“I’d better get a gym membership soon.  It’s too darn cold and slick to run outside,” she grumbled.  “This sweat suit isn’t warm enough for freezing weather.”  Twenty-four year old Trixie Belden was almost back to Crabapple Farm after her five mile run.  She tried to get a run in at least three days a week and lift weights another three as part of her physical training for her job as an agent with the FBI.

It had been over six years since she had lived in Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson.  Now she was home after working two years in Virginia after college graduation.  Trixie had gone to UVA, majoring in both criminal justice and psychology.  The basic college courses had been torture, but once she got into the classes for her degree she excelled in school.  Luckily, she received some scholarship assistance from the FBI. 

There were two parts to the scholarship agreement.  The first part had required that she take extra courses specifically for her summer internship and trainee positions with the FBI.  The second part was negotiated specifically by Trixie with the help of Matthew Wheeler and his connections.  She would work in Quantico, Virginia for the FBI for two years post-graduation and then be assigned to the White Plains bureau.  She would be required to work for them for an overall minimum of five years.  Part of the agreement was that she could be asked to work a short-term specific case requiring travel annually.

Trixie really didn’t want to leave Sleepyside ever again.  She was so happy to be home.  The years away from her family and the Bob-Whites were hard to endure.  She missed them and had only gotten home during college for a few days at Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break and a week or so in summer.  The last two years of working had been even harder since she couldn’t seem to get time off at the same time as anyone, except Honey Wheeler, her best friend.  Trixie hadn’t seen the rest of the Bob-Whites in almost a year.  The members were scattered to various colleges and locations.  E-mail and phone calls kept everyone in contact, but there was nothing like being home and Sleepyside was home. 

Brian, Trixie’s twenty-seven year old brother, was completing his medical training in New York City.  Her “almost twin” brother, Mart, only eleven months older than her, was working as an instructor of English at the local university.  Diana Lynch, Trixie’s childhood friend and Mart’s fiancée, was working her way up from art librarian/curator at the Sleepyside Municipal Museum.  Dan Mangan was another Bob-White who pursued the law and was a sergeant with the Sleepyside Police Department, working for Trixie’s old nemesis Chief Molinson.

She probably missed the last two Bob-Whites the most.  They were her best friends.  Honey Wheeler and Jim Frayne, Honey’s adopted brother, were as important to Trixie as breathing.  Honey had attended UVA with Trixie to get a degree in criminal justice and was currently working on her law degree at Cornell.  Honey’s goal was to return to Sleepyside after she passed the bar exam.  She would either work as a lawyer or open the detective agency with Trixie that they had always dreamed about.  Plus, she could support her brother in his dream of opening a school.  Honey wanted to help Jim with legal issues relating to custody, adoptions, etc. 

Jim had set a very lofty goal to open a school for orphaned/abused children where, beyond an education, they could build self-esteem, learn outdoor skills and activities.  He would open the school with boys and then possibly expand from there.  Jim’s hard work and single-minded focus allowed him to graduate college in five years with double master’s degrees in education and psychology.  He was currently working on his doctorate in education from Harvard.  The last Trixie had heard, he would graduate in the spring.

As Trixie ran through the preserve she wondered who would get back to Sleepyside for the holidays.  It was ten days before Christmas and she was excited to see everyone.  Her transfer to White Plains was effective the Monday after New Year’s.  She was staying with her parents until her things arrived and she could move into the duplex she was renting. Her belongings were in transit and scheduled for delivery later that day.  As much as she loved being back in Sleepyside, she had gotten used to being in her own place and couldn’t wait to get settled.

Trixie’s thoughts strayed to Jim.  From the day she found him at Ten Acres, Trixie had thought Jim Frayne was the most wonderful boy in the world.  The last time Trixie had seen Jim had been the previous Christmas, when amazingly everyone had made it back to Sleepyside.  It had been a wonderful time.  They talked, laughed and hung out with each other. 

During that time, Jim and Trixie had attended the New Year’s holiday ball at the Country Club together.  At midnight, Trixie had expected a fond look and kiss on the cheek from Jim.  Instead she got a sweet, but thorough kiss that curled her toes.  The next day, Jim acted like nothing special had happened, but Trixie’s whole world had changed.

She returned to Virginia and dreamt of Jim.  They exchanged frequent e-mails, as did all the Bob-Whites.  Then this past October she stopped receiving messages from him.  Honey said he was busy with his thesis and barely contacted anyone.  Trixie had tried to call Jim, but he never answered.  She left messages asking him to call when he could, but he didn’t do that either.  Honey would be back at the Manor House tomorrow when her finals were done, so Trixie would find out then if Jim was coming home for the holidays.

Trixie came out of the preserve onto Glen Road to head back to her parents’ house for breakfast.  She was just in time to see a black SUV turn off the road onto the overgrown, rutted driveway of Ten Acres. 

No one should be there, thought Trixie.  It’s posted no trespassing and there had been a chain across the drive.  I wonder if they may be lost

Trixie ran up the driveway toward where the old mansion had once stood.  When the fire set by Jim’s evil stepfather had finally been put out, the remaining structure was deemed unsafe so Matthew Wheeler had it bulldozed.  She stopped about half way up the drive to observe the SUV and driver.  It was definitely a man based on the height and broad shoulders.  He was easily 6’4” and obviously well-built even with the hooded heavy coat he wore. 

Trixie watched as the man rolled out what looked like a map or set of plans on the hood of the vehicle.  He anchored the papers down with some rocks off the ground then leaned over them.  Periodically, he would raise his head to look around the old house’s foundation and land. 

She carefully moved closer to the man and truck.  Trixie paused occasionally to check the ground for twigs or leaves that would alert him to her presence.  When Trixie was about thirty feet away, but still in a position to run down a side path to the farm, she watched the man and waited.  Finally she said loudly, “Excuse me are you lost?  I’d be happy to give you directions.  This is private property and I need for you to leave.”

Other than straighten up, the man made no move to turn around or speak. 

Trixie tried again.  She said firmly, “As I said, this is private property.  I need for you to leave or I will have to call the police and report you trespassing.”  Again, the man didn’t turn around, but Trixie did notice him shaking, like he was laughing at her.  She always had a temper and the thought of him laughing made her see red.  She took a step forward and said, “Fine, I’m dialing the police now.”

The man’s shaking continued.  Then Trixie heard a voice she knew as well as her own say, “Déjà vu, Shamus.  I would think you of all people would remember that I own this land.  Now where’s my shotgun?!”  As he spoke, the man turned, laughing heartily.  Standing there was James Winthrop Frayne II, the most wonderful man in the world. 

A whispered “Jim” and then a happy squeak were all Trixie could get out before she ran, jumped and threw her arms around his neck knocking down his hood.  She buried her face in his warm neck.  Jim hugged her tightly to his chest and put his own face into her curly blonde hair to enjoy the sunshine scent that was Trixie.

Trixie said into his neck, “I’m so glad you got to come home for Christmas.  I was hoping to see you.  I’ve missed you so much.  Why didn’t you answer my e-mails or calls?”

Jim chuckled and tightened his hug briefly before setting her onto her feet.  As 5’6” she was almost a foot shorter than him but he kept his arms around her waist to keep her close.  He smiled down into her eyes and then tugged on “his” curl.  “I was busy finishing my doctorate early.  You are talking to a man who is finally, happily, done with college and ready to start living outside a book again.”

“You’re done?  Out of school for good?  Are you home to Sleepyside?” Trixie eagerly asked, a hopeful look on her face.

“Yep,” Jim replied with a big grin on his face.  “All done with college, but after the first of the year the real work to get my school started begins.”

“Dr. Frayne, I am so proud of you,” Trixie said softly, with happiness shining in her eyes.  “That’s just wonderful”, Trixie said as she hugged him tight.  She looked up and said, “Congratulations!!”  She then rose up to kiss him on the cheek.  At the last moment, Jim turned his head and their lips met in a quick, sweet kiss. 

Jim looked into Trixie’s startled sapphire eyes with green ones twinkling with happiness, running the back of a finger along her cheek.  “I got into New York from Boston really late yesterday.  I spent the night at my folks’ penthouse before getting up early to come home.  I’ll be living at the Manor House for now.  My personal stuff from college will be here by Friday.  I’m really sorry I didn’t take the time to call you, but I couldn’t afford the distraction and day-dreaming that contacting you would have been.”

“I don’t know how I could have distracted you but I’m just glad you’re here,” Trixie replied with a smile that turned into a huge grin.  “I myself am on leave through the holidays and then I start work at the White Plains FBI office the Monday after New Year’s.  My belongings are being delivered later today.  You can be the first visitor to my duplex apartment.”

“Awesome!!” Jim cried loudly as he picked Trixie up and twirled her around.  After a few turns, he set her down and gave her a big hug where he tucked her head under his chin and just enjoyed absorbing the essence of Trixie. 

As for Trixie, she was enjoying her moment in Jim’s arms and never wanted to leave.  She had loved him since she was thirteen and now was the time to let him know how she felt.  Trixie had just burrowed closer to Jim’s chest when suddenly she heard a whirring noise.  Realizing it was the window of Jim’s SUV going down behind him, Trixie leaned back to take a quick look at Jim who shut his eyes and groaned.

Suddenly, a petulant female voice was heard saying, “Jim! We need to get to the Manor House right away or we’ll be late.  You know the mothers and Honey are waiting for us to talk about the wedding.”  There was a brief pause and then the voice said, “Oh, hi, Trixie.  It’s good to see you again.” 

Trixie slowly peeked around Jim as he turned towards the car.  She pulled out of his embrace and stared at Sally Wellington. 

“Sally. Wow, you’re engaged?” Trixie stuttered as her whole body started to shake from the intense emotions coursing through her.  She suddenly felt like she had dropped into freezing water.

Sally leaned toward the open window, her hazel eyes gazing up at Jim as she stuck out her left hand, flashing a beautiful large diamond in a thick setting toward Trixie.  “Oh yes!  Isn’t my ring just absolutely gorgeous?  I can’t stop looking at it.”

“Lovely,” Trixie murmured quietly with moisture appearing in her eyes.  She straightened to her full height and proudly said, “Listen I have to go finish my run because I have an appointment.  Congratulations to you both.  I’ll see you around, Sally.”  Turning to Jim, looking up at him with sad, vacant blue eyes, she said softly, “Congratulations, Jim.  I wish you all the best.” 

Turning on the heel of her running shoe, Trixie half ran and half stumbled toward the woods surrounding Ten Acres.  She thought Jim called after her, but she couldn’t stop her flight nor stay in the clearing where she had found Jim in the old mansion.  With each beat of her broken heart, the pain pounded through her body.

Jim and Sally engaged to be married!  It can’t be!! I’m the one in love with him.  I have been in love with him for eleven years.  Trixie ran faster and faster, trying to outrun her pain and thoughts.  It was impossible.  The pain and hurt finally overtook the fast pace of her feet.  When did they meet again?  Why didn’t Honey tell me?  That’s why he never called.  She cried aloud as she fell to her knees.  Heartbreaking sobs wracking her entire body

After her body was spent and she had no more tears, Trixie sat up straight and wiped her face on the sleeve of her hoodie.  She took several deep breaths as she shivered from the shock and cold. 

This has to be just a horrible nightmare, Trixie thought for the thousandth time since escaping into the preserve.  Well, there isn’t anything I can do about it now.  Jim and my dreams about him are gone for good now.  Sniffing again and cleaning up her face as best she could, Trixie set off for Crabapple Farm to get ready to meet the movers.

Oh, lord, how am I going to live in Sleepyside with Jim married to Sally?  Trixie bit out as she started to run again to once again try to outrun her thoughts.  Now I’m stuck here watching them for at least a two year rotation.  Damn, I wanted to make a permanent move home. 

She continued to run for another 15 minutes through the woods as she contemplated different ways she could avoid Jim and Sally over the holidays until she could see them without crying.  Her thoughts and plans in place, Trixie came out of the woods by Lytell’s store.  Running down Glen Road, this time she turned into the drive to Crabapple Farm.  Luckily, when she opened the door to the service porch, she heard Moms in the kitchen.  She didn’t want her mother to see her sad and tearstained face.  She just wasn’t ready to talk to anyone about the hurt that was still throbbing throughout her body, specifically her heart and mind.

“Moms!” she called as she made her way to the stairs, her shoulders slumped with sorrow.  “I’m back.  I need to shower and get across town to the duplex to meet the movers.  I’ll be down for coffee in a bit.”

Trixie had successfully made it over half way up the stairs by the time she heard her Moms’ reply of “OK, dear.  You need to hurry.  You were out running longer than you normally do.”

Trixie’s shower took longer than normal.  As the water ran soothingly over her, thoughts of Jim and his engagement to Sally again assaulted her mind and the tears flowed once more.  After she had exhausted her tears a second time, Trixie finished her shower.  After assessing the damage that crying had done to her face, she did her best to hide the red puffy eyes and nose with makeup.  She got dressed, gathered her purse and luggage and stepped slowly down the stairs to the kitchen.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her mother looked up at her.  “Trixie, are you alright?  You look like you’ve been crying or have a cold,” Helen said as she pressed the back of her hand onto Trixie’s forehead.  “Are you OK, dear?”

“Sure, Moms, I’m fine.  I was just out in the cold and then in a hot shower too long,” Trixie said as she filled her travel mug with coffee.  “I really need to get going to meet the movers.”

“Did you hear the news about a wedding at the Manor House?” Moms asked.

“Yes,” Trixie answered cautiously with her head down and her eyes on the muffin she was eating.

“Imagine, a wedding on Glen Road,” Helen said as she bustled around the kitchen wiping counters.  "It's been years since we had one."

Trixie’s eyes filled again as she choked on a bite of muffin.  “I ran into Jim and Sally on my run.  Sally couldn’t wait to tell me and show me her diamond,” Trixie said, turning away to quickly wipe her eyes.

When she turned back, Helen exclaimed, “It is just so exciting!  A wedding amongst you kids who ran around together.  Maddie asked if I could help her with suggestions for the happy couple.”

Trixie’s blue eyes overflowed again with tears.  She didn’t think she could be more hurt and shocked by her mother’s happiness and excitement.  Ducking her head and quickly grabbing her things, Trixie walked briskly to the door.  “Moms, I’m going to work on getting my place set up after the movers get done.  I’ll stay there tonight.  Since tomorrow is Friday, why don’t you and Daddy come over Saturday as planned to see the place.”  She was out the door acting calm and cool even though she was shaking so hard she could hardly walk.  Once outside she trotted to her Rav4 as fast as she could without running.

Helen popped her head out the door calling, “That’s fine, Trixie.  We’ll call your cell first.  I need to call Maddie in an hour.  I’ll call you tonight about five to see if you need Daddy and me to bring you dinner.  Drive carefully.”

Trixie threw her bags into her vehicle, started it up, and drove like all the demons in the world were on her tail down the driveway toward her duplex.  She immediately slowed as sobs racked her body and tears once again streamed down her face.

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Meanwhile, back at Ten Acres, Jim stared after Trixie as she ran down the driveway and into the preserve.  “What happened?” Jim said to himself.  “One second she’s finally in my arms and then, ‘poof,’ she’s running away.”

“Seriously, Jim,” Sally whined.  “Mother is going to be so upset.  You picked me up from the train station almost an hour ago.”

Was she this whiny when we were teenagers? Jim thought silently, briefly closing his eyes while rolling up the blueprints.  He’d drop Sally off and let Honey deal with her.  “OK, bride-to-be, let’s go.”

A few minutes later, Jim pulled his black SUV into the garage of the Manor House.  Tom opened Sally’s door and helped her out and grabbed her large Louis Vuitton suitcase.  “I’ll bring Miss Wellington’s luggage upstairs, Jim.  Your mother said to tell you they are in the sunroom.”

“Thanks, Tom.  Is Honey home yet?”

“Yes, she got in about twenty minutes ago.  I believe she is with everyone discussing the wedding.”

Jim and Sally walked into the Manor House and down the hallway to the sunroom.  Laughter flowed out the doorway, greeting the two of them as they walked into the plant filled room.

“Jim!” Honey cried, jumping up from the chair and wrapping her arms around him.  “I’ve missed you so much!  How have you been?  I know you’ve been school busy, but how have you really been, beyond your doctorate?”

“I’ve missed you too, sis.”  Jim laughed, hugging her tightly.  “No one asks questions like you do.  I’m fine,” Jim answered.  “And I am officially finished.  You are now the sister of a full-blooded adopted doctor.”  Jim’s green eyes twinkled as he grinned at her; laughing at her “Honey-speak” string of questions and his similar responses.

Madeline Wheeler stood up and walked over to her son and wrapped him in her arms.  “Jim, I am so proud of you.  Matthew is going to be beside himself.”

“I hope so.  I always want to make you proud, Mother,” Jim said kissing her on the cheek.

“Jim, you always have and you always will.”  Hugging him close, she whispered in his ear, “I know Katje and Win would have been proud of you, too."  As she leaned slightly back, Jim noticed Maddie’s tear-filled eyes and proud smile.

Jim hugged his beautiful mother, marveling at his luck at being adopted into the Wheeler family.  It was all because of Trixie.  Jim stood back from his mother and looked at Honey.  “Have you talked to Trixie yet?”

“No, I came up here as soon as I got in to say hello to everyone,” Honey said as she stepped closer to Jim.

“Well, she looked rather rumpled when we saw her, but I would have known her anywhere.  Still a tomboy,” Sally interjected with a flip of her hair as she picked up two sample invitations to compare.

You saw her?” Honey asked glancing between Sally and Jim.  “Where?”

“Up at Ten Acres.  I stopped by to check out the new blueprints and with that sixth sense she has, she came running up the driveway thinking I was trespassing,” Jim answered smiling, remembering the brief kiss.  “She ordered me off my own property before she rushed off.”

“Jim said it would just be a minute, but it seems like we were there forever,” Sally complained.  “But Trixie really loved my ring.  She thought it was beautiful.”  Sally stretched her hand out, admiring her ring.

“Trixie saw your ring?” Honey inquired with a quirk of her brow.

“Of course, I had to show her once I realized who she was.  She even congratulated me on my engagement,” Sally answered blithely, going to sit with her mother on the love seat.

“And you said she ran off?” Honey asked Jim, her forehead wrinkled in thought.

“Yes, but she was out running, maybe she had somewhere to be.”  Jim shrugged.

Honey’s hazel eyes narrowed suddenly.  “Um, Jim could you help me get drinks for everyone,” Honey requested, pulling him out of the room.

“Honey, Celia already brought drinks up,” Mrs. Wheeler said, but her children were already out of the room and out of earshot.

Honey was physically pulling Jim down the hallway.  When she reached the den, she pushed him inside and shut the door behind her.  “Jim, you idiot!”

“What?!  Wait a darn minute.  What did I do now?” Jim questioned Honey with a baffled look on his face.

“Can you really be that dense?  Look at the facts, please,” Honey said, ticking them off on her fingers.  “One, Trixie ran into you and Sally at Ten Acres.  Two, Sally showed Trixie her engagement ring, and talked about getting married.  Three, Trixie ran off after that.”

“AND?  You’re going to have to be a bit more specific,” Jim said trying to control his temper.

“Jim, you idiot…”

Stop calling me that!”

“Trixie thinks you’re engaged to Sally!” Honey announced.

Jim stared at Honey with his mouth open for several seconds.  “No way!” he said emphatically.  “Trixie knows better than that.  She’s my special girl.” 

Does she know this?  Have you told her?” Honey replied glaring at her brother.  “You’ve never dated her.  You haven’t seen each other in a year and until today you haven’t talked to her since at least September.  To top that all off, the first time she sees you, you’re with Sally Wellington who flashes a diamond at her and starts babbling about a wedding.” 

Jim’s eyes widened from shock as each of Honey’s painful accusations hit him as surely as the lashes from Jonesy’s whip.

Marching right up into his face, Honey demanded, “While talking to Trixie about the wedding did you mention Ben at all?”

All the color drained out of Jim’s face as Honey had been speaking.  “No,” he moaned.  “Neither Sally nor I mentioned Ben.”  Honey moved closer as the realization of what had happened hit him. 

“Oh my God, I am an idiot!” Jim said dropping to the wingback chair and putting his head in his hands.  “How do I fix this?”

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Trixie parked her dark green Rav4 in the driveway of her new duplex and grabbed a fast food napkin from the passenger seat.  She wiped the tears from her face and blew her nose.  Even though her new place was only 15 minutes from Crabapple Farm, the drive seemed to take forever because of the thoughts and sadness from loss weighing her down. 

Checking her face one more time in the car mirror, frowning at her red eyes and nose, Trixie climbed from the car.  Taking her backpack and a box from the back, she entered her new residence.

The duplex was part of a new wooded housing development on the edge of Sleepyside that Matt Wheeler’s property division had built.  Each unit was large at 1200 square feet and comprised of two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room/kitchen, laundry room and two-car garage.  Trixie placed the box in the corner of the smaller bedroom and continued bringing in boxes and bags until her car was unloaded.

As she emptied the vehicle, her mind was still turning the events of the morning over and over in her head.  How did Jim and Sally get together?  Why didn’t Honey say anything?  I wonder how soon they are getting married.  I can’t believe Moms is OK and helping with their plans!  Doesn’t she realize how much losing Jim hurts me?  I wish it was some other time than the holidays because I’ll have to see them at the holiday open house, Bob-White Christmas party -- oh damn.  How will that work?  No one has had a serious date and brought them home ever.  What will the others say?  Maybe music will help distract me.

Opening the backpack she had carried in with the first box, Trixie withdrew her iPod and its speaker stand.  Placing them on the bar between the living room and kitchen, she set up the system and hit play list 4 that had her favorite upbeat oldies on it.  As the music started with a Beach Boys song, Trixie started hanging clothes in the closet. 

She sang along with the song as she unpacked some of the boxes she had brought herself. 

Trixie wandered back to the kitchen area to get a bottle of water.  She had stocked up on groceries yesterday and had even gone to Lytell’s to get a case of strawberry pop.  She had just sat down on one of the stools at the kitchen bar, trying to keep her mind occupied, singing about surfer girls and admiring the Corian countertop when the doorbell rang.  Seeing the moving truck out the front window, she hopped up and opened the door.

The next two hours were busily spent directing the movers where to put the furniture and boxes, and checking to make sure everything had made it okay.  As she moved from room to room, Trixie kept thinking she glimpsed a mover with deep red hair.  When she looked closer, all she saw were average looking guys in the crew.  There was also the feeling someone was watching her, but Trixie never caught anyone looking.  After one last count of boxes, Trixie signed the bill of lading, passed out bottles of water for the men, handed over an appropriate tip, thanked them for their hard work and ushered them out the door.

When the moving van drove away, she closed the door and let out a deep sigh as she surveyed all the work still ahead of her.  She had just stepped away from the door to start unpacking when she heard a thump coming from her bedroom.  I bet one of the movers didn’t realize they were done, Trixie concluded as she walked toward the room.

At the doorway she paused and stared at the nicest denim-covered butt she had seen in years.  The owner was head down behind her dresser mumbling.

Trixie shook her gaze loose and said to the mover, “I hope you have a cell number for your crew chief, because the truck pulled away a few minutes ago and left you here.  Also, if you are trying to hook the mirror to the dresser, don’t bother.  Only two men have ever been able to successfully attach it.  My dad will take care of it on Saturday.”  Trixie frowned at herself, because the other man was Jim.  Jim had attached the mirror for her when she moved to Virginia.  When he had finished, he had gently tugged “his curl” and told her that she’d have to keep him around as long as she had the dresser.  Trixie’s eyes took on a sad, faraway look at the memory.

A muttered “got it” was heard from behind the dresser just before the man straightened up and turned toward her.

“No,” she murmured backing up as her sapphire blue eyes widened and her heart started beating so hard it felt like it was trying to leap out of her chest.  “What are you doing here?”

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Earlier in the den, Honey knelt next to the wingback chair and placed her hand on Jim’s arm.  “Jim, how could you not know that Trixie misunderstood?”  Honey stood up to pace the carpet in front of the distraught redhead.  “Let’s figure out how you can fix this,” she stated.  “OK, first, you’ve got to go see her.  But knowing Trixie, she’s not going to listen.  She’s still upset,” Honey said, thinking out loud.

“Couldn’t you just go over and talk to her?”  Jim looked up hopefully.  Honey stopped her pacing and gave him her best “You’re not serious look”.  “Wow, that look of yours is a secret weapon.  You will be hell on defendants.  Remind me not to come up against you in court.”  Jim stood and paced to the fireplace and back.  Looking Honey in the eye, he said, “Got it, I’ve got to fix this.”

“Two things I learned my first year in law school: never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to and a deadly look works wonders.  Glad you’re starting to think straight.  Let’s begin with the end in mind: you want the girl, right?”

“Honey, I love her.  I want to marry her and have little harum-scarum babies with her.”  Jim looked up just in time to catch Honey as she threw herself into his arms.

Honey wrapped her arms around him in a big hug.  “I’m so happy for you!  I always hoped that that’s what you wanted.  Ever since we were teenagers, anyone could tell you two were perfectly perfect for each other even when the two of you couldn’t see past the end of your own noses.”  She smacked him on the arm.  “How come you can tell me all of this, but the love of your life has no idea that she is the love of your life?”

“I don’t know.  It’s easy now that everything is on the line.  She ran away from me, Honey.  Getting her back is all that matters.  I’ve got to go to her.”  Jim slapped his hands on the back of the chair and started out of the den.

“Wait!  You’re right, Jim, but you’ve got to have a better plan than that, because she’s not going to let you in the door,” Honey pointed out.

Jim started to pace, so Honey took a seat in the recently vacated chair.  “Trixie needs time to cool down.  It would be great if she had something else to focus on.  Wait a minute; Trixie’s moving into her duplex today.  What if I go over and help her?  Do you think if I helped her, she’d listen to me?”

“You’re going to have to get in the door.  Witnesses like the movers will be good to get you in.  I don’t think she’d hurt you if there are other people around.  But you’re going to have to get her alone to get her to listen to you.  I suppose you could always tie her to a chair…no that’s illegal detention.  Lead off with the fact that Sally is marrying our cousin, Ben Riker.”

Your cousin, I want nothing to do with him.  He and Sally are perfect for each other.  I can’t believe they met each other when Sally was in New York City last year.  Why did you invite Sally to the Wheeler Foundation dinner anyway?” Jim asked.

“She was in town and I thought she might distract Ben from the Board of Directors.  I was right; they hit it off and have been inseparable ever since.  The only thing I’m sorry about is forcing Ben on poor Mr. Wellington.  He’s such a nice man,” Honey answered.

“Would you do me one tiny favor?” Jim asked.  “Would you call Crabapple Farm and see if Trixie is there or at her new place?  I think I need to lay the trap at her duplex.”

OK, that I’ll do for you.  I’ll call right now,” Honey said taking her cell phone out of her pocket and hitting the speed dial number. 

“Hi, Mrs. Belden.  Is Trixie there?  Oh, she’s not.”  Honey gave Jim a thumbs up.  Honey shared the conversation as best as she could.  “She’s at her place waiting for the movers.  You were going to check about dinner later…oh I was going to surprise her and go over there later with Cook’s famous fried chicken.  I know how much she likes that.  That’s terrific.  OK, we’ll make it our see-crud.  Bye, see you soon.”  Honey closed her cell phone and turned to Jim with a smug smile on her face.  “All you need to know is I just cleared the way.  The Beldens are not going to worry about taking dinner to Trixie’s now, but she thinks they are.  So you’ve got all night to convince her to listen to you.  Provided you can even get in the door.  That’s all up to you, brother dear.  I got you time.  You are very welcome,” Honey said with a smug grin, walking toward the door.  Turning to look at Jim over her shoulder she said, “Go!  Get your girl.  I’ll deal with Mother, Sally, Mrs. Wellington, and Aunt Abby.  You owe me for that, too!”

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Seeing Trixie move away from him, her eyes red-rimmed and full of pain and her body filled with tension, was a clear sign that he would not have an easy time talking to her.  This was the most important conversation of his life and Jim had to make her listen. 

Drawing in a deep breath, Jim took one step toward her.  “I came to help you get settled.  You invited me to see your place when I saw you at Ten Acres this morning,” he said, watching her carefully as she fidgeted.  “While you finished with the movers, I attached your mirror and now I just need to set it back against the wall.  Grab a side.”  He smiled gently at her and indicated the far side of the dresser. 

Frowning, Trixie stepped to the opposite side and together they placed the dresser where she wanted it.  “Thanks,” she said grudgingly looking at the wall above his shoulder.  “You really should get back to the Manor House to work on the wedding plans.  Goodbye.”  She sniffed and tossed her curls before walking quickly past Jim to the kitchen where she opened a box and started unwrapping pots and pans that she slammed down on the counter.

Looking up at Jim with hurt and angry eyes, she growled, “You should be leaving.  Your fiancée and your family are waiting for you.”

“I’m not needed for wedding plans since it’s not my fiancée or my wedding,” Jim said quietly from the other side of the breakfast bar. 

Trixie’s head snapped up and she looked at him with disbelief.  “What do you mean it’s not your wedding or fiancée?  You stood right there while Sally was talking about it.”  Anger flushed her face as she placed her fists on her hips.  “She was looking all dreamy-eyed at you the entire time she was talking about meeting your mothers and Honey at the Manor House and trying to blind me by flashing her giant diamond ring at me.  If it wasn’t true, you would have said something then but you didn’t.  Not one damn word.  I think you should go home to your fiancée and work on your wedding.”  Turning away, she started slamming cookie sheets and silverware on the counter.

Jim’s face reddened as he held onto his temper.  She’s not going to believe you until you can get her to hear what you are saying, he told himself while watching Trixie take her anger out on her cookware.  Be calm and hold your temper.  Otherwise, you won’t get the girl of your dreams.

Jim stepped around the breakfast bar and up behind Trixie.  Placing his hands on her shoulders, he turned her to face him.  As his green eyes looked into her blue, he let every feeling he had for her show in them.  Trixie’s eyes held anger, pain and confusion in their sapphire depths.  She looked down and said, “Go home, Jim.  Please.”

“No, Shamus, I won’t go until you listen to what I have to say and truly hear me.”  Jim lifted her chin so she would have to look at him but her eyes were shut tight.  Sighing, Jim spoke gently like he would to a scared animal.  “Trixie, I am not now nor have I ever been engaged.  Sally Wellington is engaged to Ben Riker and they are getting married in the spring.”  Watching her face he saw her eyebrows twitch and then he was looking into startled blue eyes.

“Ben Riker?” she stuttered.  At Jim’s nod, she continued.  “Sally Wellington is marrying Ben Riker?”

Jim relaxed his hold on her shoulders, he nodded.  “Yep.  Sally and Ben Riker are getting married.  Not me.” 

“Then why did Sally keep saying ‘we’ and ‘our mothers’ and ‘our wedding’ when she was talking at Ten Acres?  And why didn’t you say something then?” Trixie demanded.

Jim raised one ginger eyebrow at Trixie and placed his hands on either side of the counter, trapping her.  “Because she’s a ditz and she just likes to hear herself talk.  I only picked her up at the train station as a favor to Mother, but I was already tuning her out.  I didn’t say anything because I knew Sally was talking about Ben and thought Honey had already told you.  I really didn’t think anything of it until later.  When I realized you were upset, I immediately came looking for you.”  Leaning closer to her and looking deeply into her widening blue eyes, he asked softly, “Why were you upset, Shamus?”

Trixie was mesmerized by the soft look of the deep green eyes looking into hers.  She cleared her suddenly dry throat and whispered, “Because I thought it was too late.”

She licked her lips before continuing, noticing Jim watching her lips.  “Based on what Sally said, I thought you were engaged.”

Green eyes flicked up and locked with hers as Jim’s arms wrapped loosely around her.  “Trixie, if I have anything to say about it,” he said as he lowered his head toward her, “you’ll be the first to know when I get engaged.” 

Moving that final inch toward her mouth, Jim’s lips took hers in a sweet kiss that expressed all the longing and love he had felt for her since the day they met. 

Nibbling her lips with his, Jim murmured, “I was so afraid I would lose you to someone else.”  Placing his forehead on hers, he added, “I pushed so hard to get through school quickly so I could get home to be with you.  I just knew some guy at school or at work would take you away from me.”  He moved to kiss her softly again.

“Jim, what are you talking about?  It has always been you since the first day I met you.  It was me who thought you’d find some beautiful, tall socialite and lose your heart.  When Sally was talking today, I just wanted curl up and die.”  Trixie put her hands on his chest and stared at the top button, worrying her bottom lip.

Trix, it was always you for me, too.  I never want to lose you.”  He stared deeply into her eyes looking for something he was hoping to see.  Satisfied, Jim’s green eyes darkened and he smiled the crooked grin she loved so much.  Cupping her face gently in his big freckled hands, he said with emotion quaking his voice, “Beatrix Belden, I have been in love with you for eleven years.  Will you always be my special girl?”

Jim kissed her with a passion she had only ever imagined.  As he withdrew from the kiss and moved to rain butterfly light kisses on her face, she framed his face with her small hands.  “James Winthrop Frayne, I love you, too.  Yes, I’ll be your girl.”  

The joy Trixie felt kissing Jim, with every bit of love she had, swelled her heart. 

Easing back from each other, Jim winked at her and said, “How about I help get you settled in so we won’t feel guilty about sitting on the couch and cuddling.  Good idea?”

“Jim, we’re standing in the kitchen.”

“I know, but we could sit on the couch and cuddle.”  Jim waggled his eyebrows at her.

As Trixie nodded, her smile was the happiest Jim had ever seen.  After a quick peck on his lips, she bounced out of his arms and grabbed his hand on her way toward the hallway.  “Come on.  I have something I need you to do.” 

At the doorway of the second bedroom, she pointed to the cable modem, Wi-Fi router, printer, and laptop sitting by a small desktop.  “I’d appreciate it if you would put this together for me and get it set up.  Then, would you mind setting up my TV?”

Wrapping his arms around her waist and drawing her to him, he asked as he nibbled her neck, “Do I get a special reward?”

Mmmmm.  Well, it will help get you out of the doghouse for not clarifying Sally’s comments.”  As she shifted her head so he could work on the other side, she added, “It may take you awhile to get out.”  Giggling because Jim’s kisses had turned to tickles, Trixie skipped away from him.

Jim quirked his eyebrow at her and gave her a thoughtful but teasing look.  “I don’t think I should be very deep in the doghouse since you were eyeing the butt of a guy you thought was a stranger in your bedroom earlier.”

Trixie’s face blushed as she stammered, “How do you know that I didn’t know that was you leaned over behind the dresser?  And, how did you see me looking?”

Jim slowly stalked her through the room and finally cornered her by the closet.  Placing his hands on the wall on either side of her, he leaned in close to her face and with twinkling green eyes kissed her on the tip of her nose.  “My darling, Shamus, I have felt every look and glance from your beautiful blue eyes in my heart and soul for over a decade.  Besides, you were so upset and confused by the wedding that you didn’t know it was me.  Plus, I could see your reflection in the window.”  He kissed her deeply without touching her except with his lips.

Standing straight, he looked into her dazed eyes with a look of satisfaction that made her shiver. 

“Now, Shamus, get to work so we can get cuddling.”  He led her to the door and with one more kiss nudged her toward the kitchen.

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Over the next three hours, Trixie and Jim worked to put her new home together.  He had finished the office relatively quickly and verified that the Wi-Fi was working by placing an order with the new Chinese restaurant in town for delivery later in the afternoon.  By the time he had hooked up the cable DVR box, flat-panel TV and DVD player, Trixie had completed the kitchen.

Together they arranged the furniture in the living room and set out the lamps. 

The last pieces of furniture to place were Trixie’s bed and bedside table.  As Trixie told a story about the queen mattress falling over on her when she first got it, they were laughing so hard that the mattress slipped from Jim’s hands and fell toward her.  A squeak was all Jim heard as it knocked her down.  Gurgling type noises could be heard as he lifted the mattress off of her.  Trixie was lying flat on her back still laughing when she said, “See.  I told you that thing has it in for me.” 

After she crawled out, Jim maneuvered the mattress to its proper position while acting like he was showing the mattress who’s the boss.  Trixie laughed and giggled at his antics as he fell on the mattress punching it and saying loudly, “Who do you think you are attacking my girl?  What if you’d hurt her?  Pick on somebody your own size.”

Sitting up on the edge of the bed and holding out his hand, Jim’s crooked grin was in place as his eyes twinkled.  “Come here, baby. Mr. Mattress wants to apologize for being mean and picking on you over the years.  He is very sorry.”

Still giggling, Trixie stepped close to Jim and took his hand.  Patting the mattress with her other she said, “It's okay, Mr. Mattress.  I’m sorry, too, for all the times I’ve stood on you and jumped.”

“You jumped on Mr. Mattress?” Jim asked trying to sound shocked.  “It’s no wonder Mr. Mattress retaliated.  I’ll just have to take his side for him.”  With that, Jim started tickling Trixie until she was laughing and squirming all over.  Finally, he stopped and pulled her into a hug then kissed her until she was breathless.

Glancing at the clock by her bed, Jim stood.  “Shamus, you make your bed and I’ll get the boxes with your clothes out of the closet so you can put them away.  While you’re doing that, I’ll unpack your books into the bookcases.”

An hour later, dinner was delivered and they were ready for a much needed break.  Boxes of orange beef, egg rolls and crab Rangoon were spread on the bar.  Shyly, Trixie watched as Jim ate a piece of beef with his chopsticks.  Jim picked up another piece and held it toward her mouth.  Trixie licked her lips and Jim focused on them as she took the offered bit of food. 

Dinner was one of the best meals either had ever had.  They talked quietly about the work they had done unpacking and the food itself.  They fed each other bites and smiled at each other. Periodically, they leaned over to kiss one another.

Once the meal was over, they moved to the living room with their fortune cookies.

Jim sat on the couch and pulled Trixie down beside him.  Placing his arm around her, he pulled her to him for a long kiss.  Sighing contentedly, Trixie placed small kisses along his jaw and neck before settling her head on his chest.

She listened as Jim’s heartbeat slowed to a steady rhythm.  Lifting her head, she gazed into tranquil green eyes that reflected the love and hope she had in her own heart.

“Jim, since there are only about fifteen or so boxes left, can we just sit and cuddle for the rest of the evening?” 

“Whatever you want, baby,” Jim murmured into her hair as his hand moved gently over her curls.  He placed his lips on her brow with a soft kiss.

Trixie dozed for a short time.  When she woke up, Jim was looking at her with a happy smile on his face.

“What are you smiling at?” Trixie asked, kissing him before she moved away to stretch.

Jim sat up straighter and stretched, too.  “Just being here with you makes me happy,” he said reaching for their fortune cookies.  “Let’s see what these say.”

Taking her cookie, Trixie said, “You first.”  Sitting back by Jim, she waited while he opened his fortune.

Reading silently first, Jim’s eyes twinkled as he read aloud.  “‘Your future is full of much love and happiness.’ ” 

After hugging Trixie tightly and kissing her slowly, Jim spoke from his heart.  “As long as I have you by my side, I will have a future full of love and happiness.”

“Oh, Jim, I know that will be true.”  Turning to her own cookie, Trixie opened it.  Her eyes widened as she read the words.  Looking up at Jim she read, “‘You have all your heart needs before you.’  These cookies are almost like they were written just for us.”

Taking her into his arms again, Jim winked at her and said, “I think they were.  As Honey would say they are perfectly perfect.”  The kisses the pair shared were sweeter than the cookies.

Coming up for air, Trixie sat away from Jim and popped a piece of her cookie into her mouth.  Chewing slowly, Trixie looked at Jim with nervous eyes.

“Jim, are you ever going to ask me out on a date?” she asked biting on her bottom lip and looking anxious.

Reaching out to tug ‘his curl’, Jim replied, “Trixie, will you go out riding with me tomorrow and then to dinner at Wimpy’s, followed by a walk past Hoppy to just say ‘hi’.  The next day we can go get you a Christmas tree to put over there.”

Running her hand along his face and around the back of Jim’s head, she pulled him close and, with her lips on his, whispered, “Jim Frayne, I thought you’d never ask. Yes.”



Authors' Notes

First, we need to blame, uh, thank Pat (Amygirl) and the participants in the Jix thread Fortunately/Unfortunately.  We had so much fun writing posts for the thread that we decided we wanted to do something more.  Thanks for allowing us to write mini-epic posts and hijack the story.  Pat, {{hug}} we love you and think you are a great moderator for Trixie Games.  It’s where the “smush” officially started!

Our wonderful editors, Pam (ps9906) and WendyM, deserve a huge ‘thank you’.  These gracious ladies shared their knowledge and expertise in writing.  They made suggestions and offered a different writing viewpoint to us.  Some we used, some we didn’t and some made us say, “well, duh!”.  Any errors, typos, etc., in the document belong to the SmushSister writing team.

The biggest thank you of all goes to Bonnie H. {{hug}} Bonnie bravely stuck her hand in the air and offered to host the original posting of our smush stories when we first wrote them. We don't know what you we thinking when you agreed to help us but we were very, very grateful.

Rav4 is an SUV manufactured by Toyota Motor Sales, USA.  (And Trixie’s green one is actually driven by SmushSister Jenny)

The FBI Academy is located at Quantico, Virginia.  A wonderful institution who we value greatly and SmushSister Jenny lives way too close not to respect them.

We like to thank these institutions of higher learning: University of Virginia (UVA), Cornell, and Harvard.  None of which we’ve ever attended, with the exception of a summer course at Harvard’s School of Education, (I have the certificate to prove I went to Harvard – for four days, SmushSister Jenny) – but they seem to be places that our favorite BWGs would attend.

The following products have been used without permission and we made no money on them, but recommend them highly: Louis Vuitton (Sally would use nothing less), Corian (Mr. Wheeler would use nothing but the best), iPod (because everyone has one – except us, SmushSisters Jenny & Jo), and the Beach Boys (oldies rock music is awesome)

Finally, the SmushSisters writing team of Jenny and Jo (JJsGirl) need to acknowledge the phrases, “double dog dare” and “triple dog dare”.  If it wasn’t for them, we would never have started talking with each other or taken a small plot idea and created this story.  Through these two phrases and the posts of the Fortunately/Unfortunately thread a friendship and sisterhood has formed for which we are very grateful.

Background tile is from GRSites.  Broken hearts in title are from Istock.com.  Scene divider is from All Free Backgrounds.