Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, The Sullivan Company and to A&E.

Warning: This short story contains a graphic sexual encounter between two consenting, engaged adults. If pre-marital sex offends you, please turn back now.

Hidden Embers

By, Ashley J.

November 10, 2005 – November 12, 2005

Sunrise came far too soon, but Michaela woke up with a smile on her face. Only God knew what she was dreaming of, and she was slightly disappointed that she didn't remember. She instinctively reached across her bed and found nothing, sadly remembering they'd slept apart. She sighed softly and pulled herself out of bed. She was half afraid to look in the mirror, not sure of what she would find herself looking like. When she squinted into the mirror, her golden brown hair was a mess behind her, and she wondered how she would ever get that brushed out before breakfast. But, she sighed and examined her face. Her eyes were sparkling, and she couldn't seem to wipe off the smile that blossomed with each passing moment. She couldn't help it. She was deliriously happy…deliriously free.

The clock chimed eight in the hall, and Michaela groaned. She hadn't even slept six hours. She knew she was already late for breakfast, so she rushed about the room, pulling on a fresh chemise and her corset. She knew that Martha was the best at lacing up her corset in a hurry, and she was about to ring the bell for her, but a knock came to the door. She figured that was the maid, because she usually checked on her if she was late for breakfast. Not thinking, she called out.

"Come in," she replied, feeling the muscles in her body straining for a moment, aching from earlier that morning. The next thing she knew, Sully appeared into sight, and her mouth gaped open at the sight of him dressed for the day. "Sully! I…I thought you were Martha." She flushed wildly, not sure of how to act at the moment. He had seen her in much less, and this was a fresh new morning. He only grinned, shutting himself in. He moved toward her, pulling her into a slow, sensual good morning kiss. He could feel her tense for a moment but relax against him. When he pulled back, he smiled, looking down into her loving eyes.

"Mornin'."

"Good morning," she replied, her pale cheeks already blushing at his presence.

"Breakfast's ready."

"Yes. I know," she said quickly, suddenly realizing that the rest of the household was awake. She wanted to kiss him again, but she knew that the chances of being caught this time were much greater. "I need to have Martha lace me up."

"I'll do it," Sully offered. Michaela jumped slightly. He noticed the color draining from her face. "What is it? Did I do somethin'…"

"No. No, you're fine," she said, flashing a nervous smile. "I suppose I just never…I…" He stepped closer to her, and she was amazed at how his mere presence sent sparks flying throughout her body.

"Ya want me to go?" he asked, turning toward the door slowly.

"No," she replied quickly, reaching out to touch his arm. He smiled at the way her pale cheeks grew red, and he nodded, stepping up behind her. She briefly instructed him on how to lace up the corset, and he took his time with her, daring himself to kiss the exposed flesh on her shoulder. She shuddered softly, feeling his breath against her skin, before his lips pressed a fresh kiss there, singeing her flesh with desire. She closed her eyes, biting her lip, as he laced up the rest of her corset. He helped her slip into the dress, and he buttoned her up. She smiled gratefully, turning toward him, and he reached out, gently running his fingers through her hair.

"Ya okay?"

"I'm…I'm fine," she breathed. "I'm a bit nervous." He nodded, handing her the hairbrush. He watched, as she gently brushed her hair out, and she could feel his eyes on her the entire time. He kept his distance, and she felt her mind wandering to the romantic evening before. Not even twenty-four hours ago she had wondered if she would ever see him again. Now here he was. He was her friend, her fiancé and her lover.

As soon as she pulled her hair up and pinned each section into place, she turned to him.

"Sully…" He moved toward her, and she looked him in the eyes.

"Hmm?"

"Perhaps…perhaps we should go down separately. Mother's a very suspicious woman," she said softly. "I want to tell her about the engagement, and I don't want her thinking…I…"

"I understand," he replied gently, cupping her pale cheek in his dark hand. "I love you."

"I love you," she whispered, sighing happily, as he kissed her. She checked herself once in the mirror, before she left her room, leaving him behind to wait a few minutes. As she passed his bedroom, she could still feel the heat from the fire, hear the sounds of their passion and feel the warmth of his touch, and it made her tremble with desire. She couldn't believe she could feel this way when he wasn't even present.

She turned down the stairs, and Brian came whizzing up past her.

"Mornin', Ma!" he exclaimed.

"Hold on a moment!" she said with a laugh. "Where are you going?"
"We finished breakfast early, and Grandma said me and…I mean, Colleen, Matthew and I could go explorin' again. She said we could take Sully while you're out with William."

"Oh," Michaela said thoughtfully. "All right." She watched him race down the hall to his room to find his coat, and she took the steps two at a time down to the dining room. Matthew and Colleen promptly came up the stairs, hurrying after their brother, eager to get out of the stuffy house. When Michaela stepped into the dining room, Elizabeth was seated alone, slowly drinking her morning cup of tea. Michaela sat down across from her mother, and she smiled, as Martha served her her breakfast plate.

"Will Mr. Sully be coming down for breakfast, Miss?" Martha asked. Michaela's cheeks reddened, and Elizabeth noticed.

"I suppose so," Michaela replied nonchalantly. She didn't look her mother in the eye, when Martha went back to the kitchen, and she began to cut into her food.

"Are you going to tell me?" Michaela finally looked up, her eyes clouded with worry, doubt and fear. Could her mother really sense that something had changed?

"Tell what, Mother?" she asked quietly.

"What was that about?"

"What?"

"Don't play games with me, Michaela. I may not know you as well as I thought I did, but a mother knows when something is troubling her daughter. Now tell me." Michaela swallowed hard, taking a sip of milk.

"Everything is fine, Mother. I'm just feeling a bit tired." Elizabeth shook her head, and Sully entered the room.

"Speaking of tired…I was up half of the night. Did you hear anything suspicious?" Michaela nearly choked on her milk, as Sully sat down beside her. Elizabeth glanced at Sully, surprised at his choice to sit down next to her daughter.

"Mr. Sully? Aren't you accompanying my grandchildren this morning?"

"I told 'em to go on without me. I wasn't ready to go, and they were all dressed in their coats. Guess I slept in too long." Elizabeth saw the color drain from Michaela's face. Something didn't feel right to Elizabeth, but she continued on. "I heard footsteps in the hall, and I swear I heard something moving about in one of the guest rooms." She eyed Sully, and Michaela tried to control her heartbeat. She couldn't look at Sully right now. She couldn't let her mother see the way she looked at him just yet. But, Sully spoke up, scaring Michaela out of her wits.

"Sorry 'bout that, Mrs. Quinn. That's my fault."

"What on Earth was going on last night, Mr. Sully? Were you not comfortable in your bed?" Sully felt Michaela's hand grab his under the table, and she gave it a squeeze, frightened just as much as he was. He nervously cleared his throat, looking Elizabeth directly in the eye.

"No. I was just fine. Brian asked me if I could read 'im a story," he explained. "Took a while, but he finally went to sleep. I was up after that…too awake to fall back to sleep." Elizabeth glanced at her daughter again, watching her take yet another drink of milk.

"Michaela? You're sweating…are you feeling well?" Michaela heard Harrison letting William in the front door, and she gave Sully's hand a final squeeze underneath the table. She brought her hand up, grabbed a handkerchief and gently dabbed away the beads of perspiration that were forming at her temples.

"I'm actually feeling a bit under the weather. I think I should stay in and rest today."

"I agree," Elizabeth replied with concern in her eyes. She looked up, putting on her best smile, as Dr. Burke entered the room, and she didn't even notice when Michaela and Sully exchanged knowing glances. "Ah, good morning, Dr. Burke!"

"Mrs. Quinn," he said with a charming, over-exaggerated smile. He reached out and took her hand in his, kissing it as if he was meeting the queen. Sully eyed him, and Michaela tensed up. She knew this was going to be awkward. When he reached for her head, she slowly gave it to him, letting him kiss it. She knew that Sully wasn't very fond of William. "Michaela, you look beautiful today."

"She does," Sully replied, startling Elizabeth. Michaela flushed heavily.

"Thank you," she said quietly, pulling her hand away from William's.

"Are you ready to go?" the doctor asked with a twinkle in his eyes. Elizabeth's eyes were still on Sully, but she was speaking to William.

"I'm sorry, but I believe Michaela is feeling under the weather today." Sully's eyes were completely focused on Michaela's, and it drove Elizabeth mad.

"I'm sorry to hear that," William replied. "Is there anything I can do?" Sully clenched his jaw, and under the table, he clenched his fists. Michaela shook her head.

"No. Thank you, William. I'm sure I'll feel well enough in the morning." Her gaze turned toward Sully's. This obviously wasn't the right time to tell Elizabeth of their engagement. They would have to announce it at dinner.

"I'll stop by in the morning then," he replied. Michaela nodded.

"Please, come by for dinner this evening, William," Elizabeth offered.

"Thank you, Mrs. Quinn. I'll do that." He nodded to all of them, and Harrison showed him out. She could see the way he looked at her like a young boy in love for the first time. It made her uncomfortable now, especially because she wasn't remotely attracted to him. What if she had been giving him the wrong idea? What if he thought she actually cared about him in that way?

"What was that about?" Elizabeth asked with exasperation, as Michaela started to stand.

"Mother?"

"You weren't so stiff with William yesterday. What happened? Has he done something…?"

"No!" Michaela exclaimed.

"I don't believe you're ill at all. I think you're avoiding seeing Dr. Burke. He's a good man, Michaela." Sully finally had to cut in.

"With all due respect, Mrs. Quinn…" She snapped her attention toward him.

"I don't see how this situation is any of your concern, Mr. Sully. You're a guest in this house, and you should…"

"Mother, you have no right to speak that way to Sully," Michaela said icily, not realizing she could be so harsh with her. She felt guilty, because Elizabeth was still recovering from her illness, but she'd gone too far. Elizabeth glanced with surprised, suspicious eyes in her youngest daughter's direction. She was still sensing something more between these two, yet she was afraid to face what it truly was.

"Michaela, it's all right," he assured her. "Don't worry." Elizabeth caught the glance between them this time, and she quickly stood, pushing her chair back.

"This is my house, and I deserve to know what's going on under its roof." Michaela and Sully glanced at one another again, and Michaela finally sat back down in her chair, placing her hands in her lap.

"We have something to tell you," Michaela said slowly. "Would you please sit down?" Eyeing them both, she finally sat back down in her chair. Before either of them knew it, Sully put his hand over Michaela's, as it rested on the table. This certainly didn't go unnoticed to Elizabeth. "Mother…" Suddenly, Elizabeth felt her stomach doing flip flops inside of her, as anxiety boiled up to her cheeks, making them turn red. "Mother? Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine," she said in her calmest tone, as her body fought her nerves. "We? Which we? Please tell me this 'we' is…" Not wanting her mother to blurt out something that would embarrass all of them, Michaela blurted something of her own out.

"Mother, Sully and I are engaged." Elizabeth was certain her heart stopped beating. Hearing that her daughter was engaged was a glorious thing, but hearing that she would be vowing herself to Mr. Sully, well, that was something else. She looked at the man who was going to take her little girl away. Had it been anyone else, she would've said 'take her,' because Michaela was closely reaching the point of being an old maid. But, Mr. Sully? She couldn't imagine how he could provide any sort of life for her. If she remembered correctly, he lived in the woods, and Michaela lived in his house. How on Earth could they make it work?

"Mrs. Quinn?" Sully asked, seeing her face turn from red to white in a matter of seconds. She hadn't spoken in nearly fifty seconds, and Michaela was practically sweating bullets. He couldn't fight the feeling that this was not going to go well at all.

"I must be sleep-deprived," she said with a dry laugh. "I thought for sure you said you two were engaged!" She laughed again, and Sully and Michaela glanced at one another awkwardly. She wasn't making this easy at all. They hadn't expected her to. "It isn't right to play with an old woman's emotions like that."

"Mother," Michaela said quietly, clutching Sully's hand. "You heard me right. I'm going to marry Sully." Elizabeth's face turned as cold as ice again, though her eyes burned with fire, as she glared at Sully.

"What on Earth…"

"I love your daughter, Mrs. Quinn. I love her more than I ever loved anybody, and havin' her gone for so long made me realize that…I don't wanna live without her."

"No," Elizabeth said, shaking her head.

"No?" Michaela asked, surprise in her voice. Why was she so surprised? This was her mother. She should have known.

"I cannot allow my youngest daughter to throw her life away for some…some…I don't even know what to call you right now, Mr. Sully." Sully cleared his throat, adjusting himself in his seat. Realization struck her. "What brought this on, anyway? Michaela? Last night, you seemed terrified to see him. You've been so happy here. I thought for sure William was preparing to ask for your hand. What's changed since Mr. Sully's arrival?" Michaela couldn't deny the blush in her cheeks, and Elizabeth's eyes were as large as silver dollars. She could see it in her daughter's eyes. That's what had changed. In her own house. "Oh, Michaela. Tell me it isn't true." Michaela was at a loss for words, and she looked at Sully. "Do not look at him! You look at me." Michaela's eyes flashed toward her mother's again. She felt like she was five years old again, and she began to shiver.

"Mother, please calm down…"

"Calm down?" Elizabeth's voice was flat and cold, and she stood from the table like a lady, keeping her shoulders stiff and her back straight. Michaela's eyes followed her mother, as she disappeared from the room. Michaela stood, and Sully started to stand, but she put a hand on his shoulder.

"Please, wait here. I need to talk to her alone." Sully nodded, taking her hand in his and softly placing a kiss to her palm. She resisted the temptation to kiss him again. Her mother needed to talk, and she knew this wasn't going to be pleasant. She needed to focus.

Elizabeth was seated in the parlor, and Michaela took careful steps as she entered, pulling the doors shut behind her. Hopefully, it would muffle any yelling that might occur.

"Mother…"

"How long?"

"I beg your pardon?" Michaela asked stiffly, moving to sit on the parlor chair nearest the couch, where Elizabeth was seated.

"You heard me."

"I don't thing my relationship with Sully is any of your business. We simply wanted to tell you that we're engaged."

"None of my business? When this is going on in my house, it is my business." Michaela sighed heavily, looking her mother right in the eye.

"I love Sully."

"Love. Love isn't going to give you a comfortable life. Love isn't going to keep food on your table and clothes on your back." Michaela shook her head.

"You know it's not like that with us. You've seen how well we're doing in Colorado Springs."

"Well?" Elizabeth laughed. "I should have known that moving away from Boston would influence your…your morals. Just look what's happened to you. Have you learned nothing from Boston?"

"I've learned a lot from Boston, and I haven't changed, Mother. I only…I only see what's best…what's right for me."

"So you give yourself to the first man you meet?"

"Mother! It isn't like that!" Michaela exclaimed, her heart pounding so hard that she could practically hear it.

"Then explain it to me, Michaela. What's it like?" Elizabeth picked up her knitting needles and went to work. Michaela knew her mother well enough to know that this meant things were not looking up.

"Have you ever wanted to be free, Mother?" Elizabeth paused for a moment, a nostalgic look appearing in her eyes for only a moment, before she clouded again and went back to her knitting. "Haven't you ever wanted to experience the kind of love that feels right in every way? I'm happy, Mother, and Sully is the only man who has ever made me feel like I can be anything, do anything or say anything I want and not be criticized for it!"

"That's what you want? You want to be a mistress?"

"I want to be a wife. I want to be a mother. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a woman, Mother, and not feel guilty about it."

"Have you ever done anything in your entire life to please me?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes showing the broken heart of a mother who had never truly understood her daughter, but she'd wanted to be like her so very much.

"Mother…"

"This wasn't the way I planned for it to be. I don't mind you being a doctor. You saved my life. I don't mind you not having children of your own. I love the ones you've taken in with all of my heart. But this is unacceptable."

"Not to me," Michaela breathed. "Sully and I will be married with or without your blessing, but it would be so much better if you could understand."

"I'll never understand why a woman would want to…"

"You're not me, Mother. You don't understand the things I want or need."

"Maybe not, but I know indecent behavior when I see it."

"Mother, please," Michaela said, shaking her head. "I wish you could understand that I don't want the same things you want. I don't want money and power. I want love and family and to survive by working hard and making achievements on a day-to-day basis." Elizabeth sighed heavily, choosing her words carefully this time.

"You're a grown woman, Michaela. You know your own mind. If you want to marry Mr. Sully, by all means, marry him. But, you will not have my blessing. Don't expect me to be there on your wedding day. I can't stomach the thought of watching you throw your life away." Michaela felt her face stinging as if she'd been slapped. Her eyes began to tear at the thought of her mother not coming to her own wedding. This wasn't how she'd pictured it at all. Elizabeth's heart broke at the sight of her daughter so distraught, but she didn't want her daughter to do something she could regret later. Well, it was a bit too late for that, she thought, but she could at least try to keep her from making an even bigger mistake.

Michaela stood slowly, not sure how to look at her mother at the moment. She didn't know what to say, and she was about to turn around, when the parlor doors burst open, and the children hurried in.

"Ma!" Brian exclaimed. Michaela perked up and turned quickly.

"What is it?" She brushed a stray tear from her cheek, and Brian was the only one who didn't notice.

"It wasn't the same without ya or Sully, so we came back."

"Dr. Mike?" Matthew asked slowly. "Everything ok?"

"Yes. Yes, it's fine. Sully's in the dining room. You can take him along. I'm sure he'd enjoy it."

"We saw Dr. Burke. You're not goin' with him?" Colleen asked.

"Not today," Michaela said quietly.

"Then you can come with us!" Brian offered cheerfully. Michaela thought about her options. She could spend the day with her children and the man she was promised to, or she could stay at home under her mother's icy glare.

"Your mother needs to rest. She's not feeling well today," Elizabeth spoke up. Michaela shook her head.

"No, I think a bit of fresh air will do me good. Come along, children." She didn't look at her mother again until she turned to pull the double doors closed. Their gaze lingered for a moment, but Elizabeth broke it first, going back to her knitting.


The common was full of families picnicking and walking and talking, and it was a beautiful sunny day. Michaela was smiling again, and it warmed Sully's heart. He loved the way she smiled so wide and so bright and how her eyes sparkled when she did so. They were too focused on one another to receive the stares from passers-by. They stole glances, as the children walked ahead, and they whispered quietly, wondering when it would be the best time to tell them of their engagement.

Brian was eager to show Sully all of Boston, but Michaela explained that seeing all of Boston in one day would be a lot to take in. When Colleen began talking about the River Charles with a dreamy look in her eyes, Sully boldly reached for Michaela's hand. He was pleased when she didn't pull away, and she gave his hand a squeeze, grinning up at him coyly. The children were still walking ahead, chattering about the confectionary, the library and the sailboats.

Once the children were a good way's up, Sully gently rubbed his thumb over Michaela's knuckles.

"Ya okay?" She breathed in a fresh breath of air, feeling as if she'd been holding her breath for ages.

"I'm fine. I'm merely disappointed."

"I'm takin' it that things did go well with your ma?" Michaela shook her head.

"She refuses to come to the wedding. She won't give us her blessing." Sully sighed quietly.

"I'm sorry, Michaela."

"Don't apologize. I won't have you feeling guilty for…" She blushed.

"Ya can say it," he said quietly, sneaking a kiss to her cheek. She swallowed hard, knowing that her boundaries were limitless with him.

"For…making me happier than I've ever been," she explained with a soft, sweet smile. A grin played across his own face, and he was about to lean down to kiss her, when Brian's laughter broke the moment.

"Hey Ma! Sully!" he yelled. "You're too slow!" Michaela and Sully stifled their laughter, and they hurried to catch up to the children. Colleen was the first to notice Michaela and Sully holding hands, and she nudged Matthew in the ribs when she saw.

"Ow! What was that for?" he asked, glaring at his little sister.

"Look," she whispered. "They're holdin' hands." Matthew started to look. "No! Don't look!"

"Ya told me to look. What the heck am I s'posed to do?" Colleen cleared her throat, as Michaela and Sully finally came over. Michaela stood a little in front of Sully, and Brian was oblivious to the fact that his mother was holding the hand of the man he looked up to more than anyone. Colleen's eyes were linked on the way Sully's fingers gently moved over Michaela's. She couldn't stop looking, but Matthew nudged her this time.

"Where to now?" Michaela asked, letting the children be her guide. Matthew studied the features of Michaela's face. She hadn't looked this happy in a very long time. Having Sully back had obviously done wonders for her spirits.

"River's down this way," Brian pointed out. He turned around, but out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed something different. He gazed at the two hands, pale and tan, holding each other's securely and lovingly. Colleen saw the look in her brother's eyes first, but she couldn't clamp her hand over his mouth fast enough. "Ya don't have to hold his hand, Ma. We won't let Sully get lost." Michaela's jaw nearly dropped to her feet, and even the usually relaxed Sully's cheeks turned a little red.

"Brian!" Colleen hissed.

"What?" Matthew tugged on Brian's coat.

"C'mon, little brother. Let's go see if we can find a good spot to set up the picnic by the river."

"But I…" Brian protested. Matthew quickly tugged him away. Not sure what to say, Colleen smiled shyly and hurried off to catch up with her brothers. Michaela and Sully were still frozen, completely taken off guard.

"Well," Michaela said with a dry breath. "I suppose we were everything but subtle." Sully couldn't form words, and they ended up breaking out into pure laughter. God, neither one of them had laughed like that in such a long time, and it felt so good.

"Guess this is as good a time as any to tell 'em." Michaela laughed.

"I suppose it is." She bit her bottom lip, grinning shyly at him. "Shall we?" He offered her his arm, and she looped hers through it. They caught up to the children, and they watched as they set out the blanket and the food. "Children?" The kids stopped what they were doing, when Michaela and Sully sat down side by side. Michaela smoothed out her skirt and stared into the eyes of her curious children.

"What is it, Ma?" Brian asked, sneaking a piece of licorice from his pocket.

"Your ma and me…we got somethin' to tell ya," Sully explained, tucking his arm around Michaela's waist. Matthew and Colleen cast knowing glances at one another, and Brian still looked at them, confusion and curiosity in his young eyes.

"What?" Brian asked. "Are we goin' home?" Michaela grinned a little.

"Soon," she promised. "That isn't the news, though."

"Wh…"

"Let her talk, Brian," Matthew replied, putting his hand over Brian's mouth again. Brian muttered something, and Colleen giggled.

"Matthew," Michaela scolded with a laugh in her voice. Matthew released Brian.

"What's goin' on?" he asked.

"Well…" Michaela raised an eyebrow, glancing at Sully. He nodded, and she took a deep breath. "What would the three of you think if…if Sully and I got married?" Colleen's eyes grew wide, and she let out a squeal of excitement. Matthew was shocked, and Brian practically leapt into Sully's arms.

"Yeah!" Brian exclaimed. "This means you're gonna be our new pa!" He hugged Sully tightly around the neck, and the other children quickly gave their mother hugs.

"I thought ya guys were gonna say ya were courtin' now. I didn't expect ya were getting married," Matthew said, a grin on his face as he shook his head.

"When are ya getting married?" Colleen asked.

"How 'bout today? That way we can all move in together when we get home," Brian suggested. Michaela and Sully looked at one another nervously, and they smiled.

"Well, I was hopin' to get started on a new homestead," Sully explained. "That way the three of ya could have your own rooms," he explained. Michaela wondered how long that would take. "I figure might take me the good part of a year to do."

"A year?" Brian asked.

"Let's not talk about time right now," Michaela said with a laugh. "Let's eat."

"And celebrate," Colleen pointed out.

"Boy, Dr. Burke sure is gonna be surprised," Brian pointed out. "I think he likes ya, Ma." Michaela didn't want to think about that at the moment.

"How'd Grandma take the news?" Colleen asked. "I bet she was real surprised." Michaela couldn't deny that.

"She certainly was," she said quietly, taking a sip of lemonade.

"So you're courtin', and you're engaged," Brian said, chewing on the last piece of his licorice. "If ya do wanna get married now, Sully wouldn't have to leave after dinner, and we could all tell each other stories before bed. We'd all wake up in the mornin' and have breakfast together. We'd all tell stories 'til we fell asleep!" Michaela felt her heart race at the mere thought of sharing a bed with Sully, while the children were in the house. Yes, they would certainly need to have a home built before the wedding took place. A house with many rooms and doors for privacy.

"Children," Michaela said with exasperation. "Let's not worry about that right now. Let's just enjoy today. It's so beautiful outside."

"Sure is," Sully remarked. But, he wasn't looking at the scenery. He was only looking at her. She blushed, and he squeezed her around the middle just a little bit, and she bit her lip to stop from giggling. She had never felt so young before.

As soon as the children finished eating, they went off to walk for a little while, and Michaela and Sully stayed behind to talk. They sat facing one another now, leaning in for private words and stolen kisses. His hands never let go of hers.

"I missed ya," he said softly.

"I've been here all day," she pointed out.

"I ain't talkin' 'bout that," he replied. "I'm talkin' 'bout when ya went to your room this mornin'. It wasn't the same without ya with me." She looked down, trying to hide the redness in her cheeks, but he tilted her chin up. Her eyes met his, and their lips met again, giving into the hunger they felt for one another. She moaned into his mouth, as he elicited feelings from the wee hours of that morning, stirring her emotions and her needs deep inside of her. When she finally pulled back, Sully noticed her lips red and slightly swollen from his kisses. He only wanted her more, but he restrained himself.

"Sully…I…."

"Hmm?" He bent down for another quick kiss, and she shuddered into his mouth, not wanting him to stop, but knowing they were in broad daylight, where the children could easily see them if they came back too quickly.

"I've never felt like this before," she admitted. Her eyes cast themselves downward, and she tried to break through her shyness. "Now that I know…I just…I need you. That frightens me." He nodded.

"I know it does. Don't worry, Michaela. It scares me too."

"It does?"

"Yeah. I never needed anybody as much as I need you." Michaela looked around. The other families had all gone back, and the sky was starting to cloud over. It would rain soon, and the children would be coming back soon too. She didn't care about the rain, though, and when she felt his lips on hers again, all of her thoughts were lost. Her arms wrapped around him, as he pulled her closer, and they tumbled back onto the blanket, feeling a rush of new needs and desires screaming through their veins.

His lips on her neck felt like fire, igniting the hidden embers inside of her, making them glow red hot, needing to be fed and tended to. She gasped at the feel of his tongue on the flesh of her neck, and she swallowed hard, aching for more of him.

"Sully," she moaned, feeling his hand move slowly down her side. "Sully…" She bit back a growl, when he brought his hand to the side of her breast, gently caressing her through the fabric of her clothing. The sound of the children's voices sent Michaela into a panic, and she placed her hand on Sully's chest, quickly pushing him, letting him know that they were in danger of being caught. He quickly sat up, scrambling up beside Michaela. She straightened herself out, and he reached over, plucking a blade of grass from her hair. She smiled in thanks, watching as the children reappeared from down the hill. As soon as the children found Michaela and Sully, Brian plopped down beside his mother and looked up at her.

"Ma? When's dinner?"


Dinner was indeed quite interesting that evening. Elizabeth was silent, though the children filled the silence with chatter about the afternoon, chatter about Michaela and Sully's engagement and about going home soon. William was late in arriving, and Michaela was growing nervous about his arrival. She knew he had expectations, and she didn't want him to get the wrong idea. She enjoyed his company as a friend, but friendship was all she wanted from him.

"Grandma, ya shoulda seen how bright it was outside today," Brian said with excitement sparkling in his eyes.

"I'm sure it was lovely, Brian," Elizabeth replied, taking a sip of water, trying to avoid looking at her daughter's abundant happiness, as she sat so close to the man she loved. Elizabeth sighed softly.

"As soon as Ma and Sully get married, I'll have a ma and a pa again. I'll be just as happy as the day I got to meet you, Grandma. You're the only grandma I ever met." Michaela looked toward her mother, seeing her heart melt a little bit.

"You're the first grandson I've ever had who could reel in a catfish half his size," Elizabeth replied. Michaela grinned at that.

"Maybe ya can come out for the weddin', and we can go fishin' together." Elizabeth's eyes lowered again. "Ya are comin', ain't ya?" Michaela tensed, and Sully placed his hand on her knee under the table. She glanced at him, and he only nodded. Colleen and Matthew had noticed the tension between Michaela, Sully and their grandmother, so they were silent, knowing that each of Brian's questions were wearing at the loose fibers of composure that Elizabeth was clinging onto.

"Brian, let Grandma eat," Colleen scolded. Brian, not realizing, continued on.

"And there's a big creek by the house. Good fishin' there," he said quietly. Michaela was afraid that Elizabeth would explode and scream at the entire dinner party. "Please say you'll come, Grandma. Please? It won't be the same without ya there." Elizabeth looked up into her daughter's eyes, and she wanted to cry. She looked down at her innocent grandson and reached across the table, taking his little hand in hers.

"For you, Brian, I'll go anywhere." Brian grinned, and Michaela looked up in surprise, a tear breaking loose and cascading down her cheek. Sully noticed it and gave her knee another squeeze.

"Good!" Brian exclaimed. "I can't wait!"

"Can't wait for what?" came a familiar voice from the entryway. Michaela's face paled, and she glanced at Sully. Brian turned around, greeting William with a sheepish smile. "Ma and Sully's weddin'." It was William's turn to lose the color in his face, and Michaela slowly turned in her seat to face him, and Sully couldn't deny the amused smile that curled up on one side of his mouth. Michaela wanted to swat him, but it wasn't right, and she knew Sully didn't like him very much. Elizabeth looked up, shaking her head.

"Good evening, Dr. Burke. Please, sit down." William slowly took a seat at Michaela's other side.

"You look lovely tonight, Mrs. Quinn," William said. "Michaela, you're looking especially radiant this evening. I suppose congratulations are in order." That was typical William. He backed down, because he knew that Michaela was off limits, and she was glad he did the right thing and didn't question the situation.

The rest of dinner went by quickly, much to Michaela's delight, and she escorted William to the door, telling him she would see him at the hospital in the morning. He kissed her hand, and he told her he was truly happy that she was happy. Then he was gone, and Sully's hands were the next things she felt. He was right behind her, gently squeezing her shoulders, and she leaned into him. It felt so good.

"Your Ma and the kids just went up to bed for the night," he said quietly, gently nuzzling her ear. She bit her bottom lip, closing her eyes, and she turned in his arms. Without hesitation, they pulled one another in, holding each other so close that it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. Before she knew it, his hand was grazing its way down her back, and she realized that they were standing in the middle of the foyer.

"Sully," she whispered softly, pulling away. Her eyes flickered with desire, and he smiled.

"I got a surprise for ya," he said quietly. Michaela nodded.

"We need to be careful."

"We will be," he promised. They held each other's hands, and Sully led her up the stairs and down the hall. Michaela stopped in front of his door, her body trembling already.

"Not in here," he whispered. He nodded toward her room, and she swallowed hard.

"My room?" He pulled her close, taking her mouth with his, kissing her, loving her, and her knees grew weak underneath her. Before she knew it, her back was pressed against the wall, and she couldn't control her body's reactions. Finally, she nodded and softly panted, "my room." He took her hand in his and led her into the room. Her eyes went wide at the sight before her. A fire was already blazing in the hearth, and the window-side table was decorated with two candles and a silver platter from the kitchen. "Sully? We've already had dinner."

"I know," he whispered from behind her, gently caressing her cheek and nuzzling her ear again. "This is dessert." He kissed her cheek, and she closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of him pressed up against her. She couldn't believe how wonderful it felt to be loved like this. She had never known Sully to be so passionate and romantic. If only she had let herself see that sooner…

He led her to the table and pulled the chair out for her. She sat down, smiling at him, as he lit the candles. He sat down across from her, and he pulled the platter lid up to reveal a pecan pie. Michaela's eyes glittered.

"My favorite…"

"I know," he replied. "I gave Grace's recipe to Martha. Don't worry. She said she wouldn't say nothin', 'cause she knows it's for you. Before ya ask, no, she don't know I was plannin' this." Michaela swallowed hard.

"You thought to get Grace's recipe for me before you came to Boston?" Sully didn't move a muscle, and Michaela sighed softly. "Thank you." Sully nodded and served the pie. They ate silently, not taking their eyes off of one another. By the time they had had their fill, Sully stood, placing his napkin down on the table. He held his hand out to her. "What?"

"Dance with me."

"Dance?" Michaela asked, her voice pitching high and her eyes widening. "You know how to dance?"

"Ya won't know 'til ya dance with me, will ya?" She grinned, and stood, taking his hand, and he pulled her toward the hearth. His steps were slow and simple and greatly impressive. "To tell ya the truth, I didn't know how to dance."

"You're doing a lovely job," Michaela commented.

"Well, I had lessons from a friend," he replied, gently kissing her cheek, pulling her closer.

"Oh?" He chuckled and looked toward the fire.

"Miss Dorothy pulled me aside and asked me if I was comin' 'cause I got feelings for ya. Well, I told her that I wanted to make ya see that ya got somethin' to come back for. I…Well, she told me that if I'm goin' to Boston, I need to learn how to dance, 'cause she said ya told her ya dance a lot out here." Michaela grinned.

"I can't believe you learned how to dance for me."

"I still ain't that good."

"You're perfect," she replied, kissing his chin, his cheek and then his lips. She pulled back, smiling as his hand moved up to take the pins out of her hair. Her curls cascaded down her back in long, golden streams, and once they were free, Sully ran his fingers through them, feeling the softness of her hair in his hands. He could smell the sweet scent of the soaps she used, and the slight scent of vanilla made him crave more. He felt her lips on his neck, and he closed his eyes, feeling ready to burst already.

"Michaela," he breathed softly. She pulled back.

"Did I do something wrong?" she asked quietly, her hands playing with the buttons on his shirt. He pulled himself out of his coat and threw it over an armchair, as Michaela's fingers toyed with the buttons.

"No," he replied. "Nothin's wrong. I just…I just want ya to know that if ya don't wanna…I mean, I don't want ya to feel like I expect it. I mean…" She grinned. She had never seen him so tongue-tied before.

"I know you, Sully. I know your heart," she breathed, "yet I discover something new that I love about you everyday. This is one of them. I know you'd never pressure me into anything. I don't feel pressured at all. I'm free, Sully. I'm free to let you know what you mean to me. We haven't done anything wrong. Loving someone…there's not greater feeling in the world." He spun her around, and she stifled a laugh, when he pulled her back in, claiming her lips with his own again. She sighed against him, feeling his heart beating against hers. This was bliss. He backed away, remembering what to do to avoid being nearly knocked out of bed. He moved toward the door and silently locked it, and he could almost hear her body tremble. He could feel her warmth, as she moved toward the fire, and he turned, seeing her back covered by layers of clothing. She was so free, yet she was so confined by the contraptions that she'd been accustomed to wearing in Boston. He much preferred her in her most comfortable state.

"Ya nervous?" he asked, his voice deep, rich and smooth like a fine chocolate. Her hands ran along the smooth marble of the mantle, and she stared into the flames, before she closed her eyes, his voice seeping through her skin and running its course through her body. She shook her head.

"No," she whispered, her voice feeding the flames and making it grow hotter, like the invisible flames that surrounded her very core. She could hear him moving toward her, and she soon felt his body pressing up against hers, his arms moving up her shoulders, cupping her body with his own. His hands moved her hair away, and he began placing torturous kisses along her exposed flesh, causing her need to grow stronger and pound deep within her. She turned around, snaking her arms around his neck, leaning back against the mantle. She could feel the heat from the fire warming her body, and as his hands moved down her body, she could feel his need for her. She moaned, as she pressed into him, and he picked her up into his arms. Her legs instinctively entwined around his waist, and they tumbled back onto the bed.

"Michaela," he half whispered, half growled as his own need grew stronger, pressing into her, needing release from the confines of his restricting clothes. She moaned softly, as his hand found her breast, feeling her nipple hardening through the fabric of her dress. She closed her eyes, as he moved to rid her of her shoes and stockings. He knew he could take his time, but time seemed to be running away from them now. They needed one another, and they'd desired each other all day. They could take their time later. Now, they needed to be together.

Her shoes and stockings started the pile, and her hands helped his with the buttons of his shirt. That, too, joined the growing pile, as did his moccasins shortly thereafter. He helped her sit up, and his hands shakily unhooked, unbuttoned and untied the back of her dress and her corset at the same time. Michaela felt like she could breathe easier with each loosening of the corset strings. She could feel her body already melting for him. She was throbbing, aching and reaching out for him. They stood together, and he slid the dress off of her body, moving his hand up and down her bare thigh. She leaned against him, taking his hand in hers, but letting him lead the way. She gasped as his hand moved lower, touching her. She started to pull away, but his hand squeezed hers, and he gently nibbled her neck. She relaxed, and his free hand removed the corset. She stood in her chemise, her breasts full and showing through the white fabric. Sully pulled his hand away, and Michaela turned toward him, her body ready to join with his.

He slid out of his buckskins, and she could feel his heat already. As he reached for her, drawing her into his arms and placing her down on the bed, she sighed happily. His rush to be with her had slowed down, and now he was admiring every part of her, from her slender legs to her luscious thighs to the way her chemise clung to her waiting body.

Her pulse and desire were pounding so hard that she could barely think straight, and as his hands moved up her body and under her chemise, she closed her eyes, wanting to feel him against her. She sighed softly, her breath leaving her and pouring new energy and desire into her. She sat up a little, letting him lift the chemise off of her. She felt her body flushing, as his eyes poured over her. It took every ounce of strength not to let go at that very moment and give in to the urges. But, time was standing still for them now.

Sweet innocence still clung to Michaela, though they had shattered through it earlier that morning. They had broken free of innocence and rules and had been themselves with each other for the first time.

His breath hit her like a ton of bricks, and she cried out, biting her lip to muffle the sounds. Her mind, circling, circling, circling, until she thought she was going to burst. She caressed his shoulders and his back, and she felt him shudder. He was growing dizzy, circling, circling, circling her sensitive flesh until she couldn't hold on any longer. He held onto her hips, kissing her, loving her and moving up her body. She had never felt such intensity before, and she knew that it wouldn't be the last time she experienced that feeling of flying, crashing, living and dying at the same time.

She felt perspiration glowing on her body, shimmering in the firelight, as his lips found hers again. The taste was new and foreign to her, and she couldn't get enough of the way it felt to have him so close yet not completely joined with her.

She slowly, shakily draped a leg over his hip, pulling his body closer, and she arched her back, gripping the bed sheets between her sweaty, shaky hands. She relaxed, feeling him trembling inside of her. She swallowed hard, letting her sore body adjust to him again. The feeling was still so new and so different, and when he began to move inside of her, she focused on the way he tried his best to make her feel pleasure over the pain. She relaxed even further, as his hands roamed over her body, massaging her, kneading her and loving her. His mouth found the sensitive skin of her breast, lightly nipping it, before he circled her darkened nipple with his tongue, before treating the other to the same sweet, slow torture.

She cried out into his shoulder, as one of his hands slipped between them to stroke her throbbing core, releasing the tension, and making her body tense and shake against his, crashing through the thin walls of pain and discomfort and soaring through the ecstasy that she had never experienced before.

Michaela wasn't quite sure if she was still breathing, and when she heard his hoarse breath in her ear, she gently raked her nails up his back, relieving the pressure that the rest of her body felt, causing him to jolt and quake against her. He was holding on for dear life. She pulled his mouth down onto hers, feeling the sweet sensations of his lips coaxing hers. She granted his entrance, feelings his tongue massaging hers, circling hers, sending sparks right through her body to her core. She arched her back again, her toes curling at the sensations he was causing her to feel. She'd never felt like this before, and she liked it. She was flying blind, and she didn't care, because he was there to catch her if she started to fall.

He turned onto his back, lifting her up, causing her to bite down hard on her lip to keep from screaming out loud. She was looking down at him, her hands on his chest, not sure of what to do, but when his hands rounded around her waist, and she could feel him, her body reacted, causing her to meet his thrusts with her own sensual movements.

"Sully," she cried out, trying not to be too loud. His hands gripped her hips, keeping her steady, as their patience quickly ran out. She couldn't control the way her body moved anymore, and when he finally flipped her back onto her backside, he held her close, releasing his control, feeling her letting go too.

A few moments later, the movements slowed and came to a halt, and he was pulling away. She reached for him, but he didn't go far. He rolled to his back, looking up at the dark ceiling, blindly pulling his arm around her, pulling her close, feeling her bare body against his own.

"I love you," he breathed, feeling his heart pounding faster than it had ever pounded before. She breathed against him, pressing her ear to his chest, hearing how fast his heart beat for her.

"I love you too," she replied, her eyes filling with tears. "Forever." He gently rubbed her shoulder, and he pulled a blanket over them. Michaela draped an arm over his chest, loving the feeling of his warm arms around her, pulling her closer. Sometimes, it just wasn't close enough. They always needed to be closer.

They lay like that for nearly an hour, holding each other, slipping sweet kisses in between soft, tired words and the sounds of the crackling fire, burning hot with glowing embers that cast an heir of satisfaction and romance about the room. When the clock chimed in the hallway, Michaela sighed softly.

"You should go back to your room," she breathed, "but I don't want you to go."
"Me neither. But, I'll go," he replied, kissing the top of her head. "I just wanna…hold ya a little while longer." He yawned, closing his eyes, feeling sleep grabbing him and trying to pull him in. Michaela found herself pulling him closer too.

"Mmmmhmmm," she muttered, her own mind slipping in and out between the land of the living and the land of dreams. Before they knew it, they were completely wrapped up in each other's arms, sleeping together for the first time, letting their bodies warm each other's and letting their hearts beat side by side until all through the night.

The End…or is it?