There was one consistent dream she'd had for the greater part of her life. That dream had always been to marry Ichabod Crane. Since the moment she'd met him all those years ago, he'd stood out to her as a man set apart from the rest; one meant for greater things than the society which they'd been born into would allow him to achieve. For years, she'd watched him become all that she knew he could be through the nurturing of the people he'd gathered around himself.
It hadn't taken her long to realize she loved him, but it had taken a great while for her to admit it. She'd been so set on his destiny, on all he was meant to be, that she'd nearly allowed love to pass her by; to slip through her fingers. Just the thought that she might have went her whole life without his gentle whispers, without his burning touch... It was something she was glad she'd avoided experiencing.
Now, though, she had finally reached that place where she was to become his wife; his partner through thick and thin.
Running her fingers along the windowsill of the bedroom she'd once called her own all those years ago, she looked down at the front yard. Her father had loved this land dearly. A man of few words, he'd been content as a farmer; comfortable in the life into which he'd been born. Her mother, rest her soul, had been different. An adventurous spirit had dwelled within her and, while her parents certainly hadn't been soul mates, she saw now that they had been well-suited. Her mother had drawn her father out of his shell and he had calmed the stormy waters that had run deep within his wife.
She'd been blessed in her life with them, but discontent to live with the same path and preconceived rules. Perhaps, it was her mother's adventurous spirit that had been passed down to her that hadn't permitted her to settle for less than she deserved. Whatever the cause, she was thankful to them for equipping her with the tools she'd needed to survive.
If only they could see her now.
Her mother would no doubt be clamoring around her, so overjoyed that her only daughter was to wed and to Ichabod Crane no less; the very man her mother had wished her to marry. Her father would be in the yard, quietly listening to the talk of the other men and only contributing when directly spoken to. They'd have each been proud in their own way.
A smile came to her lips when she thought of how excited Ichabod was. To think she'd deprived him of this joy for so long pained her deeply. The idea that a man loved her so dearly, wanted her so desperately, warmed her in ways she could never express. If only life hadn't treated them so cruelly thus far, they might have already been wed for years.
The door pushed open to reveal Abbie coming through, her burgundy knee cut dress fitting her like a sleeve. The first thing she really noticed, though, was her hair pulled up to show off the new gold hoops Luke had given her for Thanksgiving.
Not that she'd ever tell a soul other than Ichabod, but she'd actually had to go with Luke to pick them out. The poor man had next to no taste and had practically begged her to help him find something Abbie would love.
"Oh, Abigail, you look beautiful!" She closed the distance and kissed her friend's cheek. "And your dress!"
"Yeah." Abbie glanced down at herself. "I figured I don't dress up enough."
"Not nearly enough," she replied with a chuckle. "I imagine Luke nearly had a stroke."
Abbie laughed. "Something like that." Her friend stepped back and looked her over. "Maybe not as much of a stroke as Ichabod is going to have."
She dearly hoped so. She'd spent months trying to find the appropriate wedding dress. While Ichabod and her had decided upon a small gathering of only their closest friends to witness their union at her family home, she'd still wanted a few of the common wedding traditions included.
For the past week, she'd hardly seen her love as he'd been here day and night, both to give them some time apart to prepare for their wedding and because it had been his most ardent request that he be the one to set the house and yard for their wedding. While it was a sweet notion, she hadn't been all too keen on the idea of it. Ichabod was a man after all. She wanted their small wedding to be perfect and leaving the entirety of the decorating to him left her less than sure.
However, he'd won her over with the promise that he'd seek Abbie's approval every step of the way. Now, she was on pins and needles to see what he'd accomplished.
"Yeah, yeah, you're both so pretty."
In walked Jenny, her hair pulled up identical to Abbie's, but with a less form fitting dress to accompany her, the dark green making her dark eyes stand out all the more.
However, it wasn't really Jenny that captured her attention.
"And who do we have here?" she cooed as she all but skipped over to Jenny, who was holding her newest favorite person in the world.
"I wouldn't hold him just yet," Jenny warned. "He's a little fussy and I doubt he'd mind ruining Granny's white dress."
"Would you do that, sweet boy?" she asked, her voice dripping with baby tones. "No, I don't think so."
Carefully taking him into her arms, she smiled as she stared down into his bright blue eyes. He looked quite a bit like Jenny with his curly, black hair and his small nose. His cheeks were puffy, but she could see the shape would likely be more similar to Abbie's than Jenny's. However, the part of him she'd been most surprised over was his inheritance of Ichabod's eyes; of his father's eyes.
"How much longer do you think this will take?"
Shrugging her shoulders, she lifted her head from his arm and sat up, the crick she'd developed throughout the night becoming bothersome. "It shouldn't be too long now. She was fully dilated the last time Abbie texted me."
Ichabod shifted uncomfortably. "I doubt she's taking it gracefully."
Unable to help her grin, she looked at him, taking in his tired eyes and grumpy expression. "I can't imagine what would make you say that."
It was true, though. Jenny was hardly the picture of grace. From what Abbie had relayed when they'd pulled up behind her at the front entrance, Jenny had cursed up a storm on the way over.
"I wonder who he'll look like?"
Ichabod's question quieted her voice. "I imagine like his parents."
The air between them shifted noticeably, something she wished she couldn't see flicker in his expression. Every little mention of their son seemed to suck all the life right out of her and, in turn, she sucked the life right out of Ichabod.
"I bet he'll look like me."
That pulled her gaze to him. "You? I highly doubt it. If some of Jenny's strong features are overcome, the rest will be left to my family. If anything, he'll look like me."
"You think your genes are stronger than mine?" He shifted to face her. "Red hair is hardly a strong gene, nor is green eyes."
Rolling the green eyes which were in question, she said, "Whatever you say, love."
A pause lingered before he asked, "Did she ever tell you his name?"
"Nope," she muttered, a bit aggravated. "She didn't. She said she was still debating."
"I just want to-"
"Guys." Swirling in her seat, she found Abbie leaning out the delivery room door with a huge grin as she waved her hand at them. "Come on."
All but leaping from her seat, she left Ichabod in the dust as she hurried over to Abbie. "Is he here? How's Jenny?"
Abbie held the door open and nodded. "Great. They're both great."
"She didn't murder anyone, did she?"
"Close," Abbie chuckled. "But I managed to get my hand out of hers just in time to duck her blow."
God, she was excited.
"Is everything alright?" Ichabod asked as he came through the door, his hair and clothes a mess. "Please, tell me we don't have to wait any longer."
Not even bothering with his ridiculousness, she took his hand and replied, "Keep up, love. I'm ready to see him."
"They're just right here," Abbie said as she pushed open another door. "Go on in. I have to call Luke and let him know how it went."
As she dragged Ichabod behind her, she smiled when she saw Jenny sitting up with a bundle in her arms.
"Hey," she said, letting go of Ichabod and approaching her friend, who looked far too good to have just had a baby. "How'd it go?"
Jenny grinned. "I'm taking some of these drugs home with me."
With a chuckle, she leaned over the bed and kissed Jenny's head before pulling back to catch her first look of the baby.
"Oh, Jenny," she whispered. "He's beautiful."
His dark hair set upon skin the shade of Jenny's with his little pink mouth open for a yawn.
"I didn't think the little bugger would be this cute," Jenny admitted as she traced her finger over his cheek. "Or that he would ever come out."
Sharing in her friend's laughter, she said, "I've delivered my fair share of babies. He's pretty big."
"Right?" Jenny exclaimed, her eyes wide. "Eight freaking pounds. I thought I was going to split in two."
She could believe it. He was a hunk of cutie pie.
Ichabod cleared his throat and leaned over the railing next to her. "What's his name?"
Jenny shrugged her shoulders. "Well, I wanted to do something a little different."
Meeting her friend's eyes, she asked, "Like what?"
"Give him a name that meant something." Jenny smiled down at her baby, who's eyes were clenched shut as he pressed into her gown. "So... meet Hugo."
"Hugo?" Ichabod asked, his brow knit. "And what does that mean?"
"Bright in mind or spirit; intelligence."
She smiled, her eyes plastered to the baby as she absorbed every feature of his small face. "That's a lovely name."
"Hugo Mills has a nice ring to it," Ichabod commented with a complimentary nod. "It sounds like a strong name."
"Actually," Jenny said, her voice wavering a bit. "I uhm... When I saw him, I just... loved him so much. I really didn't think it would be like this, that I would..." She shook her head as her eyes began to glisten. "I don't ever want him to think I'm ashamed of where he came from." Jenny lifted her head to smile at them. "He has Henry's eyes."
The room felt tighter all of a sudden; like it was closing in on her.
"I guess that means he has your eyes," Jenny said as she looked at Ichabod. "Any other day, I think that would have annoyed me, but not today."
"He-" Ichabod gripped the edge of the bed as he looked the baby over. "He has my eyes?"
"Yeah. Did those come from your mother or father?"
"Father," he whispered, his voice full of emotion. "I have my father's eyes."
"Those Crane genes must really be something if they overrode my brown eyes."
While Ichabod chuckled, she felt herself struggling to breathe. The mere thought of the baby having any part of her son left her reeling. She couldn't reconcile it.
"That's why I decided to name him Hugo Jeremy Crane."
"What?" she finally heard herself ask, sure she was mistaken.
"That's what you were going to name Henry, right?" Jenny looked at her. "Jeremy Crane?"
"Jenny, you don't have to do that," she whispered. "This is your son. He should have your name."
"He'll have every other part of me," Jenny answered, her voice stronger. "He needs this. He needs to have some part of his father that isn't tainted. I know one day I'll have to tell him the truth, but, for a long time, the name Jeremy Crane is going to be the greatest pride he'll carry associated with his father." Jenny shrugged. "I know that's how I felt growing up. I may have hated my dad for leaving me and Abbie, but I was still proud of my name."
"You're sure about this?" Ichabod asked, a thousand questions lingering in his voice. "It's a very important decision."
"Yeah, Gramps," Jenny chuckled. "I'm sure."
"Jenny, I-" She shook her head, overcome with so many emotions. "I don't know how to- Thank you."
"You want to hold him?" Jenny nodded to the baby. "He is your grandson, after all."
"Yes," she replied, not hesitating in the least. "Definitely."
Easing her arms under the baby, she tenderly lifted him into her embrace while being careful to support his head.
"Oh," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "He's so perfect."
"He is," Ichabod agreed, moving closer to her and wrapping an arm around her.
"Hello, Hugo," she cooed, her finger tracing his cheek. "We've been waiting to meet you for a long time."
Tearing her attention from Hugo, she found Luke leaning in the doorway.
"Wow, Kat, you look..." Luke shook his head with a chuckle. "Ichabod's going to freak out more than he already is."
"He's freaking out?" she asked worriedly. "Why? Is he-?"
"He's excited," Luke quickly explained, holding up his hands. "He's just a ball of nerves with all the waiting."
"Oh," she chuckled, breathing a sigh of relief. "Me, too."
"Tell him we're almost ready," Abbie said with a wave of her hand as she pushed Luke back through the door.
As Luke nodded and closed the door behind him, Abbie turned to her with a smile. "Alright, let's finish up before Crane paces himself into the ground."
The chill in the evening air felt soothing to his lungs each time he inhaled a deep breath, allowing him a little relief to the frantic nervousness within him. If Katrina didn't appear soon, he was going to hyperventilate.
For days now, he'd been working himself to the bone to ensure everything was just so. With Abbie and Luke's help, he'd spent hours in the garden behind Katrina's home. From pulling up weeds to finding the perfect arch to sit under the old oak trees he'd once lounged under with her, he felt as though he'd done all he could do to make it as perfect as possible.
Gaze venturing over the garden now, he prayed it would be what she wanted. The white Christmas lights hanging from the trees and wrapping around the banisters running along the back porch were beginning to shine bright in the fading evening light.
It wasn't much, but it was enough... Or at least, he hoped it was enough. She hadn't wanted a big to do wedding, but rather one that was intimate and simple.
Running a hand over his crisp white dress shirt, he smiled as Luke came down the porch steps. "Is she alright?"
Luke chuckled. "Better than you. They were all making eyes over Hugo."
Unable to help but smile at that, he said, "I think we've been demoted in their eyes."
"That's probably a good guess." Luke looked around. "I think it looks great."
Following Luke's gaze, he sighed, "Good. That's good."
"Alright." He turned to find Abbie coming up the path. "I think it's about time to get this show on the road."
Suddenly feeling short of breath, he asked, "It's time?"
"Yep." Abbie crossed her arms as she turned to glare at him. "A freaking December wedding. It's freezing out here."
With a smile, he joined her under the arch, which was wrapped with some dark green burlap and more white Christmas lights.
"Did you acquire everything you needed?"
Abbie held out her hands. "You are looking at an an official, ordained minister via the always trusting internet."
"Sounds fancy." He folded his hands behind his back and fixed his friend with a grateful smile. "Thank you, Abbie."
"Well, it was me or Luke," she replied. "I can't imagine you'd have wanted him marrying you."
"Hey," Luke defended. "I think I'd make a strapping, young minister."
"Mhm." Abbie lifted an eyebrow before she nodded to the porch. "There's Jenny."
As Luke hurried over to assist Jenny in descending the steps, he turned to Abbie. "I'm not sure why I'm so nervous."
"Well," Abbie tilted her head. "This has been two centuries in the making."
"Yes." He smiled as he looked up at the house. "I can't believe she's finally going to be my wife."
Abbie patted his shoulder. "I'm happy for you, Crane. Really."
Not even bothering with his normal propriety, he pulled his friend into a hug. What he would ever do without Abigail Mills was lost on him.
"Alright, alright, you two. Kat's ready to get hitched."
As Jenny took a stance a few feet from him, Hugo wrapped tightly within a blanket in her arms, Abbie turned to press play on the CD player.
The soft chords drifted through their surroundings, leaving him to plant his eyes firmly on the back door of the house, which were opened wide. Heart ramming against his chest, he practically held his breath as he waited for the first sight of her. This was it. For two centuries, he'd been anticipating this day.
And it was beautiful.
The moment she appeared, he forgot what it meant to breathe. He wanted to memorize every part of this; not allowing even one detail to escape his notice.
Her red hair was pulled up and away from her shoulders, leaving a few curls here and there hanging about her face. Her dress, to his surprise, was not one he'd been expecting. For weeks now, he'd noticed her combing through various magazines in search of the perfect one. However, this dress was unlike anything he'd seen in this modern era. Most were so revealing and he'd simply come to expect the same would be for hers.
The long train he'd expected, but the lace sleeves that extended the full length of her arms had his mind reeling. The sheer material continued just below her shoulders, baring only the tops of them and her neck for his viewing, and continued only a few more inches before her bodice, another layer of white material, covered the remainder of her skin. That same material fit her all the way down her body.
As she moved toward him, however, her dress became a distant thought as he could finally catch her eyes; those green eyes he so adored.
"Breathe, Crane," he heard Abbie whisper.
He wasn't sure he knew how to do that any longer.
By the time she was before him, he was on the verge of weeping, the hot tears somehow managing to remain locked behind his lids. Reaching for her hand, he moved to stand closer to her, locking his gaze with hers.
"You're so..." He swallowed the knot in his throat. "Breathtaking."
Katrina's smile was enough to cause him to lose his place and lean in to brush his lips against hers, absorbing the soft way her skin clung to his.
She even tasted breathtaking!
"Alright, alright." Abbie said as she gestured between them. "Hold your horses."
Katrina laughed as she laid a hand to his chest and eased away from him. "I believe you're getting ahead of yourself, my love."
"Hardly," he whispered, still breathing her in. "I've yet to whisk you away."
Her laughter lit the night air, leaving him feeling as though she'd just sparked every nerve in his body.
The clearing of a throat prompted him to finally look at Abbie, who was raising an eyebrow.
"Whoever wants to go first."
Right. Their vows.
Never before had he been so without words. As a man with quite the extensive vocabulary, for the past few weeks, he'd been completely muted in mind. It was as though he'd forgotten everything he'd ever read or heard.
"I, uhm," Katrina chuckled as she threaded their fingers together. "I could start."
"Please," he whispered, his voice too strained with emotion to say much of anything at all.
"I really don't know where to begin." She smiled as she ran her thumb over his knuckles. "You're infuriating."
Raising an eyebrow, he met her with his own smile.
"You truly are and that was the first thought I can remember having about you. There you were, this tall, handsome soldier, with your title and your name. I could tell right off that you were a prideful man; one who took his position seriously. I told myself right then and there that I was going to set you in your place." They both chuckled before she shook her head. "Then, you opened your mouth and with every word that came from your lips, I could feel my heart quicken with the realization that you were different; that you weren't just prideful, but actually compassionate."
She shrugged her shoulders with a laugh.
"And that's where it all started. I should have known then that I'd never escape that feeling I'd had. Every new day, every new meeting... I learned of your compassion and loyalty, your pride and even your wrath. I came to know what it was to see a man hold back his urges and his wants; to put his own feelings aside in light of another's. You are my favorite person to just be with, whether we're sitting in silence or arguing over the shapes of a cloud. You're my best friend because you've always listened. You're my lover because no one else has ever cared to know the difference between what I wanted and what I needed. And even through all the secrets and lies, both amongst ourselves and against each other, through everyone and everything saying it wasn't meant to be for us, that we weren't meant for each other, I never wavered in knowing you were my soul mate. Even when I thought I'd never be with you again, I knew you were mine and that I was yours."
Unable to keep his hands from her, he lifted his hand to wipe a finger over her cheek to collect the tears there, sure his heart was going to break through his chest.
"There is nothing and no one in this world, neither in my past nor present, who has ever held so much of my heart in his hands. My promise to you is that wherever life takes you, that's where I'll be, too. I will be your comforter in every hour. I will be your partner on whatever path you take; in whatever challenge you face. I will be the loudest supporter you have and your greatest defender, even when I want to strangle you myself." Chuckling through his tears, he pressed a kiss to her fingers. "Without reservation, I will love you today and for everyday to come; both in this life and the next."
Sucking in a deep breath, he shook his head and looked at his feet. "I knew I should have gone first."
Katrina's laugh brought a smile to his face as she lifted her finger to show the silver ring loosely hanging from it.
Throat having closed off a while ago, he held up his hand, allowing her to slide the ring onto his finger. The moment it was in place and she was sliding her fingers down his, he met her gaze to find her eyes glistening.
If he became any more emotional, he'd start weeping like a child.
"I once told you that love was a luxury few ever come to know." He paused, tracing his fingertip along the ring, while attempting to gather himself. "And that was true. My parents didn't love one another, nor did my grandparents. It was simply the way life went. Settling. It's what everyone did. Katrina..." He pressed closer to her, his voice thick. "I hardly knew what it was that was happening when I was with you. I felt like... like I was suffocating with the feelings you stirred within me." He smiled and pressed a hand to her side to pull her against him. "It seemed the harder I fought my growing feelings, the more they grew. It was forbidden and at times it felt sinful, but I always knew it was right." Tracing his thumb over her jaw, he went on, "For so long, I thought this day would never come. I promised I'd wait forever for you, but I'm really glad forever has come due."
"I had a plan when I came to this land. I had goals and aspirations. Then, I met you and you taught me what it was to allow my life to become one of my own making. You taught me what it was to dream of more than the things that I thought I had to concede to. You taught me what love is. What it is to relinquish my control and allow another person to possess my heart. I've always thrived off of being the most knowledgeable person in the room, but you taught me that my life's journey isn't something you can find in a book. It's not something to be taken for granted. With you, I learned that every day is precious and I fully intend to spend every day for the rest of my life implementing the knowledge you've instilled in me. You will know every day that you are adored; that every breath you take for the rest of your life is sought after and treasured. I vow that I will never take you for granted and that everything I am and everything I have is yours to do with as you will. From this day until my last day, I am yours, Katrina van Tassel."
As he searched his pocket and produced the small band he'd earlier placed there, he took her fingers between his and slid it to join the engagement ring still in its resting place. The two matched perfectly and, seeing his and hers side by side, brought his gaze to find the brightest smile he'd ever seen shining on her face.
A pause lingered where, if he was asked, he would swear they were the only two people in the world.
However, a throat cleared and then Abbie's voice drifted between them. "With your vows to one another and with my legal authorization via the internet as of eight-thirty this morning, I now pronounce you husband and wife." Abbie leaned close. "Now comes the kissing part."
Not wasting a moment, his hands found her waist and pulled her close. And for the very first time, he kissed his wife.
"Is this cake from Mrs. Blackwood's Bakery?" Jenny eyed the three tier cake as she took another bite. "It tastes amazing."
"Uh, yes, it is." Katrina chuckled as she pressed a kiss to Hugo's head. "She does amazing work."
Jenny nodded before raising an eyebrow. "It's a bit much for five people, isn't it?"
He perked up at that. "Katrina wants to donate everything left over to the homeless shelter in town."
"And here I thought I could put a bid in for taking it for myself." Jenny shrugged her shoulders. "Can't win them all, I guess."
"Hey, guys, we're gonna head out." Abbie nodded toward the door. "We've got an early day tomorrow."
Katrina nodded toward the food. "Please, take as much as you want."
Abbie held up her hands. "I've eaten my fill. I feel like this dress is about to pop."
"But it still looks amazing on you," Luke said with a kiss to her cheek.
Abbie cut her eyes at him in an appreciative manner before nodding to Jenny. "You ready? We need to get this stuff together."
"Yes," Jenny quickly replied, yet to release her hold on the plate in her hand. "Hugo's going to keep me up all night. I might as well get an early start on trying to sleep."
Katrina seemed reluctant to part with the baby, making him smile as he held out his arms for him. "You're such a baby hoarder."
She smiled as she eased Hugo into his arms. "I can't help it. He's so precious."
As he pulled the babe close, he heard Jenny say, "Go make your own. That one's mine."
While Katrina laughed, he couldn't help but wish for just that. Holding Hugo only made the urge worse. He wanted to be a father nearly as badly as he'd been wanting to be Katrina's husband.
One goal was achieved, at last. Now, to get on the other...
Lighting the last candle, he set the lighter in the bedside drawer and set about his top buttons, undoing the first three to give him some air. Nerves weren't foreign to him as he dealt with them every day, but tonight, in particular, they seemed to be waging an even fiercer war against him than usual.
Katrina was in her old room undressing as he'd insisted he be allowed a few minutes alone.
Now, here he was, sitting on the bed in her parent's old room. As he glanced about it, he took in how much larger it was in comparison to the one he and Katrina shared in their other house. To think, this was the place he'd spend the rest of his days with her. It seemed a little strange if he was being honest. This house was a piece of their life that had somehow been preserved throughout the centuries. Katrina had saved it, with the two of them in mind. She'd dreamed a life for them in the very house into which she'd been born and now it was coming to pass. The strange part came in when he imagined what her father would say if he knew his daughter was married to him and now residing in his house.
Rising from the bed, he walked over to the double doors leading to the balcony and walked out into the night. The crisp air caused his skin to prickle, soothing the heat he was giving off from his earlier exertion to light the three dozen candles inside their new room. Perhaps, he was overdoing it there, but Abbie had said all girls love candles and the extra mile. So, he'd set them in every corner, on every surface, of the room. Luke had thought he needed just as many roses to scatter everywhere, but he'd stopped him there. That really would have been overdoing it.
The view overlooked the garden, its stillness a peaceful relief from the busyness of being within the city limits with hundreds of other people constantly moving around one another.
Leaning over the railing, he released a heavy breath, one that was quick to swirl the air before him in a puff of white.
Things were going to be different now. For the first time in his life, he had no mission; no enemies attempting to steal all that was precious to him. He had the luxury to simply be. All that was left to do was be whatever he chose. He supposed it was a good thing he already knew what he wanted to do with the remaining years of his life. It was the same thing he'd dreamed of doing since he'd realized he was in love with Katrina van Tassel: being a husband to her and a father to their children. He wanted every day to be a new adventure, one that consisted of laughter and life; of learning and teaching. Even with the few arguments that were sure to come between he and Katrina, he still longed for such an existence; for the luxury to argue with her whenever he pleased over anything they chose without having to worry about the end of the world coming about to destroy them.
"It's beautiful here, isn't it?"
Caught off guard by her voice, he spun on his heel to find her standing just inside the doors, her arms crossed over her chest and her expression content. However, what truly caught his attention was the clothing, or lack thereof, that she was wearing.
The sheer white satin covered little and it had his body warming considerably in spite of the cool night air.
"You uh..." Clearing his throat, he took a few steps forward. "Yes, it's..." His eyes ventured over the outline of her visible form. "Beautiful."
The way her smile grew brought his own around as he finally was within reach to put his hands on her.
"Are you attempting to see my virtue taken, Madam?"
Her laugh shook the both of them as he slid his hands around her waist and over her lower back, the soft material tickling his skin.
"I'd love to have the ability to steal your virtue again," she said as her fingers twisted his buttons. "You came for me so willingly." Her lips brushed his as she went on, "And I for you."
Eyes dancing over her beaming face, he whispered, "You still affect me the same."
Fingers tangling in the front of his shirt, she smiled as she began tugging him further into the room. "Tell, Mr. Crane... What's my name?"
It was a simple question, but it still managed to take his breath as he considered the answer.
"Katrina Rose Crane."
Within a breath of him, she asked, "Say it again."
As he did, she pushed at his chest until he was sitting on the bed's edge and repeated her request for a third time.
"Katrin-" He groaned as she settled in his lap, her arms resting over his shoulders and her fingers in his hair. "Crane."
The warm breath between them was skyrocketing his blood pressure. That and so much of her body displayed in such an enticing manner were about all he could handle.
Hands on her bare thighs, he pushed them under the thin material of the gown, easing his calloused hands over her smooth skin.
"How many times have you imagined this?" She lifted herself until her face was hovering a few centimeters over his, the muscles in her thighs tightening under his hands.
"This?" he asked, his breathing staggered as his eyes ventured down the image of her, the sheer white hiding nothing of her pale skin beneath it. "It's never looked like this."
The feel of her mouth meeting his ear sent a ripple along his body, the warm, slick heat creating a great many wonderful sensations within him.
"I have a surprise for you," she whispered, her fingers splaying in his hair.
"There's more than this?" He wet his throat. "I'm not sure I can take more, my love."
As she pulled back to catch his eyes, she sat herself in his lap with a smile, her dimples on full display as he placed a hand to her back to hold her close.
"Let's just say..." Her mouth twitched. "That when we make love, there may be more than sparks created between us."
Not quite understanding, but feeling as though he should be catching on to something, he knit his brow. "I don't understand."
"Last week, after you packed to stay here..." She tilted her head toward the bed. "I may have thrown out those pills I take every morning."
"Pills..." he muttered, attempting to recall what she meant. Then, all at once, his eyes widened as he pulled back. "Your... pills." He bobbed his head side to side. "We can-"
"Yes," she laughed, taking one of his hands in hers and kissing the pads of his fingers. "We can, my love."
"Finally," he whispered as he pulled her close without hesitation and captured her mouth, his lips covering hers with all the ferocity of a lover having gone without his greatest desires.
The soft whimper she made as he pulled her lower body tighter against his only fueled him on as he dropped his hand to her backside, tugging at her skin, desperate to get her closer. He wanted every part of her against him with no part of his want left to question.
Her fingernails bit into his shoulder, her muscles drawing tight as she clung to him. It was as though she was trying to claw her way within him as the hot air between them continued to build.
When her thighs clutched around his hips, an involuntary buck from him pressed his pulsing length between them.
"Katrina," he moaned as he sought air by pulling back and moving down her neck, trailing his lips along her skin; tasting her flesh and nipping at it. God, how he wanted to taste every part of her. He'd barely kissed her all week. He felt like a man deprived of water; of sustenance; of everything that was meant to keep him on his feet.
While her hands roamed his shoulders and back, she kept her mouth close to his ear as she spoke to him.
"I booked our flight for two-thirty tomorrow evening." A shudder went through her as he slipped his fingers between her thighs. "We can-" Her nails bit into his back. "We can sleep in."
Using his other hand to support her neck, he pressed his thumb into her folds, teasingly rubbing over them rather than between them. With every swipe, he swore her fingers dug further into his skin.
However, the parts of her neck and jaw his mouth was exploring was what held most of his attention. He loved kissing her more than anything else.
"Wha-" Her thigh muscles clutched at his hand. "What do you want for breakfast?"
"Katrina..." he breathed, pulling back to catch a glimpse of her flushed face. "Why are you asking about breakfast right now?"
Tongue darting out to wet her red, swollen lips, she whispered, "I'm afraid if I don't distract myself, this will all be over before it even begins."
Her green eyes, darkened with arousal, spoke volumes to her need.
"Oh, Katrina, love," he whispered as he stroked his free hand over her face as the other was still relentlessly plundering between her thighs. "You might as well. It's not as though I'm going to stop with pleasuring you once."
As her eyes danced between his, she said, "Is that so?"
After stealing a quick kiss, he replied, "Well, the longer this goes on, the greater the chance becomes that we'll make a baby."
Eyebrows lifting, she laughed, "So, it's not about me at all. You just want to get me pregnant."
He grinned as he delved deeper into her folds, coating his fingers in her slick arousal with a grin. "It's always about you, my love. Shall I prove it?"
"You're doing better," she murmured as her body began to quake, her quick breaths a better signal than a light bulb.
"How about now?" The heat within her made his mouth water as he dipped two fingers within her. "Does this help?"
Her eyes began blinking at a quicker pace as she whimpered, "A little."
The way her body pushed his fingers deeper into her caused him to groan as her inner muscles clutched at his digits, pulling them in as far as he could manage to get them.
"Surely, you've nothing to doubt now?" he asked as she rocked against him, her body giving over to his ministrations.
The way her mouth opened in a silent cry as she shuddered over him looked positively sinful. If he could spend the rest of his life pleasuring her like this and doing nothing else, he wouldn't complain for a minute. There was little more beautiful than seeing his love fall apart in this manner.
As her grip on him began to loosen, he stood, wrapping her legs around his waist, and turned to lay her amidst the pillows. Her red hair, a beautiful contrast to the dark green of the pillow cases swept all over the place as she reached up to pull him down for a kiss.
Following her onto the bed, he straddled her, tasting her soft skin as she pushed his shirt down his arms. Where it ended up, he didn't know, nor did he care. All he could contemplate at this time was where her hands were and what they were doing to him. The way she could slip them around him and ease them into places before he was any the wiser never ceased to amuse him. If he left it to her, his end would be upon him before he was out of his clothes.
But before she could get too carried away with undressing him, he pulled out of her kiss and began backing his way down her body, pressing kisses over the soft material of her gown as he went. His hand palmed her breast, his fingers kneading the supple skin through the satin as he sucked at the material over her bellybutton, his tongue pushing against it; soaking it through.
He'd have been content to just lather kisses to her skin all night if not for the gentle press of her fingers as she combed them through his hair, which effectively pulled his gaze up to find her watching him through heavy lids; the fluttering of her eyes making her all the more alluring.
"God, you're beautiful," he whispered, resting his chin to her belly as he held her hips.
The smile that crept over her face tugged his own out as she dragged her fingers down his cheek and over his lips. "Will you still say that when I'm old and wrinkled?"
Kissing her fingertips, he replied, "If you'll still look at me that way when my face sags and I have hair growing out of my ears and nose."
Her whole body shook as she tilted her head back with laughter.
"I'm very serious, Mrs. Crane," he went on, drumming his fingers over her ribs. "This is of great concern to me."
Amusement was still present in her eyes as she looked down at him. "We'll both be so blind, we won't know any better."
Unable to help but chuckle at her prediction, he nodded. "I suppose I should get my fill now, then. I need to accumulate as many memories as possible before I can no longer see you."
She tapped his nose, her grin still lingering. "Accumulate away."
"Oh, I shall," he promised as he rubbed the tickle to his nose against her gown. "Prepare yourself."
Making good on his promise, he recommenced his journey until he was between her parted thighs, the lithe feel of her skin tantalizing against his tongue, the heady scent of her arousal intoxicating enough to get him drunk off her.
Sliding one of his arms under her backside, he pushed it up her body until his hand was splayed against the center of her back, holding her up so he could comfortably make himself at home where he wanted. Just the sight of her aroused flesh conjured all sorts of sensations along his spine; the way it glistened in the candle light; each fold slightly darker than the one before it.
With a lick to his lips, he pressed his hips into the bed in the hopes to get a little relief to the ache in his trousers.
"Is my preparation in vain, or do you actually intend to do something?"
Eyes flickering to hers, which were raised in question, his lips curled up. "Forgive my attempt to set aside my own needs in light of yours."
"Oh?" she asked, her lips twitching. "Are you not pleased to please me?"
"Why, Mrs. Crane, I do believe you've gotten greedy."
The moment she opened her mouth to respond, he pressed the flat of his tongue to her skin and rolled it from her opening to her mound before smacking his lips, her taste coating every corner of his mouth as a wolfish grin came to his face at the way she tensed, her fingers clutching at the blanket.
"I despise you," she whispered as she arched her body, her hips attempting to drive his finger, which was lazily tracing her outer folds, further into her.
"Ah, now, don't be that way, my love." He brought his thumb up to circle her clit. "You adore the way I infuriate you. Isn't that what you said earlier?"
As her head rolled to the side so she could look down her body at him, she narrowed her eyes. "You're the devil."
"Then, that makes you the devil's bride." He tilted his head, his smirk not to be stopped. "It's actually rather believable."
Before he could move, she'd sat up and slapped him against his shoulder. However, before she could give another such blow, he caught her hand and pinned it behind her back before pulling her down beside him.
"Now, now, Mrs. Crane," he teased as he rolled over her while securing her hands over her head. "You're doing nothing to help your case."
"Ichabod," she groaned as she bucked under him, her knee attempting to forcefully wedge between his legs. "Stop being such an ornery bastard."
Letting go of one of her hands to stop her from handicapping him for the evening, he caught her knee. "That would hardly solve anything."
Her hand, now free, shoved at his chest and, with him so off balance, she managed to flip them over until she was in a position to straddle him.
Now, head at the end of the bed, he was faced with his arms being pinned under her weight as she leaned over him, a satisfied look on her face.
"I intend to have your mouth on me, dear husband." Her fingers wove through his hair as she eased her hips forward. "Please me."
This was not how this night was meant to go. It was supposed to be special and memorable, not... quite so dirty.
Be that as it may, she was close enough to smell; the heady scent so strong he felt he was being branded with it. There were worse things she could do to him, he imagined as his fingers clutched at her lower back as that was as far as he could reach. Then, with little ado, he buried his nose in her heat with the full intentions to have her gasping by the end of it.
Their dance began and, not long into it, a throaty moan slipped between her lips as she rocked over him, her fingers tugging at his hair; pulling him this way and that as she pleased.
The ability to breathe wavered, but he wouldn't have traded her taste for air anyway. Groaning into her slick flesh, he swore he was drowning in her arousal, his tongue flicking back and forth through her depths as best he could from his pinned position; every taste another reason to continue on.
His hands eased to her backside so he could help her rock against him, guiding her in the hopes of finding a better rhythm with which to please her. He swore to God that if he was ever dolled out some form of punishment, he would pray for this to be among the contenders; if for nothing else than the view he was currently enjoying.
Her red hair hung down around her face as her mouth remained slightly parted, allowing her quick little whimpers to pass unhindered. Though, admittedly, he took to enjoying the way with each rock forward, her gown went with it, permitting him a view past the satin with the sight of her breasts on full display as they swayed with her movements.
Groaning into her folds, he bucked his hips up to find no relief for the ache he thought would surely explode through him at any moment. If he wasn't permitted to better touch her soon, he was sure such an event would come to pass.
Fingers digging into her backside, his tongue wiggled its way into her entrance and pushed forward, the slick heat of her core welcoming him with a shudder.
"Ichabod..." she moaned, her fingers leaving his hair to clutch at the bedspread as she began rolling her hips faster.
Her breasts began bouncing with her rhythm, leaving him to inhale sharply at the way her body's blush turned her pink. He wanted to kiss her there. He wanted to kiss her everywhere; most especially when her mouth parted wider and her whimpers began to grow in volume. It was then that he felt a simultaneous clench from her muscles around his tongue.
Flicking it faster, he pulled her tighter against him and felt the quiver that came with her release as pure shocks began to shake her, causing her to fold over as she bit into her arm. It was mesmerizing to watch her come undone in such an unadulterated fashion; to watch her lose all sense of her control and collapse from her body's own need to rest.
Soon, she was backing off him, her body slumping forward and releasing his arms as her breasts now became his view once more. While his arms felt rather dead from being so out of commission, he took a cleansing breath and wrapped them around her back, glad to be able to pull himself closer to her.
"I'm pretty sure if I tried to walk right now, I wouldn't be able to."
Her low whisper caused him to grunt as he pressed himself into her thigh. "Trust me, you're not the only one."
When she lifted her head, she had a lazy smile on her lips. "You deserve such torture, you ornery devil."
Hand tangling in her hair, he pulled her down into a kiss, one he intended to use as a means to turn her own taste against her. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, he knew she enjoyed the way she tasted. More than once, he'd caught her bringing her fingers to her lips after taking her pleasure into her own hands when she'd thought him asleep.
In a bid for entrance, he roughly jutted his tongue against her lips, tracing the soft flesh back and forth until she finally submitted to his probing. The moment she relaxed, he delved between her lips and through her teeth, seeking her cavern with a ravenous desire.
Her moan of approval caused him to rut his hips upward, desperate for the pulsing throb in his trousers to find its home between her thighs. Unable to stand it another moment, he took her hips in his hands and rolled them over, picking up the speed with which he was thrusting against her as he settled between her legs, which thankfully wrapped around him in return.
Teeth scraping along her collarbone, he searched out the pulse point on her exposed neck and began sucking on her flesh there as his fingers tugged the thin straps of her gown down until he could cup her breast in his hand. A sigh made its way into their kiss as she laid her hand over his and guided him to where she wanted on her breast, her fingers making sure he touched her nipple that felt so hard he thought it might break right off.
Soon enough, he could feel the place her heart was hammering under his palm and it drove him to pull himself away from her skin to continue tugging the gown down her body. If anything, the feel of her heart beating so fast reminded him of his own racing pulse. Every drop of blood within him felt like it was rushing to his groin, pressuring him into the release he desperately needed.
That need wasn't helped as with each new inch of her skin revealed, he couldn't help but lean forward to press open mouthed kisses to it, not wasting a moment to keep them connected.
Once he'd reached as far as he could without moving from her, he was reluctantly forced to sit up and lift each of her legs to remove the gown.
Eyes tracing up her body, he took in the way her flushed chest rose and fell; the way her throat bobbed every few seconds as she attempted to wet her throat; the way her eyes flickered over him. He was the luckiest man alive. How he obtained such a creatures heart was a question he never ceased asking himself.
Sitting up on his knees, he dropped his hands to his belt and began tugging it through the loops.
"Don't ever lose that gown," he whispered as he nodded toward the place he'd dropped it on the bed.
Her lips curled. "Wait until you see the red one I bought." She drummed the pads of her fingers against her belly. "You won't make it this far still in control of yourself."
If she was trying to torture him, she was doing a fantastic job of it.
All elegance and gentleman like behavior gone, he hastily shoved his trousers down his legs, wiggling out of them with a groan as his length was finally freed.
"The devil's bride, indeed," he growled as he crawled over her on all fours. "What will I do with you?"
"Treasure and adore me as you promised."
Gaze trailing over her breasts, he bent and wrapped his lips around her nipple, enjoying the way the hard flesh popped from his mouth as he released it. "You misunderstood."
"Did I?" she asked, her fingers working their way up his arms. "Then, why don't you tell me what you meant."
"I believe I said I was going to pleasure and explore you."
Her laughter lit the room, bringing his own smile to light. When she laughed, really laughed, he sometimes just had to sit back in awe of it.
"Oh my dear husband," she said as she took his face between her hands. "You're so amusing that I just might keep you."
Pressing his forehead to hers, he whispered, "My wife."
He honestly loved saying it.
Her fingers began tracing the scar along his chest. "My lover."
When her hand descended even further, her slender fingers wrapping around his length, he lost all the composure he'd had.
"My Katrina," he breathed, his voice stuck somewhere in the back of his throat as she guided him between her legs.
The shudder that passed through her as she accepted each inch of him caused his arms to begin shaking at the way her muscles contracted around him. His breathing began to quicken from the ripples of pleasure shooting through him. The way she consumed him, her hips angling just so to pull him even further in had him clutching the blankets beneath them to keep from jerking back and plunging deeper in search of more of her.
Staggered pants were all he could manage to keep himself breathing in order to fight off the wave of dizziness coming over him.
"My everything," she whispered in his ear, her voice wavering as she splayed her fingers over his shoulders and clutched him closer.
Nuzzling her neck, he gripped the blankets and gave a determined roll of his hips against her, unsure he was even going to be able to get started with a good rhythm before he came undone. The sensations rocking him felt like trails of fire were rippling over his body, consuming every inch of him.
"Katrina," he whimpered, his voice strained. "I'm too aroused to move."
With his whisper, she pressed her fingers into his shoulder. Taking the hint, he let her roll them over.
He doubted he'd have been much use any way.
Her hands splayed over his shoulders as she began circling her hips, her inner muscles clutching him with no mercy; the slick building between them giving its sound of approval with each rotation of her hips.
Hands falling to her waist, he tilted his head back as he gripped her so tight he was sure to leave trace of it.
The tickle of her hair against his face brought his eyes open in time to see her lean over him, her lips brushing over his before pausing to just breathe with him. It was a dizzying effect; the heat warming him all over.
"I love you," she whispered, her fingers easing up to slide along his cheek. "Everything about you."
As she began kissing down his neck, his eyes fell closed, taking it all in. However, the one sharp nip of her teeth to his flesh was what sent him right over the edge.
The pulse in his cock shattered as his release exploded through him; every last ounce of his strength evaporating and washing into her. Clutching at her sides, he felt as though his energy was being sapped right out of him as she continued to snap her hips around him, drawing it all out as though she knew it belonged to her.
Heat swept up him, from his toes to his ears, which felt so hot they would surely spark at any moment.
As the last of his seed spurted from him, he became a limp, trembling mess beneath her; completely drained of his core as the hazy cloud of arousal dimmed somewhat in his swirling vision.
The warmth of her breath as her mouth pressed along his sweaty shoulders was a sweet companion to the heat flushing the rest of his body. It was intoxicating; like she knew just what to do to ease him back to earth.
When her fingers weaved through his hair, she turned her face into him and whispered in his ear, "Are you alright?"
"Ask me again in about an hour," he breathed, his hands splaying along her spine and massaging her muscles.
"Hmm," she murmured as she nuzzled into his neck, the heat from her breath causing his eyes to fall closed. "I thought so."
Lifting his head, he looked at the pillows at the other end of the bed and dropped his head with a groan. "They're so far away."
"And who said I was done with you, yet?"
Turning his head, he found her lips curled into a teasing smile. "Do you ever run out of energy?"
Her fingers danced over his arm as she propped her head in her hands. "No, but you have a whole month in a hotel room to try to sap it from me."
Raising an eyebrow, he chuckled, "You could at least tell me where we're going."
"And where's the fun in that?" she taunted, her smile growing. "You got to decorate the yard and this room in secret."
He was cut off with a finger to the lips.
"I don't think I've thanked you yet," she whispered, her eyes dancing as they softened. "I felt so special."
"You are special." He brushed her hair over her ear. "I love you more with every breath."
With a smile, she sat up and took his hand to pull him with her. "Come here. I want you to hold me, husband."
More than happy to concede to her wishes, he followed her to the head of the bed and helped her pull the blankets down so they could slip under them. When they were both covered, she turned and wrapped an arm around his waist as she snuggled into him.
"I know it's not really any different," he whispered. "But I can't help but feel it is."
"Of course, it's different," she replied, amusement in her voice. "We're no longer living in sin."
He chuckled. "I don't know. What you did earlier certainly seemed sinful."
She lifted her head, her grin on full display. "Well, I am the devil's bride."
As she settled back down, he took her hand and began tracing her rings, admiring how the silver sparkled in the candlelight.
"I'm going to miss Hugo," she whispered. "He brings me so much joy."
Running his fingers through her hair, he smiled. "Maybe we shouldn't stay gone a whole month."
She laughed and pressed a kiss to his skin. "I suppose we'll have to play it by ear."
The shadows dancing over the ceiling drew his gaze as he admitted, "It doesn't really matter to me where we are. I'm just happy to be with you."
"Is it all you ever wanted?" She took his hand and brought his ring finger to her lips. "Has it met expectations?"
Slipping his fingers under her chin, he lifted her face to his. "Being your husband, wearing this ring..." He shook his head. "It exceeds everything I've ever dreamed of."
Her eyes softened. "You've always been my dream."
Overcome with too much emotion to remain as he was, he captured her lips within his own and rolled to lay over her. As she melted into him, clearly ready to follow him wherever he led, he whispered, "It's not a dream any longer."
Next up: The honeymoon. Where will Katrina take him and how will Ichabod react?