Title: Love Hopes – The sequel to Love Endures.

Author: Barbara D.

Disclaimer: the LeSourd Family owns Catherine Marshall's beautiful story of

Christy. I am in no way seeking profit or credit for her story. I am continuing the story of Christy for my own amusement only.

Summary: This is the third story in the Love Believeth All Things Trilogy. Our story opens one week after Christy discovers that there may be serious trouble with the baby.

Part/Chapter: Chapter 1

May 1, 1915

Christy strained to hear the hushed voices that were coming from downstairs.

For a solid week she had laid in this bed, never once getting up. Alice had come to stay with them during the day and take over nursing duties. Gazing outside at the sunshine streaming down past the window, she longed for the fresh air and warmth that the day promised.

"Mrs. MacNeill?" Alice asked as she tapped on the door.

"I'm awake, Miss Alice." Christy turned slightly in the bed trying to relieve the pain her back.

"Christy, how is thee feeling?" Alice carried a large tray filled with oatmeal and fragrant tea. A vase full of early wildflowers graced the drab tray and filled the room with color and promise.

"I'm truly fine. My back is bothering me from staying in bed." The flowers only reminded Christy that she was unable to see the spring that was happening all around her. "How much longer do I have to stay in bed?"

Alice sat the tray down on the bedside table and handed her the wild flowers,

Christy could smell the sweet, rich fragrance of the honeysuckle interlaced

with the gentle scent of columbine. "They are beautiful."

"Thy husband picked them from around the cabin. He was called away to the

O'Teale's but promised he would be home as soon as possible." Alice poured

them each a cup of tea. She could see the tears welling in Christy's eyes

and handed her a handkerchief from her vanity.

"I'm sorry, Miss Alice. I don't know why I am acting like such a baby."

Christy released the vase to her friend. How like her Neil to understand that she was wishing for wildflowers.

"Thee must have hope." Alice smiled softly. "It may be that the danger has

passed. You may even try sitting up in bed, if you wish. Move gently, now

and don't hurry."

Christy couldn't help but smile. Any kind of movement would be welcome. She

had spent all of the days in bed either on her back or on her left side.

Trying to restrain her excitement, Christy gently moved into a sitting

position, her muscles were sore and stiff but it would be so good to sit up.

"Any pain?" Alice watched her intent on making sure that her young charge

didn't strain herself. It had been a terrifying week.

"No." Christy shook her head gently as she leaned back against the nest of pillows. "I'm just sore."

"Thy bleeding has stopped, and that is an important sign." Alice handed her a cup of tea and settled beside her. "Have you been feeling movement from the baby?"

As if hearing the voice of 'grandma' the baby inside Christy fluttered and rolled. Her free hand cupped her slowly expanding womb and she smiled. "Yes, Miss Alice, your grandchild is doing cartwheels as we speak!"

Alice couldn't repress the smile that came to her and she drew her hand to her lips, just as she had the day she had watched a very young Miss Huddleston turning cartwheels in the mission yard. "Then I shall say this child is truly thine."

Christy laughed openly at the memory she knew that Alice was enjoying. To be caught acting like a child that first day had mortified Christy. The meadow was so beautiful and the day so refreshing that Christy couldn't have stopped herself from doing those cartwheels even if she had wanted to. "Oh, Alice, it seems like so long ago."

Christy and Alice spent the morning reminiscing about the years since Christy had come to the cove. It felt good to be up and around. Even if up and around meant only that she could now sit upright in bed. Now tucked in bed with her covers up to her waist and her hair freshly combed and braided, Christy read the volume of Shakespeare's poetry that Alice had loaned her. Excitement rose inside her as she heard the front door open and close and Neil's voice traveled up the stairs. The temptation to jump out of bed and run to him was almost overwhelming. Instead of moving she called out. "Neil."

Neil took the stairs two at a time; he was pleased to hear the enthusiasm returning to his wife's voice. During the past week Christy's mood had gone from terrified to despondent to hopeful, but this was the first day she had sounded truly joyful. "Christy, lass." Neil sat next to her on the bed, careful not to disturb her, "How are you feeling?"

"Better. I'm glad to finally be allowed to sit up." Christy brushed away the unruly curl that had fallen across his forehead. He needed a haircut.

"The wee one?" Neil could not disguise the joy or the concern in his voice.

Only a few short days ago he was very sure that Christy might lose this baby.

He wasn't sure if he would have been able to cope with that. Again he lifted a silent prayer of thanks to the Father.

"Moving!" Christy laughed and scooted down in the bed. She took his hand and placed it over her womb, hoping that he could feel the gentle movements of their baby.

Neil complied even though he knew that it was probably a bit too early. "I don't know if you are far enough along for me to feel anything yet."

"Just wait." Christy could feel the warmth of Neil's hand radiating through her skin. Even if Neil couldn't feel any of what she felt physically she loved the emotional connection that it gave her. It brought her great peace. Suddenly, as if on command, she felt the baby kick and roll inside of her.

"Whoa!" Neil felt the gentle response of the tiny kick against his hand. "I felt that one!"

The look of overwhelming joy in her beloved's eyes caused tears to come to her own. "He feels strong."

"With kicks like that I would venture to say it just might be a 'she'." Neil teased.

"Why a girl? Is that a professional medical opinion doctor?" Christy laughed with him.

"It would seem this wee one has a stubborn streak in her and a lot of spirit and determination. Just like her mother." Before Christy could protest his teasing remarks Neil leaned down and claimed her lips in a gentle kiss. "I love you, so much."

Christy returned his kiss with joy. "I love you too. Neil, is everything going to be all right now?"

"I wish I knew for certain. We will just have to deal with things each day as it comes. You haven't had any contractions and your bleeding has stopped. The baby is moving and these are all very good signs. I think it is time for you to have a nap, though." Neil couldn't help but worry that she had over tired herself. The more rest she got the better off she would be. He only wished that he could have truly given her better news, but there was no way for him to really know what was going on inside her body.

"But I'm really not tired. I have been in this bed for so long. Tell me how things went at the O'Teale's." Christy pleaded.

"The O'Teale's are fine. I will tell you about it, after a nap." Neil spoke in his no arguments tone. "If you are very good, perhaps I will take you outside on the porch for a while, so long as you stay laying down."

Christy snuggled back down under the covers and winced slightly as her back protested the position. Neil didn't miss her slightly pained look. "It's not the baby, just my back." Christy tried to reassure him. "I have been laying down for way to long."

Neil helped her to roll over onto her side. "Here, I have just the cure."

Gently he began stroking her tight back muscles in a soothing fashion. His strong, warm hands easing the knots in her over tired muscles. "How's that, love?"

"Wonderful!" Christy turned her head to smile at him. She allowed herself to relax under his touch and as her muscles gave way to his strength she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Part/Chapter: Chapter 2

Neil stepped lightly as he closed the bedroom door. Christy was sleeping peacefully once again. He envied her. How he wished that he could find sleep, but it would not come. Running his fingers through his hair he crossed to the stove and poured himself a cup of coffee before going to the porch with his pipe.

"Hello! United States Mail!" Ben Pentland's characteristic greeting rang out from the side of the cabin.

"Hello, Ben. Mail for us today?" Neil stepped quickly off the porch hoping that he would not call out again. Christy desperately needed to rest.

"Howdy, Doc. Got a couple of letters from Asheville way for you and the missus." Ben passed the letters on to Neil with obvious curiosity on his face. "You reckon that big one from Asheville is for Rob Allen?"

"It may be; it is from Christy's father." Neil could tell by the weight of the envelope that it probably held more newspapers. Newspapers from Asheville generally meant money for the Allen family. "Are you going by the mission house today?"

"Surely will be. Got letters here for Miss Henderson and the preacher." Ben spat a dark stream of tobacco juice off to the side and wiped his stained lips with his sleeve. "You want me to tell Rob to come over and see ya?"

"That would be fine." Neil didn't want to leave Christy, but he knew how important the cash money was to the Allen family. The winter had been a hard one and many of the families in the cove had dealt with hunger this year.

Game had been hard to find as a result of the deep snows. The Allen's had it better than most, thanks to the newspapers that had been purchasing Rob's stories. The last time Neil and Christy had been to church, Christy nearly cried at the warm coats and new shoes that the Allen children wore. Little Burl had proudly displayed his new woolen mittens to his teacher, talking lovingly how his mama had made them from the brought on yarn purchased from the El Pano General Store. After services the mountain men gathered around Bob as he spoke with uncharacteristic pride of how his son was 'makin' good' as a writer man.

"Well, best be on if I'm gonna be makin' it to the mission afore school ends."

Ben spat again before taking up the reins of his horse and swinging onto the beast. He was somewhat disappointed that the contents of the large envelope were left unrevealed.

"Thank you, Ben." Neil waved as he settled back down onto the porch to look at the other letter. He started slightly as he realized that it was from David. Even more confusing was that it was addressed only to Neil. There had been no correspondence from the Reverend Grantland since Asheville. Many things had been resolved but Neil still felt concern. Christy certainly didn't need to be upset any more than she had been this week. Turning the letter over in his hands he decided to read it first and then decide whether or not to show it to Christy.

Dear Neil,

I hope that this note finds you all well and happy. God has done a great many things in my life since you came to Asheville and I can't thank you enough for your forgiveness.

As you know, Pete Adams and I are very close friends. We send letters back and forth regularly and I have discussed with him my bitter and hateful actions toward you and Christy, as well as, your kind forgiveness. I have some vacation time coming and Pete has asked me if I would like to spend it in Cutter Gap. I am reluctant to say yes until I hear from you that I will be welcome. Now that my heart is right with God I miss the families that I used to minister to. I know that Christy is in a delicate condition and if you feel that it will upset her in any way I won't come.

Sincerely,

David

Neil breathed a sigh of relief at the gentle tone David had used in his letter. Once again Neil cursed his own lack of faith. His immediate reaction to the letter was that David would be up to his old tricks again. Even now he doubted that David should come to the cove for a visit. Yes, he had apologized and asked forgiveness for his behavior and Neil had willingly given it. However, Neil couldn't forget the pain he had caused Christy. Did God truly require that we forget as well as forgive? Neil wearily slipped from the kitchen and stretched out on the worn leather sofa as far as his legs would allow. He was incredibly tired. Sleep wouldn't come no matter how hard he prayed for it. Thoughts of Margaret continued to spin in his head along with the thoughts of the child she had carried and lost. He cursed himself for his selfishness, how he had wanted that child! The fact that Margaret did not and told him later that she was glad the baby had died still broke heart, even though it seemed like a lifetime ago. He knew that

Christy desperately wanted this baby and yet with all of his medical training he could do nothing for her or their child. How could he cope with the loss of another child? How would Christy cope? Neil pushed away the fears that filled his mind and reached for the Bible that sat on the table beside him. He allowed the pages to turn as they would, praying for peace and solace. His eyes settled in the Psalms. King David had known the loss of a child and Neil felt a connection to the words that he had written. King David had known sorrow and King David had found peace. It was this peace that seemed to be just out of Neil's grasp.

I bless the Lord at all times;

Praise of Him is ever in my mouth.

Praying as he read, Neil felt tears penciling down his cheeks. "I have failed to praise you Lord, forgive me."

I turned to the Lord, and He answered me;

He saved me from all my terrors.

"Oh, Father, save me from the terror that I have in my heart. I am so afraid that I will never hold this child. I am afraid what will happen to us if we lose this baby."

Here was a lowly man who called,

And the Lord listened,

And delivered him from all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear Him;

And rescues them.

"Father, are your angels here like they were for Zady? We need you so much.

I don't know what to do. All of my schooling and training is all for nothing now. I can't do anything."

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

His ears attentive to their cry.

They cry out, and the Lord hears,

And saves them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

Those crushed in spirit He delivers.

"Please hear my cry, Father. My heart is broken. Protect my wife and my child. I am afraid, Oh, Father, I am so afraid."

As he prayed Neil could feel the love of the Father descend upon him. The sleep that had eluded him for days suddenly seemed to fall on him. Lying back on the couch he could feel the warmth and peace that could only come from God. As he slipped into his first real sleep in days he could almost feel the brush of angel's wings on his cheeks. Praising the Father for his gift of peace, Neil finally slept. For the first time in days he didn't dream of Margaret or of dead children. He dreamed of a little boy with chestnut curls who laughed in the sunshine.

Chapter: Chapter 3

"Doc MacNeill." Rob Allen knocked on the cabin door and called out. He hoped that Ben Pentland had been right, that money had arrived from Asheville. He breathed hard, trying to catch his breath, he had run all the way from the schoolhouse in anticipation.

Neil awoke with a start and wobbled slightly as he walked quickly across the cabin. He yawned and shook his head hoping to throw off sleep. He pulled the door open quickly, prepared to respond to whatever medical emergency needed his attention. "Rob, what's wrong?"

"Nothin's wrong, Doc. Mr. Pentland said that you might have a package for me." Rob didn't fail to notice the lines of exhaustion on the doctor's face. He felt guilty; it was obvious the doctor hadn't been sleeping on account of Miss Christy and the baby. "I didn't mean ta wake ya."

"No, I'm glad you did." Neil made room for the young man to enter the cabin.

The large envelope was sitting on the table and Neil lit the lamp before pouring himself a cup of coffee. "Coffee, Rob?"

"Thank ya kindly, Doc." Rob took the offered cup and they sat together at the table as Neil opened the envelope.

"I don't know what's in here." Neil hoped it would be the cash money that

Rob sought. He had planned to open it but fell asleep instead. The short nap had greatly refreshed him, as did his Father. Somehow Neil knew that everything would work out for good.

"I hope it's more money." Rob smiled. "I've got me some plans for it."

"Plans?" Neil questioned as he dug into the envelope and pulled out several newspaper clippings, all bearing the name Rob Allen.

"Yes'sir." Rob fingered through the clippings in awe. So many newspapers from place Rob would likely never see. There were pieces of newspaper from as far away as New York and as near by as Knoxville.

Neil pulled out a small envelope with a bank note and a letter in Mr. Huddleston's handwriting. While Rob fingered the newspapers in awe, Neil read the note aloud.

Dear Rob,

I gave your story about the feuding in Cutter Gap to a newspaper friend of mine here in Asheville. He was so impressed that he published it immediately and then sent it out to several other friends of his in the business. Twenty newspapers and magazines picked it up all across the country and each one had to pay cash money to run the story. I have included a bank note for one hundred and thirty dollars. I was afraid to send that much money through the mail but I am sure that Neil and Christy will help you to turn it into cash. Please find enclosed the bank note and a receipt for service rendered.

Congratulations Rob Allen, you are a working writer!

Your friend,

William Huddleston.

"Rob?" Neil looked at the stunned face of the young man in front of him.

He seemed in a daze, and rightly so. That much cash money was more than most Cove families would ever see.

"Doc. I..I.." Rob stammered as he looked at the bank note. "I can't believe it. How do I turn this into money?"

"We have to go to El Pano, they should be able to do it there. If not, it will mean a trip to the bank in Knoxville." Neil was sure they would be able to see to it at the El Pano General Store. He had often times taken small bank drafts there himself.

"I ain't never seen this much money." Rob shook his head and stared again in awe at the bank note.

"You said you had plans?" Neil asked. He knew that his family had many needs and this kind of money was more than a year's income for the Allen family.

"Yes'ir." Rob pictured the fine dress that was hanging in the window at the El Pano General Store. The last time he had gone to El Pano with his parents for supplies he had seen his mother looking longingly at the dress. "Next week is my mama's birthday. I know just what she be wantin'."

"And what would that be?" Neil couldn't help but smile at the dreamy look in Rob's eyes. It was as though he could see his mother opening up that box.

"There's a fine dress at the El Pano General Store. I saw my mama lookin' at it. She ain't never had a dress that fine. When that first cash money come, I wanted to get it fer her, but she wouldn't hear of it. I had me a powerful time convincin' my folks to let me spend any of that money on the family. Pa, he didn't want no part of it. I finally told him that I was a man now, not a little boy, and that it was part of my job as a man to help support my kin." The pride on Rob's face was obvious.

"Well, I know your father is proud of you Rob." Neil put his hand on the young man's shoulder. "How about we head for El Pano Saturday morning?"

"I reckon that would be fine." Rob mentally formed an excuse to give his parents. "Do me a favor, Doc? Don't tell nobody about this here bank note. I want it to be a surprise."

"I'd be glad to keep your secret." Neil smiled. "I'll see you here Saturday morning. I'll call down to El Pano to let them know we are coming."

"Could ya ask them to set aside the dress with all the pretty roses on it?"

Rob didn't want to risk anybody buying that dress before he had a chance to.

"It's been quite awhile, I hope it is still there." Neil was skeptical; he knew that it had been almost three months since Rob had seen that dress in the window.

The two men shook hands as Rob took his leave. He left the letter and the bank note in Neil's safe keeping until Saturday morning. Neil moved to the telephone and made arrangements with the general store to cash the bank draft and hopefully lay aside the dress that Rob had been dreaming of for his mother.

Chapter: Chapter 4

Saturday Morning

Christy stretched uncomfortably in the bed, testing her sore muscles. Over the last few days Neil had allowed her to be up and on her feet for short periods of time. There were so many things that she needed to accomplish. The laundry, housecleaning, baking; they all seemed to be stacking up. Mostly she missed teaching and the children. School had been opened up after the harsh winter for one short month before her pregnancy turned difficult and she had to leave her job. Pete and Miss Alice had taken turns teaching and she knew that Miss Alice was actively seeking a new teacher for the children. Christy couldn't help but feel a bit of sadness that her days as a teacher were over. The very thought made tears well in her blue eyes and threaten to spill down her cheeks. Just when it seemed she would be unable to stop the tears the baby inside her kicked and flipped. Christy rubbed her hand across her womb; she would be a teacher again in no time and she smiled at the thought of teaching their baby to read and write and to love the Father.

Neil turned in the bed and snuggled up next to his wife. He had missed her warmth and presence desperately during the days they thought she might lose the baby. For fear of causing her any pain or jarring her unnecessarily he had slept downstairs on the spare bed. At least he had tried to sleep. Now he pulled himself closer to her and pressed his chest gently against her back. He breathed in the rose scent of her hair before carefully draping his arm across her stomach. He could feel the baby beneath his hands as he dozed off to sleep again. Neil had looked and felt much better since he had, at

Christy's insistence, returned to the bed they shared. It was true; they slept much better together than apart.

Christy snuggled closer to him, breathing in his clean, masculine scent. She drank from his warmth like the new flowers drank up the spring sunshine. The days that she had laid alone in bed praying for her baby seemed far behind her in some ways. The terror of the first couple of days was slowly being replaced by joy. Many hours had been spent with her Bible, reading and seeking scriptures and words from God that would bring her hope. Hope was all she had to cling to in the dark hours after she began to bleed. Christy was surprised that next morning when she felt led to read from the Old

Testament, especially since she spent most of her time in the teachings of

Jesus. However, she followed her heart's leading and carefully turned her Bible to the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. Many of the mountain people quoted this chapter often in defense of their feuding; making special note that even God said there was a time for war and a time for peace. Beginning with the very first verse, Christy was sure that these were the words her Father had wanted her to read. "A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven. A time for being born and a time for dying." Christy recognized the passage of these times in her own life as she

read and she couldn't help but smile about "a time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted." God had certainly pulled her by his calling from her safe and comfortable life in Asheville and planted her firmly in Cutter Gap. She prayed that there would come a time of loving here in the cove and that the hating would someday end. As she read deeper into the chapter Christy found the peace that she sought: "He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity into their mind." Finally the realization dawned on her that regardless of what happened here on the earth and in the space of time was all part of the God's eternal plan. "What is occurring occurred long since, and what is to occur occurred long since." It all became incredibly clear, as if for only a few short moments the darkness cleared from the glass and Christy saw everything in its proper perspective. From the time God spoke the light and the darkness into being he knew that Christy and Neil would find love in one another and that Christy would conceive a child. The Father had already laid his plans for her, her husband and for the child she now carried. Regardless of the outcome Christy would leave her hope and love in the Lord and trust in the plans that He had for her life.

"Christy?" Neil could feel her moving slightly in his arms and knew she was waking up. "Good morning, love."

Christy turned to face him and laid her head on his strong chest. "Morning." She spoke enthusiastically.

"Sleep well?" Neil could feel the change in his beloved wife. She seemed at peace this morning, so much more so that the last couple of weeks.

"Mmmm. And you?" She cuddled closer to him and gently laid a kiss on his neck.

"Yes, you were right, lass. We do sleep better together." Neil returned her embrace.

"What time are you heading for El Pano?"

"In a bit, I have to get up and get moving. I'm surprised Rob hasn't already knocked on the door." Neil brushed her hair away from her forehead and kissed her cheeks. "Alice will be over a little after eight to stay with you."

"Can I get out of bed today?" Christy was hopeful that she would no longer be confined to the bed for long periods of time.

"I think the danger is passed, but I don't want you doing any work." Neil spoke gently but his intent was clear. He wanted no further risk to her or the child by Christy over doing herself. "I want you to rest often and not be up for more than a few minutes at a time."

"Yes, Doctor." Christy teased.

Neil shared in her teasing and felt giddy himself. He could see the color returning to her cheeks and the peace of God that filled them both. "Promise me, Christy, no undue activity."

"I promise." Christy crossed her heart with her fingers. "Everything is going to be all right, Neil. I just know it. Everything that has happened and that will happen is part of our Father's plan. We have to hope in that, trust in that."

Neil's mind warned him to be guarded, but his heart seemed to assure him that

Christy was correct in her assumption. He too had felt the peace of his Father's words and knew that he would never leave them without hope. "Yes, love. I think we will all be just fine."

Chapter: Chapter 5

Neil paced the cabin and looked out the window for what seemed like the hundredth time. He was worried. Rob had arrived and was enjoying a cup of coffee, ready to make the short trip to El Pano. Alice, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found.

"Miz Christy." Rob stood up and moved quickly to the staircase that led to the bedroom.

"Christy, how are you feeling?" Neil stepped rapidly up the stairs and took his wife about the waist, helping her down the stairs. He wished that he had finished the spare room he was adding on to the cabin. Neil didn't like the idea of her moving up and down stairs.

"Much better. Hello, Rob. I understand congratulations are in order."

Christy settled into her rocking chair by the fireplace. She had taken a great deal of time this morning getting up and dressing herself, she wanted Neil to believe that she was doing just fine.

"Yes, ma'am. I can't thank ya and your daddy enough." Rob glowed proudly at her gentle praise.

"I'm afraid we won't be able to go today. I haven't seen Alice." Neil looked out the window again as he prepared her a cup of hot, sweet tea.

"Have you called the mission?" Christy asked. It had been difficult for

Neil to adapt to the fact that they now had a telephone and more than once it had been a blessing for them. Still, Neil seemed to think he could only use

it in emergencies.

Neil flushed at her question. "No, but I suppose I could." Neil stepped to the telephone and rang the operator in El Pano. She quickly put him through to the mission but he received no answer. "That's strange, there's no answer. Rob, perhaps we better plan for another day."

"Nonsense." Christy spoke up confidently. "I am fine. You two go on and get that new dress."

"I don't know, Miz Christy. Don't seem right that we should be leavin ya here alone." Rob was siding with the doctor on this one.

"I will be just fine. I promise not to do anything but sit right here in this chair and knit while I enjoy my tea." Christy picked up her knitting needles for emphasis. "And maybe I will just lie down on the couch and enjoy a little nap, too." If she promised to lie down and rest, she might just be able to convince the two worried faces before her that everything would be all right. "There's nothing to worry about, I can always pick up the phone and call!"

Reluctantly, Neil shook his head in agreement. He really did not like the idea of leaving her alone. "Are you sure, lass?"

"Of course I'm sure." Christy smiled at him. "You could always stop by the

Spencer's on the way and see if Fairlight would like to come for a visit?"

"All right, if you're sure. I will stop by and see if Fairlight wouldn't mind coming by." Neil eyed her cautiously, looking for any signs of discomfort.

"Please don't worry about me." Christy smiled at them. "Rob needs to get that bank note turned to cash and you won't be gone all that long."

"Are ya sure Miz Christy? 'Cause I can wait, there ain't no hurry." Rob cared deeply for his teacher, she was a good friend and he didn't want anything to happen to her or that baby on his account.

"I'm quite sure. Now if you two don't hurry you won't make it home before supper time." Christy gripped Neil's hand in her own and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"I reckon I'll go saddle Charlie." Rob used the opportunity to excuse himself.

"Thank you, Rob." Neil kept his eyes focused on Christy's azure ones. "Are you absolutely sure?"

"Everything will be fine." Christy smiled and she saw the concern in his face begin to recede. "I love you."

Neil knelt beside her and placed his hand on her stomach. With his other hand he gently stroked her cheek. "I love you, very much." He lifted her chin and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

Christy accepted his kiss and touches and responded by deepening the intensity of his gentle kiss. She was slightly breathless when she pulled away. "You be careful."

"I will. I love you. And I love you too, wee one." Neil leaned over and kissed her expanding abdomen. Christy giggled and ran her hands through his hair. Picking up his saddlebags and checking to make sure the bank draft was still in his pocket, Neil slipped out the door closing it tightly behind him.