Buck paced…and paced…and paced. Unfortunately,
the room was small so the path from the window to the wall and back
again wasn’t very satisfying. But he kept it up, hoping it would
give him time to sort this whole mess out. His stride was
determined, so much so he was almost marching. Stopping suddenly,
he looked at the other occupant, who had been standing quietly by the
door and watching him.
“I really can’t believe you did that.” He shook his head and
Millicent Arrington, or Millie as most of her friends called her,
watched Buck’s intense consideration of the problem. The whole
situation amused her but she couldn’t quite bring herself to laugh,
especially since Buck seemed rather put out by her actions. After
a few more minutes of his back and forth movement, she felt a slight
headache and neck ache from the motion so she decided to end this.
“I don’t know why you’re upset,” she said, walking a few steps closer
to the man.
“You don’t know why?” Buck said, exasperatedly. “You just asked
me to marry you in front of…” he waved his hand in the direction of the
bedroom door, “in front of everyone!” He grimaced and the blush
that had appeared when she first asked him, appeared again.
“Everyone?” she echoed, with a slight giggle. “Your closest
friends who are your family?” She sighed as she watched him shake
his head violently.
“That’s not the point. You asked me to marry you. It’s not
done that way…it’s, well, it isn’t proper.” He turned to her, the
anxiety showing in his eyes as he added, “You deserve courting,
flowers, a proper…”
“Stop,” she pleaded, quickly rushing to him and closing the gap between
them. “I love you. That’s all I need.” As she tried
to take his hands, he pulled them out of her grasp.
“No,” he muttered. “It just isn’t right.” He turned away
from her and stared out the window without really seeing.
She knew he was lost in deep thought, turning over everything that
should be in his perfect plan. Reaching out, she placed her hand
gently on his arm and softly said, “Buck?”
Immediately his body went rigid. Whenever she said his name that
way it always set his nerves afire. A low growl rose in his
throat and he turned to look at her. One brow slightly arched, he
waited for her to continue, though not touching her because that would
cease all conversation.
“Do you remember how we met?” she said, her voice low and seductive.
Crossing his arms over his chest, he grunted and said, “Yeah, how can I
Millie sat, her legs curled under her, reading the latest dime mystery
novel. She loved the puzzling plots and the unknown until you got
to the end and the resolution. She always tried to figure out who
did the dastardly act but she never quite got it. Probably
because she just didn’t think that way. She was lost in the book,
sitting in the comfortable wing back chair by the low burning
fire. It was late fall so there was a brisk wind that night.
She looked up to see a very wide-awake Joshua Hickok standing at the
foot of the stairs. Lou and Jimmy had gone on a trip to St. Joe,
basically taking their honeymoon after thirteen years and four
children. Millie definitely thought they deserved it even if
their children, for the most part, were well behaved, so she was more
than willing to stay at the house and watch them. Besides, she
really wasn’t alone since Teaspoon, or Grandpa Spoon, and Grandma Polly
came out daily to make sure everyone was okay.
“Joshua, you should be asleep by now.” Millie put her book aside
and motioned for the boy to come to her. He quickly did as she
asked and climbed up onto her lap. “What’s the matter?”
“I hear noises,” he muttered, rubbing his eyes.
At further inspection, Millie saw that Joshua was forcing himself to
stay awake. Chuckling, she gently pushed him off her lap and got
up, taking his hand and guiding him back up the stairs to the room he
shared with his sister Polly Ann. Helping him back into bed, she
pulled the covers all the way up to his neck and tucked them tightly
“I’ll sit here for just a bit and see if the noises will stop,” she
said softly. Brushing the boy’s hair off his face, she hummed a
lullaby. As his breathing deepened and she thought it safe to
leave, there was a sudden crash outside.
Jumping up, she heard that Maggie and Em were awake as well and the two
girls came running from their room. Polly had jumped from her bed
into Joshua’s as the little boy pulled the covers up over his
head. Holding on, he refused entrance to Polly no matter how hard
the girl pulled. Placing her hand on Polly’s shoulder, Millie
tried to calm the youngster.
“What was that?” Em asked, nervously, clutching onto her sister as
Maggie did the same to Em. Both had the wide-eyed look of being
“Probably the wind knocking something over,” Millie said, trying to
sound unaffected. Truthfully, she was just as scared, the books
she’d been reading not helping dissuade her fear. The noises that the
old station made at night were very unworldly. “Why don’t I go
“I’m staying with you,” Maggie insisted, as if Millie would be able to
defend the group.
“Me too,” Em said, shakily, still holding onto Maggie’s arm.
“Me too,” Polly piped up, climbing off of Joshua’s bed to stand by her
two older sisters.
“I’m stayin’ put,” Joshua’s muffled voice came from under the covers.
Millie slowly moved towards the doorway and into the hall.
“Then you’ll be alone up here,” Maggie sniffed as she, Em and Polly,
holding each other firmly and moving as one, followed Millie.
Reaching the top of the stairs, Millie stopped, listening for any
indication that something was down there. The fire had burned
down to a slight glow so there was very little light to see by.
Swallowing hard, she proceeded slowly down the stairs, taking each step
tentatively. Another noise came from outside but this time it
seemed closer. The girls behind her squeaked in unison and moved
so close to Millie, the threesome engulfed the young woman.
Disentangling herself from their grasp, Millie stepped down to the
ground floor. Stopping, she held her hand up for the girls to be
quiet and Millie listened again. This time there wasn’t a sound
and Millie wasn’t sure at that point what was worse – hearing nothing
and having your imagination run wild or hearing noises and having your
imagination run wild. Releasing the breath she’d been holding,
she started to move but then, they heard it.
There was something just outside the front door.
The fright kicked in and Millie ran into the kitchen looking around for
something to use as a weapon. Even if a whole arsenal of guns had
been there that would be the last thing she’d use, she hated
guns. Spotting the broom, she grabbed that. Em, Maggie and
Polly followed Millie’s lead, each girl grabbing a pot, a rolling pin
and a spatula respectively. Creeping towards the door,
Millie blinked as she thought she saw the doorknob turn. It was
and the door opened. All at once Millie shrieked and attacked the
form coming in. The three sisters again followed Millie’s lead.
Millie was swinging the broom with abandon, as Em swung the pot wildly
and Maggie and Polly alternated between hitting and poking with the
rolling pin and spatula. By the sounds coming from the intruder,
whoever it was on the receiving end was unhappy indeed.
“How – dare – you…” Millie said, emphasizing each word with a swat of
the broom, “come – into – this – house – un…” Suddenly she was
caught off guard and the intruder got his arm around her waist pulling
her down to the ground, landing on top of her and holding her arms over
her head. The force was so great, the wind was knocked out of her
and she gasped for air.
“STOP!” the intruder finally found his voice.
Suddenly a light went on. “Uncle Buck?” Joshua stood by the
lantern, rubbing his eyes. When he realized he was right, he
jumped up and down. “You’re back! You’re back!”
Buck didn’t move; he was staring into a pair of deep blue eyes.
He still hadn’t let go of his attacker’s arms, caught between not
wanting her to hit him anymore and not wanting to let her go. A
small face appeared beside them.
Joshua squatted down and cocked his head sideways. “Uncle Buck,
that’s Miss Millie. Miss Millie, that’s our Uncle Buck.”
Clearing her throat, trying to get a lungful of breath, she said,
“Pleased to meet you…under the circumstances.” A small smile grew
into a big grin until she couldn’t help herself and was laughing.
Buck blushed slightly and joined in on the laughter. As she
glanced back at her arms that he was still holding, he quickly sat
up. “Um, sorry, I’m not used to being greeted quite like
that.” He offered her his hand and helped her stand.
“Yes, well, we normally save that greeting for only special people,”
she teased, brushing off the back of her dress solely for her hands to
be occupied. She had the intense urge to be back on the floor
with Buck holding her again. Shaking her head slightly, trying to
get the visions to dissipate, she looked over at the girls. All
three were clutching their weapons, looking completely aghast at what
had just happened. Indicating the group with a nod to Buck, she
said, “Well, girls, thank you for being willing to protect your house.”
Buck turned to his nieces. Smiling, he saw the horrified looks on
their faces so he opened his arms for them. “It’s okay, I do
understand.” The three girls rushed into their uncle’s opened
arms, speaking a mile a minute.
“Oh Uncle Buck…”
“I’m so sorry, we didn’t…”
“Did we hurt you?”
“We didn’t know…”
Buck pulled away, brushed the hair out of Polly’s eyes and said,
“Girls, I understand. You thought I was a bad man.”
The three girls nodded vigorously.
Rubbing his shoulders, the place he took the brunt of the attack, he
said, “Glad you didn’t grab any knives. Or worse, had
guns.” He chuckled when he saw the realization dawn on them.
“Well, if you’d written to say you were coming home,” Maggie said,
always one to point out mistakes, “we’d have expected you.”
“Thank you Maggie,” Buck said, amused. Looking puzzled, he
continued, “I did write.”
“Um, Uncle Buck,” Em said, not wanting to embarrass her very favorite
uncle, “it’s been almost four months since you left and we only got one
“Really?” Buck said, softly, confusion furrowed his brow. “I
guess I hadn’t realized it had been that long.” Looking back at
Millie, he said, “So you’re an addition to Sweetwater in that time?”
“Yes,” Millie replied, blushing slightly. “I arrived about a week
after you left.”
“Miss Millie’s a window,” Joshua informed his uncle.
“Excuse me?” Buck chuckled as he looked curiously at Joshua then
“Oh good grief,” Em muttered. “You can be so annoying.” To
Buck she said, “He means she’s a widow.”
“Why would you tell him that?” Maggie chastised.
“Cause she ain’t married and neither is Uncle Buck.” Things
always seemed so simple to Joshua and he never understood why it didn’t
to other people.
Hearing the soft gasp from Millie, Buck said, “Joshua, that is a
private matter, understand?”
Joshua looked down at the ground and muttered, “Yes sir.”
Recovering quickly, he added, “She’s really fun just like you.”
Buck just shook his head and looked helplessly at Millie.
Smiling, she said, “I’ve become used to Joshua and the never-ending
amazements that come out of his mouth.”
Buck grinned in understanding. As he looked around the room,
realizing how much he’d missed the place, something suddenly dawned on
him. “Where are your parents?”
“They went on a honeyedmoon,” Joshua stated, proud that he knew the
“That’s honeymoon,” Maggie corrected, rolling her eyes.
“What?” Buck said, one brow cocked, as he looked at Millie, confusion
plain on his face.
“Well, they decided that it was about time to get away for a bit, so
they went to St. Joe.” She blushed again and looked away from
Buck. The man was having an odd affect on her.
“I still don’t understand why they wouldn’t take us,” Polly said,
holding onto Buck’s hand. She was very happy her uncle was back,
he was always so much fun and didn’t mind her coming along for the
adventures he and Joshua went on.
“Yeah, me neither,” Joshua agreed. “Why’d they go?”
“Um, normally they’d take the trip after the wedding but,” Millie
paused, trying to pick her words carefully. She didn’t want to
say the truth, that Lou was pregnant already with Em. “They just
had other things to do and they got so busy having a family that time
just escaped them.” She glanced at Buck for some help.
“Sometimes adults like to have times to do boring adult things,” Buck
added, looking at Millie for approval.
“Exactly,” Millie confirmed.
“Like what?” Joshua asked, trying to hide the yawn that escaped.
“Joshua,” Maggie huffed, “people go on honeymoons to sanctify their
Millie coughed to stop the giggle that threatened as Buck did the same
by clearing his throat.
Joshua and Polly exchanged confused looks. “What took ‘em so
long?” Polly finally asked.
“Um, I believe it’s way past some children’s bedtimes,” Millie
interjected, hoping to change the subject.
“Why wasn’t Mama and Daddy’s marriage sanctuhflyed?” Joshua
battled to keep his eyes opened.
“Joshua, we can discuss this in the morning,” Millie said, motioning
for Em to take the little boy upstairs.
“Wait,” Joshua argued, again a yawn crept through. “Uncle Buck?”
“I’ll be here in the morning,” Buck assured him, walking over to give
the boy a hug. He turned to hug Em, Maggie and Polly.
Maggie took hold of Polly’s hand and followed Em and Joshua upstairs.
“Felt that introduction for days after,” Buck muttered, absentmindedly
rubbing his shoulder at the thought of the beating.
“Buck,” she said softly, her arms snaking around his neck for which she
got another deep-throated growl. “That’s not the part I was
talking about.” She giggled and kissed his clenched jaw line,
knowing he was trying very hard to keep control of the issue.
“Remember after the children went upstairs?”
Buck groaned. “We talked…” he shuddered when she kissed his neck,
“um, talked all ni…ght.” He swallowed hard as she ran her tongue
over his Adam’s apple. “Millie,” he whispered harshly, grasping
what little hold he had on his emotions, “wait.” He pulled her
hands from around his neck. “We shouldn’t have…”
“What?” Millie said, cutting him off with a pointed look. “If you
say what we did was wrong…I’ll slap you and walk out of here for
good.” Her fists planted firmly on her hips, she stared into his
“No, not wrong, just…” Buck didn’t know how to put it. “I
just think you deserve…” he looked down at the ground and muttered,
“Buck Cross,” she snapped, grabbing his arms and shaking him.
“How dare you talk that way about the man I love.” Placing her
hand under his chin, she lifted his head so he was looking at
her. “I would have married you the next day, the next week or the
next month. Now, it’s eight…no, nine months later and I have done
everything but, up until now, ask you myself to get you to marry
me. Well, guess what,” she said, smiling, “I decided not to wait
any longer. So, once again,” she got down on bended knee, looking
up at him.
Buck’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe this beautiful woman was
doing this. Smiling, like a fool he was sure, he got down on his
knees and pulled her to him. Burying his face in her soft, brown
hair, he whispered in her ear, “Yes, I’ll marry you. I love you.”
Squealing with delight, the sound soon turned into a soft moan as Buck
proceeded to show exactly how much he wanted to marry her.
Congrats to Melissa!