I woke up slowly, listening to a heartbeat not my own. The heavy weight on my good shoulder was a welcome reminder that I was alive and the love of my life had stayed the night with me. Turning my head a fraction, I took a deep breath and inhaled his warm scent deep into my lungs. He smelled of cedar and oatmeal and even more strongly of Clark.
His hair was soft and silky beneath my cheek and I moved a little closer to imprint the texture deep into my senses so I would always remember it. His hand moved gently on my stomach where it had warmed me the whole night long.
"Good morning, Jimmy." His voice was a rumble against my shoulder, the vibration sending a shiver through me.
"Good morning, Clark. Thanks for staying." I rubbed a little harder against the dark silk under my cheek.
"There is no place I'd rather be." He turned his head and his warm lips pressed against the pulse in my throat, making it jump. And that's when his fingers dipped lower and slowly caressed my aching groin.
I couldn't help it. I groaned softly and tightened my grip on his shoulder. It had been so long and I needed a loving touch so badly. His head moved up and drank the sound from my lips. He tasted of unadulterated Clark, my favorite taste. His tongue traced my parched lips and I opened to him automatically.
His warm fingers stroked beneath the waistband of the thin cotton pajama bottoms that Cransom had brought me a week ago. My lips curved up when I remembered his solemn assurance that they were much better than the slit-up-the-back hospital gown I was wearing. Clark pulled back just far enough to look at me. "What?"
"Just remembering when I started liking pajamas a week ago." The fingers on my left hand moved up and began the slow tracing of his ear.
He shivered while he smiled and went back to tasting me. We feasted for long moments while he coaxed a response from my here-to-for slumbering cock. Not since the shooting had I felt any stirring in my genitals and I'd begun to wonder if I'd be permanently at half-mast but Clark was proving that fear groundless. His fingers slipped up and down, encircling me with an enticingly loose grasp that soon had me thrusting my hips up to meet him.
Chuckling a little under his breath, he just moved one of his legs over both of mine so I couldn't push up. "No movement, love. This is just a little something to celebrate being together. And alive."
I caught the note of pain in his voice and distracted him with a finger in the sensitive ear canal. He shuddered and kissed me hard once before moving down my neck with a series of licks and nibbles that soon had me panting while I tried not to move.
He bathed my nipples with his rough tongue and I squirmed with delight while he cast an admonishing look up at me with laughing eyes. Continuing down my chest, he paused to torment my navel with a rolled up tongue that danced in and out of the small depression. By now, I was hard as the proverbial rock and his grip was just the little bit tighter to give me the pressure I wanted.
And finally, his tongue was right where I needed it. He ran it from the flared head right down to the root, giving my balls a little bath so they wouldn't feel left out, then back up again to that little spot on the large vein that feeds blood to the shaft. That little spot that feels so very, very good when something hot and wet bathes it over and over again.
I was panting again. Trying to get enough oxygen to feed my starving brain. But all the blood had left my head and gone straight to my groin and Clark seemed to realize that because he quit teasing me and engulfed me with a long lovely slide down to the curly blond hair at my groin. It felt so good that I was shaking with the effort not to come right then. But the trip back up felt even better and when he started sucking, the alternating pressure drove me right out of what little mind I had left.
Every muscle in my body went into spasm. Pulsing out into his warm mouth, I felt myself go completely limp. He suckled on my cock for a long moment while I struggled to stay conscious so I wouldn't scare him. My hand slipped from his head to his shoulder while the nerves fired intermittently with little twitches. I hadn't felt so relaxed in ages and suddenly I knew I was going to go back to sleep.
"Clark. Sleep now." The drugs in my system took over again and my eyes closed without my permission.
"I'll be here when you wake up." His voice came from far away but his hand held mine and I squeezed it once before I slipped back under.
Three days later, I was ensconced on a padded deck chair with a fluffy coverlet to keep me warm, a pillow to prop my shoulder, a giant umbrella to shade me and a butler to keep bringing me drinks and snacks. I was bored out of my mind.
I'd given myself several little talks about simply enjoying this while it lasted but when I was alone it was all too easy to begin to let the dark thoughts in. So, I pulled the book in my lap up so I could continue reading the journal that Mrs. K had given me. It was the diary of her great grandmother that she'd kept while crossing the Great Plains on her way to meet up with her husband in the 1860's.
Parts of it were fascinating but the pages I'd just read were boring beyond belief. The drugs in my system were still making me sleepy and this was a great soporific. I kept dosing off and dreaming that I was in the wagon train with Grandma Greta. I seemed to be her little boy, Franklin and a real hellion. Always getting into trouble and playing practical jokes on everyone.
Every time I woke up, I wondered if he'd made it alive to the end of the trip. Grinning to myself, I glanced at my watch to see what time it was. 4:00. Almost time for afternoon tea.
"Good afternoon, Jimmy." Mrs. K came through the french doors, followed by Cransom with the tea tray and Clark with a big smile on his face. "How far did you get this time?"
It was a running joke between us about my falling asleep and I grinned up at her. "They just crossed the Mississippi River and are traveling over the plains of Iowa. Franklin put stones in the stew and almost broke Mr. Tainor's tooth. Does he make it to the end of the trip or do some of his victims extract vengeance?"
She laughed out loud and shook her finger at me. "Franklin makes it to California and grows up to marry my grandmother. And he was still playing practical jokes until the day he died."
"Are there any pictures of him?" I accepted a glass of ice tea from Clark's hand, managing a brief caress to the strong fingers I dreamed about.
"I'm surprised I haven't shown you that album yet, Jimmy." She smiled at us, watching Clark settle down at the side of the lounger within touching distance of me. "Cransom, would you mind finding the O'Neill binders? Most of Grandpa's pictures are in them."
"Certainly, ma'am. Will there be anything else?" The dark man with the kind face looked at each of us before nodding and heading silently inside. I'd never yet heard him coming or going. He always seemed to just appear and disappear at will.
Clark fed me a cookie, alternating bites with me until it was gone. One of these days when I got both my arms back, I was planning on feasting on him and eating an entire meal off of his body. Whipped cream featured prominently in that particular fantasy and I grinned into his eyes while he looked a little nervous at my expression.
I licked my lips deliberately and watched his eyes darken. Mrs. K laughed suddenly and shook her finger at us. "No mating rituals in front of an old lady, you two. Although, I must admit, I find I enjoy watching you interact when you forget where you are and world narrows to just the pair of you. I'd forgotten how that feels."
I grinned at her wistful tone and wished with all my heart that she could be as happy as we were. Even with the threat of reprisals still hanging over my head, I was more content than I'd ever been in my life. She deserved that, too. She was such a warm, caring person that it really was a shame that her only family were a couple of cousins scattered across the United States and her younger brother, somewhere overseas on some hush-hush mission for the government.
Cransom appeared again with three maroon binders, each about four inches thick. We regrouped with Mrs. K on one side of me and Clark on the other while we spent a hilarious hour pouring over the old pictures and listening to our hostess tell stories about the people we found there. My sides ached with laughter while she told us the story about Uncle Thomas and the cow. Not to mention the farmer's daughter.
Mrs. Kenyon was called away to a phone call and Clark immediately took advantage of me, sealing his lips over mine with exquisite care to tenderly search out every hidden corner of my mouth. We kissed for long moments until he pulled away with a sigh and blindly turned the next page in the album as a blind for the returning footsteps on the slate flagstones of the terrace.
"Jimmy," his voice broke through the Clark-induced haze that kissing him always produces, "look at that. It looks like your locket. The one you wear all the time."
I focused on the grainy black and white picture of Grandma Greta and a grown up Franklin. Sure enough, she was wearing a locket but the details were too sketchy for me to see the resemblance except for the overall oval shape and the triangle hand that was the clasp.
"That's the locket he brought back from France, the summer of 1892. He gave it to her for her birthday and she wore it until the day she died. Great-grandfather's picture and the picture of their house in San Francisco were both inside." Her finger gently traced the outline of the locket. Her voice was so sad.
Somehow, we'd brought up sad memories. I hated that. Fishing out my locket, I showed it to her. "This was the only thing I had on me when they found me on the church steps. Well, this and a diaper and blanket. There aren't any initials or anything so it didn't help them try and trace my mother but I always felt it was hers." Pausing, I shrugged at my reasoning. "Like I knew that she loved me but couldn't keep me and wanted me to have at least something of her."
Clark helped me undo the clasp so she could take it in hand. Her fingers shook when I dropped it in her palm and watched her trace the fleur-de-lis engraved on the cover. There was a trick to the closure and I was about to show her the secret when she did it herself. She gazed down at the two pictures for so long that I started getting worried.
But when she raised her eyes and I saw the tears running down her cheeks, I felt panic rising. "Mrs. Kenyon? Are you all right?"
"Jimmy." That was all she said but the hand not holding the locket reached out and clasped mine. I could feel her trembling and I held on hard, trying to warm the cold fingers in mine.
"Mrs. Kenyon. Do you know this locket?" Clark's deep voice broke the spell we'd fallen under.
She took a shuddering breath then another. "It's the same locket that Grandma Greta is wearing. The house is the one I told you about. But the teddy bear is the one I gave our daughter on her fifth birthday."
The silence was deafening. I couldn't wrap my mind around what she was saying. The locket was hers? But her daughter was dead so how had I gotten it? She was smiling at me and the affection that had always been there for me was incandescent now.
Whoa! No way. Even if I did look like her brother when he was a little boy. That didn't mean that I was her grandson. That she was my grandmother. That the beautiful woman who'd sent me back to life was her daughter. It couldn't be true.
"Wait here, Jimmy." She was crying again and moving quickly towards the french doors. I looked at Clark and saw the same tears in his eyes that I could feel in mine.
"Clark? Could it be?" I whispered.
"I don't know, love. But I don't believe in coincidences and this would be the grand daddy of them all." He feathered a kiss to my forehead and held my right hand tightly.
"You mean the grandmother of them all." I managed a small smile and dropped my head to his shoulder, needing the solid feel of him to anchor me among my whirling thoughts.
He chuckled and rested his cheek on my hair. "I kept thinking how similar your body type was to some of the pictures. The one daguerreotype of a young Franklin showed him with the same grin you get when you've just figured something out."
"An 'ah-ha' grin?" I snuggled into him and remembered the picture.
"Exactly." I felt his lips on my hair, brushing little kisses over the crown of my head and I relaxed into them. "There are tests that can be done these days, you know. DNA matching that will tell you for sure."
The click of her heels brought us out of our embrace and when she handed me the teddy bear from the picture, I could barely hold on to it. He was a soft warm brown with a black leather nose, rubbed almost through. He only had one ear but his blue eyes twinkled up at me with a knowing look that said, 'hi, Jimmy, how's it going?'
"After she left, I slept with Bobo each night. Hoping that she'd come back to us. Praying that she'd forgive us for turning him away. But she never did. We were so wrong and she was so right." Her hand caressed my cheek and I brought my eyes up to hers. "They created you and she loved you with all her heart. My Katharine never did anything by halves. I think you get that from her, sweet pea."
I couldn't say a word. Just sat there between my lover and my maybe grandmother and went completely mute. The universe kept giving me these little shocks that changed my entire world and turned it upside down. How had I gotten so lucky? Of course there'd be questions and tests and all kinds of turmoil.
The voice inside my head from my trip to the other side came back to me in crystal clear sweetness. //I love you, sweet pea. It's not your time. Go back now.//
I gripped her hand tightly on one side while holding Clark's hand with the other. Maybe, just maybe, my luck had changed. And the family I'd always wanted was right here. Better yet, they'd both chosen me for myself before any of this other stuff had happened.
Family. What a wonderful word that was.
End chapter eight