Some of these
characters (i.e. the Lancers and a handful who appeared in the TV show) are
Scott is 33; Johnny is 28
thank you to Barb for the storyline idea. It's great to have such inspiring
Ever so slightly X rated.
With increasing gloom, Johnny watched Jemimah slip the long white nightdress over her glossy head. The admirable sight of her plentiful breasts and ripe full belly disappeared quickly from view as she wriggled into the voluminous swathes of cotton. She was already reaching to pull back the sheets. Before Johnny could even begin to reconcile himself to the obvious fact that they would not be making love - again - she had snuggled beneath the plump patchwork comforter and was stretching back into the pillows with relief.
"Tired honey?" he asked softly, tilting his head hopefully... but it was a vain hope he knew.
"Tired? Like you wouldn't believe! Tired doesn't go far enough to describe how I'm feelin'."
He sagged gloomily. "Oh."
Trying to stifle a heavy sigh, he moodily dumped his boots under the bureau and peeled off his dirty socks.
"You've not been overdoing it, have you?" he asked accusingly, a hint of peevishness in his gentle voice. "I know you like helpin' Zee with Will but..."
"Oh, I do. Johnny, isn't he the sweetest baby ever? And he's so good too."
Johnny was unbuttoning his shirt now. A vague sense of impatience niggled at him. She was so wrapped up in their nephew these days; hardly seemed to have any time for him anymore. Johnny shook himself.
Now Johnny boy, don't you go gettin' all jealous of a baby, y'hear! Just 'cos she's feeling a little tired the last few days... Hell, what am I sayin' - not days; more like weeks!
Instead of complaining, he flashed her a smile.
"Of course, he's sweet! He's a Lancer, ain't he? All Lancer men are sweet."
He gave her a wink as he stripped off his shirt which then was tossed at the linen basket. It missed by a couple of feet but he didn't move to rescue it. Usually, the fine sight of his naked torso would be a sure-fire attention grabber and would have his little wife's eyes shining eagerly. Johnny was by no means a vain man but nor was he dull-witted. He knew perfectly well that Jemimah was a glutton for his physical charms... as he was for hers. It was only to be expected; after all, they were man and wife.
Johnny glanced at her and frowned to see she had already closed her eyes. Hmph! So much for physical charm!
He reached for the buckle of his belt and his blue eyes twinkled when her eyelids flew open at the soft chinking of the metal. His ready smile faded, however, to see her yawn and turn onto her side - away from him.
Dang! It's enough to dent a man's pride!
He padded over to the mirror above the dresser and anxiously studied his reflection. Straightening his broad shoulders, he sucked in his non-existent belly and turned this way and that, critically checking out his physique.
Nope... no paunch or middle-aged spread (not that he expected there to be; he was way too young for that!); no loose flab. A couple of scars perhaps but nothing he hadn't had for years. No grey hairs on his chest and - he flexed one arm to test the strength of his biceps - plenty of firm muscle, even if he did say so himself!
He unbuckled his belt and shimmied out of the leather calzoneras. Standing on tiptoe, he could just see to the tops of his thighs in the mirror. He rotated again, appraising his firm backside, the way his solid upper body tapered leanly down to that taut pert curve, the skin there paler than the rest of his body. Still turning, Johnny huffed out a sigh and chewed impatiently at the inside of his lip.
Didn't do no damn good to keep looking any further! It had been three weeks since that portion of his anatomy had seen any action and it looked like tonight would be no different.
His eyes lit up. Maybe she'd changed her mind? "Yes honey?"
"Don't leave that shirt on the floor, will you? You know how hard it is for me to bend over these days."
He sighed. For once, he didn't even want to imagine her bending over; what good would it do him? Disgruntled, he stomped over the rug to retrieve the discarded pink shirt then lifted back the sheets and, trying hard to ignore the delectable curve of the cotton-clad derriere which was presented to him, slid into the bed beside her.
She had less than a month to go if Doc Jenkins' calculations were accurate and Johnny was mighty glad of it. This was the first time he could remember, since she had recovered from little Rosa's passing, that there had been any kind of distance between them.
He clasped his hands behind his head and sighed.
Johnny was no loutish oaf; he appreciated how tired she was by the end of the day. Carrying a baby was hard work for a woman and his Jemimah was such a tiny little thing... or she had been up until the last two months. Now, her belly was distended and heavy. In fact, he wouldn't have been at all surprised to find out that Sam had made a mistake and they were expecting twins! He knew she was much bigger with this pregnancy compared to the first time but, to him, if anything she was even more lovely and he had treated her with kid gloves all the way through. He was attentive; sensitive to her needs and in no way selfish enough to put his own desires ahead of her feelings. But... well... he was feeling something too... lonely.
Scott, naturally, was wrapped up in his own little family now with baby William and young Elspeth taking pretty much all his free time. Johnny understood that well enough, had even expected as much, but it didn't mean he wasn't missing his brother even so.
Most of all though, he missed holding Jemimah in his arms at night. He wasn't in the least impressed with the way she'd lately taken to turning over the second she got into bed. Even if she was too tired for anything else, he'd like to feel her body close to his and minus that damn nightie, maybe their legs twining together, a kiss or two, maybe he could gently touch her where she always...
Johnny huffed out an impatient sigh. Why the hell was he tormenting himself? At this rate, if he didn't stop dwelling on it and try to get some shut-eye, he'd need to go out and dunk his head in the water trough! As it was...
He shuffled uncomfortably and finally threw back the covers on his side of the bed. He looked down at himself with a wry humourless smirk.
Well... the cool night air will cure that soon enough... but I don't know if it'll help me sleep!
He shook his head. In days gone by, there had been a way to scratch that itch for himself but... nope... he could hardly... with his wife lying beside him! Instead, unsure of whether she was sleeping or not, he spoke softly.
"Y'know, there are times when I can't hardly believe I'm a married man now, about to become a papa. Time was I didn't expect to live long enough to see the day!"
He chuckled then grew serious.
"Wasn't really what you'd call living back then; more like just surviving. The way I lived... aw, I told you lotsa times - I couldn't ask a decent woman to be part of that kinda life. Even when I came here to Lancer... for the longest time, I felt like..."
He paused, thinking back. How had he felt exactly?
"I guess I was too much of a loner for too long a time. Was real hard to change. I felt like I didn't fit here for the longest time. Scott was different, it seemed - he took to the role of big rancher right off. Guess it was his army training. Me? I felt more like some hired vaquero than one of the partners in this spread. I tell ya', I thought more than once about just saddling Barranca an' takin' off on my own. I was more trouble than Murdoch needed. And then, there was always the thought of someone turning up with a gun an' big ideas of callin' out Johnny Madrid; bringing all that craziness back here with them. I sure couldn't see any woman risking her life on me and, anyway, I didn't want that; didn't want that old life to taint the new, I guess."
He fell silent for a moment then, a sneaky smile curving his lips, he began again.
"It might've worried me some but it didn't seem to bother a few of the ladies hereabouts though. I can tell you, Mrs. Lancer... before you came to live here, I had a few offers."
"Is that right?"
Jemimah didn't turn but it was clear she was listening now. Johnny smirked.
"Oh yeah. Now, let's see... there was that time Polly Foley showed up here. She brought a whole passel of her own trouble with her too."
"Polly Foley? I've heard that story - the lady with the baby, right? Some kind of feud with her husband's folks?"
Jemimah turned at last and flicked him a disdainful glance.
"You can't count her as any kind of lady love," she argued. "From what I heard, she wasn't particularly interested in either you or Scott; she just wanted to get away from them Foleys and have her baby in peace."
Johnny canted his head in acknowledgement of her words.
"I reckon so but we used to be quite good friends when she worked in the saloons back then."
"Good friends, eh?"
Jemimah seemed less than impressed, much to Johnny's amusement.
"Well, alright then," he continued, warming to his task. "There was Miss Glory Smith..."
"She was sweet on Scott, not you!" Jemimah laughed as she plumped her pillows to sit up.
"Didn't feel that way when she was wrappin' herself around me on Barranca that first day! And, thinkin' back, it always seemed like she hefted them skirts kinda high when she was climbing on board. Could be she was giving me an invite!" He wiggled his dark eyebrows suggestively.
"John Lancer, quit fancying yourself so much!" she scorned and joined in his laughter. "Glory Smith was stuck on Scott but, be honest, she was stuck on the money far more than she wanted either of you!"
Johnny was still laughing as he rolled onto his side to face her.
"Alright, alright, I'll give you that one but..." He snapped his fingers as his memory seized on an ideal girl to sway his argument. "Julie! Julie Barrett. Now, you can't say she wasn't keen on me!"
Jemimah fell silent, her smile fading. "Was she? Ain't heard you speak much about her."
Johnny noticed the way her shoulders had stiffened and he sobered.
"Well, I guess I don't talk much about her because..."
"Never mind. You said you were tired." He held out his arms to her. "Come, cuddle up to me an' we'll get some sleep."
"Oh no, you started this an' I want to hear it." Jemimah folded her arms stubbornly and shuffled back, out of his reach. "Go on, tell me about Julie."
Why in heck did I start this? Very clever, Johnny boy. Make your wife jealous and she'll recall what she's been missin', eh? Me an' my big mouth. Well... Julie. What can I tell her about Julie?
"Julie Barrett... oh, she reminds me a lot of you. I guess a few of those girls remind me of you. She was real tiny too." Johnny's smile was as winning as usual but it wasn't having much of an effect on Jemimah. He cleared his throat a little nervously and carried on. "Dark hair, a little like yours again, but her eyes were brown if I recollect. Could be feisty too... like you. Pretty, about twenty-four..."
"Huh, old maid, was she?"
Johnny ignored her but was gratified by her prickly comment.
"I know the story a bit," Jemimah said. "She framed Scott so she could waylay them bounty hunters and get to her brother?"
"Jonas, yeah, that's right."
"She sounds a right charmer!"
"Oh, she wasn't that bad. He was her brother after all and, on the way to see him, we got to be friends. We might've become better friends but... her lies put Scott in a lot of danger and... there was Jonas."
"I know. He fell. It wasn't your fault."
Johnny sighed and decided to skim over his feelings about all of that. He'd finally laid that one to rest a long time ago and had no intention of digging it up again.
"It would still have been between us so there was no future and we both knew it." He rolled onto his back and shifted so that he was propped up against the pillows. "Julie wanted to go home and, truth to tell, I was glad. Never saw her again."
Jemimah stifled another yawn. "So... if that's it..."
"What do you mean that's it?"
"I mean, if they're the only women you claim were chasin' after you back then, we might as well get some sleep!"
"Now, hold on there!" Johnny felt a mite ruffled. "I haven't even got to Tallie yet."
"What a stupid name!"
"Hey, be nice! Tallie was a sweet girl," Johnny protested. "Sure, she was maybe a little young..."
"You bloody cradle-snatcher, Johnny Lancer! A schoolgirl! Y'ought to be ashamed of yourself!"
"Ashamed? Nuthin' happened between me an' Tallie. She was a nice girl."
Jemimah smirked. "Then why are you botherin' to tell me about her?"
"Well, nuthin' happened... but only because I was such a gentleman. And anyway, Miss Jemimah..."
"I don't recall you complainin' about any cradle-snatchin' when you were flirtin' and tryin' to snare me!"
She gasped and raised a hand in readiness to land him a cuff to his ear but Johnny ducked and, laughing, caught her wrist to fend her off.
"Now, now, don't excite yourself, honey," he chuckled, loving the glint in those green eyes. It seemed his young wife was a little jealous after all.
Jemimah huffed snootily and, when he had released her, she punched the pillow into shape instead.
"This is daft!" she snapped. "It's late and I'm goin' to sleep."
Johnny sat back calmly, enjoying himself.
"I take it you don't want to hear about Melissa then?"
"Melissa? You mean that stuck up Melissa Harper?"
Johnny snorted with laughter.
"Melissa wasn't stuck up; that was her father. She wanted the opposite of what he had planned for her."
"She caused a lot of trouble!"
Johnny's eyes crinkled up as he grinned at her.
"Trouble, yeah... with a capital T. I told you... some of these girls sure remind me of you!"
"Huh!" Jemimah huffed and straightened the comforter, not worrying about almost swiping her grinning husband in the head as she did so. "I never caused any trouble like she did. Nearly got you an' Scott killed."
"Yeah but... she had a mind of her own; knew what she wanted. And what she wanted most was to be free. She sure was something."
"Did you love her?" Jemimah's voice was small.
His eyes were twinkling, obviously recalling an incident long ago.
"I liked her a lot," he finally decided. "She kissed nice."
"Oh, did she now?" was Jemimah's waspish reply.
Johnny's shoulders shook as he regarded her, his teeth white in his wide smile.
"Why, Jemimah Rose Lancer, you are gettin' yourself all in a pucker!"
"Am not! Four girls... t'ain't nothin' to be het up about..."
"Four?" He blew out a disdainful breath. "I haven't even started yet. Not told you about Catha."
"Ah wait, I know all about her an' you can't claim her as a sweetheart. She was married an' I know you too well, Johnny; there's no way you'd go fooling around with any married woman."
He darted out a hand to sneakily tug at the ribbon on the yoke of her nightgown. Jemimah batted his hands away but was too late to stop him. Her smooth creamy throat was exposed and (Johnny's eyes sparkled), a goodly portion of tantalising cleavage. He sniggered at her affronted expression but was pleased to see that she made no attempt to re-tie the bow.
Small steps, Johnny... small steps. We'll unwrap her a little at a time!
"Alright, honey," he shrugged in defeat. "I won't count Catha, even though she was kinda sweet on me, I think."
Jemimah was giving him a sly knowing smile. Coiling a lock of hair casually around her finger, she looked for all the world like the cat who'd caught the canary.
"What you grinning at?" Johnny wrinkled his nose in puzzlement.
"Me? Oh nothing. I was just wondering when you were going to get around to naming... Mattie."
His face clouded over and he hoisted himself up against his pillows, busying his hands with smoothing the comforter to give himself time to put his thoughts and emotions in order.
Mattie. What could he say about Mattie? Had he loved her, really loved her? He had to admit that he had and it had hurt like hell when she chose to leave him. He flashed Jemimah a warning look when she began to snigger.
"Mattie?" he said. "Yeah, Mattie was special. She... she saved me when I thought everything was over; wanted it over too. I don't mind admitting it - I was scared. And then, like the answer to a prayer, she was there."
He dipped his head bashfully and worried at a tiny loose thread on the patchwork quilt.
"Sure. Every man gets scared, honey. I'm no different. And bein' blind... that's a whole new world of scared, let me tell you. Mattie... she was there with me every step of the way. Pretty much like an angel watches over you, I guess. She kept me sane."
Jemimah had slumped back against the headboard and was watching him closely, her own cheeks pink and looking guilty for teasing him so.
"You could have gone after her."
"I wanted to but..." He paused, seemingly far away.
It had taken a long time to get over losing Mattie but, with Scott and Murdoch's gentle words of wisdom, he had come to understand her reasons and, eventually, to agree with them. Still, there would always be a part of her that stayed with him... but he wasn't about to tell his wife that. It wasn't something she needed to hear; would only hurt or worry her and Mattie was a sweet memory that shouldn't be causing hurt to anyone, least of all the woman he loved.
"She came to me at a time when we needed each other," he explained. "But she knew it wouldn't be forever. What we had belonged there in that brief time - a short life but sweet. Does that make sense?"
When he looked up, Jemimah was very quiet. The playful challenging look had gone and she was nodding.
"Some, I guess," she said quietly.
And then there was... Laura. Dios! Johnny, why did you start all this? Sometimes, boy, you're too clever for your own good!
"The next one... I asked her to marry me," he confessed, a sheepish little smile playing about his lips and those long lashes fanned out on his cheeks as he hung his head again to tease at the thread. It came loose and suddenly Jemimah's hand closed over his.
When he looked up, she was watching him with sympathetic eyes. Leaning on one elbow, the wide neck of her gown had slipped to reveal her bare shoulder and the upper slope of one swollen breast. She was far from naked but he felt his body stir and was glad she had covered them both with the quilt.
"I know. Laura?" she spoke softly. "And I'll tell you about this one."
Johnny's eyebrows shot up in surprise but he remained silent.
She'll tell me? What does she know of Laura? I never told anyone, not even Scott.
"She was young, kind, pure somehow and way different from any other girl you'd ever met, right?" At his nod, she continued. "She was something else... brave; a girl with purpose and she struck something in you because you'd been that way too."
"Me?" He started to wave aside her notions.
"Yes, you, Johnny Madrid!" When he fell silent again, she explained her thinking. "I know why you ended up in front of that firing squad; I heard all about it an' you weren't a pistolero or a bandido of any kind back then. You were fighting for a cause; fighting for your people. You'd made yourself a name - a heroic one - and they loved you. Scott told me that and I reckon this Laura girl struck a chord with you. She was fighting too and you might not have agreed with her cause but... you loved her for it."
Johnny was further surprised to realise how well she knew him... maybe better than he knew himself at times.
"You did love her, didn't you?" she whispered.
He reached out a gentle hand to brush a long lock of dark hair from her cheek.
"I thought I did; thought we could make a life together. She was the first one who'd ever seemed to fit just right. Thing is... I wasn't the right fit for her."
"Are you sorry?"
"Aw no, honey. Not now."
He drew her to him and kissed her softly, his fingers twining into the thick dark mass of her hair. In his arms at last, the feel of her soft body against him, those sweet swells brushing the crisp curling hair on his chest. Johnny's hand smoothed up the length of her thigh, sweeping the cotton gown up high on her hip and then stroking down the crest of that supple curve to caress the twin globes of her buttocks.
She made a mewling sound in the back of her throat and his hand stroked more firmly, pulling her hips in to him. Her skin was so smooth. Though hidden by the quilt, he could imagine that peachy curve that he loved, the tiny blue rose tattoo high on her right cheek. He stroked his hand over it again and caught her gown with his thumb, moving to push it higher.
Jemimah gasped and, hands against his chest, was pushing him away. He could hardly believe it!
No, come on, honey! You might not be able to see him but... Little John's achin' for you here!
She was shaking her head. "No, you started this and we're goin' to finish it!" she said with grim determination.
He reached for her again. "Finish it... yeah querida, that's just what I had in mind..."
"No! I want to hear all about the girls you said were chasin' after you. Come on, tell me!"
Girls? Jeez, how'd she expect me to think straight now? Don't she know all the blood's gone from my head?
Johnny grimaced and inched the heavy quilt away from his hips. That throbbing sensation which, only seconds ago, had been exquisite, was now rapidly turning into an anguished ache. He glared at her resolute expression and sought for a suitable punishment.
Alright darlin', I'll tell you about a girl...
"Tiffany Mumford," he announced, an evil glint in his blue eyes. "Now there was a woman who wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted."
He noted Jemimah's frown with a thrill of justified delight.
You wanted to hear it... let's see what you think of this.
"And she wanted me, alright," he smirked.
"She didn't want you; she wanted your... rifle!"
Johnny hesitated. Dang! That girl remembered too many of their stories!
"Maybe... maybe not," he winked. "Either way, sure was nice to come back to my room and find Miss Tiffany, in all her naked glory, soaping them long legs in my tub."
"And, of course, you peeked."
"Sure, but I didn't have to peek. Not when she stood up, all that soapy water glistenin' on that fine body. Let me tell you, what Miss Tiffany lacked in honesty, she sure made up for in looks."
Jemimah sniffed. "Huh, typical blonde! Cheap!"
"Nah, she wasn't cheap," he grinned. "But yep, she sure was blonde... all over!"
Jemimah's face flushed hot and her lips pruned in old-maidish disapproval.
"You talkin' about her... or me?"
"If the shoe fits..." she snapped, irked at his cheeky smile.
He laughed because he knew it would annoy her but that persistent ache beneath the quilt was making him want to do anything but laugh. It was about time his little wife proved to him that she could banish all thoughts of these long-ago ladies from his mind forever. But... she was looking very miffed, certainly not about to yield. He sighed.
"Then there was Lucrece..."
"That crazy girl who nearly got you hanged?" Jemimah snorted. "She was more in love with her dumb animals than with you, my dear."
"Er... no, she gave 'em all up for me. Set them free and got herself all gussied up... looked right pretty too. Now, there was a young lady who liked to kiss." He eyed Jemimah craftily. "And when she kissed, she pressed herself up close against me..." He mimed the shape of a plentiful bosom pressing against his chest.
Jemimah appeared to be gritting her teeth.
Oh yeah, you don't like that idea, do you? Well, get yourself over here, girl! You can make me forget if you put your mind to it.
"Well, I don't know about her but I do know about ol' Jessamie," Jemimah beamed. "Lady with the big brown eyes... just like our sweet Jersey..."
"Jemimah." Johnny's voice held a warning tone. He had never approved of her naming their cow after 'Mrs. Lancer' and knew it had only been out of jealousy that she had done it. But Jessamie had been a good woman, a kind woman who had suffered and struggled to build a life for her son. He didn't like to hear Jemimah poke fun at her.
"Perfect name for a cow, don't you think?" She was batting her eyelashes at him now, knowing she was winding him up. On her knees, she leaned forward a little, her head tilted saucily to one side. "Moo!"
Despite himself, he gave a lopsided grin and a small chuckle escaped. She might think she had won but, leaning so close, she couldn't escape the kiss he stole next or the quick smart smack he reached around and deposited on her raised rump.
"I'll ouch you, chica," he chided, shaking a warning finger at her as she rubbed at her rear end, pouting like she used to do as a child.
This is gettin' me nowhere fast. She's turnin' frostier every minute. Might as well give it up; there ain't no way she's goin' to melt tonight.
He again clasped his hands behind his head and stretched back onto the pillows.
"Oh, so you've run out of girls to tease me with and decided to wallop me instead!"
"Nah honey, you're right; it's late and I'm too tired for any more teasing... " He shot her a dark look. "... or walloping come to that. We'd better get some sleep or it'll be morning before we know it."
Jemimah shuffled to the edge of the bed, as far away from him as possible without tipping out the other side. She yanked the quilt up over her head and presented him with her back once more.
Great! Might as well get up and turn out the lamp.
But he suddenly felt so tired, so heavy, that he couldn't seem to lift himself from the bed. He wanted to; knew he ought to put out the light so they could sleep but, somehow, he just wasn't able to make his body obey him. Instead, his thoughts drifted to that last girl.
"Lucy." He spoke her name aloud. "She was blonde too, long blonde hair but she wasn't like Tiffany. She was warm, sweet, loving... and she was... how does Scott put it? Oh yeh, slender as a reed. Smart too. When I was with her... I really thought she was goin' to be the one..."
Jemimah had slipped from the bed and was moving in the shadows, groping for something; something he couldn't see.
"Honey, what are you doing?"
She looked almost ghostly in that long white gown, standing there in the shadows. Johnny shivered but he didn't move. It was as though all strength had left his limbs.
Sweet Jesus! Is this what happens when a man goes without for so long? What's happening to me?
"Honey? What you got there?" Johnny was feeling alarmed now. Why wouldn't she answer him?
Jemimah turned slowly and Johnny felt a rush of panic prickling across his skin, fizzing on every nerve-ending like rain on a telegraph wire during a thunder storm.
"Jemimah honey, what are you doing with that?"
She was holding a gun, his gun, and it was pointing straight at his head.
"Don't honey me! You get me like this..." With one hand, she gestured angrily to the heavy roundness of her pregnant belly. "And then you torment me by telling me about all the many women you've known and bedded..."
"Bedded? I didn't say that..."
"Shut up!" Her hands were shaking but she somehow managed to ease back the hammer to cock the gun.
Johnny wanted to sit up but he couldn't. His hands were still clasped behind his head but, try as he might, he couldn't move them.
This is crazy! My wife's about to shoot me an' I'm lyin' here like I haven't a care in the world! What the hell is happening to me?
"Jemimah, don't, please don't. I only wanted you to be a little jealous. I just miss you, chica. Put the gun down!"
"I won't share you with anyone, y'hear?" Jemimah snapped, the gun barrel still aimed at his head. "If you're not all mine then you might as well be dead!"
Too late. Johnny scrunched up his eyes as she squeezed the trigger, waiting for the bullet to smack into his skull; waiting for the blinding pain which would be the end of everything...
But... it was cold. It didn't hurt; it was just cold. Very cold... icy cold and... wet.
Blinking rapidly, Johnny shook himself, jerking upright and scrabbling to his knees in the sodden bedding. Each twitch of his head sent a shower of cold water droplets cascading onto the damp comforter. Dazed and feeling so dizzy that his stomach lurched alarmingly, he passed a bewildered hand through his dripping black hair, his teeth chattering and goose bumps springing out all over his bare flesh.
"What on god's green earth... ?"
Jemimah was crouching on the other side, the dry side, of their big bed. She gripped the now empty water pitcher in her hand... and her lips were twitching.
"What did you do?" Johnny gasped, still not sure what had happened.
He gaped around himself, catching a glimpse of his gun, still in the holster, on the cushioned seat of the bedside chair as always. His eyes darted to his wife. Other than the china jug, she had no weapon. And - his eyes narrowed - the bow on the front of her nightdress was miraculously fastened again. Her rounded bosom was hitching beneath the thin white gown. Darn it, the little devil was laughing at him... or doing her damnedest not to!
"What did you do?" he repeated.
She schooled her mouth into an imitation of seriousness.
"Blimey, you've been writhin' about, nudging at me and moanin' an' groanin' for the longest time. How am I supposed to get any sleep with all that performance goin' on beside me? And then, when I tried to wake you, you called me Lucy an' tried to..."
"Tried to what?"
"Tried to pull me down on top of you! You know perfectly well that I can't hardly lie like that with this belly and so I..."
"You threw the whole pitcher of water over me?" Johnny was not impressed.
Reading his dark look, Jemimah snorted back a snigger and turned away to set the empty pitcher on her nightstand. However, one more look at him had her covering her mouth to suppress the helpless giggles.
He swiped at his arms to flick away some of the wetness and glared up at her from beneath his brows in an ominous manner, the water droplets glinting in his dark body hair .
"Near scared the life outta me! You couldn't just nudge me or something?"
" I suppose I could but... where's the fun in that?" she chortled.
Johnny was raising a hand to shake a chiding finger at her when she burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter and flopped weakly onto her back.
"You... should've seen... your face!" she hooted. "Sure shut you up in a hurry!"
Johnny kneeled over her, scooping up her wrists in his hands and pinning them to the pillow above her head.
"Why, you little varmint..."
She still cackled with glee. "I thought your eyes was goin' to pop outta your head!"
Johnny could see the tears of mirth now rolling down her cheeks and he shook his head, tamping down his own laughter but, jeez, it was a hell of a relief! Moreover, this was the closest they had been, physically, for quite some time. His heartbeat was returning to normal now and he felt his own mouth curving into a grin. Still, she'd given him a heck of a shock, by rights he ought to worry the wicked little...
"Mrs. Lancer," he began, a dangerous gleam in his eye. "I'm thinkin' you won't be laughin' so hard when I turn you over my knee and..."
"Oh yeah, with this?" she guffawed, freeing a hand to stroke her swollen belly, her fingers splayed over the tight mound. "I wish you the best of luck!"
Jemimah giggled again. She had seen the blue twinkle in her husband's eyes; she wasn't worried. In fact, she was glad; this was the most interested he had been for weeks. Maybe she should chuck water over him more often!
Johnny's lips lifted slowly into a wide smile and she thrilled to finally hear that delicious boyish laughter.
"Alright," he said at last, his tone leading her to expect a reckoning of a very different kind. "You giggling away like you are... I take it you're not too tired for once?"
"Me? Too tired? When have I ever said... ?"
His fingers were pulling gently at the ribbon on her gown. "I got the impression..."
"Hey no, it's you who doesn't fancy me no more," she accused. "Not that I blame you. I know I look like an elephant!"
"Elephant? You're joshin', right?"
Dios! She doesn't have a clue! Doesn't she know how beautiful she is?
Jemimah blushed. "It's alright. I won't be like this much longer and I don't blame you for not fancying me right now. You see enough heifers out there all day. Can't be much fun comin' home to one too."
He placed a finger to her lips, interrupting her embarrassed rambling.
"You crazy little... Honey, you're beautiful to me, don't you know that?"
Her expression told him she clearly thought his recent dousing with the icy water had unhinged his mind. He gently held her shoulders.
"Jemimah Lancer, you're beautiful, y'hear. You're carryin' my child. What man in his right mind could fail to see the beauty in that? This..." He stroked her bump almost reverently. "Is a dream come true. It's wonderful. You're wonderful."
Johnny bent to kiss her - a kiss which went a long way to convince her of his sincerity. Though, as he drew back, her face was puzzled.
"Then why haven't you touched me in so long?"
He shrugged, at a loss to explain. "You put this on..." He tweaked the fabric of her collar. "And turn over the moment your head touches the pillow. I figured you were tired."
"And I thought you were keeping your distance because you found me ugly."
"You're beautiful, I already told you. But I'll tell you over and over until you believe it."
Jemimah was beaming up at him now and she wriggled to slip her arms around his neck.
"I believe it."
"Well, just to make sure..."
He reached a hand down between their bodies to grasp the hem of her nightdress. Then, raising his arm, it was lifted to her hips. With an eager grin, she wiggled obligingly to assist his efforts and, eventually, it lay discarded in a snowy heap on the rug.
Johnny sat back on his heels, drinking in the glory of her, until she blushed and covered her warm face with her hands, giggling self-consciously.
Gently, he eased her up to face him. One finger tenderly lifted her chin and he leaned forwards, brushing her lips softly with his own. Feather-light at first then with an increasing hunger too long denied, their tongues exploring, breath mingling while his strong arms folded around her, drawing her into his eager body. Her breasts pressed warmly against the hard muscle of his chest but he felt her stiffen and knew instantly that the position was awkward for her.
"Sorry Johnny, it's my belly." She chuckled but he could read the embarrassed regret in her eyes. "Just can't get near enough to you no more."
"Then, I'll get near to you."
Lying her back, he propped himself up on his elbow beside her, bending to kiss her lips, her eyes, her sweet face. He could feel her fingers sneaking into the hair at the nape of his neck and tracing a path across his chest, following that fraying line of dark hair down his ribs, his stomach, his hip...
Johnny shuddered and gasped.
Dear God, I've missed her! None of them others ever made me feel like this.
His body was responding willingly to her touch, his own hand meandering down over the smooth taut skin of her bump, caressing over her silken thighs. His fingertips parted the soft curls there, stroking, teasing, and she moaned - music to his ears. At last, she gripped his shoulder and whispered urgently.
"Johnny, I can't wait any more!"
Their positions reversed, he gazed up at her as she moved above him, slowly at first, carefully, their rhythm almost fearful. And then, with a desperate need; a blessed release, that familiar contentment like coming home and, as they reached that pinnacle together, he sat up to fold himself around her. Holding her, keeping her.
I'll never let her go. Never. Not this one, not her. She's mine.
The lamp was out. They lay entwined on one half of the bed, avoiding the side that Jemimah had soaked with the water.
"Mmm?" He nuzzled against her hair.
"You never did tell me what you was dreamin' about."
"No... guess I didn't."
He stroked her shoulder and kissed her.
"So... what was it?" she pressed, her curiosity piqued by his reticence.
"Nuthin'. Nuthin' important; just stuff from the past." He nuzzled into the softness of her hair, his arm around her as she curled into him. "C'mon, Mrs. Lancer, let's get some sleep."
They lay together in the deep velvety silence of the night, warm, in love, happy.
Johnny sighed, teetering on the brink of restful oblivion but he sensed she was still wide awake. In fact... he drew in a sharp breath... her slender fingers were trailing lightly over his abdomen. The hair stood up on his arms.
"Jemimah honey..." Her touch was having the desired effect; things were stirring. "I thought we were goin' to sleep?"
"Well, Zee says that makin' love is a sure-fire way to make the baby come sooner and I didn't see no harm in havin' a bit of an experiment. See if she's right, y'know?"
Johnny peered under the comforter with a wry smile.
"You want to give it a try?" she grinned, the tip of a pink tongue darting out to wet her lips.
"I always said Scott married a real smart woman," he chuckled as he rolled to take her in his arms.
He padded over to the curtains and risked a quick peep through the narrow gap. Yes, there was no denying it - morning already and he felt as though he had barely slept at all. Not that he was complaining. What a night!
Johnny looked back at the bed where Jemimah still slept, soft and silent in the rumpled sheets. Her lips were parted slightly as she slumbered, the long lashes dark on her flushed cheeks and the rich chocolate mane of her hair tumbling over the white pillow. The sheet had slipped so that one round breast was revealed, its rosy tip inviting.
Johnny dithered and ran a hand distractedly through his untidy black hair. He knew he should fetch fresh water and start getting ready. Maria would have breakfast ready soon; he could smell the bacon already. But...
He tiptoed back to the bed and gently lifted the sheets to slip in beside her.
Hang it all! Ain't bacon I'm hungry for right now!
As he cupped the delicious curve of her rump and pulled her in to spoon to his body, a vague memory flitted across his mind, something he had maybe dreamed about in the few minutes of snatched sleep between the wild hours of love-making.
A girl? One he had forgotten; missed off his dream list? And some god-awful song...
Jemimah's eyelids fluttered open and she rolled to smile lazily at him, hooking a slim leg around his hip and arching her back like a satisfied feline.
"Good morning, Mr. Lancer," she purred.
The distant memory of the girl and the tuneless song drifted away and Johnny moved in to kiss his wife.
What do I need with the past? Got my dream girl right here.
Anne Haslam. March 2017