the street," she motioned. "He was watching us."

"He was?" Sully was not sure of her meaning.

"When I turned to look at him, he left," her voice was anxious.

"Here," he started to hand Katie to her. "You go on back t' the hotel, an' I'll talk t' him."

"No!" she did not want him in danger. "It must just be my imagination."

"Ya sure?" he asked.

"Yes," she looked down. "I mustn't spoil Katie's day with my trepidation."

"All right," he leaned over to kiss her cheek.

She looped her arm though her husband's. As they began their walk back to the hotel, they did not notice that the man Michaela had observed was following them.

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

After an evening of coaxing Katie to eat a proper meal, and meeting with success only with some birthday cake, Michaela and Sully returned with the little girl to their hotel rooms to present her with a gift from them. When Katie ripped off the wrapping, her eyes opened wide.

"Mama! Papa! A baby!" she held up a doll clad in a beautiful blue dress and bonnet.

"That's right, Sweetheart," Michaela kissed her.

"I love baby!" Katie hugged it.

"We hoped ya might," Sully stroked her hair.

Katie cradled the doll and began to hum the "Mockingbird" lullaby that Michaela had sung to her before their trip.

"Sully, listen," Michaela whispered.

"I noticed," he grinned.

Katie carried her new present into her room and crawled up onto the bed. Michaela and Sully went to the door to see what she was doing. They overheard her soliloquy:

"I gonna name you Swirl," she put the doll in bed beside her bunny and pulled up the covers. "An' someday I'll tell ya 'bout when Mama an' Papa had you."

"Sully," Michaela looked up at him. "She's naming her 'Swirl?'"

"Remember? That's what she calls a squirrel," he chuckled.

"She's naming that beautiful doll 'Squirrel?'" she was incredulous.

"Prob'ly the first name that popped int' her head," he hugged her. "T'morrow she'll more 'n likely name her somethin' else. Just like a woman t' change her mind."

"I don't change my mind," she poked his side.

"Sure ya do," he played with a lock of her hair.

"When?" she turned up the corner of her mouth.

"Um," he looked up. Then he spoke near her ear, "Like bein' afraid o' makin' love."

"Oh," she shyly grinned. "You have me there."

He put his arms around her waist and raised his eyebrows, "No, I have ya here."

"Sully," she began to melt. His scent was causing her thoughts to stray, "Later."

They continued to watch Katie until her yawning drew attention to the lateness of the hour.

Michaela walked into her room, "Time for your bath, young lady."

"We not need bath, Mama," Katie shook her head.

"I happen to think otherwise after your running in the park today," the mother lifted her.

"Bwing, Swirl," Katie resisted.

Michaela undressed the toddler, "Swirl can wait in here with your bunny."

Sully prepared the tub and water for his child, then placed her into the water. Both parents knelt down to bathe the little girl. Sully made the task a little more difficult, as he pretended that the soap was a ship which was sinking. Then he splashed Katie and Michaela until they and the bathroom had a good soaking. Once Katie was dried, dressed and put into bed, it was not long until she was out, exhausted from the activities of her third birthday.

Michaela glanced at the clock, "It's been a long day."

"Remember three years ago what it was like for us t' have our little girl at home for the first time?" he wistfully recalled.

"I remember," she felt a tear. "We put her in the cradle that you made, and she cried."

He smiled, "An' I carried her over t' the bed with us."

"Then she stopped crying," Michaela reached out to him.

He pulled her into his arms, "We're so lucky, Michaela."

"I know," she closed her eyes.

"You're all wet!" he felt the moisture of her dress against his shirt.

"I wonder why?" she pulled away and turned her back to him.

"Would you unbutton me, please?" she pointed over her shoulder.

"It'd be my pleasure," he started to work on the buttons.

Michaela hoped that he would use this opportunity to entice her, and she was not disappointed. Once the buttons were undone, he pulled the dress off of her shoulders. Then he lowered the straps of her camisole. Still with her back to him, she began to feel incredible excitement at his tender touches.

He planted kisses on her neck and shoulders. Then he reached up to remove the pins that held her hair in place. The loose tresses fell upon her back. Taking a lock in his hand, he inhaled the scent of her.

"You have ravished me away with a power I cannot resist," he brushed his lips across her ear.

"Byron?" she turned to face him.

"Keats," he gazed upon her figure in awe.

With the backs of his hands, he lightly worked his way down the front of her body, stirring immediate reaction in her. Michaela unbuttoned the front of his shirt and opened the material so that she could slide her arms around to his back. She leaned her head against him, then began to kiss his chest.

"Sully," her eyes searched his face.

Her voice aroused within him powerful and urgent feelings. He reached around and lowered the rest of her clothing to the floor. She pulled his shirttail from his trousers, then undid them. They fell to the floor, as well.

For a moment each simply gazed into each other's eyes, without words. Their breathing began to change measurably. Then each extended a hand, and they met, linking fingers. Looping his other hand around her back, Sully maneuvered her closer to fit snugly against him. Michaela willingly acceded to his overtures, savoring each loving gesture and returning them in kind.

"I love you," she played with the hair at the base of his neck.

"I love you, too," he swept her off her feet and placed her on the bed.

Michaela pulled him on top of her and wrapped her arms around his back. Sully buried his head in her neck, kissing and caressing her tenderly. Their slow, deliberate touches intensified until they had given themselves totally to one another. After they made love, a contented feeling overwhelmed them.

"My, that was wonderful," she sighed.

"I love bein' here with you like this," he leaned his head against her shoulder.

She ran her fingers lazily through his hair, "No matter where I go, I want to be there with you."

"Ya got nothin' t' worry about," he kissed her shoulder. "You're stuck with me."

She pulled his arm around her, "I think I'm in need of some sleep, Mr. Sully, but there's something I must say to you that I told you three years ago today."

"What's that?" he lifted her chin.

"Thank you for giving me our little girl," she kissed his hand.

"I think I recall tellin' ya that I was never so scared in my life, or so happy," he kissed her hand. "We got more than we ever dreamed possible in our little girl, Michaela."

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

As they drifted off to sleep, they had no inkling of the events that were transpiring in the hotel lobby below. A darkly clothed man quietly approached a bellhop and asked him to help with some luggage in the street. The hotel employee followed him out and into an alleyway. There, the young man was hit over the head. The assailant removed the hotel uniform from his victim and put it on. Then, he coldly stabbed the bellhop. Soon, unnoticed by the staff of the Willard, he assumed a new identity.

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

Katie woke her parents at dusk with a joyful decree, "Birday again!"

"Sorry, Kates," Sully rubbed his eyes. "Ya only get one a year."

"There will come a time when you won't look forward to them with such enthusiasm," Michaela pulled the child up beside her.

"Ya don't look forward to your birthdays?" Sully teased.

"After a certain age," Michaela sounded serious.

"What age would that be?" he continued to probe.

"Never you mind," she replied. Turning her attention to her daughter, Michaela smiled, "How did... Swirl enjoy her first night with you, Sweetheart?"

"She westless," Katie's expression was serious.

"Restless?" Sully sat up. "Why's that?"

The child shrugged, "Don't know. Maybe somethin' she ate. I go get her."

They could not conceal their laughter. When Katie ran into the other room, Sully slipped into his trousers.

Michaela asked, "Where are you going?"

"Down t' the lobby," he replied. "Be right back."

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

By the time Michaela had dressed Katie and herself, he returned.

"What was of interest in the lobby?" she folded some of Katie's clothing as the child played in the next room with her doll.

"I went t' the restaurant an' ordered us breakfast. It'll be delivered soon." He opened up the morning paper, and began to read its contents. A burst of adrenaline shot through him as he read the headline, "Michaela look at this."

She went to his side and read, "My God! Another stabbing."

Reading the details, she fell silent.

He put his arm around her, "One of the hotel employees."

She felt faint, "Right outside, in the alley."

"He must've been goin' home from work," Sully reasoned.

"Sully," her voice shook.

He pulled her closer, "Don't worry, Michaela."

The knock on the door caused her to tremble.

"Go int' Katie's room," he told her.

"No, Sully," her eyes implored.

"It's just breakfast," he smiled. "Besides, murderers don't usually knock."

There was another rap at the door.

"Go on," he pointed.

She obeyed, but kept the door ajar to hear.

"Who is it?" Sully spoke through the closed door.

"Room service," a voice from the other side responded.

"Okay," Sully unlocked the door.

A man with an ill fitting uniform brought in the food. He did not look up at Sully, but placed the tray on a table. Then pausing, he surveyed the room.

"Somethin' wrong?" Sully was suspicious.

"No," the bellman put his head down to answer. "Just wondered if all this food is for one person."

"Yep," Sully lied.

Michaela's curiosity got the better of her, and she peaked out to see why Sully was speaking to the man. Catching a glimpse of him, a strange sensation came over her. Something about him. What was it?

Katie tugged at her mother's skirt, "Swirl hungwy."

"Is she?" Michaela smiled. "You know, babies must eat properly."

"Pawply?" she questioned.

"Healthy, good foods," Michaela lifted the child. "Like vegetables."

"Not like vegables," Katie turned up her nose.

"I know you don't, but you really should set a good example for Swirl," she advised her daughter.

"Good sample?" Katie wondered. "What that?"

"It means that you should do things yourself that you tell others to do," she tried to explain.

"I gotta eat vegables?" the toddler thought about it.

"That would be setting a good example," Michaela nodded.

Sully called from the next room, "Breakfast's here."

She carried Katie in and they sat down to eat. However, nagging at Michaela was the feeling she still had after seeing the bellman.

Sully cleared his throat, "Where are ya?"

"Pardon me?" Michaela replied.

"Ya seem far away," he touched her hand.

"I'm sorry," she said. "That bellman. There was something about him."

"Ya saw him?" he became upset. "I told ya t' stay in the other room."

"I only took a peek when I heard you speaking with him," she defended herself.

"Well, ya shouldn't have," his voice was becoming louder.

"Papa," Katie looked up. "Ya mad?"

He took a deep breath and exhaled, "No, Kates."

"Look," she pointed to her plate. "I eatin'."

"So ya are," he grinned.

"I set good sample," she added.

"Ya what?" he looked at Michaela.

"Set a good example for her doll," she responded.

"Oh, that's nice," he calmed. After an uncomfortable pause, he turned to his wife, "Ya said there was somethin' strange about him?"

"I can't pinpoint it," she took a bite of her breakfast, then wanted no more. A queasy feeling came over her, "Maybe it's just my imagination."

He touched her arm, "I'm sorry I snapped at ya."

She put her hand over his, "I love that you want to protect me, Sully."

He smiled and turned to his daughter, "Know where we're goin' t'day, Kates?"

"Where?" she looked up.

"We have a reception at the White House," Michaela announced.

"What's wecepon?" the child asked.

"A fancy word for meetin' folks," Sully touched his daughter's nose.

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

The reception at the Executive Mansion for the betrothed couple was magnificent. The Grants knew how to throw social galas for the rich and powerful. As the Marine Band played, all of the distinguished and fashionable people were there. Members of the Cabinet and their wives, congressmen, businessmen, military figures and the like were plentiful in attendance, along with the families of the bride and groom-to-be.

Sully felt uncomfortable the moment they arrived, but he knew that there was a side of Michaela that enjoyed the luster of it all. He carried Katie, nibbled on the hors d'oeuvres, and smiled a lot. He spotted Michaela with a circle of ladies. When he neared them, he overheard them discussing the topic of women's suffrage. Although his wife was listening at the time, he knew that would not last for long. Any second, he could see her jumping into the fray. He loved her for it, but did not want to witness it at the moment.

"Come on, Kates," he bounced her up and down, let's go for a walk.

He put the toddler down and held her hand as they left. They traveled down a corridor and ended up in the Conservatory. Sully picked her up again to keep her from touching the beautiful plants.

"Papa, why flowers growin' inside?" she leaned over to smell a rose.

"So they can grow even if the weather outside's cold," he told her.

"They pwetty," she observed.

They continued to walk along, unaware that another person had entered the Conservatory. Sully felt a tap on his shoulder.

"Mind if I join you two?" it was Michaela.

Sully smiled at the sound of her voice, "What do ya think, Kates? Okay if your Ma joins us."

Katie nodded, "Sure. Put down, Papa. Wanna walk."

He did as she asked. Sully and Michaela each took one of their daughter's hands and continued to stroll among the beautiful plants.

"I thought you'd be in there debatin' the ladies," he teased.

"I contemplated that," Michaela responded. "But I decided I'd much rather spend my time with you two."

Katie began to swing into the air about every three or four steps. This entertainment went on for several minutes with the entire family finally bursting into laughter.

A woman approached them. It was the First Lady.

"Mrs. Grant!" Michaela was surprised.

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

"I'm glad to see you admire the handiwork of our gardener," Julia Dent Grant smiled.

"Hope it's all right," Sully was apologetic.

"Quite all right," she replied. "I followed you two here to speak with you."

"Speak with us?" Michaela inquired.

"Yes," she nodded. "My husband and I are delighted that you made the trip from Colorado to attend the wedding. I want you to know that most of the guests are, shall we say, people whom protocol dictates we invite."

"I suppose that comes with the office," Michaela smiled.

"Yes, much of it is because of Washington society and politics," Mrs. Grant agreed. "And some of it is simply the personality of the president. He feels the responsibility to repay his wealthier friends for favors rendered."

"Is that why ya wanted to speak t' us?" Sully did not quite understand.

"No, no," the First Lady smiled at Katie. "I wanted to tell you that you are among the few guests for whom there was no political or social motivation to invite. We wanted you to come to this wedding because of what you have done. Without you, Ulysses would not be alive to give away our precious Nellie on her wedding day. We are so grateful and honored that you could attend."

"Thank you, Mrs. Grant," Sully was moved.

"If there is anything we can ever do to repay you for all that you have done for us, please don't hesitate to ask," Julia took his hand.

"The President already repaid me with the pardons," Sully told her.

Michaela felt a tear, "He gave me back the man I love." Lifting Katie, she added, "And the father of this little one."

Mrs. Grant took Katie's hand, "I wish there were still children this age in my life. Perhaps some grandchildren one day." Then she cleared her throat, "Well, I must get back to the reception. I look forward to seeing you the day after tomorrow for our special day."

"Tomorrow's the special day for us," Sully glanced at his wife.

"Oh?" Julia turned to him. "Why is that?"

"Our anniversary," Michaela answered.

"How wonderful!" Mrs. Grant clapped her hands together. "So perhaps this trip was a bit more than just attending the wedding of the President's daughter."

"Perhaps," Michaela blushed.

"Have a splendid day, then," the First Lady departed.

"She's quite a lady," Michaela said.

"Yep," Sully noticed that Katie had been quiet through the entire conversation. "You tired, Kates?"

"I miss Swirl," she leaned her head against her mother's shoulder.

"Then let's go back to the hotel, so that you and your doll can have a nap, Sweetheart," Michaela caressed her head.

They headed down the corridor toward the main entrance of the Executive Mansion. When they had just passed through the gate onto Pennsylvania Avenue, Michaela stopped cold.

"I know what it was!" she looked at her husband.

"What are ya talkin' about?" he felt Katie curl against his chest and yawn.

"That bellman this morning," she explained. "The ring that he had on. It was so unusual, but I know I've seen one like it before."

"Now that ya mention it, it seemed strange t' me that a fella who could afford a ring like that would be workin' as a hotel bellman," he told her.

"Oh, well," she shrugged. "This is Washington, D.C. They are a bit different here."

After a few more steps, Michaela stopped again.

"Did ya remember somethin' else?" Sully wondered.

"No, I forgot something," she said. "My wrap. I left it back at the White House."

"I'll go get it for ya," Sully handed her their sleeping daughter. "You two wait here at the bench. Be right back."

"Thank you, Sully," Michaela sat down with Katie.

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

It took not more than five minutes for Sully to return to the White House, retrieve Michaela's shawl, and carry it back to the bench. But as he neared the spot where he had left them, he grew more concerned. Then he began to run.

When he got to the bench, there was Katie lying sound asleep but no Michaela. Sully looked in every direction. He saw nothing. In fact there were very few people outside at all. Michaela would not leave Katie. But where was she? As a wave of fear swept over him, he lifted his daughter and ran back to the White House.

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

With Katie in his arms, Sully reentered the reception, somewhat out of breath from his running. He made his way quickly to Mrs. Grant.

"Mr. Sully," she was surprised at his return. "How nice to see you so soon."

"Ma'am, could I speak with ya privately?" he implored.

"Certainly," she excused herself from her guests. "Is something wrong?"

"It's Michaela," he tried to remain calm. "When we were leavin', she forgot her shawl. I came back t' get it, and when I returned to her, Katie was lyin' on a bench outside, but my wife was gone!"

"Oh, my!" she looked for one of the White House staff.

She motioned with her hand, and one of the servants was soon by her side. She instructed him to get the head of the security detail immediately. Within seconds, the commissioner of the police department, Timothy Dooley, in attendance at the reception, arrived.

Upon hearing what happened, Dooley responded, "This is most unusual. Security in and around the Executive Mansion has been very tight. Are you sure your wife did not simply go back to your hotel?"

"She wouldn't do that an' leave our daughter on a bench. There's somethin' ya oughta know," Sully held a frightened Katie, "my wife's was a witness to a stabbin' the other day. Since then she's had a feelin' someone's been followin' her."

"The murder on D Street?" the commissioner asked.

Sully nodded, "An' then there was another one last night just outside the Willard Hotel where we're stayin'."

"And you think that there is a connection?" Dooley inquired.

"Both death's were stabbin's, an' my wife was nearby both times," Sully deduced.

"I'll put my men on this right away, Mr. Sully," he tried to allay his fears.

"I ain't gonna sit an' wait for ya," the mountain man asserted. Turning to the First Lady, he requested, "Mrs. Grant, ya said if ya could ever do anythin' for us..."

"Yes," she quickly replied.

"I know it's real busy here for ya, but do ya think you could watch my little girl while I go look for...."

"Of course," she interjected. "We still have many of the children's toys upstairs, and our staff is more than capable of helping."

"Let me have a word with her first," Sully carried his daughter aside from the crowd.

"Kates," he tried to think of how to tell her what had happened. "I gotta leave ya here for a little while."

"Why, Papa?" she bunched his shirt in her hands.

"Somethin' important I gotta do," he made every effort to control his fear. "I want ya t' stay with Mrs. Grant an' the folks here 'til I get back."

"I want Mama," her lower lip began to quiver.

"I know ya do," he embraced her. "We'll come back for ya real soon."

"You gotta go, Papa?" she looked straight at him with her mother's eyes.

"Yep," he kissed her cheek. "Will ya be a good girl for me?"

"I set good sample," she patted his cheek.

"I love you," Sully embraced her.

"I love you, Papa," Katie hugged him back.

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

Sully and a police detail retraced the path that they had followed out of the Executive Mansion. They searched around the bench. There was no indication of any foul play. They questioned passersby with no luck either.

Sully decided to pay a visit to D Street, while the police concentrated their efforts in the vicinity of the White House. Michaela had said that she witnessed the murder while returning from an appointment with a dressmaker near D Street and Sixth. He began traversing the area looking for a dress shop. There was none. Maybe it was a private home. He decided to ask for help. Looking up, he saw a doctor's office, Dr. Noah Abbott. He climbed the steps and entered.

"May I help you?" a receptionist greeted him.

"Yes, Ma'am," Sully replied. "I'm lookin' for a dress shop around here."

"A dress shop?" she smiled. "I don't know of any, I'm afraid."

"How 'bout anyone who makes 'em inside their home?" he probed.

"I can't think of anyone," she pondered.

"How 'bout the doctor?" Sully took a deep breath and exhaled. "Think he might know?"

"You seem rather upset," she observed. "May I ask why you are so interested?"

"My wife's missin'," he was becoming impatient. "She was in this neighborhood a few days ago an' witnessed a murder. She's a doctor an' tried t' help the victim. I'm worried that whoever did it might wanna hurt her."

"Your wife is a doctor?" the receptionist was interested.

"Yea, why?" Sully noticed her reaction.

"There was a Dr. Michaela...." she began looking through her records.

"Quinn!" Sully interrupted. "Michaela Quinn!"

"Yes," she found the papers. "Dr. Michaela Quinn was in to see Dr. Abbott on the day of the murder."

Sully looked around at the elegantly adorned office, "Why'd she come here?"

"I'm afraid I cannot...." she was again interrupted.

"She's my wife, an' she's missin'," Sully's voice became desperate. "Tell me why she was here!"

"Dr. Abbott specializes in women's medicine, primarily women who are having difficulty conceiving a child," the receptionist told him.

Sully paused to absorb what the woman had said. Then his voice calmed, "Could I see the doctor, Ma'am? My wife's life could depend on this."

"Just a minute, Mr. Quinn," she rose from her desk.

"Sully," he told her. "My name's Byron Sully."

"Mr. Sully, I'll ask the doctor if he can see you."

Within seconds, she returned, "Dr. Abbott says to come in."

Sully entered the office of the physician. Wood paneling adorned the walls. Leather covered furniture and the finest brass lamps made the room an impressive sight.

"Mr. Sully," Dr. Abbott extended his hand. "My receptionist informs me that your wife, Dr. Quinn, is missing."

"She disappeared after we left a White House reception today," Sully shook his hand. "Doctor, I'm real worried. She witnessed a stabbin' near here the day she saw you. Then last night, there was a stabbin' outside our hotel. She's been havin' this feelin' that she's bein' followed."

"This...." the doctor looked down. "This is most unfortunate news, Mr. Sully."

"I gotta find her," Sully felt as if his heart would break. "I'm tryin' t' retrace her steps since the first murder, lookin' for any clue o' what might've happened t' her. Is there anythin' ya can tell me about my wife's visit here? Why'd she come t' see ya?"

The doctor pursed his lips and took a deep breath.

"Please," Sully implored. "I know doctor's got a code t' not reveal anythin' about their patients, but this is my wife!"

"Mr. Sully," Dr. Abbott looked somber. "I think you'd better sit down."

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

Sully told the physician. "I don't have time t' sit down. I gotta find my wife!"

"Mr. Sully," Dr. Abbott's voice was more adamant. "Please sit down."

Sully sighed and complied with the doctor's command.

"Your wife...," the physician hesitated. "Your wife is pregnant."

Sully was shocked. His emotions combined happiness with even greater fear.

"Dr. Quinn came here to consult me about conceiving a baby," the doctor continued. "She had wired me a week ago and told me that she would be coming to Washington for Miss Grant's wedding. When I examined her, I discovered that she was already pregnant, over two months along."

Sully felt a lump in his throat, "Is she all right? Is the baby...."

"Quite healthy," Dr. Abbott raised his hand. "But this makes finding her all the more urgent, I realize."

Sully sat in stunned silence, trying to absorb all that he had heard.

"Let me have my assistant get you a glass of water," the doctor went to the door and said something to his receptionist.

Abbott sat back down at his desk. A male attendant wearing white hospital attire entered.

"A glass of water, please," the doctor requested.

Moments later the man returned and held the glass of water toward the doctor.

"No," he pointed to Sully. "It's for this gentleman."

The attendant turned to offer the glass to Sully. When he did, the mountain man noticed a ring on his hand. Sully looked up suddenly. It was the bellman! Sully jumped up and grabbed his arm, causing the water to fall to the floor.

"You work at the Willard Hotel!" he asserted.

"N-n-no, Sir," the man tried to pull away.

"Yes, ya do!" Sully stated. "Ya brought up breakfast to my room this mornin'!"

"Mr. Sully," Dr. Abbott tried to calm him. "This man works for me. He doesn't work at the Willard."

"His ring," Sully noted. "The bellman was wearin' this ring." Then he felt as if the blood had just left his body. "Michaela recognized the ring. Said she'd seen it before."

The attendant tried to pull away from Sully's grasp, "You have me confused with somebody else."

"No, I don't," Sully avowed. "Where were you this mornin'?"

"Now that you mention it, you were late this morning, Batson," Dr. Abbott came out from behind his desk. "Answer Mr. Sully's question."

Suddenly, Batson pulled a knife from under his belt. He aimed for the hand with which Sully still held him. Just in time, the mountain man let go to avoid the blade.

"Batson!" the physician shouted.

"You're not going to catch me!" the attendant bolted for the door.

Sully lunged for him and prevented his exit. He grabbed the man and knocked the knife loose. Then he kicked him in the stomach. Batson crumpled to the floor in pain. An angry Sully grabbed his white jacket.

"You know somethin' about my wife!" Sully demanded.

"I'll never tell you!" Batson spit on him.

With all of the force he could muster, Sully struck the man across the face.

Dr. Abbott ran forward to them, "Mr. Sully, please don't!"

"He knows somethin'!" Sully looked up. "I'll choke it outa him, if I have t'."

By this time, the receptionist had alerted the police to the commotion going on in the doctor's office. An officer burst into the room just as Sully was about to strike another blow.

Pulling a gun, he commanded, "Hold it right there!"

Sully raised his hands and slowly got up.

Pointing to Batson, Sully informed him, "Officer, this man's a suspect in the two stabbin's ya had here in the past few days."

"That right?" the lawman looked down.

"I... I don't know what he's talking about," Batson held his jaw.

"We'll see about all this," the policeman began to escort the man out. "You're comin' with me down to headquarters." Looking at Sully, he added, "You, too."

"I don't have time t'...." Sully's pleading eyes glanced toward Dr. Abbott.

"Give us a moment," the doctor told the policeman and pulled Sully aside. "I'll go with the officer to explain things, Mr. Sully. I'll give you Batson's address. I pray that Dr. Quinn is there and that she's...."

"Thanks," Sully put his hand on the physician's shoulder.

Dr. Abbott wrote down the address and handed the paper to Sully, "Before you go, I must tell you one more thing about your wife."

"What?" Sully worried.

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

"Mr. Sully," Dr. Abbott put his hand on Sully's shoulder. "Dr. Quinn wanted to surprise you about the baby. I understand that your anniversary is tomorrow."

"Yes, it is," Sully managed a faint smile.

"I just thought you should know what her intention was," the physician nodded.

"Thank you, Doctor," Sully said.

"I hope that..." Dr. Abbott hesitated.

"I know," Sully kept his emotions in check.

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

When Sully arrived at the address on the paper, he felt as if his heart would jump through his chest. It was a rundown boarding house not far from Abbott's office. He knocked. There was no answer. He tried again, this time even louder. Still no response. He went to the street level window, and cupping his hands beside his eyes, peeked inside. There was Michaela, tied to a chair, unconscious!

Sully returned to the door and kicked at the latch. The door flew open, and he burst into the room.

"Michaela!" he ran to her.

She made no movement. Sully knelt down and untied her hands, then lifted her into his arms.

Stroking her face, he felt tears running down his own cheeks, "Michaela, please. Wake up."

He leaned his head against her breast and felt her breathing. Cradling her in his arms, he fought back further tears.

"Michaela," his voice shook. "I love you."

Then looking down to her abdomen, he gently placed his hand there and whispered, "I'm sorry. I told ya I'd protect ya. Please don't leave me."

At that moment, the police arrived. One of the officers ran to the couple on the floor.

"You Mr. Sully?" the policeman asked.

"Yes," he nodded. "My wife needs a doctor."

"Dr. Abbott sent us," the officer explained. "We'll take her to the hospital. We got a wagon outside. Dr. Abbott said he'd meet us there."

"Thanks," Sully gently lifted his wife and carried her to the door. Other officers helped them into the wagon. Sully held her limp body in his lap, tenderly stroking her hair and whispering words of support in her ear.

Once at the hospital, the waiting began. Sully was grateful that she was alive, but frightened that she had not yet regained consciousness. There was no sign that she had been beaten or cut. Then his thoughts turned to the baby. They had already lost one child when he was not with her. For a year, they had been trying for another baby but had no luck in conceiving.

Michaela had not even told him about her appointment with Dr. Abbott. How many other doctors had she consulted in the year and a half since their lost child, he wondered. Then he thought about Katie. He knew that Mrs. Grant would see to her safekeeping, but he wished she were here in his arms so he could hold her, reassure her that her mother would be all right. He sat down, and leaning forward, rested his head in his hands.

"Mr. Sully?" it was Dr. Abbott's voice.

Sully jumped up, "How is she?"

"She's resting," he said somberly.

"Did she wake up?" Sully looked for any encouraging sign.

"No," the doctor shook his head.

"The baby?" Sully swallowed hard.

"So far, the baby is fine," Dr. Abbott informed him.

"So far? What ain't ya tellin' me?" the mountain man feared. "Did he... did Batson do anythin' t' her? Did he ra..."

"No," the doctor assured him. "There is no evidence that he... violated her."

Sully's heart still raced, "Please tell me, why ain't she wakin' up?"

"I believe that Batson drugged her," the doctor came out with it.

"What kind o' drug?" Sully asked.

"I'm not certain," Abbott told him. "In all likelihood, it was something that he obtained in my office. I believe morphine, but..."

"How long before she wakes up?" he was becoming more anxious.

"I'm not sure because I do not know how much he gave her," the doctor confessed. "I did not have very much at the office. Obviously, the sooner she wakes up, the better. If she awakens soon, my guess would be a dose of maybe five or six milligrams."

"Could the baby be affected?" Sully's eyes reflected his pain.

"What goes into the mother's system is also in the baby's," Dr. Abbott put his hands in his pockets.

"Could I see my wife?" Sully requested.

"Certainly," he replied. "I'll take you to her room."

"One other thing," Sully stopped. "Is there some way for me to get a message to Mrs. Grant, the First Lady?"

"If you write it down, I'll see that it's delivered," the doctor answered. "Come. I'll take you to your wife now."

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

Dr. Abbott left Sully and Michaela alone. He looked down at his wife, so pale in the bed. Then Sully touched her face. Sitting gingerly on the edge of the bed, he picked up her hand and raised it to his lips.

"I'm so sorry, Michaela," his heart was heavy. "I should never have left ya."

He leaned his head lightly on her bosom and closed his eyes. He prayed to the Spirits to wake her up. Then he felt a sensation that alerted all of his senses. A hand on his head. It was Michaela's. He bolted up and searched for any sign of consciousness.

"Michaela," he whispered. "It's me. Sully. Can ya hear me?"

"Sully?" her voice was faint.

Her eyes strained to open, "Wha... where are we?"

"In the hospital," he said.

"What happened?" she tried to focus.

"What do ya remember?" he did not want to tell her too much too soon.

"I..." she squinted. "My eyes hurt"

"Want me t' call the doctor?" he started to get up.

"No," she shook her head and attempted to sit up. Then she began to remember, "Sully! Where's Katie?"

He kept her from rising, "She's fine. Mrs. Grant's watchin' her."

"Mrs. Grant?" she looked at him. "The President's wife?"

"Yep," he felt her relax in his arms.

"Michaela, when I came back with your shawl, ya were gone," he reminded her. "What happened?"

She began to focus, "I was sitting on the bench, with Katie sleeping beside me. Someone must have snuck up behind me. I felt something over my nose and mouth. I presume it was ether."

"I can't believe no one saw him do this," Sully held her hand. Then he smiled, "How ya feelin'?"

"A little better," she reached up to caress his face. "Sleepy."

"Do you know what Batson gave ya?" he attempted to gain more information.

"Batson?" she was unclear.

"The man who took ya," he revealed.

"That's his name?" she sounded frightened.

Sully held her hands, "The police got him."

She closed her eyes and shuddered, "I was unconscious the entire time. I never even saw the man."

"I did," Sully told her. "He works at a doctor's office."

"A doctor's office?" she asked.

"Yes," he hesitated telling her which one.

"Sully," she felt uncomfortable. "Did... did the doctor say if Batson did... anything else to me?"

"No," he assured her. "Nothin' else."

She lowered a hand to her abdomen. Sully pretended not to notice.

"You asked if I knew what he gave me," she recalled.

"Might've been morphine," he answered.

"Oh, God," she shook her head.

"What's wrong?" his heart skipped. "Are ya all right?"

"Yes," she stroked her abdomen. "I'm just concerned about...."

"What, Michaela?" he was worried.

"About..." she gazed into his eyes. Not wanting to give him further reason to worry, she sighed, "About how long I was unconscious."

"Ya sure?" he leaned closer.

"Yes," she pulled his face toward hers.

They kissed. The sound of a throat's clearing caused them to part quickly. It was a nurse.

"Doctor sent me to check on you," she announced. "I see you're awake. How do you feel?"

"Tired," Michaela looked at her husband.

The nurse turned her attention to Sully, "There's a message for you from the White House at the desk."

"Must be about Katie," he stood up. "Will ya be all right for a minute while I check?"

"Certainly," she assured him.

Sully left, and Michaela asked the nurse, "When will my physician be in to see me? I have something I must discuss with him."

Dr. Abbott replied from the doorway, "I'm right here, Dr. Quinn."

"Dr. Abbott?" she was surprised. "You're my attending physician?"

"I am," he nodded. "You were found near my office. And since I was familiar with your... condition, I thought it appropriate that I take care of you."

"Is the baby all right?" she sat up. "Sully said that I might have been given an opiate."

"So far, yes," the doctor looked at his chart. "I have detected no adverse reaction in the fetus. Your pulse has remained strong. And I must presume from the amount of time you were unconscious that it was a dose of perhaps five or six milligrams. That should not present a problem for the baby. If your husband had not found you...."

"Does Sully know?" she asked.

"About your pregnancy?" Dr. Abbott delayed.

"Yes," she was anxious.

At that moment, Sully reentered her room with a piece of paper in hand.

He smiled, "Katie's got the White House in an uproar."

"What?" Michaela did not know whether to laugh or cry.

"She's playin' with every toy they got there," Sully chuckled. "An' they wanna know what Swirl is 'cause she keeps askin' for it."

Michaela laughed, "Oh, my."

Dr. Abbott grinned, "Your daughter?"

"Yep," Sully refolded the paper, happy to hear his wife's laughter.

"What IS Swirl?" the physician was curious.

"Her doll," Michaela informed him. "Swirl is how she pronounces squirrel, and she named the doll that because she's been trying to catch them in the park."

"How old is she?" the doctor put his hands on his hips.

"Just turned three yesterday," Sully beamed.

"Ah, the three year olds of this world," the physician nodded. "When my little girl was three, she broke her arm after tripping down the stairs in my wife's shoes."

"She's a handful," Sully smiled at his wife.

"Is it necessary for me to stay here any longer, Doctor?" Michaela was restless.

"I think not," Dr. Abbott shook his head. "I do want you to take it easy, however. If you have any unusual symptoms or if you feel... any pain, please contact me at once."

Sully extended his hand, "I wanna thank ya for everythin'."

Dr. Abbott shook his hand, "You're welcome."

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

It was early evening when Sully and Michaela ate dinner and settled back into their hotel room with Katie chattering nonstop about her day.

The little girl ran to get her doll, "Swirl miss me?"

"I don't know about your doll, but I certainly did," Michaela sat on the bed, a little light headed and nauseated.

"Ya okay?" Sully noticed.

"Yes," she answered. "Katie, come here please."

"What, Mama?" the child ran to her.

"I just wanted to hold you," Michaela extended her arms.

Katie climbed up into her mother's lap. Sully sat down and embraced both of them.

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

That evening, Michaela lay in bed, tucked against Sully's body.

"How did you find me?" she rubbed his arm.

"I went t' D Street, where ya saw that stabbin'," he explained.

He went on to describe looking for a dress shop, entering the doctor's office, and seeing the ring on Batson's hand. Sully left out the thrashing that he gave her assailant and concluded with breaking down the door to find her.

"Oh, Sully," she was exhausted. "I'm so grateful to you."

"An' I'm so sorry I left ya t' go get your shawl," he kissed her temple.

"You're certain this man is behind bars, now?" she felt a shiver.

"Yep," he pulled her closer. "An' he's never gonna hurt anyone again."

"Please hold me," she felt the warmth of his embrace. Then she asked him, "Sully, did Dr. Abbott say anything... anything else about me?"

"Just that you're an incredibly beautiful woman," he did not let on.

"I'm being serious," she tapped his arm.

"So am I," he caressed her head.

"May I request some poetry?" her eyelids were becoming heavy.

He immediately responded, "Sure. A little Poe for ya:

'Thou wast all that to me, love,
For which my soul did pine:
A green isle in the sea of love,
A fountain and a shrine.'"

"Thank you," she was nearly asleep.

"I love you, Michaela," he whispered.

"I love you, too," she kissed his hand.

Secure in her husband's arms, she dreamed about telling him tomorrow of the child that they were expecting. The joy of surprising him on their fourth wedding anniversary brought a smile to her lips. Sully ran his finger lightly along those lips. Then, her head against his, he shared her pillow and fell asleep, as well.

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

Sully held his wife the entire night. The next morning, when she woke, Michaela felt much improved. She looked at Sully's sleeping face, then lightly ran her fingers along the stubble of his beard. Taking his hand, she pulled it down to her abdomen and held it there. At that moment, her mind flashed back to four years earlier when she woke up on her wedding day. She recalled the excitement and nervous anticipation that she felt. And she remembered touching her pillow, thinking at the time, it would be the last time she would awaken alone. Now, here was her husband's head sharing her pillow.

Then she heard Katie stir. The sound of her little footsteps making their way into her room brought a smile to Michaela's face. Katie rubbed her eyes and walked straight to her mother's side.

"Ya wake, Mama?" her voice whispered.

"Yes, Sweetheart," Michaela reached to help her up into bed beside her.

"We go back t' big house t'day?" the child asked.

"Big house?" she wondered.

"Gwant house," Katie explained.

"Oh," Michaela caught on. "The White House, it's called."

"Lots o' white houses, Mama," Katie touched her mother's nose.

"So you think it should be called the big house?" Michaela tried not to laugh.

"Bigges' house I ever see," the little girl held out her hands. "Lots o' toys."

By this time, Sully was awake. He reached across his wife and tickled Katie's side.

"Now Papa wake," she giggled.

Sully whispered into his wife's ear, "How ya feelin'?"

"Very well, thank you," Michaela leaned back to caress his cheek.

"Good," he started to get out of bed.

"What we doin' t'day, Papa?" Katie jumped down to run to him.

"Well, t'day's a big day for your Ma an' me," he lifted her into his arms.

"Annivesay!" their daughter remembered.

"Yep," Sully kissed her cheek.

"Gotta shave, Papa," Katie turned up her nose.

"I know," he pretended to be sad. "Katie don't love her Pa when he's gotta shave."

"I love ya, Papa," Katie patted his cheek. "I love ya all the time."

Sully winked at Michaela, and set the child down, "Go talk t' your Ma while I get cleaned up."

Katie gleefully obeyed and returned to her mother's arms, "I come t' annivesay, Mama?"

"Absolutely," Michaela hugged her. Then taking both of her daughter's hands in hers, she spoke low, "Katie, would you like to have another little girl or boy to play with?"

"Sure," Katie's eyes widened. "Who gonna play with me?"

Michaela smiled. "For now, let's just say Swirl."

"I gotta tell ya somethin', Mama," the child became perfectly serious. "Swirl not a weal little girl."

"She's not?" Michaela teased.

"Nope," Katie shook her head. "But she fun."

"I'm glad," Michaela decided to sit up.

Pivoting her legs around to the floor, she stood up. No dizziness, no nausea. No after effects of her drugging. Michaela walked to the mirror and looked at herself. She tilted her head to the side and began to brush her long tresses. At that moment, Sully came up behind her and put his arms around her waist.

"Happy Anniversary," he whispered into her ear.

"And the same to you," she turned in his arms to face him.

"Mind if I kiss ya?" he turned up the corners of his mouth.

"Mind?" she smiled. "I'd mind if you didn't!"

He slowly moved his head closer to hers. Teasingly, they touched lips. Then they gave into their desire and allowed their kiss to deepen. Realizing where this was leading, they pulled back. They both felt a bit out of breath and leaned their foreheads against one another, relishing such closeness.

"You smell good," she spoke low.

"I got all cleaned up for ya," he joked.

"Then I should do the same for you," she turned back to brush her hair.

"Everythin' all right this mornin'?" he wanted to be sure she was still feeling well.

"Yes," she continued to brush her long locks.

"Good," he smiled. "Ready for a big day?"

"I'll have to take it one step at time," she acknowledged. "What would you like to do today?"

"How 'bout a carriage ride around town?" he raised his eyebrows. "We can show Katie all the interestin' things in the capital."

"That sounds delightful," Michaela nodded.

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

After breakfast, they spent the day enjoying the sights of Washington, D.C. There was the red sandstone Smithsonian Castle, the first testament to the legacy of English philanthropist James Smithson. With its towers, turrets and pinnacles, the structure was an impressive edifice on the Mall.

Across from the White House, in Lafayette Square, stood Clark Mill's equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, his horse dramatically balanced on its hind legs. They saw the National, Brown's and Kirkwood hotels, which paled in comparison to the grandeur of the Willard.

The partially completed Washington Monument was a distinctive feature of the Washington skyline, but nothing looked as impressive as the Capitol building, with its 19 and 1/2 foot bronze Statue of Freedom atop the dome. Many other projects were underway, as the capital experienced a post-War construction boom.

To top off their afternoon, the doting parents took Katie to the park again. There, her efforts to chase the squirrels resumed. Holding hands while sitting on the bench, Michaela and Sully laughed at their daughter's activities.

"Oh, Sully, look at her," Michaela shook her head. "Where does she get all of that energy?

"I don't know," he rubbed his hand across his chin. "She makes me tired just watchin'."

Michaela looked into his eyes, wondering if this should be the moment to tell him. His blue eyes held her soul, she thought. Resting her hand on her abdomen, she made up her mind. What better time to tell him of another child than while they were watching their cherished little girl so full of life before them?

"Sully," her voice was low. "There's something I want to tell you."

"What's that?" he looked at her.

"I'm... we're..." her sentence was interrupted by Katie's cries.

They turned quickly to see that the child had fallen. Sully scooped her up into his arms and dried her tears while Michaela examined the scrape on her elbow.

"Let's get her back to the hotel," she told her husband. "I can take care of it there."

"What did ya wanna tell me?" Sully asked as they headed toward the Willard.

"I'll tell you later," Michaela assured him.

************
Chapter 13
************

Michaela took Katie up to their room to treat her injury. Sully told her he had a few errands to run and would join them soon. The little girl's abrasion was nothing serious, but tender loving care was definitely needed. Michaela gladly gave her daughter that.

By the time Sully returned, Michaela had Katie bathed, in her nightgown and ready for bed. He had brought dinner for their little girl, but nothing for themselves.

Winking, Sully told his wife, "Thought we oughta get this sweet girl fed before we have our anniversary dinner."

"Anniversary dinner?" Michaela felt a rush of excitement. "But, we can't go out."

"Who said anythin' about goin' out?" Sully told her.

Katie concluded her meal in no time, and insisted on showing her father her injury, "Papa, look."

"I see," he held her arm. "Looks like your Ma fixed ya up."

"Yep," Katie nodded. Changing the subject, she leaned closer to her father, "When ya gonna annivesay?"

"What do ya mean, Kates?" he grinned.

"Do somethin'?" the little girl thought there must be more to this anniversary business.

Sully lifted her into his lap, "We're gonna do somethin' when ya go t' sleep."

"Sully!" Michaela was shocked.

"What?" he asked in all innocence. Then looking at his daughter, he explained, "Part o' the anniversary's just for your Ma an' me. Ya understand?"

"Yep," Katie seemed to accept his answer. Then she slid from his lap and walked to her mother. "Up, Mama," she extended her arms.

Michaela sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled Katie onto her lap.

The little girl hugged her mother, "Mama tell story t'night?"

"I thought you prefer your father's tales," she smiled.

"You tell," came the child's reply.

"All right then," Michaela patted the bed for her husband to join them.

Sully came over and put his arm around his wife. He gently rubbed Katie's back as Michaela began the story.

"Four years ago tonight, your father and I took the most magnificent train ride," she began.

"Michaela!" Sully's eyes widened. "I'm surprised at you."

"Shhh, Papa," Katie tapped his arm. "Where twain go?"

Michaela gave Sully an alluring smile that their daughter missed, "To Denver. It was after our wedding, and Papa wanted to take me... someplace I had never been before."

"I go?" Katie innocently asked.

"You weren't born yet," Michaela told her. "But, to tell you the truth, I was definitely thinking about you."

"What happen on magnicent twain?" the little girl wondered.

"Papa told me he loved me," she hugged Katie. "And... then he showed me in many wonderful ways how much he loved me."

"Get t' Denver?" the toddler yawned.

"Yes," Michaela stroked her hair. "Then we got to Denver."

"I like story, Mama," Katie's eyelids were heavy.

Sully lifted Katie up and carried her into her room, "Time for bed, now, Kates."

"Anniversay now?" she pulled her bunny and doll closer.

"Yep," he kissed her forehead. "Night, sweet girl. I love you."

"Love you, Papa," she answered.

Next, it was Michaela's turn, "Mama loves you. Good night, Sweetheart."

"Love you, Mama. Night," she beckoned her mother with her little finger. When Michaela bent down to kiss her, Katie whispered, "Good annivesay."

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

Alone in their room, Sully pulled Michaela close, "Hungry now?"

"I certainly am," she kissed him.

"I meant for dinner," he pulled back.

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door, and several waiters bought in their dinner. Sully held Michaela's chair for her, and she sat. Then he joined her at the table. When all was just right, the waiters lifted the silver covers from the plates and departed.

"What a lovely meal," Michaela observed. "I see we have escargot."

"A little reminder o' Boston," he winked. "Champagne?" he offered.

"Ah, no thank you," she covered her glass.

"Not thirsty?" Sully put the bottle back.

"Water will be fine," she smiled.

"For me, too," he opened her napkin and placed it on her lap.

They ate their meal at a leisurely pace with very few words, but many longing looks were exchanged. When it was concluded, Sully pulled a small package from his pocket.

Handing it to her, he said, "Happy Anniversary."

Michaela felt her eyes well up, "Thank you."

She unwrapped the gift and opened the box. Inside was a locket.

"Sully!" she touched his hand. "It's beautiful!"

"Open it up," he instructed.

When she complied, her eyes glistened with tears, "How... when did you have this done?"

"I had Loren order the locket back home. Then I got the idea for the picture when Katie an' me were in the park," he pointed to a picture of Katie and himself in the locket.

"How did you get her to hold still?" she laughed.

"I let her chase the squirrels first t' wear her down," he grinned. "Look on the back."

There, engraved, were the words, "To Michaela-Beloved wife and mother-May 1874."

"Oh, Sully, thank you," she leaned forward to kiss him.

"You're welcome," he grinned. "Let me put it on ya," he undid the latch and placed the locket around her neck.

"I have something, too," she stood up and went to her jewelry case. When she returned, she held a small package, "For you."

"Thanks," his eyes lit up. Sully opened the box to find a gold pocket watch, "Michaela! Ya shouldn't have."

"Turn it over," she pointed.

On the back was engraved, "To my husband-Byron Sully. My love for all time. Michaela."

"I love it," he rose and pulled her into his arms. "It's a wonderful anniversary gift."

"I have one more gift for you," she caressed his cheek.

Anticipating her announcement, he smiled, "What kinda gift?"

************
Chapter 14
************

Again, a knock at the door interrupted them. It was the waiters returning for the empty dishes and table settings. When, at last, they had departed, Michaela went to the bed and sat down. She extended her hand to Sully. He came to her and tenderly raised her hand to his lips. The expression on his face reminded Michaela of their wedding train with his first overtures to make love to her.

Then he sat beside her and ran his finger lightly along her cheek. "This was the part where things got darker and darker," he read her mind.

"I know," the touch of him made her tingle.

"I wanted ya so much at that moment," he kissed her neck. "I still do."

"And I was so nervous," she remembered. "When you undid my wedding gown, I have never felt such...."

"Excitement?" he grinned and lowered his hand to caress her.

Michaela leaned in to kiss him more passionately.

Then she drew back, "Sully, I want to tell you something."

"Right now?" his blood was beginning to race.

"Don't you want to know what your other gift is?" she caressed his face.

"'Course I do," he smiled in anticipation.

"We're going to have another baby," she came right out with it.

His heart filled with joy, finally hearing the words from her, "We are?"

Michaela's smile lit up the room, "We are!"

"You're sure?" he locked into her eyes.

"Yes," her smile made his heart melt. "We have been doing all the right things, you know."

"Yep, I know," he grinned. "When?" his excitement was evident.

"Early December," she touched his cheek.

"That's wonderful!" he hugged her tightly.

"I am a little concerned, however," her voice faltered.

"What about?" he pulled back.

"Yesterday," she shivered. "I pray that nothing happened to the baby during my ordeal. The doctor said he thinks the fetus was unharmed."

"But he can't be sure?" Sully's voice broke slightly.

"Not totally," she shook her head. "Even without stress, there is always a risk, Sully, especially at my age."

"How long have ya known about the baby?" he rubbed her back.

"That's what my appointment was for on D Street," she confessed. "And Dr. Abbott is a specialist to whom I went for a consultation. I went in hoping to see what could be done to improve our chances of having a baby, and came out learning that we already were expecting."

He raised her hand to his lips, "I'm so happy, Michaela. It's the best anniversary gift ever."

Her eyes shone with love, "I adore you, Sully, and I can't wait for us to have this child."

"Me either," he held her hand to his heart. "An' the baby'll be fine. She's got a lot o' love t' look forward to."

"She?" Michaela raised an eyebrow. "You think this will be another little girl?"

"Hope so," he smiled. "I love my girls."

"But what if it's a boy?" she ran her fingers through the hair above his ear.

"Humm," he teased. "I reckon we'll keep him."

"Well, that's a relief," she laughed. "Maybe I would like a little boy, one who looks just like his Papa."

"Nah," Sully frowned. "A little girl who looks just like her Ma."

"We won't know the outcome of this for some time," she sighed.

"Wanna go wake Katie an' tell her?" he started to rise up.

"Let's wait until morning," she pulled him back. "I was rather hoping that tonight we might have a bit of a reminder of our wedding night."

He took her hand. "Are ya sure it's okay for you t'...."

She placed her finger up to his chin, "To feel your arms around me? To feel your lips on mine? I should say so."

"I meant after yesterday an' a busy day t'day," he did not want her to overdo it.

"I feel wonderful," she beamed. "And even better now that you know about the baby."

"If you're sure," he began to unbutton her blouse and kiss her neck.

"Never more sure of anything," she began to unbutton his shirt.

They slid the material off each others shoulders and traded tender kisses. When their clothes had been put aside, and they were lying so close in the bed, Sully pulled the sheet up over them. Beneath it, he began to stroke her body, arousing wondrous sensations. She closed her eyes and felt transported to another world, a world that Sully had first taken her to four years ago on this night.

When his touches had inflamed her passion, she turned her attention to awakening his powerful longing. Their ardent yearning reached a fever pitch until they finally satisfied their appetites for one another.

"Are ya okay?" he carefully repositioned himself beside her.

"Yes," she rubbed his arm. "You are an astonishing man, you know. Passionate, yet gentle."

"Ya ain't gettin' bored with me then?" he teased.

"Bored!" she smiled. "The word does not exist where you're concerned, Byron Sully."

"I'll never forget the first time we made love, Michaela," he lightly kissed her hand. "There is nothing holier in this life of ours, than the first consciousness of love..."

"An original?" she referred to his quote.

"Nope," he smiled. "Longfellow."

"Oh," she closed her eyes and tucked herself against him.

"Sleepy now?" he noticed.

She drew his hand down to her abdomen, "Yes. Baby is, too."

"Then you two better get some rest," he rubbed her belly. "I love ya, Michaela."

"I love you, too," she began to nod off to sleep. "Happy anniversary."

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

At the jail, Batson was contemplating how to get out of this mess. He watched the guards very carefully, looking for a pattern, a hint or sign of weakness which would enable him to escape. He determined that tomorrow, he would make his move.

************
Chapter 15
************

Sully and Michaela woke up before their daughter, for a change. He scampered out of bed to get them some clothing in case Katie came in before they got up. Then they cuddled back together to await her entrance. No sooner had they clothed themselves than the toddler came into their room.

"Y'up?" Katie spoke loudly.

"Yep," Sully grinned. "Climb up here, sweet girl. Your Ma an' me got somethin' we wanna tell ya."

"What?" Katie slipped slightly as she made her ascent.

Michaela reached down to help her, "We have some very good news, Sweetheart."

"What?" she lifted her eyebrows.

"We're going to have another baby," Michaela informed her.

"Where we gettin' it?" she crossed her legs like a grownup.

"Kates, Mama's gonna have it," Sully said.

"Weal baby?" her eyes got bigger.

"Yes, a real baby," Michaela hugged her. "A little brother or sister for you."

"I pick bwother or sister?" she queried them.

"'Fraid not," Sully shook his head. "We won't know which one for a few more months."

Katie exhaled loudly, "Don't like waitin'."

Sully leaned back and laughed.

Katie sat up straighter to watch him, "What funny, Papa?"

"Nothin'," he sat back up. "Will ya help us take care o' the new baby?

"Sure," she agreed. "Where Mama gonna get baby?"

"She's already got it," Sully pointed to his wife's belly. "Right in here, growin'."

"Got it in there?" Katie's jaw dropped. "Mama, it huwt?"

"No," Michaela took the little girl's hand and brought it to her abdomen.

Katie held very still to feel her mother, "What it doin' in there?"

"Just growing very slowly," Michaela informed her.

"It gotta eat," the child said. "I set good sample for baby."

"That's good, Kates," Sully reached over and placed his hand atop Katie's, still resting where the baby was growing.

"Mama, how baby get in there?" the child's questions continued.

"Ah," Michaela hesitated. "Papa and I decided that's where we'd put it to let it grow."

The child looked at her father with a disapproving glance, "Papa, not a good place."

"Where'd ya suggest then?" he scratched his chin.

"Don't know," she shrugged. "Mama's arms?"

"Then, I wouldn't have room to hold you," Michaela hugged her.

"Okay," the toddler allowed. "Keep baby where ya got it."

"Do you know where we're going today, Katie?" Michaela changed the subject.

"Where?" she raised her hand to stroke her mother's hair.

"To the big house," she tickled Katie.

"Again?" she was excited. "I play with toys?"

"Not today," Sully told her.

"We're going to a wedding," Michaela announced. "President and Mrs. Grant's daughter Nellie is getting married. And you must be on your best behavior there."

"Best behavor?" the child wondered. "What that?

Sully fielded this question, "It means ya gotta not talk durin' the weddin', stay with your Ma or me all the time, an' don't make a mess."

"No fun," she looked down.

"We'll have fun 'cause we're together," he touched her cheek. "Don't we always?"

"Yep," Katie jumped down and scampered into the other room.

"I'm not certain what she thinks about the baby," Michaela sounded disappointed.

"That's 'cause she's got no idea what's gonna happen," Sully grinned. "Wait 'til her Ma starts gettin' bigger."

"Sully!" she poked his side. "Don't remind me."

He encircled her in his arms, "I love you, Michaela. You make me the happiest man in the world."

She held his face between her hands, "I want to keep on making you happy, and...."

"And?" he kissed her.

"And make another baby that looks just like you," she smiled.

His expression became very serious, "We're gonna take care that everythin' goes right this time. An' we're gonna have a healthy, beautiful baby 'cause it's got a healthy, beautiful Ma."

She closed her eyes and rested again in his arms.

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

At the jail, things were in an uproar. Batson had escaped during the night watch. All police officers were alerted. The police commissioner was especially concerned with the Grant wedding today. He could spare no men to search for the murder suspect because of the heavy security for that gala. One thing was certain, the Sullys would have to be told.

************
Chapter 16
************

Michaela finished primping Katie's blond hair, accenting the curls with a beautiful blue ribbon to match her dress.

"Now, Sweetheart," Michaela hoped. "Do you think that you can stay this neat while I finish getting dressed."

"Yep," the child nodded. "I get Swirl ready. Take her to big house?"

"Yes," Michaela began to pin up her own lengthy tresses. "You may take her."

There was a knock at the door, and Sully opened it.

"You Mr. Sully?" a police officer asked.

"Yes," he replied. "Why? Is somethin' wrong?"

"My name's Sergeant O'Brien. Is Mrs. Sully here?" the policeman inquired.

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

"Sorry to bother you, ma'am," he tipped his hat. "Police Commissioner Dooley wanted me to give you some information, as a precautionary note."

"Won't you come in?" Michaela stepped back from the doorway.

"Can't, Ma'am," he sounded in a hurry. "Gotta get back to my security detail at the White House."

"What's the problem?" Sully's concern was growing.

"There was an escape from the jail last night," O'Brien informed them. "Batson's escaped."

Sully placed his hand to support Michaela's back.

"How'd this happen?" Sully was angry.

"Don't know, Sir," O'Brien replied. "I was just asked to deliver the message. I'll be going now."

He tipped his hat and departed. Sully closed the door and looked at Michaela.

"I'm takin' you an' Katie home right now," he spoke urgently.

"No, Sully," she touched his arm. "You'll be with us. There will be ample security at the wedding to prevent that maniac from doing anything. I'm certain we'll be safe."

"Michaela," Sully took her hand in his. "We can't go takin' any risks, especially now with the baby. I don't wanna' put ya in any danger."

"I'm fine," she assured him. "The wedding is in an hour. We've come all this way to attend. Let's not allow him to ruin it."

"Ya sure?" he still had a bad feeling.

"Yes," she smiled.

Sully put his arms around her, holding her back against his chest. He moved his hands down to her abdomen and caressed her.

"Come now," she reached back to stroke his cheek. "We don't want to be late."

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

No President's daughter had been married in the White House since John Tyler. The Grant wedding took place in the East Room. Avenues leading to the Executive Mansion were closed to all persons, except those invited to the wedding. Policemen were everywhere--on the grounds and in the mansion. The door-tenders were given strict instructions to admit no one without invitation.

The floral decorations were marvelous in their beauty and profusion. On the east side of the room was a platform, raised about a foot off the ground and covered with carpeting presented to the government by the Sultan of Turkey several years earlier. All around were white flowers--tuberoses, lilies of the valley, spirea and other varieties that gave a sweet scent to the room. Above the platform, suspended by a thread of flowers, was a large bell formed of the rarest white flowers. The new chandeliers were handsomely decorated, as well.

Michaela, Sully and a reserved Katie took their place among the guests. Then came the bridal party, passing through the Blue Room to enter the East Room. The company immediately hushed to silence as the Marine Band began to play.

After the families and bridal party had taken their places, the President escorted Nellie to the platform. The bride wore a white satin gown, elaborately trimmed with point lace and a tulle veil. Her hair was adorned with orange blossoms.

As she passed by them, Michaela remarked, "Doesn't she make a beautiful bride?"

Sully took her hand, "Not as beautiful as mine."

Reverend Dr. Tiffany of the Metropolitan Methodist Episcopal Church began the ceremony. As he spoke, and the couple exchanged vows, Sully and Michaela gazed at one another. Only Katie seemed to notice what was happening in the large room. Finally, when the band played the Wedding March to conclude the wedding, Sully and Michaela came back to reality. The guests then moved on to the Library to partake of an elegantly prepared wedding breakfast.

After extending a congratulatory word to the newlyweds, Sully and Michaela stole away from the meal with Katie for a walk through the Conservatory. The strains of music could still be heard.

Sully lifted Katie into his arms and said to Michaela, "Would ya mind if I kept a promise t' my daughter?"

"I don't mind at all," she smiled. "What promise was that?"

He handed the doll to Michaela and positioned Katie in his arms, "'Fore we left home, I told this sweet girl I'd dance with her at the weddin'."

The little girl giggled as he whirled her around the imaginary dance floor. Michaela laughed and applauded. Then for an instant, she imagined the future: their daughter's wedding, Sully's walking her down the isle, giving her to a special young man, dancing with her. When the music concluded, he set the happy child down. Michaela handed Swirl to her, and Katie toddled around to enjoy the varieties of beautiful plants.

"You two danced divinely," she stroked his cheek with her gloved hand. "I couldn't help but think about your doing that with her on her wedding day."

"That's a day I don't wanna think about," he shook his head. "Not givin' my Kates away t' some young man."

"That must certainly be how President and Mrs. Grant felt today," she said wistfully. "It was a lovely wedding."

Sully spoke low in her ear, "I didn't see much of it."

"I'm afraid I didn't either," she blushed. "We came all this way, and all I could do was think of you and our wedding day."

"Was the trip worth it?" Sully smiled.

Michaela contemplated the question, "We celebrated Katie's birthday in splendid style. You gave me this beautiful locket...."

He continued her sentence, "An' we got some good news about another...."

"Little Sully," she completed his sentence. "Other than the unpleasant business with Batson, I would say that the trip was well worth it."

"Me, too," he kissed her.

Both of them suddenly noticed the quiet in the Conservatory. As their lips parted, they looked around. No Katie.

"Kates," Sully called. "Where are ya?"

"Katie?" Michaela spoke up. Turning to her husband, she felt anxious, "Where is she?"

"Prob'ly wandered over t' the other side o' the greenhouse," he took her hand. "Come on. We'll find her."

************
Chapter 17
************

As Michaela and Sully called out for their daughter, the sound reverberated through the Conservatory. Finally, they saw her small figure sitting on the floor, enthralled by something in her hand.

"Kates!" Sully picked her up. "Ya were supposed t' stay with your Ma an' me."

Michaela dusted her off and noticed that she was clutching something in her small hand.

"What do you have there?" Michaela asked her.

"Somethin' shiny," she replied.

"What is it?" Sully touched her hand.

When the toddler opened her cliched fist, Michaela nearly fainted. There in Katie's hand was a ring. Batson's distinctive ring.

"Where'd ya find this?" Sully took it from her.

"On floor," Katie pointed. "Pwetty wing, Papa."

"Come on," Sully held his daughter tightly and grabbed Michaela's arm.

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

Sully found Police Commissioner Dooley and showed him the ring. Within moments, the law officers were swarming through the Conservatory looking for any evidence of Batson's presence. They found none.

"Sully, he's here," Michaela pulled Katie close.

"We don't know that for sure, Michaela," he did not wish to alarm her.

"We're going to have to expand our search into the other rooms," Dooley returned to them. "I want you folks to join the other guests. It's better to keep everyone in a central location."

"Yes, Commissioner, we shall," Michaela carried Katie toward the door. Noticing her husband was still looking around the Conservatory, she turned, "Sully?"

"I'm comin'," he had an uneasy feeling.

Accompanied by a police officer, they returned to the library, where the guests were being presented little boxes, tied with white silk, containing wedding cake.

In a corner of the room, Katie promptly opened her's and began consuming the confection. Sully had to laugh at the icing around her mouth and nose.

"Katherine Elizabeth Sully, what am I going to do with you,?" Michaela took out a handkerchief to wipe the icing from her daughter's face.

Sully opened his box. Holding the piece of cake toward his wife, he raised his eyebrows to tempt her with a bite. Michaela smiled coyly and leaned forward to take a bite. Sully pushed a bit too much toward her, leaving remnants on the sides of her mouth. Then he began to kiss the excess icing from her face. The nearness of him nearly drove Michaela to distraction, but in this very public forum, she could not act on her temptation.

Sully read her mind, "Maybe later we could share your piece of cake."

"I think I'd like that," she touched his cheek.

"Mama, Papa," Katie asked. "Give some t' Swirl?"

"'Fraid not, Kates," Sully shook his head. "We gotta stay neat in our good clothes."

Sully sat and watched the guests for a moment, "Michaela, every important person in the U.S. Government's here t'day. Vice-president Wilson, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, Senators, Congressmen, an' military officers."

"I know," she agreed. "It's quite an impressive guest list."

Something was gnawing at him as he continued to survey the scene.

"Is there something wrong?" Michaela observed his expression.

"Don't know," he brushed back a lock of his hair.

Then he noticed one of the servants at the Grant table, "Michaela, over there."

"What?" she did not see.

"That man," he pointed. "Get Dooley."

With that, he was on his feet, swiftly making his way to the President's table. He arrived just as the servant was sliding his hand under his tray. He pulled out a knife. Sully lunged for him, and with a flying leap, knocked the man to the ground. It was Batson. Quickly, police swarmed around them, subduing the wanted assailant, and helping Sully to his feet.

Michaela, Katie in her arms, joined them. She finally saw the man who had endangered her life and that of her unborn child. The sight of him made her nauseous, and she turned away.

"Ya all right?" Sully touched her back.

"Just a little upset at my stomach," she sat down.

She felt warm and began to fan herself. Katie tried to climb into her mother's lap, but Sully lifted her into his arms instead.

"I'll get ya a drink o' water," he motioned for a waiter.

Sipping on the water, Michaela began to regain her composure.

"Is he gone?" she looked up at Sully.

"He is," her husband replied. "Nothin' t' worry about now." Sully sat down beside her, "Do ya think Dr. Abbott oughta check ya?"

"I don't believe so," she shook her head. "It's passing."

Two figures approached, President and Mrs. Grant.

"Well, Mr. Sully," Grant extended his hand, "I must say thank you again. And to be sure, my life is never dull when you're around."

Sully returned the handshake, "Thank you, Mr. President. My wife an' me owe Mrs. Grant a debt for takin' care o' our Katie."

Julia Grant laughed, "It was no problem, I can assure you. She is a perfectly delightful child."

Katie leaned toward Mrs. Grant and extended her doll, "This Swirl."

The First Lady took it, "So it is."

Michaela smiled, "She has quite an imagination, I'm afraid."

"I hope she never loses it," Mrs. Grant returned the doll.

"Thank you for inviting us to the wedding," Michaela said.

"We're happy you came," Grant nodded, as he escorted his wife on to greet other guests.

"Ready t' go?" Sully looped his arm through Michaela's.

"Yes," she smiled.

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

That evening, their last before departing for home, Sully and Michaela tucked in Katie for the night.

"I tell story," Katie patted the bed for her parents to sit.

"You?" Sully tickled her side.

"Yep," Katie gathered her doll and her bunny.

With her parents sitting beside her, the child began, "Swirl an' bunny go on twip."

"Where'd they go?" Sully interrupted.

"T' Washin' D. C.," Katie told him. "T' big house"

"What'd they do there?" Sully assumed Katie's questioning role.

"Play," the child answered. "Look at flowers. Have fun."

"Then what happened?" Michaela touched her hand.

"They see Mama an' Papa at weddin'," their daughter replied.

"What were we doin'?" Sully held Michaela's hand.

"Nothin'," Katie said. "Not watch weddin'."

"We weren't?" Michaela was confused.

"Nope," the little girl replied. "Mama watch Papa. Papa watch Mama."

Sully spoke low, "She noticed."

"She doesn't miss very much," Michaela smiled.

The proud father took Katie's hand, "Your Ma an' Pa love watchin' you, too."

Leaning down to kiss her, they bade their good nights and retired to their room. Sully unhooked Michaela's dress and kissed her shoulder. Then he slid his hands up to caress her neck. He kissed her chin, the sides of her mouth, her ear. Michaela tingled at every spot he touched.

"How ya feelin'?" he whispered.

"Quite warm," she told the truth.

He pulled back suddenly, "Like at the weddin' t'day?"

"No," she grinned. "Like on our wedding night."

"Oh," he smiled. "Feel like a little holdin'?"

"Always," she laid her head against his chest.

"Michaela," he spoke low as he stroked her back. "Promise me you'll tell me if ya ain't feelin' all right."

She pulled back to look into his eyes, "Of course I will Sully."

"Ya had a lot o' scares the past couple days," he spoke tenderly. "I just wanna make sure ya don't go hidin' anythin' from me."

"I promise that I'll tell you if I don't feel well," she touched his face. "But right now, I'm feeling quite well."

"Good," he winked. "We best get t' bed. Got a long trip home."

"I can't wait to tell Brian and Matthew about the baby," she hugged him.

Sully helped her undress and tucked her into the bed. Then he readied himself and joined her. He held her snugly against his chest and caressed the slight mound of her tummy.

"Can ya feel the baby yet?" he wondered.

"Do you mean kicking?" she put her hand atop his.

"Yep," he replied.

"No," she enjoyed his attention. "Not really kicking. Just strange, marvelous sensations."

"Good," he yawned. "Night, Michaela. I love you."

"I love you, too," she closed her eyes.

Strange, marvelous sensations, she thought. That is what having the baby inside of her felt like. It was a sensation that had passed all too quickly with her last pregnancy. But that was when Sully was gone. Now, here he was beside her to share every wonderful step of this child's growth. Please, she prayed to God, don't let anything go wrong with this pregnancy.

Sully had only felt this protective of his wife once before, when she was expecting Katie. The prospect of another child gave him a sense of pride and fulfillment. Would it be another girl? Another Katie to cherish? The thought brought a smile to his face. What about a boy? How would that seem, he wondered. A boy to teach all of the things that he had taught Brian. Brian was such a loving little boy who had needed him so much when his mother died. Their son would have two grown brothers, he reasoned. Many teachers. Please, he lifted his hopes to the Spirits, don't let anything go wrong with this pregnancy.

As their ideas and fancies floated through their imaginations, Michaela and Sully drifted off to sleep. A long train ride home lay ahead.

************
Chapter 18
************

Michaela was up before her family, packing their belongings. She turned to survey the room. Then she felt it. A slight pain in her stomach. No, God, she thought. Please not again. Not to this baby.

At that moment, Sully opened his eyes and saw her face, "Michaela?"

The feeling passed. "Good morning," she smiled uncomfortably.

He sat up in bed, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she began folding more of their clothes.

He walked to her and pulled her into his arms, "Ya sure?"

"Certainly," she felt a little weak. "I just think I need to sit down for a moment."

"Here," he pulled a chair over for her. "Tell me, Michaela."

She remembered her promise to him, "I... I felt something."

"What do ya mean?" he knelt down.

"A pain," she lowered her hand to her abdomen. "It's gone now."

Sully bolted for the door, "I'm sendin' for Dr. Abbott."

"Sully, wait!" she called, but it was too late.

He was already gone.

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

Sully stayed with Katie in the adjoining room while Dr. Abbott examined Michaela. He held his little girl close, stroking her hair.

"Papa, too tight," she squirmed.

"Sorry," he loosened his hold on her.

"I want Mama," she tapped his shoulder.

"Doctor's checkin' her now," Sully bounced her a little on his knee.

"Mama doctor," she did not accept his answer.

"Kates, could ya do somethin' for me?" he set her down on the bed.

"Game?" she felt certain he would ask.

"Ah, not exactly," he hesitated. "Your Ma an' me need ya t' be real quiet right now. Could ya play with bunny an' Swirl while I go in with your Ma?"

"Okay," she turned and merrily began to play.

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

Sully knocked on the door, and Michaela's voice beckoned him to enter.

"Everythin' all right?" his eyes searched her face for a clue.

Dr. Abbott replied, "Yes, Mr. Sully. I think your wife experienced some indigestion. Her eating habits are very important now, and she has eaten nothing this morning."

"Indigestion?" Sully wondered. "That caused her t' have pain?"

"Yes," the physician put away his stethoscope. "All indications are that the baby is fine. I understand that you are leaving for Colorado Springs today."

"Do you think it unwise?" Michaela sat up and reached for Sully's hand.

"No," he assured her. "Just make certain that you rest. Since this is not your first pregnancy, I'm sure you know what you can tolerate. Let your body be your guide. But because of your previous miscarriage, it's important that you take special care of yourself."

"I'll make sure she does, Doctor," Sully squeezed her hand.

"Good," he closed his medical bag. "I'll see myself out. Have a good trip home."

Sully stood up quickly and went to the door. Stepping outside with the doctor, he returned in a short while.

Closing the door behind him, Sully turned to his wife, "Ya sure you're okay?"

"Yes," she smiled and touched his cheek. "What did you say to Dr. Abbott in the hallway?"

"Michaela, I gotta ask ya somethin'," he said.

"What?" she rested her hand on her abdomen.

"Are ya sure it's okay for you an' me t'...." he hesitated. "T' make love? What if ...."

She caressed his cheek and smiled, "It's perfectly all right. It won't hurt the baby or me."

Sully took her hand and raising it to his lips, kissed the palm, "Just wanted a second opinion. That's what Dr. Abbott said, too." His eyes shown with love.

Then they heard a light tapping on the door.

He grinned, "I think our first born wants t' see ya."

"Come on in, Sweetheart," Michaela called to her.

Katie opened the door and jumped into her father's arms. He lifted her high into the air as she giggled with delight. Then he set her down beside her mother.

"We go home now?" Katie's voice was enthusiastic.

"Yes," Michaela kissed her. "We go home."

"Did ya have a good time, Kates?" Sully put his hand on her back.

"Yep," she thought about it. Then she added, "Wanna see Bran an' Mattew."

"So do we," Michaela added.

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

The train ride passed uneventfully, much to their relief. They were greeted by their sons, friends and Wolf at the Depot. Michaela immediately wanted to know about Brian's dance and the new girl at school. Matthew filled them in on his latest legal lessons. The wedding and Michaela's kidnapping were top conversation at the dinner table.

When supper was concluded, they gathered in the living room. Brian and Matthew settled into a game of checkers, and Sully sat with Katie on his lap. Unable to keep their news from the boys any longer, Michaela stood and cleared her throat. She extended her hand to her husband. Sully stood up with Katie and put his arm on her back.

"We have something we'd like to tell you," Michaela began.

"Ya look happy, Ma," Brian observed. "Must be good news."

She eyed Sully, "We certainly think so."

"What is it?" Matthew smiled broadly.

"We're going to have another baby," Michaela announced.

Both boys jumped to their feet to hug their parents and Katie. Brian took his little sister into his arms and danced happily around the room.

"That's great, Ma," Matthew kissed her. "I'm real happy."

"Thank you, Matthew," she felt a tear.

"Me, too," Brian chimed in. "Maybe we'll get a little brother now."

"That's what I'm hoping for," Michaela raised her eyebrow toward Sully.

"How 'bout you, Pa?" Brian wondered.

"I'm thinkin' another one like this sweet girl," he lifted Katie from Brian's arms and kissed her. "Either way, I'll be happy."

"Me, too," Brian smiled. "When's the baby due?"

"December," Michaela informed him.

"A real good Christmas gift, Ma," Brian kissed his mother.

For a passing instant, she thought back to her first Christmas in Colorado Springs when Brian asked her if she thought his real mother Charlotte Cooper would mind his calling her Ma, too. He was so little then. Now he was becoming a man before her eyes.

Sully noticed her far away look, "What ya thinkin'?"

"Just about how things change," there was a hint of melancholy in her voice.

"Love don't change," he seemed to read her thoughts. "You'll always be his Ma."

She looked up at him, smiled, and leaned her head against his chest.

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

With all in the homestead retired for the evening, Sully placed logs on the fire in their bedroom. Michaela sat at her desk.

"Ya writin' t' Colleen an' your Ma?" he surmised.

"Yes," she looked up. "You don't think it's too soon to tell them, do you?"

"Too soon?" he stood and walked to her.

"I mean I don't want...." she stopped. "I just wonder if...."

"Michaela," he rested his strong hands on her shoulders. "Nothin's gonna happen t' this baby. Ya gotta think good thoughts."

"I know," she touched his hand.

"Ready for bed?" he removed his clothing and crawled into his side of the bed.

"Nearly," she finished folding the last letter.

Removing her robe and slippers, she walked to the bed. Sully pulled down the sheet and blanket for her, and she climbed in beside him. He tucked her next to him and inhaled the scent of her hair. With her head resting against his right shoulder, he tilted her chin up to his face with his left hand.

"I love you," he spoke low.

Michaela turned slightly onto her left side, and kissed him, lightly at first. Then she felt his hand slide down the front of her gown. The longing that he triggered in her body never ceased to amaze her. Their kiss deepened. They both turned to face one another. Sully pulled her closer, and she tilted back her head to invite his kisses on her neck and shoulder.

"Ya okay?" he wanted to be sure.

"Oh, yes," she was breathless.

Their words concluded, and the physical reaction of their bodies took over. With all of the tenderness and touching of their very first encounter, Sully guided them to a glorious conclusion. He continued to kiss her lightly.

Michaela lay on her back and closed her eyes as Sully's hand lightly caressed her belly. Then he detected a lone tear on her cheek.

"Why ya cryin'?" he wiped it with a loving touch.

"I'm just happy," she looked at him.

"Like I told ya before we left on this trip, you're an incredible woman," his voice faltered. "I look at ya, an' I can't imagine my life without ya. I can't imagine where I'd be without you an' the children." Then touching her belly, he added, "Present an' future."

"Sully, would you be too disappointed if it were a little boy?" she placed her hand over his.

"Nah," he winked. "A boy would be good, too. Maybe ya could make him some little buckskins."

She felt a blush, "No one could wear buckskins like you."

"Michaela! I'm surprised at you, noticin' how I wear buckskins," he teased. "A fine Boston lady lookin' at a man like that...."

"Not just any man," she ran her hand across his chest. "Only you."

"I'm still shocked," he continued to tease her.

"Sometimes the depths of my feelings shock me, too," she tilted her head down, but kept her eyes on him.

He touched her cheek with the back of his hand, "The depth o' your feelin's?"

"It is nearly impossible for me to put into words, Sully," she moved close into his embrace.

"Ya don't have t' put it int' words," he stroked her arm. "I already know."

"You do?" she smiled.

"Yep," he nodded. "A man knows things like that."

"He does?" she smiled more broadly.

"Sure," Sully kissed her forehead.

"How do you know?" she loved the sound of his voice.

"Sometimes from little things, like the way you're lookin' at me right now," his voice was raspy. "Sometimes from big things, like havin' our children. Either way, I know how deep your feelin's are. An' I know what a special woman you are t' feel things so deeply."

The lump in her throat prevented a reply. It seemed unnecessary anyway. He had said it all. In his capacity to so simply and succinctly state what she found so difficult to put into words, Sully again reminded Michaela of why she gave herself to him--heart, body and soul. She felt his love down to her innermost being, and she knew that like Katie, this new baby would feel it, too. Unborn, unseen, yet so loved.

THE END



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