Mail Order Doctor, page 13
“I’ve had to use his services. I had a man hurt in a botched robbery attempt on one of my silver shipments. Bishop is a good man. You’ll like him and his wife.”
“I’m glad to hear he’s married. Maybe I’ll find a friend in his wife. I haven’t had much chance to make friends here except for you. Perhaps that’s just as well, since I won’t be staying.” She leaned back against the sofa. “I think I better go see the judge while I’m still mad. I don’t want to back out.”
“You won’t. You’re a strong woman, Julia.” He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t ever change.”
“I don’t intend to.”
He stood and prepared to go. “I’ll leave you to relax now, while the little one sleeps.”
She pushed to stand, needing to complete this act before she loses her nerve. “Actually, I’d appreciate it if you would watch her while I go talk to Judge Blackstone. It shouldn’t take too long and she’ll be sleeping for a couple of hours.”
“Sure. No problem. The little princess and I will be fine until you get back, even if she does wake up.”
“Thanks.” Julia grabbed her handbag, with her proxy marriage documents in it and left. She’d taken to carrying them with her all the time. As much as she didn’t want to, she had to take her life into her own hands. Matthew was never coming around, and she wanted to be married and have children of her own. She was twenty eight after all and wouldn’t be able to have children forever. Maybe she should reconsider, Ben or Blaine’s offers.
She walked the three blocks to the new courthouse. The structure was three stories tall, brick and cost more than fifty thousand dollars to build. The judge’s chambers for Cochise County were on the first floor. Outside the room sat a tall, thin, wiry looking young man. He had wild auburn hair and glasses.
“May I help you ma’am?”
“Yes, I’d like to see Judge Blackstone, please.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No.” She hadn’t thought she’d need one. But she had to make the most of this trip. “Maybe you can help me. I need to file for an annulment of my marriage. How do I go about doing that?”
“Oh, yes, I can help you.” He stood and went to the row of three file cabinets behind his desk. There he opened the top drawer of the middle cabinet and pulled out a packet of papers. “Here is the application. Just fill that out and bring it back. The judge will read it and determine if the annulment should be granted or not.”
With a shaky hand, Julia took the papers. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m sorry about your marriage.”
The young man seemed sincere.
“So am I.”
She had to get out of there before she broke down in tears. Sorry? She was more than sorry. She was angry and hurt, and disgusted with Matthew. He was taking the cowards way out.
An idea hit her over the head like a ton of bricks. She could make love to him. If afterward he still wanted the annulment, she’d give it to him. But she had to try. Her whole life was dependent on her efforts.
That evening she took Hope and went to Matthew’s. She let herself in knowing he would still be at work for a little while which gave her time to get ready. The first thing she did was make a bed for her little girl.
Then she fixed dinner for Matthew. She wanted him in a good mood, and he always was after a good meal. She made one of his favorites—fried pork chops with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. Not enough time remained to make dessert, so she opened a can of peaches. They would be good with a little cream on them. She had just finished putting the food on the table when Matthew came in.
“Julia. What are you doing here? I thought you left…for good.”
She took a deep breath. “I thought I had too, but I have to give us one more chance. I want you to make love to me. I have the annulment papers all filled out and I’m filing them tomorrow, but I want you to make love to me tonight.”
His eyes widened. “Julia, as much as I want to, I can’t. I’m not that kind of man. It wouldn’t be honorable to do such a thing.”
She lowered her gaze. “You’re right, of course. I should have thought. Well, never mind. Just enjoy your dinner. Hope and I will go back to the hotel.”
He sat at the table. “Stay. Have dinner with me. I miss us eating together.”
“No. I can’t stay. I’m moving.”
“Moving to the hotel, I know.” Matthew took a bite of his food.
“No. I’m leaving Tombstone.”
He choked and swallowed quickly. “Leaving? But where will you go? Back to New York?”
“No. Why do you care? You tossed away your chance, more than once. I owe you nothing. Let’s just leave it as I’m moving away and you won’t have to see me anymore.”
He said it softly as though he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say.
She let out a deep breath but her chest was still constricted. “I don’t know what else to do. Once Blaine takes back Hope there won’t be any reason for me to stay.”
“You could still work with me. You can open your practice here.”
“Do you know how hard that would be for me? Working everyday with you, knowing I can’t be with you. That situation would kill me. Why can’t you understand? Are you trying to push me away? It’s working.” Taunting him she told him about her proposals. “Blaine asked me to marry him and be Hope’s mother. He assured me he will give me more children.”
“Hmpft. He’s more boy than man. You need a man.”
“Ben then. He’s all man and he wants to marry me, too. Would he suit you better?”
“No. Ben’s a ladies’ man. Surely you knew that.”
“Then who? Perhaps one of your brothers. Any of them seemed to be happy at the thought of marrying me.”
“They were just being polite. You don’t really want to marry any one of them. They aren’t the kind to settle down.”
“So you see I have to go out and meet new people to find someone. I need to marry and have children. Even more now than before, I know I want children. I love Hope and it’ll kill me when she goes back to her father.” She wrapped her arms around her waist. “But I also know that he loves her. He may not have started out that way, but he does now.”
“How much longer will you have her?”
“I don’t know. Probably just a few days.” Her heart stuttered at the hated words. “He struck a big vein and he’s working it hard to get money to care for Hope. He hopes to hire a wet nurse. That would be the best for Hope, but we’ll see if that’s a possibility. He may have to continue with what our current arrangement.”
“Are you sure that’s not the best for her anyway?”
“No, I’m not. She’s used to the milk she gets now. But mother’s milk is always best.”
“You’re probably right.”
She rose from the table, hands clenched at her sides. “What are we doing Matthew? We’re discussing Hope like she was our daughter. She’s not and she’ll still be going back to her father. I just don’t know how I’ll handle losing you both.”
He stood. “Julia, I…” He stepped toward her but then stopped. “I’m sorry.”
“I have to leave now. Let me get Hope.”
“She’ll go back to sleep when we get to the hotel. Or she won’t and I’ll walk the floor and sing to her. The circumstance doesn’t matter. I just have to go.”
She got the baby from the bedroom, trying not to wake her and left the house. The trek back to the hotel was the longest of her life as tears marred her vision. He doesn’t care.
The next morning she responded to the knock on the door. It was only seven o’clock in the morning but she hadn’t slept much anyway. The previous evening’s conversation with Matthew too vivid in her mind. Then Hope had gotten her up early so she figured she might as well dress and donned a blue and white striped blouse and black skirt.
“Blaine. How are you? Please come in. You look dog tired. Are you all right?”
“Hello, Julia. I’m fine. Thank you for seeing me. I know I should have called at a later hour, but I’m leaving Tombstone for a while.”
Despite all her preparations she was not ready to hear this bit of news. “What?” Julia’s hand flew to her throat. “I’m not prepared. Hope is still sleeping. I—”
“I’m not taking the baby. I was hoping that you would keep her a while longer.”
She released a breath, relief making her knees weak. If she hadn’t been sitting she would have fallen.
“How long will you be gone?” Did she keep the excitement from her voice and leave only the concern. She was keeping Hope.
“I don’t know. My mother is real sick and the trip is a hard one. She lives in the wilds of Canada and I’ll be traveling for more than a month on stages, trains and then on horseback to reach her. I can’t take Hope along.”
“Oh, Blaine, I’m so sorry for your mother, but you know I will, of course, keep Hope. I would like to adopt her if I could, but I understand you don’t want that. I do believe that, since you are to be gone for so long, we should have a written agreement concerning Hope.”
“What do you have in mind? I’m leaving on the ten o’clock stage and I still have to clean up and pack.”
“Just a simple letter, giving me custody of Hope until you return.”
“I can do that. Do you have any paper and a pen?”
“Certainly.” She got a sheet of paper, pen and ink from the small wooden desk in the corner of the room. “Here you are.”
I, Blaine Carstairs, give full and complete custody of my daughter Hope Carstairs to Julia O’Brien Reynolds until I return to reclaim my daughter. If I should die before returning, Julia O’Brien Reynolds will raise Hope Carstairs as her daughter for the remainder of her life.
May 21, 1882
“We’ll need someone to witness it. Let’s go see the desk clerk.
They walk out to the front desk, Hope left sleeping in the room.
Robbie, the clerk on duty, came to attention at Julia’s approach.
“Good morning Mrs. Reynolds. What can I assist you with this morning?”
“Robby we need you to witness this document.”
“Certainly, ma’am. What do you want me to do?”
“She quickly wrote in the words ‘Witnessed by’ and had Robby sign underneath. That’s all thanks, Robby.”
“There that should do it, don’t you?” He handed the letter back to Julia.
She read the paper and nodded. “That should be fine. I hope that your mother is all right and recovers from her illness and that you return to us soon. Have a safe journey, Blaine.”
“I will. Thank you, Julia. I don’t know what I would have done without you. When Norma died, I went out of my mind. You kept Hope safe for me and now I love her more than anything in this life. She is my heart and my soul. I don’t believe I could be leaving her in better hands. Do you think I could see her before I go?”
Julia nodded. “Of course. Come with me.”
They walked back to the bedroom where Hope was sleeping.
“She’s such an angel. My little angel.” He reached down and ran his knuckle down the baby’s soft cheek. “I do love her.”
“I know you do. She’ll be here when you return.” Julia was hard pressed to conceal her elation at being able to have Hope for at least two more months. She wanted to scream with joy
Blaine held out his hand. “Thank you. I wish you well.”
Julia took his hand and then pulled him into a hug. “I think we’ve been through enough that we can say goodbye with more than a handshake.”
They parted and Blaine left to pack for his trip.
* * *
Julia filled out the paperwork for the annulment and then went to find Ben.
“Hello,” she knocked on his office door.
“Hello, come in. Where is Hope?” He stood and came to her, bending down and giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“She was sleeping and I knew I wouldn’t be gone long.” Julia sat in the chair in front of Ben’s desk. “Blaine Carstairs visited me this morning. He’s asked me to keep Hope for some time, two more months at least, until he gets back from seeing his mother in Canada. I have a paper leaving her with me and giving me custody while he is away.”
“Well, he couldn’t have left her in better hands. Does this change your plans for leaving?”
“Yes, it does. I’ll be staying here if you don’t mind. When the choice affected just me, I could leave for the unknown, but with Hope, I need to stay here where her environment is relatively stable.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’m sure Matthew will be, too.”
She shook her head. “He won’t care. He’s glad to be rid of me.”
“That’s not true, I’m not happy to be rid of you.”
Julia gasped and turned toward the door. “Matthew. What are you doing here?”
Matthew stood framed in the doorway, his arms at his sides, hands clenched.
“I couldn’t leave things between us like they were. I want you and Hope to come home. I heard you’re keeping her for at least several more months.”
“Where did you hear that? And yes, I am.”
“I saw Blaine Carstairs on the way out this morning. He told me. Come home. I can’t stand the thought of losing you. You make my life complete. I want to have a real marriage. I want to try.”
Finally the words I’ve waited to hear. Julia burst into tears.
Matthew walked forward and took her in his arms. “I’m sorry…so very sorry.”
“You should be, but I don’t know if I want to try anymore.” She pulled back so she could meet his gaze. “I can’t stand more rejection.”
“No rejection only desire. I still don’t know that I can love you, but I care more for you than I ever have anyone in my life except Hope. And I admit that Little Bit has stolen my heart. I never felt for Amelia what I feel for you. You and Little Bit own my heart.”
She heard what she needed to hear. He loved her. He didn’t say it in so many words, but the meaning was there.
Ben leaned back in his chair. “It’s about time you came to your senses. If you hadn’t I was bound and determined to marry her myself. She would have taken some convincing, seeing as how she thinks she loves you.”
He widened his eyes. “Is that true? You really do love me?”
She nodded. “Yes, I really do. I want to make a family with you, to include Hope and many more children to come. I want to work beside you every day and come home with you every night.”
“Come home with me now.”
“Hope is sleeping.”
“I’ll take care of Hope,” offered Ben. “She and I will come to your house later.”
Julia looked up at Matthew. Her throat burned and her chest ached. “Are you sure? I can’t go through leaving again.”
“I don’t want you to ever leave me. I spent a miserable night, thinking about what we said to each other.”
“So did I. I hardly slept at all.”
“Thank you, Ben. I think we will take you up on your offer.” Matthew slipped his arm around Julia’s shoulders. “We’ll be at home if you need us.”
They walked out of the hotel and down to Matthew’s home. Their home.
Matthew turned to her as soon as he shut the front door behind them.
Their lips clashed together, all the wanting and the need she’d felt in this one, hard kiss.
She opened her mouth and waited for his tongue to greet hers. The wait was short. They circled, explored each other’s mouths and loved. They both retreated, needing air and gulping it when they parted.
“No, it’s right. Everything is right.” She sucked in a breath and willed him not to speak any more doubts.
“Julia,” Matthew’s voice was full of need. “You know if we make love the marriage is…an annulment can no longer be gotten.”
“You needn’t worry. Even if you make love to me, if you still want the annulment I won’t deny you. This is only between us, you and me. Not Walt, or Hope, or Ben or anyone else. Just you and me.”
She saw in his eyes the effect her words had on him. They grew dark with passion.
“Are you sure you want this?”
She cupped the back of his head with her palms and brought his face down to meet hers. “I’m surer of this than I’ve ever been of anything in my life,” she whispered against his lips.
He picked her up in his arms, carried her to his bedroom and stood her in the middle of the floor. He unbuttoned her blouse and slid it from her shoulders and then undid her skirt and let it fall to the floor where the blouse lay in a heap. Her chemise and bloomers followed. Then he shucked his pants and shirt and stood there, naked, fully aroused and ready for her.
Julia lay back on the bed and held her arms up to him.
He came down beside her and felt her skin, rubbing her with his hand, up and down her thighs over her mons up and around her breasts. He stroked her and she came alive. All of her feelings and longings were right at the edge of her consciousness. She closed her eyes and reveled in his touch. Liquid pooled in her groin and she wanted him in her.
“Please, Matthew. Please.”
He sucked her nipple and gently pinched the other one with his fingers, making her whimper. Then he parted her legs. “Spread wide for me, sweetheart.”
She did, whatever he said, she did. She was in a frenzy by the time he entered her. He took it slow, rebuilding her fires before he punched through her maidenhead with one hard thrust.
She didn’t realize there were tears in her eyes until he brushed them away. The bit of pain she felt was nothing. Her tears were tears of joy. They were finally one.
“I’m so sorry sweetheart, so very sorry to have hurt you.”
He kissed her lips then below her ear, and left little kisses down her neck, making her shiver with excitement before he pulled back and looked at her.
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