Chapter 8 – Revealed

Daniel’s Find Your Own Dinner

Trout caught fresh from the stream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil
Wild greens such as sorrel, dandelion, and violets, whatever you can find in season including rosemary, blackberries, and wild onions.
A lemon and drizzle of olive oil (if you’re lucky but SEALs can eat it raw…that’s not all these guys like raw though)

As he boasts, Daniel is pretty good at finding his own supper, including fresh trout from the stream that he cleans and cooks himself over the open flames in the fireplace. He is also an expert at foraging for edible plants. This time he was lucky and had olive oil and lemon for dressing on the salad. Salt, pepper, and a squeeze or two of the lemon are all it takes to spice freshly caught fish. Just wrap it all in the foil and lay on top of the coals/wood. It will be ready before you know it – about the time it takes to get in a good quickie. Gotta love a man that can make do, don’t you girls?

“I like her,” Daniel smiled at the quiet, understatement that had always been his father.

He nodded his head as he brushed the back of his hand across his eyes. “Me too,” as he turned to look at his father. He had spent the past ten minutes standing on the old porch watching as Jill and his mother played with Bel and the babies. Jess was hiding in the barn with the horses again.

“Just like, son?”

Daniel sighed, the action causing his shoulders to slump under the heavy weight of his mind. The truth was that he had thought of little else than his predicament over the past few days. The long drive had been the worst. Pressed against his wife, thigh to thigh, for hours as the girls laughed, played, and occasionally fought. It had driven him practically insane with need. But that need could not override the cold hard facts: he loved a woman who, if she knew the truth, would hate him. In the end, the only answer he had for his father was, “It’s complicated, Dad.”

“Sometimes, things seem more complicated than they are, Daniel.” He watched as his father’s faded grey eyes took in the woman that had been his love for close to half a century. “But let me tell you when the chips are down, son, loving is all that matters in this world.”

Daniel ached to confide in his father, to seek advice from him just as he had so many times before, but he knew he could not. It was the reality of the code by which he lived, so many things in his life were ‘classified.’ From his father and mother, and even from his wife.

No, this was a burden he would have to bear alone. Because, even if he wanted to cleanse his soul, tell her all that had happened that night, he knew that he could not. Security protocols of two nations and the lives of dozens of men prevented it.

He shook his head as she tickled Bel. The sound of laughter rang out across the dry, brown field. The farm lacked its usual lush greenness. “What about the farm, Dad?” It was a feeble attempt to change the subject.

“I’ve been thinking the same thing, son. I don’t want this place to become a burden to your mother. Hell, she’s been married to this land her whole life. Farmer’s daughter marrying a rancher. No, I want her to take that cruise around the world we always said we would,” Daniel saw the tears collecting in his father’s eyes.

He wanted to argue, demand that the man re-start the chemo, fight the cancer just as he had five years ago when he won and went into remission. But the lank man with the yellowish tinges to his skin ambled deliberately now, as if each step cost him precious energy, brought him more pain.

He could see the life draining from the man, who had once seemed such an immovable bear of strength. And he would not be selfish enough to add his own pleas to the burdens his father shouldered. He would do all he could to lighten them in the time they had left. “You’re thinking of selling?”

His father nodded. “Ranching ain’t much these days, but city folks, hell, even Hollywood types are buying up ranches and farms all over these parts. They want to escape the rat race and get back to nature, it seems.”

“Any offers?”

“A couple. One interesting one from this commune type group. They want to do something crazy, called rewilding, where they return the land to prairie like it was before people settled these parts. The idea kinda appeals to me even though their offer is much lower than the one I have from a big agribusiness conglomerate.”

“Money isn’t the only thing, Dad. As long as Mom would be okay, don’t worry about us.”

His father smiled weakly, “Thing is, I don’t want to wait and make your Mama face that choice alone,” he placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “But, I also don’t want to sell this place out from under you, son. It’s yours if you want it. It always has been.”

His father looked deep into Daniel’s eyes, “It’s just that I don’t think farming, cattle, this land ever really ran in your blood, boy. Not much excitement round these parts.”

Daniel watched his mother as she talked quietly with Jill. The two women had bonded instantly. As his wife said, shared secrets to which he was not privy. But this was no secret. His father was right; he had never felt the connection to this land that his parents and grandparents had. He was a soldier, not a farmer.

He spoke slowly, “No, Dad. You’re right. I don’t have the skills to run this place anymore than those city slicker. Tractors, milking machines, the business of farming, it’s as high tech and demanding these days as my work is. And the truth is that my knowledge is almost twenty years out of date.”

“I’m glad you see it that way, son. I didn’t want you to think we were selling off your inheritance or nothing.”

“No, Dad, you and Mama are my inheritance. The only one that matters. Growing up here with the two of you as parents gave me so much more than most people ever have in this world. And that won’t ever change.”

His father smiled as he wrapped his arm about his shoulders, “You know your Mama and I wouldn’t mind watching those girls for a couple of days if you wanted to take your wife up to the old fishing cabin by the falls for a bit. Can’t imagine you two have had much time to yourselves since you got hitched.”

Daniel laughed, “Hitched? Really, Daddy? Next, you’re going to call her the old ball and chain.”

“Nope, son, not that one. She’s nobody’s burden, any more than your Mama ever has been. So, what you say? A little honeymoon? Your Mama can make a few sandwiches in case the fish ain’t biting, and I’m sure we can manage to pry two horses off that oldest daughter of yours.”

Time alone with Jill. A few days ago, it would have seemed like a gift from heaven. But now? He had been carefully avoiding her since that night, or as much as was possible anyway. Of course, it was not easy, sharing the same room that he had grown up in. A double bed that forced their bodies to brush against one another constantly.

The nights reminded him of the torture training exercises that he had undergone. He had used every technique they had taught. Visualization usually ended up with him reliving the night where she had slowly stripped out of his shirt in the pale moonlight. Counting took on a new meaning as he would enumerate the thousands of ways he wanted to make love to his wife. And disconnecting, forget it. It was impossible to disconnect from her, not when she lay so impossibly close. His wife. His in all the ways except the one that mattered.

“I don’t know, Dad. The girls are a handful. They might be too much for you, right now,” he tried to make excuses.

His father shook his head, “Let me put this another way. I’d like some time alone with those grandbabies. I’ve hardly seen Jess and Bel over the years. I mean, this place wasn’t exactly that woman’s idea of a vacation, was it? And those babies, except for those couple of days after Rachel’s death when I came with your Mama, I’ve never even seen them. I want to get to know my granddaughters, son. Is that too much for a dying man to ask?”

Daniel felt his father’s word like Samuel’s sidekick to his ribs. It knocked the wind from him as surely as the physical blow would have. His father was dying. This place would be gone soon. The words opened wounds that ached and bled. He could not speak through the pain, so he merely shook his head.

“Good boy. Your Mama has some stuff packed already. Let’s go and tell them now.” He led his son down the porch steps to where the women and children were playing under the old tree.

Jill giggled as she tickled Britney’s tummy. “Cheeky little monkey,” she kissed the head of curls. The child pulled away from her embrace and toddled across the brown carpet of grass towards her sisters.

“You are everything we hoped you would be.”

Jill laughed uncomfortably, “Not you too?”

“Me too? What do you mean?”

“I hear that all the time from Simone.”

“Simone,” Esther sighed wistfully.  “I miss that woman. She might be a touch crazy, but I ain’t met too many people with a heart as kind as that one’s.”

“She is pretty amazing.”

“Not any more than you are, sweetie. Those girls love you already.”

Jill watched them playing, and for the hundredth time since coming to this place, her eyes teared up. “I love them too.”

The older woman reached out and covered her hands with one of her own. “There was never any doubt in our minds about that one, sweetie.” Her eyes traveled to the porch, where her husband and son were talking. Jill’s could not help but follow.

She felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach when she saw the pain etched into his handsome features. She wanted, so profoundly, to run to him, wrap her arms about him, soothe and comfort him. But she couldn’t.

Their marriage was back to icy politeness. In the three nights that they had been sharing that impossibly small bed, not once had he willingly reached for her. Oh, they woke uncomfortably aware of one another’s presence. Her body practically ached with the physical need, and there was no denying he returned the feeling, his erection pressed tightly against her resolved any doubts on that subject.

She felt the other woman’s eyes on her as she turned and smiled weakly. “I don’t need to ask the question that’s been bothering me most this past couple of months. I can see it in your eyes when you look at my son,” she smiled as she squeezed Jill’s hand. “So, what’s wrong, sweetie?”

Jill lifted her arm and passed it across her face, using it to wipe tears from her eyes as she pretended to shield them from the bright sunlight. “What makes you think anything is wrong, Esther?”

“A Mama’s gut. So, don’t bother fibbing to me, girl. We both know that those don’t lie,” she pronounced with conviction.

Jill lowered her arm and gazed at the dry grass beneath her legs. Dead, just like the hopes and dreams she had once had of this man growing to love her. “He doesn’t feel the same,” she whispered.

His mother’s chuckle felt like a knife as it sliced through her. Jill wanted to stand up and run, but the woman’s hand held her in place. Instead, she merely looked away to hide the pain she knew anyone could see in her face.

“What makes you think that, child?”

Jill swallowed hard. It was not exactly like she could share the intimate details of her marriage with her mother-in-law. Hell, Simone’s nosey meddling was bad enough. “I just do.”

“How much has Simone told you about her?”

Jill looked back over at the older woman. As always, the mention of Rachel piqued her curiosity. Some part of her felt as if by understanding the other woman and her death, she could heal old wounds, perhaps even break down some of the walls that stood between them.


“Alright. Then let me tell you about him,” her gaze drifted back to the porch. “My son keeps everything inside. He always has. Even as a little boy, that child would never cry,” she looked up at the vast weeping willow under which they sat in semi-shade. “He was six when he fell out of this tree. Broke his arm in three places. The damned bone was sticking through the skin, and he walked calmly into the house and said he thought we should go see the doctor.”

As the mother of four tough sons, it was something with which Jill could empathize. She smiled as she practically pictured D.J. doing something as ridiculous, but she simply nodded as the woman continued. “That does not mean the boy doesn’t feel the pain. I slept in the chair next to his hospital bed that night. He tossed and turned and cried out all night long.”

“I always told Gerald that boy has more scars on his soul from that woman than the SEALs ever put on his body. Add to that the burdens he bears as a leader, the lives of his men, and even those he’s had to kill, and it’s no wonder my son finds it hard to trust anyone.”

“But let me tell you one thing, when he does…there is nothing on this earth or heaven and hell that will keep him from taking care of what’s his. His men and their families. Those girls. Me and his daddy,” her blue eyes looked over Jill carefully. “And you, sweetie.”

Jill automatically shook her head in denial. Words of protest dripped from her lips as Daniel and her father-in-law approached them.

“Esther,” the older man called. “I’ve convinced the fool to take us up on our offer,” he smiled conspiratorially to his wife. “We’re going to the barn now to saddle up a couple of horses. Why don’t you two go into the house and make a few sandwiches? After all these years, I’m not sure the boy can manage to catch his own supper, let alone enough for two,” the man slapped his son’s back.

“What are you talking about?” Jill looked from her father-in-law to her husband.

Daniel kicked at the grass. The discomfort on his face was palatable as he replied, “My parents want some time alone with the girls. So, they are shuffling us off to the old fishing cabin on the other side of the property.”

“How far is that? I mean, we’ll be back for supper, right? I need to get the girls ready for bed and all.”

Her mother-in-law squeezed her hand, “Oh, don’t worry about that, sweetie. Gerald and I can manage tonight. The cabin is a good two or three hour horseback ride. Nice and secluded,” the woman winked at her.

Secluded away with her husband was not what Jill had in mind at that moment. What might have once seemed like a dream took on nightmarish qualities given his icy coldness these past few days.

“I don’t think we should. What if something happens? You might need us. Bel is still recovering from food poisoning, and the babies are used to their routine.”

“Nonsense. Esther and I managed this little tornado. How hard can four girls be?” dismissed her father-in-law.

Her eyes looked up at Daniel’s, pleading for his support. But he just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, resigned it seemed to his fate.

“Aw, come on. It will be fun,” said Esther. “There’s a beautiful waterfall just a short walk from the cabin, and the stream beneath it should be perfect for swimming this time of year. Not too cold, but just cool enough on a hot day like this.”

They might make the place sound like paradise, but this was not a trip that Jill was looking forward to. And from the dark scowl on his face, neither was her husband.

Daniel was alone in the barn. His father had excused himself only a few minutes after they arrived, saying he would check how the women were getting on in the kitchen, but Daniel could tell he was not up to the task.

He saddled up the old Palomino. He did not know if Jill had any experience riding horses, but the old nag was perfect for even a novice. He had chosen her as Bel’s first mount when he had taken the older girls out riding the day before. Of course, that had just been a short ride along the trail that snaked through the woods and fields close to the house. This trip would be much longer, a fact he was not looking forward to.

Guilt ate at him, just as it had since that night. It gnawed and twisted his gut. It was not like this guilt had ever really gone away, not in the past seven years. Not even the exoneration of his team by the joint task force made up of senior officers from the United States and the United Kingdom’s special forces’ command had managed to lessen the load. He had relived those days and hours so many times over the past few years, looking for some mistake, some explanation of what went wrong that night.

But like that task force, he could find none. Technical failure was the final ruling. Some error in the computer programming had caused the drone to drop its load a half a mile short of its target, hitting the contingent of Royal Marines that had, along with his troops, been shadowing the convoy that was their real target. The caravan that they had been following for days across the mountains. The convoy that they believed held top targets.

Knowing that the mission was aborted and their presence known to the enemy then, he and his men had still taken the risk, making their way across the two miles that separated them from their colleagues in only a matter of minutes. But it had been too late. At least for the man that was the senior field commander, he had died almost instantly. Blown away as he shoved and pushed his men towards the safety of a nearby cave. The others were injured as well. Two of them badly burned from the explosion. One had lost his leg from shrapnel.

The irony was that when the investigation finally concluded, Daniel and several of his men were given a medal for valor, another fucking piece of metal. Commanders that sat in Washington and London, who moved men around the world the way some people moved pieces on a chessboard, might think their actions, going back for their comrades that day, was heroic, but it had been years, decades, since those men had faced the realities of war, if some of them ever had. No, they were just doing their duty. Doing what they knew, the other men would do, if things had been reversed.

Duty. Daniel played the word over and over in his mind. What was his duty? His father was dying. Selling the only place that had ever been home to him. His mother would be alone for the first time in her life. His daughters were growing up so fast. Too fast. Each time he left and returned, he had to get to know them all over again.

And now her? His wife. He hated to admit it, but the word still seemed strange somehow on his tongue. Every time he said or thought it, the words of Rachel’s note rang in his mind, “I always came last to you. Your country, the Navy, your daughters left no room for me. You were a lousy husband…” And the truth was as much as he wanted things to be different with Jill, they were not. It was not even like he had any right to want more. Not after…

“Penny for your thoughts, son,” his mother said from the doorway.

“It’s nothing really, Mama. Nothing you need to worry about. You have enough on you as is,” he replied as he cinched up the saddle. Standing up, he tried one more time to dissuade his parents from their scheming, “Which is why Jill and I don’t think this is a good idea. You have enough to handle with Daddy. You can’t manage the girls by yourself.”

“Fiddlesticks, and you know it. Jess will help out with the little ones like she always does. Your father might be dying, but since they stopped the chemo, the man has gotten back some of his energy. I hate to admit it, but he made the right choice. I’d rather whatever time we have left be like this than him being sick and tired all the time.”

She crossed the barn carrying a sack. “Jill and I made these sandwiches. I like that girl, even more now that I’ve met her.”

He nodded his head, trying to avoid a repeat of his earlier conversation with this father.

“So, what’s wrong? And don’t tell me nothing I need to worry about. I’ll worry anyway, and you know it. Probably make things worse than they are too.”

In the guilt that had ridden him these past few days, Daniel had practically forgotten his resolve to question his mother about Jill’s odd behavior when it came to being naked with him. But now, as he sought some diversion, some answer to her question, he remembered and clutched it as the perfect diversion.

“Mama, what do you know of her marriage?”

His mother scrunched up her brow and tilted her head. “I know it was damned good. Why do you ask?”

Daniel shook his head, “I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what, son?”

He placed the sack inside the saddlebag on the horses flank before turning back to his mother. As hard as this conversation was going to be, it beat the hell out of the real problems he was facing. With a silent prayer, he plunged in, “If it was so all fire great, why is my wife so damned ashamed to show a bit of skin?”

His mother coughed at his blunt words, “I take it I don’t need to ask if this will be a real honeymoon then.”

Daniel rolled his eyes at her question. “No, please don’t, Mama.”

His mother was quiet for several moments. He saw her squint her eyes in the dim light of the barn as if taking the measure of him, of the situation before she answered. “Daniel, I gave you the password to that email account for a reason. But if you’re asking this question, I know you didn’t use it.”

“It’s not like that, Mama,” he defended himself. “I had no intention of marrying her, marrying anyone. So, it seemed wrong to pry into her life like that. Then things just happened,” he paused as he remembered that first week. He smiled as he remembered the moment she lifted Bel into her arms that first night, he had never stood a chance. “Then it seemed even worse. We agreed to get to know one another the old fashioned way, by being friends.”

“Seems like a fair enough decision to me. So, why you asking me about things she said in those emails? Why aren’t you asking your wife?” His mother tapped her foot. She had not tapped her foot like that since he had come in late from the senior prom.

“Oh, I’m just supposed to ask her. ‘So Jill, why won’t you ever get naked with me?’ It’s not the sort of thing that just comes up in conversation, Mama.”

His mother’s laughter ringing in the confines of the barn felt as inappropriate as Samuel’s. “I’m so damned glad that my marriage is funny as hell to you people. But it sure ain’t to me.”

“Don’t tell me there have not been opportunities to ask, Daniel. It might not be polite dinner conversation, but if the two of you are,” she cleared her throat before continuing, “intimate, it is more than appropriate to discuss such things in the privacy of your bedroom.”

He watched as her expression softened a bit, “I know your first marriage wasn’t what it should have been, son. But I think growing up your father and I gave you an example of how things ought to be when two people love one another.” She chuckled, “And I know for damned sure that Samuel and Simone must be trying like hell to keep you on the straight and narrow.”

Daniel chafed at the mention of his friends, “Then why the hell won’t one of you clue me in on my wife’s problem?”

“Because son, some things you need to discover for yourself.” Her mouth twitched for a moment. Daniel recognized it as a sign his mother was thinking. “Daniel, were Rachel and Jill your only lovers?”

He choked on his mother’s question. “Mama!”

She laughed again, “Then what makes you think that you and David were the only men in Jill’s life.” She lifted her brow as she met his gaze. “Talk to your wife, Daniel.” She turned and left Daniel standing alone in the barn.

His mind torn down two different paths. Given the guilt that ate at his craw, like cancer that was killing his father, did he have any right to talk to his wife about anything, especially something as intimate as this? But as his mother said, he had spent the last thirteen years of his life wishing with all his soul that his marriage could be half of what his parents’ had been.

Now whether he liked it or not, he had a second chance. The question was…was he man enough to take it? Could he put it all behind him? It had been bad enough when he lived with Rachel’s blood on his hands, but knowing that he was responsible for Jill’s husband’s death as surely as he was for his wife’s, it seemed unfair to her. She did not deserve to be stuck with a murderer.

Jill lay on the blanket in the warm late morning sun. Daniel was off somewhere fishing, she was satisfied. Wearing nothing but a pair of old cut-off jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt, she had snuck away from the cabin, following the trail that led to the waterfall Esther had spoken about. She needed the break. Time away from him to think.

The horseback ride up to the cabin had been long, but the silence that reigned between them made it seem longer still. They had barely spoken a dozen words as they made the trip higher and higher into the low mountains that encircled the property. The sun was setting when they finally arrived. Given that the cabin, which had been the original homestead of Daniel’s great-great-grandparents over a hundred years before, did not have electricity, it had not been a good beginning to the night.

It was too late for any fishing, so they had eaten the sandwiches she and his mother had packed in silence. Daniel had built a fire in the fireplace as the chill of the late night began to overtake the uninsulated cabin. Jill had busied herself straightening and cleaning, sweeping cobwebs and dust from the surface of the few pieces of furniture that graced the makeshift abode.

When she had turned to the small bed tucked into the corner of the one-room cabin, she had practically groaned. Of course, she recognized, that historically speaking, humans of the previous century were physically smaller than modern man. The wood and the down-filled bed was even smaller than the one that they had been sharing for the past few nights. It was probably not even big enough for Daniel alone. And while she had spent more than one night in the past two months practically draped across her husband’s magnificent chest, given the situation, it did not seem a solution this night. As if reading her mind, Daniel had offered to sleep on the floor by the fire.

It should have been an excellent remedy, but still, Jill found sleep elusive that night, tossing and turning as she imagined how it would feel to rise above him in the soft firelight, to take him deep inside her body once more and feel the heaven that his touch always brought her. It had taken her hours to fall asleep. Even then, her dreams had been haunted by the images of his face as he arched up into her, taking her over the edge as he filled her with his seed.

Worse yet, when she did finally wake up, she was alone. The blankets that he had slept on were neatly folded and tucked into a corner as if he had never even been there at all. To make matters worse, the needy and wanton body that was her curse ached, begged, and pleaded for his touch. For relief.

“Fuck,” she spat as she felt her nipples harden beneath the thin cotton, which was growing uncomfortably hot in the sunlight. Her shorts too felt uncomfortably sticky, but she knew that had far more to do with her hungry pussy than it did the rising temperatures. This was getting her nowhere fast.

She stood up and unbuttoned the shorts, sliding the zipper down quickly. She pushed them down her legs and kicked them off. Then she lifted the hem of her shirt, pulled it over her head and tossed it next to her shorts and the shoes that she had discarded when she first arrived. She ran to the edge of the pool that bubbled and frothed at the foot of the waterfall. She gave a soft yell as she lifted her legs high into the air and cannonballed into the water.

Daniel could not breathe. He could not force air through his nose, down his throat, and into his lungs. His heart pounded an ancient rhythm in his head. His cock hardened uncomfortably in his jeans as he dropped the fishing pole and basket that included his tackle and the day’s catch.

The show he had just watched was more erotic than anything he had ever seen. More than any of the half dozen or so strip teases that he and his friends had frequented when he was younger. His wife, thinking she was alone, had done what he had longed for, for weeks. Strip completely, butt naked right in front of him in broad daylight. Question was, what now?

It was the question that had ridden him for days, but especially since his conversation with his parents yesterday. He was married to the woman, and the simple fact was he took those vows seriously. Dead seriously. Death do you part seriously. He always had, it was the lesson that his mother had eluded to in the barn. Divorce was not an option.

What’s more, he realized that if Jill left now, his daughters would be devastated. As much so as when their mother had died, perhaps even more so. Britney and Ashley would never remember Rachel. Jill was the only mother they would know. He remembered how close the two blonde heads had been as she played with Bel, entertaining her with dolls and stories when she was ill. Hell, even Jess was slowly warming to her.

But the starkest truth he had faced as he stared into that fire last night listening as she slept, her moans and pleas echoing about the tiny cabin, was that he would be even more hurt than his daughters. He wanted her soft cries as she came, wanted to know it was his body that gave her that release. He needed her soft caress as he fell asleep, her arms wrapped about his shoulders, his head pillowed on her soft, full breasts. He loved her.

Despite David’s and Rachel’s blood that would always stain his hands, he had come to a decision. He would bear this secret alone as he did so many others that this country labeled as OpSec, operational security. And it was. Not just his life rested on keeping the secret, but his men’s, their families’, and even David’s men and their families. This secret was not his to share, not even with his wife.

He drew a deep breath, trying to push it all aside, as much as he could. It would always be there, like so many other things. But he could not afford to allow it to continue to control him, them, their life together. If, on occasion, he could no longer keep it locked in the corner of his mind, if in moments of weakness, he saw David’s mark upon her body and ached for the pain he had caused them all, it was his burden alone to shoulder. He would gladly, for all those other times when she came so willingly into his arms. When he found in her arms and body, the peace that he had never known before. It was a small price to pay.

Watching as she splashed and dove beneath the boiling surface of the water, he knew this was not an opportunity he could pass up. It was a miraculous gift. A chance to push one issue that stood between them. It was time. Past time that his wife’s little secret came out, as he stripped out of his t-shirt and jeans. He covered the twenty feet from where he stood to the edge of the stream in a heartbeat. He watched her head plunge beneath the surface once more as he dove in headfirst.

Jill had just touched bottom and was heading back towards the surface, several feet above her head, when she felt the tug. She instinctively fought it as something wrapped about her foot, pulling her backward. She feared that she had gotten tangled in one of the tall plants, which grew in the sandy soil at the bottom of the pool.

She shook her leg madly as she tried to break free, but it was no use. As her lungs tingled with the need for oxygen, her hands flayed about her. She hit something, but she was not sure what. As the burning need for fresh air intensified, her only thought was, ‘I never told him, I loved him.’

Then as if by some miracle, she felt herself being tugged upwards towards the bright sunlight twinkling across the surface of the water. As her head broke through, she gulped for air, taking a considerable lungful even as she spewed water from her nose and mouth.

“Breath slowly,” he commanded from behind. She felt his arm wrapped about her waist, to anchor and protect her as surely as his deep voice sent butterflies dancing in her stomach.

That was not all she felt. Their bodies were aligned perfectly, touching from shoulder to feet almost. She felt the soft tickle of his legs as he kicked, treading water and holding them both afloat. She felt too the heated length of his erection pressed between the soft globes of her ass. But at that moment, it was not desire she felt.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Daniel? You could have killed me,” she yelled as she pushed at his arms, trying to free herself. His deep laughter was not the response she wanted. She kicked out, landing a glancing blow to his shin, but he held tight. “Let me go, god damn it.”

For a moment, his hold about her waist lessened, and she thought he would obey her command, but he did not, instead turning her in his arms to face him. “Wrap your legs around my waist, baby.”

She pushed against the solid steel of his shoulders, trying in vain to extract herself.  “What do you think you’re doing? We could fucking drown,” she accused as she stared into those blue depths.

What she saw there ignited her body, sending it up in flames. The ice was gone, and the passion she recognized flaming in his eyes equaled or surpassed what she felt tingling from the tips of her toes to the top of her head. It felt like she would explode if she did not feel him inside her that moment.

“I said, wrap your legs around me.” His hand trailed lower, lifting her left leg, and forcing her compliance. She did not wait for him, lifting the other and entwining her feet behind his back. Her breath caught once more, burning in her lungs as it had before at the feel of his hard cock pressed at the opening of her wet depths, wetness that had nothing to do with the water surrounding them and everything to do with her body’s need for him.

“Daniel,” she cried out.

He buried his face in the wet lengths of her hair as his teeth found the juncture of her neck and shoulders once more. He surged into her then, taking her fully in a single stroke as he trod water. Despite the questions that raced through her mind, despite the righteous anger caused by his treatment the past few days, she felt her body crash helplessly, like the water cresting over the rocks above their head. It foamed and frothed as she rode out the wave of ecstasy.

She whimpered as her fingers bit into the flesh of his shoulders. He pushed deeper inside her. She moaned as she felt her body climbing that peak once more. “Daniel, we can’t,” she protested. “The water’s too deep.” She came as his cock thrust and retreated in time to the soft laughter that ricocheted off the rocks of the waterfall.

“Sweetheart, I can tread water for days. With packs that weigh more than you do,” he chuckled, and she felt the movement once more to her very core. “This has always been one of my fantasies – a SEAL fucking his mermaid mate, how fucking erotic is that?”

“You are too naughty, Commander.”

He thrust his hips forward as his feet kicked a bit harder. “So, what do you say?”

She wrapped her arms tighter about his neck, arching into his thrusts, she toyed with him. She smiled at the moan, her movements stole from deep in his gut. “As long as you don’t expect me to sing like Ariel, I say, let’s test your fantasy, Commander.”

His hands moved from her waist to cup her breasts that floated half immersed beneath the surface. “Oh, god, no, please don’t sing.”

“Hey, Britney and Ashley don’t complain,” she protested as she felt his fingers brush across her hard nipples. She moaned this time as she arched her back, pressing the pebbles against his touch.

“They can’t talk yet.” Neither could she as he tweaked and pinched the tiny buds. “Lean your head back, baby. Like you’re floating.”

She whimpered at the feel of his fingers working the sensitive flesh. “Are you sure you can do this?”

“I’m sure,” he replied with confidence that bordered on arrogance. “Now lay back so I can taste those sweet tits of yours.”

Jill bit her lip, “Well, when you put it so damned nicely, Commander, how can a girl refuse.” She released her hold on his shoulders. Laying back, she obeyed, spreading her arms as if she was floating on the surface of the stream.

“That’s right, baby, surrender. Surrender to me.” She whimpered even more at the power of his words. Surrender. It was what she ached to do more than anything. Surrender to this moment. This man.

She felt his cock retreat from her depths a couple of inches, but before she could complain, she felt the heat of his lips covering her engorged nipples. She cried out with the intense sensation of his mouth suckling on her as his hips moved in slowly torturous circles. His cock teased her depths, thrusting in and out in perfect time to his legs, paddling several feet above the bottom of the small pool.

“God, you taste sweet,” he whispered against her breasts. “You want to hear another of my fantasies, sweetheart?”

Jill was writhing against him, trying to draw his cock deeper. His words barely registered until he bit gently at the peak, “I wonder what your milk would taste like. You don’t know how many times I’ve watched you give Britney or Ashley a bottle and wished they were your babies. Wished you had breastfed them. Wanted to taste your sweetness.” He groaned as he sucked her nipple deep into his mouth, “Tell me you would have let me, baby.”

Jill was unable to answer him with words. Her body was burning once more with the erotic image his words wove in her mind. If she was a wanton, it was never more so than when her body ripened with a child. To her, it was as elemental as Mother Nature that surrounded them then. Bursting forth with life and water, nurturing and giving back.

She felt the power of it all as her body clenched tightly about his. She felt her orgasm travel from the tips of her toes, pooling in her womanhood, and bursting forth like life itself from her nipples in his mouth. She roared her release, its chorus melding with the roar of the waterfall, the chirping of the birds. She felt the power of the earth and water itself flow through her as he plunged deeper. She felt him tremble against her breasts as he joined her, pouring his life into her.

She felt his hands about her waist as his frantic breath brushed across the heated surface of her breasts. It was the only warning she got before he tugged softly once more, taking them beneath the surface of the water. This time she knew what was happening, trusted her lover. She wrapped her arms about his neck as he hovered for a moment beneath the water.

The rainbow of colors, on the surface above them, was as beautiful as the feel of his body still hard in her cunt. His lips captured hers; his tongue slipped inside her mouth as he wrapped his arms tighter about her, kicking and taking them to the surface once more.

“Damn it, mermaid. I think that was even better than my fantasy.”

“I’m impressed, commander. You did that so well, considering my weight.” She blushed and looked away, afraid she had revealed too much already.

“As much as I want round two, how about we take this one to land, sweetheart?” He turned towards the shore.

It was only then that Jill realized how completely vulnerable she was. Totally and completely naked beneath the water. Her clothes and the blanket more than twenty feet from the edge of the pool. She panicked as much as she had when she felt him pulling her down earlier. “No,” she protested. Her heart slammed inside her chest as she struggled to breathe through the panic she felt overcoming her.

Daniel watched the fear and panic wash across her face. He held tight to her waist as she tried to pull away, tried to make for the safety of shore or deeper water. Even knowing that she was going to be upset by his suggestion, he was rocked at the depths of her emotions. For a moment, he thought about letting her go, letting the issue go. Allowing her just to swim away, turning his back as she sought her clothes and ran from this place like he knew she would do.

But one thing he knew. You could not run from your demons forever. Hell, he had spent days with his. Faced them in the pale light of the fire as he listened to his wife call his name as her body shook with an orgasm while she slept.

He had faced them as he sat on the banks of the stream above this place. His mind thousands of miles away, replaying and reliving each and every one of his movements over those days. The actions of his men. Trying for the thousandth time to find some explanation for what went wrong that night. But for some things, there simply were no explanations.

Drawing her against his body as he brushed her hair back from her face, whispering to her, he knew one other thing. There was an explanation for this. For his wife’s irrational fear and it was past time, they had this one out. “Not this time, sweetheart,” he whispered against her lips as he felt her trembling like the small fawn he had found when he was eight.

It was hidden in the brush a few hundred feet from the house. She could not have been more than a few days old. His father had warned him that she was too young to survive without her mother, suggested that it might be best if they put her out of her misery. But Daniel had insisted. They took her home, and he nursed her himself, waking every two hours to feed her the milk that they had gotten from the vet. Against the odds that tiny doe had made it. They would too. It was most definitely time to put his wife out of her misery.

He could hear her tiny sobs as he swam for the shore. Even though he was careful to keep her head above water, he saw moisture streaming down her face. Knew they were her tears and not water from the falls. She pushed away even before he reached shallow water. Making the run for safety that he knew she would, but he was right behind her. He knew his skills well enough to know there would be no escape this day. Not when his mind was made up.

She lunged for the shore, running across the hard surface despite her bare feet. He was right behind her. She was less than two feet from the safety of the blanket when he reached out and grabbed her, turning her in his arms to face him.

“Not this time, Missus Monroe,” he looked into the frightened depths of her green eyes.

“Please, Daniel,” she whimpered as she brought her arms up, trying to wrap them about her.

“No, sweetheart,” he whispered as his lips covered hers. His hands gripped her forearms, prising them from their defensive position covering her upper body. He forced them about his shoulders, freeing his own hands to move unimpeded about the lush curves that were at long last fully revealed to him. He moaned into her mouth at the thought of exploring every inch of her soft womanly body. He felt his cock harden painfully against her round hips.

Only then did he give her what she sought, pushing her softly to the blanket. Not to cover her nakedness as she had hoped, instead to cushion her back from the rough ground beneath as he explored and tasted her.

“Daniel,” she pushed against his shoulders, trying to roll away. She reached for the white t-shirt that he recognized as one of his own.

“No, baby, not this time. You’re not hiding behind another of my shirts or the moonlight or any fucking thing else. You’re making love with your husband in the board daylight. Sun shining down on our naked bodies as my cock slams into this sweet little pussy of yours,” he held her gaze as his fingers ran back and forth across the cleft of her womanhood.

He felt the wet warmth, knew it was more than the water or even his cum still dripping slowly from her womb. He knew that she could not stop her body from responding to his touch, even as petrified as she was of whatever unknown had haunted his wife all these months. She craved him as badly as he needed her. It was that knowledge that drove him on.

“Open for me, Jill. Open those sweet thighs so I can taste you, baby.” She shook her wet head against the blanket. “You can’t stop me, sweetheart.” He bent his head to feast once more at the pointy tips of her full tits. His hand squeezed and kneaded its fullness as his mouth and teeth worked at the nipple. His other hand moved over the sweet softness of her stomach. He felt her cringe, watched as she blushed, and turned her head to the side.

He did not need his training in interrogations to recognize his wife’s secret. His hand wrapped about her waist, drew its softness against his hard body. “You’re so fucking worried about it, Missus Monroe. Tell me, does it feel to you like I’m turned off by this sweet, soft body you’ve been trying to hide for months?”

He thrust his hip forward, the tip of his cock slipped softly between her folds, rubbing against the hard surface of her clitoris. He felt the quick intake of her breath as she arched in his arms. “I just fucking came inside you, and I’m as god damned hard as a diamond. Again. Does that tell you anything, sweetheart?”

“Daniel,” she whimpered as she moved against him, trying to draw him into her sweet pussy.

He rolled over onto his back, releasing his hold on her completely. She fell against his chest as he sprawled across the blanket. He waited for a moment as she lay in stunned silence against him. Then she looked up into his eyes, “Then why did you stop?” She whispered as she blushed and looked away. He could see the tears glistening in her eyes.

One hand cupped her chin and forced her face back towards his, “Because I’m not making it that god damned easy for you, sweetheart.” His other hand fisted his hard cock as he spoke, “If you want this, if you want me, then you’re going to have to take me, Missus Monroe.” He watched as the emotions played across her face. Desire. Fear. And finally, realization.

She shook her head as she pleaded. “I can’t.”.

“Can’t or won’t, Jill?” He stroked his cock. His balls tingled, his cock twitched in his hand, demanding that he give in to her pleas. That he plunge it deep inside her, give them all what they wanted most…relief.

His steel will won out, “If you want me, sweetheart, you’re going to have to take me. You’re going to ride this hard cock while I use my mouth and hands to explore that ripe body of yours, baby.”

He held her gaze as he watched the decision play through her mind. “Otherwise, I’ll close my eyes while you get dressed, and we can walk back to the cabin together. Continue with the little lies like we have been, sweetheart. You want that?” She shook her head slowly as she closed her eyes.

Daniel felt her pain; it ate at his resolve as he lifted his head. He pressed a soft kiss to the corner of her mouth. “Please, baby, I need this too. I need you.”

It seemed forever as he lay there waiting. Waiting for her decision. At that moment, it seemed a decision that would determine the rest of their lives. Though, he knew that was irrational, given everything else they faced. Still, it was a decision, he ached for with every fiber of his being.

Finally, he felt her sigh heavily as her forehead knocked against his. “Compromise, Daniel?”

“I’m listening.”

“Close your eyes?”

“How would that be any different than the moonlight, or your clothes, or mine, or even that damned sexy lingerie you’re always wearing? I need you, baby. This is about a hell of a lot more than this gorgeous body of yours that you’ve been teasing me with for months. This is about trust. Do you trust me not to hurt you, baby?”

“You think I don’t know how it feels? They didn’t call Rachel the Ice Princess for no reason. You spend all your time comparing your curves to her bones, but that’s only half the picture, sweetheart. If you want to make a comparison, do it all. Do you know how I feel every time you come for me, baby?” He saw her blush, but he would not allow her to look away.

“I feel like fucking Tarzan beating his chest and swinging through the god damned jungle. You want a dose of truth here, sweetheart. Your amazing curvy body works the way a woman’s should. Something that hers never did.”

“So, next time you’re worrying your pretty little head about the ghosts in this marriage, try it from my perspective. Cause trust me, baby, I got bigger shoes to fill than you do.” His throat tightened around the last admission, one he had never meant to make to her.

He that took the easy way then, closing his eyes as he waited. And waited. He was about to open them in defeat, give in to her pleas, do anything just to keep her, hold her. Then he felt her, moving over him.

Her hands moved softly over his thighs and up his abdomen. He sucked in his breath as he felt her shift in his arms, felt her rising above him, straddling him. His head arched against the ground as he felt her wetness running up and down his hard cock, teasing him with heat that he swore hotter than a volcano.

“Jill,” he choked on the whisper as she sank down on him fully. His eyes flew open as she took the last of his hard length.

She chuckled, and he felt the contractions of her sweet cunt tickling his nerves to his very toes. “That was all I wanted, Daniel. You didn’t let me finish,” she bent to nip and kiss at his lips. Her sweet pussy slid up and down his hard shaft as she ground against him enticingly. “I was going to say…close your eyes at first. Just until you’re in me.” Her tongue swept into his mouth as she tasted him.

His hands moved slowly, from their death grip on those round hips, up to cup the full tits that he had feasted upon so many times. “Oh,” was his mindless response as she drew back from their kiss. Her hair was darker than usual as it hung damply about her shoulders. She arched her back as she moaned and sank further down his cock.

He lifted his head off the blanket and did as he had taunted, tasting her breasts. Licking and sucking like a mad man, which at that moment as he watched her move on him, was precisely what he felt like. “Yes, baby, ride me. Ride my hard cock. Take me, sweetheart.”

He watched as her fingers dug deeply into his shoulders. Her face mirrored his own wild need as she increased the tempo, matching her motions to his taunts. “You want me to ride this hard cock, commander? Want me to fuck your brains out?” She grunted as her tits bounced in his face. He lifted his hips, pounding into her.

“Damn it,” he cursed as he felt the come boiling inside his sac. His hands gave up their purchase on her breasts, moved to her hips, tried desperately to slow the frantic pace. It had been almost a week since he had made love to his wife. Their quick mating in the water had been rushed, due to the circumstances. It should have taken the edge off his need, allowed him to hold out longer this time. But not when she riding him like a cowgirl pushing her stallion around the barrels, fighting for the best time, racing headlong for the finish line and the win.

“Slow down, Jill,” he pleaded as he tried to catch his ragged breath.

“Don’t you like it, commander? The feel of my hot pussy squeezing that delicious hard cock of yours? You know you want it. You know you want to come. Come deep inside me. Flood this sweet cunt,” she taunted as she rode him even harder.

Her erotic words raced through his blood, igniting fires he had never known existed. The look of aggression in those green eyes was doing things to his gut that he had never imagined possible. His fingers bit into the soft flesh of her waist. He was no longer even trying to slow her movements as he lifted his hips to meet each of her downward thrusts. Her thighs slapped against his; the sound echoed around them as they mated. “God, yes, I like it,” he roared through gritted teeth. “Milk my cock, baby.”

He looked up as she threw back her head, her eyes shut tight as he felt her coming. She whimpered when, for a moment, her body lost the frantic rhythm. His hands on her hips guided her as he pounded upwards. Riding out her sweet release before taking his own.

She collapsed forward onto his chest. Their bodies damp, not from their swim, but the exertion. His hands wrapped tighter around her waist, holding her to him. He brushed a kiss against the side of her face. “Was that so bad, Missus Monroe?” he whispered against her ear.

Jill felt as if every muscle in her body had turned to jelly at the power of her orgasm. There was sex, and then there was this. Whatever this thing between them was. But as she floated quietly back into her body, she waited. Held her breath. Anticipated his rejection. Girded herself for it.

So, when his whispered reproach finally reached her addled brain, she could only laugh. Laugh hysterically as he rolled them so that she lay on the blanket. He loomed over her, staring down as if she had lost her mind, which very likely she had. She could not stop laughing. Laughing until her sides hurt. Laughing until she felt her stomach roll. Her hand flew to her mouth as she pushed him back, racing for the bushes just a couple of feet away.

She was shaking again as she vomited into them. Her stomach churned and heaved as it emptied itself of the bread and jam she had eaten that morning. Still, it boiled until there was nothing but dry heaves. She felt his arm about her shoulders as he pressed the cold cloth to her face.

“Are you alright, Jill?”

She nodded as the last of the nausea passed. She was weak, but this time not from the passion they had shared. He guided her back to the blanket.

“Lay down for a few minutes before we head back to the cabin.” He took his damp shirt and walked back to the stream, wetting it again and bringing it back.

Jill had composed herself as much as she could around his naked body anyway. “I’m fine,” she protested as he placed the cloth back over her forehead. “It must be the food poisoning that Bel had. The doctor did say it could take days or even weeks to show up. I’ll be fine in a bit, I’m sure. I actually feel better already.”

“It could be the heat too. This mid-day sun on your fair skin. We should head back as soon as you’re feeling better.”

“Just let me lie here for a few minutes.”

He joined her on the blanket. He threw his arm casually across her waist as he forced a worried smile to his lips.

“I’m fine. I promise.” She tried to sit up again, but her head only swam around her. The sunlight fractured and twinkled like a billion stars as she collapsed back onto the blanket. “Well, almost.”

She felt him lifting her, cradling her against his chest. “No, you can’t. I’m too heavy.” She shoved at the solid steel wall of his chest.

“Shut up; I’ve carried grown men through fire and bullets. You weigh next to nothing,” he made his way up the path towards the cabin.

“Really, I can walk.”

“Maybe you could, but I have no intention of letting you,” he insisted as he crested the small hill.

She could see the cabin a couple of hundred yards away and decided it was not worth the effort arguing, especially as she needed all her energy to battle another wave of nausea. She managed to keep this one back until they reached the door of the cabin. She made him stop there as she leaned over another bush, but there was nothing left in her stomach this time. She retched and heaved for a couple of minutes until he lifted her once more and took her inside to the small bed, tucking her in as she had done Bel just days before.

“I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“Bit of a mood buster,” she smiled weakly.

“Hey, neither of us should complain. At least you didn’t get sick until afterward.” Brushing her hair back from her face, “You get some rest. I’ll go back and get our stuff. I hope this passes as quickly as Bel’s did because Mama and Daddy are expecting us back tomorrow. And we’re supposed to leave the next day. I’d try phoning them, but you never get a signal out this far.”

She nodded weakly as tiredness overtook her. Her restless night was coming back to haunt her. “I’m sure I’ll be better by then. I’m sorry,” she whispered again as she fell asleep as quickly as the babies did.

Daniel pushed open the door to the cabin with his foot. He unloaded the fishing gear just inside the door, dropping it carelessly in his rush. He tossed the blanket upon which he had slept last night on the table, along with their clothes. He was in a hurry, for one thing, to get to his wife. 

He knelt by her side as she slept. She seemed to be resting peacefully now. He brushed the hair back from her face once more. He sighed in relief that there was no fever as there had been with Bel. That was good, at least.

He hoped that she would be better tomorrow morning, and it had nothing to do with getting back to their daughters or the trip home. He simply could not stand to see her in pain. For one simple reason, “I love you.” He bent and kissed her soft lips before heading over to the wooden table to clean and cook his dinner. He would gather some wild greens as well, perhaps try to get her to eat something when she woke up.

He eyed her one more time as he wrapped the fish and placed it on the smoldering fire. He should gather some more wood too, he wanted to keep her warm, especially this night. He could not stop the worry that raced through his mind. The tightness in his throat warred with the knots in his stomach. Nothing could happen to her. Nothing.

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