Disclaimers: These characters aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me. This story is based on the original Black Stallion books written by Walter Farley and subsequent books by his son, Steven Farley.

Archive: Fine, but if you want it, please ask first.

Feedback: Hell, yes.

Pam's POV

I knew that I should have called or written for an appointment instead of just showing up, but I guess I was afraid that the job would be taken. Either that or as soon as they heard how thin my official resume is, well, I guess I sort of expected a polite 'thank you' for my interest and that would be it.

It was really early on a Tuesday, about seven o'clock and it was the beginning of April—it was an incredibly beautiful morning, I remember that.

The sun was up and was just burning the mist off the grass when I pulled off the country road into Hopeful Farm's long driveway. There are big fields on both sides as you drive in and the horses had already been turned out so I stopped to watch them, I couldn't help it—they were so incredible. I mean, c'mon, I knew they'd be really top-drawer thoroughbreds but these were beyond anything I'd expected. I don't think I've ever seen animals as fabulous as these; the mares and their foals were breathtaking and I sat there in my car watching them for a while. Finally I guess I gave myself a kind of mental kick and put the car back in gear. The barns were straight ahead and there was a small sign pointing out the office in what I later learned was the Stallion Barn. I parked the car and went in, looking for someone to talk to.

Just about the first thing I saw was Satan in his stall and I felt like Alice in Wonderland actually standing in front of him. He looked like he could still be racing; just perfect, all muscle and health. I was pinching myself just looking at him. He even pushed his nose over the half door so I could scratch his nose for him, amazing!

It was quiet, no one seemed to be around but I saw an opened door down at the end of the corridor; I was right, it was the office and Alec Ramsay—Alec Ramsay!—was sitting at his desk and looked up like he'd been expecting me. Okay, he'd seen my car come in but I guess I was a little flustered and I know I said something really stupid that made him look at me like I was an idiot. Luckily, he turned out to be nice right from the first minute, even if he made it clear that he didn't think I had a rat's chance of being hired.

I have to say, okay, I'd seen lots of pictures of him before but in person…well. He's not too big; he's a jockey, right? He's maybe five-six and thin but he looks strong. He was wearing old jeans, riding boots which looked like they could use a good cleaning and a worn 'Belmont 2005' tee shirt so I could see his arms and what's there is all muscle. And he's really good looking, too, plus he looks smart; he just has that look about him. He has this red hair—not like a carrot top or anything but sort of like an Irish Setter and he has these intense blue eyes…I know that I'm sounding like a fangirl or whatever, but he's pretty handsome.

And handsome is better than just cute.

Anyway, we talked for a few minutes and he reluctantly agreed to let me try one of their horses to see if I can ride. We walked outside to the field where Alec had the two-year-olds turned out and I embarrassed him when I said something about how great it was to be there on a beautiful morning and sharing it with the most famous rider in the country.

I thought that was cute, that he was embarrassed about being called 'famous'. He isfamous.

I looked over the horses for a little too long and one stood out, even in that herd; Black Sand. Incredible. Alec was pretty hesitant about my trying him but finally gave in. We tacked the horse up and, well, let's just say he wasn't any gentle ride but I did all right until we took off on a trail and he ended up dumping me. I wasn't hurt, but I just lay there, waiting to see what the horse would do—run off or whatever but he just stood there. I could see Alec watching but he stayed back and let me handle it myself. I remounted and headed back to the barn where Alec met me.

I told him I'd been thrown; I didn't have any choice and I figured that would be the end of it, that he'd never hire me but to my amazement, he said I had the job! I almost asked him if he was kidding but played it cool, thanked him and that was that. I untacked Black Sand and cooled him out, then Alec showed me the apartment I'd be allowed to live in while I was there, helped me clean it up—it was a real mess from the last person who'd been in it—and I officially worked for Hopeful Farm.

The next day Alec was busy dealing with some mares who'd arrived to be bred and some paperwork or something. I'm not sure what all he was doing, but he was in his office most of the rest of the day while I worked the two year olds, but I knew he was keeping an eye on me. The day after that he left to go down to Aqueduct and I didn't see him for almost two weeks. He called almost every day to see how things were going and he always seemed friendly on the phone and finally said that he'd be back the next day and he'd see how I was doing for himself.

I think I smiled the whole rest of the day. You know how sometimes you just kind of click with someone from the first moment? Well—yeah. I was looking forward to seeing him again.

He drove in around ten-thirty in the morning, just as I was about to take the last two year old up to the training track for his workout and Alec met me up there to check me out…to check out my riding, I mean. I was nervous, but tried to act like having a Triple Crown winner making sure I knew what I was doing was an everyday occurrence and—luckily—everything went perfectly. The horse broke cleanly from the gate and I was exactly on with the timings for the furlongs. When I rode him over to the rail, Alec smiled and said "Good job." I know I sat a little straighter after that.

He was busy all afternoon in the breeding shed and I hardly saw him because I was cleaning tack, but later, after dinner, I went out to my favorite field with my flute. It was a warm night and I love to play music when I'm all alone. It's kind of a private thing and I use the music to speak for me sometimes, to let the world know how I'm feeling. I'm not sure how long I played and danced but I finally lay down on the grass to rest and almost jumped a mile when I heard Alec say something from about twenty feet away. He walked over to where I was and sat down beside me. I could feel something like electricity between us, almost like a real connection but I don't know if it was just me or if he felt it, too. I do know he didn't move away and finally we ended up holding hands and talking. We argued a little because we seemed like we were coming from two different places about some things but we talked things out, agreed to listen to one another and from then on it was pretty easy between us.

After that night we got into the habit of walking the fields and talking after work, whenever he was at the farm, I mean. He wasn't there a lot, which is why I was hired in the first place. He has to travel so much with all the racing he does that he's on the road a lot of the time. I asked him once if that bothered him, if he gets homesick or lonely or anything and he told me that he's used to it and he has the Black with him but I think it gets to him.

I know this sounds odd but in some ways I feel sorry for him. He'd probably laugh if he knew that, but it's true. He's famous, like I said, and one of the best riders in the country—though he doesn't think so—and I guess he has some money but it seems to me that his life isn't his own. He told me once that the only time he ever watches TV is when he's in some motel at some track and doesn't have anything to do or anyone to talk to. He mentioned that a couple of times a year he'll get to a movie but he really doesn't have that much time for himself.

He has all these commitments that he has to fill and more responsibilities than about anyone I know. He has to ride all Hopeful Farm's races and win as many as possible. He has to oversee the training of the horses here at the farm and make sure that the day to day operation is running smoothly. He does most of the hiring and firing. He has to travel. He deals with the press a lot more than most people think he does. He knows that his parents sold their house so that he could start this farm with Henry Daily and if it doesn't work out then he's bound to feel responsible for them leaving their old home and moving—even though it was their own decision.

He worries that Henry will die and then he'll have to take over as trainer and he doesn't think he's ready—though I think he is.

He worries a lot about losing the Black and I know that would kill him. Alec told me once that sometimes he has nightmares about his horse dying. He told me about it one night when we were walking in the Black's field and watching him run around us. Every time Alec takes him out on a track he's afraid of the horse breaking down. He said that when Barbaro was hurt he had nightmares and I've heard him talk about Ruffian and a few others—top horses that simply broke down without warning and then had to be destroyed.

Satan had to be retired from racing after an injury and that's something Alec thinks a lot about. Too much.

Alec is quietly obsessed about losing his horse and I don't think anyone else knows how much it terrifies him.

It was these nights when we'd just sit and talk out in the field or, if it as raining, up in my apartment over the training barn that we started to really get to know each other. It was when we started to realize that we liked being together. At first I thought it might have been just because we were the only people at the farm under fifty, but that wasn't it; we were becoming friends.

One day when Alec was away racing, I was had one of the two year olds cross tied in the training barn, grooming him, when Mr. Ramsay walked in looking for me. He doesn't look anything at all like Alec, except for the fact that they're both thin. Mr. Ramsay—I just can't bring myself to call him Bill—is at least six foot two and his hair is thinning. There are more physical differences, but I think it's mostly that he just doesn't have the same spark Alec has, he doesn't seem nearly as alive as his son and maybe that's because he's so much older, but maybe it's just that he's not as interesting as Alec. I don't mean that to sound mean or mean, but it's true. Anyway, he came over to me and petted the horse on his nose; he seemed uncomfortable around the animal, though and I know I've never seen him on the back of a horse. The conversation was kind of stilted.

"Good morning, Pam. Henry tells me that you're doing a great job here; he's quite pleased with your work."

"Thank you, Mr. Ramsay."

After a few seconds, "My wife and I were hoping that you'd join us for dinner this evening. It's so quiet at the house with Alec away and we'd like to get to know you a little better." He hesitated and seemed a little embarrassed. "If you'd like, of course. I know you may have some plans but if you're free, we'd love to have you over."

"That's so sweet of you, thank you—what time would be good?"

"Around six? Wonderful, I'll tell Belle; she'll be so pleased."

"May I bring anything?"

"Just yourself." He paused, awkward. "Well, I won't keep you from your work."

It was a little strange, but I knew he was trying to be nice and they probably missed Alec—and it wasn't like I had anything else planned. I also suspected that they knew Alec and I were spending time together and wanted to check me out. I guess that made sense. After all, Alec is well known and he can do a lot for a rider if he wants to. For all they knew I could be just trying to use him. I wasn't, but they didn't know that.

Anyway, I went over to the main house and we had this casual dinner around the kitchen table. It was a little odd; his parents were perfectly nice to me and all, but it was a little like being in a time warp. They're as old as my grandparents, or almost, and they have this old fashioned air about them, sort of Ma and Pa Kettle or something. I started to understand why Alec is the way he is, and I mean that in a good way. I know he seems really close to his parents but—if this makes any sense—in a detached way. He obviously loves them but it's like they live in their world and he lives in his.

He's a lot like his mother—I mean he looks a lot more like her than he does like his father. He has her height, or lack of it and his features are a lot like hers, the shape of his mouth and his eyes, though his coloring is his own. Neither of his parents have his reddish hair nor have eyes as blue as his. And his mom is kind of, well, she's soft and kind of plump while Alec is built like a greyhound, all thin and angles and muscles and strong.

I don't know, maybe he looks like his grandparents or someone like that.

That was another thing; how proud the Ramsay's are of Alec. It's easy enough to understand since he's done so much and has so many successes to his credit but it's a lot more than that. They're proud of how smart he is and how hard he works and how well he seems to be handling everything he has to deal with… and he's dealt with a lot.

His mother made some comment about how they'd almost lost him so many times that when he's here she just wants to put her hand on his arm or hug him to make sure he's really here and all right. She said that she still listens for him to come in at night and has trouble sleeping until she knows he's in and safe. I thought that was sad, but I can't imagine what it must be like to be a parent and think that your child—especially an only child—has been killed violently like in a ship wreck or a plane crash. I think she must die a little whenever he's hurt riding and every rider gets hurt once in a while.

What Alec does frightens his mother; I mean really frightens her and I felt sorry for her.

After we ate, his father gave me a small tour of the house, showed me around a little and I saw the wall of trophies they have in the main office off the living room. I'd seen a couple of small trophies in Alec's office out in the Stallion barn, but these were the big, full sized ones from the Derby and the Triple Crown and a bunch of other races and they were amazing. I'd never seen them in person before and they're pretty impressive. Alec doesn't really keep his out on display; he told me it seemed a little obnoxious, even though he worked hard for them and earned them.

I knew that Alec is a big deal but I guess I didn't really know just how big a deal. He's just a regular nice guy when I'm around him, he doesn't have any attitude or arrogance. He's quiet and soft-spoken but when I really think about what he's done in less than ten years—my God. He really is a phenomenon.

I was changing in the section of the jockey room they have set aside for the women and Becky Moore came over to me. She'd never made any effort to even say 'hello' to me before so I guess I was sort of on my guard—especially since we were about to ride against one another in a race.

"You're riding for Hopeful Farm in the fifth race, right?"

I nodded and slipped on the black and white silks. They're not really made of silk anymore, by the way, especially for a nothing training race. They're nylon and pretty cheap nylon at that. I think they have a better quality version for the big races like the Derby or whatever when they're going to be on TV and be photographed a lot, but for everyday? Nothing you'd want to go out to dinner in.

"You're Pam, right? I'm Becky." She was still standing there, casually leaning against the bank of lockers. "So are you dating Alec?"

"I work for Hopeful Farm, I exercise the two year olds they have in training." Like I was about to tell her anything—not. I pulled my hair back in a tight ponytail.

"Getting your foot in the door, huh?" She smiled at me. "Good idea; it worked for me last year when I was riding for Lakeview Stables, same thing though. Has Alec told you we used to go out when we were riding a lot of the same races last year? Saratoga and Churchill Downs, mostly—he's a nice guy, isn't he? Good kisser."

"Oh, is he?" And yes, he is. I was starting to think she was trying to run some kind of a number on me, maybe psych me out.

"You haven't found out yet? Well, just make sure Henry doesn't know about it. I think he's afraid that Alec may discover he likes to do things that don't involve horses—not that he hasn't already." She kind of smirked a little. "In fact, I was talking to him yesterday and we're thinking about getting back together, so I guess I'll be seeing you around—unless he ships you back up to the farm." She saw the tags I'd taken off my new breeches. "First race? Good luck—Pam. See you at the finish line."

What a total bitch.

Thirty minutes later the race was over and I was on the way to the hospital. Becky had crowded us; Black Sand and me then 'accidentally' hit him with her crop. He'd bolted straight into the outside rail at full speed. His neck was broken and I was thrown hard. I was in shock but I remember that Alec was there about the same time as the ambulance. I'd later found out that he'd flagged it down on the track and jumped in. He was so worried, so upset and I think that may have been the first time I thought—as if there wasn't enough going through my mind as I was lying there—that he must really care about me. I knew he was choked up about Black Sand being killed but that was something he'd chalk up as a business loss. I mean, he cares about the horses as individuals and all of that but a lot of racehorses get hurt or killed and he was used to that.

He was worried about me.

I spent the night under observation in the hospital and took a cab back to Aqueduct as soon as I was released. I'd had a dream about Alec and Becky together but I don't believe her. Oh, they may have gone out but getting back together? I doubt it. I mean it's a long shot at best. I don't think Alec would put up with someone like her for long.

When the taxi dropped me off at the track Henry told me that I should get to work. He said that Jinx, their regular groom had to deal with some family thing and so I did as I was asked. I mucked and brushed Black and Napoleon. I was just finishing up when I felt Alec's hand on my back as I was filling a bucket. I stood up and into his arms and finally let go, crying with him holding me and the hell with what passersby could see.

That's when he cheesed me off. He was being wonderful; strong and gentle and sympathetic and everything that you'd want someone to be. Then he started spouting some garbage that maybe I'd drop this now; now maybe I'd understand that racing was rough, dangerous, sometimes brutal and something I'd be better keeping my pretty lil self well clear of. It was a man's game and I was just a girl. I saw red and we argued. Sure, I knew he was being protective, but c'mon. The accident happened because of reckless riding by another jockey, a female jockey, and it had nothing to do with gender. It was reckless, careless and probably illegal racing. He tried to backpedal by telling me that I was as good a rider as he is (I'm not, not by a long shot) but that I simply wasn't as experienced a race riding. He said that if he, or some other experienced jock had been up, maybe the accident could have been avoided.

I know he wasn't trying to patronize me, but I was upset, sore and he was making me furious.

So while all this was happening, Alec was suspended for a racing infraction and they needed to find someone to ride the Black in a big race. Henry said that he'd thought they'd have to scratch but he and Alec argued about it—I think that was when I realized how stressed Alec was with everything he has to deal with—and it ended up with Alec insisting that I could ride the horse in the race. Henry, naturally, thought that would happen about the time pigs flew and backed Alec into a corner where he agreed that if I couldn't ride Black, if I couldn't handle him then Henry would pick some established rider to fill in for the race.

That was strange; after Alec said I was inexperienced he fought to let me try the Black. He took me aside and said that he'd watched how the stallion reacted to meeting me and was sure I was one of the few people he'd accept. He was so certain and seemed so confident I could do it that I just did what I was asked without really questioning it. It's strange, I know, but Alec would never do anything to harm his horse so if he thought I could do it, well—I thought so, too. Or, more likely, I simply didn't think.

I knew what being the only person who could ride Black meant to Alec. Because I knew, I also understood what he was willing to risk by letting me try his horse; knowing that if I couldn't do it then he'd effectively lose control of the animal he loved.

That was when I realized how much I mattered to him, that he would willingly share Black with me.

I tried the Black and ended up riding and winning the race. Alec was right; I could do it.

I've never been so frightened in my entire life. Honestly. I was terrified.

The little training race where Black Sand had been killed was bad enough but this was a major race with a top field and the best professional riders in the country who I knew wouldn't cut anyone an inch of slack. Alec rides this kind of thing all the time and I think he really knew I had no business being there as well as I did. Like I said, somehow I won the race but it wasn't me—it was all the Black. He knew what to do and I just went along for the ride and that's the truth. Afterwards even Henry seemed to change his mind, and that was great but I felt like a fraud. I was like a little kid allowed to play with the grown ups and I was scared to death every foot of the way. I covered it pretty well, and I think Alec and I were the only ones who knew, aside from maybe the Black. I hope so, anyway.

Later that evening, driving back up to the farm was the first time Alec told me that he loved me. I hadn't said it to him yet, though I'd known for a couple of months how much I was falling for him. I guess I was afraid it was possible he didn't feel the same way or that, maybe Becky had been telling the truth about them hooking up again. I think I was afraid that I was just a summer fling to him.

As soon as he said it I told him that I love him, too. I repeated it like a thousand times but it didn't seem to make him feel any happier about my leaving. I understood it and I wasn't happy, either. It was if he already knew how I felt and my saying "I love you" was just confirming something obvious.

I was sitting in the passenger seat, trying to convince myself that I really did have to leave because Nancy was expecting me at her house in a day or so but all I could think was how much I wanted to stay with Alec. I knew that if I stayed then he'd want to maybe move in together or even get married right away and it was too soon. We needed to get to know each other better; I needed to grow up more and I knew that—we needed more time. Alec thought he was ready to make a commitment like marriage, but I knew I wasn't yet and so I left.

I saw the look on his face when I told him I couldn't stay and I knew I hurt him, but I had to leave then or I never would and then I would have ended up resenting him.

He would have resented me, too—I wasn't ready to be with him the way he wanted and he would have been frustrated, hurt and finally angry. It wouldn't have worked, not right then, anyway.

I also knew he didn't believe that I'd come back. He thought I was breaking up with him, but I wasn't and that was killing me—I mean that he thought that. I just needed some time. I tried to tell him that it wasn't over between us, that we would be together he didn't believe me and probably just thought that I was trying to let him down easy. That wasn't it, though. I do want to come back, I do love him and I do want us to get married and have a home together and raise our children and everything else we talked about. I want that very much—when we were both ready.

I drove down to Nancy's that night, just like I'd planned. I cried part of the way but by the time I rolled into her driveway in Maryland I managed a smile on my face and everything with the visit went great for the first two days. We were sitting in the back yard with our breakfast mugs of tea and she asked me straight out.

"So, who is he?"


"The guy you're pining over. The one you're not telling me about. The one you've spent an hour on the phone with every night."

I was busted, Nancy knows me too well. "Alec Ramsay."

"The jockey? The guy you were working for all summer?" I nodded. "Are you in love with him?" I nodded again. "And?"

"He asked me to marry him before I left."

"So what the hell are you doing here?" She gave me a hard look. "You turned him down, didn't you? Is he an jerk or something?"

I shook my head. "He's…wonderful. Kind, smart, handsome, loves horses, good kisser…" Becky was right about that.

"He loves you?"

I nodded again.

"I'm not seeing the problem here, Pammy. You said you're in love with him, he asks you to marry him so I'm thinking he likes you a whole lot, too. Are his parents a nightmare or something? Is he in debt up to his eyeballs? Wanted for a felony somewhere?"

I laughed at her. "His parents are all right, a little conservative but nice. He has plenty of money as far as I know and he hasn't told me about any outstanding warrants."

"Is he good to you? No funny business or anything?"

"He's sweet and gentle and kind and completely wonderful."

"So…?" Nancy always likes to cut to the chase. "You're sitting here moony-eyed."

"I didn't really turn him down. I just told him that I didn't think that I was ready yet, that I'm too young and that when I go back to his farm then I will be. Ready, I mean." It sounded pretty lame, even to me and I was missing Alec something fierce.

Nancy sighed and put her mug down on the stone wall we were sitting on. "Is this true love or just an affair? I mean are we talking birds singing and bells ringing and goose bumps when he walks into the room or just a good time for a few months?"

She never minced words. "I bought a couple of bridal magazines." That was embarrassing to admit, but I had. No one knew.

"Pammy. Seriously, get in your car and go see him." She picked up her mug. "In fact, I'll go with you so you don't chicken out."

I gave her the kind of look she usually gave me. "Actually, he said that he'd probably be down this weekend since he doesn't have any races scheduled, if that's okay with you guys." Nancy's eyes went wide. "He doesn't have to stay here, he can get a room somewhere."

"Oh, don't be stupid, you know we have an empty bedroom and my mother would kill me if she doesn't get to meet him and tell your parents if he's okay or not."

Oh, God. I knew this would happen. "I'll talk to him about it." I pulled out my cell phone and walked away so I could have some privacy since I knew she wouldn't stop bugging me about this until she knew every detail and met him herself. Ten minutes later I told Nancy, "He said he'll be here sometime Friday afternoon and he'll see about staying here or not. He thinks it may be weird, and he's right. He's afraid that he'll be under a microscope and he just wants to get away for a weekend so we can see each other."

"No microscope, I promise."

"Yeah, right."

Alec rolled in around three in the afternoon, just like he said he would and it turned out that he and Nancy's parents had some mutual friends in horse racing. They insisted he had to stay in the empty room or the Forrester's—the racing friends—would never forgive them. I'm not sure he was in love with the idea, but he went along. Besides, I know both of us wanted to have as much time together as possible.

The Forrester's stopped by for drinks that night after dinner to say hello to him and he was really nice about them taking time away from us. I would have been surprised if he hadn't sat down with them for a couple of hours, though he told me later that their horses weren't really first string; they were the caliber of animal that were almost always the ones in the back of the pack. The Forrester's, while nice people, were hobbyists and were happy just to have their horses win enough to pay their feed bills and anything else was a pleasant surprise. Hanging out with Alec socially was probably the highlight of the season for them.

I kind of gathered one of their life's ambitions was to beat a Hopeful Farm horse in a race. They hadn't, but they kept trying.

The weekend went well, everyone liked Alec who was his usual polite, reserved self. We went to a movie, played Trivial Pursuit one night after dinner and generally just lazed around, saw some of the local sights and kept a low profile. Nancy was really good about letting us have time to ourselves and her parents seemed to approve—my parents were probably getting a full report with hourly updates.

We were tactful and didn't abuse the hospitality of the house; we didn't disappear behind locked doors or do anything embarrassing, we just held hands and were pretty circumspect. We had some alone together and he finally said that he knew how much the trip to Europe meant to me and we'd be together when I got back. I knew he was talking about having real time together—years together, time to get married and all the rest of the things we both wanted.

By lunch the next Monday Alec was gone and I knew that what I'd been feeling for him up at the farm was real. I was in love with him and it wasn't just the perfect evening strolls through the fields and the excitement of being with 'Alec Ramsay, world famous horseman'. Nancy and her mother told me I'd be an idiot to let him get away and I agreed, even though I didn't tell them that.

"So? What did you think of him?" Nancy and I were sitting in the backyard after dinner. The weekend had gone even better than I'd hoped and the moment he stepped out of his car I'd felt this surge of emotion I'd never felt before. It was incredible.

"I think he's even better than you said. And he's head over heels gone for you, Pammy."

I knew that. I'd asked him about whether or not he could meet me in Paris, but he wasn't sure. Henry had decided on a new racing schedule that had them out to California and then down in Florida for January and February.

Later that night, after midnight, I couldn't sleep and ended up down in the kitchen with a cup of herbal tea, hoping it would help me sleep. Nancy's old cat, Crystal, was dozing on the table and I was glad for the company; I missed Alec so much it hurt.

I knew it was much too late, but I called him anyway. I know I woke him up but I really wanted to hear his voice right then.

He was so sweet on the phone and told me how much he missed me and hadn't wanted to leave. I knew that and I almost cried when he said it, he sounded so lonely. I told him that when I got back we'd be together and that I was looking forward to seeing the farm in the winter with the fields all white. It has to be beautiful and quiet and peaceful.

Then Alec said something which scared me a little bit; he said that he was worried I might be bored up there in the winter and that, yes, it's beautiful, but the quiet can get to you after a while. He even said that, while he loved it there any time of year, he was always happy during the winter to escape for a while to race where it's warm.

He said that he's afraid that if he's not there—and I wouldn't always be able to go with him—that I might grow to resent the farm and, eventually, resent him as well. Then he said that there wouldn't be anything holding me there if I ever wanted to leave, even if we were married, I could always go if I wanted to. I started to say something but he cut me off and said he didn't mean a divorce or anything like that, he meant that I could always go to visit my friends around the country or my family in Florida or whatever I wanted.

That frightened me a little. It was like he was saying he thought that being married to him wouldn't be enough for me.

He's wrong.

Of course I'll still want to see my friends, but I wouldn't marry him—or anyone—if I had any reservations. He's whom I want; being married to him is what I want. Being together is what I look forward to and sooner rather than later. I tried to tell him this and I hope he believes me.

He has to.

After we hung up I went back upstairs but I couldn't sleep any more than before. I was supposed to leave for France in the morning and I was starting to think that maybe I should just skip the flight and head back up to Belmont or wherever Alec would be working but then I thought again and realized that would be a mistake.

As much as I'm looking forward to Europe, I'm anxious to start my life with Alec.

He thinks he'll probably be able to meet me in Paris after Christmas, he hopes he can, anyway. Paris. It would be perfect to share it with Alec and then I'm sure I'll be ready to come home with him.

The farm is beautiful in the spring; perfect for our wedding.