A/N: Wow. I can't believe I have finally finished this story. Thank you to all of you who have kept on my case these last long months. Dewyone deserves a special mention because it was her last email that finally broke the camels back and gave me the push (okay, the shove!) that I so desperately needed. Thank you also to Amy who beta read for me throughout. It has been so long since I wrote that I don't want to saddle you with the last chapter. If you read this, please know you made a big impression on me and I will take a lot of what I have learned from you to put towards what I write in the future.
All mistakes are my own. Thank you once again to everyone for reading.
They rejoined the wedding just as the meal was being served. Hoping their sudden reappearance would go unnoticed, they each picked up a plate and joined the queue at the buffet table. Kate met Sawyer's eyes across the large display of food. She felt a little like a child who had played truant from school and hoped not to get caught - a feeling that was not aided by the sly wink that Sawyer shot her way. Was it hot in the garden, or was it just her? She dragged her eyes away from his and finished filling her plate with food. It was days since she had eaten properly and the aroma of roast chicken and gravy suddenly stirred her stomach into life. She squeezed a second roast potato onto the edge of her plate and then picked up a knife and fork as Sawyer came around to join her.
"Impressive," he eyed the heaped plate in her hand, "You got an army to feed that I don't know about?"
She grinned. "I skipped breakfast," she admitted as she gave his own heavily laden plate a pointed look. "What's your excuse?"
"Gotta keep my strength up," he replied and leaned in so that his lips brushed against her ear as he added softly, "For later..."
A ripple of anticipation swept through her. She rolled her eyes and attempted to make light off his suggestion – and the erotic images it bought with it. "You eat all of that and tonight you'll be straight to sleep," she retorted.
"We'll see about that," he cocked his eyebrow.
She turned away, the motion making her hair sway gently across her bare back. "Let's find a seat," she said as she began to walk.
Sawyer shrugged. It was no hardship for him to follow along behind - not while she was wearing such a scandalous slip of a dress anyway. His eyes lingered on the deep plunge at the base of her spine. How on earth did something like that actually stay in place while she walked anyway? He was so lost in his thoughts that when she came to an abrupt halt he almost bumped into her.
She turned back to him and hissed under her breath, "There's a seating plan."
"A what?" He shifted his plate into his other hand and gave her a questioning look.
"We've been assigned specific places to sit," she explained. Her cheeks flushed with colour as she realized that the other guests would definitely know they had both missed the speeches.
Sawyer's voice behind her dragged her back to the present. "So?"
She shrugged, reluctant to explain her thoughts at that time. A movement to her left caught her attention and she turned to see Jack gesturing to her from a nearby table.
"Oh, happy days." Sawyer muttered under his breath as he too caught sight of the veterinarian.
Kate did her best to ignore his comment as she pasted a smile upon her face and approached Jack. He stood up as she got closer and pulled out a chair for her at the table. "Thanks," she put her plate down next to her place card and nodded to Juliet who sat to Jack's right. As he glanced around the table, her heart suddenly sank. The rest of the table was full, there was no place set for Sawyer. Sawyer evidently noticed the same thing.
"Well, ain't this just swell," he said, as his eyes skimmed over Jack who now sat with Juliet on his right and Kate on his left. There were other couples present at the table, but he barely registered them. Kate reached for her plate, but he placed his hand upon her arm and stopped her. "Don't sweat it, Freckles," he said, "I'll find somewhere else."
Kate sighed. "Alex must have thought you weren't coming when you missed the rehearsal," she said. "I'm sure she will have added you onto one of the other tables at the last minute."
"Let's hope," Sawyer said.
She reached out and rested her hand on top of his own. "Just go with it, please?" she implored. "I'll come and find you later."
To her relief, he relaxed and gave her a suggestive grin. "Not if I find you first."
She blushed, and returned his smile as he turned and began to walk away. She stared after his retreating back, and probably would have kept staring if Jack hadn't suddenly spoken to her.
She came back to reality with a jump, and quickly took her seat beside him.
He frowned, and fixed her with an even stare. "You haven't heard a word I just said, have you?"
"Uh, no." She stammered. How come Jack always managed to make her feel like an awkward school girl? "Sorry," she added, and then mentally kicked herself for apologizing. "I was thinking."
"Obviously," he retorted, and then paused for a moment. "I was saying that the speeches were entertaining."
"Yeah. For those of us who heard them, anyway."
She cringed. He sounded so bitter. She had to wonder if she was more upset by the fact she missed the speeches, or because she missed them with Sawyer? She stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork as she tried to keep her irritation in check. If Sawyer could turn away from an argument, then so could she, she reasoned. "Really?" she finally managed to respond lightly, "Maybe you could fill me in?"
Evidently unaware that he was being mocked, Jack proceeded to launch into a long winded description of everything that had happened at the wedding during her absence. She did her best to listen, but it was hard to keep her eyes from drifting across the crowd to where Sawyer was now seated. He was three tables away, but at least he was facing her, she thought as she drank in the sight of him. Who would have imagined that he could wear a dress suit so well? Jack's voice faded into a dull drone beside her, and she made only the barest of contributions to the conversations going on around her. Finally, the meal was over and the empty dishes were cleared from the table. She ran her hand absently across her stomach. The skin there already felt tight, and she knew it was only partly to do with the meal she had just eaten. She wondered, as she did every day, when the point would come that her condition could no longer be hidden? The wispy fabric of her dress was a life saver in that it didn't cling or bunch around her middle. For now, nobody would guess her secret - at least not while she was dressed anyway. For the first time since talking to Sawyer in the stables, she felt a small pang of unease. The moment he saw her naked, her secret would be out. How would he take the news? She worried over this though until the bright lights around the edge of the garden were suddenly dimmed. She gasped as she looked up and saw an intricate canopy of tiny fairy lights hovering above the tables. The effect transformed the garden into a magical wonderland, and she got the impression she was sitting beneath thousands of tiny stars. Soft music filtered through outdoor speakers, and she turned to watch as Karl and Alex began their first dance together in the center of the lawn. Alex looked beautiful in her white gown and it was obvious to everyone present that her new husband could barely keep his eyes off her. She sighed, and hummed softly to the music. Other couples slowly began to join the bridal couple in their first dance and she turned in her seat as Sawyer suddenly appeared behind her.
He stooped, and made an exaggerated show of offering her his arm. "Wanna dance?" he grinned and cocked his eyebrow.
"I never picked you for the dancing type," she smiled, more pleased by the gesture than she would admit. She gave him her hand and he gently pulled her to her feet beside him. "Quite the romantic tonight, aren't you," she teased.
He hooked her hand through his arm and bent to whisper in her ear as he guided her towards the dance area. "Ain't nothin' romantic about it, Sweetcheeks. I just saw an excuse to get my hands on you in that gown and couldn't pass up the opportunity." He flashed her a grin and quickly spun her around to face him. One arm wrapped itself securely around her waist, and the other closed around her fingers. The sudden movement caught her off guard and she laughed out loud as she wrapped her free hand around his neck for balance. He pulled her closer still, and their bodies molded together. Kate closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest. He was tall enough that she could tuck herself beneath his chin and let him look out for them both. It was a wonderful feeling – almost as good as his body heat as it penetrated the thin fabric of her dress. She counted the slow beat of his heart against her cheed and it was easy for her to imagine that they were the only two people in the garden. His fingers traced slow, erotic circles upon her bare back and she sighed, deeply happy for the first time in what felt like forever.
At length, Sawyer dipped his head and she felt his lips brush against her ear. "We're drawing quite a bit of attention, you know," he whispered.
She opened her eyes and looked around to discover that he was right. Other guests were watching them. Their expressions were a combination of curiosity and judgment; both things she would once have shied away from. "I guess word gets around," she said. "Nobody expected to see you here tonight."
Sawyer chuckled, a deep rolling sound that made Kate's heart ache with longing as it reverberated against her body. She felt light and carefree, and just a little bit daring. "What say we give them something to stare at then?" she lifted her head and met his eyes.
He raised he eyebrows, "Well, that would depend on what you had in mind…"he drawled. Before he could say anything more, Kate stood on tip toes and placed her mouth squarely upon his. For a moment he froze in surprise, all semblance of following the rhythm of the music abandoning him. When he felt her lips become firmer upon his and her tongue join in her assault, he suddenly came to. Kate was kissing him, right here, in front of everyone… His heart pounded with elation, and he suddenly felt stupidly, deliriously happy. Without breaking the kiss, he wrapped his arms around her waist lifted her off the ground. She giggled against his lips as he swung her around in a small pirouette. When he set her gently back upon her feet, the people around them ceased to exist. He broke the kiss and lifted his hand to gently cup her chin between his thumb and forefinger. "I love you, Freckles," he whispered simply.
Kate smiled at him. "Me too," she murmured. She arched her eyebrow, "Now, can we get out of here?"
He slipped his hand down her bare arm and closed his fingers securely around hers. "Thought you'd never ask," he whispered huskily. In half a dozen strides, they cleared the crowd and came to a stand still on the edge of the lawn. "I almost forgot," he suddenly said, "I've got somethin' I wanna give to Karl before we leave."
Kate nodded. "It's probably best we say goodbye to both he and Alex anyway."
They approached the young couple who were so engrossed in each other that Sawyer had to tap Karl on the shoulder to get his attention. "Hey, kid," he drawled as he reached into the lapel of his coat and pulled out a cigar. "I planned to share this with you later, but somethin's come up. Figured I'd give it to you now instead."
Karl reached out and took the cigar, appearing both surprised and pleased with the offering. "Thanks," he said, and then pitched forward as Sawyer slapped him heartily on the back.
Karl regained his balance and tucked the cigar into his suit pocket. He looked from Sawyer to Kate and then back again. "Thanks," he grinned.
Beside him, Kate gave Alex a subtle smile. "Enjoy the rest of the night," Kate whispered.
Alex raised her eyebrows and returned the smile. "You too," she replied. "Thank you both for coming."
Their farewells said, Sawyer guided Kate back towards the edge of the garden. "Anyone else you wanna say goodbye to, Freckles?" he leaned forward to ask.
Kate thought briefly of Jack and Juliet, and then she shook her head. "No," she replied, "Nobody important." She linked her arm through his, and together they walked towards the house.
"Ladies first..." Sawyer opened the door and stepped back to allow Kate to enter. As soon as they were both inside, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her soundly. She moaned and leaned into him, letting her body mold to the contours of his. "Wait," she panted, reluctantly pulling her lips from his, "Let's at least get to the bedroom first."
Sawyer growled lustily. "Your call." He stooped and caught her behind the knees to swing her off her feet and into his arms. "Kate yelped, and clung to his neck as he took the stairs two at a time. She was still laughing when he threw her down upon the bed.
"Wait right there," he warned, as he began to remove his clothes. "Don't you dare move a muscle."
Ignoring the warning, she propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him. She couldn't see his face because his hair had fallen forward as he bent to untie his shoes. She swallowed the butterflies that suddenly stirred inside her chest as she watched him. It was time to tell him about the baby. Only, now that she was here, she suddenly had no idea of how to bring it up. Maybe she could postpone telling him for a little longer? The idea was tempting, but she knew she couldn't put off the truth for any longer. The moment he saw her naked it was possible he would guess anyway. She watched him straighten up and removed his suit jacket and tie. As he began to unbutton his shirt, she sat upright on the edge of the bed. "Sawyer...?" she heard herself ask.
His shirt now open, he shrugged it off his shoulders and dropped it on the floor. The muscles in his torso rippled with the movement. He looked good – too good – and if she wasn't careful she would let herself become distracted. He grinned at her. "Yeah?" he asked.
She swallowed, realizing she didn't have his full attention – well, not in the way she needed it anyway. "There's something I need to tell you..."
"Oh yeah? What's that?" He walked over to where she sat and dropped to his knee in front of her. His hand reached out to pull her lips towards him.
She swallowed, and leaned away from him. "Please," she said, "This is serious…"
He paused and looked at her. Something in her expression made him feel apprehensive. He frowned, "What's the problem?"
She realized she finally had his attention and her heart pounded in her chest as she tried to find the words she needed. "I should have told you this weeks ago, only…I guess I was afraid to."
Sawyer's frown deepened as she lowered her eyes. "I don't follow. You should have told me what exactly?"
"There's no easy way for me to say this…" she said as she met his eyes. "…Sawyer, I'm pregnant."
The room plunged into silence. For a moment Sawyer just stared at her. "You're pregnant?" he repeated as if not sure he had heard her right.
Kate nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Her stomach churned uneasily and she wished she had not eaten so much at dinner. She looked at Sawyer. His silence was extremely unnerving and she tried in vain to read the expression on his face.
Slowly, he leaned away from her. She watched as he rocked back on his heels and then stood up. His expression was dark as he towered above her. "I seem to recall us havin' this conversation already," he said, "Only… you told me it was a false alarm."
Kate swallowed. Suddenly she wished he had not come back to Highgrove – or that she had not been naive enough to tell him about the baby. His face was thunderous and he certainly did not look happy about the news. "The day you asked me if I was pregnant," she said, "I suspected I might be; only I didn't know for sure at the time."
He scowled. "So you just told me that you weren't?" His expression was a frightening blend of disbelief and anger. He spun around and strode towards the bedroom wall. Kate winced as he smashed his fist against it with a sickening thump. "Damn it, Kate!" he whirled to face her, "Why the hell would you do something like that?"
His anger stirred her own feelings of resentment. She got to her feet. "Because I knew you didn't want a baby," she snapped. "Because it was easier to tell you what you wanted to hear.' She placed her hands upon her hips and faced him squarely. "You all but jumped for joy when I let you off the hook, if I remember correctly."
He shook his head and lowered his hand to his side. The anger seemed to go out of him as quickly as it had came. When he looked at her again, his face was clouded with resignation. "Just tell me one thing," he sighed, "If I hadn't come back to Highgrove today, would you ever have told me about the baby?"
Kate lowered her eyes, afraid to say out loud what he already knew.
"I thought as much," he said when she didn't reply.
The disappointment in his voice tugged at Kate's conscience in a way his anger had not. She shivered. Suddenly she felt uncomfortably naked in her backless dress. Torn between her love for the man in front of her, and for the new love that she felt towards the child she carried, she attempted to reach out to him.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have kept it from you. It just seemed the right thing to do at the time. I didn't want to..." she broke off, and then rephrased, "I don't want to force you into staying with me because of the baby. I never planned to trap you."
He raised his eyebrows. "Trap me? Is that what you think?"
She nodded and rubbed her hands up and down the cool skin of her bare arms. "It's not your problem…" she said. "I'll understand... if you decide you want to leave."
"You'll understand if I decide I want to leave?" he repeated, his face contorting with incredulity. Resting his hands upon his hips, he turned to face her defensively. "Jesus, Kate. You drop a bombshell like this on me, and then you try to push me out the door a moment later?" He shook his head. "How 'bout you give me some time to get my head around things first?"
"It's a hellova lot to take in," he cut her off. "And I'd be willin' to bet you weren't exactly glowin' with happiness yourself the moment you found out," he added defensively.
She looked away. He did have a point. Only, the difference was that she no longer felt that way anymore. The baby growing inside her - Sawyer's baby - was now the most important thing to her in the world. The thought of a life without it didn't bear thinking about. "That might be true," she conceded, "...But I feel differently now." She broke his gaze and looked down at the floor. Things were different now because the child was a part of him. It was a part of both of them – perhaps the only part that she could keep. She shook her head. She wouldn't admit as much to him for fear that he would leave anyway. If nothing else, she still had her pride.
Sawyer sighed. She looked small and defeated; not at all like the women that he had come to know. He walked over to her and reached out to cup her jaw. "We're not very good at this, are we?" He tilted her head so she would meet his eyes.
Kate looked at him. His voice had become soft and his eyes were filled with pain as he held her gaze. "What do you mean?" she asked.
He caressed her cheek with the back of his thumb and the corner of his mouth turned up in a half hearted smile. "Talkin' about the things that matter," he said. "I wish you'd told me about the baby earlier."
Kate shook her head. "I couldn't," she whispered, "And then you left and it was too late."
"I thought that by leavin' Highgrove, I was givin' you what you needed," he said softly.
She blinked. "Need and want are two different things," she replied.
"I know. And until our talk earlier, I really didn't know what you wanted at all." His hand fell from her jaw and ran down her bare arm to cup her hand. "If you'd told me about the baby, I never would have left."
She squeezed her eyes shut. He was so close that she could smell his cologne, and it stirred an aching need in the pit of her stomach. "That's exactly what I was afraid of," she admitted. "I didn't want you to stay because you felt obliged to."
To her surprise he let out a faint laugh. "Freckles," he said, "That's so far off the mark, you wouldn't believe it. If you'd told me about the baby, then you would have given me an excuse to stay." He squeezed her hand. "Look, if you wanna do this – if you'll have me – then what do you say we give it a go together?"
Kate's eyes opened wide in surprise. Just moments earlier, she had been bracing herself for him to leave, and now she wasn't quite sure she was hearing him right. "Are you sure?"
"Dead sure," he said, shifting slightly so that he could pull her towards him. "No way you're gettin rid of me so easy a second time."
His arms felt so good around her that Kate began to tremble. "Hey," he whispered, "Don't go gettin' all teary on me. A couple a' months livin' together, we'll drive each other so crazy that you'll be beggin' me to leave," he teased.
She shook her head, too emotional to let him make light of the matter. "No," she whispered. "Not a chance."
He kissed the top of her head and she lifted her lips to invite him to kiss her properly. He didn't need asking twice and she let her body mold into his as his lips found hers. The kiss quickly became heated and Kate wrapped her arms around his neck as she gave herself into it. It was so long since they had made love that she didn't want to wait a moment longer. She ran her palms over his naked chest and then down to hook over the top of his belt. Without breaking the kiss, she slipped the soft leather of his belt undone and began to lower the fly on his trousers.
Sawyer pulled back. "Wait…" he looked down at her. "What about the baby…?"
She shook her head. "The baby will be fine," she assured him, amused and touched by his concern. "But I might not be, if you make me wait any longer."
"You're sure?" He asked, still hesitant.
She laughed. "Sawyer, pregnant women can make love right up to their ninth month," she assured him. "We won't hurt the baby."
"Well," he drawled as he trailed his finger tips along her collar bone and hooked his thumbs under the straps on her dress, "Seeing as you're so sure…"
Kate smiled as her dress slipped from her body with a graceful red flourish and pooled in a puddle at her feet. She was naked beneath except for a brief lace g-string – red, the same color as her dress – and she gasped as the air hit her skin. Her nipples hardened into tight buds and tingled in anticipation as he stared at her. For a long moment he didn't touch her. She held her breath as his eyes slid over her naked body, taking in the curve of her breasts and then travelling ever so slowly downwards. Suddenly his eyes froze and then lifted back up to her face. "Is that…?" He pointed towards the slight thickening around her middle.
Kate smiled. "Yes," she told him, "That's our baby." A lump in her throat made her voice break and she blinked back the tears that suddenly threatened.
"Son of a..." he breathed, "I didn't think... I didn't think you'd be able to see anything yet."
"Only when I'm like this," she smiled. "Clothes still cover it at this stage."
He gave the red slip of material at her feet a pointed look. "You call that clothes?"
She giggled. "I didn't hear any complaints from you."
"I was too busy scowlin' at any other man who ogled you," he admitted.
She stepped up and kissed him soundly upon the lips. "Then you wasted your time," she said, "Because you were the only man who I wanted to ogle me."
"Is that a fact...?" he wrapped his arm around her waist and guided her towards the bed. She got beneath the blankets and he quickly removed his trousers and joined her. The sheets were cool against his skin, but her body was delightfully warm as he ran his hand down to rest upon her stomach. "Hey," he exclaimed as he removed his hand. He pulled back the covers to search with his eyes for any sign of the tiny bump that had been visible before. "Where'd it go?"
Kate laughed. "It's still there – you just can't see it because I'm lying down."
He frowned, and looked again, as if hoping to prove her wrong. His expression made her smile. The day she had first acknowledge the baby's presence to herself was still fresh in her mind. Whenever she thought about the unconditional, all consuming love she had suddenly felt, it still left her breathless. To watch the man she loved show similar emotions was infinitely more breathtaking again. She reached out and stroked his cheek with the back of her fingers.
Sawyer looked up, aware that he had just been caught out. In a show of manliness he reached to cup her breast. "Your nipples have got darker," he drawled as he circled one with the pad of his thumb.
She smiled, content to go along with the distraction. There would be plenty of time later to savor the raw emotion she had just seen on his face. "Do you think?" she asked, arching her back towards him.
"I know," he drawled as he shifted his hand to caress the second peak.
"Mmmm, that feels great," she murmured. "Don't stop."
He chuckled, "Not a chance,"
She sighed and stretched her arms above her head lazily. Her hair was still pinned up on top of her head and she carefully removed the clasps and worked the strands free around her shoulders. Sawyer's lips covered her nipple and she whimpered with desire. God, if he kept that up… She stroked the curve of his shoulders and then the firm muscles in his arms. He felt so good, and there was so much of him that she wanted to touch... She quivered as his lips released her nipple and he inched his way lower to brush them across her abdomen. A flood of heat swept through her and she parted her legs as she felt his breath against her thigh. Slowly, he licked the sensitive skin there. Her sex was like molten lava beneath its tiny lace barrier and she ached for the feel of his lips upon her… the brush of his moist tongue… Oh God! She was going to climax, and he had barely touched her! The thought had just only registered when she arched her head on the pillow and gasped out loud as she came.
Sawyer lifted his head in amusement. "Easy there Freckles, I hadn't even started!"
"I know." She flopped back on the bed as her face flushed with color that was only in part due to her orgasm. "It must be because of the baby... It's made me really sensitive," she offered, embarrassed.
He arched his eyebrow, "You ain't kiddin'." She watched as a mischievous grin spread across his face. His hands slipped under her body and removed her lace G-string. "This could be fun."
Her laughter died upon her lips as his mouth suddenly found her core. She balled her hands into fists and grasped the sheets as his tongue glided over her hard nub. He knew exactly how and where to touch her, and when he eased a finger into her a moment later she closed her eyes and let him swiftly bring her to orgasm again. "Oh God… Oh, Sawyer… oh!"
Sawyer licked the last of her arousal from her skin and removed his hand. While she recovered, he removed his boxer shorts and lay back next to her. "Was that good?" he asked.
"Hmm," she smiled and nodded contentedly. "Very good."
He shifted closer and his erection brushed against her thigh. His need for her was great, but so was his control. There was no hurry, they had all night and he intended to make the most of it. He studied her face. Despite the makeup that she wore, he could still discern the smattering of freckles that dotted her nose. Absently he lifted his hand and ran the tip of his index finger down the bridge of her nose to rest upon the tip. She smiled and screwed up her face. "That tickles," she said.
He chuckled and removed his finger to replace it with his lips. He wanted to kiss her all over, and he figured that her nose was as good a place to start and any. Before he could shift to her cheek, she suddenly twisted her head and he found himself kissing her lips again. She slipped her tongue inside and he felt his erection throb in anticipation. "My turn," she whispered as she rolled him onto his back and straddled him.
He reached up and brushed her hair back from her face with both hands. She stroked his neck and chest and then leaned forward to replace her hands with her mouth. He sighed and looked up at the ceiling as she licked his stomach and then edged her way lower. Her mouth was a fiery furnace and when she closed it around the tip of his shaft he moaned with pleasure. His eyes fell closed as she took more of him into her mouth and then slowly circled his head with her tongue. She dipped her head and then withdrew again, sending waves of pleasure through his entire body. With a huge effort, he managed to enjoy her administrations while holding off his impending orgasm. When he felt himself near breaking point he reached for her and drew her back up the bed towards him. She sat on top of him, the moisture between her legs combining with the slickness from her tongue. He reached down and guided himself towards her opening. She accepted him eagerly and pushed against him until he was deeply rooted inside her. For a moment they became still. He looked up at her above him, her porcelain white skin and dark jumble of long hair. Slowly she began to move, her hips rolling gently back and forth as she rode him. It was such an erotic sight that his breath caught in his throat. He lifted his hips and met her movements until they gradually built up a rhythm together. When she began to ride him harder, he sat up and guided her legs around behind him so that he could hold her closer. From this position he could touch her wherever he liked, and he made the most of it as his lips nibbled her earlobe and then gently sucked at the skin on her neck. Her body had broken out in a fine sheen of sweat – as had his, and he knew that neither of them would be able to hold off for much longer. With a swift movement he rolled her onto her back and began to thrust more deeply. She gasped, and cried out in pleasure as he took control. Again and again he sank himself into her until he was no longer capable of conscious thought. She bucked her hips beneath him as she came and he buried his head against her neck as his own release erupted from within him. They lay together in a hot, tangled mess of limbs until their breathing returned to normal. Only then did Sawyer roll to the side and pull her into his arms. She nestled her head in the crook of his shoulder and closed her eyes.
"Hope you're not goin' to sleep on me there, Sasafrass." Sawyer drawled as he looked down at her.
"Mmmm," she shook her head in contentment.
"Then again, I guess you're gonna need your rest for tomorrow," he added.
She frowned and lifted her head. "What do you mean?"
"Well," he drawled, "For all of those stables you're gonna clean out."
She grinned. "I'm pregnant. That's your job now."
"I don't recall that bein' part of the bargin we struck earlier," he countered. "Let me think, I seem to remember it goin' something like this…" He paused for effect and then quoted her words from earlier. "I don't care if you never lift a finger around the stables again. I don't want you at Highgrove for the horses, or what you can do for them." He shrugged, "Forgive me for sayin' but I though I was signin' on for the roll of bed companion and sex slave." He broke off suddenly as Kate cuffed him playfully with her fist. "Oww!" He exclaimed. "I was only tellin' it like it is. Can't blame a man for tryin'."
Kate shook her head in exasperation. "James Ford, you are an impossible man."
His laughter softened into a smile, and he caught her gaze. A moment of silence passed between them. "Say that again," he whispered, his eyes piercing hers with their intensity.
"Say what again?" she asked, puzzled. "That you're impossible?"
He shook his head. "My name," he said, his voice dropping an octave. "My real name... I wanna hear you say it again."
All trace of banter between them suddenly vanished, and Kate lay down next to him, her face inches from his own. "James," she whispered softly. "James Ford."
He closed his eyes, absorbing the sound. For the first time in many years, his name did not inspire the old feelings of shame or self loathing that it once had.
Kate leaned forward and placed a soft kiss upon his forehead. "James," she whispered again.
What seemed like an eternity passed before he dared to open his eyes and look at her. "Tell you what," he said, "I'll let you off the hook with the stables if you keep right on callin' me by that."
She smiled, hearing the slight catch to his voice. "James," she whispered, "You have yourself a deal."
Wordlessly, he reached out and pulled her towards him. She closed her eyes and pressed her nose against his chest, secure and content in his arms. For a long time he held her. Here at this place, with this woman and their soon to be child, was where he belonged. For the first time in longer than he could remember, James fell asleep looking forward to the morning.