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Chapter 10

The ride in the limousine back to the Manor House was filled with conversation of the stocks in the folder and ideas on the best way to handle them. Matt, Peter and Harold talked about brokerage houses and tax shelters.

Jim rode quietly along, listening to the talk but not adding anything to the discussion as he toyed with Trixie's left hand.

As they neared the turn to the Manor House driveway, Jim leaned toward Tom and said, "Tom, will you let Trixie and me out here, please."

"Sure, Jim," Tom replied as he completed the turn and pulled to a stop.

"Harold, I want to thank you for going along with us. Dad and I will be in touch Tuesday unless you have something before then," Jim said, shaking his hand. "Trixie and I are going to get out here and walk to the clubhouse or maybe over to Ten Acres. I need to decompress," he advised, opening the door to get out then helping Trixie. "We'll be at the house in time for lunch."

"All right, Jim. We'll see you soon, son. You two be careful," Maddie said as Jim closed the door.

The limo pulled past Jim and Trixie as they stood holding hands beside the driveway. Jim gently pulled on Trixie's hand. "Come on, Shamus. Let's walk down to the clubhouse," Jim urged softly for her to walk with him.

Trixie fell into step beside Jim as they walked toward the old gatehouse they had used as a clubhouse. The building was maintained by the estate staff and used by the Bob-Whites whenever they were all in Sleepyside. As they walked quietly without speaking, Trixie looked up at Jim and saw various emotions pass across his handsome face. His eyes carried a combination of sorrow and confusion that made her want to cry.

Jim pulled his keys from his pocket and unlocked the door before motioning Trixie to enter. They moved around the main room and opened the curtains on two of the windows to provide ambient light to the room. Passing the storage shelves, Jim grabbed a sleeping bag and then Trixie's hand on his way to the couch. Sitting on the couch, Jim pulled Trixie down in his lap, hugged her tightly to his chest and buried his face into her hair.

Trixie wrapped her arm around Jim and reached to spread the sleeping bag across them like a blanket. She placed a gentle kiss on his neck and continued to hold him securely to her while she listened to his hard breathing displaying his intense emotions.

They sat just holding each other for several minutes. Finally, Jim raised his head and looked at her with tender but sad eyes. "Thanks, sweetie. I just needed a moment to breathe," he said on a sigh. "Seeing everything that Uncle James did for me without even knowing me hit me hard," he explained. "I've always wished that I would have gotten here even a week earlier so I could have met him." Shutting his eyes and laying his head on the back of the couch, he sadly said, "I don't know what might have happened different. He may have still died but maybe I could have gotten him care sooner and he wouldn't have. Damn, this is rough to think about what could have been."

Trixie put her head on Jim's shoulder. Sitting quietly, she just held Jim until she felt some of the tension leave him. She lifted her head and cradled his face in her hands before placing soft kisses on his face and lips. Dreading the thought of bringing him more pain, Trixie hesitated. "Jim, I know this has hit you hard but it just shows how much your great-uncle and aunt loved you in the short time they were with you. They and both sets of your parents have gifted you with so many wonderful and honorable traits. They have each added to your character to help shape you into the man that I love with every breath in my body," she affirmed.

Emerald-green eyes dark with emotion snapped open and locked onto Trixie's. Jim pulled her even closer as his lips took hers with sweetness, then despair, changing to heated desire. Jim wanted to devour her lips with his, erasing the pain of the loss of his family and fear of losing yet another person that he loved from his life.

Jim's hands were inside Trixie's coat running up and down her back. Trixie shifted to get closer and deepen the kiss when Jim broke off the kiss with a cried, "Ouch!" Setting her away from him, Jim frowned at her as he moved his hand across his chest. "Damn, Trix. What'd you poke me with?"

"I didn't poke you, Jim," Trixie denied with a blush. "What are you talking about?" she demanded as her eyes narrowed.

Jim looked at her and said, "When you shifted position, something sharp poked me in the chest. What was it?"

Trixie's eyes narrowed. Frowning, she frisked herself across her upper body. "I don't feel anything," she observed. She opened her coat wide to prove it and a heavy-weight legal envelope popped up from the inside coat pocket.

"Ah ha!" Jim exclaimed. "That's what it was. That envelope."

Trixie pulled the envelope from her coat, flipping it over as she did. Her eyes, clouded with concern, met Jim's as she warned, "Jim, this is the letter from your Uncle James that was in the deposit box." As she moved to sit beside him, she said, "We forget all about it after everything else. Do you want me to leave you to read it alone?"

Jim's eyes glistened as he looked at the envelope in Trixie's hand. "No, Shamus, I want you to stay," he said. Jim tenderly folded Trixie to his side with his arms. "Open the envelope for me, sweetheart. We'll read it together."

Trixie's eyes locked with Jim's, where she saw all the love and trust she felt reflected in his eyes.

Tapping the envelope on her palm to shift the contents out of the way, Trixie carefully tore the end from the envelope. Gently she pulled out the folded sheets of paper. Flipping through them, she advised, "There are several letters here. They seem to be in order from oldest to newest."

She unfolded the top letter and handed it to Jim.

Dear Jim,         August 15th

I realize that you are too young to read this letter, just a month old, but I am writing a personal accounting for you to be included with my bequest. Nell and I have discussed what to leave you as our heir. We have purchased a few thousand shares of a few different stocks. I'm not sure they will be worth anything in the future…but as they say a bird in the hand…

Hopefully, Jim, the small monetary contributions we have made will result in a bonus in your future, but we're not guaranteed that. So I wish to leave you some advice, to also help guide you on your future path.

Jim, you are a young man. I pray you will go on to have a full and productive life. I have been blessed to have found my love, my future, my bliss in a sweet, stubborn woman I met when I was barely out of short pants.

Your Aunt Nell might deny this, so don't tell her. But she captured my heart the day I met her. I was a young man, fresh from boarding school. I met her the day I got into Croton-on-Hudson. I was coming to stay with a school friend and there was a dance planned. The first time I saw Nell I knew she was for me.

I begged and cajoled to be on her dance card once, as she didn't know me or my school friend. But I was determined. Somehow I managed to get on her dance card more than would be seemly. In those days, Jim, to dance together more than once declared your intentions. Here was Miss Nell Fitzgerald, just turned fifteen, and I danced with her…three times…at one dance. Please always remember that a Frayne is nothing if not determined.

A year later, upon my completion of school, I asked her father if I could marry Nell. I was turned down flat. Her father, Col. Fitzgerald, felt I was unworthy of his precious jewel. Truthfully, I probably was. But your Aunt Nell was as impulsive as I was stubborn. She informed her father that if he wouldn't approve of our marriage, she would run away with me and never see her parents again. I loved Nell beyond words and would have captured the moon if it was in my ability. Happily, the Colonel finally saw the truth of my affection. Most likely his wife, Nell's mother, convinced him of my fidelity. My happiness was boundless on the morning of April 3, when we were wed.

Since that day, I have lived with the other half of my soul. Nell rounds out my world. She can finish my thoughts before I even know I have them. She is the best, most perfect part of me. I pray daily that you, a small babe, will one day know this kind of fulfillment.

So, James Winthrop Frayne II, such a big name for such a small child, I leave for you an uncertain monetary gift, prayers for your happiness, and the certainty that Nell and I will be there for you when you have a need for us.


Uncle James

Jim closed his eyes at the end of the letter in an effort to control the feelings of loss and sadness coursing through him. Oh, how I wish I could have known him, he thought sadly.

Hearing Trixie sniff, he opened his eyes to see his girlfriend with her head bent forward and her curls blocking her face. Softly he kissed the crown of her head. "Hey," he whispered as he hugged her tight. "None of that, sweetheart. Please don't cry."

Looking at Jim with tears pooling in her eyes, Trixie sputtered, "Oh, Jim, I wish you would have had a chance to meet your Uncle James." Wiping away an escaped tear, she continued, "He and Nell had an amazing love for each other. That is the sweetest story of how they met, fell in love and married."

"But, I've heard that story before, Trixie," Jim said with pride.

Surprised, Trixie challenged, "I didn't think you knew much at all about them. When did you hear the story?"

Laughing smugly, Jim kissed the tip of her nose. "Well, I heard the beginning when I was fifteen," he started. "I met my love, my future, my bliss, as he called it, in a sweet, beautiful, curious young woman at the end of my shotgun barrel."

Trixie punched Jim gently as she started laughing. "Well, at least you didn't call me stubborn," she giggled.

"I knew I left out something," Jim claimed.

"Jim!" Trixie scolded, pouting.

Jim gently nibbled her lips. "Yes, my love, stubborn. You never gave up looking for me and brought me back to Sleepyside. You are a very determined, wonderfully sweet, sexy woman and I love you," he murmured, kissing her slowly and deeply. "You know me and my feelings so well. No one else would have guessed my sorrow but you did."

"You were my first mystery and biggest prize. I hope to spend the rest of my life investigating you," Trixie murmured before kissing him hungrily.

Breaking the kiss to take in some much needed air, Jim gasped, "You are trying to kill me aren't you? Woman, you need to further the investigation and soon."

Resting his head against hers for a minute, he reminded, "Let's read the next letter."

Trixie stuck her tongue out at Jim then giggled as she moved to the next letter. Snuggling next to Jim, she held it where they could both see it.

Dearest Jimmy,        August 15th

I've decided to sneak this letter in with the one from your uncle. James tends to remember things in a very one-sided way, and as I'm not sure what he's written, for my own protection and posterity I think you should hear from me as well.

Jimmy, your uncle and I were never blessed with children. It is one of my greatest regrets that I was never able to have a child to hold in my arms. I guess it was never in the stars for me to be a mother, but I do look forward to watching you grow into a fine young man. The visits we've had with your parents have all been wonderful. I cannot wait for you to come and visit with us. There is a lovely family down in the hollow that have a boy just a little older than you. I suspect you two would get along quite well.

I hate to have to be the one to tell you this Jimmy, but your uncle can be overly principled, obstinate, and a wee bit proud, but Lord how I love him. If he hadn't refused to take no for an answer, we never would have met.

He had come to a dance when I was just fifteen. I remember that dance like it was yesterday. I had a new floral silk dress. The skirt stood out like a bell and made me feel like a princess. My Da, the Colonel, had brought me a pair of crocheted silk gloves in a beautiful cornflower blue from Dublin. I felt so grown up wearing them, with my hair up with my Grandmother Fitzgerald's hair combs…I know it makes little sense to a young man, but, perhaps one day you'll meet a girl who will feel like a princess when she's wearing a beautiful dress. Remember to give her flowers, girls love flowers. Your uncle sent me violets after that first dance.

He bribed two young men to sign my dance card, and it was too late by the time I'd noticed. I was dancing my second waltz with James before I realized what a predicament he'd put me in, but he was so breathtaking in his college uniform, all crisp. He asked permission to call on me the next day. The first day led into the next and the next, and before mother knew it, James had visited each day for a week.

Thankfully, Mother was able to convince the Colonel not to shoot James with his shotgun when he came back the second week. Da was not amused by this man courting his baby. Neither were my older brothers, Aidan and Sean, but I am somewhat stubborn, I've been told, and have enough Irish in me to stand my ground. I was determined not to back down. So, James and I were married the April after he graduated from University. And we settled here at Ten Acres to start our lives.

James is my first and only love. I cannot imagine my life without him and I am not sure I would be the person I am today without having known him. Jimmy, my prayer for you, beyond a life full of health and happiness, is that you find a girl who will fulfill you, who will stand up to you when you need it and support you in equal measure, a partner and helpmate. That is my greatest wish for you. Fraynes can be a right hard-headed lot and you'll need someone who is as stubborn as you are.

I look forward to watching you grow and I hope you are able to spend many happy hours with your uncle and me at Ten Acres.

All my love,

Aunt Nell

Trixie peeked up at Jim through sandy lashes to gauge his reaction to Nell's letter. He sat with his eyes running across the page, rereading passages as he did. Trixie teased, "Aunt Nell definitely knew what she was talking about." Darting another glance at Jim, she finished, "Especially that piece about the 'Fraynes are a hard-headed lot'," she said with a passable imitation of an Irish brogue.

"Takes one to know one," Jim retorted, tickling Trixie's ribs till she giggled.

Drawing Trixie back to him, Jim asked, "Are there other letters, Trix?"

Checking the pages, Trixie advised, "One more." She flipped Nell's letter to the bottom and exposed the next. Trixie grabbed his wrist to look at his watch. "We need to read it and get up to lunch. Didn't your mother say one o'clock?"

"Yes, let's finish," he agreed as she moved to the last page.

Dear Jim,

I recently learned about the death of your father, Winthrop, while reading the newspaper. I am so terribly sorry that this tragedy has befallen someone so young. Thankfully, you still have your mother, Katje, and she is a wonderful woman. Aunt Nell and I always considered her a member of our family. I regret that my brother John, your grandfather, was lost to us prior to your birth twelve years ago.

I had always hoped that we would have had a closer relationship. However, I find life without Nell to be almost impossible to face. As you know, at least I hope you know, I lost your Aunt ten years ago to a horrible accident. She was bitten by a copperhead and in my fear and shock, I was unable to come to her aid. She left this earthly plane while cradled in my arms. While this brought me some solace, that she did not die alone, I am still angered that she has been stripped from me. My incompetence, my powerlessness in the situation haunts me daily.

Jim, please make me a vow that you will always remain levelheaded, reliable, and sound in an emergency. That is my greatest regret in life. My other regret, a close second, is that I didn't remain in contact with your parents after Nell's passing.

I have engaged the services of a private investigator in an attempt to find you and your mother, hoping that I will be able to redeem myself and be of service to you and your mother, helping to wipe away the shame I carry daily over my failure to your aunt. It is my desperate desire to be a part of your life and to help you become the man I know your father would wish you to be.

It is my greatest desire to give this letter to you personally, but understanding the capricious nature of life, I shall place this letter with the valuables in our vault at the bank. Wishes are of little worth to a man of my advanced years and fading hope but, Jim, my wish is still that you will have a full, joy-filled, fulfilling life, worthy of a Frayne. I worry that I am no longer worthy of our surname, but you are.

James Winthrop, remember when you feel there are challenges that you cannot overcome, you are your father's son. You are a Frayne -- strong, honorable, and worthy.


Uncle James

Trixie sniffed as she carefully folded the letters and placed them back in the envelope. Her eyes glittered with tears as she said, "It's so sad how your Aunt Nell died. He must have felt responsible for her death even though he really wasn't." Tilting her head back to look at Jim's solemn face, she made an attempt to lighten the mood. She gently quipped, "As a bonus, you didn't even have to vow to be levelheaded, reliable or any of those other things in an emergency. You already are."

Jim's mouth curved into a slight smile. "Yeah, I think I have that covered," he chuckled softly. "I never knew Uncle James hired a PI to look for me and my mom. Of course, by that time we would have been gone and with Jonesy. I wish Mom would have called him when Dad died. Then we wouldn't have ever lived with Jonesy," he sighed as he took the envelope from her and placed it in his coat pocket.

"Jim, no matter how much you would like to change it, the past is done," Trixie reasoned kindly. "You did turn out like James and Nell wanted. You are strong, honorable and worthy of carrying the name Frayne." Trixie looked at Jim's beautiful green eyes. "You know, Jim, as much as I wish you could have your family alive, I am selfish enough to know I wouldn't wish away being in your life." Trixie stood and folded the sleeping bag before placing it back on the storage shelf.

She returned to stand in front of Jim. She placed her hands on her hips and blew Jim's curl off her face. "I'm a part of your past, too, Jim Frayne. I've known you for eleven years," she said, gently. "I'm part of you present, as well. So I think you should take these gifts from your family and cherish them but still allow yourself to appreciate those of us who are here with you now."

Jim jumped to his feet and hugged Trixie to him. "Oh, Shamus, I can't imagine my life without you in it. Or Dad and Mother, Honey, the Bob-Whites, your family or the rest of the people I love." Pushing her away a few inches to look into her soft blue eyes, Jim continued, "I know I can't change the past but I do wonder about how it could have been different. I love you and my family." Jim took her lips in a kiss that was tortured but tender, expressing all the love and need he was unable to say just then. His hand moved inside her coat along her side and around her back. He wanted to get closer to her but it was too cold in the clubhouse. His hand inched up her sweater and he caressed her bare skin.

"Oh! Your hand is like ice," Trixie exclaimed as she jumped back. "Come on, Jim. We better get back for lunch."

"I'd rather stay here and neck with you, Shamus," Jim crooned as he took her back into his arms and nibbled on her neck. "I'll make a snack out of you." He kissed along her jaw before finding her lips again. Jim kissed her deeply, confusing her senses and mind. He pulled her down on the sofa with him then laid her back to move over her. "Oh, Trix, I love you so much," he whispered as he ran his hand from her waist to her ribs. "I want you now and forever."

"Jim," she sighed as she pulled his lips closer to hers.

The kiss was like a fire consuming them. Jim's hand moved across her abdomen, up her ribcage then behind her to draw her to him. Trixie's pulse pounded as the kiss took them deeper and deeper into each other.

The Ride of the Valkyries suddenly emanated from between them and startled the couple apart.

Jim groaned and placed his forehead against hers while he pulled his phone from his pocket. "Hello, Mother," Jim said briskly, trying to curb his frustration with the interruption. He raised his head, looked into Trixie's twinkling blue eyes and mouthed, Just you wait, young lady. He kissed the tip of her nose before sitting up.

"Um, hello, Jim. I was just calling to let you know that lunch will be ready in fifteen minutes," Maddie said with a muffled laugh. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything but we've had some unexpected guests arrive and we need you and Trixie here."

"All right, Mother. We'll head home now," Jim sighed with a mock pout at Trixie. "If Trixie will stop pouncing on me to kiss me and let me off this sofa so I can come home."

As he said that, he was pushed off the edge of the sofa where he had been sitting and landed in the floor on his butt.

Trixie giggled and climbed over the back of the sofa and closed the curtains as she ran past the windows. She opened the door then bounced from foot to foot dancing in the doorway as she made faces and stuck her tongue out at Jim.

Jim laughed and explained into the phone, "Ms. Belden is being quite ornery, Mother. She just pushed me into the floor and laughed at me." Jim stuck his tongue out at Trixie as he listened. "Mother, I am broken hearted. How can you say I probably deserved it? Trixie was mean to me and you should defend your son." Jim stood up and rubbed his backside. Slowly he stalked toward a grinning Trixie. "OK, as long as you love me most, Mother. We'll be there in a few minutes," he said before he ended the call.

Jim gently grabbed Trixie's coat front and pulled her to him. He smiled as he caressed her cheek with his fingers. "Shamus, when we make love," Please God, let it be soon, he thought to himself. "All phones and other forms of communication will be off until I have my fill of you," he growled softly before nipping her lips. "I think that should only take about seventy or eighty years," he murmured before kissing her softy. Setting her away from him, Jim nudged her out the door, pulled it shut behind him and checked to make sure it locked.

Taking her hand, Jim tugged on it. "Let's go have lunch," he said.

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Trixie and Jim wandered hand-in-hand up the path from the old gatehouse, quietly discussing the letters and contents of the deposit box. As they neared the spot where Trixie had stood that morning watching Jim, the French doors from the dining room to the patio opened and a large laughing group bubbled out.

The young couple stopped and stared as all their fellow Bob-Whites, Mr. and Mrs. Lynch and the rest of their families stood waiting, waving and laughing.

Trixie smiled and then turned and wrapped her arms around Jim's waist. "Jim, I want you to know how very happy I am that you have all the pictures we found in the summerhouse and now these letters. I think they will help you keep the memories of your birth family alive," she said gently as she searched his emerald eyes. "You are very lucky to have another family that loves you as much as your birth family. I think you should take pictures and mementos from the past eleven years with your current family and place them in the empty albums that Nick provided. If you need more, Nick and Lori said they could get them for you." She paused briefly as she saw his eyes soften. "You can get as many Frayne family albums as you need for the future."

"Yes, Shamus, we can," Jim agreed softly before kissing her sweetly.

A bark and then the jingle of tags broke them apart just before Sherlock skidded to a halt at their feet. She barked again and raised up to place her paws on Jim's legs.

"Hurry up, you two," Mart hollered as he wrapped a protective arm around Di. "No one will tell us anything about your mystery find and key until you come in for lunch."

"Yeah," Bobby yelled with a grin. "We wanna know the see-crud."

Honey placed her hands on her hips and tapped her foot as she called, "I can't believe the two of you went off and solved a mystery without me. I am so miffed at you."

"Me, too!" yelled Brian and Dan in unison before punching each other in the shoulder.

Jim laughed as he picked up Sherlock. "We'll be up in a minute," he called. He wrapped an arm around Trixie then started slowly toward the patio. "Shamus, my love, you are absolutely right," he announced as they walked. "We will take photos and keepsakes from the past eleven years and place them in the spare albums to record the memories we've made so far on our trips, fundraisers, mysteries, and with the family." Jim stopped walking and looked into sparkling blue eyes that shone with love. "I'll order up some more new albums from Nick next week. The Frayne family is large. The members may carry other names like Wheeler, Belden, Lynch, Mangan, Trask, Regan and others but they are my family."

"Oh, Jim, I love you," Trixie softly stated. "I'm so very happy."

Jim captured her lips again in a slow, sweet kiss, full of promise of the future. "I love you, Shamus. I promise you that we will spend the rest of lives together making memories."

Sherlock barked her approval.

The End




Our awesome editors are BonnieH, Donnis, Mylee, Pam (ps9906) and WendyM. Thank you all very much!! Any errors are purely ours.

BonnieH just plain ROCKS!!! She provided the original beautiful home for this story. We are so not worthy of such a great friend. MaryN (Dianafan) gave us technical support for that post.. Thank you ladies!! You're the best.

Header photo is of Jo's grandma.

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