Southern Comfort & Returning Home by T. Novan

Sothern comfort

Southern Comfort
by T.Novan

I hear the rumble. Could it be thunder? I look out the kitchen window, the sky is clear and the sun is shining brightly. No, it isn’t thunder. I move to the front of the house wiping my hands on my dress. As I open the heavy oak door of my home I see immediately what is causing the noise. I draw a deep breath, eyeing the rifle in the corner then look back to the northern troops riding onto my property. It would be shear suicide on my part try walk out onto the porch with a gun in my hands. Hell walking out on the porch period could be suicide, but I have endured enough at the hands of northern soldiers and I have decided I won’t endure any more.

I close the door behind me as I step into the sunlight and wait. A Union Captain makes his way over to me. He stares down at me from his horse. “I’m Captain Montgomery and our troops will be staying on your land for a few days to rest and regroup.”

“Just like that?” I ask as I shade my eyes from the mid day sun.

“Just like that. If you cooperate we’ll leave your place in one piece. If you don’t it’s hard telling what will happen.”

I hear a strong deep voice fire up from behind him. “Captain!”

The man whirls around in the saddle then comes to attention as another man in a dirty but neat uniform rides up next to him. “Colonel!” He snaps a salute, which is returned by the dark haired man. “Sir I didn’t expect you for another three days.”

“Apparently not.” The Colonel returns the salute then dismounts his horse. “Did I just hear you threaten this lady?” The Colonel turns to me and smiles.

I couldn’t help but let a little smile cross my features as I took in his wonderful grin and those startling blue eyes.

“Umm well…Sir I was just trying….” The Captain stammers.

The Colonel drops the reins of his horse and takes two long strides to me. “Ma’am did the Captain threaten you?”

“No more than any northern officer has in the past Colonel.”

“Well now Ma’am I am sorry for those others and I assure you that it won’t happen while I’m here.” He takes another step toward me removing his hat and gloves. “I would like to rest my troops on your land Ma’am, just for a few days. They are in need of fresh water and baths. We have our own supplies and we won’t be taking anything you might have here.”

“I don’t have much Colonel, Union forces have already seen to that.” I want to be difficult and bitter at this man, but for some reason I just can’t do it. Maybe it is the fact that he is being civil and not treating me like southern trash. Maybe it is his haunting good looks. Oh did I just think that? How on Earth could a southern woman find a northern officer attractive?

“Ma’am if you tell me to take my men and leave I will. No harm will come to you or your property. I promise you.”

“No Colonel you can stay. If you’re on my land I won’t have to worry about something worse coming along. At least not for awhile.” I turn and go back into the house. Leaving the Yankee Colonel standing on the steps holding his hat in his hands and tapping his gloves on his leg.

I can’t help but watch from the kitchen window as these men take up most of the land on my plantation and start making their camp. This is one of the biggest groups of men I’ve seen moving through the area in awhile. It gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I watch as the Colonel moves his men around arranging the camp to his liking. I notice that his command tent is set up rather close to the house. I don’t know whether this makes me feel safe or nervous.

I also can’t help but notice how good-looking he really is. He is truly the most handsome man I have ever seen. Well over six feet tall, his dark hair is clean and neatly cut, his skin is tan and those eyes, oh those eyes. He has the most enigmatic blue eyes I have ever seen.

He carries himself with a certain grace and charm I have never seen in a man. Not even in our most refined southern gentlemen. Maybe I have simply been without the company of a gentleman for too long. All of the men are gone now of course. Every man from the age of sixteen to sixty has been called to fight. Presidents’ Davis and Lincoln certainly have managed to make a mess of things.

He seems to treat his men well, this Colonel. A sharp contrast from the other officers that have come through here recently. He genuinely seems to care about his men as I watch him stop by the infirmary to check on the wounded. I see him as he takes the time to stop and speak with each one, then he speaks with the doctor. I know now that he is an important man in the Union Army. He has a real doctor in his ranks. So many don’t and a lot of men die because of it.

I watch as he nods then glances up to the house. He raises his hand in a gesture of agreement to the doctor then turns for the house. I go back to trying to clean up what is left of my home as I hear a knock at the back door. I take a deep breath and move to the door. The Colonel smiles at me through the screen.

“Yes Colonel?”

“Ma’am,” He smiles at me a little. “I have a wounded man here who really needs to be taken out of the heat. Would you have any room in your home for a wounded man?”

I want to laugh in his face, but I can’t. “Colonel I am a single woman trying to survive. I would be crazy to tell you no. You’ll just take what you want anyhow.”

“No Ma’am I won’t. If you say no….” His head drops a little as he glances back at the doctor giving a slight shake of his head.

“Will the cellar do?”

“Ma’am?”

“Are you deaf Colonel? I asked if the cellar would do for your man?”

“Why yes Ma’am it would. It would be perfect.”

“Well the cellar is empty. You may use it. The door is on the side of the house.”

“Thank you Ma’am.”

“Colonel?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Would you by any chance have any bread you could spare? I’m out of just about….”

“Of course. I’ll bring it up myself after we get my injured man settled. Is that all right?”

“Yes Colonel thank you.”

I watch him return to the doctor and give him his orders. Soon I can hear the doctor and a few other men making a spot for the injured man in my cellar. If any-one ever finds out about this I’ll be hung for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It almost makes me glad I’m the only one left here.

I check the larder to see exactly what I do have left. There’s not much here. I hope the Colonel is good to his word and his men leave me with what I had when they arrived. A short time later there is another knock at my door. I return to find the Colonel with a bundle in his arms. He smiles at me through the screen door.

“The bread you asked for ma’am.”

I unlatch the door and push it open. He hesitates, then steps inside setting the bundle on a small table right inside the door.

“Thank you sir.”

“You’re welcome Ma’am. It is the least I could do. There’s some fruit and cheese there as well.”

I notice as he turns to leave a small red stain on the shoulder of his tunic. “Colonel?”

“Ma’am?”

“Are you hurt?”

“Ma’am?”

“You are deaf aren’t you? I asked you a very simple question. Are you hurt?”

He glances back as if trying to look at his own shoulder. “It’s nothing Ma’am.”

“Colonel if it were nothing you wouldn’t be bleeding through your coat. You should have your doctor look at that.”

“My doctor has men out there with real wounds and he’s already overworked.”

“Then come here and let me look at it.”

“Ma’am?”

“I swear you’ve been stuffing good southern cotton in your ears,” I take him by the arm and pull him inside, he drags his feet a little pulling back like a nanny goat. “Colonel I don’t bite. Come here and sit down.”

I finally manage to get him to sit down. As I turn to fetch a pitcher and a bowl I have to smile. He acts as if he’s never been alone in a room with a woman before. It’s really kind of sweet the way he’s acting. It has been a long time since I had company around here.

“Take off your jacket.”

“Ma’am I’m okay really I am.” I watch as he gets to his feet.

“Colonel you know as well as I do that men have died because of small wounds. Now would you want your men to be left to that Captain of yours if something were to happen?”

“Un…I…well….”

“Take off your jacket.”

He gives me a hard stare as he begins unbuttoning his tunic. After he pulls his tunic free he holds it in front of him in his arms. He looks extremely uncomfortable there at the table with his jacket. He finally drops his head as I walk around behind him.

I gasp a bit as I look at the shoulder wound. It is old and infected. It is in a place where he most certainly couldn’t get to it easily. His shirt is torn and bloodied.

“How?” I ask as I try to gently pull the material from the wound. I feel him flinch a bit as the material comes loose, taking some of the infected skin with it. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“How?”

“It’s war Ma’am you don’t want to know.”

“Colonel if I didn’t want to know I wouldn’t have asked.”

He sighs as I begin trying to clean the wound. “Last week we encountered a small band of renegade soldiers. I took a bayonet in the shoulder.”

“A southern solider did this to you?”

“No Ma’am the renegades were northern soldiers.”

He remains quiet as I clean and treat the wound. The only sign of discomfort is the clenching and unclenching of his jaw. I stitch up the wound as best I can, adding healing powder to the bandage before applying it to the wound.

“There you’re done. Now that wasn’t too bad was it?”

He just shakes his head as he gets to his feet. “Thank you Ma’am it feels better already.”

“Take off your shirt and I’ll clean and mend it for you.”

“Ma’am?”

I just shake my head as I approach him. The man definitely has a hearing problem. As I move forward reaching for the buttons of his shirt he starts backing away.

“Unhh Ma’am I appreciate the help with my shoulder but….”

“Hush Colonel. You need the protection of the shirt so the bandage won’t come loose. Besides it’s so hot out today you must be uncomfortable in your tunic. I’ll only take….”

“Really Ma’am you’ve done more than enough.” He continues to back away from me. Unfortunately for him he isn’t paying attention and he backs himself right into a corner. When he realizes where he is, he gets a truly panicked look in his eyes a sweat begins breaking out on his forehead. “Really Ma’am I’m fine.”

I watch as he scoots around me. I take a deep breath as he makes for the door. “I know. You don’t have to be afraid.”

He stops dead in his tracks as he turns around to face me. He cocks his head slightly. Or I should say she cocks her head slightly. I nod and motion her back into the house. “Close the door and take off your shirt so I can wash and mend it.”

Slowly she closes the door. She turns to me, “How did you know?”

“I saw the bindings under your shirt.”

Her head drops a bit. “They’ll…umm…they’ll either hang me or throw me in prison if you turn me in.”

“I’m not going to turn you in. I’m going to wash and mend your shirt.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s dirty and torn.”

“Why aren’t you going to turn me in?”

“I’ve done what I’ve had to do to survive this war Colonel and I assume you’ve done the same thing. You are at least a real Colonel aren’t you?”

She laughs a little as she nods. “Yes Ma’am I am. Colonel Charlie Redmond.”

“Charlie is short for Charlotte right?”

She nods again. “But my enlistment papers don’t say that.”

“I’ll just bet they don’t.” I gesture to her. “Take off that shirt. You are about my brother’s size I’ll get you one of his.”

I make my way upstairs to my brother’s old room to fetch a shirt. No wonder the Colonel was being so kind to me. As I pull the shirt from the closet I retrieved a pair of trousers as well. May as well wash the entire uniform. I’ll bet she hasn’t had a bath in days if not weeks. I sigh as I head back downstairs for the bathing room.

“Colonel could you come here please?” I call from the bathing room. “Down the hall last door on the right.”

I hear the heavy foot falls on the wooden floorboards of the house. She certainly walks like a man, clomping through the house in heavy boots.

I step back inside pulling two large towels from a cabinet along with my mending kit. I turn to find her in the doorway. “I thought you might like a bath.”

She looks down at the steaming water and literally licks her lips then her eyes dart back to me. “I don’t know…I mean….”

“Colonel Redmond I have taken the time to haul water and heat it up. The least you can do is show me a simple courtesy by using it.”

I watch as she steps into the room. A huge smile breaks across her face. “Yes Ma’am it’s the least I could do.”

“And stop calling me ma’am. I have a name. It’s Rebecca.”

“Rebecca. I like it.”

“Well that’s good because I don’t intend to change it anytime soon Colonel Redmond. Now get out of those dirty clothes and enjoy that water while it’s hot.”

She nods her head and moves into the room. I draw the shades to give her all the privacy she needs, lighting a lamp to lighten the room. She sits down on the chair next to the tub and gives a tug to her boots only to groan as she tries to pull them off.

I move over and kneel down in front of her. “You’ll rip those stitches, let me.”

“Thank you.”

I pull her boots off and the torn socks that barely covered her feet. I noticed several blisters on her feet and ankles. “After your bath I’ll tend to those too. Now enjoy that water. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

When I return to the bathing room she is settled into the tub. She is so settled into the tub she’s sound asleep. I couldn’t have been gone more than a quarter of an hour. Now she looks ragged and tired, as she lies there reclining back in the tub. I kneel down and wet a cloth, soaping it up first. “Colonel Redmond.” I whisper as I continue to lather the rag.

“Hmm?”

“Wake up Colonel.”

Her eyes open slowly. As she looks at me I can see many years of sadness in them. “I’m sorry Rebecca. The water just feels so good.”

“I’m sure it does. Lean forward let me wash your back. You need to keep that wound clean.”

She leans forward wrapping her arms around her knees, I moved to her back shocked to find it crisscrossed with what I recognize immediately as whip marks. They are old and have long ago healed. “What happened?” I can’t resist running my hand over them.

“I took a beating for a young Negro boy about two years ago.”

“Why?”

“He was going to be beaten for something he didn’t do. They accused him of stealing food.”

“And you say he didn’t do it.”

“No.”

“How do you know he didn’t do it?”

“Because I gave it to him. His family was starving and he just wanted a little food for them. He wasn’t a very good thief. I gave him the food and tried to get him out of camp. They caught him.”

“So you took the beating?”

“He was a ten year old boy trying to feed his family.” She lays her forehead on her knees I carefully wash her back as the tears sting my eyes. There is so much nobility in this person. As I watch her now I can see the horrible toll all that nobility is taking on her body and soul.

I rinse her back and gently pull her back so her neck rests in my hands. “I’ll wash your hair.”

“I can do that.”

“Let me.” I lower my voice as I move closer to the edge of the tub. “Let me take care of you Colonel. You need it and you deserve it.”

“I don’t deserve anything Rebecca. I’m just a solider doing my job.”

“You can tell yourself that all you want. You believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want. I believe that you deserve it.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

I pour water over her head and lather her hair and scalp, giving it a good scrubbing. I was a little shocked at first when a single, deep moan left her lips. Then, I feel her relax and as I hold her neck and wash her hair, she falls back to sleep. I massage her head allowing her to doze as I run my fingers through her short hair. After rinsing the soap from her head I simply pull her back up and allow her to rest there against the rim of the tub.

I take her clothes to the wash closet and give them a good scrubbing too. After that I return to her. She is awake now and finishing her bath. She gives me a rather shy smile as I come back in. “I’m very sorry. Let me get finished up here and I’ll be out of your way.”

“You’re not in my way Colonel.”

“You’re very kind. Call me Charlie.”

I let a small laugh escape. She turns her head and quirks a brow. “It fits you.”

“Yeah I know. Charlie always fit me better than Charlotte.”

“Maybe it’s because you’re so damn big.”

She laughs at me now. “Could be.”

I take a seat next to the tub and let my hand drop into the water. “It’s getting cold.”

“It feels wonderful. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a bath in a real tub? Most of the time I wash what I can, when I can in cold streams and creeks. I’ll bet it’s been a year since I’ve been in a tub.”

“When was the last time you had leave?”

“Two years.”

“Two years? What about your family? Your home?”

“No family. The Army is my home.”

“Oh Charlie I’m sorry.”

She shrugs a little. “I guess it’s too late to be sorry. I made my choices. I’ve learned to live with them.”

“Where are you from?”

“New York.”

“Never been out of Virginia.”

“Virginia is a beautiful place.”

“When we’re not at war.”

She nods her agreement as she stands up. As I hand her a towel I can’t help but take notice of what a perfect combination of masculine and feminine features her body is. Tall, broad and muscular like a man. Clothed, it was so easy to believe she was all man. Unclothed however, her curves tell a much different story. As I watch her dry off it finally occurs to me that I’m staring and I really should stop. I get up and fetch her clothes as she steps from the tub.

“Your uniform is drying. You can wear these in the mean time.”

“Thank you. Umm Rebecca,” She starts tentatively as she pulls on the underclothes I have provided. “You do realize that my men probably think that I’ve been in here…umm…well….”

“Having your way with me?”

A slight blush creeps up her face. “Yes.”

“Will it keep them from trying the same thing?”

“More than likely.”

“Then let them think it. Go back out there and tell them that if you want to.”

“Now why would I do that?” The question is a little indignant as she pulls on her trousers.

I can’t help but smile. “Would any of your men dare touch a woman you have claimed?”

She cocks her slightly as she looks at me. “Probably not.”

“That would be the reason.”

“Makes sense.”

“As a matter of fact if it will keep them away from my door I will be happy to let you sleep inside.”

Her eyes drop shut just for a moment as a soft sigh leaves her lips.

“How long has it been since you’ve slept in a real bed Charlie?”

“Do they still make real beds?” She grins at me.

“I’m not sure if they’re still making them, but I do have one here if you would like to use it.”

“No thank you Rebecca. That really is too much.” She tosses on the shirt and begins buttoning it up.

“Why? You’re going to be here for several days. I can offer you comfort and you can offer me protection. Actually it sounds like the perfect arrangement to me.”

She looks to me, then sighs. “A soft bed huh?” She pulls her boots on as she considers it.

I smile and offer her my hand. “Let me show you. Then you can decide.”

I lead her down the hall to the only bedroom in the house that still has a bed, mine. However, for the protection of having her sleeping inside I won’t mind spending a few days on the sofa.

Leading her into the room I move her to the bed and give her a gentle shove. She falls back on it, lying back keeping her feet on the floor. “Ahhh….” Any other comment dies on her lips as her eyes close and she sinks into the feather mattress.

“Nice isn’t it?”

“Oh yeah.” She nods as she sits up. “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. Spend as much time inside as you like Charlie. I like having the company too.”

“How long have you been alone here?”

“Nearly three years now. My parents had both died long before the war. That left my brother, husband and I to care for the place. They took my brother first. Then my husband.”

“I’m sorry. Do you have any news of them.”

I nod slowly. “Both dead.”

“I really am sorry Rebecca. This whole thing is so senseless.”

“I hope it ends soon.”

“I have a feeling it will be over soon.” She looks to me as her hands run across the bedspread. “My men and I are headed for a location called Appomattox. I have a bad feeling about it, but I believe it will be over soon Rebecca.”

“The south has lost this war hasn’t it?”

“A long time ago. It’s only a matter of time now.”

I nod as I know this is the truth. I’ve known it in my heart for a long time. “I’ll probably lose the house and the land when the dust settles.”

“Why?”

“Most likely taxes, but what chance does a widowed woman stand against anyone who wants to….” I stop and shake my head. “Guess I shouldn’t worry about that until it happens.”

****

I invited Charlie back to the house for supper. I manage a nice stew from the dried meat in the larder. The bread and cheese that she had given me filled it out and I pulled my last bottle of wine out of a secret cabinet in the kitchen.

When she returns for dinner she has changed back into uniform pants, a white shirt and a vest. Her disguise is a good one and to look her right in the face you couldn’t tell. Her voice was deep enough that there was no question there. It was truly amazing.

She smiles as she comes through the door with the clothes I had loaned her earlier. They are folded in a neat pile as she offers them to me. “I washed them.” She offers with a quirk of her brow.

“You must have had them on for what two hours?’

“Yeah more like three, but I had to help set up camp and they got a little dirty.”

“So did you. After supper you’re getting another bath.” I laugh a little as I take the clothes. “In the meantime at least wash your hands and arms

“Yes Ma’am. Should I eat on the porch?” She smiles at me.

“No just stay down wind. What did you do Charlie, set up the stables?”

She laughs a she washes her hands at the pump at the sink. “No just a few tents that needed to be set up. Lots of work to prepare a camp, even for a few days.”

“I’ll bet. You seem to do it very well.”

“I’ve been doing it since I was fifteen. I’m thirty-two now. I’ve got lot’s of experience.”

She takes the cloth from the sink and dries her hands. “I know all the little tricks.”

I gesture to her uniform as I finish setting the table. “You know all kinds of tricks.”

“Un-huh.”

“So you’ve been living life as a man for seventeen years?”

“Just about that yes.”

“And you’ve never been discovered?”

“Not yet.” She sighs hard as she moves to the table and holds my chair for me. “I’m very convincing.”

“Is that so?” I smile as my chair moves toward the table. “You mean to tell me that you can sit here through dinner and make me believe I’m having supper with a gentleman.”

“Well now. You are a little different because you do know, but yes I’m confident I think I could make you believe it.”

“Try.”

“What?”

“Try Charlie. Try to make me believe it.”

“Rebecca this is silly.”

“Play the game Charlie.”

I hear her draw a deep breath. “All right Rebecca, all right.”

As she settles down across the table from me I smile. I’m not so sure she can do it and she can see it in my face and she quirks a brow in challenge.

Supper is a delightful experience. By the time is over I realize the Charlie is holding my hand, lightly brushing his…ah…her thumb over the back of it. Okay she’s very convincing, very convincing.

“You win.” I smile as I sip my wine.

“Excuse me?”

“You win you had me convinced. You win.”

She smiles and nods. “Years of practice.”

I look down and notice that she hasn’t released my hand and I haven’t moved it.

****

After supper I prepare another bath, this time I provide a nightshirt and robe that belonged to my brother. As she bathes and relaxes I turn down the bed and retrieve a spare blanket and pillow from the cabinet. I am just about to slip a nightgown over my head when I hear her clear her throat behind me. I let it drop over my head and shoulders, falling to the floor around my body as I turn to face her.

“Ready for a soft bed?”

“Ahh you have no idea.”

I pick up the pillow and blanket heading for the door. “Enjoy it Charlie. You’ve earned it.”

“Rebecca is this your bed?”

“Yes.”

“Oh I won’t take you from your bed. Give me those. A sofa is still better than an Army cot.”

“No Charlie it’s all right.”

“No it’s not. Now come on Rebecca be reasonable….”

“You don’t know much about southern women do you Charlie? We have been called many things. Reasonable is not generally among them.”

She growls a little as she tightens the belt of the robe and runs her hand through her hair. “Tell you what. It’s a big bed. We can share it.”

“Hmm how do I know this isn’t a ploy on your part to get me in a position so you can take advantage of me Colonel Redmond?” I tease as I look at her.

All the blood drains from her face as she takes a step back. “Rebecca I…I…I wouldn’t…I….”

“Charlie I was teasing. Of course we can share the bed. You’re right, it is a big bed. Now come on in here and get into it.”

“Maybe I should take the sofa.”

“Nonsense. Now come on.” I give her arm a little tug and pull her inside, closing the door behind her.

I watch as she removes the robe and climbs into the bed. “Umm do you prefer the right or the left?” She asks before settling in.

“Actually I’ve been sleeping alone for so long I’ve pretty much taken to sleeping in the middle of the bed so you pick a side and I’ll try to stay on my side.” She nods as she settles down on the right side of the bed. I join her from the left side and I have to laugh. “Charlie it’s okay you don’t have to sleep on the very edge of the bed.”

“I want you to have plenty of room Rebecca.”

“And I want you to enjoy sleeping in a big bed and you can’t do that on the very edge, holding on to keep from falling off.” I reach out and take her by the shoulder pulling her back into the bed.

As she rolls over on her back our faces are only an inch apart. Her eyes are still the most amazing thing I have ever seen and those lips. I slowly lick my lips as we watch each other. “Charlie,” I wonder if I sound as breathless as I feel. “I…unh…I…”

She lifts her head and my eyes close as our lips meet. Oh God. Soft. Wonderful. “Ohh…” When the moan leaves my lips she pulls away from the kiss and bolts from the bed.

“Rebecca I’m sorry! I…I…I’ll just get my things and go out to my tent.”

“Don’t!” I call as I get to my knees in the center of the bed. “Please Charlie don’t go!”

“Rebecca you don’t understand. One of the reasons I play the role so well is because…because….” She drops her head then lifts it again. “Because I prefer the company of women.”

“Then come back to bed because I assure you Colonel Redmond I am the only woman within five hundred miles willing to share my bed with you.”

“Rebecca? Surely you don’t…you haven’t….”

“No I haven’t. Does that mean I can’t? Do you have to be in a special club?”

She laughs as she continues to stare at me. “I don’t understand.”

I sigh as I settle down on the bed. “When I saw you this morning I was attracted to you Charlie….”

“When you thought I was a man.”

I hold up my hand. “Yes, but when I found out the truth it didn’t change anything. I’m still attracted to you Charlie. I admit that once we get past the kissing part I don’t have a clue, but I’m a fast learner. I’ve been alone for a long time Charlie. How do you suppose I solve that little problem?” She cocks her head and lifts her brows. “Oh come on Charlie don’t look so shocked.”

“I’ve never met a woman so willing to admit….”

“Jesus it’s not like I’m sitting in the parlor discussing it during a barb-b-que. It’s just you and me Charlie. You just stood here and admitted to me you prefer the company of women.”

“Yes but…”

“But nothing Charlie Redmond. Now you can come back to bed and we can try this again. Or you can go down and sleep on the sofa alone. Or you can go back out to your stuffy old tent and toss and turn on your cot. Knowing full well that there is a woman inside in a soft warm bed wanting you here with her and willing to try something new….”

“Rebecca please don’t do this to me….”

“I don’t recall doing anything to you. As a matter of fact I’m trying to convince you to do something to me. Charlie I’ve been alone for a long time. I like you. I’d much rather willingly share my bed and my body with you than to have it taken by someone else.”

I held out my hand as I scooted to the edge of the bed. “Come on Charlie. Come to bed. We can put a rolled up blanket between us if that will make you feel better.”

She moves to me and kneeling next to the bed, taking my hand. “Rebecca I just don’t want you to make a decision you’re going to regret.”

“Tell you what Charlie. Let’s try that kiss again. If I don’t think I can, I’ll tell you, all right?”

“All right. That’s fair. But damn it Rebecca if you have even one doubt I want you to tell me.”

“I will. I promise.”

I watch as she very slowly moves in closer to me. She brings her hands up, gently cupping my face and pulling me to her. Our lips meet again in a soft, tender kiss. Oh yeah this is very nice. My hands move to her neck and shoulders. I feel the tip of her tongue brush against my lips and I open to her. Some part of me expected the tempo of the kiss to change and become rough and harsh. It always had with my husband. Not with Charlie. It remained soft, slow and tender. I had never been kissed with so much affection in my life.

She continues to hold me gently as we complete our kiss. Before pulling away she places two small kisses on my lips. She pulls back and gently brushes her thumbs over my cheeks as she waits for me to say something. I say the first thing that comes to mind. “Come to bed Charlie.”

She stands and slowly climbs into the bed with me. We settle down next to each other, I know I’m a little nervous. What I can’t figure out is why Charlie seems so blessed nervous. “Are you all right?” I ask as I run my hand up a well-muscled arm.

“I’m fine. It’s been awhile that’s all.”

“Have you forgotten how? Because if you have we could be in trouble here.”

“No I haven’t forgotten how.” She lifts an annoyed brow at me as she grins at me.

“So your hesitation come from?”

“Umm to be honest, I’m not sure.”

“Ah I got you. I know what it is.” I pull up and lean on my elbow as I look down at her.

She grins at me. “What?”

“You’re chicken.”

“I am not.”

“Then kiss me again.”

Her arm snakes around me and she pulls me down for another kiss. This one is a little more demanding, yet still very sweet and gentle. Oh my mind is just swimming now and my body is beginning to respond to her kiss and her touch and it feels so good. I moan and she picks up the pace of the kiss as her hands join our lips. There is a slow tender exploration of my body through the fabric of the gown that I’m wearing.

Suddenly I realize I’m wearing too many clothes. I pull back from the kiss, making sure to leave her with small kisses as I do so she won’t think there is anything wrong. I move and start to remove the gown when she sits up next to me. I’m afraid she going to bolt from the bed again.

Instead she smiles at me. “Let me.”

I have never in my entire life been undressed so slowly in my life. God everything about this is so different from anything I have ever experienced before. She’s so gentle, caring and yes loving. Her hands are rough and callused from her hard work, yet tender as they land on my bare skin. I shiver as they trace up my spine and she hesitates again, pulling back to look at me.

“Rebecca?”

“No, no, go on. I swear Charlie I’ll hurt you if you don’t.”

She smiles as she finally lifts the gown off my body. “My God you are beautiful Rebecca.” She sounds breathless as she tells me this.

“Really?” That’s the first time I’ve ever been told that, from someone other than my parents as a child.

“Ohh yes.” It’s a moan that leaves her lips as she says this. She leans in and begins tracing my shoulders with small kisses working her way down to my chest. One large hand comes up to gently cup and caress my breast as her lips find the other and I moan again.

She lays us back on the bed and continues to explore my body with her hands and mouth. Obviously I’m not a virgin. I was married for almost two years before my husband left to fight, but I have never been loved like this. My body is forcing itself closer to her. I can’t get close enough to her. I realize now that she has too many clothes on. I tug on her nightshirt. “Off!” It is not a polite request. It is a demand. I must be closer to her.

She quickly sheds the nightshirt and our bodies meet for the first time. I think I have just died and gone to heaven. I find under my own hands the perfect combination of soft skin and muscle. A strong, broad back mixed with the softness that can only be found on a woman’s body.

Her lips travel over me, leaving fiery little traces in their wake. I follow suit and soon I hear low deep moans. She moves me to my back, our eyes meet and I can see the silent question in her eyes, which are now a much deeper blue than they were before. I simply nod, prepared to go where ever she wants to take me.

She runs her hand down my body until she gets to my legs then she gentle pushes on the inside of one of them and I find myself inviting her in there as well although my hazy brain can’t quite grasp the concept I really don’t care. I feel her slip a hand under my thigh, pulling my leg up and causing it to bend at the knee. Then it travels up my thigh and across my stomach. It comes to rest right at the top of my curls. As she kisses me again and my own arms pull her close to me her hand slides down and into my wetness. I tear my lips from her as I moan aloud and arch into her hand. “Charlie yes….”

She buries her face in my neck and hair, murmuring to me as her hands stroke and caress my body. I have never before felt such things. I just seem to climb higher and higher with every movement of her hands and mouth. I feel the sweat break across our bodies as she loves me. This only serves to enhance the sensation of our skin sliding against each other.

Unsure of what to do with my hands I run them over her body, kneading and massaging. Hearing her moan with pleasure I continue to explore her. As she picks up the pace, the ache between my legs builds toward a pressure that is so new to me. My hips begin rocking with her loving caress in an effort to find release. My hands travel around finding her breasts, sweat slicked and nipples taught and hard. I lift my head and wrap my mouth around her as she had done with me and I hear her growl. I find as my mouth and tongue pleasure her, it makes me climb even higher in my want and need.

Without breaking our bond she moves slightly, straddling my other thigh and rocking her own hips in time with mine. Very soon there is no holding back for either of us and we are quaking and shuddering in each other’s arms. Charlie pulls me close, kissing my damp brow. “Oh Rebecca…that was…was wonderful. Thank you.”

“Oh, oh it was my pleasure.” I whisper breathlessly as I curl into her body. “You have no idea Charlie. I have never felt anything like that before.”

She pulls me close to her and that’s where I fall asleep. Wrapped in her arms feeling safe and warm for the first time in years.

When I awake the next morning Charlie is gone from the bed. At first I feel a little panicked and hurt that she is gone, then I hear her voice outside my window. Getting up and pulling on my nightgown and robe I move to the window. I smile as I find her outside, mounted on horseback inspecting her troop and drilling them. Last night it was hard for me to remember I was sharing my bed with a soldier. This morning as I watch her there is no doubt. I smile as I turn around away from the window.

****

We spend every possible moment together during the time she is camped on my land. She shares my bed every night taking me to places I had never imagined, loving me in ways I have never thought possible. So tender, kind and gentle.

I have a problem.

I’m falling in love with Colonel Charlie Redmond.

And she’s leaving me.

Again I am lying in her arms after making love with her. “Charlie?”

“Hmm?” She pulls me close and kisses the top of my head.

“You’re leaving in the morning aren’t you?”

She takes a deep breath and I feel her nod. “Yes Rebecca I am. I don’t want to, but I have to.”

“I know you do.” I shift and look into her beautiful face. “Promise me something?”

“Anything.”

“Promise me you’ll be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Even if we never see each other again I want you to be all right. Promise me.”

“I promise Rebecca.” She pulls me close. “I promise. I have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

“When this is all over, would you, I mean could I, would you like for me to come back here?”

My breath catches as her question sinks in. “You want to come back here?”

“I want to come back to you Rebecca. God forgive me and I hope you don’t think I’ve lost my mind.” She shifts so she is leaning and looking into my eyes. “I’ve fallen in love with you Rebecca. I mean I know that this isn’t the way you probably pictured your life and I most certainly am not the husband you probably hope for, but….”

I lift my trembling hand and place it to her lips. When her words stop, I lift my head to hers and kiss her. Pulling back from her, I caress her face. “Come home to me. Please come home to me. I love you Charlie.”

“I will. I promise.”

I awake the next morning with fingers stroking through my hair. When my eyes open I find her kneeling next to the bed. She is in full uniform and I know she is getting ready to leave. As I start to sit up she gently pushes me back to the bed.

“Too early.” She whispers as she caresses my face. “Stay in bed. I just wanted to say good-bye.”

I take her hand and hold it tight and close to my heart. “Not good-bye Charlie, not good-bye. You promised to come home. Promise me again.”

“I promise.” She leans in ad kisses me. As she pulls back she smiles. “I love you Rebecca.”

“I love you too Colonel Redmond. Come home soon.”

She smiles and nods before getting up and walking out of the bedroom. Returning my head to the pillow I draw a deep breath then I have no choice but to lay there and cry. I know there’s a good chance that Colonel Charlie Redmond won’t be coming home.

****

Weeks pass and the only word that I have gotten are rumors, nothing more. I do know for sure that the war is over. Lee surrendered to Grant some three weeks ago. Every time I hear a horse or a carriage come down the road, my heart jumps to my chest and I find myself headed for the front porch. With everyday that passes I know I have to accept that Charlie either doesn’t want to or God forbid, can’t come back here. If she has changed her mind that is all right, but I pray every evening that she is alive.

After three months I have given up hope that I will ever she her again and I try to get on with my life. I know I need to clean up the place as best I can. I’m also going to have to figure out if I can save my home.

I’m working out back when I suddenly have a strange sensation creep up my spine. I turn, slowly to the back porch. Standing there, dressed in the fine gray suit of a gentleman, holding her hat in her hands is Charlie. I must look frightful and I know it, having been working outside all morning, but that doesn’t stop me from beginning the run that will put me back in her arms.

She smiles as she replaces her hat and steps off the porch and moves toward me. She opens her arms to me and I am there wrapped in them as she leans in and captures my lips in a fiery kiss.

She smiles as her thumbs brush the tears from my cheeks. Her blue eyes are laughing and dancing as I try to get my tears under control. “I’m sorry.” I sniffle.

“Oh don’t be sorry Rebecca. Don’t be sorry.”

“I can’t believe you’re here. I thought you had changed your mind or been….” I just shake my head.

“No sweetheart. I had to wait for my discharge. The Army didn’t want to lose a career officer and they tried everything in their power to keep me. I would have sent word, but I didn’t want to tip anyone as to where I was headed. I was afraid they might try something with you in order to keep me.”

I throw my arms around her neck as her arms wrap around me. “You’re home.”

“Well that depends.”

I pull back from her, resting my hands on her broad shoulders. “Depends? Depends on what Charlie?”

“Seeing as how I have to continue this charade for the rest of my life in order to collect my Army pension and work in the community,” She drops to one knee and takes my hand. “Will you marry me Rebecca? I won’t live here without being married to you. It wouldn’t look right for a proper southern woman to be living with a man and not be married to him.”

I smile as I caress her face. “A mixed marriage.”

“Mixed marriage?”

“Southern Belle marries retired Yankee Colonel. We’ll be the talk of the county for years to come.”

“Well if that’s all they have to talk about then we’ll be lucky. Is that a yes Rebecca?”

“That’s a yes Charlie Redmond.”

The End
————
Part 2 – Returning Home

I’m not even going to try and contain the smile on my face as I pull Rebecca into my arms and kiss her.

Oh I’ve missed her.

Missed her beautiful face, her gentle voice and these wonderful sweet lips. As my arms wrap around her waist and I lift her of the ground, I remember how much I’ve missed her body too. I groan as my tongue darts across her lips. She knows what I want and she doesn’t disappoint me. Her hands wrap around my neck and she pulls me in for more.

Oh good God yes.

As our mouths explore each other again and I taste her sweetness, I pick her up in my arms and head back up the steps of the house. Never for one moment willing to give up this wonderful kiss, but I want and need more from her. As we reach the door I managed to get the screen door open by bending at the knees and grabbing it with my fingertips and throwing it open.

As it bangs against the house, I feel Rebecca’s hands leave my neck and we are jerked to a sudden halt. I give up the kiss with a groan and look at her. She’s gripping the frame of the doorway.

“What?” I lift my brow.

“Um Charlie where are we going?”

“Where do you think we’re going Rebecca? I’m gonna take you to bed and make love to you.”

“Oh no Charlie, no way.”

“Huh?” Now I’m really confused. “I…I…Rebecca….” I start to put her down. Maybe she has realized this is a bad idea and changed her mind. I certainly couldn’t blame her. I’ll just gather my things and leave.

She laughs as she nuzzles my neck. It’s almost as if she has read my mind. “Oh Charlie don’t be silly. It’s just that I’ve been outside working all day and I really need a bath.”

“No you don’t.” I argue as I try to continue into the house.

“Yes I do Charlie Redmond. Now put me down this very minute.”

I sigh as I put her down on her own two feet. She looks up at me and laughs as she caresses my face.

“Now don’t pout Charlie, it’s not becoming. I won’t be long. Why don’t you take your things to our room and get settled.”

“If you insist.”

“I do. There is no way I’m going to let you get close to me while I’m in this condition. You’d leave me if I did.”

“Never Rebecca. You’re stuck with me now.” I grin as I give her backside a little pat. “Now get going woman, before I refuse to accept the bath excuse.”

I watch as she winks at me then heads off for her bath. I sigh once again, happy to be home and so happy to be back with my sweet Rebecca. I head for the foyer and retrieve my bags. Then I take the staircase two steps at a time anxious to get settled into my new home.

As I step into our bedroom I can’t help but smile. I’ve never had a home before. It’s going to be an interesting change for me. I’m going from soldier to farmer. I’ve never been a farmer before. I’m not even sure I can do it. I have to try. I have to help Rebecca rebuild and repair the house and the plantation.

As I unpack, I look around our room and find the dresser and the wardrobe. I’m not surprised the find that Rebecca has already made room for me. I wish I could have been here sooner. Removing my hat and coat I place them in the wardrobe, then remove my vest and toss it over the back of a chair. It feels good to be able to take my coat off without fear of being discovered. Even though I’ll have to continue this charade for the rest of my life, I now have a safe place to be myself. And someone who loves me for who I am.

After my things are put away I remove my boots and stretch out on the big bed. Ahh I’ve missed this too. Yes, I love this bed. I smile for all the reasons I love this bed. I smooth my hand over the quilt. Suddenly as I continue to stroke the blanket I feel my eyes slipping closed. Just a little nap while Rebecca bathes.

I relax.

I sleep.

I feel soft lips on my cheek and I inhale. Ah honeysuckle and lavender. My lovely Rebecca has returned to me. I open my eyes and turn my head to find her green eyes staring at me.

“Tired Colonel Redmond? I could let you sleep.” She whispers in my ear as she kisses my jaw near my ear.

“Oh no I’m fine.” I finally take a good look and see that she has dropped her robe and is kneeling next to our bed totally naked. “Why Rebecca, you seem to have forgotten your clothes.”

“Did I? Hmm, well I suppose I should go find them.” She stands, giving me an excellent view of her beautiful body.

“Umm no.” I say softly as I gently grab her wrist. “You won’t be needing them.” I pull her to our bed.

She smiles as she climbs on top of me, straddling my hips and begins unbuttoning my shirt. “And why not?”

As my hands travel up her sides, I feel her shiver just slightly. “Because ma’am I intend to take great liberties with you.”

“Why Colonel how could you think such things of me?” Her hands travel under my shirt and come to rest on my shoulders.

I feel her hands on my skin and I inhale sharply knowing I need to get out of all my gear and I need to get out of it quickly. “Uhn Rebecca?”

“Yes Charlie?” She’s smiling down at me with shear mischief on her face.

“I want…I mean I need…I aww Hell!” I finally just turn sharply, sending her to the middle of the bed as I get up and start removing my clothes as rapidly as I can. Trying to totally ignore the laughter coming from the bed as I slip out of my trousers and pull off my shirt. “Laugh at me woman.” I growl as I rejoin her and pull her close to me, our bodies’ come together just as they were meant for each other.

“Oh God Charlie, I’ve missed you.” She very nearly cries into my ear as her hands wrap around my neck and her lips find my throat as she presses her body into mine.

“I’ve missed you too my love.” I caress her face as pull her back and I look into her eyes. I want her. I just want to take her and make passionate love to her, but I know she deserves only my most gentle touch.

I lay her back on the bed, leaning on one elbow as I allow my other hand to begin a slow loving caress of her body, from her shoulder to her hip.

Our eyes meet and she smiles at me. “You’re purposely trying to drive me crazy aren’t you Charlie?”

“No, but I most certainly do know how to do that and if you don’t behave, I will.” I wiggle my brows at her as my head drops to her neck.

As my lips kiss the soft skin under them, I feel one of her hands run up the back of my head, through my short hair. God I love it when she does that. The other travels down my back. I feel her body move against mine slowly, as she moans softly into my ear.

“Oh Charlie….”

The sound of her voice is like the finest silk and it simply sets my body on fire as it settles on me. Her skin is so soft under my rough hands. I’ve handled fine linens from all over the world and I’ve never known anything this soft and perfect.

“Feel what you do to me Charlie.” She whispers in my ear as her hand grasps my wrist and brings it to her breast, cupping it slowly, I hear her breathing increase.

My thumb travels lightly over her nipple and I feel it pucker into a hard nub. Looking from her eyes to her breast I see the dark pink flesh and I simply can’t resist taking it into my mouth. I feel her skin heat up as my mouth comes to her on it and the tip of my tongue reaches out for the smallest taste of her I can get.

My tongue is warm and smooth against her nipple. I can feel the roughness of it against the curl of my tongue. The tip of my tongue moves slowly up the small shaft and then swirls at the tip.

I feel her hips jerk when I do that, so I do it again, and again, and again. Now her legs are starting to twitch and I feel her toss her leg over mine, as my lips move gingerly up her breast, to her chest, neck, jaw and then to her lips. My hand travels down her side, to her hip, turning and dipping slightly so that the tips of my fingers might have the slightest contact with her soft curls.

She moans, as her hands clutch my hair and her hips jerk forward to my hand as she plunges her tongue in my mouth. I move my hand back up and allow it to continue to her thigh. With a little pull, I have brought her closer to my thigh and myself closer to hers.

Then I move my hand to her backside and my mouth to her neck. I begin a licking and a stroking that seemed to drive her hips and we began our slow grind against each other. I can feel my own arousal coating her leg and hers on my skin. Our breasts rub together. Nipples harden, skin starts to glisten with our arousal and our sweat as our sounds gather together, louder and louder.

Mouths and tongues meet and battle as we love each other. Feeling as if the world is about to go out of control and the room starts to spin, as the light seems to become reflective. Is that her heartbeat or mine? It’s both.

“Ohhh Char…lie…” I hear her as I feel her arch hard into me and her fingers dig into my shoulders as the shuddering begins.

This sends me into my own fiery abyss. “Love you….” I manage to whisper in her ear as my body begins to freeze up, only making me capable of the quaking that I’m doing now.

I must have her in my arms, as we reach our crests at the same time. Pulling her close to me causes another tremor through both our bodies. We simply put our heads next to each other and rely on the shoulder in front of us to help quell our helpless whimpers as yet another wave washes over us.

I am massaging her back as the pleasure sweeps over my body. I feel her digging into my skin as she moans into my ear, giving it a little nip as she does. “Love you Charlie.” She whispers as her body slowly begins to relax. I hold her close, because as we calm down we are so close to becoming one I want to make it possible.

Finally, we are both lying exhausted. The power of the climax has shed us of any ability to do much else but breath, and oh yeah, smile.

As soon as I can, I move my arms and pull her close as close as I can get her. She comes to rest in the crook of my arm and curls in tight against me as I pull a sheet over us. Kissing the damp forehead at my lips I thank my God for letting me have her in my life.

We relax.

We sleep.

****

I feel her shift and I roll over, draping my arm over her waist. “Love you.” I murmur as I kiss her shoulder.

“Love you too.” She rolls over to face me and place a soft kiss to my lips. “So very much. I’m so happy you’re home Charlie.” She traces my collarbone with her fingertips. “I was so afraid you’d been killed.”

“I know love. I came as soon as I could.”

“Well, you’re here now and that’s all that matters.”

“That’s right Rebecca and I’m never leaving you again.”

“Promise?”

“Oh I promise.”

“Good.”

“We really should get up.” I kiss her temple as I stretch and then curl back next to her.

“Give me one good reason.” She giggles as she snuggles in close to me.

“Because I’m hungry.”

“Hmm that is a good reason. Damn Charlie. Do you really need food?”

“Would you like a repeat performance of earlier, later?”

“Oh yes please.”

“Then I need food.”

“All right.” She sits up pulling the sheet with her, leaving me bare ass naked in our bed.

“Rebecca!” I scramble to my feet to find a dressing gown in the wardrobe as she laughs at me. “What?” I ask as I pull the dressing gown on and tie off the belt.

“You’re funny Charlie. So modest.”

“Yeah well I’ve spent a long time trying to hide my body.”

She crosses the room and runs her hands up my front. “You don’t need to hide here. This is your home Charlie.”

“Rebecca. This is all so new to me sweetheart. It’s going to take time.”

She nods as she runs her hand over my shoulders. “Of course it is. I’m sorry.”

“Ooooo honey don’t be sorry. Just be patient with me.”

“We’ve got all the time we need Charlie. Now let me get a robe so I can go fix you some supper.”

“I brought some things from town. I figured you still didn’t have much here.”

“Well a little more than I did last time you were here, but not much.”

I nod. “I figured. But now that I’m here we can get everything back to normal.”

“I’m not sure about that Charlie. I’m just waiting for the tax man to show up.”

“Stop waiting.” I tell her as I watch her drop the sheet and replace it with a long tan robe. She turns to me with a confused look. “I made sure I stopped by the county courthouse before I came here. The back taxes on the house and the land are paid Rebecca.”

She smiles as she shakes her head a little. Then she throws herself into my arms. “Oh Charlie, you mean we’re not going to lose our home?”

“Nope.” I wrap my arms around her as I kiss her head. “I couldn’t very well let them come take the house that I intend to spend the rest of my days in, now could I?”

“But how? I mean it must have been….”

“Don’t you worry about that. I spent a lot of years in the army with no one to spend my money on. Then there was departure pay and my pension. We, my darling Rebecca, have a very tidy little sum to invest in our home. So let’s do it.”

“Oh Charlie I can let you….”

“Oh yes you can and you will. Now come on Rebecca, feed me before I starve to death.”

****

We eat in the kitchen. Holding hands and discussing our plans for the land. “So what do we grow here?” I have to ask because I don’t have a damn clue.

“Well my brother and husband always tried to grow cotton, but the land around here just isn’t suited for that. So they were never horribly successful with it.”

“Hmmm well then what do you think we should grow?”

“Tobacco.”

“Tobacco?”

“Un-huh,” She says as she pours me a cup of coffee. “Tobacco. The soil is perfect and the weather is best for it too.”

“Tobacco it is then.”

“You’re not going to argue with me?” She looks almost surprised as she replaces the coffeepot on the stove.

“Why would I argue with you sweetheart? It’s your land. You’ve lived here all your life. You know best in this situation. Hell I’m just a soldier. I’m not even sure I can be a farmer.”

“It’s just that my husband and my brother….” She stops as she takes her seat next to me.

I take her hand again. “Rebecca. I’m not your brother and I am most certainly not your husband.”

“Not yet.” She smirks a little as she sips from a cup of tea.

I laugh softly as I swallow my coffee. “Not yet. But, really sweetheart things are going to be very different for you now. You’re going to have to take a great deal of responsibility for helping us get on our feet. You know everything I don’t about what needs to be done around here.”

“Well I’ve never been in charge of anything more than the house slaves.”

I couldn’t help but bristle a little at the mention of slaves. “Rebecca….”

“Oh Charlie I know. I know it’s all over and I know things are different now.”

“All right. I may want to hire some hands for the property. They’ll most likely be negroes, is that going to be a problem for you?”

“No Charlie.”

“Good. We should go to town tomorrow and get more supplies and see the Justice of the Peace while we’re there.”

“The Justice of the Peace?”

I grin as I squeeze her hand. “Yes Mrs. Redmond. The Justice of the Peace.”

“Oh yeah.” She gives me a nervous little smile.

“Changing your mind?”

“No! No. I just think it’s kind of funny that’s all.”

“We have to.”

“I know. So my dear ‘Mister’ Redmond I’ll have you know I don’t have a proper wedding dress.”

“Well now, actually I thought about that too.” I grin a little as I get to my feet and leave the kitchen.

“Charlie Redmond where are you going? Your supper will get cold.” She calls after me.

“Just a second sweetheart.” I move to the parlor and retrieve the box I had put there earlier. I knew I’d be giving this to her I just didn’t know when or where. God I hope it fits. I return to the kitchen, where she is leaning back in her chair looking terribly annoyed with me. “I’m sorry honey.” I realize getting up from the supper table in our household is going to be a big no-no. I offer her the large box in an effort to placate her.

“Charlie what in the name of….”

“Open it.”

She pulls the blue bow from the box and slowly lifts the lid, then peels back the paper to reveal the new dress I bought for her. It’s a crème colored dress that I bought her for us to be married in. It’s not the wedding dress my lady deserves, but then again I’m not exactly the husband she deserves either. I just wanted her to have something nice for this.

“Charlie! Oh Charlie it’s beautiful!” She pulls it from the box and stands up to hold it up to her body. “You shouldn’t have.”

“Oh yes ma’am. You deserve it. That and much more and I’m going to do my best to see that you get it.” I stand up and take her in my arms. “I hope it fits I had to guess and I have to admit I’m pretty lousy at that sort of thing.”

“It looks like it’s going to be just fine.” She places a tender kiss to my lips. “Thank you Charlie. It’s been so long since I had anything new.”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get you new things very soon Rebecca.”

“There are far more important things we need first.”

“We’ll get everything we need to get the place put back together. Do you by any chance still have a wagon?”

“I have three wagons in various state of disrepair.”

“Well now, see there is something I know how to do something about. I’m betting together we’ve got one good wagon.”

She laughs at me at she folds her dress and puts it back in the box. “Well first things first Charlie. Sit down and eat before it gets cold. Then we go back to bed and get a fresh start in the morning.”

I smile as I sit down and take my coffee in hand. “Back to bed huh?” I ask with a smirk.

“Yes Charlie. Back to bed.”

“Any particular reason?” I tease as I cut into my chicken.

“You are not a nice person Charlie Redmond.” She retakes her seat as places her napkin in her lap.

“I just want to see if you’ll say it.”

“You know I will.”

“No you won’t.” I grin as I chew slowly, staring at her.

“I want you to take me back to bed and make love to me Charlie.”

“Well, never let it be said that Colonel Charlie Redmond ever failed to carry out an order.”

****

When I woke up the next morning Rebecca was gone from the bed. The sun was just starting to come up. I stretch as I feel the comfort of having a home, settle in again. As tempted, as I am to go back to sleep I know we have a long day ahead of us and I get to my feet.

Dressed for a day of hard work, I pull my suspenders over my shoulders as I make my way downstairs. Before I am even half way down, I smell breakfast cooking. Oh now if the love of this beautiful woman wasn’t enough she’s going to make me fat with good cooking too. I’ll have to work hard in the fields just to keep all this food off.

I smile as I enter the kitchen. She is setting the table as the food cooks behind her. She looks to me and smiles as I spread my arms and give her a look at the farmer I’m going to try and become. “Well what do you think?”

“Male or female, Charlie Redmond you are the most handsome thing I have ever laid eyes on.”

“You haven’t looked in the mirror lately beautiful.” I grin down at her as I place my hands on her shoulders and give her a little kiss. I am one very lucky person.

“Sit down. Breakfast is nearly ready.”

“Why are you up so early?”

“The stove doesn’t light itself Charlie. Besides I knew you’d be up soon and I wanted to make sure you had a good breakfast before you went off to fiddle with those wagons.”

I can’t help but laugh a little as I take my seat.

“And what is so funny?” She looks down at me as she pours coffee into the cup in front of me.

“Nothing sweetheart. Just getting accustomed to having a delightful woman in my life.”

“Well thank you.” She smiles as she returns the pot to the stove and begins serving breakfast for us.

“So what are you going to do today while I’m ‘fiddling’ with the wagons?”

“I’d like to get that little patch near the barn cleared for a small garden.”

“Sounds like we’re both going to be busy today.”

“Today, tomorrow and for a long time to come I’m afraid.” She agrees as she settles down next to me.

“Good thing neither one of us are afraid of hard work.”

“Very true, because we’ve got close to two hundred acres of it waiting for us.”

“Two hundred acres? Good God Rebecca that’s a small county.”

She smiles and nods. “Yes it is.”

“We’re going to need more help than I thought.” I sigh a little as I drink my coffee.

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes Charlie.” She takes my hand and gives it a little squeeze. “Now eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”

“Yes Ma’am.” I smile at her as I take a bite of the wonderful meal before me.

****

I stretch as I stand up from the wagon wheel. The seat and the foot board from the first wagon, along with the front axle and wheels from the second work well in putting together the third wagon, which had the sturdiest bed. I groan a bit as I twist at the waist trying to loosen my back.

“Are you okay love?”

I look over to see her leaning on a rake. I smile at the little smudge of dirty that is running down the side of her face. “I’m fine sweetheart. Just taking a break before I put this wheel on.”

“How about a cold glass of tea?”

“Perfect.”

“I thought as much. Let me go get it.”

“No I’ll tell you what. Let me go get it and we’ll both take a break.”

“Oh now I like that idea.”

“Hmm thought you might.” I grin as I head for the house.

Returning a few minutes later I find her sitting under the shade of a large tree. I pull a kerchief from my pocket as I settle down next to her, handing her a glass of tea. “Come’re you little dirt ball.”

She smiles as I wipe the dirt from her face. Slowly our eyes meet and I can’t help but lean over to her. I am rewarded with a long, sweet, deep kiss. “The wagon is nearly done Rebecca. You should go get cleaned up and put that new dress on.”

“We’re really going to do this aren’t we?”

“Unless you’ve changed your mind.”

“Oh no Charlie I swear it’s not that. I’m just a little nervous. A bride is allowed to be nervous on her wedding day.”

“Yeah well so is the ‘groom’, but you know how I feel about this Rebecca.”

“And I agree with you. I’m just nervous Charlie I swear.”

“Nervous that we’ll be found out?”

“Well there’s always that fear….”

“Rebecca I love you. I want to stay here with you. But you know as well as I do that….”

She sits her glass down and places herself in my lap. “Oh shut up Charlie.” The kiss is nice and I realize who is going to hold the power in this marriage. “I know I love you Charlie. I know that this afternoon we are going to do what’s best for the both of us.”

I nod as she kisses me again.

I lift her out of the wagon, settling her carefully to the ground. The dress is a perfect fit and I can’t help but smile as I resettle my hat on my head and offer her my arm. “Shall we, my dear?” I wave my hand at the office of the Justice of the Peace.

She looks at me as she nods her head. “I hope so. I’ve never been this nervous Charlie.”

“Aww sweetheart it’ll be painless and over very soon.” Then it hits me. I glance around finding what we need. Now I hope they have what we need. “Come on.” I offer her my arm, which she takes and we make out way across the street to the local mercantile.

I notice as we go a few people are giving us strange looks. It can’t be me. I know my disguise is in place and they had better not be looking at Rebecca that way. She must feel the tension in my arm. She gives me a little pull and makes me look at her.

“Mourning Charlie. They think I should still be mourning my husband and brother.”

“Ah okay.”

“I’m not being a proper southern woman, being seen on the arm of a gentleman.”

“I’m sorry Rebecca. Looks like I’m still going to ruin your reputation.”

“I never was much for worrying about what other people think. Don’t let it bother you.”

“Yes Ma’am.” I grin and tip my hat at one of the woman who is scowling at my Rebecca. “Beautiful isn’t she. I’m very proud to be marrying her this afternoon.” I offer to he woman as I resettle my hat on my head.

“Oh now Charlie that was just mean.” Rebecca chuckles as we watch the woman scurry away.

“She looked like she swallowed a sourball.” I laugh as we enter the mercantile.

“Good afternoon Mr. Redmond.”

I recognize the owner, from my supply trip prior to going home. He seemed friendly enough then, let’s see what he thinks now, “Good afternoon Mr. Chester.”

“What can I do for you today?”

“Well sir,” I turn and smile at Rebecca. “My fiancée and I require wedding rings. I don’t suppose you’d happen to have any in stock would you?”

He looks to Rebecca for the first time. “My goodness. Rebecca Jackson. Look at you young lady!” He smiles as he comes around the counter and greets her. “When Mr. Redmond was in yesterday I didn’t know it was you he was talking about.”

I watch as a slow blush creeps up Rebecca’s face and she nods. “Yes Mr. Chester.”

“Well congratulation for landing such a fine young man.” He smiles at her. “I’m sure he’ll take very good care of you.”

“He already has Mr. Chester. Thank you.”

“Now as for rings. I’m afraid I don’t have much. Maybe I can find something here that will work for you.”

I face her. Watching her as the Justice of the Peace says words I don’t hear. I see only her. We slip the simple gold bands on and then it’s over. With a little kiss our life together truly begins.

“Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Redmond.” The man says to me as he hands me the marriage license. “May you live a long and happy life.”

“I’m sure we will.” Rebecca smiles as she runs her hands under the lapels of my coat never taking her eyes from mine. “I’m sure we will.”

“Shall we Mrs. Redmond?” I turn and offer her my arm.

“Yes,” She takes my arm. “Yes Mr. Redmond, we shall. For a very long time to come. And I think we should go home and get started now.” She gives me a little wink as we step outside and I settle my hat on my head.

THE END

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