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 continued pacing.

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 forget.”

*~*~*~*~*


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.

“Miss Millie?”

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 around him.

“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 startled awake.

“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 look?”

“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 letter.”

“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 at Millie.

“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 answer.

“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 marriage.”

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 eyes.

“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, “better.”

“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.

The End


Congrats to Melissa!

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