Nick wondered the room touching everything he came in contact with. "I can't believe Jo did this for me." The creaking of the stairs told him she was coming back down. She stopped just inside the room and smiled shyly.
"Kids in bed?"
"Yes." Joe answered running her hands across her waist belt. "They were tired out—had a long day."
Nick nodded and stepped forward as he kept Jo's gaze.
"Where's Ben?" Jo broke her eyes away.
"In the barn. He's had a long day too." Nick kept moving forward.
"Ah." Jo met his gaze again and then quickly looked away as he came up beside her. His arms around her waist finally got her to look up and keep her eyes on him.
"Jo" he said softly shaking his head looking for the right words. Finding none, he leaned down and placed a tender kiss on her lips. Jo responded instantly with a hunger thinking of how close she came to loosing him. Her hands went to his hair as he pulled her closer.
"Jo" Nick murmured, as they pulled apart. Jo buried her head in his shoulder.
"Will you forgive me?"
"Forgive you?" Jo pulled away enough to look in his face.
"For putting you through what I did. For only thinking of Ben."
Jo smiled softly and touched his face. "You are a respectable man, Nick Riley, you would never have been able to be happy knowing you gave up on Ben. I understand that. I just want you to remember you mean a lot to the people here as well. We rely on you just as much as Ben. If not more." The last sentence coming in a whisper.
Nick looked at her closely. "Jo, when the Judge handed out his sentence…all I could think of…all I could think of was leaving you here alone…" He gathered her up in his arms and they shared another hungry kiss.
"I know I told you, after we kissed in the barn, that we should wait, see how things progressed…but after this week…I know I could never be happy away from here, I know I will never want to go back to sea."
Jo gasped softly and looked into his face searching his eyes for the meaning of his words.
"Jo" Nick took her face between his hands. "I love you." Jo laughed as tears started down her face. Nick brushed them away with his thumb. "I never want to leave…would…would ya…would ya consider courting…officially courting?" Nick suddenly looked uncertain.
Jo let out a tear filled laugh and pulled him back into her arms. "I would love to court you…officially." Jo whispered in his ear.
Nick's smile grew huge as he sighed and pulled her even closer. "I never want to let go." He whispered as he started to slowly spin her around.
"Don't." Jo said into his shoulder.
"Well how bout we dance?"
"Well Mr. Riley, I thought you'd never ask."
"Good morning Jo" Asia said brightly looking questionably at Jo. Jo smiled, she knew Asia was wondering if anything had happened after she left Jo and Nick alone the night before.
But Jo just smiled "Good morning Asia." Asia sighed and went back to serving out breakfast. Nick came storming in carrying wood. "Mornin" He winked at Jo as walked to the fireplace. "Morning" Jo smiled broadly. Just then several of the boys came running in including Rob. "Boys, boys, do not run with those plates." She reprimanded as they headed out just as fast. "Rob, wait!" Rob turned around smiling at his mother.
Jo looked down at her son's sweet face and then looked over his head at Nick. After sharing a smile Jo looked back at Rob. "How bout we go fishing after breakfast? Just you and me?"
"Wahoo!" Rob rushed off in delight. After watching another silent conversation between Nick and Jo before Nick walked out, Asia said in an earnest plea, "Okay, are you going to tell me what's going on?"
"I don't know what you mean?"
"Later." Jo smiled and walked into the dinning room.
"Okay, here you go." Jo passed the fishing pole to Rob. She watched him as his brow furrowed in concentration as he put the line in. Just like his father. She thought to herself. He needed a father's love and guidance.
"Rob" Jo started nervously. Rob just turned and smiled. "He trusts me so much. I hope I am doing the right thing." Jo thought suddenly questioning herself. But then thoughts of Nick filled her mind, him helping Marcus with the train, breaking the quarantine for medicine, helping with Rob's ark, taking all the boys fishing, teaching them how to swim, caring for Penny, putting his life on the line for Ben's. Fritz would want a man like that taking care of his son.
"Rob, do you know how your Aunt Meg has been courting Mr. Trenton?"
"Well, what would you think if I started courting someone?"
"Sure." Said Rob but then turned to Jo puzzled and asked "Mother, what does courting mean?'
"This might be harder then I thought." Jo said to herself. To Rob she said, "Well, it's when two people like each other, and start spending time together to see if they should get married."
"Did you and father court?" Rob asked.
"Yes, we did."
"Is Aunt Meg going to marry Mr. Trenton?" Rob asked. Jo smiled at how he was trying to wrap his mind around the concept.
"I don't know Rob. There is a great possibility that might happen."
There was silence as Rob played with his fishing pole.
"Would it be okay if I started courting someone?" Jo tried again.
When Rob didn't respond, Jo pushed again, "Rob?"
Rob turned to her with a bright smile, "You could court Nick?"
Jo's beamed. "Maybe this wont be so bad." She thought. "Yes, well, I would like to. Would you like that?"
"Yes!" Jo sat back quite pleased with herself and didn't see Rob's change of expression until he said softly, "Mother?"
"Does that mean you will marry Nick?"
"Yes, probably, in the future. Would that be okay with you?"
Rob just looked down at his pole for a while. Jo tried not to worry as she waited for her son's response.
"Would he become my father?"
"He would take on that role, yes." Jo said carefully.
"What about my father in heaven?"
"Well" Jo said slowly, "Rob, your father loved you." Tears started to swell up as she looked into her boy's sad face. "He loved you soo much. And I know you love him, as do I. We will never stop loving your father. Not ever. Rob, do you remember Lucy?" Jo asked suddenly referring to a dog they had on Plumbfield. Rob nodded. "Remember when she died? How sad we were?" Rob nodded again. "But remember when we got Max? Max didn't take the place of Lucy. We still loved Lucy. We just loved Max too." A smile began to form on Rob's face encouraging Jo to continue. "We will always love your father, but we can love Nick too. And your father would be so happy to know that we had someone as good as Nick taking care of us." Rob turned to her with a big smile. "Okay."
"Okay?" Jo nudged her son smiling.
"Okay." Rob responded. They both turned their attention back to the fishing pole.
"So when are you going to get married?" Rob asked.
"Not for a while Rob. We just started courting."
"Oh." Jo smiled at Rob's disappointed face. "Thank God." She thought. "I love you Rob." Rob smiled up at his mother. Just then the pole started bobbing. "Oh, oh, think you got something there."
"Hey Nick." Ben said as his brother appeared from the woods. "Where ya been? I haven't seen ya all morning."
"I was getting wood—have to fix that fence in the upper pasture."
"Well, ya gonna help?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry." As the brothers fell into work side by side, Ben glanced at Nick.
"Soo, Jo looked awfully happy to see ya yesterday."
"Didn't she?" Ben prompted when Nick ignored his first statement.
"Yeah, well, it is nice to get things back to normal." Nick responded.
"Normal huh. So you putting your arm around her is normal now? Did something happen since my last visit?"
"Ben" Nick warned
"Come on Nick, you're my brother. You can tell me. What's going on?"
"Nothing" Nick answered evasively. Just then Jo and Rob appeared out of the woods, fishing pole and fish in hand. Both brothers watched as Rob ran on ahead into the house to show the children his catch. Jo stopped when she saw them, she smiled and nodded, Nick smiled and let out a breath he didn't know he was holding and then watched Jo go into the house.
"Nothin huh?" Ben asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Later Ben. I'll tell ya later. Let's finish this up."