Hope you enjoy it.
Notes: PG15 for content of a sexual nature, Chris/Charlotte, a story in the 'Echoes the Sea/Aces Immortal' AU series.
Characters: Chris Larabee, Charlotte Sparrow
Summary: Chris's desire for a sympathetic ear doesn't quite turn out as he'd imagined.
Chris was irritated and on the brink of a really foul mood. He was getting damned tired of his men disrespecting his authority; especially Ezra and Vin. Those two were as thick as thieves these days, always with their heads together, keeping secrets. What he needed was the understanding and comfort of a good woman; which was why he was on his way to Charlotte’s. He knew he could rely on her to listen to him vent and gripe without judgment, soothing his bad mood with nothing more than her love for him.
Their wedding was only a few weeks away, and Chris couldn’t wait. He was tired of having to ride out to her ranch every time he wanted to see her, or for her to come into Four Corners. Seemed as if he saw less of her now they were engaged than he had back when they’d been sneaking around, having an affair. Not that he wasn’t glad they were making it legal; their clandestine relationship had never set right with him. It had seemed disrespectful to Charlotte not to do things proper, but she’d been gun-shy at first. She had wanted him to have all the things she could never give him, like children of his own and a wife to grow old with. It had taken a lot of convincing that all he needed was her.
But all that was behind them now and Chris couldn’t be happier. In a few weeks, he’d have a wife, children, a home, and an extended family. Even if a certain member of that extended family was one of the reasons for his current aggravation.
Arriving at her hacienda, Chris dismounted, tying his horse to the hitching post. A quick trip back to the kitchen found no one but Charlotte’s maid, Anna. She informed him that Charlotte was outside doing chores. The maid’s information wasn’t all that helpful; it was a big spread and she could be anywhere.
Frustration mounting, he began his search, starting with the back garden, then the orchard, followed by the chicken coop. His next stop was the stable; maybe she’d ridden out to check on something around the ranch. But he found her horse, Smoky, still in his stall. Chris paused a moment to scratch the horse’s nose. “Hey there, Smoky – you don’t know where Charlotte is, do ya?” He was a fine mount, and ‘Smoky’ didn’t seem to do the animal justice, but Charlotte would persist in letting her youngsters name the livestock. The horse nickered at him softly. “Me neither.”
Then he heard the sound of an axe splitting wood down behind the stable. Giving the horse a final pat, he headed out the back to investigate. He rounded the corner to find the object of his search – chopping wood. Chris felt his blood pressure rise. He loved Charlotte for her independent streak, but god damnit! Sometimes he thought she did things like this just to vex him. She had sons, ranch hands, she had him! And yet she persisted in doing things she had no need to be doing. This ended now! He’d be damned if people were going to think he didn’t treat his wife right, making her work like a field hand.
Full of righteous indignation, he strode up to her, only waiting till she finished the axe stroke so as not to startle her into hurting herself. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he demanded, the imminent foul mood of before now fully in bloom.
She looked over her shoulder, eyebrows raised. “I would have thought it obvious,” she drawled.
He pulled the axe from her grasp, throwing it to the ground. “What’s obvious is that you seem determined to defy me at every turn! How many times have I asked you to let me help; to ask me for help? How many times, Charlotte? But here you are, doing a man’s work when there’s no need!”
Turning to face him, her eyes like ice, she asked, “Are you done?”
“The hell I am! When we’re married, this stops, do you hear?” He was furious with her. What did he have to do to make her see reason, to do as he asked, just once? This time it was going to be different; he was laying down the law and she was going to do as he said!
Her eyes narrowed, two spots of colour high on her cheeks. “Then it is indeed fortuitous that we are not yet married and that time remains to cancel our upcoming nuptials!” With that, she strode past him.
Chris stood rooted to the spot, stunned. Had she just called off the wedding? Anger and shock warred for predominance as he took off after her, catching up to her in the stable. “Now wait just a blamed minute!” he shouted, grabbing her arm. That was a mistake. Quicker than he could track, he found himself on the ground, the wind knocked out of him, staring up at the rafters and the stars that seemed to be floating there.
Charlotte looked down at him, her hand over her mouth, shocked. Then she was on her knees beside him. “Oh, my God, I am so sorry, darling! Did I hurt you?”
“I’m fine,” he reassured her, still not quite sure what had happened.
“I didn’t mean to…it was an instinctive reaction…I was angry…when you grabbed me….” She looked stricken.
“It’s okay. My fault for losing my temper; got outta hand.” His anger had fled, leaving nothing but regret for his actions.
She placed her palm against his heart. “I am sorry.”
“So am I.”
He reached up, putting his hand against the back of her neck. “I love you, Charlotte, you know that. Sometimes you just make me a little loco.”
She nodded, smiling a little. “I know.”
“Expect you do,” he told her, grinning, sitting up gingerly and taking her hand.
Sitting back on her calves, she asked quietly, “Would you like to know why I was chopping wood?”
Crap! Chris just knew he was about to eat a lot of crow. “I have a hunch you’re gonna make me see I’ve been a real jackass,” he sighed.
Lips twitching, she patted his check. “One can only hope.” She settled down next to him. “Do you know how heavy a sword is?”
He was nonplussed at her question, realizing he had no idea. “No.”
“I thought not,” she said under breath. Then, “You do know how heavy an axe is?”
“Course I do.”
“Very well then; imagine wielding an axe for an extended period of time against someone armed with another axe, and tell me that you don’t understand just why I chop wood.”
Chris closed his eyes and sighed; he was an idiot. On a certain level, he grasped the idea of Charlotte being Immortal, the challenges, the swords, but he realized he didn’t really comprehend how she dealt with the reality of that life on a day to day basis.
“I’m sorry, Charlotte.”
“So am I. I should have explained instead of losing my temper.” She nestled against him. “My only excuse is that it’s been a very long and trying day.”
He pulled her closer against him. “Mine too.”
Her arms tightened around him, her breath warm against his neck. “I love you so very much, Chris.”
“Love you too,” he told her. “And now I have you here—“ he lay back down on the stable floor, pulling her on top of him “—I can show you just how much.”
Her lips met his, kissing him with a passion that left him breathless. God knew he loved her no matter what, but the fire of their physical relationship sure was icing on the cake. It had been like this from that first time they’d been together, and the heat hadn’t diminished since. He slipped his hands into her hair, loosening the pins that held it, allowing the ink black mass of it to tumble free. Chris loved her hair, the feel of it against his skin when they were in bed, and brushing it out for her after they’d been together so she could pin it up once more. His hands roamed lower, fervently wishing that there weren’t several layers of skirts and petticoats between him and her naked flesh.
Then she was pulling up his shirt, her soft fingers skimming up along his ribs. Groaning, he put his palms on either side of her face, holding her slightly away. “God damn, woman, if only we were married now,” he said, more than a little breathless.
She gave him an impish smile. “Oh?”
“We’d be back in our bedroom, and I’d be making sure you had no doubts as to how much I love you.” Oh, the things he would do to her. For a moment, he let his imagination run wild.
Her hands now slipped under the waistband of his trousers, making him gasp with mingled shock and pleasure. What the hell was she doing? “Charlotte!”
“Yes, darling?” She had a positively wanton look in her eyes that made him forget how to speak.
Her fingers were still moving, and he fought for control. “You…we can’t….”
“Chris Larabee, if you think you can get me into this state and just walk away, you have another thing coming!” She punctuated every few words with a kiss.
His gun belt was now unfastened and she was working on the buttons of his shirt, stroking his chest as each button was undone. “We’re in your stable,” he protested weakly.
“And? My ranch hands are in the south range all day, the children are at school, and Charles and Constance are napping.” Her hands stilled. “But if you’d rather go back to the house and drink lemonade, then that’s your prerogative, I’m sure.” The look in her eyes made sure he knew that would be the wrong choice.
The Lord had truly blessed him. He grinned up at her. “I could never say no to you.”