For All the Tomorrows
Chapter Five: Midnight Confessions
"What do you know about herding sheep?" Velma wanted to know following Shaggy when he walked toward the horse trailer. "Or riding a horse?"
"I noticed the 'boyfriend' reference. Is that what I am now or was that just for the herders benefit?" Shaggy ignored her question. He started opening the trailer.
"What do you think?" she slipped into his arms, tilting her head for a kiss.
"Remember I disappeared for two or sometimes three weeks at a time in the summers?"
"And never said a thing, I remember."
"I was working on my grandparent's ranch; got pretty good at it too. I've got a horse, Scooby, Joe and Sam…no problem. We only have to look after the sheep, not move them."
"Go take care of the sheep; I'll have lunch ready when you get back" Velma smiled.
She watched him saddle the horse, climbing into the saddle. 'There are a lot of things I don't know about this new boyfriend of mine; and he is mighty handsome on that horse' she thought.
'About time you realized that' her mind stated.
'Yes, it is about time' she agreed. She watched as he called Scooby to him, riding easy in the saddle.
She had lunch spread out on a blanket when Shaggy and Scooby returned later. Shaggy tied the horse to a tree limb; walking stiffly toward her.
"Not used to riding" he stretched tired and sore muscles. Scooby just flopped, resting his muzzle on his paws.
"One picnic as promised. Relax and eat something; you'll feel better. We didn't get to have breakfast" she offered a full plate and tea to drink.
"Thanks" he downed half of the tea and then stretched out on the blanket attacking the sandwiches.
"Any problems with the stitches?" she asked.
"Just itches like crazy."
"So what now?" she took a bite of her sandwich, sipping the sweet tea.
"We've got the van and the truck. You can take the van tonight; probably be more comfortable. I'll need to keep on an eye on the sheep; I'll pull a bedroll out of the truck."
"Doesn't sound much like bed rest the doctor ordered. I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry; this is better than lying in bed all day."
"Oh, I don't know about that" sitting her plate aside; she stretched out beside him, resting her head on his shoulder, snuggling into his embrace. "Besides, I was referring to us; what happens now between us?"
"With you beside me, bed rest would be more interesting. As far as 'us', I honestly haven't thought that far ahead."
"I can't promise anything but maybe you should." she sighed.
"I saw something this morning that I think you'd like to see if you feel up to riding. I have to…"
Her lips on his blocked anything he was about to say. "Don't change the subject."
Later, Shaggy helped her into the saddle in front of him, his arms around her, holding the reins. "Comfy?" he smiled down at her.
"Yeah, surprisingly; but I'm glad I wore jeans and not my skirt" she teased.
"Now that would be a sight to behold." Being a detective, he had noticed small things; like how snug her jeans fit though not binding. Or the fact that she had left three buttons on her blouse undone.
"You just keep that sight and your hands to yourself. This is business remember?"
"I'll try" like he could not think of her short skirt. In front of him. In the saddle.
"Let's go Red" 'Yes indeed that would be a sight to behold. This isn't going to be an easy day' he thought, calling the dogs to work.
"The sheep know where they're going; the dogs will guide from the sides, we just have to keep the stragglers from dropping to far back" he informed her.
Velma found the ride easier than she had imagined and with Shaggy's strong arms around her, she leaned back into his chest, closing her eyes, falling into the relaxed rocking motion of Red's gate.
"Sweet Pea, you can open your eyes now, we're here" his voice roused her.
She opened her eyes to a panorama of a valley meadow, blanketed by wildflower colors that rivaled a rainbow. White sheep drinking from a quietly flowing, meandering stream; all back dropped by misty gray green mountains.
"Shaggy, it's stunning" she whispered in awe of the valley's magnificent setting. He helped her dismount, holding her hand until her feet were on solid ground. The leather creaked as he stepped out of the saddle, standing behind her.
"I thought you'd like it" his arms around her waist, his chin caressing her hair.
"Like it? I love it! It's the most… wonderful present any one has ever given me…thank you."
There was stillness here, only found in special places where the heart can roam at will and be at peace. Not even the movement and bleating of the sheep as they drank could spoil this moment. Velma soothingly stroked his arms holding her against him.
"Thank you" she repeated. "God Shaggy what am I going to do with you? You do something marvelous like this and its Christmas time again; you holding, kissing me and I'm in a fog for hours. Is this where you seduce me? It wouldn't be difficult."
He turned her around, facing him, "This isn't about seduction. I won't lie to you; yes I want you, so bad it hurts sometimes. But not like that. Not so I can put a notch in my belt and walk away. That's why I said I wanted your unconditional surrender."
"Don't you know by now, it's not your demand for surrender. If it was, I'd have surrendered long ago! It's me; I can't surrender to you. I have conditions I can't ignore."
Midnight. The velvety darkness covered every thing. Velma hadn't been able to sleep; thinking of him out there, alone. That man whose mere holding her hand sent shivers racing up and down her spine; whose kiss set her heart aflutter. She flung the covers back angrily, slipping on her jeans under her night dress; throwing on a robe she went searching. She found him leaning against the tree under which they had shared a picnic and more than a few kisses at lunch.
"Can't sleep either?" she whispered.
"I'll have to do a night hawk round then I can lie down. Been thinking about what you asked. 'What now' for us."
"Me too. You don't know it but when you kissed me at Christmas, you planted a mustard seed of hope in ground I thought would never see hope. It has taken root and grown, watered by your kisses and the way you have treated me. I know it will never bloom until I surrender; I told you I had a condition to my surrender. Its simple, I need to hear four little words."
His boisterous laughter filled the valley. The half moon gave enough light for Velma to see the twinkle in his eyes when she lifted her head from his chest.
His lips on hers were hard, demanding and teasing.
"Is that all? Just four little words? I think I can do better than that:
Sweet Pea, I love you, will you marry me?"
"That's nine; but close enough. Yes I will marry you; you have my unconditional surrender. It's easy to say 'I love you' here in the moon light but will you love me tomorrow?"
She felt warm and safe; at home in his arms when she heard his reply.
"Sweet Pea, I'll love you for all the tomorrows!"
Lunch, several days later
"It must have been so romantic out there in the wilderness" Daphne made sure every one saw the ring on her left hand.
"It was very romantic" Velma brought her left hand from behind her back where she had kept it hidden; flashing the diamond ring resting on her left hand. "We do have one question for you and Fred. Would you guys be interested in a double ring ceremony?"
"As long as we don't go on our honeymoons together! There is a bridal boutique down town, Let's go shopping!"
To Be Continued