**Sorry for the delay in writing. Things have been very busy as of late.

**Someone has expressed through the reviews their extreme dislike of my story. As an author, I am glad to see that my writing has evoked such passion from someone, whether it be good or bad. While a person's opinion is theirs to share, I apologize on behalf of this person who is seemingly incapable of writing a coherent review that is not profanity laden. I have added profanity filters through my account, so I hope that those words will be blocked from here on out, but it doesn't seem to have much effect on past reviews. I will also state the obvious in that if anyone does not like my story they are under no obligation to keep reading. Enjoy!

Homecoming-Chapter 15

"Jack!" Elizabeth moaned, hiding her face in his chest, mortified beyond belief that Rosemary had obviously heard their conversation and God only knew what else.

He chuckled softly. "Still too embarrassed to go to church"

"Yes!" she cried. "Now, even more so!"

"Well, that settles it! I am going to start working on our house as soon as possible! I definitely want to get some space between us and our neighbors!"

"The sooner the better!" she concurred.

Jack gave her a quick squeeze and then slid out from under her, then bent down and pulled on his drawers carelessly thrown on the floor the night before. "Better see to that fire," he said, cheeks reddening from being overheard and the newness of being naked in front of his bride.

As he walked past the window he first glanced at it, then stopped to study it further. "Elizabeth, did you know that your window is open a little?"

"Oh! I guess I forgot to make sure it shut all the way yesterday! I opened it to get some fresh air in here when Rosemary got a little crazy with some perfume she wanted me to try."

"Sweetheart," he began patiently, "you do realize that leaving your windows unlocked is incredibly dangerous? I hope that you didn't do that regularly while I was gone!"

Elizabeth sat up in the bed and gave him a mock salute. "Yes, sir!" she told him.

He shut the window with flourish and finality, while telling her, "I am serious, Elizabeth! Please promise me that you won't do that again whenever I am not here. It is dangerous and it also explains why it was so cold in here this morning, not to mention it explains how Rosemary heard us."

Elizabeth saw the concern in his eyes and decided to drop it. She knew that he was only trying to protect her because he loved her. She didn't really think that there was a lot of risk of bodily harm befalling her in Hope Valley, especially through a second story window, but she understood that with his career choice, he might not always think the best of people. In fact, quite often, while friendly, he did seem to be guarded and cautious around strangers when they first came to town until he got to know them better and could better gauge their intentions.

She got out of bed, standing to wrap her arms around his waist. When he looked down at her, her expression contrite, he couldn't help by give her a wry smile.

"I am just glad I didn't know that you were doing that while I was away, or I never would have been able to relax for a minute!"

"I'm sorry, Jack! I guess I am complacent living here. Nothing bad seems to happen, and when it does, you take care of it."

"Thank you!" he said, relieved that she seemed to understand his concerns. "I only want you to be safe, Elizabeth. I know that nothing out of the ordinary has happened in here in a long time, but I am sure that once again you will soon be fodder for all of the society pages in newspapers around the country and we don't need to go borrowing trouble in case someone is looking to make a quick fortune by trying to rob you… Or worse!"

"If someone tries to rob us, they are too stupid to not be in jail, since my husband is a Mountie!"

"A Mountie who will be gone from time to time, don't forget."

Suddenly, Elizabeth looked stricken.

"What is it?" he asked her, completely bemused.

"Are you going to really be gone all that much?" she asked him in a quiet voice.

"I don't know. I hope not. But, it will happen occasionally, for sure, and I don't want you to be vulnerable. I worry especially now with the railroad having come to town. Before, we knew almost everyone; but now, anyone can ride in and ride out at any given time. It makes us more of a target than the towns that don't have the rail. Easier access means more crime; it is a given."

Elizabeth was looking at him with something akin to hunger in her eyes. He stopped talking and cocked his head to the side. "What?" he asked her.

"Nothing! You are just kinda cute when you talk law enforcement."

"Oh. So we are back to just 'kinda cute' now, are we?"

Elizabeth smiled and shook her head, moving closer to him. "How about I love it when you talk law enforcement and get all in charge and protective. It is very… captivating."

"Like the handcuffs you wanted to try out?"

"Perhaps," Elizabeth added coyly as she pulled on and closed her robe around her body. "What can I do that will allow me to be arrested and taken to jail with the local Mountie for the night?"

Suddenly a strange look crossed Jack's face. "What?" Elizabeth asked him, perplexed by his sudden demeanor change.

"It just dawned on me that if I arrest someone, I will have to stay with them in the jail and not come home!"

"Oh!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "I hadn't thought about that, either. That is a most unfortunate part of your job description, isn't it?"

"Elizabeth," Jack said, his eyes sad. "I am serious! I never even thought about that. I mean, logically, I know that I have to stay there whenever I have a prisoner detained, but when I thought about the nights I would have to be away from you, I always just imagined they would be ones when I was traveling somewhere. Now, I realize it will be even more often than I thought!"

"It's alright, Jack. I promise! Somehow it will seem easier if I know you are in town. At least I know I can get to you if need be."

"And what need would that be, Elizabeth?"

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps if I need help with opening a jar, or," Elizabeth continued as she walked closer to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Maybe if I get lonely?" She stretched up to kiss him on the lips.

He couldn't help but kiss her back, even with his feelings of defeat about having to be away from her more than he already had resigned to be. After a few moments, he broke from their clinch and looked down at her.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to her, placing his forehead on hers. "I was so selfish asking you to marry me. I didn't think everything through."

"Jack, honestly, it is alright! I am used to being alone at night you know, so it won't be a horrific thing if I need to be every now and again. But, I know one way you can lessen having to worry about it."

"How's that?" he asked her.

"Just make sure that you are very thorough with your job during the day so that you can prevent crime before it happens!"

"You mean like making sure my wife closes and locks the windows every night before she goes to bed ?" he asked with a smirk on his face.

Elizabeth heaved a big sigh. Of course it would come back to that. "Alright, Constable. Consider it done!"

"Thank you!" he sighed in relief.

"Now, I am getting really cold. How about you go and stoke that fire or you join me back in bed. Your choice." She ran back across the frigid boards, pulling her robe off as she traveled, leaving it in a heap on the floor before jumping in and covering her lithe body with the quilts.

"You strip down in front of me and ask me what my choice is?" he grinned as he quickly stepped out of his drawers. "The fire can wait!"

And wait the fire did as they fully enjoyed each other. Each time they made love, Elizabeth felt a little more in control of what was happening and Jack was gaining more confidence. As they felt like they were better in charge of their faculties, they were better able to focus on bringing the other one pleasure and their unions were getting better and better with each encounter.

Afterwards, Jack snuggled into his bride and pulled her closer to him as he fell back asleep. Several hours later, they awoke embracing each other and enjoying the indescribable sensation of skin-on-skin contact. He rolled over onto his back and her head rested on his strong shoulder. He entwined his hand in hers and she noticed the glint that bounced off his ring.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"For what?" he asked, confused. He didn't think he had done anything that warranted her gratitude since waking up just a few minutes before.

Elizabeth brought their hands up to her mouth and kissed his ring. "For this. For wearing a ring. I didn't expect it, so it really was a surprise. But, I am so happy that you are."

"I wouldn't want it any other way," he declared solemnly. "I want the entire world to see that my heart belongs to you!"

"I appreciate that! I just thought that with how physical your job is and how the men tend to harass those of you who get married, I figured you wouldn't want to advertise it."

"My job is physical, you are right in that. However, so is a farmer's, a black smith's, or a carpenter's, and those who live in town all wear rings anyway. I figure if they can do it, so can I. But, as for the cost, don't worry about that. It was my father's ring. My mother gave it to me when she came to visit before I got hurt. I think it was her way of saying that she approved of you. She told me that he would have loved you and that he would want me to wear his ring as a token of his best wishes for a marriage as fulfilling as theirs."

"I love you!" she told him softly as she held their hands up towards the ceiling so she could admire the silvery band that encased his finger.

"I love you, as well," he said as he bent his head down to kiss the top of her head. "But, I really need to get that fire going. I am sure it is now completely out and the stove is most likely all the way cold now. Just stay here and I will be back soon."

Elizabeth lay in what was now their bed and listened as Jack pounded down the stairs and into the main room. She heard when he opened the door to the stove and carefully places the bigger logs and then the smaller kindling in beside it and then she heard him start to laugh.

Her curiosity was peaked and she called downstairs, "What is it, Jack?"

He was still laughing too hard to have heard her, but she felt too lazy to actually rouse herself out of the warm, soft bed and descending down to the cold first floor, so she waited until he stopped laughing and then detected the distinct sound of his striking a match, followed by his shutting of the stove door with finality. He must have stood there for a few minutes, because Elizabeth dozed a little until she awoke to his lifting the covers and slipping back in beside her. He pulled her warm body into his and she shivered in response. His skin was like ice because he had run downstairs without any clothing but his drawers.

"Brrr!" Elizabeth cried.

"What are you complaining about?" Jack demanded good-naturedly. "I am the one who ventured out into the freezing house to light a fire!"

"Thank you!" she told him politely.

"My pleasure!" he responded as he began to nuzzle the crook of her neck and wrapped a cold hand around her breast. "It was well worth it when I know who was awaiting my return to warm me up!"

"Why were you laughing?" she asked him.

"Oh! As I was ripping up yesterday's paper for some extra help starting the fire, I saw that for all the embarrassment earlier, today is not Sunday!"

"It's not?" she asked, confused.

"Nope! It is Saturday! I don't know why I awoke thinking that we had to go to church today, but instead, we don't have to go anywhere!"

"Oh, thank goodness!" Elizabeth cried, grateful that they had a perfectly legitimate excuse to stay tucked away in the small little row house, not having to see anyone.

"So," Jack asked, "what do you want to do instead?"

Elizabeth's face contorted slightly with concentration. "Honestly?" she asked. "I don't know! We have never had so much time to be together with nothing or no one else disturbing us. Now that I have you all to myself, I can't think of what I want to do with you."

"I can think of plenty I want to do with you!" he countered, a naughty schoolboy smile engraved on his face.

"Well, that's a given, but what do we do for the rest of the time?"

In the lull between the conversation, as they both were thinking on what they should do, pondering the endless possibilities and which one they should do first, Jack's stomach growled loudly.

"Well, I guess I am hungry!" he laughed. "I suppose the first thing we should do is eat breakfast."

"Mmmmmm…" Elizabeth stretched, instantly catching Jack attention. "But I don't want to get out of this bed, honestly. It is still cold in here!"

"Come on, lazy bones! It will be warmer downstairs!" he countered as he held his hand out to her.

As she stood up and grabbed her robe, he began to make the bed. She turned around and saw him and asked, "Why are you doing that?"

"What?"

"Making the bed!"

"Oh! I don't know… Shouldn't I? I always make the bed before I eat breakfast. Don't you?"

"No!" Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "I make it after breakfast, after I get dressed, if I make it at all…"

Jack stood frozen in place, his head tipped to the side, looking at her.

"What?" she demanded.

"You sometimes don't make the bed?"

"Ummm… no?" she answered hesitantly. "Do you always make yours?"

"Yes! Of course! I grew up with a Mountie. What do you think?"

"I guess I never thought about it before. Now that you mention it, the beds in a jail are always made up. I just thought, though, that you had to do it."

"I do have to do it!" he argued. "I cannot stand getting into an unmade bed every night. It doesn't bother you?"

"No, not really. Sometimes it is just more work than it is worth."

In that instant, something dawned on him. "Elizabeth?" he asked her. "Did you ever make a bed before you came here?"

There was a long pause before she answered quietly. "No."

"You never made a bed before you came West?"

"Jack! That's what the servants were for!"

He was planted in place, totally unsure of what to even say.

"Don't look at me like that, Jack!" Elizabeth cried, hiding her face in her hands. She peeked through her fingers at him to see that he was smiling.

"What?" she cried when he didn't answer.

"I just have never met anyone who didn't know how to make a bed until they were in their twenties!"

"I knew how! I just never had to!"

"Ah! Big difference!" he chuckled.

She gave him her scary teacher face and lunged at him, when he caught her wrists in his hands and pulled her to him. "I love you!" he declared before bending down and giving her a kiss.

"Lucky for you right now, I love you, too!" she answered, smiling.

"Shall we make the bed together?" he asked.

"Oh, I see how you are going to do this. You are going to volunteer to help me just so you get to do it when you want to!" she accused him.

"Yup!" he replied with a laugh.

"Careful, Thornton, or you might just end up doing this chore, too!"

"What would you do when I am not home?"

"Do it when I want… If at all!"

"Fair enough!" he said laughed he lifted up the quilts on his side. "It isn't like it will be made by the time we are through celebrating my homecoming, anyway!"

When they were through making their bed, he took her hand and they walked down the stairs. Abigail had handed Elizabeth a big basket food when she had been there the day before helping Elizabeth to get ready. She had put the food that would spoil, the eggs, milk, cheese, chicken, and sliced ham, in her ice box, but hadn't really looked at much else. She was thrilled when she pulled back the towel to find an abundance of scones, muffins and biscuits. With hearing her gasp of delight, Jack put his hands on her shoulders and peered over her right side to see what had delighted her.

"Good grief!" he said, "Just how many people does she think were here on our wedding night, anyway?"

"I think she was more concerned with making sure you were eating well after recent events."

"I know I worked up an appetite between last night and this morning, but just how much energy does she think I am burning here?"

"Jack!' Elizabeth laughed. "I meant your time up North!"

"Oh!" he laughed. "That makes a lot more sense and is a lot less embarrassing!"

"Do you want coffee or tea?"

"I suppose with scones, I would rather have tea," he answered her. "But, I feel like I could sure use a some coffee!"

"So, have both!"

Jack frowned at Elizabeth. "That's a little decadent, don't you think?"

She looked strangely back at him. "I didn't realize that having two separate beverages in the morning was considered luxurious. You will die of shock whenever we go back to my parents' house in Hamilton, then, where we also have orange juice and even sometimes, champagne!"

Jack snorted. "Why am I not surprised?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Elizabeth asked, hands on her hips.

"I just mean that for most people, orange juice, and especially champagne at breakfast, is a luxury they could potentially go their whole lives without having."

"Oh, so I am spoiled that we had orange juice growing up?"

"You said it; I didn't!"

Suddenly, Elizabeth sighed and a faraway look came over her features. "Oh, how I sometimes miss orange juice for breakfast, especially on a special occasion! I am sorry that many people don't know just how amazing it is to have orange juice at breakfast. I guess I never actually thought about that it was a luxury before."

"Well, it is!" Jack said, sounding a bit sullen.

"Have you ever had orange juice for breakfast?"

"Yes," Jack confirmed. "A couple of times."

"Only a couple?"

"Yes!" Jack affirmed. "Look, Elizabeth, for most Canadians, oranges are kind of a rare treat. I think the only time we ever had them when I was a kid was at Christmas time. We usually got one each in our stockings."

"What?" Elizabeth cried, her shock evident.

"Yes, Elizabeth, and I would bet that Tom and my experience is much more in line with the average Canadian than yours. It isn't exactly like we have the weather to grow oranges here!"

"I know that logically… I guess I just never thought about it before. In fact, I haven't thought of orange juice with breakfast for the entire time I have been here until today. I guess it was sort of out of sight, out of mind…"

"But, back to your original comment. I don't think that having tea and coffee at the same time is decadent because of the cost. I am thinking more along the lines of up north, there wasn't a whole lot of time to linger over a leisurely breakfast. Frozen oatmeal was not appetizing! I am going to have to learn to get back to more of a civilian schedule, I guess, because I don't you want me to clear my plate in 30 seconds and then go back to what I was doing at every meal, right?"

"Well, you are home now, Jack, and we have nowhere to go and nothing planned to do, so I say you should be a decadent as you want!"

Jack smiled mischievously at her. "As decadent as I want, eh?"

A little uncertain what he was planning, she looked suspiciously at him and barely nodded her head.

"Well, then, I think that what I want is to drink my coffee…" he said slowly and paused.

"Uh-huh?" Elizabeth prodded.

"And eat my scone… Or maybe two…"

"Alright…"

"In bed…"

"I am sure that can be arranged!" she told him with a shy grin.

"With your naked body as my plate!"

Her eyes opened wide in surprise. "Jack!" she admonished.

"Indulge me! Please? I am a newly married man…"

Instead of answering, she turned around without a word and headed back towards the stairs, letting her robe slide down her shoulders to a puddle on the floor.

"Thank you, Abigail, for packing so much food," he whispered to himself with glee.