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Next chapter of Joy's Journey (maybe 7?)

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CHAPTER 7

 

They laid there until the moon was high, each pretending that they were asleep. Joy had to admit that she had, indeed, enjoyed the kiss, and had to control the urges she felt of leaning over and kissing Jack again. She wanted to do so for the right reasons, under the right circumstances, when their friendship had grown into love. She licked her lips, wondering just how long that would take.

 

Jack stared straight up, hoping that he hadn’t made a mistake. The kiss had moved him and something in deep within him had stirred, but he was afraid to let it stir unchecked.

 

“Jack?” Joy asked quietly, propping herself up on her elbow again.

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Are you sleeping?”

 

Jack grinned, not being able to contain himself. “Not anymore!” he laughed.

 

“Oh come on! Were you really? I haven’t heard you snore once.” Joy said indignantly.

 

Jack laughed again and turned to look at her. “No, I guess I’m not.”

 

“What are you thinking?”

 

“Do you really want to know?”

 

Joy nodded, hoping he could see her. When he didn’t continue, she whispered “yes”.

 

“I’m thinking about how much I want to kiss you again.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“What are you thinking about?”

 

“About how much I want you to kiss me again.”

 

“Hmmm. What are we going to do about it?” Jack asked, sitting up on his own elbow and turning to face her.

 

“I don’t know. Kiss?”

 

Jack smiled at her, wanting more than ever to do so. He shook his head. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t be a good idea, Joy. Not here. Not now.”

 

She sighed and laid back down, “I know,” she said, “I know. I just wish…I wish things weren’t so complicated.”

 

Jack rested his head on his fist then reached out and turned her face to look at him. “I want to respect you and your boundaries, Joy, and I know my limits. I’m afraid that we might do something that we would both come to regret later.”

 

Joy smiled, appreciating the man she had married even more than on their wedding night. “You are an incredible man, Dr. Daniels.”

 

Jack smiled and laid back down. “And you are an incredible woman, Mrs. Daniels.”

 

Finally sleep overtook them, and at the first sign of daylight Jack sat up and covered Joy back up. She had thrown some of the covers off the night before, and he hoped she hadn’t gotten too cold. She pulled the covers over her shoulders still half asleep.

 

“What time is it?” she mumbled, cuddling deeper into the quilts.

 

“Early. Go back to sleep.” Jack sat up quietly, trying not to disturb her too much. The legs of his pants were still damp, so he decided to have his time with God while still under the covers. While Joy slept soundly, he greeted his Maker, thanking Him for His protection through the night. He had intended on not sleeping at all, as there was no way of knowing if there was anyone nearby that would want to hurt them. He kept his Winchester next to him through the night, but his eyelids had finally given up and closed.

 

Jack prayed, then recited verses to himself that he knew by heart. He didn’t have a Bible with him, and he determined that there were going to be several things that were going to have to be kept in the wagon once they got back home, starting with a Bible. He prayed again, asking God to guide them through the day. He smiled as he realized that he had automatically included Joy in his prayers. He turned to look at her and brushed her hair away from her face. It was still dirty, but she looked beautiful all the same. He remembered the kiss from the night before, and felt the same feeling he had when he had kissed her.

 

Joy opened her eyes, startling him as he wasn’t expecting her to wake up yet. “What are you doing?” she yawned, stretching under the covers.

 

“Just thinking. How did you sleep?”

 

Joy smiled, and stretched again. “Not bad for the back of a wagon,” she said sitting up. “What do you want for breakfast?” she grinned, pulling the covers around her shoulders.

 

“Breakfast? Let’s see, my favorite. Corn pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brows and a blueberry muffin. And to wash it all down, a tall glass of apple juice, with a good, strong cup of coffee.”

 

“Is that all?” Joy laughed, watching him lick his lips. “Corn pancakes? How do you make those?”

 

“I don’t. I buy them. There was a place in town that sold them, and I used to take Luke out for breakfast there once in a while,” he smiled as he remembered Luke’s first time trying the pancakes. “As far as I know, you just add corn kernels the way you would blueberries.”

 

Joy nodded thoughtfully, wishing that she could make some for him now. She wished she could make anything right now. Her stomach growled and Jack looked at her a little surprised. “Making you hungry, am I?”

 

Joy smiled and nodded her head. “How about some apples for breakfast instead?” she asked, reaching for the backpack. She pulled two apples and the two last bottles of water. “This is all we have left, and a couple of cookies. You can have the cookies,” she said giving him an apple and a bottle.

 

“There are two. Sure you don’t want one?” He asked holding up the nearly empty container.

 

Joy shook her head. “I’ll be fine with the apple. Do we pray for apples and water for breakfast?”

 

Jack laughed and reached for her hand. “We sure do. He provided them, didn’t He?”

 

Joy grinned and bowed her head as Jack led them in a simple prayer thanking God for apples, cookies and water. And for their safety. And for each other.

 

Joy said amen quietly when he was done, and they both ate their apples in silence. Jack wolfed the cookies down, complimenting her again. “They’re still good,” he winked at her.

 

“And you’re still hungry,” she grinned back.

 

Joy felt better after eating the apple, and pulled her mirror and brush out of her backpack. “Jack! Why didn’t you tell me I was still so dirty?” she exclaimed embarrassed by how she looked.

 

“I told you, I would have if it made a difference.”

 

“What do you mean?” she asked, brushing her hair, trying to look halfway decent.

 

Jack smiled slightly and reached over and pulled her hair gently. “I mean that you look beautiful either way.”

 

Joy blushed and lowered her gaze, not sure how to respond to that. Jack felt a little uncomfortable too, so he stood and then sat down quickly, remembering that he was only wearing his boxers. This time he blushed, making Joy laugh. He reached over for his pants, trying to avoid her eyes, making her laugh even more. Finally he was ready, and turned to look at her, a smile in his eyes.

 

“You keep laughing Mrs. Daniels. You keep laughing. Just remember, what goes around, comes around,” he said bending to take a look at her foot. “How’s it feeling?”

 

Joy ran her hand over it, glad that it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been the day before. “It doesn’t hurt as bad. Looks like you were right, I just needed to stay off of it and be carried around for a while.”

 

Jack grinned, and sat down next to her to roll his pants up. They were still damp from the day before, but he didn’t want to get them all wet again. He sighed and looked at Joy. “I’m glad you are doing better. Are you up for a ride?”

 

Joy nodded her head eagerly, wanting to get back to her kids. She was surprised that the feelings that she had for Jack’s kids were almost as strong as the ones she had for Victoria, and realized that she was coming to love them as her own.

 

“Ok. Why don’t you pack up the backpack and put it on, and then I’ll carry you over to the stallion. No sense in both of us getting wet. We’ll have to get over there quick, and then I’ll come back with help. Hopefully the stuff will be fine between now and then.”

 

Joy nodded and busied herself getting the backpack ready. She carefully filled it with as much as she could, including the cookbook that had belonged to Jack’s mother. It looked to be very old, and she couldn’t wait to see what was in it. She swung the backpack on her back and then climbed on his back. “How ‘bout a piggyback ride?” she asked softly in his ear.

 

Jack shrugged and nodded. He lifted her up by her legs, careful where he put his hands. “You got everything?” he asked looking back at the wagon. It had been a tight place to sleep in, but he hadn’t minded sleeping in close quarters with his wife. Joy nodded, wishing they didn’t have to leave their stuff behind. She prayed quietly that the Lord would keep it safe until they were able to get it back.

 

As they made their way across the stream, Jack stopped, as if listening. “What’s wrong?” Joy whispered in his ear. Jack shook his head, and listened again.

 

“I don’t think we are alone, Joy. Let’s go. I’ll have to look around later, we are no position to defend ourselves very well.” Jack said, kicking himself mentally for not being so. I have to remember that this is not the same world we lived in! He thought.

 

Joy nodded and prayed again for their stuff. I know its just stuff, Lord, but it came from Jack’s family, and I know it means a lot to him. It means a lot to me.

 

Jack lifted her gently on the horse and then got on himself, careful not to knock her over. They made their way home quickly, but not so fast as to hurt Joy’s ankle.

 

Half way there, they heard someone else on a horse and were relieved to see that it was Seth. “Jack! Joy!” he exclaimed when he saw them. “Are you guys okay? We’ve been looking for you all night!”

 

Jack and Joy smiled and waved at Seth, glad that they had been found. “Seth! It’s good to see ya man. We got a flat tire on the wagon, so we had to stay overnight. Do you mind going to stay with the things while I take Joy home? I’ll come back with another tire and then do you mind helping me with it?”

 

Seth nodded and waved as he passed by them. “No problem. Just glad to see you two are okay. Where is it?”

 

“Over by the stream,” Jack pointed. “About a couple miles up.”

 

Jack kicked the stallion again, eager to get home. He smiled as Joy put her head against his back, and enjoyed the rest of their trip. As they approached the Larson’s old farm, Jack could see that there were several people out, looking worried. One of them pointed their way and they all rushed to see them.

 

“Joy! Jack! Thank God you two are okay,” Ed said as he helped Joy down and gave her a hug. They all talked excitedly for a little bit, and after Jack had a chance to see the kids, he excused himself to go change.

 

“I’ll be back in a while, Joy,” he said to her. “Hopefully with the wagon, and before lunch.”

 

Joy smiled up at him, nervous about him leaving. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but somehow she felt like something wasn’t right. She reached up and pushed his hair back in place that the wind had blown over, and smiled weakly. “Take care out there, okay?”

 

Jack smiled and nodded. “Will do. See you at lunch,” he said reaching for his hat. He went to the cabin to change and then went to the garage, looking at Mr. Larson’s pile of old junk. He knew that he kept almost everything, including tires. After a few minutes of looking around, he found the right size of tire he was looking for and the equipment he needed to change it with. He got the stallion, then quickly made his way back to the stream. Jack marveled at how much better he felt having dry clothes on, and wished he could have had time to eat some more.

 

Jack slowed down as he approached the area where he and Joy had spent the night. He stopped and listened, but couldn’t hear anything wrong. He kept going, but cautiously. Like Joy, he knew that something wasn’t right, but there was nothing that he could see or hear to explain what he felt. He decided to go with his instincts, so got off the stallion and tied it to a tree. He walked quietly, stopping often to listen. Then he heard it. It was talking, and there were several voices. He knelt down, wanting to make himself as invisible as he could. Jack hid behind some bushes, trying to get a good view of what was happening.

 

To his surprise, Seth was there, outnumbered by at least three other men. Jack didn’t recognize any of them, and he pulled his gun out of its holster as quietly as he could. He watched the situation carefully, not wanting to jump to any conclusions. The wagon was no longer in the stream, and it looked as if the group had changed the tire and gotten it out. Seth seemed to be in a kneeling position in the stream, and Jack could tell that his hands were tied behind his back. One of the men, the youngest one, pointed a gun in Seth’s direction, wanting to make sure that he was not going to try and escape. Jack looked around, wondering were the rest of the group was. He knew that it wasn’t likely that there were just three men, and that if he wasn’t careful, he would end up in the same position as Seth.

 

Jack looked around the woods, and finally spotted the rest of the group. He noticed that there were only women and made a quick decision. He hated what he had to do, but there was no way that he was going to let anything worse happen to his friend. He watched carefully for a little while more, determining that there were two women and a teenage girl. Jack figured that they were a family, but had yet to determine if they were friendly or not. He didn’t like how they were treating his friend, so decided that he would play it extra safe. He crawled his way around quietly, glad that it seemed as if no one had noticed him yet. He watched the men carefully, noting the three generations among them. They were loud, splashing around in the stream, and didn’t seem to be thinking about watching their surroundings. Seth kept quiet, but his eyes were darting around, searching his surroundings. The men around Seth kept talking, trying to decide what to do with him. Apart from having Seth bound and helpless, the men seemed to not be hurting him. Jack was sure that his knees and feet were probably getting numb by now, and wished that they would get him out of the stream.

 

Jack made his way around carefully, not wanting to give away his position. He stopped often, listening, making sure he was still going undetected. Finally, he came to a bush behind the women and he knelt there quietly, waiting for a good time to make his move. He debated what woman to go for, again wishing that he didn’t have to make this decision. The men were now pulling Seth out of the stream, unaware of Jack’s presence. Seth continued to look around, but didn’t let his eyes stay in one place too long for fear of the men seeing whatever he was looking for. Jack knew Seth was looking for him, but he didn’t dare give away his position to him. He inched his way towards the women, deciding to take the youngest of the three. He figured that the older ones would be more likely to fight back, so he again waited for an opportune time. It soon came, and he made a jump, grabbing the young girl’s arm and twisting it behind her back, holding her in a grasp. She yelled loudly, and Jack got the attention he wanted. All eyes turned on him as the other ladies also began to yell.

 

“Now wait a minute, wait a minute,” Jack yelled above the ladies, still holding on to the teenager tightly but trying not to hurt her. “I’m not going to hurt her. But you need to let the man go,” he said still loudly, nodding towards Seth. Seth looked at him a little confused, but didn’t let on that he knew Jack.

 

“Let go of the girl,” one of the men shouted, pointing his gun at Jack. Jack knew that none of them had a good shot. If they did shoot, they would have to risk hurting the girl. He stayed behind her, wishing there was another way.

 

“Look, you let go of the man, give him his gun back, and I will let go of the girl. This is my property. It has a no trespassing sign, and you are trespassing. Now let go of the man and leave,” Jack said evenly, his voice sounding a lot more confident than he felt.

 

“This is your property?” the man asked, looking at the older man rather uneasily. The older man lowered his gun slightly and tried to get a better look at Jack.

 

“How can we know that this is your property?” the older man asked, but still held his gun towards Jack.

 

“Well, it is. I’ve owned it for several years now. Now let go of the man and I will let go of the girl.”

 

The men looked at each other unsure of what to do. “Alright. Let’s do this. My brother-in-law told me that the owner of this property would see to it that we would be taken care of as long as we pulled our own weight. We aren’t here for handouts, we just need a piece of land to live on for a few days while my wife gets better. He said that the owner was a man of honor and would follow through on his promise to take care of him. I know this man’s name. Tell me your initials and if they match the ones that I know, then we can proceed from there.”

 

Jack eyed the older man cautiously, trying to place who his brother-in-law could be. Is he lying? Jack wondered to himself. He glanced at Seth who nodded his head slightly as to say “go ahead”.

 

“What reassurances do I have that if I am indeed the man in question that you will let this man go?” Jack asked, hoping that they could come to a peaceful way out of this.

 

“We will let him go first,” the old man said. The other man started to argue, but the old man lifted his hand to silence him. “And we will give him his gun back if he agrees not to use it against us.”

 

Seth nodded quickly, and then nodded again at Jack. Jack sighed, and then nodded his own head. “Alright. My initials are J.A.D.”

 

The old man let out a sigh, but didn’t lower his weapon. “J.A.D, you say?”

 

Jack nodded once more, and unknowingly tightened his grip on the girl until she whimpered. He immediately loosened it enough to not hurt her, but still keep a good hold on her.

 

“Do people call you something that your father never approved of?” the old man asked, wanting to make sure.

 

Jack nodded. “After a liquor,” he smiled in spite of himself.

 

The older man lowered his weapon and nodded at the other man. “Let the man go and give him back his gun. Keep him in your sights though, we want to make sure he isn’t going to try something funny.”

 

The other man did as he was told, and Jack figured that they really must be father and son.

 

Seth took his gun and walked slowly away from the men. “Now how do we know that this is resolved?” Seth asked cautiously.

 

Jack still held on to the girl, who was beginning to cry again. Jack winced, wishing again that he didn’t have to do this.

 

“My name is John Brown,” the old man said. “The young lady you are holding is my granddaughter, Marcy. And I believe you know my brother-in-law, Timothy Johnston. He was married to my sister, Lucy Johnston. They owned a furniture store in a small town, not too far from here.”

 

Jack nodded his head, but wondered how easy it would be to obtain that information and then use it to hurt him. “Tell me something that isn’t general knowledge about your family,” Jack asked, not wanting to put himself in a bad place.

 

“My wife, Lucy, and Timothy were twins. Actually, they were triplets, but the other sibling, a baby girl; died at childbirth, as did their mother. You have also just lost your wife recently, leaving you with a young boy and two newborn twins.”

 

Jack knew the story well and let the young girl go, relieved that this man was who he said he was. Marcy ran to her mother in tears and Jack put his gun back into his holster as a sign that the ordeal was over. John followed suit, and then nodded at his son and grandson to do the same. The last one to do so was Seth, and he still stayed a safe distance from them, where he knew he could out draw them if he had to.

 

“So, what happened here?” Jack asked coming to meet the group.

 

“Well, last night Jason here accidentally shot his rifle, and we saw what happened to your horse,” John said, looking at the young man.

 

“I’m sorry about that,” Jason said quietly and hung his head. Jack nodded in acknowledgement, but what he really wanted to know was why they had taken Seth like that.

 

“Well, we knew that this stuff wasn’t this man’s, but it looked to us like he was getting ready to take it. So we thought that we owed you to at least care for your stuff until you came back to get it. We apparently just missed you, because we had just changed the tire and pushed the wagon out, when he showed up saying that this was his stuff and to stay away from it. We knew different and there was more of us than of him, and you know the rest of the story.”

 

Jack nodded and smiled at Seth. “This is Seth Adams. He’s my good friend and neighbor. It looks like you were both just out to take care of my stuff. Thanks for watching my back,” Jack said sincerely.

 

“Hope there isn’t any hard feelings,” John said as he and Seth shook hands.

 

Seth shook his head and then turned to shake the other man’s hand. “No hard feelings with you either? Sorry about that blow.”

 

The man, who said that his name was Paul, laughed and for the first time Jack noticed the dried blood on his nose. He figured that Seth hadn’t gone down without a fight, and was glad to see that things had turned out so well.

 

They stood there and talked for a while, with the women joining in as well. The family had left the twin cities to come and stay with Mr. Johnston. They had arrived a little too late, however, as they were confronted with the sad reality of the store burning.

 

“Some group of guys had thought it was funny to taunt Timothy’s son, Bob, and had threatened to hurt Timothy when he told them to get off of his property,” Paul said sadly. “In an attempt to save the store, Bob died when part of the roof collapsed, taking him and everything in the store with him. At the same time, Timothy had a heart attack, and that’s when we arrived. He would have died right away, but Jason here,” he paused and gave the young man a pat on the back, “has studied some first aid and gave him CPR.”

 

Jack’s heart was heavy, hearing of his dear old friend and his family. “So where is he now?” he asked, hoping that Mr. Johnston had made it.

 

“He died a couple of days later,” Paul continued, his voice softening. “Andrea, his granddaughter, is nowhere to be found, and we’re afraid that she may have also been trapped in the fire. Timothy suffered a second heart attack, one that he was not able to overcome. However, before dying, he told John about you, and how you had promised to take care of him and his family. So we decided to come and look for you and see if you would be willing to let us stay on your land for a little while. We have a cabin up in Canada, just across the border, but my Mom is very ill and can’t travel for at least a couple of weeks. We can take care of ourselves, we just need a place to stay for at least a few days.”

 

Jack nodded his head thoughtfully, and turned to look at Seth. Seth shrugged slightly as if saying that it really was up to Jack. “Well, there has been some changes in the Reservation here, and if you are going to stay here, even if for a little while, you will probably want to know of their laws. How old is your daughter?” he asked, nodding slightly at the young girl he had taken captive a few minutes before.

 

Paul frowned as he followed Jack’s gaze. “She’s sixteen. Why do you want to know?”

 

Jack scratched his eyebrow and then rubbed his hand across his face. “I’ll have to explain all that later. She is fine for now. Where are you camped?”

 

John and Paul told Jack where they were, and they agreed that they could move in closer to the log home. Seth informed Jack that Mr. Bodaway had brought his workers in to push for the house being done sometime this week. The kitchen was ready as were a couple of the rooms, and Seth thought that Jack could move in pretty soon if he didn’t mind the mess.

 

They all talked a little while more, deciding just where the family would camp. It would take them a while to move their camp, but it would be worth it as they would be near the stream and would be able to use the water. Jack and Seth agreed to check back with them at a later date, and maybe even trade a few items.

 

Seth and Jack got the wagon ready and they parted ways with the family. “Well, good thing that turned out well, huh?” Jack asked.

 

Seth scoffed a little, rubbing his legs. “Speak for yourself, man, my legs are killing me!”

 

Jack joined Seth as he laughed, and soon they retrieved Jack’s stallion and slowly, but surely, made their way back to the farm.

 

The rest of the week went by quickly with preparations for Roger and Marie’s wedding, and getting the log cabin ready. Joy made the trip to the cabin daily, getting more tired of doing it every day. She knew that Jack spent any spare time he had at the log-home and was working hard to get that ready for them. She often only saw him at meals, and then he would go back out again in the evenings. She asked once if she could go out to see how it was going, and was disappointed when Jack shook his head.

 

“Do you mind waiting? I know I’ve been asking a lot of you, taking care of the kids so long, but we are almost done. I’ve been working as hard and as fast as I can to get the place ready. I think you’ll like it. I’ve also been doing some other things that I think you’ll like. I hope, anyway. Then I was thinking that you could come over and put things were you want them, and your womanly touch. Juan said that he and Marco would be willing to help me move some stuff from here, and that will be tomorrow. Then I promise you can come over tomorrow, as soon as we’re done.”

 

Joy had nodded her head, but had been disappointed. Her curiosity was roused even more, but she resigned herself to waiting one more day. On Thursday night Jack came back tired and late as usual. Joy figured it was after nine in the evening as the sun was almost down. The kids were all sleeping, and Joy was exhausted as well. She had prepared as much stuff as she could to move to the log home, marking the boxes by numbers according to what was more important and where they went. She had also had a chance to get to see her stuff when Rebecca had stopped by and offered to take care of the kids. After a long day, Joy had finally gotten everything organized in a way that it would make it easier for her to unpack.

 

Jack walked in the door and took his hat off. “I’m sorry I’m so late, Joy,” he said noting that she looked about as tired as he felt. “How was your day?”

 

Joy lay on her arm and looked up at him from the table. “Good, I guess. I got a lot done. And yours?”

 

Jack smiled slightly as he sat down and took his boots off. “Hard, but good. I have some good news. More guys came out to help, and everything is ready for us to move in.”

 

Joy shot strait up and let out a little yelp. “Really Jack?” She got up and went to where he was sitting and wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a squeeze. “Oh, I can’t wait to see it!”

 

Jack laughed softly, not wanting to wake any of the kids up. “Rebecca came by after she was here with you and offered to come tomorrow morning to take care of the kids so that you can go and really see it. Juan said that someone could stay at the house with Victoria until we can come back and get them.”

 

Joy sat on the floor in front of Jack and crossed her legs. Her eyes were shining, and seeing how happy she was, made Jack wish and hope for more times like this. She looked like a little girl just before Christmas, not being able to wait to open the presents.

 

“Do you need help getting Victoria?” Jack asked, not wanting the moment to end, but knowing that Joy needed to hurry if she was going to have any daylight left.

 

Joy shook her head. “Nope.”

 

“You’re all ready?”

 

“Nope,” Joy shook her head again and then laughed softly when Jack looked at her confused. “The kids had a great idea today, and I had a tough time arguing. If you have a problem with it, you’ll have to let me know right away so that I can go back to the house. But, we decided that Victoria and I are staying here tonight, with you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CHAPTER 8

 

 

Jack looked at Joy still puzzled, but amused at the look of determination on her face. “You are going to stay here?”

 

Joy nodded, her ponytail bopping up and down as she moved her head. “Yup. Victoria is already snuggled in, and I’ve arranged a small bed for Luke so that you can sleep on his bed. I’ll sleep with Victoria, and the twins will stay where they normally stay. Is that okay?”

 

Jack smiled and nodded his head. “Sure! I just wish we had thought of this sooner. It would have saved you a lot of trouble.”

 

Joy nodded and leaned on him to stand up. “Well, I thought it was still going to be a while before we moved into the house, but I still think it’s a good idea. Oh, Jack, I can’t wait ‘till tomorrow! I’m so excited! Everything is painted, and ready to be moved into?”

 

Jack nodded his head and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. They had worked hard, really hard. There were still some things to be done, but that was mainly stuff that Joy would be in charge of, like putting away dishes and deciding where the furniture would go. All the heavy stuff was there, and what wasn’t would be moved the next day. He looked at Joy and wondered if she was up for the challenge. The garden needed a lot of attention as did the animals, and then he still wanted to finish the furniture he had started making. It was taking much longer than he thought it would, even with John’s help. He couldn’t wait to show it to Joy, though. He was sure that she would like it, after all, it was homemade!

 

“Are you hungry at all?” Joy interrupted his thoughts, getting out some brownies that she had baked. Jack nodded his head eagerly, licking his lips.

 

As Joy served him a couple of pieces together with a cool glass of milk, Jack wondered when he should approach the subject of the sleeping arrangements with her. Mr. Bodaway had approached him earlier in the week about it, and what he had said had made Jack’s blood boil.

 

“Jack, there’s talk around town that you and Joy aren’t really married.” Mr. Bodaway had said to him privately over lunch one day. Jack had looked at him surprised, but knew that this was going to be an issue sooner or later. He just hadn’t expected it quite this soon.

 

“Because we aren’t living together?” Jack asked and then wrapped his mouth around the sandwich Joy had made him.

 

Mr. Bodaway had nodded his head and took a bite out of his own sandwich. “I’ve told people that you are waiting to move into your new home together.”

 

Jack had nodded his head, glad to that Mr. Bodaway was trying to help them. “Is that why you have pushed so hard to get this done?”

 

Mr. Bodaway grunted a little, his way of saying yes. After a few moments of silence, Mr. Bodaway continued. “I think you should sleep with her, Jack. I mean in the same bed. What ever else you do is none of my business.”

 

Jack stopped what he was doing and stared at the man in front of him. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, that Simon guy has been stirring up trouble. He has been watching Joy go back and forth to the cabin, and is telling everyone that you aren’t really married. Wamblee will be speaking to you about this very soon, too. Just wanted you to be prepared.” And with that, he had left.

 

Now Jack sighed as he glanced at Joy. “So you are okay staying here for the night?” he asked, not sure where else to start.

 

Joy nodded her head. “Yes, if you don’t mind sleeping in Luke’s bed. It’s a little crowded in there because of all the boxes, but I think you can still get around.”

 

“Fine with me. I’m so tired I could probably fall asleep right here. Have you given any more thought of the sleeping arrangements once we move?”

 

Joy looked at him quizzically, trying to figure out where he was going with this. “What do you mean?”

 

Jack took a bite of the brownie, wanting to make some time to figure out what it was that he was saying. He chewed slowly, until Joy finally swatted him playfully on his arm. “Come on! The suspense is killing me!”

 

Jack swallowed and laughed, trying hard not to choke. “Okay, okay! Sorry! I just, well, I,” Jack felt uncomfortable, not knowing what exactly to say.

 

“Do you think we should just move in together?” Joy offered, trying to help.

 

Jack nodded. “I talked to Mr. Bodaway, and he seemed to think it should be more than just that.”

 

“More?” Joy raised her eyebrows. “More how?”

 

“Well,” Jack paused again, and then let out a breath. “Apparently there has been some talk around town about us not really being married. I don’t know how much problems they can cause, but I’d rather not find out.”

 

Joy looked at Jack, trying to read what he was saying, without having to ask. Finally she did. “So, what do you suggest Jack?”

 

Jack took another bite and chewed it slowly once again. “I, well, I don’t know, really. What do you think?”

 

Joy sat back down across from him, not really knowing what to say herself. She thought she had given a good step by moving into the cabin, but wasn’t sure how far Jack was wanting to take things. She shook her head, more than anything to clear it, and sighed. “Well, I’m not sure either. What would get the rumors to stop?”

 

Jack cleared his throat and looked straight at her for the first time. “I suppose if we slept in the same room, that would quiet them down. I could sleep on the floor,” he continued quickly, wanting to reassure her. “I’m not looking for ways to make you uncomfortable, Joy. I just don’t want any more problems than what they have already put us through.”

 

Joy nodded her head, knowing in her heart that she could trust Jack. “I know Jack. It’s not you. I’m just not ready for, well, you know,” she stammered, not really wanting to take the conversation that far.

 

Jack nodded and reached over to pat her hand. “I know Joy. I just don’t want Simon or someone else coming in the middle of the night saying that you are not my wife, you know?”

 

Joy nodded and smiled sheepishly at Jack. “You’d really sleep on the floor?” she teased.

 

Jack nodded, giving her a smile of his own. “Sure! It shouldn’t be so bad!”

 

Joy grinned and then shook her head. “Well, let me think about it, okay? I think I can come up with something that will be good for both of us.”

 

Jack nodded once, and stuffed the last of the brownie in his mouth. “These are good!” he said, his voice muffled with the brownie.

 

Joy laughed softly and reached for his plate and glass. “You better get some rest, it’s getting late. What time do you want to go to the house tomorrow?”

 

“Right after breakfast, as soon as Rebecca gets here. She should be here early, and she said that if you made breakfast she’d be happy to give it to the kids.”

 

Joy nodded and got some stuff ready to make the next morning easier for her. Jack came by and offered to give her a hand, but Joy could tell he was too tired to even stand up straight.

 

“Okay, then. Where do you want me to sleep?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

 

Joy motioned toward Luke’s room, were the door was slightly open. “Good night, Jack. Sleep well,” she whispered quietly as he opened the door.

 

“Good night, Joy, you too.”

 

Jack quickly got ready for bed, appreciating that Joy seemed to have things ready for him to wear. There was also a set of clothes for the next day, down to his boxer shorts and t-shirt. He felt special, taken care of. He noted, too, that there were clothes ready for Luke for the next day. Finally he crawled into Luke’s bed, glad that another day was over, and that they could start another chapter of their lives the next day.

 

The night went by quickly for Jack, but he felt well rested when he woke up. By the position of the sun he guessed that it was about six thirty or so, and was glad that he had some time to himself before the day really got started. He sat up on Luke’s bed and reached for his Bible that Joy had put with his clothes the night before. He opened it up and had his personal time with his Friend.

 

After some time, he rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes to pray. He prayed of anything he could think of, from their new home to their kids, to his work, to his desire to be a good a good husband to Joy.

 

“Jack?” Joy whispered knocking lightly on the door. “Are you awake?”

 

Jack smiled, knowing that the waiting was killing Joy. He debated for a second whether he should pretend that he was still sleeping or not, and decided that she had waited long enough. “I’ll be right out,” he whispered, trying not to wake Luke up.

 

He dressed quickly and got ready for the day, then joined Joy in the main room. “How did you sleep?” he asked quietly, noting that she had breakfast ready and was putting some stuff together for them to take for lunch.

 

Joy smiled and shook her head. “I was way too excited! How did you sleep?”

 

“Like a baby. Thanks for setting my clothes out, I really appreciate it,” Jack said sitting down at the table. He waited for Joy to join him and then took her hand and prayed quietly for their food. They ate quickly, saving any conversation for later. Once they were done, Jack cleared the table as Joy got the picnic basket ready to go. She set the table for the kids and put the cereal out. As soon as she had done that, Rebecca knocked on the door and let herself in after Jack unlocked it.

 

They talked briefly, then Rebecca shoed them out. “It’s almost seven thirty, and you guys have a lot to do. I have all day to be here, and later on my mom may come and trade with me, but there will be someone to be with the kids all day. Take your time, okay? We’ll be fine.”

 

Jack and Joy thanked Rebecca and then made their way across the lake as quickly as they could. Jack knew that this was important to Joy and wanted to make the best of it.

 

Joy was so excited she could hardly contain herself. She could tell that Jack and the other men had put a lot of work into the house just from the outside. They had cleaned up well, and the place looked halfway decent from the outside, aside from the natural beauty of the logs. Jack carried the basket and they made their way to their new home. Once on the porch, Jack set the basket down and unlocked the door. He opened the door, but only slightly, then turned and picked up Joy, surprising her.

 

“Jack, what are you doing?” Joy exclaimed, putting her arms around his neck.

 

Jack laughed and carried her into the house. “Nothing that any self-respecting man wouldn’t do if they could,” he said, putting her down gently. “Carrying my new bride over the thresh-hold of our new home.”

 

Joy laughed and gave Jack a hug. “Oh, Jack the place looks great!” She walked around, admiring the work they had done. The kitchen was finished, and Joy loved the hunter green color they had painted the cabinets with and the natural wood counter tops. She noticed that there was no refrigerator, but in it’s place were a set of two wall ovens surrounded by a set of cabinets. The windows above the farm style sink gave a view of the garden, and past that, the stream, where the bridge that she and Jack had sat at and talked earlier that same week. There was a large island with all the storage space she could want in the middle of the kitchen, with an area for a breakfast bar. The large propane stove was located near the ovens, and it came with its own oven.

 

“Three ovens?” She asked looking back at Jack.

 

Jack nodded and joined her in the kitchen. “Mr. Bodaway said that since we didn’t have electricity anyway, he’d put the ovens in instead of the fridge. I thought you wouldn’t mind.”

 

Joy smiled and nodded, but kept looking around, wanting to take it all in. A door opposite the ovens led to a mudroom with a toilet and a sink in a small, but separate bathroom. There was a separate door to come into the house from the mudroom, one that Joy was sure would be used often. There was a bench with storage underneath it as well as hooks to hang coats on, and places to clean work boots. The floor was made out of stone, and easy to take care of.

 

Joy walked back out into the main room, and was surprised by the size of the fireplace. The stone around it went all the way up to the ceiling, and there was a wooden mantle that looked like it had just recently been put there.

 

“Did you make this?” Joy asked, running her hand over the smooth wood.

 

Jack nodded, pleased that she had noticed. “Just got it up last night.”

 

He followed her into each of the rooms, enjoying the “ooh’s” and “aah’s” as she exclaimed over and over about the beauty of it all. The walls that were painted were just the color that she had hoped for, and she couldn’t wait to get everything in place. The last place they went to was the upstairs loft.

 

“Oh, Jack, you didn’t!” Joy exclaimed when she saw what he had set it up for. The treadle sewing machine that Liz had given Joy was there, and it looked as though someone had gone through great lengths at getting the area set up for her with her craft supplies and sewing items.

 

Jack smiled and nodded, wishing he could take more credit for the room. “This was all your sisters and mom, Joy. They took turns coming up here to get it ready for you. They called it their ‘wedding present’ to you.”

 

Joy laughed, knowing that they probably had fun doing it. “I, I don’t know what to say!” she said, tears of happiness forming in her eyes.

 

Jack took a step closer to her and reached for her hand. “I’m just so glad you like it. I was so afraid that we were doing it wrong, but your family assured me that we were doing it right. You do like it, right?”

 

“Like it? I love the place, Jack!” Joy said letting go and swinging herself into his arms. She held him tight for a minute, enjoying his strong arms wrapped around her. Then she pulled back far enough to look straight into his eyes. “Thank you, Jack,” she said, kissing him lightly on the cheek.

 

Jack bit the inside of his cheek and closed his eyes as she kissed him, trying to control his emotions. “Your more than welcome,” he said quietly.

 

They went back downstairs and sat on the couch that Jack had bought from Mr. Johnston. “So, tell me what I’m dealing with here, Jack. What is there that I need to get used to?”

 

Jack scratched his chin and then ran his hand across his face. “Aside from no electricity and no fridge you mean?” he waited to see Joy nod and then cleared his throat. “Cold water.”

 

“Cold water?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“That’s it?” Joy asked, hoping that it was.

 

“What do you mean that’s it? Believe me, it’s going to be a pain to take showers in the wintertime! Not to mention washing laundry and dishes,” Jack said, nodding towards one of the bathrooms.

 

Joy laughed, knowing what Jack was thinking. “I’ll be fine, Jack. We’ll figure something out. I like all the skylights. Were they there originally?”

 

Jack shook his head, looking up at one of them. “ No, they weren’t. But they add a lot more light, and they are well insulated so they shouldn’t bring in more cold in the wintertime.”

 

Joy nodded, obviously pleased. “You guys did a great job, Jack. Thank you,” she said reaching over and putting her hand on his arm. “I’ve never lived anywhere as beautiful as this, and I am so thankful for it. For you,” she ended quietly, her face starting to blush.

 

Jack looked down at the wooden floor he had spent long hours putting in, embarrassed by the attention he was getting. He wasn’t used to this at all. The relationship he had with his first wife had been one of mutual respect, but not necessarily mutual admiration. He had respected and loved Carol as best as he could, but often felt undermined as a husband and father. Carol was almost as good of a man as he was, with hardly any feminine traits at all. That had been what had attracted him to her to begin with, that she was able to keep up with anything he did. And he had loved her until her death.

 

But this relationship that was starting to blossom with Joy was different. He felt stronger, more like a man. He felt almost as if he were more alive, like he had more to give. And to Jack’s surprise, instead of wanting to not give anymore, he felt like giving more. He glanced at Joy, taken by her beauty again. Her soft lips parted as if she was going to say something more, but then decided against it. She had not let go of his arm, but kept it there, feeling warm against his skin. The smell of her perfume flooded his nostrils, almost to the point of intoxication and Jack started to feel like he would soon lose his resolve to wait to be with her until the right time. He knew that this was his body commanding, not his emotions or his will. He stood up suddenly, surprising Joy.

 

“You, you are more than welcome, Joy,” he said looking down at her. “I was happy to do it.”

 

Joy bit her lip and looked at him a little confused. Had she gone to far? Had she pushed him away? She nodded, not knowing what else to do. She felt ashamed, embarrassed that she had reached out and he hadn’t responded in kind. She had hoped to maybe move the relationship along, especially if they were going to sleep in the same room, possibly in the same bed.

 

Joy cleared her throat and stood up, putting her hands in her back pockets. “So what do we do now?” she asked quietly, wanting to just cut the chase and jump into his arms.

 

Jack let out a deep breath and looked around. “Well, some of the guys will come over later and will help us move stuff in. If you tell me where you want things to be, I’ll make sure they get there. If we start with the bedrooms, then we will at least have a place to sleep.”

 

Joy nodded her head, trying to focus on the task at hand. They spent the morning rearranging things so that Luke and Victor shared a room and Victoria and Grace shared another. Juan and some of the others came to help, putting beds and other furniture in place. Jack shook his head in amazement at God’s provision. Joy had brought Victoria’s crib that they would use for Grace, and Luke’s crib had been put into a storage unit that Jack had set up away from the house and had survived the fire. It had all of Luke’s baby stuff that could be used for Victor. Joy spent a good amount of time getting the kid’s rooms ready, and Jack was amazed at how nice they looked. She used some of the quilts that his grandma had made, after she had left them outside to air out for a while.

 

By early afternoon, the kids’ rooms were ready as was most of the kitchen and living room. They didn’t have a dinning room table, but would borrow the one from the cabin until Jack could make a bigger one for them. The last room that they tackled was the master bedroom.

 

Joy told the men were she wanted to have the bed, and the men put it in place. She wished they had more furniture as the room looked empty, and she wanted a place for them to put their clothes. She put that out of her mind, determined to be happy with what she had. As the men left again, she busied herself making the bed, putting the large quilt that Jack’s mother had made. As she was putting the last touches on the bed, the men came back in, this time carrying a large burgundy chest of drawers and a couple of matching nightstands.

 

Joy looked at them surprised, wondering were they had gotten them. “Where are those from?” she asked, running her hand on the surface of the chest of drawers.

 

“We made them,” Allen said proudly.

 

“You made them?” Joy asked incredulously.

 

“Well, we didn’t really make them,” Juan admitted. “We refinished them. Mr. Larson had apparently made them years ago, together with a dresser that we will bring in when it’s ready. Where do you want us to put them?”

 

Joy bit her bottom lip, trying to not show too much excitement. She thanked them for refinishing them and told them where she wanted the furniture. She looked at her watch, and decided that it was way past lunchtime. Juan and the others excused themselves and left, leaving Jack and Joy alone again.

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t get lunch out sooner. I bet you’re hungry,” Joy said getting their lunch out.

 

Jack joined her after washing his hands and reached for her hand to pray. They ate silently, both realizing just how hungry they really were.

 

“It really is taking shape, isn’t it?” Jack asked when he was finished with his food.

 

Joy nodded, looking around herself. “I’m having so much fun! And we are almost done. I bet we could eat supper here tonight and sleep here, too. What do you think?”

 

Jack shrugged, then nodded his head. “Sure, why not?” He helped Joy clean up, then told her that he would make one more trip to move things over, and then he’d go back to get the kids. “You think you’ll have supper ready by then?”

 

Joy grinned and reached over to pat his stomach. “You thinking of supper already, Dr. Daniels?”

 

“You betcha!” Jack laughed and put his hat on. Joy followed him outside to the wagon and watched him climb up. “Anything specific you want me to bring?”

 

Joy nodded, putting her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun. “I’ve numbered the boxes. Just bring the lowest number boxes that you can. That should give me plenty to do. Some of them are more for comfort than anything, but I think that’s important too. I have enough dishes and pots and pans here to make supper, so I’ll just start with that. Three ovens! You know how much food I can make with those?”

 

Jack laughed and took the brake off the wagon. “I’m counting on it!”

 

Joy went back into the house to keep organizing the house while she waited for Jack. She decided to pull out what she would make for supper, just to have it ready. Then she busied herself setting up the kitchen just as she wanted, cleaning the dust of construction out as she went. She worked for a couple of hours, wandering from room to room, getting them ready for the night. Between what she had brought from the cities and what Jack had, they had plenty of light for a long time. She made sure there were flashlights in every room as well as oil lamps, and worked at getting the clothes that she had there put away.

 

At one point while she was cleaning out the dust from the kitchen cabinets, she heard a truck come to the front of the house, and stop, then the truck doors opening and closing. She didn’t think anything of it, until she remembered that no vehicles were working. Has the EMP attack somehow been reversed? She thought, but knew that it really wasn’t possible. She left what she was doing and walked to the front door and into the porch, wishing she had a gun on her. She relaxed when she saw that it was Wamblee and Bethany, but made a mental note to talk to Jack about starting to learn how to shoot.

 

“Well look at you guys,” Joy said with a smile, wiping the dust off her hands with a rag. “Come on in! We are just getting settled.”

 

Wamblee grinned at her and walked past her into the house. Bethany looked around, but seemed to not be too impressed. “It’s nice of you to come by and see us, Bethany,” Joy said, trying to make amends.

 

Bethany shrugged and followed Wamblee inside the house. Joy shook her head slightly, but decided that she would not let Bethany ruin this special day.

 

“So where’s the man of the house?” Wamblee asked, looking around for Jack.

 

“Jack? He went back to the cabin for another load of stuff. I think we are almost done,” Joy smiled, offering them a place to sit. “Would you like something to drink?”

 

“Oh, yes, please. Something cold?” Bethany asked innocently. “Maybe some pop?”

 

Joy laughed and shook her head. “Well, if you want pop, it will have to be warm. I do have cool water, or lemonade if you’d like. Even tea. But no pop I’m afraid.”

 

“Lemonade is fine for me, Joy, thank you,” Wamblee replied.

 

“Oh, lemonade is fine for me, too, Joy. I’m sorry. I forgot you don’t have a refrigerator. I bet you wish you could at least have some ice once in a while, huh?”

 

Joy smiled, knowing just what Bethany’s intentions were. “Yes, ice would be nice once in a while. But you know, it’s funny what you learn to live without. So, you have a fridge?”

 

Bethany sat up straighter in the couch, as if she had invented the refrigerator herself. “Well, as a matter a fact, we do. And a truck, too, as you can see. This EMP has yet to crash the Bodaway household!”

 

“How did you get your truck to work?” Joy asked Wamblee, really wanting to know.

 

“Well, that’s one of the things that I came to talk to Jack about. Some of the older vehicles are working, after you change some things in them, that is. I don’t suppose you know what year Jack’s truck is, do you?” Wamblee said, taking the cool glass of lemonade that Joy offered him.

 

Joy shook her head. “No, sorry. I’m afraid that I’m no good at that at all. You think you can get his fixed too?”

 

Wamblee nodded his head. “I’m hoping so. It would help you guys a lot, I’m sure. Too bad I came this late in the game. I could have helped you move some stuff in the truck. Do you have much more to move? I could make a run over there.”

 

“You’d do that?” Joy asked sitting on the floor in front of them, taking a sip of her own lemonade.

 

“Sure, as soon as I finish the lemonade. I can even see if I can fix his truck, if it’s possible, and then maybe you could have all your stuff here by tonight!”

 

Joy smiled, excited at the prospect of Jack not having to do so much work, and of having their combined households into one sooner that they had planned.

 

“How did you get the lemonade so cool?” Bethany asked, then drank some more.

 

Joy smiled and pointed at the Mexican clay jugs on the kitchen counter. “See those? They are from Mexico, and although they don’t keep water cold, they certainly keep it cool.”

 

Joy tried to hide her smile when she heard a “humph” coming from Bethany. She wondered what Bethany’s house was like, and if she would ever get to see it. They did some small talk for a little bit, and then Wamblee excused himself to go meet Jack. The ladies followed him outside, and Joy shook her head at the marvel of having a vehicle again.

 

Once Wamblee was gone, Joy and Bethany went back inside, chatting about what Bethany had done that week. She told Joy about her brand new home, where she had a working propane refrigerator, a generator for lights and television, and some other commodities that Joy had come to miss.

 

“I’m glad I decided to marry Wamblee,” Bethany said. “He lives much more, well, civilized.”

 

“I’m glad you are glad, Bethany. I’m glad to be married to Jack, too.”

 

“Well, don’t get used to him being around too much. Wamblee has all kinds of outings planned for him. That’s why he wants his truck to work.”

 

“Outings? What kind of outings?” Joy asked, a little surprised.

 

“Well, the dangerous kind, of course. You don’t think the Chief of the Reservation would go to those himself, would you?”

 

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Remember, this is unedited! Sorry about that! HG flowersmilie

 

CHAPTER 9

 

 

Jack arrived at the cabin, glad that he would soon be done moving all their stuff. He knew that there would probably be still a couple of more trips, but for now, they could all sleep under the same roof, their roof. He smiled as he thought of Joy’s excitement as she went room by room. He sure hoped that this was a sign of things to come. That he would be able to please her so easily for the rest of their lives. He grinned to himself as he realized that she easily pleased him, too, even if she didn’t really realize it. Not only was she very pleasant to look at, but also had a great ability to please his stomach. He had never tasted food so good! She had a way of making a great meal out of sandwiches, and making him feel like he was a king.

 

When he walked in the door, there was a note on the table saying that Rebecca had taken the kids to the farmhouse and would bring them back later. Jack missed seeing them, but figured that he’d probably get more done with them not there. He started putting boxes on the wagon, by the order that Joy had told him. He had about half of the boxes in when he heard a truck pulling up. What in the world? He thought as he paused long enough to see who it was.

 

Wamblee got out of the truck and shook Jack’s hand. “Surprised ya, didn’t I?”

 

Jack took his handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped the sweat off his face. He hadn’t been able to shave in the last few days, and his beard was starting to grow in nicely. “You sure did, Wamblee. How did you get that to work?”

 

Wamblee grinned and grabbed a bag out of the truck. “Come on, I’ll show ya,” he led the way to Jack’s truck, and for the next hour the men worked at getting Jack’s truck fixed. Jack let out a loud “Wahoo!” when the truck started, and took it around the cabin for a drive.

 

“Wow, I didn’t know you could do this, Wamblee! Good for you! Thank you, this will definitely make life easier. I wish we’d had this sooner. It sure would have made a big difference!”

 

Wamblee smiled and nodded his head. “Now let’s not keep your lady waiting and get all this stuff in the trucks!”

 

For the next half hour the men finished loading all the stuff that they needed from the cabin, including the kitchen table. Jack told Wamblee of the dining room table he was working on, and offered to show it to him later. The hooked the wagon to the back of Jack’s truck and made their way back to the log home.

 

Joy let out a “Wahoo!” of her own when she saw the trucks pulling up, but she missed Bethany’s disappointed look as she went out the door to meet the men.

 

“You got it to work! Alright!” she said, going towards Jack’s truck.

 

“Well, I can’t take any credit for this one,” Jack said honestly. “Wamblee was the one that showed me what to do. It sure made work a lot faster though!”

 

Joy looked at Wamblee and smiled her thanks. “We sure appreciate this, Wamblee, thank you.”

 

“No problem, Joy. Happy to help.”

 

Bethany came and put her arm through Wamblee’s and again looked as if she had done it all herself. “He’s a handy man, isn’t he?”

 

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I can carry boxes. You want some help taking this stuff in?” Wamblee replied, picking a box up and giving it to Bethany. “Here. If the four of us work at it, we’ll be done in no time!”

 

Jack smiled and handed Joy a lighter box. “This is it. All of it. We are officially out of the cabin!”

 

Joy took the box, happy that this was the last trip. She knew that she’d have to go back and clean the cabin, but at least they were done for now. The four of them worked until all the boxes were in, and then Joy served them all some more cool lemonade.

 

“So where is your room, Jack?” Bethany asked, batting her eyelashes at Jack. The flirting did not go unnoticed to Joy, and she felt a pang of jealousy shoot through her body.

 

“My room?” Jack asked, looking over at Joy for help, not sure what to answer. They had not been able to finish their conversation from the night before, and now he really wished they had.

 

“Here,” Joy said, trying to save Jack. “I’ll show you.”

 

They all followed Joy into the master bedroom, where the queen size bed was.

 

“Oh, well this is nice,” Bethany said, making a face at the quilt on the bed. “So where is your room, Joy?”

 

Joy looked at Bethany surprised, as did the men. Why is she asking all these questions? Joy wondered, looking at Bethany, then at Jack and then back at Bethany.

 

“Well, um, here. This is my room too,” She managed to stammer.

 

Bethany opened her eyes wide and raised her eyebrows. “Oh, really?”

 

Joy looked at her and nodded her head firmly, realizing what Bethany was up to. “Yup. We just need to decide who sleeps on which side of the bed. Jack, I was thinking that I would like the side closest to the door. That way I can hear the kids better if they cry.”

 

Jack looked at Joy surprised, not knowing what to say. “I, uh, no. I think it’d be better if I slept on that side. If someone comes in to the house and tries to hurt you, I could protect you and the kids better if I was closer to the door.”

 

Joy smiled up at Jack, glad that he had played along and hadn’t said anything about him sleeping on the floor.

 

“Well, I’m glad to hear that you are sleeping together,” Wamblee said, glancing at Bethany. “There were some rumors around town that you two weren’t really married, that it was all just for looks. That would likely cause some problems, so I’m glad it’s worked out.”

 

Joy smiled uneasily and headed back into the main room. “Well, I best get supper ready. Jack, you’ll have to go back and get the kids, and I’ll have supper ready close to the time that you get back. Wamblee, Bethany, would you like to join us?”

 

As Bethany nodded, looking up at Jack, Wamblee shook his head. “No, we better leave you to have your first meal here as a family. But Jack, I do need to talk to you about some things. Can you come over to our place tomorrow?”

 

Jack rubbed his beard with his hand, knowing that there was something going on the next day that was important, but couldn’t remember what.

 

“Marie and Roger get married tomorrow,” Joy said quietly close to his ear.

 

A look came across Jack’s face as if a light bulb had come on, and he shook his head. “Tomorrow’s not good, and neither is Sunday. How does Monday work for you?”

 

Wamblee nodded his head. “Sure.”

 

“Why don’t you come along too, Joy? We can make it a double date and even watch a movie. I’m sure you can get someone to baby-sit,” Bethany suggested.

 

Joy shrugged and looked up at Jack. “Sure, fine with me,” he said, knowing Joy’s family was more than happy to help with the kids.

 

They finished making arrangements about where and the timing, and then Wamblee and Bethany left. Jack hung back, wanting to talk to Joy some more before the kids came in.

 

“Are you sure about those sleeping arrangements?” he asked her quietly, his eyes piercing her own.

 

Joy nodded her head. “Maybe one of us can sleep in a sleeping bag,”

 

Jack smiled down at her, glad that she had, indeed, figured something good for them both. “That’s a good idea. I think sleeping on the floor would get a little old after a while.”

 

Joy nodded, glad that he wasn’t upset about what she had said. “I’m sure it would, Jack.”

 

Jack tipped his hat and got back into the truck. “I’ll see you soon!”

 

Joy waved as he drove off, glad to know that it would be soon. That night they all enjoyed their first meal together in their new home, after showing the kids their rooms. The babies were sleeping through the night, and Joy was confident that they would continue to do so. Luke wasn’t as vocal about his room as Victoria was when she saw her room, but Joy could see that he was very pleased. They’d have to finish arranging their clothes and toys, but for now, he and Victor had their room as did Victoria and Grace.

 

After the kids were put to bed, Jack and Joy stayed up putting books away and organizing them in the upstairs loft. Jack was amazed at all the homeschooling resources Joy had brought with her, and was grateful for God’s provision. As they unpacked the boxes, they talked about what their goals for homeschooling were, and how they would get that accomplished. Once they were done with that project, they made their way into their bedroom, unsure of how to proceed next. Jack offered to be the one to stay in the sleeping bag so went down to the basement to get it while Joy got ready for bed and got under the sheets. When Jack got there she was fast asleep, and he wanted more than anything to get into the bed with her. Instead, he went into their master bathroom and got ready for bed, then climbed into the sleeping bag next to his wife, and fell fast asleep himself.

 

Joy woke up at the first sign of dawn. The rooster had crowed, but Jack seemed not to have heard it. The light from the sun was barely starting to show, but she decided to get up anyway. She pulled on her jeans and a t-shirt and left a note for Jack, saying that she would go and feed the chickens.

 

The morning was a little chilly, so Joy went back into the house for a sweatshirt. She decided that she would have to have definite set of work clothes so as to not ruin everything that she owned. She found John out in the barn, and he showed her how to milk the cows. Then she fed the chickens, again, under John’s careful eye. Once done, she collected the eggs for the day, giving two dozen of them to John and still having two-dozen left. She wondered what they would do with all of these eggs, and made a mental note to figure out a way to preserve them for the slower months.

 

When she got back into the house, everything was still quiet, so she decided to make breakfast. Soon the smell coming from the kitchen woke everyone up, and they all ate breakfast in their pajamas, including Jack. Joy smiled, wishing that she could be in her pajamas as well. Jack made sure that he thanked Joy for going out to feed the chickens and milking the cows, but let her know that it was not necessary. By John coming over to do it every morning and evening, Seth and his family were provided with milk and eggs, and then no one felt taken advantage from. Joy nodded, liking the arrangement. That meant that Jack didn’t have to get up so early either, and they could still have fresh milk and eggs.

 

After the breakfast dishes were done and the babies taken care of, they all took quick, cold showers and got ready for the wedding. The rest of the day was a blur to both Jack and Joy, but Joy knew that she had never seen her sister any happier in her life. Jack stood as the best man for Roger, and Joy as one of the matron’s of honor. Ann was the other one, and she stood with Juan, holding his hand. As Roger and Marie exchanged wedding vows, this time for good, Joy looked down at her hand, looking at the ring that Tim had given her when they had gotten married. Jack noticed, but tried not to show his disappointment.

 

Few people aside from the family showed up for the wedding. Mr. and Mrs. Bodaway were there, and Wamblee and Bethany came for the reception but not the wedding itself.

 

The reception was simple, but a beautiful one. They all ate lunch outside, with tables decorated with fresh cut flowers, and beautiful place settings with the china that the Larson’s had left behind. Rebecca and her mom had been in charge of the food, and Joy and Ann had prepared the cake. They smiled at each other when everyone exclaimed how nice it was; knowing that the baking classes they had taken together had finally paid off. But all that really mattered to anyone was that Roger and Marie were happy.

 

After everything was done, Roger and Marie went to their cabin, and everyone else stayed to get everything back to normal. It took a while, but they had fun while doing it, and the time seemed to go faster by all of them working together. Now they had to start thinking about Leslie and Marco’s wedding, but they all still had a week to do that.

 

Once done, Ed announced that a church service would be held the next morning, but that weather permitting, they would have it outside. He took special care of making sure that the Bodaway’s were invited, and to everyone’s surprise, Wamblee said that he and Bethany would try to be there.

 

After everything was done, Jack and Joy packed up their kids and went back home, using the wagon. Jack had said that he wanted to only use the truck for things they really needed so they could conserve gas. “I’ve got quite a bit of gas,” he had said, “but we want to make sure that it will last for as long as we can make it.”

 

When they got back home, they changed out of their good clothes and into some more comfortable ones. They put the babies down for naps and spent some time playing board games with the older kids. Joy enjoyed watching Jack as he made all the sounds he could think of as he was sent back and forth on Candy-land. Somehow one of the kids always ended up winning, that is until they played a game of memory. Victoria and Jack did very well, while Joy and Luke fumbled along. But they all laughed and applauded each other when they got a pair.

 

After supper, Jack offered to take care of the dishes while Joy got the kids baths and got them ready for bed. It was still light out, but they had agreed that the kids should be in bed by eight o’clock, no later.

 

After Joy helped the older kids with their baths, she took care of the babies and let them lay on the carpet on the living room. As Luke and Victoria got themselves ready for bed, she sneaked into her own room, hoping that Jack hadn’t noticed. She stood in front of the chest of drawers and pulled out a small black box, holding it to her chest for a moment. Then she opened it and set it gently on the bed, sitting down next to it. She took her left ring finger in her hand and toyed with her ring, then gently slid it off. A single tear dropped down her face and she placed it in the box and shut it closed. She bit her bottom lip gently and smiled, knowing that she had done the right thing.

 

“Joy, are you okay?” Jack asked standing by the door with a towel in his hands, startling her.

 

Joy turned quickly to look at him, embarrassed that he had caught her. “Oh, I’m fine. Are the kids ready for bed?”

 

Jack looked back towards the other rooms, giving Joy a chance to rub the tear away. “Yup,” he said, “looks like it. But little miss Victoria here looks more like a princess than like a little girl who’s going to bed,” Jack grinned, picking Victoria up.

 

“Look Papa! This is my princess gown. Grandma gave it to me for Christmas.”

 

“Well, you look lovely in it, my dear,” Jack said in as formal voice as he could muster. Victoria rewarded him with a tight hug to his neck, much to Jack’s delight.

 

“I think we should have devotions,” Jack said looking at Joy. Joy nodded, and followed him to the living room. Victoria sat with Jack and Luke sat next to Joy as she wrapped her arm around him. The babies coed softly as Jack read from the children’s Bible, then they all sang a few songs. Jack ended with a prayer, blessing the children as they were going to sleep. They put all four kids to bed, meeting the demands for just “one more hug” from each of them. Finally they closed the doors to their rooms softly, leaving them slightly open so they could hear them.

 

“That was a nice wedding, wasn’t it?” Joy asked sitting on the couch and curling up her legs under her.

 

Jack nodded. “Sure was. Roger was so happy,” he grinned, remembering how nervous he had been about his first night with Marie.

 

“So was Marie. She’s longed to get married for a long time now, but she just wouldn’t take someone that wasn’t right for her, never mind she had plenty of suitors. Good for her. Roger is a great guy, and you can tell he really loves her.”

 

Jack nodded thoughtfully, and sat down next to Joy. “Do you wish we’d had a second wedding?”

 

Joy shook her head quickly, “No. Not at all. Do you?”

 

Jack smiled and shook his head. “No, I liked our wedding. Simple, quick, and most importantly, true.”

 

Joy smiled back, nodding her head. “Besides, we’ve each had weddings before. I don’t see the need of doing something big, even though what we promised is just as important. I just feel like at this point, a ‘celebration’ would take away the special part of that evening.”

 

Jack nodded thoughtfully again, staring at the fireplace. “Hang on a second,” he said and disappeared into their room. He came out in a few minutes and sat next to her, taking a deep breath.

 

“What are you up to, Dr. Daniels?” Joy asked turning her body so she was facing him.

 

Jack bit the inside of his lip, not sure quite where to start. “Well, I was wondering,” he said reaching into his pocket and pulling out a little black box of his own. “Would you be willing to wear this ring, even if it was on your right hand?”

 

Joy watched in amazement as he pulled out the box and opened it, revealing an old, but beautiful ring. “It used to be my mom’s,” Jack continued, “and her mom’s before her. I- I was just hoping that,” Jack stopped, unable to continue. He had not expected it to go like this. He had just hoped that she would wear his ring, something that would symbolize his commitment to her, something that would say that she was his. It had nothing to do with being possessive of her, he just wanted something tangible, something you could see.

 

Joy fought back her own emotions unable to speak for a moment. This was not something she had expected, and wasn’t sure she was ready to wear another ring. She looked at Jack and the look on his face, and decided there was no way she could say no. “Of course I will! I’d be honored, Jack,” she said, putting her left hand up to receive the ring. Jack stared at her hand for a second, realizing that she was no longer wearing her other ring. He happily slipped the ring on her finger, glad that it seemed to fit perfectly. He had no idea if it could ever be resized, and was relieved that it didn’t seem to be an issue.

 

“Oh, Jack, it’s amazing!” Joy said, reaching over and wrapping her arms around him. “Thank you. This means a lot to me,” she whispered softly in his ear.

 

That night they both had a tough time sleeping, each hoping that the other wasn’t noticing. Jack kept his back to Joy the whole night, while Joy looked out the window to the stars. It was awkward for both of them, but neither of them knew what the other was thinking. Joy determined to win her husband, and to learn to love him as best as she could, while Jack prayed that he would not ever push Joy into something that she wasn’t ready to do, no matter how ready he was himself.

 

Joy stared at the stars until her mind started playing tricks on her. She was sure she was still awake, and what she was seeing terrified her. She kept seeing a dark figure running back and forth, looking at them through the window. She struggled to see the figure better, hoping that she was imagining things. She sat up on her elbow, looking intently out of her window, when all of the sudden the glass shattered and Simon jumped in to their room, holding a machete in his hand. Joy tried to scream, but somehow no sound was coming out of her mouth. Simon laughed at her, his crooked yellow teeth looking larger than they really were. He walked around the bed to where Jack still lay sleeping and raised the machete, ready to bring it down on Jack’s body. Joy yelled Jack’s name and threw herself over his body, waking him and herself up in the process.

 

Jack woke up startled, with Joy laying over him, calling his name. “Joy, Joy! Wake up, you’re having a nightmare!”

 

Joy looked at Jack, confused at why he wasn’t alarmed that Simon had just tried to kill him. She looked around her, realizing that it had been just a dream. “He was trying to kill you, Jack. He wanted to hurt me, but he was going to kill you first!”

 

Jack sat up on his elbow and brushed some hair out of Joy’s face. “It’s okay, Joy. Nobody’s going to hurt you. Come here,” he said laying back down and pulling Joy in for a hug.

 

“I was so scared, I really thought it was real,” Joy said as she laid her head on his chest, grateful for his comfort. She was so relieved that it wasn’t real, that they were safe. Jack held her tight, wanting to keep her safe, even from her dreams. “Jack?”

 

“Mmmm?” he answered sleepily.

 

“You need to teach me how to handle a gun.”

 

Jack smiled and kissed her head, and they both fell back asleep. The morning came far too soon, and Joy was still in Jack’s arms. They separated awkwardly, not sure where they stood with each other.

 

“I’m sorry I woke you up last night,” Joy said, suddenly embarrassed by the whole thing.

 

Jack sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, wanting to tell her that he hadn’t minded one bit. “Don’t worry about it, Joy. You still want to learn how to shoot?”

 

Joy nodded her head eagerly, knowing that she was going to have to if she wanted to be able to defend herself and the kids. She knew that Jack wouldn’t always be there, and that she wanted to be able to help him, even if he was.

 

After the service, Ann and Juan offered to take care of the kids and Joy got her first lesson with guns. Jack showed her how to clean one, how to load and unload and how to aim. He taught her everything that he could think of, and then took her to his shooting range.

 

“This is where I practice my shooting. See that target there, the one closest to us? Aim for that one,” Jack said, helping her to set up. He had her wear the (ear protections) until she got used to the sound and stood back to give her some space. Joy looked over at him and smiled nervously, not sure why he trusted her to shoot so soon.

 

“Is there anything behind the target that I might hit in case I miss?”

 

Jack laughed and shook his head. “Nope. I’ve got this place set up specifically for this.”

 

Joy sighed and looked at the gun in her hands. She never thought she’d ever be doing this, but had actually enjoyed learning about the gun. Jack had been careful to teach her the specifics of how to use it properly, and she was confident that she could hit the mark. She took aim at the target and closed her eyes as she shot the gun, surprised at how it felt, how it sounded. She opened them carefully, and turned to look at Jack.

 

“Did I hit anything?” she asked, taking the ear protections off.

 

Jack laughed and nodded his head. “I’m sure you did, somewhere, but not the target. Joy, you have to keep your eyes open all the time.”

 

Joy looked at the target and was disappointed to see that Jack was right. “Can I try again?”

 

“Go for it,” Jack said, shrugging his shoulders.

 

Joy took aim again, this time keeping her eyes wide open. She shot the gun, and didn’t shrink back, knowing what to expect. She looked at the target and then at Jack, disappointed that she still hadn’t hit it.

 

“Keep trying, Joy, you’ll get it,” Jack encouraged her, knowing that it would maybe take a while. He watched her shoot a few more times, then watched her as she reloaded, amazed at how much she remembered.

 

Joy shot a few more rounds, getting more and more frustrated each time. Finally she took the ear protectors off and looked at Jack. “How do you do it?”

 

“Me? Well,” he said taking the gun from her and stepping in her place as she moved aside. “I (help! How do you shoot a gun?)…….” Jack lowered the gun after he shot, leaving Joy amazed.

 

“Jack! You shot it dead in the center!”

 

Jack smiled, a little embarrassed. “I know, but remember, Joy. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”

 

Joy nodded and took the gun back from him, taking aim again. “Like this?” she asked, looking back at him.

 

Jack nodded and took a step closer behind her. “Here, hold it like this,” he said, putting his arms around her. He took her hand in his, and aimed for the target. “Okay, now shoot,” he whispered in her ear, making Joy feel goosebumps all over her body.

 

Joy shot at the target, and was excited to see that she had actually hit it. “I hit it! I hit it!” she said, giving Jack a hug.

 

Jack laughed and moved back. “Okay, now try it again.”

 

Joy took aim again and shot, this time hitting the target on her own. “Good job, Joy!” Jack exclaimed, proud that she had done it without him. “You are a quick learner. Now you just need to practice, and you’ll get better and better each time.”

 

Joy smiled proudly, knowing that she had impressed Jack. They spent the rest of the afternoon there, with Jack giving Joy more pointers. He worked with her until she got good at the target she was aiming at, and then showed her another one, further away. “See that one? We can practice that one next time.”

 

The next day, Joy got up early to bake some bread and make some pies to take to Wamblee’s house. While those baked, she made her family breakfast and then got the kids ready to go to their grandparents home. Joy’s eyes teared up as she thought of how her dad had beamed the first time Luke had called him Grandpa. It had almost brought tears to his eyes, and she was happy that Luke felt so comfortable with them. Joy left the kids getting their beds made and checked on the sleeping babies. A remorseful thought crossed her mind, and she set out to find Jack to talk to him about it. She found him in their bathroom, brushing his teeth.

 

“Jack? Do you think we are spending enough time with the kids?” she asked him, leaning against the doorframe.

 

Jack looked at her with his toothbrush still in his mouth. “Well, I think so, don’t you?” he asked as best as he could.

 

“Well, it just seems like we are always asking someone else to take care of them.”

 

Jack rinsed his mouth and looked at her as he wiped his mouth off with a towel. “Well, things haven’t exactly settled down for us yet, Joy. We’ve been moving and stuff, and now there’s this meeting with the Bodaway’s. Did you not want to come along?”

 

Joy shook her head and looked at herself in the mirror, trying to determine if she was ready to go or not herself. “No, I still want to go,” she said, running her hand through her hair and then smacking her lips to get her lipstick around. “I just feel bad that we are having the kids gone so much.”

 

Jack smiled at her and leaned against the counter, careful not to get his pants wet. He loved the way she looked, the way she dressed, the way she smelled. He looked away from her, trying to concentrate on what they were talking about. “We’ve also spent good times with them, Joy. I’m not to worried about it. Things will settle down soon enough, okay?”

 

Joy nodded, glad that he was more level headed than she was. They took the truck this time, as it was a longer ride. Joy didn’t like not having the babies in carseats, but knew there really wasn’t any other way. After dropping the kids off, Jack drove them to Wamblee and Bethany’s new home, but was confused when they got to the address that Wamblee had given him.

 

“What’s wrong?” Joy asked, looking around.

 

“Well, this is the right address, but it doesn’t look like a house, it looks more like a store,” Jack said, looking out his window. Just then the door to the store opened and Wamblee came out.

 

“Jack, Joy, come in. Did you find the place okay?” Wamblee asked.

 

Jack nodded and walked around to open the door to the truck for Joy. Joy was surprised, but pleasantly so. “Is this where you live?” Jack asked, locking the door to the truck and slamming it shut.

 

Wamblee laughed and opened the door to the store for them to go in. “Well, sort of,” he said. “When my father told me what he thought was going to happen, I saw it as an opportunity, not as a threat. I invested in this building here and set it up as a store. It technically belongs to the Reservation, but I am the manager. As the manager, I get to live in the fully furnished apartment upstairs. And get this,” he grinned as he led them to the stairs, “I put in solar panels and generators so that not only does the store have some electricity, but so do I!”

 

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