About an hour or so later, Sean awoke. He immediately recognized that the rain was still falling hard. Marita was still asleep in his arms. The light from the lantern still provided a very soft and dim glow. Sean attempted to stretch his arms causing Marita to yawn and stretch also. Sean readjusted his arms around Marita and in one natural move, he lightly kissed her head and softly exhaled, "I love you Marita." He didn't mean for that to come out but it was just so natural. For a moment, he thought that he had only said it in his mind, but he knew that he hadn't because Marita, still in a sleepy state, responded to him, "I love you too Sean." By this time, they had both realized what they had just admitted. Sean felt Marita stiffen in his arms. He wanted to reassure her that it was okay. It was okay to let her feelings out. They didn't have to hold back anymore. They could be together now. He just had to let her know that she was right where she belonged. He gently pushed her forward, "Marita, look at me," Sean said softly but firmly. Marita was hesitant, but she looked at him. She was so scared. They had not had a decent conversation since she had returned from Boston. "I love you Marita. You are the only woman that I have ever loved. Let's just forget the past three months and move on from here. Please, can we do that? Can we just start from here?" Sean pleaded. Marita looked at Sean for a few seconds. He was so sweet and so gentle. He knew just what to say. He knew just how to handle her, and this is what infuriated her. "Forget!" Marita exclaimed while scooting away from Sean as best as she could. "You mean that you want me to forget that I wrote you letter after letter and you never responded. You want me to forget that you promised that you would find a way for us to be together. You want me to forget all the times that you lied to me. So, if you want me to forget, I guess that you want me to ignore too. You want me to ignore the fact that Vivian has moved into my old desk, moved into my place at the dinner table, and has probably moved into your life again. No Sean, I'm sorry, I can't forget nor can I ignore. But, I guess that is what you'd expect from me isn't it. You'd expect that I would just take whatever few moments that I could get from you just because you say that you love me. Sean, I really thought that you knew me better than this," Marita spoke firmly.

Sean was truly appalled at Marita's response. "No, I thought that you knew me better," Sean retorted. "I have always treated you as best I could and what are you talking about concerning Vivian. You knew that she never regained herself after the break up of the engagement. She just can't stand to loose. You know that I have never loved her. You know that. What's wrong with you Marita? I'm the one who wrote you letter after letter. I'm the one who had to stay behind while you went galavatin' all around Boston. Then you even brought one home with ya. Yeah, he claims to be grievin' over his fiancée, but I know better. I see the way that he looks at you, and I see the way that he touches you. He's so comfortable with his hands on your back and with kissing you."

"Kissing me. Shawn has never kissed me," Marita retorted.

"Yes, he did. I saw the two of you on the porch after dinner last night."

"Sean, he kissed my hand. That doesn't count and besides how do you know about that?"

"Yes it does count because I can tell that he wants more, and I know because I was there. I saw ya'll walking from the lake. I was sittin' on the porch in a dark corner. He's totally taken by you."

"No, he's not Sean. He's grieving. His feelings may be a little misplaced, but he is very sad about losing Sadie."

"Gosh Marita, are you blind? You really need to pay attention," Sean said as he tried to pull Marita closer to him. "I don't want to talk anymore about Shawn. I want to know one thing, and I want you to answer me honestly." Sean is now looking Marita dead in her eyes. "Don't think about what has happened, but search within yourself for the answer. Sean still had both of his hands on Marita's arms, "Do you truly still love me?" Marita was surprised by his question. She stared into his eyes. In the dim light, she could barely see the blue color of them, but she could see his sincerity. As tears welled up in her eyes, "Yes, I truly do love you. I can't help it, and I don't know why because I've tried not to, but I can't stop it." With those words, Sean deeply exhaled. It was like all the pain and missing over the past few months had built a dam in their hearts and minds, but that dam was now broken down. "I love you too Marita. I don't know what happened to us, but I love you more than I loved you before you left. Can't you see, that is why I had to find you earlier. When Lexy realized that you weren't in your room, I had to find you to make sure that you were safe. I knew that we had argued earlier, but I didn't care about that. I even thought that maybe you went to be with Shawn, but I just had to be sure that you were safe. I didn't even know where you were, but something drew me here to the cabin. And...I don't know what happened to all of my letters that I wrote you, and all of the letters that you wrote me, but all I know is that I love you, and I want to marry you as soon as possible."

"Marry me...Sean, we can't get married," Marita said in a unbelieving voice.

"Yes, we can. Gosh, I've wanted to tell you this since you got home. See, I met this older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, and their son was married to a half-colored woman. They were able to marry because when she was born, she looked white, so when the midwife recorded the birth, she recorded the child as white. So, even though she was colored, her birth certificate said otherwise, so she and the Hamilton's son were able to marry. Well, your Pa and I went on a little trip to find your birth certificate. We had just got back the day that you returned from Boston. Come to find out that you were recorded as being a white female."

"What?! This is unbelievable. First, you find this Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, and then you get my Pa to help you, and now you're telling me that there is a way."

"Yes, there is a way, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. All you have to do is say yes."

"Say yes, I don't remember there being a question."

"I'm sorry, you're right. Here let me help you up," Sean said as he stood up and gently lifted Marita up so that she could stand on her good leg, and he stepped down on one knee. He took Marita's hand in his and then paused for a second to look up at his beautiful Marita. "Marita Elise Peters, would you do me the honor of being my wife?" Sean humbly asked.

"Hmmm, my leg is broken, and I'm still a bit wet, and I've never looked worse, and all I get is Sean Logan, the most handsome and desirable man on earth, down on one knee asking me to marry him? Well, I guess that it's the least that I could do, since you rescued me and all." Sean and Marita are both giggling now, but Marita looks at his seriously, "Yes, I would be honored to have you as a husband." The couple peer at each other lovingly. In a second, Sean stands up and nearly bumps his head on the shelf in the closet. He takes his hands and places them on the sides of Marita's face while looking into her eyes. "May I?" Sean asks. Marita says nothing but simply nods her approval. Sean gently tilts his head to meet her barely parted lips. At first, his lips touch hers only softly for a few sweet kisses, but then he begins to re-discover her mouth again. It was like that first kiss in the barn right after the broken engagement to Vivian. So rich...So sweet. "Sean," Marita interrupts. "Yeah," he responds. "Can we sit down, I'm getting tired of standing on one leg." Sean and Marita both laugh, and he helps her to sit down on the bearskin rug. For a few, long seconds, there are no words. They only look at each other and smile and in a few more seconds smiling led to more sweet kisses.

"Sean?... Marita?... Ya'll here?" Sean and Marita were jolted out of their embrace by Isaac's voice. They could hear him outside of the cabin. "Marita?" is called again, but this time by Shawn's voice. "Great! You're beau is here," Sean whispers. "Sean, stop playing," Marita says and swats Sean lightly. "You ready to get out of here?" Sean asked. "Do I have a choice?" Marita asked. "Sure, if you want to stay, we could just let them go on looking for us."

"No, if I know my Pa, he's already very worried."

"Okay, well don't say that I didn't offer."

"Marita!" is yelled again by Isaac.

"I'm here Pa," Marita responds.

Sean stands up and helps Marita up also. In an instant, Isaac opens the closet door. "Baby girl!" Isaac exclaimed and hugs his daughter. "Why did you come all the way out here? You worried me to death."
"I was just walking after I thought the rain had ended. You know how I like that scent."

Isaac then noticed Sean assisting Marita. "What happened to you?" Isaac asks frantically. "Yeah, Marita what happened?" Shawn echoes Isaac.

"You both sound frantic. Trust me the worst part is over. While I was walking, I tripped over the large tree limb that had fallen, and I broke my leg. I started crawling on my arms, and then next thing I know, Sean was here. So, then he carried me to this closet to wait the storm out."

Isaac sighs and looks at Sean, "Thank you for saving my little girl. You are always there even when I can't be." Sean simply grins and nods at Isaac, but this statement got Shawn's attention. "What does he mean that he's always there for her?" Shawn thought to himself.

"Marita, I'm so gald that you're okay," Shawn said with a full smile, and he hugged Marita. "Shawn!" Marita gasped, "I'm fine, really."

"Yeah, she said that she's alright," Sean jealously responded.

"Here, let me help you to the rig," Shawn said. Marita didn't even have a chance to object before he sweeped her off her feet.

"Aaaah!" Marita cries in pain. "Hey!" Sean yells, "Be careful with her."

"Don't worry, I know what Marita needs," Shawn replied while he was striding out of the cabin. Marita looked back at Sean who was obviously fuming.

What's up for the next chapter:

1) Shawn and Sean will compete for Marita's attention

2) Vivian develops a new friendship