Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me and I will never make a profit from this story. Period.

Happy House of Hopeful Outcomes By The Inner Genie


"Now just one bloody minute, Marguerite!" Roxton yelled storming through the leafy, overgrown jungle path after the infuriating woman. Without even noticing, he dropped the half filled berry baskets that he was carrying.

He caught up with her, grabbed her arm, and swirled her around to face him. Marguerite crossed her arms over her chest and stared up at him with an icy look.

"What do you mean you think we ought not to get involved?" he demanded. "We're already involved."

He was angry, confused, and desperate.

"Well according to you, we're just having a little fun," Marguerite said coldly. She tossed her long dark hair over her shoulder.

Roxton rolled his eyes.

"Won't you ever let me live that down?" he snarled.

With a mighty effort, he got himself under control. Taking a deep, calming breath he said, "I want to apologize to you, Marguerite. I realize now that I wasn't treating our relationship with the seriousness it deserves."

Marguerite shrugged her shoulders and waved her hand dismissively in the air.

"A kiss here, a kiss there. Doesn't sound so serious to me."

"So now you're saying it's not serious," he stormed at her. "I don't know what to say to you anymore, Marguerite. First you're mad at me for not taking our relationship seriously and then, when I tell you that I love you, you say that maybe we shouldn't get involved. Damn it! We are involved, I do take this seriously, and I love you!"

Then unwisely he muttered under his breath, "Although there are times I wonder why."

His muttering was indeed unwise being loud enough for Marguerite to hear.

She stalked off and Roxton followed her stammering, "I didn't mean that, Marguerite. You just infuriate me sometimes."

Once again he reached out to stop her and felt a sharp sting in his back. "What the.?" he exclaimed while at the same time Marguerite yelped, "Ouch!" and they both dropped to the ground totally unconscious.


Marguerite groaned as she sat up. Her hand went to her head.

Someone giggled.

She moaned and tried to open her eyes.

More giggling.

"If you think this is funny, just wait until I break my leg," she groaned as she finally pried one eye open and looked at the amused faces around her.

Shock made her other eye fly open as she took in her surroundings.

She was sitting on a bed covered in what, even in her woozy state, she could tell was very expensive silk material. Plump, satiny pillows cushioned her as she leaned back to stare in astonishment at the ten to fifteen smiling, female faces sitting on the floor around the bed.

Nervously, her hand went to her throat where her fingers slide over unfamiliar material. She looked down and realized that she was dressed, if you could call it that, in a silk, sleeveless shift with an opening down the front and a sash that tied around her waist. With a sinking feeling, she realized that the royal blue dress was the only thing she had on.

Two young girls saw the unbelieving expression on her face and giggled behind their hands.

She opened her mouth to demand an explanation when from the other side of the wall behind her she heard John's voice bellowing, "Just what the hell am I doing here and where are my clothes!"

She looked down at her outfit and couldn't help picturing John dressed in the same style.

She giggled.

The women around her giggled, too.

For the first time, Marguerite studied the faces smiling up at her. She was surprised to see, though heaven only knew why she should be, that she had never encountered a tribe of people that resembled those before her.

It appeared to her that every race in the world was represented by one or another person in the room. Some of the women had the pale skin and slanted eyes of the orient, others had the dark skin and slanted eyes of the Mongols. There were blondes, redheads, brunettes; blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, black eyes. Golden brown skin, freckled skin, sallow skin, pink skin and coal black skin. It seemed to Marguerite that no two women were of the same nationality. Whatever tribe this was, it was obvious that the only common thread was that they were all human. She quickly took back that thought when a woman in the back of the room stood up and Marguerite recognized the lizard-like features of a member of Tribune's tribe.

Her curiosity was aroused, but before she could ask a single question, the women jumped up as one and, taking her by her arms, led her out of the lodge. As they stepped out into the sunshine, two enormous men with wide swords stuck in their sashes fell into step with them. Guards, thought Marguerite, and her heart plummeted.

She blinked her eyes in the bright light and momentarily let her curiosity at what she saw override her worry. The village was pleasantly laid out. Large, well-built wooden lodges, many with pagoda style roofs, dominated one end of the village. The center of the village was reminiscent of an English village green; a grassy plot shaded by tall, leafy trees. Small buildings, some with their bamboo curtains rolled up, some with awnings, and some with delicate-looking sliding doors, lined the well-swept, cobbled street. Inside these buildings Marguerite could see men and women busy cooking, sewing, building furniture and making all kinds of useful things. Very young children, watched closely by several older men and women, ran through the cool grass of the green space playing games that all children play. Older children were attending school under one of sheltering trees.

Marguerite's attention was pulled away from the idyllic scene when John and six men emerged from the lodge next to the one that Marguerite was in. John was still protesting loudly at being stripped of his clothes. He was struggling with two very large, muscular warriors who had him by each elbow. When he saw Marguerite, alive and well, he stopped struggling.

"Marguerite!" he shouted. He renewed his struggles but stopped when it was evident that the men were bringing him over to where Marguerite and her group were standing.

"Marguerite, are you all right?" His voice was full of concern.

"I'm fine, John." She raked her eyes up and down his body. "You look fetching."

He had on an outfit very similar to hers. Only his calf-length, silk kimono was brown and tied at the waist with a green sash.

She smiled a little to see John's long, pale, muscular legs and almost laughed out loud at his bare feet. He hated to go barefooted.

"Not nearly as fetching as you, my dear," he replied. His eyes were full of admiration and something else.

Marguerite blushed under his admiring scrutiny and self-consciously tightened the light blue sash around her waist.

Suddenly the villagers, even those on the green and in the shops, stiffened to attention as three men and three women, dressed in more traditional kimonos, emerged from the largest lodge. They were older than the other people Marguerite and Roxton had seen so far and all of them had the features of the people of Eastern Asia. The villagers stood quietly as they approached. The elderly six stopped in front of the group. Roxton and Marguerite were led forward by their guards and the eldest woman walked around them studying them carefully.

The rude inspection ruffled Marguerite's feathers. She tried to shrug off the restraining hands of the women as she snarled at the old woman, "What, do you think we're horses or something? Just tell these two to let go of me, and I'll show you my teeth."

The old woman ignored her threat but two of the other warriors hurried over and grabbed her arms.

"Leave her alone," Roxton shouted, renewing his struggle against the men holding him.

Paying no attention to his yelling, the elderly women stepped back into rank with the others of her group and held up her hand. "They will do," she announced.

With that pronouncement, the six elders turned and walked with great dignity back into their lodge.

Like the sound of the giant bumblebees, the other villagers, who had yet to speak in front of the strangers, now began to talk among themselves. Protesting loudly, Marguerite and Roxton were led by their guards across the village green and into one of the large houses.

Once inside, they were pushed down onto cushions that lined the walls. A dignified, middle-aged woman with light brown skin and blue slanted eyes was seated behind a low table across from them. She greeted them with a nod.

"You wish to know why you are here and what will become of you," she stated. It was not a question.

"You're damn right, we do! Where are our clothes and out weapons.and my hat?" Roxton demanded getting right to the important stuff. He tried to stand up, but a guard with huge, muscular shoulders and hands as big as tea trays pushed him back down.

The woman waited quietly until the commotion settled down and then continued.

"Your clothes, weapons and hat are back where you were found. You have no need for them now."

Roxton settled back onto the cushion muttering to himself.

The woman was silent for a moment, gathering their attention.

"You have been given a great honor," she began. "You have been found worthy and adopted into our village. It is a privilege that I hope you will come to appreciate."

Marguerite snarled, "I don't appreciate any honor that is forced on me without my consent."

The woman smiled at her.

"Your consent was not asked for."

Roxton realized that anger would get them nowhere, so he tried a reasonable approach.

"I think a mistake has been made. We cannot belong to your village, because we," he hesitated, groping for a good reason, "belong to another village."

She stiffened at the word mistake.

"All of our Venerable Ancestors were from different villages." She tilted her head and shot a stern look at them. "There was no mistake. You were picked by the Venerable Elders. They are never wrong," she told them.

"Well, your Venerable Elders made their first, big mistake this time!" Marguerite snapped.

The woman merely smiled at her.

"Now," she began opening a large, old book and picking up a long, thin paint brush, "First I will need your names."

Roxton leaned over and whispered to Marguerite. "Maybe if we answer their questions, they'll see that we shouldn't be here."

She shrugged her shoulders sulkily.

Roxton smiled his charming smile at the austere woman.

"My name is Roxton, uh, John Roxton, that is, Lord John Roxton," he stammered getting off to a bad start.

The woman wrote busily in her book as she repeated, "Roxton John Roxton Lord John Roxton." She looked up at him with a small glimmer of admiration. "You have a very long name."

"Well, actually." Roxton began. But the woman wasn't listening to him. She looked at Marguerite and asked, "Name?"

"James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree," she chanted with an evil smile.

The woman shook her head but gamely began to write it down.

All was quiet as she finished writing. At last, she looked up. "Now, you will need to tell be about your ancestors. What villages were they from? What were their colors?"

Roxton sighed. If these strange questions would set them free, he would answer them.

"My parents came from a village very far away called Avebury," Roxton answered politely. "As for their colors, uh, I'm not sure what you mean."

"By colors, I mean the color of their hair, eyes, and skin," the woman explained.

Puzzled, but willing to please, Roxton frowned in concentration and rubbed his chin.

"Blast! What color were my father's eyes?" he muttered to himself.

The woman waited patiently for him to answer, but Marguerite's patience was wearing thin.

"For god's sake, just tell her anything so we can get out of here," she said through gritted teeth.

Roxton, seeing the signs of a Marguerite Eruption, said hastily, "They looked just like me, of course. Brown hair, green eyes."

"Your eyes aren't green," Marguerite contradicted him.

Stung, Roxton raised his chin and said hotly, "They are so." He raised one eyebrow indignantly. "It just goes to show how little you know about me. I, on the other hand, could describe all of you down to your last toenail."

"Liar!" Marguerite snapped back. "You haven't even seen all of me."

Roxton cleared his throat. "Well, actually, Marguerite, I have seen all of you."

At her furious look, he amended. "By accident, of course.and only briefly."

Her look became even more ominous.

"It was hardly a look at all, really," he stammered back-tracking fast. "More like a flicker out the corner of my eye."

Marguerite erupted.

"YOU SPIED ON ME!" she shouted jumping to her feet.

Stung, again, his temper flared up at the insult.

"How dare you accuse me of spying!" Roxton shouted back.

He got to his feet and leaned down so that they were practically nose to nose.

"You're a fine one to accuse someone of spying," he hissed. "I saw you up on the balcony when I was down chopping wood without my shirt on. If you want to see a spy, just look in a mirror."

Proud of his retaliation, Roxton stood back and tried to loop his thumbs under his suspenders, then remembering his predicament, had to settle for pushing them under his sash.

Fire in her eyes, Marguerite balled up her fists ready for battle, but before she could utter even one scathing remark, the woman behind the table ordered in a voice that would brook no disobedience, "Sit down."

At her command, the guards, temporarily stunned by the flash fire, blinked their eyes and grunted. They quickly pushed the fuming couple back down on the cushions.

"Brown hair, green eyes," the woman calmly murmured to herself as she wrote in the book. She looked up briefly to glance at Roxton, then bent her head and murmured, "White skin."

Marguerite and Roxton sat staring at the floor. They were angry, confused, hurt, and a little bit embarrassed by their fight.

"Now, tell me about your ancestors," she said directing her question to Marguerite.

Marguerite lifted her head and turned her hands palm up.

"Sorry. Fresh out," she replied flippantly. "You picked the wrong person if you need ancestors. I don't take after anyone. I'm one of a kind."

Hearing the underlying bitterness in her voice, Roxton was at once repentant. He was beginning to know the layers of hurt that her tough spirit concealed. He was truly sorry she had to go through this.

The woman merely stared at her blandly, lowered her eyes and, murmuring "Black hair, grey eyes, white skin," she flicked the brush across the paper.

For the next ten minutes, she worked at the table. She muttered to herself, and, every so often, she would glance at the two on the other side of the desk. At last she put down the brush and looked up.

"I will now share with you the way of our village. Many, many years ago, we were a village of over one hundred people. We married each other and had children. Our children grew up and married and had children. Our village thrived. However, after many generations, something went wrong. Some of our children had bodies that grew, but minds that did not. Soon, the problems got worse. Babies were born malformed or dead. Our population dwindled. Finally the Elders had no choice but to go outside the village to ask for help. They sent out small parties of men who were instructed to seek out the medicine men or shamans of the tribes they met and ask for their wisdom in solving our problem. Many words of wisdom were brought back to the village, and many cures were tried, but the problems continued. The village was at a critical point when one of the parties, who had been gone for over five years, came back to the village with a woman who had agreed to try to solve our problem. She had the whole village line up in the street and she walked up and down the rows studying the people and asking questions about their parentage. At last she met with the elders and told them how to cure most of the problems. She pointed out that all of the villagers were too much alike. They had procreated within the same families to the point that only the bad essences of the parents were passed on to their children. She said that our village must find new people, the more diverse the better, and only mate with them. In this way, new, better essences would invigorate our village. More parties were sent out to seek these new people, but came back with very few who wanted to live in a village that was dying. The Elders discussed and debated for weeks on this weakness in the plan and then decreed that we would no longer rely on volunteers but would capture the new people we needed."

Marguerite and Roxton were listening spellbound to her story until then. However, the implications of this decree as to their capture broke the spell. They squirmed uncomfortably on their cushions. They didn't like the course this story was taking, not one bit.

The woman noticed their unease. It was always at this point in her story that the more intelligent strangers became uneasy. She continued.

"We trained a warrior class to find the strangers that we needed. They had great success, and soon our streets were crowded once more with healthy villagers who did not look all alike. The different features and colors were celebrated. We soon learned that if we could mate two of the strangers first, their child's essence would be totally different from any in the village, and this unique essence would be introduced into our village when their child reached maturity and took mates. With so many possible essences, it became necessary to keep careful records of all combinings so that we would never fall into the old way of combining essences of the same people over and over. "

"Do.do you mean that you expect.that John and I have to.to?" she interrupted.

The woman nodded.

"You are correct, James James Morrison Morrison. You and John John Roxton will mate until you produce a child. Your first child will be a combination of you both so that we will have your essences for our future combining. Then, you both will be paired with others and further combine your essences for the good of our village."

She signed and her eyes took on a dreamy look. "One day when you are old, you will look out at the people of the village and see yourself in many combinations. Your essence will never die."

"Now wait one minute. Margu.James James Morrison Morrison and I are not involved in that way. In our village, we only condone mating between people who are married--to each other. And James James Morrison.oh, whatever.and I are not married."

He glanced over at Marguerite.

Although it would not be a bad idea, he thought to himself.

The woman looked slightly offended.

"We are not barbarians. We have the same rules. This is one way that we keep the combination of essences under our control. You will be married to each other before the combining begins."

Marguerite was instantly on her feet.

"Don't I have anything to say about this.this marriage? What if I don't want to marry John.this man?"

The woman nodded. "You are not the first to be reluctant to marry. However, it is usually when we require two strangers to mate that one or both new people are uncooperative. You two are from the same village, true? You would not be marrying a stranger."

She leaned across the desk to speak directly to Marguerite. "It is not ideal, but if you refuse to marry this man we will marry you to one of the other villagers. And, if this is your choice, we will choose a village marriage partner for John John Roxton as well."

Marguerite went pale at the thought of John marrying someone else. Hastily she made her decision. "No, that won't be necessary. I'll marry John.him," she agreed glumly.

"Why, James James, how modern of you. Are you asking for my hand?" Roxton teased.

"Shut up!" she growled.

Oh my god, she thought to herself. What have I gotten myself into?

Being Marguerite, she tried one more avenue of escape.

"What if we refuse to marry anyone? What if we refuse to mate?"

The woman paled and lowered her eyes.

"That would be the worst decision of all. The Venerable Elders' decree must be obeyed in order for our village to thrive. If you refuse, we would have no choice but to eliminate you permanently from the village records."

The guards touched the broad, shiny swords hanging from their belts.

Marguerite gulped and Roxton went pale. They had a pretty good idea what she meant.

The woman stood up abruptly and walked towards the door. The guards reached down to pull Marguerite and Roxton to their feet. Before they could be touched, they both jumped up.

"No need to help us, old boy," Roxton said lightly. "We can manage."

Walking between the guards, they followed the woman off of the main street to an area where the village met the jungle. This area was shielded from the village view by a tall, stockade fence. Several small lodges ringed the area and in the center of the clearing a large circle of stones marked a fire pit.

The woman led them past the circle to an area beside one of the lodges where a long, woven basket that looked something like a giant lobster trap was lying on the ground. They could see similar contraptions beside the other huts. She stopped there and pointed proudly to one of them.

"This is your Happy House of Hopeful Outcomes. You will sleep together in here until your essences combine to produce a child for our village. During the day, you will stay in one of the lodges where you will be well taken care of." Seeing the stubborn look on Marguerite's face, she lowered her voice so that the guards could not hear her. "This is your new life. It will be a wonderful life as long as you work for the good of the village. Please, if you value your life, do nothing that would disgrace you in the eyes of the Elders."

After giving this warning, she straightened and continued in a louder voice.

"You will be married at sunset by our Venerable Elders. This is a great honor. Now you may go to the waiting lodge and have your fill of food and drink."

She turned on her heels and walked quickly through the gate in the fence.

The guards motioned them forward and they were led to a lodge close to the lodge of the Elders but far less grand. They entered with some trepidation. The inside surprised them with its homey feeling. A long table, covered with food, ran down the center of the room. Padded benches, sparkling in bright fabrics, lined the walls. At each end of the room huge fireplaces cast a warm, welcoming glow. Two other couples, dressed in the familiar kimono style, were sitting on the benches. One couple was eating and chatting comfortably together. The other couple was sitting on opposite sides of the room.

Roxton smiled at the site of the food and rubbed his hands together.

"Come on, Marguerite, let's eat. I'm starving."

Marguerite looked up at him suspiciously. "John Richard Roxton, you're not enjoying this are you?"

"Of course not! Believe me, I'm just as upset as you are, but I don't see any point in starving ourselves. Just look at that roast. I haven't had one like that since we left London."

The afternoon passed quickly and even Marguerite couldn't deny that they had been comfortably supplied.

John winked at her when it turned out that the chatty couple wasn't a couple. Their intended mates were the unhappy couple on the benches. The chatty ones admitted that they hadn't been too happy in their own villages and looked on this as an opportunity to start over again in this beautiful village. The other two came over at last. The female began crying for the friends she had left behind.

"I'll never see them again," she wailed.

The other woman put her arm around her shoulders and hugged her.

"That is true, but look," she whispered, "your new mate is very handsome, and we will be your new friends.

The girl, for she wasn't very old, gave her a watery smile.

A few minutes later, a loud gong sounded from outside.

The chatty couple looked wistfully at each other as the guards stationed around the room suddenly came to life and ordered them to stand with their mates.

Roxton and Marguerite stood at the back of the line. Marguerite, unreasonably affected by the other couple's misery, felt a wave of longing for her absent companions. She looked up at John's familiar profile and slipped her hand around his elbow. He raised his eyebrow at her friendly gesture.

"This doesn't mean that I've forgiven you," she warned him. "I just think it looks more.cooperative."

"I couldn't agree more," he answered placing his hand over hers.

The Elders Lodge was spectacular. Bright fabrics and shinning, graceful furniture were everywhere. The unhappy mates brightened seeing the luxury the village provided.

The wedding was simple but oddly touching. At least to Roxton. As he held the golden goblet of wine to Marguerite's lips he looked into her beautiful eyes and found that he meant the words he was told to say.

"Drink from my cup and we will be one. Mates for each other and for the good of our village."

Marguerite closed her eyes as she sipped the wine. She didn't want to see the love in Roxton's look.

This was not real wedding. If the big love-sick idiot thought that a sip of wine would change things, well she had news for him. There was no way she would be forced into this intimacy. This village wouldn't get any of her essence.and neither would he.

All too soon the newly married couples and their guards were tramping back to the enclosure. The sun had set and torches and fires were being lit all over the village. The villagers smiled as they passed by. Two of the women winked at Roxton. They were always happy to see such.healthy looking new mates join the village.

Inside the enclosure one of the guards quickly lit a huge fire in the pit. Its light didn't quite reach the jungle that hovered like an impenetrable black wall behind the lodges.

The other couples, looking nervously at each other, went off with their guards leaving Roxton and Marguerite alone with their four. Two of the guards stood to one side, their eyes alert for any attempt to escape, and their hand on their swords. Gruffly they were told to stand close together, face to face while the remaining two guards reverently picked up the Happy House of Hopeful Outcomes and lifted it up over their heads.

With equal parts of nerves and determination, Marguerite whispered fiercely, "If you try anything, John Roxton, you'll pay for it for the rest of your life."

"Haven't I always been the perfect gentleman, Marguerite?" he said. Then in a lower voice, he added, "I would never force you, you know."

In her heart of hearts, she did know that, but she never got the chance to answer as the guards lowered the loosely woven hut over their heads and slowly down their bodies. They closed the cloth flap on top, grunted as they tipped the hut horizontal and lowered it to the grown. Every speck of light was obliterated when they sealed up the foot of the hut.

Roxton squeezed his eyes shut and prayed silently, "Please, give me the strength to resist this temptation." He quickly added, "Or if not, at least let me make it out in one piece."


The hut was so small that two people could only lie down in it with one almost on top of the other, which, of course, was its purpose.

Roxton was determined and desperate not to dishonor Marguerite's wishes. He really did love her, and as much as he wanted her, he wanted her to want this, too, so by the time they had adjusted their bodies to lie with as little contact as possible, their nerves were raw and their tempers were short.

"What are you doing, Roxton?" Marguerite said accusingly.

"Nothing, nothing at all," he snapped. "It's so dark in here that I can't see my hands in front of my face.

"That's because your hands are somewhere else, and if you don't move them right this minute, I'm afraid my knee is going to go into an uncontrollable spasm.

"You'd better keep your knee to yourself, Marguerite. And I don't know where else to put my hands. There's no room.

"Well, for Pete's sake, put them over your head. At least that way I can keep track of them.

"Fine," Roxton grumbled.

But wiggling his arms up and over his head caused him to push against her in a most intimate fashion. Not only that, but his left hand got snagged on the sash of her kimono and unfastened the knot causing Marguerite's gown to flop opened everywhere it wasn't held in place by bodily contact.

"Hey," Marguerite exclaimed. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"I'm trying to make you more comfortable, your highness. My hands are now safely over my head and will trouble you no more."

It was obvious from Roxton's tone that he had no idea of the extent of Marguerite's undress, and she wasn't about to tell him. She carefully shifted her arms in front of her waist so that she could retie her sash, and it wasn't until Roxton gasped that she realized that all she had managed to do was to untie the sash that was holding his gown together.

As parts of his kimono fell opened, he could feel the softness and warmth of Marguerite's breasts as they pressed against his bare chest.

Breathing with difficulty, he gasped, "Marguerite, whatever you're doing down there, I think it would be wise if you'd stop or I won't be responsible for what will happen next.

Marguerite, at the feel of his hairy chest on her breasts, went stone still. She was afraid to move and at the same time tempted to snuggle closer to the delicious heat that was radiating from Roxton's body.

"I'm not doing anything down here," she croaked in what she hoped was an indignant voice.

They were silent for a moment, until the tingling in Roxton's hands forced him to ask, "Uh, is it all right if I lower my arms. I think they've gone to sleep."

Marguerite took a minute to get her voice under control so that she could answer.

"I guess it would be all right--as long as they stay asleep."

"I'll do my best," he said as he slowly lowered his numb arms. One arm wouldn't move past her shoulder and the other, although he couldn't feel it, landed on her hip.

"Roxton!" she protested.

"Wherever they are, they're sound asleep, I assure you."

Marguerite wished that something else of Roxton's would go to sleep. She could feel something twitching against her thigh. This was too embarrassing. She stayed quiet, hoping it would stop. It didn't. Finally she couldn't stand it.

"There had better be a mouse in here with us, Lord Roxton, or you're in very big trouble."

"Sorry about that," Roxton said in a strangled voice. Then he muttered, "A mouse, indeed. At the very least, she could have said a rat."

He tried to inch back away from her which only made his numb arm that was locked around her shoulder pull her closer to him. Full body contact caused him to let out a low moan.

"John," Marguerite gasped. "I think we should try to escape from here and the sooner the better."

John was quiet for a moment, hoping his racing heart would return to normal.

"You're right. They're going to put us in this damn hut every night until we produce a little "essence" for them. And, frankly, I don't think I can survive another night like this one. I'm going to move up and look outside the flap to see if the coast is clear."

He slowly inched up to the door flap as carefully as he could. He held his breath as he felt his stomach brush past her lips.

"That's high enough," Marguerite squeaked desperately.

Roxton froze, then slowly lifted the gauzy flap of the small enclosure and peeked out into the semi-darkness. His heart sank as he saw the entire group of guards, armed to the teeth, standing with their backs to the fire pit. Two of their own guards were facing their hut. He quickly lowered the flap.

"Well?" came Marguerite's muffled voice. He could feel her breath against his mid section.

"No luck there. We're being watched. We'll have to think of another way out."

He paused.

"Uh, I'm coming down," he warned her.

She held her breath and sucked in her stomach as Roxton lowered himself so that their faces were practically nose to nose. As he did so, she felt the hut slide across the ground.

"Did you feel that?" she asked.

"Really, Marguerite, I told you I couldn't control my."

"Not that," she said quickly. "I mean the hut. When you moved down, it slid a little."

Roxton shrugged, which in that confined space was not the easiest or smartest thing to do.

"So what's you point?" he asked, and then realized that was not the best word he could have used.

"My point," Marguerite emphasized in an amused voice, "is that maybe if we both moved together, we could scoot the hut out of the firelight and escape into the jungle."

"Move together," Roxton repeated arching one eyebrow. Of course Marguerite couldn't see him do it, but she knew him well enough to know that he was doing it.

She slapped him for his audacity which made him yelp.

"For God's sake, be quiet, John," she warned. "We don't want the guards over here to see what's wrong."

"Oh, I think the guards expect a little noise from these huts," he teased her.

Marguerite blushed in the dark.

"I think you're right, though," John said thoughtfully. "We're only a few yards from the edge of the jungle. Let's try it."

Grimly determined to suppress their bodies' lustful betrayal, they wrapped their arms around each other and rocked up and down. With returning hope, they felt the straw hut slide inch by inch across the firm ground.

One of the guards saw the swaying love nest and elbowed his mate. The second guard made an obscene gesture and they both laughed. They wouldn't have credited the strange, volatile woman with such passion.

After a few minutes of rocking and sliding, both of the occupants of the Happy House of Hopeful Outcomes were breathless, sweaty and very, very aroused.

"Do you.do you think they've noticed?" Marguerite whispered between shaky breaths.

Breathing hard, Roxton gasped, "I'll slide up and look."

This time, with the sweat on their bodies, he was able to slide up with ease. Again he lifted a corner of the flap. He was encouraged to see that they had moved the hut a good distance from the fire and that the guards were paying them no particular attention.

Sliding back down, he whispered, "We're okay for now, but I think we'd better hurry before they notice us."

Determined to win their freedom, they set to rocking and sliding with gritted teeth. As they rocked, Roxton tried to swivel the opening around so that it was pointing towards the jungle.

Soon they had to pause for breath and Roxton again slid up to check on their progress. He almost yelped for joy when he opened the flap and a large fern popped into the opening.

"We did it, Marguerite," he told her excitedly. "We're right up next to the jungle. I'll slide out first and then I'll help you out. Keep low and move quickly."

Cautiously Roxton pushed up the cloth and, grabbing onto the vegetation for leverage, slowly pulled himself out. He had just stooped down between the ferns when he looked down and saw that his kimono was hanging open revealing all there was to reveal. Embarrassed, he pulled it together and tied the sash tightly around his waist.

"Roxton!" came a querulous whisper from inside the hut.

"Shhh!" he cautioned her. He grabbed the hands that came out of the flap and pulled.

With some annoyed murmurings, Marguerite emerged. Roxton gallantly turned his back as the light of the moon glowed off of her white skin.

Barely moving his lips, he whispered, "Uh, as soon as you tie your sash, Marguerite, we'll be on our way."

She drew in a quick breath when she looked down and quickly did as he suggested.

He pushed the hut away from them. It slid noiselessly a few feet closer to the fire. Then, with one last look to make sure the guards had not noticed their escape, they silently melted into the darkness of the jungle.


Deep night had closed in on the plateau. Luckily, a full moon cast its mellow light down through the canopy and illuminated the jungle underneath. It was rough going for the two escapees, especially since their feet were bare and they had no idea in which direction to go.

They had been walking for what seemed a very long time and hoped to spot a familiar landmark soon so they would be able to find their way back to the path from the berry patch and find their clothes and weapons.and Roxton's hat, of course.

"Ow, ow, ow," Marguerite yipped with every step.

"Quiet," Roxton whispered. "We don't want them to hear us."

"Well, my feet hurt," Marguerite whispered fiercely back. "We're not exactly walking on a beach, you know."

"My feet hurt, too, but you don't hear me whining about it."

"Your feet are tougher than mine."

"No, they're not," he said in a superior tone. "I just know how to suck up pain. Now, let's keep going."

Marguerite glared at his arrogant back, but followed.

They hadn't gone twenty yards before Roxton stubbed his toe on a large rock.

"Bloody Hell!" he bellowed hopping around on one foot while he held onto the other. Unfortunately, he hopped right onto a sharp little twig.

"Ow, ow, ow," he moaned. Walking on the sides of his feet, he hobbled over to a fallen log and sat down. He examined one foot and then the other, wincing in pain as he gingerly tried to push the flap of skin on his toe back into place.

"Damn, that hurts!"

Marguerite sat down beside him with a big, fat grin on her face.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen," she laughed at him.

Roxton had the grace to blush.

"Do you think they heard me?" he asked rather sheepishly.

"I doubt it. What's one more noise in the jungle? I've been thinking, and I really doubt they even know we're missing yet."

Roxton nodded.

"Well, even if they aren't chasing after us, it's obvious that we can't go on until we find something to cover our feet." He looked around. It was hard to see anything in the shifting shadows.

"Look over there, Marguerite. Are those leaves big enough for our feet, do you think?"

"I'll check."

Wincing at every step, she hobbled over to the bush. The leaves were indeed large and felt soft, but tough to her touch. She picked as many as she could reach and hobbled back to the log.

Roxton smiled. "These should do the trick. Give me your foot."

Frowning, Marguerite complied. It was difficult to keep her kimono modestly together with Roxton holding on to her foot. He raised it higher to slip the leaf underneath.

"Roxton! It's not a pump handle. Be careful."

"Sorry," he said distractedly.

He was concentrating on the mechanics involved in fashioning a leaf boot. Although one of the dark leaves wrapped easily around her foot, there was no way to secure it. He frowned and looked around for a vine. It was much too dark to see anything that would be helpful.

As if reading his thoughts, Marguerite suggested, "We could wrap our sashes around the leaves to hold them on."

"That might solve our boot problem, but it would give us another problem altogether what with these damned robes."

They both sat in thought.

"We could tear the sashes into thin strips and keep one for a belt."

"Good thinking, Marguerite," Roxton applauded. He immediately started to untie his sash.

Marguerite hesitated about warning him. The kimonos were designed to fly open without the sash, but he should remember that. Granted, if the worst happened, it was dark under the trees, but, really, it wasn't that dark. She smiled a naughty smile. Why should she warn him, anyway? After all, he was a grown man and not unreasonably stupid. Let him figure it out for himself.

By the time she had finished this silent debate, he had figured it out.

"Oop!" he exclaimed as the brown garment flew open. He clumsily grabbed the sides of the wayward kimono. "Mustn't let the old family jewels get cold," he thought to himself.

Marguerite snorted with laughter. "What did you say?" she chortled.

Roxton, realizing that he must have said it aloud, stammered, "Oh.sorry. That's just what my father used to call them."

She laughed harder. "And here I was, wasting my time looking for diamonds."

"Really, Marguerite!" Roxton was shocked, but not for long. Her laughter was infectious and soon he joined her.

They laughed until tears streamed down their faces. It did them good, too. It released the angry feelings and the tension they had been under ever since they had been captured. Well, not all of the tension. Marguerite couldn't get what she had just seen out of her mind. Still laughing, she glanced over at him. He was adorable, she thought. She had to admit to herself that she wanted him.and loved him. She tried out the word and found that it didn't scare her anymore. She was ready.

Finally the laughter died down, and Roxton held up the long, green piece of silk.

"Here, Marguerite, you tear this while I hold this blasted gown together. Then I'll help you tear yours."

It didn't take her long to tear off three long, thin strips. She handed the widest back to Roxton and he tied it around his waist.

"Now, you," he said.

Marguerite held her gown tightly closed at the waist while she undid her sash and handed it to Roxton.

"No mishaps this time, I see," he said with a hint of disappointment in this voice.

"Perhaps another time," she teased. Surprised, Roxton caught her saucy grin.

"Do you mean that?" he asked her, his voice full of hope.

Feeling her heart start to race, she leaned towards him until their faces were inches apart. "I always mean what I say," she said softly.

At this point, Roxton was beyond caring if she was teasing or not. He leaned in a little further to catch her lips with his and tumbled inelegantly off the narrow log.

Surprised by his sudden disappearance, and concerned when he didn't jump right back up, Marguerite leaned forward and looked into the inky shadows under the log.

"John?" she asked. "Are you all right?"

Roxton, who was lying on the ground trying to get the family jewels under control before standing up, looked up and gasped at the vision above him.

The top of his love's kimono had fallen open as she craned forward to try to catch a glimpse of her fallen hero, and the ever helpful full moon took this opportunity to send a silver beam down between the towering trees to shine upon Marguerite's creamy bosom.

"John!" she said again hearing his gasp.

"I've found it," he said.

."Found what?" she croaked, startled to hear his voice so close under her feet.

"Come down and see," he said, and reaching up, he gently pulled on her foot and she fell forward, landing across his chest.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a tight embrace. Marguerite was silent but whether from having the breath knocked out of her or for other reasons, he would never know. What he did know was that when he rolled her to one side and began kissing her passionately, she responded with equal passion.

Moments passed in mutual pleasure until Marguerite's curiosity got the better of her. Between greedy kisses, she asked, "What-did-you-find?"

Roxton, his voice hoarse with passion, waved one hand up towards the log they had rolled under and said, "Our very own Happy House of Hopeful Outcomes," and he crushed her lips under his.

The End.