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Started by Welsh Wench, May 10, 2008, 12:41:08 PM

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Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/04/2006 13:42:54

Jack was hastily packing a bag on the bed, as Josiah watched. "Make sure that about a week after we leave the rumor gets spread that I went to pay the ransom to Black Jack and haven't been heard from since." Jack went to the top drawer of the bureau.

"Aye," Josiah grumbled, "I'll tell 'em ye when daft and flew to the moon while I be at it. I still think ye should at least take George or Geoffrey with the two a ye, just in case."

"We'll be fine, Nursemaid." Jack chided gently. "As long as they are pounding the wood for Black Jack Roberts none will think anything about us riding for Scotland. By the time anyone figures it out Cecily and I shall be wed and even Culpepper won't be able to do a thing about it."

"Other than have ye shot in the back!" The older man retorted. "What on earth are ye rummaging around in there for?"

"For this, Old Friend!" Jack beamed proudly holding the Duchess of York's necklace out between both hands.

Josiah let out a low whistle as the afternoon sunlight sparkled green and white between Jack's fingers. "So that's where that thing got to. I thought ye had converted it to coin long ago."

Roberts laughed heartily. "No, I kept it, but until now I couldn't have told ye why for the life of me." He wrapped the expensive trinket in silk and placed it into a small box with the rings Geoff had brought back just a few moments before.

"Well don't be a showin' it at Molly." Josiah chuckled. "Otherwise I'll never have a chance till I get her one. And ye don't pay that well, Jack Roberts!"

"Molly?" Jack looked slyly at his friend. "Have the two a ye?"

"Not yet!" Josiah turned bright red. "But a man can dream and try, can't he?"

Jack laughed again, clapping Josiah on the shoulder. "I wish ye all the luck in the world, Josiah. She's a fine lass. It's good to know I'm not the only one bitten by the bug."

"Aye," Josiah grinned, "now if I can just get that blasted bug to bite her!"

Jack turned serious for a moment. "Talk to her, Man. Tell her how ye feel. I've a notion you'll be pleasantly surprised. There's something else I think ye should know though."

"That you and her shared a bed a while back?" Josiah grinned. "Don't look so shocked Jack. I recognized that night gown the second the young lass came out in it. It used to be Molly's favorite."

"Then your not upset?" Jack looked hopefully at his friend.

"I see no reason I should be." Josiah shrugged. "That were a long time ago, and I had no interest in her then. What a lady does in her past is her affair. Just you have care yer young lass never finds out. Women can be an unpredictable lot when it comes to their men."

"I've been honest with her, Josiah." Jack frowned slightly. "She knows there have been other women before her. I'm just not sure how she would react to find out Molly was once one of them. Besides, a gentleman never speaks idly of another lady."

"Well spoken, Lad!" Josiah grinned slapping Jack on the back in turn. "Had ye not known me heart ye'd have never told me. Now, lets get these bags down to the wagon master while there's still light for him to travel by. That way ye can be sure they make it to Selkirkshire afore ye do."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/05/2006 12:29:20

The morning sun rose over the horizon with a warm breeze. In the courtyard of the Crossbow stood George and Geoffrey respectively holding the reigns of Raven and Aphrodite. The two horses provisioned and saddled for the long trip ahead. One that in many ways the twins had more than a few reservations about.

"I still say we should trail along with 'em." Geoff mumbled. "Ye know as well as I should anything untold occur we'd never make it in time to help."

"And we both know sooner or later Jack would catch us." George looked steadfastly at his brother. "The man has an uncanny knack for knowin' when someone is following' him."

"Aye, but the lass!" Geoff continued. "What about her?"

"Jack said no, and that's the end of it!" George replied. "Hush now, they'll be out any moment!"

No sooner did the words escape George's lips when the tavern door swung wide. Jack and Cecily dressed in riding attire, followed by Josiah and a tearful Molly walked out into the morning sunshine. Jack inhaled the fresh air, releasing it with a sigh of satisfaction that only the morning's breeze can bestow. Turning he hugged a beaming Cecily to him.

"Well, Dearest, are you ready for our grand adventure? He smiled to the desire of his heart.

"More than ready, My love." She turned her face upward to look at the man who held her heart as well as her body, then kissed him passionately. She did not dare to tell him of her unusual queasiness this morn for fear he would delay their trip. Perhaps it was only a result of their lovemaking the night before, but she had only herself to blame for that. After all she had been separated from his arms far too long and was determined to make up for the lost nights.

Saying their quick good byes She hugged Molly tightly, gently wiping the tears from Molly's cheeks. "Don't cry, Molly. This is the beginning of the happiest day I've had in many a year."

"I shall miss you both greatly." Molly sniffed, daubing her eyes with her apron corner. "Take care of him." She whispered into the young noble woman's ear as the embraced a second time.

"That I can promise." Cecily whispered back, then winked as they parted. Molly smiled widely.

The ride toward Bath near the border of Somerset and The Cotswolds proved to be both pleasant and uneventful. A drastic difference from the mad dash they had made from London nearly a month before. They had stopped for a moment at a leather smith in the small village of Maple. Jack had wished to pay a bill he owed before they left.

A little after noon they entered the township of Bath. Cecily liked the quaint little town with it's wood huts built over the healing springs which was said to have replaced the public baths the Romans had built. Edgar, the first king of all of England had been crowned there. Many of the shops sold bottled water from the springs.

Jack stopped at a small inn near the far edge of the town named Hollyhall. Paying for their rooms the registered as Mr. and Mrs. Roberts Johnson and Jack carried their saddlebags up the stairs. Once there he tossed them down onto the bed and took Cecily into his arms.

"Jack, don't you think the floor would be a better place for the bags?" She teased, he azure eyes twinkling with mischief. "They are sure to get in the way."

"In a moment, My Love. I've a present for you." He grinned, turning to rummage through his bags. "Ah! Here it is." Proudly he turned back to her and presented a coiled, new black bullwhip he had purchased for her in Maple.

"And just what am I to use this for, Mr. Roberts?" Cecily stood with one hand on her hip, lazily trailing it's eight foot length along the floor and eyeing him with a suspicious gleam in her eye.

"Not for that, Sweet Cecily!" Jack held his hands in front of him laughing.

"Then for what?" She smiled lightly tossing the end at him making him dance from one side to another.

"For your protection, Luv." He suddenly turned serious. "I know of your skill with the bow, but as the night you were kidnapped proved A bow is not always practical. Especially in cramped quarters. Had you known how to use the whip the outcome may have been far different. I intend for you to be able to use it very well."

"Jack!" Cecily smiled with excitement, dropping the whip to the floor and flying into his arms. "Do you mean you intend to teach me how to use a whip?!"

"We'll start this afternoon after lunch, Dearest." Jack's voice turned low and husky. "Among other things." His hand gently began to unlace her bodice, as she began to unbutton his surcoat.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/05/2006 16:53:30

"Jack, am I enough for you?"
He had started to drift off but Cecily's question brought him back.
"What do you mean, 'enough?' "
She idly stroked the coverlet but felt awkward about looking him in the eyes.
"You I...well, I all that you want in a woman?"
He tilted her chin towards him and asked, "What brought this on, love?"
She shrugged. How could she tell him? The nightdress brought it all home to her. Before the notion of other women was just abstract figures. Now she realized that the nightdress actually belonged to a real woman.
She looked at him seriously and asked, "How did you realize that you actually loved me? I mean, you must have had feelings for...."
She couldn't go on. Where were all these emotions coming from?
He held her close and kissed the top of her head.
"My love, it was when I laid there that night on the cot with you in the other room. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to see you in the morning. And during the day. And I wanted you to be the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes. No one ever affected me before like that."
She kissed him and whispered, "I felt the same way. I love you, Jack. And the sooner we are married, the sooner no one can ever tear us apart!"

Jack and Cecily dressed and went downstairs to get lunch. The proprieter was an apple-faced woman and bustled forth with bowls of stew and hot buttered bread.
"Ye be going somewhere, young foks?"
Jack replied quickly, "We were visiting our kin in Plymouth but now we are heading to our home in York. It was a nice visit and a wedding trip for my bride here. Her sister had a new young one and we wanted the wee one to meet Uncle Robert and Aunt Bess."
Cecily tried to stifle a giggle.
The woman smiled broadly and said, "In honor of the wee bairn and yer nuptials, then cobbler be on the house.
Cecily looked at her food and just stirred it around.
"Something the matter with the food, love?" Jack asked her.
"No, not really hungry, I guess. Do we have time for you to teach me how to use the whip?"
Jack grinned. "Eager, are we?"
She nodded. "Yes! I think it shall be great fun!"
Jack pulled the chair out for her.
"By the time I get done with ye, love, ye will be able to crack a cigar out of the mouth of any rogue foolish enough to get within ten feet of ye!"
She laughed and stood up.
"Is there no end to all you can teach me, Mr. Roberts?"
He chuckled. "Apparently not, my darling. And aren't the lessons fun?"

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/05/2006 19:43:13

Jack's heart had nearly came to a stop with Cecily's question and for the thousandth time he cursed himself roundly for forgetting about the gown. He had rarely used the room as it had only been intended for long usage and was not as secure as he would have liked. In fact he hated it, but it was necessary when Blackjack was about in the area and Robert Johnson was widely known to be elsewhere. In the whole time of it's existence he had used it but six times. It was one of those times when Molly had surprised him by entering.

Blackjack Roberts had just held up the Duke of Westchester's tax collector as the man was taking the monies to the Duke's summer estate in Cornwall. Jack had widely let it slip that Robert Johnson would be off in London seeing about some goods he had an interest in and would not be back for a week. Once the deed had been done he had slipped into the rooms that very night, gold and all, to wait out the remaining four days till Johnson's return.

After shuttering the single window he had settled into bed reading one of the many books he kept there to while away the dreary hours. The inner door had slowly opened and he had found himself reaching for one of his pistols when Molly entered, her favorite nightgown draped over one arm.

Draping the gown over the back of the chair she had walked over to him, untying the laces of her bodice. "I was hoping you would want some company, Jack." she whispered huskily.

He raised a hand and she stopped puzzled and scowling slightly. "Molly." He spoke seriously. "Ye be as fine a lass as ever I have laid eyes on, but before ye do something ye may regret I must be honest with ye. This will never go further than a bedding. My heart can never be yours. Sometimes I think none will ever lay claim to it."

Molly smiled. "I know that, Jack, but a woman has needs the same as a man. I only wish to share these few nights with you and I'll make no demands on you when they are over." She had proven true to her word, but they had forgotten the gown.

Now that carelessness had caused Cecily pain and in doing so caused him even more. She had done that which he had thought impossible. Cecily Morley had won his heart with incredible ease. The very thought of him being responsible for any hurt within her was abhorrent to him. Just the tears within her eyes when he had foolishly doubted her with the bow had rent his heart nearly asunder, and now this. What ever the cost he would find a way to put her heart to rest.

Riding out into the surrounding country Jack found a suitable apple tree. The secret of using a whip as a weapon depended on accuracy and this was as suitable a practice as any to start with. Dismounting he first showed her how to grip the handle properly and make the weapon crack. Her eyes lit up like a small child at Christmas when she made the loud snap on the second try.

"Well done, My Love!" He beamed proudly, clapping. The girl was a natural. "Now watch. The secret of defending your self with the whip is all in aiming it." Jack uncoiled Old Hob from his belt and pointed with his free hand to a low hanging apple. "Aim for the stem, not the fruit." His arm shot forward and the black leather snaked out unerringly to it's target. Crack!! The apple thudded to the ground. Crack!! A second fell. Jack picked them up and fed them to the horses.

"Now you try, Dearest." He smiled. "Take your time, and try to think of the whip as a part of your arm, to touch where you will it to touch."

Cecily picked out an apple. Her smooth brow slightly frowning with concentration, the tip of her tongue protruding from the corner of her mouth. Her arm shot backward, then forward in a blur of motion. Crack!! Leaves no more that three inches above her target exploded from the tree twirling to the ground. Again she concentrated and again she missed by mere inches, then she had an idea.

Her arm shot out a third time and the apple fell from the tree cleanly. Cecily jumped up and down happily. "I did it!! Jack!! I did it!!" She ran into his arms.

"Aye, My dearest," He tenderly stroked her hair, proud of her achievement.

"Oh, Jack it was easy!! All I had to do was think of aiming for Peter Culpepper's arse!!"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/06/2006 21:33:18

Cecily gathered the apples and put them in her saddlebag.
"I think I shall give them to Mrs. Ramsay for more of that cobbler. That was wonderful!"
They settled down under the apple tree, letting the late afternoon breeze drift over them. They had told Mrs. Ramsay they were going to see the Roman ruins. It would be hard to explain how such a proper young lady such as Cecily wanted to whack the apples off a tree. With a whip, no less.
Jack cut off slices of apples and popped them into Cecily's mouth.
"Mmm..that tastes good! My appetite just seems to have whittled down."
"Must be the excitement of the last few days, love."
He stretched out under the tree, Cecily wrapping her arms around him and resting her head on his chest.
"Jack? I'm sorry I bothered you about the nightgown. It is none of my business."
He tenderly touched her cheek. "Cecily, when I am with you, it is always like the first time. I never knew love. It was the kind of love, I think, that my parents had."
Cecily propped herself up on one elbow, her fingertips gently tracing down his face. "I am so sorry for what you went through as a child, Jack. But if you had been any other way, you may not be the generous, loving person you are today."
He looked off into the distance and Cecily could see traces of grief still on his face. She tried another tactic.
"But here we have a chance to make a family ourselves, dearest! When the time is right, we shall have children and a nice house and..."
Jack looked back at her. "Aye. That we shall."
Cecily didn't know how to approach the subject so she plunged in.. "Jack,. about being a highwayman...when we start a family, I don't want to worry about if you are coming home or not. Whether the redcoats have caught up to you."
Jack folded his arms under his head and looked up at the clouds drifting by. He said softly, "Cecily, I haven't thought of it. Highwayman is all I have ever known. I certainly didn't think love would ever come to me. Not so swiftly."
"We have our whole lives ahead of us, darling. No need to rush into things."

Jack looked up at the sky. "Looks like a storm brewing. We'd better get back. We should go to bed early tonight as I want to be on the road early morning."
She grinned. "Early to bed. You shall get no complaints out of me, Mr. Roberts!"
Jack helped her up. She looked at him hopefully.
He said, "What, Cecily?"
She raised her eyebrow. He sighed. "Alright. Just one more time out here. Then we HAVE to get back."
She laughed, got her whip and cracked two apples off with one flick of the whip.
Jack laughed at his mistake. "Oh, my love! I thought..."
Cecily walked over to him and offered him an apple.
He took it, laughed and said, "Now I know how Adam felt! Temptress!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/07/2006 09:33:23

That night as Cecily lay sleeping Jack found himself awake, lost in thought. It was true, he would never have a real family as long as Black Jack Roberts roamed England. The danger was too great and grew with each passing year. Worse yet, should his luck run dry and he were to be found out he would lose more than just his life. Something had to be done.

Still Black Jack could not simply disappear. He could not simply stop, for the Crown would remain suspicious of just who Jack was and that could be even more dangerous. Perhaps George, or Geoff, maybe even both? Quickly he dismissed that idea as well. They were fine lads, but they deserved a free life as well as he. There was only one way to end Black Jack's carrier. Give the king that which he desired most. Black Jack Roberts would have to die so that Robert Johnson could live.

He wasn't worried about being able to support a family. Over the years he had invested his ill gotten gains wisely and owned several profitable businesses. The Crossbow for one, a lending house in London for another. These didn't even include the sizable amount of treasure he had hid. His family would live out their years in relative comfort, wanting for nothing. That was what he must now bend his will to.

His mind drifted back to his childhood. Roaming the streets of Devonshire, stealing fruit form the street vendor's carts, cutting purses. It was the latter that had brought him his greatest bit of luck. That was how he had met old Nathan. He had watched the old man shopping along the street and with practiced ease and drawn the purse out from his body. Making a loop in one hand so the pressure of cutting the thong would not be felt. No sooner had he began when he felt his wrist seized in a vise like grip.

"Hold on there, Lad!" The man said. "Now just what are ye about here?"

Jack had struggled to no avail. "Please, Sir!" He had pleaded. "Me Mum hasn't eaten in days! Please! I'm sorry, it won't happen again!"

Certainly Nathan Kelly had heard such protests from other children who were forced to make a living as thieves, but this time something was different. Something in the boy's unusual turquoise eyes that melted the old man's heart with pity. Retaining his grip on the child's wrist he knelt down until they were eye to eye and lifted the tear stained face to meet his.

"Here now, Lad. Stop crying, no one is going to harm ye." He smiled. "Look here." He showed the boy his empty hand, then reaching behind the child's ear produced a penny. The tears ceased flowing immediately, replaced with wonder.

"How did you do that?" The child exclaimed in wonder.

"I'll tell ye what." Nathan grinned tossing the penny to the lad. "If ye will promise never again to steal from a poor man, who can not afford it, I'll show ye."

"Gladly, Sir!" The boy laughed. "Ye have me word!"

"What's your name, Lad?" Nathan asked.

"Jack, Sir, Jack Roberts!" Jack replied excitedly.

In his youth Nathan Kelly had been a magician traveling around England with a theater troop, and in Jack he had found an apt student. For three years he had taught Jack everything he knew about the art of illusion. Then came the day Jack went to visit his friend and mentor only to be told the old man had passed away. Jack cried for days after, but he kept his promise. Never again did he steal from the poor.

Idly, as he now lay watching his love softly sleeping beside him, Jack wondered what the aged magic maker would think of the uses he put that knowledge to. More than once it had saved his life. Perhaps this time it would save much more.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/08/2006 10:42:18

Peter Culpepper crumpled the message that had arrived by homing pigeon and threw it into the fire. When his man had arrived at the registry to attempt to acquire a copy of the license he had been told that no such document was ever filed. To make matters worse Magistrate Hammond had vanished. His legal hold on Cecily Morley had slipped away like smoke through his fingers. Worse still the men he had sent to spy on the Crossbow had informed him Robert Johnson had not been seen there in three days.

Furiously his mind worked. If the license had not been registered then that could only mean that the man had destroyed that copy as well and he intended to marry Cecily himself. Since there was nowhere in England they could be wed without a license the only chance they would have would be in Scotland.

"Raymond!!" He shouted none to pleased.

"Yes, My Lord?" The aged butler appeared in the study doorway a few seconds later.

"Have my horse saddled and provisioned! I intend to leave within the hour!" Culpepper ordered.

"Very good, Sir" Raymond breathed a sigh of relief as he rushed to relay the orders.

Sir Peter poured himself a drink, then turned to examine his face in the mirror. The stitches would soon come out, but it was obvious a long wicked scar would be with him until the end of his days. First the man interferes with his plans, steals his betrothed, and then has the audacity to scar him.

"Well Mr. Johnson, or should I say Black Jack Roberts, believe me when I say you will soon pay for your crimes, and the payment will be heavy indeed!" He said to his reflection before hurling the goblet into the mirror shattering both.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/08/2006 11:18:07

Cecily stretched in her sleep and snuggled closer to Jack. The morning sun was just beginning to shine in the windows. Jack was still asleep but he unconsciously reached out to her. She smiled to herself because life didn't get any better than that.
She looked up into the handsome face that was hers and hers alone.

She thought of the irony of it all. She was the pampered pet of a well-to-do family but there were a few things lacking in her upbringing.
A mother's love and a father's attention.
Jack lacked even the necessities of life growing up, from what Cecily could gather. She knew there were a lot of gaps in the things that Jack had not revealed to her. And she hoped that in due time, Jack would tell her. But she could tell there was a lot of love there.
Cecily said a prayer for Jack's parents. The fine people who raised the boy who became the man she loved. As she gently stroked his back so as not to wake him up, she thanked them for the miracle that was him.
'Mr. and Mrs. Roberts--I just want you to know that he turned out magnificently and I shall do all in my power to make sure he never wants for anything again.'
She couldn't help but find a tear slide down her face for a loving couple. And she found herself resentful of her own parents. Cold. Rich but cold.
And Peter Culpepper was them ten times over.

She carefully extricated herself from Jack's arms and put her wrapper on. She stood up and quickly sat down. Light-headed. That's what I get for passing up Mrs. Ramsay's roast!
Jack woke up.
"Right here, darling. It's morning. You were wanting to get an early start, didn't you?"
He reached for her and pulled her to him.
"It can wait a bit...." he whispered softly.

She laughed softly and he said, "What, Miss Morley?"
"Jack, at this rate we shall never get to Scotland. Do you intend to take me in every shire of the country? Inn by inn?"
He grinned. "If I have to. Something to remember this trip by!"
She sat up and whacked him in the face gently with a pillow. "Aye, you shall get no argument from me!"
She stood up again and then sat down quickly.
"Are you alright, Cecily?"
She nodded, put her hand over her mouth and rushed to the privy closet.

When she came out, she said, "I guess those potatoes didn't set too well with me. Now...shall we start to pack?"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/08/2006 17:10:41

Jack sat on the edge of the bed dumbfounded as the realization hit him. My God, how could he have been so blind? The clues had been staring him in the eye almost from the start. He sat there open mouthed looking at his lady love, unable to speak. Cecily became concerned.

"Jack? Jack, darling, are you alright?" She asked, her voice slightly rising as she took his hands in hers.

Slowly Jack's expression changed from one of shock into absolute delight. Laughing like one gone mad he stood up lifting her into his arms and swinging her around the room in joy. "Cecily, my dearest Cecily!! You have made me the happiest man alive!!" He shouted. Cecily looked even more concerned as he placed her lightly on the edge of the bed and continued to dance about the room.

"Jack Roberts!" She exclaimed, "Have you taken leave of your senses!! Please calm down and tell me what is wrong!"

Suddenly he knelt at her feet, taking both her small hands in his, kissing them repeatedly. "Wrong, my love?" He echoed. "My dearest love, nothing in this whole world could possibly be wrong!! I've never felt so right in my life!! My dearest, you are with child!!"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/08/2006 19:57:47

Cecily looked at Jack with uncomprehension on her face. "A--a child? No. No, that is not possible!"
Jack's eyes were shining with delight. "Cecily, my dearest, my love..where do you think babies come from?"
She shook her head. "B-but, Jack--we haven't known each other that long!"
Jack tried not to laugh at her naivete. He raised her face to his and said, "From what I understand, darling, it only takes once."
"But I can't be! I mean, we aren't married!"
"Cecily, babies are born every day to people who aren't married."

He asked her a few delicate questions quietly and she answered them. The realization began to dawn on her that this was a distinct probability.
"Oh, my goodness. Jack! A child! It shall be a boy! With your beautiful turquoise eyes."
She stood up and pulled his hands.
"We need to hurry to Scotland. We have to get married this week. We need to get married before the baby comes!"
Jack laughed, "Cecily, it takes nine months. We have eight months to get to Scotland."
"And at the rate we are going, it will take us that long to get there!"

She looked at Jack and then at the privy closet. And covering her mouth, she made a mad dash for the closet.

Jack grinned. A child! The start of a family of my own!
He laughed and then a sense of despair swept over him.
He said quietly, "Mother, I wish you were here. OH, how I wish you and Father were here!"

Cecily came out of the bathroom, a little green.
Jack looked concerned. "Are you alright?"
She nodded. "But we need to move a little slower."
She laid down on the bed. "If this lasts the entire time, Jack Roberts--you just may be sorry you bought me that whip!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/09/2006 15:54:54

Once he was certain Cecily was well enough to travel Jack paid their bill handsomely and they set off for Birmingham and the village of Stoke. Jack deliberately taking an easy pace and making many rest stops to keep Cecily from riding too long. The sooner they were wed the better, but he was not about to risk her, or the child's life for the sake of hurrying.

Along the way Cecily insisted on practicing with her new whip and many an apple fell prey to her increasing skill. Stopping at Worchester for the night Jack showed her the next phase of practice, one which could be done indoors. Setting four candles on the able, he placed it across the length of the room. Then unwound Old Hob from his belt.

"You have well mastered aim, Luv." He smiled. "Now is the time to add speed to your skill." In rapid secession Jack sent the black whip whistling through the air. Each stroke following the other until in the space of only two seconds all four candles sported a wisp of white smoke were their flames had been.

"The trick is to put out the flame, but leave the candle standing." Jack grinned as he relit the candles. "You start slowly then try to do it faster each time, Dearest." Cecily nodded, took aim and let her whip fly. Two of the candles fell to the floor, one remained lit, and Cecily frowned.

"Well done, My Love!" Jack applauded and she shot him a sharp look. "I mean it, Luv. On my own first attempt I knocked every bleedin' one of them over." Jack's seriousness brought a smile back to her face. "This is the hardest test of the whip." He returned her smile. "It will take far longer to manage, but I dare say you will have it done before we reach the border."

She insisted on practicing until suppertime. By then she had realized she needed to build her speed slowly and could put out all four candles without knocking them to the floor. Her time was much slower than Jacks, but she knew soon she would catch up with him. The pride in his face as he watched her progress filled her with warmth, as did her pride in knowing she bore his child.

After supper they retired to their rooms where Cecily insisted on renewing her practice. As Jack watched her he let his mind drift. If he had any doubts about retiring Black Jack Roberts they had certainly vanished when he had figured out Cecily's condition. He was quite thankful now that he had not put off marring her any longer. She wasn't even showing yet, so the tongue waggers would be hard pressed to prove she was in a delicate condition before they had wed. Many a child had been conceived during a honeymoon.

The next morning he was more than relived to find her morning sickness seemed to be lessening and they were soon on their way to Stoke. Even at the slower rate he had them traveling they would be in Scotland within the week. It would be the first time Jack had set foot inside a church since he had been a lad. He remembered the experience none too fondly, the whispers, the barely concealed contempt of the "pure" congregation, the priest whispering, asking them to leave. For her though he would happily go there once more.

Jack's reverie was suddenly broken as a large man with a cloth tied across the lower half of his face leapt from behind a bush, barring their way with his pistol pointed at Jack. "Morning, Mate." The gruff voice sneered. "I'll be having yer valuables." He eyed Cecily for a moment. "And what ever else I may take a fancy to." Jack's eyes blazed with fury as he inched his hand toward Old Hob's handle.

"Ah, ah, Mate" The robber laughed. "Put them hands where I can see 'em, or I plugs the lady!" Jack slowly raised his hands up to his shoulders. His mind racing for a way to gain the advantage as he cursed himself for his carelessness. The irony of the situation was not lost on him. He had fallen prey to one of his own tricks.

"That's better, Mate." The highwayman grinned beneath his mask. "Now, slow as ye can, with yer left hand, untie that purse and toss it here at me feet. Then we'll be takin' it from there."

This was the break Jack had hoped for. Little did the rogue realize Jack usually used Old Hob with his left hand. The only problem was his purse was on the opposite side of his belt. He weighed his chances as the brigand followed his every move closely. His mind made up, just as he tossed the purse he would try for his whip in the same motion. A loud crack rang out in the air and the robber dropped his gun holding his bleeding wrist.

Jack quickly changed his tactic and pulled one of his pistols from beneath his coat, his eyes wide with wonder. Cecily recoiled her whip with satisfaction as Jack covered the thief with his flintlock. "You seem to have forgotten there are two of us, Sir." her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Bravo, My Love!!" Jack laughed as he handed her the twin to the pistol he held. Cecily pointed the weapon at the defeated outlaw as Jack dismounted. Taking a length of rope from his saddle bag he walked over to their attacker smiling. Once within reach Jack drew back his fist in a blur of motion and catching the ruffian under the chin knocked him unconscious.

Leaving the would be robber hog tied next to the road they rode to the next hamlet. There they discovered he had been terrorizing the small town for months and the locals were more than happy to go and collect him.

Late in the evening they arrived at Stokes. Finding a suitable Inn they went immediately to their room. Excited over the events of the last three days since they had left Devonshire made sleeping difficult, so they lay in each other's arms enjoying the conversations of lovers. Making their plans for a future that seemed as bright as a new morning, till sleep finally closed their eyes and they drifted off in each other's arms. Their journey half finished.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/10/2006 11:25:56

Sir Peter rode up to the door of the shabby, ill kept farmhouse on the far outskirts of Exter. Few ever came this way for the inhabitants of this particular farm were known far and wide for their ill tempers. Even the taxmen avoided the farm without a well armed escort, and more than a few wondered and gossiped quietly as to where their source of income came from as the farm was hardly ever tended. Sir Peter, however knew full well the source and held little fear of the brothers Mulligan.

Colin Mulligan opened the weather beaten door at his knocking. A large solidly built man, Colin looked as if he would have little trouble lifting the back of a loaded wagon from the ground. "Welcome, Sir Culpepper." He grinned through his tangled brown beard. "And to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit? Ye usually send one of yer lackeys when you have need of us."

"All in good time, Colin." Culpepper entered the dimly lit house unfastening his cloak. " I trust you brothers are about somewhere?"

"Aye." Colin grinned again, smelling money. "We were taking breakfast in the kitchen. A good thing you arrived when you did, Simon were getting' ready to leave for town when we finished." The large muscled man gestured with one grimy hand for Peter to proceed him.

Peter hid his distaste for the squalid surroundings well, making his way to the kitchen. It still baffled him how anyone as well to do as he had made these men could live in such an unkempt manner. The remaining two Mulligan brothers looked up in surprise as he entered a kitchen that fairly reeked from unwashed dishes and uneaten food left to rot.

"We've a visitor, Lads." Colin rumbled, sitting back to his place at the table and tearing a chunk of bread from the loaf next to his plate.

Leslie Mulligan, a loutish fellow who took great pleasure in torturing things weaker than he, merely grunted as he continued shoveling food into his mouth. Just as filthy and large as his older brother his greasy long black hair hung down partially covering his face. He paused only long enough to pull a few wayward strands, which had found their way in, out of his mouth.

Cameron Mulligan was as out of place with his brothers as a gemstone placed in a pile of gravel. Though his soul was just as vile, Cameron was fastidious about his appearance. Thin and wiry, his long brown hair was neatly combed back into a ponytail and his clean shaven face was boyish in it's charm and look. He also took great pleasure in beating the many women who foolishly fell prey to his charms.

"Good morning, Sir Culpepper." His roguish smile was both confident and cocky. "How may we be of service to ye this fine day? As I take it the reason ye visit in person is of some importance?"

"You may indeed, Cameron." Sir Peter said, keeping the disgust out of his voice. "I have need of all of your services. I want the three of you to accompany me on a mission which requires my personal attentions. The rewards will be substantial." Reaching into his coat pocket Sir Peter tossed three leather bags onto the cluttered table, each landing heavily with the chink of coin. Each one of the brothers picked up a bag, weighing it in their palms. "You will each receive the same again once our goal has been attained."

He had their attention now as even Leslie sat back in his chair, forgetting the meal. "And just what be this goal, ye speak of?" Colin grinned.

"I'll explain all on the road." Peter Culpepper said seriously. "The Quarry has a three day head start on us and haste is of the utmost importance now. Do we have a deal?"

The three ruffians looked at each other for a few moments, then Colin stood. "Aye, Sir Peter, that we do."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/11/2006 23:21:25

Cecily crept out of bed early that morning. She headed to the privy closet for her usual morning sickness which was starting up again. She came back out, feeling a bit shaky but better.
She put on her wrapper and looked out the window, breathing deeply the country air.
The inn was quaint and the country side was peaceful. The room had a full-length mirror.
Cecily looked in the mirror and put her hands on her stomach, trying to imagine the little life she carried in her.
She found it hard to assimilate that knowledge when Jack had to tell her that she was pregnant. Six weeks ago, she hadn't even known Jack Roberts. Well, she knew of his reputation through the childhood games Andrew devised. And Jack hadn't even known she existed. Now here they were, about to be parents and about to be married. She bit her lip and frowned. Really wasn't supposed to happen in that order.
She looked at her face closely in the mirror. I don't look any different. Well, a bit tired. A bit pale. But that might be because my appetite is gone.
She sat down and sighed. The sooner we get married, the better....

Jack woke up and yawned. "Cecily? Darling, why are you up so early?"
She came over and sat down next to him, putting her arms around him. "Just thinking, my love. Wondering how the little one is. And wanting him to know how much he is loved and wanted."
Jack laughed. "Maybe 'he' is a girl."
Cecily got a shocked look on her face. "You think it is possible?"
Jack kissed her forehead. "Of course. You don't get a choice, love."
He patted her stomach. "Maybe there are even two in there."
Cecily looked down and put her hands over his. "Don't think there is enough room in there, Jack. I mean, it will be crowded as it is."
Jack hugged her close. "Cecily, did your mother tell you ANYTHING?"
Cecily shook her head no.
Jack held her close and lowered her back onto the bed. He laid on his stomach and entwined his fingers in her hair.
"Darling, it is about time that I tell you the facts of life..."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/13/2006 11:29:01

They awoke early, leaving Stoke behind them as they traveled to York. The night had proved both charming and exasperating. More than once Jack's face had turned as red as Cecily's as he explained to her what he had assumed was common knowledge. Though he wasn't sure her lack of education was as due to sheltering as it was neglect.

He was learning much about life as a highborn noble, as Cecily was about life on the other side of the road. It would seem that no matter what one's station in life hard times were a commodity all shared in. One way or another. For although he had lacked the pleasantries of life, love had been something he had in abundance while growing up.

The day's travel to the outskirts of York was pleasant enough. The weather was fair and sunny, wisps of clouds trailed over the sky and fresh green scents of an early spring floated from the forests. They had stopped at various inns along the way to dine, and let Cecily rest. Their conversations along the way full of hope and promise for their lives together. Little suspecting the danger that was only a few days ride behind them.

Jack surprised Cecily when they reached the outskirts of the second largest city in England. Instead of riding into town to seek out a suitable Inn, Jack had turned down a lane that led out to the surrounding countryside stopping at a quaint little cottage with a thatched roof. A short, aged woman with apple cheeks, and a clean white bonnet tended the roses that grew along the wooden fence line. The smell of baking bread wafted through the air.

"Someone you know?" Cecily asked raising one eyebrow, a habit she had picked up from Jack.

"Aye," Jack laughed then shouted out to the plump woman cheerily. "Good afternoon, Mary!"

The older woman looked up slightly bothered to be pulled away from her task. Then her eye's grew wide with delight as she recognized the caller. "Jack!! Lord love me, Jack!! Get down from that horse and give me a hug this instant, Young Man!!"

Jack laughed heartily as he swung from the saddle to be hugged by the bouncing woman, who soon held him out at arms length. "Let me look at you! I'd swear you get bigger every time you come to visit!" Looking up at Cecily she smiled warmly. "And just who be this pretty lass?"

"Mary Cottlepot, may I introduce my betrothed, Cecily Morley." Jack answered proudly.

"Well don't just stand there, go help her down and come inside, the both of ye." Mary playfully clouted Jack on the shoulder.

The inside of the cottage was as well tended as the outside, with a warm and homey feeling that Cecily had never experienced before. She had the distinct impression of being a child in a storybook visiting with her grandmother as she set in the kitchen sipping tea. "Thank you for inviting us into your Home, Mary. It's lovely."

Mary laughed with glee. "Lord love me, Child. It's not my home, it's Jack's, but he lets me live here, and do as I please. It makes for a safe place to hide when he..." She covered her mouth with her hand cutting off the rest of her sentence, a look of shock in her wide eyes.

"It's alright, Mary." Jack patted her hand. "Cecily knows about me."

"Oh my! Of course she would." The plump little woman resumed her former cheerful disposition. "After all you did say you were betrothed. I'm getting forgetful in my years and you've never brought a woman here before, Jack."

"Anyway, as I was saying," Mary continued, "Me husband and I had a little farm a few miles from here. He worked hard mind you, but we still had debts and when he died I lost everything. I was living hand to mouth on the street in York when Jack found me and offered me this lovely little home he had just bought, bless him. Not many around that would help an old lady out like that, but he did."

She sipped her tea before continuing. "But enough about these old bones. What brings you two all the way up here from Devon shire?"

"We're on our way to Scotland to be married, Luv" Jack grinned.

"So her parents don't approve then?" Mary scowled slightly. "Silly law if you were to ask me! Folks should have the right to marry anyone they choose, and King George should keep his nose out of it!"

"I would agree, Mary." Cecily said. "I would agree whole heartedly."

"Well, there's nothing they can do about it once ye are married, Dear." Mary smiled patting Cecily on the knee. "Now let's see about some supper for you two."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/13/2006 22:38:50

Mary put out a steaming kettle of beef soup with vegetables, fresh fruit, homemade bread and cheese. Supper was a cozy affair with Jack and Mary catching up on news of the Crossfire. She knew them all. Cecily began to realize that Jack had a close network of friends and these were actually family to him.
She ate as much as she could.
Jack had shown her to their rooms earlier. They were wonderfully homey. The brass bed was covered with a homemade quilt and a rag rug covered the wooden floor.
Cecily had announced that she was tired and thought a good night's sleep would be what she needed. Jack escorted her up the stairs to their room.
He kissed her and asked, "Are you sure, darling?"
She smiled wanly and said, "I am sure. I would like to get some sleep and I can't sometimes if you are with me."
She winked at him and gave him a smile. He threw his head back and laughed.
"I won't be long, my dearest. But do get some rest."
As he turned to go, she said to him, "Jack, if you have business here or want to stay an extra day with Mary, I am alright with it. I do love it here."
He blew her a kiss and headed back down the stairs.

She sat on the edge of the bed and unlaced her gown, then put on her nightgown. Cecily opened the window and looked over the moorland. She sat down and breathed deeply. This was one of the most relaxing times on the journey. She smiled to herself as she thought of his 'birds and bees' conversation with her. She wasn't entirely clueless. She knew where babies came from and she knew the fundamentals of childbirth. Mother had just forgotten to fine-tune it.
She shivered. She could never imagine herself to be in an intimate situation with Sir Peter Culpepper.
All of a sudden with that thought, her stomach lurched and she headed for the privy closet.
Wil this ever end?

Downstairs, Jack poured a brandy for him and Mary. She accepted it gratefully and took a sip.
"Ah, Jack! T'is like mother's milk! Warming to the soul and nourishing."
He sat in front of the cozy fire that he had lit. He remembered the day he bought the cottage. He and Mary omitted the fact to Cecily that the cottage had been Mary and her husband's originally until she lost it to an unscrupulous landowner. Jack had found a broken-down Mary living on the streets when he rescued her from a thug who was aiming to steal her last possessions. Ol' Hob taught the ruffian a lesson he would never forget.

Giving Mary shelter that night, she poured out her story. Jack could feel his rage and got the name of the new landowner. In the course of two nights, Jack was able to engage the legal thief in a game of cards and in the end, with a little cunning and some righteous cheating, Jack had title to the cottage and surrounding pastures.
Mary was given carte blanche to live there until she saw the end of her days. The property would then revert to Jack. He had given her a generous allowance to run it for him.

Jack stretched out his legs and drank some of his brandy. Mary asked about Gilbert and Josiah, Molly, Tim and Annabelle.
Finally, she said, "Aye, Jack, the lass you have upstairs, she be a real gem. Take good care of that one."
Jack grinned, "I intend to, Mary. And there is something..."
Mary smiled broadly, "When is the wee bairn due, Jack?"
He was astonished. "You KNEW?"
Mary nodded. "You forget I am a woman. Old that I am, I can see it in her eyes and in her face."
"And that would be...?"
Mary shook her head. "I can't tell you. But it is something passed from mother to daughter. A feeling. I liked the lass right off. Something sweet and innocent and eager to please written on her face. And there is something else."
"What is that?"
"She holds your mind and your heart. The first one that ever did. Marry her and take her home, Jack. Build a life together for as long as ye both shall love. That is my fondest wish for you."
Jack rose and kissed her cheek.
"Have I told you how much you mean to me, Mary Cottlepot? I never would have been able to come to grips with my parents' deaths if it weren't for you."
Mary looked into the fire. "She was here, asking about you."
"And what did you say?"
"That I haven't seen you in six months."
Jack said nothing but took a poker and tended to the fire. She looked over at him and put her hand on his shoulder. "Be careful, Jack."
But it wasn't the fire she was talking about.
And Jack knew that.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/15/2006 11:13:52

Urgent rapping at the door startled them both. Mary placed her left hand over her ample bosom and patted rapidly. "Cor blimey. Speak of the devil and I'd bet we've just herd the beat of his wings!"

Jack sighed as he replaced the poker, while Mary rolled her eyes and brushed down her apron. The insistent staccato rapping began anew as she moved to the arched wooden door. "Here now, give an old woman a chance, Will ye?" She shouted to it on the way. Then mumbled beneath her breath, "Should have known she'd be a watching' the house."

Jack had barely stood up and placed his back to the fireplace when the tall auburn haired woman fairly burst through the door. Dressed in men's riding attire the statuesque beauty came to a halt six feet away, her eyes filled with sorrow and something else. Her hair hung down to the center of her back in a thick braid. White lace sticking out at the sleeves of her sky blue frock coat trembled. One word, lowly breathed whispered past her full lips. "Jack."

"Katherine." Jack nodded.

"Jack, I knew you'd come back." She rushed forward to his arms when she felt his hands gently catch her before she reached him. Confusion and pain mixed in Katherine Fairchild's brown eyes.

Her voice, husky with choked emotion, broke the uneasy silence. "Jack you know I could make you happy. I rode with you. We shared more than just a bed. I know it."

"Katherine." Jack's eyes were thoughtful, tinged with sadness. "I warned you from the start, and you left me, Luv."

"It was a mistake, Jack! Can't you understand that!" She whirled out of his grasp facing away from him to hide the tears racing down her cheeks. "Can't you forgive that?" She whispered to the shadows.

"Always the tough one, eh Kat?" Jack looked down. "I never lied to you, Luv. I told ye from the start my heart belonged to no one. Ye took it upon yourself to try. To be honest ye came closer than ye know to succeeding. In all the time ye rode with me, I slept with no other. Maybe it would have been had ye not met him, but ye did, and I continued on."

She whirled to face him. Tears flowed freely down her face. "Jack, please. Ye know me. I beg from no man. I'm begging you now. Please give me just one chance to prove myself to you. We belong together."

Jack looked up, something in his eyes caught her attention. "No!" She whispered, shock replacing the pain there for a moment. Then the hurt returned a thousand fold. "It can't be! You have found another!"

Katherine raced for the door sobbing. She turned around in the doorway, her face a mask of pain and fury. "Damn you, Jack Roberts!!, She screamed. "Damn you to Hell!" Sobbing uncontrollably she ran to her waiting horse. Mounting in one fluid motion she galloped off down the dirt lane.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/17/2006 20:04:34

"Damn you, Jack Roberts! Damn you to hell!"
The sound of a door slam that reverberated through the house.
The pounding of hoofbeats.

The scream of anguish woke Cecily out of a sound sleep. She bolted upright in the bed, momentarily unaware of where she was.
Gathering her wits about her, she grabbed her wrapper and went to the window. She saw a person jump on a horse and gallop down the dirt lane. She couldn't tell at first if the person was male or female but the scream was definitely feminine.

She sat down on the bed, trying to figure out just what happened. She went to the door, opened it and heard the low voices of Mary and Jack talking quietly.
Cecily felt that to intrude on what was a private conversation was something she didn't want to do. Or know about.
She went to the bed and crawled back into it, trying to sleep. But sleep would not come again.
She didn't know if it was because she had just enough or if it was the reality of what was obviously a spurned love from Jack's past.

She suddenly was overwhelmed with a feeling of inadequacy. She punched her pillow and flopped back in the bed. Staring at the ceiling, she began to feel despair. 'I'm only seventeen,' she thought. 'I told Jack I was nineteen just so he will think I was older and more sophisticated than I am.'
From what she could see of the woman who fled in a tempest, she was an accomplished horsewoman. Her clothes fit her impeccibly. It's funny, Cecily thought, how much your mind's eye can grasp in a few seconds.

Cecily got out of bed and lit the lamp that was on the table. She walked over to the mirror and peered into it. A young woman's face stared back at her. Cecily was certainly a beautiful young woman.
She took her hair and tried to pile it on top of her head and suck her cheeks in to see if she could look older and more worldly.
It just didn't seem to ring true. Cecily couldn't help it. No matter how she tried, the innocence and life experience she was lacking were showing on her face.
She sighed and went back to bed. She started to feel sick again and ran to the privy closet.
Coming out, she was a bit woozy.
She rubbed her abdomen and whispered to the child within, 'If you are listening..I love you!'
She opened the casement windows and looked out again over the moors. She couldn't help her thoughts. Would Jack always love her?
Or would a sophisticated woman take him away? Would he get tired of her? After all, she was ten years younger.
She felt the tears slide down her cheeks and she angrily wiped them away. Cecily, you goose! she thought. The woman left in a rage. Would she be back? Who knows? And who cares?
'You do, Cecily', her inner voice said. 'You care very much.'
"Oh, shut up!" Cecily said out loud.
She curled up under the blankets and fought sleep.
Best I wait for Jack to come to bed. If I am going to hold on to him......


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/17/2006 23:21:41

"Well, Jack," Mary sighed, "that's gone and torn it sure. I could see it in your eyes. You were about to tell her, had she not twigged it herself. But would ye have ever told her the other?"

He sat staring into the fire, just like he had two years ago, and Mary felt a shudder run through her. She had been the only one who knew about that night, for this was where he had come to. A crumpled parchment forgotten in his hand. His turquoise eyes as blank as she had ever seen them. He had said not a word, but walked like a condemned man to the chair and sat down. She was still unsure he even knew she was there that night as his eyes never left the leaping flames. One hand under his chin, with his forefinger crooked across his lips.

She had quietly brought him tea, and some rolls. That was when she had saw his face clearly. Although neither sound nor movement gave him away, tears flowed silently down his face in rivers. As if he were a statue, a weeping statue.

When she had come downstairs in the morning she found him asleep still sitting before the fireplace. The forgotten parchment having fallen from his grasp at last, to rest crumpled on the floor beside him. Without thinking she had picked it up, and smoothed it out. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she read it.

"Dear, Jack;

I wish there was some other way to tell you this, but I can not do so in person. By the time you read this Martin and I will be far away. I love him, Jack. That is the only explanation I can give to you. I love him and want to be where ever he is.

I'm sorry for hurting you like this, but I have no other choice, and I know if I talk with you I may change my mind. I will always remember you, but I can not be with you anymore.

Forgive me;

The next morning Jack was gone. Mary hadn't even heard him leave. As she was cleaning away the ashes from the fireplace she had seen it. A flash of yellow metal among the charcoal black and gray. A ring set with a single diamond, as she brushed away the grime she realized that he had moved at least once. To throw the ring he had been about to propose with into the flames.

Then two months ago Katherine had returned. Perhaps she had loved Martin Abbot, but he loved any pretty lass who could provide him with an income. After he had used up most of hers she had found him bedding another. She had poured out the story to Mary. Mary for her part had not bothered to tell her about that night, only that she had not seen Jack in six months, and he was doing well the last time she laid eyes on him.

"Lord forgive me for telling' tales," She thought to herself. "but I couldn't let her know how much she hurt him. Now, just when he is happy again here she comes waltzin' back in like he'd just be a waitin' for her."

"No." Jack spoke finally. "I would not have her know, Luv. If Katherine ever found out just how close she was, she would never give up. She would always hold hope where there is none. My love for her died that night, and it was a slow, painful death."

"She may not give up yet, Jack." Mary said.

"She'll have to, Luv." Jacks face was a mask of seriousness in the flickering firelight. "I'll not let her, or any other come between me and Cecily. She is all to me, Mary. I can say this with all the honesty within me; I can never love any woman as much as I love her."

"Now, if you will excuse me," Jack said rising, "Cecily was sure to hear some of that row, and I must see to her needs. I'll not have Katherine Fairchild upsetting a woman who is as dear to me as life itself."

"I thought as much, Dearie." Mary said, gently kissing his cheek. "I wish the two of ye a long and happy life together, and a good night."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/18/2006 15:45:51

Jack's heart was heavy as he trudged up the short flight of stairs, but not for Katherine. Bad timing that. He would rather she had stayed with Martin Abbot. That his Cecily had heard any of the unfortunate conversation he had no doubt, they could have heard that final scream all the way to the Thames. What must she be thinking now?

He opened the door to find her awake, just as he expected. Her gaze a mixture of love, sorrow, and determination. "Cecily." He spoke her name into the dimly lit room.

"Who was that, Jack?" Ceily's voice filled with fear of a rival.

Jack came to the edge of the bed and sat down, taking her small hands gently in his before speaking. "That my dearest was someone I thought out of my life forever. Before ye say anything, let me tell you all." Cecily nodded in the stillness that suddenly hung over the room like a heavy blanket.

Jack sighed, then began. "About four years ago I met Katherine Fairchild. I was much as you know me to be now, but perhaps a bit more care free in my ways. She was from a poor family, but they managed to keep a roof over their heads. We were in a tavern in York. I had just made a very successful venture about five miles away and was celebrating when she walked in."

"A bit of a tomboy even then, she wore trousers instead of a dress, and was a bit rough around edges. I was immediately fascinated, as was she. I told her the same thing I have told every woman, except for you. I wasn't opposed to a bit of fun, but nothing more would come of it. She seemed to accept that and we became fast friends. As time went on, whether by her design, or mine I can not say, we became more than friends. Turned out to be the first time I lied about nothing more."

"For a time she even rode with me. The only time Black Jack Roberts ever had a partner with him. We seemed to be everything the other could want, or so I thought. The night I decided to give her my heart she left me for another. True irony that. I learned that night how much love can hurt. I swore I would never again know pain such as I felt that night. "

"Then I was lucky enough to meet you, My Love. You are the only woman I would risk that agony for. Though ye be a right pretty lass, far fairer to me than ye will ever know, it's not your looks, position, or past that makes me love you Cecily Morley. What I feel for you goes far deeper than any of those things. You touch my very soul, and that is the part of me ye hold in these hands."

"As bad as what I felt when Katherine left me, what I should feel should I ever lose you will be a thousand times worse. I told ye true from the start. No woman except you has ever truly held me heart, and no woman but you ever will."

When he had finished he sat there, tenderly rubbing the backs of her hands with his thumbs, silently praying to any god that would listen, he had not just lost the only thing he cared for.

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/18/2006 22:03:57

Cecily looked down at the strong hands that were caressing the backs of hers.
She looked up at him with determination on her face but he couldn't help but see the hurt in her eyes. He felt like he had kicked a puppy.
She took a deep breath and said in a soft voice, "Jack, I have known there were other women. But to have one of your 'partners' staring me in the face...well, it just became a reality."
She tried to manage a smile and it was faltering. "This is even more real than that nightgown as this one has a face and a name. I am not ignorant. I know a man this schooled in the arts of love would have had um..hands-on experience. I would be lying to you if I told you I was alright with it. I'm not. But it is not you. It is my nature. I feel insecure and that is something that I shall have to overcome with experience."
Jack took her face in his hands and gently kissed her. Her arms encircled his neck and she brought him down to her, the gentleness of their kisses turning into passion. Jack paused long enough to snuff the candle out. The moonlight from the window was the only light they needed.

Cecily laid in Jack's arms and he stroked her hair. One thing bothered her. The fact that Jack had mentioned that he had loved Katherine. He had said that he learned how much love could hurt.
He had been in love with Katherine. He decided to give his heart to her.

"Yes, my love?"
"Would you mind if we stayed here for another day? I haven't been feeling all that well and I think if I rested up a day, it would make all the difference in the world."
"Not at all. In fact, I have a few friends I would like to see..."
He felt her body stiffen slightly so he hurried up with, "These men were ones that are the ones that have helped Jack Roberts the Highwayman."
She relaxed in his arms.
"How long before the baby moves, Jack?"
"Darling, you are asking the wrong person. But I guess in a few months."
"Jack, does Annabelle know midwifing skills?"
"I'm pretty sure she does. She knows everything."
She raised her head and said, "I would like Annabelle to be there when the time comes for the child to be born. I would feel so much better."
He stroked her cheek and said softly, "I am sure she would be proud and honored you want her there, Cecily."
Cecily lay there quietly and contentedly with her head resting on Jack's chest. His heartbeat was comforting to her as she knew she had a place there. She pushed thoughts if Katherine had a spot there too down deep from her.
Tomorrow I'll maybe see if I can get any information on her from Mary. I need to know what I am up against.
Jack kissed her again and sighed. "Never have I ever felt so complete as I am with you, Cecily Morley. My life was a journey and you're the journey's end."
He held her close and started to fall asleep.
From the darkness came Cecily's voice.
"I'm seventeen."
"I know."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/19/2006 10:36:16

Josiah and Molly sat at the center table in the spacious tavern that made up the main room of the Crossbow. It was late in the evening, and a well deserved break from cleaning up after the last patron had left was in order. "I tell ye true, Josiah, I could have crawled under the floor when I saw that night gown again!" Molly laughed heartily.

"Aye," Josiah chimed in, "the look on yer face were priceless, Lass!"

"Cor! I can well imagine!" Molly still blushed slightly. "Still I don't think it would have ever happened had it not been for her." Molly turned serious, her voice filled with scorn.

"Aye, Lass." Josiah's mirth dropped as well. "Been a while since I even thought 'a Katherine. I'd never seen Jack act like that with any lass, much less a wild cat like her."

"She broke him, Josiah." Molly looked him straight in the eyes. "Cecily just put him back together again, but make no mistake, that woman broke him."

"Ha! Think we didn't notice, Lass?" Josiah's face became pinched and drawn. "Him running all over the countryside, robbing all and sundry what even looked like they had wealth. Running all over London, spending it as fast as he stole it, and carrying around those bloody cursed handkerchiefs as well!"

"We were all worried, Love." Molly placed her hand over his. "I think that was part of the reason I went to him when I did."

"Not that ye entertained any thoughts 'a takin' Katherine's place?" Josiah grinned devilishly.

Molly swatted the tavern keep with her cleaning rag. "Go on with ye!" She blushed. "Not that I wouldn't have wanted Jack for me own, but I knew deep down that it wasn't to be." Her own smile grew with the new mischief that entered her mind. "Be sides, I be more than satisfied with what I have..........For now!"

She leaped lightly for her feet, giggling, and ran around to the far end of the table next to them. "For the now!! For the now??!" He howled in mock outrage. "Ye just wait till I catch you, Missy! I'll be a changein' your mind, for the now!"

Josiah's chair clattered backward to the floor as he set off in pursuit of the shapely redhead. All about the tavern floor they raced, Molly squealing and giggling, Josiah growling bawdy suggestions as to the price she would pay when he finally had her cornered. Molly made it easy for him to do just that, in the end.

No sooner did their arms embrace when a loud banging came from the main door. "We're closed, Ya bloody idiot!!!" Josiah yelled grinning at the captured beauty in his arms. "Come back tomorrow!! Late!! We'll be closed in the morning as well!!"

"Josiah Parker!! If you do not open this door immediately, I shall go to the stable, return with a hammer, and beat it from the hinges!!!" Annabelle Peterson's muffled voice came from the other side. Josiah and Molly looked at each other in wonder.

"Hold on a moment, Annie!" Josiah pulled gently away from Molly's arms and sprinted to the door. "Didn't know it was you, Lass. I'd a..." He stopped short. Never before had he seen Annabelle's complexion so pale, to say nothing of the fear in her eyes.

Before he could utter another word, Anne raced into tavern wildly shrieking. "Where is Jack, Josiah?!! Please! I must speak to him!!! He must not go to Scotland!!!" The half Gypsy spun like a caged beast, her eyes searching hopefully for a sign of Jack, or Cecily. Her metal bangles clinking like chimes, punctuating her franticness.

"I'm afraid yer about four days too late, Annie." Josiah looked with concern at the panicked woman.

Suddenly Annabelle came to a statuesque stillness, her hands in fists before her lips. Her eyes were wide as she stared blankly into space. She whispered, "No! No! This can not be! They mustn't go to Scotland!"

Josiah felt the hackles of his neck rise. He had seen Annie concerned before, but never in such a state of terror. He motioned for Molly to get the Gypsy witch some brandy and gently placed his hands on her shoulders. Bending down to gaze into the frightened brown eyes he spoke gently. "Annie?......Annie?....Annie, it's me.....Josiah.......What's wrong, Annie?....Tell me."

"Josiah?...Oh, Josiah!!" As Ann's eyes focused on his weathered face her tears overflowed the lip of her eyelid. "Oh, Josiah! I am too late!"

"Annie, please sit down, have a drink, then tell us what this be about. I've never seen ye in such a state." Josiah easily guided Ann to the table he and Molly had just occupied, righting the fallen chair for her to sit in. Molly placed the quickly gulped down brandy next to her. Her own face white with concern.

Last night I was reading the cards, nothing of consequence, just practice. My eyes should fall from my head for what I cast. Jack's card, Cecily's card, The Lovers in travel, the Three Evil Ones, The Scorned woman, and then," She visibly shuddered, "The tower of Destruction followed by Death! I cast the cards four times Josiah!! Do you understand?! I cast the same cards every time!!! If they go to Scotland, one or both of them will die!!"

Josiah's face went as white as Molly's apron. He had long ago learned to trust the things Annabelle Peterson could see with her special cards. "Molly." His voice steady and certain. "Go rouse the twins. I've a job for them. Whether Jack likes it, or nay."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/19/2006 22:52:52

Cecily reached over and Jack was gone. In a momentary panic, she sat up until she heard the voices from downstairs and she relaxed.
'I've got to stop this!' she thought. 'I've got something that Katherine Fairchild doesn't have. I am carrying Jack's baby.'
The thought filled her with pride that she was going to be the one to give him what he wanted more than anything. A family of his own.
She snuggled down in the blankets and then the now-familiar sensation came over her.
She threw the covers aside and made her run...

Jack opened the door with one hand and had a tray with a hot breakfast. She came out and smiled wanly. "I guess it goes with the territory, huh?"
Jack put the tray down and encircled her from her back. She leaned against him and smiled.
He put his hands on her abdomen and said, "Who would have thought, Cecily? I've only known you six weeks."
"Nay, Jack. We have known each other all our lives. We just never met."
Jack breathed deeply the delicious scent of her. "I have loved you my whole life, Cecily Morley. Even before I met you. At first it was just the promise of you. And you have always kept your promises. The promise of a family. You will never lose me."
She turned and put her arms around his waist, giving him a look he could feel to his very soul.

They sat in bed and ate their breakfast. It had become cold but with a good reason. Jack rose from the bed and started to get dressed.
"Sure you don't mind staying here an extra day?"
She laughed, "I seem to recall it was my idea, darling. No, I would love to spend time with Mary. She is like the grandmother I never had. And I would like this child to be surrounded by nothing but love."
Her face grew serious and a hint of troubling thoughts reflected in her sapphire blue eyes.
"Jack, I grew up wanting nothing. But I lacked a parent's love. Father tried but he was pre-occupied with Moreland. That was his real love. Mother loved herself most. You grew up wealthier than I did. You knew a mother's love. And I intend for this child to have an abundance of it!"
Jack grabbed his coat and fastened Ol' Hob to his frog and then put the flintlocks in his waistband.
Cecily frowned a bit. "Jack, do you expect trouble?"
He winked at her. "Expect? No. But it never surprises me. Nay, darlin', I am just going to the tavern to see a few of the friends. It has been six months."
"The Bell and Badger. I will be back before late afternoon."
He kissed her and went downstairs.

Mary was kneading bread. Jack sniffed appreciatively.
"Mary, that smells wonderful! I forgot how wonderful your home cooking is!"
Mary beamed. "And it be nice t' cook for a man again. Ye be careful, young man! Ye have a little lass to make an honest woman of."
"And by this time next week, she will be as honest as the day is long!"
He took a tart and she smacked his hand. "That be for later, Jack Roberts!"
He laughed as he went out the door.

Cecily dressed and went downstairs.
"Mary, would you show me how to bake bread?"
"But, child, Jack will no doubt hire a cook when ye set up your own house. He be a wealthy man in his own right."
Cecily sat at the table and watched Mary. "I know. I shall be blessed with his love."
She blushed. "Mary? I--I need to tell you something..."
"I know, lassie.Jack told me but I had guessed it."
She was astonished. "But-but how did you know?"
She took Cecily's face under the chin and tilted it up.
"I may be old but I be a woman too, Cecily. I saw it in your eyes. can't be explained. But a shine that speaks for two."
Cecily smiled shyly but said, "Mary, I am happier than I ever thought possible."
"As it should be, my dear."
Cecily traced an imaginary random pattern on the tablecloth. Quietly, she said, "Mary, I have to know. What can you tell me about Katherine Fairchild?"
Mary was startled but she kept kneading the bread. She concentrated on the chore at hand.
"Not much, my dear. Water under the bridge. Best to keep ghosts where they belong. In the past. No good can ever come of knowing something that doesn't matter. And Katherine Fairchild doesn't matter. Not any more."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/20/2006 19:05:45

Jack walked into the Bell and Badger, taking a table near the left wall near a window he could see the road from. The shapely raven haired tavern girl immediately walked over to him smiling. "Why Robert Johnson. As I live and breathe, Love. It's good to see you back in town. Gon'na plan on makin' an evening' of it?" She set a tankard of Ale before him.

"I'm afraid those days are long past me, Sally." Jack grinned. "I am betrothed now."

Sally Henning pouted, a little disappointed. "Shame, Love. Ye were always fun to have around. Betrothed? I guess that explains Kat's behavior last night then." She mused.

"She came here then?" Jacks voice was casual, hiding the fact that this was just the information he was looking for. Katherine was quite unpredictable and even he was not certain just how far she would go should she seek revenge.

"Aye!" Sally continued. "She stormed through the door, and started drinking Brandy like it were water. Oh, she were a sight, Robert, her eyes being all puffy like, and arguein' with every man in the place. Willie an' Otis had to show her the door after she knock out young Darryl, she did! Fought 'em like a mad woman! Then she rode off."

"But enough about her, Love. Yer betrothed now. It be a happy occasion." Sally brightened. "Congratulations to you and the lucky lady."

Jack smiled genuinely. "I be the lucky one, Luv. No mistaken that." Then he winked. "Would Donovan be about today?"

"Aye, he be in the back room fuming' over the books, again." Sally winked back. "I'll go and fetch the old skinflint for ye."

After a few moments Donovan Wallace came out to the main room a huge smile splitting his weathered face. "Robert! It's good to see ye lad!" Donovan extended his hand. "Why ye sittin' out here, come on in the back and have a drink with an old mate."

Jack shook the offered hand firmly. "Aye, Donovan, old mate. I believe I'll be doing just that." The two men walked to Donovan's room while Sally returned to waiting on customers. She paused for a moment watching Jack vanish, a wistful expression on her innocent looking features. "Must be some kinda woman what could tame that one." She sighed.

"She were here last night, Jack." Donovan spoke as he closed the door.

"I know, sally told me." Jack scowled.

"Aye, but Sally doesn't know who ye are. Katherine does." The middle aged man sat down heavily, running a hand across his balding pate. "To her credit, no matter how drunk she got, she never referred to ye as other than Robert. But I wouldn't be a bettin' on how long she keeps that secret."

"I don't believe she would ever let that out, not even to get to me." Jack mused. "But she may try something else. I guessed she would head here, now I need to know if she let anything slip that would reveal her plans."

"I know ye, Jack." Donovan frowned. "Ye be worried if she has designs on yer beloved."

"Quite." Jack's scowl deepened.

"Can't say she did." Wallace's eyebrows knitted in thought. "Most of the night she spent drunkenly cursing Robert Johnson, and getin' into dreadful arguments when any fool dared to bring up the topic of love within her hearin'. Last I saw her, she were ridin' South."

Jack smiled. "That may well be a good thing then."

"Mary." Cecily spoke as she helped Mary put the rolls into the brick oven. "Please. I know it may not be wise, but tell me about Katherine and Jack."

Mary sighed. "If I do ye must promise me one thing."

"And that would be?" Cecily asked warily.

That no matter what I tell ye, ye keep it in your heart that Jack loves only you now." Mary's face was as serious as an irritated school teacher's. The look seemed oddly out of place on her usually cheerful face.

Cecily smiled. "I do know that, Mary."

"Very well, Child." Mary Cottlepot voice held the tone of someone delivering news to the condemned. "Jack were always a bit of a wild one with the ladies. He never lied to any of 'em. It were the same when he met Katherine. I don't know all the details, but some said she were put out by a nobleman whom she wed when the blighter found out she were barren."

"Jack has a soft spot for them what gets ill used in life, as I'm sure you've noticed, and Katherine were no exception. I think he was a bit attracted to her wild ways as well. After they had known each other for about two months Jack took her in to his confidence. She took to his lifestyle like a duck to water and they soon began to ride together. He even had a costume made up 'specially for her."

"For the first time since I've known him, Jack stayed true to one woman. Her. It took her a while, to be sure, but she finally won him over. He believed with all his heart that they were meant to be. Men can be like that sometimes, and when it plays them false they can hurt as much as we can. That's just what happened."

"On the night that Jack had finally made up his mind to ask Katherine to be his forever he learned two things he never suspected. That the wench had been untrue to him, and that she had left him for her new paramour."

"I watched him sit in that chair, staring into the fire, and doing something I had never seen him do before, or since. Jack Roberts made not a sound, but he sat there most all night and wept till he fell asleep."

Mary sighed heavily, looking into the young girls eyes with sorrow. "Now ye know as much about it as I do, Dearie. But let me tell you this and tell you true. He wept for Katherine. He would die over you."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/21/2006 07:25:14

The tall auburn haired woman in men's clothing caught Cameron Simon Mulligan's eye the moment she walked through the door of the Ox and Plow tavern. Watching the sway of her hips as she strode to the bar and ordered a whiskey, his mind filled with the pleasures she could provide both during and after he had seduced her. He stood up from the table.

"Cameron!" Sir Peter hissed. "We've no time for your dalliances!"

"Won't be but a moment, Guv." The youngest of the Mulligan brothers grinned. "We'll catch up to your lady soon enough."

"Aye," Colin laughed, "With Simon it never takes more than a moment!" The other brother, Leslie chuckled deeply as Cameron's face reddened. Quickly composing himself he turned about and made his way over to his intended victim. More than determined now to prove himself in front of his siblings.

"Hello, Ducks." He leaned confidently on the bar next to the woman. "Fancy for some company with a gentleman?" His smile was one of his best, which had cause many a maid to lose her resolve to him and soon regret it.

"When I see one, I may." Katherine retorted.

"Here now, Duckie, why so hard?" Cameron's voice fairly dripped with honey. "I've only a mind to get to know ye. Love be so hard to find in these hard times." His broadening smile at the gentile feel of a touch between his legs dropped at the sound of a pistol hammer clicking into position.

"Love?" Katherine's voice began sweetly, hardening with each word she spoke. "And what would someone like you know of love? A man very much like yourself cost me the only love I ever truly held with his sweet words."

"Lassie," A deep rumbling voice came from her left. "If ye don't take that there pistol from me brother's manhood, Ye'll be losin' a lot more'n love." Colin Mulligan stood threateningly over her. She allowed her gaze to shift for a second.

"And if you do not back up to a safe distance, your brother is going to speak with a much higher voice." Katherine growled back, increasing the pressure of the pistol against Cameron's flesh. That she would probably die at the hands of the brute no longer mattered to her. She had precious little to want to live for now.

"Back off, Colin!! For pity's sake, back off!!" Cameron squeaked, sweat pouring down the sides of his handsome face. The elder brother raised his hand and backed away a pace or two, scowling.

"Colin, Cameron, Leslie!" An imperious voice commanded from behind the huge ruffian. "Return to you seats this instant!" To Katherine's surprise the two men she could see did just that, followed by a third she had been unaware of behind her. The owner of the voice was dressed finely, a noble she guessed.

"Please forgive my men, M'Lady." Peter Culpepper smiled graciously. "They are a bit rough. I promise they will trouble you no more." He turned to eye his hirelings sourly. "We are after all pressed for time. A man has taken my daughter from me, and we hope to catch them before they reach Scotland to marry."

"Aye," Katherine sighed, holstering her flintlock in her belt. "Men are always marring them they should not."

"Perchance you may have seen them?" Sir Peter smiled diplomatically. "A young blonde girl named Cecily, and a tall blonde man, name of Robert Johnson?


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/21/2006 11:20:56

Cecily hugged Mary Cottlepot and said, "Thank you for telling me, Mary. I would be lying if I said it was alright but now I know. And maybe I should be thanking Katherine Fairchild for doing what she did. If he were not reckless and squiring ladies around, I very well could have been caught by the pirates who tried to press me into service."
Mary hugged her back. "Aye. Jack told me the whole story of how he met ye. And a chance encounter indeed it was!"
Cecily picked up a tart and said "May I? They look so delicious!"
Mary nodded.
Cecily continued. "If he hadn't been with that tavern wench, there is no telling where I would be today."
Mary started making a pie crust. "Ah, it be so good to cook fer a man what appreciates me cookin'. Jack ne'er seems to be full enough. Guess that what come from goin' ter bed hungry when ye be a lad."
Cecily looked thoughtful. "I take it there were no brothers or sisters?"
"Nay. Jack be an only child. I think that be why he is so keen on a family of his own. From what he says, his mum and da were wonderful folks with an abundance of love and a shortage of funds."
Cecily looked sad for a minute. "I do miss my brother Andrew. He was my saviour in more ways than one and he helped Jack and me get together. I only wish he could be here for my wedding day...WEDDING! My goodness, Mary! I have nothing fancy to wear! I can't get married in just any old thing!"
Mary laughed. "Darlin' whatever ye wear, Jack won't be a-noticin'!"
Cecily looked hopeful. "I don't suppose there are any dressmakers who may have some clothes ready-made, are there?"
Mary surveyed her. "Ye are a petite stature. Sometimes the dressmakers have sample dresses and make them for women of a larger stature."
Cecily grabbed her cloak. "Then I shall be try! Where might I find one?"
Mary wiped her hands on a cloth. "There be Miss Olive over on the main street running through the village. A large sign that says 'DRESSMAKER'. Have ye funds?"
"Jack has a stash of coins and I know he won't mind. Oh, Mary! Here is hoping I can find a dress suitable for the wedding!"

Within a half hour, Cecily was saddled up on Aphrodite and headed towards the village. The sun was warm and she tilted her face up towards it, drawing in the fresh air of the countryside. It seemed to calm the nauseousness she felt periodically during the day. Perhaps this would be a good area for Jack and me to settle down. Mary would be close by and could be a grandmother to the baby.

The village was bustling with activity. Cecily looked and saw a shop with bright flowers in a windowbox.
'DRESSMAKER' it said.
She found a stable across the lane and a bit down. Paying a few shillings, she was able to have Aphrodite taken care of, with a curry thrown in.
She crossed the lane and went into the shop. A bell above the door chimed as she walked through.
A portly woman with grey hair in a bun and pins in her mouth came out from the back.
"May I help you, Miss?"
"My name is Miss Morley. You must be Miss Olive. Mary Cottlepot told me to stop in."
"Ah! Mary! She be one of my best friends! A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Morley. How may I help you?"
Cecily smiled. "I know this may be out of the realm of possibility but I am in need of a wedding dress. I am on my way to Gretna Green and I am to be married. I neglected to pack my dress and I don't want to go back home get it."
Miss Olive said, "I am guessing you are eloping! So be the ways of love, my dear. And it just so happens that I have the perfect dress for you!"
Miss Olive returned in a few minutes. "This dress looks like it was made for you, Miss Morley."
Cecily looked in astonishment.
It was the very dress she had run out on in London!

Cecily tried to hide her surprise. "Where did you happen to come across such a gown, Miss Olive?"
Miss Olive held it up to Cecily. "Sometimes people order work and cannot for various reasons pick them up. So the lot of them are shipped up to us and we sell them up here. The seamstresses get what they can for them so it is not a total loss.
This was left behind by a bride who disappeared. Some say she was kidnapped by the notorious highwayman, Jack Roberts. Some say he had his way with her and murdered her. Others say he sold her off to some passing merchants. The poor thing is probably slave to some Arabian sheik and living in a tent!" she whispered conspiratorially. Miss Olive seemed like she relished the idea of the second notion.
Cecily was beginning to feel a slight outrage to the slander of Jack's reputation.
"It is quite possible the woman changed her mind and broke the engagement. The intended in his revenge decided to besmirch the reputation of a man so he came out the better."
Miss Olive pursed her lips and said, "Perhaps. Perhaps. But I prefer the fantasy to the story!" she laughed and caught herself before she swallowed the pins.
"Now, my dear..shall we try it on?"

Cecily felt funny about trying on a dress that was hers but meant for another husband.
Miss Olive bustled around, nipping and tucking.
"My dear, this is a bit big on you."
Cecily couldn't help but think that her present condition and the fact that she had done alot of horseback riding in the past month contributed to the slimness of her body. Getting sick every morning didn't help either.

The gown was a lovely white silk overlay on satin with beaded pearls. She knew her father had paid for it and by rights it did belong to her.
She asked Miss Olive, "Can the pearls be taken off and the silk rearranged..just so?"
She demonstrated what she wanted. Within half hour, Miss Olive had the dress changed and it no longer resembled the dress she was intended as the sacrificial lamb of Sir Peter Culpepper.
"It looks wonderful, Miss Olive!"
The seamstress stood back and said, "As I said, it looks like it was made for you, Miss Morley!"

Cecily paid the bil which was a fraction of what it should have been. Miss Olive had taken a liking to Cecily and commented on how she remembered being young once.
She hugged Cecily and said, "I wish you all the best, dear."
Cecily gathered the parcel and said, "By this time in a few days, I shall be Mrs. Robert Johnson. We are staying with Mary right now."
Miss Olive almost swallowed the pins in her mouth. "Y-you're marrying Robert Johnson? Mary Cottlepot's grandson?"
Cecily looked quizzically but recovered fast. "Aye. We are staying with his grandmother right now. Thank you again, Miss Olive."

As Cecily walked down the lane, Miss Olive looked after her and thought, 'So THAT is the lass that tamed and won that reckless man's heart. Who would have thought?'


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/21/2006 19:01:01

"It's your daughter he's betrothed to then?" A plan began to formulate in Katherine's mind, a glimmer of hope. They were only a two day ride behind Jack. If they could make time they could catch the two of them before they reached the border. She wouldn't have to do a thing to separate them, the law would. Then she could go to him, comfort him. He would see.

She looked Culpepper in his sea gray eyes. "All your after is your daughter?" She demanded, half eyeing the three Mulligan brothers. Nasty lot there.

Peter Culpepper put on his best wounded father face. "God be my witness, I only oppose her marrying so young, she's only seventeen, you know. I wish to bring her home to talk sense into the girl."

"Seventeen?" It all made sense to Katherine now. She knew no strip of a child could hold a candle to what she could offer, Jack. "Aye, I can lead ye to 'em, on two conditions." She smiled.

"And those would be?" Peter's voice filled with hope.

"Mr. Johnson never knows it was I that led you to them." She replied. "And no matter what, your lads there are only to restrain him. They are to hurt him in no way!"

"You have my word as a nobleman, M'Lady" He bowed with all the formality years in politics had taught him. "My men will not so much as bruise the man."

"Very well, we have a deal then." Katherine put out her hand. As Culpepper took it she pulled him close in a friendly embrace, covering her whispered words. "If you break your word to me, Nobleman, I will kill you for certain. And I will be watching."

As she released him she spoke aloud again. "Can your men be ready to ride within the hour?"

Culpepper simply smiled warmly. "You've nothing to fear, Miss. Yes, we can."

"Then gather your things, and let's go. With hard riding we should catch them before they reach the border. I'll wait for you outside." Katherine downed the remainder of her whiskey and left.

"When she gets us to Johnson, she's mine!" Cameron hissed between his teeth, after the door shut.

"After we have Cecily, and kill him, she is yours!" Corrected Sir Peter. "Would you believe the tart had the nerve to threaten me?" The four men laughed loudly.

"Well, Cameron Simon, looks like ye'll be getting' a bit of a bonus this trip." Colin grinned evily to his younger brother.

In a voice that would have chilled the most hardened criminal Cameron answered. "Aye, big brother, that I will. That I will."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/22/2006 15:12:04

Annabelle Peterson rode like a woman possessed. Even George and Geoffrey, no strangers to hard riding themselves, were hard pressed to keep up with her. "Love me if I knows what's 'a keepen' her in the saddle." George observed on their third day out. "I can barely stay upright meself."

"Aye." Geoff yawned into his glove. "We've changed horses three times already. Good thing Josiah sent the emergency fund with us."

"Well, she promised to camp come sunset." George huffed. "And she's going to camp come sunset whether she bloody likes it, or not. She can't keep drivin' herself like this."

In the end the twins had to forcibly take the bridle of her mount to stop her. Anne fumed and paced mumbling things in Romani she would never say in English, as the brothers made the campfire.. Geoffrey and George simply grinned, knowing full well they were being insulted to the extent of Anne's ability.

"Tell you what, Love!" Geoff grinned. "If ye promise to rest and never tell me what a 'chovani' is. I promise we'll keep up with you when we leave out." George looked at his brother as if he had taken leave of his senses. "Don't worry," Geoff whispered with a wink. "She'll never keep up the rest end of it. We'll be up before dawn, just like last time."

"You have a deal, Geoffrey!" Anne being one of a handful of people who could tell the twins apart instantly. "I shall remember your words come morning."

George shot Geoff an evil look. "Don't worry, I'm telling' ye. She'll never be able to wait that long." Geoff whispered.

"Don't worry, I'm telling' ye. She'll never be able to wait that long." George singsonged his minutes younger brother as they raced behind Anne in the morning light. "Last time I let you speak for us, Mate." He grumbled.

The twins had awoken to the sun just breaking the horizon. Annabelle had been up at first light, putting out the campfire, and readying the horses. With a smile of satisfaction she threw the bleary eyed twins an apple each. "What's this, Luv?" Geoff asked rubbing sleep from one eye. "Breakfast." She had said. "It's all I've had this morning. Now I hold you to your promise. Ride!" George had nearly crowned his sibling with his apple, when he thought better of it and bit into the apple while rolling up his bed.

"How was I to know she'd do it?" Geoff whined.

"And how long have ye known Annie, now?" George retorted. "Ya know bloody well she be as stubborn as Jack!" To his galloping mount he said. "Thick as a brick, that one is!" he motioned to the red faced Geoff with his head.

Annabelle smiled slyly as she galloped a furlong ahead of the bickering twins. Now she had a chance. If she could just catch Jack and Cecily before they crossed the border to Scotland all would be well. In Scotland both of them would die, she was certain of that. Tapping her heels into the Bay's flanks she thought, "Forgive me, My Friend, but I need all the speed you are capable of. At the next town you will have your well deserved rest."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/22/2006 21:11:10

The next morning Jack prepared to leave. Something wasn't right, and it wasn't just the unsavory scene he had with Katherine. This was something different, a familiar feeling he would get when...

Saying goodbye to Mary was particularly difficult for Cecily. The feisty little woman had touched her heart deeply. "Mary, I promise you, Jack and I will stay for a real visit on our way back." She said as she hugged the cheery woman.

"And we'll be a waitin' to see ye again, Dear." She kissed Cecily's cheek. "Now off with ye. Jackie-boy has a job to finish, and he better well finish it, or they'll be a fresh bundle of hickory switches a waitin' on him." She winked.

"Yes, Mama!" Jack grinned touching two fingers to the brim of his hat. Then he looked at Cecily. The lovely curve of her jaw as she swung laughing into Aphrodite's saddle. "She means it, too." He whispered to her.

"I heard that, Ye scallywag!" Mary Cottlepot laughed. "Ye better believe I mean it, Jack Roberts." She stood there in her garden waving each time Cecily turned back for a last look. Jack must have something in mind, she thought. That wasn't the direction to Middlesbrough, that was the back way to Carlisle. As rough a road, if you could call it that, as any in the shire.

Soon after they were out of sight Jack took a left turn from the road. After a mile the road was barely a flat area of ground surrounded by forest. From what Cecily could tell, though little more than a wide path in the forest, it did lead unerringly North. Jack seemed a bit ill at ease, though she doubted any other would know. Cecily had found that she could usually know Jack's real mood no matter what face he chose to wear at the time.

"Jack." She spoke softly after an hour.

"Yes, Love?" Jack started slightly. "I'm sorry, I was lost in thought, Luv. Do you need to rest?"

"Is there something wrong? Any fool could see this is not the road to Middlesbrough and the usual route to Scotland." Cecily let a bit of her worry show. "Is something the matter? Did Katherine make a threat to you, to us?"

Jack laughed, and relaxed a little. Aye, she was as sharp as she was beautiful. "Nay, Dearest. It's really nothing more than a feeling I get really. It could be nothing more than my imagination, but I've learned to trust it. A side benefit to this road, is it will shave nearly a day off our journey." He grinned. We will still be in Scotland to keep our appointment.

"Oh, Jack! Truly?!" Cecily bounced gleefully in her saddle, causing Aphrodite to shake her mane and snort her disapproval of all the ruckus on her back. "I'm sorry, girl." Cecily patted the dappled mare affectionately on the neck. "I'm just so excited!"

"Aye, truly, My Love." We may be camping out a bit, but...I'm afraid it's unavoidable." The look of worry on his face was priceless to her. The man resembled nothing more than a puppy about to be disciplined by it's master. Her bell like laughter mingled with the trees as his look changed to one of perplexing bewilderment. "Oh, Jack, don't look so worried." Cecily leaned over to kiss him. "It will be just like our first night outside London."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/23/2006 10:58:28

The day passed pleasantly, despite the condition of the road and the scarcity of people. At times Cecily could believe that she and Jack were the only two people in the world. It was as if they were transported back to a time when all the Earth was forest, and man just a handful of scattered tribes.

Even during their frequent rest stops and meals the still tranquility of their surroundings brought a pleasant calm to frame their conversations in. Jack had relaxed completely into his old self, pushing all thoughts of his ex-lover from Cecily's mind. Here there was only the two of them and their child. As it should be.

The evening sunlight painted the greenery with highlights of orange and red as Jack led them a few yards from the road to make camp. While he gathered the wood for their fire Cecily gave the horses a couple of apples, stroking their noses pleasantly, until Raven put his head down and gently nudged her toward Jack. "Ok, Raven. I understand. You two want to be alone." She smiled. The black stallion tossed his head up and down snorting once.

She stood in the deepening twilight watching as Jack struck a tinderbox to the dried leaves piled beneath the conical pile of wood he had erected. Soon a roaring flame was beginning to consume the fuel with a pleasant crackling sound. She sat on the bedroll beside him and snuggled into his arms.

"I was wrong, My Love." She smiled up to him.

"Wrong, Dearest? About what?" Jack asked.

"About this being like our first night together." Cecily smiled with a tender mischief. "This night is ever so much better." Hungrily she sought his mouth. Her soft hands pulling his shirt from his breeches as his own began to unlace her bodice.

Later they lay contented in each other's arms. He stroked her hair while she lay her head on his breast. The soft firelight casting flickering shadows across their bodies. "Love?" Jack asked her softly.

"Yes, Man of Mine?" She snuggled deeper into his arms.

"God's know ye've made me happier than I ever thought I could be, but I've a question that has been troubling me for a while now." He began, as she lifted her head to look at him in puzzlement. "Ye don't have to answer me if ye don't wish to, but I must ask."

"When we left London, while I had every hope that ye would stay with me, I was fully prepared to take you home, untouched. I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you, but I knew ye to be highborn and figured you beyond my reach." His eyes searched hers as if hoping to find the answer he sought there. "What made a lass of only seventeen years come to a man she knew to be a rogue, a thief, and a highwayman?"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/23/2006 18:43:31

She rolled over and took his face in her hands. Looking at him with eyes full of love, she said, "I shall be honest with you, my love. You were my rescuer. At first I thought the feelings I felt for you were those of gratitude. But the moment I knew I truly loved you was a small one but one I shall never forget."
He kissed her hand and said, "When I offered you my bed and slept on the cot?"
"When I bought you the dress and new shoes?"
"That was wonderful"
"Ah! When I offered you freedom from the monster slated to be your husband?"
"Wrong again!"
"Cecily, my dearest, I am running out of things..OH! When I fought the pirates who tried to take you back!"
Cecily laughed. "It will seem so insignificant, you will think it foolish..."
She traced her finger down his nose and past his lips. "It seems insignificant in light of all that you have done for me, my darling. But remember when we were to leave London? We were ready to go..."
"Oh, you love me for the material things I can give you! It must be Aphrodite then!"
She lightly slapped his chest and said, "Will you listen to me, rogue? None of the above, and certainly not the material things."
"Then what?"
She looked down and he thought she looked like a young girl about to tell her deepest, darkest secret.
"You had your wine coloured velvet coat on the hook. Next to it was the maroon velvet jacket on the hook next to it. Jack, it looked so...right. The two jackets side by side. Like it was a sign from heaven that it was meant to be."
"Two garments made you fall in love?"
She shook her head. "Not just that. You held the jacket open for me and when I slipped it on, it was like it was made for me. Like you. You were made for me. I turned to face you and your eyes had changed. You probably didn't even realize it. Gone was that teasing twinkle in your eyes. It was as if I could look into your soul. And when the redcoats recognized you and confronted you on the highway outside London, the fear I felt for your life was unlike any I had felt before! I knew then and there that I never wanted to live my life apart from you."
He kissed her tenderly and felt more content than he ever did in his life before that time. She completed him.

She curled up next to him and quietly, she said, "I have a confession to make, Jack."
"Lord, woman, do I look like a priest?" he teased.
She laughed lightly and said, "About the night I decided to give myself to you...."
Jack breathed softly, "A night I shall never forget, my love..."
"It may have appeared I was reckless. But my feelings were this---if I never ever saw you again, I wanted you to be the first. It would have been a precious memory I would have taken to my grave."
He held her close and she could feel the rising passion between the two of them.
She looked deeply in his eyes, smiled playfully and whispered, "Forgive me, Father. For I am about to sin. Again and again and again...."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/24/2006 09:40:48

Sir Culpepper stalked into the Hammer and Anvil tavern, more than a bit perturbed. From the last few small villages leading to York the girl's words had rung true, word of Roberts and Cecily's passing was easy to find and fresh. Once pass York they had headed for Middlesbrough, the road to Scotland, the trail had gone cold. Now sitting at the tavern it was as if the Earth had swallowed the both of them. Roberts and Cecily had vanished.

"No luck then, Sir Peter?" Cameron's sneering smile disappeared behind his tankard.

"Nothing! No one in this outback city has seen hide, or hair of either of them!" Culpepper fumed. "And I spent enough gold to loosen every tongue in England!"

Cameron sat his mug down and leaned closer to the frustrated lord. "Perhaps our bonnie lass knows more than what she be telling', eh?" His whisper filled with honey and vile intent. "Give me no more than an hour alone with her and I promise you she'll tell ye all."

"And for the final time, Cameron Simon," Culpepper hissed back, "I tell you nay! That strumpet has reasons of her own to want them caught. I don't know why, but I've more than a good guess! Until Cecily is safe in my hands, and that upstart lies dead at my feet, ye'll not touch one hair on her head! Is that clear?!"

"As rain, Guv, as rain." Cameron sat back, returning his attention to his drink. A far away look in his eyes as he thought of the auburn haired beauty at his tender mercies.

Leslie chuckled deeply as Colin slapped Cameron's shoulder, laughing. "Chompin' at the bit, are ye, Simon?" The huge man grinned. "Never could teach the lad patience. Now don't ye be a frettin' much, Boyo, Ye'll have all the time in the world with her once the job be done." Turning back to their employer he asked, "So what do we do now?"

Peter Culpepper leaned back in his chair, a bit more composed after putting Cameron in his place. "In a way Cameron has the proper idea, but not the method." He began. "The tart does hold the key to reaching Roberts before they make the border. She knows far more about the man than she is letting on. With the proper persuasion she may yet tell us all we need to know."

Leslie, who usually remained the most silent of the three, spoke up. "We may not catch them at the border. What then?"

"Then," Sir Peter beamed at the thought. "We have a wedding to object to, and object we will. Strongly!"

Katherine walked into the tavern, spying her benefactors she sat down in the empty chair and motioned for the tavern wench. "No one I could find has seen anything of them." She scowled and ordered a tankard of ale. "Believe me, I check with those who would know."

Peter Culpepper put on his worried father face. "Oh dear. Surely they could not have just vanished?? What of my poor Cecily? How will we stop this dreadful marriage? She is far too young!"

Cameron s******ed for a second, then raised his cup to hide behind it. Katherine neither liked nor trusted the thin dandy. She had more than once caught him staring at various parts of her anatomy with a decidedly unsavory gleam in his eye. She had made her mind up that she would lay him in his grave should he ever touch her.

Katherine tore her mind from the rogue and thought. Jack's legendary sixth sense must have kick in. Many was the time she had marveled at his ability to sense danger and know when someone was following them. If that were the case now then he would have taken another route to Scotland. Her eyes grew wide with the realization. "He's taken the back door!"

"What?" Sir Peter grew hopeful. "What was that, Miss?"

Katherine shook herself from her thoughts. "The back door is a little known road that leads straight to Carlisle from York. Little more than a wide path through the wood and easy to get lost on if you don't know it." She explained.

"My dear," Culpepper kept his composure over the bad news. "We certainly can not back track all the way to York. My poor little girl will be beyond our reach by then."

Katherine thought for a moment. "Our only chance then will be to take the road to Carlisle from here, instead of going to Durham. By now they would be nearly there and we will have to ride all night to make up time." She continued oblivious to the men around her. "I doubt we can catch up before they cross the border, but we will be hot on their heels. I've a fair idea just where he's going to."

She thought back to the day she had left him for Martin's promise of greener pastures. Since Jack could not produce proper documentation to acquire a license as Robert Johnson he had chosen the lovers way. Go to Scotland with a tale of being runaway lovers, get the license there and marry. She wished now that she would have done just that. A chill griped her heart as she felt him slipping away from her to marry another. "With luck we will be there in time to stop the marriage before it starts." She said half to herself.

"And just where would this be, My Lady?" Sir peter allowed some of his excitement to show through.

"Gretna Green." Katherine answered confidently.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/26/2006 08:04:13

Alice sat at her desk in her room, wrapped in her dressing gown. She had been writing letters and arranging her social obligations.
Her thoughts turned to the wedding she had planned for Cecily and Lord Culpepper. How DARE Cecily defy me!
Her headstrong daughter had always been a handful. Running wild, just like her brother.
And her associates were not wisely chosen. If only I had accompanied her to London!
She got up and looked at the wedding dress hanging in Alice's armoire. While it was not the one she was measured for in London, the seamstress was able to make one reconstructing Cecily's measurements from a gown she had.
Alice gently touched the fabric, resentment building up in her. Cecily had the opportunity to marry a Lord! And here she flung it aside like a crust of bread in favor of that brigand, Robert Johnson!
A mere tavernkeeper!

She frowned, even though she knew it may give her a crease in her face or two. Cecily is so vexing! A marriage with Sir Peter will straighten her out. Who better to teach her respect? Certainly her father couldn't.
She hadn't heard from Sir Peter in a few days. Would it hurt to make call? After all, I need to see what progress he has made in retrieving my errant daughter...

Within an hour, she was settled back in her carriage.
"Ferguson, please take me to the Culpepper Estate."

She pulled up to his mansion and Ferguson opened the coach door and let her out.
"Shall I wait, Madame?"
She tried to keep the smile from her face and put on a business air.
"Why not return in two hours, Ferguson? I am sure Lord Culpepper and I will have concluded our business to a mutually satisfying agreement."

She knocked on the door and Raymond answered.
"Good day, Raymond. I am here to see Lord Culpepper. And my daughter."
Raymond looked at her befuddled.
"I am sorry, Madame, but Lord Culpepper is away on business."
She couldn't help but notice that he always looked more relaxed when that happened.
Raymond continued, "May I offer you a repast?"
She went into the parlor and sat down. "Then I shall see my daughter Cecily."
"Madame? Your daughter is not here."
"What? Lord Culpepper was on the way to pay a ransom from that blackard Roberts. Where is my little girl, then?"
Raymond rubbed his chin. "From what I gather, from what I have heard Lord Culpepper breathing fire and damnation about, she is on her way with a Mr. Robert Johnson to be wed."

"WED? How can that be?"
"Madame, Lord Culpepper found out that the Lady Cecily fled to Scotland with a Mr. Robert Johnson to be married. I imagine they are most likely man and wife by now."
Secretly, Raymond championed the two of them. He would have championed anyone who put the screws to Lord Culpepper.

Lady Alice could do nothing but sit and wait for her carriage to come back. By the time it did, she had put quite a dent in Culpepper's brandy stash. She sat in the back of the coach and wondered could Cecily throw her life away.

By the time she entered her own parlor, she was enraged from having an internal conversation with herself.
Andrew sat in front of the fire, drinking a brandy and reading a book.
Lady Alice was disheveled, her hair coming down and the brandy taking effect. Andrew jumped up.
"Mother? Are you alright?"
Lady Alice snarled, "Alright? You want to know if I am ALRIGHT? NO, I AM NOT ALRIGHT"
She swayed and Andrew caught her by the elbow. Lady Alice pulled away.
"Mother, will you PLEASE tell me what is going on?"
Alice sneered, "As if you didn't know. You! You helped her!"
"Helped WHO?"
"Your sister! You helped her run away and m-m-marry!"
Andrew flared up. "I most certainly DID help Cecily. She knew you drugged her and I know you forged Father's signature on that bogus marriage license. So yes, I did help her! And glad of it I am!"
Lady Alice went to the brandy decanter and poured herself a snifter. "You have no idea what damage you have caused, Andrew. Not at all!"
She turned to go, barely making it up the stairs to her room.
Andrew looked after her sadly and thought, 'She has no idea what maternal love is.'
He stirred the ashes of the fire with the poker and thought to himself, 'At least Cecily is spared this scene.'
Sitting back in his chair, he raised his brandy glass and said to no one, 'To you and Jack, Sis. Long may you love.'

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/26/2006 11:25:05

The sun had just touched the horizon, painting the town of Gretna Green in golden light, when the two lovers rode into view. The sparkling light glancing off of the steeples of Church of Scotland. The pleasant clop of their horses hooves against the cobble stones as they made their way through the crowded main street, a sharp contrast to the dull thud of the grass and dirt road they had traveled to reach Carlisle.

They had left Carlisle before dawn, an unusual thing for Jack to do, given that he had been traveling very lightly after discovering Cecily's condition. This time, however, he had rode just a trifle harder. Keeping constant check on her to assure himself that the increased pace caused her no discomfort.

Having now arrived at their destination Jack sought out a particular building. The polished wooden sign attached next to the door read, "Conner McTavish, Magistrate". Cecily smiled as Jack dismounted and offered her his hand to help her down.

"My Love, the hour is much too late. Perhaps we could return in the morning?" She teased. "Or are you in such a hurry to claim your prize?"

The sly grin that usually let her know when he was up to something slid across Jack's face as he helped her from the saddle. Without a word he walked to the door and rapped the brass knocker. After a few moments they heard the latch click, and the door swung wide revealing a man of forty some years with flaming red hair, touched in gray.

"Ah, there ye be, Jacko!" Conner's smile was wide and welcoming. "I was beginning to lose faith in ye, Laddie." he shook Jack's hand vigorously. "Or figured ye be havin' me on a bit. Never thought I'd be a fillin' out one of these things for you."

His attention turned to Cecily, a twinkle to rival the stars in his gray-green eyes. "But I can see by the bonnie lass ye've brought with ye, ye be quite serious." Gently McTavish took her offered hand, lightly kissing the back of her fingers. "Well come inside, the two 'a ye. I've some warm brandy for the lass, and some good scotch for ye, Laddie Buck." Conner stood to one side of the door, one arm open to the interior as Cecily entered, followed by Jack.

Leading them past the outer offices, with it's stacks of papers, and filled cupboards, he opened the door to a small but elegant sitting room. A welcoming fire to ward off the chill of the highlands lazily burned in the fireplace. Two overstuffed leather armchairs, and a small couch of the same make, sat in close proximity of it's warmth. The afternoon sunlight peeked in through the green velvet curtains, and a single folder rested on the end table of one chair.

Handing his guests crystal glasses he had filled from the decanters on the high table at the back of the room, Conner sat down in the chair, while Jack and Cecily favored the small couch. Their fingers entwined. "Here ye are, Miss. Just the thing to take the chill from the bones." He smiled. "To be honest when I received word for Jack here that he be comin' to Greta Green to marry, I thought he was havin' me on. Seein' ye here beside 'a him, I'm glad ta be wrong."

"But, Jack only proposed to me a little more than a week ago." Cecily wondered. "How could he have gotten word to you so quickly?"

Jack blushed. "I sent word to Conner two weeks ago, Dearest." He confessed. "The morning after you suggested we marry."

"Faith above!" Conner howled. "Ye can be makin' him change color this easy, Lassie?? These eyes have seen it all now!" Seeing Cecily's own color change slightly he smiled warmly, and patted her hand resting on Jack's knee. "Now don't ye be startin', Missy. Few can make this outlaw blush, and then only those he cares for."

"Now, down to business." He reached for the folder and opened it. "We've all four copies here, all under the name of Robert Johnson, for your signatures."

"Four copies?" Cecily asked.

"Aye, Lassie." McTavish smiled. "One for ye, and Jack, one for me own records, one to register here, and one Jack wants sent to the resistery in London, for some reason. Though it not be necessary."

Cecily smiled to herself, understanding that Jack was putting their marriage as far beyond interference from the law, and consequently her mother, as possible. She hugged him closely, gently kissing his cheek before reaching for the quill Conner held out to her.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/26/2006 19:55:23

"Well that's torn it!" Sir Peter fumed. "According to the Innkeeper at the White Swan they left before daybreak this morning!"

"Humph!" Colin huffed. "By now they'll be across the border."

"Yes." Culpepper sat back in thought. "However, at best they won't make Gretna Green until late in the afternoon. They'll still need a license, and the local magistrate will be closed by then. We may still catch them before the ceremony. Only two Churches they could possibly go to. The Church of Scotland, and the Cameronians."

"And if we don't get to them before the ceremony?" Cameron asked.

"Then I'm afraid Cecily will become a widow. In record time." Culpepper sneered.

"Then we best be moving." Leslie spoke. "If we ride through the night we can make Gretna Green by morn."

"Aye, Leslie." Colin nodded. "Lets go get Simon's new toy. The game is nearly trapped."

Cameron smiled wickedly.

Annabelle led the way into Carlisle that afternoon. Riding straight to the stables she immediately began dickering for fresh mounts, sending George and Geoff into the town to find word of Jack and Cecily.

She had just traded for fresh mounts, and had the saddle's and their traveling gear transferred when the twins came running back into the stable. "They just left this morning, Annie." George huffed, out of breath.

"And that's not all!" Geoffrey picked up the tale. "An inquiry was made at the Inn by a man claiming to be Cecily's father."

As Geoff caught his breath, George finished. "A man who fit's Peter Culpepper's description. He and three nasty looking characters left out before noon, with a woman what sounded like Katherine Fairchild."

Annabelle Peterson went white as a ghost, then whispered. "The scorned woman, the three evil ones!"

George and Geoff looked at each other and shuddered, as the afternoon air suddenly turned colder for them both. "Cor Blimey!" George breathed.

"We've no time to lose!" Anne shouted as she all but jumped into the saddle of her new mount. For once neither George, nor Geoffrey argued as the trio raced out of town. Spurring their mounts with every hoof beat. Soon only a trail of dust marked their passage, and though he didn't know exactly why, the stable master crossed himself.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/26/2006 23:56:44

Jack and Cecily had taken rooms at the Gretna Hall across from the Church of Scotland.
Once they got to their rooms, Cecily stretched and said, "How wonderful! By this time tomorrow, this shall be our marriage bed!"
Jack drew her into his arms and whispered low, "It can be a pre-marriage bed, you know..."
Cecily got a devilish grin on her face and pulled away. "You should not be seeing the bride before the wedding, Mr. Roberts!"
She ran to the other side of the bed. Jack chased her around the bed several times, Cecily laughing and Jack pursuing. She picked up a pillow and hit him in the face.
Finally he jumped across the bed and leaped in front of her.
He took her into his arms and kissed her deeply.
"Enjoy your last night as MISS Morley!"
She pulled away breathless and touched his cheek gently. "A name I would gladly forsake for you, darling!"
He slowly unlaced her dress and it fell to the floor. Layer upon layer, each other taking great delight in the process of relieving each other of the burden of their garments.
Finally all that was left was a pile of clothes on the floor.
Except Jack's shirt.
That flew out the window and landed into the street below.
He looked out the casement window and swore softly, "Guess I can kiss that shirt goodbye..."
From the bed, a soft voice said, "Speaking of kisses...."

Contentedly, Cecily laid on her side, Jack's body molded around her. She turned her head and said, "Jack?"
He kissed her neck and said, "Yes, love?"
"What shall we name the baby?"
He pushed her hair back and kissed her ear.
"My dear, I have the perfect name!"
She laughed. "That is not what I mean! A baby needs a name."
"Cecily, there is plenty of time to think of names."
She rolled over to face him. "I want you to pick out the name. I can choose the next, and then you, and then me, and then you and then me and then----"
He covered her mouth with a kiss. "And just how many do you plan on having, my sweet?"
"As many as our hearts can hold! Oh! And as long as I don't get fat!" She said with a twinkle in her eyes.
Jack roared with laughter.
"Jack, do you have any cousins?"
He put his arms around her and she rested her head on his chest.
"Tell the truth, my love, I don't know. Mother had a sister who was wild. Her name was Maureen. She and Mother both had the blue-green eyes. As that is where I get it from."
"Do you look like your mother or your father?"
"I look like Father but with Mother's colouring. But to get back to Maureen...she met a Frenchman who came to port one day. His name was Christophe. Damned if I can remember the last name. I may never have even heard it. She left with him to the Colonies and no one ever heard from them again. After the farm burned and Mother and Father died of smallpox, there didn't seem to be any point. So I may have some shirt-tail relations out there with a soupcon of French blood!"

Jack had gone downstairs to order a meal to be sent up to their rooms. Cecily was tired and didn't feel well enough to go downstairs to face a room full of diners.
As they dined on the food that was brought up, Cecily looked up at Jack, her eyes shining with happiness.
"Show me the license, Jack!"
She nodded. "I just like looking at it!"
He handed it to her and as she was reading, Jack said, "You know we don't have to have a formal ceremony. Scottish law allows for 'irregular marriages', meaning that, so long as a declaration is made, in front of two witnesses, almost anybody has the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony."
Cecily handed it back to Jack and laughed, "You mean a blacksmith can marry us?"
Jack put the license in the drawer next to the bed and smiled. "Aye. But I have a feeling ye want to be wed proper, Miss Morley."
She laid back on the pillows, put her arms around him, drew him close to her and whispered, "Aye. That I do, Mr. Roberts. That I do. I want it carved in granite so no one--no one at all!--can ever tear us apart."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/27/2006 09:38:58

The morning of the wedding had proven more hectic than Jack anticipated. He had left early to hire some girls to help Cecily get ready for the event, and to comply with her wishes not to see the bride before the wedding. Next he had visited with Conner McTavish to arrange for a celebration in the town meeting hall. Conner promised to bring all the drink. After securing the hall Jack went to the different merchants purchasing baked goods, a wedding cake, and various food stuffs for the many guests he had planned to surprise Cecliy with. By then it was near noon and he made his way to The Church of Scotland to dress himself.

Katherine Fairchild had rode into town by herself, not wanting to be seen with the men she counted on to stop Jack's wedding. She sat in the rooms Lord Culpepper had instructed her to rent for them, looking out the window. Then she saw him. Jack was crossing the street to a rather expensive clothier. Her heart leapt at the prospect of once again becoming the woman of Black Jack Roberts.

As she stared intently at the door of the clothiers, her mind filled with her hopes for a future, she failed to hear the door open behind her. A sudden blow to her head sent her tumbling to the floor unconscious. When she regained her senses she found herself tied to the chair she had sat day dreaming at. Peter Culpepper and his crew stood in the room, Cameron Mulligan leering at her. Her weapons lay on the table across the room. From the sunlight she guessed it to be the afternoon.

"Well, My pretty, have a nice nap?" Cameron grinned. He leaned in closer to her. "I'm afraid there's been slight change of plans. You see the girl will soon be marrying Lord Culpepper here, and Mister Roberts will soon be in the hereafter." His voice dropped to a low whisper. " But don't worry, Sweet One, after I've done with ye, you'll soon be joining him."

Jack stood beside the priest. Several other couples waited their turn to be married and a few onlookers sat in the pews. After what seemed to him to be an eternity the organ began to play the bridal march. His breath caught in his throat as Cecily came into view. The sight of her smiling face behind the transparent veil was to him the most beautiful he had ever seen. It was a memory he would forever carry with him.

The churches flower girls walked ahead of her, tossing rose petals in her path. The beautiful white dress trailed behind her despite the child who attempted to keep it from the red carpeted aisle. As she made her way up the short stairs that led before the altar it was all he could do not to take her in his arms and hold her. "Dearly Beloved," The priest began.

Outside the church Peter Culpepper and Cameron Mulligan stood at the bottom of the long wide steps that led up to the polished oak double doors, waiting. On either side of those doors stood Colin and Leslie. Soon Cecliy would again be his and Jack Roberts would be nothing more than a memory. Patience it seemed was a virtue after all.

Back in the rooms she had rented for her betrayers Katherine struggled to raise her tightly bound hands just a little higher. Silently she prayed they had not found the thin dagger she kept in a hidden sheath on the inside of her belt.

"I do." Jack smiled warmly into Cecily's sapphire eyes. Every dream that he had thought forever beyond his reach was coming true. To once again have a family of his own, with a love that would last him all of his days. Lost in his thoughts he missed the priest's question to Cecily, only breaking his reverie when he heard her say, "I do."

"Then by the power vested in me by God Almighty, I pronounce you man, and wife." the Portly priest intoned. "You may kiss the bride."

Jack gently lifted the veil from her features. Taking her into his arms he kissed her lips gently, then deeper. The assembly clapped their joy as he reluctantly released her, whispering into her ear. "I love you, Mrs. Roberts."

"I love you, My Husband." Her eyes twinkled as tears of joy overflowed to trail down her rose tinted cheeks.

"I have a special gift for you, My Love." Jack smiled as he reached into his pocket. A gasp of astonishment rose from the crowd as the necklace came into view. Sparkling in the candle light the pear shaped emeralds looked to Cecily like green flames nestled in a field of stars.

"Oh, Jack!" Her hand flew to her mouth in pleasant shock. "It's beautiful! My first present as your wife." Her tears flowed even more freely as she bent her head for him to fasten the bauble around her neck. As soon as he finished she took him into her arms and kissed him deeply. "I shall never take it off!!"

Jack held out his hand to her. "Come, My Wife, I spent the day planning a celebration for us. The sooner we attend, the sooner we may retire to our rooms." He grinned devilishly.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/27/2006 11:54:49

Jack and Cecily left the church as the next man took his place beside the priest. Their love for each other stretched out before them like a carpet of happily ever after stories. As soon as they returned home Jack would put his plan to kill Black Jack Roberts once and for all in to motion. Then there would be nothing for him, but his family. No more secrets to keep, no more hiding from the redcoats, only the joy of raising the children with his loving wife by his side.

Arms as strong as knotted oak grabbed him from behind pinning his arms in a vice like grip he would have swore came from nothing human. He heard Cecily scream and the sound of a wooden beam being shoved through the door handles of the church. Then his eyes focused heatedly on Peter Culpepper and his companion coming up the steps.

"Very well, Roberts." He smirked. "You have had your wish granted, now I will have mine."

Jack said nothing while he struggled in the grip of the laughing man mountain who held his arms. Sir Culpepper smiled and turned to Cecily held fast in Leslie's grip. The smirking Cameron positioned himself in front of Jack, one hand on the hilt of his rapier.

"Now Cecily." Peter continued. "We will have no more of this nonsense. We will return home and we will be properly wed. You can then forget all about this childish fantasy of love for this outlaw."

Rage unlike anything she had felt before filled Cecily's face as she screamed into Culpepper's countenance. "I will never marry you!! I will never be yours, Peter Culpepper!! There is only one man I will ever love for as long as I live!! For as long as he lives!!"

Lord Culpepper noticed the necklace around Cecily's throat. "Did he give that to you, Dear?!" He hissed. His own rage building to a white heat within him. "It's funny you should use those terms! Consider that thing around your neck a going away present! Cameron!!"

The grinning dandy smiled evilly into Jacks eyes, only slightly disappointed to find defiance there instead of fear. Slowly he drew the long thin blade from it's sheath, savoring every scream that escaped the girl's lips as Sir Peter held her head, forcing her to watch. "You do know, Mate, that this is going to be slow and very painful." Cameron snickered as he placed the tip of the sword just above Jack's belt buckle. "Very painful indeed."

"Noooooooooo!!!!" Cecily screamed as her tears ran like rivers from her eyes. "For God's sake, no!!!" She saw the thin monster's arm tense as he prepared to run Jack through slowly. Looking into Jacks eyes she whispered. "My beloved."

Sir Peter spun around at the gunshot from the bottom of the stairs. Disbelief filled his expression as he saw Cameron Simon stiffen, the readied blade falling from his fingers to clatter down the steps. Slowly, like a marionette who's strings are cut one by one, he staggered backward down the steps, his eyes riveted on the growing red blossom on the chest of his shirt. He turned to see the auburn haired Katherine, her still smoking pistol pointed at him, smile. His eyes rolled backward as the world began to spin, growing ever darker, before tumbling down to rest at her feet.

As Colin Mulligan gazed in open mouthed shock at his fallen brother Jack stomped down hard on the brute's instep, feeling the bone snap. Colin howled releasing Jack. Katherine snatched up Cameron's rapier. "Jack!" She shouted drawing back to toss the weapon up the steps to him. A second shot rang out and Katherine's eyes grew wide with shock. The rapier clattered to the ground a second time as she fell to her knees first, then tumbled forward.

Lord Culpepper belted his pistol, and turned to face his unarmed nemesis. Smiling he drew his own rapier. "Now, Jack Roberts. We have unfinished business, you and I." As he started forward, certain Jack could not reach a weapon in time, the thundering sound of running horses brought him up short.

The horses had barely come to a stop when George, and Geoff leapt from their saddles. Firing their pistols the shots went wide, yet close enough to Leslie to make him forget about holding on to the girl in his grasp as he covered himself. Drawing their swords the twins charged up the stairs. As Peter Culpepper turned to end Jack's life before they could reach him Cecily again jumped onto his back.

Geoff grabbed the fallen rapier and shouting out to Jack tossed the blade to him. Catching the spinning weapon Jack turned to see Colin hobble towards him, a knife clutched in his grimy fist. With unerring accuracy Jack drove his blade into the huge man. Colin's precarious balance gave way and he rolled down to join his younger brother in death.

"Damn you, Harlot!!" Sir Peter shouted, suddenly leaning forward and flipping Cecily over his head.

Jack watched in horror as she tried to twist in midair to get her arms and feet under her. Missing by only a second she landed onto her stomach, and doubled over moaning loudly. "Cecily!!" Jack screamed, forgetting everything but her he raced to her side. "God in heaven, please, No!" His tears spattered the wedding gown.

George and Geoff ran past the weeping Jack, cradling his love in his arms. Peter saw Annabelle pulling a pistol from her saddlebag. With less than a moment to react he leapt over the side of the stairs and ran for his horse, a split second ahead of the shot that sent cement splinters flying behind him. Swinging swiftly into the saddle he spurred the mount down the street and was gone.

Leslie Mulligan howled, swinging his sword left and right at George and Geoffrey. For all their skill the twins couldn't get to within striking range of the remaining Mulligan brother. Annabelle Peterson reloaded her pistol, then taking careful aim this time she sent a ball into Leslie's forehead and ran to Jack's side.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/27/2006 12:58:27

George and Geoff stood helplessly over Jack as he cradled his injured love in his arms, stroking her upturned face, and gently calling her name. Cecily had passed out from the pain and for the first time in his life Jack Roberts knew the taste of fear. Never before had either of them seen tears from the dark outlaw, yet now they watched silently as tides of grief flowed down his face.

Anne knelt down beside him, gently prying Cecily's still form from his grip. Checking over the unconscious girl, she shook her head. She still breathed, but something was decidedly wrong. Anne motioned for George and Geoffrey to help carry her to where she could examine her fully.

Jack shook with fear, pain, and rage. Had he his way Sir Peter Culpepper would soon find himself with Jack's steel firmly buried in his body. "Gently, Lads." He sobbed, tentatively reaching out one hand to touch her face. "Our rooms are just across the way, at Gretna Hall."

George and Geoff tenderly lifted the limp form, cradling her in both their arms at the same time. The gathered crowd of onlookers parted to let them through with Anne in the lead. As Jack followed on unsteady feet a soft moan caught his ear. Motioning for the trio to continue he knelt at the still breathing form of Katherine Fairchild. Gently rolling her over, her eyes fluttered open. Her smile at seeing him released a thin trickle of blood from the corner of her shapely lips.

"Jack?" She whispered, reaching up to stroke his face. "I am so sorry, if it were not for me they would have never found you. Please, forgive me?"

Gently he laid her head against his raised knee. Pulling a handkerchief from his coat he daubed the blood from her mouth. "There is nothing to forgive, Kath." He spoke lowly, using the name he called her by those long years ago. One hand behind her head as a fit of coughing shook her.

"I wish I had remained true to you, My Love." She whispered, the regret filled her eyes with tears. "All I wanted was to make it all up to you. But the dream is over now. Go to her, and love her as I wish you could have loved me."

"I'll not leave you here to suffer alone, Kath." He smiled warmly. "George and Geoff will return soon. Annie can help you."

"No, I know the wound is mortal, My Love." She coughed again and Jack held the handkerchief to her mouth as a new flow began. "Ye have her to see to. Perhaps I will see you again in another life, Highwayman." Her smile was sad and weak. "Jack?"

"Yes, Kath?" He answered, new tears rolling down his cheeks.

Gently she reached up to touch the tears he now shed for her. "Is this the end of the dream?" Slowly she relaxed in his arms, a smile graced her face as she passed from the Earth. Gently Jack lifted Katherine's still form. He would not suffer her to lay in the same street as the garbage he knew had used her pain to get to him. Slowly the crowd parted for him, and he carried Katherine into Gretna Hall.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/27/2006 14:09:58

Geoff and George carried Cecily's still form into the room on the second floor.
"Easy! Easy! I don't know what injuries Cecily has sustained from the fall, " the gypsy cautioned.
To herself she muttered, "Damn him! Damn him to hell! There's a special place of torment for those what harms a lady..."
Gently they laid Cecily on the bed. She was still unconscious. Annabelle turned to the men.
"Best you see to Jack. He's going to need the two of you and your brawny shoulders right now. Keeping him calm is the best thing you can do for Cecily right now."

Annabelle turned her attention to Cecily. She touched her wrist. Good! The pulse was strengthening. She felt her arms and legs for broken bones. None. Better...
Cecily's eyes fluttered and then opened a bit. She moaned.
"A-A-Annabelle? Is that you?"
Annabelle smiled tenderly at the new bride. She brushed Cecily's hair from her face. "Hush, darling, I'm here. You took a nasty spill."
Cecily tried to lift herself up and fell weakly back on the pillow. "Jack....where is Jack? I want my husband..."
Annabelle took a wet cloth and applied it to Cecily's forehead.
"Cecily, Jack is fine. The thugs have been vanquished and Culpepper ran off. But you are everyone's main concern right now. I am going to have to feel around your body to see if there are any injuries inside. I really am sorry about the wedding dress but I can't risk you moving to take it off."
She took out scissors and began cutting the dress from Cecily's body.
That is when she noticed the blood.

"Cecily? I think you are bleeding internally."
Cecily closed her eyes and said, "Please, Annabelle. Save him."
"Dear, I already told you that Jack is alright. He's with Geoff and George."
Annabelle tried to keep the girl calm but her own sense of fear was taking over. Cecily was bleeding and Annabelle was trying to find out where and why.
Cecily shook her head. "N-no. The baby. You have to save the baby, Annabelle."
Annabelle rocked back on her heels.
" are with child?"
Cecily managed to nod, the tears streaming down her face. "Aye. We just discovered it. Oh, Annabelle. Please! Save my child!"

Annabelle tried to assimilate her thoughts. A child. Two deaths that I saw in the cards. That was it. The two deaths was the child. Each of them a part of that little life.
Annabelle tried to check her tears.
"Aye, Cecily. I shall do my best, love."

Annabelle touched Cecily and said softly, "I am going to touch you, dear, and I want you to tell me if it hurts."
Cecily nodded slowly. Annabelle touched.
"What about here?"
"OHHHH!" Cecily cried out.
"You broke a few ribs, Cecily. There is nothing to do with that. They will heal on their own and I can give you a healing tonic to speed recovery."
Cecily whispered, "My baby...our baby...."
Annabelle, satisfied that Cecily sustained no other injuries, now concentrated on the bleeding. The flow seemed to increase. Annabelle looked in her bag. She was afraid Cecily would start to hemorrage. She quickly mixed up a blend of red raspberry and wild yam into a tea.
She held Cecily's head up and said, "Drink this, Cecily. It will help."
Annabelle raised Cecily's head up. She moaned, "It hurts to breathe, Annabelle...."
"That is the broken ribs. I'm sorry, but I can't do anything about it, lass."
Cecily began to moan and double over in pain. Annabelle put her hand on Cecily's abdomen and felt her uterus start to cramp.
Annabelle started to mutter in Romani. "Devleja!...chudimata.."
Cecily pleaded with Annabelle, "Please, Annabelle, I can't lose what Jack wants most in this can I tell him I killed our baby?"
Annabelle said sternly, "Cecily, it is not your fault. I am here to help. By worrying and getting upset, you are making my job that much harder. Now relax."

Annabelle continued to massage Cecily's abdomen to try to get the uterus to relax. But to no avail. The gypsy knew what was the inevitable. Cecily's cramps elevated. She could see the despair on the young bride's face.
Annabelle sliently cursed Peter Culpepper for ruining what should have been the happiest day in this girl's life. Instead, she would always remember it as the day she lost her baby and almost lost her husband.

Cecily gave a sharp cry of pain.
And then it was all over.

Annabelle closed the door and leaned against the doorjamb. She did something she rarely did.
She gave way to tears.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/27/2006 21:32:32

Jack was pacing back and forth in the parlor of Gretna Hall. Geoff and George were sitting there, doing all they could to keep Jack from dashing up the stairs.
Annabelle slowly walked down the stairs and Jack looked up. He rushed to meet her halfway
"Is--is she allright?"
Annabelle ran her fingers through her long dark hair wearily. "A few broken ribs. They will heal on their own."
Jack looked her in the eyes and said quietly, "You know?"
She nodded. "I know."
Annabelle took his hands. "I'm sorry, Jack. I did all I could."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/28/2006 09:13:18

Jack stood looking at Anne in shock, his eyes blank as new parchment. Of all the news he had feared to receive, next to losing Cecily, this was the worst. Anne could tell that though he was staring directly at her, he didn't see her, nor she suspected any thing else around him. George and Geoffrey turned their heads away to hide tears they could not stop as he made his way up the stairs, his body moving where his mind could not will it to move.

Jack's hand trembled uncontrollably as he reached for the door latch to finally clamp around it in an ever tightening grip. Ride, Lord Culpepper! Ride where ever you wish! For as far as you wish! Once she is better I will send you to Hell, you bastard!!

Unaware of the new tears that streamed down his face, Jack took a shuddering breath, forcing his raging hatred down. Now was not the time, Cecily needed him too much. Her comfort was all that mattered now. She was all that mattered now. He needed to control himself for her. At last he pushed down on the handle and entered.

Cecily's tear stained eyes looked into his. Her face broke into a tearful sadness as she raised her arms out to him. Rushing into her arms his own sorrow broke anew and they held each other for a timeless length, their bodies wracked with sobs. The torn and bloody wedding gown a mute witness of the tragic turn of events this day had taken.

"Oh, My Love!" Cecily cried against his shoulder. "I am so sorry. Forgive me."

Jack pulled back gently. "Please, Dearest, if anyone should beg forgiveness, it is I." His voice steady despite the grief that still flowed from his eyes. "Had I not been so confident of my plans, had I had Culpepper watched, we would have known, and our child would yet live. If anyone is to blame for what has happened to you, it is I, and I will never forgive myself for it."

"But, Jack, you couldn't..." She began. Gently he put one finger to her lips, then gathered her to his breast his face turned to the ceiling, his hand cradling her head.

"No more words of sorrow, Darling. I still have you and for that I am eternally grateful." His voice was soft and tender. Cecily snuggled deeper into his arms.

A discreet knock came at the door, and Jack handed Cecily a spare handkerchief while he wiped his own eyes on the sleeve of his coat. Within a moment they had collected themselves and Jack answered the second light knock. "Yes."

Annabelle Peterson quietly opened the door, her features were somber. "I'm sorry, Jack, but the innkeeper is asking for you. He wants to know what you intend to do with Katherine's body." Her eyes glanced to Cecily for a moment.

"Tell him I will be there in a moment, Luv." He sighed. "Then would you please come back to keep Cecily company?"

"Of course." Anne smiled sadly, closing the door behind her with a soft click.

"Katherine?" Cecily asked. "Then the woman who saved your life was her?"

Jack looked down at his lap. "Yes, My Love. It was."

Softly she lifted his face to hers. "Jack, she saved your life when I could not and for that I am grateful. You must see her to her resting place."

"Nay, My Love." Jack shook his head. "I must remain here, with you. I will pay for her funeral, but I remain by your side."

"Jack." her words were soft, but held within them a resolve to rival steel. "At one time in your life you loved her, Mary told me. She saved your life, and in a way mine, because of the love she still held for you. Anne can stay with me. You will go."

Jack's blue-green eyes glowed with his love for her as he spoke. "I will do as you wish, My Wife, but I want you to know. While it is true that for a time I loved Katherine, she never in all that time held the place in my heart that you hold. No one will ever take, or hold that place, but you."

Anne knocked as softly before entering the room again. Jack gently kissed the sweet lips of his love, then quietly left to make the arraignments for the funeral of Katherine Fairchild.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/29/2006 20:47:14

"Annabelle, how can I ever thank you? You have been there for me more times than I can ever count?" Cecily said.
Annabelle brushed the hair back from Cecily's face. "My dear, there is nothing to thank me for. I would do anything for you and Jack."
The young bride tried not to cry. "My baby. He never had a chance. And I shall make sure that some day Peter Culpepper pays for it. He murdered my child."
Anne reached in her bag and made a potion for Cecily. "This will help heal you internally, Cecily. It has a few herbs known to the Chinese to repair any damage done."
Cecily looked wide-eyed. "Damage? You-you think I may be damaged?"
Annabelle shook her head. "No, you are fine. But this will help heal you faster."
Cecily took the potion and drank it, making a face. She laid back on the pillow.
Softly, she said to Annabelle, "I know about Jack and Katherine. Anne, I want Jack to go to her funeral. If he doesn't, he will regret it. I think he would need closure."
"That is very insightful of you, Cecily."
She shook her head. "Not exactly. Peter Culpepper is a monster who uses hired thugs. I firmly believe with or without Katherine, they would have found us. Katherine saved Jack. And by doing that, she saved me. How can I have Jack turn his back on her and let her be buried alone? No one should have to die alone, Annabelle. Except Peter Culpepper. And if I am well enough, I would like to attend her funeral as well. To show Katherine there are no hard feelings."
Anne kissed her forehead and said, "You are a very loving person, Cecily. And whether you know it or not, you saved Jack. Thanks to you, he is calming down and giving up his dangerous livlihood. No one else could do that."

Annabelle straightened out the blankets around Cecily.
"Do you want anything to eat, Cecily?"
She shook her head. "I just want to wait for Jack. Some wedding night, for sure."
She smiled wryly. "So much for romance. I have broken ribs and am hurt. Jack is grieving for a dead paramour. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Except maybe the spawn from hell."
Anne couldn't help but laugh. "Cecily, I like you. I really do!"
Cecily said shyly, "Thank you. I promised Mary Cottlepot we would stop back to see her and I intend to. I wouldn't mind resting up there for a few days. I have to ride Aphrodite."
The gypsy said sternly, "There will be no riding for a while. You don't need jostling."

Just then, Jack came in, looking weary. Cecily's heart tore with feeling for her husband. He turned to Annabelle and said, "I have rooms for you and the twins. Annie, I can't begin to thank you for what you have done. You saved my life. And my love's."
Annabelle touched his cheek gently.
"I am sorry on the child, Jack."
He nodded wordlessly.
Annabelle then said briskly, "Yes. Well, I am exhausted and it shall feel good to sleep in a decent bed again."
She then kissed Jack and Cecily.
"It's your wedding night. So it isn't what you expected but you have each other. Goodnight, dears."

After Jack had a meal sent up for the two of them, they sat together in silence, each deep in their own thoughts on what had transpired during the day.
Jack stripped off his clothes and came to bed. As he wrapped his arms around his bride, she winced.
"I'm sorry, love. I forgot the broken ribs."
Cecily touched his cheek and said, "For you, Jack Roberts, I would gladly suffer the pain!"
Before long, they both fell asleep with the thought that if all else, they accomplished what they set out to do.
They were husband and wife.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/29/2006 20:52:39

The carriage turned down the lane carrying Anne and Cecily inside while George and Geoffrey sat in the drivers seat, alternating between driving and keeping watch. Aphrodite walked along tethered to the back and Jack rode at the front. It was the same unaltered pattern of travel they had adopted since leaving Gretna Green almost four days ago. They had stayed there a week and a half until Cecily had mended enough to travel. Even then Jack insisted on a crawling speed, unwilling to have her suffer anything more.

He had made certain that they were all fully armed. The twins carried four loaded pistols each, and a musket. Annabelle had six in the coach with her and four daggers. Jack had even insisted on putting a new bow with thirty arrows and Cecily's whip. "You'd think the man were going to war." Geoff confided to his brother. "He is." George said with conviction.

Secretly, deep inside himself, Jack wanted Sir Peter Culpepper to attempt something, anything. No matter what else would happen the man would die, even if it cost Jack his own life. His mind drifted back to Katherine's service. Rain poured down fiercely that day as the quartet stood around the open grave. Jack had insisted Cecily stay inside the newly acquired carriage, which sat just a few feet away so she too could attend, as was her wish.

As the priest intoned the benediction Jack was glad for the rain that hid his tears. Though he could no longer love Katherine has he once did, for Culpepper to use her love for him to corner them was intolerable and one more reason that steeled his resolve to rid the world of the man. Kath had deserved a better fate.

Gently he had stooped down to place the single rose on the polished wood of the coffin's lid. "I am so sorry, Kath." He breathed softly. "Had you but remained with Martin and forgotten me you wouldn't be here now. I'm sorry that I've brought you to this fate. Forgive me." He felt the cold rain mingle with the hot tears that slid down his face. "I swear, Lass, he'll not do this to another soul."

Lord Culpepper had taken so much from him. He had turned the happiest day of Jack's life into a memory of horror and despair. He had killed a woman that Jack had once loved. He had injured seriously Jack's only true love, perhaps beyond her ability to have a child, and he had murdered Jack's firstborn. This was the part that enraged him beyond reason. Peter Culpepper had taken from him the only thing he had ever wanted from this life. The chance for a family of his own.

His memory returned to the present as the home of Mary Cottlepot came into view in the distance. In some ways he was glad to give Cecily a chance to rest, they would stay here for a while. In others he couldn't wait to return to Devonshire. Beyond anything else, when they had returned home, he knew that Black Jack Roberts would ride one final time, and his final crime would be the murder of Sir Peter Culpepper. As well as the ruin of the Culpepper lineage. He would take the bastard's future from him.

"Anne?" Cecily looked at the dark haired Gypsy woman who had spent the last few hours staring at Jack's back as they rode along.

"Yes, Dear?" Anne shook her head slightly. "I'm sorry did you say something?"

The worried expression on the young girl's face spoke volumes. "What's wrong with my husband? I know he is angry with Culpepper, I am too, but this is different. I can't explain it, but he is the same man I love, but he feels different."

Anne eyes welled with a sadness that bordered on tears as she looked at the young bride. She found she had not the heart to lie to the girl. "Jack Roberts, as you know I'm sure, is not by nature a murderous man. In truth he abhors killing, but I fear this time he has been pushed too far. I fear that he will end his carrier with murder." Anne spoke lowly and seriously. "Say nothing of what I have told you, Dear One, but watch him. Watch your husband closely."

As they neared the gate Jack rode back to the slow moving carriage. "Once we are secure we will divide the night into shifts, Lads. The three of us will keep watch." Jack's usual care free attitude, which the twins had seen through countless dangerous times, was gone from his demeanor. "As soon as we are unpacked I will ride into York to send word to Josiah. Should Lord Culpepper show I will have the hide of the man who kills him. He is mine."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/30/2006 22:21:41

The carriage entered the gate and Jack dismounted from Raven. He opened the door and helped Anne out and then turned to Cecily. Her face was still pale and drawn.
"Are you alright, darling?"
She gave a wan smile and said, "Yes, I am fine. The discomfort from the ribs has lessened but I am afraid sitting in a carriage has made me stiff and sore."
She saw the concern on Jack's face and reached out to touch his cheek.
"Please don't worry so, love. I am healing with the help of Anne's potions."
He kissed her hand and whispered, "Have I told you how much I love you, Mrs. Roberts?"
"Not in the last hour!" The twinkle in her eyes is what Jack had hoped to see again.

Mary Cottlepot wiped her hands on her apron.
"Lord have mercy! Anne? Annabelle Peterson, is that you?"
Anne embraced the woman and said, "Aye, it is, Mary."
"What are ye doing in this neck of the woods, dear? And...oh my goodness! You boys come here and give old Mary a hug!"
Geoff and George stood there grinning as the spry apple-dumpling of a woman gave them each a hug. Standing on either side, they looked like two bookends.

Mary looked over and saw Jack standing with his arms around Cecily. She smiled widely and hugged him. She said, "And are ye properly wed? Ye make an honest woman out o' her, dear boy?"
The look on their faces brought her up short. "I be a-feeling there be trouble in me old bones. Am I wrong? Are ye still Miss Morley, lass?"
Cecily smiled and held her hand out to show Mary the ring. She raised her eyes heavenward and intoned, "Thanks be that ye got wed without a hitch!"
She hugged Cecily and the girl gave a slight moan.
"I'm sorry, Mary. My ribs are broken."
She said sternly to Jack, "Ye be lovin' this woman to an inch o' her life, Jack?"
Mary looked at all of them and then said, "And I feel this is a story to be told over a hot, decent meal. Ye stay the night. Anne, ye shall share my room. Cecily and Jack, ye can have the room ye did last time. Twins? Room in the far left of the house. Now...Anne, will ye help me ready a meal? Then we can all sit down and have a good chinwag about what went on. And why ye are all here together."

The meal was set and the events of the past two weeks were related to Mary.
She dabbed at her eyes when she heard the fate of Katherine.
"So sad. Katherine was always reckless and short of thinking things out. But in the end, she redeemed herself. I am so sorry it had to come to that. There be no kin to notify and it be right that ye saw she had a good and proper burial, Jack."
When the story was told of the miscarriage, the tears started to form in Cecily's eyes and Jack took her hand and held it tight. Mary had tears running down her face as she muttered, "Useless. Such a useless and uncalled for act from a man that Hell spat back out."
She brought out the apple cobbler and tea and they switched the conversation to a more uplifting topic.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/01/2007 10:13:37

Jack entered The Bell and Badger later that after noon. Soon after tea he had seen his new bride to bed. Even with the slow pace he had insisted on the trip had taken it's toll on her. Anne had given Cecily a potion that would ease her pain, and aid her in sleeping. Soon after she had fallen asleep, he had bent over her, gently kissing her forehead. "Soon, My Love." He whispered before leaving.

"Robert!" Sally smiled widely as he came through the door. "So are Ye a taken man, yet?"

"Aye, Lass." He faked a smile which he did not feel. "I must speak with Donovan on some business matters. Is he here?"

"Aye, he is." She smiled back. "Want I should fetch him?"

"Nay, I'd rather let him know myself." Jack answered.

"Suit yerself." Sally shrugged. "And congratulations to ye!" She called after him, wondering at his new demeanor. Usually Robert Johnson was a carefree man with a quick sense of humor. Something about him seemed a bit darker this time. Perhaps married life was not agreeing with him.

Jack knocked at the door which led to Donovan's office. "Aye!" the gruff voice came through the door. "What in bloody Hell have ye broken now?"

"Nothing, yet, Old Sod." Jack grinned sticking his head inside.

"Jack! Come in lad! I thought that wench had broken another of me plates. I swear she's gon'na put me in a pauper's grave yet." The tavern keep groused. "So, how went the blessed event?"

"Not as well as I had hoped." Jack again forced a smile to his lips, struggling to keep his true emotions down. "I need ye to send word to Josiah. Let him know we are on our way home. Have the cottage cleaned and ready."

Donovan grinned conspiringly, "Will do, Mate. Not as well as ye hoped? Shy lass is she?"

Jack simply smiled. "I also need ye to send a message to Jenkins and one to Cody. Have them take rooms at the Crossbow. Tell them not to tell Josiah I sent for them. I'll explain when I arrive in about two weeks." Jack rose to leave.

"Two weeks? It dinna take two weeks to get to Devonshire from here, Lad." Donovan scratched his head, perplexed.

"We're spending some time with Mary." Jack smiled sadly as he shut the door behind him.

George and Geoffrey pulled weeds from the garden at the cottage. A cloud seemed to hang over them, though the day was cheery and clear. At last George spoke up. "He's up to something you know."

"Aye" Geoff tugged at a particularly stubborn plant. "But I doubt ye'll get it outta him."

"Ye think he has designs on old Culpepper, then?" George paused looking into his brother's eyes.

"Mate, I know it." Geoff said. "The last time he were actin' this way were after Katherine broke him. This is even worse."

"Aye," George agreed, "but just how do ye plan on keeping' him from destroyin' his life with vengeance on a lord? We be talkin' about Sir Peter Culpepper here."

"Ye won't." Geoff sighed heavily. "Ye won't."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/02/2007 23:07:25

Anne and Mary were having a long talk over tea.
Mary poured a cup for Annabelle and sighed. "I really think you are right. She's the only one at this point that can knock any sense into the boy. I swear, I've never seen Jack Roberts so twisted around a little lass's finger."
Anne took a sip. "Katherine was a different story. More like two horses matched evenly. Cecily is like a flower he's taking care of and nurturing. Although Jack told me about her expertise with the bow and arrows and she can now crack a whip with the best of them."
Mary chuckled. "A kitten with the heart of a tiger! Aye, and she'd do anything for Jack and he'd lay down his life for her."

Cecily came down the stairs.
"Feeling better, dear?" Mary asked.
Cecily nodded. "Much better."
"Tea, dear?"
Cecily replied, "I'd love some. Where is Jack?"
Anne said, "He said he was stopping at the Bell and Badger to visit with Donovan. He'll be back before long."
Mary jumped up. "I forgot Geoff and George are probably wanting something to eat. The dears insisted on weeding the garden."

Mary went outside and Cecily pulled her chair close to Annabelle.
"I'm glad we have a few minutes, Anne. I didn't want to say anything with Mary here. No big secret, I just need some womanly advice."
Annabelle put her teacup to her lips to hide her smile. "Yes, dear?"
Cecily's face flamed. "How----how know..."
Annabelle sat her cup back in the saucer. "My dear, it's been two weeks. You know better than I would. Are you feeling alright?"
"Except for the ribs still hurting, yes. I am. Good grief, Anne! I was cheated out of my wedding night! "
Anne said, "You do what you feel is right for you."
Cecily whispered, "It's been over two weeks, Anne!! Ooops! Here comes Mary--I don't want her to know what Jack and I are up to!"
Anne whispered back, "I think Mary has an idea."

Mary sat down and nodded to Annabelle. Anne said quietly, "We need to talk to you seriously, Cecily. We think Jack is up to something and only you have the power to stop him."
Cecily nodded her head slowly and said, "I am sure of it. I've tried talking to him about it--about what Sir Culpepper did. He just tells me not to worry about it. He won't talk. But something is wrong. He has a hard time sleeping. I thought at first that it was because he didn't want to jostle me because of the broken ribs but it's more than that. He stares at the ceiling when he thinks I am asleep. I can't seem to reach him."
Anne laid her hand on Cecily's arm. "We don't want to upset you when you are trying to recover. But Jack is acting reckless again."
Mary supplied, "Like he did when Katherine left him."
Cecily felt her heart sinking. While she accepted the fact that he loved Katherine once, it didn't make her hurt any less.
Anne continued, "It was almost as if he didn't care if he lived or died then. And if Jack continues on the same course, we are afraid for him. And for you."
Cecily tried to stem the fear she was feeling. "What do you think he has planned?"
Mary gave Annabelle a look.
The gypsy answered carefully, "We think he intends to kill Sir Peter Culpepper. Personally."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/04/2007 19:32:04

Cecily's eyes widened with the thought. "But, Annie, if he were to actually do such a thing!"

"Exactly, Dear." Annabelle's voice was subdued. "It would not be long before the king's men would have him, one way or the other. So far He has only truly been a thief, and a nuisance, were he to actually kill a noble he would become an intolerable threat."

The color drained from the young bride's face. "They would not rest until they hung him!!" She whispered. "Dear God!! Anne, Mary, we can not allow him to go through with it!!"

"Calm your self, Sweetie." Mary broke in. "We are not yet all that certain that he does have murder on his mind. We are just saying that even though we have known him longer, none of us are as close to him as ye are."

"Yes," Anne nodded, "for all we truly know Jack is just grieving the loss of his child in his way. As you know he is half Irish, and he fears his own temper."

Cecily looked shocked. "Jack has never shown any indication of temper around me. There was the man who had threatened me in his name, but I wasn't there."

Anne smiled sadly. "Jack will never allow you to see his rage, Dear. You are too precious to him. From what Josiah once told me, Jack only lost control of himself once, when he was just a boy."

"Josiah knew Jack when he was a child?" Cecily couldn't help but interrupt.

Annie smiled warmly. "Josiah grew up with him, Dear. They were both street urchins. Though Josiah is about ten years older than Jack." Cecily was immediately enraptured as the Gypsy continued. "Anyway, it happened just after Jack's parents had contracted the plague. Jack had taken to running with Josiah's gang in an attempt to steal enough money to purchase medicines from the Apocathary, when a lad from a rival gang implied that it wasn't the plague at all. He said that Jack's mother was dieing of the doxie's disease and had passed it to Jack's father."

Cecily 's hand went to her mouth in surprise as Mary coughed discreetly. "Yes children can be cruel, and street children especially so." Anne went on. " Josiah had come looking for Jack when he found him sitting astride the other boy's unconscious body. Jack was unaware that he was still beating the other child. It was all Josiah could do to pull Jack from him. Afterwards Josiah said that Jack sat and cried over losing himself that way for hours, and he never again saw him lose his temper like that."

"Yes," Cecily said thoughtfully, "Geoff told me how badly jack had felt when he punished the ruffian who had accosted me that day. Do you think his temper would break like that with Peter?"

"No, love," Anne smiled. "Jack controls his Irish temper very well, and as you know deep inside Jack Roberts is truly a kind man. However, I do caution you to watch him well. If Jack does plan on murdering Culpepper none but you would be able to stop him. You are the only one he loves enough to listen to."

Outside one of the twins gave a low whistle. "Jack's coming home." Mary winked. "I told the lads to let us know when they saw him." She looked sternly at Cecily. "Say not a word to him about our suspicions, Dear. If we tip him off he will only hide his feelings all the more and ye'll never know what he's going to do till it be too late."

"I won't." Cecily said earnestly as she hugged both women. "Jack and I are so lucky to have you both."

Just that moment the door opened and the three men walked into the cottage. A genuine smile of love came to Jack's face at the sight of his beloved sitting at the table in the kitchen. The familiar twinkle of mischief lit his eye, when he took her into his arms gently and kissed her. "Telling you all of my bad habits were they, My dearest?" He teased.

She wrapped her arms around his neck smiling back to him. "As a matter of fact, My Husband, they were!" She teased. "Now if they will excuse the two of us, I've a mind to see if it were true." She grabbed his hand and led him upstairs to a chorus of laughter.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/05/2007 22:48:17

As soon as they reached their room, Cecily shut the door. Jack sat on the bed and said, "You have a secret to tell me, darling?"
She smiled and shook her head. "It is no secret that I love you, Jack Roberts! And I am now your lawfully wedded wife."
He kissed her hands. "Aye, that ye are."
She smiled as she undid her laces. "And I am long overdue for my wedding night, my love."
Jack gave her a roguish grin. "Are ye sure, love?"
She pushed him back on the bed and whispered, "Never more sure in my life. Annabelle's tonics work both ways, you know..."
Jack laughed and said, "God bless that gypsy!"

As they lay there entwined in each other, the sheets swirled around them, she looked up in Jack's face and touched his face tenderly.
"Jack, I am so sorry about the baby. If I had thought....but it was a reaction. Peter was going to kill you."
Jack held her close. He was very conscious of her broken ribs. "My darling, you shall always be the most precious gift I ever stole from a noble."
Cecily hesitated and then plunged right in.
"Jack, about Peter Culpepper....."
Jack said quietly, "What about him?"
She took a quick intake of breath. "I don't want you to take the law in your own hands. I couldn't bear it if lost you. Please, Jack! Let it go. For me."
His jaw tightened. Cecily knew him well enough to know that he made his mind up about something and she needed to tread carefully.
He kissed her forehead and said, "Don't worry, my love. I promise I shall do nothing rash."
She frowned and said, "Am I going to have to assign Geoff and George to watch you twenty-four hours a day?"
He kissed her passionately and said huskily, "I certainly hope not!"
She giggled and said, "My goodness, this potion is long lasting!"

As Jack pulled on his breeches, Cecily stepped into her dress. She blushed, "Do you think Mary will know what we were up to?"
Jack could hardly keep the mirth off his face but he tried his best. "No, my dear. I think we have her totally fooled."
She broke out in a smile. "Thank goodness! I think dinner would be awkward!"
Jack laughed, "You know, as much as I love it here, I can't wait to be back and settled in our own house in Devonshire."
Cecily smiled, "A house of my own! What I always wanted. And filled with babies!"
Jack held her as close as he dared with her broken ribs. Softly he said, "Aye, me lassie! We shall."
He thought back to a conversation he had with Annabelle when Cecily was sleeping right after the miscarriage.
She told him only time would tell if Cecily could have children.
At that moment, Jack decided.
Sir Culpepper had to die.
Slowly and painfully.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/06/2007 13:09:25

Later that night, as Cecily slept, Jack stared at the ceiling. Lost in his thoughts he was certain of at least two things. One, that for the grievous hurt Culpepper had inflicted on his love and himself he would die. Secondly, that Cecily be kept as far from the consequences of his deeds as possible. No matter how it would play out in the end she must never be seen as having a part in it.

Tenderly his gaze traveled the length of his bride's body. Never before had he felt so complete as he did in her arms. It was as if he had found in her a part of himself that he never knew was missing. A part he would do anything to protect from the rest of him. That was why he had Donovan send for two of his old cohorts.

Both Jenkins and Cody had rode with him long ago, and even though they had parted ways they still remained fast friends. Now he needed their help. Since he doubted Culpepper knew either one of them, they would make perfect spies to infiltrate the bastard's operations. Especially now that Lord Peter's numbers had diminished by at least four he knew of. Sir Peter would be in the market for some fresh blood, and those two had enough of a reputation in the underground to make perfect candidates.

He could also provide them both with a bit of information that would make their services near irresistible to Culpepper. The fool would jump at the chance to hire them then. Once the two of them were in place he had formulated a plan that would draw the wolf out of his lair. Right into Jack's waiting arms. Jack understood what Culpepper wanted more than even Cecily now, he wanted Jack dead.

Cecily stirred beside him, and he gently stroked her hair and shoulder to comfort her back into sleep. She sighed and whispered his name before falling completely back into slumber. A single tear slid from one eye to stain his pillow as he continued to tenderly stroke her. It was so damned unfair for her ability to bear children to be threatened by the selfish plans of one man. He would see that the justice which Culpepper so richly deserved would be meted out to him, and take much personal pleasure in doing so.

Still he would have to be careful of putting the plan into operation. That Annie, and the others has suspicions about his plans he had no doubt. He had been careless about letting his emotions show enough to tip them off. That they had conveyed those suspicions to Cecily he could also be fairly certain of. He would have to be more careful of himself from here on in, lest she be anywhere near when he finally had Culpepper in his grasp.

Silently he made up his mind. No matter how much he felt the rage and pain that Sir Peter had visited upon them, he would remain his old self in their presence. Nothing from this point on would give him away, and his love would be safely in the presence of many witnesses when he sent Culpepper to Hell. As if feeling his inner dialog Cecily opened her sweet sapphire eyes. Jack's smile was tender and loving at the shadowed sight of her.

"Is anything wrong, My Love?" She asked softly, her hand traveling down the length of his jaw.

"Nay, Dearest," Jack smiled. "I was just thinking how much I love the woman who chose me to be her husband."

"Jack." Cecily whispered huskily, drawing him to her. Her lips sought his hungrily as their arms entwined. Lost in the warmth of each other's bodies, their passion built to near unbearable levels.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/11/2007 22:19:28

The morning sun came through the casement window, the May breeze gently gently ruffling the curtains. The scent of lilacs filled the room. Cecily smiled in her sleep, then opened her eyes and stretched. Jack had rolled over during the night and slept with his back to her. She gently put her arms around him and pressed her body next to his. He rolled over towards her and awoke.
"Well, good morning to you, Mrs. Roberts!"
Cecily smiled happily. "I DO love the sound of that. Cecily Roberts! Has a nice flow to it, doesn't it?"
Jack entwined his fingers through her long tresses and kissed the perfumed locks.
"Aye, that it does! And it is signed, sealed and recorded. 'Let no man put asunder' Or bastard. Or devil."
Cecily touched his face and admonished, "Let's not speak of it, dearest."
Jack pulled her towards him. They kissed deeply and she whispered, "Why can I never get enough of you?"

Curling into the crook of Jack's arm, Cecily smiled contentedly. "Jack, do you realize you have never even told me about the house we are to live in?"
Jack looked up at the ceiling and smiled in reverie. "Ah, darling, it is a grand place!"
"Where is it?"
"Three miles north of the Crossbow."
"Have you had it long?"
"For about two years. But in my heart? Since I was five."
"Five? What do you mean?"
A bittersweet smile crossed Jack's face. "It was the only time except for when I am with you that I can say I was truly happy."
Cecily's fingers ran up and down Jack's arm lightly. "I feel a story coming on, " she smiled at him.

Jack held her close and said, "My da had a hard time finding work. As a last resort, he passed a cottage in Devonshire. My mother had a really bad cold she couldn't shake and we had no money for medicine. We waited in the wagon while he knocked on the door. Turns out the couple were elderly and had some repairs that needed to be done. To tell the truth, I think they took pity on my da. They invited him in and subsequently my mother and me. I remember the smell to this day."
"It was a combination of apple pie and lilacs."
Cecily snuggled deeper into his arms. "Sounds wonderful!"
Jack continued, "It was an older couple, childless, and they took pity on us. We stayed for six months. The woman--her name was Bess--put my mother to bed immediately and nursed her back to health. I know if it were not for the kindness of Bess, my mother would have died. Bess and Nigel spoiled me. I ran in the gardens and NIgel taught me woodcarving. My da did all sorts of odd jobs for them. At the end of six months, Da had an offer of a job up in Somerset. So we said goodbye tearfully. I have to tell you, Cecily, I never forgot the kindness of them. Da shook hands and Nigel told him we always had a place there. To make a long story short, Da's job fell through after six months. So we trekked back to Devonshire and when we arrived, we found that Bess and Nigel had died two months previous of pneumonia. My father drove silently to the graveyard and he sat there and just stared. I think that may have been one of the few times I saw my da cry. Mother was crying and picked flowers to put on their graves. The brother of Nigel inherited the house. But he rented it out and it fell into subsequent disrepair. When I purchased the Crossbow, I went out to the cottage. There in the front yard was none other than Nigel's brother, fuming at the state the last tenant left it. I offered him a price then and there, we went to the magister's office and signed the deed right there. I then became the owner."
Cecily wiped a tear that had escaped her eye. "What a wonderful story, Jack!"
Jack continued. "Geoff and George have been working on it whenever they could. The house was about three months from completion right before I left for London on holiday. "
"You were on holiday when you ran into me?"
Jack kissed her tenderly and said, "Aye. That I was."

Cecily hugged him and gently laid a hand on his chest. "And tell me about my new home!"
Jack laughed, "Anxious, are we?"
Cecily nodded. "I would like to settle in as quickly as we can. Now that we are husband and wife. So what does the house look like?"
Jack said, "It sits on about fifty acres of land. Twenty of that is cleared. There is a forest to the east and meadowlands on the west. A brook runs through the property about one hundred fifty feet away from the house. About one hundred feet to the north of the house is the barn and a separate stable, capable of holding eight horses."
"The house, Jack, the house!"
"Oh! The house..well, yes..say, Cecily, I'm hungry. Let's go downstairs and get some breakfast and then..."
He rose up to get out of bed. Cecily grabbed him around the waist and yanked back. He fell backwards, laughing as he landed on her. Quickly he turned around and drew her into his embrace and whispered, "And what shall ye give me if I tell ye about the house, oh wife of mine?"
Cecily didn't answer but pulled him down towards her.

As they lay there, she laughed and said, "I kept my end of the bargain, love, now you keep yours. The house..?"
Jack caressed her shoulder and said, "It is of honey-coloured stone. A stone chimney on the side with ivy crawling up the sides. There is a stone walkway that matches the stones in the wall that surrounds the garden. Three stairs lead up to the house, with a walkway down to another four steps. The garden is filled with foxglove, columbines, daisies and hollyhocks. Morning glories on a trellis up the side."
"Jack, it sounds wonderful! What does the inside look like?"
"As you enter the doorway, which is oak and rounded at the top, there is a small receiving room. To hang cloaks and muddy boots. Did I metion it has casement windows with diamond shaped mullion bars and flowerboxes under each window?"
Cecily shook her head no. "I think I am in love with it already!"
Jack laughed and continued. "There is a front parlor, a dining room and a big kitchen in the back of the house. A stairway that goes up and then separates. That is between the dining room and the parlor. Upstairs are four large rooms. Lots of lights. And in the biggest bedroom is an alcove with dormer windows."
Cecily smled widely, "Perfect for a nursery, my love!"
Jack drew her to him and held her fiercely. "Without a doubt, my darling. Without a doubt."

Cecily looked into his eyes and said, "I can't wait! A home of my own!"
Jack's eyes took on a faraway look as he said, "I only wish my da and mother could have known. And I wish they could have met ye, Cecily. They would have loved ye."
Cecily touched him tenderly and said, "As do I, Jack. As do I. But as long as you and I shall love, they shall always be there. It's just an extension of us. And I think they would be proud of the man they called their son."
Jack pushed her hair back and said softly, "Have I told ye lately I love ye?"
Cecily smiled at him and said, "Yes. But tell me again!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/15/2007 10:36:44

By noon The Crossbow was in sight of the travelers. Josiah and Molly, who had gone out for some fresh air and spotted them first, watched as they made their way ever closer to home. "Are ye going to ask him, Dear?" Molly tightened the grip of her arm around Josiah's waist.

"Aye." He nodded. "We've not seen nor heard from either of them since Katherine left. If they are here at his request, then ye can be sure Jack be up to something."

"Didn't they tell you anything?" Molly looked up at her man quizzically.

"Not a bloody word, Love." Josiah scowled. "Other than to show me the note they received from York. Either they don't know themselves, or what he has in mind is something that could lead all involved to the hangman." Josiah hugged his new found love close. He knew Jack better than most. Damn the stubborn, half Irish fool. Something horrible had happened in Scotland, Josiah was certain of it, and what ever it was Jack was determined to settle it himself.

Molly felt her man stiffen beneath her arm. "What is it, Josiah?? What's wrong?!"

"Look closely, Molly my love." he whispered pointing. "Aphrodite be tethered to the back of the coach. Cecily isn't riding, and I don't see Annie anywhere either! If that bastard Culpepper has harmed the lass in anyway, there'll be no way in Hell of stopping him!"

Molly felt fear race up her spine. "Oh, no, Dearest." She whispered, her free hand covering her mouth. "Dear God in Heaven, Let her be alright!"

Both Josiah and Molly breathed a bit easier when Jack led the small procession into the courtyard, smiling. He leapt lightly from Raven's back and opening the door to the coach held Cecily's hand as she lighted from the enclosed carriage. They had spent a week at Mary's, and Jack showed no signs of anger, or sorrow. Cecily ran over to them both, hugging them simultaneously and fiercely. Jack shook Josiah's hand, and hugged Molly in turn. Josiah was more than a little pleased when he heard him order Tom Banks to water the animals only, for he planned to take his new bride to her home shortly. Perhaps things were not as bad as he had feared when Jenkins and Cody had arrived.

Once inside the tavern Roberts greeted his customers, announcing his marriage and giving out a free round of drinks to all present. Only Josiah caught the silent signal Jack gave to his two old henchmen. The one that meant for them to wait, instructions would come later. Both men returned the acknowledgement by stroking the side of their noses with a forefinger. The signal of understanding. The elder man felt some of his concern return. Jack was not as at ease as he was letting on. Well two could play that game.

"Come on, Laddie Buck!" He grinned while putting one arm around Jack's shoulders. "Ye've been gone too long and I've a mind to have a drink or two with ye in privet. Besides, Molly has been die'n ta gossip with yer wife, and I don't think she can wait much longer."

"Aye, Mate." Jack grinned. "Her an Annie will have plenty to tell her after a week with Mary's tales ringing in their ears."

As the two friends left the main hall the ladies made for the kitchen. George and Geoffrey walked over to Jenkins and Cody, shaking hands with their old comrades they sat down to drink and talk over times gone by. Long moments passed in idle banter about the good old days, and what the foursome had been up to since jack had disbanded his old crew. Several tankards of ale passed before George, no longer able to contain himself, turned the conversation serious.

"Thing is, Cody, we were wonderin' just what jack be up too." He leaned over the table, speaking lowly to avoid too sharp ears. "Is he plannin' to put the old crew together again?"

"Love me if I knows, Mate." Cody returned. A medium build of a man, with a smile that could rival Jack's when he had a mind to, the brown haired, green eyed man shrugged. "All either one of us knows is Jack sent us a message to come here and wait for his personal instructions."

"Aye." Albert Jenkins continued. Soft spoken, his gentle manner belied a man of quick action. Brown eyed, and black haired, many had taken him for a Spaniard, though it was probably closer to the truth than even he knew. "As we told him two years ago, if he ever needed us again, we would be here for him."

"Here be the way of it though." Geoff broke in, his usual clownish manner dropped for once. "We think Jack has a mind to kill a nobleman." Geoff went on to tell the tale of the tragic events in Scotland, and the death of Katherine Fairchild. When he had finished the two former gang members looked at each other.

Jenkins shook his head sadly. "I can see why he would want the man, but I for one owe Jack more than I can ever repay him. If he needs me to help put this Culpepper under the ground. Then, by heaven, I'll do it."

"I as well." Cody nodded in agreement. "Pity about Kat, though."

"Aye," George spoke up, "but ye didn't see him after she left, Mates. Jack took to doin' things that were reckless, to say the least. We all feared the gallows for him. With Culpepper bein' responsible for the death of his first born...." He let the thought trail off into the air.

"Doesn't matter to either of us, George." Jenkins looked up defiantly. "I'd feel the same were it me. What ever he asks of us, we'll stand beside him to the end."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/15/2007 22:48:50

Molly grabbed Cecily's hand and put her arm around Annie"s waist.
"I can't wait to hear all the news of the wedding and how Mary is. I have been starved for female conversation since you have been gone!"
The three women went into the kitchen of The Crossbow. It was a cozy kitchen, not like the slop-rooms of some taverns. Josiah had let Molly have free rein on that part of the inn, and Molly did a fine job on arranging things the way she wanted them. Spice jars lined up on a shelf in alphabetical order, pots gleaming and the fireplace was kept swept clean every day. Pots of flowers lined the window sill and the casement windows opened out. It truly was Molly's territory and Josiah would never deem it right to interfere with her running of it.

Cecily still was a bit pale. Molly took her face in her hands and said, "Let me look at you...well, for a newlywed, you aren't really glowing! Is Jack not doing right by you, lass?"
Cecily could feel herself blush and Annie turned her head to hide her smile.
Cecily grew quiet and Molly looked from her to Anne.
"Something's not right. And which one of you will you be telling me?"
Cecily barely whispered, "I was with child and we lost it."
Molly's hands flew to her mouth and for once she couldn't think of anything to say.
"A--a child? That explains why the carriage and why Aphrodite was walking riderless. You weren't in any shape to be jarring around on horseback."
Cecily could feel her eyes welling with tears at mention of the miscarriage. She whispered, "I swear, if I ever find Peter Culpepper, I shall ruin him. He shall pay for that dearly."
Annie poured some tea.
"Perhaps if we start at the beginning..."

Annie concluded by saying, " we stayed with Mary for a bit so Cecily could rest up."
Cecily said, "I'm feeling almost back to normal. I'm going down to the stables to let Aphrodite know I am still around. She must be wondering what happened when she saw Raven and Jack but she was riderless."
As soon as Cecily left for the stables, Annie bent her head forward and said in a low voice, "Molly, what in heaven's name are Cody and Jenkins doing here?"
Molly shook her head. "They received word from Jack to come to the Crossbow and wait till he got back. It must be serious if he brought in the heavy artillery. I mean, they were the best he ever rode with."
Annie exhaled audibly and said more to herself, "I was so afraid it would come to this."
Molly's face grew solemn. "Will it be like last time?"
Annabelle said, "Worse, I'm afraid. His recklessness when Katherine left was rage he had on the inside. This is different. Someone hurt someone Jack loves more than life itself. Make no mistake, it's not revenge he's after. It's the reckoning. He is going to settle accounts with Lord Culpepper once and for all."
"Is Cecily really alright? It was just some broken ribs and the miscarriage, wasn't it? Nothing more?"
Annabelle looked into her tea cup as if she could read the tea leaves. She said softly, "There's always the question if Cecily can ever carry a child to term. She took a terrible spill and the miscarriage came fiercely."
Molly felt tears well up in her eyes. "Lord have mercy! All those dreams up in smoke due to one man's obsession."
Annabelle nodded. "I have never seen Jack so torn up. And as much as I hate Peter Culpepper--it is nothing compared to what Jack will do when he sends the man to hell."

Cecily walked down to the stables to check on Aphrodite. Tom Banks was seeing to the grooming of one of the horses.
"Hello, Cecily." he smiled.
Cecily found herself slightly uncomfortable as she always did in his presence.
"Hello, Tom. I came to check on my horse. How is she?"
"Doing fine. She's a fine piece of horseflesh." Cecily found herself stiffen at the inflection and the slight pause between crucial words.
She tried to keep her voice neutral. "I just want to make sure she's alright."
Tom grinned, "Then right this way."
Cecily followed him as he opened the gate. He stepped aside but his hand stayed on top of it. Cecily had to brush against him and duck under his arm to get into the stall. She whispered to her mare and stroked her nose. Cecily felt the hairs on the back of her neck raise. She looked behind her and Tom was there, staring at her. She could feel his eyes ever so subtly travel down the length of her body and up again.
She said cooly, "Something you wanted, Tom?"
He said casually, "Heard you and Jack got married at Gretna Green."
She took an apple from the bushel and fed it to Aphrodite.
"Yes. We did."
"Jack's kind of old for you, isn't he?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Tom grinned, "Nothing. Just hope he can keep up with you."
Cecily pushed past him and walked briskly out of the stables. She glanced back only once. Tom was looking at her as she walked back to the tavern. And a cold chill came over her.
'The sooner I get into my own house, the better...'


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/17/2007 13:14:23

Josiah came out of his rooms alone, stopping at the bar to fill the largest tankard available with dark ale before joining George and Geoff at the table. Without looking at either of them, he addressed Jenkins and Cody. "He would like to have a word with ye now, Lads." Jenkins and Cody stood up without a word and left.

Once the door to Josiah's living quarters was closed Geoff leaned over the table to Josiah. "So, what did ye get out of him, Mate?"

"Not much more'n I'd say the two 'a ye already know, Lad." Josiah's tone was fatalistic as he kept his voice low. "Even without his say'n so he's blamin' Culpepper for the death 'a his child. There's something' more as well, but I couldn't drag it outta him. Somethin' at do with the lass."

"Aye," George broke in, "we guessed as much. He's actin' more like himself now, but neither of us are puttin' much faith in that."

"And well ye shouldn't." Josiah continued. "Jack gave me most of the story, including Katherine's death, and there's something more eatin' at him. I've known him longer than anyone short 'a the man's parents. No matter what face he be showin' to the world, Jack Roberts is set on a course that could well destroy everything the man holds dear."

Roberts sat in the high-backed leather chair behind Josiah's oak desk when the knock came at the door. "C'mon in, Lads." He answered, motioning to the two cushioned chairs he had placed at the front after Josiah left. In front of each sat a full tankard of ale for his guests. "Sit down, Men. I've a job for ye that I think you'll like."

"To be plain about this, Old Friends, I want a man dead, and I want him to die by my hand and mine alone." Jack began after Jenkins and Cody had situated themselves and he had their full attention. "He won't be an easy target, to be sure, but I may have a way to flush him out."

"Lord Peter Culpepper, I take it" Cody grinned as Jack stopped short.

"I should have guessed." He grinned back. "George and Geoff have been talking with ye?" The two men nodded.

"Aye, I let me feelings get the better of me for a while there." Jack continued. "A mistake I've no intention to repeat. Once I get my hands around Culpepper's throat I want none but myself to be implicated in his death. No one but I can be held accountable."

"And just how do ye plan to be pullin' that one off, Mate?" Jenkins asked.

"By using what the man suspects against him." Jack responded. "He makes no secret that he believes Robert Johnson and Black Jack Roberts are one and the same man. For a chance to prove it and get to me, I believe he will take risks he normally wouldn't. Which is why I sent for the two of ye."

"Trough certain shared contacts in the underground, I know much of the man's underhanded dealings, such as his smuggling operations for example." Jack continued. "Fortunately such knowledge about myself is not shared with Culpepper. I can, however, make it known that two of my old comrades are rather upset with my disbanding of my old gang, and looking for a bit of revenge on Black Jack Roberts. Since I've recently whittled the man's number of henchmen down a bit, he should jump at the chance to hire them."

"With we being those two I take it?" Cody smiled, lifting his tankard to his lips.

"Exactly." Roberts grinned back.

"And just what makes ye think he'll be trustin' any of your old cohorts, Jack?" Jenkins pondered. "Ye be legendary for the loyalty of your associates."

"Two reasons, Old Friend." Jack grinned confidently. "The first is the man is a ruthless back stabber, and he expects all others to be the same. If he believes you truly have a grudge against me he won't hesitate to use you. Second he has already used one of the former group to make an attempt on my life." This time it was Jenkins and Cody's turn to be stunned.

"Helmsley." Jack explained.

"That piece of filth!" Jenkins exclaimed. "I thought he were hung!"

"Nay," Jack scowled, "Culpepper had him set free after I turned down his offer to join forces. Helmsley didn't let on as to who I was, as he wanted to finish me himself, but I've no doubt his desire to kill me was why he was hired."

Cody whistled lowly. "It's a risky game yer playin', Jack."

"It's dangerous game I hunt, Mate." Jack returned. "I'll not think worse of either of ye if you refuse."

Jenkins and Cody looked to each other for a long moment before Jenkins spoke. "We're in, Mate."

"Good." Jack smiled with satisfaction. "Now here's what I want ye to do."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/20/2007 09:04:35

Cecily walked back into the tavern and stopped suddenly. A man sat there with Molly and Annabelle, his back towards her. The tilt of his head, the way he leaned back in his chair. And the voice...

Her brother turned around and gave her the biggest grin he ever flashed anyone before. Just as quickly, he jumped out of his chair and caught her as she flung herself into his arms.
"Whatever are you doing here, Andrew?"
Andrew hugged her fiercely and said, "Couldn't let my sister's wedding go by without coming in late, now, could I?"
She felt the tears well up in her eyes. "Oh, Andrew! It was the happiest day of my life-and the saddest!"
Andrew held her at arm's length and said, "Now I'm worried. Best tell me from the beginning."

Molly had set an ale in front of Andrew and said, "You best dig in, dear. You'll be here for a long time but best you keep your temper in check."

Cecily told Andrew the whole story. She burst out crying telling him about the loss of her expected child. To put it into words to the one person who meant more to her save Jack was like reliving it all over again. He gently took her into his arms and stroked her hair.
"I'm so sorry, sis.That bastard will pay."
She looked up at him and wiped her eyes with the handkerchief Andrew had offered her.
"Andrew, no. Peter Culpepper will one day get what is coming to him. I shall see to that."
Her brother admonished her, "Cecily, let it go to the men to take care of it. Don't you be doing anything foolish. He's dangerous."
She steeled her will.
"I've been wronged. And I shall right it."
Andrew hugged her. "Let it go for now, Cecily. I am sorry the day was so fraught with disaster but the one good thing is this--with the marriage recorded, you are safely out of that monster's clutches. Neither he nor Mother can ever force their will on you again. According to law, Robert Johnson is your husbandly 'owner' as it were."
Cecily smiled through her tears. "And I am the happiest woman alive, Andrew. I found my one true love."
Andrew took her hand and said, "Let's go for a walk."
Molly nodded, "Go ahead and get some fresh air, Cecily. I can see that seeing your brother has done a world of good to you. When Jack comes out, I shall tell him that you are in good hands."

Andrew and Cecily walked towards the woods.
"Been practicing with the bows, Cecily? None could best you."
She laughed, "I surely have. I aim to be able to defend myself. Jack taught me to use a whip."
"NO! Are you kidding?"
She said proudly, "Andrew, I can whip apples off trees with one flick of the wrist! It is ever so much fun! And every apple we made into cobbler had Peter Culpepper's face on it!"
Andrew grew sober. "Cecily, it is only fair to warn you. Culpepper hasn't been heard from. Rumour has it that he went to his estate in Ireland to take care of business."
"Are you sure?"
Andrew nodded. "Raymond, his valet? The guy is walking alot straighter so it must be true!"
"Poor old gentleman. Wonder why he sticks around."
Andrew shrugged. "Raymond has been with Wildwood since he was a young man. Even before Sir Peter was born. Served Lord William Culpepper--you and I don't remember him."
"Ever wonder what happened to Peter to make him so dark and disturbing?"
Andrew looked off into the distance and then scraped the ground with his booted foot.
"Cecily, now that you are safely married to Jack, I think I can honestly tell you what I learned from Father while you were away."
Cecily said, "You found some things out?"
Andrew gave her a hug. "God bless Jack for keeping you safe. You are sure the marriage license if filed?"
"Yes. Jack took the copy for the London registry and gave it to one of his men. It came back with proof it had been filed. I am Jack's wife, signed, sealed and delivered."
Andrew reached out and stroked her hair back. "I am glad, Sis."
Cecily sat down on a rock and Andrew stretched out on the grass. "So..tell me about Sir Peter Culpepper's deep, dark past."
Andrew sighed and said, "This has to be between us."
Cecily crossed her chest with her index finger and then spit.
Andrew laughed. "If only Jack could see his little wife now..."
Cecily laughed too. "Some habits are hard to break!"
Andrew took a deep breath. "It turns out he favors his mother. She was a Rom."
Cecily's mouth dropped open. "You mean she was a...a..."
Andrew nodded. "Sir Peter Culpepper is half-gypsy."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 02/08/2007 10:56:27

Annabelle Peterson sat near the window of the upstairs room in the Crossbow. Claiming to be tired from the long trip she watched as Cody and Jenkins rode off in the direction of Cornwall. "Oh, Jack." She thought wearily to herself. "I hope you know what you are doing. I wonder if you knew the truth about Peter Culpepper, would that change your mind? Somehow I doubt it, and I can not ever tell you." Tears welled up in her dark brown eyes as she remembered the tragic events that had bound her to the fate she faced. A fate that had began two generations ago with the birth of her mother, and her mother's sister.

The twin girls had been born during the blood moon. Chiana, the midwife, had seen the signs early. The two were polar opposites in nature and personality. One was caring and kind, the other dark and cruel. She had predicted that both would bear children not of the Romani. The dark child would have a son who would become wealthy and powerful, but carry his mother's nature. An evil soul who would bring shame to his Gypsy blood, and ruin to the house of his father.

No, she would have to keep her secret and do what she could to help. None of her friends, who she cherished more than life its self could ever know the shame she felt. The shame her cousin would bring down on all of her mother's people should the truth ever be known.

That afternoon Jack led the small procession to the home he had longed to fill for so long. Cecily's azure eyes twinkled with joy at the sight of the modest cottage. Geoff, George, and he had done a very good job of repairing it, and making a comfortable dwelling of the neglected building. A stone fence, hidden in places by ivy vines, encircled the large yard. A whitewashed wooden gate opened to a flagstone path that led to the arched polished oak door.

As soon as he had helped his wife down from the carriage he lifted her into his arms, glorying in the comfort of her arms closing softly about his neck. Nudging the gate open with the toe of his boot he called over his shoulder to George. "Lads, if you would be so kind, stable the horses and see to their needs." Jack smiled, his own eyes never leaving hers. "And take your time about it."

"Aye, that we will." Geoffrey called after the couple as Jack carried Cecily over the thresh hold of the cottage. "What d'you think, Georgie, an hour?"

George grinned, winking to his brother. "Better make that two, Mate."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....