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Chapter Forty-three
Because I'm Yours

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
~ Genesis 2:24 ~

It wasn't morning yet. Terry knew that much, just by looking at the dark curtains over the windows. He yawned, then rolled onto his side to snuggle with Maddie. He nudged his head closer until his lips kissed the side of her face.


Her sleepy voice made him smile.

"I'm hungry."

"I don't know why, when we only left home before lunch, and then went without dinner."

"I had the pretzels you bought."

"True enough. Still, we should eat." He thought about it, but made no effort to get up. He nuzzled, found her mouth and started to kiss her. She tasted better than any food he could ever imagine, and as he started to lose himself, she pulled away.


"I know." He pushed onto his back, and stared at the ceiling. He was getting up, but in his own way. The suite had grown cooler as the night had worn on, and the bed felt so comfortable, he had to mentally prepare himself to shove the covers off. He just wasn't there yet. He turned his head, and looked at Maddie. "Are you all right?"

"Are you going to ask me that every time you hold me?"

"Is there going to be a next time?"

"After everything I said in the bathroom, do you even have to ask?"

"It was only a question--" He laughed as a slender hand darted under his arm, and he couldn't stop howling as she moved to get a better vantage for her armpit-attack. "Maddie..." He tried to grow serious, and keep a straight face, but he failed miserably.

When he started to flex some muscle, Maddie let out a nervous giggle. Her giggles turned to peals of laughter as he dug beneath the blanket and tickled under her arm. She gasped for breath, then leaned in, and the next moment her mouth was on his and they were kissing. For all her play, Terry knew she needed to stop. He tried to ease back, but she held fast and wouldn't let go. She needed to stop-- he knew she did, and with that sounding in his brain, he pushed away, got to his feet, and breathed deep. The only miracle was that he'd been able to think clearly enough to act.

Rubbing his face, he looked down, and saw Maddie curling onto her side as though trying to comfort herself. "Sweetheart--" he knelt, and gathered her in his arms-- "I didn't mean anything when I pushed you away. We just have to calm down a little, that's all."

"I'm sorry, Terry. I'm sorry."

"Hey, don't apologize."

"It's just that I feel so much-- so many things are happening at the same time. If I don't hold on, maybe this will all go away and I won't be able to find it again."

"Don't worry about it. Let's just relax, and have that dinner before someone calls from home and we're forced to admit we still haven't eaten." He looked at the freezer bag by the door, but she was clinging to his pajama top so he couldn't get up. "I'm just going over there to get our dinner, okay?" He smiled when she nodded, "yes," then eased a hand behind her to give her comfort. "Are you all right?"

"You keep asking that."

"Only because you winced just now."

"I'm okay," she nodded.

He climbed to his feet, then stepped away to get the freezer bag.

She looked about the room. "What time is it?"

"It's still dark outside, so whatever it is, it's early morning." Terry lifted the bag onto the blankets, then opened it, and checked inside. "The ice packs are still cold."

Maddie rubbed her arms as he took out the first of the plastic containers. "Could we turn on the fireplace?"

He leaned over, picked up the remote, and clicked on the flames. Opening a container, he popped a tasty shrimp into his mouth, then passed the seafood to Maddie. The next had fancy pasta with a creamy sauce that had Agatha's name all over it, and another with finger food. He took out a bag with half a loaf of crusty bread, fresh from the bakery, and even cold, it made the room smell fragrant and hungry. Wincing a little, Maddie leaned in, and took out two plastic cups while he opened a bottle of sparkling apple cider.

"A must at all of our honeymoons," he smiled, as he handed her the bottle.

"Do you think John and Izzy are up right now?"

"I doubt it." Terry set out the paper plates. "Why do you ask?"

"Izzy helped me get ready, and I wanted to tell her everything worked."

"Oh." Terry handed Maddie a napkin and a plastic fork. "Just do me a favor and be vague?" The napkin came flying back at him, and he smiled.

"I wouldn't tell Izzy anything that was just between you and me, and you know it."

"That I do." Terry pulled out a rather large container, frowned at the sheer size, and opened it. "Look at all this cake. We even have two of the roses. Abby wasn't kidding when she said they gave us the trimmings."

"I'm hungry, Terry."

"We're praying." He took her hand while the smell of food made their stomachs rumble. He didn't know why, but he spoke to God with a hushed voice of thanks. Maybe it came from trying to keep Maddie calm, or the fact they had just come from a very private time together. When he opened his eyes, Maddie looked happy, her face soft from the light from the fireplace.

While the world spun in chaos outside their door, they sat warm in bed, and dined on shrimp and pasta, and bread that came from the bakery at the MegaMart. Maddie dipped her shrimp in his pasta, and he helped himself to her bread while she leaned against an armrest of pillows so she wouldn't have to sit up the entire time. Pain was mixing itself into the moment, and she looked to be reaching for the joy even harder. He watched her and marveled, until he was lost in the moment himself, and eating bites of food because she kept teasing them in front of his lips.

Then he cut a large slice of cake, placed a rose beside the wedge, and settled beside Maddie. They ate from the same plate, then each had a rose, with neither of them being able to finish all their petals.

"Do you want me to carry you upstairs?" he asked, as Maddie started to get up.

She shook her head, and gingerly got to her feet while Terry stood and readied to help her. She started to walk, and her breath caught, and Terry waited for the verdict. Instead of speaking, she took another step, then kept going to the stairs. Her limp was a little worse than before, but she was walking, and not crawling, and for that, he was grateful. She took the steps slowly but surely, and he kept behind her in case she needed help. With food in her, she looked stronger, though when they came to the bedroom, he lifted her in his arms, and carried her to the bathroom. She had been strong enough-- he could take her the rest of the way.

They brushed their teeth side by side at the sink, sharing the toothpaste, and the running water. She was a different kind of friend, one who shared his bed, his plate, his toothpaste, and his last name. They truly were one flesh. With all this proximity, he half wondered if he stubbed his toe, would she cry out in pain. Probably, because that was the kindhearted woman she was. Just for that, Terry hugged her before she could spit out her toothpaste.

"Tewee!" She spit into the sink and gave him a look.

"It was unavoidable," he apologized, and hugged her from behind as she washed her mouth out. "I say we lock the door and stay in here forever. What do you think?"

"I say that's too long to stay in the bathroom." She reached for the towel, and he let her go just enough for her to grab it, then he pulled Maddie back in his arms and she leaned against him while she dried her hands.

He studied her ear, nibbled her earlobe, and she giggled. He hugged her, she laughed, and he felt her pulse begin to race, a frantic bubbling up of joy and passion that needed to be soothed into something more manageable. Taking a deep breath, he held her and quietly let the moment pass until her body relaxed against his. Then, pressing a kiss to her forehead, he walked her to the bathroom door, gave her a moment to close her eyes, then swept her into his arms, and carried her downstairs.

"I'm sorry we couldn't stay in the bathroom," she whispered, and he lightly bumped her forehead with his in gentle reply. "I wish we could do everything you want, Terry. I'm sorry I'm not--"

"Stop right there." He let her down on the bottom step. "I was teasing about the bathroom."

"I know, but--"

"I've had a beautiful night with my wife, and the only thing left for me to want, is to see you getting some rest." He watched her climb back into bed, and he couldn't help but smile that he could lay down beside her, and hold her, even if that was all he could do for now. Unlike before, he could sleep with Maddie beside him. For any other man, it might not be such a big deal to simply fall asleep beside his wife, but for Terry, the space that had separated them before tonight, had sometimes felt miles wide. He climbed into bed, pulled the covers over them and sucked in a breath as Maddie cuddled into his arms.

"Like you said, we're done for tonight?" she whispered, and he kissed her hand in quiet agreement. "I love you, Terry."

"I love you, too. Oh, I love you, too." Terry gentled his hand at the small of her back, and she sighed deeply.

Morning was dawning through the curtains as Terry drifted away with Maddie cozied under his arm. The day was just beginning, but both were fast asleep.

* * * *

A small snort, then a held breath, and it was gone. Madison opened her eyes and held still, wondering if she'd dreamed it, or if it had been real. It came again-- a faint, almost-not-there catch of breath that faded with Terry's next snore. She turned to see his face. His eyes were closed, and he looked to be sleeping, but there it was again, a barely whispered catch of breath that she wouldn't have been able to hear if she hadn't been in his arms. His mouth twitched, and for a moment, she thought he'd suddenly burst into tickles and laughter, but his eyelids flickered and he kept sleeping.

She watched, and waited, and when nothing happened, she closed her eyes and let sleep pull her back into rest. A soft snort caught her attention, and she looked at Terry. His eyes were flickering again.

"Terry," she whispered, and moved in his arms, and snuggled against him until he stirred. She kissed his cheek, then closed her eyes and listened to him breathe.

When all sounded peaceful, she went back to sleep.

* * * *

The next time Madison woke, she found Terry sleeping against her shoulder. She looked at the curtained windows and saw full daylight trying to get through. The fireplace had turned off, but with the sun up, the room felt comfortable enough she didn't miss its presence. She and Terry had even kicked off one of the two comforters, for it had been too much.

Trying not to wake her husband, she eased away, and quietly left their bed. She moved to her purse, took out her phone and did her best to breathe without Terry hearing her. The painkillers had worn off, and it didn't feel as good to move around. What if she couldn't go out with Terry today? John had things planned for them, and she didn't want to ruin anything for Terry. And what if Terry knew she was hurting this much? He'd never touch her again as long as he lived.

Sending up a prayer, Madison crept to the stairs, kept an eye on the bed, and slowly took each step as it came. The pain was nowhere near as bad as it had been with the Dragon, but it wasn't good enough to go outside and be seen in public. She couldn't walk this slowly without people staring.

When she came to the top of the stairs, Madison closed her eyes, then went forward, and felt for the bathroom door. She knew the door was nearby, and gulped when she instead knocked into a bedside lamp. It toppled, but to her relief, she was able to right it before it fell over; she peeked about, saw the bathroom, and beelined for the door, not breathing again until the door was shut behind her.

Her hands couldn't hold still as she scrolled through the numbers on her MegaMart phone and found Izzy's name. She glimpsed herself in the mirror and realized she was fighting tears, and struggled to pull herself together. It wasn't the pain, it was the thought of Terry finding out, and spoiling their day that made her tremble. Izzy's number almost went to voicemail before its owner picked up with an apologetic sigh.

"You caught me as I was leaving church service, so I had my phone off. I hope everything is all right?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize--"

"It's okay, service just ended." Izzy sounded as though she was on the move. "Hold on, let me go someplace where I can talk in private. How are you doing? I've been praying for you and Terry."

"Thanks, Izzy. Thank you so much." Madison squeezed her eyes shut and tried to breathe. "God answered your prayers, He really did. It went much better than it should have. My problem is that I'm hurting, and Terry is still asleep, but if he sees me like this, he's going to take it the wrong way-- I just know he will. What am I going to do?" Madison gulped in air, and moved away from the door to make sure Terry couldn't hear her downstairs.

"Have you tried the ointment?"

"Not this morning."

"Maybe you could use it again, and try more acetaminophen. And there's always the cold water Carol suggested. Do you have access to a bathtub?"

Madison looked behind her. "There's a fancy tub with holes in the side. Would that work?"

"It just means you're staying in an upscale place. Run some cold water, and see if that doesn't help, though you might need to ask Terry to keep his distance until you're feeling better."

"He's already starting to do that." Madison pressed the phone to her ear. "Could you ask John what he has planned for today? Are we going to be walking a lot?"

"Wait a moment, and I'll ask."

As Madison waited, she looked about the bathroom. Laying on some towels, she found instructions on how to operate the jets in the tub, and what not to do. This place was fancy, all right-- she just hoped it wasn't too fancy for her own good. She needed to be able to turn on the water.

"Madison?" Terry knocked on the bathroom door, and Madison quickly whispered into the phone.


"Hold on--"

"Never mind, Terry's here." Madison hung up as she went to let Terry inside.

"You went through the bedroom on your own?" Terry looked at her in surprise, and with some admiration as he stepped into the bathroom. "Were your eyes open, or closed? Or were you sleepwalking, and you're now trapped in here?"

"I came on purpose." She hugged herself as he moved to the toilet. "I almost knocked over the lamp, so I had to look most of the way."

"Hey, progress is progress. I read John's itinerary for today. We're supposed to eat at a country restaurant near here-- that is, if you're up to it." Terry flushed the toilet, then went to wash his hands while she wondered if this felt as new to Terry, as it did to her.

"What do you mean, if I'm up to it? Don't I look up for a restaurant?"

"Not exactly." He nodded to the phone in her hand. "Calling for help?"

"How did you know?" She bit her tongue as she realized what she'd just said, and he gave a pained look, as though he hadn't known until now. "I was talking to Izzy. I was asking for advice, that's all."

"Maddie, if there's something going on, I want to know about it."

"I need to run a cold bath."

"Why? Is my presence too overwhelming?"

"Not exactly."

He smiled wryly, and went over and turned on the bathwater without even glancing at the directions.

"Thanks, Terry. It'll help with the pain." She hugged herself, then thought of some things she needed. "Could you bring up my purse, and something to drink? And while you're at it, I could use my suitcase."

"Anything I can do to help," Terry nodded, and left the bathroom.

Trying to keep warm, Madison climbed into the tub while still wearing her nightshirt. The water chilled her, but she eased herself down, and when she began to chatter, she hugged herself and rubbed her arms. When the water came to her knees, she shut off the faucet, and prayed this would work. The bathroom door opened, and Terry stepped inside with her purse and suitcase.

"Is that helping?" he asked, as he shut the door.

She nodded. Though it was too soon to know for sure, there was no need to tell him that.

"I'll get something for you to drink-- just hang on."

She kept hugging herself, and tried not to move, for moving only made her colder.

The water did a thorough job of chilling her to the bone. How long had she been in here? A minute? Five? It felt like fifteen.

The door opened, and Terry came in with the remainder of last night's bottle of apple cider. He took the plastic cup he'd brought, poured some cider, then placed the cup on the edge of the tub where she could reach it. "Acetaminophen?" he asked, setting the bottle on the floor beside the tub. When she nodded, he went to her purse, and began rummaging around as though the thing had no bottom. "I can't find it."

"It's in there."

"It's hidden well," he muttered. "I remember when this purse only had a handful of things in it. Now, you're hauling around everything but the kitchen sink." He pulled out a small bottle, opened it, and tapped out two pills. "I noticed the time while I was downstairs." Terry came over, placed the pills in her hand, then passed her the cup. "I hadn't realized how late it was. We should be having lunch right now-- not breakfast."

She washed down the pills, then bit on the cup's plastic rim to keep from chattering. "Sorry I'm making us late, Terry."

"It's our honeymoon, so we slept in." He dipped his hand into the water, shook it off, and gave her a sympathetic look. "I don't have any complaints. You're the one paying for last night."

"How was your sleep?" she asked, handing him the cup.

"Are you kidding?" Terry set it aside, and shook his head. "I can't remember when I've ever slept so well."

She smiled as he sat down on the edge of the tub, and started to rub her back. He hadn't been able to remember any bad dreams, and it made her happy to think that maybe she'd stopped them as they'd surfaced. That maybe she'd helped give him a good night's sleep, that he'd been better off because she'd been with him.

"Why are you smiling?" Terry leaned over and looked into her face, his hand still making lazy circles on her back. "Don't tell me my baby's happy."

"Would it shock you?"

"You're sitting in cold water, so yes, it wouldn't be the first thing to cross my mind." He deepened the rub, and she closed her eyes and willed herself to relax. "You want me to stop?"

"Please, don't." She bit her lip and asked God to take away the feelings that had pushed into the moment. "It's not you-- it was someone else. Besides," she said with a happy sigh, "you're helping to keep me warm."

He hugged an arm around her, then went back to the rub. When she moved to get out, he helped her onto the bathmat, then rushed a thick towel around her, and hugged her to him while she shivered and enjoyed the warmth. His chin scraped her cheek and she tucked into him, wet nightshirt and all. To her relief, he didn't seem to mind getting his pajamas wet as she rubbed her cheek against his and enjoyed the scrape of his morning beard.

"Feeling better?" he asked, and she nodded.

"I'm not going to kiss you." His breath was warm on her face, and his arms tightened as he spoke. "I'm not, Maddie. I'm going to leave you alone."

She nodded, and leaned her head against his shoulder, and he rocked her gently, a quiet dance in the bathroom with no one looking. Just them, in love, enjoying the fact they were together, sharing the same space, and the same morning. She had no idea love could be this strong, or this simple. That a man could hold out his hand and she would be so grateful to fill it.

More memories pushed at her, and she kept pushing back. Screaming. She could hear herself screaming. His hand gentled at the small of her back and she relaxed into him even more. After that cold water, she soaked in his warmth all she could without smothering him. He looked into her eyes, and delight skimmed across her heart just as surely as if he had touched it. Images rushed her, she gagged at the heavy breath, the smell of tobacco, then reeled at the soft touch at her back, and the reminder that came with it to fight.

"Maddie," his voice whispered across her skin, "I have to let you go."

"Don't leave me."

"I won't." He held her so gently it hurt.

She looked up at him, and his mouth dipped into hers. Her Terry-- her wonderful, wonderful, Terry. She kissed him, and clung to him, and felt him step back.

"Help me let go," he breathed. "Please, Maddie."

"Will you hold me again? Will you promise?"

"I promise."

He moved away, and her knees started to give. He steadied her, but she reached for a towel rack and nodded that she was all right.

"I'm just a little tired," she tried to smile.

"How much sleep did you get?"

"The same as you." She let go of the towel rack to move to the edge of the tub and sit down. It felt good to not have to fight the Dragon, to just sit and breathe, and relish her victory. She'd been with Terry last night. She'd won. She closed her eyes and thanked God. She was truly married now, and no one, not even the Dragon could take that from her.

"Do you want me to help you dress?" Terry asked, and she shook her head. "You're looking pale," he observed solemnly.

She cocked her head. "And you're as handsome as always."

"I'm serious, Maddie."

"So am I." She tugged off the towel, and tried to ignore the chill coming through her damp nightshirt as she pushed off the tub. "I'll feel better after I've had some breakfast." She felt Terry watch as she moved to get some clothes from her suitcase. "You can go get changed-- I'll be all right."

"Are you sure?"

"Just don't leave without me, and we'll get along fine."

He understood her joke, for his reply came in a lopsided grin. As he left, she saw the bag in her suitcase, and an idea came to her. Unzipping her makeup bag, she picked out a lipstick, went to the mirror, and did something spontaneous. She was feeling more loved than usual-- even for her and Terry-- and she needed an outlet.

Laughing, Madison looked over her handiwork, put the cap back on, then went about getting dressed before her knees wobbled so much she had to sit down again.

He loved her. Terry loved her, and the amazing thing was, so did God. She would never get over that-- not in a million years. The morning shimmered in all its glory before her like the gift that it was, and she hurried to meet it with open arms.

* * * *

He'd heard others joke about newlyweds, and honeymooners, and now he was one, so he tried to take things in stride. To keep Maddie and everything about her in perspective. The way her hair fanned on the pillow, the feel of her beside him, and the knowledge that she would be there in the morning. Right there beside him.

Pulling a shirt over his head, he rushed to get dressed before she needed to leave the bathroom. He tried not to think too much. She was happy, but she was pale. Not as pale as he'd seen her in the past, thank God. He'd seen her look worse, and he grabbed onto that hope and ran with it like a desperate man. Even so, he kept promising himself to check Maddie, to always hear "no" if it came.

Already, he was wondering how soon he could hold her again, and he hated himself for that. He would wait for her no matter how long it took, and be over-the-moon grateful for whatever he got. She'd already given so much. Such a sentiment might mean he was suffering from honeymoon-itis-- he didn't know, and frankly, he didn't care. No one had the privilege of holding her hand but him. That right was his, and so was everything else that came with it. He took to the stairs, rounded into the bedroom as he tucked in his shirt.

"Hey, Maddie?" He leaned in to hear her behind the door. "Do you want me to bring our meal back, so you don't have to go out? You could rest if we ate in."

"You can come inside, Terry."

He opened the door, saw her finishing the buttons on her shirt and couldn't help but stare at what she had on.

"Yes, Terry?" She turned down her collar and looked at him expectantly. "What were you saying?"

"When did you get those clothes? I don't remember seeing them before."

"I went shopping, remember?"

"Oh, yeah." He took in the ruffled dark pink skirt that swept below her knees, then realized she was watching. He cleared his throat. "Would you rather eat in this morning?"

"But I got dressed."

"I noticed," he grinned. He shook himself, looked back at the door, and wondered if he should leave and start over. "You don't have to go out, if you don't want to."

"I want to." She bit her lip, and he knew he was still falling.

God help him, he was still falling in love with her.

She smiled as though she knew his thoughts, though she couldn't possibly.

"Are you going out like that?"

"Like what?"

She rubbed her cheek, and he suddenly realized he hadn't shaved.

"I'll be quick." He went back down for his shaving kit, wondering how on earth he would ever get anything done with Maddie so close to his heart. When he pushed into the bathroom, and saw her zipping up the suitcase, he willed himself to not tug her into a kiss. His eyes were still on Maddie, and not on where he was going, for he bumped into the sink.

Then he looked up, and saw the mirror. In soft pink lipstick, someone he loved had scrawled,

I love you this much!

"Maddie." He gulped, and closed his eyes as her arms came around him from behind. "I love you too, Honey."

"I've never been so happy, Terry." She kissed his ear, let him go, and he was left happily dazed with the scent of whatever she'd put on.

Hairspray. That was it. He sucked in a breath and stared at the mirror.

"The cold water helped, so I'd like to go out this morning." She smiled in the reflection of the mirror, over the "this much," and his heart sighed. Oh, yeah. He was a gonner.

As he started the electric razor, Maddie moved beside him at the sink, and opened her makeup bag. He smiled, watched as she applied stuff to her face in tiny, hesitant strokes, and wondered if this was what the future looked like. Sharing the mirror in the morning with Maddie, getting to know her so well, he would know what came next when she put on her makeup.

"I'm doing it wrong-- I know."

"I have no idea," he shrugged. "I was only watching."

Maddie frowned at her face, then washed it off and went in search of something. He went back to his shaving, then turned off the razor as she came back with his smartphone and a video of Izzy explaining how to apply foundation. Maddie set the phone on the edge of the sink, kept watching, and started over. He went back to shaving while Maddie followed directions. Eyes, lips, and things he honestly had never considered were addressed by Izzy, and by the time Maddie had paused, and gone back to hear something again, Terry was done and patiently waiting.

He didn't mind waiting, in fact, he rather enjoyed watching his wife.

His wife. How he liked the sound of that.

"Thank you for being so patient, Terry. This is taking longer than I thought it would." She sighed as she looked at her reflection. "I'm no good at this. Maybe I should stay, and you should go get the food like you wanted."

"I only want you to stay if you need the rest." He came around to see her progress, and smiled when he saw how pretty she looked. "Izzy should charge for that video. You look like a million bucks."

"Really?" Maddie perked up. "You won't be embarrassed to be seen in public with me?"

"I'll be able to hold my head up," he grinned. He didn't want to tell her she'd applied so little makeup he could barely tell it was there, but maybe that was the point. "Ready to go?"

She added lipstick, glided some color over her eyes, and he saw her look was complete, after all.

"Maybe I should start practicing, 'I'm with her,'" he smiled.

"No, I'm with you," Maddie said, as she put away her makeup. "I'm ready now."

In some ways, this was their first morning together. The thought went through him as she took his hand, and he walked her downstairs. He helped her into her coat, picked up his on their way to the door, and greeted the morning outside. As the light fell on Maddie, he could have sworn music started to play. A sedan moved past them, and from a half open window, a symphony, powerful and moving, cascaded the air with Pachelbel's Canon. Terry could only smile. With the kind of morning they'd been having, music wouldn't have surprised him one bit. Sunshine streamed down on them from a generous Heaven, lightly kissing the breeze with warmth.

As Maddie's hand slid into his, Terry looked up at the sky and sent up his thanks.

* * * *

Was this how normal felt? Madison had no idea, but strolling with Terry, life breathed into her lungs and fed her dreams. The world was still big, every bit as wide and as mysterious to her as before, but now, anything was possible. Life was something she could do-- it wasn't just for the ones who hadn't been chained, life was for her, as well. Now that she'd been with Terry, her goals spun even bigger.

There was a next, a tomorrow, and she had hope that it was within reach. She'd gotten off the ground, so now anything was possible.

A quick glance at Terry reminded her that she could still come crashing down. God had given her the strength to fly, and she had to trust that He hadn't put her there with a view of tomorrow, only to rob her of her sky.

The restaurant John had chosen was a log cabin with polished counters and gourmet coffee blends Madison had to turn down. A woman with a hurried smile took their order, while hungry smells, the sound of plates and silverware, and the conversation that came with the rush for lunch filled the room. A carved bear held up their table, while mountain paintings hung on the walls in vivid greens and earthy browns. The tap tap of the waitress' pencil made Madison rush for a decision. Since it was too late for the breakfast menu, she asked for the garden salad, and when Terry gave her a look that made her think he would've liked her to eat more, she added a cream soup.

"I'm hungrier than that, so I'll have the Shallot Burger," Terry hunted down the menu as though picking carefully, "and we'll take the fruit and cheese plate." He looked over the menu at Madison. "You don't mind sharing with me, do you?"

She shook her head.

"And what will you have to drink?" the woman scribbled on her notepad.

"I've already got coffee, but she'll take chamomile tea," Terry answered before Madison could shrug it off and say water was fine. When the waitress left, he leaned forward and whispered, "You'll get over your shyness. Give it time."

She wanted to say it wasn't true, but it was. She would've said anything quick and easy to get the ordering over with, and that's pretty much what she'd done.

"I'm thinking we should do something else besides what's on our itinerary, today."

"Why? What did John have down?"

"Didn't you know?" Terry shrugged. "It's someplace in Roscoe. A museum."

"Oh? A museum about what?" Madison rubbed the edge of the table with her finger. When Terry didn't respond, she looked up at him and he seemed to not want to say. "It's probably just a boring place John is trying to make us visit."

Terry shot her a wry look, and she smiled.

"So you know about it."

She nodded. "I just didn't know he had it planned for today."

"It was nice of him, but we'll go some other time."

The waitress came back with the chamomile tea, and slid it in front of Madison with a spoon to stir in the sweetener. The first sip was oh-so-good, and Madison settled back with the teacup hugged between her hands, and looked at Terry.

"I know something you don't," she smiled.

"You and John planned this honeymoon, so tell me something I don't know." Terry wasn't looking away though. He was curious.

"It's on the itinerary for tonight, but I asked John not to write down all the details. I hope you'll like it. The museum was for you, but this was planned more for me. I hope you won't mind. John thought you wouldn't go to the museum, if we only did things you liked."

"Smart guy." Terry nodded slowly. "Okay, we'll do the museum."

She smiled, and sipped her tea, and a few minutes later, the waitress moved in with a tray loaded down with food.

"You had the burger?" the waitress asked Terry, and he smiled.

A small basket of breadsticks was set in front of Madison, to go with her soup and salad. Hunger stirred inside of her as a plate of fruit and cheeses scooted between her and Terry. And then she smelled Terry's burger. He thanked the waitress as she left, but already, Madison was thinking of ways to tease Terry into giving her a bite.

They bowed their heads, and Terry said a prayer over their food. When it was over, they started in on their meal, and Madison found she had more of an appetite than she'd thought.

"That's a nice painting, isn't it?" Terry asked, nodding to something behind her.

She turned, then looked back to find Terry sneaking lettuce from her plate.


"They gave me onions, but not enough lettuce. Are you going to eat those tomatoes?"

"Could I have some of your French fries?"

He grinned, and took the tomatoes. "So what's this about tonight?"

"I'm not telling." She picked out the largest fry, ate one end, then finished it off. "Have you ever been to the museum?"

"You know I haven't." Terry dumped ketchup on his plate, capped the bottle, and gave her a look. A serious one that sided on playfulness. "John would have told you if I had."

"These fries are good." She took another, then tried a little cheese with some fruit. She watched as Terry cut his burger in half, then placed the larger half on her salad. "You didn't have to do that."

"It's a large hamburger," he shrugged, and plucked some fruit off the plate as she felt his foot under the table.

She smiled, and switched the hamburger sides with Terry. Though she was no expert, it had to be the best burger ever made. It had been given to her by Terry, and love made everything better, even sharing food in a busy restaurant where carved bears held up the tables. When the meal was over, they each had a large chocolate chip cookie for dessert, (though she gave most of hers to Terry), then they headed back to the resort at a leisurely stroll.

The moment they stepped inside their suite, she was kissing Terry, and he was pulling her close. He shut the door, took one last kiss, then moved from her with such force she knew he was tearing himself from her.

They went up to the bathroom to brush their teeth, though Terry waited until she was done before stepping to the sink. When they went downstairs, he checked the time.

"The museum should be open by now, so when you've got your things together, I'd like to get going." He tasted his lips. "I checked in the bathroom mirror, but I'm not wearing lipstick, am I? Then let's get out of here." He grabbed the itinerary, opened the door, and gave her a wide berth as she moved outside.

"Are you wishing last night never happened, Terry?"

"Are you?" he asked, and she shook her head. "Then there's your answer."

She bit back from speaking her next thought out loud, and let him help her into the jeep. If she couldn't find a way to make this work without the pain, she knew she'd have to go back and see her doctor again. And talk to her doctor about private things she hadn't wanted to. It had been hard enough the first time.

If it meant staying in Terry's arms, though, then Madison would do anything to make that happen.

On the drive to Roscoe, Madison played Bible passages over the phone. It took a little over an hour to get there, so she kept busy by playing hymns, and coaxing Terry into singing along with her when the choir didn't get too ambitious.

When they parked at the museum, Terry's mouth tugged into a wide grin. His brown eyes studied everything, even the building. They paid their way to get in, then started to look around while Madison quietly let Terry lead the way. Fly fishing stuff was everywhere, displays with historical significance that made Terry stop and shake his head. He pulled her to one display after another, some with photos of people, others with fish, and everywhere plaques that explained what they were looking at. A screen on the wall showed video of someone displaying various fly casting techniques, and some people stood about and watched; Terry paused to see, too, and quietly commented with the others about what they saw. While they watched the video, Madison stayed at Terry's side and counted the nails in the display case below the screen.

They moved to the next area, and she was satisfied to let Terry linger for as long as he wanted. He even pulled out his phone and took pictures of her standing beside some fish mounted on wood, but she smiled, and more importantly, he was smiling, too, though he wasn't in the picture. With a passion she didn't understand but greatly admired, he explained one facet of fly fishing after another, and though she didn't pretend to understand any of it, she enjoyed hearing him talk. With his eyes all earnest and wide, it was easy to picture him as a boy, and she found herself wishing more than ever for a child-- a little one who took after Terry. He led her to a display with hooks and started to tell her about them, and she hugged his arm. She could listen to him, forever.

They looked at art, Terry talked with other people, and then they moved outside and the air felt so good, she couldn't help but sigh.

"Do you mind if we take a look at the grounds?"

He was so hopeful, she didn't have the heart to say "no." They strolled down the walk, while she enjoyed the breeze and let Terry take in the sights. She could walk easier now than when she'd talked to Izzy, and even though her feet were getting tired from all the standing, she was beginning to feel stronger about tonight. She'd even been able to put on her makeup that morning with nothing but the video to help her, and no one had given her odd looks to signal that she'd done it wrong.

Terry tugged her hand, and she realized they were heading for the jeep.

"We should probably start back to our suite, since we have plans for tonight." He glanced at her, and she nodded. "According to John's note, we have to be ready at six o'clock." Terry paused. "So what are we doing tonight that was worth all this?"

Madison bit her lip, and watched her feet.


"We're going somewhere for dinner, and it's going to be special."

"Okay. It's only reasonable we have to eat somewhere, but what's the big deal? What's so special about it?" When she didn't answer, Terry stopped, and tugged her in front of him. "Sweetie-pie, what did you trade this trip to the museum for? It had better be good, because I'm not blind-- for all of your smiles, I know you were bored out of your skull."

"Just remember you love me."

"I know you do, otherwise we wouldn't have been at the museum. It's your turn now, so what is it? Come on, spill." He reeled her in for a kiss, but she smiled and pulled him toward the jeep. "I'm starting to get a sinking feeling about this-- not that it isn't a good sign. It means you're coming away with something from this deal, but what are you getting me into?"

"It's in our suite."

"What is?"

"What you're getting into."

He blinked. "If you're trying to confuse me, you're doing a good job. I thought you said we were eating somewhere special, tonight. We are? Then what am I getting into?"

She shook her head. "I took it from your closet."

"Now I know we're not on the same page." He looked at her with such carefulness, she hugged his arm to keep from hugging herself. "You took what from my closet?" He opened the jeep's passenger door, helped her inside, then leaned in as she mumbled her reply.

"What did you say? I didn't hear."

She'd kind of hoped he hadn't heard, and sighed when he asked her to repeat herself.

"Your tuxedo."

"You're kidding. You brought my tux?" He closed her door, moved around the back of the jeep, and she hurried to unlock, and open the driver's side before he had to use his keys. He climbed in, and looked at her."This must be some restaurant. Either that, or I'm going to be horribly overdressed for a burger joint." He shut the door, put the key in the ignition, then froze as if he had a frightening thought. "It isn't a burger joint, is it?"

"Oh, no, this will be nice."

"Whatever you say," he shrugged. "I kept you on your feet all day, so if you want me in a tuxedo, then so be it."

If Terry was upset, he hid it well. When he didn't say more about it, she decided he really hadn't minded, and sat back to enjoy the ride. They were making good time, and things were amazingly on track.

* * * *

A tuxedo? Was she kidding? He slid a glance at the woman resting in the passenger seat, and knew better than to underestimate her. Especially when she had help. John and Izzy were backing her, so he supposed he should've expected something out of the blue. But a tuxedo? He hadn't worn one in a while, not even on his wedding day. Maddie was just full of surprises.

He smiled. Not that he didn't mind them, especially the museum. He could hardly wait to email John and Abby some of those pictures. Abby would've loved that place.

The jeep filled with music as Maddie played DJ with his phone, and he grinned when she found the new music he'd put on there, just for her. He hadn't been sure what her taste in tunes were, for she basically listened to whatever he did, so he'd stepped out of his usual ruts and added something different. Something romantic, with people singing about the wonder of love. As a bachelor, that sort of stuff hadn't been his cup of tea, but now, it matched his life. Even if it was on the fluff and girly side, it was worth it to see that dreamy eyed, melty look on Maddie's face. The one that said, "Hug me, I'm yours."

As he drove, Terry winced to find himself tapping the steering wheel in time with the music. Good thing John wasn't here, or he'd never live this down, but then, he had no idea what John and Izzy did in private; Terry reasoned that if he and Maddie were like this while John and Izzy weren't looking, then he really, very truly, didn't want to know the silly things his friends did when no one was around to laugh at them.

Maddie started to sing, and Terry smiled at the road in front of him. Did he sound that crazy in the shower? in church? no, surely not in church, or someone would've wrestled him out the door long time ago. Sweet, sweet Maddie, gave it all her heart.

He tapped the steering wheel, then turned off the road as their resort came into view.

"I love you, yes, I do," Maddie belted out while the backup singers added their, "yes, I do's," to the anthem.

Smiling, Terry pulled past the resort's front gate, found a good place to park the jeep, then waited for the end of the song, in no way intending to open his door until the music had ended. As the chorus died down, Maddie leaned in and gave him a peck on the lips.

"I love you, too," he smiled.

"Thank you for the music, Terry."

"After all the work you've put into this honeymoon, I'm glad I was able to surprise you for a change."

"What time is it?"

Picking up the phone, he showed her the time. It had practically been staring her in the face, but she'd been too busy having fun to pay attention. Leaning over her, he popped open the passenger door, and she hugged his shoulder.

"When I go in, I'm going to use the makeup that isn't easy to put on-- the really hard things like mascara and lip liner. Whatever happens though, I know you'll love me."

He looked at her mouth, and answered with his heart. Probably a little too soundly for his own good, but her mouth had been so close, and she had looked so kissable. She closed her eyes, and he kissed her again. Her fingers ran through his hair and he forgot to remember to be careful. As he pulled her to him, a dim thought tried to get through. It was something important, but he couldn't be sure what. Surely, if it was urgent enough, he'd remember. She wasn't trying to stop, and he wanted to hold her, so at that moment, he didn't see why he shouldn't. It made perfect logic... right up until a black sedan pulled in next to them, and Terry remembered where they were.

"How'd you do that?" Maddie breathed, her eyes looking after him with such feeling he had to fight himself not to kiss her.

"It wasn't just me." He blew out a breath, sat back and tried to gather his thoughts. "I need to be more careful with you, but that wasn't just me."

"The Dragon never made me feel like you do, Terry."

"I'm glad to hear it." He pushed open his door, climbed out, and let the air revive him as he went around to help Maddie outside. He tried not to notice her smile, but when she stepped into his arms and hugged him, he hugged her in return, and was helpless to do anything but thank God for her.

"Would you take me through the bedroom so I can start getting ready for tonight?"

"Try not to fuss too much over your face, Maddie. You were right-- I'll love you no matter what." He smiled, and shut her door as she started for the suite.

An SUV moved into the parking space between him and his view of Maddie, and he lightly jogged around the vehicle to join her. He fell into step beside his sweetheart, saw how their shadows moved side by side on the pavement in the late afternoon sunlight. Her limp was back to normal-- no more or no less than usual, and he let her move in front of him to make sure of that fact before he quietly rejoiced.

He was still going to stay away from her, and let her rest, but he was grateful last night hadn't done anything more to her than it had.

When they went inside their suite, the light scent of pine and disinfectant told him housekeeping had been through, for even the carpets looked clean, and the wastebasket was empty. It wasn't a big guess to conclude the bathroom mirror had been wiped clean, and Terry was grateful for the effort the staff at the resort had been taking into making their stay memorable. He shut the door, saw Maddie take off her shoes and thought about researching the address John had given him. He wouldn't of course, though he was curious what Maddie had planned for the evening. The fact she'd brought his tux told him she was being ambitious with her honeymoon plans, and he hoped she wasn't aiming too high.

Maddie was a fighter, but she was new to all this. He hated to see her get discouraged over things like makeup, when life would have bigger challenges that would need overcoming. But small steps led to those bigger ones, and you couldn't run before you walked-- to mix some metaphors.

He dropped his coat on the couch, tugged off his sneakers, then went to take Maddie upstairs to the bathroom.

"Would you bring up my garment bag?"

"Are you going to wear the party dress you wore to the Doyle's house?" He nodded when Maddie smiled. "Make sure you wear that sweater-- you're going to need a coat, tonight, but you'll need the sweater, too." He led her up to the bathroom, then went to get her garment bag, and when he came back, he found her in front of the sink, setting out her weapons of war. "Anything else?" he asked, hanging the bag on the hook behind the door.

"Thanks, Terry, you can go now." She started opening something, then stopped and looked at him. "Just don't leave without me?"

"Why would I do that?"

"I mean, don't leave the suite so I'm here alone."

He looked at her and knew she didn't want to give herself the chance to cut-- not so soon after that first night together. "I won't leave," he nodded, and was rewarded with the sweetest smile.

As Terry went down to the living area, he found himself looking forward to tonight. She was such a knuckleheaded sweetheart, up there trying to make herself pretty when she was already the prettiest woman on the face of the earth. What was she thinking? He grinned, scratched his face, and felt the five o'clock shadow. Easy for him to laugh, when he was the one who needed some maintenance. "Hey, Maddie?" he called as he went upstairs, then moved to the closed door, "is it okay if I come in?"

"If you have to."

He winced, but went inside.

The bathroom lights were on, the shower was running, and her bathrobe had already been laid out. She was still dressed, but she stood in front of the mirror, removing her makeup, and looking as though she wanted to get into the shower.

On second thoughts-- he left, knowing a retreat now would be better than later regret.

So much for getting a shave. He'd already written off a shower, but tonight, if she didn't leave the bathroom in time, he'd just have to go as he was. Oh well, worse things could've happened. He could've married the wrong woman, lived a different life, and never have known what he was supposed to have had.

And what he had was quite a lot.

Terry went to the couch, moved his coat to wait, and noticed the phone the resort had provided, sitting nearby. Since Maddie had taken his, he picked up the receiver to run a small errand from the couch.

Maddie was worth it.

* * * *

A chiming doorbell roused him from his catnap, and Terry got to his feet to see who it was. When he opened the door, a woman with a cheery smile greeted him.

"Mr. Davis?" She handed him a clipboard, he signed it, then she passed him the clear container that had a ribbon around it. "Have a pleasant evening."

"Same to you." Terry gave her a tip, then closed the door to admire his purchase.

Not too shabby for a guy who'd been kept in the dark until the last moment, in fact, he thought it showed some class. Why, they even went with her dress. Feeling pretty good, he checked the time, then went to get out his tux. He smiled when he saw his sweetie had understood to bring his tuxedo shirt. Changing into the shirt and pants, he was starting to think about cuff links, when he heard something shatter upstairs.

His first thought punched fear into his gut.

Terry rounded their bed, took the stairs two steps at a time, and pushed into the bedroom. "Maddie? Maddie, are you all right?" He didn't wait to knock, but shoved open the bathroom door and had time for a second thought.

There was no time to pray, but it was on the edge of his tongue as he looked at his wife.

She stood in front of the sink, dressed in her bathrobe, her eyes red from tears while Izzy's voice played from a video on the phone from somewhere nearby.

He panted, and tried to see the robe covering Maddie's stomach. No blood.

"I broke my mirror." Maddie dried her tears, and he looked down at the floor to what was left of a shattered hand mirror. "It got knocked off the sink, and nothing I'm doing is working. Terry, I only have an hour left, and I'm still not dressed. What am I going to do?" She didn't wait for him to answer, but turned and looked in the mirror hanging on the wall. "I've washed my face and started over so many times, my skin hurts."

"Then forget the makeup."

"I can't. This has to be perfect."

"Why? Why does everything have to be perfect, to be a great evening? Don't move-- let me get something to clean the floor before you cut your feet."

"It has to be perfect because it's our honeymoon, and you're going to remember it forever."

"I can't possibly remember every single detail. Please, don't move. Do you know if there's a broom around here somewhere?" Terry started for the bedroom, then paused. He didn't know if he should leave Maddie with all that broken glass.

"Can't I do anything right, Terry?"

"That's discouragement talking-- not you." He caught sight of his phone, and started toward it. "Don't move. I've got socks on, and you don't."

"You should go get your shoes."

"Don't worry about me, I'm watching where I step."

Terry picked up the phone, stopped the video, then placed a call to the main desk. After they had promised to send someone over, he hung up to find Maddie working on her face again. In all honesty, that one act meant more to him than it ever had before. It meant she hadn't given up. He would have told her to not bother, but the fact she was thinking about getting ready, and not about cutting, meant God was answering his prayer. Quietly sending up his thanks, Terry started to close his cuff, when he remembered the lost cuff links.

"They're in my wallet." Maddie applied a dab of flesh colored makeup to her cheek.

He nodded absently. "Do you want the phone back?"

"No, you can keep it. I've memorized Izzy's video by now."

He started for the door, then paused. "What are in your wallet?"

"Your cuff links."

"You have them?"

"Of course." She worked a small white sponge over her cheek. "Why wouldn't I?"

He opened his mouth to answer, but found he had none. "Where'd you find them?"

"On your dresser."

"Then you--" he rubbed his face and decided it didn't really matter. "Don't move until they send someone over with a broom." As he turned to go, Maddie called him back.

"You're looking awfully nice, Terry."

"Thanks for remembering the cuff links," he smiled, and shut the door as he left. Sweet kid, he hated to tell her he wasn't much to look at, for if she ever believed him, then where would he be?

A man with cuff links.

Terry shook his head, and went downstairs as the chimes rang. Housekeeping hadn't lost any time answering his call for help, for when he answered the door, a woman with a cart waited outside.

"I'm afraid we broke a hand mirror in the bathroom," he apologized.

"I'll take care of it," the woman nodded, and turned to the cart parked by the door for what she needed.

It didn't take long for the mirror to be swept up and dumped into the pail the woman had brought with her. She did such a thorough job of cleaning, Terry was no longer afraid of Maddie hurting her bare feet on any stray slivers of glass. To show his thanks, Terry gave her a tip for all her trouble.

Then he went in search of the missing cuff links in Maddie's wallet. Thankfully, Maddie had thought to empty out the coins first, so the cuff links looked unharmed for their journey.

He changed into dark socks, slung the bow tie around his neck, then went upstairs to see if he could use the bathroom.

"Maddie, do you mind--" he hushed when he saw her trying to guide a pencil around the edge of her lip. He carefully stepped past her, and reached for his shaving kit. His shaving oil didn't draw a crowd, but when the electric razor started, she stopped to see what he was doing. He shrugged, and kept going. She went back to work, but when he moved over to share her mirror, he noticed he was once more drawing attention.

"Bored?" he asked, and her mouth quirked in good humor.

"I'm learning less is more. Izzy kept telling me that, and it's turning out to be true."

"Whatever you're doing, you look good to me." He applied some aftershave, then started in on his bow tie. She tilted her head as he began to form the bow. "It's just a tie," he smiled.

"You're good at it."

"This tux has been to some formal business dinners, so I've had practice."

With a sigh, she went back to her lips.

He finished the tie, combed his hair, then put away his shaving kit while she moved over to use the whole mirror. He wasn't about to tell her the time. If they were late, he would take her somewhere else-- a drive-through, if necessary, and they would eat in the jeep in all their finery. She was under enough pressure.

While Maddie busied herself, he hung up her damp towels, then went downstairs to plot tonight's address on his phone's map. Even before he'd finished entering the address, he realized that it looked familiar. When the map came up with its plotted route, he understood why. The restaurant was quite literally on the grounds of the resort. He pulled up more information, and found Maddie could easily walk to it from here.

Pocketing the phone, he put on his dress shoes, then felt his cuff links as he looked at the top of the stairs.

It was almost six.

He made sure he had the key to their suite, and tried not to pace. In five minutes, he would call the restaurant and warn them they'd be running late.

"Terry? I'm ready," Maddie called from the bathroom. "Are you still there?"

"Where else would I be?" he laughed as he moved up the stairs, then rounded into the bedroom. "I haven't wanted to tell you the time, but you had me concerned for a mo--" he stopped as he opened the bathroom door.

She turned from fixing her hair in the mirror, and faced him.

That was no orange and brown dress she had on, but a full formal affair-- black and white, and sleek all the way to the floor. Gold embroidery circled her waist, with gold lightly kissing her shoulder length sleeves, and graceful neckline. His mouth must have dropped open, for she smiled.

"Thank you for that, Terry. Thank you so much." She turned. "Would you zip me up?

As he stepped over, and tugged the zipper up, his senses were knocked for a loop. What was that in the air? the honeyed scent of something wonderful that he'd tasted once before. He nosed around her hair, and she laughed, her blonde hair waving in his face. "Forget the restaurant, let's eat in," he murmured, as he moved closer.

"Terry, we have reservations."

"I'm kidding with you." He kissed her neck, then stepped away to find that humor he'd just talked about. It wouldn't have mattered if they stayed or not, he'd be taking a cold shower tonight, for that's what she needed. He knew it, and accepted it fully. "You're quite a sight," he smiled, as she gathered a matching black clutch. "Let me take a picture of you, so you can show Izzy what a triumph you were."

"Oh, no-- please, don't. I didn't get it right." She gasped as Terry took a phone from his pocket. "You wouldn't."

"Maddie, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and that's a fair, and unbiased opinion. Please, let me take this, if only for myself?" He grinned when she nodded, "yes." "Wait, I almost forgot--" he snapped his fingers, took her hand, then started her toward the bathroom door. "I have something for you, but it's downstairs. Close your eyes." He opened the door, led her through the bedroom, down the stairs, while she held her dress to keep from tripping. She opened her eyes while he went to the couch.

He plucked up the container, saw the color of the flowers, then looked at Maddie's evening dress.

They were the wrong color.

"These were supposed to go with your orange dress." He handed her the flowers, and hoped she wouldn't laugh too hard. "I had no idea you had this one, but there's no obligation to wear them. Just leave them here."

"Terry, you got these for me?"

"No, they're for me." He sighed when she opened the box and pulled out the wrist corsage. "They're silk," he shrugged. "The woman on the phone said some women liked silk because they last forever, and they're a keepsake from the person who gave them. Which is about all these are worth, because they're not the right color."

"They're gorgeous. Oh, Terry, they're absolutely wonderful!" She slipped the corsage onto her wrist, and turned her hand to look at the display of three orange roses, three white orchids, and green finery all crowded onto a soft orange bow.

"You don't mind?" he asked, but she didn't seem to hear, for she was too busy holding up her flowers to the light to pay any attention to him.

Putting on his tuxedo jacket, he took his phone out, woke the phone, then framed her in the screen. Without warning, he snapped a photo. When she looked up, he snapped another. He moved beside her, held the phone before them, and snapped one together. When he looked at the results, he saw Maddie's face. He turned to the woman beside him, and found her blinking back tears.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "Did I step on your foot?"

"I'm so happy," she whispered.

He put an arm around her, and the perfume went straight to his head. With a small nuzzle, he let her go, and pocketed the phone.

"Is it time to go?" she sniffed, as he placed her coat about her shoulders to keep from crushing her corsage.

"As a matter of fact," he opened their door, and showed her outside, "it is. I'm going to have to call the restaurant while we walk, but we should only be a few minutes late." He locked the suite, then pulled up information on his phone, and while Maddie took his arm, they started for the restaurant while he explained the situation.

They readily agreed to hold his reservation, so Terry put his phone away to enjoy the short walk while it lasted.

The early evening chilled him through his jacket, but Terry didn't mind. He had Maddie on his arm, the sky was showing off as the sun slipped behind the Catskills, and he was drowning in bliss. Not even the knowing smiles of the people who passed them, were enough to make him self-conscious-- he was in love, and he didn't care if it showed. They moved across a footbridge, and the gentle sound of water made Maddie look over the side. He took her hand, gave her a tiny tug, and they were moving again, this time, with a restaurant's lit sign in view.

"Is that the place?" Terry asked, and she nodded that it was.

Terry headed for the front entrance, but a uniformed man stood by the building, and asked for their names. "Terry and Madison Davis," Terry said, and was surprised when the man showed them to another door. "I called to explain we would be late," Terry apologized, but the man smiled, and led them past the main dining room, and to a side room with large windows, one overlooking the Catskills and a blazing sunset. The room had three tables, two of them empty.

The man showed them to the one table with place settings, and smiled generously. "This is our private dining area. It was reserved in your name, by a friend. I was to tell you that tonight is his treat." The man smiled as Terry helped Maddie into her chair.

"John did this?" Terry took Maddie's coat, and the man offered to take the coat from him.

A second man came in before Terry had finished speaking, and Terry glimpsed the name "John" on the uniform. Terry smiled as the African American asked if they would like the candles on the table lit. Maddie nodded, "yes," and the first man left with her coat.

"I understand this meal is celebrating a honeymoon," John smiled, as he pocketed the lighter. "We have a lot of honeymooners and anniversary celebrations here. On your right, is the menu your friend selected in your honor, and I'll point out that each of you has a different menu. I'll bring in the first course as soon as it's ready, but until then, would you care to start with hors d'oeuvres and refreshments?"

"That sounds great." Terry grinned as he looked over his menu. The different courses had some of his favorite foods-- a fact that only made him shake his head. It had his friend's fingerprints all over it.

A tray of stuffed cherry tomatoes was carried in, filled with gourmet cheese and seasoned to perfection. Their crystal glasses were filled-- Terry didn't pay attention to what, he only caught the words, non-alcoholic, and was good with it-- and when John left, Terry reached across the corner of the table, and took Maddie's hand to say a prayer over their candlelit meal. The sounds of the restaurant were distant where they sat, and it was easy to forget anyone else was even there, except for the random laugh of conversation from the main room.

Terry bit into a stuffed tomato and sighed. This was worth dressing up for, even losing and re-finding his cuff links over. He saw Maddie sipping from her glass and admiring the sunset as the colors began to cool.

She was so beautiful, it put a lump in his throat every time he happened to look her way.

The tinkle of china made Terry look up as John came in with a tray of plates.

"Your first course," John said, presenting the tray before them. "I believe you had the caramelized duck breast?"

Maddie nodded as the dish was placed before her in all its splendor.

"Then the ancho-rubbed prime rib with grilled papaya butter, would be yours." John slid a large plate in front of Terry, and Terry felt profound gratitude that he wasn't a vegetarian.

They started their meal in earnest, and as the evening went on, the sky showered its beauty on them by casting stars over the Catskills in great abundance. Terry and Maddie marveled at the vista by candlelight, and fed bites from each other's plate. He couldn't help thinking she stole glances at him every now and then, but he threw it off as being wishful. Just because he was wearing a tux, didn't mean he had suddenly turned into something he wasn't. He was the same guy as before, only now he was dining with a beautiful woman in an evening dress.

When dessert came, he almost begged out of it, but it was fresh apple crisp with maple ice cream. How could he say no to that?

They drank and admired the view, and all around them the glow of their candles gave them the feeling they were in their own little world with just the two of them. When the last of dessert had been finished, Terry was given Maddie's coat, and he made sure to leave a generous tip for everyone who had served them that night. He shook John's hand, and though the chef couldn't come to accept their thanks, John promised to relay how much Terry and Maddie had enjoyed their dinner. Since everything had already been paid for, there was nothing left to do but to quietly leave, hand in hand, into the cold, clear night.

Maddie leaned into him as they strolled down the sidewalk, and when they came to the bridge, she paused to look at the now softly lit water.

"I can't believe I'm here," she said quietly.

Terry kissed her hair, hugged an arm around the coat draped over her shoulders and looked down at the water flowing beneath them.

"I never thought I'd ever get to have a day like this." She shook her head. "I never thought I'd love a man, willingly let him touch me, or lead a life that was anywhere near normal. If the Dragon saw me right now, I don't think he would recognize me. I really don't." She looked at Terry. "And it's all because of you. God used you, Terry. I wouldn't be here without you."

"Since this is a honeymoon, I wouldn't be here without you, either."

"I'm serious. You're making a joke, but I'm serious."

"It's only because I don't know what else to say." He quieted as a couple strolled behind them, then moved on down the walk. "God knew I needed you." Terry shook his head, and smiled when her hand fit into his. He should be cold, but he wasn't-- Maddie's gaze warmed him where he stood.

Hand in hand, they strolled back to the suite, the breeze carrying her perfume. He breathed it in, hating to go inside when they reached their door.

As he took out the key, Maddie stepped close, and he was caught up in her kiss. Her hand went around the back of his neck, and when she pulled him close, he nearly dropped the key.

"You won't hold me, tonight, will you?" She looked into his eyes, and he slowly shook his head, "no."

"You come first, Maddie." He traced his thumb across her cheek, kissed her lips once more, then turned to unlock the door. "If you're still in the mood, and you think it's a good idea, then we'll see what happens, tomorrow."

"I'm feeling better, and you still won't? I could chase you, Terry."

"I won't be caught." He gently tugged her inside when she remained on the doorstep. Trying to ignore her smile, he closed the door, then made sure to lock up for the night. When he turned, he saw she'd taken off her coat-wrap, and was looking coyly thoughtful.

"I could make you sleep on the couch until you come to your senses."

"Move my bed, and I'll move it back."

"Or, I could tell you that I think I'll be all right, if you only hold me once, tonight."


"You said intimacy would go at my speed, remember?"

He remembered.

"You aren't putting me in any danger." She calmed a little, and looked at him thoughtfully. "We had a good day, didn't we?"

"We did," he nodded.

"I don't have any guarantees, Terry, but I'm praying we can do better. I have faith we can." She hugged his shoulder like she used to when that was all they had. "If we can't make this work without pain, then I'll talk to my doctor when we get home. Please, Terry, I know we can make this work."

What a woman he had. He touched her hair, feeling the slight curls at the ends-- something she'd done with the help of an iron, and some patience. "All right," he whispered.

He felt her reach for the phone in his pocket, and a few moments later, a singer swooned about the love of her husband while violins and a full compliment of musicians did their best to make their hearts soar.

Maddie swayed to the music, and Terry kept her in time.

He edged her to the remote, turned on the fireplace, then switched off the overhead light.

"Doesn't my husband look handsome in a tuxedo." She paused to straighten his bow tie, and he swallowed hard as she looked into his eyes. "You're my hero, Terry."

His heart hummed as she rested her head against his shoulder, and he almost forgot to breathe. "I love you." He breathed out the words, hugged her, and let the night spin slowly around them.

Outside, stars blinked in an endless sky while the Catskills stretched out for the night. The land seemed to yawn and go to sleep, while the moon sailed overhead and blanketed all it touched with silver. Night deepened, and peace descended over the mountains, hugging the trees, and kissing the ground like dew on grass.

A star fell across the silent heavens as the land slept and waited for the coming dawn.

"How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love [Maddie], for delights!"
~ Song of Solomon 7:6 ~

end of chapter