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Chapter 3

Margery Trask walked briskly down the hall toward the den. She was on a mission. Regardless whether she set an alarm on not, she always woke up at five a.m. Today she woke up at four-thirty so she could be dressed and standing in the doorway of the den by five. A warm, kind smile broke on her face when she saw the sweet picture before her. A young couple lay asleep in each other's arms with their puppy nearby. Hearing the clock chime five, Miss Trask stepped into the room and said loudly, "Jim. Trixie. It's five o'clock. Time to wake up so Trixie can get home to get changed before her partner picks her up."

Neither Trixie nor Jim moved but Sherlock raised her head. Miss Trask stepped close to the sleeping couple. Leaning over slightly, Miss Trask barked out loudly, "Jim! Trixie! Wake up!"

The couple sprang apart and tried to stand before falling in a heap with the blankets tangled around their feet.

Miss Trask's lips twitched in a suppressed smile and laugh. Besides disheveled hair, Jim's shirt was unbuttoned and mostly untucked. Trixie's hair was a curly mess, her shirttail out and her shirt misbuttoned. About time these two figured it out, Margery thought. Aloud she said, "Good morning. As Jim requested, since you fell asleep here last night, I woke you up at five so Trixie could get home and ready to be picked up by her partner." Turning back to the door after seeing Trixie and Jim try to nonchalantly straighten their clothes, Miss Trask advised, "Cook has coffee and toast in the kitchen including a go mug for Trixie. I'll take care of Sherlock, Jim, so you can get Trixie moving." Looking over her shoulder with a smile, she ordered, "Come, Sherlock."

As the puppy scampered out of the room, Trixie finished straightening her shirt and slacks while putting her feet into her shoes. Leaning over to adjust a bunched-up sock, Trixie slipped the shoe over her heel. Reaching in a stretch over her head, she felt two strong arms go around her and pull her back against a muscular chest. Jim's lips trailed from her shoulder along her neck and up to her earlobe.

"Mornin'," he whispered between kisses. "Love you today and always."

A deep, dreamy sigh escaped Trixie. "I love you today and always," she murmured as she turned in his arms, searching for his lips.

"Baby, we'd better get a move on. I don't want Cooper to get mad and leave you," Jim said as he bestowed a swift hug.

Grabbing her hand, Jim pulled her to the hallway where two guest powder rooms were located. Placing a kiss on her forehead, Jim shoved her into the pink room and closed the door behind her as he dove into the blue room next to it.

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That afternoon, the two and one-half hour drive home from Albany was flying by on the heels of a very productive day. It was surprising how well the day went, considering Cooper had started the day unhappy about Trixie delaying their departure. Her night with Jim on the den floor and kissing over coffee and toast had made her late leaving the Manor House, which caused her to make Cooper wait fifteen minutes while she showered and dressed.

Since this was the first road trip with her partner, Cooper Benjamin, Trixie learned quickly that he was a lead foot on the highway. She was sorry that the drive home was passing so quickly. She still had many questions about the information their day of interviews had provided.

Flipping through the stenographer notebook on her lap, Trixie read aloud, "Jeff Williams told us, quote, 'The last time I saw Paula alive was on Tuesday, January 8, 1989. She met me at that dive, Smitty's, over on Wilson. We had some grub, danced a little and then she started flirting and touching some guy named Connors. Ugly dude with a bad scar on his cheek up through his eyebrow. He was throwing around a lot of money and Paula was wanting to be all over him but I reminded her she came with me. I saw that dude last week and he told me I was gonna fry for killing Paula.' End quote. Then you asked him for Connors' first name and where he saw him last week and he said he couldn't remember." Biting her lower lip in thought, Trixie stated, "What bothers me is that we can't find any record of Connors." Trixie began tapping her pen on the notebook. Glancing at Cooper, she asked, "Do you remember reading that name in the file or database?"

Cooper laughed and responded, "Trix, you and I both know that you have that damn file memorized. Don't be pulling that crap with me. What's eating you about Williams?"

Trixie pulled her smartphone out of the holster, opened up the web version of the FBI multi-jurisdictional database and keyed in Connors. As the system searched the records, she pulled at a cuticle before explaining, "Cooper, I just get the crazy feeling that Williams is trying to put us off the scent. He's hiding something."

The screen of the mobile changed to show the search results. Trixie scanned the information then crowed, "Got him!" Madly scribbling on the notepad, Trixie revealed, "John Jacob Connors was found shot once in the back by the same caliber bullet as Paula Anderson. Connors was killed two days after Anderson and his body dumped outside Albany in a ditch near Albany Industrial Park. Connors was a John Doe for almost six months before a missing persons report and photo was matched to his autopsy photo."

Cooper held out his right hand to high-five Trixie. "Way to go, Belden! First thing tomorrow we can start looking at the Anderson case and compare it to Connors' to see what we get. This makes my day."

The next twenty minutes were spent discussing what they needed to do next on the case while Trixie made notes. As she sighed with satisfaction and snapped the notebook shut, her phone rang 'bob-bob-white' of Jim's ringtone.

"Hi, Jim. We have about five miles until Coop drops me off at home. I'm sure he would bring me to you instead. Manor House is closer and he'll get rid of me faster. OK, see you soon." Trixie ended the call before asking, "Would you drop me at the Manor House instead of my place? Jim has someone he wants me to meet and news to tell me."

"Sure, Trix. I need to get home, eat and changed. My bowling league starts tonight at a new lane in White Plains and I don't want to be late. They're supposed to do an opening ceremony with introductions of the teams," Cooper said excitedly as he exited the highway at the Sleepyside exit. "Which way?"

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Messenger bag in hand, Trixie stood by the Manor House garage and waved Cooper on his way. Her partner had been impressed by Crabapple Farm's homey feel as they went past but he was awed by the size and grandeur of the Manor House. Before driving off, Cooper smiled as he commented out the window, "A body could go missing for days in a house this big."

Watching him maneuver the car down the drive, Trixie muttered with a grin, "I hope not 'cause I don't want to do the paperwork."

A low whistle of bob, bob-white came from behind her. Turning she saw a handsome redhead motioning for her to come to the barn. Trixie set off at a run, throwing herself into Jim's arms and kissing him noisily on the lips.

Giggling, Trixie continued to smack noisy kisses all over Jim's face. Laughing at her antics, Jim started tickling her with the stubble on his face. Giggling harder, Trixie pleaded, "Jim, stop. Please, Jim."

The two abruptly stopped when a loud "Ahem!" was heard coming from the stable entrance. Trixie peeked around Jim and saw a tall, slender but voluptuous, beautiful woman with dark blonde hair standing in the doorway beside Regan.

Jim took one more playful nip at Trixie's neck before straightening with his arm around her to turn toward the newcomer. Walking Trixie forward, Jim made the introductions. "Shamus, this is Dr. Donna Riley. She is the new veterinarian that will be taking over Dr. Chang's practice when he retires next month. She handles small and large animals so she came by to check out the cut on Strawberry's leg from when Sherlock spooked her. Donna, this is my girlfriend, Trixie Belden."

Shaking hands, Trixie acknowledged, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Riley. I didn't know Dr. Chang was retiring. He didn't say anything at the first of the year when we took Sherlock in for her initial check-up."

"Please call me Donna and I'll call you Trixie, if I may," she said with a soft smile. "Dr. Chang and I have been in negotiation for me to buy his practice for over four months. We finalized the details last week. Over the next month, I will be meeting all the patients and their people that he had plus all the horse owners in the area." Moving closer to Jim and Trixie, Donna looked guardedly at Regan and continued, "Dr. Chang said Matt Wheeler had a nice stable of horses and he was tired of having to wait for a vet to drive in from somewhere."

Crossing his arms across his chest and glaring at the new vet, Regan all but growled, "Matt hasn't said anything to me about problems with the two times we've had to call the vet in the twelve years I've been with him. One of them was for that stray that was hit by a car."

Trixie's arm tightened around Jim's waist as Regan spoke of the dog that had looked like Patch and had died from being hit by a car. She looked up at his saddened eyes and gave him a wink.

Donna's blue eyes narrowed as she looked at the redheaded groom. "Well, Matt Wheeler contacted me about being the vet for a new horse breeding venture he was considering. I told him I wouldn't do it unless I approved of his stable and operation."

Regan stepped in front of Donna and looked at her with frosty eyes. "I run one of the best horse operations on the east coast, Dr. Riley, and I can guarantee you that Matt Wheeler will listen to me when it comes to our horse breeding partnership," Regan sneered.

Trixie and Jim looked at each other with stunned expressions that broke into quick grins as they turned back to watch the unfolding and interesting conversation between the vet and groom.

Donna's eyes shot daggers at Regan as she answered coldly, "We'll see about that." Turning to the couple, her eyes softened as she spoke evenly. "Trixie, Jim had me look at Sherlock since I was here to just introduce myself to her. She is a real sweetheart and in fine shape considering how you found her."

Trixie beamed proudly at Donna's assessment of their puppy. "Thanks, Donna. Jim and I are really happy with her progress. She's housebroken, knows several commands and is just the best puppy ever," she said happily.

"Well, I have another appointment at the Lynch estate so I had better get going," Donna said, picking her medical bag off the ground by the stable door. Shaking hands with Jim and Trixie, she continued, "It was a pleasure to meet you two. I hope we meet again." Turning to face the Manor House groom, she nodded. "Regan." Then, with a wave of her hand, Donna got into her SUV and drove away.

Regan stood, feet apart with his freckled hands on his hips, staring after the vet. The frown on his face eased into a small smile. Clearing his face of emotion, he turned to Trixie and Jim, observing, "She's supposed to be a good vet but she sure is opinionated. I'll be sure to tell your father what I think."

Jim winked at Trixie and smirked. "She sure didn't back down from you, Regan. There was definitely sparks flying from more than your tempers."

"Jim, take your girl inside before she freezes," Regan ordered with a light in his eyes. "Some boyfriend you are," he snorted as he left them and entered the stable.

Trixie and Jim looked at one another and immediately broke into laughter. Grabbing Trixie's hand, he led the way to the front porch as they laughed and giggled.

They were hanging up their coats in the entry closet when Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler came down the stairs. "What are you two laughing about?" Mrs. Wheeler asked with a smile before giving Trixie a hug.

"The new vet and Regan," Jim answered, still chuckling. "I believe our friend has finally met his match," he finished as he placed a hand on Trixie's back to escort her into the den. "There were some definite sparks flying between the two. I think it will be interesting to see what happens with them," he continued, sitting down by Trixie and wrapping his arm around her.

"I sure hope it doesn't take Regan eleven years," Trixie gibed, sticking her tongue out at Jim.

Jim retaliated by tickling her and nipping at her neck with his lips. "Jim. JIM!" Trixie giggled, trying to get away from him. "Jim, stop it! You're embarrassing your parents."

"I'm not embarrassed at all," Mr. Wheeler said, laughing as his handed his wife a glass of wine. "How about you, darling?"

Mrs. Wheeler giggled herself as he kissed her. Looking into her husband's twinkling green eyes, she giggled, "Not in the least, my love."

Trixie finally escaped Jim and slipped over to the bar area. Smiling broadly, she got herself and Jim each a small glass of wine. Returning to the couch, Trixie heard Miss Trask's sharp tone, "Sherlock Frayne, where did you get that sock? Leave it." Miss Trask was heard walking down the hallway. "Good girl. Go find your daddy."

The clanking of Sherlock's name tag and rabies tag was heard from the hallway as the puppy moved quickly toward the den. At the doorway, Sherlock paused to scan the room before heading toward Trixie and Jim.

Scooping up the squirming puppy, Trixie cuddled her close, patting her back while Jim scratched Sherlock under her chin. "How is mama's girl?" Trixie crooned to the puppy. Sherlock responded by licking first Trixie and then Jim on the chin.

Sherlock yipped twice and wiggled and squirmed until Trixie set her down on her lap. She jumped down and moved quickly to where Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler were seated. Mrs. Wheeler handed her wine to her husband before reaching down and picking up the puppy. She placed her in her lap on her winter white wool slacks.

Trixie and Jim shared a grin then settled back onto the couch.

"Jim, did you tell Trixie about our trip tomorrow?" Mr. Wheeler asked as he rubbed Sherlock's belly.

Trixie turned to Jim with surprise in her eyes. "What trip is that?" she asked, perplexed. Sitting up and moving slightly away from Jim, she asked, "Where are you going and when?"

The apprehension in Trixie's blue eyes made Jim regret he hadn't called her as soon as his father had asked him. Taking her hand and looking into her hurt eyes, he explained, "Dad needs to go to Colorado for business and he asked me to go with him. The man he's meeting with not only has one of the best Olympic sport training facilities in the world but also an outdoor survival school. Dad asked if I wanted to go with him to talk with Eli Jackson to get some ideas about operating a school."

Searching Trixie's face to determine her thoughts, Jim saw confusion and worries in her eyes. Squeezing her hand, he pledged, "Baby, I'll call every night. I promise."

Trixie's eyes dropped closed for a moment and she took a deep breath. Opening her eyes, she said with conviction, "It's important that you learn everything you can before you are ready to open your school. Any ideas you can pick up will be helpful. So when do you go? Next week?"

Mr. Wheeler cleared his throat before Jim could do more than shift on the couch. "Trixie, I asked Jim if we could leave tomorrow and come home Friday," Mr. Wheeler assured her. "I know how important it is for Jim and you to meet with Rainsford as soon as possible."

"OK," Trixie said with a steady voice. "I guess I'll take Sherlock home with me tonight. She'll be alright in her crate through Friday. I can't take her to Moms if I have to go back to Albany though because she's going to visit Aunt Alicia."

"Oh, darling," Mrs. Wheeler exclaimed. "Please won't you two stay here? Margery and I will take care of Sherlock through the day and you can sleep in Honey's room. We can discuss Jim's photo albums, how to create the new books and have some girl time." Mrs. Wheeler looked pleadingly at Trixie.

Glancing between Jim, his mother and father, Trixie relented. "I'd like that a lot, Mrs. Wheeler. If you don't think Sherlock and I would be too much trouble," she said shyly.

"Not at all, Trixie. It would be our pleasure. Besides, we'd miss our granddog, Sherlock, if she wasn't here with us," Mrs. Wheeler crooned to the puppy. Looking up with a soft smile on her face, she requested, "I'd really appreciate it if you would call me Maddie, too. You are an important member of our family."

Mr. Wheeler agreed, "Yes, I'd like for you to call me Matt, as well. I think I've been Mr. Wheeler long enough." Smiling broadly, he winked at Trixie.

Trixie blushed lightly as she looked between the Wheelers and then at Jim. "Maddie and Matt, I'd like that a great deal," she said bashfully in a soft voice. "I think of you and the Lynches as my family."

"Good," Maddie said as she set Sherlock on the floor. "Let's go in to dinner."

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After dinner, Trixie went upstairs with Jim to hang out while he packed his bag for his trip. Trixie plopped down on his bed with a loud sigh and slipped her shoes off before sitting back to lean against the headboard. Her head fell back as she closed her eyes.

Jim moved around the room packing the clothes he needed for the trip. Glancing at Trixie, contented warmth filled his heart and mind, making him wish he wasn't scheduled to go to Colorado in the morning. He just wanted to curl up beside her and hold her for the remainder of his life.

Smiling happily, Jim entered the bathroom to grab the toiletries he would need.

For a few minutes Trixie was alone and allowed herself to contemplate the next three days without Jim around. She needed to get his pictures to the conservator and to have copies and some enlargements made. She'd called Dr. Charlotte Kisthardt's office this morning to get set up for an exam and obtain a prescription for birth control pills.

A slow smile went across Trixie's lips and her skin took on a rosy hue as she thought of her and Jim being together. The smile turned more sensual when she felt the bed dip under Jim's weight and a hand slide across her hip and up her side, drawing her close.

She felt Jim's lips on her collarbone before they traveled up the side of her neck.

"What has that secretive little smile on your face?" Jim whispered between nips as his hand ran slowly up and down her back. Raising up on a bent arm, he rained soft kisses on her face. His smoky look raised Trixie's temperature as he added softly, "I like the look of you in my bed. I've had fantasies about this." A predatory grin spread across his face as he pulled Trixie beside him. "You make it so hard for me to sleep here," he moaned as he hugged her to him.

Unbuttoning the top two buttons on Jim's shirt, Trixie's ardent blue eyes peeked at him. She placed a soft kiss and then licked along his collarbone. Raising her eyes to his, she said in a sultry voice, "I'm glad to hear that I make it hard." She lasted about five seconds before she started giggling madly at the shocked look on Jim's face.

Scrambling up to her knees, still giggling, Trixie looked for an escape path. There wasn't one as Jim grinned evilly and blocked every avenue.

"You little minx! Like you don't know what you do to me," Jim chuckled huskily. "Come here and let me show you," he leered playfully as he crawled toward her position on the other side of the bed.

When he was close enough to grab her, Jim reached out to grasp her arms. Since Jim was off balance, Trixie grabbed his arm, gave it a slight twist and pushed him on his back atop the bed. She threw herself on top of him with a laugh. Whispering throatily, Trixie advised, "I know exactly what I do to you but I also know what you do to me. I have handcuffs. Don't make me use them." She kissed him with a long, drugging kiss.

Breaking the kiss, they were breathing roughly. Jim gave her a smoldering look, then asked, "What if I want you to?" Quirking a brow at her, he pulled her close and delivered his own slow, deep kiss.

As the kiss ended, Trixie snuggled closer to Jim to get comfortable. Closing her eyes, she sighed contentedly and just lay there for a few minutes, enjoying the peaceful security of Jim's arms.

"What time do you leave in the morning?" Trixie asked quietly.

"Hmmm," Jim groaned. "Dad said we'll leave the house at six. Since Colorado is two hours behind home, I'll call you about seven-thirty each night. That will be five-thirty for me. You call me anytime you need or want to. I just want to set a time to know I will get you for sure." Shifting where he could see Trixie's face, Jim inquired as he ran a finger down her cheek. "Can I call you any time I want while I'm gone? I don't want to interrupt or pester you at work but I know I'm going to miss you like crazy and I'll want to hear your voice."

Running her fingers through Jim's thick auburn hair, Trixie regarded him with tender eyes. "Jim, you can call any time you want but there may be times when I can't answer because I'm in a meeting or interview." Trixie pulled his face to hers and kissed his lips softly. "I love it when you call because you are just thinking of me."

"Aw, baby, I think of you every minute of every day," Jim revealed with soft green eyes. He cupped her face with his hands then lowered his head to bestow a lingering kiss on her lips before placing soft kisses all over her face.

He captured her mouth with a hungry urgency, running his hands lightly over her.

The theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark was suddenly heard.        

"Ugh!" Jim groaned with frustration, leaning his forehead against Trixie's. "Cooper?" he growled.

"Yes, it's Cooper," she mumbled, irritated with his poor timing. Sitting up, she barked, "Hello, Cooper. What do you need?"

"Good evening to you, Ms. Belden," Cooper laughed. "Did I call at an inopportune moment?"

Pushing her hand through her curls and wanting to choke Cooper, Trixie said gruffly, "Tell me why you called, Cooper."

"Trix, seriously, I am sorry I interrupted but the bureau chief has called a meeting for 7 a.m. to discuss the travel plans of the Secretary of State and the Former Mr. President," Cooper explained. "I don't know why we have to be there if we aren't involved but we do."

"OK," Trixie grumbled. "I'll be there. Thanks for letting me know, Cooper."

"No problem, Trix. I'll see you in the morning. Again, I wish I wouldn't have had to call," Cooper admitted.

"It's OK, Cooper, really. Night," she reassured before ending the call. Looking over her shoulders at Jim, Trixie noticed a frown marring his handsome face. Laying back down beside him and snuggling up to his side, Trixie repeated the gist of Cooper's call.

Jim stroked his hand across Trixie's curls and then down along her shoulder. "Well, I can't say I'm happy about Cooper's call but I can understand it," Jim allowed. "I hope for a night soon where both our cells are shut off and it's just you, me, a blazing fire, some romantic music and maybe a big bubble bath," he said dreamily. "Of course, no duckies either," he informed her with a chuckle.

Trixie giggled and hugged him. "You've got a date," she laughed. Sobering she lamented, "It's almost ten, Jim. You'd better take me home."

Wrapping his arms tight around Trixie, Jim declared in a voice just like a six-year old Bobby, "No, don't wanna!" Jim's mock pout caused Trixie to start giggling again.

Kissing his pouted out lips with a loud smacking pucker of her own, Trixie teased, "Come on, Jimmy. Take me home and I'll play kissy-face with you on my couch for thirty minutes before I make you leave."

"Wanna kiss and keep you here," Jim said, mocking cranky.

Laughing at the pitiful face Jim was making, Trixie sat up to reach across for a tissue from the bedside table. Jim took the opportunity to tickle her. Startled, Trixie fell off the bed onto the floor with a loud thump.

"Ouch!" Trixie cried, rubbing her backside. "You made me fall of the bed, you big meanie," Trixie accused.

"Jimmy!" snapped a snickering Matt as a quietly giggling Maddie joined him in the open doorway. "You play nice with your little guest or you can't have any dessert on our trip." The older couple had heard the loud thump and came to investigate.

"Aw, Dad, you promised me cheesecake," Jim said in a pretend whine with his eyes twinkling. He assumed a comical angelic look.

Trixie and Maddie were giggling so hard that tears were streaming down their cheeks. Jim and Matt joined them, laughing heartily.

Standing up and pulling Trixie to her feet, Jim pulled his keys from his pocket while Trixie slipped on her shoes. "I'm going to run Trixie home then I'll be back in a bit," Jim said giving Trixie a tender smile.

Matt grabbed Maddie's hand and tugged her down the hall, replying, "Be careful, son. Night, Trixie."

"Night, Matt and Maddie. I'll see you and Sherlock tomorrow after work, Maddie," Trixie said tentatively with a slight smile and with a wave she followed Jim down the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs, the front door opened to Sherlock and Miss Trask. Once Sherlock saw Jim and Trixie, she started wiggling, yipping and straining at the leash Miss Trask held.

"Easy, Sherlock. Just let me unhook you," Miss Trask said with a chuckle. "Good evening. Heading home, Trixie?"

Trixie bent to pick up Sherlock and replied, "I'm afraid so, Miss Trask, but I'll be staying here the next few nights since Sherlock's daddy will be away. I'm sorry if she was a bother to you when you got home from your evening. Everyone was upstairs getting Jim and Mr. Wheeler ready for their trip."

Hanging her coat up, Miss Trask's eyes suddenly took a spark and a slight smile broke her lips. "Sherlock is no trouble at all. I just got in from the new bowling league I joined. I needed something to do with my evenings. Since I still had my coat on, I went ahead and took her out."

"Joining a bowling league was a great idea," Jim enthused. "It's good exercise. We're glad you had a nice time and thanks for taking care of this little girl," he commented, scratching Sherlock's ears.

"No problem, Jim," Miss Trask assured him. "Goodnight. Trixie, I hear I'll see you tomorrow. I'll make sure Honey's room is ready for you."

"Thanks for everything, Miss Trask. I'll see you tomorrow, "Trixie acknowledged, walking out the door.

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Wednesday morning went by in a blur for Trixie. After the meeting with the bureau chief, she and Cooper reviewed files then outlined and set up the additional interviews and contacts that they needed on the Williams case to prove that he not only killed Paula Anderson but also John Jacob Connors.

Since she was in by seven, Trixie used the extra time at lunch to take Jim's family albums to Nick Roberts Photography. Not only was Nick an old friend to Trixie and the Bob-Whites but he was also a professional photo conservator who worked with the police and federal agencies on cases.

Entering the studio with the books in a tote bag, Trixie heard a soft bell from the back. "I'll be out in a second," a male voice stated.

"OK," she replied. Trixie wandered across the studio to look at a display of seasonal photographs lining one wall of the studio. The scenes showed various locations within the Wheeler preserve through the four seasons. At the center of the wall, an oak frame was matted in a natural color with four openings. Each opening contained the most beautiful photo for all four seasons using the view from the hilltop where the mansion at Ten Acres had stood. It was the most breathtaking arrangement of photos Trixie had ever seen.

As her hand reached out to look at the price tag, a voice by her side startled her. "What do you think, Trixie?" Nick asked, his hazel eyes searching her face for her reaction to the photos. "I took those not long after you and the other Bob-Whites helped my family."

Trixie's eyes finally looked away from the beauty of the photos to look at Nick, "I have never seen anything like them, Nick. They are absolutely gorgeous. I'd love to have this for Jim."

Nick's eyes crinkled at the corners as he grimaced at his friend. "I'm sorry to tell you, Trix, but they aren't for sale. If you look at the tag, you'll see the owner's name. They just haven't received notice to pick it up yet. Maybe you can get them to sell it to you," he responded with a gentle smile. "Let me have Jim's albums to take a quick look so I can give you an idea of how long it will take me to make you copies and take care of these to preserve them."

Handing Nick the bag with the albums, Trixie turned back to the seasonal photos. Just as she reached out to flip the tag, her phone rang 'bob, bob-white'.

From the counter, Nick laughed and said, "Let me guess who."

Trixie stuck her tongue out at him while she answered, "Hello, handsome. How was your trip?"

Deep laughter came through the phone. "Now, what would you have done if it would have been Dad on the phone?" Jim queried.

Reaching out with her other hand, Trixie flipped the tag. She gasped and stammered, "I'd be asking him where you were."

Whipping her head around to look at Nick, Trixie noticed the huge grin on his face before he stuck his thumbs in his ears and wiggled his fingers at her. Dropping his hands back to the album, Nick winked at her and started examining the photos in the album again.

Turning slowly back to the frame, Trixie ran a loving hand on it as she heard Jim's response.

"Baby, everything is just fine. Dad and I got here about seven-thirty Mountain Time. We've already sat down with Eli Jackson for a bit. He is going to show us around the facility soon. Oh, it really is a small world, because I went to undergrad with Mr. Jackson's son-in-law. Do you remember me mentioning a guy named Gary Thomas? Well, not only is he married to Mr. Jackson's daughter but he also runs the wilderness school. I'm going skiing with him and Mr. Jackson's daughter tomorrow."

"That's great, Jim," Trixie approved. "You should be able to get a lot of valuable information from him, plus you know him which will make it easier to really quiz him on the operational details you need."

"Yeah, I'm happy about it but I sure miss you already," Jim dropped his voice to agree. "I wish I was back on your couch like last night. Your kisses and touches had me on fire," he claimed with a raspy voice. "I hated to leave you."

Dropping her voice Trixie whispered, "I didn't want you to go either. I wanted you to stay so badly."

Trixie heard Jim groan over the phone and then clear his voice. "Baby, we'd better change the subject. OK? How's your morning been?" he asked to get his mind off Trixie's smooth, creamy skin.

Trixie smiled broadly toward the photos in the frame. "Every time the Secretary or former president farts, the bureau chief goes nuts until they leave New York State. Luckily the briefing didn't last but a half hour which meant that Cooper and I got some extra time at lunch," she answered. Walking toward Nick at the studio's counter, Trixie added, "I found the most fabulous photographic conservator genius to look at your family pictures, Jim. He is being extremely nice to me." Covering her mouth to smother a giggle, Trixie waited to hear Jim's reaction.

Jim immediately responded,"Trixie, everyone is always nice to a beautiful woman like you." After a few seconds, he said gruffly, "Who is this superstar of photography?"

Giggling, Trixie blinked dazzling sapphire eyes at Nick. Innocently she drawled, "Well, he is someone who knows a lot about photography and used to develop his pictures in the basement of his home." As a giggle slipped out, she concluded, "I figure that anyone who can do that could deal with what we need done."

Catching on to her teasing tone, Jim growled playfully, "Trixie, please don't tell me you have some side street photographer who worked once for the FBI touch the only photos I have of my family. Damn, now I'll have two heads."

Trixie giggled and said, "Jim, you know darn good and well that I brought them to the only person in the world I would trust with precious family photos. Especially yours! I'm standing in the studio of the world and Bob-White renowned Nick Roberts Photography looking at the Nick Roberts himself."

"OK, baby, I'll let you go take care of my family photos for us and I'll talk to you later. I love you and really miss you. Maybe I won't travel without you again," Jim proposed hopefully.

"I like that idea," Trixie agreed dreamily. "I love you, too, Jim. Talk to you tonight."

Ending the call, Trixie stared at her phone for a few moments before putting it in its holster and stepping up to the counter to take a seat on the bar stool Nick had for customers to look at proofs. Looking at Nick, she inquired, "What do you think? Can you copy and save them?"

Nick continued looking through his loupe at a photo removed from the album. Slowly he raised his head giving Trixie an unreadable look. "What?" she prompted nervously.

Nick's face broke into a wide smile with his hazel eyes crinkling at the corners. "Trixie, I never could fool you," he laughed. "These photos are in great shape considering where you found them and their age. I won't have any problem at all making you copies of them using non-fading products." Nick flipped through the album until he came to a faded out Polaroid and tapping a finger on it. "In fact, I can take this Polaroid of Jim and his folks and recreate it with the colors. There are several of the faded ones that I'd like to restore to the proper colors. I'd also like to scan them all to CD for Jim to keep."

Trixie excitedly pulled the older album up to her and started flipping through it until she found a picture of Jim's grandparents. "Can you blow this up to eight by ten?" Trixie asked.

"Sure, that's easy. Let's mark it with a Post-It," Nick said, grabbing a pad off his desk and placing one on the page. "What else? Pick out what you want blown up and I'll do them first."

Trixie spent the next twenty minutes marking the twelve photos she wanted enlarged to eight by ten and five by seven sizes.

"Trixie, this isn't going to be a problem at all. I should be able to have the enlargements, the direct copies and CDs for you by Saturday. The restorations will take two weeks. On the enlargements, I'll have Lori matte and frame them for you. Do you want all of them framed?" Nick asked as he busily wrote instructions on an order form.

"Nick, it would be great if you could matte and frame each of the enlargements as we noted them. That would be a big worry off me," Trixie admitted. "Speaking of matting and framing, the 'Seasons at Ten Acres'," she motioned over her shoulder with a thumb. "The owner shown on the tag…"

"Now, Trixie, this is our secret for now. That is a present for Jim's school office once he gets it built. I've had it in mind ever since Lori put it together for the exhibit. To me, it's the perfect gift for him," Nick said proudly. Smiling slyly, he observed, "Unless you would agree to pose for photos for him."

Trixie looked shocked then intrigued. "Nick, I think that is an excellent idea and you are the only person I know that could do it." She grinned sneakily. "I need you to meet me at the Manor House stable tomorrow morning at eight. Bring your camera and whatever magic stuff you need to take a picture of a moving horse. I plan on riding Lady around the clearing by the old schoolhouse. You'll understand when you see it."

"OK, Trix, I'll meet you there. Lori can open the studio and work on the photographs while I'm gone. How long will this take?" Nick asked, still writing on the order form.

"It shouldn't take more than an hour assuming Lady and I cooperate," Trixie confirmed. Watching Nick intently, Trixie inquired, "Who is Lori, Nick?" Seeing her friend blush made Trixie smile. "Someone important?" she pressed.

Nick looked up from the form proudly. "Lori is my partner and wife, Trixie."

"Oh, Nick! Congratulations!" Trixie exclaimed. "I want to meet her on Saturday. Promise me."

"Sure, Trixie. I can't wait for you to meet her. Lori is the most wonderful woman in the world," Nick declared.

A smile played across Trixie's face as Nick used her phrase to describe his wife. She placed a hand on his, looked into his eyes and spoke firmly, "And, Nick Roberts, when I come to pick up what you have done on Saturday, you will have an itemized statement of the work done for each photograph you and Lori work on, copy, enlarge, frame, etcetera. Jim and I will pay for work your business does for us. I mean it."

"OK, Trixie. I promise to not skip a single charge for work we do. However, I will give you the ten percent Bob-White discount." Nick winked at her.

"Thanks, Nick," Trixie said, squeezing his hand before heading toward the door. "I'll see you in the morning."

NEXT

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AUTHOR'S NOTES

Thank you to our editors, Pam, Mylee, Wendy, Bonnie and Donnis. We'd be lost without you. {{hug}} Any typos or errors belong to Jo and Jenny.

Bonnie, we thank you for being our host for this story before we developed this page. {{hug}}

Header photo is of Jo's grandma.

Background and dividers are from All Free Backgrounds.