The Rifleman
Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Fan Fiction

The Next Step…
Chapter 48 – Returning Home
Written by Deanne Bertram

Thadd walked with Mark back to Hattie and Micah’s. As they entered, he pushed Mark upstairs and said, “I want to speak with your family. Just go on up there to Hope.” He watched Mark take the steps two at a time. Thadd walked into the parlor and saw the huge crowd present, a little taken back, but not surprising.

Lucas was the first to speak up, “Doc? How is he?”

Thadd looked around the room.

“Doc they have a right to know.”

“Alright, Lucas. I’ll say it bluntly. It’s a miracle that Mark is alive. From the injuries I just saw, by every right, he should be dead. The only thing I can guess that kept him alive, was the cold water from the river that Hope said Ramone threw him into, after he thought Mark was dead. It helped lessen the swelling in his neck, to an extent. Anyway, Mark was strangled so hard, his larynx is fractured and a lot of the blood vessels in his throat hemorrhaged. The fracture should heal in a few weeks. I’m sure his vocal chords also took damage. That’s why he can’t really talk. His throat is still swollen and until the swelling goes down and the bruising subsides… I’m surprised he’s been able to say what he has. It’s going to take a while before we know if he’ll get his voice back. There’s also the emotional distress he endured.”

“Doc, Milly and I were talking while Mark was with you. When you do allow our family to go home, we’re going to move Mark and Hope back in with us, at least until we’re sure they’re handling this okay and can put it behind them. Right now, we don’t trust either of them to not hide things from us. If they’re in our home, we’ll be able to better know when something’s not right.”

“Lucas, I think that’s a good idea. I’ll want to see both of them again tomorrow, now I know it’s Sunday, so I’ll come here after services. If I like what I see, I’ll let them go home afterwards. Right now they’ll both need the support of their family and friends.”

Thadd looked around the room and saw the concern and relief on the faces of the adults present, in addition to the McCain’s, there were the Drako’s, the Gibb’s, all three Lane’s, the Torrance’s, the McCafferty’s, John Hamilton, Drew Anders, and Brother Lamartine.

“Lucas, if you’d like. The men can head out to your place this afternoon and get things moved around,” Johnny Gibbs offered.

“And just how would you ‘men’ arrange things?” Colleen chided, as a few of the women present giggled. “We’ll all go and help things get set up. I’m sure Milly and Hope would enjoy a woman’s touch in getting their home ready for their return.”

“If you’ll excuse me first, I think I’d like to get the twins and take them up to Hope and Mark,” Annie stated.

Shortly, Ethan and Annie, and Mrs. Mayhern returned from the hotel, the ladies carrying the boys and Ethan carried their cradles. Milly and Lucas followed them upstairs, and then went to the room they had been using and woke Myra and Little Ted from their naps.

Annie knocked on the door and then opened it. She was thrilled with how much life shown in Mark’s eyes as he saw his sons. Annie and Mrs. Mayhern handed the boys to Hope and Mark, while Ethan set their cradles in the room.

“Well Mark, since you’re back. I think you can help Hope to take care of your sons. I’ve enjoyed helping take care of them, but just the same, I’m glad you both are back. I don’t know if I could handle raising children full time,” Ethan stated.

“Ethan, you better find out if you can!” Annie stated, looking a little upset at her husband.

“Annie, are you pregnant?” Hope asked.

She nodded. “I had just returned from the doctor’s when we received the wire from Micah.” Turning to Ethan, “I didn’t say anything before, because with Hope missing and then the news of Mark’s death… I didn’t feel it was right for me to share my good news, not with everyone else being so… heartbroken.”

Milly and Lucas entered the room, carrying Myra and Little Ted, to see Hope and Annie hugging. They saw the smirk on Mark’s face and the uncertainty on Ethan’s.

*****

“Mark we have some work to do at the ranch, so we’re going to leave you and Hope here? Hattie and Micah will be downstairs if you need anything,” Lucas stated. “Johnny and Drew will be over at the Marshal’s office, but I’m sure they won’t be needed.”

The afternoon was spent with Hope reading to their sons and Mark lying in bed with Hope, while she leaned back against him. He was enjoying the story almost as much as the children.

*****

*****

As the others headed out to the McCain Ranch, Reverend and Maggie McCafferty invited Brother Lamartine to their home.

During their meeting Brother Lamartine wrote a question, ‘Would God be upset with me if I broke my vow of silence?’ and showed it to the Reverend.

“Depends on why?” he replied.

‘Too much needs to be said and difficult to write,’ Brother Lamartine wrote.

“If you’d like some time alone to talk with God, I’d be happy to take you to the church and give you all the time you need, before you make your decision. I don’t know why you chose to be silent, but with a good enough reason, I believe God would approve.”

Reverend McCafferty led Brother Lamartine to the church and left him to his conversation with God.

*****

Maggie was setting supper on the table when there was a knock at the door. The Reverend answered the door and invited Brother Lamartine in.

“Please, come in. I hope your conversation with God went well?”

In a quiet voice, Brother Lamartine spoke, “The Father agreed that Mark needed someone to speak on his behalf. But He also told me that I didn’t need his approval. It had always been my decision. I know he wants me to keep talking, especially to the people of my flock, when I return to my home. He wants me to return to ministering to the people, not just provide a haven.”

“I’m glad you could find peace in your decision,” Reverend McCafferty said as he invited Brother Lamartine to join them for dinner.

*****

Everyone had returned to Hattie and Micah’s and supper was almost ready when, Milly and Lucas went upstairs to check in on Mark and Hope. When they opened the door, they saw the four sleeping in the bed. Lucas knocked on the door and then called Mark’s name. Mark stirred first and then Hope. Lucas and Milly entered the room.

“We just wanted to let you know we’re back and we’ll bring your supper upstairs to you,” Milly started to say as she and Lucas took the twins.

“Ma, I’m so tired of being in this bed. Could I please come downstairs?” Hope pleaded. Hope looked to Mark and asked, “Could you please carry me downstairs?” Mark looked to his parents and then nodded.

Lucas called for his brother-in-law Johnny from the top of the stairs.

“Johnny, would you come up here?” As Johnny came up the stairs, Lucas stated, “Just help Mark get Hope downstairs. She’s tired of being in the bedroom.”

They arrived in the parlor to see a number of tables and chairs set up and Annie, Colleen, and Hattie carrying food to the tables. Mark set Hope down in a chair close to the playpen with their sons.

Mark turned when he heard, “Papa” and saw Zachariah reaching for him.

Hope quickly turned around in her chair, “Did he?” she asked. “Mark, Zach just said Papa!”

Mark was already reaching to pick Zachariah up, when he heard “Papa” even louder. A wide smile crossed Mark’s face. Mark laughed to himself, ‘Funny, my son starts talking when I can’t.” Before Mark could sit down, Joshua was reaching and calling for ‘Pa..Pa’.

Mark handed Zachariah over to Hope then turned and picked Joshua up and sat down with his son.

Hope said, “Well Zach, you and your brother are full of surprises. You both can talk.” A smile crossed his face as he clapped his hands, calling “Papa” and he reached towards Mark. Joshua started laughing and calling “Pa..Pa.”

Myra stood in front of Hope and Mark, looking to the twins and told them, “He’s not Papa, he’s brother!”

Lucas and Milly looked to each other, with Milly covering her mouth with her hand.

Johnny called to Lucas, “Okay, Brother, I think ‘now’ would be a good time to explain the relationships within your family.” He and everyone else laughed.

“Don’t look at me with that, ‘well she’s your daughter’ look!” Milly replied, trying to keep herself from laughing too hard.

Lucas shook his head, “Okay, but later. Right now, I’m hungry!”

*****

As family and friends gathered around the tables, Lucas said grace, thanking the Good Lord for seeing his family returned. “Lord, I also ask that you continue to watch over us. I know we have some healing to do and with your grace, we’ll come through this stronger than before. Bless our friends who offered prayers that we should be re-united. And bless the strangers who used courage to help us. We thank you for the nourishment we are about to eat. It is in your name we pray, Amen.”

As supper progressed, Lucas kept wondering about the looks that Mark exchanged with Ethan and the looks that Hope exchanged with Annie. Thinking that he’d need to have a talk later, with Mark and Hope, to make sure they were okay. When Mark saw his Pa looking towards him, he just shook his head.

Milly and Hattie returned to the tables with fresh coffee to be served. Lucas grinned and shook his head when he saw Mark raise a cup as Milly stopped to fill another, but then had to laugh as he watched how much sugar Mark put in the cup.

Once Milly and Hattie were seated, Annie spoke up.

“I know that Lucas has been watching the eye exchanges between Ethan and Mark as well as Hope and myself; rest assured nothing is wrong. Since this group is family, and Ethan and I are honored to be a part of this rather large family… I thought now might be time to share my news that I’ve kept a secret while Hope and Milly were missing. Ethan and I are expecting.”

A hearty round of congratulations were given to the happy couple.

“So Ethan, why the looks at Mark?” Lucas asked.

“I just found out the news, upstairs, a little earlier. I had told Mark and Hope I was glad they were back home and I had fun watching the twins, but I didn’t know if I could handle children full time, and that’s when Annie told me. Guess it was just an inside joke between two brother-in-laws. I mean, I want children, but watching after Zach and Josh, it just got to be a little overwhelming at times.”

Johnny Gibbs offered, “Ethan, you got saddled with two boys who were almost a year old. It’s easier when you start with them as little babies.”

“Really?” Ethan asked.

“Only if it’s one at a time!” Micah chimed in.

Everyone had a good laugh.

*****

After everyone had returned to their homes or the hotel, Lucas and Milly put Little Ted to bed as Mark put Zach and Josh to bed. Then they returned to the parlor where Hope and Myra waited.

Milly sat with Myra on her lap as Lucas spoke.

“Myra, we need to talk to you about Zach and Josh.”

“Yes sir,” she answered.

“You know that Zach and Josh are Mark and Hope’s sons?”

“Yes sir.”

“Sweetie, we need you to understand, they’re not your brothers. They’re something even more special,” Lucas stated.

“More special than Mark?” she asked.

“In their own way, yes. Joshua and Zachariah are your nephews and you’re their Aunt. Like Aunt Colleen is to Mark. That makes you all the more special to them. You’re their only aunt,” Lucas stated.

“Me Aunt Myra?”

“Yes,” Milly said as she smiled at her daughter.

“Me not their sister?”

“No, sweetie,” Milly answered. “Do you understand?”

“Me special. Me Aunt Myra,” Myra stated. Then turned to Mark and Hope, “Will they be sad me not sister?”

Hope reached out to Myra and took her to her lap. “No Myra. The boys won’t be sad. They’ll be happy they have you as their aunt.”

Then Myra looked to Mark, “You okay me not their sister? Me still be your sister. Okay?”

Mark reached over and ruffled Myra’s hair and smiled as he nodded.

*****

On Sunday morning, Lucas and Milly knocked on the door to the room where Hope and Mark were staying. Mark opened the door and let his parents in.

“Mark, Hope, we thought maybe, it would be better if we have this conversation up here, before heading downstairs for breakfast. Mark, I know you just returned yesterday and you were fine here, but that was with family. We’ll understand if neither of you are ready to go to church services today. It’s your choice,” Lucas stated.

Milly added, “Hope, its one thing for me to attend services today. I didn’t experience anywhere near what you did. We just don’t want either of you to feel uncomfortable. There will be plenty of questions from the people of the town and I guess what we’re really trying to say is, that maybe you should stay here. Once both of you are healed more… We just want to protect both of you. You’ve been through so much.”

“Pa, Ma, Mark and I… we sort of talked last night. And honestly, neither of us feel we’re ready to go to church today. It’s still to…”

“Hope, neither of you need to explain anything,” Milly stated.

*****

As Lucas and Milly and Micah and Hattie left the house, Brother Lamartine was about to knock on the door.

“Brother Lamartine,” Micah stated. “Hope and Mark are in the parlor. I’m sure they’ll both be happy to see you. We’ll be back after services.”

*****

Brother Lamartine entered the parlor to see Mark lying on the floor with both his sons crawling over him, calling Papa, as his wife watched.

“I’m happy to see life back in your eyes, Mark,” he said as he removed his hat. “Mrs. McCain, my name is Brother Lamartine.”

“Brother Lamartine, please call me Hope. But, I thought Lucas said you had taken a vow of silence?” Hope asked.

“I had, but I talked yesterday with Reverend McCafferty and then with God. Your Reverend stated if I had good enough reason, he was sure that God would understand my need to talk again. And in my talk with God, he said it was always my decision, whether I should talk or not. He bore no ill against me for needing to break my vow.”

The boys continued to claim attention from Mark by calling “Papa”, as he tried to quiet them by holding his finger to his mouth to indicate ‘shhh’.

“Brother Lamartine, we’re sorry, the boys just started talking last night and now, they won’t be silenced.”

Brother Lamartine continued, “Miss Hope, never silence them. Maybe I just needed someone, like your Mark, to come into my life to show me that there was a need for my voice to be heard again. When I pulled Mark from the river, I thought I was pulling a dead man from the waters. Then when he breathed and moaned, I thanked God. When he finally woke, it was a hollow set of eyes that I saw. He mourned your death. We stayed at my home in Mexico for two days, before I convinced him of his need to return here. Then for a week we traveled here. I know he’s not told you that he was ready to leave his sons to the care of your brother and his wife, because he felt he couldn’t go on with out you.”

“Mark?” Hope asked.

Mark hung his head as he nodded.

“Ma’am, I’m not sure what changed his mind, maybe he doesn’t even know.” Lamartine paused as he looked to Mark and saw him shrug his shoulders. “When his uncle came to get me yesterday he told me how they followed Mark’s trail from your home, away from North Fork, but then Mark changed directions and they found him on the hill overlooking this town. I’m sure the Good Father had a hand in it. He works in mysterious ways. Somehow he drew Mark back to North Fork and to you.”

“Brother Lamartine, thank you for saving his life and bringing him home. Maybe you were part of God’s plan for Mark as Mark was part of God’s plan for you. For whatever reason, you both needed someone,” Hope said. “I’m glad you were there for each other.” Then turning to Mark, “Please don’t be ashamed for feeling that you couldn’t raise the boys. When Ramone told me you were dead, I felt part of me die. Then when we were returning home, I wanted to die. I couldn’t imagine raising our sons without you. Pa told me you had asked Ethan and Annie to raise them. I was ready to give into your wishes, but once I got here and saw them, I fought to live. Because I knew that you would live on, in them and I wanted them to know who their father was. Mark, please don’t be ashamed.”

Brother Lamartine continued to talk, “Neither of you has any reason to be ashamed. For a while, your grief was too great to bear alone, but the Good Father made sure your family was re-united. And seeing the life in all of your eyes this morning, I know I did right in insisting to bring Mark home. And maybe that’s why it was so important for me to talk now, to help you understand what Mark can’t tell you. He does work in mysterious ways and this was God’s way of showing me that I needed to be heard again. So that I can minister to my flock. That’s another reason I wanted to stop by this morning, I want to say goodbye. I’ll be leaving to return to my home. I’ll return the wagon to Señor Castillo-Sanchez and let him know the McCain family is a family again.”

*****

After church services, Lucas and Milly returned with Doc Burrage to Micah and Hattie’s. After the examinations, he agreed that they could go home, but with stipulations they still take it easy and that he wanted to see them the following Saturday.

*****

The McCain’s and the Lane’s shared lunch with Hattie and Micah. Ethan and Annie said they needed to return to West Point and had made arrangements to take the Monday afternoon train. Seth announced that he too, needed to return to his post. The McCain’s decided to postpone returning home until after the Lane’s had left.

As they waited on the platform, Hope asked, “You’ll keep us posted on the baby?”

“Every month, sis,” Ethan stated. Then turning to Mark, “I’ll probably be wiring you for all sorts of advice once he’s born.”

“Are you so sure it’s going to be a boy?” Annie asked.

Seth stood in front of his daughter and said, “Each time it gets harder and harder to say goodbye.”

“I know Father,” Hope said through tears as the families said goodbye.

*****

Lucas and Mark made sure that Hope would be comfortable in the back of the buckboard. Lucas set Blade’s saddle in back for Hope to lean against. Mark then went and saddled Blue Boy and led him and Blade, while Nils led Razor and Two-Bits, back to Hattie and Micah’s. Lucas had traded the three saddle horses they acquired before heading into Mexico, for a two horse team to pull the buckboard. Once Hope, the twins, and Little Ted were settled in the back of the buckboard, Nils tied Razor and Two-Bits to the back. Mark got in the saddle and tied Blade’s lead to his saddle horn. Milly climbed up to the seat and Lucas handed Myra up, before he climbed on board. The McCain’s headed home.

*****

As they arrived at the Ranch, Lucas asked Mark to get the horses settled in the barn and he’d see to getting the family into the house.

*****

Mark entered his parent’s home and saw Hope sitting in his chair, he then saw through the open bedroom door, their bed. Milly walked over to him and said, “Mark, this is how your father and I want it. For the time being, you and your family will be staying here with us. At least until you both are better healed.”

*****

Upon Seth Lane’s return to Fort Sam Houston, he proceeded to Colonel Albright’s residence. During the train ride back, he made a decision.

Colonel Albright asked, “Seth, what will you do? You’re a military man. Do you really want to give up your career?”

“Jacob, I missed so much of Ethan and Hope’s growing up years, I don’t want to lose out on Joshua’s and Zachariah’s. They’re my grandsons. As for what I’ll do? I think North Fork would appreciate a former military man as a deputy. I haven’t talked with them, but I think they would accept my offer. I’ve seen first hand how Johnny and Mark are struggling, right now, just the two of them, with young families, and who knows how long it will be before Mark get’s his voice back. Jacob, this is something I want. Please grant my request for an honorable discharge?”

“I’ll see that it gets processed. When do you think you’ll head back?”

“As soon as I can get my things packed up and ready to ship out.”

*****

It had been a little over a week since the McCain’s had returned to their ranch. That night, Hope was standing at the sink, finishing drying the dishes, and started staring at a serrated-edged knife she held. Mark came up behind and wrapped his arms around Hope. Not knowing she was reliving her nightmare, Hope turned and slashed out at Mark and started screaming for him to back away and never to touch her again. “You may have killed my husband, but you will NEVER take his place!”

Mark grabbed at his hand and saw where the knife had cut him. He stared at Hope. Milly turned, in hearing Hope screaming, she ran to the door and yelled for Lucas, who came running from the barn. He entered their home to see that, from behind, Mark was trying to restrain Hope, one arm around her waist and he had her wrist in his other hand, trying to keep the knife away. Hope continued to scream for him to let her go as she kicked and clawed at him.

Lucas ran to them and slapped Hope across the face. Mark flashed fire through his eyes that his father would dare strike his wife. Lucas backhanded Hope even harder a second time. Mark tried to yell ‘PA!’ but no words would come out. Slowly Hope stopped fighting. Her eyes focused in on Lucas standing in front of her, she then looked over her shoulder to see it was Mark who restrained her. She dropped the knife and looked at her hands and saw the blood, “What have I done?!” she cried.

“It’s okay Hope,” Lucas said. “Everything is going to be alright.” Milly came up next to Hope as Mark released her. Milly helped Hope wash the blood off her hands.

Lucas got the medical box and tended to Mark’s hand at the table. Mark’s face still held the anger he felt towards his father.

“Mark, I’m sorry I slapped her. I’ve seen this kind of reaction when I was in the war. She wasn’t seeing you or me, she was reliving her memory. I had to slap her to bring her back to the present. Son, I’d never deliberately strike Hope without just cause, I love her as much as I love you.”

Mark watched as Milly led the still crying Hope to their bedroom. Once Lucas was done bandaging Mark’s hand he put the medical box back in the cabinet. He turned to continue his talk with Mark, only to find Mark had left the house.

Lucas walked to the porch to see Mark sitting on the steps, head bowed in his hands as he rested his elbows on his knees.

“Son, this is why Milly and I wanted both of you back inside this home. I know from experience that it could be something small to set Hope off, to unlock her memories. As bad as things were for Hope in Mexico, we didn’t want the two of you trying to deal with this on your own,” Lucas spoke as he sat down next to Mark. Mark raised his head and looked out to the horizon. “Mark, it’s not that we didn’t think you were ‘man’ enough to handle everything, it’s just that, you’re recovering from injuries yourself and you still feel responsible that this happened because you weren’t home. You’re still fighting your own demons.”

Mark nodded.

“Mark, I’ve been beating myself up too. But think on this, if you had been home, there’s every chance you would have been the one with the fractured skull or worse, you know how to use your rifle and you would have tried… I know that I’d of tried to go for my rifle too. Mark, those outlaws would have killed you or me, had either one of us been here. Percy…, he’s a city boy and he doesn’t hold to carrying a weapon.”

Mark looked to his Pa and Lucas saw a change in his eyes, for the first time since they learned of their wives being taken, his eyes didn’t hold the bitterness. They held understanding and acceptance, but a sadness too.

“Mark, I see you finally understand the truth. Tell you what, we’ll see how Hope’s doing in the morning and at that time, we’ll decide if the two of you can move your family back into your home.” Lucas gave a small laugh. Mark looked questioningly at his Pa. “It’s been kinda nice having you back under this roof.”

“Mark?” Hoped called from the doorway. Mark turned. “I’m so sorry. Can you forgive me?” Mark nodded as he stood and gave a hand to help Hope get down the steps with her crutches and to then sit down, in front of him. Milly walked and sat down in front of Lucas.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me,” Hope stated.

“Hope, none of us know exactly what you experienced at the hands of Castoria or Ramone. We only know bits and pieces. The mind is funny, it can block out memories that are too traumatic, memories it doesn’t want to remember,” Lucas stated.

Milly continued, “Hope evidently the knife you were drying, started to unlock a little of your memory, only you thought you were living it. Not that it was a memory.”

“Can I tell you what happened?” Hope asked.

Mark wrapped his arms around Hope and gave her a squeeze. He steadied himself for what his wife was about to reveal. It was one thing to hear from Thadd, but to hear Hope’s first hand account… Hope tried her best to keep her emotions under control as she spoke of her ordeal, but she couldn’t suppress the tears or the shudder that overtook her body when she spoke of Castoria trying to rape her and then she told of killing him. Mark held tight to his wife, hoping his arms could convey what his voice couldn’t.

*****

Later that night, once in bed, Mark continued to hold Hope in his arms. He never wanted to let her go again. He still felt her trembling as sleep finally overtook the two of them.

*****

After breakfast the following morning, the McCain family encountered total chaos. Seems all three boys realized at the same time that they could walk. Little Ted crawled over to one of the chairs around the table, pulled himself up to stand, then took a few steps to Mark’s chair by the fireplace, and grabbed for and pulled the blanket off the back. Laughing as he plopped down on his fanny and the blanket fell over him, he called ‘Mama’ as he was laughing. As Milly picked up Little Ted, Josh and Zach started walking and pulling things over as they lost their balance, with Hope trying keep out of the way of her two, lest they knock her off her crutches. With the front door still open, Milly hollered for Lucas and Mark who were out front chopping and stacking wood, “Lucas, Mark, get in here, we could use your help!”

Both men came running. They saw Milly with Little Ted in her arms and a frustrated Hope. The three boys started calling “Papa!” as Lucas and Mark entered. Myra stood in Lucas’ chair, pointing and laughing!

“Don’t just stand there gawking, Mark. Help get your sons under control!” Hope called.

Lucas asked what the trouble was.

Milly answered with exasperation in her voice, "All three decided to start walking and pulling things over and... Lucas don't just stand there!"

Lucas decided to take his daughter’s lead and laughed as he watched the family scene. Before long, Hope and Milly were laughing, and Mark’s eyes were laughing as he sat down on the floor and held his arms out for his boys, who toddled over to him and collapsed in his lap.

*****

Later in the day, the McCain family headed into town to do their weekly shopping and to let Doc Burrage examine both Mark and Hope again. They left the children with Hattie and Micah at the day care, with words of warning, ‘the boys are walking’.

Thadd was pleased with what he saw in Hope and especially after she told him what happened the night before. As he led Hope back to the family, he told everyone, “Another four weeks on the crutches and she’ll be fine. I’m impressed with the work the doctor in Mexico did. You can’t even see a scar.” Then turning to Mark, “Okay, Mark, you’re next.” Before following Mark into the room, Thadd said to Lucas, “Why don’t you take Milly and Hope to the general store and do your shopping, I’ll send Mark along when I’m done with him.”

Thadd was pleased to see the bruises around Mark’s throat were finally starting to fade, but was concerned that Mark still had no voice. “Mark, it’s wait and see. You’re not as sore as you first were and your throat, inside and out, is taking a healthier color. Give it more time.” Thadd’s eyes pleaded for Mark to be understanding. “Now, let me see your hand. Hope told me what happened last night.”

After looking the wound over, “Your Pa cleaned it up good enough and it’s not deep enough to require stitches, I’ll just wrap it back up. By the middle of the week, remove the bandage and if it looks okay, you can keep it unwrapped. Okay?”

Mark nodded.

“Keep your chin up Mark!” Thadd stated as Mark left his office.

Before walking to the general store, Mark headed to Johnny’s. As he entered he saw Johnny sitting behind the desk, looking over some wanted posters. Mark knocked on the door.

“Yes, may I… Mark! Sorry there, I wasn’t paying attention. Didn’t expect to see you in town. How you doing?” Drako stated as he came around the desk to shake hands with Mark. Then remembering, “I’m sorry, you doing okay?”

Mark nodded and pulled out the small pad of paper he’d taken to carrying, and wrote: “My rifle? Pa said it was here?”

“Sure is Mark. I wanted to bring it out to you and see how you and Hope were getting along, but with Lou and baby Danielle… Its tough handling the town by myself with the family... Oh, Drew got recalled to Denver earlier in the week.”

Johnny saw the uncertainty in Mark’s eyes, knowing he’d taken the badge off and given it back.

“Mark, you’re still my deputy. In fact, I’m glad you stopped by.” Johnny walked around the back side of his desk and pulled out Mark’s badge and pinned it back on his shirt. “Tell you what, Lou and Danielle have a doctor’s appointment in a few minutes, would you mind watching the office? I promise, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

A smiling Mark pushed Johnny out the door.

*****

Mark propped his rifle up against the wall as he took a seat and leaned back in the chair in front of the Marshal’s Office, smiling.

Lucas was loading up the supplies in the back of the buckboard when he saw Mark, relaxing back. He called to Milly and to Hope, then pointed to Mark. Both women smiled. Life was slowly returning to normal.

*****

As Mark sat in front of the Marshal’s Office, Amos came out of the telegraph office and walked over and handed a wire to Mark.

McCain Family
North Fork, New Mexico Territory

Outlaws found /stop/
Transporting more women into Mexico /stop/
Army returning women to Texas /stop/
Federales dealt swiftly and justly /stop/
DEAD /stop/
No word of son /stop/
We will pray /stop/

Maria
San Lucas, Mexico

Mark folded the wire and put in his pocket, then walked to the telegraph office.

Maria
San Lucas, Mexico

Thank you for rescuing my wife and mother /stop/
News is wonderful /stop/
I am home /stop/

Mark McCain
North Fork, New Mexico Territory

Mark decided to walk the town while waiting for Johnny. As was custom, the train station was the last stop.

The conductor called out, “We’re going to be laid over for a little while longer than usual deputy. We’ve got a lot of stuff to unload from the cargo car.”

Mark walked to the car and heard a man’s voice giving orders on how to unload and stack his shipment. Mark thought he recognized the voice, but over all the noise and the voice didn’t fit the clothes the man was wearing, Mark wasn’t sure. The man turned around to get out of the way of the porters.

“Mark, you doing okay? Hope and the boys are still okay?” Seth Lane asked as he approached Mark.

Mark nodded, the expression on his face saying, ‘I don’t understand’.

“Mark, I resigned my commission and requested an honorable discharge. I missed out on too much and decided I wasn’t going to miss out on any more. North Fork is going to be my home.”

Mark took out his pad of paper and wrote, ‘Does Hope know?’

“No son, I thought I’d surprise her and you.” Putting an arm around Mark’s shoulders, Seth continued, “You can accompany me to your Marshal’s office, I need to talk with him and you. My plan involves both of you.”

*****

Johnny Drako returned to the Marshal’s office just as Mark and Seth arrived.

“Mark, I’m sorry, but Lou had something she needed done at the house once we got back from Doc’s.” Then realizing who was standing next to Mark, “Seth, what brings you back to North Fork so soon?”

“Well, seems I’m unemployed. I was figuring maybe you and Mark could use another deputy. Since Mark’s wearing his badge again, he can be your primary deputy and if you’ll have me, I can be your second. This would give you more time to spend with your families and Mark can take the time to heal, and not feel bad about not standing his watches and leaving everything to you.”

“I sure would appreciate another deputy.” Johnny asked, “Well Mark, do you think he can handle the job?”

Mark nodded.

Johnny pulled a badge from his desk and pinned it on Seth’s shirt, under his vest, and then administered the lawman’s oath.

*****

Mark and Seth left the Marshal’s office and headed over to the daycare. Before entering, Mark pulled out his paper and wrote, “I have a surprise for you.” Then motioned for Seth to wait. He entered the daycare and saw his family gathering their children. He showed the note to Hope.

“We know, we were loading up the buckboard, we saw you sitting in front of the Marshal’s. I’m glad you’re wearing the badge again.”

Mark shook his head. He motioned for his Ma and Pa to wait, one moment. He placed his hand to the small of Hope’s back and slowly walked beside her as she made her way out the door.

Lucas and Milly heard the surprised squeal from Hope and ran to the door. They saw her in her father’s embrace, her crutches on the ground. As Lucas and Milly approached, Seth bent down to pick Hope’s crutches up. As he stood, Lucas spotted the badge.

Opening Seth’s vest, he asked, “Seth, what’s going on?”

“I’m taking the first steps to really being a grandfather to my grandsons. I resigned my commission and Johnny and Mark have accepted me as a deputy.”

*****

The McCain’s invited Seth to join them at the hotel restaurant for lunch. There he explained his rather sudden return.

“Now I don’t want any of you to think this was prompted by what happened. It just got harder and harder to leave after each visit. I saw the struggles Johnny and Mark were experiencing with their jobs and young families. I’ve grown to love this town and her people. More importantly, I wanted to be a real member of this family, not just a part-time member.”

“Seth, I’m sure Johnny and Mark will appreciate another deputy and, if a few days of the twins walking and talking is any indication, and remembering Mark growing up, I’m going to need all the grandfather help you can offer.”

Hope asked, “Was Mark really that bad growing up?”

Mark shook his head as Lucas said, “Yes.”

The family laughed.

*****

Several days later, Mark and Hope were waking up in their own bed, back in their own home. They were enjoying the comfort of snuggling with each other when they heard, “Papa.” After several more calls, coming from both boys, Mark got up from bed and went to the boy’s room. He looked into the room to see both boys standing and reaching for him, calling “Papa.”

“Okay, let me get you up,” Mark said as he lifted Zach from their crib and set him down on the floor and then reached for Josh. He took each son by hand and led them to his and Hope’s bedroom. He looked up to see Hope sitting up in bed, excitement on her face.

“What?” he asked, as the boys started calling, "Mama."

“Mark, you just spoke.” Then more excitedly, she declared again, “You just spoke!”

“I did. Didn’t I?” Mark replied.

Mark picked up his sons and placed them in bed, being careful about Hope’s leg and then climbed back into the bed as the boys started saying, “Papa spoke. Papa spoke.” Everyone started giggling and laughing.

*****

A short time later that morning, Mark was in the bedroom, finishing shaving, when they heard a knock on the front door. Hope answered, and both boys started calling for “GanPa.”

Lucas bent down to pick both of them up and asked, “So, how are my grandsons doing this morning?”

“Papa spoke, Papa spoke!” First Zach said and then Josh repeated.

“Hope?” Lucas asked and saw the gleam in her eyes as she nodded. Mark came from the bedroom, wiping the last of the shaving cream from his face.

“Is it true Mark?”

“Without thinking this morning, I spoke to the boys. It just happened,” Mark stated. His voice was somewhat raspy. “I know, I’ll still need …” Hope hobbled over to Mark and put her fingers to his lips.

“Still need to be quiet! No unnecessary talking, at least not your first day with your voice back!” She pulled her hand away and quickly gave Mark a kiss.

“Well Mark, I’d listen to your wife, if I were you. Come on. Milly sent me over to get you. She made too big a breakfast for just us to eat. You can surprise your Ma and then no more talking!” Lucas stated has he pointed a finger towards Mark.

Lucas handed Zach to Mark and he carried Josh as they headed over for breakfast. Lucas allowed Hope and Mark to leave the house first and then he closed the door.

*****

Myra was there to greet Mark as they entered, “Hi Mark!”

Mark set Zach on the floor and picked Myra up, “Hi Gabby!” he whispered in her ear, then put his finger to his lips to ‘shush’ Myra. “It’s a surprise for Ma!”

“I like surprises!” Myra exclaimed.

“And just what surprise are you keeping young lady?” Milly asked as she took Myra from Mark.

“It’s a secret!” Myra said as she put her finger to her lips and ‘shushed’ her Ma.

“Okay, I thought this family didn’t keep secrets?” Milly stated.

After seeing Hope to her chair, Mark walked next to Milly and wrapped his arm around her shoulder and quietly said, “Good morning, Ma.”

Milly looked at Mark and had a big smile on her face. “So that’s Myra’s secret! Your voice is back. Oh, Mark!” She leaned over and kissed Mark on the cheek.

“You like surprise?” Myra asked.

Then Zach and Josh started calling, “Supize! Supize!” And soon, Little Ted joined in the fun.

*****

Mark and Lucas rode into town that afternoon. Their first stop was Doc Burrage.

“Mark, Lucas, everything alright? Didn’t expect to see either of you so soon,” Thadd stated.

“You tell me,” Mark quietly answered.

“Now that is a pleasant surprise. Come on, hop up on the table, and let me have a look,” Thadd instructed.

After a quick look, Thadd said, “Your throat is looking a lot better Mark. Don’t over do it with talking for the next few days, I think you’ll know when you’ve said too much.”

“Don’t I always, with Hope telling…” Mark stopped mid-sentence and laughed. Lucas and Thadd knew exactly what Mark was about to say, from their own first hand experiences.

“I’ll let Johnny know you’re fit to stand your shifts again.”

“Thanks Thadd, tell Abigail and Savannah we said hello,” Mark replied as he and Lucas left the office.

*****

“LucasBoy,” came a holler from behind them as they passed the day care. They turned to see Micah running after them.

“Morning Micah! How are things going?” Lucas asked.

“Good, just fine. Hey are you heading over to Johnny’s?”

“For a few minutes.”

“Morning Micah,” Mark said sheepishly.

“So that’s what brought you to town. Glad to hear it. Just thought I’d let you know that Tessa and Mabra are planning to ride out to your ranch this afternoon. They both need to talk with Milly. I’m not so sure I like the idea of them riding on their own, yet. Would you mind escorting the girls out and back?”

“No problem Micah. We’ll swing by Nils in a little while.”

“Good, well, I better get back inside before Hattie starts yelling for me.”

“He’s really enjoying being with all the younger children, isn’t he Pa?”

Father and son laughed as the patriarch of their family retreated back into the day care.

*****

As Lucas and Mark entered the Marshal’s Office, John Hamilton ran over to talk with them.

“Lucas, Mark, how are you? I won’t keep you but a minute, but I thought you should know the town counsel met this morning. Now Lucas we know that you’re the president, but we had a quorum without you.”

“Just what was discussed that couldn’t wait until someone could come and get me?”

“Lucas, while you and Mark were looking for Milly and Hope, we postponed the summer social. We just couldn’t see holding it with everyone so, down in the dumps, so to speak. Well, with your family and all being back, we wanted to reschedule. We’re going to have a mid-summer social and it’s going to coincide with Percy and Tessa’s wedding at the end of the month.” Then turning to Mark, “We hope by that time, Hope will be off her crutches and you’ll have your voice back.”

“I’ll let Hope know,” Mark said, then watched the surprise on Johnny’s and John’s faces.

“Congratulations Mark! I just knew today was going to be a good day! We’ll start passing the word that the social is rescheduled. Just what this town needed to finish bringing a spring back to everyone’s step! Goodbye Lucas, Mark, Johnny!”

*****

“So Mark, you got your voice back,” Johnny said. “When would you like to stand watch?”

“I was thinking this weekend. Come into town Friday afternoon and give you Friday through Sunday with your family. I also want to bring Hope and the boys in to stay at Lou’s, if that’s okay with Lou? I don’t think Seth’s house would be ready for us to stay with him. Though he might enjoy watching the boys for a little while.”

“Mark, Hope…” Lucas started.

“Pa, please. Give me a chance to get back into the swing of being a deputy, without worrying about them. I just need them close to me, like you needed me close, when I was growing up.”

“Okay Mark.”

*****

Lucas and Mark headed to Nils and met up with Tessa and Mabra.

“Girls, could we ride along with you? Micah said you wanted to talk with Milly.”

“Mr. McCain, we’d love the company,” Tessa replied.

*****

When the group arrived at the McCain ranch, Mark inquired where Hope was.

“She’s taking a nap. Keeping up with both the boys and helping out with laundry today, it took a little out of her,” Milly replied.

Mark put Blue Boy in the corral and then headed to his home.

Lucas told the girls that he’d take care of their horse and to head on into the house with Milly.

*****

Milly asked the girls if they’d like a glass of lemonade, she had some freshly made.

“Miss Milly, I…” Tessa started.

“Tessa, take your time,” Milly offered.

“Are you having bad dreams? I mean, I almost put what happened behind me and then I wake up in a cold sweat and I’m so scared. Last night I woke and found Mabra already awake and she admitted she’d been having bad dreams too. We just needed to talk with someone and…” Tessa stated, almost in tears.

Milly put a comforting arm around both the girls and asked them to sit down at the table.

“A few times, I’ve woke in a cold sweat and remembering those men coming here and forcing us into their wagon. Have you talked with anyone else?” Milly asked.

“No ma’am. I’m too embarrassed too,” Tessa answered.

“Embarrassed?”

“Oh, Miss Milly. I wanted to hurt those men when they started treating Hope so bad. But I was a coward,” Tessa replied.

“But you weren’t when Senor Castillo came into the dining room,” Mabra declared. “Miss Milly, she pulled a knife on him and demanded he release us. Just like in the dime store novels of damsels demanding their release from pirates!”

“Some pirate, he was one of our rescuers,” Tessa replied.

“But you didn’t know it at the time,” Mabra pleaded.

“Miss Milly,” Tessa continued. “I feel so guilty for how they treated Hope and the injuries they inflicted upon her. I…”

“Tessa, I understand how you feel. The men tried to rescue all of us, but couldn’t. You shouldn’t feel guilty that you came through your ordeal thinking you hadn’t been injured. You were injured, not physically, but emotionally. Your nightmares are proof of that, so don’t think you came through this unscathed, either of you. It will take time for all of us to get over this. Hope is a strong woman and she’s the love of family to help her through. As do you. Percy and Mr. Bullock are wonderful people and I know they already think of you as family. You just have to wait until Reverend McCafferty makes it official. So, what you should be thinking of is your upcoming wedding. Start thinking of that all day and I’m sure the bad dreams will fade away.”

“Oh Miss Milly…” Tessa and Mabra both cried and hugged Milly.

After an hour of talking, Milly led Mabra and Tessa out to the porch and called out for Lucas, asking if he wouldn’t see the girls back to town.

*****

Mark entered his home and walked to the bedroom and peaked in. Both boys were asleep in their crib and Hope was sleeping in the bed. Mark saw the restless sleep Hope was having and he crawled on top of the covers and wrapped his arm around his wife, brushing back the hair from her face, as he quietly said, “I’m here love. Sleep quiet.” Hope quieted in his arms.

Sometime later, Mark woke to the sensation of Hope kissing him on the cheek.

“How are you feeling?” he asked. “Ma said the boys wore you out today.”

“Just trying to do too much on these crutches I guess.”

“Don’t I remember,” Mark ruefully replied. “Why don’t you take it easy and I’ll take care of the boys and fix supper tonight.”

*****

As they sat around the table eating supper, Mark told Hope, “I talked with Johnny about returning to duty. He’s appreciated Seth, but I’m sure your Father would appreciate some time to finish the carpentry work in his house. I told Johnny I’d start this Friday afternoon, but I want you and the boys in town, at Lou’s.”

“Mark, don’t you think we…”

“Hope, I already had this talk with Pa. Just do this for me. If I get through this weekend okay, then my future watches you and the boys can stay at home. Please, for me?”

“Okay. This would give me some time to catch up with Lou and see Danielle, I mean…”

“You don’t need to explain.”

*****

Mark was relieved that everyone in town gave him and Hope their privacy. No one asked any questions, other than how they were doing and stated how glad they were to see them in town.

As Mark was making one of his trips around town, he stopped at his father-in-law’s home and saw his Uncle Johnny helping out.

“Hi ya Mark!” Johnny called. “Bet you’re surprised to find me here. I just needed to get out of the house for a while. Abigail brought Savannah over and the ladies are talking. When that happens, I know to get out of ‘Dodge’.”

All three men laughed.

“I just stopped by to invite Seth to supper at the hotel tonight,” Mark replied. “Ma and Pa are coming in later and well, Uncle Johnny why don’t you and Aunt Colleen and Lillian join us, too.”

*****

A few days later, there was a large gathering at the McCain ranch, family and friends arrived for the first birthday party for Little Ted, Zach, and Josh. It was such a beautiful day that tables and chairs had been set up outside for the celebration. There were various games for the children and plenty of food for everyone. When the cakes were finally brought out, one was specially designated for the birthday boys and it was quickly demolished by three sets of greedy little hands. Other cakes were brought out for everyone else to partake.

At the end of the day, Lucas and Mark assisted Milly in cleaning up after the party, while Hope watched after the little ones, by reading to them on the front porch.

By the time everything was cleaned up, the boys could barely keep their eyes open. Lucas handed Little Ted to Milly and then he picked up Joshua, as Mark picked up Zach, and helped his eldest get his children home.

As Lucas stepped from Mark’s home to the porch, he leaned against one of the posts. Mark followed behind and stopped next to his Pa. “Mark do you feel I shortchanged you? Do you regret that you missed out on such things?”

“Pa, it was just the two of us for so long. And having lost Ma, I didn’t mind that we kept our birthdays private. We both hurt on our birthdays and holidays because those times were very special to her and she wasn’t with us any more. But now that we have Milly and Hope, and I have a sister and a brother, and sons… We’ve such a large family that at times it’s overwhelming, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m happy we can to share our blessings with our families and friends. But no, I don’t regret the life the two of us made here.”

Seeing that his Pa was still a little melancholy, Mark replied, “But there is one thing that I do feel a little shortchanged, now that you’re asking.”

Lucas stood a little straighter and looked Mark in the eye. He saw that little mischievous expression on Mark’s face and started to smile even before Mark could say, “You sort of ‘shortchanged’ me on height.”

“Good night, son.”

“Good night, Pa.”

*****

That night, as they lay in bed, Mark and Hope reflected on the first year of their sons’ lives.

“I’m just thankful this year is behind us, Mark,” Hope said as she snuggled in Mark’s arms. “I count the boys as a blessing, but there a lot more that happened that I’d just as soon forget.”

“But there were a lot of good things that happened. Don’t let the bad make you forget the good.”

“You won’t let me, will you?”

“Never.”

*****

The splint had been officially removed from Hope’s leg and Thadd stated the break had thoroughly healed, but advised against doing any cross-country running, just yet.

*****

The church and town was festively decorated in anticipation of the wedding of Percy and Tessa. Tessa was beautiful in her wedding dress and Percy was equally handsome in his suit. By the end of the ceremony, there wasn’t a dry eye among the women in attendance.

Reverend McCafferty introduced Mr. and Mrs. Percy Bullock to the town of North Fork. Then instructed everyone to go out and enjoy the party.

Throughout the evening, Mark would walk the town and then return to dance a few slow dances with Hope. When the band was taking a break, Mark felt a tug on his pants. He looked down to see Myra motioning with her finger for him to ‘come here’.

“Yes Gabby,” he said as he knelt down and allowed Myra to whisper in his ear. As the band returned and started another song, Mark escorted Myra to the dance square. They turned and bowed to each other, then Myra reached up with her arms and Mark picked her up. The people of the town stood and watched as brother and sister shared a dance together. Lucas wrapped his arms around Milly and they both smiled.

*****

As the party came to a close, Mark said goodnight to his family as Lucas drove them home and he made way to the Marshal’s Office for his shift.

Mark laid down on one of the bunks in the jail and was almost asleep when he was awakened, seems some of the men were using the back side of the jail as their staging area for the shivaree. Mark collected his rifle and walked around to the back. He snickered as he remembered how his parents had forbid the shivaree when he and Hope had wed.

“Ahem,” Mark said as he cleared his throat.

“Ah, come on Mark. We’re just wanting to have a little fun,” Billy Davis called out.

“Make it quick or I’ll run the whole lot of you into the jail for disturbing the peace.”

Mark watched as they quickly ran to the hotel, knowing full well which room Percy and Tessa were staying in. Some beat pots and pans together, others whistled, while a few others lit firecrackers and threw them up to the window. Mark smiled as he saw the curtains part and the window open. Percy stuck his upper body out the window and pleaded with his friends to let him be.

Then spying Mark, he yelled, “Deputy, you have to do something. How can a man properly make a woman his wife with all this ruckus?”

With that, their friends started whooping and yelling even louder. Percy promptly closed the window and pulled the curtains. A few moments later the room went dark.

“Okay, guys, you’ve had your fun. Go on home. I think a few of you will have some explaining to do to your own wives or don’t you remember how embarrassed you were at your own shivarees?”

“Gee Mark, you’re no fun,” Feddie Toomey sulked.

“Freddie, I’d remember tonight well, when you finally decide to ask Carolina to become your wife!” Mark laughed in response.

*****

Mark and Lucas spent the Saturday out on the range, repairing a section of fence that was in jeopardy of coming down. It was late when they returned to the ranch, the children were already in bed and Milly and Hope had supper waiting on the stove. Lucas and Mark washed up out back and their wives fixed their supper. Afterwards, Mark started to go into the room where the boys were sleeping, when Milly suggested, “Mark, just let them sleep over here tonight. You can come get them in the morning.”

“Are you sure Ma?” Hope asked.

“Get out of here. We’ll see you in the morning,” Lucas stated as he walked Mark and Hope to the door.

*****

Mark sat down on the edge of their bed and pulled his boots off and then started to unbutton his shirt. Hope walked over, lifted the hem of her dress and sat down, facing Mark and straddling his lap. She playfully kissed his lips as she finished unbuttoning his shirt and then pulled it off his shoulders. She ran her hands down his chest and then back up to his face. Pulling his head to hers.

Mark wrapped his arms around Hope and pulled her closer to him and he passionately returned her kisses.

*****

As Lucas and Milly climbed into bed, Lucas inquired, “I sensed something amiss with Hope tonight. Is everything okay?”

“I pray it will be after tonight,” Milly answered.

Lucas looked perplexed at her answer.

“Lucas, we’ve been… intimate on several occasions since we returned home. Hope’s only had the splint off her leg for a week and knowing your son… Lucas, there are still some unresolved emotional issues in their home. Hope didn’t say anything but I get the feeling that she’s struggling if she can still be a wife, in every meaning of the word, to Mark.”

“Mark’s not said anything to me.”

“Lucas, do you readily talk with your son about our marriage bed?”

“Well, no.”

“Then do you think he would talk with you about his?”

“He should have.”

“Lucas, he probably doesn’t realize the conflict that Hope is experiencing. He’s so gentle and caring that he’d be willing to wait. He understands how traumatic everything was that Hope went through and wouldn’t want to push her into something he thinks she might not be ready for. Lucas, would you push me to be intimate, if someone had tried to rape me?” Lucas shook his head ‘No’. “But while he waits, Hope is doubting herself. I pray that they’re resolving their issues right now.”

*****

“Hope, are you sure?” Mark asked, sensing where events were about to lead.

“Mark, it’s been a while since I’ve had a nightmare and I AM your wife. Mark, for the last week, I’ve had this yearning deep inside and today, while you and Pa were out on the range, its become almost unbearable. I think Ma sensed it today when we were working and talking and that’s why she suggested we leave the boys over there tonight. Please Mark, I have to find out.”

Slowly Mark unbuckled the belt around Hope’s dress and dropped it to the floor. Next he started to unbuttoned the front of her dress. He kept looking her in the eye, stopping when he sensed her tensing. When she would breathe and relax he proceeded. He had reached the last button, but wasn’t ready to pull Hope’s dress open, not quite yet, he wanted to make sure. He pulled her head to him and kissed her again. As they parted, Mark’s eyes asked again and Hope nodded.

Mark was still hesitant, even though Hope said she wasn’t having the nightmares; while she slept, she still would shiver and pull away from him, as he would run his hand down her arm. ‘Deep down, is she really ready?’ Mark asked himself.

Mark carefully stripped his pants off and then lovingly slipped Hope’s dress off the back of her shoulders and allowed it to fall to the floor. He laid backwards in their bed and pulled is wife to him, pulling the covers over them. Gently, as if she were a China doll, Mark carefully caressed his wife, sensing the softness of her skin, but still unsure that she was really ready. Oh, how he yearned, but he was willing to wait, as long as it took. Hope caressed Mark and kissed him over and over again. In time, he felt the moment he had been waiting for. He felt all the tension leave Hope’s body, as she breathed deeply and totally gave herself to him and they made love and enjoyed each other as husband and wife.

Their desires that night were stronger than their wedding night. They lost themselves in their pleasures. In time, Hope curled up and snuggled against Mark and slept, but Mark didn’t, he still held concern. He watched as Hope lie against him, her arm outstretched over his ribs, her cheek resting into the soft spot of his shoulder, her leg over top of his. He pulled the cover up over her back and shoulders and then ran his hand across her bare shoulder and down her arm. Hope snuggled deeper against Mark. It was then that Mark knew he had his wife completely back. He turned his head and placed a kiss to the top of her head; he laid back and smiled, as sleep closed his eyes.

Next Step — Trail of Fear

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents

Site Map
around The McCain Ranch