My Brother's Wife – Chapter 3 – A New Life
A/N: What can I say about my beta, LJ Summers, that I haven't already said? Only that she's simply the best! This chapter's for you, bb! Mwah!
It was nearly dark by the time I reached the soddy, and though I knew the evening chores were complete, I had to check things myself, or I would never be able to sleep. I was out between the brush-fenced corral and the garden when I felt her behind me.
"Is everything all right? The children?"
"Fine, fine. We're all fine. Are you?" She stepped out of the darkness.
"Yes, I'm just checking things before sleep."
"You're very careful and thorough about things," she spoke softly and moved to my side.
Not looking at me, she murmured, "Emmett wasn't."
"No, not particularly." I looked down at her and realized the neck of her dress was unbuttoned, her hair hanging in a long braid down her back. When she looked up at me, her face glowed in the moonlight.
My breath caught in my throat. I had never seen her look so lovely. I reached for her face and, "Stunning" slipped through my lips. I couldn't look away. I was captivated. I realized I had felt that way for a long time, and I froze slightly in shock. Her face moved towards mine and then she was kissing me. Not soft, tenderly and chastely like this afternoon at the picnic. This kiss was passionate, lustful, and took my breath away.
One hand around my waist, the other in my hair, she drew me closer. My hands plunged into her hair at long last, holding her lips to mine. My hands loosened her hair from its braid before the fire in our kiss had me crushing her body to mine.
She broke her lips from mine and began nibbling along my neck. I groaned as she began unbuttoning her dress.
Wait. . . Slow down. . . .
"Bella. . ." I hissed, going to reach for her hands to stop her, slow her down. She cut me off by pressing her mouth to mine, and brought my hands to her breasts.
I. . . I. . . Oh, God. . . oh. . . so. . . "Amazing. . ." I sighed into her mouth. Her breasts were large, something I had tried not to notice long ago. Each was more than a handful. They were soft and glorious though they sagged from nursing her babies. I lifted and caressed them worshipfully.
I pulled away from her kiss to drop my mouth to her breasts only to discover that she had finished unbuttoning her dress, giving me full access. I pushed her it open and captured her nipple with my mouth through her thin chemise.
So large. . . so. . . hard. . . . I licked and sucked her tender firm flesh, creating a wet spot on her undergarment. When I pulled back slightly the fabric was translucent and clung to her dark nipple and large aureole erotically. I had been hard before, but was pulsing almost painfully at the sight.
Oh, we need to stop now. I. . . this. . . we shouldn't. . . .
My thoughts were interrupted by her hand touching me. She lightly traced the outline of my hardness through my trousers before grasping me firmly through the fabric.
Ah, God! My eyes rolled up into my head for a flash before I crashed my lips to hers, my tongue meeting hers for the first time. Her hands went to my shoulders and slid my suspenders down my arms before unbuttoning my pants. With nothing left to hold them up, they dropped straight to the ground around my feet. Her hands disappeared behind her back and I felt her dress drop to the ground as well.
I started to lower us but got tangled in my pants, and we tumbled to the ground laughing breathlessly. The grass was soft and damp with dew underneath us. Should we go in the barn. . . . My thought was interrupted by her hand slipping under my shirttail and grasping me, stroking firmly.
"No drawers?" She arched her brow.
"Too hot this time of year," I smirked in response. My hand glided up her leg encountering only bare flesh. "I could ask you the same thing," I quirked my own brow in imitation.
"Less layers for you to have to fight through."
I realized then she had removed her petticoats as well. Bella held my gaze as she guided me unhesitatingly to her entrance, my tip cloaked in her warmth.
"You're sure about this then."
I took a deep breath and blew it out my nose. Who am I to deny a lady? "Well, all right then." I pushed forward and slid myself deep inside her. She was not tight, four children had seen to that, but she was soft and velvety and warm nonetheless. Being inside her was heavenly, and I couldn't stop the loud groan that left my lips.
I began slowly drawing myself all the way out before plunging back into her depths. Our moans, groans and sighs were loud across each other's skin. As her hips started to meet mine stroke for stroke, her hands found my bottom and urged me silently to move faster, harder, deeper.
So earthy, so lustful, so. . . wanton. . . . I was not going to last long at this pace, and dropped my forehead to her shoulder to concentrate.
"I can't. . . I won't. . ." I panted.
"I won't. . . either," she gasped, and suddenly arched, crying out softly in the still night air, writhing beneath me as she rode out her bliss. I raised my head slightly and clenched my teeth. I could feel the pressure building in me, about to crest. I moaned deep in my throat, and I felt her head rise off the ground. Her tongue licked the curve of my shoulder, and then she sunk her teeth firmly into my flesh. I cried out and came violently, pumping hard and emptying into her.
I carefully slumped upon her chest, heart pounding, panting hard. Oh my God. What did we just do? I raised up on one elbow enough to look into her shining eyes. She reached up and touched my cheek. I bent my head and kissed her, still trying to catch my breath. I went to move off of her, but she held me fast.
"I'm not too heavy?"
She laughed lightly, "No, not at all. I like the feel of you laying on me like this. I feel safe, protected."
"My God, woman. You're a continual surprise."
She laughed again and pulled me down for a deep, passionate kiss. I finally broke the kiss to pull back and look at her, caressing her face with the backs of my fingers.
Bella had been my brother's wife, but he was dead and gone. Bella and I had never much liked each other, but something had changed between us after the long winter. This glorious, strong, fierce, passionate woman had chosen me, wanted me, and I had just made her mine. I cared about her but I didn't love her, not yet anyway, and I wanted her again. Right now. Oh God, what have I done? What am I doing?
I threw one final plea heavenward, to whom, I wasn't quite sure. Please forgive me. And I buried my lips in the curve of her neck, began thrusting my hips slowly, and groaned, "Oh, Bella," against her skin.
~ o ~
The next morning found us shy with each other. By some unspoken agreement, we kept to our previous behavior, not wanting the children to know about the change in our relationship. I couldn't help but notice the lovely blush coloring her cheeks and the way she quietly hummed while serving breakfast. To stop staring at her, I lowered my eyes to the table and kept them there throughout the rest of the meal.
The work of a farm is endless, and as the days passed and the crops grew, our small private gestures continued. Sometimes, I'd hide a flower on her pillow when she was down at the river doing the wash. Or I'd slip down to the river and bring back the morning water when I was up extra early, a chore she normally did. On her part, she made the effort to fix me my favorite foods for supper or something fresh and delicious from her garden I'd not had before.
Earlier in the spring, when I went to town for supplies, she had asked me to get some additional seeds for her garden, things Alice hadn't grown. Bella's garden grew lush, abundant vegetables and fruit from her loving attention and care. Our larder would be full this winter with all the canning and jarring she and Mattie did throughout the long summer days.
After our night of love-making under the stars, as we tried to keep that part of our relations secret, Bella and I would meet after the children were asleep either in her garden, by the corral, or in the barn to merge and meld our bodies into one. Again, with no discussion, we came up with ways of signaling the other that we wanted to connect that night and where.
One Sunday, Mattie and I went to visit Alice and the children on the rise. She clutched a handful of wildflowers for the graves as we walked up the hill.
"Yes, baby girl?"
"You can make Bella my new Ma, if'n you want. I don't mind. She's nice now."
I was speechless for a minute and she slipped her hand into mine. "Why thank you, baby girl," was all I finally said in reply. She nodded her head and we reached the summit at that moment, and nothing further was spoken.
~ o ~
The green of summer turned into autumn gold and harvest time neared. Several of us men on neighboring farms formed a sort of collective agreement whereby we would all help harvest each others' farms in turn as so much work had to happen in such a short time.
As I was checking the harnesses and wagon in preparation for the first day of harvest on a neighboring farm one night, Thomas appeared at my side. He cleared his throat nervously.
"Um, Uncle Edward? I'd like to speak to you, you know, man to man?"
"Certainly, Thomas." I turned to him. He'd grown several inches over the summer and was now as tall as I. "What can I do for you?"
His eyes darted all around the barn while avoiding mine completely. "Well, um. . . ." He removed his hat and scratched his head. The held the hat by the brim and turned it around and around in his hands while looking at his boots. Having trouble myself sometimes with words, I waited patiently.
He stopped fiddling with his hat, took a deep breath, squared his shoulders a bit, and raised his head, finally looking me in the eye.
"Well, Uncle Edward, it's like this. I know you and Ma have been getting along better, and, well, if you want to marry her, that's fine by me."
You could have knocked me over with a feather. That was the last thing I ever expected him to say. I realized my mouth was hanging open in shock and snapped it closed. Now it was my turn not to look him in the eye and fidget.
"Ah. . . um. . . . Thank you, Thomas," I finally managed to croak out. He clapped me on my shoulder, nodded, put his hat on and left me standing there stunned.
Does he know? Surely not. We've been so careful. But why. . . . Did she say something to him?
I couldn't even form a clear thought and turned to brush Old Jack, finding the familiar act comforting. Lost in the task and in my circling thoughts, more time passed than I realized, and Bella came to find me. She was so quiet in her approach that I wasn't aware of her presence until our other horse, Joe, nickered to her.
"Sweetheart? What's wrong?" she asked softly, stepping to my side and taking the curry brush from my hand.
"Who said anything's wrong?"
"Well, you missed supper, and I've just watched you brush the same spot on Joe's shoulder for the last five minutes. That's not like you."
"Oh, I was just thinkin' I guess." I looked down at my scuffed and muddy boots.
"About what?" She stroked soothing small circles on my back.
"I. . . well. . . um. . . ." Resting my hand on Joe's withers, I half-urned to her. "I. . . I think Thomas knows about us. He just gave me permission to marry you. Did you. . . ."
Her laughter cut me off. She started off trying to stifle her merry laugh, but gave up, threw her head back and began to loudly guffaw holding onto her stomach.
"I'm sorry. . ." she gasped before starting laughing again. Now she bent forward and slapped her thigh.
"Well, I'm so glad I could provide you such merry entertainment this evening." Pulling a face, I turned away.
"Wait. . . sorry. . . ." I felt her hand on my arm and turned back. Bella dried her eyes on her sleeve still gasping for breath. "I'm sorry, Edward, but your face. . . your expression. . . ." she trailed off into a fit of giggles.
I frowned. "I fail to see what's so funny here."
Swallowing her laughter but not her smile, Bella took a step toward me and placed her hands on my upper arms.
"Oh, sweetheart, sometimes you miss so much, trapped in that sweet, thoughtful head of yours!"
"What do you mean? What have I missed?" Insulted, I crossed my arms across my chest, but her hands remained on me.
"I know you think you're subtle and that you're fooling the children, but they're smarter and more observant that you give them credit for. They've known for some time that there's something more between us."
"What?" I was momentarily appalled – this was not the example I wanted to provide for my children.
She stroked my arms until I uncrossed them, and then took my hands in hers. "Mattie told me back in the summer that she hoped I'd be her Ma one day soon. And Thomas mentioned hearing noises one night in the barn recently. I'm afraid Emmett was never particularly quiet, and I'm sure Thomas recognized what he heard."
At hearing this, I put my head in my hands. "We have to stop, then Bella. This is not the example to provide for our children. Some would consider us married already, since we've been living in the same house for some time now and weddings are rare here, but what we're doing is sinful. I should have stopped it long ago, I'm sorry I wasn't stronger."
"Edward! We're two grown people. I wanted you. I wanted this. I'm not sorry or ashamed of what we have. I love you and have for a long time now. We live like man and wife, and we treat each other like husband and wife. Intimate relations are just a part of that."
"You're sure? But what about the children?"
"What about them? They see the love we have for each other. That we treat each other with respect and work together as a team. What better example can you have? My Pa beat my Ma regularly after they would fight and yell at each other. It took me years after we were married to know that Emmett wouldn't raise a finger to me in anger. My folks were married in the eyes of God and the state, but they were terrible examples for me and my brothers and sisters."
My heart melted at her words. I had never known such treatment and I didn't know she came from people like that. "Oh my darling," I said, folding her into my arms. "I had no idea that your people were like that. I'm sorry you saw such harsh treatment between your ma and pa. No one should see or hear that."
"Now do you understand why I'm not as concerned about our example to our children? Besides, I think we've lived together long enough that most would call us married."
"True. But without a preacher or a Justice of the Peace, it's not married to me. I guess it's time to make an honest woman of you, eh?" I squeezed her playfully.
"Such a romantic proposal. How can I refuse?" She tickled me back. "Besides, it probably is best that we stand in front of the preacher and make our vow soon, before the baby comes." Her sparkling eyes met mine through her lashes.
"Baby comes? What baby? Whose baby?"
She slapped my chest lightly. "You really are at sea sometimes, aren't you? Silly, silly man, our baby."
Our baby? Our baby?
My mind struggled to grab this information. "Our baby?" I gasped in disbelief. "Are you sure? Wait, are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm sure," she laughed. "And I'm fine. Everything is as it usually is. This isn't the first time, you know." She winked and nudged me.
"Wha. . . when?"
"Best I can figure, late winter or early spring."
"Whoooooooop!" I hollered and picked her up, swinging her around.
"You're happy, then?"
"Yes, yes! I'm just still a little stunned. I wasn't expecting any of this."
"But it's okay? You're okay with it?"
"Yes! A new life! A new child. . . ." My voice trailed away as I looked down into her shining face.
My God, I love this woman. Not just love her. I love her love her. Like with all my heart. I'm in love with Bella! I don't know exactly when that happened. And now we're going to be married and have a child. . . .
So many emotions were running through me that I wasn't sure I could contain them all. My heart swelled so I thought my chest would burst, my eyes burned with unshed tears, my body shook with joy and excitement. I saw all the same things reflected back to me in Bella's eyes, and I raised my hand to cup her cheek tenderly.
"I love you, Bella," I whispered for the first time before pressing my lips to hers softly. Pulling back slightly, I brought my other hand to her face to cradle it between them. Her deep eyes were radiant, and captured mine completely. I wanted to marry her. I never thought I'd ever feel that way about a woman again. But I did. I wanted to marry her and raise our children on this land together.
"Will you marry me?" Popped out of my mouth unbidden.
"Yes, yes of course I'll marry you!" She answered before I could draw breath, then crashed her lips to mine, hungry, needy. My own body responded and we didn't even bother to fully undress before I was engulfed deep inside her and groaning out my love.
~ o ~
We celebrated a record harvest that fall. Mr. Banner decided to stay on and it was a relief not to have to find a replacement – he was a hard worker and had become a good friend and neighbor. I never had to worry about Emmett's homestead with him in charge. While I might have been unaware of many things, I did see how my Mattie took a shine to his boy Ben, and he seemed equally sweet on her. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they started courting down the road a piece.
Thomas shone working with all our livestock, and we butchered a yearling calf after the first frost to give us meat for the winter. Several calves and foals were due in the spring, the heifers and mares he'd bought and bred were fat and happy in their shaggy winter coats.
Our food secure and plentiful, our livestock healthy and doing well, our farm bedded down for the winter, I took stock of my life as I headed up to the rise one evening. The sun was low in the sky coloring everything in warm reds and golds.
Two years. I've been on this land for two years. Only three to go.
Had anyone told me a year ago that I'd be married again and expecting a new child, I'd have laughed in their face. Life on the prairie was tough and had taken a toll on my body and my spirit, but I refused to be beaten, bending instead with the wind like the long grasses that surrounded me as far as the eye could see.
I felt warm arms wrap around my waist as Bella snuggled into my side. Putting one arm around her back while spreading my other across her expanding belly, I kissed the top of her head and sighed in contentment.
"It's so beautiful up here," she said softly.
"I love the way the land stretches away to the horizon all around."
I nodded and turned to face my love, my wife, and kissed her soundly.
"You still miss them." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes, but not like before. The memories now are more sweet than bitter."
She nodded in agreement against my chest.
"Yes. You, the children, you're my life now."
Nodding my understanding, I kissed her forehead lightly. "What's here was my life once upon a time. Now it's my past." I grabbed my wife's hand. "Let's go home. That's where my life is – the life I love and live fully with you and our children, and our children yet to come."
We walked together downhill towards home. Our home. The sunset gilded the land and glinted off the rings on our hands. Happily ever after was for storybooks and dreams. Life was hard and unrelenting on the prairie, I'd learned through painful experience, but I knew I'd never been happier or more settled in my life before. And I knew I'd be that way to the end of my days with the incredible woman who walked by my side into the fading light. The day might be ending, but our life together was truly just beginning.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this concluding chapter. It wasn't an easy journey and I thank you for trusting me and sticking with this story through to the end.
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