Helping himself to some of the raw greens that Casey insisted on serving at nearly every dinner, Tom paused to glare at Sam in surprise. “But you’re Casey’s guardian,” he protested, unable to understand Sam’s demurring the idea of living at Dunallon. “You shouldn’t have to be alone.”
“My guardianship of Casey is a cover story for society, Tom. As Riley has pointed out, there is no real relationship,” Sam reminded him.
They were having dinner at Dunallon, after Casey and Penny had spent the day supervising the installation of wallpaper. Tom had innocently asked Sam which design he’d wanted for his bedroom, only to discover Sam had not considered living with them.
Even Casey was surprised. “Except that you’ve taken complete responsibility for me since the moment we got here. The relationship is real, whether it’s legal or not.”
“That’s true,” Sam agreed. “Although you have also taken care of me. But that doesn’t mean I should impose on your new life.”
“Impose? Is that how elders are treated in your time?” Tom asked.
Casey smothered a snicker.
Sam just sighed. “In our time, I’m not considered an elder, Tom. A little past my prime, but…”
Tom backtracked. “That’s not what I meant. You’re in excellent health, Sam. Nevertheless,” he looked to Casey, who was too busy trying not to giggle to be much help. “Oh, for heaven’s sake. I always walk into these things and never see them coming.”
Casey gave up trying not to laugh. Sam laughed, too, as Tom glared at both of them, pointing sternly at Sam. “There is a room for you at Dunallon, sir. It is your home as much as it’s ours. When you tire of a solitary existence, do give us a call.”
Sam agreed to do that.
The day before the wedding was spent at Ardara, finalizing preparations. Most of the family stayed over, to get an early start in the morning, with the wedding scheduled for eleven. After lunch, the new couple would be sent on their way amid the usual Andrews tumult.
Tom’s brothers and sister were appalled that Tom and Casey were spending their honeymoon camping (camping!) at a private, rented cottage outside of Rostrevor, rather than a week or two in the best hotels on the Continent. Nevertheless, they went all out to help Tom stock the cottage with supplies for fishing and hunting. They arranged for ice to be dropped off every morning at the dock. Nina and Jessie talked to the cottage owner, who would make sure there was plenty of food for the week, and fresh linens and towels. This was all they could do to help a young maiden begin her married life in such rough conditions.
After dinner, as preparations wound down and children began to be put to bed, Casey and Tom escaped into the garden, sitting on the grass where, in the morning, they would exchange their vows. In the quiet night, with crickets for background, Casey made a promise to Tom.
“I can’t say this in the ceremony, but this is as much a vow as anything else I’ll say tomorrow,” she told him, her face serious and lovely in the dim light from the house. “I will always stay with you, Tom. Even if Sam or anyone else figures out how to get us back to the twenty-first century, I would not go. My life is with you.”
He touched her face, overwhelmed and unable to respond, except to kiss her. When he could speak, he promised to always honor her for that vow, and in all his ways, to give her his life in return.
The wedding day dawned bright and warm, and the sun quickly burned away the layer of dew that covered the flowers, grass, and chairs in the garden. Sam, like all men through the centuries, railed silently against formal clothing traditions in the summer heat. At least, he thought with some amusement, in this day and age, the women weren’t running around in spaghetti straps and short skirts, cool enough to dance with abandon, while the men sweltered in tuxedos.
No, in this day and age, they would all be hot.
Irish weddings, by law, had to held before noon, and never on Sunday. Sam could figure out the Sunday part, but not even Tom could adequately explain the law about timing. It’s just the way it was. So after an early breakfast, everyone scattered to dress, and the servants, resplendent in clean, white uniforms, finished setting up tables and arranging flowers. By ten-thirty, the first guests had begun to arrive.
The guest list for Tom’s wedding included politicians of all stripes, the entire management of the local shipping industry, a few sea captains, and many wealthy merchants from the area. Not to mention, members of the aristocracy and landed gentry from as far away as Dublin. As the bride’s guardian, Sam was required to meet and greet all of them, and after shaking the hand of the Lord Mayor of Belfast and bowing solemnly to the Lady Mayoress, Sam reflected that this was not what Dr. Riley had in mind on that morning over a year-and-a-half ago, when he advised Sam and Casey to “melt into the woodwork.”
No matter. He and Casey would always be considered odd. There might be those who were curious about gaps in their history or dissatisfied with answers, but there was little chance that anyone would suspect they were time travelers from the twenty-first century!
At eleven, they all took their places, and Sam went to fetch Casey, pausing for a moment to take delight in her appearance. He couldn’t have been prouder if he were actually her father: her dress was Pure Romance, with hand-worked lace over the full, silk skirt and blouse, and a bow in the back nearly hidden beneath the lace veil. Penny had succeeded in getting Casey’s hair up in the popular Gibson style, although he had heard anxious whispers that it might not be long enough to hold well. The red spots high on her cheeks revealed her excitement but he didn’t miss the tears she blinked away as she took his hands in hers. He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I will write a long entry to your father in my journal tonight, telling him everything about this day, and how honored I am to stand in for him.”
She squeezed his hands and kissed his cheek in gratitude, then with a deep breath, she saucily took his arm and let him “bring” her to her waiting groom. Whatever the opinions about this marriage, there was no denying Casey was a sight to behold, and the spectators were suitably impressed. Sam caught Mrs. Herceforth’s broad wink as they passed her, standing jauntily on the bride’s side of the aisle, and wearing the special corsage Casey had made for her. The Yenta of Belfast.
He was grateful to her, too, and as he handed Casey off to a joyful Tom, he knew also, that whatever the opinions about this marriage, these two people loved each other completely. He didn’t try to analyze the relief that he felt, as he stepped back to his seat, that the innocent victim of his botched experiment was going to be all right.
After lunch, Tom’s siblings presided over speeches, toasts, and the formal dances. After shaking many, many hands, they left their guests to the musicians and the dancing, and escorted the bride and groom to the dock across from the house. There, amid much fanfare, they set about helping Tom load the last of their luggage on the family’s most reliable boat. Tom carefully stowed the boxes for the trip, and began to set the sails.
Casey, who had changed into her boating outfit of black skirt, white blouse and straw hat, stood at the top of the pier to say a last few words to Tom’s parents and Sam. At the boat, Willie handed Tom the last box and stepped onto the dock, while the others tossed the ropes onto the boat. John and James gave it a hearty push and they all began waving enthusiastic farewells and good wishes to their brother. Tom fell over at the boat’s sudden movement, then sat down and roared with laughter. Casey’s startled scream ripped through the air when she saw the boat floating away, and she raced frantically along the dock.
“Come back here! What are you doing? Thomas, bring that boat back right now!” Tom stood, laughing helplessly as he tried to toss the ropes back to shore. Casey’s cries and panic, mingled with the laughter and shouts of her in-laws, attracted the attention of the guests in the yard, who wandered down to lend advice.
“Bye, lad! Have a good time!” James waved, then cupped his hand behind his ear in an effort to hear Tom’s shout. “What?” He pointed at Casey yelling behind him. “Oh you want her?” He turned to his brothers. “Seems he wants Casey with him, but I don’t know what to do about that, now.”
They shook their heads in solemn bewilderment. Casey gave James a shove and rounded on John. “Bring him back! You swim out there right now and bring that boat back!”
“Ah lass, I can’t swim out there,” John started to protest, then whooped in delight as Casey, a determined look on her face, began removing her shoes with the obvious intent of swimming out there herself. This was more than they could have hoped for. Tom began a stern rebuttal to this idea, while once again attempting to throw a rope to shore. Casey’s action brought protests from her sisters-in-law while the wedding guests seemed evenly divided between encouraging her to push John in, or to jump in herself. Her new brothers-in-law actually let her get both shoes off before Willie had a firm arm around her waist, and John and James stood at the edge of the dock to shout encouragement to Tom.
“Come on, lad. Buck up! Pull yourself together and toss us the rope!”
Only the seriousness of Casey jumping into the river, gave Tom the incentive to stop laughing long enough to manage a credible throw. At last, two ropes were safely in the hands of his brothers, who pulled the boat slowly back. Casey barely waited. When the boat was a couple of feet away, she stepped quickly over and into Tom’s arms. He examined her face to see if she was mad. Relieved at the grin she gave him, he pulled her close, and in front of God and everybody, kissed her long and hard. The stuffy Edwardians on the dock responded to this with catcalls and cheers, as the brothers tossed the ropes (and Casey’s shoes) back onto the boat, and waved them off down the lough.
The two-hour trip to Rostrevor kept them busy adjusting sails and steering the boat. Casey was the only crew member and her inexperience meant that Tom had to keep a close watch on everything she did. Still, she was determined to be helpful. After about half an hour, he seemed satisfied with the wind and the progress they were making, and he moved to sit behind her, surprising her by sitting with his legs on either side of her, his hands resting gently on her waist.
He nuzzled her neck, and the boat jerked as her hand slipped from the till. He laughed and helped her right it, but when they were settled again, his hand was on her breast. She couldn’t look away from him. Heart pounding, she moved to kiss him, a kiss that started softly and built in passion, just before the boat jerked again. It was harder to right this time and Tom moved forward to make adjustments. This time, he stayed forward, making light conversation as he pointed out the sights. She’d been down this way in the twenty-first century and described it for him, causing him to shake his head in wonder.
“Cars and paved roads everywhere, traffic lights, large buildings,” he marveled. “Airplanes! It’s hard to imagine, sweetheart.”
She looked around her at the gentle hills, the green, green grass, and the stone walls everywhere, as the lough meandered on its way to the sea. “Yes, but it’s true.” She examined him in a slow way that made him blush. A small smile moved her lips, but she said only, “It’s still considered a quiet country, though. It’s built up, but it still has its charm.”
A blast of wind hit them, and Casey gasped as a wave splashed into the boat. Tom gave her a quick instruction, his voice harsh with surprise. Casey concentrated on her task, fighting a sudden flash of worry that had nothing to do with sailing. Will he change now that we’re married? Will he be dictatorial? Strict and demanding about sex? Will he rush through it and not think about whether I’m enjoying it? Does he think it’s only for procreation? I’ve heard such odd things about how men used to be.
Now that the time was so close, the worry wouldn’t go away, sitting instead like a lump in her stomach. He’s not like what I’ve always heard old-time men were like. He’s funny and kind, not stiff and proper. She tried to remind herself of their past kisses and his frequent hugs. He really was affectionate. But she also remembered all the times when he had been stiff and proper, and would insist that she needed to be that way, too.
“Are you all right, love?” He was pulling a rope tight a final time, but he looked at her with concern. “Did you get hurt?”
She shook her head and he went back to his knot. Before he went forward again, he touched her cheek and brushed a finger over her lips. “The most precious crew I’ve ever had,” he murmured, and her fear seemed to melt, allowing her to smile. It would be all right.
Steering got more difficult as they approached the pier near the cottage, and he gave her several instructions as he adjusted the sails. He lassoed the pole and pulled the boat in the last few feet, then set about securing everything. Casey moved a couple of the boxes to the pier before stepping over herself.
With a deep breath, she lifted a box and smiled wickedly at Tom. “Would you like some help with your boxes, mister? I can carry ’em for you, if you’d like…” Her words trailed away as he laughed with delight and swung himself over to stand beside her, eyes on her face. He just looked at her for a moment, his eyes moving slowly down her neck to her breasts, then her stomach and hips. She felt that look in parts of her body she’d never felt anything before, and she acknowledged to herself that she was simply nervous. For all her talk of sexual freedom and casualness, for all her mother’s lectures on birth control and STDs, and making her own choices about sex, Casey had always been shy about making out. She wanted to spend every minute making love to Tom, but she really didn’t know what to expect.
He took up the other box and slipped an arm around her shoulders, guiding her back toward the cottage that could be seen peeking out from the trees at the bottom of a hill. The area had lots of trees and a few tall hills, one of the reasons Tom said he liked it. They would have privacy, and Casey could relax, without needing to act like an early twentieth-century lady. It had been their biggest reason for wanting to go camping.
For all his insistence on waiting for marriage, Tom seemed to think there was no reason to wait any longer. They had just entered the cottage and paused to look around. Casey knew he’d been up here the day before with his brothers, and Jessie and Nina. The cottage was clean and made up, so she’d have nothing to get ready this first day. Tom put the boxes by the door and she started to return to the boat for the others, but instead, he grabbed her hand and pulled her to him, holding her close and smiling into her eyes.
His voice was low. “Mrs. Andrews.”
She could feel his heart beating and noticed the pulse of it in his neck. She stood on tip-toe to kiss the pulse, breathing in the heat rising from his skin. She would have kissed it again, but his lips found hers in rough urgency, his kiss hot, his tongue playing gently in her mouth. Desire rose up, leaving her helpless and out of control.
Everything she’d ever heard about the awkwardness of getting undressed proved true, with the added impediment of Edwardian undergarments. She still didn’t wear a corset, but she had on everything else and there were all those dratted buttons…
In the end, they contented themselves with removing only what was necessary. He lay her on the bed, kissing her hard, his hands searching for bare skin wherever he could find it. She tried to touch him everywhere at once, excited with the idea that she could touch him–her hands moved inside his shirt, rubbing his back, his shoulders, his chest, his hips… He didn’t wait, entering her almost immediately, pausing a brief moment at her gasp. She kissed him, not wanting him to think she was hurt–she wasn’t–just surprised at the way he felt inside her. The months of waiting took their toll, as he finished quickly, but she didn’t care. His breath in her ear, his moan of pleasure as he poured deeply into her, gave her more joy than she had thought to experience in her entire life.
He’d better not think sex was only for procreation. She’d never let him get away with it.