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Chapter 2

At lunchtime on Monday, Trixie sat in the office space she shared with her partner. Spread out on the work table in front of her were the safety deposit box key and photocopies of the documents they had found in the summerhouse at Ten Acres.

Trixie picked up her Crabapple Special with one hand and took a big bite while she read James Frayne's last will and testament. Her other hand held the safety deposit box key that she flipped over and over between her fingers.

Aunt Nell and Uncle James' wills were very clear, Trixie thought to herself. They left everything to each other and then to Jim's dad, Win. If Win died before they did, then everything went to his heirs which meant Jim. Just like Mr. Rainsford thought and got the court to approve.

She set the key down and flipped through the copies of the other documents. Nothing new or interesting was in them. Placing the papers back in the file, she took another bite of her sandwich while she stared at the key that was sitting next to photo printouts Trixie had taken of it.

Jim is supposed to call Mr. Rainsford today and set up a meeting, Trixie thought. I hope he can talk to him soon to see where Uncle James could have had a safety deposit box.

Trixie picked up the key and put it back on the chain she had used to wear it around her neck. Once she had it securely on the chain, she placed it back over her head.

Hearing a door open down the hallway, Trixie took another bite of her sandwich just as her partner, Cooper Benjamin, entered their office. She waved her sandwich in his direction.

Cooper was about forty years old and was a dead-ringer for Harrison Ford around the time he made Temple of Doom with one exception. Cooper was only about five inches taller than Trixie's five-foot-five-inch height.

Removing his coat and hanging it up on the coat rack, Cooper smiled and asked, "Trixie, are you working on a case I don't know about? What's with the key and all these documents?"

Trixie related Jim's story and explained about their recent discovery in the summerhouse. Pulling the chain and key from around her neck, she inquired, "Have you ever seen a safety box key like this, Coop?"

"Well, this looks to be a key from around the 1920's that they'd have in an older bank. Have you checked the banks in the area to see if Jim's great-uncle had an account or box?" Cooper responded, handing the key back to Trixie.

Returning it around her neck, Trixie answered, "The main area bank is the one where my dad is the president. Jim and I talked with him yesterday and showed him the key. Dad said the key is like the ones used for the older boxes in the bank's original basement vault. He called after he checked the records this morning and found no box under Uncle James' name." Shaking her head, Trixie shrugged before adding, "I guess we'll just have to hope Mr. Rainsford will know where the box is located. He was Uncle James' lawyer."

Gathering up the evidence from the summerhouse, Trixie put it back into her briefcase by her desk.

Returning to the work table between their desks, she grabbed the first cold case file of the stack and said ruefully, "I guess we'd better get back to work on this suspected murder from 1989. I know we have to say 'suspected' but I think a gunshot wound to the back is a little more than 'suspect'."

Cooper kicked back as Trixie started reading the file aloud. Smiling broadly he said, "You know, Trix, I love it when you read me true crime."

Grinning back, Trixie just kept on reading.

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Later that afternoon, Trixie's cell phone rang 'bob-bob-white'. Flashing a quick grin at Cooper, she grabbed the phone and answered, "Hello, handsome. I told you we needed to keep 'us' a secret. What if my boyfriend finds out?" She finished with a giggle.

Jim's deep voice held a gurgle of suppressed laughter. "Hello. Is this the FBI? I want to report that I saw one of your agents and they were so-o-o-o-o hot that it should be illegal."

Stifling another giggle, Trixie spoke with mock seriousness, "Do you know the agent's name and where they are located?" Trixie giggled again before taking a big drink of strawberry pop.

"Cooper Benjamin and, as far as I know, he is at the FBI office in White Plains," Jim answered with a chuckle.

On a big laugh, Trixie snorted pop out of her nose, started coughing, laughing and crying all at once. Tossing the phone to Cooper, she grabbed a tissue from the box on her desk and tried to get herself cleaned up.

Laughing heartily, Cooper asked, "Jim, what in the world did you say to Trixie? She just shot strawberry pop out her nose, choked up and she's still laughing and coughing."

Immediately remorseful that he caused Trixie to choke, Jim queried, "I was just joking around. Is she really OK, Cooper? Can she talk to me yet? Do I need to come get her?"

Cooper's hazel eyes crinkled as he winked at Trixie. "Jim, Jim, she's fine. Hang on just a sec; she'll be able to talk."

As Trixie blew her nose, Cooper set the phone down by her and said, "I'm gonna run down the hall. I'll be back in ten and we'll start on that file again." Patting her on the back, he left the office.

Picking up the phone, Trixie accused, "Are you trying to kill me off so you can have Cooper?"

Jim chortled as he responded, "Baby, I love you too much to kill you off." Sobering with worry, he inquired, "Are you really all right, Trix? I really didn't mean to do that. Did you really snort pop out your nose?"

"I'm fine. And, yes, Jim Frayne, I did snort pop. I will make you pay," Trixie teased.

Dropping his voice to a sexy murmur, Jim drawled, "Baby, I look forward to it."

Trixie's face flushed at the thought before changing the subject. "Did you get in touch with Mr. Rainsford to ask about the key?" she demanded, bouncing her leg nervously.

"That's why I called," Jim replied with a sigh. "Mr. Rainsford's secretary told me he was on a cruise and would be unreachable until Saturday. Mildred didn't think his partner would know anything about it." Jim heaved another disappointed sigh before continuing. "She agreed to call and leave a message on his home number and on his cell but she told me he was going to leave the cell in his car."

"Well, gleeps! We just can't catch a break," Trixie stated with dismay. "I looked at the documents again but I didn't see anything else that could help us," she added, running a hand through her curls in frustration.

"Trix, baby, it's only been a few days and Mr. Rainsford will be back next Saturday, plus we have some other things we can be doing while we wait," Jim assured. Huskily he added, "I have a few ideas."

"I just bet you do, Mr. Frayne," Trixie snickered. "How's our baby girl?" she inquired.

"Miss Sherlock Frayne is as gorgeous, sweet, smart and sassy as her beautiful mother," Jim answered. "She and I met with the architects and engineers again to discuss ideas and general plans for the school. I gave them the list we made the other night when we had dinner with Mart and Di. They were very impressed with the ideas we gave them and Di's sketches."

Trixie sat forward in her chair, reaching for her pop. She exclaimed eagerly, "Jim, this is just so exciting. I can't believe we are finally building the school."

A contented sigh was heard through the phone. "Baby, I can't tell you what is does to me when you say 'we'," Jim whispered. "I love you and having you by my side as we make this journey and build a life. I am just so happy."

"Jim, I love you, too," Trixie whispered back. "I'd better go. Cooper will be back in a few minutes. I'll be at the Manor House at a quarter till six to pick you up to take you two to the farm."

"OK, baby. We'll see you then. Bye."

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At 5:40 Trixie parked outside the garage at the Manor House, hopped out and trotted to the front door. As she cleared the last step, the door opened and Sherlock came bounding out of the house trailing her leash behind her.

A handsome redhead came striding out of the house and stepped on the puppy's leash halting her forward progress. "Gotcha, you little scamp," Jim muttered, looking up into sapphire eyes that sparkled with laughter. "Your daughter has been a pill for the last hour, Mom." Jim informed her with a grin.

"My daughter?" Trixie questioned with a smile before scooping up Sherlock from the porch. "Sherlock, is daddy picking on you again?" Cuddling the puppy to her chest, Trixie stuck her tongue out at Jim.

A devilish gleam appeared in Jim's green eyes. He swiftly reached out and pulled Trixie to him, with the puppy held between them. "Your daughter," he said pecking a kiss on Trixie's lips. "My daughter," he said softly as he kissed her fully. "Our daughter," he whispered as he kissed her deeply and held her tight. Breaking the kiss, Jim looked searchingly into Trixie's eyes and vowed, "The beginning of our family."

Trixie and Jim stood holding each other and looking into each other's eyes with silly smiles on their faces until Sherlock started squirming and whining.

"I guess our baby is ready to go to see Grandmoms and Granddaddy," Trixie noted, setting Sherlock down and grabbing the leash from under Jim's foot. "Let's go, family," Trixie ordered as she grabbed Jim's hand and headed toward the garage and path to Crabapple Farm.

At the edge of the driveway, Jim stopped and quirked an eyebrow at Trixie. "Well, my love, do we want to walk or drive to your folks'?" Jim asked, rubbing Trixie's knuckles with his thumb.

Trixie, holding tightly to Sherlock's leash, watched as the puppy rooted in the snow at the side of the walkway. "I'd love to walk, but we wanted to bring the photo albums to show my folks. That might be bulky to carry…" Trixie's thoughts were cut off as she was unexpectedly pulled off her feet when Sherlock took off after a rabbit at the edge of the garden. The puppy lunged after the frightened creature and Trixie dropped the leash as she landed, laughing, in the snow that had piled up. "Ow!"

"How is it that you can take down a two-hundred-pound man but a fifteen-pound puppy manages to put you in a snow drift?" Jim asked rhetorically with a grin. He reached down to help his girlfriend up. He brushed the snow from her backside. "Snow still looks good on you," he told her and pulled her into his arms for a kiss. After they broke apart, Jim looked toward the woods where the rabbit had escaped. "Sherlock, come!" He shouted and the puppy gamboled back, trailing her pink leash behind her.

Sherlock reached the young couple, sat quickly and quirked her head to one side and then the other, as if saying, "What do you want? I was chasing that evil rabbit. Where's my treat? I came when you called."

"OK, goofball, you're not escaping this time," Trixie stated, reaching down and picking the beagle-mix up. "Next thing you learn is 'leave it'. Daddy's done such a good job with sit, down, and come." Trixie stared up into emerald eyes, stood on tip toe and kissed Jim on the cheek. "Thank goodness you've been working with her; Belden's have a poor track record with dog training. Do you want to go get the photo albums?"

"One step ahead of you, for a change. They're in the SUV already," Jim replied leading the way to the garage. He opened the passenger door and helped Trixie inside, then carefully shut the door. After he climbed inside and fastened his seat belt, Jim backed out of the driveway and drove the short distance to Crabapple Farm.

Jim was stomping the snow off his boots on the porch when the door opened and Helen Belden welcomed them into the farmhouse. "I was expecting you to come in the back. I can't believe you drove here. Are you afraid to let little Sherlock walk all the way down here to see us?" Helen joked as she took the puppy from Trixie, unhooked her leash and put her down on the floor with a scratch under the dog's chin. Sherlock went off in search of adventure. "How are you?" Helen asked as she hugged her daughter and turned toward Jim. "I can't wait to see the photos. Come on in. Your father's in the den trying to convince Bobby that ice hockey can be his hobby but his school work is more important."

"Dinner smells wonderful! Is there anything we can do to help?" Jim asked as he set the photo albums and other mementos on the sideboard.

"It's just chicken pot pie. If you'd like to set the table that would be wonderful," Helen told Jim as she handed Trixie five plates. Jim reached up into the cupboard to get glasses and shortly the table was set and they were all seated around it, enjoying Helen's delicious dinner.

"So, Bobby, how's school?" Trixie asked, smiling innocently as she baited the hook. "Anything exciting going on? How many girlfriends this week?" She glanced sideways with a smirk as Jim choked on his drink. She clapped him on the back.

"Are you picking on Bobby to make up for all that your brothers put you through?" Jim whispered to her.

"You know me so well." Trixie kissed him on the cheek and placed her hand on it as if to seal the kiss in. They were staring into one another's eyes, neither of them paying any attention that their affection for each other was on public display.

Peter was about to clear his throat and break the spell when he caught his wife's eye and read the silent conversation in them. Were we like that? he asked with lifted brows.

Helen looked down to her plate and glanced back up at her husband of almost 30 years with a slight smile. Peter, we were like that this morning.

"Pass the rolls, please," Bobby asked, shoveling food into his mouth and bringing both couples out of their own little worlds.

As she passed her younger brother the basket of golden Parker House rolls, she continued with her torment. "Diana was telling me your last game was really exciting. Her sister, Tess, came home raving about your breakaway. I have to say I'm impressed that Coach Brooks has allowed a girl to be the manager of the school's ice hockey team."

"Yeah, Tess is great. She gets us what we need, ya know?" Bobby said, chewing on a roll. "Last week, we were out of green tape and I always use green to tape my stick. Coach told me to suck it up, but she found the tape for me. I don't know how she does it. Stinky couldn't get us jack last year."

"Robert, I realize you are quoting the coach, but please refrain from using such vulgarities at the table," his mother corrected firmly. "This isn't the locker room and please stop referring to Theodor as 'Stinky'. You know I dislike that nickname."

"Sorry, Moms," Bobby said apologetically, throwing a remorseful look at his mother. "But, there's no way I woulda had that breakaway if I had white tape, no way."

"Hockey players tend to be a bit superstitious," Trixie pointed out.

"We prefer traditional, thank you very much," Bobby rebutted, wiping his mouth with his napkin. "May I be excused, please? I need to go call Larry about our biology homework."

"Yes, you may, but please clear the table first. I'll take care of the dishes tonight so you can get your homework done. Ten minutes on the phone, then homework please," Moms answered.

As Bobby cleared the dishes, Jim, Trixie and her parents finished their drinks and talked about the construction that was planned for Ten Acres. "I can't believe that the summerhouse was even still standing," Peter Belden marveled.

"It's a good thing it was. If we'd just demolished it, we'd never have found the treasures hidden in the compartment," Trixie said, her eyes sparkling the way they did when she was excited about a mystery. "I always knew there was something mysterious about that place even when we were kids."

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"Well, I can't wait to see what you've found. So, let me get the dishes done, I'll put the pie into warm, and then I'll join you," Moms said, getting up from the table.

"Homemade, Belden apple pie?" Jim asked, "Sorry, we're going to have to do the dishes to deserve the delight of homemade apple pie, Mrs. B." He stood up from the table and pulled Trixie's chair out, took her hand and pushed open the door to the kitchen.

"How is it, even when I'm here as a guest, I get to do the dishes?" Trixie asked with a mock frown minutes later, her hands in warm soapy water, washing her gram's fluted casserole dish. "Here you go, be careful. Mart broke the mate to this a few years ago. I thought Moms might need a sedative. It was totally an accident, but she was still so upset."

Jim took the antique bake-ware carefully, dried it and put it on the top shelf of the glass-fronted cabinet. "I understand how important family heirlooms can be, Trix. Until last week, I really didn't have much. Dad was able to get some of my mother's, Katie's," Jim clarified, "things from Jonesy when they adopted me. But it wasn't much. Anything that Jonesy thought had value he'd sold after my mom died."

Impulsively, Trixie turned and wrapped her arms around Jim. She hugged him tight, tucking her head into the curve of his shoulder and held on as if she were trying to hold the bad memories at bay. Jim enfolded her in his muscular embrace. They stood there in the warm farm house kitchen, clinging to one another. Jim placed a soft kiss on Trixie's head. She gazed up into his emerald-colored gaze. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before leaning in to capture her lips. Jim wove his hands into Trixie's curls, silently communicating his insatiable desire for her, as if he couldn't get enough of touching her.

"Are you done with the dishes?" Moms asked as she came into the kitchen. The young couple broke apart guiltily. "Oh, sorry, didn't mean to interrupt," she chuckled softly and her eyes twinkled. "Guess you're done now. I'll put the pie in to warm up and make some coffee. You two head on into the den. Your father and Sherlock have a fire started."

As Jim and Trixie walked out of the kitchen, Helen watched their retreating figures and let out a giggle as she spotted two perfect wet handprints on the back of the tall redhead. She hoped that Jim kept his back toward the fire, so the evidence could dry before her husband could see the petite handprints on the seat of Jim's chinos.

Helen was still smiling as she carried the coffee tray into the den. Both Peter and Jim stood up to assist her with the tray. "I'm fine, thank you both," she said stepping over the sleeping puppy and setting the tray on the coffee table. "Who would like coffee?" Helen passed coffee around and then she settled back onto the couch with her husband. "So, do we get to see the treasure?"

Trixie stood up from the chair on the other side of the room and went to sit on the floor between the couch where her parents sat and the oversized reading chair where Jim was sitting. Sherlock woke up and walked over and curled up on Trixie's lap. Jim reached into the box on the floor and pulled out the leather jewelry boxes, the small wooden box he had placed Nell's mementos in, and the two photo albums. He passed the boxes over and held the photo albums on his lap.

The Beldens marveled at the beautiful heirloom necklace and bracelet. When they opened the box holding Nell Frayne's collection of keepsakes, Helen took the larger celluloid hair comb and held it up. "My grandmother had a set of hair combs very similar to this. I think your Aunt Alicia has them. Jim, I'm thrilled you have something of your aunt's. She was such a lovely, charming woman."

Trixie turned her head and looked up lovingly at her boyfriend. She nudged his legs with her shoulder and leaned against him, needing the simple physical contact. She rested her head on his knee. Jim ran his hand tenderly over her curls. Peter peeked at his wife, who was gazing at the sweet exchange between her daughter and the man who had captured her heart. Helen caught her husband's eye, It won't be long now, she communicated silently.

Jim passed Peter the smaller album and the couple on the couch flipped through the pages, looking at the black and white photos. Wonderful pictures of landscapes, country sides, and seashores with people, long dead, captured for a moment in time. They laughed at the hats, which were vogue at the time but now seemed outlandish, the swimwear that looked more like sleepwear and automobiles with their wide running boards.

Trixie sat up and passed the album containing the photos of the Fraynes and her parents. As they looked through the pictures, starting to curl at the corners, they commented on people that lived only in the memory now. "Remember how Mr. Frayne would come down and check things out anytime you were building or fixing something?" Helen said to Peter amused at the memory.

"Yes." Peter turned to Jim and said on a laugh, "Your uncle would come down and check in on any project. 'What 'cha building there, Mr. Belden?' he'd ask. He never called me Peter, always Mr. Belden. More than once I peered over my shoulder looking for my father. I wasn't much older than you are now, Jim." Peter shook his head with a wry smile on his face. "He was a character. I miss him."

"Oh, Peter, look at that shirt. I always hated that shirt. Whoever designed with paisley should lose their fashion license." Helen commented on the photo of the Fraynes at the cookout at Crabapple Farm. "Brian, awww, he was such a cute, serious baby."

"Well," Trixie replied with a smirk, "At least he's still serious." She took in her parents' raised brows and felt Jim toe her with his foot. "Sorry, I lived with Brian and Mart picking on me daily. Old habits, you know." She smiled brightly at her parents. "Honey thinks he's cute," Trixie said under her breath to Sherlock.

As they continued through the album, they came to the photo of the two young couples with the toddlers playing in the wading pool. Helen put her fingers to her lips. She was trying desperately to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. Peter put his arm around his wife and gave her a squeeze. "I forgot about that. We met your parents. They had come for a visit on the way to Albany. It was a short stop, maybe two hours. I remember."

Helen stood up from the couch and walked around the table toward Jim, who stood up from his chair. Helen looked solemnly over Jim's face as she enveloped the young man in a mother's hug. Trixie sat on the floor quietly sniffling, wiping away the tears that were escaping with the back of her hand. Sherlock stood up and sniffed at Trixie's face, whimpering softly at her mistress' strange behavior. She glanced up as her father reached down, handed her his handkerchief and patted her on the shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. Helen leaned back from Jim, cupped his face with her hands before bringing his head down for her to kiss his forehead. Looking into his sorrowful green eyes, Helen soothed, "They were a lovely, warm and kind couple, Jim."

Trixie quietly blew her nose and wiped her tears away. "So, Moms, the picture must have been in May, right?"

"I guess, why?" Helen replied, turning toward her daughter calmly.

"Because, you're really huge and Mart was born on June 1st," Trixie answered, looking innocently up at her mother who was now standing with her arm around Jim's waist.

"Um, Trixie," her father interjected, "never tell a woman they are huge when they're pregnant. Trust me on this one." Peter inclined his head toward Jim and raised a brow as if to say, Remember this lesson.

"I'd love a copy of the photo, if you don't mind," Helen asked Jim.

"You've got it," Jim said, giving Helen a squeeze. He noticed Sherlock had moved toward the door and was sitting and standing in rapid sequence. "Oops, better take Sherlock out, that's her pee-pee dance."

"I'll go with you," Trixie said, standing up, taking Jim's hand and heading out the door.

Peter turned to his wife with a frown on his face. "Helen, have you talked to Trixie about, you know…sex?" He blushed as he said it, having a hard time thinking about his baby girl as a grown woman.

"Peter, Trixie and I had 'the talk' when she was fourteen and came back from Iowa with an ID bracelet. I think she knows how things work by now." Helen patted her husband's cheek. "She's 24, sweetheart," she whispered, placing several pecks on his lips. "But, I will chat with her about birth control, Mark Anthony."

"Mark Anthony?" He looked questioningly at his wife.

She smirked at him. "Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, king and queen of 'denial'."

"I'm not listening, Cleo!" Peter said placing his hands over his ears and shaking his head from side to side. "I'm going to tend the fire and forget we had this conversation."

Helen laughed softly to herself as she walked out of the den and went to the kitchen to check on the pie. She caught Jim and Trixie at the back door just about to go outside with the puppy. "I'm sorry, Trixie, would you mind staying in and helping me get everything together for dessert?"

"Sure, Moms, whatever you need." Trixie didn't even stop to think about the request. If she had she would have been suspicious. Her mother could get Thanksgiving open house together single handedly. There was no way she needed help with a simple apple pie. Jim quickly kissed Trixie and continued outside after Sherlock. Trixie moved back into the kitchen.

Helen took a seat at the table, smoothing the tablecloth. "Have a seat. Let's chat," she said, gesturing to the chair next to her.

Trixie pulled the chair out and looked perplexed at her mother. "What's up? Is everything alright? Are you and Dad OK?" She sat down and folded her hands on top of the table.

"Honey, we're fine. It's you I'm worried about." Nervously, Helen blurted, "Are you and Jim having sex?" She took Trixie's hands so she couldn't get up.

"Mother!" Trixie said, shocked and blushing furiously. "How can you ask me that? Oh my goodness. I am so mortified." Trixie immediately dropped her head forward so her curls covered her blistering red face.

"Trixie, we've got to be honest here. You and Jim are more than old enough to have sex. Your father and I can't tell you what to do. But I can tell you an unexpected pregnancy can dramatically affect your life," Helen said, holding her daughter's hands firmly in her own.

Trixie took a deep breath before raising her head and looking her mother in the eye. "Moms, Jim and I haven't had sex yet. We've talked about it, but we've only been dating about two months. Jim and I think it's important that we wait a little while."

"I think it would be a smart choice, sweetheart, if you made an appointment with your gynecologist and go on birth control. This way, when you are ready to make love, you will be prepared," Helen suggested knowingly, getting up to get the pie out of the oven. "Would you get the ice cream out, please?"

"That's it? That's all you're going to say?" Trixie asked in amazement. "No, you're not ready, wait until marriage, blah, blah, blah." She got up to get bowls out of the cupboard and the ice cream from the freezer.

Helen turned, grasped Trixie by the shoulders and looked directly into her eyes. "Trixie, what you and Jim will share will be more than sex. You will make a physical expression of the love in your hearts. It's important that you are ready for all aspects of that relationship. I am thrilled that you haven't done anything rash. I worried throughout high school and college for nothing."

Trixie reached out and hugged her mother tightly. Jim walked into the kitchen to see the two women in a tight embrace and both looking flushed. He stomped his feet to clear off the imaginary snow and let the mother and daughter know he was there. He unhooked Sherlock's leash and hung it on the hook with his coat. "Do I smell pie?"

"Uh-huh," Trixie mumbled from her mother's hug. "We've got pie. Awesome, wonderful, understanding, pie." Trixie stepped back and kissed her mother on the cheek. "Moms, if you want to go get Bobby, Jim and I will bring the pie into the den."

Helen climbed up the stairs to get her youngest child, silently praying that he would make similar choices to his big sister. Now if they could just get him to pass biology, her world would be at peace. At least until Mart and Di were ready to start their wedding plans. But, if all went as planned, they wouldn't need to start that insanity for at least another month.

Back in the kitchen, Jim watched his beautiful girlfriend slice pieces of pie and put them on plates. "Can you scoop the ice cream? No voting tonight, everyone gets al a mode," Trixie requested without looking at Jim.

"Trixie, sweetheart, do I want to know what that was all about?" Jim asked as he followed Trixie's directions and scooped vanilla onto the plates. When he finished, he put his arms
around Trixie and trapped her against the kitchen counter. "Hmm? Any comments, baby?" Jim nipped at her lips persuasively.

Trixie looked coyly up at him before she wrapped herself around Jim and rubbed provocatively against him, causing him to lose all track of his thoughts. Her tongue danced and curled around his. The two of them were so swept up in their passion that if Bobby hadn't dropped a hockey puck he was playing with down the stairs, they would have been embarrassed yet again.

"Robert Belden, how many times do I have to tell you pucks belong on the ice, not on my hardwood floors?" Helen asked rhetorically as they came into the kitchen. "Help your sister carry the pie in to the den. It looks like she has her hands full."

A snort and eyeroll accompanied Bobby's muttered, "That ain't no joke." He picked up two plates and followed his mother out of the kitchen.

After dessert was over and cleaned up, Trixie sat by her father and removed the chain with the key on it from around her neck. "Daddy, are you sure you don't recognize this key?" she questioned.

Peter took the key in his hand to look at it more closely, turning it over and over in his hand before holding it out to Helen. "Trixie, honey, I don't have any idea what that would fit," he said, rubbing his chin. "It could be any of the older banks in the area. Keys like that are from the boxes used before the turn of the century to around 1920. We have some in the basement of the bank. Without a box number on it or the account name to find the record, I don't know how you'll ever find it. You'd have to be a signatory on the box or get a court order if you were the heir and all the signatories were deceased to open it anyway." Mulling over the possibilities, Peter apologetically looked at Jim and Trixie before saying, "Most likely, unless Rainsford knows where it is and either kept up the fees or has cleaned it out, the bank has seized the contents."

Trixie's eyes snapped up and locked on Jim's startled green ones. Conviction rang out as she said firmly, "I just know that we will find the safety deposit box and whatever it holds." Accepting the chain with the key from her mother, Trixie gathered up all the mementoes and books together.

Glancing at Trixie with a raised brow and seeing her quick nod as a signal to leave, Jim advised, "Trixie is going to Albany early in the morning with Cooper on a case, so we had better be going." Hugging Helen, he continued, "Thank you for the delicious meal and apple pie, Mrs. B. It was fantastic."

Trixie hugged her dad before trading places with Jim and hugging her mom while Jim shook Peter's hand. "Mr. B." Looking between them, Jim commented, "I can't tell you how much it means to me to have these treasures with me and how much my current family and you all mean to my life." Gazing at Trixie, he finished solemnly, "Especially you, Trixie."

"We're grateful to have you, too, Jim," Trixie responded. Walking to his side, she wrapped her arms around his waist. "I love you, Jim."

Startled by her declaration in front of her parents but joyously happy, Jim told her with a squeeze, "I love you, too, Shamus."

Placing a smacking kiss on his cheek and giving him a wink, Trixie turned and clipped Sherlock's lead on her collar before heading for the closet to grab their coats.

Once bundled up for the cold early February night, Jim picked up the keepsakes and with one last round of goodbyes, the young couple headed to the Manor House.

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Building a nest of pillows and blankets in front of the fire, Trixie and Jim spent the remainder of the evening with talk, kisses and gentle caresses.

The fire burned down low in the den fireplace as Trixie and Jim lay snuggled together against the pillows on the rug in front of it. Jim watched the firelight reflect on the blonde curl he played with, making it glow.

Trixie murmured in her sleep as she adjusted her position to a more comfortable one. Jim took the opportunity to shift slightly to relieve the tingles in his left arm. Trixie had her forehead stuck in the crook of his neck, her body draped across his chest and her left leg lay across his. She had been asleep for almost six hours and Jim didn't want to wake her or let her go home. He wanted to keep her in his arms forever.

Shutting his eyes, he drifted back to sleep with a smile on his face thinking about the day when she wouldn't have to leave and go home.





Thanks to our wonderfull editors, Pam, Mylee, Wendy, Bonnie and Donnis. {{hug}} Any errors belong to the SmushSisters.

Special thanks to our former host, Bonnie. She ROCKS!!

Header photo is of Jo's grandma

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