Part III: Enthusiasm

Thursday September 8, 1870

With scarlet flushing her cheeks, Michaela silently thanked God that she was alone, otherwise people might question why her face was flushed and her breathing was a bit irregular in the middle of the day. It truly wasn't Michaela's fault. She couldn't help the fact that her mind drifted to her new husband during many occasions in the day. Sure, they had been married nearly four months, but it seemed as if the honeymoon would last forever. Yes, they had their little spats now and then, but it was nothing that couldn't be cured by a sweet word or a kiss.

Now, she found her mind drifting to Sully's touches, kisses and the way he made her feel when he gazed into her eyes. She couldn't help it, and she was beginning to worry that it wasn't natural. But, it felt natural enough! She couldn't help the way her mind wandered and the way her body reacted to his touch, real or imaginary. Her mind flashed images that made her gasp for air, and she couldn't control it. It was frustrating, however, because she wasn't very keen on not being in control of her feelings.

A knock at the door brought Michaela out of her thoughts, and she stood from her desk to walk over and answer it. She put her hands to her cheeks for a moment, feeling the heat starting to fade away. She hoped she didn't look disheveled or awkward when she answered the door, and she hoped she could prevent herself from blushing even more.

"Who is it?" Michaela asked breathlessly as she took a few shaky breaths. There was no answer, and Michaela sighed heavily. She walked over to the door, turned the knob and opened the heavy wooden door to see who her visitor was. She was surprised to find a bouquet of beautiful flowers staring her right in the face. "Oh!" She saw his piercing blue eyes peeking out from behind the display, and she grinned brightly. "Sully! They're lovely!"

"Ain't as pretty as you though." Michaela took his hand and pulled him inside. Sully shut the door as Michaela moved to put her flowers in a vase. Sully watched her as she walked around the clinic, and he smiled the entire time. She felt his eyes on her, and she couldn't help but put a bit of an extra swing in her hips as she walked. Sully chuckled at his wife's show, and he knew that this was only for him. She was becoming braver when it came to their intimate moments together, and he loved the way she explored and grew bolder as the nights wore on. But still, she wouldn't permit herself to do some things, and he knew he was happy as long as she was comfortable.

"I thought you were going out to the reservation," Michaela noted.

"I was. Already been there and come back," he explained. "Thought I'd drop in and see how things were goin' here."

"I haven't had a single patient since Mr. Wallace went home," she explained, referring to her patient who had been recovering from a hernia operation.

"Kids'll be getting outta school soon. You wanna ride home with us?" Michaela nodded and moved toward her desk.

"Yes. I don't have any stops to make on my way home this afternoon." Sully smiled. He loved when she was able to come home early.

"Good." He leaned in to give her a soft kiss. She smiled against his lips and brought her fingers to gently rub the soft stubble on his chin. She hummed quietly for a moment, and Sully chuckled a little, causing his wife to do the same. "You're in a good mood today."

"Are you saying I'm usually in a bad one?" Michaela asked, playfully raising an eyebrow before she moved to straighten up her desk.

"'Course not." He noticed the rosy color coming to her cheeks. "Everything alright?" Michaela blinked a few times, realizing that her mind had wandered into her previous fantasy once again.

"Hmm? Of course! Why do you ask?"

"'Cause you're blushin' the way ya blush when we're alone in our room. I know that blush. What's on your mind?" Michaela's breath caught, and for a moment, she forgot how to inhale. Sully noticed the color rising in her face even more. "Michaela?"

"Is that the school bell?" Michaela asked quickly, moving toward the window. Though she hadn't really heard the Reverend releasing the children from school, she saw them rushing out of the little red building and across the meadow towards town. Sully folded his arms across his chest, but he knew he wasn't upset with his wife. Whatever had been on her mind had obviously been too embarrassing for her to talk about, and if that were the case, it was obviously something good.

He followed her out onto the porch, and Brian made his way over quickly. He was out of breath, but he was happy to be out of school! After all, the next day was Friday, and the Reverend was expecting an essay in the morning. Brian wasn't thrilled about writing it, but he knew he was nearly finished, and his mother would be able to help him finish it. She was always good about helping him with the things he didn't understand, but she never did his homework for him. The only way he could learn was to figure things out for himself and learn from his mistakes.

"Whoa!" Sully said with a laugh as Brian nearly ran into the wagon. He held his hands out to stop himself from smacking right into it. "In a hurry, are ya?"

"Just glad to be goin' home," Brian said with exhaustion in his voice. "I really need to be gettin' to work on my essay."

"I thought you were finished," Michaela said, staring off toward the school.

"Almost. I still gotta do the endin'."

"Ahh," Michaela said with a smile. "Well, we better be getting home so you can work on it before dinner." Brian groaned, but he knew it was his only choice. "Where is Colleen?"

"She said she'd be along in a minute." He nodded toward the school. Michaela noticed Colleen walking with Becky, Alice, Jared and another boy. Paul, was it? She found it rather odd, because Alice had never been Colleen's favorite person, and Colleen had never been Alice's favorite person. So why did Alice and Colleen have their arms linked together as if they'd been best friends since they were toddlers, and why was Becky the one lagging behind?

She felt Sully's hand on hers, and she knew he wanted to help her up into the wagon. Once she was seated, she handed the key to the clinic to Sully so he could lock up, and she continued to watch her daughter with her friends.

Brian was in the back of the wagon with Wolf now, and even Sully had hold of the reins before Colleen reached the wagon. She said goodbye to her friends and silently hopped into the back.

"How was your day, Colleen?" Michaela asked as Sully clicked his tongue to send the horses trotting off. Colleen shrugged to her mother's back.

"It was fine." Michaela was rather surprised. Colleen normally had some kind of story about school, but today, she was silent. It wasn't as if this was an overnight change. For the past few weeks, Colleen had been a little less outspoken and more engrossed in writing in her diary, and for some reason unbeknownst to her, it scared Michaela.

Colleen was rather quiet on the ride home, but Brian was full of recess stories and funny things that Eddie Jones did behind Reverend Johnson's back. Michaela would frown disapprovingly, but she couldn't help but crack a smile and shake her head, remembering the days when she was young.

She glanced at Sully and scooted a little closer to him. His hand found hers, and they rode in happiness the rest of the way home, while Colleen sat in the wagon and absentmindedly leafed through the pages of her history book.

When they arrived at the homestead, Brian went straight up to his room to work on his essay, and Colleen's entire presence changed. She offered to prepare and cook dinner, and she even talked a little about her day at school. Michaela's concerns seemed to disappear for a little while, thinking that perhaps her daughter had only not felt like talking right after school. Still, her concerns were still there, though she was trying to tell herself that everything was fine.

Up until dinner, Sully worked outside on fixing a crack on the wagon wheel. He knew he could simply take it to Robert E. in town, but he'd watched him fix them a hundred times over, and he had even helped out and fixed a few of his own. It would be too much wear on the wheel to take it into town, and it would be nice to not have to spend money on something that could easily be fixed.

Michaela was putting dry clothes away upstairs, and she noticed that Colleen had left her diary on her nightstand. She could tell by looking at it that it was locked. What was so private that Colleen felt she had to lock it away in a diary? But, then again, Michaela remembered what it was like to be Colleen's age and write every little detail in a diary whether it had significant meaning or not.

She sighed, feeling a little sad. When did she stop being the one who Colleen confided in, and when did that diary start being the one? She knew it was silly, and a part of her knew that her little girl was growing up, but another part wanted to hold onto the sweet, innocent Colleen she'd known from the start. It had to happen eventually, and all Michaela could think was that it couldn't have happened at a worse time. She knew Colleen needed a lot of attention at this point of her life, regardless of whether or not she wanted it, and with the marriage being so new, she knew that it was only a matter of time before the children would begin to realize that they weren't the only ones in the center of their mother's life. They shared that space with Sully now, and perhaps she'd been devoting a little more of her time to her new husband. That was normal, wasn't it? Besides, the children were growing up, and they liked having certain freedoms from their parents.

She sighed, knowing she wasn't going to convince herself. She heard something shatter downstairs, and she dropped the armful of clothes on the floor and rushed down the stairs to see what had happened.

Sully was already halfway in the door, and both he and Michaela saw Colleen standing over a jar of jam.

"I'm sorry," she said with shock in her voice.

"Are you alright, sweetheart?" Michaela asked, moving to her daughter's side.

"I'm fine. I guess I just lost my train of thought. I didn't see that sittin' on the edge of the counter."

"No, it's my fault. I should have put that away before I left home this morning." Colleen shrugged.

"I'll pay for it."

"Don't worry about it," Michaela urged.

"I'll get this cleaned up, and supper should be on the table soon." Colleen went back to her work, and Michaela exchanged glances with Sully. He went back to his work outside, and without saying a word, Michaela began to help her daughter clean up the sticky strawberry mess on the floor.

The rest of the evening sailed by quickly, and though there wasn't much discussion at dinnertime, everyone was pleasant and ate every bite off of their plates.

"Supper was real good tonight, Colleen," Sully commented as the children went about collecting the dirty dishes.

"Thanks," she said with a smile. She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment as she placed a dish under the water. She moved back toward the table as Brian continued to clean up.

"There's a full moon tonight. Wouldn't it be perfect for a hayride?" she asked casually. Mike took a sip of her tea and placed it back down.

"Tonight?" Her eyes met Sully's. Colleen nodded with a smile brighter than one they'd seen in days.

"Can I go?" Brian was curious now!

"Me too! I wanna go. I love hayrides."

"Brian, you can't go."

"Why not?"

"'Cause it's just for the older kids." Brian looked disappointed, but he ignored it and continued with his chore. Michaela cleared her throat and placed her cup onto the table.

"Who's wagon are they using?" Colleen hesitated a moment.

"Jared's." Colleen knew that her mother wasn't too fond of Jared. But then again, she didn't really blame her after the way they'd met. Jared had only been interested in Colleen for one thing at the start, and Michaela still didn't trust him one hundred percent. She wasn't sure she even trusted him at all.

"Will Jared be driving?" Colleen's smile began to fade, and Sully noticed that Michaela was having a difficult time being harsh with her daughter.

"I guess so." Colleen was pretty sure what answer this was leading to.

"Will there be any adults going along to supervise?"

"I don't know." Colleen sighed a little and took the last dish over to the sink. Michaela made a small humming noise and looked at Sully. Colleen decided to give it one last shot. "We're supposed to meet in a half hour down at the creek."

"Colleen, this is a school night. You have to be up early in the morning." With defeat slowly masking over her face, Colleen swallowed hard, not wanting to give up. She was like her mother in that way.

"All the other kids are goin'."

"All of them?"

"Well, the older kids. Please, Ma? We won't stay out too late." Michaela glanced at her husband, wanting him to be a part of the decision making process in their home as much as she was. For several years, she had been the children's one and only disciplinarian, and now that they had a father in the house, the process took longer, because Michaela and Sully usually discussed things rationally. Sully looked at Colleen.

"Well, I think you could go on a hayride some other night when ya don't have school the next day." Colleen sighed, knowing there was no use in trying any longer.

"Maybe there won't be anymore hayrides."

"There will be," Sully promised. Colleen completely gave up, turned toward the stairs and started up to her room.

"Good night, Colleen," Michaela called, surprised at her daughter's attitude. Sure, she didn't get what she wanted, but she normally didn't take it so badly.

"Good night," Colleen said flatly.

"'Nite," Sully called up, getting no response in kind. Sully and Michaela looked at one another again. Brian walked up behind them. He hugged Sully and kissed Michaela on the cheek.

"I'm gonna go finish my essay 'for I go to bed."

"Alright. Don't stay up too late," Michaela called as her son started up the stairs. Sully noticed that his wife's cup was empty, so he picked it up and took it to the sink.

"I'll help ya with the dishes?" he offered.

"Thank you," Michaela said with a smile. They worked side by side until the dishes were done, and neither one of them could help but send a little splash of soapy water in the other's direction from time to time. They had to resist the temptation to laugh out loud, because the children were upstairs, and they didn't want to disturb them. Or perhaps it was a little bit more of not wanting the children to disturb them.

But as soon as the dishes were completed, Michaela spotted a sliver of glass from the busted jar of strawberry preserves. That instantly took her mind back to Colleen and her odd behavior as of late. Sully was putting the cups back in the cabinet when Michaela bent down to pick up the piece of glass. She threw it away and turned toward her husband.

"I'm going to go turn down the bed." Sully nodded.

"I'll be up in a minute." Michaela nodded as Sully smiled and went about making sure the windows were shuttered, the doors were locked and the lamps were turned out. As he was doing this, Michaela made her way up the stairs, and she paused just before Colleen's room. She wanted to knock and see if her daughter was all right, but she figured she would rather let her rest and talk with her about it at the right opportunity.

When she stepped into the master bedroom, she felt the warmth of a comfortable fire burning in the hearth. She lit one of the bedside oil lamps and turned back the covers. She fluffed the pillows to keep her hands busy, and she finally sat down on her side of the bed. She couldn't help but feel concerned about her daughter's behavior. Colleen was growing up and wanting to have more privileges, but she knew in her heart that Colleen was better off not going out for unsupervised hayrides with boys that were less than trustworthy.

She heard footsteps coming down the hall, and she smiled when Sully walked into the room. He leaned over to give her a kiss before stepping out of his moccasins and placing them in the corner by the door. Michaela watched as he removed his beads and placed them delicately over the bedpost like he did every night. Michaela took a breath as Sully lifted his shirt over his head, exposing his gorgeous torso. It was so tempting to reach out and touch him, but she needed to talk first.

"Sully?"

"Hmm?"

"Haven't you noticed how different Colleen's been acting lately?" Sully merely nodded.

"She's growin' up. All kids go through it. I did. I bet you did too." Michaela frowned.

"Yes," she said gently. "But things were different when I was Colleen's age. Besides, I didn't feel the need to go out and do the things she wants to do. A few nights ago she said that her friends are allowed to do things we won't let her do, and I'm sure her friends aren't allowed to do them either."

"Probably not, but some kids don't know any better." Michaela shrugged her shoulders.

"I would have no problem letting her go on a hayride if it wasn't a school night and adults were supervising." Sully smiled a little and knelt beside the bed to remove his wife's shoes.

"Didn't you ever go on a hayride without adults around?"

"We didn't have them in Boston."

"Somethin' like it?" Michaela slowly shook her head. She had spent most of her time inside studying or arguing with her mother to go out with friends, the few she had.

Silence filled the room as Sully took his sweet time removing her stockings one by one. His fingers left tingling trails on her flesh as he caressed her.

"My feet are cold," she said softly, her brain screening, trying to remember what they had been talking about before Sully's touches had sent that spark of passion throughout every part of her being.

"They won't be for long," he promised in a low whisper that sent chills of excitement up and down her spine. He began massaging her feet, bending to kiss and gently nibble at the tips of her toes.

"But, Colleen's still so young." She couldn't hold onto her train of thought as Sully's hands worked their magic on her feet. "That feels nice." His attention left one foot and moved to the other, and she closed her eyes for a moment, trying to gain her composure. "I don't think she's ready . . . to . . . to be running about." Sully's eyes stared deeply into hers.

"Can't we talk about this some other time?"

"She knows so little . . ."

"She's delivered a baby. She's sewn up a bullet wound," Sully reminded her.

"Yes. She's competent beyond her years when it comes to medicine, but with other things . . . well, she's very naïve. As I once was." Sully pressed a lingering kiss to the center of her bare foot. Sully was listening, but it didn't appear so anymore as he stood and moved his hands to the buttons of her blouse. He stared into her eyes, and he watched her smile. His fingers unfastened a button, then another, a third and a fourth. He un-tucked his wife's blouse from her skirt and slid the fabric off of her shoulders. Just as their lips were about to meet, a knock came to the door. Perfect timing.

"Yes?" Michaela asked, hoping that this wasn't urgent. Brian's voice followed shortly after.

"Ma? I need ya to help me with my essay." Sully's lips moved to Michaela's neck, and she had to force air into her lungs to stop her voice from coming out as a squeak.

"I'll help you tomorrow, Brian. We're tired now."

"But Ma! It's due in the mornin'."

"Don't worry. I'll wake you early, and we'll get your paper done. All right?" Michaela asked hopefully. Brian paused a moment.

"All right," he replied in defeat. Sully smiled and stared at his wife's blushing face.

"'Nite, Brian," Sully called out as Brian's footsteps disappeared into his room. Michaela bit her lip and let out a low chuckle.

"You're looking very pleased with yourself." Sully cocked his head to the side, running his fingertips over her bare shoulders.

"When the children knock, and you don't jump up, I know I got your attention." Michaela raised an eyebrow as if to say "Indeed," and their lips met a moment later. Sully's hands continued to work with Michaela's blouse, and she leaned forward a bit so he could slip it off of her arms. He tossed the shirt to the side in a very comical manner, eliciting a giggle from his blushing bride. Michaela was left in her skirt and camisole, and she knew that wouldn't last for long.

Sully took Michaela's hand, and led her from the bed. He stood before her, and his fingers played with the back of her skirt, unfastening the hooks. Michaela's hands moved to Sully's chest, and she desperately wanted to kiss the hot flesh under her hands. Sully saw her holding back, and he pulled her close.

"Ya don't gotta worry, Michaela," he whispered. "I don't want ya to ever hold back with me." Sully saw something stir in her, and her lips moved to kiss his neck softly at first, but she was soon tasting him hungrily with her tongue. Her hands caressed his chest as his hands pushed her skirt down her body. Soon, she was left in her camisole, and Sully was eagerly working with the strings to untie it. Michaela's mouth had moved from his neck to his chest, and her teeth found both of his nipples and treated them to a slow, sensual torture before she returned to his neck and shoulders.

She could feel what she was doing to him as he pressed her closer. She was starting to melt from the inside, he slipped a hand between them to stroke her and feel how he had started a fire deep within his wife. She gasped as his thumb brushed over her center, and he began to walk her backward toward the bed. She collapsed, and Sully removed her camisole in a few quick movements.

Sully felt himself growing uncomfortable in his buckskins, and Michaela watched in fascination as he slipped out of those in record speed. She giggled as he hopped around on one foot before flinging his pants so far across the room that they nearly landed in the fireplace.

Sully was finally balanced and on his two feet again, and he made his way toward the bed. Michaela's breathing was coming in ragged gasps, feeling herself growing more and more aroused for her husband. Before she'd consummated her marriage with Sully, she had never known what it was like to feel aroused. She knew the scientific reasons behind male arousal and how it could sometimes happen so often, even in their sleep. But, never in her entire life had she felt the way she did when Sully was making love to her, thrusting inside of her and bringing her over the edge of complete and utter ecstasy.

They had made love in their bed many nights, but tonight, Sully had something else in mind. He held his hand out to her and pulled her from the bed. Michaela was curious, but she followed his lead. He led her toward the fireplace and knelt down on the rug underneath their feet. A thrill rushed through Michaela, and she knelt with him.

Without words, their arms wrapped around one another, and they were brought together in a kiss that could top all other kisses. Michaela felt herself falling back, but she landed surprisingly softly under Sully's protective arm. Sully smiled as he crawled over her, framing her body with his and worshiping her in a way he knew she deserved.

Her fingers moved to caress his lips, and he kissed her fingers lovingly, closing his eyes momentarily as he sucked on her fingertips. She grinned as his hand found her breast and teased it gently before moving to the other.

Two hearts raced together as two bodies joined as one, consuming one another with everything they had. He lay atop her for a moment, gaining his composure as she clung to him, her breasts moving against his chest, her nipples stiffening from the mixed feeling of his hot, sweaty flesh and the hair on his chest that prickled against her bosom.

Michaela's back arched as Sully's hands planted themselves firmly on the floor on either side of her head. His lips met hers, and his tongue begged for entrance. She granted it, and they met in a devouring, desperate kiss.

"I love you," he panted against her lips as he began to push deeper into her. She moaned and buried her face into his neck to muffle her cries as he moved inside of her. Sully let out a growl from the back of his throat when Michaela nipped at the tingling flesh on his shoulder. That drove her wild, causing her to throb for him. She needed release, and she began to move her hand down her own body as if some other power was moving her. Sully knew what she was doing, and his hand beat her to the goal, circling and pushing against her throbbing center. She gasped in complete pleasure and curled her toes so tightly that they turned white.

Sully felt himself approaching completion, and he cried out into Michaela's neck, tasting her salty skin. He felt her heart beating just as wildly as his own, and when he finally spilled himself inside of her, he collapsed at her side and watched as the passion slowly lost its hold on them and pushed them down from their natural high.

As soon as his legs no longer felt like jelly, he stood and pulled his wife up and led her to the bed. They crawled between the sheets together and held one another in complete silence. Michaela's head rested on her husband's shoulder, and soon, the exhausted lovers were lulled into a sweet sleep.


Dear Diary,

I wish I knew how to tell my Ma how I feel about everything. It just doesn't seem like I can talk to her anymore. I mean, I love her as much as always, but things have changed since she got married. Yeah, I love Sully too, but she's so busy with him that it's hard to get a moment alone with her. I don't want her to be unhappy, but I don't want myself to be unhappy either. I think that if she gets to have privacy with Sully, I should get to have privacy and a little more freedom with my friends. It's almost like she doesn't trust me. Does she think I'm stupid enough to go off and get into trouble that I won't be able to get myself out of? I'm not a child anymore. Doesn't anyone understand? I hope you do, Dear Diary, though I know you will never answer me.

Colleen


Friday September 9, 1870

Michaela woke to Sully's stubble grazing over her bare shoulder, and she giggled as his hand found her bare breast beneath the sheets.

"Sun's up," he murmured into her hear. She giggled as his lips met her neck. She sighed happily. "Looks like it's been up for a while." She nodded in understanding. Soon, she'd have to get up and go to work. How on Earth would she ever be able to concentrate after a night like the last?

"It's so nice and peaceful here. I wish we could stay this way all day."

"We could," Sully suggested, snuggling against his wife's backside and burying his face into her hair. Michaela chuckled.

"If only," she sighed. "But, I have patients to see soon." Sully nodded in understanding and linked his fingers with his wife's. He kissed her softly on the cheek, and she turned to face toward him, allowing him to access her lips. She opened herself up to him, and as she lay on her side, he draped a leg over her hip, preparing to roll her onto her back.

A soft rapping came to the door, but the sound never reached the lovers' ears. A moment later, the doorknob turned, and the heavy wooden door pushed open. Michaela gasped and pulled the sheets up around her, and Sully situated himself behind his wife, trying desperately to calm the arousal that was stirring.

"Ma?"

"Brian!" Michaela exclaimed. "I wish you would knock first." Brian tried not to act as embarrassed as he felt, so he glanced around the room, trying to look anywhere but at his parents.

"I did."

"Well, you should wait until we come to the door." Brian swallowed, trying to keep his dry throat from closing up.

"It's almost time for school."

"We need privacy now," Michaela said, trying to keep her voice steady.

"But you said you'd help me with my paper, remember?" Michaela sighed with defeat.

"Oh dear. I forgot." She gave Sully's knee a gentle squeeze under the blanket. "Go downstairs, and get your books. I'll be down in a moment." Brian nodded and left the room quickly, shutting the door as he left. Michaela darted out of bed and streaked across the room. She began to stumble into her clothes, and Sully watched with amusement as Michaela tried to cover her naked body as quickly as possible. He raised an eyebrow, and she caught his glance. "I had no idea we'd slept in so long."

"Had a busy night last night," Sully reminded her. Michaela blushed, and Sully climbed out of bed and walked across the room in his naked glory. "Let me help ya." Michaela swallowed hard as she pulled on her stockings and undergarments. Sully began to fasten her camisole, and he followed her over to the bureau as she found a skirt and a blouse. She slipped on the blouse, and Sully did up the buttons as she pulled on her skirt and tied a belt around her waist. Michaela smiled at her husband and gave him a tender kiss before leaving him so she could help Brian with his homework.


Michaela sat in the clinic, skimming over pages in her medical book that she'd already read a hundred times before on boring afternoons such as this one. Colleen was at Becky's house, and nobody was in need of stitches, medicine or any other medical service.

She sighed and looked at the single rose in the vase on her desk. Sully had brought that for her two days ago, and the petals were still bright red and beautiful. She remembered kissing him with such passion that he'd lost his breath for a moment. Then her mind wandered to the night before when Sully had made her feel so many different and wonderful things all at once. He was amazing, Sully was.

She thought of the way his fingers felt against her blushing flesh as he explored her body and whispered to her how beautiful he thought she looked.

Her skin began to tingle again, and she poured herself a glass of water. Michaela Quinn sat in the silent boredom of her office and wondered what she was doing here when she could be in the arms of the man she loved? Oh, she knew she needed to stop thinking that way and put her patients first when she was on the job, but everyone was in perfect health, and those who weren't were recovering nicely.

The image of Sully sensually rubbing her feet and kissing his way up her leg filled her mind, and she smiled, feeling her face growing warm and scarlet. She stood and moved toward the window. The sun was shining and young couples were strolling hand-in-hand through the meadow.

She could almost feel Sully's breath against her lips, and she closed her eyes, imagining that he was pulling the pins from her hair and running his fingers through it. She wanted to feel his mouth suckling at her neck.

She moved back to her desk and sat down, but she couldn't concentrate. She could only think of Sully. That was it. She stood up again. If everyone else could take a break in the middle of the afternoon, why couldn't she? She deserved an hour or two to herself, or at least in private with her husband. It wasn't as if she was completely abandoning her job. She'd come right back if she could pull herself from Sully's loving arms.

She walked to the door and let herself out. She was going to find Sully despite feeling like a foolish young girl. She didn't care right now, because all she wanted was to be with Sully. It was a feeling that was so overpowering that it was frightening, but she was looking past that at the moment.

The first person she ran into was Preston Lodge, and he didn't mind one bit. He smiled at her, and she avoided his gaze, looking over his shoulder eagerly to see if she could spot her husband.

"Good afternoon, Michaela," he said, trying to ignore the fact that she was looking everywhere but at him.

"Mr. Lodge," she finally said with a nod.

"Where are you going in such a hurry?" He honestly didn't care where she was going. He only wanted to delay her so he could spend just a few more moments with her beautiful face and smell the scent of whatever perfume she was wearing.

"I'm looking for my husband, actually. Have you seen Sully?" Preston's face fell, but he tried not to show it.

"No," he replied. Michaela continued on without another word, and Preston stared after her, wishing it was he whom she was looking for. It was at that moment that the flash of a young woman's beautiful face came to mind, and he felt suddenly guilty. This woman's face was one reason he'd left Boston, and one reason he would never forgive himself for her untimely death. But, he didn't want to think about that now. He'd think about it when there was nothing left to think about.

"Horace!" Michaela called out, coming upon the telegraph operator next. "Have you seen Sully?"

"Yep. Check the livery. I think I saw him a few minutes ago." Michaela nodded her thanks and continued on. She was quite surprised to see Becky walking toward her. She could have sworn that Colleen had said that she was going to Becky's to help her study. What had happened to that?

"Becky!"

"Dr. Mike!" Becky said as she nearly bumped into the lady doctor.

"Where's Colleen?"

"What?"

"Colleen? She said she was going to your house to study."

"She did?" Becky was confused as to why Colleen would say such a thing when they hadn't made any plans. Then she remembered Alice, Jared and Paul discussing something after school, and she realized that Colleen must have used her as an excuse to go and not get caught. She didn't appreciate it, but she knew that Colleen would let her do the same thing if she were in her position.

"Oh right! I can't believe I forgot! She must be waitin' for me!" Becky hurried off before Michaela could get another word in, and before Michaela could even think to ponder the situation a moment longer, she spotted Sully placing something into the back of the wagon.

"Sully!" she called out, feeling a bit foolish, but not caring, because she saw the smile brighten his face. She rushed over to him, and they pulled one another into a loving embrace.

"Somethin' wrong?" Sully asked immediately as they pulled away. He searched her eyes but found nothing but love staring back at him. Michaela suddenly realized she had no other reason to be calling upon him in the middle of the afternoon except for the fact that she was lonely for him.

"No," she said softly, shaking her head. He searched her eyes for an answer. "I was just thinking."

"Yeah?"

"Well, I mean, I was," she stammered, trying to find the words. "I know it's only been a few hours, but I was missing you." Sully smiled knowingly.

"I'm glad ya found me." He put his arm around her and whispered into her ear. "Wanna go home?" Michaela nodded bashfully, and five minutes later, she and Sully were in the wagon and heading for home.


Preston walked into the saloon and settled back at one of the tables. He didn't normally drink alone. Hell, he didn't normally drink much at all, because he knew when to keep a clear head. But today, he didn't feel much like talking or thinking. He wanted to drown his thoughts, and whiskey was one way he'd seen men do that over and over again.

Hank looked up at him from the bar and motioned for one of his girls to go pay the banker a visit. But, Preston turned her away and simply asked for whiskey. Hank poured him a glass and left him alone and socialized with the other customers.

Preston stared into the dark amber liquor and pictured her face. Not Michaela's, but the young woman's face he'd pictured earlier. She had had long black hair that curled every which way. She usually had it pulled back and out of her face, and her pale skin had not a blemish on it. She had looked a lot like Michaela Quinn except for her hair color, and even her petite frame reminded him of the lady doctor.

He sighed heavily and closed his eyes. He wondered if his fascination for this woman doctor was because of his past with Lydia. Lydia. He had tried to put that name out of his mind, but there it was again, coming back as if a repressed memory were surfacing for the first time in a decade.

He remembered the softness of her lips and the way her eyes sparkled in the candlelight. He remembered how her friends had giggled at her name joined with his. Lydia Lodge, they would tease her. But she never laughed. She never thought it was funny, especially when he had finally asked for her hand in marriage.

Preston drank the whiskey down in one large gulp and held his glass out. He placed a few dollars on the table, and Hank passed him the bottle.

"Startin' early today, huh?" Preston said nothing and poured himself another drink. Hank left him with his sorrows, and Preston drank until the memories rolled out of his head and into the crowded bar, twisting and turning with the smoke that rolled around the room, and soon, the only thing on his mind was the bottom of the whiskey bottle.


The seemingly long journey back to the homestead finally ended, and Sully helped Michaela down from the wagon. He took her hand and led her to the porch, sweeping her up into his arms and kissing her like a groom would kiss his new bride.

She giggled as Sully fumbled for his key. He put her down, and she waited patiently as he unlocked and opened the door. She walked in ahead of him, and he closed the door after he was inside. He went to lock the door, and Michaela watched with so much love in her eyes. She stood casually with her hands behind her back, and when Sully looked at her, she had a playful look in her eyes.

Sully unfastened his belt, and it landed with a loud thump on the table. Michaela giggled as Sully drew her into his arms and playfully kissed her neck. She tilted her head back to give him more access, and when he pulled away, he took her hands in his. Without words, he led her to the fireplace. He grabbed a match, struck it on the mantle, and threw it into the hearth. Michaela knelt onto her knees, and Sully joined her a moment later.

"You're alright with this?"

"With what?" Sully asked, going to work on the buttons on his wife's blouse.

"With me coming to you in the middle of the day." She blushed, and Sully chuckled.

"Well, it was either spend the day alone waitin' for ya to get off work or this. I think I like this a lot better." He gently kissed her hand before moving back to work with the buttons. Michaela giggled again as Sully slid the blouse off of her shoulders and un-tucked it from her skirt. Michaela began to kiss Sully's neck now, and she moved to his shoulders before placing a gentle kiss to his chest.

Sully began to unlace the camisole that covered his wife's beautiful breasts, and as he worked, Michaela's lips found his again and captured them in a passionate kiss.

Sully pulled away, breathless, and he saw a spark in his wife's eyes. He'd never known her to act so forward before, but he didn't mind. He liked her to express herself in the ways she wanted to, but when she saw him looking at her, she backed down a bit.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?" Michaela stammered for the words, but Sully took her hands and placed them on his chest.

"Ya feel my heart beatin' so fast? You're the only woman who can do that to me, and I don't ever want ya to hold back. I told ya that before."

"I know," she whispered shyly.

"C'mere," Sully urged softly, pulling her into another kiss. He felt Michaela's hands begin to stroke his chest and then this back, and soon, they were toppling over on the floor. But this time, Michaela was atop her husband, and she had control of the situation. She stared down at him, and all she saw in his eyes was complete adoration and the purest love.

She still felt awkward, but when Sully pulled her down to kiss her once more, all of her worries went out the window. She kissed him and explored his mouth with such eagerness and passion, and neither of them heard the back door jostle until Michaela sat up, hearing keys jingling and turning in the keyhole. Michaela gasped and frantically reached for her blouse.

"Sully!" she exclaimed. Sully nodded toward the stairs, and Michaela couldn't resist one more kiss before rushing upstairs. When she was out of sight, the back door opened, and Matthew walked in.

"Hey, Sully," he began. "I needed to borrow some tools." His eyes scanned the room, and he saw Sully's belt, complete with the tomahawk strung across the table along with the house keys, a fire roaring in the hearth and Sully, kneeling by himself on the floor. "Uh, am I interruptin' somethin'?"

"No, no," Sully said quickly, standing and hoping to get Matthew's mind off of this situation as quickly as humanly possible. "Which tools do ya need?" Sully patted Matthew on the back and followed him out to the barn. Michaela heard them leave and breathed a sigh of relief, though she wished that she was still downstairs with Sully and that they hadn't been interrupted.

As soon as she was finishing up the buttons on her blouse, she glimpsed a soaking wet Colleen rushing down the hall toward her room.

"Colleen!" Michaela called after her. A moment later, she heard an abrupt slamming of a bedroom door, and she decided that she was not going to let this one go.


Saturday September 10, 1870

The quilting circle was meeting at the Sully homestead this time, because frankly, this was the largest house in Colorado Springs with more room to work with.

Michaela had originally called the quilting circle's meeting to keep her mind off of her growing frustrations with Colleen. Unfortunately, Colleen was still angry with her and was practically demanding her own freedoms. Yes, Colleen was entitled to some freedoms, but not when they caused her to lie to her parents.

At the moment, the ladies were talking about how pretty Colleen was and how grown up she was, and all Michaela could think about was how much her daughter had been acting like a child.

"She's changing," Michaela said quietly as she made a few stitches. Dorothy looked at her.

"Changin' how?"

"We used to be able to talk so easily." Dorothy and Grace exchanged knowing glances.

"She's growin' up, Michaela," Dorothy said softly. "It happens to all children. I went through it with all of my children, and the only thing I learned is that ya gotta let 'em be."

"You mean, let her run around and do things she's promised not to do? Let her lie to me?"

"No! Of course not!" Dorothy said with a chuckle. "I'm saying that there are limits, but if ya keep 'em tied to the reins, ya can't pull back so tight, 'cause they'll struggle and break 'em." Michaela knew Dorothy had a good point, but she still didn't like the idea of Colleen's lying to her.

"And your family is changin'," Grace pointed out. "I bet she ain't getting as much attention as she used to, huh?" Michaela immediately blushed.

"Well, Sully and I have been rather preoccupied lately." She bit the inside of her cheek and continued to stitch.

"There's a shine in your eyes," Myra pointed out. "I remember bein' just married." She sighed a bit sadly and went back to her work.

"I gotta say that bein' married agrees with ya." Dorothy smiled and patted her friend's hand. She, of all people had known how nervous Michaela had been about her wedding night, and she was so pleased that Michaela had trusted her enough to share her fears with her.

"I must admit that I'm surprised. My mother never gave me the slightest impression that it agreed with her. She referred to . . . to . . . she called it the 'wifely duty.'" A few women nodded in agreement with Elizabeth Quinn, and Myra was one of them. Dorothy giggled, and Grace smiled as well.

"You're still in the honeymoon stage, but I gotta say that it can get better from here," Grace pointed out. "But, sometimes it don't." Dorothy giggled, and her own pale cheeks flushed red. Michaela was in awe about how these women could talk so openly about these kinds of things, but then again, there were no men present to tell them that they were being immoral. They weren't either. What they were speaking of was natural, wasn't it?

"But it gets different," Myra explained with a tired look I her eyes. Michaela turned her head to look at the young woman.

"How do you mean?"

"Well, it kinda gets to be like part of the day's routine. Kinda like brushin' your teeth." With that, all of the quilting circle broke out in laughter and continued on with their stitching.


Monday September 12, 1870

A couple of days had passed, and Michaela was pacing the bedroom. She was so frustrated with Colleen, and her frustrations had even turned into an argument with Sully, though, they had made up quite later. She had read a page in Colleen's diary detailing a dangerous horse race at the cliffs, and she was furious.

She had just warned her daughter not to go to the races, and Colleen had said she wouldn't. But, Michaela didn't feel like she could trust her daughter anymore, though she wanted to more than anything.

With a heavy sigh, Michaela climbed under the covers and closed her eyes. She wanted to talk to Sully, but she didn't want to get into an argument with him. All she wanted to do was be happy and be able to trust Colleen again.

Sully walked into the room and undressed. He smiled when he saw his wife lying in bed asleep. He knew she was probably exhausted, and he didn't want to have her lose sleep. So, he climbed under the covers and rested alongside of his wife.

It wasn't long before Michaela opened her eyes after a defeated attempt to go to sleep. She needed to talk and get everything off of her chest.

"Sully?"

"Hmm?" he asked a moment later with exhaustion in his voice.

"I'm sorry I woke you," she said with a sigh.

"It's alright. What's wrong?" Michaela swallowed hard.

"I just had a talk with Colleen, and I was very stern with her." Sully smiled a little.

"Sometimes ya gotta be." He turned to look at her. "C'mere. Ya look like you could use some holdin'." Michaela smiled and rested her head on Sully's shoulder as he pulled her close to him. "Anytime ya need some holdin', just ask." Michaela looked into her husband's eyes.

"You truly believe it's alright?" Sully chuckled.

"Truly." He kissed her softly. "Why do ya ask?"

"Well, I was brought up to believe that a woman shouldn't ask. She should wait for the man."

"Michaela, I wasn't brought up where you were, so don't pay no attention to that." He paused for a moment. "Ya know what the Cheyenne ask a young man who's just taken a wife?"

"What?"

"Does she show enthusiasm?" Michaela felt her entire body blushing. Sully kissed the tip of her nose. "I appreciate your enthusiasm." Michaela looked up into her husband's eyes and felt his lips press against hers.

They made love that night, showing one another the enthusiasm they both felt toward one another. They would have held one another all night if it wasn't for Matthew pounding on the door downstairs. Michaela was called away on an emergency, knowing she was going to have to deal with her daughter's bad choices once more.


Tuesday September 13, 1870

Michaela Quinn was exhausted! She hadn't slept in a very long time, and she was almost too tired to do anything but think, though she was trying to work on some stitching for the quilting circle.

Colleen had gone to school despite a horrible night and not sleeping, but Michaela knew that she had gone to avoid her mother's lectures. But, when she had returned home, she and Colleen had had a very long talk about the rules, respect and many other things that Colleen was dying to tell her mother.

When it all came down to it, Colleen had only been uncomfortable talking to Michaela, because she was afraid that things were different between them since her mother got married. But, Michaela assured her daughter that she loved her more than ever and that she would always be there to talk to.

Now Sully was spending time with Brian, reading him a book before bed, and Michaela was working on a piece for the quilting circle, not quite knowing what tomorrow would bring. Would Colleen continue to sneak around? Somehow, she doubted it.

Sully entered the room and closed it behind him. Michaela placed her needlework aside and took his hand.

"Brian's asleep?"

"Yep. He went right to sleep after a couple pages in his book."

"He usually does."

"It's been a long day. I don't know 'bout you, but I sure could use some holdin'." Those words excited Michaela beyond belief, and she suddenly didn't feel tired anymore.

"Come here."

"Ya don't mind me askin'?" Sully wondered as Michaela's hands worked at pulling off his shirt.

"Not at all. I appreciate your enthusiasm," she whispered. It was amazing how those four little words could open an entirely brand new door into their love life. Michaela felt more bold when Sully touched her, and she felt like she could touch him back and not blush at the thought of it.

Clothes piled upon clothes on the floor, and when Sully stood before his wife, she longed to reach out to him; to stroke him. Sully's hand took hers and placed it on his abdomen. She began to tremble as his hand guided hers lower, but he stopped.

"I don't want ya to do somethin' ya don't want to." For reasons she couldn't comprehend, tears of joy flooded her eyes. She loved how giving he was. He wasn't rough and didn't take what he wanted without considering how she felt about it.

A moment later, she was touching him, feeling his arousal in her hands, knowing she did this to him and made him feel this way. Sully closed his eyes and let out a soft moan, and Michaela looked up into his eyes and stroked his cheek with the other. Her hands were still trembling, and Sully knew she was growing nervous, so he lay her back on the bed, and her hands moved to rest upon his back. He crawled between her legs and entered her, not wanting to wait another moment to show his wife what she meant to him.

She whispered into his ear, asking him things he'd never heard her ask before, but he didn't mind. He knew she was trying for both his sake and for hers. But, even if he had the nervous wedding-night Michaela for the rest of his life, he wouldn't mind, because he knew she was the best thing that ever happened to him, and she was the most sensual, passionate, wonderful lover.

Michaela surprised him when she nipped at the skin on his chest and teased his nipples the way he teased hers. Her hands explored and roamed freely, and he loved the way her sweaty palms felt against his thighs as they moved as one.

They collapsed together after coming over the edge, and their bodies were damp with sweat as their hearts beat so quickly it felt like they might burst. Michaela's arm snaked around her husband, and they situated themselves comfortably together. Hands touched and caressed underneath the blanket, and passion ignited once and twice more. The night was just beginning, but the enthusiasm would never end.