By Carol M. <email@example.com>
Submitted: July 2002
Summary: What happens if H.G. Wells' interference sets things wrong instead of right?
This is a SoulMates story. It took stinking forever to write (thanks to everyone who actually finished it on the boards and who nagged incessantly). I do have a good excuse though. I had a baby in the middle of writing it. Yeah, that's it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Thanks to Annie and Sarah for their nagging and help on irc. Especially thanks to Missy who has been a faithful beta, constant nagger, and better friend. You guys are all the best.
These characters aren't mine and I will make no profit off of this.
The inspiration for this story came one day when I thought about reading a favorite book of mine, Grace Livingston Hill's _Marcia Schuyler_. I wondered how I could put Lois and Clark in a similar situation, but couldn't figure out how to do it in modern day, so soulmates was the obvious answer. There are a few similarities, but those also go with the Superman mythos, so… I intentionally didn't read the book until after I had finished this, to avoid letting myself be influence by it any more than I already was.
Clark rolled over, still half asleep and put his arm around his wife. He loved snuggling with her while still in the netherworld somewhere between awake and asleep. He heard a small groan as she nestled back against his chest. Her hair was suddenly in the way, getting in his mouth as he yawned. It had never done that before.
He opened his eyes and looked at the woman lying next to him. Sure enough, her hair was longer than he remembered Lois' being, but she had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that she was growing it out again. Maybe it had gotten longer than he realized.
It took a second, but it was beginning to dawn on him that something just wasn't *right*. He looked around and didn't recognize any of the furniture in the room.
The door opened and suddenly there was a small child running towards the bed.
"DADDY! MOMMY! Time to get up! Today's my birthday!" The little boy jumped on the bed. "Get up! Get up!"
Clark sat up trying to comprehend what was happening to him.
The dark headed child jumped into his arms. "It's my birthday, Daddy!"
"Um, I heard. How old are you now?"
"I'm five! And next week I start kindergarten!"
"Wow." Clark didn't understand what was happening — as badly as he wanted children, he certainly didn't have any yet, much less a five-year-old — but he decided that he better play along until he found out more about what was going on.
"Mommy! Mommy! Wake up!"
"I'm up. I'm up." The woman next to him rolled over. "Come here and give your mom a hug, CJ."
Clark looked at the woman next to him, unable to believe what his eyes and ears were telling him. The woman next to him wasn't Lois.
It was Lucy.
It was early morning when Lois awoke. She stretched, like always, with no reason to believe that anything was out of the ordinary. The other side of the large bed was empty but that wasn't terribly unusual. Clark often rose before she did and occasionally was out on an early morning rescue.
It wasn't until she opened her eyes that she realized something was terribly wrong. This wasn't the room she shared with Clark in their comfortable brownstone. This was somewhere she didn't recognize.
She quickly got out of bed and found a comfy looking robe lying next to her. She put it on and went to explore this strange place.
Lois looked around the unfamiliar apartment. In some ways, there was a weird sense of d‚j… vu. Things seemed familiar, but she knew that she'd never been here before. She heard something hit the floor outside the door. Cautiously, she peered into the hallway and noticed the newspaper lying there. She picked it up, grateful for something familiar.
She figured out how to make a pot of coffee in the kitchen that was hers and wasn't all at the same time. She sat down at the table and opened the paper while waiting for the coffee to brew. She was desperate to find out what had happened to her and to find out where her husband was.
Clark. Where was he? She looked for comfort at her wedding rings only to realize that they were gone as well. Tears started to roll down her cheeks. She was by herself, without Clark, in an unfamiliar place with no idea what was going on.
She brushed the tears aside and concentrated on the paper. There was an article on Superman with Clark's byline on the front page. She would go down to the Planet as soon as possible to see if she could find him. She searched the rest of the front page but there was no sign of an article with her name under it.
She sighed and poured herself a cup of coffee. She found her purse and her wallet and began to search for any signs of what she did or where she worked or any kind of identification that would tell her anything about her life.
The first thing she noticed was a picture of Clark. With Lucy. And two small children. What in the world was going on?
She found a press pass and breathed a sigh of relief. At least she was still a reporter. And then she looked at the name of the publication.
The National Tattler.
"CJ, why don't you go get dressed and get your sister up and we'll see if we can get Daddy to make pancakes, okay?"
His sister? He had more than one child? Clark tried not to let his puzzlement show on his face. These two obviously thought he belonged here and until he knew more he didn't want them suspecting anything.
"YAY! I love Daddy's pancakes." He turned to Clark. "Please, Daddy. Will you make us pancakes?"
"Sure, uh, CJ."
"Good. Last time I was at Aunt Lois' she tried to make us pancakes, but we ended up going to McDonald's instead."
Clark couldn't help but chuckle. "That sounds like Lois alright."
"Go, CJ. But don't wake up the baby, okay?"
"Okay, Mommy." The little tornado of a boy ran out of the room.
Lucy rolled over a little more, putting one arm across Clark's chest and nestled her head in the crook of his shoulder. Almost automatically, Clark pulled her a little closer to him as she kissed a spot on his chest. "I know where he gets his energy. He's super-charged just like his Daddy. Wish you could give me some of that."
Clark looked down at the head lying on his chest. Though he knew this was so wrong — he should be with Lois, not Lucy — something seemed familiar and comfortable about this. He needed to get out of the situation before he did something embarrassing or wrong without realizing it.
"Um, I better go get those pancakes made."
Lucy sat up next to him. "And it's about time to feed Jon. You can't help me with that." Lucy swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood. She stretched and walked out of the room. "See you downstairs in a few minutes."
"Gotcha." Clark sat there for a moment before running his hands through his hair. What in the world was going on?
Twenty minutes later, Clark was downstairs dressed in a suit, relieved that he had easily found the hiding place for his *other* suits. Maybe he needed a quick visit to his parents. Even if they thought he was crazy, they'd still love him and tell him what he needed to know.
"Are the pancakes ready, Daddy?"
"Almost, buddy. Why don't you sit at the table and I'll have them ready in just a minute?"
"Okay." CJ sat at the table. "Can I have chocolate milk today? Since it's my birthday?"
"Can I have Mickey Mouse pancakes?"
"Why not? Tell me. What are your big birthday plans today?" Clark asked as he poured the batter in Mickey Mouse-like circles.
"Mommy said we could go to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch and that you'd come, too, if you weren't too busy on a story or something. Do you think you can come, Daddy?"
"I'll sure try."
Just then a little girl, who Clark judged to be about 3- or 4-years-old, with long curly brown hair wandered sleepily into the kitchen. She walked over to Clark. "Need hug, Daddy." Clark hesitantly leaned over to pick her up. She wrapped her arms around his neck and laid her head on his shoulder with her eyes closed. He could hear her murmur, "You give the best hugs, Daddy."
He closed his eyes and for just a moment allowed himself to believe that this was really his life, really his daughter. A daughter who, first thing in the morning, wanted nothing more than a big hug from her daddy. He had dreamed of this so many times and now it was real. In a sense. Real, but wrong.
She pulled back from him. "You forgot your part, Daddy."
He looked at her, and tried to fake his way through it. "My part?"
"Yes, Daddy. You forgot to say your part."
"Oh, right. Let's see. Is it 'Merry Christmas'?"
She giggled. "No."
Clark pretended to think hard. "Is it 'Happy Thanksgiving'?"
"Well, you know what. I think I forgot what my line is. Do you know who can help me?"
"I can help you."
She nodded solemnly. "Uh huh. Every morning, I give you a big hug and I say 'You give the best hugs, Daddy' and then you say 'No, you give the best hugs little munchkin Maggie' and then I give you a big kiss and you finish breakfast."
Clark nodded. "Oh, okay. I remember now. How 'bout we try it again?"
His answer was two little arms flung around his neck. "You give the best hugs, Daddy."
"No, you give the best hugs, little munchkin Maggie."
She leaned back and took his face in her little hands and gave him a resounding kiss right on his lips. "Much better, Daddy."
"Now you better get out of my way so I can finish breakfast." She nodded as he set her down.
Clark turned back to the pancakes. He was almost surprised when a pair of arms slipped around his waist from behind.
"Clark, you feel nice in the mornings."
"Thanks. You ready for breakfast?"
An hour later, Clark was behind his desk at the Daily Planet trying to figure out what was going on in his life. The morning had been an awkward, if somewhat pleasant, look into what his life would be like when he had children of his own, but kissing Lucy good-bye had been downright weird. But it was obvious that she expected it and until he knew more, he had to play along. And the insinuations about what they might be able to do tonight after her six- week check-up were enough to make him blush.
What did he know about his life now? He was married to Lucy, not Lois. And they had three kids: CJ, who was turning five today; Maggie, who loved hugs; and Jon, who, apparently was six-weeks old. He still worked at the Daily Planet, but there was no sign of Lois anywhere, not even a nameplate on a desk to indicate it was hers. He was still Superman, which made him breathe a sigh of relief. At least he was still super powered, at least Lucy thought so, given her comment about CJ earlier.
Just then he picked up the sound of Lois' heartbeat coming up in the elevator. He breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully, she'd remember the way things were supposed to be and they could work on this problem together.
Lois didn't even know where the offices of the National Tattler were, so she had decided to go the one place that she knew Clark would be eventually. The man at the stand downstairs had looked at her a bit oddly when she asked for the whole box of her favorite candy bars, but she didn't care. Somehow she knew that this was going to be one of those days.
She turned back to the man. "Excuse me, but do you know if Clark Kent is in?"
The man nodded as he went on to another customer.
As she went up in the elevator she prayed that Clark remembered everything the same way she did and that they could find a way out of this mess.
When she stepped into the newsroom, she spotted him right away. His eyes brightened as he saw her. She walked quickly to his desk.
"Clark, can I see you in the conference room for a minute?"
"Uh, sure, Lois. I was hoping to run into you today."
As soon as the door shut behind them, Lois launched herself into his arms. "Please tell me you remember us."
Clark, aware that some of the Planet staff was watching, gently pushed her away. "I do, Lois, but things have changed."
She looked at him in surprise as she felt him remove her arms. "What do you mean?"
"I don't understand it. Last night, I went to bed with one life and woke up this morning with another."
"Clark, what's going on?"
"I don't know." Clark took a deep breath, knowing Lois wasn't going to like what he had to say. "But I do know that I'm married to Lucy and we have three kids."
"You heard me. I'm married to Lucy. Today is CJ's fifth birthday and Jon is six weeks old. I think Maggie's about three but I'm not sure."
Lois turned, unable to believe what she was hearing. "Let me get this straight. When I went to bed last night, I was married to you and this morning you're married to my sister?"
"That's about the size of it."
"Well, that explains this." Lois dug through her purse and pulled out the picture.
Clark looked at it. "That's CJ and Maggie."
"What happened, Clark?"
"I don't know. I'm going to fly to my parents' to see if they can help us figure out what's going on."
"Can I go with you?"
"I want you to. Maybe we can figure this out together."
"The only problem is how to do it without everyone getting suspicious."
"Of me and my wife's sister."
Lois made a face. "Right."
"Why don't you go now and I'll meet you…"
"Behind the Planet?"
"Sure. Ten minutes."
"Right." She started to lean in to give him a kiss, but stopped herself as she remembered the weird situation they were in. "Ten minutes."
Lois and Clark landed in the farmyard a few minutes after they took off in Metropolis. "I just hope this is still my parents' house."
That turned out to be unnecessary as Martha appeared on the back porch. "Clark! Lois." Clark could hear the question in his mother's voice when she said Lois' name. "Where's Lucy?"
Clark stammered a bit as he replied. "She's, uh, got a doctor's appointment. Mom, can we talk to you for a minute?" Clark was careful to treat Lois as his sister-in- law, not his wife.
"Sure, come on in. Clark, why don't you go find your dad? I think he's in the barn."
Ten minutes later they were seated around the kitchen table.
Martha broke the silence. "Now, why don't you tell us what's wrong."
"I'm not sure how to tell you guys this, but things are really weird. When I went to sleep last night, I had one life and when I woke up this morning it was completely different."
Martha and Jonathan exchanged a look.
"I'm not crazy, I swear. Lois remembers the same things I do."
Martha took a deep breath. "Okay, tell us all about it."
"Well, when I went to sleep last night, I was married to Lois, not Lucy. We'd been married about a year, no kids, though we'd been trying — kind of. Superman's doctor had told us that it wasn't possible for me to have kids, so we didn't think we even could. And when I woke up this morning, I was lying next to Lucy and greeted by my five- year-old son and have two other kids. I still work at the Daily Planet, but Lois doesn't. She was my partner. We wrote all kinds of stories together — the hottest team in town."
"Now I work for the National Tattler," Lois added glumly. "It's not even worth the title 'newspaper'."
Clark sighed. "Anyway, we were hoping maybe you could tell us about the last few years — maybe help us put the pieces together about where things started to change."
Martha and Jonathan exchanged another look. It was obvious they really didn't believe them, but were going to humor their son. "Well, you've been married to Lucy for about six and a half years. It was a beautiful Christmas wedding. Not long after that you found out she was pregnant with CJ. Maggie was a bit of a surprise and was born about 14 months later and now you have little Jon."
"How did I meet her?"
"You met her on a trip to England when you were travelling the world right after you graduated from college. We thought it wasn't going to work out because she was still in college — she was there for a semester abroad — but you've been happy ever since. You moved to Metropolis, got married, created Superman and the rest is history."
Lois and Clark left an hour later, without any of the answers they were looking for, but with the promise that Martha and Jonathan wouldn't say anything to anyone about what was going on.
On the way back, they took a few minutes to float in the clouds and hold each other, sharing kisses they knew they couldn't share anywhere else.
Clark landed them in the alley behind the Planet.
"What are we going to do, Clark?"
"I don't know. What am I supposed to do? Divorce Lucy and marry you?"
Lois' face kinda scrunched up, knowing it really wasn't an option. "Sounds good to me."
He rolled his eyes at her. "And what about my kids?"
Tears started to roll down her face. "I don't know. Clark, what can we do?"
"Perhaps I can help."
They turned to see a familiar face, one they had never wanted to see again.
"Mr. Wells. What are you doing here?"
He looked at the hat he twisted nervously in his hands. "It appears the timeline has been altered. And it would seem that it is my fault. I need your help to set it right."
"What did you do?" Clark wasn't pleased with the little man.
"You recall our little adventures after you married?" When they both nodded he continued. "Well, I looked for another incarnation of the two of you and found one. Only I thought that things were going wrong. In my attempt to correct them, I ruined them."
Clark sighed as he exchanged a look with Lois. "So what do we have to do this time? Reverse another spell?"
"No. In this particular incarnation, over 200 years ago, you were to marry Lois' sister. She ran out on you before the wedding and her father gave you Lois to marry instead. Unfortunately, my soul tracker went a bit, ah, wacky on me and I stopped her sister from leaving. You married her instead. Her name is Lara and that is part of the reason for the confusion. Clark, you've switched sisters."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Right."
"I'm quite serious, Miss Lane, and that is why everything has changed. In order to fix things, I need to take the two of you back with me. To the time before Lara left. She has to leave, you see, or Clark's persona won't marry Lois'. We have to go to two days before the wedding and allow things to play out from there, only this time I will make certain that I don't interfere and keep Lara from leaving the night before the wedding is to take place.
"Clark, you are Caleb, or Cal, an early newspaper reporter, with a secret identity, of course, but I am not certain what it is. And Lois, you are Leah, younger sister of Lara. The big catch here is that neither one of you will remember any of this like you did last time. It will be as though you had been there forever, until you fall in love. I don't know how long that will take, for you are not in love when you marry. Once you fall in love, you can come back and things will be as you remembered them yesterday. I can't make you go with me, but it is the only way to fix this. Will you come?"
Lois and Clark looked at each other. It didn't seem that they had any other choice.
Leah Lincoln looked around at her surroundings. This was her home, she knew that, but things seemed unfamiliar at the same time. She couldn't shake the feeling that something just wasn't quite right. She stood by the well at the back of the family home in New England, watching the stars emerge one by one. She tried to shake off the weird feeling, and concentrate on tomorrow and the next day. Tomorrow was a big day for her and her family, but the day after even more so. Lara was getting married. To Cal Kent, one of the most eligible bachelors in the colonies.
She had on a new dress, made by the seamstress in town, just for her. It was one of only two new things that she had had in the last year. That's how long they had been getting ready for the big day. And that's how it should be. Lara was the one getting married. She needed, and deserved, the new things. Mr. Kent would be here tomorrow night and then everything would be ready. There was no way that her mother would be caught unprepared. Except for the lack of a bridegroom, Elizabeth Lincoln could pull off the wedding in just a few hours — long enough for everyone to dress and for the guests to arrive.
She dreamed of what it would be like when it was her turn. When all of the preparations were for her. If this was to be her wedding she would not have gone with her friends for a last ride like Lara had done that evening. She would be here, waiting for her bridegroom to arrive, hoping that he would come a day early because he couldn't be without her any longer.
And so she wasn't surprised when a pair of strong arms circled her waist and a voice whispered huskily in her ear. "My love. Somehow I knew I would find you here, waiting for me." She leaned back into the strong chest that belonged in her fantasy. There was a gentle kiss against her hair. "I cannot wait for the day when you are my wife." The arms tightened and Leah realized that this wasn't a daydream.
She jumped away. "No." She turned. "It is not Lara, only I, Leah." She couldn't bring herself to look Cal in the face. She had intruded in what should have been a private moment between the betrothed couple.
"Leah? You have grown since the last time I saw you. You have become a beautiful young woman. Soon it will be you getting married and whoever he is will be a lucky man."
Leah blushed. "Thank you." She still couldn't look him in the eyes, especially after a compliment like that.
"And where is my enchanting bride-to-be?"
"She has gone with friends for the evening. She was not expecting you until tomorrow."
"And so that is when I was to have arrived, but I could wait no longer to see my lovely bride."
"My father is inside. And mother is ready for everything. Your room is made up and ready for you. Shall I show you in?"
Cal nodded. The two walked in silence to the house a few yards away. Leah showed him into the homey kitchen. "Mother, Father, Mr. Kent has arrived."
The elder Lincolns looked up from their handiwork. Samuel Lincoln, a distinguished looking man, had been reading a colonial newspaper. Elizabeth Lincoln had been stitching a Bible verse on a pillow to give to her daughter for her new home.
Samuel stood and walked across the room. "Cal, I am glad you are here. Please, come in."
Elizabeth smiled to herself. The groom had arrived a day early and he would not find her unprepared. Everything was as ready as it could be. If needed the wedding could begin at any moment.
When Leah saw that her father and Mr. Kent were deep in discussion over the possible uprising of the colonies against England, she left the kitchen and went into the front room. She hoped that she would be able to talk to her sister before she went upstairs. Another hour passed and the members of the household began to turn in. At last even Mr. Kent could wait no longer. His long journey had tired him and he was ready to retire. Leah continued to wait for a short time longer, but when she started to nod off, she decided that it was time for her to go to bed as well. Her sister would just have to deal with the surprise on her own in the morning.
Cal lay down wearily on the bed in one of the guest rooms. It had been a long day, but as tired as he was, he was also filled with anticipation. In two days he would be married to his Lara and they would begin their lives together as husband and wife.
He was somewhat distraught by his reaction earlier in the evening. He had been so sure that it was Lara waiting for him next to the well. When he had put his arms around her, it had felt so *right*. And he hadn't been as upset as he should have been when he discovered it was Leah instead. There was something wrong with him. He had come looking for his bride and when he found her sister instead, he hadn't really been disappointed. He frowned. It didn't matter. He was marrying Lara the day after next and that was all that really mattered.
In her dreams that night, Cal had come for her, Leah, instead of Lara. Something about the way he had held her for that brief moment had felt so right. In so many ways she wished that Cal was hers, but she knew that it would be some time before she had a man who wanted to marry her and take her to his home.
The weather took a turn for the worse the next day. It was that time of year, but it had been unseasonably warm the last few weeks. As the household awoke, they noticed the chill in the air. Each of the people staying in the Lincoln household had a different feeling about the changing temperatures.
Elizabeth was glad that everything was ready and there would be no delay because of the weather, even if there were fewer guests.
Samuel worried that there would be something that would go wrong, a blizzard perhaps, to take the wedding off track.
Cal's thoughts went along the same lines as his father-in- law though he also worried that he and his new bride would not make it to his home several hours away after their wedding the next day.
Lara worried that her plans for the evening would go awry if the weather took another turn.
Leah embraced the change, hoping — for her sister's sake — for a dusting of snow to cover the brown ground and make things a little more beautiful.
And the younger Lincoln siblings hoped for a big snow so they could play.
Leah knocked quietly on her sister's door. "Lara, please let me in."
Leah entered the room to see her sister putting the finished touches on her ensemble. "There's something you should know."
"What?" Lara loved her little sister, but honestly, she could be so annoying.
"Mr. Kent is here."
Lara turned and stared at her sister. "You know it's not nice to tease."
"I'm not. He arrived last night while you were out. You should have been here." Her tone was almost accusatory.
"Oh, silly. If I had been here waiting for him, he would think that I had nothing better to do with my life. And I *do* have other interests besides Cal, you know."
Leah knew when she should keep her mouth shut and this was one of those times, so she kept her piece and said simply, "I just thought you should know." Then she left.
Lara sat contemplating her next move. So Cal had come early. How would she play this? It could complicate things later this evening as he wasn't supposed to arrive until late, but she would find a way. As for this morning, she would be surprised when she saw him, that much was obvious. If her parents were around, she would start to throw herself into his arms, but restrain herself in front of them. If they weren't around, she would throw her arms around him as though she would never let go. He wouldn't be suspicious of anything. Not if she could help it.
Leah was sitting at the breakfast table when she heard her sister descending the stairs. She was somewhat surprised to hear Lara humming a pretty little tune. She was never cheerful in the morning. She must be happy that Cal was here, Leah decided. She watched as Lara's eyes lit up in surprise when she realized Cal was there. Leah didn't understand — Lara had known Cal was here.
Breakfast was a joyous affair, even though the threat of winter weather still hung outside. All was ready and the wedding would go off without a hitch.
The rest of the day was spent putting finishing touches on wedding plans. Hanging out clothes to make certain there were no wrinkles, final preparations for the wedding breakfast and the noonday meal that would be served at the church following the ceremony, finishing the flower arrangements with the flowers that had arrived at the milliner's shop the day before and so on.
Leah had a hard time not daydreaming of her own wedding day. Her mother had caught her staring at the wall. She had smiled kindly and remarked that Leah's day would come soon enough. Leah would blush and turn back to whatever task was at hand, determined not to relive the short scene from the night before in her mind.
Dinner that evening was a quiet affair as each one contemplated the next day and all that it would entail.
It was early when each of the family members turned in, knowing that they would have to be up earlier than usual the next morning to prepare.
Leah's dreams were filled of handsome bridegrooms with dark hair falling onto their foreheads and eyes of the deepest chocolate. Each of the men was remarkably similar, though the clothing of each was considerably different. Most wore costumes like she had never seen, but somehow she knew that this was her soul mate, the man she would spend her life with. She woke with a start when she realized that each of the men in her dream was none other than Cal, her sister's intended.
When she woke, it was time for her to begin getting ready anyway, so she rose and began to make ready for the busy day ahead. She looked out her window and smiled at the gently falling snow that would turn the day into a winter wonderland.
Cal's dreams had been troublesome as well. He dreamed of the times that he had seen Lara over the two years he had known her, but each time her face morphed into a hideous sneer and then again into the sweet face of Leah. He didn't understand the odd connection he felt to his soon to be sister-in-law and he wasn't sure it was healthy. He tossed and turned most of the night and didn't feel rested when a knock on his door told him it was time to get up.
The entire family was seated around the breakfast table waiting for the bride to come so they could begin the meal. Elizabeth was starting to be a bit perturbed with her eldest daughter. If they didn't get started, they would be running late and tardiness was one thing that neither Lincoln parent would tolerate.
Finally, Leah was sent to look for her sister. There was no answer to her knock, and when Leah opened the door something was wrong. The bed hadn't been slept in and the dress that Lara had worn the night before was strewn carelessly on the floor. She looked around for another moment before she spotted two pieces of paper lying on the bed cover. When she investigated, she discovered that one was addressed to her father and the other to Cal. She snatched them up and hurried back downstairs.
She motioned to her father from behind a door leading into the dining room. It appeared the family had decided to begin eating without waiting for the bride, so Samuel wiped his mouth on his napkin and excused himself.
"I found these, Father, on Lara's bed. She's not in her room and her bed is made."
Samuel frowned and opened the paper.
I know you will not understand, but I don't love Cal. I love Langston Lenox and we will be married by the time you read this. My new address in Philadelphia is attached to the end of the trunks of my things. Please send them as soon as possible. I know you only want me to be happy and that you will do as I ask.
He balled the paper in his clenched fist. After all he had done for her, she had run off with that scalawag. He wasn't half the man Cal was and Samuel thought he had run Langston out of his daughter's life months ago, shortly after her engagement to Cal was announced.
"Elizabeth, Cal, could you come here please?"
The two being summoned exchanged a look and stood up.
Cal was the first to talk. "Yes, sir?"
Silently, Samuel nodded to Leah who handed Cal the note bearing his name. He looked at her, asking with his eyes and receiving the unwelcome answer in unspoken communication.
Leah watched sympathetically as Cal read the short note and his face turned the color of the freshly fallen snow outside. He reached to steady himself on a nearby end table, but was unable to remain upright and so collapsed onto the couch.
Samuel and Elizabeth finished their muted conversation and turned to the young man. "Cal," Samuel began, "I cannot begin to apologize enough for my *daughter*. If I had a dozen others, I would give your choice of any one of them in marriage, if you would have one. I have but one daughter who is of age to marry. If you will have her, she is yours. If you never want to see any of my family again, I would not hold it against you, but the offer stands."
Cal nodded. As unwelcome the thought of marrying anyone besides Lara was, he couldn't bear the thought of arriving home without a bride. "It is acceptable to me, if it is acceptable to Miss Lincoln."
Samuel turned to his younger daughter. "Leah?"
Leah looked at the floor, unwilling to meet anyone's eyes. "If Mr. Kent will have me, I will go."
Samuel nodded his agreement. He took Leah's hand and placed it in the hand of Cal, sealing the arrangement.
Elizabeth's mouth tightened. She didn't like the sudden change in plans or the idea of switching one sister from another, but she would carry it off so that no one would be the wiser until it was too late. But the decision was out of her hands and she would make the best of it.
"Now, Leah, we must see if any of your things will work for a wedding dress and going away things."
"Nonsense," Samuel said. "There are plenty of fine wedding things that have been prepared. They will not leave this house to Lara. From now on, she is no daughter of mine and no item or money will ever find it's way from this house to hers. She has made her bed, now let her lie in it. They are near enough of a size that her things will now be Leah's."
And with that he turned and went back to his breakfast, satisfied that his wife and daughter could handle things from there.
Leah felt her hand slip from Cal's as he moved his hands to his head, the picture of dejection. She let herself be led upstairs to begin preparation.
Outside, the snow began again, this time in earnest, ensuring that there would be at least some minor snags in this most important of days.
Leah looked in the mirror and felt she had never been more beautiful. Of course, she knew it was the clothes, but it was a feeling she never wanted to forget. The dress was made of the finest material and had been her mother's own. The veil, to the relief of Elizabeth, was heavy enough that no one would notice the difference between the sisters. Leah's dark hair wouldn't be noticeable until the veil was moved back. With any luck, no one would notice that it wasn't the blond locks of Lara. It was better that no one knew until after the wedding started that it was Leah not Lara. It would postpone awkward questions and even the most upset friend or relative wouldn't make a fuss in the middle of a wedding.
Throughout the preparations, Elizabeth gave her daughter quiet admonitions on how to be a good wife. Silently, she had prayed for several more years with Leah, hoping to improve her cooking skills, but Leah knew the basics and wouldn't kill anyone with her cooking. It wasn't saying much, but she was better at it than she had been several years before.
There was a rap on the door of the spare room where the wedding things had been stored. Samuel's gruff voice announced that Cal was already at the church and it was time to leave. It had been decided they would wait until the last possible moment so that not even Lara's friends who were serving as bridesmaids could become suspicious.
Elizabeth smiled at her daughter. "It will be fine, Leah."
Leah nodded bravely as she tried to hold back the tears. What she was doing was beginning to sink in. She was wearing Lara's clothes, marrying Lara's beloved, beginning to live Lara's life. Elizabeth looked out the window and was surprised at the heaviness of the snowfall. As they left, she mentioned to one of the women who had been hired to help before the wedding that all of the rooms needed to be made up. It was possible some of the guests, possibly even the wedding couple, would be required to stay the night, or longer. She gave instructions that the best guestroom be made up special for Cal and Leah, just in case.
The kind minister was appraised of the changes in the little room, just off of the main sanctuary as Elizabeth put finishing touches on Leah's ensemble. He didn't agree with the decision, but when Leah assured him that she was entering the marriage of her own free will, he had little choice but to acquiesce.
Leah tried to remember everything that happened, but knew that she'd never be able to. As she walked down the aisle, she noticed that there were far fewer people than had been expected at the wedding. She didn't dare look to see who occupied the seats, but she did recognize the gray gloves of the minister's wife, the pearls of her Aunt Agnes, and the new shoes that her friend, Katherine, had shown her three short days before. Leah pushed the thoughts that she was leaving everything she had ever known to live a life that wasn't hers to the back of her mind.
It wasn't until her hand was being held securely by Cal's that she dared look at him. She saw the strain around his eyes and vowed to do all in her power to keep those lines from becoming permanent. She looked deep into the chocolate eyes and tried to concentrate on the words of the minister, but found herself drowning in the sad gaze of the man she was marrying.
Cal had kept to himself before the wedding began, not wanting to explain the situation to anyone. There was a heaviness in his heart that he didn't think would ever go away. He should have never agreed to this, but was going to see it through to completion now that he had agreed.
He stood at the front of the little church, grateful that the weather had kept many of the guests from attending to see his embarrassment. She hadn't loved him enough to stay, but she loved him better than all the rest except for Langston, so she had said in her note.
His breath caught in his throat when he first saw Leah. She was a vision of loveliness. He had thought so two nights before, but seeing her now was different. He would have to remember that she was young and that he should be gentle with her. She couldn't understand what she was giving up for him. He'd have to remember that she was making a big sacrifice, marrying a man who loved another woman, and do his best not to make any demands on her.
When he took her hand, he couldn't help but look at her brown eyes. He had a hard time not thinking of Lara's big blue eyes, but pushed it out of his mind as he saw the compassion and the trust in the eyes of the woman he was marrying.
They both managed to make the appropriate responses during the ceremony. Many in the audience did not even notice when the minister said "Leah" instead of "Lara" and those that did thought it was simply a slip of the tongue on the minister's part.
It wasn't until the minister announced them husband and wife and told Cal that he could kiss his bride that the switch became known to all.
Cal took a deep breath as he faced Leah. He reached out and raised the veil, doing his best to move it properly out of the way. He hesitated for just a second before he leaned in to kiss her.
Leah had never been kissed before, except by members of her family. She had never even had a real suitor and hadn't expected one for some time to come. She felt apprehension rise in her chest as Cal leaned in, hoping that she wouldn't embarrass him with her lack of experience. She didn't know what else to do so she closed her eyes and waited.
Cal brushed her lips with the slightest of touches and then pulled away. The electricity crackled between them, as though it was a kiss that was meant for the two of them and not one that had been stolen from the one who had decided she loved another.
Leah breathed a sigh of relief as he offered her his arm and they made their way out of the church. She hadn't messed up the kiss, for now, but from what her mother had told her, there would be more things later that she had no idea how to deal with. Her 'wifely duty' was what her mother had said. She pushed the thoughts aside and put on her brightest smile. She'd deal with that later.
Due to the inclement weather, no one stayed for the dinner that had been planned. Some of the food was sent with each family as they left into the ever-strengthening snowstorm.
The few post-wedding activities were held inside and the carriage that was to have carried Cal and his bride to their new home was pulled up in front of the church. Cal and Leah painted on their brightest smiles as they ran to the carriage amidst the well wishes of their family and friends. Cal tucked some of the heavy furs around Leah and made sure that there was a warm brick at her feet.
"Are you comfortable, Leah?" They were the first words that had passed between them since the ceremony.
"I'm fine. Thank you, Mr. Kent." Leah had never called him anything else.
"I think you had better start calling me Caleb, or Cal. Most people call me Cal. You can, too, if you'd like."
She nodded. "Thank you, *Cal*. I'm quite comfortable, but hadn't you better get under some of the furs yourself? You'll catch cold if you're not careful."
Cal smiled a bit. "You already sound like a worried wife." And then, aware of the eyes watching them, he seated himself under the furs and placed his arm around Leah, pulling her closer to him. He noticed that she blushed at the display of affection, but also knew that she understood it was a part of the pretense. They couldn't let anyone suspect how deeply this had affected both of them.
Leah closed her eyes and pretended that this was really for her, that he pulled her close because he wanted to be near her, not to keep up appearances. She allowed her head to rest on his shoulder as the driver began the short ride to her home.
It would never really be her home again. All of her things from her room would have been packed up by now and likely it would be used for some of the guests that were sure to stay there due to the weather.
Where would she sleep? It dawned on her that she would be expected to share a bed with Cal. There was no way that they would make it to his home in this storm, so they would, undoubtedly, stay here for at least one night, possibly more if the storm didn't let up soon. She closed her eyes and tried to mentally prepare herself for the changes that were coming into her life.
"We're here." At the sound of Cal's voice, she opened her eyes and with a determination she didn't know she had, she set out to finish the day with dignity.
Several of the members of the extended Lincoln family traveled to the family home, planning on staying with them until the roads were clear enough for them to go to their own homes.
The bridal carriage had been followed closely by the members of Leah's immediate family. As soon as the entered the house, Elizabeth took hold of Leah's arm and led her upstairs to change into the dress intended for the trip to Cal's home, but would now be used for entertaining in the Lincoln home.
Leah and her mother entered the second largest bedroom in the house. "This will be the room for you and Cal as long as you stay," her mother announced. Leah nodded. "Your new things for today are laid out." Her mother explained to her the type of events that each outfit was appropriate for as she helped Leah change into the blue dress for the rest of this day.
Elizabeth scrutinized the final result as Leah stood in the middle of the room. Blue really wasn't her color, but it would do. The clothes were of the highest quality and there was no reason for them to go to waste. As soon as they were finished, they went downstairs.
Cal held her chair for her as they readied for dinner. The table had been extended to allow for the extra guests. Leah and Cal both answered the questions put to them, but offered very little information to the prying members of the family.
The rest of the day dragged on for all members of the family. Cal and Leah kept mainly to themselves, sitting on the love seat while the rest of the family mingled. Occasionally, one or the other would make a comment about something, but for the most part there was silence. Cal held her hand gently and hoped that no one would notice that things were awkward between the bride and groom.
There were leftovers for the evening meal. After they finished Cal excused himself for a moment and the rest of the family continued their discussions, barely noticing that he was gone. Elizabeth began to worry when the bridegroom didn't reappear. Leah was deep in conversation with a cousin close to her age when Elizabeth went up the stairs in the direction she had last seen Cal.
The door to the makeshift bridal chamber was slightly ajar and she saw Cal sound asleep on the bed. It wasn't surprising that he was worn out. Finding out that the woman he was to marry ran off with another man and then marrying her sister and trying keep up a brave face had to be hard on him. It had been a long day for all of them and it was time for the children to go to bed and for Leah to join her husband.
Elizabeth knew that many women had an unpleasant wedding night, though she had been blessed with a kind, gentle man who did his best not to hurt her. She felt Cal would be the same way with her daughter, but she was grateful that it appeared Leah would have at least one more day to adjust to being married without any additional pressure.
She went down the stairs and pulled Leah aside. After whispering for a moment, the two went upstairs with the rest of the family sharing knowing looks.
Tears shone in Leah's eyes. "Mother, I don't know anything about this." She lowered her head. "I didn't even know how to kiss him at the wedding."
"It will be fine, daughter. Cal is sleeping, so you probably won't consummate your marriage tonight, anyway. Though," she admitted, "it is possible that he will wake up later and things will be different."
Leah nodded glumly. "Mother…"
"Shh. Everything will be fine." The room they were in adjoined the room that was now Cal and Leah's. "Just go in and lay down and go to sleep. Don't worry."
Leah took a deep breath and nodded. She walked towards the door that led to her new room. She caught sight of herself in the mirror. She did look nice in the nightgown her sister had chosen for this night. Her dark hair hung in waves almost to her waist. She longed to run into her own bedroom and throw herself on the spread she had made herself, but she knew she could not. She opened the door to the other room, but was unable to stop herself from looking back at her mother.
Her mother gave her a gentle smile and a little wave with her hand.
Leah turned and entered the room she now shared with her husband.
There wasn't much light in the bridal chamber. The fire glowed along one wall, but there was no moonlight in the continuing storm. Leah started at a sound coming from the bed, but realized it was only the soft snoring of Cal. Today had to have been difficult on him, more so than her. Someone he thought loved him more than she loved all others had betrayed him.
Leah silently walked across the room and picked up a quilt off of one of the chairs that sat in front of the fireplace. She gently laid it over Cal's sleeping form. She reached out and brushed the hair off of his face. As he stirred slightly, she drew back, as though she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. But it couldn't be wrong for her to touch the face of her sleeping husband, could it?
In sleep he looked so peaceful and so handsome. He was the man who had come to her in her dreams last night. The dreams couldn't be wrong, because she was now married to him. Somewhere, in the deep recesses of her mind and her heart, she knew what it would be like to love and be loved by this man and she knew that someday it would happen. Someday she would be the only one he wanted to be with, not her sister.
She couldn't honestly say that she loved him because she barely knew him, but she wanted to. She wanted with all her heart and soul to love him the way a wife should love her husband. And she wanted him to love her. She reached out again, brushing away the hair that had fallen back over his forehead, running her hand along his cheek coming to rest next to his mouth. Leah noticed a small beauty mark just above his top lip. His dark features looked exciting and exotic in the glow of the fire.
She turned away and moved to the other side of the bed. She pulled back the heavy covers and nestled down under them, careful to stay as far as possible from Cal. She lay there nervously, wondering if Cal would wake and what would happen if he did, until the pure exhaustion from the day sent her into a deep sleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Cal woke to find the fire had gone down and the room had taken on a chill. The storm had broken, at least for the moment and the moonlight shone through the window. He pushed back the quilt he was covered with and sat on the edge of the bed. He was still wearing his wedding clothes and if he didn't change out of them, he'd never get the wrinkles out.
He undressed slowly standing front of what was left of the fire, recalling the events that had led him to be here, now, instead of curled up with his new bride to keep warm.
His new bride. He was married, just not to Lara. He looked over at the bed and could make out a lump on the far side. Leah was here. It was to be expected. They could hardly have separate rooms. He sat dejectedly in the chair, oblivious to the cold and his shoulders began to shake as the enormity of everything began to overwhelm him.
Leah woke when Cal moved from the bed, but she stayed where she was, hoping to convince him she was still asleep. She heard him move quietly around the room and she heard when he started to sob. She tried to ignore it, but her compassionate soul wouldn't let her. She sat up in the bed, holding the covers close to her chest. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw him sitting there. She had seen some of the boys she went to school with without their shirts on as they worked in the fields or split wood, but Cal was obviously not one of the young boys she knew. His muscular arms were unlike any she had ever seen and thoughts of them around her two nights earlier came unbidden.
"Cal?" she called softly. She could tell that she startled him and she saw him quickly wipe his face.
"Leah. I didn't mean to wake you."
"Are you okay, Cal?"
He smiled as he stood. Leah's heart began to race as the perfect smile shone in the moonlight. She tried not to stare at the well-formed chest, but failed miserably. Fortunately, Cal didn't seem to notice. He pulled the covers back on his side of the bed and sat down.
"I'm fine, Leah. Thank you for your concern." He knew he was lying to her, but he felt he had no right to burden her with his cares. She would have enough on her mind, adjusting to their sudden marriage, without worrying about him as well. He couldn't help but notice how beautiful she looked with her face framed by her dark hair. Would that he had met and fallen in love with her before ever meeting Lara. Life would be so different and they wouldn't be here like this, awkward and practically strangers on their wedding night.
"Cal, I don't mean to pry, but," Leah surprised both of them as she laid one hand on his arm, "please don't shut me out. The days will be too long and difficult as it is, without either one of us making things worse by keeping things from each other. I know we're practically strangers, but we are going to spend the rest of our lives together, so we better learn to trust each other."
Cal nodded. She was right. Even Lara hadn't known his biggest secret — oddly enough, it seemed like even he hadn't until two days earlier, right before he saw Leah by the well that night. He had planned on telling Lara on the trip to his home, but, of course, that was not to be. He wouldn't call it a secret identity, really, but rather a secret occupation that many knew of, but few knew it was him. He would have to tell her sooner or later, and who knew? Maybe she could help him. He sighed just a bit as he saw the wedding ring on her finger. He shifted so he could look her in the face. "I know we are and there are things that I will need to tell you before long, but for now," he took a deep breath, "I will be fine. It has been a long, difficult day and I was momentarily overwhelmed. I don't wish for you to worry about me, Leah." He shivered just a bit as the cold night began to seep in.
"Cal, you'll catch cold if you're not careful," Leah admonished.
He smiled at her. "See, you're already worrying about me, and I don't want for you to have to do that." He reached over and did something that seemed very familiar to both of them, though it could never have happened before. He laid his hand on her cheek and brushed it lightly with his thumb.
She blushed a bit and turned away from him. "I don't know much about being a wife, but I'll do my best and I do know that you shouldn't get sick."
He swung his legs under the covers. "I think you know more than you realize, Leah." He leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on the side of her head. "Get some sleep. I have a feeling we won't be able to leave tomorrow either and we'll have to face the rest of the family again."
Leah nodded. Her heart had stopped momentarily when he leaned over. She nodded when he suggested that they get some sleep and was grateful when he lay on his side, facing away from her. "Good night, Cal."
"Good night, Leah."
Leah woke the next morning unable to place her surroundings. She had never slept in this particular room before and so it wasn't surprising that she wouldn't recognize her setting immediately. Even stranger, however, was the weight around her waist. She moved slightly and realized that something — or someone — was right behind her. Cal. He had rolled over in the middle of the night and now his arm was around her holding her firmly against his chest. The covers were pulled up under her chin and even with the ample blankets, she had to admit that it was decidedly warmer than sleeping alone.
She closed her eyes and recalled the sight of that chest the night before. Cal's beautiful chiseled features stood out in her mind's eye. She hadn't known that a man's body could be so well defined.
Cal was still in a dream world. In his dream he could see himself and a beautiful woman, who looked much like Leah, stood in front of him. He didn't recognize the surroundings. They seemed familiar, but there were things he had never seen before. Stairs leading to a door with windows in it and a couch of some kind next to some kind of candle or lantern with a cover over it. The woman had short dark hair and wore a short orange dress and a big smile.
<Hope you don't do everything that fast.>
Cal looked at himself and realized that he was wearing a very tight fitting bright blue outfit with some kind of red garment on the outside and something pulled at his shoulders.
<One way to find out,> he heard himself say. He picked up the woman and they floated towards a bed. He looked down. Yes, they were floating.
<What about Hawaii?>
<Hawaii can wait, we can't. We've been through too much just to get to this point, this moment.>
Hawaii? What — or where — was that? He kissed the woman in orange and then…
A knock at the door woke Cal. He was as surprised as Leah had been to discover that he was holding her close to him, but it felt right and comfortable, like he had done it before. He felt her stir, obviously trying not to wake him as she went to answer the door. He tightened his arm around her just a bit. He fought the urge to kiss the back of her head. "I'm awake. I'll get it." She nodded, but stayed under the covers, facing away from him and the door. He rose and pulled on a shirt as he crossed the room. He shook his head as he tried to understand what that dream had been about. He opened the door slightly and had a short conversation with whoever was on the other side. He went and sat back down on the bed.
"That was your mother. The rest of the family is staying for a while at least, and so will we." Leah had rolled towards him while he was talking, but looked out the window as he nodded towards it. The snow was coming down hard again. "I guess the rest of the family has been told that plans for me to marry you rather than Lara were made several months ago, when Lara and I realized that we weren't right for each other and that I had fallen in love with you. So, they expect that we had planned on spending most of today, ah," he looked uncomfortable as he ran a hand through his hair, "alone. She's sending our breakfast up in a few minutes and said that we should spend most of the day alone together. If the weather breaks, a drive in the snow might be nice."
Leah nodded. How could her mother do this? She knew that she and Cal barely knew each other well enough to put on a pretence and perhaps that was part of the reason why her mother wanted them to spend the day alone together. She must have seen how awkward they looked in front of the family yesterday and decided that it was better to just let them be alone together and the family could think whatever they wanted. "A sleigh ride sounds nice," she finally said, "if there is a break in the storm." She sat up, holding the covers close to her. "I don't mean to sound ignorant or awkward, but what are we supposed to do the rest of the day?" She blushed. "I know we're not a regular newlywed couple, but wouldn't it be a stretch even for normal newlyweds to spend all day alone in their room?" She picked at the quilt, unable to look at her husband.
Cal smiled and turned her face to look at him. "I know we're not what you'd consider normal, but I want you to know, I'd never hurt you and I promise we won't do, ah…" It was Cal's turn to blush and look away. "Ah, things that married people do so soon."
Leah giggled just a bit. "It seems we're both a bit uncomfortable around each other."
Cal laughed with her. "It does. What if we made a pact?"
Cal nodded. "A pact. We will tell each other everything and not be embarrassed, especially if we're not sure about something. And we'll never pick at each other about something that we wouldn't want to be picked at about and we'll never tell anyone else. It is going to be a long lifetime if we don't learn to communicate and trust each other."
"All right. A pact then." She looked at him, aware of his closeness and was almost overcome with the desire to kiss him.
"Good." There was a knock at the door. Cal opened it and took a tray with some pastries and a cup of coffee and a glass of milk on it. "Breakfast is here. Where would you like to eat it?"
"Um, by the fire, I think. Where it's warm." Cal nodded and moved that direction, grateful to whoever had rebuilt the fire earlier that morning. He noticed that the same person had left enough wood next to it so they would not need any more if they didn't leave the room for the rest of the day.
Leah was glad when Cal turned his back to her. She quickly stood and pulled the robe she had discarded the night before around her. She tied it tightly and walked towards the fire. He turned and smiled at her.
"Do you drink coffee?" She shook her head. "Then the milk must be yours." She sat in one of the chairs. Cal took a quilt and tucked it gently around her. "Can't have you catching cold either." He handed her the glass of milk. She took a sip and set it on the little table in between the chairs. "Which one would you like?"
"You pick first. I know my mother's pastries and they are all delicious."
Cal nodded and sat in the other chair. He helped himself to one of the pastries and then offered another to Leah.
They ate in silence. When they finished, Cal put the tray outside the door and turned to talk to Leah. As he did he was struck again by her beauty and wondered why he hadn't seen it before. In some ways, she was even lovelier than Lara. She turned to him.
"What do we do now?" She looked at him with an almost fearful glint in her eye.
"I suppose we should dress. The storm looks like it is letting up some and perhaps we can go for that ride soon." A look of horror appeared momentarily on Leah's face. Dressing in front of this man was something she hadn't considered. Cal smiled gently at her. "Your mother said your things are in the room next door. If you want to, change in there."
Leah nodded and practically fled to the other room. She shut the door behind her and leaned against. She closed her eyes and tried to find courage deep inside herself. There were so many aspects of married life that she had never considered. And what about children someday? She knew instinctively that he would want children. She had seen him play with her younger siblings on several occasions and knew that he would make a wonderful father.
She stood there for a few moments until she regained her composure and then she changed slowly into an outfit suitable for an outing in the cold weather. She sat on the bed in the other room for long moments after she finished getting ready, tears slipping silently from her eyes. She didn't know how to face the man who waited for her in the other room or how she would get through the rest of the day.
A knock on the door that led to the room she shared with Cal brought her out of her reverie.
"May I come in?"
She wiped at her eyes, trying to get rid of any signs that she had been crying. "Yes." The door opened and Cal entered.
His face grew concerned as he noticed the tear tracks she hadn't been able to wipe away. "What is it? What's wrong?" He sat next to her and cradled her face in his hand as he had the night before. "Please tell me."
"It's nothing. Honest. I'm a little overwhelmed is all." The tears threatened again.
"Shh." He pulled her closer until her head rested on his shoulder. "This is overwhelming for both of us. But we'll make it through somehow, I promise. I think we'll be able to leave tomorrow and then we won't have to pretend to be the happy newlyweds for anyone, at least for a while. My family had some things planned for us for when we return, but I don't know how the delay of our return will affect those plans. Now how about that sleigh ride? I went down while you finished dressing and everything is ready for us." He looked at her earnestly. "If you still want to go."
Leah nodded. "It's better than staying here. I don't really want to face anyone just yet. At least not for very long."
"I don't either. What do you say we sneak out the back door?"
"I think I'd like that."
"Good. Your things are downstairs ready for you. Your father is keeping everyone out of the kitchen so that we can leave undetected. Are you ready?"
"Yes." She looked up at him almost shyly. "Thank you, Cal."
He smiled at her and her heart did flip-flops again. "Then let's go."
A few minutes later they were outside. Cal tucked the blankets and furs in around her, making sure that there were warm bricks at both of their feet. The day wasn't bitterly cold like he had expected, but there was a definite chill in the air. He sat next to her but not as close as he had the day before when they had had an audience. Leah was disappointed, but not surprised when he sat farther away.
After they were some distance from the house, he spoke. "Leah, there is something I need to tell you. Something you can never tell anyone else."
"You can trust me, Cal. I'll never tell anyone."
He looked at his hands as he began his story. "I don't know how much you know about the unrest in the colonies."
"Father discusses it with me. I read his papers to him."
"And what does he say?"
"He says that this rebellion was inevitable. That it was only a matter of time before England pushed the colonies too far and they pushed back. He feels the war will change the face of the continent forever, that we will be our own country soon."
"I think he is right. I think the taxes were and still are, too much. I think that if England is going to tax anything, we should be allowed to represent ourselves in Parliament. And if we are not, we should be allowed to set up our own government. We've read John Locke's works, as well, you know." Leah gasped as she realized what she said. Women weren't supposed to have political opinions, but she did. She had never voiced them to anyone besides her father, who encouraged her to think for herself, but keep her opinions silent. "I apologize. It's not my place to say anything and I'll never embarrass you by speaking out in front of others."
Cal laughed. "No, Leah. I'm glad you have opinions and I don't want you to be afraid to share them with me. In fact, maybe you'll be able to help me."
"Yes. Tell me. What publications does your father read?"
"Why, he reads the 'English Review', of course. Especially since you began seeing Lara." She couldn't look at him as she said her sister's name. "The other paper he reads is… I promise I won't tell anyone what it is that you have to say, but you have to promise that you won't tell this to anyone either."
"I won't tell. I promise."
"He also reads 'The Colonial Times'. I know it's illegal and he could get in all kinds of trouble…" She was cut short by Cal's laughter. She looked at him in shock. "It's not funny, Cal. He really could, but you have to know that."
"I know, but I haven't told you my secret yet. When I do, you'll understand. You see, I have a kind of a secret identity."
Leah raised an eyebrow at him. "A secret identity? Like Robin Hood?"
Cal laughed again. "Kind of, but I don't ride around in tights or steal or anything."
Leah laughed with him. "I suppose that's a good thing to know."
"I don't have some kind of second outfit I change into or anything, but rather some people know me as a different person." At the perplexed look on her face, he smiled. "I mean I write as me in the 'English Review', but I also write as someone else in another publication."
He nodded. "I am the one who publishes 'The Colonial Times'. I write all of the articles and print it from the basement of my house."
"Oh. Father would love to know that, you know."
"I know, but we can't tell him. You're my wife now, and you needed to know because things could get dangerous. Especially now."
"Why? Are things more dangerous simply because you're married?"
"No," he shook his head. "It's not that. It's because of who your sister married."
"Yes. He's a very rich, very powerful man who is loyal to the English crown. He will stop at nothing to shut down my paper and take me out in the process. The only good thing is that he doesn't know that I am the one behind the paper. I see him occasionally on business for the 'English Review' — he owns it you know — and we get on well enough, but he has made no secret of his hatred for the traitor who prints 'The Colonial Times'."
A shocked Leah repeated what Cal had just said. "Traitor?"
"Well, that's what I am you know," Cal said with a smile. "And so is your father, for reading what I've written."
"I know that, it just doesn't seem real. Traitor is such a strong word."
"But it's true. And if Langston ever finds out who is behind 'The Colonial Times', he *will* kill me. Only four other people know that I am the one behind it."
"Who else knows? Lara?" Leah turned to him, her eyes full of concern. "You don't think she'll tell Mr. Lenox, do you?"
"How can you be so sure?"
"She doesn't know. I was going to tell her today, but well, that's not going to happen now. Obviously."
"You never told her?"
"You didn't think that she had the right to know what kind of danger she'd be putting herself in? Or the children you'd have someday?"
"It's not that. I thought I could trust her and that she'd understand. We had a couple of conversations about the possibility of an uprising against England and she didn't seem that she was against it. It must have been your father's influence."
Leah shook her head. "No. Father never discussed these things with Lara. I don't think he's ever discussed them with Mother, unless it was after we were all in bed. Lara doesn't know that he reads your paper, and we burn it after we've read it a couple of times."
"Your father is a smart man. And he has a smart daughter."
"Lara was always the smartest out of all of us."
Cal looked at her with an almost tender look in his eyes. "I wasn't talking about Lara. It's obvious that you have a quick mind, Leah. I hope that you can be a helper to me with the paper. Would you like to?"
Leah's face took on a new shine. "To help you? Do you think I could maybe write some? I love to write, but it's always been things that would be politically acceptable, should anyone find them, not what I really think."
"I think that would be wonderful. And we wouldn't want to do it too soon, but maybe someday you could write about what the women think. If we let you start writing about things like that too soon, someone might start looking around to see who had recently married and I wouldn't want to put you in any more danger than you'll already be in."
"I don't mind the danger. I think it will be a rather exciting life."
"Exciting? Hiding from the red coats? I've never heard that called exciting by anyone."
"Who else knows, Cal? If it's not Lara."
"My editor at the 'English Review', Preston Adams — he's related to both John and Samuel Adams — and a young man who helps with distribution and getting information to me. His name is Jamison and he has contacts all over. And my parents, of course. However, I'd rather you not discuss this even with them, unless I'm around. Promise me."
"I promise, Cal. I'll never tell a soul."
"Now, why don't we just enjoy what has turned out to be a beautiful day?"
Leah decided to ask the question she had been wanting to for some time. "Cal?"
"Would you mind if we did something a little silly?"
"Silly? Like what?"
"Well, I haven't made a snowman in years and every year I want to but Mother insists that I'm too old. There's no one around to see us. Please?" She looked up at him, pleading with her big brown eyes.
"Oh, don't look at me like that!"
She instantly deflated. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked."
Cal laughed. "No. What I meant was if you look at me with those big eyes, I would probably sell my soul, if that's what you wanted. Don't tell me you've never used those eyes on anyone before."
Leah sat wide-eyed. "I'd never try that." Then she ducked shyly. "But I might now. Sometimes."
Cal laughed again. "How about that clearing up ahead?"
"What about it?"
"Does that look like a good place to make a snowman?"
Leah looked at him with undisguised glee on her face. "You mean it? We can build a snowman?"
"Why not?" Cal expertly brought the team to a stop out of the way of any other traffic that might come along the little road. "Wait here. Let me help you down." He quickly went around the sleigh to help her. "The snow is deeper than it looks. Are you sure you want to do this?"
She nodded. "I can't wait!" She took his offered hand and stepped down, stumbling just a bit.
Cal caught her in his arms. As he helped to right her, their eyes met and for a moment time stood still. Cal longed to pull her closer and kiss her, but the moment passed and they stood awkwardly. Cal was the first to recover. "Shall we?"
Leah nodded, unsure of what had just happened between them.
"Now, Leah, I haven't built a snowman in years. How do you suggest we begin?"
The next half-hour was a pleasant one for both of them. They laughed as they built a respectable sized snowman. As they neared completion, Leah realized she didn't want their time together to end. She was enjoying the time alone with Cal, with no pressure from outside, no pretending, just being together. She wouldn't admit yet, even to herself, but she was falling in love with him.
He knelt to pat a little more snow into place on the bottom part of the snowman. Leah, even later, didn't know what came over her, but suddenly she reached out with both hands and shoved him hard. She laughed as he fell into the snow.
His startled expression was more than Leah could take. She practically doubled over, laughing so hard she could hardly speak. "So that's how it's going to be, is it?" He stood. "You have two seconds and then it's your turn." Leah squealed and began to run as fast as she could in her long skirt and the deep snow. "One. Two." Cal stopped brushing himself off and started after her. He knew that he could have caught her in just a few seconds, but what was the fun in that? He scooped up some snow and formed it into a ball as he ran. He tossed it softly at her and laughed at her startled squeal as it hit her in the back of the head. He quickly caught up with her and swept her up in his arms.
Suddenly, he had the strangest feeling of d‚j… vu. He could see himself, and Leah, with much shorter hair, wearing a pair of pants made of some blue material and a short-sleeved shirt of some kind. He could tell that he was wearing spectacles and was chasing her through a green, grassy area.
He shook his head to clear and focused on the struggling woman he was holding now.
"CAL! Put me down!"
"Oh, you want down now? Okay." He carried her to a large snowdrift near the edge of the clearing. "I'll put you down."
"CAL!" This time it was Leah who remembered something vaguely, as though from a dream. She could see Cal with shorter hair and spectacles holding her in his arms. He was holding her over a fountain and laughing. The smile was the same one she could see on Cal's face here and now.
<I'll drop you in.>
They exchanged another phrase or two that Leah couldn't hear and then he dropped her into the water.
But it wasn't water. It was snow.
"You had it coming and you know it." He put a stern look on his face. "Can you be good now?"
A devious plan formed in Leah's mind. In her mind, she could see it played out in that fountain before she put it into motion here. "Yes, I'll be good." She reached up a hand.
Cal good-naturedly reached down to help her up only to get a big surprise. Leah pulled hard on his hand and he found himself tumbling face first into the snow next to her. He came up sputtering to find that she had dissolved into a fit of giggles. He picked up a handful of snow, fully intending to wash her face with it, but stopped when he looked at her.
She was so beautiful. He could see that now. Why hadn't he seen it before? He dropped the snow and reached out to caress her face. Her cheeks were red from the exertion and the cold and her face absolutely glowed. He brushed a loose strand of hair from her forehead.
Leah saw how he looked at her. She had dreamed of this. The tender look in his eyes was just as she had imagined it. She reached up and touched his cheek, looking straight into those deep brown eyes. She watched as he leaned in and then hesitated slightly just before his lips touched hers. Her eyes closed and her hand automatically reached around to pull his head closer to her. She felt his lips part slightly to take hers into a gentle caress.
Cal couldn't believe the feelings that overwhelmed him as he kissed her and he felt her respond to his kiss in a way that Lara never had.
The love of his life was Lara, not Leah. He pulled back and stared at her regretting what he had done. Perhaps given her false hope that someday he could love her like that.
"I'm sorry, Leah. I shouldn't have done that." He stood and reached out to help her to her feet. He brushed the snow off of his clothing and watched as she did the same.
"We better be getting back, Cal." She looked at him with her trusting brown eyes and knew that, somehow, things had changed.
Leah was grateful that only her mother was in the kitchen when she and Cal returned. The ride back had been awkward, neither sure of what they should say. By the time they arrived, she was shivering from the cold. Her clothes were wet from the snowdrift and the temperature had dropped as clouds began to gather again.
Elizabeth looked at her daughter, concerned. "Leah! What happened?"
Cal was helping her into the warm home. "She, uh, took a spill into a snowdrift."
Elizabeth reacted quickly. "Take her to your room, quickly." She took a basin and poured some cool water in it. She instructed another family member to warm some water and bring it up when it was done. She hurried up the back stairs.
Cal had picked Leah up and carried her to their room. He set her gently in one of the large chairs and pulled it back from the fire. Too much warmth too fast would be a bad thing for her right now. He called softly for Elizabeth to come in when she knocked.
"Cal, you're going to have to help me get her out of those wet things."
Cal looked at her with wide-eyes.
"She's your wife, Cal."
"Help me." Her tone left no room for argument. He numbly followed her instructions, until Leah was dressed only in her undergarments. Elizabeth began to bathe Leah's arms, lower legs, and face in the cool water with a towel. Cal was careful not too look directly at Leah in her under things. Even though she was his wife, it somehow seemed wrong. Cal was also beginning to shake. "Cal, you're starting to steam. Get out of those things, now."
"Yes, ma'am." Cal learned quickly not to argue with his new mother-in-law. He gathered a few things and went into the adjoining room to change his clothes.
When he returned Samuel was there as well and Elizabeth had finished with the lukewarm water. Leah's color was starting to come back, though her temperature was still low.
"Samuel, turn back the covers. Cal, carry her over to the bed." Cal nodded and bent to pick her up. She was light as a feather and still cold. He carried her to the bed and set her down gently. "Now, Cal, once we leave, you need to undress to your under things and get in there next to her. You're cold as well and that is the best way to warm both of you up. One of us will come check on you later and bring you some soup. Do you understand?" Cal nodded. Her voice softened. "I know this isn't how you had planned on spending the first few days after your wedding, and I know you probably aren't completely comfortable being in such a state of undress with Leah, but she is your wife and you are the only one who can help her now."
Cal nodded again and slowly began to take off his clothing as Elizabeth closed the door behind her. When he was as close to undressed as he could get without being completely exposed, he crawled in the bed next to Leah and wrapped his arms around her.
She was still so cold. He pulled the covers up as far as he could and pulled Leah as close as he felt he could without hurting her.
"Thank you." The words were barely a whisper.
"Shh. Rest and warm up."
"I'm so cold."
"I know. I'm sorry. I never should have dropped you in the snow drift."
"I never should have pushed you over."
"Are you getting warmer?"
"Why don't we try something else?"
Leah nodded slightly.
"Roll towards me." Cal rolled onto his back and Leah followed. "Put your head on my shoulder." Leah complied. Cal wrapped one arm around her and pulled her to him. One of her arms, almost of it's own volition, slid across his stomach until she was holding him as well. He laid his other arm across hers, aware of her gentle curves that were pressing into him and that her legs were now intertwined with his. He closed his eyes and tried not to imagine what it would be like if this were Lara instead of Leah. Leah was his wife and it wasn't right for him to be thinking of her sister instead, but he still didn't seem to put her out of her mind.
Soon they were both asleep.
Cal was having another one of those dreams he'd had for the last couple of days. There was Leah, with short hair, lying next to him, apparently without *any* clothes on.
And himself next to her, also undressed, and looking down at the bed? It seemed they were floating on the ceiling.
<I know. > He heard himself say.
<That was…> She seemed at a loss for words, something he somehow knew was very unlike her.
<I mean…> He found himself at a loss for words as well.
She sighed. <Exactly.> They laid there for a moment and then she continued. <The only thing I'd like more would be…>
And his own husky reply, <More.>
Cal could feel himself begin to kiss Leah again. It almost seemed real. He rolled so he was half-lying on top of her, kissing her like he needed her. One hand stroked her arm and her side. He couldn't let himself think. He had to just go with what he was feeling.
Leah slowly realized that she wasn't dreaming. Cal was kissing her. Her. Not Lara, but Leah. It certainly seemed like it, anyway. The kiss began to deepen. Leah had no experience kissing men, save the two she had shared with Cal — one at the wedding and one in the snow — but she seemed to know what to do instinctively. One of her hands rested on Cal's strong, washboard stomach and the other reached around to pull him even closer to her.
She didn't protest as he began to undo the laces that held her garments on. It wasn't until she felt his hand slide under the clothing onto the soft skin beneath that she gasped. And even then it wasn't because she objected, but because of the sensations it sent coursing through her. She pulled him closer still until he began to kiss the side of her face and then her neck. The feelings that were so new, and yet so right and so comfortable, continued to grow until she could be silent no longer.
The sound of his name woke him. He had been in the most pleasant dream, kissing that other Leah and caressing her on the ceiling. He woke to find his head buried in the side of her neck and her whispering his name.
And his hand! What was he doing? He quickly pulled back and rolled over. He closed his eyes and avoided looking at the young woman who lay next to him.
"Cal? What is it?"
"I'm sorry, Leah. I had no right. I was dreaming… and I must have… I'm sorry. Forgive me."
So he didn't want to kiss her like that. He must have been dreaming of Lara. Of kissing Lara and touching her. What a fool she was! Cal would never want her like that. He would spend the rest of his life pining away for Lara and if she ever had to perform her "wifely duty", as her mother called it, it would only be for children or to satisfy his desires and not have anything to do with loving her.
"It's fine, Cal. I was…" She took a deep breath. "I was dreaming, too."
Cal almost turned to look at her. She had been calling his name, he was sure of that, but he wasn't going to ask what she had been dreaming about.
A knock at the door interrupted any further conversation they may have had.
Cal sighed as he sat up. "Coming." He pulled a shirt on over his head and tossed another to Leah without looking at her. "You might want to put this on."
Leah picked it up from where it had landed on the bed. She really should have retied her laces, but she didn't have time and didn't really care either. She pulled the shirt on over her head, breathing deeply and noticing that it decidedly smelled like Cal. It was so big that it practically swallowed her.
Cal turned back, praying that Leah had put the shirt on already. "Are you ready for your mother to come in? She has supper."
Leah nodded and pushed herself back so that she was sitting against the headboard.
Elizabeth smiled to herself as she noticed her daughter in one of Cal's shirts. Things must have gone well. "Are you feeling better, Leah?"
"Much better. Thank you, Mother."
"And you Cal?"
"I feel much better as well, Mrs. Lincoln."
"Nonsense, Cal. We're family now. Elizabeth or Mother, whichever you prefer. Did either of you get any rest?"
Leah nodded, while Cal answered. "We both did, Mother." He added the last almost shyly.
"I didn't want to give either of you too much until you are completely well, so here is some chicken soup. It's mostly broth, but it will be good for you. Would you like to eat there, Leah?"
Leah nodded. She really didn't want to get out of the bed in front of either her mother or Cal.
"Are you going to join her, Cal?"
Cal shook his head. "I tend to spill when I eat in bed. Not that I do often, but on the rare occasions that I'm sick, there tends to be more soup in the bed than in my stomach."
Elizabeth nodded as she set the tray in front of Leah and took the other bowl to the little table by the fireplace. "Samuel thinks you should be able to get home without any trouble by morning. I'll make sure all of your new things are packed up, Leah — most of them already are — and take care of packing the wedding gifts. You just feel better. Cal, would you like me to make sure your things are packed as well?"
"No, ma'am. I'll take care of it.
They ate in silence. When they were finished, Cal pulled on a pair of pants and took both of their dishes down to the kitchen.
Leah took the time while he was gone to redress herself and put on a warm nightgown and robe from the next room. She tucked Cal's shirt in her trunk, underneath some of her other things. She wanted to keep it, for some reason she couldn't quite explain.
She heard him call her name from the next room.
"I'm in here."
"Leah, you're really not strong enough to be getting around by yourself yet. May I come in?"
"Yes." Leah closed the trunk and turned to him.
"Your mother wants to know if you want to come down and sit with your family for the rest of the evening. We are the only guests left. The rest went home this afternoon while we were gone."
"I'd like that. I'd love to spend some time with my little brothers and sisters before we leave."
"You're to sit on the couch and not tire yourself, or you'll never get fully well."
Leah nodded and was surprised when Cal swept her into his arms. "I don't want to take any chances with you."
"I'm a grown woman, Cal, not a child."
"I know, but you are still weak, aren't you?"
Reluctantly, Leah nodded and allowed him to carry her downstairs.
It was several hours later when Cal carried her back to their shared room. He placed her gently on the bed and tucked her in, promising to be there in a minute. He claimed he forgot to ask her father a question, but he really just wasn't ready to lie next to her again, not after what happened the last time. Intellectually, he knew that he was married to Leah and so kissing her was acceptable, as were other things, but he loved Lara and he felt that he was cheating on both of them. Lara because she was the one he loved and Leah because he loved someone else.
Ten minutes later, he returned, hoping to find Leah asleep. He undressed quietly and slipped under his side of the covers. He was startled by the soft voice from the other side of the bed.
"Good night, Cal."
She was still awake. There was something he needed to do.
"Leah, there's something I need to do. I must apologize to you."
"For what?" Leah rolled so that she could see him.
Cal tore his eyes from her face. Framed as it was in the moonlight, she looked like an angel straight from heaven. "I'm sorry for what happened earlier and," he paused to take a deep breath, "that I don't love you as a man should love his wife, but I promise to be good to you and to do everything in my power to not hurt you."
Leah nodded and turned away from Cal so he couldn't see the tear that stole silently down her cheek. He couldn't love her, but she knew that she was falling in love with him.
The next day, they traveled to Cal's home near Boston. Leah thought it was ridiculous how many clothes she was wearing, how many warm bricks they placed in the carriage and the number of quilts, blankets and other covers they placed over her and Cal. If she didn't know better she would have said her mother was playing a bit of matchmaker. Elizabeth had made sure that Cal was sitting close to her as they covered the both of them in an effort to avoid a repeat of the day before. She said it would be warmer that way. Samuel was sending them in the family's closed carriage with a driver to take them, so it would be warmer and Leah didn't plan on falling in the snow anyway. There was an odd gleam in her mother's eyes as they waved good- bye and she and Cal settled in for the long ride.
Few words passed between them. The silence bordered on uncomfortable. Leah had had dreams the night before that made her blush just thinking about them. They had been of her and Cal, but not. They were different somehow. They had been in a hayloft and in a room that was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. And they had floated. She didn't understand how or why, but they had. Somehow, her dreams had censored themselves and for that she was grateful. It was obvious what was happening and she was glad the dreams hadn't gone any farther. Not that she really knew what was supposed to happen in the rest of the dreams, but the her in the dreams knew and was excited by it. That wasn't exactly what her mother had prepared her for, but what she hoped for anyway.
Now, sitting so close to him, she was glad that he couldn't read her thoughts. Just thinking about the dreams made her blush and she couldn't even think about looking at Cal.
She wouldn't even look at him. Cal knew he had made a huge mistake the day before, even if he had been dreaming at the time and couldn't really have known what was going on in the real world. He had tried to take advantage of the young girl — no matter how she proclaimed that she was a grown woman, she really hadn't had a chance to grow up yet. The girl he wished he loved, but the one that he didn't. He loved Lara, even in the face of her ultimate betrayal. He had debated telling her his secret before they married, and now knew he had made the right decision not to tell her. She undoubtedly would have ended up telling Lenox and that would have been a bad plan indeed.
But Leah. Leah had made the ultimate sacrifice. She had given herself over to living life in a loveless marriage. He wished desperately that things were different, but they were not. He couldn't take advantage of her. It might mean that they would never have children, something he had always wanted, but that was a sacrifice he would have to make.
He looked at her again, only to see her staring out the window. He should give her a little more room. He knew that her mother had the wrong impression of what had happened while they were warming up yesterday. He had seen the look on her face when she looked at Leah and again this morning when she made them sit so close together. She thought that they had worked things out and even if they weren't in a loving marriage it was one with a mutual respect and understanding of some sort that could grow into love.
He tried to move closer to the other side of the carriage, but found that he couldn't move. She had tucked them in tight. "I'm sorry, Leah. I'd give you more room, but I can't seem to move."
She still didn't look at him. "It's fine, Cal."
He sighed at the tone of her voice. She was discouraged and resigned to something. If only he could keep her from the pain she was sure to feel as she realized what she was missing out on.
He laid his head back against the seat. The warmth was starting to make him drowsy and he hadn't slept well the night before. Guilt had overcome him and then when he had finally slept, he had numerous unnerving dreams of the other him with the other Leah.
He closed his eyes, determined to clear his mind of all thoughts.
Soon he was asleep.
Cal tried to push the voice out of his head.
The nagging wouldn't go away.
"Sir. Please. We've reached your home."
He opened his eyes to see the driver that Samuel had sent them with.
"Home? Weren't we supposed to stop somewhere?" In the recesses of his mind he knew that they shouldn't have driven all the way to Boston so soon. He looked outside and it was beginning to get dark. How long had he slept?
The heaviness on his shoulder indicated that Leah had slept as well.
"Shall I help you get Mrs. Kent inside?"
Cal started at the use of Leah's new title, but then he nodded. "If you can help me get her out from under these blankets, I can carry her inside."
The two men worked together to untangle Leah and then Cal carried her inside. Cal carried her up the stairs and laid her gently on the bed in his room. The driver gave him some of the blankets that he had carried in. He hurried to start a fire in the fireplace as Cal covered Leah with the blankets.
The two men unloaded the carriage and took care of the horses that had brought them there. Cal made a simple meal for the two of them and then showed the man to a guestroom downstairs.
It was with a heavy heart that Cal climbed the stairs again. The house had warmed up considerably since they arrived home and he was grateful for that. He stopped outside the door to the room he had occupied alone since he inherited the house upon the death of his grandmother. He had so looked forward to sharing the room with Lara and had even imagined what it would be like to lie next to her, talking into the wee hours of the morning, sharing gentle kisses… He shook his head. He couldn't bring himself to go in, even though that's where his wife was.
Cal walked down the hall to the room that adjoined his. The two rooms shared a fireplace so he wouldn't have to build another one. He let himself fall heavily onto the bed and finally let sobs overcome him. He had pushed the feelings of rejection and loneliness deep down inside ever since Leah had spoken to him that first night. He had put on a brave front for her, not willing to let her know how deeply he was affected. It wasn't fair for him to burden her with his problems. He was sure she'd have enough of her own before long.
He'd have to contact his family and let them know that they had finally arrived home. They still didn't know what had transpired at the wedding. They didn't know he hadn't married Lara but Leah instead. His parents would welcome her with open arms, but he wasn't so sure about his cousin. Mary had grown up with him after her parents died when she was just a baby. She was only two years younger than him and had been married for several years now. Her husband was an upstanding man who was faithful to the colonial cause, if in a behind the scenes manner. Mary had wanted him to marry Lara. The two had gotten along very well and Cal suspected it was due to a mutual love of the finer things in life.
It was sometime later when Cal's sobs quieted and he fell into a restless sleep.
Leah awoke to the smells of breakfast. She was horrified to think that Cal had awoken before her and was doing her job. She realized that she was still in her travelling clothes and was lying on top of the bedcovers. She looked at the other side of the bed and realized that Cal had slept somewhere else. In some ways she was saddened. The feeling of being held against his chest was something that she wanted to experience over and over, but she couldn't bear the thought of a repeat of the scene that had played out later that day knowing that Cal would never love her.
She quickly rose and changed into something appropriate for around the house. She redid her hair where it had fallen out of the pins as she slept and then hurried downstairs.
Before she even entered the kitchen, she began to speak. "Cal…"
"Cal's not here, dear, but I suppose you already know that." There was a woman there who Leah had never met. "My son loves to sleep in whenever he has the chance. You'll learn, Lara."
This must be Martha Kent. That's all Leah knew about her. And she apparently had no idea that Cal had married the other Lincoln sister. How could she? They must have arrived late the evening before. The woman continued talking.
"The man who drove you two here left earlier this morning and stopped at our house to tell us you were home. So…" Martha turned and was silenced mid-sentence. Her jaw opened and closed several times. "You're, um, you're… not Lara."
"No, I'm Leah, her sister."
"Did you come home with Lara and Cal? He didn't tell me you were coming with them."
Leah couldn't look at her. "No. Lara is not here."
"Why? The driver said Cal and his bride were home." Martha was puzzled.
Tears formed in Leah's eyes. She shouldn't have to be the one explaining why she was married to Cal instead of Lara, but she had no choice. In a voice completely devoid of emotion she explained, "Lara ran off with another man the night before the wedding. My father gave me to Cal to marry instead. I am Cal's wife now."
Martha sank slowly into one of the kitchen chairs. "Lara married someone else?"
"Yes. Langston Lenox."
Martha looked at her wide-eyed. "No. Not Lenox." Suddenly, she shook herself out of her shock. "Oh, dear. Please forgive me. I'm Martha Kent, Cal's mother. It's very nice to meet you."
"It's nice to meet you."
"Why don't you sit down and we'll have a little chat?"
Leah wasn't sure that was such a good idea, but she wasn't sure she had much choice. She sat across the table from her new mother-in-law.
"Tell me about yourself, dear."
Leah couldn't look at the woman. She knew that if she did, the tears in her eyes would be evident and she wouldn't be able to hide the fact that she was falling in love with Cal, as wrong as it seemed. "My name is Leah. Lara is my older sister. When she ran off, my father offered to let Cal marry me instead and so… Here I am. I'm sorry I'm not Lara, but I'll do my best to make Cal happy."
Martha was a perceptive woman. She could tell that the young woman across the table was in love with her son. And who could blame her? Cal was a wonderful man, especially in his mother's biased opinion. The only problem was, from the little Leah had said, Cal was probably still in love with Lara. Leah had thought that Cal was the one down here making them breakfast, which would indicate that they hadn't slept in the same room. Poor girl. Things were going to be difficult for her. She reached out and covered one of Leah's hands with her own. "It'll be fine, Leah."
Leah instinctively knew she could trust this woman, but at the same time she wasn't ready to talk about those feelings deep down inside yet.
"I know my son, and I know that in time he'll probably realize that he got the better end of this deal."
Leah wasn't sure Martha was saying what she thought — that one day Cal would love her and that this was all for the best. She wanted to believe that, but something inside wouldn't let her.
When Cal woke up, he had a hard time convincing himself that he should get out of bed. He didn't want to. He smelled the aromas coming up from the kitchen and decided that he shouldn't make things more difficult for Leah than they had to be. He pulled himself from the bed and dressed slowly. It wasn't until he was almost to the kitchen that he realized the voice he heard was his mother's.
He hung in the shadows as he heard his mother make the comment to Leah that he would realize he'd gotten the better deal and stayed in the shadows as he heard Leah excuse herself and hurry past him to go upstairs.
He took a deep breath and entered the kitchen, attempting to prepare himself for whatever his mother was going to say. Undoubtedly, she'd be upset with him for marrying a woman he didn't love; though he knew she'd love Leah.
"Good morning, Mother. How did you know we were home?"
She gave him a look only a mother can manage — love and disappointment all wrapped up together. "The Lincoln's driver told me on his way out this morning. She's a lovely girl, Cal, but what have you done?"
Leave it to his mother to get straight to the point. "Lara ran off. She didn't love me as much as she loves Langston Lenox. I married Leah instead." He tried to be nonchalant about it, as one might be when buying a different suit when the first one was already sold.
"Her father offered, she agreed and I couldn't bear the thought of coming home alone. It wasn't until after the ceremony was over that I realized what a mistake I made."
Leah had come back down the stairs to rejoin her new family in the kitchen, but when she heard Cal's comment, she quickly turned and retreated to what she supposed was her room for the duration. She knew things wouldn't be easy, but if Cal admitted it was a mistake, there was little chance that this would ever be more than a marriage for his convenience.
The two in the kitchen had no idea that a tidbit from their conversation had been overheard. It would have been better if she had stayed.
"It wasn't fair of me to ask her to give up her life, a chance at happiness with a man who loves her and not her sister. A life with a man she doesn't love."
"I don't know about that."
"She can't love me, Mother. We've really only known each other for the last two days and even then we don't really know each other, so how could she love me? And I still love Lara. I know it's wrong because she's married to someone else and so am I, but I can't help it. I'll always love her and that's something I can't do anything about."
Martha wisely kept her thoughts on the matter to herself. "Did you tell her?"
Cal nodded. "We talked some about the British and other things and she is quite intelligent and loves to write. She read often to her father — including 'The Colonial Times'. She has well-defined political opinions, that happen to line up with my own, that she expresses well, if not often."
Martha nodded. She somehow knew that Leah would be a much better match for her son than Lara would have been. She hadn't been very impressed with Lara the few times they had met, but she was willing to accept her son's choice of wife and embrace her, keeping her personal feelings aside. Besides, she knew her son would fall in love with Leah sooner or later.
Lara pouted. She wasn't very attractive when she pouted and she knew it, but she did it anyway. Just days before, Langston had been the picture of devotedness. He had stayed hidden in the background while she was engaged to Cal, always there while Cal was gone — which was often. They went for rides and he brought her pretty things, but in this first week of marriage had shown a much different character in her new husband.
He was wealthy beyond words, she knew that and she had hoped to have a considerable allowance at her disposal, but he made it clear that she was to be seen and not heard. The only times they would be seen together was in social settings of his choosing when it would benefit him to have an adoring wife at his side. He hadn't said so in so many words, but the meaning was there.
And now she was stuck in Boston while he tried to ferret out some one who he disagreed with. Apparently, there was some newspaper of some sort that he wanted shut down because it didn't agree with his pro-English policies. She had never cared one wit or another for politics and she wasn't about to start now. She knew Cal had, but she had been determined to take that out of him and had been sure she'd be able to.
Cal. She hadn't thought much about him in the last couple of days. She was as sorry as she could be for leaving him at the altar as it were. He was a good man, too good for her. Langston had a dark side that had attracted her initially, but was turning out to be an annoyance. She wondered idly what her mother did once the bride was gone. The wedding would have been cancelled, no doubt, but it would have been an awkward situation all around.
She smiled slightly as she thought of her father's reaction. He had been instrumental in her engagement to Cal. He would never approve of Langston, so she had hatched a plan. She had never really intended to marry Cal. Running away with Langston had always been her plan, even if she didn't let Langston know that. She knew he wanted to marry her and the fact that she was engaged had not bothered him a bit. He had kissed her in ways that Cal never had. He had never pushed the limits of propriety but he had made her feel alive in ways her fianc‚ never had.
After they were married things had been different in that area as well. He had taken her to Boston that first night and they were married early the next morning. They had gone to one of the finest stores in the area and allowed her to buy a few things to last her until her father sent the rest of her trunks. She had hoped that the evening would be like her mother had prepared her for, though her mother had also prepared her for the worst and she had heard things from friends who had married before her. She had no doubt her first night with Cal would have been very different from her first night with Langston. He had been very different after they were married, rough and demanding in his advances, but not downright cruel. She had no doubt he could be much more forceful if she didn't acquiesce to his desires.
And so after the first few days of marriage, the glamour of being Mrs. Langston Lenox was long gone, leaving regret and self-recriminations in the wake.
"What do you mean you haven't found him?" Lenox was not pleased with the report of George. That was the only name he knew his informant by, but before now he had never had a reason to want more information about the man.
"Just that, sir. He, whoever he is, must have heard that we were closing in and there has been no newsletter this week."
Lenox cursed. He had been after this man for months, if not years now. Whoever printed that banned paper had been able to stay one step ahead of him. Not this informant or even the editor of the paper owned by Lenox had been able to help him. Preston Adams, related to at least two of the dissidents had been of no help, though not for lack of trying he was sure. Adams knew the penalty for betrayal and Lenox was sure he was using as many of his connections as he could without getting caught.
"There is one rumor you may find interesting, sir."
"The man, Cal Kent is supposed to be connected somehow to this person. Rumors around town have it that this person is close to him, but Cal doesn't know about the dark side of this friend or relative."
"So Kent may be a way to get to this mystery man?"
"He may be. And word around town is that he just married."
"No. He was supposed to, but did not. She and I are… close. I had hoped that she would be a more valuable source of information than she has turned out to be. Her father is quietly a dissident and knows more than he ever lets on."
"And she knows nothing?"
"She's not even sure what his political views are." He thought for a moment. "Make arrangements for Kent to be kidnapped. Once it is done, put out the word that whoever is responsible for this paper must turn himself over if Kent is to be released alive. Once that person is in our custody, kill Kent and get as much information out of the other man as possible and then kill him as well. Make sure the bodies will never be found."
George nodded and the two men parted.
"Langston, I want to go to Philadelphia. The society there is so much better."
"Without you? It would be a bit odd for me to show up without my new husband, wouldn't it?"
"Not if I am unavoidably detained by business and you're anxious to settle into your new home."
"How long will you be detained?"
"I think I have most of my local business taken care of. I have two people I need to meet with tomorrow and then I should be able to leave. It is a weeklong trip to Philadelphia, though."
Lara sighed. "I'll wait. When will we leave?"
"Day after tomorrow. First thing in the morning. Be ready. Did your father send your trunks yet?"
"I had them sent to Philadelphia. I didn't know we would be staying here so long. They should be there by the time we arrive."
Langston turned back to some correspondence, muttering under his breath about having to buy her more things. It wasn't that he couldn't afford them, but there were other things that were so much more productive that he could be doing with the money.
Lara sighed and went to the room that she occupied, often alone, in Langston's Boston home.
Leah sat in what she supposed was her new bedroom. The tears streamed down her cheeks. So Cal thought all of this was a big mistake. Well, there was nothing she could do about that, but she wasn't going to let herself be beaten. She'd be the best wife that she could under the circumstances. She would be the picture of perfection when there was anyone else around. Unless Cal was the one to tell people that this was a loveless marriage…
But that wasn't entirely true. Leah forced herself to admit, as difficult as it was, that she was in love with Cal. There was an undeniable connection between the two of them. The dreams she'd been having and the feelings of d‚j… vu were evidence of that. She just wished that Cal felt it as well.
She pushed thoughts of love out of her mind and focused on the task at hand. She quickly changed her clothes and fixed her hair again. She dashed some water on her face from the basin in her room and squared her shoulders, ready to take on the world and prove to all that she could play her role to perfection.
Martha looked up when Leah entered the kitchen. In response to the unstated question in Leah's eyes, she spoke. "Cal ate and went to the paper for a few minutes. He should be home in a couple of hours."
Leah nodded. "I see."
"Sit down, Leah." Leah did as she was told. Martha looked into her coffee cup and took a deep breath before starting. "I'm not proud of what my son has done, marrying a woman when he doesn't love her like a man should, but it is done and it can't be undone. He probably wouldn't want me to tell you this, but I'm going to anyway. He feels that he has ruined your only chance to have a happy, fulfilling marriage. He knows he shouldn't have done that, but he will try to make you as happy as he can." Martha looked at the young woman sitting across the table and saw the tears begin to creep into her eyes. "He's lucky to have you, Leah, and someday, he'll love you like you love him."
Leah looked at her wide-eyed. How did she know?
Martha smiled gently. "A mother knows, Leah. I won't tell him. It's something the two of you will have to work out together.
Leah was getting worried. She and Cal had been 'home' for over a week now. She was having a hard time thinking of Cal's house as her home, but that's what it was. They had settled into something of a semi-comfortable routine. She made the meals and kept the house neat and he went to the paper every day and came home every night. Conversation was kept light, dealing only with safe topics that never came close to the emotions of either partner.
Today was different. Cal was late. He had only come home after six once and then he'd sent someone to tell her that he'd be late. It was now after seven and there had been no word. She stared silently out the kitchen window wondering and worrying.
A knock at the front door startled her.
She quickly composed herself and answered the door. A young man she'd never met stood there.
"I'm Jamison. I work with your husband."
"He's mentioned you." Thoughts flew through Leah's mind. It was only seconds before Jamison spoke again, but that didn't matter. All kinds of horrible scenarios played out in her mind. If Jamison, one of his most trusted friends was here looking like he was searching for something — or someone — twisting his hat in his hand nervously, as though he was afraid to tell her something, things couldn't be good. Cal must be dead. Other frightening scenarios involving runaway carriages, British soldiers, and marauding wild animals ran through her mind. There was one other scenario that her mind refused to even acknowledge, but somehow she was aware of — the idea that he and Lara had met again somehow and run off together.
"Mrs. Kent, is Cal here by any chance?"
It was all she could do to get out the word. "No."
He took a deep breath. "May I come in please? I'm afraid I have some potentially bad news."
Leah nodded numbly.
Jamison motioned to someone astride a horse on the street. Whoever it was rode off quickly. "Martha and Jonathan will be here soon." He entered the home. "Would you like to wait for them?"
Leah shook her head. "Is Cal… Is he…" She couldn't bring herself to finish.
"No, ma'am. At least, not that I know of." He gently took her arm and led her to the couch in the front parlor. Once seated, he began to explain. "Cal came in this morning as usual and then left about noon, saying he was coming home for lunch." Leah nodded. Some days he came home, some days he didn't, but he had no way of knowing ahead of time, so she always prepared enough for both of them. "Did he make it here?"
Leah struggled to hold back tears. The connection she felt with Cal, the one that she couldn't explain, had been telling her all afternoon that something was horribly wrong, but she had pushed the feeling down, telling herself that she was being a worry-wart. She shook her head. "No," she answered quietly, a quiver in her voice. "Cal didn't come home for lunch. Do you have any idea what happened to him, Jamison? Please. Do you know where my husband is?"
Jamison, young though he was, had heartily disapproved of what Cal had done in marrying Leah and hadn't been afraid to tell his friend so. Cal had told him that the accusations were exactly what had been running over in his own mind ever since that first kiss. Looking now, into the deep brown eyes overflowing with tears, Jamison knew that this wasn't the truly loveless marriage he had thought it was. Leah was going to be absolutely devastated if something happened to Cal.
Martha and Jonathan chose that moment to enter the house. They also had scared looks on their faces. Jamison motioned for them to sit down before he went on. "No, Leah. I don't know where Cal is. Was there something he was supposed to do? Something that would have called him out of town on short notice? Anything of that nature that he might not have told me about?"
Leah shook her head. Jamison had just made the same inquiry of the elder Kents, when there was a knock at the door. Jonathan let Preston Adams in.
Preston introduced himself to Leah and then shared his news with the little group.
"I don't know how to tell all of you this, but… Great Shades of Chris Columbus, Cal's been kidnapped."
"What?" The exclamation came from several people in the room.
"This arrived a few minutes ago." Preston held out a piece of parchment. Someone had taken wax and placed cut outs from 'The Colonial Times' on a fresh piece. The paper's logo was on top and letters and words cut from the headlines spelled out a message.
Jonathan was the one to read it. "We have Caleb Kent. If the person behind this paper is not at the East India Tea Co dock at midnight, he will be killed."
Leah numbly reached for the paper. She looked disbelievingly at the hodgepodge of words and letters that made up the threat. Cal was gone. Kidnapped and how would they get him back? She wasn't that wise in the ways of the world, but somehow she didn't believe that they would just let him go if someone showed up claiming to be behind 'The Colonial Times'. And besides, *he* was the one behind the paper. How was he supposed to show up to assure his own release?
Preston looked inquiringly at Martha and Jonathan. At their discreet nods, he spoke. "We all know it's not possible for Cal to rescue himself, and I have my suspicions that they wouldn't release him anyway."
"Who's behind this, Chief?" Jamison paced anxiously.
"If I had to guess, I'd say Lenox. Not that we'll ever be able to trace it to him, but he's had it in for the paper since it started."
Leah seemed to come to some kind of resolution. She stood and squared her shoulders. "Well, then. I guess it's up to us to rescue him." She walked around the room as she spoke. "We'll need one of you two to get the word out to the entire city that we need whoever is behind the paper to show up and when. Mr. Adams, I think that should be you. Martha, I'll need clothes and a hat to make me look like a man. Jamison, you and I…"
"WHAT?!" The exclamation came from all corners of the room.
"If this is going to work, I can't be wearing a skirt. It'll get in the way. Jamison and I will go down to the docks and find Cal."
Protestations came from every side of the room, but Leah remained adamant. She was going to be the one to help save Cal. She wasn't going to sit around and do nothing like a helpless… helpless… Well, a helpless female. Her husband needed her. Things might not have been the best between them, but he was her husband and she cared for him a great deal and she was going to do everything in her power to make sure he came home safely.
Cal was tied and blindfolded. He had no idea where he was or who had brought him here. He had tried to get loose but nothing worked. He finally had what he had been avoiding for over a week. Time to think. He had driven himself to exhaustion, working all day, eating dinner with Leah and then spending the rest of the evening doing manual labor of some sort — chopping wood, cleaning the small barn behind the house where he kept his horses, working on his clandestine paper or some other such thing — until he was ready to drop. He'd then go into the house, call a 'good night' to Leah, and then collapse on his new bed after making sure the fire between their two rooms was enough to last the night.
But here there was nothing else for him to do but face the demons that had been haunting his every step since his wedding.
He loved Lara. That would never change. But he was married to Leah and therein lay the problem. He was married to a woman he'd never love. He had always been something of a romantic, enough so that he kept quiet about it so his friends wouldn't tease him. As soon as he saw Lara, he had known she was the one for him. The long blond hair and big blue eyes drew him in from the very beginning. He had courted several other young women before, but none had drawn him in as quickly or completely as Lara.
It hadn't been easy to court her, with a day's ride separating her home from his in Boston. He had visited as often as possible, but seldom saw her more than once every other month or so, but at least he'd been able to spend about a week with her and her family each time. The times they spent together were perfect. Or so he had thought. It must not have been that way for her because she was thinking of another man for at least part of the time. It was easier for him not to know how long she had been planning on leaving him for Langston. If he didn't know then he could pretend that she loved him up until the end and that at least part of what they had the last two years was real.
So what was he going to do? It was too late for him to live a happy life. It wasn't Leah's fault he didn't love her and he would try to make her happy, but it didn't seem that was his destiny. If things kept going as they were, he would never have children — something he had longed for since he was old enough to want it. He was destined to live a life of celibacy because he would never force Leah into anything and he would never break his marriage vows. He was mad enough at himself for how carried away he had gotten after their little romp in the snow, even if he had been asleep.
Of course, if he wasn't rescued soon, his destiny would end very, very soon. He held out little hope of being rescued. He didn't know why he had been taken or if anyone even knew he was gone. It would be hours before Leah started to worry. He sighed. He promised himself that he would try to be a good husband to Leah and even make a concerted effort to love her — if only he could get out of this blasted situation.
"Mrs. Kent, I'm not too sure about this," Jamison whispered.
"Shhh!" she hissed. "I'm John. And we have to be careful."
Jamison peeked carefully into warehouse. "Okay, *John*, there's two guys in here. While I distract them, you go through the crates to the back and get Cal. You'll have to hurry because it won't take long for them to come after me."
Leah nodded, feeling very uncomfortable in her male garb. Her hair was tucked under her hat and she didn't really like the boots Jamison had provided.
Jamison took a deep breath and entered the building. "Hello, gentlemen."
All he got was a look of disbelief.
"I know I'm not who you want — I'm not the guy behind the paper — but, I swear, none of us know who is and we haven't gotten any kind of response to the queries we put out today. Honest."
He had moved so that the two men were facing away from the door. He saw Leah walk quietly in and around so that she would be hidden from view. Jamison then moved back around so they wouldn't notice when Leah went into the room where they were sure Cal was being held.
Leah heard Jamison keeping the thugs occupied as she slowly opened the door to the back room. She looked around cautiously to make sure there was no one else in the room and then entered. She shut the door quietly behind her, and with a glad cry, ran to Cal's side.
He tried to look around, scared of what was coming.
"Cal," she whispered. "It's me. Leah. Jamison's distracting them now." She tore frantically at the ropes. "We've got to get you out of here!"
"Oh, right." She removed the cloth from his mouth. "Are you okay?" she asked as she worked at the blindfold.
"I think so. What are you doing here?" he hissed.
"Untying you." She almost had the knots undone. Finally, the ropes fell off of Cal. He stood and did a couple of deep knee bends and then turned to Leah.
His jaw dropped. "Leah?"
"Shhh." She walked to the door at the back of the room. The plan was for Leah and Cal to leave through this exit and Jamison would manage to leave through the front and meet up with them at the Kent home.
Cal and Leah heard Jamison shouting from the front part of the warehouse. Cal pointed to a spot behind some crates near the front entrance. "Wait here. I'm going to go help him."
Leah nodded and hid behind the crate. She heard shuffling sounds and the sound of something breaking and then Jamison's piercing cry of "Cal!"
She couldn't just sit there and do nothing so she made her way quickly and carefully to the front door. With any luck she would be able to help out. She peered in the door and saw Cal holding his jaw, blood running down his chin. There was a broken crate lying on the floor behind him. The dark headed man was coming towards him. They went round and round each attempting to hit the other. Some punches were thrown but each man was able to avoid the other's fists. Jamison was locked in a battle with the bald man and would be of no assistance to Cal.
Leah saw Cal slip on a wet spot on the floor. The bigger man was coming in for what would probably be the final blow. She couldn't stand by and do nothing. She grabbed a board lying on the floor and with an inhuman scream, ran towards the man and with all of her might, swung the board at his head.
He collapsed in a heap on the floor. Leah breathed a sigh of relief but the elation was short lived. Her hat had fallen off and her hair hung in waves around her shoulders.
"Well, well, well. What have we here?" The bald man crossed the room and soon had his beefy arm around her neck. "Okay fellas, here's the plan. The little lady and I are going to leave slowly. If you try to follow us, it's the end for her."
Cal and Jamison both had risen from their positions on the floor.
Cal was the first to speak. "Just take it easy, pal. That's my wife you've got there and if anything happens to her, so help me God, I *will* hunt you down."
"Your wife, huh? Didn't know you were married. I think me and the missus will go get better acquainted."
Leah could take no more. She lifted her foot and brought it down hard on the foot of the man behind her. While he was still reeling from that, her elbow caught him in the stomach. With another yell, she grabbed his arm and flipped him over her shoulder. As he lay moaning on the ground, Cal grabbed her hand and the three of them ran out of the building.
As soon as they were a safe distance away, Cal gathered Leah into his arms. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Cal."
"Do you realize what happened back there? You could have been killed! Why didn't you stay put?"
"You needed me." The events of the last few minutes ran over in her mind. The enormity of it all began to sink in. "Oh, my. I think need to sit down."
He put a supporting arm around her shoulder. "Let's get you home. Jamison, how did you two get down here?"
Jamison started to motion towards a nearby street where they had left the wagon in front of a saloon when Leah collapsed in Cal's arms.
"Come on, we've got to get her out of here." Cal followed Jamison and they hurried back to the Kent home.
Cal carried Leah into the house.
"Cal, you put me down this instant!" Leah didn't take kindly to being carried when she felt she could walk perfectly well on her own.
A worried Martha and Jonathan hurried to their side. "What happened? We haven't heard from Preston since the three of you left earlier."
Cal set Leah on the couch. "Oh, not much. Just that Leah took out both of my kidnappers by herself."
"WHAT?!" they both exclaimed.
"I thought Leah wasn't supposed to be involved in that part of your rescue," Jonathan continued.
Jamison entered from the back where he had been putting the horse in the barn. "She wasn't. She did it anyway."
"And it's a good thing I did too! Both of you were just lying there on the ground!" She was starting to realize just how much the whole ordeal had taken out of her. "I'm going upstairs to get ready to turn in. I hope all of you have a pleasant evening." And with that she stood and went up the stairs.
Cal followed her with his eyes, but sank wearily onto a chair.
"What happened?" Concern was written all over Martha's face. "And how are you? What happened to your lip?"
Cal wiped at the blood with his sleeve. "Nothing. I'm fine."
Jamison rolled his eyes and launched into an account of their adventures.
It was an hour before Cal managed to get his parents, Jamison, and the more recently arrived Preston on their way home. His mother had tried to insist on staying the night but Cal would have none of it. He trudged wearily up the stairs, pulling his shirt out of his pants as he went. He was surprised to hear Leah moving around in her room.
He knocked on the door. "Leah, can I come in?" When he heard her approval, he opened the door. "Leah, I wanted to thank you…"
He was cut short by her startled exclamation. "I can't believe your mother left with you looking like that!"
"What do you mean?" He was genuinely perplexed.
She dipped a towel in the basin on the little stand. "With all this blood on your face." She reached up and gently began to wipe at his face.
He reached out and took placed his hand over hers. "You don't have to…"
"It's fine. Really." She made the mistake of looking up. He was so close. Just inches away. His dark brown eyes met hers and pulled her in. She tried to distract herself by concentrating on cleaning his chin. "I really should put this shirt in to soak, or I'll never get this stain out." She reached out and began to unbutton his shirt, not realizing just what she was doing until the smooth skin underneath began to appear. Her breath caught in her throat.
Cal's breathing grew shallower as well. The stunning beauty of his wife was more than he could take. He laid his hand against the side of her face, his thumb running along her cheekbone as he leaned in and gently placed his lips on hers.
Leah was caught off guard by the warm feeling of his kiss, but she wasn't about to pull back. She closed her eyes and leaned in against him. She felt his hands move to her shoulders and gently massage her upper arms. Of their own volition, her hands started to finish unbuttoning his shirt. As soon as the last button was undone, she slid her hands around his waist reveling in the warmth of his soft skin.
Leah could hear Cal groan into her mouth as she ran her hands over his back. It somehow wasn't a surprise when he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. He laid her down gently, never releasing her lips as he lowered himself to her side.
Time seemed to stand still until much later when they lay side by side, curled up together as they had only once before, but this time with much less clothing coming between them. The warmth that enveloped them, as they lay close under the covers was more than enough to allow them to succumb to the fatigue that plagued both of their bodies. Leah was almost asleep when she heard Cal whisper, "Goodnight. I love you, Lara."
It was enough to shake Leah out of her state of near sleep. They had just shared something amazing together and then he had whispered her sister's name. She had every intention of rising, dressing and sleeping elsewhere, but the strong arm of her *husband* held her close. She finally wasn't able to fight her weariness anymore and fell asleep praying that he hadn't heard her declarations of love made in the throes of passion.
Cal awakened to the sunshine streaming in the window. The tousled dark head of his wife lay heavily on his chest. In so many ways, it was so comfortable and so right — as it should be. She *was* his wife after all. He remembered the night before, how they had truly become one flesh and fallen asleep in each other's arms. He had even told her he loved her. He wasn't entirely certain it was true, but he had said it. And he did love her in at least a good friend/little sister sort of way, but he didn't — couldn't — love her in the way that she would think he had meant it. The way he should have before ever making love with her.
But it was too late now. What would she expect from him now that they were lovers? What did he expect from himself? Instinctively, he knew that things couldn't go back to the way they were. Making love with her again was out of the question. It had been a beautiful, wonderful experience but it should never have happened and he couldn't let his emotions get out of hand again. It had been a long difficult day and he had been grateful for the part she had played in his release, but that was no excuse. As she stood there in front of him, unbuttoning his shirt, he had been overcome with appreciation for what she had done and her beauty had drawn him in. It was as though he was powerless to stop it. One minute he had been standing there and she was cleaning his chin and the next he lay wrapped in her arms, warm in the afterglow of something incredibly special.
He ran one hand through his hair — his other arm being thoroughly pinned down by Leah — and pondered what he had done. Well, at least he wouldn't die having never known what it was like to be with a woman. He immediately berated himself for the thought. He was a man, and as such should always be in control of his emotions and his actions.
What was he going to do? Was Leah going to expect him to be a doting husband? To share the same bed? To dress and undress in front of each other and do all of the other things married couples did? Kiss goodbye in the mornings? Hello at night? Did she expect him to put his arm around her in the carriage when no one was watching?
He sighed. What was he going to do?
The first thing that came to mind was to get up before Leah did and put off the confrontation that was sure to come.
He tried to move his arm only to have the blanket slip down some, exposing the creamy white skin of Leah's shoulders.
He gulped. This was going to be one of the hardest things he had ever done.
Leah had been awake for some time when Cal managed to extract his arm from underneath her. She couldn't believe what had happened the night before. First, Cal had kissed her and then they had shared something incredible — even better than what her mother had prepared her for. It was as though they had done that before, even though that was impossible. But then, then he had called her by her sister's name. She had thought that maybe he loved her like she loved him. He had certainly acted like she was the only woman in the world, like they were the only two people in the world and that they were destined to be together.
A silent tear stole down her cheek. It seemed there was no hope for them.
Christmas came several weeks after the lover's tryst. The younger Kent couple had planned to travel to see his parents, but a sudden snowstorm prevented them from it. Leah was glad for the respite. As much as she had looked forward to some time with Martha, she had been plain exhausted the last several weeks. Living with a man she loved but didn't love her must have been much more draining than she had expected. They saw each other rarely, except for breakfast and dinner.
Cal would leave immediately after breakfast, taking food with him for lunch. He would return for dinner, sitting silently at the table, scarcely looking at Leah and afterwards would retreat to the basement working diligently on his paper. During the day, while he was gone, Leah would sneak down there and read what he had been working on. She would often make notes in the margins of his work, making suggestions for rewording this sentence or suggesting that paragraph be moved up or down in the body. They never mentioned what she did between them, but often when she read the published papers, she would see that her suggestions had been taken.
It was the middle of January when everything changed.
"I'll be leaving in the morning."
Leah looked up, startled. Cal rarely said more than "Please" and "Thank you" at their strained meals. She managed to keep her voice level as she replied, "Really? Where are you going?"
"Philadelphia. The Second Continental Congress has been meeting there for some time and I need to be there to cover it for 'The Colonial Times'. I've spoken with my mother and you're welcome to stay with them while I'm gone if you don't want to stay here by yourself. I would recommend it. The Almanac says that this is going to be a difficult winter and it would not be good for you to be alone in the event of a heavy snowfall."
Leah nodded, her heart heavy. For just a moment, she had allowed herself to think that maybe, just maybe, he would want her to go with him. Of course he wouldn't want her to go. He had made it obvious that there was nothing between them, and though they had never spoken of their night of passion, it was clear that he regretted what had happened.
"I'm going under the pretense of covering the Congress for the 'English Review'. I probably will not publish anything on a regular basis, but I will be taking notes for future reference. I have spoken with John Adams and there is revolution in the air. There has been fighting of some sort for the better part of a year now, but it seems that it will be made official before too long. If independence is declared, perhaps I will no longer be forced to write what I believe in secret."
Leah nodded again. It was settled. She would live with Martha and Jonathan for an undetermined amount of time and she wouldn't see Cal for months, if not longer. A thought suddenly occurred to her. "Langston will be in Philadelphia."
"Won't that be dangerous?"
"Probably, but I have no choice. I HAVE to be there."
Wednesday, January 24, 1776 was cold. Cal thought the temperature might make it into the low twenties. It wasn't his first choice of a time to travel, but that was when Adams had decided to go and so he went too. The trip would be difficult and would take at least two weeks, but they would make it and soon, if Adams had his way, history would be made.
Leah lay down on the large comfortable bed in the home of her in-laws. Cal had been gone almost a month before the first letter arrived. It was addressed simply to "My family". There was no mention of her specifically and, for some reason she couldn't explain, that cut her deeply. The letter was little more than a journal of his trip to Philadelphia.
It is still the 24th of January and we are now in Cambridge. Tonight we are dining with George Washington. Washington is seemingly the opposite of Adams except in their ardent devotion to this new country Adams wants to form.
Martha Washington also joined us for dinner, as did families from the Caughnawaga Indians. John was introduced to the Indians as a member of the "Grand Council of Fire" at Philadelphia. What a way to describe the Second Continental Congress!
Tomorrow Elbridge Gerry, the newest Massachusetts delegate to Congress, will join us.
We have been on the road for several days now. It is difficult to make more than twenty or twenty-five miles a day, with darkness coming early and the cold becoming bitter as the sun goes down. We stay at taverns with wonderful food like wild goose on a spit, wine, bread and cheese, and of course a place for Adams to smoke his pipe afterwards.
It is now February 8, 1776 and we have finally reached Philadelphia.
I have been intending to send this letter for some time, but things here have kept me busy. Langston has me ever on the lookout for some of the "scalawags" that are the Congress. He wants me to catch them in some sort of wrongdoing so that they can be hung on charges other than treason — he hates to give what they are doing the dignity of prosecution. He is happy that my kidnapping seems to have the effect "whoever the kidnapper was" desired — the 'Colonial Times' has not been in print for some time now and he is still convinced that I have some knowledge of the matter.
It is mid-March now and I know that all of you must be anxious, as you have not heard from me since departing. I know that you are aware that we arrived safely through Mrs. Adams and I have received the letters that you have sent. John Adams puts me to shame, writing to his Abigail often several times a day. We have heard of the fall of Boston into Washington's hands and I pray that all of you are safe.
Martha and Jonathan somehow understood that even though the letter was addressed ambiguously, Leah needed to feel it was to her alone. She was the one to read it to them and then she took it with her to the room that had become hers. They were in the town near Boston where Martha and Jonathan lived. Braintree was also the home of John and Abigail Adams. Leah had met the amazing woman on several occasions and was infinitely jealous of the obviously close bond that the couple shared. They were definitely the best of friends and both wrote regularly.
Leah had hoped and prayed for a letter to arrive, but had little expectation that one would arrive for her and her alone. When it finally did, she was still disappointed that there was no mention of anything specifically for her.
A soft knock on the door interrupted her reverie. Martha entered and sat on the bed next to her daughter-in-law. "I know you're disappointed, Leah. I wish you would let us tell him. He would be home as soon as he could get here."
Leah shook her head. For now this was her secret, though it couldn't be kept a secret for much longer. Soon everyone would know.
She was having Cal's baby.
We recently received your letter. We are all very happy to know that you are well. I have spoken with Abigail several times and she had told your mother that all of you had arrived safely.
Your mother would like to hear from you more often, I know that. She worries about you constantly. Especially since you are in Philadelphia. You have to know how much that scares her.
I check on the house occasionally. Things there are fine, but if I didn't go sometimes, the dust would take over. I would love to hear more about the convention, if you think you could write about it without raising suspicions.
Leah put down the quill. She didn't know what else to say. She was madly in love with the man, but things were so strained between the two of them. She tried hard not to remember the one night they had been together, but it came unbidden whenever she thought about the child she was carrying. And as hard as she tried to stop the memories before they were ruined, she always remembered that he had said her sister's name before falling asleep.
She sighed and signed her name to the page. She would see if Martha or Jonathan had anything else to add before she sent it.
Just as she started to stand, there was a funny little fluttering in her abdomen. Could it be? She put her hand to her belly and there it was again. Their child was moving. Their child. She contemplated adding to the letter, but she didn't want Cal to know. Not yet. He obviously didn't want to be with her and adding a child to the mix at this point would only serve to make things more difficult. She wanted him to want to be here because he wanted to be with her, not out of some sense of obligation. She was doing just fine on her own for now.
She felt the fluttering again. There was a connection with the child she was carrying, but she couldn't help feeling that they had done this child a disservice by bringing him or her into a loveless family.
She sighed again and headed downstairs, uncertain of what the future would bring.
Cal opened the letter, glad to hear from home. He wondered idly how Leah was doing. Surely she was glad he was gone. Things had been so strained before he left. Ever since the night they had made love. He supposed it should have brought them closer together, but it had sent them further and further apart. Leah barely spoke to him and he had little to say to her. Even though he knew he still loved Lara and always would, there had been a connection that night. He wasn't experienced in that way with women, but it seemed almost cosmic. Much more of a connection than he would have expected.
He sighed and wondered if Leah had written anything. His mother had addressed the envelope. He hoped she wasn't going to berate him for the separation between himself and his wife again. He knew things weren't right, but he didn't need her to keep on him about it.
Much to his surprise, the letter was from Leah. It wasn't long, but he was glad to hear from her. He would be happy to tell her more about what was going on in Philadelphia. As long as he wrote it right, he wouldn't be considered a traitor. The question was how to do it without mentioning Langston. It would be cruel to mention her sister's husband. She would wonder if he had been spending time with Lara. He hadn't even seen Mrs. Lenox — that's how he made himself think of his former fianc‚ — but Leah wouldn't know that and to even mention the fact would let her know that he had been thinking of Lara and he couldn't do that to her.
He looked at the bottom of the page. He'd almost missed the note from his mother.
"I worry about both of you, Cal. You being so far away is difficult for Leah. She's been working on a double ring quilt for your bed, but no matter how little you've told me, I am your mother. Should she be holding out any hope for the two of you? Don't get her hopes up, Cal, or you'll have to answer to me. Don't forget that she is your wife. I love you, both of you. Mother."
He slowly folded the letter. Leave it to his mother to write no more than she had and say so much at the same time. So Leah was trying not to get her hopes up. He didn't blame her, but there seemed to be something more going on. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was something else there. Something his mother wasn't saying.
He looked at the part of the letter Leah had written again. That second paragraph, where she talked about how much his mother worried, could she have really been talking about herself?
He sighed. How had he made such a mess of his life?
It had been months since he received the short letter from Leah. His mother had written a couple more times, asking him to please consider what his silence was doing to his wife. He couldn't bring himself to write her yet. Things had been hectic and he'd written many articles for both papers. The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson in June, had finally been signed the day before. If he had thought May in Philadelphia had been bad, it was nothing compared to August. He longed to get back to the coolness of Boston.
His conscience continually pricked him. Leah had continued to write. Her letters were mainly short just telling him the little that was going on in her life and the life of his parents. They had spent several days at their home in Boston, cleaning it and airing it out as spring arrived. One of his father's horses had given birth to a colt. The letters were filled with trivia, never telling him how she was feeling or anything of a very personal nature.
The letters his mother had written drove him to try to read between the lines. He tried to make himself a disinterested observer and see what he could read into the letters. He grudgingly admitted to himself the letters seemed to be from a younger sister or a cousin rather than a wife and — he had a hard time saying it even to himself — a lover.
"Cal, will you be ready to head to Boston soon?"
Cal turned to look at the small, but imposing figure of John Adams. "Soon, John. I have nothing holding me here." And almost under his breath, "But nothing really drawing me home, either."
"What are you talking about, Cal? Of course, you have something to go home to! That lovely wife of yours and your coming child."
"Child? Leah's not having a child."
"That's not what Abigail wrote last. She wondered why you were staying away so long with your wife so close to her time. She said it couldn't be more than another month or so before the child arrives."
"It can't be." Cal stood and walked to the window. "They would have told me."
"You mean you didn't know? No one told you?"
"No. No one told me."
"If she's that close to her time, she must have known she was pregnant before we left Boston." John was truly puzzled. How could Cal not have known his wife was having a baby? And how could she not have told him? "Cal, forgive me for being blunt, but is there anything wrong between you and your wife?"
Cal slumped into a chair. "John, everything is wrong with me and my wife." He told him the whole story, how he had married Leah and about the kidnapping. "That's the only time we were… together. Things were even worse after that and so I came here. In some ways, it doesn't surprise me that she didn't tell me she was having a baby, but how could she keep something like this from me?"
"It's simple, Cal. She thinks you're in love with her sister."
"But I am. I don't want to be, but God help me, I am."
"Are you? Are you still in love with Lara?"
"Of course…" Cal stopped mid-sentence. He was in love with Lara, wasn't he? She had dominated his dreams ever since he first met her, except… It took him a minute to realize that he hadn't dreamed about her in months. Not since the night he spent with Leah. And when was the last time he had thought about her? Really thought about her? More than just in passing, hoping he wouldn't run into her the next time that he had to meet with Langston.
He had only seen her once and that was from a distance. She'd been leaving the house just as he was walking down the street, but that had been months ago.
But how often had he found himself staring off into space, thinking about the lovely young woman waiting for him at home? Often, he acknowledged to himself. He was so deep in thought that it was almost an hour before he realized that Adams had left. A knock at the door startled him out of his brown study. He quickly crossed the room to answer it and was shocked to see who was standing there.
It was Lara.
"Cal, I'm sorry to bother you, but I need help and you're the only one who can do it."
Cal was surprised at the lack of feelings he had when he first saw her. Sure there was some shock and surprise, but the feeling of his heart in his throat and overwhelming tenderness he used to feel was gone.
"I know I've been horrid to you and that you have no reason to want to help me after everything I've done, but I don't know anyone else well enough to ask for help."
"What is it, Lara?" Cal was still reeling from the realization that the feelings he thought he still had for Lara were no longer there.
"Langston is missing. I don't know where else to turn. I know you have connections in the rebellion. Could you please use them to make sure no one hurts him?" She hung her head. "Things haven't gone as I would have hoped since my marriage, but he is my husband and I don't want anything bad to happen to him."
Cal longed to make the hurt in her eyes disappear, but not as a lover might, but rather as he would feel for anyone in pain. "Well, Lara, let's see what we can find out." He stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him, hoping for Lara's sake that Langston was fine.
Several hours later Cal returned to Langston's stately home where he had left Lara when it appeared the seamy underbelly of Philadelphia was somehow involved with Lenox's disappearance. It was with a heavy heart that he lifted the large knocker and came face to face with his sister-in-law.
Lara's heart dropped when she saw Cal standing there. There was no mistaking the look on his face — something was terribly wrong. "What is it, Cal?"
Cal sighed as he entered the spacious foyer. A servant appeared from nowhere and took his coat and then another servant led them to a sitting room where tea was waiting.
Once they were seated, Cal began to tell Lara his story.
He had talked to various people that he knew and ended up in the worst part of town. There, just as he had been told, was the body of Langston Lenox. No one really knew what happened, but apparently he'd been meeting with someone and things had gone horribly wrong.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Lenox, but your husband is dead. I saw him with my own eyes. I made arrangements for him to be taken care of."
She waited for the stabbing pain in her heart, for the tears that should come when a spouse is dead. Not just dead but murdered, in all likelihood. It was several minutes before she realized there was nothing. Nothing but a sense of relief that he was gone. There were no tears in Lara's eyes. She pushed aside the niggling little part of her that said she should feel guilty. She had realized long ago that she had made a huge mistake. She never should have left Cal at the altar as it were. She had never loved Langston, and lately, hadn't even liked him much. Maybe there was still a chance to correct things. But now wasn't the time or the place. Maybe on the trip back to Boston…
"Will you stay with me for a while then? To help me sort everything out?" Lara refused to let her excitement show. She'd try to keep him from leaving her to deal with all of this on her own. And she'd have to decide what to do with Langston's money. Her father would be no help. He'd sent a short note disowning her, saying that she was no longer his daughter.
He shook his head. "I can't. I'm needed at home. I was getting ready to leave when you arrived."
"Perhaps I could travel with you?" She watched him nod slowly. Lara could see in his eyes that something at home was very important to him, more important than she had ever been. "It may be that my father would accept me back. If I apologize enough."
Lara was disappointed to find out that several other men were accompanying them home. If it had been just Cal, she would have convinced him to ride in her beautifully appointed carriage and tie his horse behind, but there was no chance of that now. In fact she spent most of the trip with no one but her servant who was attending her on the way to Boston.
It was somewhere along the way when they stopped for the night that Lara made her move. She asked that he join her for dinner in her room, attended, of course, by her servant, so there would be no suggestion of impropriety. She could see reluctance in his face as he agreed.
"Cal, I haven't been happy in my marriage. In fact, the whole thing was a mistake. I've missed you desperately. I know it's much too soon to be proper, but once it is, do you suppose that there is any chance for us?" She hurried on as Cal opened his mouth to speak. "I know I was horrid to you, but do you think you could find it in your heart to forgive me?" She looked at her with big blue eyes, pleading with him to understand.
"Lara, of course I forgive you, but there is no future for us."
"Why not? Can't we take some time and get past what I did to you? You said you forgive me. Why not give me another chance?"
"I'm not in love with you anymore, Lara. And more than that, I'm married. " And as he said it, Cal knew it was true. He didn't love her anymore and it gave him hope that someday he could love Leah the way she deserved to be loved.
Lara sat there in shock. Cal was married? She had heard nothing of his wife. She wondered who it was. Someone she knew? It was sudden after their non-existent wedding. Maybe there wasn't any hope for them after all. But on the other hand, perhaps he really didn't love this new woman. Perhaps there was some hope somewhere.
Deep down in a place that Lara refused to acknowledge existed, she knew that there was no way that Cal would ever leave his wife, whether he truly loved the woman or not. But as long as that part of her stayed buried deep within, she was free to attempt to win Cal back.
What had he said before that? He wasn't in love with her anymore? How could that be? How could he be in love with someone else so soon after their non-wedding? He would have had to fall in love in time to have married before he left because she was certain he had not married in the time he had been in Philadelphia. But how *much* in love could he have been if he'd left her so soon after their wedding? He'd been away from Boston for over six months now.
Cal wiped his mouth on his napkin and stood. "I'm sorry, Lara, but I shouldn't be here. My wife wouldn't understand."
Lara opened her mouth to protest but Cal was already out the door. Her shoulders slumped in defeat. Maybe she wouldn't be able to win him back after all.
Leah stared unseeingly out the window of her room. She knew Martha wouldn't bother her and Jonathan was out in the fields somewhere. She just wasn't ready to go downstairs yet. She really should get dressed and prepare to face the day but if she did that she would have to take off the shirt that Cal had given her so long ago, just after they were married. She doubted he even remembered that he had tossed it to her, much less that she had tucked it away in her trunk. It was large enough to cover her ever-expanding belly. This child was growing all the time and was rarely still. As soon as she lay down at night, it felt like her insides were getting bruised. Several months ago, she had no idea that a child as yet unborn could be so strong.
Her heart jumped when she saw what she thought was a familiar form walking towards Jonathan out in the field. For just a moment she thought it was Cal, but it couldn't be. He was still far away and there was little chance that he would arrive even before the child she carried was born. How would she ever explain to him when he arrived and there was a baby? He would arrive and there would be this little bundle, his child, and he wouldn't even have known that he or she was coming. What a surprise it would be when he finally came back from Philadelphia to find that he had a son or daughter.
She hadn't been able to bring herself to tell him that she was pregnant. She wouldn't even let Martha tell him in her letters. She had been afraid that somehow he would find out, through Abigail's letters to John perhaps, but if he had, there had been no word from him.
She turned dejectedly from the window and started to get dressed. She didn't see the two male forms walk in from the distant field.
She trudged wearily down the stairs, puzzled at the voices she heard coming from the kitchen. She shrugged slightly when she couldn't make out the words.
She opened the door to the kitchen. "Good morn…" The unfinished sentence hung in the air. Her heart jumped from her chest into her throat.
The baby kicked, hard, as a familiar voice said, "Hello, Leah."
Leah sat silently at the kitchen table, while Cal stared out the window into the garden. Martha had helped Leah into a chair and then the elder Kents had left the room.
Cal started at his hands, resting on the counter in front of him. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Leah didn't answer him.
"Didn't you think I had the right to know?"
Leah still just sat there.
Cal finally turned to look at her. "Are you going to answer me?"
Leah looked at him. She had prepared herself for rejection for questions of 'how could this happen?' and so on, but she hadn't been prepared for this. She hadn't prepared herself for the pain written all over his face. The dejection there was more than she could take.
Almost. It wasn't hard for her to remember that he had left her for over six months, leaving her at home with his parents so long during their first year of marriage.
"Why should I have told you?"
Though Leah's tone was quiet, there was an accusatory tone to it that put him on the defensive. "Because I am your husband and the father of this child! Aren't I?" As soon as it was out, Cal wanted to take it back. He knew there was no one else in her life and even if there had been a temptation, she would never have indulged it.
Fire shot out of her eyes. "Of course you are the father," she hissed. "That night is the only night…" She struggled to stand. "You're the one who left me here while you went gallivanting to Philadelphia, where your ex- fianc‚e lives, for 6 months, writing only once, and you *dare* to accuse *me* of infidelity?"
"Leah, I'm sorry. I never should have said that. I know you would never be unfaithful to me, nor I to you."
Leah dropped her head to look at her stomach. She gently used one hand to rub her belly.
Cal saw her standing there — realizing that she didn't believe him. That she thought there was a chance that he would have been with another woman — Lara probably. He quickly crossed to stand in front of her. He grasped her hands gently in his own, stooping slightly to look at her eyes. "Leah, I swear to you by all that is pure and holy that I never even looked at another woman. On my life, on the life of my family, on the life of this child." He reverently tried to touch her belly, but she jerked away from him.
"Don't touch me, Cal." She pulled her hands from his. "What right do you have to come here after so long with no word at all and expect things to be nice and sweet? What right do you have to think that I want you to have anything to do with this child? You left us!"
"I never would have gone, if I'd only known…"
"You would have stayed here? Would you have been happy about it? Would you have resented me and our child for not being able to cover one of the most important events of our lifetime? The creation of a new country?"
Cal sighed. "No. I needed to be there. I thought you understood that?"
"I did, Cal, I understood why you wanted to be there, but what about me?"
Cal looked at her, confused.
"*I* wanted to be there too, Cal."
So that was it, well, part of it, if Cal was honest with himself. He should have known that she would want to come. They had never spoken of it but from the notes she had made on the articles for 'The Colonial Times' and from their conversations before things had gotten so… strange, that she would have loved it there.
"Leah, I didn't think…"
"Exactly, Cal, you didn't think." Leah began to pace furious about the kitchen. "You didn't think at all." A thought occurred to her. "Or did you? Did you think that you didn't want me, your wife, with you in Philadelphia because I might interfere with your plans to meet up with Lara?" She began to dissolve into tears. "Was our one night together that horrid for you, Cal?"
He was completely confused at her leap of logic. "What are you talking about?"
"The one night we were together, the night this child was created, was it that horrible? That you couldn't stand the sight of me? That we shared something that I thought was so beautiful and so special that you told me you loved my sister?!"
"What?" Cal was now totally lost.
"After we… were together, you said 'I love you, Lara' and then you hardly said another word to me until you just left. You left me here and you went miles and miles away to the same town my sister was in. What am I supposed to think?" Tears were streaming down her face. "You left me, Cal. You left me for my sister!"
"Oh, Leah." How could she think that? "I didn't leave you for your sister. And I never said I loved Lara." Or did he? "I thought I said I loved you. If I didn't, and I said Lara, Leah, I swear to you that I never meant to hurt you. Honest!" He tried to move in front of her but she kept moving away. "Leah, I saw Lara only once or twice the whole time I was there and until the other day I never even spoke to her."
"Oh, you spoke to her? And now what? You tried to get her to leave Langston, didn't you?"
"Langston's dead, Leah."
That stopped her in her tracks. "What?" Her voice was soft. "Poor Lara."
Cal shook his head. "She came to me when she thought something was wrong and asked me to help her find him. When I did, he was dead. Murdered. When I told her, she admitted to me that she never really loved him."
With a little cry, Leah turned and ran out of the kitchen.
Cal sighed. What had he said now? He was starting to understand where some of their problems had come from. Oh, goodness — had he really told Leah he loved her and used Lara's name? No wonder she had been so quiet before he left. And he, he had done nothing to help matters. He didn't remember saying it, but he must have. Why would Leah make up something like that?
And then to go to Philadelphia! The fact that Lara would be there hadn't even entered his mind! He hadn't thought about it until the first time he went to Langston's home and saw her leaving and then he had made sure that he went when he didn't think she'd be there.
And now Leah, his sweet innocent Leah, thought that he had been there the whole time because of Lara or at least that he had seen her often. He *had* to straighten this out!
He left in the same direction she had taken and called out. "LEAH!"
He caught up with her upstairs in the hallway. He hadn't realized until then what she was wearing — his shirt. She must have been thinking about him at least some, that was a good sign. "Leah, you have to let me explain."
"Explain what? That you're still in love with my sister?"
"No, Leah. I'm not. I promise you, I'm not. I thought I was, but I was wrong."
"And when did you have this epiphany, Cal? When you found out you were going to be a father?" She turned to walk away.
"John Adams had to tell me, Leah. I had to find out from probably the most important man in the colonies that my wife was having my child. And he asked me if I really was still in love with Lara, and that's when I realized I'm not sure that I ever really loved her."
"That's convenient, Cal."
"I know, Leah. But I swear it's true. I don't love Lara."
She turned to look at him. "But do you love *me*, Cal?"
She went into her room and sat heavily on the bed, afraid of what his answer would be.
He followed her in and sat next to her. "I don't know, Leah. I just don't know." He saw a tear start to roll down her cheek. "I want to Leah, I really do, but we have to be honest with ourselves, child or not, we barely know each other."
She nodded slowly. She had known that the whole time. "I still don't understand why you left me here. Why you told me you loved Lara."
"I don't remember it at all, Leah, I promise you. I thought I said Leah, and even then I wasn't sure I hadn't dreamed that." He turned her to look at him. "That night we were together? Leah, that night was the best night of my life. I've thought of little else. It bothered me for a long time that I could think of such a night with you when I really loved your sister." He saw her start to cry again. "But then John knocked some sense into me. He made me see that I don't love Lara, I never really did. He made me look at myself and when I did I found out that I want to love you."
"Really?" Leah couldn't believe it.
He nodded. "I want to spend the rest of my life getting to know you and learning to love you."
It was as though they were drawn together by magic and then their lips met in a sweet promise of things to come. When they parted, Cal sighed.
"I wish I didn't have to do this to you right now, I want to learn all about you, this baby — *our* baby — but I have to go to Boston. I'll be back soon, I promise. Can you wait a little longer for me to come back?"
She nodded. "If you promise you'll be home tonight."
He leaned his forehead against hers. "I promise." Their lips met again, this time with a hint of the hunger and need they both felt and were just starting to admit existed.
It was almost ten before Cal returned home. He'd met with Preston and discussed some ideas about a newspaper in one of the larger cities in the new United States. He had hoped to get home earlier and have some time to talk with Leah. He couldn't expect her to stay up this late at night. Not with the baby coming and how early things started to stir at the farmhouse.
That's why he was surprised to see light in several windows. He knew his mother would leave one on for him, but several?
He walked into the parlor to see Leah asleep in a chair. Her neck was at a crazy angle and he knew if she slept that way all night, she would have a horrible pain in her neck when she woke. She must have been trying to stay up and wait for him. He quickly extinguished the lights in the house, relying on the moon to guide him.
He crouched and lifted her carefully, planning to carry her up to her room. She was heavier than he remembered but then she was pregnant now. A thought occurred to him. Now that he and Leah had sort of made up, where was he supposed to sleep? Would she expect him to sleep in the same bed with her? Or would she want him anywhere near?
"Hurry home, Cal," he heard her mumble.
"Shhh. I'm here, Leah."
"I've missed you." She snuggled her head into his shoulder. "I love you."
He almost stopped dead in his tracks, one foot in mid-air reaching for the stair above.
She loved him? Was it possible? Could she, somehow, have fallen in love with him? It would have to have been before he left, if she had, because he hadn't been back long enough for her to love him from today alone.
He came to his senses rather quickly when he started to lose his balance and he quietly went up the rest of the stairs.
He groaned quietly as he realized that her bed was still made. How was he going to turn down the covers with her in his arms? He thought for a moment and then sighed. He finally decided to lay her down on the spread and get another, light, cover for her. It was a warm August night and he didn't think she'd need much.
He set her on the bed and tried to untangle himself but Leah had one hand on the back of his neck.
"Don't leave me, Cal."
"Shhh. It's okay — let me get a sheet and take my coat off — I'll be back. Right back."
He moved her arm and situated her head on the pillow. He wondered whether he should really lay down with her. What would she think when she woke up? What if she didn't remember asking him to stay and woke up with him next to her? What if she did remember and he slept in another room?
But she had never said anything about sleeping, just not to leave her. And she wasn't entirely coherent anyway. He sighed as he laid the sheet over her.
Her eyes opened. "Cal?"
He sat next to her. "Yes, Leah?"
"You're really here," she murmured sleepily. "I thought I dreamed it."
"No," he smiled at her. "You didn't dream it. I'm here."
"Stay with me?"
She moved to the other side of the bed and patted the spread next to her. "I've dreamed of having you hold me in your arms again for so long."
He spread his long frame next to hers and wrapped his arm around her. "I've dreamed of it too, Leah." Leah was asleep again in minutes. Cal lay there listening to her breathe for some time before he fell asleep too.
Leah was having the most beautiful dream. She was lying in her bed at Cal's parent's home with her back snuggled into the strong chest of her husband and his arm was wrapped around holding her close. She'd had this dream before, but never as vividly as this. She didn't want to open her eyes; didn't want the dream to evaporate in the morning light like it always did.
But what was that? Soft breath teased the hair at her temples. And the arm around her pulled her just a little closer.
"Good morning," a voice whispered.
Leah's eyes flew open. Was it possible that this wasn't a dream? She looked down and there was the tanned, muscular forearm she'd seen so often while sleeping.
She closed her eyes again and laboriously tried to roll over — something that had gotten more and more difficult as the months had progressed. She tried to hide the grimace she knew graced her face entirely too often just in case he really was there.
She realized she was unsuccessful when she heard a soft voice, full of concern. "Leah, are you okay?"
She let out a breath and opened her eyes, hoping this wasn't her imagination running wild. She was completely unprepared for what she saw. Cal was propped up on one elbow and the light sheet that covered both of them had fallen away to reveal his well-formed, bare, bronze chest.
She felt herself inhale sharply. It wasn't a dream. He was here. Wasn't he? She reached out to touch his face. "Cal? Is that really you?"
She saw him smile gently. "It's really me."
"I thought I was dreaming."
She closed her eyes as he cupped her face in one of his hands. She leaned her head into the palm. "No, you're not dreaming. I'm here."
The events of the day before came back to her. "And you don't love Lara."
"No." Even with her eyes still closed, she could feel him shaking his head. "No, I never did."
They stayed like that for a moment before she heard him speak again. "Are you okay, Leah?"
She opened her eyes and tried to keep from looking at that chest. It would only muddle her mind. "I am now, Cal."
"You looked like you were in pain."
She laughed. "I'm used to it."
"What?" She saw a look of confusion on his face. "Are you in pain now?"
"Lay down. What is it? Do I need to get my mother? I mean, I don't want to leave you, but I don't know…"
Leah laughed again as she let him help her rest on the bed. "It's okay, Cal. I'm pregnant."
She saw him gesture to her stomach. "I noticed."
"Being pregnant sometimes brings pain."
Leah smiled. His ignorance was so cute. "Yes, it does. Babies take up room and they have to make it sometimes. It feels like my bones have moved around over the last 9 months and they probably have. Have you ever had a broken bone?"
"When I was ten."
"Did it hurt?"
"It's sort of like that."
"I'm sorry, Leah."
"Don't be. I'm used to it and I wouldn't trade this child for anything." There was a sharp kick in her ribs. She looked down at her stomach. "Yes, little one, we are talking about you."
"You talk to him?"
"Yes, all the time. And who's to say that this isn't a 'her'?"
She watched the smile cross his face. "Can she hear you?"
"I think so. She kicks me often enough."
Leah was struck by the intimacy of what she was about to do. Just the previous morning she had despaired of Cal ever being this close to her again, but here he was. How things could change in so short a time!
"Would you like to feel?" she asked shyly.
She watched his eyes widen. "Could I? Could I feel the baby move?"
"You don't mind?"
"No." She reached for his hand and placed it where he was most likely to feel the baby's movements.
"I don't feel anything."
"Shh, wait. Have patience."
Cal couldn't believe what was happening. He had woken up holding this beautiful woman in his arms and now he had one hand on her stomach waiting to feel his child move.
His child. That was an amazing thought. He was going to be a father. A *father*! It was overwhelming.
His head jerked around. "What was that?"
"That was the baby, silly."
He felt something again and this time he could have sworn he saw her shirt move. Her shirt? His shirt. The one he'd given her so long ago. She'd been wearing it yesterday morning too.
It moved again. Could this baby be strong enough to actually move the shirt? He stared and before he knew what he was doing, he had moved his shirt and was looking at Leah's bare skin. It was so smooth and creamy with her little round belly button sticking out.
He heard Leah gasp. For a moment he wondered if he'd gone too far but was distracted by another movement. This… lump started moving on the side closest to him and then traveled across her stomach to the other side.
His eyes wide, he looked at her. "That's the baby?"
He could see some uncertainty in her eyes, but she smiled. "Yes. He or she is usually quite active."
They were interrupted by a gentle knock on the door.
Cal rolled back over as Leah pulled her shirt down and pulled the sheet up. He cleared his throat and called out, "Come in."
"Mom, you didn't have to do this." Cal looked hungrily at the plates of food his mother brought.
"Now, Cal, I know you two needed your sleep, but you also need nourishment, so I brought you breakfast."
"Mom, this really was unnecessary," Leah reiterated.
Cal looked at her in surprise. He hadn't been aware that she was calling his mother 'Mom', but it seemed to fit.
"Oh, and this came for you earlier, Cal." Martha handed him a sheet of parchment.
Cal opened and read the sheet, groaning as he did so. "I've got to go back to Boston today. I have to help settle some of Langston's affairs."
"Why you? I don't want you to…" Leah stopped mid- sentence, not sure what Cal would think if she said she didn't want him to go.
Cal turned to her, brushing a strand of hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear. "I don't want to go either, ma cherie." Leah started to tear up at the French term of endearment. "I must. I will be home tonight, I promise." As he leaned in to kiss her he realized that his mother had somehow managed to leave the room without making a sound.
Cal rode home with a happy heart. Things were going very well. Leah wouldn't be pleased that he had seen Lara, but their father had been there, too and he had wonderful news. Hopefully, that would over shadow the thoughts that he'd spent part of the time with his ex-fianc‚e.
He whistled cheerfully as he entered the farmhouse, glad that he was in time for dinner. "I'm home," he called.
"We're in the kitchen," Martha called back.
Cal entered the kitchen to see the three other members of his family sitting there. Without even thinking, he kissed Leah on the cheek as he sat down.
"Tell us about your day, son," Jonathan asked.
"Well, we're settling Langston's estate and there's a whole lot of money being donated to start a new newspaper!"
Leah asked softly. "Lara's money?"
"She was there." It wasn't so much a question as a statement.
Cal nodded again. "So was your father."
Leah looked up. "Daddy was there?"
"Yes." Cal took a deep breath. "Leah, are you ready to move back to our home?"
Leah nodded. "I like it there, Cal. It makes me think of you," she added shyly.
"Good. Um, because, your father sort of invited himself over for dinner tomorrow night. He didn't know you were staying here and well, I couldn't get a word in edgewise."
Martha was efficiently moving around the kitchen of Cal and Leah's Boston home. Leah was trying to help but was generally just getting in the way.
"Sit down, Leah," Martha commanded. "You're going to give birth here and now if you're not careful."
Leah sighed and sat heavily in the chair. "But this is my house, Mom. I want to do things myself."
Martha sat across from her. "I thought I had pounded this into your head before. Your first responsibility is to this baby."
"I know, but I have this hard head…"
"And I wouldn't have it any other way." Cal dropped a kiss on the top of her head as he entered the kitchen.
Leah blushed as she remembered early that morning. They had spent another glorious night together in the room at the Kent farm, holding each other all night, enjoying being close to each other.
"Cal," Leah whispered as she awoke, before the sun rose, "what are you doing?"
"Shhh. I'm talking to the baby." He was kneeling next to her side of the bed, one hand resting gently on her stomach.
Leah laughed quietly. "I see that. What are you saying to this child?"
Cal looked offended. "I'll have you know, this is a private conversation, missy." Cal moved towards the head of the bed. "Though I wouldn't mind telling his or her mommy a thing or two as well."
Leah blushed just thinking about the passion that enveloped the two of them in the pre-dawn dusk. Cal's kisses… It was too bad she had yawned and he'd insisted she get some more sleep.
"My father will be here soon and I should help…"
"Listen to my mother, Leah," Cal admonished sternly. "She's helped many pregnant women."
Leah sighed. "It seems I'm outnumbered. I'll be good, I promise."
"Good. Now, go upstairs and lay down for a few minutes. The rest will do you good." Martha looked in the cupboards and sighed. She was going to have to send Jonathan to the market before she could make dinner.
"Oh, Mom, I stopped at the market and they're sending some things over for dinner."
Martha sighed in relief. "Thank you, Cal. Now, get that wife of yours up to bed." Martha pretended not to notice the blush that spread across the faces of the younger couple.
Martha answered the knock at the front door while calling to the rest of the household that their guests had arrived.
She smiled to herself as she glimpsed Cal helping his wife down the stairs while she hurried back to the kitchen to finish dinner. She knew they would both be able to handle what was about to happen.
Leah was patting her hair down and Cal was finishing tucking his shirt in as they entered the room.
"Daddy!" Leah called out and then stopped short.
Lara sat there next to their father.
Leah watched as her sister's face dropped and was certain that hers was ashen as well.
Cal realized the awkward situation, as they all did, and resolved to make the best of things. "Mrs. Lenox, Mr. Lincoln. Thank you for coming to see us. Mrs. Lenox, I am certain you remember my wife." He moved one arm protectively around Leah.
Lara managed to clamp her lips tightly shut as she took in the very pregnant shape of her sister. It couldn't be possible that Cal had married her sister instead? And for her to be so pregnant!!! Cal had said that he was married, but nothing about a baby!
"Cal, when you said you'd married… I had no idea." Lara turned to her father. "Why didn't you tell me, Daddy?"
Leah could take no more. The hormones that had sent her on an emotional roller coaster for months now finally boiled over, and with a small cry she fled the room. Even the feel of Cal's arm around her hadn't been enough to bolster her in the face of her sister's look of disapproval.
She heard Cal call after her but didn't turn around, didn't stop until she found herself lying on the bed she had shared with Cal moments earlier and so many months before.
Downstairs, Lara sidled up to Cal and took his arm in hers. "Cal…"
"No, Lara. There's nothing left for us, there never was. I just couldn't see it before. I never loved you, not really. I just thought I did, but I didn't know what love was."
A cry from upstairs caused heads to turn and Cal instantly bolted from the room.
"I'm not leaving, Mother. I don't care if husbands aren't usually in the room during delivery, I'm not leaving."
The room was crowded after all of the family members hurried upstairs. Martha quickly tried to shoo them out, but Cal would have none of it.
He sat next to Leah and looked at the rest of the room. "Leah and I were made to be together." He turned to his wife and brushed a strand of hair out of her face. "I've never been happier in my life," he whispered softly. With a hint of steel in his voice, he added, "And I'm not leaving."
Lara watched them together and felt her heart swell. She had always loved Leah, in a big sister way, and there was no denying that the two of them were happy and in love. As she watched the two of them together, Leah in obvious pain and Cal obviously concerned, she realized that Cal was right. He had never loved her and she had never truly loved him. Everything that had happened since the death of her husband — including a strange recurring dream in which she killed most of her family members and Langston wasn't really dead — culminated in that instance and she had grown up. She became a woman and was able to see her own shortcomings and be happy for others even if she wasn't happy herself.
Cal couldn't believe the kind of pain Leah was in. He had never been close to a child-birth before. He had heard that it was painful for the woman in question, but no one had mentioned that it was painful for fathers as well. Granted they were rarely in the room during the delivery — and he think he understood why. Seeing Leah like this, knowing he was partially responsible, knowing there was nothing he could do, was too much. And his hand hurt besides.
He heard his mother telling them it was almost time for Leah to push. He helped her into a sort of sitting position and held her as she tried to push.
It was nearly two hours and countless pushes later, when Martha announced that one more should do it.
Leah cried out as she pushed one more time.
Tears ran down both of their faces as a small cry was heard.
Cal leaned his forehead against Leah's mussed hair and whispered to her. "I love you, Leah." He helped her lay back down and turned to his mother who wrapped the child in a blanket and held the child out to Cal.
"It's a boy."
Leah's world shimmered around her as she watched as Martha handed the baby to…
Lois closed her eyes as she lay back and tried to ignore the pain that she was in. It was as though the epidural she'd asked for had never taken effect.
All she wanted to think about was Clark and their son.
"He's beautiful, Clark."
Clark kissed her on the side of the head. "He is. You did a wonderful job."
"It wasn't easy you know."
"I know. If I wasn't," his voice lowered, "the man of steel, my hand would be a mass of bruises."
"What are we going to name him? Your mom is dying to know."
"I have one that I like, but want to know what you think. What about Jonathan?"
"Jon?" Lois looked at her son as he lay sleeping in her arms. "He doesn't look like a Jonathan or a Jon to me. Not that I don't like the name, mind you," she added quickly. "Maybe just for our next son."
"So even after all that, you're willing to have another one?"
"Of course. Not for another 10 years, but why not?"
"What if the next one is a girl?"
"Yep. I've always loved the name Maggie — and if it's good enough for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, it's good enough for me."
Clark laughed. "Okay then." He reached out to stroke the tiny cheek. "That still doesn't solve this little problem though."
Lois thought for a minute. "What if we named him after his daddy?"
"No, Tom in Accounting. Yes, you silly."
"Clark? Wouldn't that get confusing?"
"Nope. Clark Jonathan. CJ."
"You've thought about this, haven't you?"
"So what if I have? Do you like it?"
Clark nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. "I like it very much." He choked up a bit. "Welcome to the world, CJ."
A knock on the door interrupted their family moment.
"Hey guys!!!" Lucy hurried in. "How's my nephew?"
Lois smiled. "CJ is fine. He's sleeping, though. Being born is hard work."
"CJ? I like it. Can I hold him?"
"Sure." Lois gently handed her tiny baby over to her sister.
Lucy made some undefinable cooing noises. "You know, Clark, if you make babies like this, maybe we should have been together."
Clark chuckled. "Sorry, Luce. Lois and I were made for each other."
"I know, I know. But he is a sweetie."
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Jimmy stuck his head in the door.
"Not at all. Come on in, and meet CJ. Oh, and this is my sister, Lucy. I think you've met her."
Jimmy gulped. He had met Lucy before, but seeing her standing there holding CJ he was struck by how much she had grown up. He was definitely going to have to get to know her a little better.
"Perry, what can you tell us about this painting?" Clark had pulled the picture down from the "Wall of Fame" in the newsroom. The wall had pictures of the big players in the Daily Planet history — including, but not limited to, Norcross and Judd and more recently, Lois and Clark.
Perry took the frame from him. "Hells bells. What are you looking up these guys for? And Lois aren't you supposed to be home recuperating?"
"I'm fine, Chief." She looked at CJ lying in his stroller and smiled and then turned back to her editor. "Now spill it."
"Well, these five founded the Daily Planet. The distinguished looking gentleman here was Preston Adams, cousin to both Samuel and John Adams. Before he started the Planet, he worked for a British publication and helped put out a rebel paper in Boston. This couple here is Cal and Leah Kent. Are they relatives of yours, Clark?"
Clark cleared his throat. "Uh, I'm adopted, Chief."
"Right. He does kind of look like you though — they both look a little like both of you. Cal was the one behind the rebel paper. If I remember correctly, he was supposed to marry Leah's sister, Lara, but she married a guy named Langston Lenox. He was a bigwig in the colonies. Kind of a colonial Lex Luthor. Rich and dirty as they come. Anyway, when she ran off with Langston, Cal married Leah instead. They both wrote for the Planet. They were a progressive paper, letting her do some reporting. They uncovered some major corruption in the new government as well as some British Loyalists still in the States trying to sabotage the new government."
"Sounds like my kind of woman." Lois had a strange feeling of deja vu, but shook it off when she couldn't remember any more.
"She was a lot like you. Her maiden name was Lincoln. I don't remember exactly how, but she was related to Abraham in some way or other. The other couple here is Jamison and Lara. Langston died during the Revolution and Lara realized what a horrible thing she had done to Cal, but Leah and Cal were really more suited for each other, anyway. I think she and Jamison married sometime later. They had all lived in Boston until the spring of 1777 and then they moved to Metropolis to start the Daily Planet. Why the curiosity?"
"Just saw it there and it piqued our curiosity. There's something about it…" Clark shook his head. "Can't quite put my finger on it though."
"Well, it hasn't been up long. A little guy in a bowler hat brought it by a few days after CJ was born. The only other one we had was lost in the explosion a few years ago. Now, put it up and get back to enjoying your time off."
The three chatted for a few minutes longer and then the new parents took their baby and left.
Later that night, Clark watched his sleeping baby and knew that now, as much as he loved Lois, he finally knew what love really was. Unconditional love. This little child he had known for such a short time had taken over him so completely. He finally understood why his parents had taken an alien child in, no questions asked, and why they dealt with everything they had while he was growing up and developing powers and so different from the other kids.
What a wonderful thing.
"Oh, and this came for you earlier, Cal." Martha handed him a sheet of parchment.
Cal opened and read the sheet, groaning as he did so. "I've got to go back to Boston today. I have to help settle some of Langston's affairs."
"Why you? I don't want you to…" Leah stopped mid- sentence, not sure what Cal would think if she said she didn't want him to go.
Cal turned to her, brushing a strand of hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear. "I don't want to go either, ma cherie." Leah started to tear up at the French term of endearment. "I must. I will be home tonight, I promise." As he leaned in to kiss her he realized that his mother had somehow managed to leave the room without making a sound.
"Cal! So glad you could come!" Lara held out her hands to him.
"Mrs. Lennox. Good to see you are doing well." Cal pointedly ignored the outstretched hands.
"CAL! My boy! How are you?" Samuel Lincoln entered the room, his booming voice preceding him.
"Now what did I tell you about that?"
"Sam. How are you?"
"I'm fine, son. And you?"
"Just fine. Spent the night with my family. It was great to see them."
Sam looked Cal directly in the eye. "And how is my beautiful daughter?"
Lara sighed impatiently. "Daddy, I'm right here."
Sam smiled. "I know, sweetheart, and I know that you are doing as well as can be expected if not better. I meant Leah. How is she, Cal?"
"She's fine. She's at the house with my folks."
Lara couldn't digest anything else that was said. Cal was married to Leah? And they were having a baby? There was no way. He couldn't love her. Not like he had loved Lara. For a brief moment she felt hostile towards Cal for taking advantage of her innocent little sister, but the sensation was fleeting.
How dare she!
Who did she think she was — taking Cal from her! That little hussy! She must have thrown herself at him and Cal, her Cal was too much of a gentleman to have let her embarrass herself like that and so he married her. That was the only explanation.
That didn't mean that she was going to let him get away with it.
The two men looked up from the paperwork as Lara reentered the room.
"Where'd you go sweetheart?" Sam asked.
"I had to get something."
"What?" her father asked idly.
"This." The shiny silver of the handgun startled both men.
"Lara!" Her father choked out as she heard Cal's sharp intake of breath.
She walked towards them. "Married my sister did you? Happily ever after? Not in this lifetime or any other. You will never be truly happy for betraying me! Never. SIT DOWN!" She pointed the gun at her father who had been sneaking towards her as she talked to Cal.
Sam decided it was better to bide his time and sat in the chair indicated.
"Remember those lessons you gave me? The ones I hated on how to handle a gun? I *know* how to shoot."
Sam nodded, trying desperately to think of a way to de-arm his daughter.
"Lara," Cal tried placating her. "Maybe we can work something out. Maybe you and I could run away together. I never really stopped loving you, you know." He knew even as he said it, it was a lie, but he had no choice. Not if he wanted to survive.
Lara looked at him with large child-like eyes. "Could we, Cal? Could we run away together? You and me? Like it was always supposed to be?"
Cal wavered for just a split-second before nodding.
That was all it took. A wild look came over her face. "LIAR!" she hissed. "You are a liar and my sister is a thief." She pointed the pistol at him and pulled the trigger.
The recoil knocked her into the setee behind her.
"LARA!" Her father rushed towards her.
She regained her composure in time to stop him in his tracks. He fell beside her former intended as she pulled the trigger again.
She stepped carefully around them and went momentarily into another room. She soon exited the home and entered her beautifully appointed carriage.
Some time later as she exited Boston on her way to the home of the elder Kents, she heard an explosion and smiled.
A knock sounded at the door and echoed in Leah's heart. She stopped her pacing upstairs in the room she now shared with Cal. She listened carefully as Martha opened the door. She'd had a horrible feeling for hours now and didn't know what was causing it. She was terribly afraid that something awful had happened to Cal.
Leah could hear Martha talking downstairs but couldn't make out the words.
She was surprised when her name was called.
"Leah, there's someone here to see you."
She wondered who it could be. Maybe Abigail had come for a visit. After all, they had become friendly while their husbands were away.
She trudged wearily down the stairs, the child she carried making everything more difficult than it used to be.
Leah was surprised to see Lara standing there.
"Cal asked me to bring you to him."
There was something in Lara's eyes that Leah had never seen before, but she nodded slowly and called to Martha that she was going to see Cal and would be back later.
The ride back to Boston was a silent one, with Lara occasionally pointing out a bird or some other thing.
Leah saw the thick black smoke rising from the center of town and for some inexplicable reason, her heart was filled with dread.
Lara heard her gasp as she saw the billows of smoke rise into the sky. She laughed lightly.
Leah looked at her in disbelief. "It's Cal, isn't it? Cal's in that fire."
Lara nodded. "So is Daddy."
Tears fell from Leah's eyes as she realized what this meant. Her father and the father of her child were most likely dead.
The carriage came to a stop in front of the tall building next to the near-ruins of Langston's Boston home. "Go inside," Lara commanded.
"No." Leah wasn't sure what her sister was up to but she wasn't going to go anywhere else with her until she knew what it was.
An explosion again rocked the city and Leah saw the silver of a handgun appear in her sister's hand. "Preston and Jamison are dead now too and so is any hope you had of being safe. Now move."
Leah did as she was told and led her sister up the stairs to the roof. Once there, she looked desperately for any way to escape. There was none.
"You stole my husband."
"I didn't, Lara. You left."
"You stole him and that child should be mine."
"Silence." Lara advanced towards Leah slowly.
Leah backed away from her. The back of her dress grew hotter as she came closer to the flames.
"Cal's dead, Leah, and it's time for you to join him. Either jump or I'll shoot you. It's your choice."
"No." The weak protest barely escaped her lips.
It wasn't until she was teetering that she realized she had reached the edge of the abyss and she plunged screaming into the void.
The smattering of applause from behind her didn't startle Lara in the least.
"That was wonderful, darling."
Lara turned and extended her cheek to Langston for a kiss. "It was, wasn't it?"
Martha and Jonathan mourned the death of their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild, and then did the only thing they could do and moved on with their lives. It was a year to the day after the death of their beloved family members that they saw the streak of fire in the sky. They along with their neighbors stared wide-eyed into the night and never knew what hit them when the asteroid landed right on top of their home, obliterating it and everything around it.
HG Wells observed sadly what had become of the world in the late 1700s and wondered what effect it would have on the world yet to be in the lives of his favorite time travelers. He adjusted his soul tracker and in a flash of light appeared in 1998. He quickly found the soul of Clark Kent living with Lucy Lane and their four children. Sadly, many of the people now had a third eye or a third arm as a result of the radioactivity that seeped into their water supply for hundreds of years. Superman didn't exist as Martha and Jonathan never encouraged their son to develop his skills and use them to help others. Perry was locked up in an insane asylum for singing Elvis songs. The only problem was, Elvis had never been the King. Jimmy was no where to be found and Lois meted out a sad existence working for the National Tattler.
HG turned away in despair. Perhaps he would never mess with another time line again.